Banners & Barrels
All Bonfire Societies take pride in their insignia. Our records suggest that Bonfire Banners in Edwardian Newick were painted sailcloth, square-rigged onto poles; one depicting Guy Fawkes alone in the Vault, another exhorting "Girls be true to your Bonfire Boys".
Our oldest surviving insignia is the magnificent 'Big Banner'. Society minutes reveal that it was made in 1937 by a Mr Baker and cost £2.10s (£2.50). The design, based upon 'Bonfire Arms' of blazing barrel and crossed torches was "Prepared by the Society Ladies". Although mellowed by over sixty seasons of smoke the colours remain vivid thanks to careful restoration by Alan Fuller in 1977. It can still be seen hanging in the Village Hall at Bonfire Society Events.
The blazing "NBS" insignia was introduced in1952. This was a real sensation and early attempts by other societies to copy it caused considerable amusement.
We also have several smaller banners used to lead the Society in procession. The earliest, a simple white shield bearing Bonfire Arms surmounted by an enormous battle-axe, is nearly fifty years old.
In 1977 Julian Avis designed and Bob Wilkins made a new, more distinctive banner. Featuring motifs depicting Newick history surrounding a large blazing barrel, it also introduced two trademarks that feature in the next two banners. Firstly it is in the shape of a goatskin, commemorating the tanyard which once flourished adjacent to our firesite; and secondly it mounts five torches, an innovation in 1977 when most banners carried a maximum of three.
Terry Voice created a banner in 1987 to commemorate 90 years of Bonfire in Newick and the 50th anniversary of Newick Bonfire Society. The design is dominated by the familiar "Guy Fawkes seated on a Powder Keg", a motif originated by Bridget Leckey in 1972 and used as the Society logo until 1990.
Introduced in 1996 to mark the Society's Diamond Jubilee, the next banner features 'The Plotter', the current Society emblem and was also the work of Terry Voice. Stolen from our coach along with other items during Lewes Bonfire Night on 5 November 2003 we feared this banner lost but following appeals on Rocket FM, the Lewes Bonfire radio station and in the local press, it was anonymously returned to the Bull Inn.
In 1999 the Committee expressed concern that despite the restoration carried out in 1977, the 'Big Banner' was at risk on wet and windy nights and that a new banner would be appropriate to commemorate the New Millennium. A replica of the existing banner was considered but eventually a fresh modern design looking towards the future was developed. It measures about 10 by 7 feet and is extremely heavy. Two strong Banner Bearers can only just hold it steady in the wind.
This banner made its first appearance on Newick Bonfire Night 2003. It was created by Alan Fuller from canvas left over from the Millennium Banner and is intended to be carried by smugglers.
Created by one of our supporters, Katie Heath, for the 400th anniversary celebrations in 2005, this proved ideal for the younger members of the society to carry due to its light weight.
In 2006, vice-captain of Banners & Barrels, Jonathan Wilkins, designed and built a double barrel. The barrel proved itself as a great addition - improving efficiency by allowing one puller to take twice the load. See below the barrel being tested by its creator.
Rolling Out the Barrel
Tar Barrels are a characteristic feature of traditional Sussex Bonfire celebrations, although their use in English Custom is widespread throughout the country. Ottery St. Mary in Devon and Allendale in Northumberland, are both venues for some spectacular Fire Festivals using Tar Barrels.
Sussex Tar Barrels have their own special significance. Their use is first recorded in Lewes in 1832, when Bonfires had been banished from the streets. To bring back some colour, the Bonfire Boys dragged lighted casks through the town, and often piled them into 'ad hoc' bonfires. Similar activities still take place today and Tar Barrels have become absorbed into Sussex Bonfire culture as a symbol of Sussex stubbornness and defiance.
Tar Barrels take a variety of shapes and forms. The most common are half forty-five gallon steel oil drums, cut along their length and mounted on metal wheels. These 'Tubs' have practical uses, such as collecting spent torches, but more importantly, they create a deafening roar of iron against road that provides so much atmosphere at the back of a procession.
At Newick, a full-sized oil drum, with the ends folded in, is mounted head high on a trolley. It is stuffed with waste torches, liberally doused with paraffin and ignited to lead the Final Procession, with a thousand firecrackers chattering in its wake. To prepare and pull this ceremonial barrel is considered a great honour, for it is a burning illustration of "We Won't Be Druv." The explosion and fireball which rises as the Tar Barrel is cast into the ashes of the Bonfire, after "Auld Lang Syne," marks the end of Newick Bonfire Night.