Thursday, 5 November 2015

Samuel Pepys and Bonfire Night


Today, 5th November, is when we celebrate Bonfire Night with a firework display, bonfire, tasty snack such as hot dogs or beefburgers followed by a toffee apple or in our house a chocolate apple, yum!

It's an annual commemoration of the arrest of Guy Fawkes while he was guarding explosives beneath the House of Lords at Parliament as part of the Gunpowder plot of 1605 with the intention of replacing the Catholic King James I with a Protestant King. The fact that King James I had survived the failed plot caused people to light bonfires all around London and later the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for its failure. Although the Act was repealed in 1859, celebrating the day has remained a traditional social occasion with much of its original meaning lost.

Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, began his diary in 1660 when he was living in Axe Yard near the Palace of Westminster working as a Clerk to George Downing, a Teller of the Receipt at the Exchequer within the service of the Councillor of State Edward Montagu, later to become the Earl of Sandwich, who was a distant relative of Pepys.

Looking at Pepys' diary for each 5th November using The Diary of Samuel Pepys website, here's what was happening just 60 years after the Gunpowder Plot.

This 5th of November is observed exceeding well in the City; and at night great bonfires and fireworks. At night Mr. Moore came and sat with me, and there I took a book and he did instruct me in many law notions, in which I took great pleasure.

 To the Dolphin, where he and I and Captain Cockesat late and drank much, seeing the boys in the streets flying their crackers, this day being kept all the day very strictly in the City.

Up and to the office, where all the morning, at noon to the ‘Change, and thence hometo dinner, and so with my wife to the Duke’s house to a play, “Macbeth,” a pretty good play, but admirably acted. Thence home; the coach being forced to go round by London Wall home, because of the bonefires; the day being mightily observed in the City.

This was the year of the Great Fire of London so Bonfire Night this year was a bit different in London.

 I home by coach, but met not one bonefire through the whole town in going round by the wall, which is strange, and speaks the melancholy disposition of the City at present, while never more was said of, and feared of, and done against the Papists than just at this time.

Pepys gives up writing his diary in 1669  unable to write anymore as he was going blind.

Such a lot of history in one day!

Cheerio for now.


  1. Replies
    1. I made a few crochet squares not very bonfirey but fun all the same x