There is no other Guy Fawkes Night in Britain to match the strange celebrations in Lewes, the county town of East Sussex.

The small town with a population of about 15,000 receives around 100,000 visitors and more if, as this year, November 5 falls on a Saturday.

Many other Sussex towns and villages hold bonfire festivities in the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes Day.

Some of them join the main parade in Lewes where up to 3,000 people parade along the high street, many holding burning torches.

Lewes is one of the few towns still to feel strongly about Guy Fawkes and his gang. But it was a hot bed of non-conformism well before 1605.

The burning of 17 Lewes Protestant martyrs many years earlier has never been forgotten or forgiven and is also commemorated each November 5. There are also memorials to them.

Each November in the early 17th century there would be parades but they were more like riots than processions and were banned when Oliver Cromwell came to power.

When they were resumed during the reign of King Charles II, they began to wane and not much took place during most of the 18th century.

But from the 1820s, they gradually became more rowdy until in 1847 they were forced out of Lewes to nearby Wallands, now part of the town. They were moved back to the centre three years later.

The first bonfire societies were formed soon afterwards in the 1850s when commemorations started to bear a resemblance to those taking place now.

Each society represented a chunk of the town and quickly devised their own peculiarities such as wearing Zulu costumes or not joining in the main parade. They became active throughout the year to raise funds for the big night.

Bonfire Night in Lewes is the one time and the one place at which a sign saying No Popery is displayed and no one is arrested.

The night can still have a reputation for being rowdy and many years ago it was decided to close pubs but much alcohol is still consumed at the bonfires held by each society on the outskirts of town.

There the effigies of perennial enemies of Protestants such as Guy Fawkes, previously revealed at the main parade, are burned along with those of current hate figures. Councillors and MPs often loom large. The fireworks are mostly homemade and huge.

Each year attempts are made to limit numbers and these have been partially successful, particularly in making it hard to enter Lewes by road and rail that night.

There is something rather magical and also sinister about the Lewes celebrations that makes them well worth attending at least once and many people become addicted to them even if they live nowhere near Sussex.