Remember, remember but don't throw fireworks!
This month we have gone for a topical document. On the 5th of November 1840 John Samwell and Thomas Cumberland were accussed of stealing straw to put on a bonfire on Houghton Green. One witness said he saw them steal the straw, carry it out of Mr Hunt's yard to put on the fire 'it was a quarter before ten o'clock at night'. Stephen Hunt, farmer of Houghton Regis, said that 'several boys came to me on the 5th of November to ask me for some straw to make a bonfire. I gave them leave to pick some stubble out of the field for that purpose – my Farm Yard is very near where they make the bonfire – I gave them no permission to take straw out of my yard or barn…' ref.QSR1840/1/5/43-44 below:
This was not the only case of bonfire night causing problems. In the 1822 in Bedford steps were taken to ensure that fireworks were not set off in the public street. ref.BorBF4/67/131:
The constables were ordered 'to be on Duty on the 5th of November next, to prevent any of the above Offences and to take the Names of all Persons offending'. They did just that, and Joseph Dawson, Thomas Trapp, Wiliam Thornhill, Samuel Spurling, John Bowman Boyal and Edward Rawlins were convicted of throwing fireworks in the High Street ref.BorBF4/67/28:
Most forfieted fines of two pounds 10 shillings but John Bowman Boyal forfeited £5. Apart from Joseph Dawson, who is described as a labourer, the others were tradesmen who should have known better, two were drapers, one a smith, one a grocer and one a wine merchant.
Inspite of these convictions in 1822 the problem continued; in 1828 we have a bill for 'posting and delivering bills against fireworks being lett off in the town of Bedford' and for 'attending on the fifth of November to prevent fireworks being lett off.' ref.BorBF4/74/3: