On Saturday 7th November, the famous Cranleigh Bonfire celebrations return to The Common. The Cranleigh and District Lions Club once again host the event, which brings crowds from near and far, to enjoy the fun and spectacle of this exciting occasion.
It takes three whole weeks in the build-up to the event to prepare the bonfire. If you’d like to volunteer to help out with the tough work involved in getting this centrepiece of the event ready, get in touch with the Cranleigh and District Lions Club in good time.
Cranleigh’s annual celebrations have been going now since the late 1940s. It began with a few local boys and girls building a bonfire on Parkhouse Green, pulling their firewood from the copse on Park Mead where the bus stop now stands. Back then, Park Mead was little more than a field with a track across it for horses and carts!
One year, someone set light to the fire before the big day, and subsequently the Council banned The Bonfire Boys (as they’d come to be known) from holding their bonfire party. Luckily, local business owner, Charlie Beadell, stepped in, and after some discussion, the bonfire was moved to The Common. There it joined the local funfair which came to the village each year, run by Tommy Benson, in 1951. Both the funfair and bonfire remain at The Common to this day.
Charlie Beadell and Tommy Benson were also behind the first Cranleigh fireworks display, adding to what has become a central part of the annual celebrations. There was even a barbecue, provided by Collins, the local butchers. The Collins sausages, known as ‘Joe’s’, were famous in their day, and can still be bought, with the same secret recipe, from Rawlings Butchers on Cranleigh High Street.
The Cranleigh and District Lions Club took over Cranleigh Bonfire in 1974, bringing back all the fun and frolics with which Beadell and Benson began the event two decades previously. Even after Tommy Benson passed away, his family continue to bring the funfair back to the village every November. It is a village legacy that we all hope will continue for years to come.
This year, the fun begins from 1pm, with the ever-popular fun fair. Much enjoyed by Cranleigh’s children and adults alike, the fun fair features all the usual festive forays, including thrilling rides, stalls and, of course, candyfloss!
Then, there’s the Make a Guy competition, sponsored by Burns & Webber Estate Agents for its 20th consecutive year. Entrants vie for the coveted prize… of having their creation hoisted aloft onto the bonfire and burned to a crisp! Judging takes place in Stocklund Square at 3pm.
One of the most exciting parts of the Cranleigh Bonfire event is the torchlight procession, which starts at 6.30pm at the original bonfire location in Park Mead. Participants, holding aloft their burning torches, march through the closed high street and up to The Common, where they light the bonfire. Then the all-important fireworks begin lighting the sky at 8pm.
With so much to enjoy, and the popularity of the event itself, it’s always wise to head to Cranleigh nice and early on the day. Parking is available behind Stocklund Square shops, but this is likely to fill up early. Fingers crossed for optimum weather this year, and may it be a Cranleigh Bonfire party to remember!