Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Pyrotechnic Arms, known unsurprisingly as The Pyro, is one of three pubs on Nunhead Green. It is named after the Brock Fireworks factory that was located close by in the middle of the nineteenth century. The sign outside depicts the greatest inspiration for the Pyrotechnist's art in Britain, Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters, whose failed plot to blow up Parliament is celebrated every 5th November with of course fireworks.
Brocks became famous for the magnificent free firework displays they held for the public from 1826 onwards called Brock’s Benefits. From 1865 they held spectacular displays at the Crystal Palace
in nearby Sydenham and to take advantage of the popularity of these displays the company was renamed C. T. Brock and Co's 'Crystal Palace' Fireworks. The displays at Crystal Palace had come about as a result of great persuasiveness on the part of CT Brock who had long thought the building’s “terraces, fountains and foliage offered unrivalled advantages for the display of grand effects.” The directors of the Crystal Palace company were not keen as firework displays were associated with places that had a dubious reputation. CT Brock declared that fireworks “were really not of an immoral tendency”, saying that he felt confident there would be a large attendance of the better classes. He persuaded the directors to allow a firework competition and CT Brock reported the occasion to be a huge success with 20,000 people attending (seems a very small number today!). The competition was won by CT Brock’s father.
As a result of the company’s success at the Crystal Palace, CT Brock built extensive works at Nunhead and produced larger and larger fireworks and set pieces grew from 12 feet to 300 feet. The set pieces sound extraordinary: sea battles were created including the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Trafalgar, famous buildings were reproduced including Worcester and Salisbury Cathedral and natural disasters such as the Destruction of Pompeii. Firework displays were not held at the Crystal Place between 1910 and 1920 but then resumed until it burned down in 1936.
Sadly Brocks Fireworks did not stay long in Nunhead and moved to West Norwood in 1875.