1570AD - 1606AD
On 5th November 1605 a York man, Guy Fawkes, was discovered about to ignite 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament. His aim was to spark a Catholic revolution.
Fawkes was born in York in 1570, probably at a house in Stonegate. He was baptised in St Michael le Belfry church on April 13. His father Edward, a church lawyer and a prominent Protestant in the city, died when Guy was only eight years old.
His mother remarried, to a Catholic, and they moved to the village of Scotton, near Knaresborough. Fawkes’ schooling continued in York, at St Peter’s. His schoolmates included brothers John and Christopher Wright, who were later destined to join the gunpowder plot. Christopher, or ‘Kit’, was the same age as Guy Fawkes.
In the 1570’s and 80’s York was a centre of the Catholic resistance. About the time that Fawkes himself converted he would have been aware of a particularly brutal example of the religion’s suppression. In 1586 Margaret Clitherow was publicly executed for protecting Priests in her home.
As an adult Fawkes inherited property in York, at Gillygate and Clifton. But on his 21st birthday he sold his estate and enlisted in the Catholic Spanish army. He spent his next ten years fighting for Spain, becoming commander of a unit of soldiers and an expert in explosives. In Madrid Fawkes met up again with Kit Wright and they joined a group of conspirators, who together plotted to murder King James and replace him with a Catholic monarch.
The plan was audacious and brutal. The plotters hired a cellar under Parliament and smuggled in the barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes stood guard. It was his role to light the fuse, then head to Flanders to raise forces who would join in the Catholic uprising in England.
After his arrest Guy was tortured. His school-fellows, John and Kit Wright, died in November 1605 when they were caught with other conspirators at Holbeche House in Staffordshire.
Then, in January 1606, Guy Fawkes himself was put to death in Westminster by hanging, drawing and quartering. His remains were sent to the four corners of the Kingdom as a warning to other plotters.