The 5th of November is celebrated throughout England; in Lewes, Sussex, they do it in style. Below, is an extract from the Cliffe Bonfire Society website:
“Following the capture of Guy Fawkes on 5th November 1605 and the arrest of his fellow conspirators the Government responded immediately to this attempt to blow up the King and Parliament. An Act entitled ‘An Acte for a publique Thancksgiving to Almighty God everie yeere of the Fifte day of November’ was passed in January 1606 that proclaimed the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot should ‘be held in a perpetual Remembrance’ and that the day be ‘a holiday for ever in thankfulness to God for the deliverance and detestation of the Papists’. This annual ‘remembrance’ was to be marked by a morning service in every parish church at which a special prayer of thanksgiving was to be offered up.”
In a series of torch-lit processions, the Bonfire Societies of Lewes, plus some invited Societies from other parts of Sussex, parade through the town of Lewes, in their distinctive costumes. They stop at the War Memorial, at the top of High Street, for prayers and the lighting of fireworks. Later in the evening, the Societies parade to their individual bonfire sites, where effigies are burned (often figures relating to recent political events), and firework displays take place.
The sights, and sounds, cannot be accurately captured by images alone. There is the intense heat from the flaming torches, only feet away from the spectators. There are the magnificent costumes; the dense acrid smoke, in a variety of colourful hues, from the flares which turn the streets into a colourful fog; charges which are set off, and dropped on the road, in a series of explosions, so loud that spectators are physically rocked by the blasts. The spectacle has to be experienced to be believed.
Over the years, the Lewes event has become so popular that the Police have restricted access to the town centre, and the Lewes Bonfire Council has discouraged non-residents from attending. For 2009, road closures and barriers were in place, to reduce the number of people in the centre of Lewes.
The Commercial Square Bonfire Society march back down High Street; the base of the War Memorial is to the extreme left of picture.