History KS1 - 1. Why did The Gunpowder Plot happen?

The circumstances which led to The Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

1. Why did The Gunpowder Plot happen?

The episode begins in the present at a Bonfire Night celebration where we meet a rat called Maureen. Maureen then takes us back through time to introduce one of her ancestors, a rat living in London in 1605 at the time of The Gunpowder Plot.

Pupils will learn that The Plot was a consequence of the continuing tensions between Protestants and Catholics in England and that in 1605 Catholics felt persecuted by James I, who had become king two years earlier.

Pupils are introduced to two key plotters - Robert Catesby and Guy Fawkes - and find out about their plan to kill King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament.


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

Set the scene for the topic with a slow reveal of a picture, perhaps showing fireworks. What will we be learning about? Listen to the rhyme ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’. What do you know about Bonfire Night? What do you enjoy about it? What is a 'tradition' and why are traditions important to people?

Explain that we will be finding out about an important event that happened in 1605. Share pictures that show the building, people and clothes they wore during this period to give children an understanding of it. Explore James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Discuss the end of the Tudor and beginning of Stuart reign; give children a ‘sense of period’. The animation alludes to ‘then and now’ activities and children could expand on these differences before watching the video in full.

During the video

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

  • How long ago was the Gunpowder Plot? (Over 400 hundred years ago - in 1605.)

  • Why would you get in trouble if you didn’t go to church? (It was the law to attend Protestant mass and illegal to go to Catholic mass.)

  • Why did the rat yawn when talking about religious arguments? (Because there had been tensions between Catholics and Protestants for generations - ever since Henry VIII had made himself head of the church in England. When a Protestant monarch was on the throne, Catholics weren’t happy and when a Catholic monarch was on the throne, Protestants weren’t happy. Arguments about religion were happening all over Europe. This wasn’t a stand-alone event, so this is important for children to know and understand the context.)

  • What was Robert Catesby’s plot? (The plot was to kill James I and ensure a Catholic monarch would be restored to the throne.)

  • Who would use gunpowder to destroy Parliament? (Guy Fawkes.)

After the video

Repeat the closing question from the video: what do you think happened when they tried to kill the king? The class could make predictions. What do you think happened to the plotters? What would happen if a similar plot happened today?

Activity: write speech bubbles to show what you think the plotters said to each other when they met in secret.

Hot seating: in role as Catesby try to convince pupils to join your group of plotters.

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

2: What happened during The Gunpowder Plot?
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