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Sussex Express Supp 2000 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations
March 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm by v
Show Goes On Despite Floods…
Lewes has the finest bonfire celebrations in the world. And the spectacular events of tomorrow (Saturday) evening are particularly significant. Not because they are the first revels of the new millennium, but because they come at a time when the town of Lewes is emerging from trauma. The horrific floods of October blighted hundreds of lives. The town needs cheering up – and what better way to achieve that than by doing what Lewes does best? Flooding had put the future of the event in doubt, with fears that the water-logged blaze sites might be contaminated.
But last week came the welcome news, after an emergency meeting of the bonfire societies, Police and Lewes District Council, that the threatened celebrations would definitely go ahead. It was just the fillip battered residents needed to raise spirits. As Dave Quinn, of Waterloo Bonfire Society said: “This will offer just the right kind of safety valve and give everyone a lift”.
Bonfire Night is the highlight of the year for hundreds, if not thousands, of bonfire boys and girls who have spent months preparing to stage the country’s most exciting and colourful event. Despite the huge effort involved and the great costs, spectators can enjoy the street entertainment free of charge. All that the five bonfire societies ask is that the thousands of visitors who flock to Lewes enjoy themselves and support the charitable collections around the town.
Regular visitors to Lewes Bonfire need little guidance, but for first-timers finding your way around town can be something of a nightmare, if not an impossibility. The best bet is to buy all the bonfire programmes and pick the society which has the most suitable route and which most suits your fancy. Make use of the map printed on the centre pages of this supplement, which lists all the firework sites.
Please leave your pets at home and keep a close eye on young children – the crowded, smokey, dark and noisy streets can be quite frightening for little ones. But above all join in the spirit and enjoy the first Bonfire Night of the 21st Century.
Tickets In Advance At Cliffe…
If you come to the Cliffe fire-site, you must purchase a ticket before the evening celebrations. The price of entry helps cover the cost of crowd safety including lighting, fencing, barriers and security. Says President Paul Mockford in the society programme: “If you are a visitor to our bonfire celebrations, you may not understand the spirit that makes bonfire so strong here; nor will you see the many memories hidden behind these costumes, memories which are held dear. I hope you all enjoy this year’s celebrations. Have a great evening. Enjoy yourselves and last, but not least, be safe”.
The £5 tickets for the bonfire site are available at Lewes Tourist Information Office and The Lewes Arms in Mount Place. Cliffe is one of the oldest and certainly the biggest of the five Lewes bonfire societies. It was formed in 1853 as a means of bringing organisation to previously unruly annual demonstrations. From the start, it has prided itself on its rather maverick reputation, including a desire for independence. It does not take part in the grand procession although the reasons are more about logistics than snobbery. Its motto is Nulli Secundus or Second To None – and with its 1,000 paid up members, it is hard to argue.
The society sports fearsome Vikings, proud Cavaliers and Roundheads and a multitude of other independently dressed members, as well, of course, as smugglers. Also taking part this year are Ringwood Pipe Band, the 1066 Bonfire Band, the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, 95th Regiment of Foot, the Expedient Jazz Band and the Sussex ACF Corps of Drums. The fun begins at 6pm with the ladies barrel run from Cliffe Corner and ends at 11.45 with the final procession ending at Cliffe Corner with bonfire prayers, Rule Britannia, God Save The Queen and Auld Lang Syne.
South Street Honours The Spirit Of Youth…
The South Street Bonfire Society’s celebrations will, in true tradition, honour the spirit of youth once again this year. Tom Wheeler, a South Street resident, founded the society in 1913 for the youngsters living in the Cliffe area. But slowly, as the children grew up, so the average age of members also changed. Today, South Street Bonfire Society members – no matter what age – celebrate the ideal of youth and the importance of children. Changes in organisation over the last eighty years have also been radical. In 1913, three processions were held and torches were made of un-plaited rope with a bonfire behind the Thatches House pub in South Street.
In 1950, when the Bonfire Boys could not afford to take time off work, torches were dipped during the evening of November 4, and then sprayed with paraffin using a mere garden spray just hours before the procession on the Fifth. But the sense of tradition – passing the idea event from generation to generation is as strong as ever. The first of the society’s processions is for children, starting at 5.45pm in South Street.
A fancy dress competition, open to all current members, will start at 6.10pm, also in South Street. The first pioneers of the procession will depict the English Civil War with members dressed in full period regalia. The second pioneers will dress in the costumes of Siamese Dancers and other Oriental cultures. The main procession of remembrance, which will start at 6.50pm, will be headed by the society wreath, carried by President Miles Jenner. During the event, Protestant Martyrs will be remembered in the 17 blazing cross-pieces carried down to the High Street from Cliffe Library.
At 7.05pm, the society will remember all those who have made the ‘supreme sacrifice’ by laying a wreath on the War Memorial. A minute’s silence will then follow. The Town and Grand processions will culminate at 9.45pm at the Railway Lane fire-site when the Archbishop of South Street, Brian Smith, will give the order to burn effigies of Pope Paul V. A spectacular firework display will end the revelry before the procession retraces its steps back via the River Ouse to South Street at 11pm.
Our Thrilling And Exciting Spectacle…
Simon Newman, Chairman of Commercial Square, writes in his bonfire programme: “With the politically correct 90’s recently past, and the new millennium upon us, we must not forget that this is the sort of thrilling and exciting spectacle that has almost been outlawed. For thousands of participants and 50,000 onlookers, with an excellent safety record, we should congratulate ourselves.”
“Commercial Square’s marshalling of itself at this event is second to none, so any more enforced changes may not be so well received by us. But on Bonfire Night, 12 months of work by our hard working committee will crash through the surface of our quiet county town and the next day all that will be left will be the burnt smell of effigies, our memories of the evening and another 12 months of hard work to celebrate our beliefs and traditions”.
Commercial Square (its motto is For Independence) kicks off its fun with children’s processions at 5.30pm from the Elephant and Castle. There is a procession of remembrance at 6pm and the united procession is at 7.40pm. The grand procession is at 9.30pm and this will end at the firesite where, after the Archbishop’s address, the destruction of effigies will take place, together with set-pieces and the grand tableau, followed by an aerial display.
The processions will be swelled by Red Indians, pioneers of the American Civil War and Valencians, as well as visitors from a number of other societies and marching bands. About 6,000 torches have been made for the big night, a daunting number, but the membership have had at least 150 years experience in making them! As usual the money from the Commercial Square street collection will be given to St John Ambulance.
Future’s In Safe Hands…
Waterloo continues to support and encourage the whole family to contribute and take part in its hugely popular celebrations. The society knows that the future of its bonfire heritage is in the hands of its younger members, and it makes sure they are catered for. Waterloo has, in fact, become one of the town’s biggest societies with last year more than 350 paid-up members and a spectacular firework display to match. The society costumes consist of Red Indians, Ghengis Khan, Greek Hoplites and more recently Greek Amazons. Then there are Tudor characters and of course the smugglers in red and white hooped jumpers.
This year they are led by the King’s Division Waterloo Band and the 4th Holy Cross Scout Band of Uckfield. The first procession is at 5.30pm and the grand procession is at 9.15pm after which the society marches to its firesite. The last procession is at 11.40pm when, with bands, banners and torches, the society will form up in Market Lane and march through the streets to finish up at the front of the Crown Inn where the members and company will join for bonfire prayers, Auld Lang Syne and finally God Save The Queen.
Said President Ron Cook: “A very warm welcome to the first edition of the new millennium. Our society has continued to flourish, and enjoyed a successful season”. The society is based at and behind The Crown Inn and its traditions include casting the blazing tar barrel into the Ouse and the ceremonial destruction of an effigy of Guy Fawkes at the fire site following an address by the Lord Bishop.
Borough Is The Oldest Society…
The year 1850 marked a turning point for the Lewes Bonfire Boys. After months of semi-rioting, the town awarded the Boys a free licence to celebrate the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.It was not until 1853 that the Borough Bonfire Society was fully established – making it the oldest bonfire society in Lewes.
The procession 147 years ago involved hundreds of people, wearing the familiar striped blue and white jerseys – a tradition which still stands today. Since then, the giant key of the Ancient Borough of Lewes has been at the front of the procession. The heavy key is symbolic of the freedom given to the boys to run through the streets of Lewes every Bonfire Night.
In 1954, the society’s procession was headed by a blazing key – an impressive sight which was witnessed by thousands of people. In 1960, celebrations in Lewes were cancelled due to the excessive flooding that hit the town. However, the customary wreath laying ceremony did take place at the War Memorial. And last year, the society staged one of the most spectacular firework displays ever witnessed in Lewes.
The society’s first pioneers are Zulus, in full ceremonial dress, while the second will be ladies and gentlemen from the Tudor period. The first procession this year starts at Westgate Street at 6.25pm, when members will slow march in darkness to the War Memorial for the wreath laying ceremony. From there, the second procession will take members via the High Street to St Anne’s Crescent.
The band will play the upbeat ‘Sussex By The Sea’ while torches will beheld aloft to light the route. At 6.40pm. Borough will unite with Commercial Square, Waterloo and South Street in St Anne’s Crescent. All four will proceed via Western Road to Rotten Row and the High Street before Borough society diverges at the bottom of School Hill.
The traditional blazing tar barrel hurling will take place over the River Ouse. Members will assemble at White Lion Lane at 9.15pm and will proceed to the War Memorial before a grand firework display takes place in a fire field at the bottom of Motor Road at 9.45pm. For the grand finale, members will return to the Law Courts where proceedings will terminate at around 11.30pm with prayers and the National Anthem.
Sussex Express, Friday, November 4, 2000 www.sussexexpress.co.uk
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