The oilskin pelt containing a map of tunnels had been read and re-read again. Senses keen to the slightest sound with lighted torch he moved furtively between the red brick and cement walls which seeped with water from the Thames. The air down there was dense and his long cloak and clothing were heavy, cumbersome. Rats scampered here, there and everywhere but one large stray paused, seemingly entranced by this gigantic interloper. Smoke from the torch was choking him, but reluctant to cough lest even a murmur give himself away, his answer was a short swift kick which sent the rat back on its way. The Houses of Parliament would exist no more before the end of this day.
Along with about a dozen other conspirators, in 1605 a man named Guy Fawkes had planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, killing King James 1 after which, they were going to install a catholic monarch back onto the throne.
This conspiracy was thwarted and Guy Fawkes was caught red handed with a lighted slow burning match waiting for the right time with over 30 barrels of gunpowder which would have completely destroyed Westminster Palace (the seat of UK government) killing the king and everyone else who were to attend the opening of Parliament.
Under the dreadful tortures used in those days, Guy Fawkes eventually named names and most of his conspirators were either killed or captured. Sentenced to death for High Treason, Guy Fawkes was due to be hanged, drawn and quartered (a gruesome death) but as he was being led up the high scaffolding he jumped off and in the fall, broke his neck, killing him instantly but in doing so, he saved himself the agonies of being only half hung, and before dying completely, drawn and quartered.
This plot became known as the Gunpowder Plot It became traditional every year on the night of the 5th of November for most of the UK to hold Guy Fawkes Night or, bonfire night. A celebration which involved everyone having bonfires (which was also a way of burning all their old furniture, and any unwanted things and such, in their back gardens and setting off fireworks after dark to celebrate the fact that the Houses of Parliament were not blown up. (Not so sure they’d be so happy about that these days) In my youth we would make a ‘Guy’ which was a figure made up of old clothing, jacket, pants and such, stuffed with newpaper to fill it out and we’d put a mask on it for it’s face and then put into a wheelbarrow or, sit it against a wall and we’d sit and collect a ‘Penny for the guy’ which we’d spend on sweets or, it was supposed to be spent on fireworks (which were freely sold in all stores back then)… .and when bonfire night arrived the guy would be placed on top of the high bonfire and then we’d light it and watch it burn.
There were even some rhymes which became quite well known one being:
‘Remember remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason Should ever be forgot…’