Lewes Bonfire or Bonfire for short, describes a set of celebrations held in the town of *Lewes (map), England, that constitute the United Kingdom’s largest and most famous *Bonfire Night festivities, with Lewes being called the bonfire capital of the world.
Always held on 5 November, the event not only marks *Guy Fawkes Night – the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 – but also commemorates the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs from the town burned at the stake for their faith during the Marian Persecutions.
Lewes is home to the largest and most celebrated of the festivities in the *Sussex bonfire tradition. There are seven societies putting on six separate processions and firework displays throughout Lewes.
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The history of bonfire celebrations on 5 November throughout the United Kingdom have their origins with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, where a group of English Catholics, including the now infamous Guy Fawkes, were foiled in their plot to blow up the House of Lords.
To mark the demise of the 17 Lewes Martyrs, 17 burning crosses are carried through the town, and a wreath-laying ceremony occurs at the War Memorial in the centre of town. Ladies’ and men’s races take place, pulling flaming tar barrels in a “barrel run”, which takes place along Cliffe High Street at the start of the evening.
The steep and cobbled Keere Street (map) is home to many historic buildings, including a timber framed antiquarian bookshop. The gardens of the buildings on the east side of the street border the old Town Walls (map).
The Vanguard Way, a long-distance footpath from London to Newhaven, passes through countryside east of the town. The South Downs Way also passes close to Lewes, crossing the Ouse at Southease, some four miles south of the town. The Greenwich Meridian Trail (map), a long-distance path that follows the Greenwich Meridian from Peacehaven in East Sussex to Sand le Mere in East Yorkshire passes through the middle of the town.