Traditions

Pop Goes the Church Gun

Preparing the Fenny PoppersA waxed wooden plug goes into the touch-hole.

It’s Noon on Monday, the 11th of November and half a dozen loud bangs echo across Fenny Stratford. St Martin’s church have fired their ceremonial cannon again.

The six small cannons are the Fenny Poppers. The poppers have have been fired on the 11th of November, St. Martin’s Day, since around 1740. I went to watch. At the far end of the graveyard off Manor Road, four men were preparing the poppers.

Loading the Fenny PopperJust under an ounce of Pyrodex is poured into the cannon by Peter White.

Each one is shaped like a tankard, but they are made of gun metal with thick walls. There’s a touch-hole near the base for the fuse. Each popper is just seven inches long, but weighs 19 lbs.

Peter White of the church loaded them one at a time with just under an ounce of a gunpowder substitute, Pyrodex. It’s more stable than gunpowder, but like gunpowder it produces quite a lot of smoke when it goes off, as we will soon see.

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