Monster key unlocks the freedom of the streets of Lewes for Borough

Brian Jordan from Borough bonfire society given key to the town by mayor Ruth O'Keeffe and Lord Lieutenant Peter Field
Brian Jordan from Borough bonfire society given key to the town by mayor Ruth O'Keeffe and Lord Lieutenant Peter Field
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Lewes Borough Bonfire Society has reached another significant milestone in its distinguished history.

It took the form of a ceremony at Lewes Town Hall marking the 150th anniversary of Borough being granted the freedom of the town for the night of November 5.

It is the only Lewes society to have been given this honour.

In 1863 the ‘Monster Iron Key of the Ancient Borough of Lewes’ was carried in the processions for the first time.

The key, which weighs nearly a quarter of a hundredweight, is the symbol that on Bonfire Night the Bonfire Boys (and Girls) are given the freedom of the streets.

It is still carried on The Fifth in the Lewes Borough processions, together with a flaming key, and for the rest of the year can be seen on display in Anne of Cleves House, Lewes.

To celebrate the anniversary, the iron key of Lewes was ceremonially re-presented to the society by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, and the Mayor of Lewes, Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe.

Eleven leading lights from Borough attended the Mayor’s Parlour event in full costume.

The society’s proud Chairman, Neil Finney, said: “It was an honour and re-affirmed a great piece of our history.”

Borough was presented with a copy of the proclamation affording “free and fair passage”, with others going to Anne of Cleves House and the County Records Office.

After the ceremony, said Mr Finney, the Borough contingent adjourned to The Rights of Man for a more traditional celebration - where they were joined by more than 40 other members in costume.

The proclamation, signed by Mr Field and Cllr O’Keeffe, reads: “We commend Ye Olde Lewes Borough Bonfire Society on their great achievements and congratulate them on their 150th anniversary of the carrying of the ‘Monster Iron Key of the Ancient Borough of Lewes’ on November 5, 2013. We recognise that the key has been carried in the processions that commemorate the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot continuously since 1863 and that it represents the freedom of the Lewes streets given to the Bonfire Boys of Ye Olde Lewes Borough Bonfire Society on November 5.

“We rejoice in rededicating this key and the freedoms it represents and call on all loyal members of the Borough of Lewes to give free and fair passage to the Society in their annual commemoration of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.”