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‘Remember Remember the Fifth of November' ~ Guy Fawkes and Gunpowder Plot (And Bonfire and Fireworks!)

Updated on May 21, 2012

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

On the 5th of November, every year, throughout the length and breadth of England, soon after the sun sets, bonfires are set ablaze and scintillating fireworks light up the skies!

It is a night of fireworks displays, both private and organised, where ‘Bonfire Night’ party food is a must ~ jacket potatoes, hot dogs, and other goodies. Fun fairs can be found at the organised displays

Everyone wraps up against the autumn chill, so that they can go outside and join the celebrations. They hope that it will be dry! Since this is November, it is often misty ~ and the smoke of the fire may turn it to smog!

Safety films are televised and pets are kept in. Everywhere one looks, the sky is sparkling with multi-coloured stars ~ and crackles of minor explosions fill the air as rockets shoot to the heavens.

But why?

What are we celebrating with such enthusiasm and joy?

Let me take you back to my childhood.

'Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Gunpowder Plot' by Fiona Bengtsen - Book Cover

'Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Gunpowder Plot' by Fiona Bengtsen  [Kindle Edition ~ Front Cover]
'Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Gunpowder Plot' by Fiona Bengtsen [Kindle Edition ~ Front Cover]

Guy Fawkes effigy - by William Warby, 5 November 2010

Licensed under the Creative Commons. See:
Licensed under the Creative Commons. See: | Source

Pity for The Guy

Guy Fawkes Burned in Effigy

I remember childhood Bonfire Nights well.

Until I was almost ten, we used to have a family party in our large garden and, every year, for weeks beforehand we collected logs, twigs, papers, etc, to make the biggest bonfire we could. Nearer to the date, my Dad secretly bought fireworks, which had to be stored very carefully. And special, warming, party food was planned.

After our move, we lived in a house with a huge field at the bottom of the garden. There was plenty of room for a bonfire there, and Bonfire Night parties were well established in the neighbourhood. We would add twigs and wood offcuts to the huge pile of branches that had been constructed.

There was another preparation that used to go on for weeks beforehand ~ the making of ‘The Guy’. Every Saturday, for about a month, my Mum and my Grandmother ~ with help from my Dad, my Grandfather, my uncles, and us children, of course ~ would work on sewing together an effigy of a man. Old clothes were formed into a body and stuffed with straw. His face was a Guy Fawkes mask. This was an English tradition.

I understand that, originally, it was 'The Pope' who was burned in effigy! According to Wikipedia, 'it became the custom to burn an effigy ~ usually the Pope ~ after 1673'. This was because of the announcement by James, Duke of York ~ later James II ~ that he was converting to Catholicism.

(For a hub that concerns James II, see: Origins of the Names 'New York' and 'Albany' - United States Place Names History)

Another tradition was for children to sit outside shops, with a ‘Guy’ on a trolley and ask passers-by for ‘a penny for the Guy’. Their earnings would usually go towards paying for fireworks ~ or toffee apples.

On 5th November, once the traditional inferno was burning well, the Guy would be tossed on top and everyone would cheer, as he quickly disintegrated in the flames.

As I grew older, I began to dislike the idea of burning a man ~ any man ~ in effigy. Others probably felt the same, because I have noticed that housewives are rarely found sewing straw men, these days, in the autumn. It does still happen, but I am not at all sure that it is now considered politically correct.

But why was a ‘Guy’ burned atop a raging blaze every autumn?

Who was this ‘Guy’?

A 'Guy' - 'Procession of a Guy' - 1864

Public domain - copyright expired. See:
Public domain - copyright expired. See: | Source

Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) are situated on the north bank of the River Thames, in the City of Westminster, London.

At first, in the 11th century, this site housed a royal palace, which mostly burned down in 1512.

Parliament, which had used the site since the 13th century, continued to meet here, but it was no longer a royal residence.

The medieval 'Old Palace' was, again, mostly destroyed by fire in 1834.

The current 'New Palace' was designed by Charles Barry. It incorporated any remaining parts of the Old Palace.

Thwarting of a Terrorist Attempt on Parliament in 1605

‘Bonfire Night’ was, and is, a celebration of the thwarting of, what might be termed, a terrorist attempt on Parliament, in 1605 ~ while the king was sitting!

Because of the type of explosive being used, this scheme has come to be known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, or 'powder plot' ~ and one of the plotters was named ‘Guy’ ~ Guy Fawkes.

The king who was the intended victim was James I.

But why would Guy Fawkes, and his co-conspirators, want to destroy the Houses of Parliament and / or King James?

What was behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605?

The Gunpowder Plot was connected to the religio-political climate of the time.

NB: This was a previous building ~ not the current Houses of Parliament

The 'New' Houses of Parliament - Mgimelfarb, 2008

Released into the public domain.  See:
Released into the public domain. See: | Source

Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn


Background History

James I came to the throne of England in 1605, on the death of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII (Tudor). At the time, he was already a monarch ~ King James VI of Scotland. Elizabeth had died unmarried and without issue. Her (half-)siblings had pre-deceased her, having already ruled England as Edward VI and Mary I.

Until the reign of Henry VIII, England, like the rest of Western Europe, had been a Roman Catholic country for centuries ~ and it was assumed that things would stay that way. In those days, it was impossible to separate religion and politics.

However, at this time ~ during the 16th century ~ Europe was plunged into religious crisis. Revolutionary changes were taking place. Activists, like Martin Luther, were making a stand ~ protesting against corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. These were revolutionary times. This was the beginning of ‘The Reformation’ and the beginning of Protestantism.

Henry VIII was married to the daughter of two of the most well-known Catholics in Europe ~ Ferdinand and Isabella ~ the ‘Catholic Kings’ of Spain. This wife, Katherine of Aragon, who had formerly been betrothed to Henry’s elder brother, Prince Arthur, had not provided the son and heir, whom Henry craved so much. Her only surviving child was a daughter named Mary.

Their marriage had seemed successful enough ~ in spite of Henry’s dallying with other women ~ until the lack of a son, coupled with a strong attraction to Anne Bullen, or Boleyn, one of Katherine’s ladies in waiting, drove Henry to request an annulment. He wanted to marry Anne; he wanted the son, whom, he was convinced, Anne Boleyn could bear him. He needed a divorce.

Since Katherine had been betrothed to his brother, he was sure that a divorce could be avoided, because the marriage could be annulled on the grounds of incest ~ provided the Pope agreed.

The Pope did not agree. And neither did Katherine and her many supporters.

Henry was a Christian monarch and believed himself to be a good Catholic, but he was ruler of England and resolved not to allow the Pope to make this important final decision, regarding his marriage and potential heirs. He made himself head of the church in England; he dissolved the monasteries, confiscating much-needed funds for the royal coffers; he had the Archbishop of Canterbury annul his marriage to Katherine; he married Anne Boleyn.

Like her parents, Katherine of Aragon was a devout Catholic. Anne’s family, on the other hand, had Protestant tendencies, and Anne introduced Henry to some of these ideas.

The second marriage was doomed. Before being beheaded for adultery, Queen Anne did provide Henry with another child ~ but it was another daughter. She was named Elizabeth.

Henry’s third wife, Catholic Jane Seymour, finally gave Henry the son he needed ~ but Jane soon succumbed to poor health, and died.

Henry had three more wives ~ Anne of Cleves (divorced), Katherine Howard (beheaded), Katherine Parr (survived). None of them bore him any children.

Although Henry may have considered himself to be a Catholic until death, the Church felt otherwise and excommunicated him. Whatever his personal religious beliefs, England had rebelled against the church in Rome. It had become a Protestant country.

Henry died in 1547. His throne was inherited by his son, the boy king, Edward VI. Edward was a Protestant and he continued what his father had started with the monasteries ~ dissolving Catholic chantries, schools, etc. Edward died in 1553.

Next in line, was Edward’s elder half-sister, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon ~ Mary Tudor. Mary, like her mother, was a devout Catholic. She returned England to the Faith, and she had many Protestant ‘heretics’ burned at the stake ~ earning her the name ‘Bloody Mary’.

After some years of terror for Protestants, Mary died, in 1558, and her younger half-sister, Elizabeth, became queen of England. Elizabeth might be described, at first, as a Protestant with some Catholic sympathies. She became officially the Protestant head of a Protestant church of England. But it does not seem to have been her intention to make Catholics suffer in the way that Mary had made Protestants suffer.

However, a monarch ~ and a female monarch at that ~ cannot be seen to be weak. As already mentioned, religion and politics could not be separated ~ and many of Elizabeth’s people were refusing to worship in her church and were listening to a foreign power ~ the Pope. Meanwhile, that Pope was exhorting Catholics to betray their wicked, heretical queen. When plots on her life were discovered, and Jesuits started openly working to convert her people, Elizabeth’s tolerance came to an end.

Roman Catholics, who appeared to be indulging in treasonable behaviour, might be arrested and, if proven traitors, could be hanged, drawn and quartered. Many 'Papists' now felt as persecuted under Elizabeth as Protestants has felt under Mary.

When Elizabeth died, in 1603, and the crown went to James ~ the son of Mary Queen of Scots, Catholics believed that their time of suffering would soon be over.

Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley - Parents of James I + VI

Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) and James Darnley ~ parents of King James
Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) and James Darnley ~ parents of King James | Source

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary was the daughter of King James V of Scotland, who was the son of James IV of Scotland and his wife, Margaret Tudor ~ sister of King Henry VIII of England.

Mary married three times:

Her first husband was the dauphin Francois, who became, briefly, Francois II, King of France.

Her second husband was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley ~ her first cousin

Her third husband was James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell

Her son, James ~ who became James VI of Scotland and James I of England ~ was fathered by Lord Darnley.

In 1561, when her husband, King Francois, died, Mary returned to a Scotland, which had been governed by regents since 1542 ~ including her mother, Catholic Mary de Guise, who has been ousted by 1560.

Queen Mary was Catholic and Scotland was fast becoming a Protestant country. However, she acknowledged Protestantism and had protestant courtiers.

In 1565, Mary married her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Two years and a son later, Darney was dead and Mary went on to marry the man who was believed to have been his murderer ~ Lord Bothwell.

This resulted in a coup d’etat, with Mary being imprisoned in Lochleven Castle.

Within weeks, radical Protestants had insisted that she abdicate in favour of baby James. There followed half a dozen years of civil war in Scotland, at the end of which time, Mary fled the country and sought refuge with her cousin, Elizabeth I of England.

Mary spent her English exile, until her death, in prison.

Since Mary was a Catholic, she was, consequently, a possible leader for Catholics who might decide to rise up against Elizabeth. She was, therefore, potentially very dangerous for her cousin.

Elizabeth did not want to sign her cousin's death warrant, but, as her advisors warned: ''so long as there is life in her, there is hope; so as they live in hope, we live in fear''. She was executed, in 1587 ~ beheaded for treason.

James VI + I


James I of England (VI of Scotland) - by Daniël Mijtens (1590–1647)

See: | Source

James the Sixth and First

Was James I of England (James VI of Scotland) going to be a champion for English Catholics?

After all, his mother had been a Catholic ~ and this had been behind the machinations which had led to her death at the hands of her cousin Protestant Elizabeth I. Furthermore, his wife was Catholic.

Catholic Thomas Tresham confidently pronounced James king of England at Northampton cross. Other Catholics were keen to show the new monarch their support. Indeed, they celebrated.

However, James did not behave as the Catholics had hoped that he might. Unlike his mother, he was a Protestant.

At first, James appeared to be relatively tolerant ~ he stopped recusancy fines, for example ~ but, as noticeable Catholic numbers increased, and Catholic plots in 1603 were discovered, James became ever more suspicious of the potential for treason.

By February 1604 King James had proclaimed his 'utter detestation' of Catholicism. Recusancy fines were back and Catholic priests and Jesuits were evicted from the country.

James was a disappointment to Catholics, who had had such high hopes of him. Another Catholic plot was hatched!

Princess Elizabeth - Daughter of King James

Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James i of England (later Queen of Bohemia) 1606 - by Robert Peake the Elder. Out of copyright. See:
Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James i of England (later Queen of Bohemia) 1606 - by Robert Peake the Elder. Out of copyright. See: | Source

The Plotters and the Plot

The leader of the 'Gunpowder Plotters' was Robert Catesby ~ a Catholic, from a Catholic family, which had suffered anti-Catholic persecution.

Because Robert had refused to take the 'Protestant Oath of Supremacy' he had been expelled from his university, minus his degree. Also, his father had suffered imprisonment for 'harbouring a priest'.

Calendar of Events;

20th May 1604 ~ First meeting of the conspirators.

Venue: Catesby's lodgings at the 'Duck and Drake', Strand, London.

Plotters present: Robert Catesby, Thomas Wintour, Jack Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes.

The first four are friends and Fawkes is a recruit.

Soon afterwards;

Guy Fawkes ~ under the name 'John Johnson' ~ is housed in a Westminster property, rented by the plotters.

In the following months;

More plotters are recruited: Robert Keyes, Robert Wintour, John Grant, Kit Wright, Thomas Bates.

The first four are related to the original group, the latter is Catesby's loyal servant.

February 1605;

The date originally planned for the 'Opening of Parliament' (it is postponed to 5th November)

March 1605;

The group of plotters rent a cellar directly under the House of Lords.

Summer 1605;

Guy Fawkes goes to Flanders to lay low ~ and to involve Hugh Owen in the plot.

That year:

Thirty six barrels of gunpowder are placed in the cellar.

During the next months;

Catesby is able to recruit further conspirators: His cousin-by-marriage, Francis Tresham, plus two wealthy men who could provide for their needs ~ Ambrose Rookwood and Sir Everard Digby. (The Catholic Lords, Stourton and Monteagle, were brothers-in-law to Tresham.)

October 1605;

Final plans are laid.

On the date of the Opening of Parliament ~ 5th November, Guy Fawkes would set light to the barrels of gunpowder set under the House of Lords, in London, and then he would flee the country.

Meanwhile, in the Midlands, Everard Digby would lead a rebellion with the aim of kidnapping the young Princess Elizabeth, with a view to making her queen, on the assassination of her father.

26th October 1605;

Lord Monteagle receives an anonymous letter, warning him not to attend the opening of Parliament. (Presumably Tresham has sent this.) Monteagle shows this secret missive to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, James's most senior minister.

Although the plotters are warned by a Monteagle servant that the contents of the letter are known, they continue with their plans. However, Salisbury has the cellars searched ~ finding gunpowder, firewood and Guido (Guy) Fawkes, who is arrested and questioned ~ eventually under torture.

The other men, who have been waiting in London, escape to the Midlands, but, as their names become known, they are being actively sought.


Bonfires of Thanksgiving

Bonfires of thanksgiving ~ that the plot had been discovered in time ~ were lit in celebration!

Thomas Winter fled to Huddington Court (his brother's home).

Robert Catesby, Ambrose Rookwood, Jack and Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy and Thomas Bates - rode on towards Warwickshire, to Warwick Castle, where they stole horses, to take them on to Holbeche House in Staffordshire. Bates, though, was not with the others at Holbeche for the confrontation ~ he was arrested in Staffordshire

At Holbeche, they decided to lay their sodden gunpowder out to dry in front of the fire. This was a dangerous thing to do with gunpowder! Their co-conspirator, John Grant, was blinded by the inevitable explosion which ensued.

He was of little use when the kings men arrived to confront the traitors, in the form of the High Sheriff of Worcestershire and his men. By the end of the short battle, Robert Catesby, the Wright brothers and Thomas Percy were dead, or dying, of their injuries and Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood and Thomas Grant had been arrested.

Some of the conspirators ~ five in number ~ were still being sought.

December 1605;

By the final month of the year, all but one of the plotters ~ Robert Wintour ~ had been killed or captured. Francis Tresham died, while imprisoned in the Tower of London. Wintour's freedom would be short-lived.

The prisoners continued to be interrogated ~ who else knew about the plot?

Thomas Bates had, apparently, told a Jesuit priest during 'Confession'. The Jesuits were, thus, implicated in the crime and this gave the government the reason they wanted to ransack the homes of many other Catholics. Some were even put in the Tower.

January 1606;

Robert Wintour was arrested at Hagley, Worcestershire.

27th January 1606: the beginning of the plotters' trials at Westminster Hall.

Robert Wintour was tried.

Salisbury had ordered that the event should begin with blame being placed on the Jesuits, followed by a description of the punishment for treason: the horrifying spectacle of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

Digby's trial was the last. All of the men were found guilty of high treason.

30 January 1606;

Execution of Digby, Robert Wintour, Bates and Grant ~ St Paul's Churchyard.

31st January 1606;

Execution of Thomas Wintour, Rookwood, Keyes and Guy Fawkes.

Those conspirators who survived to be tried in January 1606 were hanged, drawn and quartered.


Cellar under the House of Lords - by William Capon - 1799

See: | Source

Guy Fawkes Confession

See: | Source
See: | Source

The Plotters

Robert Catesby
Robert Catesby
Guy (Guido) Fawkes
Guy (Guido) Fawkes
The Wintour (Winter) Brothers
The Wintour (Winter) Brothers
The Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers

The Gunpowder Plotters

Robert Catesby

Leader of the plotters.

Born in the county of Warwickshire, circa 1572.

His mother was a Throckmorton of Coughton Court.

He was already seen as a potential threat as early as 1603, when he was arrested, having been involved the Earl of Essex's rebellion of 1601 and implicated in a 1602 Spanish plot.

Guy Fawkes / Guido Faukes

Born 1570.

He attended St Peters School in York ~ the same school as the Wrights.

Though his father had been strongly Protestant, he had died, and, when his mother had married again, it was into a devoutly Catholic family. He became a Catholic convert.

Fawkes had fought in the Spanish army and had even approached the Spanish to discuss an invasion of England. It appears that he was introduced to Catesby by Hugh Owen and that Thomas Wintour recruited Fawkes to the gunpowder plot.

He was settled in the house neighbouring the house of Lords, under the guise of being a Percy servant ~ John Johnson. His job was two-fold ~ to obtain gunpowder and to dig a tunnel through to the basement under the House of Lords.

Robert and Thomas Wintour / Winter

Thomas Winter was born in around 1571 in Worcestershire. His family was devoutly Catholic. Indeed, one of his uncles, a Catholic priest, was executed in 1586. Like his relatives, Robert Catesby, Francis Tresham and Lord Monteagle he had sought Spanish help and support for English Catholics.

Wintour went to Flanders (Spanish Netherlands) again seeking Spanish help ~ this time with the gunpowder plot. That was when he brought Guy Fawkes on board.

Thomas Percy

Born 1560.

Thomas Percy was a member of the well-known aristocratic Percy family of the North of England ~ the family of the Earls of Northumberland.

He was a friend of Robert Catesby.

He was married to a Catholic and had converted to Catholicism. His wife, Martha Wright, was the sister of co-conspirators, Christopher and John Wright.

Percy had been one of King James's bodyguards.

It was Percy who rented, first, the house next to the House of Lords and, later, the cellar under the House of Lords. (The house was leased to Percy by Henry Ferrers, of Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire.)

Because it was Percy who had rented the property, where the gunpowder was found, his guilt became evident as soon as the plot was discovered.

He was killed, alongside Catesby, at Holbeche House. Both men were then decapitated and their heads publicly displayed on the House of Commons roof!

Christopher and John Wright

John Wright was born in 1568; his brother Christopher (Kit) Wright was 2 years younger.

Previous links to other plotters:

They had attended the same school as Guy Fawkes ~ St Peter's, York.

Their sister was the wife of Thomas Percy.

They ~ especially John ~ were good friends of Catesby.

Both brothers had already come under suspicion, and had been imprisoned, after being implicated in a conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth in 1596; both had been involved in the 1601 Essex revolt; and both died together at Holbeche.

Francis Tresham

Born circa 1567.

Francis Tresham was the son of devout Catholic, Sir Thomas Tresham, who had designed the Triangular Lodge, replete with catholic symbolism, in the grounds of his home ~ Rushton Hall, in Northamptonshire. Sir Thomas had been the ward of Robert Throckmorton of Coughton Court ~ and he had married Throckmorton's daughter, Muriel. Sir Thomas had been fined and imprisoned for recusancy.

Francis Tresham was Robert Catesby's cousin and a friend of the Wrights. Like Catesby, he had been involved in Essex's rebellion of 1601 ~ following which he had been fined and put in prison. His father, Sir Thomas Tresham, had had to pay for his son's behaviouir ~ and he had contributed to his nephew Catesby's fine, as well.

Francis Tresham had also been implicated in the 1602/3 Spanish plot. However, he does not appear to have been strongly in favour of this revolutionary plan.

Everard Digby

Sir Everard Digby was born circa 1578.

His was a Roman Catholic family, but he does not seem to have become serious about the religion until he was older.

When he married, he came intp property in Buckinghamshire ~ an estate at Gayhurst.

Ambrose Rookwood

Born circa 1578.

His was a Catholic family from Suffolk, but his home, at the time, was in Stratford Upon avon, Warwickshire.

He was educated by Catholics; his brother became a Franciscan friar; he married a Catholic ~ a member of the Lincolnshire Tyrwhitts. He was wealthy and he had connections with some of the Catholic families of the Midlands.

He had a family relationship with Keyes

Thomas Bates

Bates was Catesby's servant.

He is the plotter who is supposed to have confessed to Oswald Tesimond, a Jesuit priest.

Robert Keyes

Ironically, Robert Keyes' father was a Protestant cleric. However, his mother was a member of the Catholic Lincolnshire Tyrwhitts and his wife was connected to Ambrose Rookwood.

John Grant

John Grant was the owner of 'Norbrook', a house near Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire.

His wife was the sister of the Winter brothers.

He had been involved in Essex's 1601 rebellion.


Others who appear to have known about, and possibly played lesser parts in, the plot were: Hugh Owen and Robert Stanley and Father Garnet.

The Earl of Northumberland was suspected of being a plotter, but, with no proof, he was not convicted. However, he was kept in the Tower of London for several years for lesser crimes.

Stephen and Humphrey Littleton and Henry Morgan were executed.

The Gunpowder Plotters

Out of Copyright
Out of Copyright

Conspirators' Relationships

A number of the plotters were related in one way or another ~ by bonds of blood, marriage, friendship, education, etc:

Robert Catesby, Frances Tresham, John Grant, Robert Wintour and Thomas Wintour belonged to the same family. Thomas Bates was Catesby's faithful servant.

John (Jack) Wright. Christopher (Kit) Wright and Thomas Percy belonged to the same family. Guy Fawkes attended the same school as the Wright brothers.

Robert Keyes and Ambrose Rookwood belonged to the same family.

Was Salisbury the Biggest Plotter of Them All??

"To this day, there are historians who believe that sufficient evidence exists to show that Cecil orchestrated the whole plot - unknown to the plotters - to convince James I that Catholics were not to be trusted and that they should once and for all be thrown out of the country."

Quote from:

Warnings and Secrecy

Various conspirators had reasons for wanting to warn ~ and so save ~ certain people, who would be in the House of Lords, when it was due to be blown to pieces.

For Francis Tresham, it was his two brothers-in-law: Lord Monteagle and Lord Stourton.

For Thomas Percy it was his relative, the Earl of Northumberland.

Other plotters were concerned for Lord Vaux, Lord Montague and Lord Mordaunt.

However, Robert Catesby assured them that any warnings would be far too risky and he ordered that none should be given.

And, of course, Catesby was correct ~ for warnings were given and that seems to have been their major undoing.

Warning Letter sent to Monteagle

1605 - out of copyright - public domain See:
1605 - out of copyright - public domain See: | Source


Celebratory bonfires were lit almost immediately the plot was discovered and thwarted.

They have been lit on (or near) 5th November, ever since.

At one stage, effigies of the pope were thrown onto the fire, but later this was replaced with effigies of Guy Fawkes.

Buildings Associated with the Plotters






Triangular Lodge

* * * * * * * * *

The Coughton Court Connection

The plotters were divided into two main groups on 5th November ~ those in London and those in the Midlands.

The ones in London were responsible for blowing up the Houses of Parliament and all within ~ including King James.

The ones in the Midlands were planning to kidnap James's daughter Elizabeth, intending to make her a puppet Catholic queen, in her father's stead.

But the plot was discovered and the London conspirators were fled to the Midlands.

Thomas Bates, loyal servant to Robert Catesby, rode to Coughton Court in Warwickshire. There he found gathered a group of Catholics ~ and he had terrifying news for them.

Coughton Court, with its double priest-hole to protect mass-celebrants, was a centre where Catholic recusants gathered during the 16th-17th centuries, when it was dangerous and illegal to be openly Catholic.

According to the 'Gunpowder Plot Site', there were gathered: Father Henry Garnet, Father Oswald Tesimond, Sir Everard Digby's family, Nicholas Owen, (builder of the priest holes) and the Vaux sisters ~ related to the Throckmortons, who owned Coughton Court.

Lady Digby heard that her husband was now fleeing for his life ~ wanted for treason ~ and the Vaux women learned that the same was true for their relatives Robert Catesby and the Wintours. Guy Fawkes had already been arrested.

When Thomas Bates left to join his co-conspirators, Father Tesimond went too. He fled to the continent.

Both Father Garnet and Nicholas Owen were implicated in the plot ~ and they did not escape. Garnet was executed. Owen died in the Tower of London, while being interrogated.

Garnet had, in fact, attempted to dissuade the plotters from going ahead with their scheme, believing that it would bring additional hardship to Catholics.

The women were arrested and questioned, but nothing more.

* * * *

Robert Catesby met up with the other 'outlaws' near his mother's home ~ where she was caring for his son. However, he would not allow his family to know that he was there, and he went off ~ to Dunchurch, to Holbeche and to his death ~ without seeing them, or saying a final farewell.

Coughton Court, Warwickshire

Coughton Court ~  Morris's Country Seats. See:
Coughton Court ~ Morris's Country Seats. See: | Source

Other Properties

Ashby St. Ledgers, Northamptonshire

Robert Catesby used a room above the gatehouse at his mother's home ~ Ashby St. Ledgers ~ as a central command centre while organising the plot.

His own home was at Chastleton, Oxfordshire. He also had property at Lapworth.

Clopton House, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire

In 1605, the years of the plot, Clopton was the home of In 1605 Ambrose Rookwood, one of the conspirators.

Bushwood Hall, Lapworth

This was the family home of the Catesbys, and was where Robert Catesby was born and raised.

Norbrook House

John Grant's house at Snitterfield ~ near Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire

Huddington Court, near Droitwich, Worcestershire

Home of the Wintour family

Holbeche / Holbeach, Staffordshire

Home of Stephen Littleton. He and his relative, Humphrey, joined the conspirators after the event and probably knew very little about it, beforehand. They were with them at the Bull Inn Coventry and the Red Lion Dunchurch, but that is where Humphrey Littleton left them. Stephen Littleton and Robert Wintour then set off for Holbeche, but they were not at the house when the gunpowder accidentally exploded. They fled and wandered around seeking refuge, which they found at Hagley House, before being captured.

Hagley House

The home of a deceased relative of Stephen Littleton, where Stephen and his friend (possibly relative) Robert Wintour, were sheltered by Humphrey Littleton, before they were all betrayed by a servant.

Red Lion Inn, Dunchurch, Warwickshire

This is where Digby lodged at the time of the plot and where certain conspiators awaited news of its outcome. 'The Red Lion' later became 'Guy Fawkes House'.

Bull Inn Coventry, Warwickshire

A meeting place for the conspirators, after the failed plot and before moving on to Dunchurch.

Rushton Triangular Lodge, Northamptonshire

I have heard a suggestion that this out-of-the-way lodge may have been secretly used by the plotters ~ but only a suggestion. It belonged to Francis Tresham, after the death of his father, Sir Thomas, who had designed it.

Anti-Catholic Ballad

The first verse of an anti-Catholic ballad, about 'The Gunpowder Plot', from the 17th or 18th century:

True Protestants I pray you do draw near
Unto this ditty lend attentive ear,
The lines are new although the subject's old
Likewise it is as true as e'er was told.

Gunpowder Plot Anti-Catholic Ditty

See: | Source

Consequences of the Plot


Anti-Catholic laws were passed:

Catholics could no longer;

~ vote in elections (not repealed until 1829)

~ practise law

~ serve as an army officer

~ serve as a naval officer

Furthermore, thenceforth, Catholics tended to be blamed for society's ills.

Guy Fawkes Night - Windsor Castle - 1776

Published September 1776. See:
Published September 1776. See: | Source

Guy Fawkes Night - Windsor Castle - 1776 - Detail

Published September 1776. See:
Published September 1776. See: | Source

State Opening of Parliament

Every year, in November, there is a State Opening of Parliament ~ a royal opening of parliament by the monarch.

Before the queen delivers her speech, however, there are a number of traditional and ceremonial duties that her Bodyguard ~ the Yeomen of the Guard ~ have to go through.

In single file, carrying lanterns and swords, they search the vaults underneath the Palace of Westminster, to check that 'all is secure'.

This ritual is in remembrance of the gunpowder plot.

Fireworks Display - by KSDigital, 5th November 2010

Licensed under the Creative Commons. See:
Licensed under the Creative Commons. See: | Source

Bonfire Night

Another result of the plot is that every year, on November 5th, there have been celebrations ~ including bonfires!

Although there are records of bonfires being lit immediately after the plot was discovered, official observance began with the 'Observance of 5th November Act', of 1605/6 ~ the 'Thanksgiving Act'.

Wikipedia quotes Edward Montagu:

"Forasmuch as almighty God hath in all ages showed his power and mercy in the miraculous and gracious deliverance of his church, and in the protection of religious kings and states, and that no nation of the earth hath been blessed with greater benefit than this kingdom now enjoyeth, having the same true and free profession of the gospel under our most gracious sovereign lord King James, the most great learned and religious king that ever reigned therein, ...: the which many malignant and devilish papists, Jesuits, and seminary priests much envying and fearing, conspired most horribly, when the king's most excellent majesty, the queen, the prince, and the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, should have been assembled in the upper house of Parliament upon the fifth day of November in the year of our lord 1605 suddenly to have blown up the said house with gunpowder .."

At one time, the country celebrated 'Gunpowder Treason Day'.

Nowadays, on 5th November, or the nearest Saturday, England's skies are filled with sparkling colourful fireworks, as revellers keep warm beside huge bonfires, throughout the land.

Bonfire - 6 November 2010 - Sam Roberts

Bonfire - Himley Hall near Dudley - 6 November 2010 - By SJNikon/ Sam Roberts. see:
Bonfire - Himley Hall near Dudley - 6 November 2010 - By SJNikon/ Sam Roberts. see: | Source

Houses of Parliament, London

Midland Counties, England


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    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello again, Adam :)

      Thank you very much for your kind words! I am glad that you enjoyed this article!

      Yes, I do have more history items and I have added some links at the end of this article.

      You can also access hubs via my profile page (click on my name by my photo) or by clicking on 'Read more Hubs by Trish_M' a little way under the photo.

      Thanks again :)

    • profile image

      Adam Hughes 

      6 years ago

      Same adam by the way,

      after reading this great hub do you have any other history hubs as this one was great


    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Teresa :)

      Thank you very much, indeed.

      Glad to help!

      I am very grateful to you for taking the time to comment!

    • profile image

      Teresa Whithall 

      6 years ago

      Hi I am Anna and Adam's history teacher, this website has been fantastic in finding out the nitty gritty of the Gunpowder plot! It has really helped us get some reliable information on the plot, on behalf of our class I would like to say thankyou! Teresa

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Pleased to hear that, Anna :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey, I'm Adams friend he suggested this page to me and it has really helped me thankyou!

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Thanks Adam :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      very good

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello WE5 :)

      Thank you very much for your comments :)

      I had no idea that this was celebrated elsewhere. That's definitely an eye-opener! :)

    • WE5 profile image


      7 years ago

      hello Trish! Excellent, and detailed hub. I live across the pond from you in Newfoundland and we still observe Guy Fawkes night here as well. Not so much a historical religious thing as a 'fall' thing these days. A good opportunity to burn all the scrap and debris we've gathered up over the summer months. Also its usually fog drizzle and rain here that time of year so no fear of fire! and entertaining read and more than i ever knew about the day! thanks.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Sir Cumference :)

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting :)

    • Sir Cumference profile image

      Sir Cumference 

      7 years ago from England

      I started off expecting spuds and sparklers and ended up getting an interesting (and well written) history lesson. Thanks for a great hub.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Dim Flaxenwick :)

      Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic comments :)

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      7 years ago from Great Britain

      Excellent hub. l love history and as for bonfire night, my memories of childhood are similar to yours. Collectin´g wood, making the ´guy and not realising that we were burning an effigy of anyone.

      Thak you for so much you put into his.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Thank you, John, for your kind words :)

      Glad you enjoyed it and found it interesting :)

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 

      7 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      An excellent Hub, Trish_M. You certainly cover a lot of territory and make it interesting at the same time.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Diogenes / Bob ~ good to 'see' you :)

      Thank you for your very positive comments ~ you are too kind! :)

      Our local fireworks and bonfire are still very popular ~ and very close to our house, so we get a good view of the displays!

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      You should be pointed out to all new writers unsure about producing excellent hubs. You could make the most trivial subject worth reading and interesting.

      Our family used to do the same: guy, fire, fireworks...potatoes in the fire, etc. Can't do any of that these days: 'elf n safety tha knows. Kids today wouldn't do it anyway, they have other areas of interest. Bob

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Thank you, Rod ~ very kind!

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 

      7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I will vote up. A very detailed hub.


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