Three times on the 11th November (St. Martin’s Day), six small cannon are taken to open ground adjacent to a graveyard in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire. The cannon are rammed with Pyrodex gunpowder and newspaper and are then fired with a red hot iron rod cast for the purpose.
The custom commemorates the building of the local church and the charitable donations of a local man Brown Willis who purchased a house in the village the rent from which paid in part for a feast, the firing of the poppers, and a sermon to be preached in memory of his grandfather Thomas who died in London on St. Martin’s Lane, on St. Martin’s Day.
Thomas Willis was also a worshipper at St. Martin-in the-Fields Church. The Poppers believed to be medieval in origin have been fired since the 1760’s, although all six were re-cast in 1859, after one of them burst and destroyed the roof of the local pub. These later casts are the ones still in use today.
Shot on Super 8 Wittnerchrome film