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News > British tradition: Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot
British tradition: Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot

Posted 10/19/2010   Updated 10/19/2010 Email story   Print story


from Sal Davidson
RAF Mildenhall Community Reltions Adviser

10/19/2010 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

In 1605 Guy Fawkes and a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament at the State opening by King James 1. This bold attempt is still commemorated today with 'Bonfire Night' events taking place on or around Nov. 5.

Effigies of Guy Fawkes are made and burned and in recent history it was a common sight to see young people pulling along these asking "Penny for the Guy".

The History

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603. English Catholics who had experienced a rough time under her reign had hoped that her successor, King James 1, would be more tolerant of their religion. Unfortunately he was not and this angered a number of young men who decided that violent action was the answer. The 'Gunpowder Plot' was then hatched as a protest against these penal laws.

Guy Fawkes was one of thirteen conspirators chosen because of his military experience and knowledge of munitions. He was thought to have a cool head and because of this was trusted to carry out the plot.

The Plot

The plot, which was masterminded by Robert Catesby, began by the hiring of lodgings close to Parliament House. They hoped to tunnel through to the Parliament Buildings but this proved unrealistic due to the water from the Thames and also the thickness of the Parliament walls.

A cellar was then acquired within the Parliament Building and in time 36 barrels of gunpowder were smuggled there and carefully hidden underneath wood and coal.

The idea was for Guy Fawkes to ignite these barrels using a long fuse. This would allow him the necessary time to make his own escape from the building.

The Discovered Plot

It is thought the gunpowder plot was discovered because of an anonymous letter sent to one of the members of the House of Lords, Lord Montague. It was an attempt to warn the Lord not to attend the opening of Parliament because "a great calamity would consume it".

Word of the letter spread to the conspirators and they thought they had a traitor in their midst. Once they were satisfied things had calmed down sufficiently and that the letter had not alerted the government to their plot, they decided to go ahead with their actions.

In the early hours of the morning on November 5th, Guy Fawkes was arrested within the cellar with the 36 barrels of gunpowder. He also had on his person the equipment needed to ignite them. He was immediately arrested and taken before the king. He endured some horrific torture before finally being publicly hanged in March 1607.

The Results

Word spread around London of the foiled plot and the residents began to light fires in celebration that the King had been saved and we have continued with this tradition for 400 years.

To this day, a search of the Houses of Parliament takes place before the official opening by the reigning monarch.

Safety Points
  • Remember to keep your pets indoors on bonfire night as the noise and lights can distress them.
  • It is illegal for persons under 18 to purchase or possess fireworks in a public place.
  • Never let fireworks off in areas where there is danger to people or property.
  • Sal's advice: Go to an organised display. Fireworks are expensive to buy and these displays can be spectacular for a reasonable admission fee. Safety is also strictly maintained.
  • For a full background on safety and UK laws surrounding fireworks, click on: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/HomeAndCommunity/InYourHome/Escapingandrecoveringfromafire/DG_064665  
A Small Selection of Displays in the Local Area

Beck Row Village Fireworks: Oct. 30 - Joint celebration with Halloween. Professional Display by DBL Promotions
Where: Aspel Close, St John Street, Beck Row
Time: Bonfire lit at 6 p.m., Fireworks at 6:30 p.m.
Live Music - The Bounty Hunters
Bring your own alcohol
Free - but donations gratefully received on the night for Beck Row Community Association

Lakenheath's annual fireworks display
When: Friday Nov. 5
Where:  At the football club Back Street Lakenheath.
Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the display to start at 7:30 p.m.
Hot food and drinks
Adult price in advance: £3-50 - or - On the gate: £4-50
Child/OAP in advance - £2-50 - or - On the gate: £3-50
For information call 01842 860163
All funds raised from this event are given to local charities.

Midsummer Common, Cambridge -
When: Nov. 5
'The Largest Free Firework Display in East Anglia'. Held since 1930. Fairground rides from 6 untill 10 p.m. Fun starts at 6pm with the fireworks at 7.30 p.m followed by the bonfire. Roads around the common will be closed so use the public transport that is provided.
Information telephone line: 01223 457555 or click onto http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/leisure-and-entertainment/festivals-and-events/fireworks.en  

Sparks in the Park at Norwich 
When: Saturday Nov. 6
Two dazzling firework shows, Bonfires, Funfair, Heart soundstage, Guy Fawkes.

6.:0 p.m Children's fireworks
6:45 p.m. Burning of the Guy
8 p.m. The BIG BANG fireworks!

Please do not bring fireworks, sparkles bottles, alcohol or dogs to the event.
Extra Park & Ride and city bus services will be provided to and from the event.

For more information on ticket prices (which vary depending on advance purchasing etc) please click on: http://www.visiteastofengland.com/explore/thedms.aspx?dms=13&feature=8&venue=0141394 .

Editor's note: British Summer Time ends Oct. 31, so please remember to put your clocks back an hour - that means an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning!

*No federal endorsement is intended nor implied.

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