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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Sussex Express Supp 2002 - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

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Unending Tradition…

Another spectacular display of colour and costume is promised by the Borough Bonfire Society boys and girls for this year’s November 5. Members will dress as Zulus, Tudors and in a host of other guises for the Borough grand parade at 9.15pm before assembling at the fire site where the effigies will be ignited.

Unending Tradition Lewes Borough Bonfire Society

This year, on the 397th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, there will be two notable absences from the Borough brigade. Eric Winter who joined the society in the late 1940s or early 50s and served as its President for many years, died in December last year at the age of 84. Eric also held the position of Captain of the programmes until 1999 and retired from Presidency in 2000. With the exception of the last two years, when ill health took its toll on him, Eric could be seen on the streets of Lewes every fifth selling programmes and laying the society’s wreath at the War Memorial at the start of the evening’s celebrations.

On March 26 this year, Borough lost another long serving member in the form of Dave Welch, who died aged 59. He joined the society as a youngster aged 9 or 10. For many years, Dave dressed as a Zulu and supported the Borough in the Bonfire Council’s annual fancy dress competition. On several occassions he held the position of pioneer chief at the head of the society’s grand procession.

Current Borough President, Joyce Over said: “We would like to take this opportunity to say farewell to two irreplaceable bonfire boys. As we join together in Lewes this year, we must remember this unique tradition is not one to end, and this will only be achieved by the efforts of present bonfire boys and girls”.

Two Stalwarts Mourned…

South Street Bonfire Society’s celebrations will be tinged with sadness this year with the passing of two of its highest profile members. Society life member Harold Wheeler died in May. Harold was a ‘back-room’ boy for many years, being part of the tableau building team and working very closely with the Captain of Tableau.

Two Stalwarts Mourned South Street Bonfire Society

In 1975, when the Captain of Tableau was taken ill, Harold stepped into the breach and produced a presentation of the ‘Muppets’ which delighted both young and old members. Harold could be seen on Bonfire Night within the Society processions dressed as Rupert Bear. Kath Hill also died this year. She was the society’s oldest member.

The first of the society’s processions is for children and will start at 5.45pm. The procession will be led by the 17 blazing crosses, in remembrance of the Martyrs burnt at the stake in Lewes for their religious beliefs. A fancy dress competition, open to all current members, will start at 6.10pm.

The main procession of remembrance will start at 6.50pm and will be headed by the society wreath carried by President Mr Miles Jenner. At 7.05pm, the society will remember 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, Dennis Bond, will give the order to burn effigies of Pope Paul V.

Spectacular Indians Will Lead The Way…

Half a century ago the Sussex Express reported how Commercial Square had maintained its high standard of splendour for another year. Fifty years on the quality has gone from strength to strength while still incorporating the traditional themes which make the society unique. Members costumes are lovingly made and the attention to detail spectacular.

Spectacular Indians Will Lead The Way Commercial Square Bonfire Society

The First Pioneers wear elaborate Indian head-dresses and the Second Pioneers costumes from the American Civil War. They are joined by a throng of Indian Braves in full tribal regalia, including babes in prams which are transformed into mini dug-out canoes. As always the smugglers in their traditional black and gold hooped guernseys take charge of the blazing tar barrels.

However, this year society Chairman Simon Newman raised concerns about a proposed new law which could restrict the sale of some fireworks to professionals only. In the society’s official programme, he writes: “To date there is no classification or certification that we can acquire to deem us professionals. I sincerely hope we will be able to continue our celebrations for many years in the same way we wish to, but for this year please enjoy the spirit of the moment and have a safe night”.

The evening starts with the children’s procession at the society’s HQ, at the Elephant and Castle pub, at 5.30pm. The procession of remembrance starts at 6pm and makes its way to Commercial Square where Bonfire Prayers will be recited. The third procession at 7pm is followed by the United Procession when the society will join up with Borough and Waterloo. At 9.30pm the Grand Procession makes its way to the fire site in Landport Road for a firework display and bonfire. At around 11.30pm the society will meet up at the Elephant and Castle for Bonfire Prayers, God Save The Queen and Auld Lang Syne.

6,000 Torches Will Light The Way…

With a big increase in membership, 6,000 torches ready and waiting and £5,500 worth of fireworks to be discharged into the night sky, Waterloo Bonfire Society is anticipating yet another superb Fifth. Organisers have once again been fortunate enough to hire the services of the King’s Division Waterloo Band, whose members will be travelling down from North Yorkshire to play Sussex By The Sea for a third year running.

6,000 Torches Will Light The Way Waterloo Bonfire Society

They will be ably supported by the 1066 pipes and drums and the TS Glorious NTC Band. The society’s top secret grand tableau – entitled Whose Idea Is This? – will be dragged through the streets and exploded at the fire site of Malling Brooks. The society sees a change of Archbishop this year. Brian Giles is retiring from the post and will be succeeded by John Lewis. There has been a large influx of new, younger members in the last year, which adds to the security of the society’s future.

A new array of Victorian costumes will also be seen on the streets this year. They will complement the fast-growing number of first and second pioneers of Genghis Khan, Tartar Warriors and Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, smugglers and others. The society’s banners have been remade and updated for 2002, and no less than 2,500 programmes have been printed for sale on the streets. The proceeds of the Waterloo street collection will be shared between St John Ambulance (Lewes Division) and the Hope In The Valley riding school for the disabled. All spectators are asked to dig deep into their pockets and give generously.

Tradition Drives Oldest Society…

If you visit the Cliffe firesite you must purchase a £5 ticket well in advance. The price of entry helps cover the cost of crowd safety. Cliffe is one of the oldest and certainly the biggest of the bonfire societies. It was formed in 1853 as a means of bringing organisation to previously unruly annual demonstrations in Lewes on November 5. From the start, it has prided itself on its maverick image.

Tradition Drives Oldest Society Cliffe Bonfire Society

It does not take part in the grand procession although the reasons for that are more about logistics than anything else. With 900 paid-up members and a waiting list to join, it is true to its motto of Second to None. The society takes in swarthy Vikings, proud Cavaliers and Roundheads, elegant medieval ladies, hairy Highlanders and dozens of independently dressed members, as well as a multitude of smugglers. Bands taking part this year include the 1066 Bonfire Band, the Sussex ACF Corps of Drums, Rumple Drumskin and the Expedient Jazz Band.

The society’s grand tableau is entitled Pie in the Sky. Kelvin Pope is Captain of tableau. Three large blazing hogsheads will be drawn by Captain of tar barrels Aubrey Taylor and his party. Tim Fellows, the ‘Archbishop of the Cliffe in full canonicals’ will be in attendance with his clergy, as will Ye Olde Cliffe Fire Brigade. Five thousand torches are being made for the big night and there will be fiery tributes in the last procession to Cliffe member Matt Miles who tragically died earlier this year and to former President John Rutley who has also died.

When To Catch The Processions…

The five bonfire societies march through the streets of Lewes at various times from 5.30pm, with the grand united procession taking place through the High Street at roughly 7.40pm. All the procession times are approximate. Full details can be found in the societies programmes. These are a sample of what is taking place.

Lewes Bonfire Night Map 2002

5.30pm Commercial Square children’s procession, 5.35pm Waterloo children’s procession, 5.45pm South Street children’s procession, 5.55pm Cliffe ladies barrel run, 6pm Commercial Square wreath laying, 6.15pm Cliffe mens barrel run, 6.30pm Cliffe short procession, 6.25pm Borough wreath laying, 6.35pm Waterloo wreath laying, 6.50pm South Street to wreath laying.

7pm Commercial Square procession, 7.15pm Cliffe wreath laying, 7.40pm United Grand procession, 8.50pm South Street grand procession to firesite, 9pm Borough grand procession to firesite, 9.10pm Cliffe grand procession to firesite, 9.15pm Waterloo grand procession to firesite, 9.30pm Commercial Square grand procession to firesite, From 10.15pm the societies return to the town centre and from 11pm most societies have their final processions leading to bonfire prayers.

All Set For The Country’s Fieriest Festival…

Lewes will be heaving on Tuesday for the country’s biggest bonfire carnival. Who knows how many thousands of people will wriggle their way into the town to see five bonfire societies celebrate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot! For sheer colour, noise and spectacle, bonfire night in Lewes is unique. The pageant is the highlight of the year for the 2,500 or so society members in Lewes who spend months preparing for the grand occasion.

Lewes Bonfire All Set For The Countrys Fieriest Festival

Despite the huge effort involved and the great costs expended, spectators will be able to enjoy all the street fun without cost. All that is asked of them is that they enjoy themselves, behave responsibly and fill the charity collection buckets that pass by. Regular visitors will take the crush of the crowds, the acrid smell and the general melee and confusion in their stride. But first-time visitors should brace themselves for human congestion along the prime procession routes and limited mobility. If you need the loo, don’t leave it to the last minute before looking for one!

The crowds start trickling in at about 4pm. The wise ones arrive by train and other public transport. Those who come by car could find themselves locked in the town until well after midnight unless they make use of the specially prepared car parks at County Hall to the west and Tesco to the east. Having arrived, bear in mind that few pubs will be open although there will be no lack of refreshment on sale at various outlets. The problem as the evening progresses is in getting about. The lower High Street, from the War Memorial to the Cliffe precinct, is exceptionally packed.

Lewes Bonfire 2002

The fun starts with children’s processions and tar barrel runs at about 5.30pm. From that point, there will be something happening somewhere at virtually every moment. Even after the superb firework displays (don’t forget you need tickets to enter some sites), there will be more processions and more spectacle. It is important to think in safety terms: avoid over-crowding (easier said than done), keep an eye on your children, don’t play with fireworks, don’t pick up torches and don’t bring pets. In an emergency, don’t panic, and follow police instructions. There are safety zones in the town.

Police Urge Outsiders To Keep Away From Lewes…

Sussex Police is urging those planning to visit the Lewes Bonfire celebrations to consider going to events closer to home in the interests of safety. Divisional Chief Superintendent Paul Pearce, who will lead the police operation in Lewes on November 5, is keen to ensure only Lewesians attend the event. He said: “This event is legendary in Lewes and is very much part of the town’s culture. On that basis I would urge visitors to think twice before they make the decision to come to Lewes.

Police Urge Outsiders To Keep Away From Lewes

We are concerned about the large number of people who may try to pack into the town’s narrow streets. Crowd control is therefore a key element in the way the event is handled by ourselves and other emergency services. We would urge people to attend local celebrations rather than come to Lewes”. In particular, parents with young children, the elderly or those who dislike crowded environments are urged to stay away from the Lewes celebrations.

Last year more than 10,000 people ignored ‘stay away’ warnings from police by travelling in from nearby Brighton, Falmer and Eastbourne. Unconfirmed figures suggest that around 35,000 people attended the 2001 bonfire celebrations. Chief Supt. Pearce added: “We would ask those who live outside of Lewes who were planning to come to the town for the bonfire celebrations to seriously reconsider”. Meanwhile, the Lewes Bonfire Safety Group has issued important information for residents ahead of next week’s event.

Sussex Express, Friday, November 1, 2002

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