London Stories: Bonfire Night Started in Storage

Bonfire Night is one of those British traditions which started out as something quite violent but is now a chance for big firework displays, an evening of family fun and a chance to light the gloom of winter.


Going back to the very beginning, Bonfire Night came about after the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a group of plotters, including Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the House of Lords using 36 barrels of high explosive. They aimed to do this by renting an undercroft at the House of Lords, which was a kind of prototype London storage unit.

In those days it was common for merchants to rent out spaces underneath Parliament and the House of Lords, to store all kinds of goods. However, the Gunpowder plotters were betrayed and when Guy Fawkes arrived with his burning torch, ready to blow up King James, he was ambushed by Magistrates.

Unsurprisingly, you cannot store any type of goods beneath the House of Commons today and for safety reasons ABC Selfstore can’t store fireworks for you either. Find out what we can store here by the way.


Over centuries, Bonfire Night became less of a political and religious event, and instead became a celebration, a chance to have a local night out, see some spectacular fireworks and maybe eat a few hot dogs.

Local history societies in North London have stories from residents who describe how competitive each neighbourhood’s bonfire was back in the 50s and 60s. Camden and Islington boys would save timber for weeks before November 5th, sometimes storing it in the murky waters of the canal, before getting it dried out just a few days prior to the big fire.

We can’t store timber at our Camden, Southwark or Wandsworth storage units, but ABC Selfstore is happy to hang onto your furniture and other household goods.


Nowadays you can simply get a great view of various firework displays across North London from the top of Primrose Hill, but up until 2005 there was an actual bonfire held here.

London bonfire night

There’s still something magical about bonfire night

Many Camden residents have fond memories of the great public displays held on the hill, which were stopped for health & safety reasons.  It now makes a great viewing area, along with several other high points around London.

Wherever you watch an organised firework display from in London you may well need some winter clothes, scarves, strong boots etc. and if you’re ever stuck for clothing space and need to stash some winter/summer clothes, ABC have handy lockers in Camden, Wandsworth and Southwark.


If you build a little bonfire in your back garden, don’t forget to check for hedgehogs before lighting it on 5th November. Hedgehogs love to hibernate in a pile of wood, cardboard, old papers etc so always check carefully.

Wildlife experts recommend that you store bonfire timber etc and build your fire at the last minute to protect any London wildlife. If your bonfire has been built a few weeks ago, then move it 20 metres or so, give the critters a chance to escape. Other recommendations are playing the radio or turning up the TV, just to try and soothe your pets if all kinds of firework bangs are going off locally.

Really, a bonfire loving hedgehog hibernating is just doing what many of us would like to do for winter, so if you have a whole lot of stuff to stash until Spring 2012 comes around, then let us know – we’re friendly people here at ABC Selfstore.

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