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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Fireworks over The Plain

Pains fireworks

Fireworks over The Plain

Salisbury Plain might be well known for loud bangs and explosions but you wouldn’t want such things going off in your back garden on bonfire night! In 1967 Points West visited Salisbury to reveal some less aggressive forms of pyrotechnics.

With so much military activity in and around this part of Wiltshire, it comes as little surprise to learn that James Pain and Sons Ltd – set up in Brixton in 1850 to manufacture fireworks – eventually pointed its rockets in a westerly direction and came to Wiltshire to exploit the military potential of the domestic whizz-bang.

Fireworks manufacture

Handmade in Wiltshire

In 1965, James Pain and Sons Ltd merged with the Wessex Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd (known as WAECO) to form Pains Wessex, after another fire-making brand, the match manufacturers Bryant and May, had acquired both companies in the early sixties.

As a result of the WAECO merger James Pain and Sons moved its firework production to High Post near Salisbury, and it was to here that Points West came to film the business of making domestic pyrotechnics in 1967.

The black and white film shows a small workforce packing cardboard tubes with gunpowder and subsequently testing the finished products in a field near the factory.

It seems rather odd to see fireworks being let off in daylight as how would you know if the effect you were trying to create worked?

Our guess is that it was done for the purposes of filming – no doubt the BBC crew would have to be paid time-and-a-half to capture the nighttime effect of Pains Wessex’s rockets and Catherine wheels!

Vulcan bomber and rocket

Vulcan bomber flies over test site

But thankfully they filmed when they did - in one scene a Vulcan bomber, part of Britain’s then nuclear deterrent, upstages the boffin with his rockets and is seen gracefully approaching the test site!

In 1981, the Pains Wessex fireworks business was sold off and now operates from a base south of Salisbury, at Whiteparish, under the name Pains Fireworks.

The film made by Points West in 1967, and transmitted in November of that year, offers a glimpse into the history of one of the West’s more unusual firms, which, having sold off its fireworks division continues to operate worldwide in the field of marine pyrotechnics and life-saving equipment.

Click on the 'Play archive film' link at the top of the right hand side box.

MORE FILMS FROM POINTS WEST

  • Use the right hand links to other local Where I Live sites to see more archive film from Points West. 

last updated: 05/12/2008 at 14:21
created: 01/11/2005

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