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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Southover Bonfire Society - Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations

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From its beginnings in 1886, Southover proved itself a popular society, their motto ‘Advance’ displaying a desire to instil good order and improvement. They were particularly noted for their costumes of the Maharaja. But, after an incident occurred on the streets of Lewes in 1904 which changed the course of Bonfire, Southover was forced to disband.

Southover Bonfire Society Advance

Photo 1923

This was not to be the first time that the society would reform and fold. So what were the causes and how has Southover grown to become the fast growing Bonfire Society we know today?

On 4 October 1904, Dusart’s, a barbers and bathhouse on the High Street, burnt to the ground. This spread concern regarding the use of fireworks and the building of fires within the streets of Lewes on the 5th November. A petition was put before the County Council asking to suppress the celebrations entirely.

However, a counter-petition was raised and the end result was the banning of all street fireworks and fires. The Bonfire societies agreed to it.

By 1906, the societies were forced to find other sites suitable for their fires, but Southover were unsuccessful in their search for an alternative venue and this meant they couldn’t continue.

During the First World War all of the societies suspended activity. The War Memorial at the top of School Hill was erected in 1922 and from that year onwards, each Bonfire society made their way to it on the fifth to pay their respects to those who had fallen. The war had cost Southover dearly, with a large number of young men failing to return to the parish, and the reformation of Southover Bonfire Society the following year must have necessitated quite a recruitment drive.

Every society ceased Bonfire celebrations for the duration of the Second World War. In 1950, Southover once again reformed and took to the streets on the 5th. However, the society was to struggle as membership declined and a lack of funds finally caused the society to disband. But in 1985 SBS was to see yet another rebirth as a breakaway group was created.However, they decided to hold their celebrations two weeks after the 5th. At first, the event proved a popular outmeeting with the other societies but without any secure membership, a lack of funds and no solid committee, this arrangement didn’t last long.

But this was not the end. In the Kings Head on 6th November 2004, a general conversation led to one final reform in time for the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 2005. Southover Bonfire Society walked with just under 100 members and joined Borough in the Grand Procession. In 2007, Southover purchased their firesite and, since then, the society has gone from strength to strength. There are currently just under 600 members and Southover Bonfire Society is once more recognised as a Lewes Bonfire Society of substance.

Vicky Funnell : Viva Lewes

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