The Gunpowder Plot – Exploding The Legend

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder Treason and Plot”

That’s exactly what I’m doing today, and doing so by looking back to 2005 when engineering firm Arup led an investigative analysis of the original Guy Fawkes plot to see what would have happened should his “gunpowder plot” have succeeded.

The plot was an attempt to kill King James I and any other influential persons who happened to be in parliament at that time.  Guy Fawkes was captured underneath Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder and a slow-burning fuse and since then many historians have speculated as to whether this concoction would have actually been sufficient to execute his plan.  So a few years ago Arup set about recreating the very same scenario to determine the potential outcome once and for all.


Arup’s advanced technology and research team first used blast analysis techniques (used in investigating terrorism attacks) to accurately predict and model the effects of the explosion.  Then a replica of the building was constructed (using authentic techniques where possible) and mannequins were used to simulate the body count.  36 barrels of gunpowder were placed underneath and the result, as you can see, is quite conclusive!

To see the actual blast skip to 1.25 on the video below (or watch in more detail on the Arup site here).

“direct blast pressure, heat, impact of high-speed timber fragments and the impact of falling back to earth could also have killed many, if not all, of those present. But the extreme upward thrust would have been the primary cause of death.”

It is estimated that the explosion would have been heard five miles away, with debris falling over a 200m radius.  Substantial impact on the surrounding area to say the least.

Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the Guy Fawkes attempt the analysis was commissioned by ITV for a documentary back in 2005.  You can watch the full documentary in eight short instalments all neatly together in a playlist here.


2 Responses to “The Gunpowder Plot – Exploding The Legend”

  1. 1 stitchesinlife November 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I remember watching this documentary when it was first broadcast. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the end result was so thanks for the playlist link.

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