Home - click here

Cliffe Bonfire Society

150th Anniversary Banner carried aloft
150th Anniversary Banner

Bonfire Council

The 'siege mentality' of this English brand of militant Protestantism was not just a response to the 'dispossessed psyche' of the hordes of Irish Catholics who emigrated to England from poverty-stricken Ireland in the nineteenth century, but also to the rise of the Anglo Catholic movement within the Church of England. In the case of Lewes there was the continued presence of several important recusant (English Roman Catholic) gentry families in the Sussex countryside. But by the middle of the last century Lewes was being surpassed by Brighton as a centre of urban growth.

Brighton, first an exclusive holiday resort for the Prince Regent and his aristocratic hangers on, became with the arrival of the railway in the 1840s a rakish seaside town for the London populace, a character it has retained to this day. Lewes, on the other hand, remained a traditional and declining market town, where the inertia of tradition held sway. Consequently it was as late as 1931 that the Cliffe resigned from the Lewes Bonfire Council because, in opposition to the changed outlook of the other societies, it insisted on 'being true' to the 'traditions' of bonfire. The intransigence of the Cliffe Bonfire Boys saw them through to the post war period and the era and business of English heritage. In 1946 they made it on to the pages of the American Time magazine, and today on the plea that their activities are 'hollowed by time' they are a distinctive and indispensable part of the biggest Bonfire Night celebrations in England, which attracts upwards of 70,000 visitors annually, not only from all over Sussex but from London too. Undoubtedly the majority of the Cliffe processionists, as they dress up as smugglers or as tin foil crusaders, reflect very little on the raison d'etre of the Cliffe's existence, but some do.

click thumbnails to see a larger version
Victorian Fire Brigade Contingent
The Three Banners: The Glorious Revolution, The Gunpowder Plot, and  The Lewes Martyrs
Two Unusual Costumes
Fire Brigade -
with Flaming Torches!
Three Historical
Two Ladies
and Tea Trolley

<previous page / next page>


Go to Home Page About Us | Acknowledgements | Contact Us | My Back Pages | ©2006 Laganfauld