Reported in the News Letter on November 7, 1938: Scenes of disorder on Guy Fawkes Night


Many people were detained by the police and several arrests were made as a result of a too-joyous celebration of Guy Fawkes Night.

The traditional celebrations at Lewes, in which thousands of people took part, resulted in severe injury to a young woman, 33 cases of minor injuries, and between 40 and 50 people being taken to the police station.

Oxford and Cambridge were also the scene of carnival which resulted in some disorder. Eight people were arrested at Oxford and five undergraduates at Cambridge. An expectant mother was burned by an exploding firework at Oxford.

At Lowestoft, a rocket fell into a store yard of 40,000 fish boxes and set them on fire. A large number were burned before the fire brigade extinguished the flames.

London Fire Brigade answered 250 calls up till midnight, mostly to small street fires started by fireworks – a record for Guy Fawkes Night.

Nowhere probably in Britain were the celebrations marked by wilder enthusiasm than in Lewes, where anti-Popery demonstrations have been maintained for centuries.

On Saturday night shops and houses in the Main Street were closed and barricaded long before the usual closing hour, and thousands of people flocked from all the surrounding districts to join the townspeople in the revels. It was a record crowd – youths and girls, arms linked, swept down the streets, and fireworks were thrown about, despite all the police efforts to curb the practice. Cars passing through the streets were the target of many revellers who jumped on them, singing and shouting.

Six bonfires blazed high, 35 fancy dress torchlight processions added to the carnival spirit, flaming tar barrels were thrown into the water, and nearly £1,000 worth of fireworks were discharged.