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The Man Behind the Myth: Everything You Should Know About Guy Fawkes

“Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.”

Born in 1570 in the city of York, Guy Fawkes has been immortalised for his role in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Even today, Guy Fawkes is a prominent feature of any Bonfire Night celebration. So who was Guy Fawkes and what are the facts behind this enduring Bonfire Night myth?

Guy Fawkes’ family
Guy Fawkes’ immediate family were all Protestant, although his maternal grandparents were ‘recusant’ Catholics, refusing to attend Protestant church services. When he was eight, his father died before his mother remarried a Catholic man called Dionis Baynbrigge.
The influence of his grandparents and Dionis would help to cement Guy Fawkes’ fanatical Catholic faith in later years.

Guy Fawkes’ time in Spain
Guy Fawkes was 21 when he sold the estate left to him by his late father to go to Europe and fight for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years War against the Protestant Dutch republic. He flourished in the military atmosphere and by 1603m he was recommended for a captaincy.
It was also around this time he started to use the Italian variant of his name, ‘Guido’.

Later in 1603, Guy Fawkes’ went to petition the Spanish Philip III to support a rebellion in England against the Protestant James I. Philip refused, even though Spain was technically at war with England at the time.

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot
Whilst fighting for Spain in Flanders, Guy Fawkes met Thomas Wintour, who invited Fawkes to join the Gunpowder Plot under the leadership of Robert Catesby.
Due to Guy’s experience with gunpowder, he was given the essential, but highly dangerous role of sourcing and igniting the explosive.

But eighteen months of meticulous planning was ultimate for nothing, when he was found with just hours to go, amongst barrels of gunpowder and arrested. The thirty-six barrels of gunpowder had been placed directly under the House of Lords where the king would sit for opening the House of Lords the next day.
James I’s spymaster, Robert Cecil, had brilliantly engineered the foiling of the gunpowder plot. Torture was technically illegal at the time, but the king personally gave out a licence for Fawkes to be tortured, including the rack.
Whilst the threat alone of torture was usually enough to gain answers, Guy Fawkes endured two full days before he confessed anything. His famous signature on his confession shows that he was barely able to hold a quill by the end of his ordeal.
James I was impressed with Guy Fawkes high level of fortitude throughout his arrest and torture, admiring his “Roman resolution”.

Hung, drawn and quartered
Guy Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitors’ death of being hung, drawn and quartered on the 31st January 1606.
To avoid being drawn (dragged) and quartered, he jumped as he was hung, breaking his own neck. Parts of his body were still quartered and sent to the four corners of England as a warning to other would-be traitors.
Fawkes was 35 when he died at Westminster.

The legacy of Guy Fawkes
Instantly, Guy Fawkes became a national ‘bogeyman’ and was seen as the embodiment of Catholic extremism. He served as a pretext for the additional repression of Catholics, measured that would persist for another 200 years.

Whilst the charismatic Robert Catesby was the ringleader of the gunpowder plot, it isn’t surprising that we mainly remember Fawkes.
Catesby was killed evading capture and was never tried, whereas Fawkes was the man to get caught red-handed under the Houses of Parliament, resolved not to speak under torture and was publicly executed.

Bonfire Night, Fireworks and The Guy
The first 5th of November bonfires began the same year as the Gunpowder Plot itself. After Guy Fawkes was arrested in the early hours between the 4th and 5th November, joyful Londoners began lighting fires for their king’s safety on the night of the 5th. As the years went on, the traditions of Bonfire Night became increasingly elaborate.
Beautiful and complex fireworks displays were added, along with burning effigies of Guy Fawkes (and sometime the Pope) on the bonfires. Even today, some bonfire celebrations will throw an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the Pope and even current politicians as a quirky celebration, rather than being a sign of hostility against Catholic Church.

Penny for the Guy?
Making a dummy or effigy of Guy Fawkes, known as the Guy, is an integral part of celebrating Bonfire Night. Children still sometimes walk through the streets with the effigy, asking for ‘a penny for the Guy’. This money was traditionally used to buy fireworks for the night’s festivities.

Bonfire Night in Britain add Beyond
Not only is Bonfire Night celebrated in Britain, it’s celebrated in other parts of the world. During the time of the British Empire, it quickly found popularity in a number of colonies. New England in the United States celebrated it as Pope Day well into the 18th century. Newfoundland in Canada and New Zealand still light bonfires on the 5th November, along with their British counterparts.

If you’re looking to host a Bonfire Night to be remembered, contact us now to start organising your fireworks display, lancework and firerope and even lighting and lasers, or call 0800 0665 837.

It’s not all fireworks!

In amongst the few displays that happen at this time of year we’re always busy beavering away at little projects that get side-lined when we’re busier. It’s at this time of year that orders get placed with suppliers (and we’ve got some amazing new firework effects already lined up for this year!), we maintain and build new hardware for use in fireworks displays, carry out a stock take and a good tidy up of our stores. This week we’re taking delivery of our new van and waving goodbye to our old stalwart of a van that’s been with us for 6 years. We’ve also just today had 4 bookings for summer displays so we’re far from quiet! A few of us head out to Valencia next week for a bit of a jolly (sometimes it’s nice to just watch fireworks displays and not be working on them!). Each year they have a huge fireworks festival with both daytime and night-time displays. If you’re a fireworks fan and have never been – GO! You will not be disappointed. Wi-Fi permitting we’ll send some reports back from there between displays, siestas and beer!

Display design – a personal view

12417627_960401584054569_2311552874435462471_nFirework displays are an art form. Like any painting, piece of music or theatre they’re subjective. One man’s meat is another man’s poison so the saying goes! I’ll often watch displays these days and many are truly technically brilliant. The single shots will hit the beats of the music and the shells will all burst on the crescendos. But both software and hardware advances make it easy to achieve that. Now, I don’t know about you but for me those types of shows come across as very robotic. Sure, it’s great to witness and the audience now expects to see that but when it happens all the way through a display and in every sequence I do feel that the display loses any passion as it seemingly goes through the motions. What I think many displays seem to lack at the moment is an element of feeling. That kind of leads me on to fireworks competitions. I recently saw this somewhere online and it kind of rang true for me – at the moment at least!

Happy Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year and it’s the year of the Monkey. We’d like to wish all our Chinese friends and colleagues around the world a very happy New Year! Fireworks are used to drive away the evil in China. Right after 12:00PM on New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as to drive away the evil. It is believed that the person who launched the first firework of the New Year will obtain good luck. Daylight fireworks are usually very noisy and feature coloured smoke and noise effects. Check out this amazing daytime fireworks show! The colours of the smoke and the noise are just incredible to watch. At one point it looks like a field of tulips. Check out our own (somewhat smaller!) daylight fireworks show for Middlesbrough Mela here.

  • Close up of professional fireworks
  • Finale fireworks bursting in the sky at a professional firework display
  • Red professional fireworks crossing over each other

Birthday boy!

On Saturday evening we were asked to provide a pyro-musical display for a surprise 30th Birthday in Berkshire. A cold, dry day led to an even colder dry evening and the guests were treated to a stunning display choreographed to specially chosen music. The still pictures above are the result of my first time out with a camera – not bad even if I do say so myself! You can watch a video of this display by clicking this link.



Alchemy Fireworks website home screen with fireworks in the centre of Newcastle on the River Tyne for the Great North Run

Welcome to the new Alchemy Fireworks Website!


It’s here at last! Welcome to the new Alchemy Fireworks website!

We’re still filling in the gaps with a bit of the content, but subscribe or come back regularly for helpful information on how to organise professional firework displays, our lastest firework display videos and photos, plus interesting articles on topics such as wedding fireworks and the latest firework news. If you have any feedback on the new website please email

New Year Firer’s Dinner 2016 – Join Us!

Party night tonight! It’s the annual ‘firers dinner’. Alchemy’s chance to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all our display firers for their hard work over the past year and tonight we’re treating them to a curry. If you’d like the opportunity to fire display for Alchemy Fireworks and can commit to a few Saturdays during the year and the busy week in November do get in touch. Who knows, you may even be joining us for next year’s bash!

London NYE 2015 Fireworks

Did you see London’s NYE fireworks? WOW! That is certainly one logistically challenging show to pull off! Alchemy were lighting up the skies in Colchester, Hampstead Garden Suburbs and Bedford amongst other places on New Year’s Eve. For once, it was mild and we could leave the scarves and hats at home. Happy New Year one and all!