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As is well known, the Gunpowder plot, one of the many plots to install a catholic Ruler on the throne, took place in 1605 , with it being discovered in the early hours of 5th November, a little while before the gunpowder was to be lit.
All Bonfire Societies are in fact, remembrance of the Gunpowder plot and so, do not date back before this point, though there are many other celebrations which date back before it and may or may not include a Bonfire (they were common in the Winter months as a source of heat and light in the night time festivals).
The 1600s were not the best time for public record keeping when it came to local events and the restrictions on the press were pretty hard, limiting print material to key books. The best source of local news records are often, in fact, the church parish records. This is more so useful as it was the church which organised the original Bonfire societies, until they spun off on their own, mostly with the same people still doing them.


St. Mary`s Church Parish Archives from 1646, show that 2 Shillings and 6 Pence [Roughly equalling £15 in todays money and was the total wages for a skilled tradesman for one day] was allocated by the church wardens, Mr. John Foster and Mr. John Philcocks, which was recorded as being spent on celebrations of the foiling of the Gunpowder treason. This Church money wouldn`t have been allocated to a single person, but to a small committee in order to put on a public event of some kind which would include a bonfire. The Event is believed to have taken part on 5th November, making the first recorded instance of Battel Bonfire being held 5th November 1646!


More church money is recorded, this time an amount of 17 Shillings and 6 pence, for Gunpowder Celebrations. As the currency rate was fairly stable in the middle of the 17th Century, this means that amount [Equal to about £100 today, and equal to 9 days Labour from the skilled tradesman] was a HUGE increase. Two Church wardens are recorded along with this, Mr. Thomas Longley and Mr. John Hammond. Thomas Longley`s Family descendants have a long history with the Bonfire and some are still members to this day. In 1676, John Hammond had been given a grant to build a powder mill on the Abbey land at Pepperingeye, although it seems this mill was in fact, a converted mill, as a Watermill was already standing on the ground. The Battle Gunpowder was claimed to be the finest in Europe and supplied the British Army up until the Crimean war. However, in 1874, a series of Explosions caused the deaths of some of the workers and the mills were closed down.