The Bonfire Boys

Throughout much of the 19th century disturbances frequently occurred on Guy Fawkes Night in Worthing causing alarm and posing great problems for the local authorities.
Bonfire Boys

The trouble stemmed from an undercurrent of social unrest and resentment to the ‘establishment’, the police, Roman Catholics and unpopular local personalities.

Although Worthing was not unique in these troubles, the incidents were among the worst in the South East.

In 1852, as if to mark the debut of the Local Board, a mob of Bonfire Boys with blackened faces, staves, blazing tar barrels and menacing banners rampaged out of control, and the following year the Archbishop Cardinal Wiseman was burnt in effigy.

1877 saw violent rioting and confrontation with the police. In 1880 a bonfire club was launched.

When the Salvation Army arrived in 1883 the club became the Worthing Excelsior Skeleton Army, seeking to rout the Salvationists, their attempts culminating in an unprecedented outbreak of mob rule in August 1884 when troops were called in to quell the violence.

In the late 1950s it seemed for a time that the riotous spirit of the Bonfire Boys had returned when Guy Fawkes night became the occasion for violent behaviour by large crowds of youths, mainly Teddy Boys.

In 1959, mobs confronted the police, throwing bricks and bottles and setting fire to shops. Many arrests were made.

The Bonfire Boys

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