“Remember, Remember the fifth of November….Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. I see no reason why Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” This very famous English rhyme, written about one of Britain’s most famous events in it’s history – the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – is still well known to young people today. Guy or Guido Fawkes, the man who was responsible for putting the 36 barrels of gunpowder in Parliament, has become a very familiar yet strangely mysterious figure in British history. If you visit the city of London today, you will find an ultra-modern, diverse, progressive city….a “metropolis” built out of Britain’s historical wealth and power, and you may not think that there is any evidence left of the 17th century city Guy Fawkes and his accomplices knew, lived in, and ultimately died in……..well, we at Travel with the Tribe are here to tell you that there are still remnants of the old early-modern London, with it’s filthy backstreets and dirty drinking taverns, and if you want to go on a tour of where Guy Fawkes would have hid in the shadows with the other plotters, you can! You just need out help!
Step One on the Gunpowder Plot trail – Visit the Houses of Parliament!
The Palace of Westminster (which stands proud on the banks of the River Thames) or more commonly known Houses of Parliament is one of London’s most iconic buildings, and huge numbers of visitors from school parties to tourists visiting the UK from all over the world come to see the famous chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, For hundreds of years, the Palace has been the centre of UK parliament, but in 1605 it was also the location of a sinister and violent plot against King James I! When you visit the Palace of Westminster today, you will feel as though you are walking around a city within a city, it’s busy, bustling, people moving quickly, there are lots of government buildings making up the complex of the Palace which overall creates a real sense of community. Similarly, in 1605 Guy Fawkes would have felt that same feeling of community, as the Palace of Westminster familiar to the Gunpowder plotters would also have been a mixture of small and large buildings, lots of alleyways and nooks to hide yourselves in (which can only be a help if you are trying to transport 36 large barrels of Gunpowder to blow the place up!) and would certainly be a place you could get yourself lost in! The current Palace of Westminster was built in 1834 after a terrible fire destroyed much of the older, medieval palace, but there are still a couple of buildings which Guy Fawkes would recognise today if he was able to revisit the scene of his crime. – the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall. If you visit either or both of these buildings during your visit, you will literally be walking in Guy Fawkes’ shoes – without the gunpowder of course! The Jewel Tower, now managed by English Heritage, is a quaint little building, built in the 14th century to keep King of England’s crown jewels safe and sound, and when making his way to the 1605 House of Lords, Guy Fawkes would have undoubtedly walked past this building…..it was right next to where the plotters were plotting!
As for Westminster Hall, with it’s magnificent Medieval Hammer Beam roof, (it’s the biggest itimber roof inn Europe!) this 11th century part of the palace has a massive connection with the story of the Gunpowder Plot. It is here where Guy Fawkes heard the evidence against him, and where he was sentenced by parliament to be hanged, drawn and quartered under English law – ewwwww!!!! Visiting Westminster Hall today will provide you with a unique insight into past and present power of both King/Queen and Government, and we are just astounded that after fire, more fire, death watch beetle, more fire, the German Luftwaffe, more fire and even more fire, Westminster Hall is still standing proudly and regally as a symbol of democracy. Westminster Hall is more relevant to us now than ever before.
So you must go and visit the Palace of Westminster, not just for the obvious Commons and Lords chambers where you and your family can sit in session and pretend you are a Member of Parliament, or to see the numerous plaques, portraits, photographs and memorabilia of more recent parliamentary history, you can do that too, but go to the Jewel Tower and you might even be able to smell the scent of gunpowder – Fun Fact – Did you know, the cellars and underground tunnels which sit (secretly!) underneath the House of Commons are checked thoroughly every year on the evening before Queen Elizabeth II attends the State Opening of Parliament – they have every year since 1605…..just in case!
Come back tomorrow for Fourth to the Fifth……London Dungeon…….