Tag Archives: Gunpowder Plot

Sussex Bonfire Societies

The Sussex Bonfire Societies are responsible for a series of Bonfire Festivals around Central and Eastern Sussex along with Surrey and Kent between September and November.

The societies hold celebrations to mark both Bonfire Night for Guy Fawkes’ capture and in recognition of the deaths of the 17 protestant martyrs who were burned in front of the Star Inn between 1555 and 1557, some 48+ years before Guy and his co-conspirators tried to take the lives of King James and the whole of the British parliament and supporting advisors including Judges and any number of Lords. The original structure still stands to this day and is now used as the Town Hall. Sadly, this is not the first or last death in the name of religion or ‘faith’ but let’s hope that there are lessons learned.

The societies are dotted about the region but by far the biggest celebrations take part in Lewes where they have 7 separate Bonfire Societies including Cliffe, Commercial Square, Lewes Borough, South Street, Waterloo, Neville Juvenile and Southover. Most of the members of the Lewes Societies hold their events on the 5 th November as is tradition other than the Neville Juvenile Society who hold theirs the Saturday a couple of weeks before hand.

The Lewes Bonfire Societies origins can be traced back an act declared by the King, thankful for the foiling of the plot to take his life declared that from henceforth, an Act entitled ‘An Acte for a publique Thancksgiving to Almighty God everie yeere of the Fifte day of November’ was passed in January 1606 that proclaimed the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot should ‘be held in a perpetual emembrance’ which the societies continue to celebrate to this day.

Now don’t be under any illusion that the Bonfire Society events are anything less than spectacular but they are certainly not a family night out. They burn an effigy of the Pope rather controversially and of course, a Guy Fawkes who was an ardent follower of the Catholic faith as seen in his attempts to kill of the representative of the Church of England, King James. The celebrations include huge parades through the streets carrying all manner of things including torches, burning crosses, letters spelling out the initials of their particular organisation, skull and crossbones and the Cliffe society carries massive flags saying ‘no popery’ which incidentally ‘the establishment’ tried to prevent in the 1920’s and again in 1933 the Mayor of the town wrote a very nice letter asking the society to stop such practice. Needless to say the society wrote back declining the request and again in 1950’s the other societies attempted to stop them in continuing this practice and to this day, they march alone on the ‘fifth’.

For anyone with a taste for fireworks and excitement, based around the Gunpowder Plot and the history of the Sussex area, these societies offer a fascinating insight and a never before seen way of celebrating life and long may it continue.

Bonfire Night Is Coming

So it has come to our attention that BBC 1 has revealed that it will be showing a three part drama called ‘Gunpowder’ and it has to be said we are all very excited about. The series is to be set around the early 17th century and is all about the evolution of the plot that could have seen King James I assassinated when Robert Catesby came up with his plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Guy Fawkes Mask box, Bar at the End of the World, Paris, France

The mini drama will not be based around Guy Fawkes but more around the mastermind behind the plot, Robert Catesby. Catesby who will be played by ‘Game of Thrones’ very own Kit Harrington will narrate his story in the lead up to the gunpowder plot. What
pushed him to come up with such a daring plan and how he managed to get as far as he did without detection. Harrington has also revealed that Catesby is actually a direct ancestor on his mother’s side and that is what led him to play such a role and tell the story not many people know.

Liv Tyler, Tom Cullen and Shaun Dooley will also star in this 3 part drama as Catesby’s cousin Anne Vaux, Guy Fawkes and Sir William Wade respectively. This all-star drama really has us all in anticipation as it shines a new light on the plot and tells the story from the plotters point of view rather the widely known facts that we relate to 5th November. It also shows us how Catesby managed to get Fawkes, the man you think of as soon as Bonfire night is mentioned to join such a plot as well as showing the roles of the other conspirators that did their part to blow up the King in 1605. The caption for the series is ‘Behind every plot, Is a mastermind’ and we hope that this series will show us why we today celebrate November 5th as Bonfire night!

Guy Fawkes, "Next Time, I'm Using Epic Fireworks"

More details about the BBC One drama can be found here :)

Who Was Guy Fawkes

On the eve of May 20th 1604 five men met at the ‘Duck and Drake Inn’ this was to be the first of many meetings to plan what some consider could have been the biggest terror attack England has ever seen, The Gunpowder Plot. John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guido (Guy) Fawkes and their leader Robert Catesby were the five main conspirators of the gunpowder plot, although later on in a confession made by Thomas Wintour it was found that a total of thirteen men had conspired to blow up the House of Lords, these five men were at the heart of the plot.

Come Back Guy Fawkes

So why did they plan to blow up the King and how did Catesby get a group of men to follow such a traitorous plan? Well, in February 1604 Protestant King James I ordered all Catholic priests to leave the country.  Catesby, his cousin Thomas Wintour and John Wright were not happy with this and plotted to kill the King and replace him with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth. However, they did not have enough support to take down the King so Catesby sent his cousin Wintour to Spain to ask for their help. Although Spain and England had been bitter enemies, Spain wanted peace with England and refused to help but while out in Spain Wintour was introduced to Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was at this point fighting for the Spanish army in Flanders. Fawkes was a British national but hated the Scottish and detested King James’s plan to unify the countries. Wintour was interested in Fawkes because of his knowledge and expertise in explosives so explained his plan to assassinate the King. Fawkes was onboard and the two sailed back to England to continue their plotting. This takes us to the meeting at the Duck and Drake Inn on Sunday 20th May 1604.

guy fawkes inn...

Through family connections Thomas Percy managed to secure a position in the Royal Bodyguard, this meant the men now had an insider as well as a house not far from Parliament. Guy Fawkes then posed as Percy’s servant so he could move freely through Parliament. While Fawkes and Percy were mapping out Parliament the other 3 men started storing Gunpowder in the house and in December 1604 had started construction of a tunnel towards Parliament. By February 1605 the plotters had reached the foundations of the House of Lords. However, on the 25th March 1605 in a stroke of luck, Thomas Percy managed to secure a Vault right under the House of Lords and the tunnel was no longer necessary. So Fawkes started loading up the Vault with the barrels of gunpowder and kindling which he concealed by placing firewood around it.

Gunpowder Treason and PLot Fireworks Barrage by Standard Fireworks

They had originally planned to put their plot into play on October 1605 but due to concerns with the plague, the opening of Parliament was delayed until November 5th. In a bizarre twist, Lord Monteagle receives an unsigned letter telling him not to attend the opening of Parliament. Lord Monteagle did show the letter to the King’s Chief minister but was not aware that one of his own servants got word to the plotters that their plot may be in peril. This did not deter the plotters and Guy Fawkes was sent to ensure that everything in the vault was still in place, it was and the plan was still in motion.

On the 2nd November, the letter sent to Monteagle was presented to the King and he immediately orders a covert search of Parliament. While the vault hiding the Gunpowder was noted straight away during the search Guy Fawkes told the guards it was a large amount of firewood being stored by his master, the Royal Bodyguard Thomas Percy and the search team considered this to be true. However, just after midnight on the 5th November 1605 the King ordered another search of Parliament and Fawkes is found dressed for a crossing over the Thames. He was also found in possession of fuses and matches so was quickly arrested. Further searches of the vault revealed 36 barrels of gunpowder and Fawkes was dragged before King James for questioning.

Over the next following months, the plotters were rounded up and put on trial for treason. On the 27th January 1606 eight of the men including Fawkes was found guilty of treason at Westminster Hall. The punishment for such an attempt on the Kings life was a most unpleasant death and on the 31st of January 1606, Fawkes was hung in a public execution.

After this, on the 5th November 1606 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the escape their King had made from the assassination attempt and instructed big bonfires to be lit as part of the celebrations. Parliament decided to make the 5th November a day of thanksgiving, this remained in place until 1859. However, by the 1650’s people had started to combine fireworks shipped in from China with their bonfires to create a celebration like no other. Although Parliament does not officially recognise the 5th November as a day of celebration or holiday it is still very widely accepted as one of the biggest celebration nights of the year.

#1605 #5november #guyfawkes #guyfawkesnight

A post shared by Epic Fireworks (@epicfireworks) on