Bonfire Night is here once again, and people all over Nailsea will be looking to mark the celebration with bonfires, warm food, and some electrifying firework displays. To help make sure you have a great night, we’ve outlined two popular firework displays taking place nearby as well as some important safety tips.
But why do we do celebrate Bonfire Night at all? Read on, and we’ll explain the treasonous origins of this firework filled night.
The Story Behind Bonfire Night
“Remember, remember The fifth of November Gunpowder, Treason and Plot I see no reason Why Gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot”
Bonfire Night marks a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by a group of Catholics. Elizabeth I had strictly repressed Catholicism and her successor James I continued this persecution, despite being the son of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. This made a lot of people extremely angry.
A Catholic Uprising in the Making
In 1604, Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, John Wright, Thomas Percy, and Guy Fawkes met at the Dog and Duck pub in London to flesh out their plan. The group were led by Robert Catesby, who was also part of a failed coup in 1601, but Guy Fawkes was in charge of the explosives, and lighting the fuse too!
Unfortunately for him, Lord Monteagle, a Catholic sympathiser, was sent a letter warning him to stay out of parliament, and he took it straight to James I’s right hand man, the Earl of Salisbury. On the night of the 4th November, a search was ordered and 36 barrels of gunpowder were discovered in the undercroft beneath the Palace of Westminster. With them was a man who called himself John Johnson. He was searched and found to have fuses concealed in his pockets, leading the guards to arrest and torture him until he confessed.
As you may have guessed, this man’s real name was Guy Fawkes, and he was hoping to ignite a Catholic revolution by blowing up parliament, James I, and other important men. The Gunpowder Plot was foiled.
What Happened Next?
Guy Fawkes’ confession led to the arrest of the other plotters, and together they were hung, drawn, and quartered. The quartered parts of these men were sent to different parts of the country to be displayed as a warning to other potential traitors.
The day became a national celebration when in 1606 parliament passed ‘An Act for a Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God every Year on the Fifth Day of November’, making it mandatory for every church in England to hold a special service on this day.
Though the history doesn’t form a part of many people’s celebrations, it is traditional to light a bonfire, watch fireworks, and even make a straw dummy. This is thought to originate from the custom of burning an effigy to drive away evil spirits, but after the Gunpowder Plot, it was also to represent Fawkes.