Sussex Bonfire Societies
The Sussex Bonfire Societies are responsible for the series of bonfire festivals concentrated on central and eastern Sussex, with further festivals in parts of Surrey and Kent from September to November each year.
The Sussex Bonfire tradition began in times when farm workers had little or no wages during the autumn and winter months. At the time it was common for workers to go house to house asking the residents for food, money or, if lucky, alcohol. Essentially it was begging, which was a criminal offence. To avoid repercussions (as many of these home owners were landlords or employers) it was customary to either dress up in costume or to use charcoal or scorched cork to blacken their faces. This way the revellers were free to cause mischief and mayhem without fear of punishment. These nights of revelry date back much further (including the Luddite/loom-breaking period), in history than Guy Fawkes and it was much later that the existing pagan traditions were appropriated for Christian and political aims.
In the 19th century Mark Antony Lower, an anti-Catholic propagandist and schoolmaster from Lewes, inaugurated the cult of the Sussex martyrs after the publication of his 1851 book The Sussex Martyrs to recall the dire actions of Catholicism in Sussex. Lower was aided by an etching by James Henry Hurdis of Richard Woodman and nine others being burnt. This led to the creation of local Bonfire Societies who commemorated these events. For example, seven separate societies organise events in the town of Lewes. On Fifth of November, the town hosts six separate bonfires.
Whereas Guy Fawkes's night in most parts of Great Britain is traditionally commemorated at large public fireworks displays or small family bonfires, towns in Sussex and Kent hold huge gala events with fires, parades and festivals. The tradition has remained strong for more than a century becoming the highlight of the year for many towns and villages in the Weald. The Bonfire Societies use the events to collect money for local charities.
The logistical set up required for the events often starts as early as February. This has led the Societies to pool resources and work together on each other's bonfires. This creates associated processions, with large festivals like Lewes and Hastings going on late into the night. Due to the size and number of events and mutual collaboration, it became impractical to hold all the bonfires on the traditional Fifth of November. This resulted in the "bonfire season" to be extended over ten weeks through September, October and November.
The Mayfield bonfire celebrations commemorate two of the Lewes Martyrs who were from the village and four more martyrs that were executed in the village, on a site opposite the current Colkins Mill Church in Station Road, on 24 September 1556. A stone monument to the Martyrs stands in the church's grounds. Mayfield's torchlit procession and carnival takes place on the Saturday nearest to 24 September.
Societies and processions can be broadly grouped into two main categories Carnival and Bonfire. Typically and not exclusively certain characteristics apply to each group. Carnival societies are generally much more family-oriented evenings where people turn out to have fun and make merry with music and laughter. Bonfire Societies are often the less family-oriented evenings typically with more drinking and debauchment occurring. However with ever increasing restrictions by Sussex Police this is reduced.
List of Bonfire Societies
- Lewes – for more on these societies see Lewes Bonfire.
- Barcombe Bonfire Society
- Battle (Battel Bonfire Boyes)
- Bexhill Bonfire Society 
- Burgess Hill Bonfire Society
- Buxted Bonfire Society
- Chailey Bonfire Society
- Chiddingfold Bonfire (Surrey)
- Crowborough Bonfire & Carnival Society
- Cuckfield Bonfire Society
- East Hoathly & Halland Bonfire & Carnival Society
- Eastbourne Bonfire Society
- Edenbridge Bonfire Society (Kent)
- Ewhurst & Staplecross Bonfire Society
- Firle Bonfire Society
- Fletching Bonfire Society
- Hailsham Bonfire Society
- Hastings Borough Bonfire Society
- Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society
- Herstmonceux (The Merrie Harriers)
- Icklesham (Robin Hood Bonfire Society)
- Isfield and Little Horsted Bonfire Society
- Lindfield Bonfire Society
- Littlehampton Bonfire Society
- Maresfield Bonfire Society
- Mayfield Bonfire Society
- Newhaven Bonfire Society
- Newick Bonfire Society
- Ninfield Bonfire Society
- Northiam Bonfire Society
- Robertsbridge Bonfire Society
- Rotherfield & Mark Cross Bonfire Society
- Rye & District Bonfire Society
- Seaford Bonfire Society www.seafordbonfire.co.uk 
- Shoreham-by-Sea Bonfire Society
- South Heighton Bonfire Society
- Uckfield Bonfire & Carnival Society
- Vines Cross Bonfire Society
- Whatlington Renegades
- Who The Devil Are We Society
- Worthing Bonfire Society re-ignighted 2014 (after 127 years of smouldering).
Defunct Bonfire Societies
- Arundel Bonfire Boys Society
- Bognor Bonfire Society
- Brighton Borough Bonfire Society
- Brighton Bonfire Boys
- Chichester Bonfire Society
- Clapham and Patching Bonfire Club
- Crawley Bonfire society
- Five Ashes Bonfire Society
- Hooe Bonfire Society
- Horsham Bonfire Society
- Landport Bonfire Society
- St Anne's Bonfire Society
- Society based at the Blacksmiths Arms pub.
- Society based at the Jolly Sailor pub.
- Newhaven Carnival Society (which replaced the former two in 1902).
- Frog and Duck Bonfire Society (Newhaven)
- Ridgewood Bonfire Society (Uckfield)
- Shoreham Bonfire Boys
- Culture of Sussex
- Guy Fawkes night
- Jack in the green
- Lewes Bonfire
- History of Christianity in Sussex
- Marian Persecutions
- Richard Woodman
- We wunt be druv
- "East Sussex". The Keep. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Dimmock, Quinn & Hadfield 2013, p. 200
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- www.pixelpuppet.co.uk/www.splashdesigncreative.co.uk. "Welcome to the South Heighton Bonfire Society". Southheighton.com. Retrieved 2013-11-11.
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