Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night, Fireworks Night – these names all describe one night of the year, a night of intrigue, betrayal and explosive drama.
Remember, remember the fifth of November, when more than 400 years ago the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 saw 13 people plan to kill King James I and blow up Parliament. The plot was foiled and the perpetrators caught, and today the event is still celebrated with a huge fire and impressive fireworks. Here are some remarkable facts about Guy Fawkes that everyone should know…
1. Why light a bonfire?
London was lit up with bonfires as people celebrated the failure of the conspirators to kill their king. What’s really interesting is that the origin of the word ‘bonfire’ is purported to be ‘bone fire’ and describes the burning of heretics and witches and bones.
2. The law dictates
Up until 1959 it was mandatory to celebrate Bonfire Night thanks to an act of Parliament that remained in effect for hundreds of years! The only exception to this rule is St Peter’s School in York. It was Guy Fawkes’ alma mater and they refused to burn his image out of respect.
3. A barrel of fire
In the town of Ottery St Mary, men carry flaming barrels of tar on their shoulders down the high street of the town. While this seems more than a little crazy, they do take it in turns until each barrel burns down to black ash.
4. Oops, sorry about dinner
Fireworks were invented entirely by mistake. Common folklore has it that a cook mixed together sulphur, charcoal and salt, set them alight, and invented the first firework. However, according to the Smithsonian it is more likely that fireworks were the result of an accidental mix of saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal by Chinese alchemists around 600-900 CE.
5. Yeomen of the Guard
The Houses of Parliament are still checked by the Yeomen of the Guard so as to make absolutely sure there are no plots and plans afoot to affect the state opening in November.
6. Devastation averted
According to research done by the Institute of Physics, the potential blast made by the 2, 500kg of gunpowder could have completely transformed the city of London and changed how it looks today. The calculations done by the intrepid experts found that it was likely the explosion would have extended well over 490 metres and destroyed Westminster Hall, the Abbey and hit areas as far as Whitehall.
7. Driving away the bad stuff
In ye olden times, dummies had been used to chase away evil spirits when thrown onto bonfires. Today, these have been replaced with Guy Fawkes’ effigy instead.
8. A penny for the Guy
To make some money so they could buy fireworks for Bonfire Night, children would go out with their homemade Guys and ask passers-by for a ‘penny for the Guy’. The effigy made them some much-needed dosh and then was thrown on the fire to burn alongside the fireworks it helped them to buy.
This article was commissioned via NewsCred's NewsRoom and written by freelance contributor Tamsin Oxford.
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