The nights are getting darker and colder, Halloween is over and you’ve eaten way too many sweets so what now? There’s another fun festive treat instore on the first weekend of November before you can start looking towards Christmas, and that’s Guy Fawkes Night. A celebration full of fun, fire, and fireworks with a dark history of plotting. Read on for the history of Guy Fawkes Night and learn what cities around England offer some of the best Guy Fawkes night events.
What is Guy Fawkes Night?
Guy Fawkes Night is a celebration of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot which was a plot to kill King James I in 1605. The date of the 5th of November was set by King James as a celebration of his deliverance as he escaped the plot.
So, where does Guy Fawkes come in? You may be surprised to find that Guy Fawkes was not the leader of the Gunpowder Plot, and he did not come up with the idea. The leader of the gunpowder plot was a man called Robert Catesby who was disillusioned with the government due to their treatment of Catholics under Protestant King James’ rule. Catesby organised a group of plotters who felt similar including Guy Fawkes.
The plot was simple, they carried barrels of gunpowder across the river in boats smuggling them into a chamber under the parliament chambers where the King would sit. Thirty four barrels of gunpowder were placed in the chamber and hit under piles of wood. It was Guy Fawkes’ job to light the slow fuses and escape across the river while parliament blew up behind him. Probably would have looked like an action film if it weren’t for a very interesting letter sent to Lord Monteagle.
Lord Monteagle was scheduled to attend parliament the night of the gunpowder plot but earlier that day received a letter. This letter told him that he should not attend as parliament would receive a ‘blow’ and would not know who their enemies were. Lord Monteagle immediately reported this letter to the King and from them on the plot was ruined. The Captain of the Kings Guard ordered a search of parliament and who did they find? None other than Guy Fawkes, and thirty four barrels of gunpowder.
Guy Fawkes was arrested immediately having no time to light any fuses and was imprisoned and tortured for three days before giving up the names of his co-conspirators. Robert Catesby was killed in a struggle for his arrest but Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
This is when Guy Fawkes may have gotten off a little lighter as in a clever move he jumped from the gallows before being hanged, drawn, and quartered breaking his neck and dying instantly. Ensure he was dead before his body was cut in quarters, unlike his co-conspirators.
When Are Guy Fawkes Night Events Held?
Guy Fawkes Night is on the 5th of November, the date Guy Fawkes was discovered planting gunpowder under parliament. Some Guy Fawkes Night Events are held on the first Saturday of November to keep them family friendly if the 5th falls mid-week. The date of the plot is remembered in the poem about the events:
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.John Milton
How Do We Celebrate Guy Fawkes Night? – What Guy Fawkes Events Are There?
Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires, usually effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned on bonfires and some bonfires are built to resemble the famous plotter. Modern Guy Fawkes Night Events involve torch lit processions, community bonfires, and firework displays, and can also involve fairground amusements, street food stalls, and drink stands selling mulled cider, hot chocolate, and other winter warmers.
Where are the best Guy Fawkes Night Events?
Where should you head to experience great Guy Fawkes night events? These locations have links to the history, interesting local traditions, or fantastic fireworks displays. Either way they offer great Guy Fawkes night events which will be a great experience for you to visit!
Battle, East Sussex
Location of this historic Battle of Hastings, the Celebrations at the Battle bonfire include a children’s fancy dress contest, a torch lit procession, and a bonfire. The Battle Bonfire involves an effigy of Guy Fawkes believed to be created in 1795. The Battle bonfire didn’t burn the head of their effigy instead taking off the body to burn it while keeping the head. The effigy still plays a part in celebrations today by being paraded around the high street.
Lewes, East Sussex
Lewes bonfire celebrations spread across the town with multiple bonfire associations creating events, fireworks displays, and multiple bonfires which are lit on the night. Lewes’ torch lit procession is infamous for their burning crosses. A truly traditional Guy Fawkes night which has been celebrated in Lewes since 1606.
London, Greater London
The scene of the crime itself, London bonfire celebrations are spread across the city. Some key spots to visit include the Tower of London where the plotters were tried for their crimes. The Tower of London offer a VR experience around the Gunpowder Plot which involves virtual reality and live actors putting you in the story of the plot as you attempt to stop it.
Alexandra Palace, London is the site of a bonfire, fun fair, and a fantastic fireworks display. The fun fair even has a German beer festival so you can have a pint while celebrating the downfall of the plot.
Ottery St. Mary, Devon
Ottery St. Mary don’t just offer the traditions of Guy Fawkes night events of other towns, they have a bonfire and a fun fair but they also have lads running around carting flaming tar barrels. Its unknown when this tradition started but it is held on the 5th of November, same as Guy Fawkes night events so the celebrations are combined.
Local people wear heat proof gloves and run back and forth with barrels which are lit on fire until the barrel eventually disintegrates to the cheers of the large crowd. A truly unique experience to have this bonfire night.
Segedunum Roman Fort, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Fireworks at the Fort is a very popular event every year bringing a stunning fireworks display to the River Tyne. Segedunum Fort is a fascinating historic location to explore as part of the Guy Fawkes night events. Built as a part of Hadrian’s Wall by the Roman’s as a stronghold to protect the Eastern end of the Wall. A great location to enjoy the celebrations.
Winchester is a city bursting with history from the Cathedral to the Round Table. Guy Fawkes Night Events in Winchester start on the high street of Winchester which was laid out by the Romans. The beautiful historic streets of Winchester are lit with a torch lit procession which leads to a local field for a bonfire and firework display surrounded by food and drink stalls. The historic atmosphere of Winchester gives a real different feel to the celebrations.
Whether you keep warm by the bonfire, toss around a flaming barrel, or watch fireworks while sipping on a mulled cider you can enjoy the celebrations. Started with a dangerous plot Guy Fawkes night events are fun for all the family and a great way to spend a November evening. Wrap up warm and enjoy!