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Remember, remember the 23rd November

Published on November 22, 2019 by jennyb

People from all over the world come to England to bask in our heritage and culture. Some of England’s traditions are so normalised that we forget the deep history behind them. Not so November 5th.

Remember remember the 5th of November

          Gunpowder treason and plot

          I see no reason why gunpowder treason be ever forgot

The popular rhyme  reminds us of the origin of this long-standing tradition: the foiled plot to blow up King James 1 and Parliament on 5th November 1605. Every year on the anniversary of the failed attempt,  people gather in public parks and private gardens to watch fireworks light up the sky, above towering bonfires topped by effigies of Guy Fawkes – the penny-for-a-Guy whose lot was to be the only conspirator whose name is still widely remembered 400 years later.

fireworks light the sky above Hawkhurst Kent

Fireworks light up the autumn sky above Hawkhurst

Sussex Bonfire Societies

The Sussex Bonfire Societies take a different approach to dates. The 5th of November is just one of a series of events spread over a three-month period from early September to the end of November. Each event is so much more than a fireworks display, but a spectacular evening with bonfire societies all coming together from Wealden villages and towns across the counties of Sussex and Kent.

Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society

Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society traditionally closes the season, which this year takes place Saturday 23rd November. This fun-filled evening kicks off in the early evening at the Royal Oak pub in Hawkhurst  where all the visiting bonfire societies meet with the home team – many dressed in traditional attire. At 7pm they make their way in a joyful torchlight procession up Highgate Hill accompanied by marching bands. It’s an extraordinary sight; even rain doesn’t dampen enthusiasm.

Torchlight procession in Hawkhurst

The torchlight procession blazes its way up Highgate Hill

Hog roast and hotdogs

At the King George V playing field on the Moor, treats await – burgers, hot dogs and a hog roast slowly turning on the open fire. Kids tuck in to traditional toffee apples and hot chocolate while adults enjoy a pint or a steaming mug of mulled wine, silhouetted against the bonfire blaze. When the fireworks display starts, bursts of colour illuminate the crisp autumnal sky and the air rings with whistles, crackles and bangs, mixed with the oohs and aaahhhhs of the appreciative crowd.

fireworks in Hawkhurst


Guests staying at the self-catering holiday rental Barnfield House get a glimpse of the fireworks without even leaving home. But there’s nothing like joining in this fabulously family-friendly event , the culmination of months of hard graft by the small band of volunteers in the Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society (named after the infamous 18th Century Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers that will be the focus of another blog post).

a bench and fireworks in the distance

Fireworks from the deck at Barnfield House

Tickets are £4  for adults, £2 for children when purchased in advance, either online or from the Green Shop or Peter Buswell Estate Agents in Hawkhurst village.

For further information, visit Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society's website.

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