I have included a few illustrations for torchmaking.   We must all remember to be concerned for torch safety. Each Bonfire Society has a different tradition of torch making. Hundreds if not thousands of torches are made for  each celebration. Torches do add an important aspect of atmosphere as they are carried and attached to banners. Click here to view the main menu of Torchmaking. My study of torchmaking is far from complete! Please include your 2 cents via email click here. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated.  

Main Menu of the Torch Page

Torch Making Guide Torch Making Photos Torch Safety Torches Alight!


Making Torches:Thanks to Gerry Glenister of the Hastings Bonfire Society!

Gerry Cuts Sacking. In the USA we call this Burlap. Note stacked  torches under shelter in background. A shelter to keep them  dry is essential.

Gerry describes the next process -that of
making the dip for the torches:
"We use something like an old 50 gallon iron water tank to hold the oil, stand this on bricks and light an open fire under it, the oil needs to be hot but not boiling, it tends to "boil over" like milk if it gets too hot, not a good idea with an open fire under it! Roofing tar sounds like a good description of pitch, ours is in paper sacks and needs to be broken into lumps with a hammer, one sack is usually enough for all of our torches, this is heated over another small open fire in a saucepan and poured into the main mix as required, we don't work to a recipe, oil and pitch just keep getting added,  we tend to go by the way it looks, if you're not sure it's better to use too much pitch or the torches won't burn properly"
Peter Making Torches. Note piles of torches in background.Torch bat diameter about an inch and a half at the thickest end, if it's too thin it burns through too quickly and if its too thick people find them heavy and discard them. Use "green" freshly cut bats as old wood burns through quite fast.Gerry mentions that the team was able to make about 200 torches a day. Gerry writes: "We usually make torches on a Sunday morning, people tend to come and go, its often a family thing with children helping and a barbecue when people bring along food, this year the number of adults has been about 8 to 10 at any one time and we have made all of our own torches. I had better explain that, in England young offenders are often given community service as part of their punishment and we have had a site behind the probation offices in Hastings where they have made torches for us under supervision for the past two years, the ones that they make have to be wired as they are not allowed to use hammers".

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Torch Safety
We can not underestimate the importance of torch safety. I have included Gerry Glenister's marshal's instructions for Torches for the Hastings Bonfire Society which is very helpful. 


What is a torch? cut a piece of wood from a tree, about a metre in length will do, wind a strip of sacking around the thickest end and fix it with nails or wire, dip it in a mixture of boiling motor oil and pitch, let it drain for at least a week, and you have the type of torch that we use in Hastings.

At any one time there will be up to 500 lighted torches in the procession and it is up to us to make sure that they are used in a safe and responsible manner.

Distribution There are three distribution points, the first is at the bottom of High Street, the second is at Russel Street, old torches should be discarded at The Indoor Market/Wellington Square junction, the final distribution point is on The Seafront close to Robertson Street traffic lights.

Each Society will appoint its' own Torch Marshals, it will be their job to collect and distribute torches, you will probably be asked where the next distribution point is sometime during the evening.

Old Town safety HBBS will use 20 torches in the procession around the Old Town, and in addition each visiting Society will be allowed lighted torches in their banners, prior to that, Hastings Runners will carry lighted torches to the East Hill, these are the only lighted torches allowed in the narrow streets of the Old Town. No one must be allowed near to a Net Hut or overhanging building with a lighted torch.

Once the procession reaches The Seafront, at the bottom of High Street, torches will be distributed to all Societies for use by their members for the remainder of the route. Torches are best carried upright rather than resting on shoulders as burning oil can drop onto clothing.

Swinging torches around is not acceptable and must be stopped - apart from hitting someone the wood can burn through and the end become detatched.

If a torch is not burning properly it is normal to bang the end on the ground, please ignore this.

Used torches should be placed in the gutter, they will be picked up at the end of the procession and placed in fire carts.

Members of the public should not be allowed to handle torches, if anyone wants one moved please do it for them.
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Torches Alight!
A few illustrations  of Torches  alight!  They are really worth the extra effort. This is just a strart- We are interested in documenting torches completely! Have any images? Let me know click to send e.mail

Center for Fawkesian Pursuits Linthicum, Md.

Center for Fawkesian Pursuits Linthicum, Md.

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