Objects of the Week: Guy Fawkes' lantern and the relic of the eyeball of an executed Gunpowder Plot Jesuit priest

By Ben Miller | 05 November 2015

This week we bring you the lantern from the Gunpowder Plot - and the eyeball of a priest executed for his part in its aftermath

A photo of a female curator wearing white gloves holding an old metal lantern
© Colin Davison / Auckland Castle
Guy Fawkes is said to have been carrying this lantern on his arrest in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament in 1605, when the Gunpowder Plot was discovered.

Made of sheet iron with a holder for a candle inside, it has a hinged door which was once fitted with a window made of horn through which the light would glow. The vent at the top would have let out the heat, attached to an inner cylinder which could be rotated in order to conceal the light and its user.

The lantern was originally given to the University of Oxford in 1641 by Robert Heywood of Brasenose College. He was the son of the Justice of the Peace who arrested Guy Fawkes.

Now much-damaged, it has been in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, since 1887, when a number of objects were transferred there from the Bodleian Library.

A photo of the remains of an eyeball in a circular silver container relating to Guy Fawkes
© Colin Davison / Auckland Castle
It is currently on show for contextual purposes alongside the relic of the eyeball of Edward Oldcorne, the executed English Jesuit priest and a school friend of Fawkes, as part of an exhibition at Auckland Castle, Plots and Spangles: The Embroidered Vestments of Helena Wintour.

Oldcorne was executed in 1606 alongside John Wintour, Helena’s uncle, for his role in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.

The eye was collected at the scene of his execution at Red Hill, in Worcester, by a Catholic sympathiser, who preserved it in a silver eye-shaped container.

The exhibition shows off embroidered liturgical vestments by Wintour, whose 17th century collection is being described as the single most important body of work by a named Englishwoman in modern times.

  • Plots and Spangles: The Embroidered Vestments of Helena Wintour is at Auckland Castle, County Durham until April 11 2015.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More Objects of the Week from Culture24

The knitted silk waistcoat worn by Charles I at his execution in 1649

A bible baked in a loaf of bread from 16th century southern France

A 300-year-old witching bottle containing fingernails and hair
Latest comment: >Make a comment
Very annoyed that the Lantern was not on display for the advertised duration of this exhibition, I made a very long journey to view a replica. I'm disgusted.
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