Meet a lesser known Guy Fawkes

An homage to a forgotten bonfire night (anti)hero


Photography: Jonathan Cherry Styling: Gemma Cherry

Every dog has his day, and every dastardly plot has its poster boy. But we do think Guy Fawkes unfairly got all the glory where the - let’s not forget, murderous but poorly organised - Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is concerned.

For starters, it was Robert Catesby, rather than Fawkes himself, that orchestrated the plan. Fawkes may have been in charge of the explosives, but really he is Robin to Catesby’s Batman. It seems odd Fawkes should be the one to emerge with a national celebration named for him.

But most schoolchildren could name Catesby and Fawkes with little strain. What of the other Gunpowder Plotters*?

We at The Simple Things love an underdog, so here are a few words in celebration of Francis Tresham. Tresham was a key part of the plot and possibly was himself the undoing of the entire thing. So, if you think about it, he changed the course of British history (there might have been no English Civil War for starters).

Tresham had been imprisoned for his part in the failed rebellion against the Government in 1601. He got in on the Gunpowder Plot quite late - in October 1605. He was asked to provide a large sum of cash and use of property to the plotters, but refused, instead coughing up a rather more menial amount. Clearly he had concerns about the whole shebang from the off.

It is thought that Tresham was the author of ‘the Monteagle letter’, a note penned to Lord Monteagle (Tresham’s brother-in-law) which was passed to the Secretary of State, warning Monteagle not to attend parliament on the day of the plot, and thus tipping off the Government. It’s historically been accepted that Tresham wrote the letter, though he denied it to his co-conspirators, and never mentioned it, even at the moment of his death (of natural causes) in the Tower of London.

So, did Tresham single-handedly alter the course of history with his alleged anonymous note? Well, not entirely. Yes, it was the catalyst that blew the plot apart (pun intended) but in fact, by November 5th, the gunpowder the plotters had stored away had gone the way of all gunpowder and split into its component parts, rendering it completely harmless. Had Fawkes managed to get a light to it under Parliament, it’s safe to say it would have gone off not with a bang but a whimper. It had been stored too long to do any damage.

So on Guy Fawkes’ night, let’s hear it for slightly reticent, fearful tell-tales who may not have changed history but played their part. And didn’t get caught with their hand in the gunpowder and a guilty look on their face.

Happy Francis Tresham Night! And if you’re celebrating this weekend, in the November issue of The Simple Things we have Bonfire Night recipes that will garner oohs and aahs galore, from pumpkin scones, through popcorn, to pesto for your hotdog. Sure to create more of a spark than Guy Fawkes’s November 5th efforts did, at any rate.

*The other plotters, in case you are interested, or are attending a pub quiz tonight, were: John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood and Sir Everard Digby.

Get hold of your copy of this month's The Simple Things - buy, download or subscribe

More on Bonfire Night…

More from the November issue…

In defence of the pear

Why we think it’s time the pear stepped into the limelight


Photography: Kirstie Young

Goodness, but we love a pear. The combination of crisp and soft, sweet and refreshing, and so versatile. A pear is just as joyful whether eaten as a simple finishing point to a lunchbreak sarnie, as it is poached in wine, sunk into a crumbly cake or layered atop a tart.

But we have to say, and we don’t think we are courting controversy here, we think pears aren’t getting the love they deserve.

There’s the expression ‘pear-shaped’. In body shape terms, it may be preferable to being an ‘apple’ (or a melon soon after Christmas) but why the negative connotation in a plan ‘going pear-shaped’? Isn’t pear-shaped a beautiful and natural thing, the glorious juicy contents expanding generously towards the bottom and easing slowly outwards? If a plan goes hideously awry surely it’s starfruit-shaped? Or dragon-fruit shaped? Or pancake-shaped, even? It just seems undeserved.

We hate to take sides but our difficulty really is with the apple as pear-opponent, particularly at this time of year.

We like an apple, too, of course (some of our best friends are apples) but sometimes it seems that it’s all about apples just now. We bob for apples, we eat them from a string in silly party games, we stick the pips to our head to tell who our true love will be… October even has its own apple DAY, we recently noted. Our November issue has a rather splendid recipe for toffee apples. And we liked the results so much we even put them on the front cover, as you might have seen. You see, even we are not immune to the charms of the apple. Who doesn’t love a toffee apple?

However, we can’t help feeling that the cumulative effect of all this apple love is sometimes at the expense of the lovely, unassuming pear.

Pears have been growing in England since the year 995, so they should really have their feet firmly under the table. A pear tree may survive for up to 250 years, so it’s no surprise that the pear is a symbol of immortality in Chinese culture. Take note, apple trees, with your paltry 100-year lifespan.

An apple a day may be known for ‘keeping the doctor away’ but a pear is one of the highest-fibre fruits you can treat yourself to. It also includes calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese, as well as the antioxidant quercetin, which, according to Sunday supplements, helps prevent cancer and reduces blood pressure. Basically, if the pear were newer to the supermarket than the sun-dried tomato, we’d be calling it a superfood.

And finally, m’lud, we would like to point out that a griddled slice of pear on a crusty piece of bread with a sliver of blue cheese reclined louchely upon it is a food of the Gods, and an apple, while delicious, butters no parsnips in this circumstance. <Gavel>

We accept that may be a fruit ‘n’ veg metaphor too far, so we will bow out gracefully now, but will first give a nod to the lovely feature in our November issue on things you can do with pears today, tomorrow and next year. It’s written by Lia Leendertz who knows a thing or two about how to use orchard fruit well, with photography by Kirstie Young. One not to miss. Do send us a slice of the dark chocolate and pear cake when you’ve made it, please.

Get hold of your copy of this month's The Simple Things - buy, download or subscribe

More pear recipes…

More from the November issue…