Bonfire Night 2015 - Why does the UK celebrate?

Bonfire Night 2015 - Why does the UK celebrate?

Every year on November 5th, the UK remembers the Gunplowder Plot, and celebrates it's failure.

What is Bonfire Night?

Bonfire Night is all about commemorating the failed Gunpowder plot of November 1605. 

The story goes that when Protestant King James I began his reign, English Catholics had hoped that the persecution they had suffered for over 45 years under his predecessor Queen Elizabeth, would finally end. Unfortunately, this didn't happen the way they hoped. From this, the Gunpowder Plot was born. 

A group, including Guy (Guido) Fawkes, rented out a house close to the House of Parliament, and smuggled in 36 barrels of gunpowder into it's cellar. Physicists from the Institute of Physics later calculated that the 2,500kg of gunpowder that was placed beneath Parliament, was enough to completely obliterate an area 500 metres from the centre of the explosion.


The plot began to unravel when an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, a Baron (a member of the lowest order of the British nobility), warning him not to avoid the House of Lords.

The letter (which could well have been sent by Lord Monteagle's brother-in-law Francis Tresham who was part of the Gunpowder Plot group), was made public and this led to a search of Westminster Palace in the early hours of November 5.

Explosive expert Fawkes, who had been left in the cellars to set off the fuse, was subsequently caught when a group of guards checked the cellars at the last moment.

Fawkes was arrested, sent to the Tower of London and tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow plotters and Lord Monteagle was rewarded with 500 pounds and 200 pounds worth of lands, for his service in protecting the crown. 

The conspirators were all either killed resisting capture or - like Fawkes - tried, convicted, and executed.

What happened next?

Following the failed plot, Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving, and the first celebration of it took place in 1606.

Observance of 5th November Act passed within months of the plot and by the late 17th Century, the day had gained a reputation for riotousness and disorder.

How we celebrate today?

Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with fireworks, bonfires and parades. Straw dummies representing Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as well as those of contemporary political figures. Many firework and bonfire events will take place in local public parks, and include funfairs, food and activities for children. It is generally regarded as a family friendly event.

Celebrations in your city

Check out your local council website for details on the Bonfire Night celebrations in your city.