News Article

What is bonfire night? History and a guide to displays

New to the UK? Or just want to know more about Bonfire Night in London? Take a look at our guide below to find out all you need to know to remember, remember the fifth of November!

What is Bonfire Night?

Bonfire night is held on November 5 each year.

This year, Bonfire night falls on Sunday.

However, lots of events will take place around the city throughout the weekend, ranging from small garden gatherings and bonfires within local communities, to official city events welcoming thousands of people.

If you know anything about Bonfire Night, the first things that come to mind may be fireworks, sparklers, toffee apples, parkin and warm hats.

However, the night has a dark and gruesome past as the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot led by Guy Fawkes, who planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the 5th November 1605.

Traditionally, each year when we ight a bonfire to remember this event, there would be a dummy man on the top, or the ‘Guy’, named after Guy Fawkes. I remember making the dummy through stuffing newspaper into tights when I was young!

The History

Guy (or Guido) Fawkes, was part of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. As a Catholic, he wanted to blow up King James I and his Government in an attempt to force change in the religious running of the country, which was Protestant at the time.

Fawkes and his group hid 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament right here in London, to set off an explosion. The plot was found out when one of the ringleaders sent a letter to a friend of his who worked in parliament, warning him to stay away on the 5th November, and thus the plot failed.

Guards broke into the cellar where the plotters were waiting, and were arrested and then later executed.

Somehow, this gruesome history developed into the Autumn celebration that people in the UK celebrate today!

Fun Fact about Bonfire Night - No Fireworks during wartime

Throughout the first and second world wars, no one was allowed to set off fireworks. This was part of an act of parliament introduced in 1914 known as the Defence of the Realm Act, aimed to protect people throughout wartime by enforcing blackout at nighttime so the enemy couldn’t see towns and settlements as well.

This completely went against the previous laws, where it was illegal NOT to celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain (up until 1959!). During wartime Bonfire Night was celebrated indoors.

How is bonfire night celebrated?

Bonfire Night is celebrated UK-wide, through fireworks, parties and of course, bonfires!

In local communities, primary schools often get involved with creating the dummy man to go on top of the bonfire.

Bonfires usually include a firework display, food such as pulled pork sandwiches, hotdogs, toffee apples and parkin (which is a delicious spiced cake).

Make sure your Bonfire Night goes off with a bang!

  • Book your tickets ahead to guarantee entry: many London fireworks events are usually ticketed and can be bought in advance.
  • Take cash, some vendors are cash only
  • Enjoy more than just the fireworks! There are plenty of activities for all ages, including food and drink
  • Wrap up warm to enjoy the whole evening

Where to celebrate Bonfire Night in London

  1. Battersea Park Fireworks

Battersea park firework display takes place on the 4th November, with a family night taking place on the 5th November. With music synced fireworks, this is not a night to miss!

Book your tickets for Battersea Park Fireworks here

  1. Alexandra Palace Fireworks

Alexandra Palace firework display takes place on 3rd and 4th November. They even have a DJ this year!

Book your tickets for Alexandra Palace Fireworks here

  1. Wimbledon Park Fireworks

Wimbledon Park musical firework display takes place on 4th and 5th November.

Book your tickets for Wimbledon Park Fireworks here

  1. Modern Park Fireworks

Morden Park Firework Display takes place on the 5th November. There is a food and drinks village, music and funfair rides.

Book your tickets for Morden Park Fireworks here

Don’t want to pay?

You can visit Corams Fields for their free firework display. Each year they sell a few tickets for the best viewing spots (these have sold out now), but the rest of the event remains free with unlimited spaces.

Based near King’s Cross, this is a great central spot for you to head to.

Find out more information here

If you would prefer something more casual, you can take a stroll to Primrose Hill for some of the best views of the city and if you’re feeling lazy, just looking out your bedroom window may mean you catch a glimpse of the fireworks. 



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