As the nights draw in and the autumn temperature drops, the night sky will soon be aglow with the flames and sparks of Bonfire Night.
Bonfires and parades will be taking place all over Sussex, but on Monday, November 5, the usually peaceful town of Lewes will be at the heart of the country’s anniversary celebrations marking the night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators hatched the Gunpowder Plot and attempted to blow up Parliament at the Palace of Westminster.
Its legendary parades mark far more than the Gunpowder Plot. The Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations also commemorate the 17 Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake in Lewes between 1555 and 1557 as the country struggled with the swing from the Protestantism of Henry VIII to the devout intention of his daughter, Queen Mary I, to restore Catholicism to England. Medieval heresy laws were reintroduced, which advocated burning as punishment, and “Bloody Mary”, as she became known, ignited the flames of hatred as she began her persecution of Protestants in 1555.
Over the next two years, about 275 people were killed, 17 of them in Lewes. The first was Deryk Carver, from Brighton, who was burnt in a barrel in 1555, and the last of the Martyrs of Sussex, Stephen Gratwick, also from Brighton, was burnt at the stake at St George’s Fields.
Those incendiary events from Tudor times are recalled each year in Lewes as 17 burning crosses, one for each of the Sussex Martyrs, are held aloft during the parade, along with an effigy of the Pope. Bonfire Society members create their own tableaux and costumes and the parade attracts thousands of visitors.
Here’s our guide to the Bonfire Night celebrations around Sussex:
Saturday, October 6
Eastbourne has a bonfire tradition dating back almost four centuries, although the traditional annual parade stopped in 1966. The new Eastbourne Bonfire Society was formed in 2001 and its procession has continued to grow each year. This year’s procession on Eastbourne seafront leaves Fisherman’s Green at 7.30pm.
Full details at www.eastbournebonfire.co.uk.
Saturday, October 13
Hastings Borough Bonfire Society traditionally holds its Bonfire Night on the nearest Saturday to the Battle Of Hastings Day on October 14.
This year, the East Hill Beacon will be lit at 7pm with the procession starting from Rock a Nore at 7.15pm, culminating in the lighting of the bonfire at 9pm and fireworks at 9.30pm. Full details at www.hbbs.info or www.hbbs.brokenmould.com.
Saturday, October 20
Hailsham Bonfire Society reformed after a 16-year gap on the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 2005. They have held a torchlit procession and firework display every year since. This year’s event begins in Hailsham town centre at 7.30pm and finishes at midnight. Full details at www.hailshambonfire.org.uk.
In Lewes, Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society’s 45th Bonfire Celebrations begin at 6.30pm on the Nevill Estate. Full details at www.njbs.co.uk.
Fletching Bonfire Society is joined by members of visiting societies to hold its torchlit processions from 6.30pm, with marching bands and fancy dress competitions as well as a bonfire and fireworks. Details at www.escis.org.
Seaford Bonfire Society’s torchlit processions begin at 6.30pm and culminate in the lighting of the bonfire and a fireworks display. Details at www.seafordbonfire.co.uk.
Saturday, October 27
Ewhurst and Staplecross Bonfire Society’s Bonfire Night begins at 5.30pm with a fancy dress competition in the village hall. The procession sets off at 7.15pm at Staplecross.
Full details at www.esbs.org.uk.
The Littlehampton Bonfire Society will hold four torchlit parades on its Diamond Jubilee Bonfire Night Celebrations, which also include marching bands, illuminated floats, a fun fair, steam engines and a bonfire. For full details visit www.littlehamptonbonfire.org.uk.
Firle Bonfire Society holds its torchlit procession through The Ram Inn in the village from 7pm, culminating in fireworks, including exploding set pieces. Details at www.firlebonfire.com.
Saturday, November 3
The Bonfire Boys and Girls of Newick Bonfire Society will be bonfiring and fireworking in Newick, the site of the world’s biggest ever Catherine Wheel, 86ft in diameter, which propelled the town into the record books in 1999. The parade usually features an ignited oil drum. For details of this year’s event, visit www.newickbonfire.com.
The Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes organise the annual Bonfire Night celebrations in the town, with a well-earned reputation for its magnificent fireworks display. The torchlit parade, with the Guy on a cart, begins in Castle Street from 6.30pm and marches to Rookery Field for the bonfire. Full details at www.winchelsea.net.
Battle Bonfire Night in Battle town and Battlefield has been cancelled due to poor ground conditions following a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. For more details, visit www.battlebonfire.co.uk.
Monday, November 5
Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations begin when the town closes at 5.30pm, followed by the blazing barrel run on Cliffe High Street at 6pm.
After early torch parades, the Grand Procession in the High Street at 7.30pm is followed by bonfires at 9pm.
Lindfield Bonfire Society stages the Lindfield Bonfire Night, beginning with a fancy dress competition at the King Edward Hall at 6.30pm. The torchlit procession through the village begins at 7.30pm and the lighting of the bonfire at 8.15pm, followed by the Grand Firework Display on Lindfield Common at 8.30pm. Full details at www.lindfieldbonfiresociety.co.uk .
Saturday, November 10
Rye and District Bonfire Society’s parade starts at 7.30pm, when members and visiting societies head through Rye with flaming torches, with the Dragon, Scorcher and The Burning Boat bringing up the rear. Fireworks and bonfire begin at 9pm. Full details at www.ryebonfire.co.uk.
Details of the 2012 Family Shoreham Bonfire and Fireworks were being finalised as Sussex Society went to press. Full details will be available on www.shorehambonfire.co.uk.
South Heighton Bonfire Society celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The procession leaves Flying Fish in Denton at 6.30pm, with bonfire and fireworks on South Heighton playing fields at about 8pm. Full details at www.southheighton.com.
The Chailey Bonfire Society annual parade and fireworks display begins with a torchlit procession at 6pm from Chailey School in Mill Lane, stopping at Horns Lodge for refreshments and procees to the village hall.
The bonfire and fireworks begin at about 7.15-7.30pm. Full details at www.chaileybonfire.co.uk.
Many Sussex bonfire societies support the East Hoathly and Halland bonfire event, which begins with a procession at 7pm. The Halland Grand Procession begins at 7.30pm, the East Hoathly Grand Procession at 8.10pm and the Final Procession at 9pm. The giant-themed bonfire and fireworks are at 9.40pm. More details at www.free-events.co.uk and www.easthoathlyandhalland.co.uk.
Saturday, November 17
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society’s torchlit parades begin at 6.30pm, with marching bands and a bonfire and fireworks display. Details at www.robertsbridgebonfiresociety.com.
It is invitation only to attend the torchlit processions, bonfire and fireworks display organised by Barcombe Bonfire Society. Details at www.barcombebonfire.co.uk.