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.
The following January, an act entitled ‘An Acte for a publique Thanksgiving to Almighty God ever year of the Fifth day of November’ was passed, which held that 5 November should be held in perpetual remembrance of the plot, with a special service held in every Church of England parish church.
Celebrations in Lewes were not planned or carried out annually, but were more random events that more closely resembled riots…it still has that feel today…
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.