Hastings traditions

Hastings Bonfire Costume

The Hastings Borough Bonfire Society Smugglers Costume was adopted when the society re-formed in 1995. We chose the Cinque port colours of Hastings: red, gold and royal blue as our signature colours.

East Hill Beacon

Another of the "traditions" of Hastings Borough Bonfire Society is the lighting of the East Hill beacon on the night of Hastings Bonfire. It has been lit for each of the bonfire nights since 1995.

The plaque on the wooden post supporting the fire basket reads "This beacon was lit by the Royal British Legion Hastings Branch & Womens Section in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of VE Day 8th May 1995", the year that HBBS was formed and staged its first event in Hastings. The top of the wooden post supporting the basket was burnt on the night of Trafalgar Day on Friday 21st October 2005 after being lit to celebrate Trafalgar Day causing the fire basket to be on the ground in the morning. A replacement steel collar over the wooden post has proved effective to prevent ignition of the post since the new fitting was installed. [Website update needed: maybe this is old information now and needs updating?! When was the last 'incident'?]

The current procedure adopted by HBBS on the night of Hastings bonfire is for the beacon to be lit at 7pm and a group of Hastings Runners descend the steps with with lighted torches, where they are used to light the torches of the procession that is scheduled to start at 7.15pm.

In 2012 the beacon on the East Hill was also lit by HBBS on 4th June to celebrate Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen and on the night of Hastings Bonfire on 13th October 2012, and we're already looking forward to the country's beacon lighting in June 2022 for Her Majesty again.

The America Ground Declaration

Hastings Borough Bonfire Society has a unique tradition of a declaration across The America Ground which was in central Hastings; an area covered by Harold Place, Robertson Terrace, Carlisle Parade, White Rock, Robertson Street, Trinity Street, and Claremont, this area to the West of the Priory-Stream was outside the Hastings Borough boundary and was the result of the sea receding. This land was settled by squatters who named it "The America Ground" and declared themselves independent of Hastings.

The America Ground declaration is read each year when the head of the procession reaches the Memorial Site (at the town centre) shortly after 8.15pm by Hastings Town Crier Jon Bartholomew in front of Hastings & East Sussex Councillors, Invited guests from the twin towns, other VIPs including the MP for Hastings & Rye and a selection of other Town Criers. The declaration was created with the support of local historian Dennis Collins recalls the history of the America Ground that now forms part of Robertson Street. See 1066.net/america for further details about the America Ground and its history. After the declaration has been read lance work on the America Ground Banner is ignited for the watching audience before the procession restarts along Robertson Street to the fire site.

The Declaration

The Hastings Borough Bonfire Society will now process onto the America GROUND which was formerly SEA.

William the Conqueror SAILED in where we MARCH today.

The prosperous HARBOUR of the CINQUE PORT OF HASTINGS Was here until storms destroyed it ELEVEN HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

By two hundred years ago The SEA had become LAND and merchants and people built Warehouses, Ropewalks and homes on it, AND THEY PROSPERED

The corporation of Hastings had NO JURISDICTION HERE, but tried to enforce their rule.

The people RIOTED And raised the Stars and Stripes of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in DEFIANCE

The Borough RETREATED The Americans stayed independent until the Kings commissioners Claimed the ground for the CROWN.

The Stars and Stripes with the Borough arms added was PRESENTED to the Corporation of Hastings as A FRIENDLY GESTURE by the people of THE AMERICA GROUND in the LAST YEARS of their occupation.

It SYMBOLISES that spirit of enterprise and INDEPENDENCE determination and GOODWILL which characterises the people of The AMERICA GROUND TO THIS DAY

We DECLARE our passage through the TERRITORY of the AMERICA GROUND.

Cyril and Lillian Bishop tradition

The Sussex Bonfire Tradition is strong on its observance of Remembrance societies lay wreaths at their war memorials, some have burning poppies, crosses or words. In Hastings the society stops to mark the loss of life in the War at Swan Terrace and has poppies on the beach site. However, we are lucky to have the Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat which also went onto be a Dunkirk veteran. This little boat has actively saved the lives of those at sea and across the water and so in the procession at the top of All Saints Street, Hastings, leads the salute in recognition of the service that this boat and its personnel have given.