Lewes History Group: Bulletin 15, (8 October 2011)

1.   Next Meeting on Monday 10 October:  David Goldsmith: The 1836 Lewes Avalanche
2.   Landport Farm
3.   The Prison, North Street, Lewes
Witchcraft at Lewes
5.   Memories of Lewes collected by U3A
Gideon Mantell’s Journal
Old Candlemakers
8.   Rowlands, The Avenue, Lewes


1.  Next meeting at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 10 October 2011

     David Goldsmith              ‘The 1836 Lewes Avalanche’

The topic of David’s illustrated talk is the fatal avalanche that buried several houses on South Street 175 years ago, and is remembered today in the name of the Snowdrop Inn. His talk will include the historical context, graphic eye witness descriptions of the event, the impact on the people involved, the reasons that the snow accumulated in such vast quantities, and whether such a disaster might ever occur again.


2.  Landport Farm

Landport farm

This Edwardian art postcard is titled just ‘A Sussex Homestead’, but it shows the cottages and farm buildings of Landport Farm, with the Offham chalkpits in the background. It must have been very popular in its day, as copies still turn up very regularly, more than a century later. It was probably sold over a wider area than just Lewes – this card was posted from Brighton in 1906.

3.  The Prison, North Street Lewes

This view was published in the 14 October 1854 edition of the Illustrated London News, and captioned ‘Gaol at Lewes, in which the Russian prisoners are confined’. The prisoners of war, captured in the Crimea were actually mostly from modern Finland, and were very popular in the town. The paper noted that they ate well and slept well; that the diet of good beef, bread, soup and tea suited them well; that they were very orderly in their conduct, and that before their meals they sang a short hymn as grace. It also reported that on the previous Saturday ‘a young Fin’ had been born somewhat unexpectedly, but that the mother and child were progressing well under the care of the surgeon of the prison.

Lewes North Street Prison


4.  Witchcraft at Lewes                            (Contributed by Rosemary Harris)

When at the National Archives recently I came across two trials for witchcraft in the Lewes assizes held during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Lewes Assizes, August 1565: Margery Smythe of Battle was indicted for witchcraft. She was charged with causing two toads to suckle a red cow belonging to John Foote, so that it died in three days. She was found guilty and ordered to be imprisoned for a year, during which she was to be pilloried twice.

Lewes Assizes, July 1567: Agnes Baldwyn of Fletching was indicted for killing by witchcraft Robert Matthews of Newick, and also for killing two pigs worth 20 shillings by witchcraft at Newick in August 1566. The outcome of this second trial does not seem to be recorded.

5.  Memories of Lewes collected by U3A                 (Contributed by Joy Preston)

Each memory below is from a different informant

“And of course another thing was market day too, when the cattle used to come down from the cattle market. The cattle used to run haywire, they used to run down the Cliffe, back again, I saw a cow once go into Tickner’s china shop, and the china was all round, like, the sides and always a fixture in the middle. And this cow went right the way round, it never touched a thing, came out the other door, all it did was messed on the floor!”

“It was very important to be dressed properly, oh yes, to have a nice suit and an overcoat and a raincoat and, of course, lots of underwear. And even the average farm labourer or working man would come into our shop and would order a suit. And we would measure them, quite accurate measurements, and of course when you measure people everyone is so different with, say, a very high chest or very high waist, or very thick legs. We’d write all this down on the form and send the sizes off, and when the suit came back it would fit the person almost to perfection. And these suits were, well, they cost £16, and they were all of the best wool worsted and they would last a person twenty years.”

“And all down the road we had evacuees. I can remember them coming in 1940, and they unloaded these kids from London into the local parish halls, St Anne’s and St John’s and Southover, and they all stood there very forlorn with their labels hanging round their necks, and the local women just came out and picked who they wanted. I mean, sisters were parted from brothers, and brothers were parted from little sisters, and it was terrible, a terrible moment. Mostly, some women thought carefully and if they saw by their name tags that they were all from the same family, OK, then you took them all together. But not everyone was like this, and it caused quite an upset.”

“In those days there used to be ships come up the river; you don’t see ships up there now for any reason but, er, the barges and ships used to come up and go underneath the old bridge and unload just above the bridge in Lewes.
And another thing you used to see, fishing boats used to come up to Lewes, with fresh fish, well whatever they could catch. They used to catch, they used to bring scallops sometimes and they used to sell them right beside the bridge. And mackerel, yes, they used to catch these mackerel in shoals, and they used to bring them up and sell them out, all the old ladies going down with their little pails and buying their mackerel, I remember seeing that.” 


6.  Gideon Mantell’s Journal:

30 March 1820: “Remarkably mild for the season. Was called up at six o’clock to a labor at Ringmer. Breakfast with Mr Cookson; did not return home till near twelve. In the afternoon attended a boy at Stoneham, whose thigh was fractured by a wagon load of lime passing over him. In the evening cleared some fossils, etc.”

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


7.  The Old Candlemakers

We have been contacted via our website by Alison Dunn, who has just moved into new offices in the Old Candlemakers, West Street, Lewes. She is aware that this was once a candle-making and needle-making factory, but wondered whether there was any additional information or any records available about the history of the building.

Can anyone help? You can contact Alison at ali@chamberdunn.co.uk ali@chamberdunn.co.uk


8.   Rowlands, The Avenue, Lewes

Rowlands, The Avenue, Lewes

Rowlands, The Avenue, Lewes, advertising postcard This advertising postcard was offered for sale on eBay in August 2011.


John Kay

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