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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Six

Emma-LouiseNicholls5 November 2012

Scary MonkeyOur story begins in 1605. Put out by the lack of royal acceptance of their religion, 13 Catholic men decided the best way to get their voice heard, was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The men planted 36 barrels of gun powder in a cellar just below the House of Lords. Sadly for them, though happily for historic architecture, they were betrayed. Some of the band of 13 realised that their shenanigans would more than likely end with the ‘accidental’ killing of innocents, including a couple of chums and a few fellow Catholics. With Jiminy Cricket whispering in their ears, the would-be terrorists revealed the plot in letters to specific members of parliament, telling them to ‘be out for the day’ on the 5th November. The chain of warning spread like gossip until the King received a memo, resulting in a set of guards being sent to investigate. One Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed in the cellar with the barrels of powder. Whoops. Bonfire night became a custom in which bonfires are set alight as a mark of defiance against terrorists and a celebration of Fawkes’ execution. (Though I have read that perhaps these last few years more people will be ‘honoring his attempt to do away with the government’. Decide for yourself). Either way, bonfires and fireworks are a tradition going back over 400 years and a lovely one at that. In honour of this day, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)