About Fireworks & Guy Fawkes Night

New Zealanders celebrate with Guy Fawkes fireworks on the same night as Britain each year on the 5th November.

In 1605, thirteen young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Among them was Guy Fawkes, Britain's most notorious traitor.

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I had, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth and a number of young men, 13 to be exact, decided that violent action was the answer.

A small group took shape, under the leadership of Robert Catesby. Catesby felt that violent action was warranted. Indeed, the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists.

Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed.

4 Interesting Guy Fawkes Facts


1. The gunpowder would have done little damage to Parliament

The 36 barrels of gunpowder that Fawkes planted in a cellar below the Houses of Parliament would have been sufficient to raze it to the ground, while causing severe damage to neighbouring buildings.

However, some experts now claim that the gunpowder had “decayed”, and would not have properly exploded even if ignited.

2. The Houses of Parliament are still searched once a year to make sure there are no conspirators hiding with explosives

Before the annual State Opening of Parliament, the Yeomen of the Guard search the Houses of Parliament to make sure there are no would-be conspirators hiding in the cellars. This has become more of a tradition than a serious anti-terrorist precaution.

3. Guy Fawkes won the unlikely admiration of King James I

Even under torture, Guy Fawkes remained defiant. He withstood two full days of torture before he confessed to plotting to blow up Parliament.

When asked why he had so much gunpowder, he replied that his intention was: “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains”.

Fawkes admitted that he had planned to blow up the House of Lords, and expressed his regret at having failed to do so.

His steadfast manner earned him the praise of King James, who described Fawkes as possessing "a Roman resolution".

4. Guy Fawkes did not die from being hung, drawn and quartered

The traditional death for traitors in 17th-century England was to be hanged from the gallows, then drawn and quartered in public. But, despite his role in the Gunpowder Plot - which the perpetrators hoped would kill King James and as many members of parliament as possible - it was not to be Fawkes's fate.

As he awaited his grisly punishment on the gallows, Fawkes leapt to his death - to avoid the horrors of having his testicles cut off, his stomach opened and his guts spilled out before his eyes. He died from a broken neck.

His body was subsequently quartered, and his remains were sent to "the four corners of the kingdom" as a warning to others.

Fireworks are only sold for the four days up to Guy Fawkes – November 2nd to 5th.

You must be 18 years old and have valid ID to buy fireworks.

And there are also rules about the types of fireworks that are sold*