Remember, remember



November  silently sneaks up on us, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits , no flowers, no leaves.


However today is the fifth  of November and………. remember….


Remember, remember,

the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason why
Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
‘Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.

Four hundred years ago, in 1605, a man called Guy Fawkes and a group of plotters attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London with barrels of gunpowder placed in the basement. They wanted to kill King James and the king’s leaders.


Guy Fawkes was given the job to keep watch over the barrels of gunpowder and to light the fuse. On the morning of 5th November, soldiers discovered Guy hidden in the cellar and arrested him. The trail of gunpowder at his feet would never be lit. The 36 barrels of gunpowder that Fawkes planted in a cellar below the Houses of Parliament would have been sufficient to raze it to the ground, while causing severe damage to neighbouring buildings. Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower tortured and he died from a broken neck.His body was subsequently quartered, and his remains were sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others. He is one of Britain’s most infamous villains, whose effigy has been burned and whose demise has been publicly celebrated for more than four centuries. It may come as a surprise, then, that there is an island named after him.


To the north-west of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, a collection of two uninhabited, crescent-shaped islands is named Isla Guy Fawkes, or Guy Fawkes Island.


I hope you are familiar with the film  V For Vendetta, which is based on the eighties graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and John Hurt, the film recounts the crusade of V, a Guy Fawkes costumed anarchist and freedom fighter. V stages a series of terrorist attacks against an oppressive fascist government in a futuristic dystopian United Kingdom in the hopes of triggering a revolution.

Also known as Bonfire Night is mainly served as an excuse to watch bonfires, drink and burn effigies of politicians, celebrities and Fawkes himself. However , up until 1959 you would have been committing a crime if you didn’t celebrate bonfire night in Britain.


Fireworks were invented totally by accident!  The most prevalent legend has it that fireworks were discovered in 10th century or invented by accident by a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen who happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter (all commonly found in the kitchen in those days). The mixture burned and when compressed in an enclosure (a bamboo tube), the mixture exploded. Some sources say that the discovery of fireworks occurred about 2,000 years ago, and other sources place the discovery sometime during the 9th century during the Song dynasty (960-1279), although this could be confusion between the discovery of gunpowder by the cook and the invention of the firecracker.


During the European Renaissance (1400-1500), the Italians began to develop fireworks into a true art form, with many new types of fireworks created. It was discovered that by adding powered metals and charcoal to military rockets, they could be modified to create bursts of gold and silver sparks in the sky. Then canisters of explosives that could be launched into the sky but not explode until they reached an optimal altitude were developed. But the most thrilling were displays created for ground level–slower-burning tubes that throw off sparks when lit (creating dense showers of bright sparks), and rocket engines that could be attached to a wooden wheel framework that would spin rapidly and give off sparks in a circular pattern.

Paper & Gunpowder


 Happy Bonfire Night !


About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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