Vintage Astra fireworks and their effects?

Discussion in 'Fireworks Nostalgia, Collectables And History' started by Captain Caveman, Aug 31, 2021.

  1. Hi all,

    Apologies if this has been done before/in another thread.

    I was brought up on Standard fireworks of the late 70s and early 80s (I'm in my early 50s now), and whilst there's always the odd gem posted here and there on these boards that I'm unfamiliar with, it's fair to say that I know most of the range inside out, as I'm sure we all do here!

    However, I did have an occasional dalliance with Astra back in the day - mainly mid-sized selection boxes and their smaller rockets (as well as bangers, natch). I never thought they were as good as Standard's stuff, but the names were intruiging.... "Flying Saucer", "Cackling Cauldon" if I recall, and some really, really tiny "Size A" and "Size B" fireworks, like a "Floodlight" (which was akin to a very, very small Snow Storm, rather than the much larger, spiked Standard stalwart, which was a single shot roman candle of course.

    Anyway, it would be really great to see some Astra-specific content like old selection boxes, blister packs and separates guys, and if possible a description of the effects? :) In particular, any really big pieces/rockets would be great to see, as unlike Standard, none of the shops selling Astra stuff offered much - if any - of the separates, back in the day, just the selection boxes.

    Many thanks in advance. :cool:
  2. Escht

    Escht Supports UKFR

    Put Astra in the search box in top right corner of this page and you should get plenty of pictures and info......
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  3. jww

    jww Supports UKFR

    So as a comment, I believe it was generally understood in the industry that the technical content / quality / cost of the Astra formulations was indeed inferior to rivals, and possibly at the lower end of all shop goods. That said, I'd tend to rate Astra artwork as some of my favourite - the 70's stuff I mean - and certainly my selection boxes still look great in terms of content. I've a display size Astra candle battery in the collection - green label with "Astra" on I recall - it's 24" high, very roughly and a proper display pack size item. Maybe 15mm, can't remember. I do have a few Astra formulations, but these are available on the net forums already I guess. Agree, I don't recall many separate items of size ! John.
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  4. Jamie Thornton

    Jamie Thornton Supports UKFR

    They made some very interesting large rockets, quite unusual in
    design to most the other British manufacturers.
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  5. Richard Lane

    Richard Lane Supports UKFR

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  6. Many thanks for the info, John.

    Back in the day, I too was always impressed by the artwork on Astra's selection box items, and there always seemed to be a good box full of 'em. Ultimately, though, they didn't seem to fire very well?

    My parents subscribed to Which? magazine back in the day, and they actually did a fireworks review(!), spending a similar (quite large) amount on four different manufacturers' products. This was 40+ years ago so I am struggling to remember the details, but I do recall that Astra came bottom of the heap. They were praised for their small selection box "Golden Rain" fountain and also a large separate called "Prince pf Wales' Feathers" or similar!

    Doubtless there are numerous Astra pics across the forum as Kev notes, but it would be great if you wouldn't mind posting a pic or two of your Astra stash here, especially the display candle, plus any formulations would be fascinating. :)
  7. Hi Jamie, please excuse my lack of knowledge :)
    I'd love to know more here e.g. in which respects were the Astra rockets unusual e.g. shell and/or motor design etc.?

    Also any pics of big rockets always very welcome! :cool:
  8. Fantastic pics there, Richard - just as I remember them! :cool:
  9. Escht

    Escht Supports UKFR

    A large Astra rocket currently in my collection
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  10. Escht

    Escht Supports UKFR

  11. Richard Lane

    Richard Lane Supports UKFR

    Re Astra ….Here is an Astra Med/large rocket I recently sold on eBay.I had to rebuild it ..and it still made a very good price!
    Re Jamie’s point regarding the difference between Standard and Astra …..I’ve always regarded Standard as the superior product.
    In terms of the chemistry..Standard definitely had the edge…in terms of the retail wrap papers both were good ..but Standard had a “look” that was more defined and instantly recognisable ..Astra produced wrap designs that were very good as well and I show a few of them from my collection here.
    Richard 3C284692-19F4-42CB-93BB-BDC7099E14C3.jpeg 860C336D-C347-42C0-989F-4AAE96BC24EC.jpeg 56E3F908-DBC8-4B8D-88FD-896F9CE6D732.jpeg 4A84E522-DA5B-4C3D-AD2B-16C96340E06E.jpeg 57504A8A-4783-480B-8E0B-94798B6A0CF3.jpeg C4E3CB50-8ABF-4B53-B172-A9EF390C847E.jpeg 47F4D890-F16B-4474-82A4-B662C4A4E27E.jpeg 37C66017-8907-4B44-9622-DF61833B0663.jpeg 5BDE91E4-0F92-44C9-9894-13B0F8455057.jpeg C3DAD9E6-ADC7-48CD-B933-6F0D65F80876.jpeg 1680F87D-7D90-4A27-9032-483E4DEFB430.jpeg E0E2D557-54EB-4C2E-8F46-2A3DD94D9141.jpeg AD21569B-24AC-41AE-9668-7592ED5F7902.jpeg FDAEAFEB-7C54-47E8-B34A-822FF20D8C09.jpeg B23F33EB-D04C-43A5-94D6-BD8668D8EBFA.jpeg A108E38B-A054-4478-8347-0CEB5064471C.jpeg 4ADC4FA3-FD16-41D9-8FB6-B9DE656309BB.jpeg AB8255B7-7BFC-49AD-B224-4D3F5F9C2E74.jpeg D7A83761-9E5F-4505-AAB1-3584380DC051.jpeg 738E8336-429D-4677-8B91-0B03BEF37791.jpeg D370F427-6A3D-4707-8CD7-BA064E3B1D00.jpeg 8A98BEFE-6A14-4B65-82DF-9B7FC1EDF724.jpeg DB8EC8C4-21B3-4B25-9AD2-2C768A50507B.jpeg 181937C7-73D7-4A42-8017-3E7FAF99FDAC.jpeg 36D5D97E-B585-4F71-AE07-856B91C9C791.jpeg E7E965C2-0696-409A-8CB3-E6914CE16C31.jpeg D9542CFA-8D85-4AA1-84C9-567C415FC907.jpeg E47BC902-0814-436E-9338-0FE7112AEE85.jpeg FBB99D76-0F71-449D-AE43-CFA41E771C7A.jpeg 99BD0D58-E17E-4E08-89F3-3C426EF12031.jpeg 006DDF5E-5756-409D-A316-E348DFE46C24.jpeg 7B4C7A19-FC66-459F-BCD1-A5D91ED3735C.jpeg 4BF7263E-C604-467A-9901-F10615F8387A.jpeg 73D81FFC-10B4-4139-9A14-D92A22A184F2.jpeg 511530EE-DD93-4432-8FD6-B8B860A462F9.jpeg 823D6D7A-A0C9-4DC4-9B2F-C04EDAE911A8.jpeg FF10BAAD-6AD0-461D-A59F-54097DB5E815.jpeg 2D318109-BE35-4BD6-A3DA-EBC2A1172EC9.jpeg 691133A9-0C69-4F33-B220-23D4CE08653C.jpeg

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  12. WHOAH....! :eek::eek::eek:

    You guys really are the business lol, I am not worthy!!
  13. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    Being a northerner, Astra was a brand we rarely had in the shops. Standard dominated the north-west. However, there was one shop that stocked Astra and I did try a few bits over the years. I have to confess that I was never really taken by them. Some nice little fountains but short lived and I remember the tubes being really thick which left me feeling a bit deceived. Their Jet rockets with the extruded aluminium tubes could be found in the streets. There is a nice little story about these by one of the forum members who worked at Astra. These metal tubes were leftovers from when Astra made pyro for the military and so they used them up in these Jet rockets that were basically a screamer and had a black and yellow label during the 80's.

    Yeah, I don't really have a soft spot for Astra like I do Other brands. But, I never really tried enough of their range in the 80's. Just the odd slecky box and some little rockets. On a like for like comparison of fireworks of similar sizes, Standard easily beat them in my opinion. I do have some fountain wrappers in my scrap books though from when I was a kid and looking at them still brings back that magic feeling so Astra did play a role in that respect.
    Captain Caveman likes this.
  14. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    One thing I will say is that these bangers easily out-banged Standard's 3-2-1 ZERO in the 80's. The ones with the white wrapper with pink text. So, that's a one up by Astra.
  15. Do we know/have any views on how Astra rockets performed in practice (the big ones like this, I mean), in comparison to, say, Standard Size 9-25 larger rockets, Kev? (Or anyone :) )

    We had Astra "Mars" bottle rockets back in the day (and a tiny Size E bottle rocket that came in one of the midsize selection boxes, which didn't have any starburst at all). The Mars rockets seemed similar in size/performance to the Size 1.5 boxed/Aerial Pack Standard units.

    For me, the big Standard rockets were always immense at launch - long, furious, very satisfying "whoosh" before lift off - but were always a bit of a damp squib in the air (presumably due to a lack of flash powder). The star burst of even the Size 20 was paltry even in comparison to todays much smaller flash rockets.

    Don't get me wrong, though, I'd do anything to have a Size 9 or Size 12 1980s live green and red Standard Sky Rocket in my collection though!
  16. Many thanks for that Tinderbox, I agree; although I've been in the northwest for 30 years, I grew up down south, so Astra were a reasonably common sight for a time. Definitely not up to snuff in comparison to Standard - or Brocks neither in my view (albeit I always thought Brocks were pricey for what you got).

    As you say, though, Astra bangers were definitely better than Standard's, which were a bit on the lame side (by the mid 80s at least). I'd love to see a "proper" 1950s/60s banger like a Cannon being fired for comparison. Those days must've been great fun; we had the "Supersonic Six" blister pack though (2 x Airbomb, 2 x Supersonic Bang, 1 x Jet Scream, 1 x Screecher(?) )
  17. Jamie Thornton

    Jamie Thornton Supports UKFR

    But bearing in mind today everything is the same old same old,
    boom crackle, fart, there is no uniqueness and the nice glittery effects
    the old uk stuff had, for me a lot of the fun and magic has been taken
    out of fireworks today, particularly since we lost the real fun stuff because
    some do gooders think they are not worthy to be sold on the market.
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  18. blackbat

    blackbat Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    Is there any reason the Chinese don't/can't replicate these effects?
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  19. Richard Lane

    Richard Lane Supports UKFR

    I agree largely with what’s being partic regarding the powerful…long lift periods of the larger sized Standard ones…in the lower lesser sized ones from both companies there isn’t much to choose between them….the Standard size 3 rockets…(or is it 5?) however were very special inasmuch that they were pointed card cones ends….wrapped in pink..yellow…or green finish retail papers ..and had a great lift/star load ratio and were for my money the very best all round performers bar non.
    There is another factor in all retail firework design and it’s the wrap and style they came in.
    The large Standard Rockets are the prime example ..and I show some from my collection attached that the shape and feel of the design was absolutely magnificent…the heft when handling these rockets was terrific.
    The largest flat topped star chamber Astra rockets took some beating in both areas but for me …personally…the Big Standard Ones had the considerable edge.
    Richard. 056F9108-74F8-44C9-8825-353CA82C0711.jpeg DD7D55BB-72A7-485F-925D-4C8FA7194575.jpeg D4C68F61-75A1-4A7E-BB52-AA472B5EA6ED.jpeg 190CC17D-AD2D-4355-8E83-696A0F390CBE.jpeg 2F52B5BA-028C-4750-8B43-222C5BAA25F2.jpeg F5CED08F-3F6F-45FB-9CF8-5DD87C8AE74D.jpeg CC5BDCDB-7E89-4268-A4E8-19E0D3E5F1A7.jpeg 587FB5EE-1E2C-421A-ACDB-BEAE7FE13D50.jpeg 6E1AC86F-04AB-43E0-962A-079028412D37.jpeg ABEDAA36-3DDD-4F54-A8AC-E1EA442BC0B6.jpeg 20F286BE-A5F9-4899-B917-315D74C02009.jpeg A833BB9D-E620-47A7-A421-FCA5994EB449.jpeg FCFAE101-813D-4134-9217-DC22A57909AE.jpeg
  20. jww

    jww Supports UKFR

    So there was a weird time in say the 70's, before imports, before "safety", when local shows - the £50 or £100 budget at the local scout group, when pyro shows hit the peak for me. Always remember the atmosphere - the bonfire, the food stalls, the modest "side shows".

    We pyro's would always be off to "see what we could spot" naturally, and the site of big Std material, along with some Brocks, big Astra e.g. mines etc. was what it was all about. That whole year of anticipation crammed into a night or two.

    The inevitably haphazard show, with the local "practical men" ( as the Std pack instructions phrased it ) doing their best to remember last years learnings re: tapers, portfires, torches, types of fuse etc was all part of the performance.

    That first fuse lit, the gentle glow of some primitive delay, a sputter, and then - well - you're all imagining it now anyway - so don't need my words. The variety of wheels, rockets, mines, waterfalls and fountains was fabulous, and after the show completed, it was over the fence into the dark fields to look for that prize rocket or parachute festoon.

    To grab one of those discharged pyro, still smelling of fresh sulphur compounds...was the icing on the bonfire night cake of many a childhood Nov 5th. Now it's mostly gone. But not for me :) JW.