Time to remember Horncastle’s very own Guy Fawkes


‘Remember, remember the fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and plot.’

Everyone has heard of Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

However, if things had worked out a little differently, we could also be celebrating Arthur Thistlewood night.

Thistlewood was also involved in an infamous plot to ‘bring down’ the Government of his day.

He and fellow activists planned to murder the entire cabinet in the Cato Street Conspiracy of February 1820.

Unfortunately for him, Thistlewood was betrayed by a Government spy, hung for treason and decapitated.

Now, local historian Pete Harness has revealed Thistlewood’s links with Horncastle.

Mr Harness said: “He was, arguably, more notorious than Guy Fawkes and came very close to creating a new Republic of Great Britain.

“He was educated at Horncastle Grammar School, radicalised in America and France and ritually executed in London. But, was he a freedom fighter - or a terrorist?”

Thistelwood married two Horncastle women. His first wife died in childbirth and his second was Susan Wilkinson, whose father owned a butchers - now Johnson’s Fruit and Flower shop in the High Street.

Thistlewood became leader of the ‘Society of Spencean Philanthropists’ - a group of revolutionaries - and was described as a “dangerous character” by police.

He was involved in a botched plot to organise mass riots in London with the aim of seizing the Tower of London and the Bank of England.

In 1817, he challenged Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to a duel only to be sent to prison.

After being released, he failed to spot his organisation had been infiltrated by a Government spy.

Thistlewood and his fellow conspirators were told the British cabinet would be meeting at the home of Lord Harrowby in Grosvenor Square, London.

They gathered in the hayloft of a nearby property in Cato Street. Police were lying in wait.

Thistlewood killed one officer and escaped through a window. He was quickly captured before meeting a grizzly end at Newgate Prison.

His heartbroken wife kept a lock of his hair and married Henry Turner, a coal merchant from South Street, Horncastle.