Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shining Light on the Men Who Risked All in 1605; as a Day of Fireworks Dawns, DAVID WHETSTONE Views an Object Which Illuminates a Dark Period in Our History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shining Light on the Men Who Risked All in 1605; as a Day of Fireworks Dawns, DAVID WHETSTONE Views an Object Which Illuminates a Dark Period in Our History

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

ON the day we commemorate the Gunpowder Plot with rockets and Roman candles, it's quite something to stand in front of an object that dates from the time.

When Guy Fawkes was skulking with his fellow plotters in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605, what was lighting his way? The answer, we are led to believe, is the lantern currently on display at Auckland Castle and on loan from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

The light from its flickering candle must have illuminated the barrels of gunpowder with which the Roman Catholic conspirators (among them Fawkes, Robert Catesby, Robert and Thomas Wintour, John Wright and Thomas Percy, a distant relative of the 9th Earl of Northumberland) planned to blow up James I, the Protestant king of England, and his government.

It may also have shone upon the faces of those who apprehended Fawkes in the cellars in the early hours of November 5. (Fawkes was subsequently tortured and condemned to death, although he is said to have jumped from the scaffold and broken his neck, thereby avoiding the horror of hanging and quartering.) The lantern, while understandably the worse for wear, is still a sturdylooking thing made of sheet iron and with a holder inside for a candle.

According to the Ashmolean, the hinged door would once have been fitted with a window of horn through which light would have glowed. Heat would have escaped through a vent at the top which is attached to an inner cylinder which could be turned, smothering the light. Is it the real thing? The Ashmolean say Fawkes was "said to have been carrying this lantern" but there seems to be little doubt.

It was originally given to Oxford University in 1641 by a Robert Heywood, of Brasenose College, who was the son of the Justice of the Peace who arrested Fawkes.

The lantern was among several objects transferred to the Ashmolean in 1887 from the 'collection of curiosities' held by the university's Bodleian Library.

It was battered because it had been handled by generations of visitors to the Bodleian, one of the oldest libraries in Europe.

You can't handle the lantern any more. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.