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Bonfire Societies

(1686AD - Present )

The current Bonfire celebrations in East Sussex are held by a number of societies from villages and the small towns in the county .

The celebrations are held throughout the area during November and consist of noisy processions, the burning of effegies and fantastic fireworks displays .

The original celebrations are based on the failure of the attempt of Guy(Guido) Fawkes to assassinate King James I and parliament on the 5th November 1605.

This type of celebration seem to have originally come from Battle which was the center of gunpowder manufacturing from the 1676 to the early 1800's. Battle parish records of the 5th November 1686 show an entry that a payment of seventeen shillings and six pence was made for 'Bonfire Rejoycings'. The Battle Bonfire guy effigy has a wooden head which is claimed to be over 200 years old which before the ceremonial burning the body on the bonfire the guy is beheaded and the head returned to Battle Museum. The guy can be seen at Battle Museum at the Almonry in Battle during its opening times April 1st to October 31st.

Mark Antony Lower (1814-1876) was a Sussex historian who founded the Sussex Archaeological Society and with an etching of the " Sussex Martyrs " by James Henry Hurdis is believed to have started the " cult of the Sussex martyrs " during 1851. He seems to have based the idea on the Battle Bonfire celebrations.

Since then the county town of Lewes and Battle have become the centers of the Bonfire celebrations, with numerous societies in the surrounding villages, the Lewes events in the past even had flaming tar barrels rolled down the main high street.

The modern Bonfire celebrations are held to provide funds for local charities. The usual format of the events held throughout the area in November consist of a long procession with a large number of Bonfire societies marching with banners, drums, fireworks and torches then to an area with a large Bonfire many stories high, and a finale of the most amazing fireworks display .

These processions are a noisy and colourful event with people marching in all manner of outfits from the monks from Robertsbridge to jailbirds, confederates, world war 2 soldiers, Saxon warriors and all manners of other outfits. There are many flaring torches, flares and fireworks and drummers making the events very atmospheric. The most atmospheric event is held at Robertsbridge , this is because the village center is very old dating back to the 1100's, this together with very few lights makes the event feel as though time has been turned back to medieval times, especially with armoured Saxon warriors marching down the high street.

Here are some links to the local Bonfire societies

Barcombe Bonfire Society
Battel Bonfire Boyes
Burgess Hill Bonfire Society
Chailey Bonfire Society
Cliffe Bonfire Society (Lewes)
Commercial Square Bonfire Society (Lewes)
Crowborough Bonfire and Carnival Society
Eastbourne Bonfire Society
East Hoathly and Halland
Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire Society
Firle Bonfire Society Website
Fletching Bonfire Society
Hailsham Bonfire Society
Hastings Borough Bonfire Society
Lewes Bonfire Council
Lewes Borough Bonfire Society (Lewes)
Lindfield Bonfire Society
Littlehampton Bonfire Society
Mayfield Bonfire Boyes and Belles
Newick Bonfire Society
Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society (Lewes)
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society
Rye Bonfire Society
Shoreham Bonfire Society
South Heighton Bonfire Society
Titchfield Bonfire Boys
Waterloo Bonfire Society (Lewes)
Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes

Villages Referenced

Barcombe  -   (Village in three places)
Battle  -   (William the Conqueror prevails)
Chailey  -   (The Heritage and Bricks)
Firle  -   (Home of the Greengage)
Fletching  -   (Simon de Montfort and Jack Cade)
Hailsham  -   (Ropes and Napoleon)
Mayfield  -   (Saint Dunstan and the Devil)
Newick  -   (Killer Cricket and Dirk Bogarde)
Robertsbridge  -   (The Home of Modern Cricket)
Rye  -   (On the Island)
Salehurst  -   (Richard the Lion Heart's Gift)
Uckfield  -   (Traction Engine destroys bridge)
Westfield  -   (Bonfire Boys under suspicion)

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