On 5th November each year, the normally peaceful town of Lewes puts on the biggest Bonfire Night celebration in the world, with tens of thousands descending on the small town for the evening.

It is one of the most infamous traditions in the UK with seven societies, five processions, burning effigies, rolling barrels, bonfires, fireworks and more! It is certainly the biggest celebration in the county, but Guy Fawkes Night is taken very seriously across East Sussex.

Carnival-style Bonfire Night celebrations began in East Sussex at the start of September and will continue each weekend until the end of November, with most towns and villages holding one. The bonfire societies from all the other towns travel round each week to join in with the processions, and there are also bonfires, fireworks, food and drinks.

There are records of 5th November celebrations in Lewes back to the 1600s, and surrounding towns and villages back to 1800s. The celebrations have got bigger and bigger as time’s gone on. But nobody quite knows why East Sussex’s celebrations of the Gunpowder Plot are so much more elaborate than anywhere else’s.

There are various theories including:

  • To remember the burning of 17 local Protestant martyrs in 1555-1557
  • Because of the number of different religions fanatically followed in the area
  • Because Lewes was briefly the capital of England
  • Because Lewes was the next most significant Pancras site after London and Canterbury.

Although it can be tempting to go to the biggest event in Lewes, it quickly gets overcrowded. There aren’t many public facilities, the streets are very narrow, parking and public transport is very limited, and there are many road closures. (No trains will stop at Lewes, Falmer, Glynde or Southease from 5pm on 5th November until the first timetabled trains on the morning of 6th November. Road closures begin at 4.45pm).

The smaller events are just as fun, have their own history and traditions, and many are considered more family-friendly, with better facilities and less overcrowding. We recommend people ‘stay local’ and go along to an organised event near home. As well as avoiding overcrowding and travel issues, this helps celebrate the local community where you live, and raises money for causes near you.

Stay local, stay safe and enjoy. Here’s a full list of upcoming bonfire celebrations in East Sussex:

Battle Fireworks Display
When: 3 Nov 2018
Where: Abbey Green, Battle Abbey

Icklesham Fireworks Display
When: 4 Nov 2018
Where: The Robin Hood, Icklesham

Lewes Celebrations and Firework Displays
When: 5 Nov 2018
Where: Lewes Town Centre

Crowborough Bonfire
When: 5 Nov 2018
Where: Goldsmiths Recreation Ground

Newhaven Fireworks Display
When: 10 Nov 2018
Where: South Heighton Recreation Ground, Newhaven

Chailey Bonfire and Fireworks Display
When: 10 Nov 2018
Where: Chailey School

Rye Bonfire Night Fireworks Display
When: 10 Nov 2018
Where: The Quay, Rye Town Centre

East Hoathly Fireworks Display
10 Nov 2018
Where: War Memorial Playing Fields

Hastings United Fireworks Spectacular

When: 23 Nov 2018
Where: The Pilot Field