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Plot Night

Updated on November 5, 2014

The Fifth of November

My aunt, who lived in England once told me this rhyme:

Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I don't see a reason why gunpowder and treason

Should ever be forgot.

My dad, who grew up in England told me about bonfires and baked potatoes, fireworks and effigies.

But what really is it all about? Read on to find out.

Powder Treason

November the fifth marks the annual remembrance of the 'Powder Treason' in England. It is the celebration of the discovery of the plan to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Parliament buildings.

Treason means that there was a plot to overthrow the government either by harming or killing it's leader.

The celebration

Children go chumping (collecting wood, old furniture and other burnable items) in late October ready for the bonfires organized in their local neighborhoods. People share homemade toffee, gingerbread men, baked potatoes blackened in the fire and an array of exploding fireworks. Then they toss a scarecrow figure, symbolizing Guy Fawkes, one of the assassins, into the fire. The Gunpowder Plot is the only event in Britain's history that is given annual remembrance.

Experience the celebration

The Plot

The Plot came about from the disappointments of the Catholic people. It was a drastic plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament and all the Lords inside, including King James I. It was a violent attempt by eleven men to change the English government. Catholics, who were previously not tolerated in 17th century England were led to believe gentler times would come when James became King. James, however, made many promises in order to gain succession of the throne. Instead, when James became King, the Catholics received further torment and anti-Catholic laws making it illegal to practice their faith.

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes was a soldier who was a specialist in tunneling and gunpowder. He was called in by the plotters to tunnel into the under chambers of the House of Lords and lay down two tons of gunpowder. The powder was then to be set to explode on the fifth of November 1605, that day the King would open the Parliament session.

The Terrible Blow

While the powder was set and waiting for the fifth of November, one of the Lords received an anonymous letter which was then relayed to the King. The letter warned of a "terrible blow" leading King James to believe of a threat of gunpowder. The King ordered that the under rooms of the Parliament be searched and the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes were discovered. Even to this day Royal bodyguards search the vaults of the Houses of Parliament before the opening of session.

The End

Soon, all the conspirators were captured and the plan was dissolved. King James was saved from assassination and he declared the fifth of November a day of thanksgiving. Even though Guy Fawkes had not been part of the original plot, his effort against King James cost him his life and eternal remembrance of his deed on Plot night.

Comments on this lens - Have you heard of Plot Night before?

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    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 

      4 years ago from Jackson, MS

      I'm so glad to learn the whole story. I have seen bonfire celebrations depicted on TV shows. I always wondered what that was all about. Thank you Hedremp.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      4 years ago from Missouri

      It is always fun to learn the history of another country. I had not heart of Plot Night, but found it interesting.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      7 years ago from Southampton, UK

      It's noisy outside right now (Nov 4th) with firework displays going off left right and centre. We used to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night by having fireworks at home, but getting a bit older we used to go to professional displays. Now with no kids at home we just sit in and watch tv.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      7 years ago

      This is new to me as well. But since humans have been creating history for a long time, there's always something new to discover and I like that! :)

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      I love it, and it is still really widely celebrated around the UK, in fact we have 3 "bonfire Nights" with eplosions

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      7 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      It's the first time I hear about Plot Night


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