Historical Time Line
1606 – Following the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, an act of Parliament ‘For a Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God every year on the 5 th of November’, required the ringing of the church bells and the conducting of a service in every parish church in England . It may be assumed that Lewesians fully complied.
1679 – Following popular hysteria provoked by Titus Oates revelations, Pope burning processions were witnessed in London & Lewes.
1813 – The diary of the late John Holman [High Constable of Lewes] gives us our first glimpse of things to come by the entry ‘November 5 th Gunpowder Plot observed by the boys – a fire on Gallows Bank. Passed off without any particular accident’.
1829 – Celebrations take on a new character. The custom of dragging blazing tar barrels through the streets was introduced and the use of fireballs became common.
1831 – In an effort to stop these dangerous practices, the magistrates issued cautions but the ‘boys’ displayed even greater energy.
1832 – An attempt to stop proceedings failed.
1838 – Great rioting took place with several arrests being made and fines of up to £15 were imposed. A local magistrate, Mr Whitfield JP had a ‘sharp’ encounter with the ‘boys’ on Cliffe Bridge which led to the origins of throwing the blazing tar barrel into the river.
1841 – Special Constables were sworn in to stop the celebrations on the 5 th . The bonfire boys armed themselves, which unfortunately led to more than twenty rioters being sent to prison for up to two months.
1842 – Proceedings were more orderly and a band of music was introduced for the first time.
1846 – Another attempt to clear the ‘boys’ from the streets led to more rioting and another magistrate, Mr Blackman JP being seriously injured.
1847 – One hundred and seventy of the ‘principal tradesmen’ and other ‘respectable inhabitants’ were summoned to be sworn in as special constables. On their way to a meeting on November 5 th they were attacked by bonfire boys in the High Street. Tar Barrels were lit and many incidents occurred. The police formed a chain across Keere Street and some of the ‘boys’ were arrested. The next day one hundred of the A division of the Metropolitan Constabulary arrived and the excitement in Lewes that evening was running high. It was an incident involving a mail-gig from Brighton which brought things to a head. Lord Chichester read the Riot Act on the steps of County Hall and gave the crowd five minutes to disperse. In the free fight that ensued many of the Metroploitan Police were injured, however the streets were eventually cleared.
1950 – The Borough, Commercial Square , Southover and South Street unite in one Grand Procession.
1954 – A Blazing Key is carried for the first time in our procession.
1955 – The Borough was the first society to have their fire and proceedings filmed by the famous Walt Disney Film Company.
1958 – Bert Munt was made a life member of the Society, unfortunately he passed away shortly afterwards.
1960 – Celebrations were cancelled due to bad flooding in the town. However, the wreaths were still placed on the War Memorial.
1964 – Borough took a leading role in the Battle of Lewes Celebrations and was solely responsible for the illuminations of Cliffe Hills.
1967 – The Borough celebrations were recorded by Mr Bob Danvers-Walker on BBC radio 4
1971 – Borough won the Bonfire Council Cup. Commercial Square amalgamated with us at the fire.
1973 – The Society’s motto ‘Death or Glory’ was re-introduced into the procession and the first torch lit procession in Europe – Blois , France took place.
1977 – The Borough led Her Majesty the Queen to light her Jubilee Beacon in the Great Park at Windsor.
1978 – Full-scale live television coverage took place by the BBC. The Borough wins the Pioneer Cup.
1979 – Borough led the procession to Buckingham Palace for the ‘Carols for the Queen’. Borough retained the Pioneer Cup.
1981 – Mr Edward (Ted) Over, one of Lewes’ much loved Bonfire Boys died following an illness that prevented him from attending the bonfire celebrations for the first time in thirty five years. He had been Pioneer Chief and Treasurer of the Society.
1986 – Borough took part in the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics at Brighton and were filmed on the 5 th for German Television.
1989 – Borough suffered the sad loss of our President, Dr Pat Nicholl. He was to be sadly missed.
1992 – The Police & Lewes District Council tried to impose a code of practice on the Bonfire Societies. If enforced it would have stopped the traditions that make Lewes Bonfire unique. The Societies stood united to force the authorities to withdraw their proposals.
1993 – Boroughwon the First and Second Pioneer classes at the Bonfire Fancy Dress Competition.
1994 – Mr John Brooks ‘Lord Bishop of the Borough’ celebrated thirty years service.
1996 – Borough won the Ladies & Gents Pioneer Cups as well as the Best Male and Female costumes of the evening.
1998 – A splendid new banner depicting the ‘Olde Borough Bonfire Boys’ was proudly carried for the first time.
2000 –Borough won the Points Cup, Second Pioneer Cup, Ladies and Gents Pioneer Shields and Best Male and Female costumes at the Bonfire Fancy Dress Competition.
2001 – Mr Eric Winter, life member and former President and Chairman of the Society sadly passed away. An irreplaceable Bonfire Boy. The Borough won the Points Cup for the second year running.
2002 – Borough won the Points Cup for the third year running.
2003 – The Borough celebrated it’s 150 th Anniversary! For the fourth year running the Borough won the Points Cup at the Bonfire Council Fancy Dress Competition. Miss Sein Goacher became the youngest and first female Commander in Chief at the age of 24.
2004 – >Borough retained the Pioneer Cup
2005 – The 400 th Anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot! Borough celebrated with a fantastic display of costumes and a record breaking forty foot effigy of Guy Fawkes! As guests of Mr Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, members of the Society visited the House of Commons and for only the second time Bonfire Prayers were recited within the walls.
2009 – Lee Pickering won the Best Dressed Gentleman of the evening at the Bonfire Council Fancy Dress Competition.
2010 – On their first outing of the season Borough won Best Dressed Visiting Society at Uckfield. At the end of the season Borough had won the best dressed society at outmeetings for 2010.
2010 – Borough won the BONCO costume compertition by 15 points.
2012 – The Borough featured in a BBC4 documentary, “The Unthanks – A Very English Winter”, a programme about old English traditions.
2013 – The Borough, along with the other bonfire societies, in association with Harvey’s brewery ran the bar at the Gentlemen of the Road Tour in the Convent Field in Lewes.
2013 – Historic Iron Key of Lewes, denoting the freedom of the town that Lewes Borough enjoys on the night of 5th November, re-presented to the society by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex and Mayor of Lewes.
2014 – The Borough, along with the other Lewes societies celebrated the 750th anniversary of the battle of Lewes which originally took place on 14th May 1264.
2015 – The Borough win the bonfire societies annual raft race & build a world record 50ft effigy of Guy Fawkes on the fire site.
2016 – The Borough win the annual raft race for the second year running.