Old Somerset customs… Guy Fawkes Day

It’s only ten days since November 5th, so I  don’t think it’s too late to write about Guy Fawkes Day as it was called in Somerset. The Gunpowder Plot, or the Gunpowder Treason Plot, was an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by Guy Fawkes and some associates in 1605, in the hope of assassinating King James I… it failed, the plotters were betrayed.

Since 1607 the event, or non-event, was celebrated in Bristol and spread to the rest of Somerset. The most important feature of the celebration was the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, who was in reality actually burned at the stake. This evolved into the carnivals which are still held very year in Bridgwater and other Somerset towns including Weston-super-Mare where I live.

Special things were eaten including furmenty (frumenty) and oatmeal cakes; furmenty is like a wheaten porridge, with dried fruits and spices; in ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ by Thomas Hardy Michael Henchard is led to ruin by eating too much rum furmenty and selling his wife! Children wore masks and before long fireworks and crackers were added to the festivities.

All photos ©Bari W. Sparshott

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