Bonfire Societies & Torch Light Processions in the UK

Bonfire Society List - UK

A Bonfire Society celebrates the downfall of Guy Fawkes and his plot to blow up Parliament and King James 1st on 5th November 1605. Bonfire Societies light a bonfire to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the bonfire came about because if Guy Fawkes had succeeded, his conspirators were to light bonfires all over the country to symbolize the death of the King. Fireworks are used to symbolize the blowing up of the Houses of Parliament because they contain gunpowder. Costume adds to the celebration, making it more enjoyable for spectators. All the societies have a different costume.

Following the capture of Guy Fawkes and the arrest of his fellow conspirators the Government responded immediately to this attempt to blow up the King and Parliament. An Act entitled ‘An Acte for a publique Thanks giving to Almighty God every year of the Fifte day of November’ was passed in January 1606 that proclaimed the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot should ‘be held in a perpetual Remembrance’ and that the day be ‘a holiday for ever in thankfulness to God for the deliverance and detestation of the Papists’. This annual ‘remembrance’ was to be marked by a morning service in every parish church at which a special prayer of thanksgiving was to be offered up.

Bonfire Night is celebrated traditionally on or around 5th November, however in the counties of Sussex and parts of Surrey and Kent the Sussex Bonfire Societies are responsible for a series of bonfire festivals between September and November each year. These festivals are held to mark both Guy Fawkes Night and the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in Lewes' High Street, between 1555 – 1557 and are celebrated with huge gala events with fires, torch light parades and festivals instead. The Bonfire Societies use these events to collect money for local charities and can be found in the following locations: -

Barcombe Bonfire Society

First official bonfire took place in Barcombe in 1932 – it is very much a family event, commencing with a fancy dress procession. See web site for more information.


Battle Bonfire Boyes

Due to take place on 2 November 2013 the Battle Bonfire is a traditional annual event organised by volunteers. Official records show that the first recorded Battle Bonfire was in 1646. It is free to attend.


Burgess Hill Bonfire Society

Reformed in 1969 this Bonfire Society walk in spectacular Aztec Indian costumes with flaming carts forming part of the torch light procession. The society raises much needed funds for local charities.


Chailey Bonfire Society

The annual bonfire celebrations for the people of Chailey and surrounding areas.

This firework evening is for the people of Chailey and around, it is a family event to celebrate Bonfire Night in a fun and safe way. The event always takes place on the 1st Saturday after the 5th November. The torch light procession comprises of steam engines, vintage vehicles and themed children’s floats.


Chiddingford Bonfire Society

This event attracts between 8-10,000 people and is held on the Saturday nearest to 5th November. The origins of this torch light procession are not known but are thought to be linked to a local stick company rather than Guy Fawkes but then the two were linked. 400 wax torches are used for the procession.


Cliffe Bonfire Society

Cliffe Bonfire Society celebrates its 160th year in 2013. The Society with its ‘Guernsey’ costume is accompanied by a band along the torchlight processions, dragging blazing tar barrels and carrying papal and political effigies, which are eventually condemned to the bonfire.


Commercial Square Bonfire Society [CSBS]

Formed in 1855, Commercial Square Bonfire Society is one of the oldest bonfire societies in the world. The sight 1000 society members dressed as Indians and American Civil War characters on a torch light procession is a sight for sore eyes. The traditional celebrations climax with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V and a spectacular aerial firework display.


Crowborough Bonfire & Carnival Society                                           

This event includes a 4,500 strong torch light procession accompanied by a selection of Floats and rounded off with a firework display at Goldsmiths Recreation Ground.


East Hoathly & Halland Bonfire & Carnival Society                           

An annual Bonfire, Torchlight Procession and Fireworks to raise funds for numerous local charities. The motto of the society is 'Lest We Forget', remembering those who gave their lives so we may live in peace. For more information please email [email protected]


Eastbourne Bonfire Society

Eastbourne has a Bonfire tradition that goes back almost four centuries and today the Society take to the streets of the town in a grand torch light procession followed by a spectacular fireworks display.  This event is free.


Edenbridge Bonfire Society

Edenbridge has celebrated the discovery of the Gunpowder Treason for many years. Held usually on the first Saturday in November the town will provide a night of tradition. Starting at 6.30pm, some 2000 torches light the procession through town and culminating with a firework display and the burning of a 30’ Guy Fawkes and “Celebrity Guy” effigies.


Ewhurst & Staplecross Bonfire Society

The society hosts the annual village bonfire celebrations including a procession of 500 handmade torches and raises money throughout the year for local charities and good causes.


Firle Bonfire Society

Bonfire activities in Firle go back to the 1870s and the Society was re-formed in 1981 to encourage and promote traditional bonfire festivities in the village. Every October they hold an annual Bonfire Night with torch lit procession and fireworks display commemorating the Gunpowder Plot.


Fletching Bonfire Society                                                              

A family orientated bonfire society that celebrates bonfire night shortly before the 5th November, the evening includes a torch light procession through Fletchling and a firework display. Call 01825 760155 for more information.


Hailsham Bonfire Society

Hailsham hold their bonfire night traditionally on the third Saturday in October, raining money for local charities. Their costumes have a Victorian theme.


Hastings Borough Bonfire Society

Hastings Bonfire 2013 will be held on Saturday 19th October 2013 and is free to visitors. The event continues to uphold the Sussex tradition of celebrating with bonfire, procession and fireworks the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot, 5th November 1605.


Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society


This newly formed Bonfire Society is continuing the tradition of the original society and aims to get the whole local community involved so supporting local charities. This year the event takes place on 23rd November 2013.


Herstmonceux (The Merrie Harriers Bonfire Society)

The Merrie Harriers Bonfire Society puts on the spectacular Cowbeech Bonfire Night to raise funds for local children’s and elderly peoples charities.


Icklesham (The Robin Hood Bonfire Society)

Web Site: Not Available

The Robin Hood Bonfire Society, Icklesham, holds its bonfire in the field adjacent to the Robin Hood PH on the A259 and is a smaller celebration, always held on 5th November which is suitable for families.

Isfield & Little Horsted Bonfire Society

Another popular and well supported celebration of the Gun Powder Plot. See web site for further details


Lewes Borough Bonfire Society

This Bonfire Society was founded in 1853 and is the oldest bonfire society in the old town of Lewes, it has been marching the streets of the town for over 150 years. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 2010 the society were invited to the House of Commons and for only the second time Bonfire Prayers were recited within the walls.


Lewes Bonfire Night/Celebrations/Fifth

The Lewes Bonfire Night, or the Lewes Bonfire Celebrations, is the biggest bonfire night celebration in the UK and is held in town of Lewes, East Sussex, every year on November 5th. The festival is also known simply as the Fifth. This year it will be on Tuesday 5th November 2013.


Lindfield Bonfire Society

Held in Lindfield, Mid Sussex and founded in 1894 this Bonfire Society is organises the Village Bonfire Night celebrations, which are held in aid of local children's charities.


Mayfield Bonfire Boyes & Belles

Mayfield Bonfire Street Market & Torch Light Procession is held annually in September, for more information see web site.


Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society

This Lewes based Bonfire Society was founded in 1967. This year’s event takes place on 19th October, 6.30pm


Newick Bonfire Society

Newicks annual Bonfire Event takes place this year on 2nd November 2013 – the Societies claim to fame is introducing 5 point torches!


Robertsbridge Bonfire Society

Starting with a torch light procession, with other visiting societies taking part the parade makes its way to a very large bonfire and firework Spectacular. The evening ends with the destruction of an effigy that represents a prominent feature of the year.


Rotherfield & Mark Cross Bonfire Society

This Bonfire Society organise the Rotherfield and Mark Cross Carnival and Bonfire as part of the seasonal series of Carnivals held across the County of Sussex, raising money for good causes.


Rye Bonfire Society

It is claimed that Rye’s Bonfire celebrations could be older than Guy Fawkes himself.  It is said that celebrations were first held to commemorate the young men of the town’s retaliatory raid against the French in 1378 when they returned to wreak revenge, burning and pillaging and snatching back the church bells which had been stolen in 1377. The Bonfire celebration is 9th November 2013.


Seaford Bonfire Society

The society provides a large bonfire, a spectacular fireworks display and a torch light procession through the town that the whole community enjoy and which raise funds for good causes.


Shoreham-by-Sea Bonfire Society

Shoreham Family Beach Bonfire and Firework display takes place on Shoreham Beach, with a professional firework display. All proceeds to local charities


South Heighton Bonfire Society

The torch light procession makes its way to the Nevill Bonfire Society firework display.


South Street Bonfire Society

This bonfire society celebrates 100 years this year, 2013! The annual celebrations on 5th November, which uphold the traditions of Bonfire Night in Lewes.


Southover Bonfire Society                                                                                

Southover Bonfire Society was originally formed in 1886. Reformed in 2004 it is regarded as one of the fastest growing bonfire societies. Close to 1000 torches are used in the procession.


Uckfield Bonfire & Carnival Society

The Society spend the year planning and making costumes for the annual Carnival, which takes place on the first Saturday in September. Monies raised pays for this annual event and also supports local charities.


Vines Cross Bonfire Society                                                                        

This society are easily recognised by their Skeleton costumes & top hats. Further info from Mark Woods – 07976 426286.


Waterloo Bonfire Society

At the time of writing there was no information regarding the Society’s event for 2013.


Whatlington Renegades Bonfire Society                                                             

At the time of writing there was little information on Whatlington Renegades Bonfire Society. However their costumes are ‘Herne’ type.

Who The Devil Are We Carnival Society                                                           

At the time of writing there was minimum information on this Bonfire society, they can however be recognised in their ‘Devils and Angels’ attire.