Commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot

Parliament met in January 1606 and passed the Thanksgiving Act. This made services and sermons commemorating the plot a regular annual feature each 5 November.

Thousands of sermons were delivered on that date over the next two centuries and hundreds of them were published. The tradition grew of marking the day with the ringing of church bells and bonfires. Fireworks were also included in some of the earliest celebrations.

These celebrations were always more lively 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 burned on the 5 November bonfires.

This chant was one of many that began to be used during the 19th century to accompany the collection of money and firewood on Bonfire Night. This is a tradition that thrives in British playgrounds, parks and streets to this day.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Charles I
James II 

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

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