Interesting Facts About Bonfire Night & Guy Fawkes

By Vanessa Teo

Bonfire night is a special time of year around the UK, especially in London. Read on to find out fascinating facts about this iconic date and the man behind it.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November... So starts a poem that resonates around many a school here in the UK. But why is the 5th of November so important and so iconic? And who on earth is this Guy Fawkes chap? You’ve no doubt seen the mask, but how did it all start, and what are these celebrations about? Discover more with these fascinating facts about Bonfire Night and Guy Fawkes...

  1. Guy Fawkes was born on the 13 April 1570. Ruling at this time was the Tudor dynasty; more precisely, King Henry VIII. Born a Protestant, at the ripe old age of 16, Guy converted to Catholicism, which was considered a troubling religion at the time.
  2. Fighting on the side of Catholic Spain, he became involved in conflict abroad, where he picked up the nickname Guido. This conflict was known as the ’80 Years War’. When Guy was arrested in London, he was forced to sign a document confirming his identity. He initially refused, but after torture, he buckled and signed. Interestingly, he signed with his acquired name, Guido.
  3. Bonfire night essentially celebrates the foiling of a plot by Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. We celebrate this by burning an effigy of Guy and launching a whole bunch of fireworks into the sky in a spectacular display. Some would argue that there’s little better than looking out over London and watching the copious fireworks displays light up the night sky.
  4. Guy Fawkes wasn’t hung, drawn and quartered, as was the fate awaiting him. Instead, Guy actually committed suicide in order to escape this extremely grizzly end. Following his untimely death, his body was subsequently quartered, and spread to the corners of the country. This was to serve as a deterrent for any would-be perpetrators.
  5. 36 barrels of gunpowder were used during the plot – which some argue would have been plenty to blow up Parliament at the time – but others claim that the gunpowder was too old and wouldn’t have exploded as expected if it had been ignited.
  1. At Bonfire Night, it isn’t just fireworks that light up the evening, we also use copious amounts of sparklers. Sparklers can be five times hotter than cooking oil, and rocket fireworks have been known to reach speeds of up to 150mph. That’s impressive!
  2. Up until 1959 – yes, 1959 – it was illegal to not celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain. However, there was a school in York (coincidentally the school that Guy himself attended) that was an exception to the law. To this day, they still, perhaps rightly so, refuse to burn this effigy that’s representative of one of their former pupils. No headmaster is that cruel, right?
  3. It’s alleged that the first meeting between the conspirators was in the Duck and Drake pub in the Strand, so it probably started as one of those discussions you have with your friends whereby you claim you’re going to go for it, and you’re going to make that big bold move. Except these guys didn’t wake up the next day with ‘the fear’ and they actually followed through – well, almost - with their plan.
  4. Other traditions around Bonfire Night include Penny for the Guy and apple bobbing, which are great fun and truly encapsulate a family and fun-loving spirit. If you don’t know what Penny for the Guy is, think trick-or-treat, but with a home-made Guy doll for company. Those pesky kids won’t give up in their pursuit for that hard-earned cash!
  5. Guy Fawkes was arrested while he was guarding the explosive barrels planted under Parliament, and he was tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow conspirators, along with finally offering up his real name, as we know. Well Guy, ahem, Guido, you got caught in the end, and the potentially nation-changing event was avoided. Just.

Whatever you get up to, Bonfire Night is full of rich history, celebrations and it’s fun for all the family. Whether you're heading to one of the many public events, or if you’re planning to celebrate with friends, it’s a truly magical time to come and visit London. Did we miss your favourite Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes facts? Let us know in the comments!

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Top 10 Things to do on the Thames

Visiting London? Here are some great things to do on the Thames! Weaving through the city and stretching 346 km, the Thames is England's most famous waterway. An important trade route through London's history, there are plenty of important cultural landmarks dotted along the riverside. Whether you plan to take a stroll along the water or drift down the Thames on board a river cruise, be sure to check out these great things to do on the Thames! Shakespeare's Globe Join the cultural throng at Shakespeare's Globe, an open-air theatre built on the same site that Shakespeare frequently performed his plays. Located just a few minutes walk from the Tate Modern, the Globe is a stunning recreation of old English playhouses and there's always a Shakespeare play on. There's also the option to step back in time with a special exhibition displaying the rich history of the Globe and British theatre in London, as well as a tour of the theatre. HMS Belfast Pay homage to the soldiers of the second world war onboard the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy warship that has been transformed into a naval museum. With an exhibition spanning nine floors, see what it was like to live on a warship and discover the stories of soldiers who once called the vessel home. Tower Bridge Experience See London from one of the capital's most famed attractions: Tower Bridge. This distinctive feat of engineering has recently opened up a high level glass walkway that arc overs the traffic below and provides a gorgeous view of the city. Visitors can learn about the iconic bridge and its history in an exhibition open to the public. Image via Tate facebook Tate Modern As one of London's most important artistic institutions, the Tate Modern has remained a source of inspiration for creatives everywhere. Walk through the impressive Turbine Hall and explore their extensive collection of international modern art, featuring works by well-respected artists such as Pollock, Picasso and Rothko. Keep an eye out for the guest exhibitions as some fantastic names have been listed on their programme, such as Georgia O'Keefe. Tower of London The Tower of London is one of the city's most striking landmarks and continues to capture the imaginations of visitors from all over the world. Dating all the way back to the Norman conquest of England, this fortress is full of British history and most famously the Crown Jewels, which are watched over by the instantly recognisable Beefeaters (who also double as tour guides). River Cruise Take to the water in the Thames River Boat Cruise, which traces the length of the Thames and takes tourists past sights like the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Cutty Sark and more. There are different journey durations spanning anywhere between thirty minutes to three hours with various hop-on and hop-off locations spaced out along the ride. No matter the weather, the river boat cruise runs daily from 10am onwards. Photo Walks of London Tour The best way to enjoy South Bank is with a camera in your hand. Photo Walks of London have a number of specialised two hour tours for photography enthusiasts, whether you're into historical landmarks like the Globe Theatre or prefer snapping portraits of the colourful crowd at Leadenhall Market. Held both in the day and the evenings, it's a fantastic way to make a hobby part of your holidays. Millennium Bridge This sleek, modern suspension bridge has been featured in many blockbuster movies including the Harry Potter franchise and connects Bankside to the City of London. When it was first opened, it initially terrified pedestrians for the way it would sway when crossing it and was quickly closed for renovations. Crossing it now isn't as shaky an experience, however its nickname 'The Wobbly Bridge' persists. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament These two structures never fail to amaze visitors with their sheer size and gorgeous architectural details. While both of these landmarks aren't open to the public, it's worth going to see them along the River Thames and hear the clock tower's distinctive chimes. Image via SEAlife Aquarium facebook SEAlife Aquarium Following along the theme of aquatic adventures, London's SEAlife Aquarium is a fantastic indoor adventure for when the weather doesn't quite agree with your holiday. Meet the Sand Tiger Sharks at the Shark Walk and explore their numerous themed zones, including the Pacific Walk and Rockpool areas. There's also a dedicated exhibition for the River Thames which charts the river's ecological history and the creatures that call it home.
Megan Hills

The Best Spots for Christmas Lunch in London

Celebrate Christmas in culinary style with a top Christmas lunch in London. Christmas cooking is always a mission (let's not even talk about the dishes afterwards), so leave out the stress and ring a restaurant instead. After the presents have all been unwrapped and the carols have been sung, round up the troops and head to a fantastic Christmas lunch in London whether you're looking for tradition or something a little quirkier. Cinnamon Club Not much for tradition? Head over to the gorgeous former Westminster Library for a meal with its new inhabitants, modern Indian restaurant Cinnamon Club. Drawing upon festive culinary elements to bring a spin to their usual menu, expect exciting dishes such as tandoori pheasant, goose breast rubbed with South Indian spices and a cheeky bit of garam masala Christmas pudding served with nutmeg custard. They also offer a children's menu for little ones still developing a tolerance for spice and all adults get a complimentary glass of Christmas Punch, see the whole menu here. Dirty Bones American comfort food at its finest, Dirty Bones is one of the freshest places to spend Christmas lunch with interiors straight out of a Brooklyn loft and an old school playlist to die for. Think macaroni and cheese festive baubles, a dirty and decadent Christmas burger and even a hot buttery lobster roll to start your afternoon off right. Make sure to wash it all down with a Mince Pie Bramble gin cocktail from their creative selection and save room for dessert - bourbon salted caramel brownie, anyone? Thames River Boat Christmas Day Traditional Lunch As one of our favourite attractions at London Pass, it's a thrill to see that the Thames River Boat Cruise is pulling out all the stops this holiday season. Expect traditional turkey with all the trimmings in a decadent three course meal, including a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and after dinner tea and coffee. Departing from Westminster Pier, the three hour and fifteen minute journey will take you through some of London's most beautiful sights to the tune of Christmas carols. Duck and Waffle As one of the restaurants at the top of every food tourist's list, Duck and Waffle not only boasts fantastic British cuisine but also an unbeatable view. Housed on the 40th floor of one of London's tallest buildings, their team has created an exclusive Christmas Day menu for both meat eaters and vegetarians including bacon wrapped dates with manchego cheese, roasted parsnip soup and a chocolate fondant filled with a peanut butter ganache. The Manhattan Club 2016 hasn't been a great year, so slip back into the roaring twenties with The Manhattan Club's new banquet pop up Christmas in Harlem. Inspired by the rebellious spirit of 1920's New York City speakeasies, Head Chef Adam Rawson has done his homework and crafted a menu based on a real meal served to President Calvin Coolidge at the Waldorf Astoria. With turbot, duck breast and smoked aubergine on the menu, it's a slight deviation from standard Christmas fare and naturally, there'll be cocktails to spare. Perfect for those that love an experience with their meal, music, magic, photo booths and more are in store for all those who come along. Bon appetit!
Vanessa Teo

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