Burning Down The House: Dangerous Guy Fawkes Night Videos

Today is Guy Fawkes day and so we had a dig in the archive for some footage of yesteryear’s heretic-honed celebrations. British Pathé have so much brilliant archive footage of Guy Fawkes celebrations, bonfire parties and fireworks displays. Some of the best are from the 1940s, when explosives and large fires had a much deeper cultural significance to war-torn Britain and the escapism of a festivity and pyromania was a much needed indulgement.


Here are the best Guy Fawkes clips, click on the titles or images to view them, and make sure to check out the link to the bigger collection afterwards:

To Go Up In Smoke – (1934)

“One night in the year the nurses don’t care how late bath time is”. A fantastic clip of nurses building a huge bonfire and passing the guy up to the top of it. Babies watch from a 12-seater pram!

Fireworks Factory – (1945)

“We feared that after all the raids people would never want to hear another explosion, but the reverse seems to be the case!” Wonderful footage of girls busy making fireworks in a factory. It’s the first peace time November 5th, great shot of kids pressing their faces against the windows of a fireworks shop. Pathe stage a bizarre drama between a boy and girl but the footage is very sweet.

Mr Fawkes Comes To Town – (1948)

“London’s east end mirrors the world’s mood on Guy Fawkes day, rearmament programs continue behind an iron curtain of secrecy, but it’s left to the backyard scientists to ensure the biggest bang of the year”. Fantastic clip of London boys making their own explosives. The boys make an Adolf Hitler guy!

Prize For Guys – (1957)

A Manchester cinema offer a large box of fireworks for the best Guy. The competition is judged by  local heartthrob, former Butlins redcoat and pop singer Russ Hamilton, who later moved to Nashville, Tennessee and was signed up with MGM Records.

It’s That Guy Again – (1953)

Brilliant montage of vintage fireworks displays and Guy Fawkes bonfires.

Devon Playing With Fire – Devon – (1965)

“In Devon they encourage youngsters to play with fire” – The video shows Devon locals running down the street with barrels stuffed with burning straw, a local tradition apparently. One boy get injured and the canister notes explain: he is covered in black soot and has nasty burns on his face, looks to be in pain. Narrator makes inappropriately light-hearted comment about man’s injury; “he’ll be back in the running next year”.

Watch this amusing 1943 Re-Enactment of the Guy Fawkes Story

And then for more Guy Fawkes videos check this general collection. There are videos from celebrations in London around Big Ben, and at UCL, as well as mad little places up and down the country like Shere in Surrey:


Despite the dangerous endeavours of the daring boys in this footage we would like to ask all of our readers to enjoy Guy Fawkes celebrations in a responsible manner, to keep at a safe distance from fire and DO NOT attempt to make your own fireworks or explosives. Thank You.


Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

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