Gunpowder, Treason and Me

Posted on


Wondering if you have an excuse for watching so many horror movies now Halloween has passed? Don’t worry – I have the perfect excuse!


I like to think of Halloween and bonfire night a little bit like Christmas and New Years. You can still build up to Halloween, but just because you've eaten all the sweeties that doesn't mean that things are over!

As proud as we Brits are of our country and it’s various historical sites, we also seem to like to blow them up on a pretty regular basis – at least in movies! (See list below).

Many people know that I was born and raised in Yorkshire. You might also know that Guy Fawkes was also born and raised in Yorkshire.

Don’t know who Guy Fawkes is? No worries, many people outside Yorkshire don’t.

Before Halloween became so popular over here, we had Mischief Night.  I don’t really remember getting up to anything too mischievous, but my Dad used to tell us stories of his childhood in the 50s that involved firecrackers and bull roars. Bull roars were small fires that were lit under drainpipes, which were then sucked up the drainpipes, making an unearthly roar. Plastic drainpipes soon put an end to that prank!

But back to Guy Fawkes – he was born in York back in 1570. He was raised in Yorkshire, but travelled fairly extensively for those times, serving in the Spanish army. While in the army, he met a fellow disgruntled English Catholic, and in 1604 he joined a small group who were plotting to kill King James. 

King James was Protestant, and was also King James VI of Scotland, so his rule was already controversial. (The Church of England was still fairly new, having been established by King Henry VIII in 1534).

The original plan was to dig a tunnel under the houses of parliament. Although it was on the same site as the current houses, it was an older building. The current houses weren’t finished until 1860.

Back in the 1600s, the King was still very involved in running the country, and attended the houses of parliament to do so. (The first Prime Minister was established in the 1720s, and many powers were delegated at this time.) The plan was to dig a tunnel into the Houses of Parliament, and load gunpowder beneath, but they found that they could rent a basement was rented beneath the House of Lords - much more convenient! The gunpowder was installed there ready for the right time.

Fawkes was found out on during the early hours of the 5th of November, and stayed loyal to his cause (something the King is said to have admired). He was hung and quartered, a gruesome end, which saw his body parts scattered across the country as a warning to others.

King James decreed that the 5th of November should be a celebration that the plot was not successful. Supporters of the King lit bonfires to honour the King, and celebrate.

The Yorkshire tradition is to create a ‘Guy’ and to then burn him on the bonfire, although this isn’t what happened. It is said that St Peters School, in York, have always refused to burn a Guy, as this is where Guy Fawkes was educated.

For sometime, there used to be the ask of a 'penny for the Guy'. It's thought that this started in order to pay for the fireworks that would accompany the bonfire that night. Apparently a favourite prank on Mischief Night would be to light the next gang or villages bonfire a night early - cheeky!


We also have the delicious tradition of Parkin – a cake made with oats and treacle - and bonfire toffee, which is thick treacle toffee. I don't know why these came to be associated with Bonfire Night, but they're so delicious I don't mind!

As a rebellious middle child, and given the modern approach to politics and politicians, it may seem tempting to revive Guy’s plan, but it’s probably not a good idea (neither is joking about it, sorry Officer!). Although you wouldn’t meet Guy’s fate, you would end up at Her Majesty’s Pleasure – in prison, with no release date!

As proof of how seriously this is still taken, when the King or Queen attends parliament now, the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament are still searched to this very day. 

Here are some suggestions for what to watch - but generally as long as there's an explosion or two, or a plot, or maybe something gruesome in memory of Guy Fawkes, I think you're good!


Bonfire Night – recommended Films:


  • V for Vendetta
  • The Wicker Man


Films with great fireworks in:


  • Adventureland
  • LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Revenge of the Pink Panther








Films that destroy London:


  • The Mummy
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Skyfall
  • London Has Fallen


What are you going to be watching this bonfire night?





Add a comment:

Leave a comment:


Add a comment