Bonfire Prayers

Remember, remember the Fifth of November The Gunpowder Treason

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Bonfire Anthem

Now is the time for marching Now let your hearts be gay Hark to

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Press Magazine Cuttings 2001 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

« Sussex Express Report 2001

Argus Press Cutting 2001 »

A Bonfire Question…

A Bonfire historian (Lewes is full of them) wants to know whether Ringmer ever had a bonfire society. And, for good measure, was there ever one in Glynde? Fair question! Both are mature villages with a long tradition of community activities. If Firle has one, how come they don’t. Rouser was also saddened to hear of the demise of Rotherfield and Mark Cross bonfire celebrations. The tradition has died out in towns like Newhaven. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before it fell by the wayside in a distant outpost.

A Bonfire Question

Sussex Express, Friday, August, 24, 2001


John Sheds Light On Off Affair With Bonfire Tradition…

Historian John Kay has responded to Rouser’s question about a lack of enthusiasm for bonfire in Ringmer. He points that from time to time the energy has been found to gather together enough enthusiasts to bring Guy Fawkes into the village. “The earliest record we know of comes from the columns of the Sussex Express”, he says. “In November, 1874, there was a typhoid epidemic in Lewes and bonfire celebrations there were banned. Cliffe society, then, as now, a law unto themselves, marched out to Ringmer to hold a joint event with two Ringmer societies, the Ringmer Green Boys and the Broyleside Boys.

Village Bonfire Tradition

“The next record also comes from the Sussex Express pages of October, 1928, when the paper reports the first meeting of the Ringmer Bonfire Society at the Green Man. This society held its first bonfire that same year, and continued until 1930. Then there was a revival based at The Anchor Inn in 1936 and this continued until at least 1938, when its celebrations were supported by 60 members of the South Street Juveniles”.

“There were no post-war bonfire celebrations in Ringmer until about 1960 when another revival lasted for three or four years. Most recently there was a very professional revival in the 1990s based in a field near The Green Man. That none of these initiatives has taken permanent root can probably be blamed on Ringmer’s proximity to Lewes. However, there is a long tradition of including bonfire in village festivities”.

“The 1887 Golden Jubilee celebrations in the village terminated with a bonfire and fireworks. In July, 1919, when the village celebrated the gallantry of its young men in the Great War the day long programme started with anvils being fired by the blacksmiths at each end of the village and ended with a tableau and a huge bonfire built by experienced hands”. “Many of these events are now well beyond living memory, and it is just as well that we have the back numbers of the Sussex Express as a local record”.

Sussex Express, Friday, September 7, 2001


Another One For Collectors…

Rouser has been assured by a former bonfire researcher, who comes from Seaford and likes to be known as RSL, that there was once a Glynde and Beddingham Bonfire Society. His first reference to it is dated 1867. But he adds: “As the Sussex Express newspapers of the period couldn’t possibly report on the large number of bonfire societies that sprang up from the lead taken by Lewes in 1853, it is hard to trace the history of quite a number of the societies that existed then”.

Another One For Collectors

Sussex Express, Friday, September 14, 2001


Nevill Bonfire…

Due to reasons beyond our control the production of our programme has been delayed. It is now available for sale. The income generated from the sale of our programme is vital to maintain the standard of display on our night, which is Saturday, October 27. The committee are, at present, occupied with the preparation of the tableau, fireworks etc and do not have time to sell the programme, although attempts will be made to do so.

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society 2001

If you can help us with the sale of programmes in your own road or elsewhere please let us know now. Badge night is on Monday, October 22 at St Mary’s Social Centre Supporters Club, from 7.30pm. Membership is available then. A full timetable of the nights programme will appear next week.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 12, 2001


Nevill Juvenile Bonfire…

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire takes place tomorrow night, starting at 6.15pm, the first procession leaving the headquarters in Highdown Road. Programmes still available. We have three new bands in the procession this year so we hope for some rousing music. Hope the weather stays fine and that we all have a successful evening.

Nevill Juvenile Bonfire 2001

Sussex Express, Friday, October 26, 2001


Town’s Own Radio Takes To The Air…

Rocket Radio, Lewes’ own station is back on the air from Monday. At 87.8 FM it’s right at the start of the dial, just before the BBC stations, broadcasting from 7am until 9pm. Daytime presenters will be welcoming local guests to talk about the local community, while evenings and weekends will feature more specialised music shows covering the whole spectrum. And Rocket will be broadcasting information and live coverage of the bonfire events on November 5.

Town Own Radio Air Lewes

The station is run entirely by volunteers and support has been provided by local businesses, the town council and a small Lottery grant. Said Andrew Thomas, head of organisers, the East Sussex Radio Society: “We are really excited to be able to launch Rocket again. In the time we are on air – until November 11 – we aim to present as many aspects of life in Lewes as possible, and to stimulate healthy debate about some of the big issues facing our town”. Rocket’s headquarters will be in the Canon O’Donnell Centre in Western Road and people are welcome to drop in.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 26, 2001


Launcher For Town’s Bonfire Season…

The Lewes bonfire season kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) with fun and fireworks from Nevill Juvenile. The first procession takes place at 6.15pm from Highdown Road. The second is at 7.10pm and the grand procession is at 8.20pm. The firework display takes place at the bottom of the Motor Road at 9.15pm and the last procession is at 10pm. Members dressed in Valencian and Medieval costumes will march through the Nevill streets accompanied by visiting societies Cliffe, South Street, Borough, Commercial Square and Newick, with music from the Kingfisher Band, the Downsman Band and the Tragic Band.

Launcher Town Bonfire Season Lewes

Sussex Express, Friday, October 26, 2001


Borough Win The Points Cup Again…

Borough Bonfire Society won the Lewes Bonfire Council fancy dress competition at Lewes Town Hall on Friday – for the second time this year! Last year’s fancy dress was cancelled after the floods and was only held in February. Borough won then – and again on Friday, this time clocking up 48 points, well ahead of their nearest rivals, Waterloo, with 3505 points.

Borough Win Points Cup Again

Said a Borough spokesman: “Winning the Points Cup has been a bit of a rarity for us in recent years but we have been on a roll lately. Zulu outfits are notoriously difficult to make, but we now have a lot of younger members, and we did very well in the younger sections”. Arthurian Ladies competed against Viking Queens. Zulus contested points with Vikings and Siamese. And Tibetan Dancers fought it out with Ancient Egyptians before a large and knowledgeable audience.

Bonfire Council Fancy Dress Competition

Points Cup…

First, Borough 48; Second, Waterloo 35.5; Third, Cliffe 25.5; Fourth, Commercial Square 15; Fifth, South Street 2.


Boys under five: First Harry Lacey (Ghengis Khan), Borough; Second, Luke Jones (Indian), Commercial Square; Third, Lee Todd Smith (Siamese), South Street.

Girls under five: First, Jenna Cleaver (Genghis Khan), Borough; Second, Natalie Tower (Zulu), Borough; Third, Jasmine Vincent (Tudor), Borough.

Boys five to nine: First, Solomon Smith (Raj), Cliffe; Second, Luke Winter (Indian), Borough; Third, Jamie Sexton (Zulu), Borough.

Girls five to nine: First, Poppy Groves (Marie Antoinette), Borough; Second, Ellis Bladen (Siamese), Waterloo; Third, Louise Burley (Siamese), Waterloo.

Boys 10 to 15: First, Aaron Last (Genghis Khan), Borough; Second, Gareth Bladon (Genghis Khan), Waterloo; Third, Scott Sexton (Zulu), Borough.

Girls 10 to 15: First, Sam Powell (Tudor), Waterloo; Second, Adele Joseph (Viking), Cliffe; Third, Chloe Bladon (Siamese), Waterloo.

Mixed Pairs: First, Ben King and Samantha Gocher (Egyptians), Borough; Second, Solomon Smith and Martha Smith (Indian Prince and Princess), Cliffe; Third, Jenna Cleaver and Harry Lacey (Genghis Khan), Waterloo.

Comic: First, Gareth and Chloe Bladon (Original Girl Power), Waterloo; Second, Shannon Rea (Has Anyone Seen Ben?), Waterloo; Third, Solomon and Martha Smith (TV Chefs), Cliffe.

Cups and medals were presented by Miles and Sally Jenner.


Lewes Pioneer Cup: First, Commercial Square; Second, Borough; Joint Third, Cliffe and Waterloo.

First Pioneer Male: First, Geoff Burrow (Zulu), Borough; Second, Shaughan Arkwell (Viking), Cliffe; Third, Wayne Penfold (Genghis Khan), Waterloo.

First Pioneer Female: First, Ann Martin (Viking Queen), Cliffe; Second, Lorna Penfold (Genghis Khan), Waterloo; Third, Maureen Burrow (Zulu), Borough.

Mixed Pairs: First, John and Carol Hunnisett (Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn), Waterloo; Second, Cliff Wright and Jo Denyer (Cavaliers), Cliffe; Third, Natalie Webb and Dennis Bond (King and I), South Street.

Second Pioneer Group: First, Waterloo; Second, Borough; Third, Cliffe.

Second Pioneer Male: First, Richard Bennett (Minotaur), Waterloo; Second, Jonathan Tompsett (Roman), Waterloo; Third, Justin Sedar (Egyptian), Waterloo.

Second Pioneer Female: First, Hayley Upton (Tudor), Borough; Second, Emma Hunt (Tudor), Borough; Third, Jo Denyer (Cavalier), Cliffe.

Best Fancy Dress Male: First, Daniel Sison (Early Egyptian), Commercial Square; Second, Milad Khoshfekr (Indian Dancer), Commercial Square; Third, Karl Smith (Indian Raj), Cliffe.

Best Fancy Dress Female: First, Christine Varnham (Arthurian Lady), Cliffe; Second, Sien Goacher (Austrian Princess), Borough; Third, Trudy Furnell (Tibetan Dancer), Commercial Square.

Best Dressed Male Of The Evening: First, Richard Bennett (Minotaur), Waterloo; Second, Daniel Sison (Egyptian), Commercial Square; Third, Geff Burrow (Zulu), Borough.

Best Dressed Female Of The Evening: First, Hayley Upton (Tudor), Borough; Second, Christine Varnham (Arthurian Lady), Cliffe; Third, Ann Martin (Viking Queen), Cliffe.

Comic Male or Female: First, Susannah Hunt (Equality – My Arse!), Borough; Second, Marian Bullen (The Tele Ban), Waterloo; Third, Steve Stegall (Lewes PCs), Cliffe.

Comic Group: First, Borough (Railtrack); Second, Commercial Square (Posh and Becks), Third, Waterloo (Moulin Wannabees).

Cups and shields presented by Barbara McWethy and Georgina Wadey.

Sussex Express, Friday, October 26, 2001


Fires Make For A United Front…

Tradition-steeped societies make sure flood-hit town keeps celebrating. For centuries the Lewes bonfire celebrations have been central to the town’s identity. Even after last year’s floods, residents refused to cancel the event. Reporter Lesley Hixon looks at the preparations for next week’s celebrations and how they have helped the town regain a sense of normality. Last year the bonfire celebrations became a symbol of hope for a town devastated by flooding. For the first time since the Ouse burst its banks, the stench of mud and river in the town was replaced by something else – the smell of bonfires.

Fires Make United Front

Residents forgot their personal tragedies for the night to re-enact the rituals which have been performed in Lewes for centuries. A year later and many people’s lives have still not returned to normal, with shops closed down, homes remaining empty and a clean up bill of millions. However, it is a mark of the town’s resilience that preparations for this year’s bonfire have gone ahead as normal.

Last year the South Street Bonfire Society had to cancel its firework display at the eleventh hour because its fire field was sodden and unsafe. However, the society paraded through the streets as usual, even though many families involved had been affected by the flooding. Miles Jenner, President of the society, said: “The annual celebrations are some-times cited as tradition for the sake of tradition. Last year they gave people in the town a spirit of resolve. This year, as many in the town are still coping with the aftermath, the celebrations will carry an even greater poignancy than before”.

Councillor Michael Chartier, President of the Waterloo Bonfire Society, agreed. “Many of our members were badly affected by the flooding and for them the bonfire became an escape valve, which helped them over the first dreadful weeks when the enormity of the situation began to dawn. Many residents and businesses have still not been able to move back into their homes and premises, some businesses have folded and some will never return to the town. Lewes is a town steeped in traditions and the bonfires are probably the most important of these traditions. They have played their part helping the town struggle back to some semblance of normality”.

Tradition Steeped Societys Keep Town Celebrating

There are five Lewes bonfire societies – Cliffe, Waterloo, Commercial Square, Borough and South Street – and some date back to the 19th century. Each year members dress up in costume and take part in a torchlit procession through the centre of Lewes before moving to their sites for fireworks and bonfires. Preparations for the displays last almost a year, with an army of volunteers working behind the scenes raising money and making the costumes and displays.

The centre pieces of each society’s show are decorated tableaux and effigies, which are crammed with fireworks and set alight at the end of the evening. The figures at the centre of the tableaux can be up to 10ft high and sections are made separately during a period of months. Their bodies are made out of boiler suits, stuffed with wood shavings, which are mounted on a metal T-shaped stand. The heads are individually crafted and attached afterwards.

Tradition Steeped Societies Keep Lewes Town Celebrating

About two weeks before November 5, the effigy makers put the fireworks in. These are arranged in a number of relays which make the display last for several minutes. Each year there is competition among the societies to create the most impressive display.Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V, who became head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1605, the year of the Gunpowder Plot, feature every year. However, there is also what the Cliffe Society calls The Enemy of the Bonfire, a topical effigy which is created amid tight secrecy and only revealed on the night.

Simon Richards, Captain of effigies for Commercial Square Bonfire Society said: “The culmination of two months hard work comes when I push the button for the final relay and each of the figures is obliterated. This is my favourite part of the process. It is important to me that our society continues the true traditions of the bonfire by observing the effigies as an integral part of the 5th”. Lewes made its Guy Fawkes celebrations official in 1853 when the Cliffe and Town societies formed. The Town Society changed its name to the Lewes Borough Bonfire Society shortly afterwards and a debate has raged ever since about which is the oldest group.

However, many of the customs have a religious background which dates back to 1605 when Guy Fawkes plotted to officially restore Roman Catholicism to Britain by blowing up the Houses of Parliament and killing King James I. The ritual burning of effigies, chanting of the bonfire prayers and the wielding of ‘No Popery’ banners have remained the same for hundreds of years. The Cliffe Society still carries 17 blazing crosses in remembrance of the 17 Protestants who burnt to death outside the Star Inn in Lewes during the religious persecutions of the 16th century. Many other traditions have evolved, including the burning tar barrel run through the streets and the inclusion of bands.

In 400 years the bonfire celebrations have only been cancelled a handful of times, during the Second World War and most recently in 1960, the last time the town suffered a major flood. The bonfire night is the single biggest annual event Sussex Police cover with more than 250 officers and civilians ensuring it runs smoothly. Visitors are urged to stay away to reduce the crowd size and ensure people are safe. This year the celebrations are being held on a Monday night in a bid to deter the crowds. The event starts at 6pm with a barrel run from Cliffe Corner and the processions start at 6.30pm.

The Argus, Tuesday, October 30, 2001


Bonfire On TV…

The history channel is to feature Lewes Bonfire Night as part of its ‘small piece of history’ series. It will be broadcast at 8.55pm tonight (Friday), Monday and on November 14 and 25.

Bonfire On Television

Sussex Express, Friday, November 2, 2001


Nevill’s Best Ever Bonfire Broke All The Records…

If Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society’s spectacular display on Saturday was anything to go by, the town’s celebrations on Monday are going to be the best ever. For Nevill broke records in every direction. More than 350 members took part, and with support from visiting societies – Cliffe, Borough, Commercial Square, South Street and Newick – there were 500-plus bonfire boys and girls on the streets. The town badges of Blois, Lewes and Waldshut were carried in the procession and the Kingfisher Band and Downsman Bands provided the music.

Nevill Best Ever Bonfire

A life size model of the Martyrs Memorial stood proudly at the bonfire site. The biggest version of the memorial ever erected for bonfire, it was constructed with the help of local firms. And a biggest-ever Nevill crowd of more than 3,000 watched a spectacular aerial display with set pieces and tableaux including Top Cat, Dennis the Menace and Shrek. There was even a female Archbishop. Local woman Jean Ayling led the bonfire prayers. To cap it all, there was a best-ever street collection, raising £470 for St John Ambulance and Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Said Nevill Chairman Kevin Miller: “The success of the evening was the culmination of an immense team effort throughout the year”. Bonfire fancy dress results: Adult Pioneer (Valencian) Christine Lidbetter; Boy Pioneers (Valencian) Angus Nodder; Girl Pioneer (Medieval) Sarah Coppin; Adult Non-Pioneer (Mini Minx) Sian Thomas; Boy Non-Pioneer (Captain Hook) Jordan Burlock; Girl Non-Pioneer (Princess) Catlin Burlock.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 2, 2001


It’s Bonfire Night Folks…

A huge effigy of Osama bin Laden was blasted apart by fireworks last night. The 30ft model built of papier mache and chicken wire around a wooden frame showed the fugitive sitting on the loo. It went up in flames as part of bonfire night celebrations at the centuries-old November 5 bash in Lewes, East Sussex. Five bonfire societies in the town compete to put on the most spectacular display every year – and traditionally burn at least one effigy.

Its Bonfire Night Folks The Sun

The Sun, Tuesday, November 6, 2001


Burning Bin On The Bog Is British Humour At Its Best…

We bet bin Laden’s ears were burning last night. Or maybe it was his arse. As darkness fell over Lewes in East Sussex, every wonderful defiant British bulldog in town turned up to watch the Taliban turd burn on their bonfire. It wasn’t subtle. It won’t have been on the BBC news. But this two-fingered gesture by the ordinary people of our great nation speaks volumes. For weeks now, so-called intelectuals – who specialise in doing f*** all apart from picking up £200 of licence-payers money for appearing as talking heads on the TV news – have tried to belittle Britain’s silent majority.

Daily Sport Burning Bin On The Bog

Newspaper columnists – not in this paper we hasten to add – have abused their position of influence by queuing up to criticise the bombing of Afghanistan in complete contradiction of the national mood. Of course, these overpaid, over rated opinion-formers won’t agree with any of this. Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that if the producer of Newsnight sees this page, he’ll have a face like the Queen’s when one of her pet corgis farts.

But what we saw in Lewes last night reminded us of the Blitz spirit displayed by millions during World War Two. When the going got tough, the 1940s generation didn’t write – or even want to read – idiot features urging us all to hug trees, love the world and give in as soon as a nasty man shouts at us. They stood up to Hitler, shot his troops, took the piss out of him for having one bollock and got on with their lives.

Bindaloo Daily Sport Bin Laden

That’s exactly the spirit shown by those lovely people of Lewes last night. Forget the weak-kneed knobheads who would stop the war tomorrow and appease bin Laden under the spurious guise of ‘humanity’. We prefer to bomb Bin and keep him as we saw him yesterday……Shitting It.

Daily Sport, Tuesday, November 6, 2001


Well Done, Lewes…

Lewes Bonfire celebrations went off in fine style with good weather, good-tempered police and orderly crowds. Congratulations to all the bonfire boys and girls, but special congratulations to Commercial Square for a superb firework display which could not be faulted. There is no charge to watch this excellent display but it was clear to see how much people enjoyed it by their response. I hope they showed this by putting money in the boxes. I have walked in 58 processions to date with CSBS and this was without doubt the best display I have seen.

Well Done Lewes Sussex Express

Sussex Express, Friday, November 9, 2001


Bonfire Society Lifeline For The Christmas Post…

The future of the Christmas post was hanging in the balance after operation of the 1st Lewes Scout Group was suspended, but the service was saved when Commercial Square stepped in. The Bonfire Society joined the scout group last year in running the post, with many members of the society past or present members of the 1st Lewes Scout Group. The Society donates money to local charities each year and this has included 1st Lewes and other scout groups.

Bonfire Society Lifeline For The Christmas Post

Tony Duc is coordinator for the post again, and the core of people involved in running the service is the same as last year. The post has built up a good reputation over the last 15 years and hopes to continue in this vein again. The Christmas post delivers cards in Lewes and Kingston at a charge of only 10p per card. Cards can be dropped into the following venues; Richards Butchers, 25 Western Road; Messrs A Wycherley, Estate Agents, 56 High Street; Cliffe Book Shop, 22 Cliffe High Street; and Lewes Motor Factors, 39 Friars Walk.

There are also house collection points at 27 Blois Road, Landport; 8 Hereward Way, Malling; 18 Beckett Way, Malling; 15 Cleve Terrace, Southover; 21 Gundreda Road, Wallands; 107 Valence Road, Wallands; 21 St John’s Terrace, Pells; 46 Barons Down Road, Winterbourne; 4 Nevill Crescent, Nevill; and 12 St Pancras, Kingston.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 30, 2001

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