Remember, Remember: Gunpowder, treason and plot!
We’re on the countdown to lighting the bonfire at our annual Fireworks Spectacular, which marks the opening of the month of remembrance. So, light a fire, warm your hands around a cup of steaming hot chocolate and take some time to remember…
So, the famous rhyme goes:
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot…
The English tradition of Bonfire Night, where we light a bonfire and let off fireworks, is a fun way to give children a history lesson, fraught with political intrigue.
A splendid way to officially end British Summer Time with a flourish of light and sound, the origins of this community celebration date back to more than four hundred years ago when The Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament was foiled.
In 1605, a band of Roman Catholics, outraged at the laws being passed by King James I to prevent them practising their religion, attempted to blow the King and Parliament to smithereens by lighting a trail of gunpowder in a cellar underneath the parliament buildings. On the morning of 5th November 1605, the opening of Parliament, Guy Fawkes was discovered hiding in the cellar with the gunpowder. He was arrested and charged with treason.
To celebrate his survival, King James I ordered his people to light a great bonfire in commemoration on 5th November. It’s believed that this idea was grafted onto an annual event in the agricultural calendar called a “bone fire”, where the carcasses of slaughtered livestock were burned to make fertiliser. Although this practice has long since died out, the tradition of the shortened “bonfire” has continued to celebrate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot.
To this day, bonfires are lit to burn a ‘guy’ and fireworks are set-off throughout the nation. Here are our top picks of some of the weird and wonderful bonfire night traditions in the UK:
- Edenbridge Bonfire Society, Kent – a local event, the Edenbridge Display has become infamous for burning 30ft effigies of controversial figures in its gigantic bonfire. Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins and Tony Blair have all been immortalised here.
- In Lewes in neighbouring East Sussex, fireworks and a torchlit procession with blazing politically incorrect effigies is watched by some 80,000 spectators. The town is home to no less than six bonfire societies.
- Flaming tar barrels are the order of the day in the town of Ottery St Mary in Devon. 30kg barrels are soaked in tar during the weeks leading up to the event. They are then set alight and participants don oven glove style mitts to hoist them up and carry them on their backs until the heat gets too much. Enough said!
- Brockham in Surrey is famous for its huge bonfire – 40ft to be exact. We bet you could toast a few marshmallows on that one!