Guy Fawkes Night 1888

Although when we look back on November, 1888, we tend to look back with tunnel vision, and only really consider the Jack the Ripper murders, life went on despite the murders.

November the fifth, 1888, was Bonfire night, and, on Friday, 9th November, The Herts And Cambs Reporter And Royston Crow, looked back on how London and the country at large had celebrated Guy Fawkes Day.

Interestingly, in several places, as you will read, an effigy of Jack the Ripper replaced the traditional effigy of Guy Fawkes:-


“Following the precedents of recent years, the Guy Fawkes’ Day celebrations in London on Monday were of the tamest description.

Beyond the stock of ordinary nondescript “guys” that are seen in the streets of London every Fifth of November, there was nothing original bearing upon current events or public personages in the effigies, if very weak and grotesque attempts to ridicule the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, and in certain districts to excite laughter by ludicrous images of some prominent actors in the great drama performed at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, are excepted.


Both at the East-end and in South London atrocious presentments of “Jack the Ripper,” with demoniacal face and horns to match, were hawked about on barrows, and even about these hideous effigies ghastly fun was made.

When night fell suburban London became lively with the explosions of fireworks, and on the nearer hills of Surrey faint glimpses of bonfires could be seen from certain points in the south-east district.

As usual on Guy Fawkes’ Days in Bermondsey, Drury-lane district, and parts of the East-end, “guys” were made up to represent certain members of the Government, whose Irish policy is denounced by the Irish generally in London, but good temper prevailed, and those of opposite political opinions to the masqueraders took the harmless satires in good part.

Some of the effigies were committed to the flames; but, wherever practicable, the police prevented this somewhat dangerous denouement.


On Monday night probably not less than 50,000 or 60,000 visitors poured into Hampstead by road and rail, but their enjoyment was greatly interfered with by the showery weather.

An immense bonfire was lighted on a sandy part of the Heath known as the Battery, which burnt for some hours, being visible for miles around, and fireworks were plentifully discharged in its vicinity.

About nine o’clock a procession of masqueraders, mounted and on foot, started from North-end and made a tour of many of the roads in the neighbourhood. The procession embraced bands of music, guards, sailors and Wild West Cowboys.

A view of the former Fire Station with a clock tower and clock visible above it.
The Former Fire Station (With the Clock) on Heath Street, Hampstead.


Some of the houses on the route were illuminated with Chinese lanterns and fairy lamps, and coloured fires were burnt, which gave to the scene a picturesque appearance.

In some places fireworks were freely discharged in the public streets, which led to a number of offenders being captured by the police, of which a strong body were on duty, in plain clothes and otherwise.


On Wednesday evening the annual carnival at Lewisham, instituted some years since by the Lewisham Bonfire Boys, took place with as great success as ever.

A masquerade procession, accompanied by bands and banners, left the Tywhitt-road about seven o’clock, and proceeded through the principal streets of Lewisham, Lee, and Greenwich, and hundreds of thousands of people thronged the line of the route.

The characters represented kings, courtiers, officers of the army and navy, Australian bushrangers, clowns, Ally Slopers, Indians, Mephistopheles, &c., but the most prominent were lifeguardsmen and jockeys.

On the road coloured fires were shown from the roofs and windows of the houses with good effect, and many of the public-houses were decorated with Venetian lamps and Chinese lanterns.

A cartoon of Ally Sloper sledging in the snow.
From Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, Saturday, 15th January, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board. Ally Sloper was a popular cartoon figure and people were dressing as him on bonfire night, 1888.


The tradesmen closed their shops on the approach of the procession for the most part, and a large body of police of the R and P divisions kept order.

Fortunately, the rain held off until the procession broke up.

In former years the proceedings terminated with a bonfire, but on Monday night this was dispensed with.


The Fifth of November was celebrated in West Kent with more than usual enthusiasm.

At Eltham one political party made a “guy” of Mr. Parnell, and the opposite side made an exhibition of Captain O’Shea.

At Chislehurst the bonfire boys paraded an effigy of Mr. Gladstone, but their enthusiasm got the better of their prudence, and several of them will be summoned for discharging fireworks in the highway.


At the Crays there were several bonfires and a number of accidents.

One youth, in discharging a firework at Swanley, accidentally ignited a set-piece, with the result that there was an explosion, and another youth had almost the whole of his hand blown away.

At Crayford a young man was discharging a pistol, when it burst in his hand and injured it.

A rocket was let off at Bexley, with the result that it put out the eye of a young lady named Jephson.


The Guy Fawkes Carnival at Bridgwater was this year rendered unusually attractive by a representation of the local trades in the torchlight procession or the masqueraders.

About 30 trades and manufactures were represented on cars gaily decorated and illuminated, groups engaged in their various employments being the rule. Each was headed by a band, and 300 torch bearers in military uniforms, with 50 bluejackets were prominent features.

The fire engines and men, upwards of 100 Chinese lantern-bearers, an effigy of Guy Fawkes borne on a waggon, a model of the Eddystone lighthouse, a lifeboat, and a monster cannon escorted by a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery, were also conspicuous.


At Exeter the celebration was on a more extensive scale than has been the case of late years.

“Young Exeter “and the guys marched in procession with lighted torches and accompanied by a band.

In the roadway facing the west front of the cathedral a huge bonfire had been erected, and on the arrival of the procession in the cathedral yard a light was applied to the pile, and it was soon ablaze. There was also a display of fireworks.


The fifth was observed in Margate in a manner surpassing all previous celebrations.

The balconies of the Marine-terrace were effectively illuminated with coloured lanterns.

A long procession, including representatives of many persons connected with the Armada, headed by bands and accompanied by torch bearers, promenaded the town, and subsequently there was a sea fight, including the burning of a vessel and the ascent of thousands of rockets.


Tunbridge Wells turned out in its thousands to assist in celebrating the anniversary of the memorable Fifth.

The Bonfire Society had arranged for a grand procession, and this paraded the principal streets of the town.

The special feature was the introduction of the Mayor that is to be when the charter of the incorporation is obtained, the prospective aldermen, and councillors in their robes.

Gunpowder Plot was commemorated at  Winchester on Monday night by a torchlight procession made up of fourteen tableaux. The torchbearers were habited in motley costumes, and were headed by the city fire brigade and accompanied by bands of music.

The procession traversed the principal streets, and was witnessed by immense crowds, the fineness of the evening bringing in many of the country people.

The proceedings were wound up with a display of fireworks.


The anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot was duly observed at Windsor on Monday. “Guys” were paraded in the streets, and in the evening fireworks were discharged by some of the residents.

The Bonfire Boys’ Carnival at Yeovil was carried out on an elaborate scale, far exceeding anything before attempted.


In the afternoon some thousands of people assembled, many from a distance, to see the grand parade of mounted masqueraders and the balloon ascent in imitation of Professor’s Baldwin’s feat.

At three o’clock, a London aeronaut dispatched a large balloon, with a dummy man and parachute attached. When the balloon reached the height of several hundred feet the dummy became detached, and the parachute opening, descended steadily, pitching a short distance from where the balloon went up.

A vast procession in the evening was witnessed by thousands of spectators. There were five bands.

The event was also celebrated in a marked manner at Croydon, Eastbourne, Hastings, Ramsgate, Salisbury, and many other towns.”