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Bonfire Night Facts for Children

Bonfire Night is celebrated annually on 5th November. Apart from bonfires and fireworks what do your children actually know about the origins of the occasion?

The origins of Bonfire Night in the UK

In the UK Bonfire Night takes place on 5th November, Guy Fawkes Night. On this night in 1605, Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators attempted—and failed—to blow up the Houses of Parliament.    


The Houses of Parliament and the River Thames in London
The Houses of Parliament are in London by the River Thames.

Guy Fawkes, also known as Guido Fawkes, was born and educated in York. When Fawkes was growing up, everyone had to be the same religion as the monarch. This meant people often had to change religions when a new king or queen was crowned. When Fawkes was born, Queen Elizabeth I was ruler. She was protestant. She made everyone become protestant and organised the torture, imprisonment and execution of Catholics. After Elizabeth, James I became king. He was more moderate than she was and preferred to exile Catholics rather than execute them. Many Catholics were not happy that they weren't allowed to follow their religion. 

When Fawkes was 8, his father died and his mother married a Catholic man. Fawkes converted to Catholisim and went to Catholic Spain to fight in the Eighty Years’ War against the Protestant Dutch reformers. In Spain, Fawkes tried to get support for a Catholic rebellion in England but he was unsuccessful. He met Thomas Wintour, who introduced him to Robert Catesby in England. Catesby planned to assassinate King James I because he wanted England to have a Catholic monarch. 


Catesby, Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators
Catesby, Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators. 

Catesby, Wintour and Fawkes were joined by other men in their plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening of Parliament. It was planned that Fawkes would light the fuse, escape across the river Thames and make his way to Europe. However, on 26 October an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, Lord Monteagle, alerting him to the plot. On 5 November 1605, Fawkes was discovered underneath the Houses of Parliament guarding the gunpowder. He was arrested and tortured. 

On 27 January, Fawkes and eight of the plotters stood trial. The jury found them all guilty and the men were killed on 31 January 1606. 

For years, the failed Gunpowder Plot was marked by bonfires, special sermons and public events like the ringing of church bells. An Act of Parliament named 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for the “joyful day of deliverance”. This act was in force until 1859. Over time, Bonfire Night has become the more commercial celebration we have today that includes firework displays, funfairs and hot food like jacket potatoes.


Today fireworks displays are common on 5th of November.

Five Bonfire Night Facts

  1. Guy Fawkes was born on 13th April 1570. He died on 31st January 1606.
  2. Guy Fwakes was Catholic. He didn’t think a Protestant should be King.
  3. The Eighty Years’ War was also called the Dutch War of Independence.
  4. There were 13 members of the Gunpowder Plot. They were Robert Catesby, Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everad Digby and Francis Tresham.
  5. Fawkes was found with 36 barrels of gunpowder. There was enough gunpowder to reduce the Houses of Parliament to rubble.

We have lots of Bonfire Night resources suitable for primary aged children. Whether you are looking for fully-planned lessons, Bonfire Night word searches, fireworks-themed page borders, colouring sheets or Bonfire Night anagrams we have you covered!

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