The first Bonfire Night celebration happened on the very evening of the discovery of Gunpowder Plot – 5 November 1605. On Thursday 7 November John Chamberlain reported to his friend, the diplomat Dudley Carleton: ‘On Tuesday at night we had great ringing and as great store of bonfires as I think was ever seen’.
This letter (SP 14/16/23), along with many of the key documents of the plot, can be found in the State Papers at The National Archives. Some, like the confession of Guy Fawkes of 9 November 1605 with its faint signature (SP 14/216/54), can be viewed in our image library showcase. The relevant volumes of State Papers are available online in calendar form on the website of the Institute of Historical Research.