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Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night

Published: 02 Nov 16


Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

To begin.

The poem originated from John Milton, which refers to Guy Fawkes and his famous plot to blow up London’s Houses of Parliament on November 5th 1605.

The 1605 plot was in hope to kill the King and gain a new leader. A group of 13 Catholics took shape under Robert Catesby and placed 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords.

But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. To an extent where one member sent an anonymous letter warning his friend - the letter then reached the King and the King's forces put a stop to the conspirators.

Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder was caught red handed, tortured and executed.

On the very night that the gunpowder plot was foiled, on November 5th 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the king. Since then, it has been known as Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night.

The event is commemorated every year with fireworks, burning effects and pretend dolls/lookalikes of Guy Fawkes to be placed on a bonfire and set alight in celebration of the King’s safety.

As punishment, Guy he was tortured until he gave up his team. However, Guy died before his punishers were finished as he jumped from the platform and snapped his neck.

Mercifully for him, he died from a broken neck. His body was then quartered, and his remains were sent to the “four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others.

That’s the tale of Guy Fawkes, and the history behind bonfire night.
Now here are some fun facts about firework/bonfire night that have developed over time.

Bonfire Night facts:

  • Fireworks are set off as they are powered through gun powder, representing the explosives that were never used.
  • Dummies have been burned on bonfires since as long as the 13th century, initially to drive away evil spirits but following the gunpowder plot of 1605, the focus of the sacrifice switched to Guy Fawkes’ treason.
  • In 2005, 1000kg of gunpowder stored in 36 wooden barrels was used to blow up a replica of the 1605 Westminster ‘House of Parliament’ to demonstrate the damage it would have caused. Physicists calculated that the damage would hit 500 meters from the center of the explosion.
  • The houses of Parliament are still searched by the Yeoman of the Guard before the state opening which has been held in November 1928. The idea is to ensure no modern-day Guy Fawkes in the cellars.
  • A traditional food to eat on bonfire night is Parkin Cake – a cake-cum-flapjack dessert made with oatmeal treacle, syrup and ginger.
  • The cellar that Fawkes tried to blow up no longer exists: It was destroyed in a fire that devastated the medieval houses of Parliament.
  • Until 1959, it was illegal not to celebrate bonfire night.
  • You can be fined £5,000 if you are caught throwing a firework.
  • Fireworks can travel at speeds up to 150mph – the cruising speed of some biplanes.
  • Fireworks were originally invented in the 10th century by a Chinese cook as he accidentally mixed three kitchen ingredients – potassium nitrate or saltpeter (a salt substitute used in the curing of meat), Sulphur and charcoal.
  • Fireworks arrived in Europe in the 14th century ad were first produced by the Italians. The first recorded display was in Florence.

There’s no better place than London to see fireworks in London, Bonfire night and New Year’s day can be spectacular. Have a look at TimeOut or Visit London for the best firework displays in London. If you are spoilt for choice check out Chapter Spitalfields 32nd floor or Chapter South Bank Sky Lounge and get a good view of the fireworks across the whole of London.  

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