The Great IQBar Road Trip: Lewes
Last week we visited Sarah and explored the history and food of the sunny isle of Cornwall. This week we are continuing along the coast to the South Eastern town of Lewes where Harriet, our Junior Social Media Manager lives. In amongst the rolling hills of the South Downs Lewes may look like a sleepy town, but once a year becomes host to one of the craziest events in Britain – Bonfire Night.
Bonfire Night happens all across the country, but it is in Lewes where the biggest celebrations happen. Starting in 1605, Bonfire Night began as a celebration of the failure of Guy Fawkes, a man who wished to blow up the Houses of Parliament (the UK’s government building) to help return Britain to Catholicism. The night, held every 5th of November, is celebrated with huge bonfires and fireworks. Most towns will have a Bonfire association who organise the festivities, in Lewes there are seven associations meaning that there is no escape! Every street is filled with people wearing scarves and jumpers representing their community. The whole town is filled with people carrying burning crosses, burning barrels and effigies of people who have been considered evil that year. A certain American president was victim last year.
In all honesty, it is a pretty terrifying looking event for those who have not been. Large burning crosses and people marching the streets carrying burning torches doesn’t sound like the jolliest of evenings, but each year 40,000 people make it down to the southern town to join in, drink mulled cider and witness the spectacle. The firework displays are huge, and as the town is nestled amongst the hills, many people climb to the highest point to watch the whole of Lewes’ celebrations. For the days before, shops and restaurants take it upon themselves to board up the windows to make sure no accidents happen with all fire passing through.
Outside of Bonfire Night, Lewes is a docile town. Surrounded by countryside, it is often visited by walkers and families looking for country pubs. There are many artists who live in Lewes and it is famous for being home to the Victorian writer Virginia Woolf and her community in Charleston. Their house is open for tourists and is filled with original artwork and gardens. It was also home to Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of America who was greatly involved in the American Revolution and fought for the rights of the poor. Many pubs across Lewes are named after his written work such as ‘The Rights of Man’ and he is seen to reflect the revolutionary spirit of Lewes in the past which opposed the monarchy and questioned the role of religion in politics – although nowadays you may not see this character any more.
“Lewes is a good place to experience British history and to wander around. There are many small streets that lead to little cafés, shops, and the famous castle. Everyone is very friendly and there’s real pride in being a Lewesian.” Harriet
It is also close to Brighton, a whole 10 minutes by train and you can arrive in the bustling city with the famous Pavilion, Brighton Pier and Brighton Aquarium which is one of the oldest in the country. Both locations are well known for fish and chips and beer, with Lewes having its own brewery, Harveys. Brighton is famous across the country and is seen a bit of a hippy city with an annual naked bike ride and a huge community of graphic designers, graffiti artists and alternative life styles.
The two locations together are both contrasting but complimentary and excellent locations to visit if you’re looking for strange British culture and a lot of history!
Our next stop will be in the country’s capital, London. Get ready for a whirlwind tour of the famous landmarks, streets and traditions of the city with streets paved with gold. Our CEO Helen will be in charge of the tour guiding.
If you have any comment on our road trip or would like to get involved, please comment below or drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org!