What is bonfire night in England?


This shows someone holding a lit sparklerPlease to remember the fifth of November

I got the idea for this post  from a cyber exchange with an American blogger.  She wrote a post  about things she loves about the fall.  At the end she asked her readers ” what do you love about the fall?”   I answered “burning the guy on bonfire night”.  She quickly sent back a shocked reply  asking “is there  a typo in your comment?”

I am taking a blogging course and today’s challenge is to “write a post aimed at a particular reader containing at least one element you have not used before”.   So here goes…

I realise that visitors from overseas might not know about bonfire night  and how and why we celebrate it on November 5th each year.

People watching a bonfire
Crowds enjoying a bonfire

Bonfire Night

Every year in England on November 5th, people light bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes.

Fifty years ago  when I was young, children would make a dummy by stuffing some old clothes with straw and then beg for “a penny for the guy”  for a few weeks before November 5th .  (My mother did not approve of this so I did not join in).    Most families would save up dead leaves and other garden rubbish and have a big bonfire and fireworks in their garden.  Mothers prepared hotdogs and toffee apples. This was long before men learnt how to barbecue.  Excited children saved their pocket money for sparklers, Catherine wheels, bangers and rockets.

In England it is now more usual for people to attend public firework displays with better health and safety regulations.  Children often still have some smaller fireworks at home. Fortunately they are no longer allowed to buy fireworks or beg for pennies. If you go outside you will see fireworks being let off long into the night and some people still make a guy to burn on the bonfire.

Guy Fawkes with a bonfire on the left and Gun powder Barrels on the right
Guy Fawkes with his barrels

What is the story behind bonfire night?

On the 5th of November 1605  a group of conspirators tried to blow up the houses of Parliament when King James 1st was visiting to open the new session.     The conspirators wanted England to return to Catholicism. They even managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar.  Luckily for the King they were betrayed when one of the plotters wrote a letter to his friend who worked in the house of commons telling him to stay away.  Guy Fawkes the unfortunate man who had been left to light the fuse was discovered.  The rest of the plotters were arrested and executed as well.  Later The king ordered that bonfires be lit to celebrate his narrow escape and this has become an annual event.

if you click the first line of this post you will find a You tube video of a well known nursery rhyme which commemorates this day which was originally known as treason and plot day.  It is now usually called Guy Fawkes night or simply bonfire night.

A short video of fireworks

 

Please to remember
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.

 

The Bristol Blitz – A walk in the past

The Bristol Blitz – A walk in the Past

I was a child of the baby boom generation born just after the war.  Growing up I remember large bomb sites in the centre of Bristol in particular the area around Castle Park  which was covered with grass and purple buddleia.  My husband who is older than me can even remember going into air raid shelters to escape the blitz and the big street parties which marked V.E. day in 1945.

However when I saw a walk advertised on the “Walk in the past” website “the Bristol Blitz,”  I realised I did not know very much about the actual details of the blitz itself.  My mother who was a teacher had taken evacuees to Cornwall and my father lived near Bath so they had not experienced it directly.

The Bristol Blitz memorial

Many people know St. Peter’s church which is in the centre of Castle Park close to Cabot Circus shopping centre and the galleries.  It was  destroyed during the blitz and only the shell remains.  It is kept as a memorial to the 1,299 civilians killed in Bristol whose names are listed on a board outside.  The area round Castle park had been filled with narrow bustling streets and small shops before the war.  St. Peter’s Church

The shell of St. Peter's chuch in Castle Park
St. Peter’s church was destroyed during the Blitz. The shell has been left as a memorial.

 

Before the war the government did not think Bristol was  a major target so did not make much effort  to protect the city.  The Germans however disagreed.  There was a large aircraft  factory in Filton and Avonmouth was an important transatlantic port.  Bristol was also a vital railway hub for South Wales and the South West.  Pilots could easily find the city at night by simply following the rivers Avon and Severn.

1941-1942 Blitz

There were several major air raids in 1941 and 1942 in which thousands of houses were completely or partially destroyed and many civilians were killed or injured.  Many eyewitness accounts exist.  People recalled how at first they watched the flares and bombs and thought it was   a rather grand Guy Fawkes celebration.  However they quickly realised the horror of the destruction and how the centre of Bristol would be changed for ever.

Our walk

We met by St. Peter’s church and looked at the names on the war memorial

This picture was given to my parents as a wedding present in 1947.We explo

and then explored  the area round Castle Park and the site of another ruined church St. Mary Le port .   We also looked  at pictures of the rather beautiful

This rail was embedded into the grass just feet away from St. Mary Redcliffe Church. It has been left to show how narrowly the church escaped damage

old Dutch house (right)which was destroyedduring the blitz and other photos of the pre war city.   we then headed  to St. Mary Redcliffe church and saw  a section of tram track which narrowly missed the church.  We next  looked at the ruins of Temple church, close to Temple Meads railway station which was originally a round temple owned by the Knights Templar.  Temple Church

We then climbed to Beckinghamham Road in Knowle where a large unexploded bomb nicknamed Satan lay undiscovered under the road for two years.  It  was estimated to weigh 1800 kgs and was one of the largest bombs to have been dropped in England.  It would have caused considerable damage if it had gone off  but instead was paraded through London for V.E. day.

Reflections

This walk was very different from previous walks looking at the medieval city or for Tudor   architecture as many of the walkers could remember being told stories by their parents or grandparents who had lived in Bristol during the blitz .  Some knew   the people who used to live in the houses that had been damaged or destroyed.  We also talked to some of the current occupants of Beckingham Road .  It was a real experience of living history  which brought the past vividly to life.

If you enjoyed this post you might like Roman Londinium A walk in the past

Two National Trust properties to visit near Bath.

Two of my favourite  National Trust properties near Bath.

My husband and I are members of the National trust.  For any one who is unfamiliar with the National Trust it is the organisation which looks after many stately homes and gardens as well as large swathes of countryside in England.  It is a charity and membership fees help pay for conservation and upkeep of the property and land.   It is also possible to pay an individual admission fee to each property.

I thought I would share two of my favourite local gardens for a relaxing afternoon walk .

Dyrham Park

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Deer relaxing in the Park.

This house was built  in the early 17th century by William Blathwayte who was a friend of William of Orange  and  had worked in the Netherlands so it has a decidedly Dutch feel.  It is particularly noted for its Delft china and Spring Tulip festival.  It is on the edge of the Cotswolds and is an ancient deer park.  The deer are quite tame and let visitors get close.  It has a good play area for children.   Dogs are not allowed in the deer park but there is a separate dog walking area.  The roof of the house was recently replaced and last year visitors were able to walk round the scaffolding and see how the house was constructed.  As well as a large park there is a lovely well maintained garden with a lake to explore.

A free shuttle bus takes people from the car park to the house or you can enjoy walking through the parkland though be warned there are steep hills.   It has a good café with out door seating and a large gift shop.

Dyrham Park  

This is a link to the National trust website with more details.  You will also find details of special events throughout the year.

Prior Park Landscape Garden

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This garden is on a hill above the city and has wonderful views over Bath.  The Bath skyline walk starts close by.

As there is not much parking nearby  we catch the number 2 bus from Bath bus station.  It is also served by the hop on hop off tourist bus.  The house was owned by Ralph Allen who was associated with the introduction of the 1d post.   The landscape garden was partly designed by Capability Brown with some suggestions from the poet Alexander Pope.  It has plenty of shady woodland and lake side walks and a small café.   The original house is now a college and not open to the public.

It is on a steep hill so not suitable for disabled visitors.  It is most famous for its Palladian Bridge which is listed on a website as one of the ten most romantic places to propose in the west country.  The last time we were there a bride and groom were having wedding photos taken.  If you plan to do this make sure you bring suitable footwear as the paths are steep and can be muddy.

Prior Park Landscape Garden click the link to find out more.

Roman Londinium: A London walk in the past

A bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan
A bronze statue of the Emperor Trajan by Tower Hill underground station.

A walk in the past Roman Londinium

I belong to a meetup  group called “A walk in the past “.  This combines two of my loves history which I studied at University and walking.   Normally we meet in Bristol or surrounding areas but last week I  ventured further afield to London in search of Roman Londinium.  I was able to combine this with a visit to see my son who was happy to join me on the walk.

Our group met  at a suitably classical location, Trajan’s statue by Tower Hill tube station.  This is close to a surviving section of Roman  town wall. Roman walls can often be spotted as they have a tile level every couple of feet.  We were able to follow the wall for some distance and I was surprised by how much survives. We even found one section in a car park  with the brown tile levels clearly visible.

A section of Roman wall found in a car park clearly showing the tile levels.
A section of Roman wall hiding in a car park.

Roman London is buried under modern London and much of it remained undiscovered for centuries.  However during the second world war the blitz destroyed many buildings revealing Roman  remains.  One such building is the London Mithraem, the remains of a temple to Mithras. It has been  lovingly preserved and  is now in the basement of the Bloomberg building, the European headquarters of the American corporation.  It is beautifully present with a sound and light show.  It can be visited for free by prior arrangement. The London Mythraem They also have an interesting display of Roman artefacts found at the site including part of a collection of over 400 wax writing tablets. Another important building in any Roman town was the amphitheatre.  The London amphitheatre remained hidden until 1988 when developers rebuilding the Guildhall discovered unusual curved walls.  The remains can now be seen for free in the basement of the Guildhall.

Originally Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain but Londinium soon became more important.  Boudica led the Iceni on a raid which resulted in many wooden building being destroyed and it was decided to build a fort and walls to strengthen the town. Londinium  became more important under the emperor Hadrian who used his own money to build civic buildings.    The Romans were able to build a bridge across the Thames near the site of the modern Tower Bridge and it became an important trading port.  Lead from the Mendips and copper and tin from Cornwall were traded for olive oil , wine and other luxury goods. I was  shown the site of the London arena, where soldiers would have trained which was discovered about forty years ago and the enormous forum basilica. which is now under Leadenhall market. We ended our walk by looking at Roman artefacts in the excellent museum of London.  This is also free and is well worth a visit.  I particularly liked the model of the original London bridge.

My book recommendation

 

If you want to find out more about a walk in the past:  A walk in the Past