Winchelsea lights up the sky

...Salvo after salvo of pyrotechnical magnificence...

Bonfire Night in Winchelsea does not have the profile of neighbouring events, but deliberately so. It is never advertised and, until the afternoon of the day of the event, there is no evidence of anything happening in the place. The aim is to keep Bonfire Night in Winchelsea a small village affair for families. But that does not mean that Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes would be satisfied with a low profile display. If you looked towards the town last Saturday, November 5, a week before Rye’s event, you would have seen a magnificent firework display that can compete with the biggest and the best in the county.

Salvo after salvo of pyrotechnical magnificence delighted a crowd of two or three hundred residents and visitors, who had joined the torch lit procession from the centre of Winchelsea to a new location for the annual display in Castle Field, close by the former site of St Leonard’s Mill.

As usual, the procession had been preceded by a small performance in Castle Street in which Guy Fawkes was incompetently pursued but eventually apprehended and consigned to execution, much to the delight of the watching children (of all ages). And as usual, the performance diverged somewhat from its script but some sort of order nevertheless seemed to emerge from the chaos!

A spokesman for the Bonfire Boyes, John Clarke, expressed the society’s thanks to all who taken part, not least those members who had undertaken the less glamorous jobs such as traffic control and cleaning up the site the next day. “And we once again need to say what a magnificent job was done by the pyrotechnic team from Wizard Fireworks, who yet again produced a first-rate display, with the best finale I’ve seen anywhere in a very long time. But also we are extremely grateful to local farmer Mason Palmer and the National Trust for the use of Castle Field, which is an absolutely superb venue for fireworks. Permission to use Castle Field was given at short notice so there was no time to work out how we could burn the Guy within the conservation restrictions that apply to the site but next year, we hope to come up with an acceptable plan.”

The Bonfire Boyes declined to comment on a proposal that had been made to substitute the burning of a Guy with the lighting the beacon on the former windmill site. This was apparently refused by the Winchelsea Millennium Artefacts Committee. According to the Committee’s Mr Donald Cameron-Clarke, permission would have to be sought from an official at the Cabinet Office called the “Beaconmaster”. When a Bonfire Boye who had worked at the Cabinet Office questioned the existence of such an official, it was instead suggested that the problematic bureaucrat was someone called the “Pageantmaster”.

However, it transpired that the Pageantmaster was in fact a private company that co-ordinates the lighting of beacons across the country for national events such as the Queen’s Jubilee. And Pageantmaster denied it had any role in controlling the firing of local beacons. At this point, the Millennium Artefacts Committee argued that they had just repainted the beacon and that those volunteers who had done so were now too old to repaint it again. An offer by the Bonfire Boyes to do the repainting did not receive a response. As one disgruntled Bonfire Boye put it, “To ever joyous Ying in Winchelsea, there is inevitably a miserable Yang!”

Image: Lucia Comotto


  1. A fantastic family evening. Procession and fireworks were absolutely brilliant. The event starts quite early so absolutely perfect for small children. Another great success for Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes.


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