Saturday, 30 October 2010

Gunpowder Plot - Guy Fawkes Night - November 5th

I wasn't aware that Hackney was involved in such a plot i hear you say. Alas the borough was probably involved in all manner of deeds associated with non-conformists, anarchists and the like. Would you believe that it was only in the last twelve months that i researched the subject and found that one of my ancestors is on the main conspirator list of 13 names…He was hung, drawn and quartered alongside Fawkes and the gang... Francis Tresham was also named as being part of the plot and arrested in Hoxton, Hackney. He later died of so called natural causes while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Guy Fawkes Day, Firework Night, Bonfire Night or whatever one wishes to call this annual blood festival involves children making their own version of Guy Fawkes. So you'd get some old clothes, fill them with old rags, newspapers or magazines, steal a hat, purchase a mask and then go out requesting money from strangers in the name of Guy Fawkes. I did it every year throughout my childhood, we would stand outside on the street unmonitored interacting with anyone passing with the words 'Penny for the Guy!' If you'd made an effort you might get yourself enough cash to purchase a box of bangers or something (boys went for bangers - nothing changed there then). On the actual day of celebration the entire country would embark on a 24 hour marathon of firework displays. The Guy we made was put on the very top of the bonfire and set a blaze...This ritual has been enacted for hundreds of years, what does it really mean? 

 History notes there were 13 (coincidence? not) main conspirators and many other accomplishes that were either lucky enough to escape execution or were so powerful that no-one could touch them anyway.

Guy Fawkes
Robert Catesby
John (Jack) Wright
Thomas Wintour
John Grant
Thomas Percy
Robert Keyes
Thomas Bates
Francis Tresham
Christopher (Kit) Wright
Robert Wintour
Ambrose Rookwood
Sir Everard Digby

Illustration Shows The Execution of Guy Fawkes and Twelve Conspirators (including my ancestor)

Here's an extract from the wiki page... See it in Full Here

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Sir Robert Catesby.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605, the prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James's nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state. Catesby may have embarked on the scheme after hopes of securing greater religious tolerance under King James had faded, leaving many English Catholics disappointed. His fellow plotters included Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, John Grant, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby, Sir Francis Tresham and Thomas Bates. Fawkes, who had 10 years of military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in suppression of the Dutch Revolt, was given charge of the explosives.

The plot was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on 26 October 1605. During a consequent search of the House of Lords, early in the morning of 5 November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble – and arrested. Most of the conspirators fled from London as they learned of the plot's discovery, trying to enlist support along the way. Several made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men at Holbeche House; in the ensuing battle Catesby was one of those shot and killed. At their trial on 27 January 1606, eight of the survivors, including Fawkes, were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Details of the assassination attempt were allegedly known by the principal Jesuit of England, Father Henry Garnet. Although Garnet was convicted and sentenced to death, doubt has since been cast on how much he really knew of the plot. As its existence was revealed to him through confession, Garnet was prevented from informing the authorities by the absolute confidentiality of the confessional. Although anti-Catholic legislation was introduced soon after the plot's discovery, many important and loyal Catholics retained high office during King James I's reign. The thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot was commemorated for many years afterwards by special sermons and other public events such as the ringing of church bells, which have evolved into the Bonfire Night of today.

How Were the Men Detected?

Saturday 26 October Monteagle received an anonymous letter while at his house in Hoxton. It contained the following message:     

"My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you."


  1. Guy Fawkes I hope your soul is at rest. Although not honorable the act of suicide, the courage you must of exerted to express your last gesture of freedom was intense.

    We shouldn't need a single such bold and defiant man, all men should criticize and force accountability.

  2. I suppose to most people Guy Fawkes is the ultimate villain, but to me personally he is a hero. Catholics in Elizabethan England were really treated harshly, going beyond the pale. No rights whatsoever. Basic human rights and religious liberty versus an inhumane and autocratic state apparatus. Unfortunately in this instance, the real and true "bad guys" prevailed. And of course, history is always written by the victors.