Guy Fawkes celebrations in 1890s rural Somerset

My husband grew up in a tiny Somerset village, Maperton, near Wincanton. When I first accessed the British Newspaper Archive I looked up references to Maperton. Fortunately the online archive had good coverage of West Country newspapers, so I found quite a few things. Perhaps the most entertaining was the following, from the Western Gazette, 18 Nov 1892.

THE NOVEMBER CARNIVAL – The Maperton and Holton Bonfire Boys held their annual celebration of Guy Fawkes’ Day on November 7th. At 7.30 the procession started from High Street, Maperton, and marched to Colonel McGregor’s, and then through Maperton to Holton, where there was a huge bonfire lit in a field kindly lent by Mr H. Warren. The procession consisted of characters and guys of every description. First came the cyclists with their machines brilliantly lit up with fairly lamps; then Guy Fawkes, surrounded by coloured fires; Henstridge Brass Band in full uniform; twelve horsemen representing officers, jockeys, Buffalo Bill, &c.; then came “the pig that was lost;” masqueraders of every description – Turks, soldiers, sailors, and numerous torch-bearers. The rear was brought up by the Maperton Military Drum and Fife Band. Fireworks were let off at intervals during the evening. The Wincanton Bonfire Boys kindly gave their assistance. Praise must be given to the Henstridge and Maperton Bands for the music which they rendered, and credit is due to the leader, Mr F. Doddington, for the way in which everything was carried out.

To put this in perspective, Maperton’s population today is about 150, though that is a very scattered population, and a much smaller number of people live in a few houses clustered around the village centre. As a result my husband and I were amazed at the idea of a Maperton Military Drum and Fife Band in 1892. Even the concept of a “High Street, Maperton” is hard to grasp for modern-day dwellers. I must have a closer look at the 1891 census, to see what the total population was like, and what else I can deduce about the village then.

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About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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