Bonfires celebrated national occasions

First published in Malvern Memories

"MANY great bonfires have been lit on the towering mount of the Malvern Beacon, but the fire with which it is proposed to celebrate the coronation of King George V will probably create a record for size and scientific construction," said the Malvern News 100 years ago.

"On the high altar of the Beacon it is recorded that the druids of old were wont to kindle their dedicatory and propitiatory fires, and in 1856 an old beacon-work on the hill which had been used to spread the news of the appearance of the Armada, was made the basis of a bonfire to celebrate the anticipated close of the Crimean war.

The report went on to say that a bonfire lit on March 10, 1863, to celebrate the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was 60 feet high, measured 50 by 40 yards at the base and was made of 600 bundles of faggots, 25 tons of waste wood, 500 hop poles, 200 butts of trees, 1,500 yards of cut gorse, 250 tar barrels, 50 bags of shavings, 100 gallons of tar, 100 hampers filled with shavings and 400 gallons of petroline".

The fire built to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee was not as big, being only 36 feet high, "but the materials were better chosen to give vivid illumination, and it was estimated that 25,000 people gathered on the slopes".

But this was surpassed by the fire build for the diamond jubilee in 1897, which was build around an concrete-filled iron column.

"Around the columns was formed a building of old railway sleepers, nine feet square and packed in between the sleepers was a quantity of broken tar-barrels and furze. Around the tower were built up many tons of hop poles and cordwood, and no less than 2,00 large faggots and a large quantity of solidified petroleum, weighing over 200 tons."

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