can boast no fewer than seven Bonfire Societies, six of which hold
their celebrations on the same night (5th November, or when the
Fifth is on a Sunday, 4th November). The remaining society, Nevill
Juvenile, holds its night on a Saturday a couple of weeks before
Bonfire Societies have come and gone in Lewes. No longer do we have
Landport Bonfire Society. Some Societies
have died and then been re-formed later, such as Southover; some are simply recent
formations; but some have a continuous tradition going back to the
middle of the 19th century.
are there so many societies? Well, for one thing, if everybody amalgamated
into one single procession (the nearest thing achieved to this is
a procession containing all the Societies except Cliffe) it would
be so long that it would be well-nigh impossible to maintain throughout
the evening. By covering different areas of the town (with, of course,
a certain amount of overlap) and by dispersing to different firesites
for separate bonfires and firework displays, the Societies are able
to bring Bonfire to more of the town, and many more people are able
Society has something different to offer. Nevill Juvenile Bonfire
Society, for instance, is specifically for children. South Street
used to be a juvenile society too, but has mutated into an adult
one. Waterloo, while an adult society, is perhaps more family-oriented
than some others, while the Cliffe, Commercial Square and Lewes
Borough societies cling proudly to their respective ancient traditions.
are, of course, many other Bonfire and even Carnival Societies in
Sussex (of which Edenbridge, actually in Kent, is an honorary member),
holding their celebrations from the end of August right up to the
end of November. It is common for societies to visit other societies'
celebrations, joining in their processions - and a number of other
societies are represented in Lewes on the Fifth, processing with
one or another of the Lewes Societies.