As a child, Christmas Eve was my favorite night of the year, but Bonfire Night came a close second. We would build a huge bonfire, usually on the village green. There used to be a competition between neighboring villages to see who could build the biggest bonfire. We waited excitedly until it got dark, boxes of fireworks safely tucked under our arms. The bonfire would be lit, and the firework display began. Why did we do this? Let me explain.
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion because he had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant so 13 young men decided that violent action was the only answer.
These men decided 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.
To carry out their plan they got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder – and stored them in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot they realized that innocent people would be hurt or killed. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.
The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators.
Guy Fawkes was in the cellar with 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th. He was caught, tortured and executed.
Bonfire’s were lit across England to celebrate the safety of the King. The tradition continues to this day.
To me, November 5th was a time to get together with everyone in the village. Following tradition, we made an effigy of Guy Fawkes and put him on top of the bonfire, cheering as he burned. Of course traditional dishes were made for the occasion such as Parkin, Bonfire Night toffee, toffee apples.
Yorkshire Parkin Recipe
- 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
- 2oz / 55g black treacle/molasses
- 7oz / 200g golden syrup/ corn syrup
- 5oz/ 120g medium oatmeal
- 7 oz/ 200g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsp milk
- Grease an 8″ x 8″/ 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
- In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.
- In a large, spacious, baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally add the milk and again stir well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
- Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool store the Parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days if you can resist eating it, you can even leave it up to a week before eating and the flavors really develop and the mixture softens even further and become moist and sticky. The Parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.