Wholesale draper, James Greenhalgh was based in Huddersfield, and in 1891 decided to supplement his business by selling fireworks in the run up to Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. Many of these early fireworks were made by outsourcing to local miners, who wanted to make extra money; although he did also import from China, with supplies being brought to Hull by ship and then transferred to Huddersfield by barge, along the canal system.
Although the firework business was halted during the First World War, they instead helped the war effort by producing hand grenades and other munitions. After the war, they went back to producing fireworks, and despite the depression having an effect on demand, business still increased.
By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, they had already produced that year’s supply for November 5th, which had to be put into storage until after the war. As in the first war, the company helped with the war effort – this time producing blackout blinds, flares and decoy bullets.
At the war’s end in 1945, there was a great demand for their stored fireworks for use in celebrations around the country, and Standard Fireworks was back in business again, stronger than ever. Due to demands on the local workforce from all the textile mills, they turned to the mining communities of South Yorkshire, employing ex-miners to make their fireworks.
The company was floated on the stock exchange in 1959 and dominated the UK fireworks industry with many retailers having to spend several years on a waiting list simply to get an account with the company. In 1988, they purchased their main rivals, Scotland’s Brock Fireworks (an older but smaller company dating back to the early 1700s), transferring all business to the Huddersfield site, and making Standard Fireworks one of Yorkshire’s largest employers.
In 1998 Standard went into receivership. They were purchased by China-based Black Cat Fireworks, bringing an end to production in the UK. The Standard brand is now one of several trading names of Black Cat in the UK, with the former Standard offices now the UK headquarters for this operation.