It was on the 5th November 1605 that a plot, the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, was foiled. The plan had been to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. But an anonymous letter led to the discovery of 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars, guarded by one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was arrested and found guilty of treason. His co-conspirators fled but were tracked down and were either shot or hanged.
News of the plot’s failure spread quickly and bonfires were lit in joyful celebration.. Indeed, in January 1606 the king ordered that henceforth the people of England should have a great bonfire every year on the night of 5th November. It became traditional to place an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top of the fire, sometimes accompanied by an effigy of the pope.
Now, bonfire night, though still widely observed, is simply a pleasant social occasion – an excuse for extravagant firework displays.
The pictures below are from our own small village bonfire celebration, held a few evenings ago.