Lewes History Group: Bulletin 16, (11 November 2011)

1.   Next Meeting on Monday 14 November:  John Kay: ‘John Whitfeld the Smuggler’
2.   The view over Lewes from Malling Down
3.   Views down School Hill a century ago
4.   The Lewes Constables’ view of Bonfire, 1834
5.   Mary Ann Berry’s view of Bonfire, 1847
6.   Memories of Lewes collected by U3A
7.   Lewes the Tank Engine
8.   The Miller’s Walk

 1.  Next meeting at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 14 November 2011

     John Kay                       ‘John Whitfeld the Smuggler and his Lewes Club’

For over 30 years John Whitfeld played a key role in the commercial and political life of Georgian Lewes. Appearing from nowhere, he established himself as a merchant, political fixer, ironmaster, wreck-salvager, country gentleman and churchwarden, before suddenly selling up and disappearing without trace. What was the real story behind all the rumours that abounded about the true source of his wealth and influence?

This is a change to the advertised programme.

2.  The view over Lewes from Malling Down

In the foreground is Malling Street, following its original route into South Street, with its main commercial buildings set back behind the houses. The Phoenix Ironworks are across the empty Malling Brooks, where Aldi has recently joined Tesco.

3.  Views down School Hill a Century Ago




These four views are all taken from hand-coloured Edwardian postcards, so the colouring was not the original, but added to the photographs during production at the artist’s discretion.

4.  The Lewes Constables’ view of Bonfire, 1834   (Contributed by Ann Holmes)


Whereas, on Saturday night last, a large Rocket was lighted and thrown through the bed-room window of Mr Maxfield’s house in the High street of the Borough of Lewes, whereby the curtains were set on fire; whoever will give information of the person who let off the said rocket, shall, upon conviction, receive the above Reward. We hereby caution persons to desist from disturbing the peace of the Borough of Lewes, by setting off squibs, rockets, crackers, or other fire-works; or the lighting of tar barrels, as effectual means will be taken to bring all such offenders to justice.
J. C. MADGWICK               Constables
Borough of Lewes, Nov. 3, 1834
Source: 3 Nov 1834 Sussex Weekly Advertiser

5.  Mary Ann Berry’s view of Bonfire, 1847

Diary entry, Friday 5th November: “The Magistrates headed by Lord Chichester and urged on by Peter Bacon, Billy Button, etc, determined to put an end to Bonfire fun in this town. Accordingly they swore in the greater part of the respectable householders as special constables, sent for 60 London police in addition to 60 of the County police and shut up all the beer shops. About 12 last night and 1 this morning several men were bringing a lighted tar barrel down the High St. The police put a chain across, they rushed down and were tripped up by it. The handcuffs were put on and their wearers put in the Station house. This damped the ardour of the “Bonfire Boys”, and with the exception of the street being cleared by the police at Lord Chichester’s command, the driver of the mail being thrown out from his horses taking fright with a rocket, and Papa’s carter boy being put in the Station house for picking up a stone – it was presumed to throw at the police – the town was very quiet. The police were joked at rather severely tho’ some rogues had a flaming tar barrel in a boat on the river. Young Verral went to the police apparently in a great rage, telling them it was their duty to prevent the river being set on fire. I spent the evening with Harriet at Aunt Sophia’s.”

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

Each memory below is from a different informant:

“We used to go to the Cinema de Luxe on Saturdays, and in those days we used to go round and earn a few pennies to go. One thing we used to do, we’d stand at the bottom of Chapel Hill. There weren’t many people lived there then, but we used to wait for them with their shopping and then carry their shopping. We used to get a penny or whatever for that. Or we’d find jam jars and you’d take three large jars – 2lb jars – and you could get in, or you’d take six 1lb jars, and they used to have a basket up at the cinema where you go in, and old Fatty Briggs used to sit there and watch you put them in. “Right, you can put them in, you can go,” and that’s how we’d go to the cinema.”

“My mother ran from her home what was then known as a Registry Office. And my mother would very often say, “I’ve managed to suit Lady So-and-so with a maid.” And it was nothing for me to return home from school to find perhaps a Daimler outside the house with a liveried chauffeur – p’raps two! And I would creep in, and my mother’s office as it was called was in the front room of the house. And my mother would come out and say, “You’ll have to be good and quiet, I’ve got Lady So-and-so in the office”, or the Honourable Mrs So-and-so – they were all titled – “and she’s interviewing”, you know, a candidate, you know, for a maid – some poor little soul.”

“When I think about Malling Street there’s very little of it left now, it’s completely changed. There are some original houses there that bring back memories but the industry has gone, the shops have gone, the smells have gone and the sounds have gone.”

Further information about the Lewes U3A Oral History Collection

7.  Lewes the Tank Engine

The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway 0-4-2 Class D tank engines were its workhorses used to pull local trains and for shunting. In all 125 were built, between 1873 and 1887, most of them at Brighton railway works. Engines in this class were named after local towns and villages, including Lewes. The last of the class was scrapped in 1951 – none survive.

8.   The Millers Walk                             (Contributed by Paul Myles)

This relatively modern postcard of ‘The Miller’s Walk’ was offered on eBay in October, and acquired by Paul Myles. It shows Hill Road, where he lives, but which looks rather different today.

John Kay





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