It can be tricky to try and work out the history of Bonfire Celebrations, Bonfires themselves go back to
early pre-history with some claims of the word coming from `Bone-Fire` (at the Fire Festivals, the bones of the offerings were placed on
the main fire), as modern belief credits it as being from 1556, originally from the 1483 `Banefire` but there are other theories, such as use of it in
Denmark, where after a battle, the bodies of the dead were placed in a large pile and burnt. There ia also a report of it being from 1555, when Edmund Bonner had over 300 English men and women burnt
at the stake for there faith, leading to the term `Bon`s Fires` but this one has the least amount of evidance for. Doctor Samual Johnson, creator of the Dictonary,
Believed it was from the French `Bon` (for Good) then Fire (which is not French, the French would be Feu). The word Fire, in the context of the hot flamey stuff,
seams to have been in the current spelling from around 1200s BUT didn`t fully replace the old spelling until 1600s. The Middle English version was `Fier` (which is
still used in words like Fiery) and the oldest english spelling was `Fyr`.
Many try to date Modern Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night)
Celebrations to early religions (most of which, are lumped together and refered to as `Pagan`, a word which is not for one set
religion but coming from the word early christians refered to any religion that was not there own). Nights like Imbolc (2rd February),
Beltane (1st May), Lughnasadh (1st August) and Samhain (31st October) where the four Celtic Fire Festivals, each marking a quarter point of the year. At this,
people would gather around a bonfire, the warm of friendly spirits while warding off the evil spirits, and often Dance or sing. However
Modern Bonfire Night Celebrations have little to do with these.
The Heart of modern Bonfire Celebrations isn`t really Guy Fawkes these days, as there were many other events tagged onto the day
in order to keep it going, though it started with him. In 1606, the year following the Capture of Guy Fawkes, an act of parliament
was passed so that every year, people would have to give thanks to God for the failure of the plot. The Full name of this act was `The Observance of
5th November Act 1605`, though it was also known as the `thanks giving act`. Drafted by Edward Montagu (1st Baron Montagu of Boughton), it was
officially introduced on the 23rd January, which gave people penty of time to learn about and observe it. This act said people HAD to attend Church or
any place of worship for the day to give thanks to God for saving the country and catching the Conspirators, Read out the Act on the Day of the event and preach,
prayer or other service of God for purely saving King and Country. On the Sunday before the fifth, the Minster must give warning to his Parishioners publicly about
the observation that will be done and people must behave in an orderly manner as befitting a Holy Day. However, as Bonfires were already used in many Celebrations,
when news got out about the plot being stopped, they light bonfires to celebrate.
Around 1620s, the Day became known as Gunpowder Treason Day was the main English holiday and some parishes started to hold festivals, with public
drinking and solemn processions though the streets. Though due to a decline of Protestantism and concerns on James I now growing Pro-Spanish
foreign Policy (Spain, being a major Catholic Country) lead to more dignified thanksgivings being held in places. When James` Son, Charles I, Married
a Catholic, Puritans reacted to marriage by burning effigies on the Bonfires, which was the first recorded event of this, around 1625. In 1636, the
growing Catholic factions in England denounced all 5th November Celebrations.
Leading up to the English Interregnum, Parliamentarians started to uncover new Catholic plots and feared over, which lead to a renewed interest in
bonfire Night and displays in 1647 included early fireworks and fireballs, as well as Bonfires and Effigies. Bonfires had became quite bad by 1677
when a large effigy of the Pope, his belly filled with living Cats, was burned, killing the Cats. These and other Violent scenes forced the London Milita
into action in 1682, to ban Bonfires and Fireworks. However, many displays still happened around the country. In 1685, James II also banned Fireworks
and the government attempted to tone down Gunpowder rejoicing, but this was unsuccessful and lead to more riot like events. When William of Orange deposed
James in 1688, the Day was also given a extra feature as it was also to celebration freedom and religion. For Safety reasons, Fireworks bans was still
in place, citing the mischief down with Squibs to be the cause. William also tagged along a bit of thanks giving to himself, as his birthday fell on the 4th
of November. In the 1690s, a Protestant rule was reinstated and the fifth was marked with the ringing of church bells and large civic dinners.
Bonfire Night at Windsor Castle by Paul Sandby, 1776
By the mid 1800s, Bonfire Celebrations had regained fireworks and were often quite chaotic in nature, with people using it as an excuse to do what ever they liked,
including burning down the odd building or boat, as was the case in the Town of Rye.
The Modern Bonfire Celebration owes much to there more parade like nature in the early 1900s to around late 1970s/early 1980s, where apart from walking groups and
societies, There were floats pulled on trailers and such like from various locate groups. To this day, Rye Bonfire still have there Green Dragon Float, which dates
back along time. Another staple of Parades are bands. Many Societies today use local drumming or/and Fife groups and sometimes have there own group in the procession.
Parada Floats are now quite rare to see in Bonfire Processions. In the mid 90s, There was a bann placed on the letting off of Small class Fireworks such as Squibs and Rookies
in the Processions themselves, While many disagreed with this, it was a required move as some processions were getting very dangerous for Public and members. Even today, It isn`t
uncommon for Members of Socities to gain minor wounds. In the Late 90s, `Banger Barrels` were introduced. This were a safer way of allowing people to let off fireworks
in the procession itself. The Barrels are often old Steel drums with the top removed, pulled via a small cart. Members can throw Rookies into these and there isn`t the danger
of them flying into the crowd or hurting other members. Bonfire Sites themselves, are a free for all area which will be cut up into a public area and a bonfire socity area.
The Socity area, members can let off fireworks, so it`s often dangerous for the Public to be there when they are not allowed.