On the 5th November bonfires and fireworks are lit in memory of the Gunpowder Plot. Want to know more about this annual commemoration? Read on…
Bonfire Night History
November the 5th is the anniversary of the day that a Yorkshire man by the name of Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the state opening of Parliament. Gunpowder was smuggled into the cellar under the House of Lords, but as Fawkes, who was the explosive expert, was about to light the fuse he was captured by a group of guards who had been tipped off by an anonymous letter. After his arrest he was sent to the Tower of London, and tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow conspirators. He died when he jumped off the gallows platform from a broken neck.
Afterwards, Parliament declared a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on the 5th November, and the first festivities took place in 1606. Today the Houses of Parliament are searched by the Yeoman of the Guard before every state opening to ensure there are no hidden devices in the cellars.
Bonfire Night Traditions
Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated in the UK and other parts of the British Empire with parades, bonfires, and fireworks. Straw dummies depicting Guy Fawkes are placed on the bonfire as a sacrifice to his treason. Traditionally these figures are transported through the streets during the days before, whilst asking people for “a penny for the guy”. The explosives are represented by the fireworks. Fireworks arrived in Europe in the 14th century and the first recorded display in England was at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486. Bonfire is a word derived from bone-fire, when the corpses of witches and heretics were burned on a fire instead of being buried.
Traditional bonfire night food is parkin cake, made from oatmeal, treacle, syrup, and ginger - it can be eaten cold, or served warm with custard. Cheese filled baked potatoes wrapped in foil to keep them warm, alongside toffee apples and popcorn will last all night long.
Bonfire Night Celebrations
There are so many key events around the country for you to go and enjoy. There’s the Flaming Tar Barrels festival in Ottery St. Marys in Devon, the huge bonfire night celebrations at Lewes in Sussex, and The After Dark event in Yorkshire which has fireworks set to music. For night events in London you can choose firework displays at Battersea Park, Morden Park, Southwark Park, and Beckenham, to name just a few!
Entrance to Blackheath Fireworks is free and there’s a funfair that starts at 12 noon. At 5.00pm the food stalls and bar opens, and the firework display begins at 8.00pm. The Wimbledon Park celebrations include two spectacular firework displays designed for children and adults. At 6.45pm the magic themed show starts for youngsters, followed by the adult edition at 8.30pm set to music from around the world - funfairs, food, and drinks are available throughout. Crystal Palace also hosts a double bill of firework shows with a child-friendly display ay 7.00pm, and the main one at 8.30pm, with hot food and drinks served ongoing.