“Had it succeeded, it would have been the most spectacular assassination in history.”
Summary of the walking tour plot
Please to remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We know no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
It’s a tale of 36 barrels of gunpowder (that’s nearly a ton of explosives!); of a warren of houses, shops and inns with interconnecting cellars, tower vaults and storage areas; plotters with easy access to the Thames (so the gunpowder could be brought across the river to the Palace of Westminster at the state opening of parliament and the House of Lords); of a suspicious figure in a cloak and dark hat, booted and wearing spurs as though ready to make an escape; of a letter; of a plot allowed to “mature”; of days of racking; of a palsied – because of the torture – signature on a confession; of an “own goal” (the assassination of protestant King James I); of a gun battle; of bodies exhumed from graves and beheaded and mounted on stakes; of a trial on charges of high treason; of executions of catholics that were brutal in the extreme (Guy Fawkes was hanged at the Tower of London by Tower Hill, taken down from the gallows while still alive, placed on the quartering block, castrated, gralloched [disembowelled], and, finally, quartered like a slaughtered ox; of onlookers never able to forget that he was conscious throughout the process; of bonfires (then and now) lit across London to celebrate the failure of the most daring conspiracy; of chilling modern parallels.
About the tour and our guide
Ok, that’s enough programme notes. Award-winning Blue Badge Guide Simon will connect the dots and flesh – if that’s the mot juste – the thing out. Right down to every last grisly detail.
To go on the Gunpowder, Treason & Plot – On the Trail of Guy Fawkes walk meet Simon at 2.30 pm on Saturday, November 4th, and Sunday November 5th (2023) just outside exit 4 of Westminster Tube.
That starting point should give you a pretty good idea of the “route.” In short, the walk goes over “ground zero.” And just in case anyone’s wondering, no, there won’t be a bonfire. Not on Saturday afternoon. The close call they had with a “bonfire” four centuries ago – let alone – was more than enough pyrotechnics thank you very much.
No, come to think of it, it’s not “enough programme notes.” I, David, want to have my say. So here we go, let’s roll.
They’re close but no cigar, the American and British Thanksgivings.
They’re both in November.
They both give thanks.
They both roast a turkey.
The American turkey is the Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, a large fowl.
The British turkey is a large foul traitor named Guy Fawkes (pictured above).
The Americans have a weakness for abstractions (or near abstractions). So they call their big day in November “Thanksgiving.” We Brits have a strong preference for the concrete over the abstract – so the United Kingdom call our big day “Guy Fawkes Night.” And because we’re slightly – slightly? – daft we celebrate parliament not being burned down by burning things (bonfires and Guy) down. Makes perfect sense.
You want a crash course in making sense of Britain and the British you can’t do better than “getting inside” (learning to “read”, figuring out, understanding) the “the gunpowder plot of 1605”. Hey presto this superstar-guided* walk.
*It’s guided by Simon, one of the five 2022 London Superstar guides in the nationwide Tourism Superstar Competition. And, yes, the other four were also London Walks guides.