The Bonfire Societies of East Sussex

It’s been another hell of a night for Guy Fawkes, with epic bonfires across the country. None as infamous or impressive as that of Lewes though, a tradition that has grown so big that the town has had to divide its celebrations into seven societies. While they share some characteristics, they all have their own traditions and cover a unique part of town. With a society for every type, which one would you join?

Cliffe Society

Black and White

Cloaked in controversy from its inception, The Cliffe Society has been the rebel in town for centuries. Their motto ‘Nulli Secundus’ means ‘Second to None’; an ironic truth when they were ostracised by the other societies in the 1950’s. They’re now back in the Lewes Bonfire Council and regularly put on the biggest and best celebrations in town.

Commercial Square Society

Black and Gold

The Commercial Square Society was also birthed as a form of protest. After a journey to America to find their fortune, society members observed the dreadful treatment of the Native American population. Upset by what they saw they decided to wear North American Indian costumes to raise the profile of the Native Americans’ plight. This costume was so popular that it did not take long before the Indian motif became the society’s leading costume and emblem, still worn to this day.


Red and Black

The newest on our list, The Southover Society was only recently re-formed in 2005 and continues to grow each year. After their recent reformation, the Southover Smugglers opted to done the iconic red and black hoops of the mighty Rooks, their local football club as their own.


Red and White

After re-forming in 1964, The Waterloo Society have established themselves as a family-oriented society, who take great pride in supporting their members as well as offering a great reception to fireside visitors.

Nevill Juvenile

Green and White

The society was created by two fifteen year olds, Philip Amey and Peter Earl. The society holds a juvenile philosophy through and through with junior members participating fully in all aspects of the society. The Nevill is the only youth society still running celebrations and is the only Lewes society not to hold its celebrations on the 5th November.

South Street

Brown and Cream

Like their fellow revellers in the Nevill Juvenile Society, the South Street Society was formed as a juvenile society. They have since grown into an adult society but still pride themselves on their strong junior membership. They are known for their warm friendly and fun-loving atmosphere, which has led to membership numbers continuing to grow year on year.

Thinking of making the trip? Find you nearest branch here.