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1895: Atrocious weather conditions fail to dampen spirits at the Cuckfield Bonfire Carnival

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 12 November 1895

It was a thousand pities that such unpropitious weather prevailed on Tuesday evening last, a night which had the elements been at all favourable, the Cuckfield Bonfire Boys would have made one not soon to be forgotten. As it was there can be but little doubt that the night will not be forgotten, either by those who took part in the processions, or by those who in spite of the gale witnessed the proceedings. For in sooth, a more wretched night could not possibly have been.

The Cuckfield Bonfire Boys’ Society—headquarters, "Rose and Crown’’ have, owing in no small degree to the energy shown by the Hon. Secretary, Mr. E. H. Stepney, and the indefatigable efforts of the committee generally, this year made great strides. The Society has become very popular and when a little before seven o’clock p.m. the call to “Fall in” was given there must have been nearly a hundred members present in their various costumes (a great many of which were supplied by Messrs. Waller, of London), as well as scores of spectators.

Cuckfield Bonfire celebrations 2016

The course taken was the usual one. Headed by the Cuckfield Town and Volunteer Hands the procession wended its way down Little London-lane to the “Wheatsheaf,” where, after a brief halt had been made, torches were lighted and the procession moved up Broad-street. The next halt was made opposite the Talbot Hotel, from whence with a fresh supply of torches and tar-barrels a start was made for the “Ship” and at about 8.30 head-quarters were again reached. The second or grand procession would undoubtedly, had the weather permitted, have presented an imposing spectacle. On this occasion the same route was traversed, but no halts were made. Led by the Commander-in-chief (Mr. N. King) and the Ardingly National Brass Band, came a grand illuminated triumphal car. This car, erected to represent Britannia ruling the waves, was drawn by willing helpers, and was the recipient of universal admiration. The principal feature was “Britannia,” in the person of Mr. E. Morfee. There were also on the car four choice fancy costumes in “The Earl of Leicester" (Mr. Guy Burtenshaw), “Spanish Matador” (Mr. E. Harding),”Earl of Buckingham” (Mr. F. Bristow), and a “Red Indian” (Mr. J. Wood). These members, together with the fairy lamps, drapery and evergreens with which the car was decorated, gave it a gay appearance. It was quite an innovation in the recent bonfire history of Cuckfield. and repeatedly excited favourable comments from the numerous spectators.

Closely following came the two effigies of Guy Fawkes and the Pope, the latter of which, it may be said, was some ten feet in height. Then came banners inscribed “No Popery,” “Success to the Cuckfield Bonfire Boys,” etc, tar barrels all ablaze, quite a host of members with torches, and finally the Bishop and the Cuckfield Town and Volunteer Band. Headquarters were reached at about ten o'clock, and to the strains of popular music the effigies were, amidst tumultuous cheering, consigned to the flames of a small fire lighted in the square in front the hostelry.

The committee had now intended to have a fairly large pyrotechnic display, but it is to be regretted that after only short display the remainder of the fireworks, in some unaccountable manner, caught alight. No damage, however, was done, and the members were saved the trouble of setting them off. This of course put rather a damper on the finale, but no one seemed sorry when the time to disperse had come, for, one of the oldest inhabitants remarked while speaking on the weather. “There never was worse ’un." The annual supper will take place to-morrow (Wednesday) night.

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