Every 5th of November, Lindfield Bonfire Society takes its huge effigy of Guy Fawkes through the village to The Common where it is consumed by fire. But Fawkes himself was hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, so why do we burn him?
The answer lies in the events of the 31st of January 1606 when Fawkes, along with Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood and Robert Keyes were executed for their part in the Gunpowder Plot which had been discovered on the 5th of November the previous year. Fawkes and his co-conspirators were tied to wattle hurdles and dragged through the streets, from the Tower of London to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, where a gallows had been erected.
This parading of the traitor through the streets is the origin of our considerably less grim procession through the village. After execution, their bodies were beheaded and then quartered, the parts to be displayed on spikes as a warning to any other would-be traitors.
The previous week, Parliament had passed the Observance of 5th November Act, this made the 5th of November an annual day of thanksgiving. Sir Robert Cecil, the King’s Intelligencer who had foiled the plot, was a master of propaganda and determined to ensure the custom would never die out. To achieve this, after the execution, Cecil arranged for a massive pyre to be constructed on which was placed an effigy of Fawkes.
This Bonfire was lit by King James himself and it is this act we recreate when we burn our Guy on The Common.
This is the core of the Sussex Bonfire Tradition, but there’s so much more:
- Why do we wear Smuggler Stripes?
- Is there more to our fire carts than the disposal of spent torches?
- And, why do we recite that poem before we light our Bonfire on The Common?
Come to The Bent Arms to discover the answers to all these questions about our customs.