It is that time of year again when the leaves turn orange, spiced lattes are on sale, the clocks go forward and fireworks are set off! Each year one of the biggest events in England is hosted in the quaint little town of Lewes, the town we happen to be based in!
Lewes Bonfire is the biggest celebration for Guy Fawkes Day in the world, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year! For many years the streets have been filled with people from all over England and the World to watch the parade of fire, set off fireworks and to see not just one bonfire take place but five! It is such a cherished holiday to the folks of Lewes that it would be hard to find a local who isn’t a part of one of the six bonfire societies. One of our employees, local to Lewes, is a part of it and cannot wait to take part in yet another successful year.
Why Do We Celebrate Guy Fawkes Day?
For those who may not be aware of why we celebrate on November 5th for Guy Fawkes, here’s a little rundown. Guy Fawkes was a member of a group of English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was introduced to Robert Catesby who had planned to assassinate King James I so that they could restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.
The plotters had leased an undercroft underneath the House of Lords and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder which they had stockpiled there. However, the authorities had received an anonymous letter to search Westminster Palace during the early hours of the 5th of November. This led them to Fawkes guarding the explosives. Fawkes was arrested and tortured until he confessed the plan.
He was sentenced to death via hanging but shortly before he fell from a scaffold and broke his neck. Fawkes became the symbol for the Gunpowder Plot, and its failure has been celebrated in Britain since 1605 on the 5th of November. Traditionally his effigy is burned in a bonfire, which is then accompanied by fireworks.
Other Things To Look Out For During Bonfire.
Bonfires across England have many effigies representing historic events or political figures. It is hard to keep up with all the meanings behind each creation in the parade and everything taking place but here is a couple to look out for during Lewes bonfire.
17 Burning Crosses: This marks the demise of 17 Lewes Martyrs, a group of Protestants, who were burned at the stake in Lewes, East Sussex, England between 1555 and 1557.
Wreath-laying Ceremony: This occurs at the War Memorial in the centre of town to remember the Lewes Martyrs.
Barrel Run: On the evening there is a barrel run that takes place and a barrel of flaming tar is thrown into the river to represent the bonfire boys that reinvigorated the interest in bonfire night. Races take place, pulling flaming tar barrels in a “barrel run”, which takes place along Cliffe High Street at the start of the evening.
Barrel over River Ouse: After the barrel run, a flaming tar barrel is then thrown into the River Ouse; this is said to symbolise the throwing of the magistrates into the river after they read the Riot Act to the bonfire boys in 1847.
Effigies: The effigies include the burning of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V (leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Gunpowder Plot). Each year there are also effigies of people that represent a current issue affecting the country or the world. Previous years have included David Cameron with a pig and Osama bin Laden on the toilet.
What Happens To The Town Of Lewes?
Provisions have been made over the year to make sure that the town of Lewes is protected. Lewes is a very historic town with its own castle and buildings such as the Fifteenth Century Bookshop, on the corner of High Street and Keere Street. Lewes was home to many historic people and events, and so it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent any damage due to the high volume of crowds.
On the 5th you will see the town boarding up all the windows of shops and homes on the streets where the event takes place. As the event became more renowned many people from all over England would travel down to the small town which led to overcrowding. In recent years, trains to Lewes have been stopped by 5pm and road closures at 4pm, this helps to prevent this overcrowding from happening. However, huge crowds still make their way into Lewes and so further measures are needed to protect them and the town. A fence is placed around the river so people do not fall in and cars can be towed if parked in certain spots.
Lewes and the authorities do their utmost to protect the people who live there and visit for the parade as well as the town itself. If you do decide to come to the festival please take care, be safe and enjoy your time!
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Leave a comment below and let us know if your heading to Lewes Bonfire this year!