What is Bonfire Night?
Bonfire Night commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in November 1605 by a gang of Roman Catholic activists led by Warwickshire-born Robert Catesby.
When Protestant King James I acceded to the throne, English Catholics had hoped that the persecution they had felt for over 45 years under Queen Elizabeth would finally end. When this didn't transpire, a group of conspirators resolved to assassinate the King and his ministers by blowing up the Palace of Westminster during the state opening of Parliament.
Guy (Guido) Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, having rented out a house closed to the Houses of Parliament, managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar of the House of Lords - enough to completely destroy the building.
(Physicists from the Institute of Physics later calculated that the 2,500kg of gunpowder beneath Parliament would have obliterated an area 500 metres from the centre of the explosion).
The scheme began to unravel when an anonymous letter was sent to the William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle, warning him not to avoid the House of Lords.
The letter (which could well have been sent by Lord Monteagle's brother-in-law Francis Tresham), was made public and this led to a search of Westminster Palace in the early hours of November 5th.
Explosive expert Fawkes, who had been left in the cellars to set off the fuse, was subsequently caught when a group of guards discovered him at the last moment.
Fawkes was arrested, sent to the Tower of London and tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow plotters and Lord Monteagle was rewarded with £500 plus £200 worth of lands for his service in protecting the crown.
Who were the Gunpowder Plot conspirators?
Guy Fawkes, Thomas Bates, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher and John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Hugh Owen, John Grant and the man who organised the whole plot - Robert Catesby.
The conspirators were all either killed resisting capture or - like Fawkes - tried, convicted, and executed.
The traditional death for traitors in 17th-century England was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public. But, despite his role in the Gunpowder Plot, this proved not to be the 35-year-old Fawkes's fate.
As he awaited his punishment on the gallows, Fawkes leapt off the platform to avoid having his testicles cut off, his stomach opened and his guts spilled out before his eyes.
Mercifully for him, he died from a broken neck but his body wassubsequently quartered, and his remains were sent to "the four corners of the kingdom" as a warning to others.
Following the failed plot, Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving, and the first celebration of it took place in 1606.
After the Gunpowder Plot, King James sought to control non-conforming English Catholics in England. In May 1606, Parliament passed 'The Popish Recusants Act' which required any citizen to take an oath of allegiance denying the Pope's authority over the king.
Observance of the 5th November Act, passed within months of the plot, made church attendance compulsory on that day and by the late 17th Century, the day had gained a reputation for riotousness and disorder and anti-Catholicism. William of Orange's birthday (November 4th) was also conveniently close.
Dominic Selwood is sympathetic towards Fawkes and thinks the Reformation was all a colossal mistake.
"The truth is that the Reformation was not a gentle evolution achieved by a few Parliamentary acts and redrafted ecclesiastical canons. It was a violent rupture with our country's recent history, achieved at the point of a sword.
"Change was effected by a brutal battle of attrition fought with hangings, burnings, and bloodshed, in England and on the continent."
Guy Fawkes Day today
The Houses of Parliament are still searched by the Yeomen of the Guard before the state opening, which has been held in November since 1928. The idea is to ensure no modern-day Guy Fawkes is hiding in the cellars with a bomb, although it is more ceremonial than serious. And they do it with lanterns.
The cellar that Fawkes tried to blow up no longer exists. In 1834 it was destroyed in a fire which devastated the medieval Houses of Parliament.
Bonfire Night Bingo
Bonfire Night events around the UK
Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with fireworks, bonfires and parades. Straw dummies representing Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as well as those of contemporary political figures.
Dummies have been burned on bonfires since as long ago as the 13th century, initially to drive away evil spirits. Following the Gunpowder Plot, the focus of the sacrifices switched to Guy Fawkes' treason.
Traditionally, these effigies called 'guys', are carried through the streets in the days leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and children ask passers-by for “a penny for the guy.”
Today the word 'guy' is a synonym for 'a man' but originally it was a term for an "repulsive, ugly person" in reference to Fawkes.
The fireworks represent the explosives that were never used by the plotters.
In the small village of Ottery St Mary in south Devon, in a tradition dating from the 17th century, barrels soaked in tar are set alight and carried aloft through parts of the town by residents.
Only Ottregians - those born in the town, or who have lived there for most of their lives - may carry a barrel.
Lewes, in southeastern England, is the site of a celebration of Guy Fawkes Day that has a distinctly local flavour, involving six bonfire societies whose memberships are grounded in family history stretching back for generations.
The only place in the UK that does not celebrate Guy Fawkes Night is his former school St. Peter’s in York.
Remember, remember, there are fireworks going off all over the country this week. Here are the best.
Remember the firework code!
Fireworks should be enjoyed at a safe distance and adults should deal with firework displays and the lighting of fireworks. They should also take care of the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used.
Here are the 10 rules to follow
Make sure your pets are safe
As Guy Fawkes night approaches, animal welfare groups have issued warnings to pet owners: this can be a frightening and even dangerous time of year for pets.
How does that Guy Fawkes rhyme go?
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot ….
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot ….
Who invented fireworks?
During the 10th century a Chinese cook discovered how to make explosive black powder when he accidentally mixed three kitchen ingredients – potassium nitrate or saltpetre (a salt substitute used in the curing of meat), sulphur and charcoal.
The cook noticed that if the concoction was burned when enclosed in the hollow of a bamboo shoot, there was a tremendous explosion.
Fireworks arrived in Europe in the 14th century and were first produced by the Italians. The first recorded display was in Florence and the first recorded fireworks in England were at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486.
The word ‘bonfire’ is said to derive from 'bone-fire', from a time when the corpses of witches, heretics and other nonconformists were burned on a pyre instead of being buried in consecrated ground.
Big bang theory
In 2005, 1000 kg (2204 pounds) 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 might have caused.
Political activists sometimes wear Guy Fawkes masks to protect their identity.
These masks were inspired by Alan Moore's dystopian 'V for Vendetta', the 1988 graphic novel which is loosely based on the story of Guy Fawkes.
Supporters of anti-Capitalist group Anonymous will take to the streets of London this evening in the Million Mask March against political oppression.
There's a Guy Fawkes Island...
Isla Guy Fawkes (also known as Guy Fawkes Island) is a collection of two crescent shaped islands and two small rocks north-west of Santa Cruz Island, in the Galápagos Islands, which are part of Ecuador.
Traditional Bonfire Night food
The traditional cake eaten on Bonfire Night is Parkin Cake, a sticky cake containing a mix of oatmeal, treacle, syrup and ginger.
Proper parkin is a dark, sticky cake-cum-flapjack, not just a gingerbread. It’s good warm with custard as a pudding, perhaps with some poached pears, too.
Preheat the oven to 140C/Gas 1. Grease and line a 20cmx20cm cake tin.
Put the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup and heat gently until the butter is melted. Don’t let it boil.
Mix the oats, flour, ginger, spice and salt together in a bowl and add the contents of the pan, stirring well until the dry ingredients are well coated.
Mix in the eggs and milk. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking tin. Bake for an hour, checking often that it doesn’t get too dark on top (cover it with paper or foil if it threatens to burn).
Leave to cool in the tin, then wrap it well and store in an airtight container. If you can leave it a few days, so much the better – it’ll get stickier with time.
Cut into squares to serve.