Gunpowder Treason and Plot

November 5th  On this day in 1605 was discovered “a most horrible conspiracy of the Papish against the King [James I]” to blow up the Houses of Parliament, for their roles in which Guy Fawkes and his fellows were cruelly put to death  (see footnote).

Some years later, on the  anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the Dean of St Paul’s, John Donne, felt compelled to give in the cathedral  a sermon reassuring the congregation as to the ongoing commitment to the Protestant cause of the King, who was himself widely suspected of harbouring Catholic sympathies.   In his sermon, Donne described the King as “in his heart, as farre from submitting us to that Idolatry, and Superstition, which did heretofore oppresse us, as his immediate Predecessor [Elizabeth I], whose memory  Is justly precious to you, was”.  John Donne, 1622

Have a look at this 3D digital representation of the area outside St Paul’s Cathedral – Paul’s Cross preaching station – where sermons were preached, including Donne’s Gunpowder Day Sermon. There’s a still image, but also a video ‘fly-though’ – see youtube link below.

3D recreation of the site of Donne's sermon

3D recreation of Paul’s Cross preaching station – the site of Donne’s sermon

If the above link doesn’t work, you can also find the video through its creators website here

For further informaion on this 3D digital creation, and the various documents they drew upon, see

The site of the old Houses of Parliament*  is  visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” walk.

The area around St Paul’s Cathedral – including Paul’s cross – is explored (although the cathedral itself is not entered) not only on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” walk but also on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn – Fanfare and Plainsong”, “London Wall – A Story of Survival” and “Tower to Temple – Heart of the City” ones.

Please note that any of our walks  can be booked by e-mail ( or phone (020-8998-3051).

Footnote.  The discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot  in 1605 was one Thomas Knyvet(t), the Keeper of Whitehall Palace, in recognition of which, a grateful James I granted him an extension of the lease on his house, in what was later to become Downing Street.  The property later passed to Knyvet’s niece, Elizabeth Hampden, the mother of John Hampden and aunt of Oliver Cromwell.  John Hampden was one of the five Members of Parliament whose attempted unconstitutional arrest by Charles I in 1642 was essentially the last in the series of events that led to the Civil War.

*  Some old parts of the Palace of Westminster survive to this day, although most of the present-day building was built 1840-70.

For more information on the Gunpower Plot, here’s a good website –

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