Brock's Fireworks at Woodhall Farm

By Ellie Reid

"The world's largest firework bombshell"
Brock's Crystal Palace fireworks Ltd., Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
"Preparing to leave our factory at Sutton, Surrey, for our new factory at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire."
Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
Woodhall Farmhouse now Woodhall Community Centre
Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
Homes for employees at Ranelagh Road
F. Sims & Co., Hemel Hempstead Library Collection
Vauxhall Road, Hemel Hempstead
Herts Press Bureau, Hemel Hempstead Library Collection

From the 1933 until the early 1960s, Hemel Hempstead was the home of Brock’s Fireworks , a well known firework manufacturer of the time. In the late 1930’s Brock’s employed nearly 500 in the town. 

The company produced “The World’s Largest Firework Bombshell” which is shown being loaded into its mortar which had a 25″ diameter.  When the shell was projected and exploded in the air, it created a canopy of coloured stars with a quarter of a mile radius.  This was used in fireworks displays around the world and at the London Peace Display in 1946

The company moved from Sutton in Surrey to a 207 acre site at Woodhall Farm, Hemel Hempstead, in order to expand production and comply with safety regulations. They built what was then the world’s largest firework factory. The move was not just a change of location for employees – over 100 employees from Sutton applied for transfer to the new site, but also involved taking down some of the buildings at Sutton and loading the sections on to lorries for removal to Hemel Hempstead where they were rebuilt.

In the 1930s, the company also built housing for employees and provided a social club and sports facilities. These photos of Vauxhall Road and Ranelagh Gardens show Brock’s houses; the streets were named after London gardens where fireworks displays had been held.

After Brock’s Firework Company moved from Hemel Hempstead to Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire, the land was sold for housing. In the 1970s Woodhall Farm became eighth area of housing built around the new town with the first residents moving in in 1975.  The farmhouse at Woodhall Farm which had been the home of Brock’s managers became Woodhall Farm’s community centre in the 1980s.  The estate didn’t have gas supplies until the 1980s; one early resident of the estate told me this was due to concern that at that time, there may have been residue from explosives in the soil!

Can you add to this story? Do you have any pictures of Woodhall Farm you wish to share. Do leave your comments or add your own article to “Our Dacorum”.








This page was added on 16/05/2011.

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  • My family and I moved to Woodhall farm in November 1976, Ann Boleyn Close to be precise. We had moved from Watford (South Oxhey) a council estate just south of Watford, we were (as was everyone else) new to the area, most of the people had come from London, some of the families I remember fondly were people like the Battys, Reeves, Barnes, Smiths, Heptings, dance, and so many others, those years were some of the best of my life, I miss them all.

    By Steve. (16/08/2021)
  • My grand father was the last manager to live and work at wood hall farm. My father has fond memories and photographs of when he grew up in and around the farm house and grounds.

    By Thomas Bennett (20/07/2020)
  • Good interesting page. I remember going past the Brocks firework field and seeing little red buildings in the distance spaced quite a distance apart. Presumably this was for safety reasons.

    By Phil Roberts (17/11/2018)
  • Around about 1956 myself and my partner were installing television aerials for Pyle & Thompson Television and radio retailers situated in what is now the Marlowes. Pyle and Thompsons were requested by Brocks to repair and renew as necessary a large amount of battens for a firework display for a visiting dignitary,( I do not remember who this was). We were asked by Pyle and Thompsons engineers if we would undertake this work which had to be ready by a certain date.  We agreed to this and spent many hours carrying out the necessary work in my partners garage at 28 Long John Bennett’s End. We were latter told by P&T that Brocks were very please as the  had no failures when giving their display. If anyone can pinpoint the exact date this display was shown and to whom I would be very pleased to hear from them. Thank You.

    By Leonard Buckingham (29/11/2016)
  • I was born in Vauxhall road in 1943, it used to be a cul de sac in the early days.

    Dad worked at Brocks 32 years having moving from Sutton in 1933 and made amo during the war .

    Ranlaugh  road was straight through (now a cul de sac) very different now. 

    By muriel nee martin (01/03/2015)
  • I seem to recall that there was a second fireworks company in Hemel Hempstead, Phoenix Fireworks, which did not have such a high safety reputation as Brocks. I think they had a number of explosions there; perhaps there is still somebody who remembers that firm.

    By Robert Oakhill (28/03/2014)
  • If anybody would like any information about our company please just Email the company and we will endeavour to help

    By Brocks Fireworks Ltd (23/05/2013)
  • my grandfather John Frederick Ivin worked at Brocks during the war and was in the firebrigade at the works. he flew over Germany as a civilian with regard to flares. I would be grateful to anyone having any information about this contacting me. Thanks

    By Jacqui Tatnall (01/03/2013)