Lewes History Group: Bulletin 13, (3 August 2011)

1.   No meeting in August
2.   View over Cliffe
Lewes Water-Works
Mary Akehurst, a Quaker Wife
Gideon Mantell’s Journal: Accident in the South Street Quarry
6.   The First Lewes Railway Station
Can you name this clergyman?
8.   Lewes Bridge


1.  There is a break in the Lewes History Group programme for August

Our next meeting will be on Monday 12 September, when Lewes author Nigel Jones will speak about the Tower of London, the subject of his forthcoming book.


2.  View over Cliffe


This photograph on this postcard, titled “Cliff Bridge and High Street” was taken after the Bear Inn burned down, but before any replacement was built, perhaps in the 1920s? Cliffe High Street is already beginning to look a little inadequate for the traffic. Development on Cuilfail is underway.


3.  Lewes Water-Works

Source: Mark Antony Lower, ‘Hand-book for Lewes’ (1845)

“By an act passed 3 & 4 William IV, a company was empowered to construct reservoirs and lay down pipes to supply the town with water. The water, which is of the purest quality, is derived from a copious spring in the parish of Kingston, and immediately contiguous to Southover, whence it is forced by a low pressure steam-engine to a reservoir about 90 feet high, on the opposite eminence, for the supply of the lower parts of the town; and to another near St Anne’s Church, 150 feet high, for the accommodation of the higher parts. The management is vested in a board of Directors. Superintendent, Mr William Davey.”


4.  Mary Akehurst, a Quaker Wife

Source: David Hitchin, ‘Quakers in Lewes’, 2010, 2nd edn, including direct quotations from the Friends records.

“In this year [1659] Mary Akehurst, wife of Ralph Akehurst of the Cliff, neare Lewes, beeing moved to go to St Michal’s Steeplehouse (soe called), where an Independent priest was speaking, she for asking him a question was by people haled out, and then sent for her aforesaid husband, who after she came home, did so hunch and pincht her, that she could not lift her arms to her head.”

“The same Ralph again on the seventeenth day of the third month of this present yeare, bound the hands and feet of his said wife and pinioned her, and then covered her very hot with bed-cloathes, and soe kept her for the space of four or five hours; this it seems he did because she tooke occasion to reprove a hireling priest for belying her.”

Five months later Ralph Akehurst’s further mistreatment of his wife was reported to two Justices of the Peace (“soe called”):

“Whereas complaint hath beene made unto two of those who are in place to doe justice as, namely, Richard Boughton and Nathaniel Studly, of cruel persecution inflicted upon the body of a woman in the Clift, near Lewis, by the hands of a wicked tyrant, who is called her husband; his name is Ralph Akehurst, he hath chained his wife in a close back chamber in his house, between two high bed-steads, with a great chain much like a timber chain, containing thirty-five links, and a staple and lock, soe that this woman cannot move aboute the roome, or lye in the bed without this chaine, soe that with wait of itt it hath done much wrong to her legg, beside blows and bruises that he hath given her in executing his cruelty in putting on this chaine, soe that thereby her body is much weakened at present, and murther may ensue if the Lord by his providence doth not some way for her deliverance; for this man hath promised that he will never unlock the chaine from off her, soe that in all likelyhood his heart is bent to destroy the body of this woman someway, for he hath attempted her life, as she hath said, by endeavouring to throatle her. We set this forth to declare to the world, that if this woman shall putt off the body or sacrifice her life through his cruelty, that none shall hereafter upon just grounds say that she hath destroyed herself, or done any evil to her owne body, so that if innocent blood be shead, we shall be clear and the guilt shall remain upon the heads which suffer such things to be done.

                        Mary Akehurst, Mary Coulstock, Ambrose Galloway, Mary Dapson”

We do not know the outcome, but the refusal of Quakers to give evidence on oath may not have been helpful to the magistrates, had they been inclined to help. The subscribers’ faith in their justices was such that they also attached one copy of the letter to the door of Cliffe Church and another to the Lewes market-house.

The 1662 hearth tax shows Ralph Akehurst as having a house in Cliffe, with 9 hearths, the second largest in the parish. He died a few years later, and Mary survived to entertain William Penn at her house in Cliffe in 1672. She remained a Quaker and continued in business. Her merchant sons Ralph and Thomas imported cargoes of such items as wine, brandy, grain and pantiles through Newhaven.


5.  Gideon Mantell’s Journal: Accident in the South Street Quarry

2 July 1820: “Yesterday a man was dreadfully bruised by a large fall of chalk under which he was working in South Street quarry; I was immediately sent for, and had him conveyed to Cliffe P. House.”

3 July 1820: “The man who received the accident is much better, and will probably recover.”

Source: John A. Cooper, ‘The Unpublished Journal of Gideon Mantell’, published online only.


6.  The First Lewes Railway Station

This first photograph shows the approach to Lewes Old Station in June 1957, then used for goods, and was taken by J.J. Davis. The backs of the Friars Walk houses are to the left.

The second 1957 photograph, also by J.J. Davis, shows the first railway station in Friars Walk. Only the upper parts of the building are shown.

The final photograph, which from the cars dates from the 1960s, was probably taken shortly before the station was demolished.

All three photographs were offered on eBay earlier this year, and attracted several bids.


7.   Can you name this clergyman?

Geoff Isted purchased this photograph at Heathfield for £1.25p. It features a clergyman of distinctive appearance, with a tightly furled umbrella, walking along Lewes High Street towards St Michael’s. Does anyone recognise him? The war memorial and car in the background suggest the photograph dates from between the wars. It bears on the reverse the inscription “Leightons Cine-Snaps, Queens Avenue, Hastings”. The pillar box at the junction of High Street & Fisher Street looks to be placed at a vulnerable location.


8. Lewes Bridge

This 1781 print by William Scott, taken from the Rev Thomas Walker Horsfield’s ‘History & Antiquities of Lewes’ (1824), shows the Lewes Bridge erected in 1726, after its predecessor was swept away by a high tide. This bridge was widened and substantially rebuilt in 1932. In the 18th century the river was a much busier and more important highway than it is today.

John Kay

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