Buxted Bonfire Society Ltd

Registered Company In England & Wales: 11673906

© 2018 Buxted Bonfire Society

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History

Buxted was home to the first standard blast furnace (called Queenstock) which was built in about 1491.

The cannon-making industry in the Weald started at a furnace on the stream at Hoggets Farm lying to the north between Buxted and Hadlow Down.

 

The first cast iron cannon made in England was cast in 1543 by Ralf Hogge, an employee of Parson William Levett, a Sussex rector with broad interests, paradoxically enough, in the emerging English armaments industry.

Levett was removed as Buxted's vicar in 1545 by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. But thanks to friends in high places, Levett was quickly reinstated. After regaining his clerical position, Levett died a very wealthy man, thanks to his iron mining and smelting operations, founded by his brother John Levett, one of the founders of the Sussex iron industry and one of the wealthiest men in Sussex, who controlled 20 Sussex manors at his death in 1535.

 

The family is of Norman descent and one of the oldest in Sussex. William and John Levett were the sons of a large landowner in the Hollington area of Hastings, Sussex.[7] In his lengthy will, parson William Levett left large charitable bequests which he directed be supervised by his friend Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu. Richard Woodman, an ironmaster was born here, but he was burnt as a Protestant martyr in 1557.

 

The manor house, known as Buxted Park, was purchased by the then Prime Minister, the Earl of Liverpool, in the early part of the 19th century. He set about extending the park surrounding the house, and eventually coerced the villagers to vacate their own houses to enable him to do so. The village (although not the church) was cleared away and the village then took up its present location.

 

By 1836 the entire original village centre was no more, having been relocated to the site it occupies today. Some of the outlying houses pre-date this move, such as Britts, a 17th-century farmhouse, which still stands. The original manor house was built further down the hill next to the railway where Queen Victoria once visited – the house being the Chequers of its day. The original house burnt down in the latter part of the 19th century and was rebuilt in its present location.

BBS was formed sometime before 1893. Through reports in the local paper, the Sussex Agricultural Express, it would seem that they met once a year to report the financial accounts and other activities at a diner held either in the White Hart or the Buxted Hotel. In November 1894, the Bonfire Boys ‘sat down to an excellent repast provided by mine host, Little, at the White Hart.

 

Having done ample justice to the spread, Mr Little read the report and balance sheet, its chief feature being a deficiency of 1s & 8d, which he attributed to the late starting in the year of the fundraising, but he had every reason to believe in the future of the society (loud cheers)’. During the evening, the band, under the conductorship of Mr H Tourle, gave several selections, the Gipsy’s Bride being greatly appreciated.

In 1898, the annual supper was held at their headquarters, the Buxted Hotel, when about sixty members and friends were present. The finances had improved and expenditure was being done on a more elaborate scale. More torches and collecting boxes had been bought and double the usual amount had been spent on fireworks, and last but not least, the chairman had awarded prizes for the best costumes. After all expenses had been paid the treasurer still held a balance of £2.

The following comments from the chairman, Mr G J Lenny make an interesting social comment. At this point in time the society had been growing and for the past three years, the meetings had been held at the Buxted Inn. It is interesting to note that the Bonfire Society in Buxted was for the working men with limited wages, had very little to look forward to except such convivial gatherings, the rich had their own amusements.

In 1900, the Bonfire Boys met again at the Buxted Hotel where a splendid spread had been provided. From a profit of £2, £1 was given to Uckfield Hospital. The firework display had been grander this year than ever before and the Boys were congratulated on the making of Guy Fawkes and Rule Britannia. There was much patriotic support for the ‘Imperial Forces’ who were presently deployed in South Africa (The Boer War).

The society was still operation in 1952 when they joined forces with Firle at the Southover Bonfire procession at Lewes.

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