Remember Remember the 5th November…

There is only one place in Britain to celebrate Bonfire Night — that’s Lewes in East Sussex.

On November 5th thousands of people squeeze into the small county town of East Sussex to watch Lewes’s bonfire societies march up and down the steep old streets. The costumed members (Vikings, smugglers, Zulus, Elizabethans and so on) carry burning kerosene-soaked torches — even the little kids and the parents pushing, with their free hand, babies in decorated buggies.

It is an awesome sight: black sky, rammed streets, and burning crosses and torches snaking into the distance. There are prayers in honour of Lewes’s 17 Protestant martyrs, burnt at the stake in the 16th century, after which “bonfire boys” run with burning tar barrels to Cliffe Bridge, where they toss them, flaming, into the River Ouse. The processions include fabulous, towering effigies — the Pope of 1605 is always there, along with whoever the societies choose to lampoon. Later these elaborate “enemies of bonfire” are blown up on the Downs surrounding Lewes at one of the giant firework displays and bonfires that see the night out.

Very handy for us Proportians as we live moments away, even if Lewes County Council urge people from outside the Lewes locality to celebrate in their own area. Ooops.


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