Bonfire Prayers

Remember, remember the Fifth of November The Gunpowder Treason

Read the full poem here...

Bonfire Anthem

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

Read the full poem here...

Lewes Bonfire Press Cuttings - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

« Proms In The Paddock CSBS

Lewes Bonfire Origins »

Last Saturday night, being the 5th of November, the greatest riot that perhaps ever was known at Lewes happened on School Hill, where an immense quantity of wood was collected, in order to be set on fire, in commemoration of the anniversary of the powder plot, which so terrified the inhabitants that they made a formal request to the magistrates, praying their assistance, who immediately assembled, attended, by the constables and headboroughs, and who, after having prevented the fire, by getting the wood removed, used every lenient measure to order to prevail on the people to disperse.

But this proving ineffectual, the justices, at six o clock in the evening, were under the necessity of reading the riot act, but sorry were we to find it so little attended to, that the people, instead of dispersing, increased to a very high degree, and showed such little regard to their own safety, that one of the magistrates, in endeavouring to appease the tumult, and to take one of the ringleaders into custody, was himself knocked down, and rolled in the kennel, (narrowly escaping with his life) as were likewise several others, who gave their assistance.

In this rebellious state of confusion, accompanied with the firing of rockets, squibs, grenades etc, the town continued till near 12 oclock; when at last, by the spirited exertions of the justices, peace officers, and others, called in upon the occasion, nine of the ringleaders being sent to the house of correction, and several others paying the penalty of 20 shillings each, according to act of parliament, for firing rockets, the people were dispersed, and all was quiet.

Several persons who were, on the above evening, taken into custody by the magistrates and peace officers, for letting off rockets, and being in unlawful assemblies, broke away and were rescued before they could be properly secured. Several of them are, however, known, against some of whom warrants are already issued


James Kemp, Thomas Brann, William Greenwood, William West, James Saunders and William Hawke, for having made, and assisted in making and supporting a bonfire, on Snowhill, part of the High street of Lewes on the 5th of November last, in commemoration of the powder plot, were sentenced as follows:- Kemp, to six months imprisonment in Horsham gaol, and; until he enters in recognizance of twenty pounds, to be of good behavior, and keep the peace to all his Majesty’s liege subjects, for 12 calendar months.

Brann and; Greenwood, to 3 months imprisonment, in the same gaol, and until they enter in to similar recognizance. West and Saunders, 1 month’s imprisonment in the house of correction in this town, and until they enter into a like recognizance. Hawke was fined five shillings, and discharged, on entering into a recognizance like those above.


The downfall of Guy Faux was commemorated here on last Wednesday evening, by a display of the squib artillery of the mobility, but with less vigour (if we may be allowed the expression) than had been common on this occasion. The only consequent mischief we have heard of was a broken pane of glass at the Star Inn, and a disfigurement of the porch of the adjoining house, where some silly fellow had posted himself, defying the rocket-train to dislodge him, and which was not effected until his clothes had been set twice on fire, and one of his eyes endangered.


The bonfire boys, determined not to be completely defeated in their object, made arrangements for the celebration of their “spree” at midnight on Thursday, and, as soon as the clock struck 12, and the 5th of November was ushered in, a tar-barrel was lit, and started at the top of the town, by a mob. The police, previously informed of what was intended, were on the alert.

A chain was placed across Rotten-Row, and a policeman had hold of each end, with instructions to raise it slightly on the approach of the mob. In conjunction with them, a body of police, with Lord Chichester and Sir Henry Shiffner at their head, lay close by in ambush. A few minutes after midnight, the mob, with the tar barrel, came rushing through the lane, and on the instant they reached the chain, it was pulled tight, and many were consequently thrown to the ground. Immediately upon this, the police were upon them, and took eight prisoners.


The Fifth Of November At Lewes : On Wednesday evening last, the streets of Lewes were, as is, alas ! usual on this anniversary, the scene of uninterrupted disorder and riot. At, if not before six o’clock the discharge of squibs, crackers, serpents and rockets commenced, and continued without intermission during the whole evening. We can only describe the proceedings of the night as the result of uninterrupted and unchecked license of the lowest order. Mob law reigned Supreme. Consenting to allow the mob to have their full swing.

We shall doubtless be told that everything passed off very comfortably and that no mischief was done, which interpreted simply means that so long as none of the authorities interfered, so long as none of the respectable inhabitants known to be opposed to such disgraceful scenes made his appearance, and so long as no one attempted to pass through the town in a carriage, the mob not proceed to insult or violence and life and limb were allowed to pass unscathed.


The Celebration Of The Gunpowder Plot At Lewes : A correspondent writes:- In no place probably within her Majesty’s European dominions could such a scene be presented as that which your correspondent witnessed on Friday in the streets of Lewes. This genteel little town – your own epithet, for which as a Sussex man I stop to thank you – was given over to Molech for just six hours. The impressions made on my mind within this period have been these – that I was in Pandemonium; that I was at an out-of-doors pantomime; that I was assisting at a religious rite; that I was commemorating a noble event; that I was making an ass of myself, This impression was the last, for I had caught the enthusiasm of the multitude.

I marched under the new and splendid banner, welcome, visitors, welcome. I shouted, I sang, I spent all my loose silver in squibs and crackers; I encumbered myself with a torch, flaring, pitchy, and big as a broom handle, and was finally tripped up by a blazing tar barrel on wheels. Now we will naturally be asked, have these orgies any significance, religious or political? Not one whit- they are simply the expression of a desire for fun, gunpowder, and dramatic impersonation which is common to youth, and in this case countenanced by age. Men,now grey-headed, were Bonfire Boys once; children even of tender years dance= round the bonfire now.


Guy Fawkes Carnival At Lewes : Lewes, with all its admitted general dullness, always awakens itself, in special instances to a degree of interest and consequent amount of excitement, which can compare favourably with other towns of equal dimensions. Who is there in the country, and in many places abroad, who has not heard and read of its Gunpowder Plot carnival? She has ever been foremost in these celebrations, and for the past twenty years her equal has not been found in this respect. The last in order, though not least of the three societies, was the Commercial Square, whose demonstration was carried out with excellent effect. They, too, like the Borough, have two grand processions, “The Wallands” and “Commercial Square.”

The latter was marshalled about eleven o’clock, the head of the procession being formed by the band, Commander-In Chief, his staff-bearers, the “Archbishop of St John’s sub-castro,” in full canonicals, and other officers, followed by the two usual effigies, the banners and torches being effectively interspersed. The route of the vangaurd was from the Elephant and Castle, down West Street, up Market Street, and through Commercial Square to the fire, around which a crowd had assembled. The fire, having been replenished by the blazing hogsheads, causing the flames to ascend to a great height, the Archbishop, mounted the wall in front of Mr Beechings and delivered his annual sermon.


The Lewes Bonfire Boys : On the Fifth of November in every year, Lewes may be aptly described as in a state of siege. The shops shut up early in the afternoon, the private houses barricade their windows and doors, the hotels build hoardings right along the front of the buildings, the public houses shut themselves up close and extinguish all their outside gas, leaving only one door half open, which is gaurded by as big a man as can be hired: wherever there are gratings in the pavement letting daylight down to underground kitchens, great bundles of wet straw are packed over them, to prevent exploring squibs from finding an entrance.

For on this day Lewes is given over entirely to the “roughs” who have it all their own way from dusk till midnight. The Lewes Bonfire Boys Society is ostensibly in charge of the town, and makes good any damage that may be done to property by the freaks of its own members. The Lewes Bonfire Boys may claim a very wide celebrity. Certainly Lewes itself should be grateful to them: for the town is without doubt the dullest, sleepiest, dreariest little place that I have ever had to exist a day in. Once, only once, as fairy tales say, in every three hundred and sixty five days, Lewes is roughly awakened from its slumbers, and is changed for a few hours into a veritable pandemonium. Rival processions would meet in the narrow lanes, neither would give way, and a fight would take place in which torches would be used as weapons, and thrust into one another’s faces.

But as ten o’clock was passed, signs of less restrained actions became apparent: large numbers were tipsy, big bludgeons were flourished, here and there a fight began: and the quieter portion of the crowds began to disappear. Before the fires were extinguished at twelve o’clock, more than three quarters of those in the streets were drunk, and all who were drunk were fighting. As a good many had to drive home, and a good many had to walk distances of five to eight miles, I suspect that a percentage of them would unwillingly follow the song, and not get home till morning. I should imagine that Lewes would not care to have more than one Fifth of November in a year.


Neither catalogue nor boxes take any account of the most terrible firework that exists. This is the Lewes Rouser. The Rouser is a form of squib made expressly for use at Lewes, where the Fifth is observed sacredly, year after year. The carnival is threatened regularly on every Sixth, but, behold, the next November sees it as riotous as ever it was. It is a relic of Merrie England a pandemonium of fire and excess.

Lewes is given over to the fire worshippers: huge blazes are kindled and fed in the midst of the streets: processions parade the town from dusk to midnight, fantastically garbed, discharging rockets and roman candles as they move: effigies of the pope and other persons worthy, in the eyes of Lewes, of execration are at intervals consigned to the flames by the bishops of the various bonfire societies involved: and the next morning the county paper contains full reports of their damnatory speeches, These bear ironically upon public events, after the manner of the westminster epilogue, but without its wit.

So fierce a rain of fire plays upon the town that the householders board their windows and cover their gratings with wet straw. Such is the scene of the rouser: and the rouser is worthy of it. This fearsome creature is half a squib and half a rocket: you light him and let him go: huge silver sparks (said to be the effect of steel filings) pour from him in such volume as to raise him from the ground and project him through the air with the speed of a Rocket.

After half a minute of this apalling exuberance, he bursts with the detonation of a woolwich infant. Imagine fifty of these bursting at the same instant in every direction, accompanied by such lesser fry as the ordinary squib and cracker, and you realise why the Lewes amateur wears wire spectacles and his oldest clothes. Of all home made fireworks the rouser is best. But as a factor in back garden displays ? No.


The Lewes bonfire boys fully demonstrated their right at Tuesday evening`s carnival to be regarded as law abiding citizens. They carried out their display in excellent style and nothing occurred during the proceedings, as far as they were concerned, to call for intervention on the part of the police authorities.

At one time the the introduction of constables from neighbouring towns was regarded with great disfavour, but public opinion has in many quarters veered round to quite an opposite direction, it is now recognised that the stalwart members of the Brighton force, in their well fitting uniforms and smart helmets ornamented with silver knobs and chains, add quite an air of importance to the processions. The policemen as a matter of fact are as good as a hundred extra members in fancy dress.


Smoke Bombs Block Streets : Smoke bombs were let off in the narrow High Street at Lewes during the Bonfire Celebrations. One completely enveloped a bus, bringing it to a standstill, and there was a traffic build up until the smoke finally cleared. Despite the rain, the main procession was much bigger than last year and was followed by one of the biggest crowds in living memory. Sixty people were arrested during the celebrations, fifty eight of them will appear at a special bonfire bench on Wednesday November 19th, charged with throwing fireworks in the street.

The fire brigade had a quiet evening, there were no calls in the Lewes area. But the ambulance brigade were kept fairly busy. Apart from dealing with several minor accidents, they took two people to Lewes Victoria Hospital for treatment, one for burns to the face and the other for injuries to the back. A third person was taken to Brighton Eye Hospital for treatment as a result of a firework injury.

Focal point of the early revelries was the war memorial where each society in turn laid a wreath and Last Post was sounded. After that the societies, with the exception of Cliffe, went off for the united grand procession, starting from the top of the town. There was a huge crowd on Cliffe bridge to see the first big Cliffe procession. But those who had hoped to see Gilbert Hardings effigy were disappointed. He was not carried to the war memorial.


Army Plays While Pope Burns : Angry Labour MPs at Westminster are to demand a public apology from the Ministry of Defence following the British Army’s participation in a No Popery procession which ended with a burning of the Pope last Wednesday. The storm followed amazing incidents last week in Lewes, Sussex, when the Band of the First Battalion, the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire, serenaded a cheering crowd waiting for the bonfire night ritual burning of the papal effigy.

Then, as the mob howled Burn the Pope, Burn the Pope, the British Army Band struck up Rule Brittania. Tomorrow, Labour MPs led by Co. Clare-Born Michael O’Halloran, (North Islington) and Dennis Canavan (West Sterlingshire) will demand that Britain’s Defence Minister Francis Pym apologise to Catholics for the insult on the eve of the Popes visit to Britain.

The MPs, who have the support of several other members, also want an enquiry by Home Secretary William Whitelaw to establish why the Sussex Police took no action when a huge No Popery banner was displayed across Lewes High Street for almost a week. Left-winger Dennis Canavan hit out at the British Army’s part in the incident. I think it is disgusting that a British Army band should participate in what seems to me a festival of bigotry.

I shall be making a strong protest to the government at the earliest possible moment. But last night a spokesman for the British Army while claiming that the band’s participation in the anti-Catholic demo was an accident refused to give an assurance that army bands would not take part in similar events in the future.


Posted in: Articles, Lewes Bonfire History, Media, Fun, Blog, Other Stuff Tagged in: , , , , ,

« Proms In The Paddock CSBS

Lewes Bonfire Origins »