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Bonfire Night

Free Photos, Sinnington, Pickering, North Yorkshire

Article By: Dave Roberts

First Published: 7 November 2011

Who would have thought that on the 5 November 1605 that the infamous Guy Fawkes would become engraved into the historic annals of almost every British persons mind, and establish a tradition adopted by many other nations too.

At a time when a group of modern day protesters continued their camp outside St Paul's, London - in declining temperatures, most people were ignoring them, and either taking part in, or at least aware of the celebrations taking place with a revolting history dating back over 400 years.

For quite a few years now, on each bonfire night, along with my family we have headed for the village of Sinnington which is just on the outskirts of Pickering. Inside the village hall there are all the age old traditional culinary delights on offer such as 'Pie n Peas', 'Jacket Potatoes - or spuds if you prefer', plus 'Toffee Apples' and quite naturally 'Tea or Coffee with Parkin Cake'.

Outside the revellers, rather than revolutionaries prepare themselves in anticipation of a small window of glee which emblazons joy filled faces and fills the dark sky with wonderful bright colours, this event signalling the onset of winter and that we are only a few weeks from that other great celebration in our annual calendar - yes my birthday... what else could it be?

Year on year I have seen this popular local event grow and grow, and it has to be said that now Sinnington bursts at the seems, at least for an hour or so as yet again the village hosts a wonderful show.

The sky over Sinnington benefits from almost no light pollution, giving each firework a perfect black canvas on which to display its very best. Without doubt there are much larger displays in large towns and cities, but as one of my fellow onlookers said of Sinnington's event: "That'll take some capping." I have to agree, bigger is not always better, here at least the atmosphere is that of a big happy family, you can't move more than a few feet without bumping into someone you know - needless to say a group of us ended up in the pub afterwards, the Sun Inn, Pickering where we enjoyed a warm welcome and extended celebrations, including more fireworks and live music. A group of people had brought along guitars and were jamming away in the corner of the pub. The perfect end to a perfect Saturday night of fun and fireworks.

A Brief History of Bonfire Night

Although Guy Fawkes is the name everyone associates with Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot, he was neither alone in his act of revolution, nor was he the leader of the plotters.

The brains behind the plot was a 33 year-old English Catholic 'Robert Catesby', believed to be from Warwickshire, it was he who planned the attempt to kill King James I. Catesby although married to a protestant, was from a family of influential Catholics, he was angered by the intolerance that King James displayed to Catholics. His plan was to murder the King by blowing up the House of Lords with gunpowder, then go on to re-establish a Catholic Monarch to the throne of England.

Early in 1604 he began to recruit others to his cause, they too were either politically ambitious or desperate individuals in times of personal financial crisis, the plotters included:

Thomas Bates, Robert Keyes, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher Wright, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, John Wright, Francis Tresham, John Grant, Robert Wintour and not least Guy Fawkes.

Fawkes' part in the assassination attempt was that he had military service and was experienced in the use of explosives. His task would be to place the gunpowder and set the charge.

As with all large conspiracies, it is near to impossible to keep a tight lid on the detail and as the number of those in the know grew larger, so did the potential for a leak. That leak would come in the form of an anonymous letter delivered to: Baron Monteagle, the brother-in-law of conspirator Francis Tresham. It is thought that Tresham had leaked information to the Catholic Priest Henry Garnet, who had in turn told of what he knew to Anne Vaux. Vaux is know to have provided safe hiding for Catholic Priests - Henry Garnet being one.

Vaux was derided by Catesby when she suggested warning prominent Catholics who would be attending Parliament on 5th November.

On the 28 October, Baron Monteagle received an anonymous letter which requested a servant read aloud:

My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.

The letter was eventually discovered and shown to the King on Friday 1 November. The King deduced that there was a plan afoot involving gunpowder and Parliament. He ordered the entire Houses of Parliament to be searched including the undercroft. The initial search was carried out by a group of men that included none other than Guy Fawkes himself. The team searching with Fawkes' assumed he was a loyal serving man, they came across a large pile of logs and timber under which the explosives were buried. Fawkes was able to convince his fellow searchers that the timber belonged to Thomas Percy - Fawkes' master.

They made their report and departed, but the King was not settled and convinced that the letter was genuine he insisted on another thorough search. This time the search party headed by Thomas Knyvet discovered Fawkes hiding in the undercroft. Fawkes who gave his name as John Johnson was carrying a lantern, wearing a cloak and riding boots with spurs. He was immediately searched and a pocket watch discovered. The search party arrested Fawkes, then concluded their search, during which they discovered the barrels of gunpowder.

Fawkes (Johnson) pleaded ignorance of the plot under torture, but as the torture was intensified his resolve was broken, a confession made along with the names of his fellow conspirators were given.

The rest of the group went on the run and in an extraordinary twist, three of them including Catesby were injured when burned drying out damp gunpowder, which they had intended using against the King's men. Subsequently in a siege at Holbeche House in Staffordshire - Catesby was shot and killed along with a handful of other conspirators, who were either killed or injured.

All the surviving conspirators were eventually rounded up, tortured and executed.

Although Catesby was killed fighting the King's men, his body and that of Percy were exhumed and decapitated, with their heads displayed on spikes outside the House of Lords.

Most notably were the public executions of Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, John Grant, and Thomas Bates who were first dragged through the crowds lining the streets of London to St Paul's, where a hangman's scaffold was erected where they were hanged - then even before dead, were ceremoniously mutilated.





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