Spectacle and mystery at hilltop Carnival and Bonfire in Mayfield

Mayfield bonfire and carnival 2014 by Roz South
Mayfield bonfire and carnival 2014 by Roz South

The historic hilltop hamlet of Mayfield traditionally hosts one of the county’s most dramatic bonfires.

Last weekend was no exception. In legend Mayfield is associated with St Dunstan, patron saint of blacksmiths, silversmiths and goldsmiths so the extra colour and fiery spectacle was highly appropriate.

A story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

And an ancient rhyme also asserts: ‘St Dunstan, as the story goes, Once pull’d the devil by the nose, With red-hot tongs, which made him roar, That he was heard three miles or more.’

Hundreds packed the narrow, twisting High Street to enjoy an afternoon market and music by The Twagger Band. Meanwhile parents and children conspired to create imaginative fancy dress costumes with a competition taking place in the Memorial Hall. Profits from the bar and barbecue outside the Convent will go to support next year’s event.

Roads through the village were shut from 6.30pm and just before 7pm the traditional wreath-laying ceremony illuminated by blazing poppy banners took place at the War Memorial. The first torchlit procession left the High Street at 7.30pm followed by the Grand Procession which left NatWest Bank at 9.15pm.

The free firework display was staged on Court Meadow at 10pm to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience - their oohs and aahs could be heard across the County and aerial displays were visible from the Heathfield ridge several miles away.

Organiser Jo Lee’s exhortations to the community bore fruit with marshals keeping a stern eye on traffic diversions and collectors filling their boxes with cash to donate to the Mayfield Pre-School. She points out: “This event is put on free of charge for the whole village to enjoy.

“This year the Carnival cost more than £5,500 and all the money collected in the evening goes towards the chosen charity.

“We work hard putting on quizzes and other fundraising events but our costs keep rising, particularly paraffin for the torches.”

Subsequent contributions would still be gratefully received to ensure this annual village carnival - arguably the best and most atmospheric in Sussex - keeps going for years to come.