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Bonfire Night: A Celebration of Guy Fawkes & the Failed Gunpowder Plot

Bonfire Night: A Celebration of Guy Fawkes and the Failed Gunpowder Plot

Who was Guy Fawkes?

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York. Born as the second of four children to Edward Fawkes and Edith Fawkes. Both his parents were regular communicants of the Church of England as were his paternal grandparents. Guy’s mother’s family were recusant Catholics and his cousin, Richard Cowling, became a Jesuit Priest.

The Conspirators

The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators - Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Gunpowder_Plot_conspirators.jpg
The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators – Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Gunpowder_Plot_conspirators.jpg

Although Guy Fawkes is by far and away the most famous of the group, he was not the instigator or leader of the Gunpowder Plot and that place belonged to Robert Catesby. Catesby was a charismatic Catholic figure who had reputation for speaking out against the crown. After the protestant James I was crowned king in 1603, Catesby planned to kill him by blowing up the House of Lords with gunpowder during the State Opening of Parliament. Since James I was much less tolerant that his predecessors of Catholicism the act of blowing up parliament would cause a popular revolt during which a Catholic monarch would be restored to the English throne. In total there were 13 conspirators, following the development of his plan Catesby recruited fellow Catholics and sympathisers to his cause. These plotters were: John Wright, Christopher Wright, Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Fawkes was given charge of the explosives because he had 10 years military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in suppression of the Dutch Revolt.

The Gunpowder Plot

Generally the plot was very simple, to sneak gunpowder through the ducts and cellar underneath Parliament and light the explosives during the State Opening of Parliament and therefore killing James I. Of course the plot was famously foiled, but how would anyone know or even suspect the plot in the first place? The answer is an anonymous letter that was received by William Parker, 4th Baron of Monteagle (Tresham’s brother-in-law).

The letter is as follows:

My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.

Antonia, Fraser. (2005) The Gunpowder Plot, Phoenix.

Transport for London: A History of the London Underground Part I – The First Metropolitan Railway 1853-1863

Transport for London: A History of the London Underground Part I – The First Metropolitan Railway 1853-1863

The Metropolitan Railway Grand Opening at Farringdon Street Station:http://www.historytoday.com/sites/default/files/londontube.jpg
The Metropolitan Railway Grand Opening at Farringdon Street Station: http://www.historytoday.com/sites/default/files/londontube.jpg

For any Londoner the ”tube” plays a major part of our lives, we use it everyday to travel to work and back every weekday and probably late at night when we are half drunk from the pub on a Thursday night. The modern day London Underground tube network has served the capital for over 150 years when it initially begun as the metropolitan railway and ever since then it has expanded into a series of ant tunnels below the capital to take anyone within Greater London wherever they want to go. After living in London for quite a while now and probably taking the tube for granted I have decided to write this article which will delve through the history of the London Underground Network which has helped develop and expand the capital to what it is today.

The Metropolitan Railway

Back in the Victorian Era, London was experiencing expansion never before seen, following the period of industrialisation the inner city was becoming busier and busier, roads could no handle the influx of people and horse carriages which flooded the streets of the capital. The surface of London was bustling, the first half of the nineteenth saw huge growth in both resident and commuting population and therefore questions were being asking regarding the future for London without sufficient means of transporting these commuters from their residents to the heart of the city.

The London Population in Victorian Times

 Year London Population
1801 864,845
1811 1,009,546
1821 1,225,694
1831 1,471,941
1841 1,873,676
1851 2,362,236
1861 2,803,989
1871 3,254,260
1881 3,834,354
1891 4,232,118

Table 4, http://www.le.ac.uk/eh/teach/ug/modules/eh3107/basicpop.pdf

Construction and Opening of the Met

Before the metropolitan railway was proposed, most railways within London were independent and only served certain areas, for example the Bayswater, Paddington and Holborn Bridge Railway Company also served them areas in the West end of London. The costs were enormous and plans were cutback to reduce this by cancelling the production of the railway so reach south of Farringdon, this was also bolstered by Britain’s participation in the Crimean War at the time so finances were prioritised towards the war effort in Ukraine. The Railway was eventually completed and opened in January, 1863 after inspections from the Board of Trade in December, 1862.

The Metropolitan Railway in 1863: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metropolitian_Railway_1863.svg
The Metropolitan Railway in 1863: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metropolitian_Railway_1863.svg

Birth of the London Underground

The project was primarily financed by the City of London, it was viewed as an investment for the City as the problematic city congestion was having a damaging effect on business. The image above illustrates the first stage of the line before further expansion in the next few years to Moorgate and further east into the City of London. The journey itself stretched six kilometres and took just 18 minutes from one end to the other. The line carried 38,000 passengers on its first day and 9.5 million passengers in its first 12 months, these figures illustrated the enormous success of the first London underground line and showed the necessities of the line, reducing traffic and congestion on the surfaces and helped the capital control the capacity and influx of people migrating to the city and commuting.

For such a major project in a congested city it is difficult to comprehend the complexities of building these tunnels under the city, using the cut-and-cover method to dig out the tunnels, the tunnels were then built with bricks and then reinforced by strengthening beams and iron girders with the original trench. The metropolitan railway would be the start for the London Underground and the complexities of the London Underground had to start somewhere.

Wait! There’s more…

Further articles will be written by myself on the origins and history of the London underground, the next part will involve the expansion of the Met to accommodate those West in Hammersmith and those who need to travel further into the City of London East of Moorgate to produce the ”inner circle”. These expansions thus begin to formulate the modern London tube network as we know it today with several different lines crossing one another for the most efficient method of transport in our busy capital.

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