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, TootingThis
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.
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
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