Lewes History Group: Bulletin 41, December 2013

Please note: this Bulletin is being put on the website one month after publication. If you would like to receive the Bulletin as soon as it is published, please contact the Membership Secretary about joining the Lewes History Group.

1.    Next Meeting, Monday 9 December: Christmas Meeting, Alison Jolly
2.    AGM agenda
  Chair’s Report (by Ian McClelland)
  Treasurer’s Report (by Ron Gordon)
5.    Membership Secretary’s Report (by Neil Merchant)
.    Communications Report (by Jane Lee)
7.    Website: leweshistory.org.uk (by Barbara Merchant)
8.    Programme, January-July 2014
John Thomas Case, Lewes photographer
The Lewes Bench in 1881
11.  Cliffe Bridge
12.  Sharing memories on the Nevill (by Ann Holmes)


1.   Next Meeting              7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.                   Monday 9 December


Alison Jolly                      Telling Lewes History for Children

Alison Jolly is a primatologist specialising in lemur biology, and a visiting scientist at the University of Sussex. She is the author of both academic and popular books on her subject, but has now moved on to non-lemur children’s fiction with her new ‘Fiddle’ series of children’s books, based on real events in Lewes history. Her books include:

Fiddle and the Flint Boy’, in which Fiddle is trapped in a flint mine below Cissbury Ring;
Fiddle and the Headless Horseman’, in which Fiddle helps defeat Earl Warrenne;
Fiddle and the Falling Tower’, in which Fiddle tries to stop Thomas Cromwell destroying Lewes Priory;
Fiddle and the Smugglers’, in which Fiddle rescues exciseman Thomas Paine; and
Fiddle and the Fires’, in which Fiddle and a boy from John Every’s Foundry escape the Union workhouse.

Alison will have with her copies of her books for sale, should you require Christmas presents for the target age group.

We shall be serving mulled wine and mince pies prior to the meeting, from 7 p.m. As usual all will be welcome. There will be no entry charge for members for this meeting.


2.   AGM agenda

  1. Chair’s report for 2013
  2. Treasurer’s report for 2013
  3. Membership Secretary’s report, Communications report & Website report
  4. Election of officers for 2014. The following have been nominated: chair, Ian McClelland; secretary, vacant; treasurer, Ron Gordon; membership secretary, Neil Merchant; committee, Ann Holmes; John Kay (programme); Jane Lee (communications); Barbara Merchant (website manager); Paul Waller
  5. Subscriptions for 2014. The committee recommend that subscriptions should remain at £8 p.a. for the first member at each address and £4 p.a. for additional members at the same address
  6. A.O.B.


3.   Chair’s Report for 2013                                                          by Ian McClelland

This report covers an important and exciting year in the development of the Lewes History Group (LHG).  One year ago we moved from being an ‘informal’ group to a ‘formal’ organisation. The main motivation for this change was to setup an organisation that would enable us to become more active participants in understanding the history of the town.

As part of this transition we set out two important aims for the Group:

  • To make the history of Lewes accessible to the general public,
  • To promote projects that engage local people in the development and dissemination of knowledge about the history of Lewes,

The most important initiative taken during the year was the development of the Street Stories project proposal and the submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding.  Unfortunately our first attempt to secure funding was rejected but we have been encouraged to revise the proposal and resubmit in 2014. In the meantime we will pursue ways in which we can support members who are already taking initiatives. The project built directly on our ambition that the LHG should be driven by the interests of its membership. And where better to start than on ‘our own front doorsteps’!

There was a steady growth both in membership and attendance at our public meetings over the last year. This clearly demonstrates that the LHG is filling an important role in the life of the town.  I look forward to this trend continuing in 2014.

Some of you completed a questionnaire distributed during the November meeting for which we are grateful. For those who did not respond in November there will be a second opportunity at the December meeting. We will use the results, among other things, to help develop the organisation and some new activities as well as the monthly lecture program. In due course we will summarise the results in a future issue of the Bulletin.

I would also like to take this opportunity to record my thanks to the following for their valuable contributions to the ‘first year’ of the LHG:

  • To those that contributed to our Terms & Reference;
    • Robert Cheesman, Ron Gordon & John Kay
  • To your Executive Committee for all their hard work
    • Ron Gordon, Ann Holmes, John Kay, Jane Lee, Barbara Merchant & Neil Merchant
  • To all our speakers
    • Our public meetings
    • Our Research meetings
  • And most importantly, yourselves; the members, the attendees at our meetings and the many on our list of friends.


4.   Treasurer’s Report for 2013                                                  (by Ron Gordon)

Lewes History Group income for the year 1st Jan 2013 to 30th Nov 2013 was £4,321.81 (including £637 brought forward) and expenditure for the same period was £2,061.16.  Income was significantly higher than anticipated due to more people becoming members than had been expected, combined with far greater numbers attending the monthly meetings.  Expenditure was in line with expectations apart from Publicity and Administration which were both higher due to a significant increase in the publicity of events and higher costs resulting from greater numbers.

The end of year balance shows a healthy surplus which will provide a good base for the group to expand its activities in research projects and other ventures.  It is proposed to retain the same membership subscriptions and entrance fees for the next year.

Income     £ Expenditure


Income from previous years    637.00 Room Hire


Membership Subscriptions 1,094.00 Speakers’ Fees


Entrance Fees 2,590.81 Meeting Refreshments


Street Stories


Publicity and leaflets


Administration expenses


Total 4,321.81 Total        2,061.16
Balance (Income – Expenditure)        2,260.65


5.   Membership Secretary’s Report                                            (by Neil Merchant)

2103 being our first year as a membership organization, we really didn’t know what to expect, but set ourselves a goal of 100 members. We were amazed by the level of interest and response, which meant that we met our goal in April. We currently have 175 members, and renewals for 2014 are going well. We expect some attrition, but would hope that through 2014 we’ll grow to over 200.

We’ve been rigorous in collecting email addresses for our members, and we have only 8 who do not use email. This is quite a remarkable statistic, and of course makes it much easier to communicate and to distribute the monthly bulletins.

I’d like to thank everyone for their helpfulness over membership matters, which has made my job a pleasure.


6.   Communications Report                                                               (by Jane Lee)

As we moved from an ‘informal’ to a more ‘formal’ organization at the beginning of 2013 we recognized that the LHG had a rather low profile in the town and meetings were attended by an average of 50 people. To change this we knew we needed someone dedicated to marketing & communications. With a deal of hard work and persistence, the activities below have raised awareness to the point where media like the BBC, RocketFM and Viva Lewes have  approached us to ask for information & interviews.

Typical audiences at the monthly talks are now 120-140 with the October meeting on Chapel Hill’s history attracting around 180 people (our best yet).

LHG marketing activities in 2013 included:

  • Commissioning a logo and leaflets for the group and for Street Stories from graphic designer, Lloyd Raworth
  • Regular event and editorial promotion in:
    • Viva Lewes magazine & website
    • Sussex Express
    • Lewes News
    • Local radio & TV (slots on RocketFM, Radio Lewes, BBC Sussex)
    • Online what’s on pages e.g. Lewes.co.uk & LDC
    • Newsletters & websites of associates e.g. Friends of Lewes, Priory Trust, Sussex Archaeological Soc
    • Posters in Tourist Office & Library
    • Twitter & Facebook postings
    • LHG website & bulletin
  • Manning a stand at the Lewes Societies Fair in July
  • Setting up social media accounts to interact with more tech-savvy audiences. We now have 69 following LHG on Twitter & 42 on Facebook (as at 20/11/13, but rising every week).


7.    Website Report: leweshistory.org.uk                   (by Barbara Merchant)

The number of “views” has grown sixfold from an average of 10 per day when we first started out in 2010, to over 60 per day currently, amounting to a total of over 20,000 in 2013.

The vast majority of users are from the UK, followed by Anglophone countries like the US, Australia, Canada, then France (all people with family ties?), and followed by 60 other countries worldwide.

The pages looked at most were the various Bulletins (produced by John), the index to digitised volumes of Sussex Archaeological Collections (Barbara); the index to maps of Lewes (Ian); our bibliography of Lewes history (John, Barbara, Dee O’Connell)

We redesigned the website this year, giving it an updated look using more visual material.

Thanks to Jane’s new reciprocal arrangements with other organisations, we have publicised many more events in the website’s News section. Members and non-members can sign up, on the website, to receive notifications of events and other news by email.

Social Media. During the course of the year we also launched Facebook and Twitter accounts. It is too early to draw conclusions from the use of these sites but it does appear that these two are letting us reach a wider audience, by linking up well with other local history initiatives like the Ale & Hearty Project.


8.   Programme, January-July 2014

13 January Samantha Carroll Ale & Hearty Project
10 February Lewis Orchard Stephen Steere’s House, 1 North Str
10 March Malcolm Kitch The Newtons of Southover Grange
14 April David Clark Lewes Business Stories: W.E. Clark & Son
12 May Helen Chiasson & Kate Hickmott Feasting, Fighting & Freedom: a view from the Priory
9 June David Simkin Victorian & Edwardian Photographers
14 July John Turley Racing into History

Further talks are planned for 8 September, 13 October, 10 November & 8 December

9.   John Thomas Case, Lewes photographer

Source: The London Gazette, 28 June 1864


The Sussex Photohistory website lists John Thomas Case as a Lewes photographer at 2 Western Road between 1857 & 1861, while his wife Mrs Margaret Case appears as a photographer at 6 St Anne’s Terrace in 1865. The financial issues that led to him being adjudged bankrupt in June 1864 must have been rapidly resolved if he was to be discharged so promptly. The census records him as a Scot, born about 1819.

The first recorded Lewes portrait photographer was Daniel Blagrove, who arrived with a partner in 1851, only a few years before John Thomas Case also appears. Daniel Blagrove ran a High Street tobacconists and described himself as a furniture dealer in the 1861 census, so it appears neither were full-time photographers. Edward Reeves established his business in 1858, and Edward Miller also set up at about the same time, so by the early 1860s photography had become a competitive business in the town.


10.   The Lewes Bench in 1881

In 1881 the following people made up the Lewes Bench of Magistrates

  • The Earl of Chichester, Stanmer
  • Viscount Gage, Firle Place
  • Lord Pelham, Stanmer
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.W. Brand, G.C.B., Glynde Place
  • The Rt. Hon. John George Dodson, 6 Seamore Place, Curzon St., Mayfair, & Coneyburrow Park
  • Thomas St Leger Blaaw, Esq, Beechlands, Newick
  • John George Blencowe, Esq, Bineham, Chailey
  • Henry Robert Brand, Esq, Glynde Place
  • William Langham Christie, Esq, Glyndebourne [also the Conservative M.P. for Lewes]
  • Robert Crosskey, Esq, Castle Gate, Lewes
  • Burwood Godlee, Esq, Leighside, Lewes
  • Major-General Henry Poole Hepburn, C.B., The Hooke, Chailey
  • Lieut-Colonel Henry King, Isfield Place
  • Henry Charles Lane, Esq, Middleton House, Hurstpierpoint
  • George Molineux, Esq, Lewes & Isfield
  • James Henry Sclater, Esq, Newick Park
  • Frederick Smith Shenstone, Esq, Sutton Hall, Barcombe
  • George Whitfeld, Esq, Lewes

Can you spot the common features?  A Y chromosome was essential, and a large country house in the villages around Lewes was a definite advantage.

Source: Deacon’s Court Guide, Gazeteer & County Blue Book of Sussex, 1881


11.   Cliffe Bridge

“The present bridge between the Cliff and the parish of All Saints, in Lewes, is the first that was erected of stone there. The architecture is remarkably neat and strong, and is objectionable only for its narrowness. This bridge was built in the year 1727, at the expence of the two adjoining Rapes of Lewes and Pevensey, and is likely to stand without any considerable repairs for some centuries to come.”

Source: ‘Ancient and Modern History of Lewes & Brighthelmston by Paul Dunvan (1795), pp. 325


12.   Sharing memories on the Nevill                                           (by Ann Holmes)

The Nevill Shares Community group and the Nevill History group joined forces on November 10th to share tea, cake and memories at St Mary’s Church Hall.   Between 30 and 40 residents and ex residents called in during the course of the afternoon.  Here is just a small sample of the documents brought in to add to our fast growing collection.


Newcomers to the estate enjoyed stories from those who have lived here for up to 77 years!


You may also have heard more Nevill Stories recently on Rocket Radio.  We are hoping that more such events will happen in the future.  In the meantime if you have documents to share or stories to tell do contact us.



John Kay                                           


Contact details for Friends of the Lewes History Group promoting local historical events

Sussex Archaeological Society
Lewes Priory Trust

Lewes Archaeological Group and go to ‘Lectures’
Friends of Lewes
Viva Lewes

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/LewesHistoryGroup
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LewesHistory





This entry was posted in Art & Architectural History, Biographical Literature, Legal History, Lewes, Social History. Bookmark the permalink.