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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 09:35 GMT
Fawkes plot still burning bright
By James Clarke
BBC News, England

Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes is by far the best known of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators
Not many events from 1605 are still remembered by a huge number of people.

Yet the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November - and the foiling of it - is still celebrated every year.

In York, birthplace of Guy Fawkes, the most famous of the collaborators, a major programme of events has been lined up to mark the 400th anniversary.

While in Sussex, each autumn brings an annual season of spectacular bonfire events as the county celebrates the fact the plot did not succeed.

The Gunpowder Plot saw Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters attempt to blow up MPs, peers and King James I at the state opening of parliament.

'Absolutely catastrophic'

It is believed the conspirators were angry at what they saw as persecution of Roman Catholics by the ruling Church of England classes.

While bonfire celebrations have been held across the country since, the tradition has been particularly strong in Sussex for centuries, with events being staggered across the autumn months to allow all the groups to take part in each other's festivities.

It was an ultimate act of terrorism
Andrew Knowles-Baker, Battel Bonfire Boyes

Saturday - the 400th anniversary of the day parliament would have been blown up - will see two of Sussex's biggest bonfire celebrations take place, at Lewes and Battle.

Battle - the site of the Battle of Hastings - has staged bonfire celebrations since around the time its abbey was consecrated shortly after King Harold was defeated in 1066.

The event sees 1,066 flaming torches carried through the town, marking the link to the battle.

But Andrew Knowles-Baker, of the Battel Bonfire Boyes, said while some of the annual celebration is focused around events of 1066, the Gunpowder Plot is also of huge relevance.

Lewes bonfire celebrations
The annual Sussex bonfire season attracts thousands of revellers

He said: "I think it's something that should be celebrated, because had it worked and not been foiled by the equivalent of the secret police, the result would have been absolutely catastrophic.

"It was an ultimate act of terrorism - they were blowing up their own people as well as the ones they wanted to remove.

"Several hundred people would have been killed and it would have changed the whole face of the monarchy.

"It's a pretty momentous thing we should mark - and understand why it happened."

But if the plot is remembered as "an ultimate act of terrorism", its most famous plotter is looked upon very differently from the vast majority of terrorists.

He was a man with strong convictions
Gillian Cruddas, York Tourism Bureau

Guy Fawkes, who was born in York, was recently included in a list of the 50 greatest people from Yorkshire, compiled for a book by Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary.

A series of events has been held in York to mark the 400th anniversary, ranging from a major fireworks display to concerts and plays to a guided walk of Guy Fawkes' birthplace and haunts.

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of the York Tourism Bureau, said people had been fascinated at being able to find out things such as where Guy Fawkes was born or where he went to school.

She said: "It's like all colourful characters, people are fascinated by what they did or what they tried to do.

Guy Fawkes' birthplace of York has made the most of the anniversary

"With Guy Fawkes the fact it's linked to bonfire night has given it a long-lasting quality.

"He was notorious - some people have said he was a 17th century terrorist - but some of the historical facts get diluted and people remember having a good time with bonfire celebrations."

Guy Fawkes was tried for high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered on 31 January 1606.

It is believed he withstood three days of torture before naming his co-conspirators, not realising they were all either dead or known to the authorities.

Ms Cruddas said his bravery in the face of this interrogation was admired by many people.

"The display in the York Dungeon very much centres on how brave he was not to betray other people and the torture he went through was quite gruesome.

"He was a man with strong convictions and that's quite fascinating in its historical context."

If Guy Fawkes had succeeded
04 Nov 05 |  Magazine
Fireworks woman's Guy Fawkes link
03 Nov 05 |  Manchester
Guy Fawkes plot 'was devastating'
05 Nov 03 |  Science/Nature


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