Hello. Tomorrow is a very important day in the Beckworth historical calendar and for once it would be opportune if residents actually took notice. For those still living in the dark ages, or the many with their heads stuck in phones ignoring the wonderous world around them, it is Fishfinger Fire Day. And to celebrate we are asking residents to wear the frozen foodstuff in their button holes, just as was done ritually until early last century. We tried to get it re-celebrated last year but no one joined us. Shame on you! So let’s try again. For those interested it was first noted in local history books over 335 years ago: on 19th February 1578 at 4.26am Beckworth almost lost it’s centuries-old fishfinger industry. Because in those early hours an accidental fire destroyed the town’s sole manufacturer and could have almost completely flattened the town and outlaying villages, had the gentle night breeze been really strong and the flames far larger. The fishy inferno was absent-mindedly started by the baker making the tangerine-hued breadcrumbs, which are of course still the most vital ingredient today (some olden things just can’t be improved on; even by computers and horseless carriages). Anyway, the ensuing blaze could have proved tragic if it wasn’t for the actions of a hirsute young navy officer home on leave: Lieutenant Lupin BirdEye. For he noticed clouds of orange smoke and a burning cod and bread smell coming from the open door of the fishy bakery as he came back from the pub fully-blootered. Acting alone and without recourse to phone the fire-brigade he simply improvised his very own hose whereupon he heroicly extinguished the fire. In honour of him saving a tray of charred and urine-soaked fishfingers (and most importantly the recipe) he was promoted to Captain. Ever since then he had his name and picture plastered over all subsequently made fish fingers, and appeared in wonderful adverts. That was until recently when his visage fell out of favour. So it is vitally important we honour the dear captain and don’t let his story die with the flames. So please, for once, join us and wear your orange cod stick with pride. Thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) A 16th century portrait of the Fishfinger hero Captain Lupin Birdseye
Hello. Those of you with an interest in history, and art, will be thrilled at the news of a pre-historic artifact found by local gardener Alan Titmarsh that is likely to be put on display in the library. Mr Alan was tending his plums at the allotments yesterday when he inadvertently dug up a rusted and twisted metal object, which at first sight he thought to be old railings. Luckily instead of selling the metal to eastern European scrap dealers he called in the experts. Beckworth’s Historical Society. And, although we haven’t had the finding carbon dated yet, we are as pleased as punch to announce that the metal is hundreds of thousands of years old (if not millions) and is most likely a crude bronze-age sculpture. Probably of a horse. Or at a push a very ropey goat. It’s amazing to think it’s been safely buried under the allotments since dinosaurs roamed through Beckworth looking for people to eat. The sculpture needs a damn good clean and a bit of repair work but it’s a very important find. Mr Alan is thrilled at the find although it’s not his first whilst gardening. Just last year he found an old Roman wrought-iron garden-gate under his spuds which he sold to the British Museum. Thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) The sculpture of a horse. Or Goat. Dug up by a local gardener yesterday
Hello. As you will doubtless know next Thursday is a very important day in the Beckworth calendar. It is Fishfinger Fire Day, and to celebrate we are asking residents to wear the frozen foodstuff in their button holes, just as was done ritually until the 1930s. As noted in local history books it was around 300 years ago, in 1578, that Beckworth almost lost it’s centuries-old fishfinger industry to a fire that ravaged the town. Accidentally started by a baker making the bright orange breadcrumbs the ensuing blaze robbed locals of their staple fish diet for months to come. But it could have been wiped out altogether if it wasn’t for the actions of a young navy officer home on leave. Lieutenant BirdEye noticed smoke coming from the neighbouring bakery and quickly extinguished the fire within using a flask of rum he had about his person. In honour him of saving the last few fishfingers, and most importantly the recipe, he was made May Queen of the town, promoted to captain and has had his name and picture plastered over all subsequently made fish fingers. So join us next week and wear your cod stick with pride.
Thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) A 16th century portrait of the Fishfinger hero Captain Birdseye
Hello. For those of you with a keen interest in local history this will certainly be of interest. Moving on from the successful renovation of the canal over the last few years, we are now looking for volunteers to help unblock and restore Beckworths’ Victorian sewer system to it’s former glory. It’s bound to be very dirty and smelly work but invaluable historical research (the water board are refusing to fund it, even though they were still using it twenty years ago. They have taken a defeatist stance saying it’s beyond repair). It’s a once in a lifetime chance for strong-swimmers, preferably with their own boiler-suits and breathing gear, to glimpse 19th and 20th century life through discarded toilet detritus and faeces. It is worth remembering that in their heyday the sewers (designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s adopted daughter Islington Kingston Brunel) were described as one of the seventy wonders of the world and were opened to the public by Prince Albert and his incontinent brother Prince Leopald Von Pitsburg, both keen sewer fanatics. Please email the secretary of the society Sarah Beeny for more details about volunteering. Many thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) Princes Albert and Leopald stand with Miss Brunel and guest stand on top of the nearly completed Beckworth’s sewers at their grand opening
Hello. For those of you with an interest in history may know that today marks 347 years since the Great Fire Of Beckworth was started, and thankfully quickly extinguished. Thought to have been started deliberately in a fancy cake makers in Padding Lane (now Floyd Street) the fire was believed to be the work of ne’re-do-well teenage graffiti artists Trevor Shrewsbury and Vince Dorchester in a copycat arson attack following news of the Great Fire Of London had been reported by Beckworth’s town crier. Like the capitol’s big fire many dwellings were destroyed (three including the town brothel) and a few people made homeless for a week. Thankfully in a just a few short hours the ferocious fire was extinguished by a crack team of two volunteer fire-fighters using buckets of urine kindly passed-along the street by near neighbours and and bottles of past it’s sell-by-date milk donated by the local dairy. In no time Beckworth was quickly rebuilt and a small statue of a flaming cake now stands a few hundred yards from the exact spot where the fire is thought to have probably started. Mssrs Shrewsbury and Dorchester were hanged from the town’s gibbet the next day for their heinous crime and their families sent to Coventry on a cart (giving rise to the idiom). Then, in an unforeseen twist, a few months later the owner of the cake shop, a Keith Ippling Esq, confessed it was all an insurance scam and so was also hanged. His family was sent to Eastbourne as Coventry was no longer admitting criminal’s next of kin after so much trouble with the Shrewsbury and Dorchester families.
The legend of the town’s fire lives on in the familiar children’s rhyme Beckworth’s Burning recently made into a chart-topping rap single (and MP3 download) by Professor Green featuring One Direction
(Beckworth’s Burning, Beckworth’s Burning, Fetch the Neighbours, Fetch the Neighbours, Pour On Urine, Pour On Urine, Fire! Fire!)
So the next time you’re passing the town’s vandalised cake statue spare a thought for the poor souls who lost everything in the great fire of 1666. Thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) Probably what the Great Fire looked like before being put out
Who amongst us remembers the popular 1970s music show Lift Off With Ayshea? Screened weekdays on ITV just before teatime it introduced many of us under tens to the excitement of Glam rock, to Bolan, Bowie & Ken Dodd and to the allure of big hair and sideburns. How many of us yearned to wear full make-up and flares to school just like woodwork teacher Mr Stanner? I’ve found a picture of Ayshea (from the days when she lived in Beckworth) but couldn’t help wondering where she is now? If you know let us know! Thanks, Bill Christchurch. Beckworth Historical Society.
(Above) Ayshea filmed in Beckworth for her telly programme