Lewes History Group: Bulletin 20, (9 March 2012)

1.   Next Meeting on Monday 12 March 2012:  ‘History of Lewes Old Grammar School’
2.   Edwardian postcard of Lewes Old Grammar School
3.   Wynne Edwin Baxter: a correction

4.   St Anne’s Hill, 1870
5.   Balloon Ascent, 1828
6.   The Earl of Arundel’s Complaint about the Peasants’ Revolt
7.   Victorian services in Lewes
8.   An Edwardian postcard of Toronto Terrace
9.   How did Lewes grow?

1.  Next meeting at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 12 March 2012

David Arscott                        ‘History of Lewes Old Grammar School’

David Arscott has been commissioned to write a history of the oldest surviving school in Lewes, to mark the passage of 500 years since its foundation in 1512. He has traced back its origins to the original endowment as a charitable foundation to be run under the auspices of Lewes Priory. As those who have heard his previous talks will know, David is as entertaining a speaker as he is a writer.

The meeting will be held at the King’s Church Building, Brooks Road, Lewes, and coffee and biscuits will be available before the talk.


2.  Edwardian postcard of Lewes Old Grammar School


This early hand-coloured Mezzotint postcard, mailed from Lewes in 1905 to a Miss Knight (“Dearest Ciss”) in Esher bears the message: “I thought you would like to have a peep at good old Home”.


3.  Wynne Edwin Baxter: a correction           (Information from John Davey)

I stated incorrectly in Bulletin no.19 that Wynne Edwin Baxter, the first Mayor of Lewes in 1881-2, was dead by 1883. This was based on an 1883 planning application recorded in the same Bulletin (item 4) that named an applicant as Ann Baxter, executrix of W.E. Baxter. However, as John Davey points out, this is wrong. John notes “In 1885, he was appointed as a Deputy Coroner for the City of London and the Borough of Southwark. In this office, he presided over the inquests of all the victims of Jack the Ripper. At the Poplar Coroner’s Court on Wednesday 15th September 1920 he suffered a heart attack and died at 9 am on 1st October 1920 at the age of 76. My reference for this information is www.casebook.org/dissertations/rip-baxter.html”. John also notes that Wynne Edwin Baxter was born 1 May 1844, the eldest son of William Edwin Baxter and his wife Ann, nee Minshall.

John Davey is of course quite correct – Wikipedia includes a biography that confirms all this and adds much more detail. The W.E. Baxter to whom Ann Baxter was executrix in 1883 was Wynne Baxter’s father, William Edwin Baxter, who was son of John Baxter, printer, and for many years in Queen Victoria’s reign editor of the Sussex Agricultural Express. Mrs Ann Baxter was William Edwin Baxter’s wife and Wynne Edwin Baxter’s mother.

Wikipedia tells us that Wynne Edwin Baxter attended Lewes Old Grammar School and then qualified as a solicitor in 1867. He moved from Lewes to London in 1875, to found both a solicitor’s practice and an advertising agency in Cannon Street, while still maintaining his law firm in Lewes and many other connections in this town – he was both the last High Constable of Lewes in 1880-1881 and the first Mayor in 1881-1882. He was also coroner in both Sussex and Middlesex. In 1907 he recorded that he had presided over a total of 30,000 inquests, including those of all Jack the Ripper’s victims and others prominent in the national press. He died at his home in Stoke Newington in 1920 but has a memorial in Lewes All Saints churchyard. The railway, by his day, made travel between Lewes and the capital easy.

His Lewes law firm survives today as Mayo Wynne Baxter, though they have recently moved away from Dial House, in the Lewes pedestrian precinct. When I used them to buy my first Ringmer house in 1969 they were Wynne Baxter, Hillman & Carter. In 2005 the Brighton & Hove Bus Company named one of their buses ‘Wynne Baxter’.


4.  St Anne’s Hill, 1870

“Near St Anne’s Church is ‘Shelleys’, so called from its long having been the seat of a branch of that eminent Sussex family. Dr Johnson, on a visit to the Thrales at Brighton, once spent a day at this mansion, and a hitherto unrecorded anecdote may here be given. The philosopher was walking in the garden with a little Miss Shelley, two or three years old, in his hand, until at last, being tired of her companionship, he deliberately placed here between the branches of a cherry-tree and there left her. At dinner there was a hue and cry after the child, and Johnson, recollecting himself, said, “O, I left her in a tree!”. The tree survived this incident until within recent years, and was always known as ‘Dr Johnson’s cherry tree’.

Near this house is the grammar-school, founded about 1512 by Dame Agnes Morley; and still further down the street there stood until lately a building called St Anne’s House, long the pleasant abode of the writer of these pages, but now replaced by a modern structure of the metropolitan cut. That house had many historical remembrances, it having been the abode in the time of James I of John Rowe, principal of Clifford’s Inn, a great lawyer and an eminent local antiquary; and subsequently the property of Roger Newdigate, founder of the Newdigate prize for English poetry at Oxford.”

Source: Mark Antony Lower, ‘History of Sussex’, vol.II, p.22 (1870)

5.  Balloon Ascent, 1828


The unusual sight of a hot air balloon over Cuilfail, piloted by Mr Green and W.H. Gardiner, Esq, brought out the crowds on School Hill on 29th September 1828. Baxter’s printing office is already established on the right, though it was to be nearly another decade before they first published the Sussex Agricultural Express.

Source: ‘Lewes from Old Prints’, based on materials in Lewes Library

BALLOON ASCENT FROM THE GAS WORKS, LEWES, Monday 22 September 1828. Mr Green respectfully announces to the Nobility, Gentry, and Inhabitants of the Town of Lewes and its Vicinity, that he intends on making an Ascent with the Magnificent Balloon on Monday the 22nd of September, 1828 at Three o’clock precisely, (being Lewes Great Sheep Fair Day) from a commodious Situation near the Gasworks. A Band of Music will be in attendance. Tickets of admission at One Shilling and Two Shillings each, may be had at Lee’s, Lower’s, and Baxter’s Libraries, at Laporte’s, and of Mr Green at Mr Jones’s, Linen Draper, bottom of School Hill. Full particulars in the Hand Bills.

Source: unattributed source repeated in Viva Lewes, March 2012


6.  The Earl of Arundel’s Complaint about the Peasants’ Revolt

1382: Richard, Earl of Arundel, complained to the King that William Grete of Lewes, William Wodeland of Clyve and many others broke the doors, gates and windows of his Castle, and the houses and cellars of the Castle, broached 10 casks of wine, drank a great quantity of it, wasted the remainder, burnt the rolls, rentals and muniments and committed other enormities.

Source: The late W. Heneage Legge, ‘A New Guide to Lewes’ (1909). The Peasants Revolt, aimed mainly at John of Gaunt and his allies, took place in 1381.


7.    Victorian services in Lewes

Source:  ‘The Antiquarian and Visitors’ Guide to Lewes’  by W. Banks, Station Street, Lewes (1881)

W.T. Martin, registered dentist of 16-17 High Street, Cliffe, who was also ‘a chemist and druggist by examination’ “begs to inform the inhabitants of Lewes and its vicinity that he is prepared to supply ARTIFICIAL TEETH of the very best quality and workmanship on the latest approved principles advocated by the recognised Dental Profession. W.T. MARTIN’s system embraces all the advantages advertised by other Dentists, and the Teeth he uses have obtained the highest award at the International Exhibitions at Philadelphia and Paris.” He also advertised that children’s teeth were regulated and teeth extracted, stopped and scaled.

Peter Hoadley, practical truss maker of 5 Station Street, advertised that “having had 20 years experience in the manufacture and fitting of Trusses, can ensure adaptation, safety and comfort to the wearer, combined with durability and moderation in price.” He also advertised “Elastic Stockings for Varicose Veins and Weak Legs, Knee Caps, Anklets, Calf Pieces, etc.” and “Ladies Abdominal Belts, etc, under Mrs Hoadley’s personal attendance.”


8.    An Edwardian postcard of Toronto Terrace


Bulletin no.19 noted the 1883 proposal to Lewes Borough Council by local builder E. Wells for four new streets on the new St John’s Farm estate, including Toronto Terrace. This postcard, posted in 1907, shows the new street about 20 years later. The card was offered for sale on ebay in January.


9.  How did Lewes Grow?                                               (Ian McClelland)

At the last Lewes History Group meeting – 13th February 2012 – we organised a workshop. The idea was to give everyone who came to the meeting the opportunity to share what we know about where we live or have lived. We also hoped that the event would stimulate interest in looking into the history of the streets and houses of Lewes in more detail. An additional benefit was that regular participants of the group meetings would take the opportunity to get to know each other a bit better.

The evening programme

We started the evening by first asking people to join one of three groups that corresponded to the part of the town where they currently live. The three groups were North, South and East. North was the area west of the Ouse and north of the High Street. South was west of the Ouse and south of the High Street. East was all areas east of the Ouse. People who lived outside Lewes were invited to join whichever group was of most interest to them. Each group then spent about 45mins to describe the places where they live and what they currently know about their location.  Participants were also invited to tell their group a little about themselves such as the length of time they had lived in Lewes, the number of homes they had lived in and the age of their property, etc. During the group sessions addresses were plotted on a map of Lewes, colour coded for age, and an inventory of addresses was made. Some people brought old deeds and some brought photos. Thanks again to those who brought their ‘treasures’ along.

So what did we learn?

A total of 29 homes distributed widely around the town were described. The following table summarises the estimates of the period in which each property was built. As you can see the biggest group live in places built between 1970 & 2000, and just over half the group live in places built since WWII. No one lives in any place built earlier than 1750.

How old is your home?



















As so often on such occasions it is the discussion that proves to be the more interesting and excites people’s interest. We cannot cover all the points of interest mentioned but we can highlight some of them.  So apologies in advance if anyone is a little offended because their story is not mentioned! We did discover that there is serious interest in delving more deeply into the history of the Nevill Estate, Sun Street, 11 Friars Walk, Malling Deanery, Eastport Lane, Southover High Street and Chapel Hill. Hopefully we will hear more about these initiatives at future meetings.

Malling Deanery

We heard from one member that she lives in a house on the site of the Malling Deanery kitchen garden. Her house may in fact be built on the old foundations of a large glass house in which grape vines were grown.

The Nevill Estate

We heard that the Nevill estate was built from about 1929, as a mix of private and council housing, some constructed by the Ringmer Building Works. North Way was the first road followed by South Way. We heard that some houses were built using a ‘concrete cast-in-situ’ technique, but others were of more conventional brick construction. The Nevill estate was originally planned in several phases, of which one was known as ‘The Downs Estate’. The image below was taken from an original photo by James Cheetham, as reproduced in Kim Clark’s book ‘Lost Lewes’.


Little East Street

We also heard that the house at No5 Little East Street was built in 1793. The owner showed the group the indenture of land purchase, from this date. The cellar and the facade have been changed at some stage. It is thought to have been built as an ostler’s cottage. The façade has a pineapple which is the emblem of the Pelham family.

Spital Road & Leicester Road

A former Lewes resident told us that his parents once owned the Windmill Pub in Spital Road which was converted to a house in the 1970’s. His uncle owned the shop on the corner of Leicester Road which has been a corner shop since it was first built.

Southover High Street

The house at the end of Southover High Street just by the Swan was originally two cottages. The present owner has only been there for about 4 years and would be interested to know more about the history of the property.

Sun Street

There was some discussion about when Sun Street was built. J Edwards published a map (see below) in 1817 that clearly shows Sun Street with buildings along both sides of the street.  He also published an earlier map in 1799 that only shows St John Street so sometime during the Napoleonic wars seems to be a reasonable estimate! The street was threatened with demolition when the proposals for the old relief road were drawn up.  One of the houses in Sun Street was a coach house and the current owner is able to trace the history of it back 60yrs. The owner has also met a neighbour who was born in the house and is keen to participate in documenting the history of Sun Street.


Friars Walk

For many years No 11 Friars Walk was a shop, most recently an antique/bric a brac shop, but was relatively recently converted to a house. The owner is interested to discover more of the history of the property.  She had a number of early documents with her and there are references to various trades having been carried out there. Could this be the start of a project to delve into the history of the whole of Friars Walk?

North Street

There is a house at the corner of North Street, opposite West Street and Market Street, that was built, we were told, in 1824.  It has a brick built barrel vaulted cellar that includes clunches in the construction. Clunches are building blocks made of chalk or clay. It seems that there were other buildings on the site previously since there is a blocked up window incorporated into the garden wall. This house suffered bomb damage during the 1943 air raid on Lewes.

Chapel Hill

One of the residents from Chapel Hill in Cliffe has discovered that her house, built in 1862, was located next door to one of the old chapels of Lewes. It was demolished in 1879 and was replaced by three terraced cottages built for tradesmen and people in service. The chapel apparently could cater for a congregation of about 600 people so it must have been a significant building.  There may be interest from others living on Chapel Hill in delving more deeply into the history of the lane and the houses on the hill.

John Kay




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