The Lewes Bonfire Society,s : Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations
There has been over the years over 25 societies in Lewes, now there is just seven active bonfire societies in Lewes, Cliffe Bonfire Society, Lewes Borough Bonfire Society, Commercial Square Bonfire Society, South Street Bonfire Society, Waterloo Bonfire Society, Southover Bonfire Society and Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society which have their own bonfire night celebration a couple of weeks earlier.
For timings of the processions, fireworks etc, of any of the Lewes Bonfire Societies bonfire night celebration, Visit any worthy newsagent, shop, pub or pop along to the High Street on any Saturday in Lewes in the three weeks leading up to the celebrations or early afternoon on the day, or visit the Bonfire Society website and buy a programme, you will be helping to raise funds for them in doing so. Makes for interesting reading as well.
There is always some bigotry from some bonfire society members towards other bonfire societies and the general public, but in my book, all the bonfire societies are equal in the sense that they are all celebrating the freedom of/from oppression, speech, authoritarianism, etc and without them the Lewes Bonfire Celebrations would not be worthwhile or exist. A particular event that unified the Lewes Bonfire Societys was the 2013 Mumford and Sons Harveys Bar.
“Hosting the festival, which brought 25,000 visitors to Lewes for the duration, Mumford wanted to make sure all local facilities were utilized, including local beer supplied by Harveys Brewery. They assisted in the brewing of the limited edition Lewes Stopover Brew in July, which was released a week before the festival. The new Harvey Hop Bar Trailer was at the event and worked in unison with a 50ft bar, manned by all seven of Lewes’ Bonfire Societies” Click Here To See
They were all formed and reformed at different times and the earliest being around 1850, shortly after The Papal Bull (Universalis Ecclesiae) of 29th September 1850 by which Pope Pius IX recreated the Roman Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England, The bull angered many and fueled more anti-Catholic feelings among English Protestants. This on its own is probably the main reason why there was an explosion of Bonfire Society’s in Lewes and the Fifth is still celebrated as strongly now as then, as the celebrations were showing signs of waning in the early part of the 1800s and The Lewes Bonfire Celebrations were allowed back on to the streets.
I am not going to get involved as to who was first or when, as this is not 100% clear as day follows night, but will say that there were other Lewes Bonfire Society’s in the past and that they have now long gone, and that they were formed out of a need to be more “user friendly” as before there would be riots, street fires etc and the bonfire night celebrations were in danger of being closed down altogether, so the bonfire boye was born with his Hooped Guernsey and blackened face.
Over the course of time when the bonfire night celebrations became more acceptable, their outfits became costumes of all sorts (NOT FANCY DRESS) some basic, others very elaborate, taking a year or even more to design and make, which help to make the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations the spectacular event it is today but to reiterate LEST WE FORGET the reasons behind it all.
The 7 Lewes Bonfire Societies
My Heart's In The Bonfire
Warm Welcome to Lewes, Farewell to elsewheres,
The birth-place of Bonfire,The small town that dares;
Wherever I wander, Wherever I rove,
The hills of the Bonfire for ever I love.