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The Gunpowder Plot: Parliament & Treason 1605
Divided Europe
Political Violence and Persecution
Peacemaker - the new King
Conspiracy and deception
Discovery and flight
Torture, trial and execution
Aftermath: From Retribution to Toleration
Aftermath: Commemoration
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Aftermath: Commemoration

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Shows a flyer with lots of text on it advertising a fireworks display in London in 1647. There are delicate scroll patterns around the edge and a banner print of flowers and roses at the top.
This broadside is the programme for a spectacular fireworks display held in London to celebrate the victory of Parliament over the King in the Civil War of 1642. 'A Modell of the Fire-workes to be presented in Lincolnes-Inne Fields on the 5th of November 1647 before the Lords and Commons of Parliament.' By Permission of the British Library.
Parliament met for the first time after the plot in January 1606, passing the Thanksgiving Act. This made services and sermons commemorating the Plot a regular annual feature on 5 November.

Thousands of sermons were delivered marking 5 November over the next two centuries; hundreds of them were published. The tradition of marking the day with the ringing of church bells and bonfires started soon after the Plot and fireworks were also included in some of the earliest celebrations.

Celebrations on 5 November were always more common and lively at times when English people were particularly worried about what they saw as the Catholic threat.

The custom of burning effigies of the Pope or the devil seems to have begun in the reign of Charles I (1625-49) and became more popular during the crisis over the succession of James II in 1678-81.

It was perhaps only after the removal of the laws against Catholic worship that Guy Fawkes usually replaced the Pope as the figure burnt on the 5 November bonfires.

Vocal piece by the pupils of Burntwood School, Tooting
This chant was one of many that began to be used during the nineteenth century to accompany the collection of money and firewood on Bonfire Night. This is a tradition that is still thriving in British playgrounds, parks and streets to this day. Click the play button to listen to the chant.


Shows a black and white print with figures in frock coats, hats and beards together with firework explosions and bonfires. There is a sun and eye motif at the top of the print, either side of which people are knelt in prayer.
A scene depicting bonfires and fireworks in celebration of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Francis Herring, The Quintessence of Cruelty (1641). By Permission of the British Library
  Shows a black and white engraving split into four sections. Each shows stages of a procession. At the top a crowd gathers around a bonfire, next are men carrying banners, staves and torches. The bottom sections show standing priests and other figures carried by men upon a series of platforms.
During the 'Exclusion Crisis' of 1678-81 anti-Catholic passions ran high, particularly in London, where 'pope-burnings' like this one on 17 November 1680 attracted huge crowds. The solemn mock procession of the Pope (1681). Copyright Trustees of the British Museum

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