The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, 1605
by Crispijn de Passe the Elder
circa 1605
NPG 334a

Past display archive
17 September - 18 December 2005

Room 4

Free

At about midnight on 4 November 1605 a search party sent by the King discovered Guy Fawkes, 'a very tall and desperate fellow', with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, in a cellar under the chamber in which the opening of Parliament was to take place the following day. The discovery marked the end of two years of plotting by a group of disenchanted and alienated English Catholics, and of ten days of suspicion on the part of King James I and his ministers. The following day, 5 November 1605, the citizens of London were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the King and Parliament's narrow escape. An act was subsequently passed ordering annual public commemoration of the date, and Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night was born. It has been celebrated ever since.

This display, in the fourth-hundredth-anniversary year of the plot, brings together the few contemporary prints that exist of the conspirators, portraits of those involved in uncovering the plot, and images depicting the plotters' executions. It also includes two satirical prints made about fifteen years later, in which scenes from the story were used in an attempt to stir up anti-Catholic feeling.

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video