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Remember, remember the 5th November, gunpowder treason and plot

Guy Fawkes


Of all the many strange and peculiar traditions of Britain, none can quite hold a candle to that which takes place on the 5th November every year. The creation – and then the incineration – of homemade Guy Fawkes is both macabre and amusing. It is, it is fair to say, slightly odd to commemorate Fawkes’ failure to blow up parliament and King James I, by setting off loads of fireworks and creating towering infernos. Still, it is one of the great traditions of English life – and we are here for it.

From burning barrels in Lewes to turning the devil’s stone in Devon, we bring you the best bonfire night traditions from around the country. Just remember to wrap up warm.


Battle, Sussex

Ever since St Mary’s Church allocated two shillings and six pence to commemorate the King’s deliverance, Bonfire night has been a big deal in Battle. Since 1646, various bonfire societies have battled it out – sometimes quite literally – to put on the best show. As well as a huge bonfire on Abbey Green, on which a topical hate figure is immolated, there are vast burning torch-lit processions through the town. This is all done in Saxon-style fancy dress, for reasons which escape us. Still, at least the Battel [SIC] Bonfire Boyes have given up the tradition of having a good fight on the night itself.

Otter St Mary, Devon

Why it is the tradition in Otter St Mary to carry burning tar barrels through the streets, no one can quite say. Some say it is to cleanse the streets of evil; some say it was just so the local chaps could show off. Either way, it is quite the sight. Each of the local pubs in the town centre sponsor a barrel and locals cover themselves in sack cloth and see how long they can keep hold of it before it gets too hot. Bonkers, surely; marvelous, definitely.


Here are some jolly British fragrances to keep you cosy this Bonfire Night.



A scent of the Queen of Cities. Florals meet earth, and worlds collide.


Shebbear, Devon

One of the oddest Bonfire night customs in the country is to be found in the tiny village of Shebbear. It goes something like this: the church bells ring out a deliberately discordant peel, the vicar comes out and tells the legend of St Michael dropping a stone on the devil in the churchyard, and then everyone goes to the one-ton stone in front of the church and turns it around. The legend goes that if it is not turned then bad luck will befall the country. How they have shoe-horned Guy Fawkes into the thing we don’t quite understand, but they have and, well, why not.

Lewes, East Sussex

Lewes, East SussexShops are boarded up; pubs close down and the five Lewes bonfire societies march around the town in various ludicrous outfits – ranging from armour to the black and white striped tops beloved of burglars in cartoons – swinging burning torches. Admittedly, it sounds a little threatening – but in actual fact it is one of the funniest, family friendly events in the South.



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