The West Country Carnival Circuits are an annual celebration featuring a parade of illuminated carts in the English West Country. The celebration dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The purpose is to raise money for local charities.
The series of parades in each town now form a major regional festival. Some carts cost in excess of £40,000 to build and are the result of thousands of hours work throughout the year
The original Bridgwater celebrations consisted of a large bonfire at the Cornhill. Built out of a large wooden boat, around one hundred tar barrels were added, together with just about anything else available which could be burned. This tradition was stopped due to lack of old wooden boats to burn, and because a number of good boats were thrown onto the fire and burnt by over-enthusiastic revellers.
Effigies or "guys" representing the gunpowder plot instigators were added to the fire by local groups of people known as gangs. It would seem it was these gangs who started the trend towards a procession, as they paraded their guys towards the bonfire. As years passed by, the tradition was continued and the annual celebration became more and more elaborate, involving costumes, and music, until the key feature of the event was a large carnival procession.
The local people who dressed up and took part in the event were known as Masqueraders or Features - terms still used today to describe the parade participants