Bonfire night celebrations for many are the highlight of autumn in the High Weald. Sparked by Mayfield Bonfire night in mid-September the village events go through to the second half of November when Robertsbridge and Hawkhurst's bonfire nights bring the season to a close. The events are free to everyone and use donation buckets to raise thousands of pounds for different charities and causes.
The Battel Bonfire Boyes, the Battle bonfire society which has been active since the 17th Century is just one of the dozens of bonfire societies that have enjoyed a rejuvenation over the last 30 years. Bonfire societies will visit the events put on in neighbouring towns and villages, where they will join a procession behind the host society, all in their traditional costume and carrying drums and flaming torches. They will then collect in a main area for a firework display and a massive bonfire complete with burning effigy.
The origin of the bonfire nights is often debated. Many of the events, especially those on November 5th, are closely associated with the national holiday introduced in the 1600s when James I survived an assassination attempt by Guy Fawkes, and others involved in the Gunpowder Plot. In a similarly anti-Catholic vein, some see it as a celebration of the Protestant martyrs burnt during Bloody Mary's religious persecutions. Others however, place the origins much further back in a pagan practise of beating the parish boundaries with flaming torches in order to banish evil in the darker months to come.
Village bonfire nights are generally much smaller than the famous event in Lewes on November 5th, and are therefore more family friendly. There will though be large crowds and high levels of noise amongst dramatic displays which visitors should be prepared for. It is also worth being aware that with many roads being closed walking a distance along unlit roads and lanes to the procession may be necessary, and a torch useful.