Lewes History Group: Bulletin 44, March 2014

Please note: this Bulletin is being put on the website one month after publication. If you would like to receive the Bulletin by email as soon as it is published, please contact the Membership Secretary about joining the Lewes History Group, and to renew your membership at the start of the calendar year.

1. Next Meeting, Monday 10 March: Malcolm Kitch, ‘The Newtons of Southover Grange’
2. Lewes History Group membership
3. Views of the November 1960 Lewes Floods
4. Chapel Business
5. The St Michael’s Chimes
6. Lewes Ragged School: ‘Flowers for Thyself’
7. View across to St John-sub-Castro
8. Salmon in the Ouse
9. Lewes racecourse Vintage Car Show (by Barry Foulkes)
10. Alison Jolly


1. Next Meeting 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. Monday 10 March
Malcom Kitch: The Newtons of Southover Grange, 1572-1860

It is unusual but not unprecedented for a house built by a prosperous Elizabethan family to remain in the ownership of the builder’s descendants for almost 300 years. Malcolm Kitch, formerly Reader in History at the University of Sussex, will talk about one such house that remains a prominent Lewes landmark, albeit currently in a somewhat distressed state, and about the personalities and lives of the family who occupied it from 1572 to 1859. William Newton came from Cheshire about 1540 to establish the Southover branch of the family. He initially lived in the former Priory, and used Priory stone to build the Grange. Although they were the leading Southover family, they were also London lawyers for a century and a half, so spent only part of the year in the Grange. The Grange, with its 14 acres of grounds, was the largest and grandest house in Southover. The family also owned land outside Lewes, but they never became large landowners. The second William Newton was a leading Puritan during the Civil Wars of the mid 17th century. In 1760 the fifth William, and the last male Newton, followed his father into the army and rose to command the 10th Dragoons, the Prince of Wales own regiment. William regarded Prinny as a friend and the Prince stayed at his house in the early 1790s. William’s marriage to the tactless Elizabeth Knatchbull established a connection with Jane Austin. William’s niece Elizabeth was the last of the family. She married William Courthope Mabbott, an interesting and colourful character who took an active, if controversial, part in local affairs.


The illustration featuring Southover Grange is from an Edwardian postcard published by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill. It was posted in 1908 by a Mr Steinhaeuser of St Andrews, Lewes, to a Mrs Mason staying at a Paris hotel.

As usual the meeting will be at the King’s Church building, Brooks Road, and all will be welcome.
We shall be serving coffee and biscuits prior to the meeting.


2. Lewes History Group Membership

Our membership secretary Neil Merchant reports that, against a final 2013 History Group membership of 173, we already have 165 members for 2014, including over 30 new members. Our hope is to reach 200 this year.


3. Views of the November 1960 Lewes Floods

Lewes_floods_1960_Malling_StreetA delivery van and a Land Rover navigate the floods on Malling Street, passing the Wheatsheaf Inn, owned by Beard’s Brewery.

Lewes_floods_1960_Cliffe_High_StreetBusiness as usual in Cliffe High Street

Lewes Railway Station, platforms 1 & 2

Boating down Thomas Street, towards Culverwells

House with tidemark as the floods receded

The old Market area by the railway station, photograph from Colin Tompsett


4. Chapel Business

Source: 7 October 1811 Sussex Weekly Advertiser

“On Monday last the Monthly Religious Conference commenced at the Baptists Chapel, Southover, for the season, and was very fully attended. Yesterday a small neat chapel in St John’s parish, built by Mr Webb, for a sect of dissenters, was opened by the Rev Mr M’Culla, with a sermon which riveted the attention of a very crowded congregation.”

Baptist_chapel_Lewes_Eastport_LaneThis snippet of local news shows that the 18th century Baptist chapel on Eastport Lane was still going strong in 1811. I can’t immediately identify the chapel opened by the Rev M’Culla in this year – presumably it was one of the several early-19th century chapels opened to serve the soaring population of St John-sub-Castro parish, rather than St John’s, Southover.


The chapel on Eastport Lane, now a cottage.


5. The St Michael’s Chimes

Source: An 1888 newspaper cutting from a 1905 scrapbook created by Miss Winifred Martin of 6 Grange Road

The Town Clerk (Mr M.S. Blaker) read the following letter to a special meeting of Lewes Town Council held on 25 September 1888 chaired by the mayor, Alderman Farncombe, and attended by Aldermen Kemp, Crosskey, Buckman & White and Councillors Fairbrother, Barber, Flint, Pelling, Hammond, Povey, Hobden, Douglas, Elphick, Hayler, Hillman, Barrett, Brook and Broad.

“Gentlemen, it will be remembered that last year I undertook to defray the expense of re-casting the St Michael’s town bells as a small personal tribute to commemorate the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. New bells were placed in position by Messrs Gillett & Co, of Croydon, as long ago as Christmas last. The fourth chiming bell was not, however, considered satisfactory and I regret that some delay has occurred in completing the work. A new fourth bell was hung about a month ago, and the chimes have since been continually in use. Mr Martin, of Ringmer, who kindly undertook to act as umpire, has now passed the bells, and I trust the public will consider them an improvement on those originally occupying the St Michael’s clock tower. Their total weight was 11 cwt, 1 qr, 15 lb. The particulars of the new bells are as follows:

Bell Diameter Note cwt qr lb
No. 1 18½ inches C sharp   1  2    8
No. 2 19½ inches B   1  2  12
No. 3 21½ inches A   1  3  10
No. 4 27 inches E   3  3  17
No. 5 28½ inches D   4  1  19

Owing to being exposed to view at a comparatively small elevation just above the roadway, the effect produced by the bells is not so satisfactory as could be wished. Surrounding buildings break up the sound in various ways, according to the direction of the wind, and it is a matter worthy of consideration if a great improvement could not be made in the belfry, at a small expense, whereby a somewhat modulated but unvarying volume of sound would be heard.
Jos Farncombe, Mayor

The reading of the letter was greeted with applause.”


6. Lewes Ragged School: ‘Flowers for Thyself’

This elaborately decorated and quite sophisticated poem by William Luff, taken from the Christian Treasury and dated Christmas day 1890, was specially printed for the Lewes Ragged School. One wonders what today’s primary school pupils would make of it.



7. View across to St John-sub-Castro

This Edwardian postcard (entitled ‘St John’s Church from the Avenue, Lewes’) shows the view from the Wallands, already beginning to be fenced off by new development, towards St John-sub-Castro church. The Martyrs’ Memorial, built in 1901, stands starkly on Cliffe Hill. The postcard was advertised for sale on ebay in 2013, and attracted competitive bidding.


8. Salmon in the Ouse

Source: Brigid Chapman, ‘The Chronicles of the Cliffe and South Malling’ (2003), p.53

In 1800 the Sporting Magazine was concerned that nets with meshes small enough to catch a sprat were in daily use on the River Ouse, where there had in recent years been “a great number of salmons”. The correspondent urged the water bailiff to stop the use of “these destructive engines on the finest river in the kingdom”.


9. Lewes Racecourse Vintage Car Show                      (by Barry Foulkes)

This show, to raise money for Lewes Victoria Hospital, will be on Sunday 14 September 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the racecourse closure. Pre-1964 cars and bikes are being sought to include in the parade from North Street to the racecourse. For more details contact Barry Foulkes, [Information removed 20.3.19 at Barry Foulkes’ request].


10. Alison Jolly

I am sorry to report that Lady Alison Jolly, the lemur expert who spoke at our Christmas meeting about Lewes History for children, died in February. Her talk to us was her final public lecture.


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

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