The Battle Rouser
My favourite part about this story is his creation of the Battle Rouser.
Innocent enough to look at, this was no ordinary “fire it up into the sky” item. It’s USP was that, rather than reaching for the stars, it would fly along the ground for up to 100 yards, emitting white sparks as it went, before exploding in a maelstrom of incredible light and sound!
Made in a “controlled and safe” environment was one thing, but where was the fun in that? This was a time when gunpowder could be bought over the counter, and Longley’s workforce set about making their own supplies, and soon one of the most memorable parts of the evening was hundreds of these creations being loosed off.
The Battle Rouser finally brought the long arm of the law to Longley’s door in 1891, though with some quick thinking and persuasive talking, he is fined only a shilling.
Loosely connected to the bonfire, tragedy strikes Battle in 1937 when there is a gun-powder explosion, killing a man, and injuring Charles Longley.
The Rouser grew in infamy, and finally came to the attention of the BBC in 1951. The bonfire committee member who represented the event took some Rousers with him, and to everybody’s amazement, set them off in the BBC car park. Impressive it certainly was, but the end of the line for this iconic firework was fast approaching.
Larger firework manufacturers complained to the authorities and the Firework Act 1951 was swiftly introduced as a result. The Longley’s could go to jail, or cease production. They chose the obvious path.
The design and manufacturing process behind the Rouser has never been revealed, and the last survivor of the family involved in its’ manufacture (Fred Longley) has always declined to reveal the secrets.
It’s quite something to be involved in an event for approaching 300 years, and quite possibly longer. Based on what I’ve read, it could be argued that the Longley family, albeit accidentally, were partly or fully responsible for the introduction of the 1951 Firework Act.
Chance of a family connection? Who knows. Slim I’d imagine.