Cranleigh Lions

History of the Cranleigh Bonfire

Ray Beeson leading the Bonfire procession in the early 1980's

Cranleigh's annual Bonfire & Fireworks celebrations, which see thousands of people flock to the village and has been described as one of the best fireworks events in the South of England, started just after the Second World War.

From about 1946/7 and during the late 1940s a group of boys and girls who lived in Ewhurst Road and were in their early teens at the time built a bonfire.

These people included the Triggs, the Spooners, Tony Wakeford, Tom Worsfold, Phil Tilbury, Ray Beeson, Sparkle Davy and Clive, Pam & Bett Stevens.

They would pull wood out of the copse (behind where the bus stop is now at Park Mead) and from wherever else they could find it and build a bonfire on Parkhouse Green this is the triangle at the junction of Ewhurst Road and Barhatch Road. At the time Park Mead was just a field with a track across it for a horse and cart.

One year it was set alight before the day, so the following year the Council decided the youngsters, know known as The Bonfire Boys, were not allowed to have their bonfire and a week or so before the event someone from the Council came during the day and set light to it.

Charlie Beadell owned a transport company and so that they could have a bonfire some of the Buckmans who worked for Charlie arranged to deliver a couple of lorry loads of faggots - bundles of hazel and birch that bakers used to heat their ovens.

The faggots were brought in on the day and set alight half an hour later so that there was no chance they could be burnt in advance. Torches were made from a tin nailed to a pole, stuffed full of diesel soaked rags.

Tommy Benson, the owner of Bensons Fun Fair, used to hold a fair on the recreation ground what is now the Village Way car park, by the Leisure Centre.

Charlie Beadell knew Tommy Benson so they decided to move the Fun Fair and the bonfire to The Common, its present site, around 1951.

Charlie provided the fireworks, which he got from Standard Fireworks, and Tommy paid for them. The barbecue was run by Phil Tilbury, a butcher at Collins, renowned pork butchers. Collins' sausages, known as Joe's were legendary and you can still buy the Collins sausage, made to the same secret recipe, from Rawlings Butchers in Cranleigh High Street.

As time went by the Bonfire Boys got older, some moved away and they became fewer in number.

Cranleigh & District Lions Club was formed in 1974 and took over the arrangements a tradition which continues to this day.

We are extremely proud that Ray Beeson and Phil Tilbury, two of the original Bonfire Boys and Charter members of Cranleigh & District Lions Club, are still active Cranleigh Lions.

Sadly, Tommy Benson passed away nevertheless his son Tommy, his wife Daniela and his sons continue the tradition and bring their Fun Fair to the village every November.

Cranleigh Lions are indebted to the support they receive year in year out from Bensons and look forward to continuing this wonderful traditional event for years to come.

With thanks to Ray Beeson and Tom Worsfold for their reminiscences and to Paul Withers for the photographs below, believed to be from the early 1980's.