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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Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations : Timeline

Below is a timeline of events and people in a chronological order that in my view contribute to what we now see at the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations sometimes known as (Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night Celebration) today. My mission is to try and find out why the Bonfire Celebrations as they are seen in Lewes only happen there.

Lewes was born roughly the same time as London with its many roman roads and later its toll roads and then its rail links with Lewes. They both have rivers that were once busy ship building and trading ports and only had one bridge to cross it. When Sussex was divided into rapes (Districts) Lewes was chosen as the centre with a Castle being built. . “Click On Image To Enlarge”

Rape Of LewesLewes was then pretty much the capital of Sussex and the surrounding areas with its commanding location and views on a hill looking towards the channel and Kent.

Lewes in the past always seemed to bear the brunt of religious turmoil, civil uprisings, battles etc that had nothing to do with them in the first place. The Lewes man has always been tolerant of others and maybe that was his failing.

There was a fanatical way that Lewes Folk followed their chosen religion in the past, Lewes once had up to thirty churches, chapels, meeting rooms etc covering pretty much every protestant denomination. Now there are only fifteen, which for a  population of around 17,500 is still an extraordinary high number and only one of them is Catholic!

Lewes quickly became the third most significant Pancras site in England, after Canterbury and London. In the 1070s, a Saxon Church, St Pancras, became the nucleus of the important Cluniac Priory of St Pancras, which was dissolved in 1573. When the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act allowed Catholics to worship openly, Mass was said at 10 Priory Crescent, overlooking the priory ruins. Read More Here

Also in the early 1800’s, Lewes was the hub of the farming industry, with its many markets, transportation links and the corn exchange, the agricultural labourers and farmers suffered many years of discontent and uprisings caused by several years of bad harvests,low pay, long hours and bullying by the landowners, which caused severe distress to the labourers and their families, with many fearing the prospect of the poorhouse. Several were hanged, many hundreds were transported or imprisoned. Then along came the Papal Bull of 1850 . . .

It has Crown, County and Magistrates courts with its chambers, The Police Headquarters, Ambulance Headquarters and until fairly recently the Fire Service as well. It has a prison, castle and a brewery. In the past it had a racecourse and many stables, blacksmiths, sheep fairs, cattle markets, breweries, gallows, pubs and churches seemingly on every other street corner. It is now home to all manner of book shops, craft shops, artisan outlets, yummy mummy cup cake shops, flea markets, auction rooms, estate agents, solicitors, artists, galleries, musicians, poets, writers, designers etc.

It still has many very British pastimes including, Marbles, Knots Of May, Maypole Dancing, Morris Men, Fetes, Carnivals, Festivals, Welly Throwing, Dwyle Flunking, Toad In The Hole, The Proms, Opera, Theatre, Pantomimes, Beer Festival, Tennis, Cricket, Football, Rugby, Skittles, Bowls, River Raft Racing, Flower Shows, Jumble Sales, Coffee Mornings, Beating The Bounds to name but a few. There was also in the past Boxing, Wrestling, Bull Fighting and Fox Hunting.

It is home mainly to traditional Lewesians and wanna be Lewesians, a true Lewesian is born, bred and has lived in Lewes all of his/her life. I am not a true Lewesian but wish I was but my wife is, The rest of Lewes is made up of London Commuters, Lentil Eaters, Hippies, Dropouts, Umbrella Holding Foreign Students, Thespians, Yummy Mummys and Bonfire Boyes and Belles.

After reading through the timeline of events etc, the one thing that will keep on cropping up is that loyalties and traditions run very deep in Lewes. Nearly always it is the common man that gets affected the worse. All the common man wants is freedom of thought, speech, self respect, a roof over his head and food on the table.

Seek out the events and names below on your pc or history books and you will get a wider picture of where I am coming from on as to why the Bonfire Celebrations are important to Lewes. Some events may seem obscure but they all have an importance in the sense of showing Lewes wanting to be an independent town with it`s own flavours and traditions and will always uphold “we will not be druv”

I strongly believe that the Lewes Bonfire has its origins in the old pagan, celtic, harvest, festivals and has developed over the years to what we see today, Lewes has many unexplained mounds/mounts (Pagan Burial Grounds?)

No doubt there are more events or peoples that contribute to the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations , As and when I find them I will include them here. The dates in the timeline that follow the name or event refers to relevant periods.


Executed for simply being a Christian soldier in the army, he was arrested and ordered to offer his life as a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. After Jesus, he is in my mind probably the second most famous preacher to die for his beliefs.

The bonfire or bone fire itself has been used in the Samhain Festival of the Celtic people that lived in Great Britain from the Iron Age till around the 11th Century. The festival was at the beginning of November and marked the end of Summer and the collection of the Harvest.

In later years it influenced the Catholic All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Halloween and the Harvest Festival, all of which were during the last week in October and first week in November.

The word bonfire or bone fire is a direct translation of the Gaelic “tine cnámh”. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

This is possibly where the tradition of carrying flaming torches comes from. Now it is the other way round, the torches are taken to the unlit bone fire and thrown on, and with Guy Fawkes on top, He would be burnt and his spirit purified. Over the next 700 years or so we were gradually enveloped by the See Of Rome.

Very loosely connected say some, but relevant, these were and still are a group of people that choose to praise the earth, sun, moon etc rather than the Bible and were very prevalent in East Sussex untill around the seventh century. Just look at the names of their weekdays.

Mánadagr = Moon’s Day
Týsdagr = Tyr’s Day
Óðinsdagr = Odin’s Day
Þórsdagr = Thor’s Day
Frjádagr = Freyja’s Day
Laugardagr = Washing Day
Sunnudagr = Sun’s Day

East Sussex was probably one of the last areas in the country to be Christianised, which was around the 8th Century, Before that it was a fairly tolerant area with the old celtic church working along side the roman church. The seed of around 700 years of religious discontent was sown when it was converted around 680 by St. Wilfrid.

Lewes Mint Coin Danegelt TaxTHE LEWES MINT : 1006
Lewes was granted powers to mint money originally to pay the Danegelt , An annual tax formerly laid on the English nation to buy off the ravages of Danish invaders, or to maintain forces to oppose them. It became a permanent tax, raised by an assessment, at first of one shilling, then two shillings, upon every hide of land throughout the realm.

William was one of the nobles who advised Duke William when the decision to invade England was being considered. He is said to have fought at Hastings and afterwards received the Rape of Lewes in Sussex, and subsequently lands in twelve other shires. He built castles at Lewes , Reigate , Castle Acre and Conisbrough.

Lewes Priory was founded by William de Warenne and his wife Gundrada between 1077 and 1082 on the site of an old Saxon church . Lewes was the first Priory in England belonging to the reformed Benedictine Order of Cluny. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries in England and was huge, but had little control in national affairs.

Henry’s reign was marked towards the end by civil strife as the English barons, led by Simon de Montfort, demanded more say in the running of the kingdom. It was at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner by de Montfort’s army. And the historic Mise Of Lewes was signed.

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester (May 23, 1208 – August 4, 1265), was a French-English nobleman, notable as the principal leader of the baronial opposition to King Henry III of England. After the rebellion of 1263 and 1264, de Montfort became de facto ruler of England and called the first directly elected parliament in medieval Europe. For this reason, de Montfort is regarded today as one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy.


The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons’ War. It took place on the hills of Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. It marked the high point of the career of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, and made him the “uncrowned King of England”. Fatality figures range from several hundred to several thousand and many pits of skeletons have been found over the years believed to be the bodies of those that fell in that battle.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations Mise of LewesMISE OF LEWES : 1264
The famous document that was signed in the Chapter House of the old Lewes Priory on May 15th 1264 and is acclaimed by many to be the birth of democracy and parliament of today. The document itself has been lost in the mist of time, But would have been along the same lines as the Provisions of Oxford. Shame the parliament didn`t stay in Lewes!

The first parliament was on January 20th 1265 at which both knights (representing shires or counties) and burgesses (representing boroughs) were present, thereby substantially broadening representation to include new groups of society. It was also the first time that commoners attending Parliament were required to be elected.

This was an early version of what we see today . . House of Lords and House of Commons, The common man finally had a voice and a free meal ticket!

The knights representing counties who had been summoned to some earlier Parliaments had not been required to be chosen by election. The Parliament was summoned on 14 December 1264. It first met on 20 January 1265 and was dissolved on 15 February 1265. The next Parliament wasnt untill 1275 and it wasnt untill 1295 that Parliament sessions started to become more regular.

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is one of the most dramatic events of English history. What began as a local revolt in Essex quickly spread across much of the south east of England, when some of the peasants took their grievances direct to the young King, Richard II, in London.

Sir John Gage Firle Place Lewes  Firle Place Lord Gage Lewes






The De heretico comburendo (2 Hen.4 c.15) was an Act passed by Henry IV that allowed for the punishment of Heretics being burnt to death for their Heresy, in other words follow the Established Religion or die. Repealed in the Act Of Supremacy 1559.

SIR JOHN GAGE : 1503 – 1556
Sir John Gage of Firle Place near Lewes became quite a prominent figure in the court of King Henry VIII and even accompanied the king on an expedition to France. Following such campaigns and his competence in battle he was appointed Vice-Chamberlain to the King. Sir John also served as a key figure in the dissolution of the monasteries in Sussex, despite the fact that he remained a Catholic.

HENRY VIII : 1509 – 1547
Was a confused King by some accounts as regard to his religious leanings and choice of wives, but did help to bring about the break from rome and started the ball rolling for the reformation. Had a nasty habit of beheading all that fell short of his ideals though!

The Reformation was a reform movement in Europe which generally began with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 which argued that many doctrines , practices etc within the Roman Catholic Church was wrong, one of the main ones was Bread and Red Wine.

Although a number of precursors such as Johannes Hus and John Wycliffe tried to reform the church and its understanding of the Bible. As a historical period, the Reformation is considered to have started in 1517 and ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

From what I can decipher, the Bible (Jewish Torah) was first translated towards the end of the Babylonia Empire from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to something like 4500 variations which accounts for all the different languages and versions . And there are still around 2200 versions still to be translated for around 200 million people as of today.

Also there are rumours that fifteen years of the bible are missing namely covering the early years of Jesus . . What happened to it ? . . Also there are rumours that those fifteen years of history are being kept under lock and key in the Vatican . . Why?

No wonder the Christian community are at loggerheads with each other!

THOMAS CRANMER : 1527 – 1556
Thomas Cranmer was archbishop of Canterbury 1533 – 1556, a leading figure of the English Reformation, wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, helped Henry VIII divorce Catherine of Aragon setting the wheels in motion for England`s break from Rome. He became a protestant martyr in 1556 and whilst the flames danced around him he placed his right hand in the fire and said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”

THOMAS CROMWELL : 1532 – 1540
Made the chief minister by favour to Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell played an important part in the English Reformation. He with others helped with the break from the old papal church and suggested to Henry VIII that the king make himself head of the English Church. Thomas Cromwell had many enemies in his later years, mainly due to the inordinate generosity he showed himself when dividing the spoils from the dissolution of the monasteries. He was beheaded in 1540 when he lost the favour of the KIng.


An Act of Parliament that recognized Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, The Act which was passed in the sixth session of the Reformation Parliament in November 1534, claimed to confirm and corroborate the right of the king to be supreme head on earth of the Church of England, was updated with the Second Act of Supremacy in 1559, in which The De heretico comburendo (2 Hen.4 c.15) Act was repealed.

Lewes Priory Dissolution Demolition Thomas Cromwell ReformationLEWES PRIORY DISSOLUTION : 1537
The Dissolution and the demolition of the buildings was by Thomas Cromwell, who had organised the dissolution of the monasteries in England. As part of on going battle with the reformation of the church and the monachy, Henry VIII ordered the Lewes Priory to be destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541.

ACT Of UNIFORMITY : 1549 – 1662
A series of acts that established the Book of Common Prayer as the only legal form of worship, and required the use of all the rites and ceremonies in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 in church services.

BLOODY MARY : 1553 – 1558
Mainly remembered for restoring England to Roman Catholicism after succeeding her short-lived half brother, Edward VI, to the English throne. In the process, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burnt at the stake in the Marian Persecutions . Seventeen in Lewes. The persecution started in 1555.

Seventeen Martyrs Burning Crosses Lewes Bonfire Night Firework Guy Fawkes

POPE PAUL IV : 1555 – 1559
Giovanni Pietro Carafa was born in Capriglia Irpina, near Avellino, into a prominent noble family of Naples, rigid, and with his severe and unbending character combined with his age and patriotism and believed in extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“Outside the Church there is no salvation”) He introduced the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or “Index of Prohibited Books” to England and Europe which was the prefered Bible of the Protestants and those that chose to ignore his orders and were caught, Were burnt at the stake.

THE LEWES MARTYRS : 1555 – 1557
Seventeen protestants were burnt at the stake in Lewes outside the Star Inn (Now The Lewes Council Building) Nearly 300 in total were burnt in England for refusing to renounce their chosen religion during the Marian Persecution.

Edward Gage Firle Place Lewes High Sheriff Lewes MartyrsEDWARD GAGE (SIR KNIGHT) : 1555 – 1557
Edward Gage of Firle Place near Lewes was the High Sheriff during the Marian persecutions and had the grim task of burning the Lewes Martyrs.

The Ridolfi plot was a Roman Catholic plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary I of Scotland. The plot was hatched and planned by Roberto di Ridolfi.

THE PENAL LAWS : 1584 – 1679
Many Catholics suffered persecution and were executed for following the Catholic faith, At least 230 died under Henry VIII 1509-1547, Elizabeth I 1558-1605, James 1 1603-1625, Charles 1 1625-1649, Charles II 1660-1685

Designed to secure the assassination of Elizabeth I of England in 1586, and to replace her on the throne by the heir apparent, her Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

A Catholic plot to blow up Elizabeth I by putting gunpowder under her bed.

The Spanish Armada was a fleet that sailed against England under the Duke of Medina Sidonia`s command in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing the English Queen, Elizabeth I. And was supported by Pope Sixtus V, who treated the invasion as a crusade, with the promise of a further subsidy should the Armada make land.

Elizabeth had always sought to advance the cause of Protestantism where possible and was herself considered a heretic and illegitimate ruler of England. The Armada was defeated and sent home with their tails in between their legs. The boost to national pride lasted for years, and Elizabeth’s legend persisted and grew long after her death. The repulse of the Spanish Navy gave heart to the Protestant cause.

An Act for restraining Popish Recusants to certain places of abode.

SIR WALTER RALEIGH : 1603 – 1618
Was born to a Protestant family and in later years rose to be a Landlord of lands confiscated from the Irish, He was a bit of a poet, dreamer and womaniser by all accounts and was favoured by Elizabeth I. James I wasnt over impressed though but had a soft spot for him.

Implicated as a traitor by being involved in the Main Plot of 1603 agaisnt King James I and was arrested, tried and sentenced to death but instead was imprisoned. Released in 1616 but arrested again in 1618 and the belated death sentence carried out on 29th October 1618 his last words to the Axe Man being “Strike, Man, Strike”

JAMES I : 1603 – 1625
King of England as James I 1603 – 1625 and King of Scots as James VI from 1567 – 1625 till his death. He ruled England (the term then included Wales), Scotland, and Ireland for 22 years, often using the title King of Great Britain.

After the catholic gunpowder plot against him failed, Parliament passed the Popish Recusants Act in May 1606 requiring every citizen to take an Oath of Allegiance denying the Pope’s authority over the King. James was a founder in setting the wheels in motion of sending the See of Rome back home, and many other anti popery acts followed.

In 1611 new translations and compilations of approved books of the Bible were completed to confirm the divine right of kings to rule and to maintain the social hierarchy, which became known as the King James Bible.


MAIN PLOT : 1603
A Spanish involved conspiracy to replace James I on the English throne with Lady Arabella Stuart, the English-born daughter of the Earl of Lennox. The plot was a failure and its leader Henry Brooke was imprisoned, although Arabella remained at liberty until 1610. Sir Walter Raleigh was also implicated but was later reprieved. The plot was investigated at the same time together with a second, but unrelated conspiracy, the so-called Bye Plot.

BYE PLOT : 1603
This was an unsuccessful plan by Catholic priests William Watson and William Clark to kidnap King James I of England and force him to repeal anti Catholic legislation. The plot was revealed by Father Henry Garnet, who informed the government because of fears of retribution against Catholics if the plan failed. They were tried and executed along with Sir George Brooke for their parts in the scheme. As a result of the plot King James ordered all Catholic clergy to leave England.

POPE PAUL V : 1605 – 1621
Cardinal Camillo Borghese became Pope by election, His character was very stern and unyielding, a lawyer rather than a diplomat, and defended the privileges of the Church to his utmost. Said by some to be the force behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot PlottersGUY FAWKES AND THE GUNPOWDER PLOT : 1605
The Gunpowder Plot was a desperate plan by a group of disgruntled catholics to return church power back to Rome, which was led by Robert Catesby who in turn enlisted Guy Fawkes who was an explosives expert and a mercenary. The plan was uncovered in the early hours of the Fifth November as the story goes. Or was it a conspiracy hatched by Robert Cecil to impress the King (Brown Nosing) or a plan to test the common man`s religious leanings.

This Act forbade Roman Catholics from practising law and medicine, to act as a guardian or trustee and allowed magistrates to search their houses for arms. The Act also provided a new oath of allegiance, which denied the power of the Pope to depose monarchs.

An Act of Parliament was passed on January 21st 1606 (3 James I, cap 1), to appoint 5th November in each year as a day of thanksgiving for ‘the joyful day of deliverance’. This was by bell ringing, church services, bonfires etc.

Several references can be found in an old Lewes Churchwarden’s account book referring to payments made to bell ringers on the 5th November from at least 1661, A particular interesting entry dated 5th November 1723 states “Nov, ye 5th. Item: Pd. ye ringers being ye day of Deliverance from ye powder plot”.

“From what I have learnt over the years, the following would be my interpretation of an early Bonfire Night Celebration. The bells of the church would be rung summoning the parishioners to the church, hymns, readings, prayers based on the updated book of common prayer would be read out or sung. Then it would be outside to see a bonfire lit in the street to commemorate and remember the martyrs that were burnt at the stake. Then of to your local hostelry!”

Written and passed 22nd June 1606 and designed to put the Monarchy at the head of church and Great Britain and to remove popery, the basic details are below.

I do truly and sincerely acknowledge that our sovereign lord King James is lawful and rightful King and that the pope neither of himself nor by any authority of Church or See of Rome has any power to depose the king or to authorize any foreign prince to invade him or to give licence to any to bear arms, raise tumults.

Also I do swear that not withstanding any sentence of excommunication or deprivation I will bear allegiance and true faith to his Majesty and I do further swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure, as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes which be excommunicated by the pope may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or by any other whatsoever.

And I do believe that the pope has no power to absolve me from this oath. I do swear according to the plain and common sense, and understanding of the same words.

OLIVER CROMWELL : 1649 – 1660
The Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations were banned during the Commonwealth years but came back when Charles II came to the throne in 1660.

The American version of Guy Fawkes Night which involved the ritual of status reversal so well known throughout Europe. November Fifth became the day when youth and the lower class ruled, not only in controlling the streets of the town but also in going from house to house to collect money from the affluent to finance their prodigious feasting and drinking that went on from morning to night.

These forced levies were handed up during the morning by well-to-do householders as a matter of course and few thought it quite safe to refuse. Authorities made attempts to control the violence and indiscipline of Pope’s Day, especially after melees in which fatal injuries were inflicted, but in general they were powerless to change its character.

An Act of Parliament was passed on January 21st 1606 (3 James I, cap 1), to appoint 5th November in each year as a day of thanksgiving for ‘the joyful day of deliverance’ and in 1662, Gunpowder Treason was included as a “Form Of Prayer” into the Book Of Common Prayer before being abolished in 1859.

THE POPISH PLOT : 1678 – 1681
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy concocted by Titus Oates which gripped England in anti – Catholic hysteria from 1678 until 1681 and fuelled a fear by Protestants of increasing Catholic influences on England.

Oates alleged that there existed an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II. These accusations would eventually lead to the execution of at least 15 men, and precipitate the Exclusion Bill Crisis. Titus Oates was finally rumbled and fined £100,000 and thrown into prison, pilloried and whipped before being pardoned in 1688.

With the above Popish Plot in mind, the first recorded parade of Guy Fawkes, enemies, banners, bonfires etc, was 5th November 1679 when the Pope, Guy Fawkes and others were paraded in picture form on long poles by young armed men in Lewes.

The tradition of parading tableaux and enemies of bonfire especially those of Pope V probably has its roots in the Auto De Fe which was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics during the marian persecutions.


JAMES II : 1685 – 1688
The last English Catholic monarch, Some of James’s subjects were unhappy with James’s belief in absolute monarchy and opposed his religious policies, a group of leading nobles, clergy and protestants deposed him at the start with what was called the Glorious Revolution. The Parliament of England deemed James to have abdicated on 11th December 1688. Socially and politically it was disastrous for the Catholics for the next 100 years or so.

Under  James II, The lighting of bonfires was declared illegal

At the request of members of Nobility and Clergy, the Prince of Orange landed at Brixham, Devon, on November 5th 1688, he had brought with him a large expeditionary force. The purpose of this expedition was to curtail James II tyrannical rule, to end the prorogation of Parliament and to prevent Britain from acceding to the political and religious aspirations of Louis XIV of France.

The Prince’s expedition brought about the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and succeeded in guaranteeing certain rights and privileges which, are often taken for granted. These rights and privileges are embodied in the Bill of Rights of 1691 and the Act of Settlement of 1701. With the Landing of the Prince of Orange the course was set to finally rid England of Popery and send it back to where it came from.

WILLIAM III : 1689 – 1702
After his landings at Brixham in 1688 he took the British crowns when many were fearful of a revival of Catholicism under James II and ruled jointly with his wife Mary II until her death on 28th December 1694. Many Protestants regard him as a champion of their faith. William’s victory over James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is commemorated by the Orange Institution in Northern Ireland to this day. His reign marked the beginning of the transition from the personal rule of the Monarchy to a more Parliament centred rule.

This was an Act declaring the rights and liberties of subjects and settling the succession of the Crown and stands to this day. It cannot be altered in any realm except by that realm’s own parliament, and then only by convention. The basic details are below.

Freedom of speech and debates.
Freedom to petition the monarch.
Freedom from taxation by Royal Prerogative.
Freedom from royal interference with the law.
Freedom from the standing army during a time of peace.
Freedom for Protestants to bear arms for their own defence.
Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign.

Brought in to address the recent growth of Catholicism by ensuring the existing anti-Catholic laws were more strongly applied. It provided amongst other clauses that any person who apprehended a Popish Bishop, Priest or Jesuite who was then prosecuted for saying Mass or exercising any other Part of the Office or Function of a Popish Bishop or Priest within these Realms was to receive £100 from the Sheriff of that county within four months of the priest’s conviction.

In 1701 the act of settlement was passed by parliament that forbade any catholic subjects either direct or married to, Any rights to the sucession to the throne and still stands today.

Known also as The Old Pretender or The Old Chevalier and failed to renounce his Roman Catholic faith. Had he done so he might have strengthened the existing support of Tory, Pro – Restoration forces in England but he refused to do so. As a result, in 1714, a German Protestant became King . . . George I of Great Britain.

Effigies of the Pope, Devil, and Pretender were made and carried in processions in the evening in order to be burnt at night. It was an early ritual that lasted only a few years but elements of it still exist in todays Bonfire Celebrations.

This enabled two Justices of the Peace to tender the oaths of allegiance and supremacy and the oath of abjuration of the Pretender to any Roman Catholic whom they felt was disaffected. Refusal to take the oath would make them liable to the punishments of recusancy.

Thomas Paine Lewes Revolutionary Radical

THOMAS PAINE : 1768 – 1774

Born in Thetford and was resident in Lewes 1768 – 1774 was an author, pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor, intellectual and wrote many pamphlets including The Age Of Reason, The Rights Of Man, Common Sense and many more. His memory lives on in Lewes in many ways in the thinking and character of Lewisians.

“We have it in our power to build the world anew” T.P.

Besides a declaration of loyalty to the reigning sovereign, it contained an abjuration of the Pretender, and of certain doctrines attributed to Catholics, as that excommunicated princes may lawfully be murdered, that no faith should be kept with heretics, and that the pope has temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction in this realm. Those taking this oath were exempted from some of the provisions of the Popery Act 1698.

Instigated by an eccentric propagandist Lord George Gordon who had set up a Protestant Association. He installed fears of a return to papism and absolute monarchical rule.The Riots were an Anti Catholic uprising against the 1778 papist act and involved 40,000 plus with many carrying flags and banners proclaiming “No Popery”. The uprising became an excuse for widespread rioting and looting.

Lewes first introduced its own currency in 1789, but was discontinued in 1895. It was reintroduced in 2008 and again in July 2009 with higher denominations.

Old Lewes Pound Currency Mint New Lewes Pound Currency Mint





Relieved Roman Catholics of certain political, educational, and economic disabilities. It admitted Roman Catholics to the practise of law, permitted the exercise of their religion, and the existence of their schools. On the other hand, chapels, schools, officiating priests and teachers were to be registered, assemblies with locked doors, as well as steeples and bells to chapels, were forbidden; priests were not to wear their robes or to hold service in the open air.

In 1795 the Sussex Weekly Advertiser reported a bonfire and fireworks in a street of Lewes near the old Star Inn (Now The Town Hall) on the 5th November.


Eighteen bonfire boyes arrested and bonfires removed from the town by local police.

The Lewes Bonfire Boys had a sharp encounter with a local Magistrate, Mr Whitfield JP, on Cliffe Bridge during the Bonfire night riot when the authorities had attempted, and failed, to prevent the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations taking place.

Blazing tar barrels start being dragged through the streets to make bonfires and an attempt was made to prevent the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations taking place, police issued hundreds of prohibition notices in the town. The Bonfire boyes ignored these notices and the celebrations continued.

Mr W Ward Higgs Sussex By The SeaTHE ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT : 1832
Raised as the Earl of Donegall’s Regiment in Belfast in June 1701, and became known as the The Royal Sussex Regiment in 1832 after several name changes. Was one of the traditional regiments for young men from Lewes and Sussex to join. Around 1908 the song “Sussex By The Sea” which was written by Mr. W. Ward-Higgs and was first sung by an officer at Ballykinlar Camp, and proved to be a hit and then was adopted by the regiment as an unofficial nick-march and has remained so ever since.

It is now a bonfire anthem of many a bonfire boye of most bonfire societies in Lewes and Sussex. The Royal Sussex sadly is no more as it was absorbed into the Queens Regiment and then into the 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.

The regiment also known as the Tigers marched through Lewes on 16th July 2009, accompanied by their red-coated Kohima Band during their homecoming parades in Sussex.

Over 20 bonfire boyes were arrested and received up to two months in prison for rioting and assault on a policeman.

There were serious riots in Lewes during the Bonfire Night Celebrations. The authorities were determined to stop the event and police reinforcements were drafted in from the Metropolitan Police ‘A’ division. The Riot Act was read from the steps of the County Hall (Now the Law Courts) and police charged the crowd, causing many injuries.

“Remember, my boys, remember,
No run is allowed at “The Jug”;
And the private rooms, in December,
Are decidely cool, though snug!

Whoever finds winter quarters there,
Will remember the 5th for the future, I’ll swear;
On the “tottle of the whole”, Then,
Twere best to avoid the din”.

Let every one of the bold men,
Keep fast his doors within;
Lest he find too late when regrets of no use,
For the sake of a Fawkes he’s been made a great goose.”

Peter Bacon, The Sussex Advertiser, 2nd November 1847.

An agreement was made to remove the bonfires from the streets and the Celebrations was held in Wallands Park.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebration StreetTHE PAPAL BULL, POPE PIUS IX : 1850
The Papal Bull (Universalis Ecclesiae) of 29th September 1850 by which Pope Pius IX recreated the Roman Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England, The bull angered many and fueled more anti-Catholic feelings among English Protestants. This on its own is probably the main reason why the Fifth is still celebrated as strongly now as it was then, the celebrations were showing signs of waning and The Lewes Bonfire Celebrations were allowed back on to the street.

Old Lewes Bonfire Night Societies 1853Click The Image On Left For An Enlargement.


The first two Bonfire Societies in 1853 were the Cliffe Bonfire Society and Town (Now Lewes Borough Bonfire Society), The two areas at the time being completely different districts until the amalgamation of the two into the Lewes Borough. This was the start of the organised Lewes Bonfire Celebrations as seen today, With its street bonfires, banners, costumes, processions, effigies, fireworks etc.

Lewes Bonfire Night Cancelled


In 1874 the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations was cancelled on the Fifth Of November, due to a Typhoid epidemic in the town, the Bonfire Night Celebration was held on the 31st December.








Lewes was made a borough in 1881 by incorporating the Southover, Cliffe and Town areas hence the three High Streets in the Town, Cliffe High Street, Southover High Street and the High Street all of which in the past had their own shops, inns, post offices, churches etc and Lewes is now included within the South Downs National Park.

In 1901 a memorial was built on Cliffe Hill by public subscription to commemorate the 17 Martyrs burnt in Lewes. The Sussex Martyrs Commemoration Council bears the expense of maintaining the memorial and holds a service there once a year. It is floodlit during the Lewes Bonfire Celebrations and it is highly revered by the Lewes Bonfire Societies and its members.

Police prohibited fires in the street and the dragging of burning tar barrels. This order was breached and the Police arrested four leading Bonfire Boys, who were subsequently acquitted at court. A crowd of Bonfire Boys then marched to the towns police station, lit a fire in the road outside and celebrated the acquittal’s unopposed.

WORLD WAR I : 1914 – 1918
The cause of the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria 28th June 1914, This created a world wide military conflict that involved over 70 million military personnel in one of the largest wars in history which embraced most of the world’s great powers.

The main countries spiralled into a state of total war, putting all their money, scientific and industrial capabilities into the war effort. A ceasefire was ordered at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918 by which 16 million people were killed, more than double the total population of London, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

One of the most disgusting elements of this war was the trench warfare where men were sent to slaughter in totally hellish conditions. Bloody and brutal, the Battle of the Somme claimed around a million lives. Calculated later, the casualty statistics from the Battle of the Somme were truly astounding. Here are just a few…

On 1 July 1916 British losses were 57,470 – of whom 19,240 were killed, It would take two weeks to read out the names of the 1 July casualties, By the Battle’s end British and Empire losses were 420,000 – 130,000 dead. Artillery was the major killer claiming almost 60 per cent of casualties. Bayonets caused 0.3 per cent.

German figures were calculated differently, but most say around 600,000 fell, French losses were around 200,000. Add to this their 350,000 fallen at Verdun, The daily loss rate for the British was 2,943 men – 893 of whom died, Nearly 20 million British shells were fired – some 150,000 a day, 50 Victoria Crosses were awarded – eight on 1 July. The Somme area suffered 700 square miles of complete destruction, The great war to end all wars as it has been called. What was great about it? and now a century on and over seventy years since the start of the Second World War men are still fighting!

Bonfire Night Celebrations Lewes War MemorialLEWES WAR MEMORIAL : 1922
Designed by Canadian sculptor, Vernon March and unveiled to thousands and dedicated in a civic and military ceremony on September 6th 1922 by General Henry Crichton Sclater. There are three angels in bronze, two seated at the base (Peace and Liberty) and one at the top (Victory). On the Lewes war memorial there are recorded 236 names of the fallen during the 1st World War and approximately 129 names that fell during the 2nd World War.

In the same year, marching to this memorial by the Bonfire Societies, to remember the dead of that war, and wars since began. And continues to this very day as a very important part of the Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations.

The Lewes Bonfire Council was formed originally to unite and to bring all the societies together for a grand procession on the fifth, but not all of the societies were and are still not entirely happy with each other over certain issues to this day.


WORLD WAR II : 1939 – 1945
Cause of the war this time was the left overs from WW I and the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and turned out to be one of the most cruelest war ever. Over over a 100 million military personnel were involved and somewhere in the region of 50 – 70 million people were killed, most of them being civilians, these are disgusting figures. That is more than todays total current population of England. Try and imagine the whole of England wiped out. We along with the U.S.A are partly as much to blame for the death figures as Germany and Japan.

As with World I, most of the world’s great powers spiralled into a state of total war, putting all their money, scientific knowledge, industrial capabilities, brothers, sons, boyfriends and husbands into the war effort. We as Homo Sapiens really did show our colours.

I do not condone what Germany did with the millions of Jews etc or what the Japanese did with the prisoners of war etc etc, but surely the dropping of two feck of A Bombs on civilians is not morally correct. The bomb in Hiroshima killed roughly 140,000 people and the bomb in Nagasaki killed roughly 80,000 people in two strokes and people are still suffering to this day. I have to say that it did at least bring an end to the war in 1945.

One would have thought that the threat of a super bomb as above, would have brought us all to our senses . . Like hell has it, Look at Vietnam, the Middle East, the Falklands, the twin towers in New York and the London Bombings for starters. Notice that it is mainly the common men that always got killed or injured not the twats in office.

THE COLD WAR : 1945 – 1991
Now the A Bomb is with us and the cold war starting towards the end of WW II. It was more a test of resolve, prowess and diplomacy, as in the arms race, the race to the moon, Concorde and control of oil reserves. The USA did not trust Russia and Russia did not trust the USA even though they both had Germany as their enemy.

Russia closed its doors to the outside world which made the USA uneasy. Thus was born the spy, counter spy, spy in the sky, espionages. Russia and USA did not fight each other directly but wars were funded or fought by either side on behalf of other countries, The war ended partly to the Soviet dissolution in 1991. But the legacy of the Cold War continues to influence world affairs to this day and both sides have been involved in recent wars and events.

In 1992 the police and local authorities held a ‘secret’ meeting with the intention of drawing up rules, to be followed by all the Bonfire Societies. With no discussion or prior warning, all the Bonfire Societies were exasperated and resented, what they considered to be, the underhand way in which the meeting had been kept secret, and fought the rules.

The police and local authorities found themselves as ‘Enemies of Bonfire’ In an attempt to restore and repair the relationship between the police, local authorities and the Bonfire Societies, a Bonfire Safety Council was formed, made up of representatives from all parties. This still sits today.

Even today as you read this, oppresion is high on the list with the misinformed authorities afraid of the power of the common man and his choice of enjoyment. All a bonfire boye or belle wants is peace, tolerance, celebration, freedom of choice and rememberance of those that sacraficed their lives for our freedom.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebration








If it means for one night only on the Fifth of November, a few squibs, crackers, bonfires, torches, tabs, fear of lost of control by the police, control freaks, H.S.E and the authorities then so be it.


The Gun Powder Plot Poem

Some twelve months ago,
An hundred or so,
The Pope went to visit the devil;
And as, you will find,
Old Nick, to a friend,
Can behave himself wondrous civil.

Quoth the De'il to the Seer,
What the De'il brought you her
It was surely some whimsical maggot:
Come, draw to the fire;
Nay, prithee, sit nigher:
Heree, sirrah! lay on t'other faggot.

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