‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ urges the old nursery rhyme. The treason of explosives expert Guy Fawkes, caught red-handed in the stymied 1605 attempt to blow up King James I and his Protestant Parliament, is seared into our national psyche.
Internationally, the now-iconic Guy Fawkes mask – popularised by its use in the 2005 TimeWarner film V for Vendetta – has since been adopted by protest groups battling tyranny.
While his anti-establishment visage is now globally recognised, Fawkes was not the leader of the gunpowder plot. Nevertheless, it’s his effigy – the Guy – which has burned on bonfire night every year since the passing of the Observance of 5th November Act of 1606. And it’s his continued fame that today attracts guests to York’s Guy Fawkes Inn, reputedly where our most famous would-be revolutionary was born in 1570.
Guy Fawkes Inn is an early-Georgian terrace, built hundreds of years after Fawkes’ execution in Westminster’s Old Palace Yard, but the older cottage, behind, lays good claim to being where the notorious plotter took his first breath. This picture was taken by Kevin Bailey and posted to Flickr. Published courtesy of Creative Commons licensing
Carlton’s room had a four-poster bed, with sash windows filled with killer views, and featured shabby-chic furniture on sloping dark-wood floors
Guy Fawkes Inn is said to be haunted, but Carlton’s stay was wraith-free. Pictured right is the blue plaque stating the pub’s claim to fame
The inn itself is an early-Georgian terrace, built hundreds of years after Fawkes’ execution in Westminster’s Old Palace Yard, but the older cottage, behind, lays good claim to being where our notorious plotter took his first breath.
This cottage is now part of the inn and, via pubs-with-rooms group Stay in a Pub, is available for overnight stays. However, we opted for a front-facing room with spectacular close-up views of York’s Minster and the adjacent St. Michael le Belfry Church, where Fawkes was baptised.
Fawkes was brought up as a Protestant, the grandson of a church lawyer. Edward, Fawkes’ father, rose to become Advocate of the Archbishop’s Consistory Court. He died when Fawkes was nine, and his mother later remarried into a family of ‘recusants’ (Catholics who recognised the authority of the Pope rather than English kings).
Guests at the Guy Fawkes Inn are afforded spectacular close-up views of York’s Minster (pictured) and the adjacent St. Michael le Belfry Church, where Fawkes was baptised
The young Fawkes attended St. Peter’s School in York’s Horse Fair – this school was later rebuilt on land Fawkes had inherited from his father and which he sold to leave York to fight in the religious wars on the continent.
In deference to its most infamous old boy, St. Peter’s School doesn’t burn a guy on bonfire night.
Two of Fawkes’ fellow plotters, brothers John and Christopher Wright, also attended this school.
Instead of numbers, the 13 rooms at the Guy Fawkes Inn use names of the plotters.
Guide Dog trainee Berry descending the creaky stairs at Guy Fawkes Inn
Sit by the fire, where you can conspire: The conspiracy-themed lounge in the Guy Fawkes Inn
Gunpowder barrels and other faux Fawkes oddments can be found scattered around the Guy Fawkes Inn. Pictured right is another characterful double room
The rooms to the rear of the inn overlook Guy Fawkes Cottage, in front of which there’s a narrow beer garden emblazoned with a bold mural featuring the plotters. Rooms to the front have views over to the Minster, less than 30 metres distant, and almost within touching distance of the fine church where Fawkes was baptised.
Our room had a four-poster bed, with sash windows filled with those killer views, and featured shabby-chic furniture on sloping dark-wood floors.
We’d brought our trainee Guide Dog puppy and she had no trouble ascending the old creaky stairs.
The medieval Shambles, believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe (it was mentioned as such in the Domesday Book of 1086) and which is said to have inspired the look of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films
King’s Manor, named for Henry VIII who stayed here and who used it for housing his Council of the North. James VI of Scotland visited King’s Manor in 1603 on his way to London to be crowned as James I of England
The all-year-round Christmas shop of Kathe Wohlfahrt is housed in the Mulberry Hall, built in 1434, and close to the Guy Fawkes Inn on High Petergate
For all the tales of Guy Fawkes Inn being haunted – the International Ghost Research Foundation claims that York is the most haunted city in Europe – she didn’t growl at any apparitions through the night.
Nor, next morning, was she spooked by the Guy Fawkes masks in the gas-lit restaurant.
Breakfast is taken in one of several cosy rooms, all bedecked with faux Fawkes materials such as gunpowder barrels and those now iconic masks. (TimeWarner gets a cut for each mask sold.)
After breakfast we explored York, following the self-guided Guy Fawkes Trail.
This starts at the King’s Manor, named for Henry VIII who stayed here and who used it for housing his Council of the North. James VI of Scotland visited Kings Manor in 1603 on his way to London to be crowned as James I of England.
Also on the Guy Fawkes Trail is the medieval Shambles, believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe (it was mentioned as such in the Domesday Book of 1086) and which is said to have inspired the look of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.
There are five Harry Potter themed shops on the street, including The Shop That Must Not Be Named.
The Shambles is a short walk from High Petergate and the Minster’s pedestrianised precinct. The views of York’s cathedral are glorious from every angle, of course, but it’s special to stay at the Guy Fawkes Inn and gawp at the framed views from its beautiful bedrooms.