Lewes History Group Bulletin 3, 8 October 2010

1. Talk on Monday 11 October: Graham Mayhew
2. The Ragged School, St John Street
3. Lewes churchyards

1. Meeting on Monday 11 October

Our next meeting will be at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 11 October at the King’s Church building, Brooks Road. Graham Mayhew will be speaking on ‘Lewes Priory: Its Wealth & Influence’. His illustrated talk will encompass the impact of this huge medieval institution on Lewes itself, but also its wider influence on national and international affairs. Graham, one of the best known and most distinguished Sussex historians, has been researching the history of Lewes Priory for many years, and has uncovered a remarkable amount of information about its influence at all levels, including the highest levels, in medieval England. Graham is of course himself part of Lewes’s history. Both he and his father were distinguished local councillors, and both served as mayor, back in the days when Lewes was a Labour-run town.

2. The Ragged School, St John Street

The September edition of ‘Viva Lewes’ carried an interesting article about the Ragged School in St John Street, which thus impacts on two of our current History Group research projects. The article was centred on a series of Victorian lantern slides that have recently been acquired by the East Sussex Record Office, and are thus now available to the public for the first time for over a century – reference ESRO/AMS 6919. The article revealed that the Ragged School was founded by a members of Jireh Chapel, and in the 1890s, when the lantern slides were created, it was led by local solicitor Isaac Vinall, a member of Jireh. It was run initially as a Sunday School for the poorest members of the Lewes community with a rota of over 150 voluntary teachers. You could see it as evidence of the Victorian Big Society.

3. Lewes Churchyards

The inscriptions on churchyard monuments, and the monuments themselves, offer one unique view of the history of the former inhabitants of a place. usualy made of stone, they appear long lasting, but are like all man’s works less permanent than one might hope. The History Group has recently made contact with Chris Swarbrooke, who lives near Hastings but has the best collection of Lewes monumental inscriptions, though even his is far from complete. Preserving such records is one thing a good local history group should make a priority. Some Lewes churchyards appear unrecorded as yet – a spring and summer job though, not perhaps one for the winter.

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