Battel Bonfire Boyes

PUBLISHED: 08:33 30 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 February 2013

Battel Bonfire Boyes

Battel Bonfire Boyes

The members of one of the world's oldest membership societies celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot

On the closest Saturday to November 5, the anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, the streets of the ancient town of Battle are full of fire and fun. For that is when the Battel Bonfire Boyes have their night.
Despite the fame of the Lewes bonfire celebrations, the Battel Bonfire Boyes are proud of their double claim to be one of the worlds oldest membership societies and to have the world's oldest Guy.

The day begins at 10am with the bells of St Mary signalling the arrival of the oldest Guy in the world on the Abbey Green. The Guy, or at least his beautifully carved pearwood head, has been with the society for at least 200 years. Traditionally it has always been detached before the body is assigned to the flames.
At 6pm on the Abbey Green there is the judging of the childrens Guy contest and at 7.45pm a maroon signals the departure of the procession from the market square.
The Boyes followed by members of other bonfire societies and bands process down the High Street round the Abbey Green, lighting the BBB emblem, to the station where they turn around. The procession returns up the high street to the Abbey Green where they light the traditional bonfire; during which time there will be an aerial firework display.
When the Boyes light the bonfire they drop small bunches of flowers with fireworks in them into the fire as a tribute to the Bonfire Boyes no longer with us.
The procession then moves up the High Street, round the market square roundabout, retorches at the fire station, and then goes back down the high street and through the gatehouse to the Battlefield and the main bonfire site where, at 9pm, the fire will be lit to the traditional cry to be followed by the effigy and fireworks.

The effigy is filled with fireworks and every year its identity is a closely kept secret worked on in a local farmers barn. Previous effigies have included Saddam Hussein, Prince Charles, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as Punch and Judy, and Sarah Palin. Last years effigy was a pig to mark the swine flu epidemic.
Matt Southam, publicity officer of the Boyes, said: Every year we try to base the effigy on a topical news item.

One of the earliest surviving written records of Battles bonfire celebrations is in the churchwardens accounts of the parish church which says that 17 shillings and sixpence was Expended at Gunpowder Treason for Rejoycing.

Good causes
The Bonfire Boyes raise money for local charities every year as well as continuing a tradition that has been celebrated for 400 years. Last year they raised more than 4,800.
Publicity officer Matt Southam said: We take a charity collection on the night. And we give that to local good causes. We try to aim for around 5,500.
Since we often get 20,000 people turn up on the night, were only after about 30p each.
The Boyes pay for the display which is free to the public from monies raised at fundraising events throughout the year. It costs about 12,000 to put on the event.

There are about 100 adult members of the Bonfire Boyes. The society holds regular meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month at 8pm at Battle Club in High Street. Anyone interested in joining, can just turn up.
n This years Bonfire is on Saturday, November 6.

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