History KS1 - 2. What happened during The Gunpowder Plot?

The plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the arrest of Guy Fawkes.

2. What happened during The Gunpowder Plot?

Robert Catesby's initial plan was to tunnel under the Houses of Parliament and place the gunpowder there. But the plotters discovered they could actually rent a chamber directly under the House of Lords - so a tunnel wasn't necessary.

On the night of 4 / 5 November 1605 Guy Fawkes was in the chamber. He was surrounded by 36 barrels of gunpowder and had only a few short hours to wait before King James I - and several leading members of the Protestant establishment - would arrive for the opening of a new session of parliament.

However, suspicion that a plot was imminent had been aroused by a letter, assumed to be written by one of the plotters: it was a warning to keep away from parliament on 5 November. Searches were made of the building and Fawkes was discovered before he could carry out the plan. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London.


Teachers' notes
Shadow puppet templates
The Tower of London illustration


Consolidate pupils' learning about The Gunpowder Plot with these three catchy songs from our Music pages.

1. Shadows in the night
2. Hundreds of years ago
3. Remember, remember

Teachers' Notes

Before the video

Watch videos of fireworks: how do they work? Discuss the use of gunpowder in fireworks and in relation to The Gunpowder Plot.

Discuss what is important to the children - for example, what they do in their free time? How would they feel if they were deprived of those things or they were changed? This is a useful parallel to the religious context of the story.

Discuss how Catesby and the other Catholic plotters felt at being told they couldn’t practise their religion. Was his motive right? Were his actions wrong?

During the video

During the video, the teacher can stop and ask pupils the following questions:

  • Did the plotters plan to break into Parliament? (No. They actually took out a lease on the undercroft below the House of Lords and had legal access. The barrels were built up over a number of months.)

  • Why did one of the plotters write to his relative? (His relative was due to travel to Parliament on that day and he wanted to keep him safe.)

  • Who saw the warning note? (James I)

  • What did the guards do when they found Fawkes? (They arrested him and took him to the Tower of London.)

After the video

Consider the closing question of the video: what do you think will happen to Guy Fawkes? Share ideas. What should happen to him?

Write a speech bubble from James I’s point of view when he discovers the warning note.

Create a ‘Wanted’ poster for Catesby.

Write a letter to James I from Fawkes’ relatives trying to persuade him to forgive Fawkes and release him.

Curriculum Notes

This video is relevant for teaching History at KS1 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 1st Level in Scotland.

More from this series

1: Why did The Gunpowder Plot happen?
3: What happened after The Gunpowder Plot?
Who were the famous people involved in The Gunpowder Plot?

See also...

The Great Fire of London
Castles and Knights