Lewes History Group: Bulletin 49, August 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.  No evening meeting in August
  2. The History of Lewes – from Anglo-Saxon times to 1830
  3. ‘Lewes Past’ Facebook Site
  4. Charles Dawson and Castle Lodge
  5. Cliffe Church Clock
  6. Lewes from the 1867 Kelly’s Directory
  7. Local newspapers published in Lewes, 1867 Kelly’s Directory
  8. Road Traffic Incident
  9. The Odeon (by Brian Beck)
  10. Lewes Racecourse Memorabilia Exhibition, 10 am-5pm, 13 September 2014


  1. No evening meeting in August

Our next meeting will be at 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. on Monday 8 September, when David Arnold will speak on ‘Dripping Yarns: A History of the Dripping Pan’.


  1. The History of Lewes – from Anglo-Saxon times to 1830

This course of 16 meetings over two terms will be held from 1.00 to 3.00 p.m. on Mondays, in St Michael’s Hall, starting on 29 September 2014, tutored by SAS member Dr Geoff Doel. It will explore the history of Lewes as a microcosm of national economic, religious, political and social trends from Anglo-Saxon times to the Regency. Topics will include pre-Conquest Lewes, medieval Lewes churches, Lewes Castle and the Battle of Lewes, traditional customs and legends, markets and fairs, Tom Paine, bonfire, inns and taverns, non-conformity, anchorites and alms houses. The cost will be £160 for two terms, reduced to £150 for SAS members. To enrol email Geoff Doel, geoffdoel [at] btinternet.com.


  1. ‘Lewes Past’ Facebook Site


A wide range of images of old Lewes, from Victorian up to quite modern times, get posted on the ‘Lewes Past’ Facebook pages. This Edwardian view down Station Street was posted by Brian Prevett back in March 1914. The proprietor of the New Station Inn (now demolished for the benefit of traffic) when this photograph was taken was A. Wells, while Hammonds store is on the right.


  1. Charles Dawson and Castle Lodge

The Uckfield solicitor Charles Dawson (1864-1916), founder of the Dawson, Hart firm, is best known as the man responsible for the Piltdown Man fraud. He was an active archaeologist, who from his early days had the knack of making original and remarkable discoveries. In 1892 he joined the Sussex Archaeological Society (SAS) and in 1901 he was a founder member of the Sussex Record Society. He wrote extensively on many different aspects of Sussex history and archaeology, especially its ironwork, pottery and glass.

However, his involvement with the SAS ended acrimoniously. Since 1885 the SAS and their collections had been happily ensconced in Castle Lodge, sited immediately below the keep in the precincts of Lewes Castle and leased from the Marquess of Abergavenny. They had an understanding that if Castle Lodge ever came up for sale, they would have the first refusal. The SAS council were thus astonished when, at midsummer 1904, their secretary received a letter from Charles Dawson informing them that he had purchased Castle Lodge, and giving them notice to quit. The SAS was eventually able to arrange to relocate to Barbican House, their present home, and in 1907 Charles Dawson and his new wife moved in to Castle Lodge. It was Dawson who added the fake battlements, ornate windows and statuary to the house. He also discovered an old wine cellar which he converted into a mock medieval dungeon, complete with manacles and a stone bed. He lived there for the rest of his life.

We have only the SAS’s version of the events surrounding the sale of the house, but Louis Salzmann believed that it was not above board. He alleged that Dawson, using his positions as a solicitor and as an officer of the SAS, and (without authorisation) SAS headed notepaper, misled the Marquess into believing that he was making the purchase on behalf of the SAS. Dawson remained an SAS member until his death but his later activities were under the aegis of other Sussex organisations. Salzmann archly commented: “His name was later given to the Pilt Down Man, Euanthropus dawsonii, the lowest form of human being, with the discovery of whose remains he was associated”.


Source: Miles Russell, ‘Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson’, Tempus (2003). Image: © BBC, 2012.


  1. Cliffe Church Clock

Source: Brigid Chapman, ‘The Chronicles of the Cliffe and South Malling’ (2003), p.65

In 1817 a minute hand was added to the clock on the tower of St Thomas’s church, Cliffe, by William Hooker, clockmaker, of 12 Cliffe High Street.


  1. Lewes from the 1867 Kelly’s Directory

LEWES is the county town, union, considerable market and borough town, and station on the Brighton and South Coast Railway, in the Eastern division of the county, diocese of Chichester, archdeaconry and rural deanery of Lewes, giving name to the rape and union, but having suburbs in Pevensey rape.

Lewes is the seat of the assizes, returns two members to Parliament, and is a polling place, and the seat of election for East Sussex. Petty sessions are held here every Tuesday. The quarter and intermediate sessions for East Sussex are also held at Lewes.

A county court is held here: the district comprises the following parishes:- Alciston, Alfriston, Arlington, Barcombe, Beddingham, Berwick, Bishopstone, Blatchington East, Buxted, Chailey, Chalvington, Chiddingly, Chillington East, Denton, Ditcheling, Eastbourne, Eastdean, Easthothly, Falmer, Firle West, Fletching, Folkington, Framfield, Friston, Glynde, Hailsham, Hamsey, Heathfield, South Heighton, Hellingly, Iford, Isfield, Jevington, Kingston, Laughton, Lewes, Litlington, Little Horsted, Lullington, Maresfield, Newhaven, Newick, Piddinghoe, Plumpton, Ringmer, Ripe, Rodmell, Seaford, Selmeston, Southease, Stanmer, Street, Tarring Neville, Telscombe, Uckfield, Waldron, Warbleton, Westdean, Westham, Westmeston, Willingdon and Wilmington. The union comprises eight parishes, viz.: All Saints; Castle Precincts; St. Anne or St. Peter and St. Mary Westout; St. John the Baptist, Southover; St. John-under-the-Castle, St. Michael, St. Thomas-in-the-Cliffe, and South Malling.

Lewes, which is a borough by prescription, is on the navigable river Ouse, 50 miles south from London, 8 from Brighton, and 7 north from Newhaven, which is its port situate on the eastern extremity of one of those bold and fertile eminences called the South Downs, The market is on Tuesday for corn and hops, and every alternate Tuesday for sheep, cattle and pigs. There are fairs on Whit-Tuesday and 6th May for horses, 26th July for wool, and 21st September for Southdown sheep, of which from 40,000 to 50,000 are often collected. The annual cattle-show of the Sussex Agricultural Society is held here in rotation with other places. There is considerable trade by the river in corn, malt, and coals.

The town is of very remote origin, and returned members to the parliament held at York, 1298 in the reign of the First Edward, and had a mint long previously: it is now governed by two high constables, chosen yearly at the court-leet of the lord of the manor.

The County Hall is a good building, with a painting by Northcote. The castle was long the chief seat of the potent De Warrenne family: the keep and gateway still remain; the former is fitted up as a museum of antiquities for the Sussex Archaeological Society: it was formerly strongly fortified, and, though few fragments are standing, the site of the walls may be easily traced. A castle here is mentioned in Saxon times, Alfred the Great being supposed to have been its founder.

Races are held annually in July or August, near Mount Harry, where the celebrated Battle of Lewes was fought, on the 14th May, 1264.

The new county gaol is just without the town, in the parish of St. Anne. The town it lighted by gas, and well supplied with water from the works in Southover. The Mechanics’ Institution is in West-street. There is an excellent library, called the Fitzroy Memorial Library, in High-street, given to the town by the widow of the late member for the borough. There is a borough record-room and engine house, built in 1818; also assembly-rooms. William Huntingdon, s.s., was buried in this town.

Here is one of the oldest educational establishments in England: the school was founded by Agnes Morley in 1512, and endowed by her with a rent-charge of £20 on an estate at Hamsey, and with a messuage in Southover, where the school was carried on for 200 years: in the 18th century the charity was further endowed by Mrs. Mary Jenkins, and the school removed from Southover to its present position in St. Anne’s parish: there has been lately a further endowment by a friend of the school, to the amount of £10 per annum, for the purchase of prize books: the expense of educating foundationers, of whom there are twelve, nominated by the trustees in rotation, is about three guineas per annum, exclusive of books; for non-foundationers, fifteen guineas per annum (exclusive of drawing); for day boarders, forty guineas; and for boarders at the head master’s house, sixty-five and seventy-five guineas per annum: there are now on the books about 48 pupils, of whom eleven are boarders in the head master’s house: there are terminal examinations. and at the end of the midsummer term the prizes, determined by the result of an examination, conducted by printed papers. are distributed: R. W. Blencowe, Esq., one of the trustees, and other gentlemen interested in the school, annually present prizes in addition to those given by the head master. Here is also, at St. Anne’s House, an English and Continental Boarding School, under the proprietary of Mr. Antony Lower, M.A., F.S.A., and F.A.S.L.

The priory of Lewes, whose ruler had a seat in Parliament, was founded in the reign of William the Conqueror by Gundrada, one of the daughters of that monarch, and her husband William, Earl Warrenne: on its dissolution by Henry VIll. The conventual buildings were mostly destroyed, and the remains are at present inconsiderable: in 1845, during the formation of the South Coast Railway, the remains of the illustrious founders were discovered, preserved in leaden chests, inscribed with their names; these relics have been deposited. in a beautiful mausoleum, built for the purpose, on the south side of the adjacent church of Southover.

Lewes enjoys many advantages-good air agreeable scenery, an excellent soil, and good water; while five railways and the Ouse, which is navigable, render it easily accessible from all quarters.

The area is 1,360 acres, and the population of the respective parishes in 1861 was as follows.-

All Saints 2,092
St. John the Baptist, Southover 1,344
St. John-under-the-Castle 2,308
Castle Precincts 32
St. Michael 1,076
St. Peter and St. Mary Westout, or St. Ann 980
St. Thomas-in-the-Cliff 1,568
South Malling 716


  1. Local newspapers published in Lewes, 1867 Kelly’s Directory

In 1867 Lewes was home to three different local newspaper proprietors, one of whom published three different editions each week. Farncombe & Bates also published the Eastbourne Chronicle from Market Street.

  • East Sussex News (Farncombe & Bates, proprietors & publishers), Market street
  • Sussex Advertiser (George P. Bacon, publisher & proprietor), High street, published Tuesday
  • Sussex Advertiser, People’s Edition (George P. Bacon, publisher & proprietor), High street, published Wednesday
  • Sussex Advertiser & Weald of Kent Chronicle (George P. Bacon, publisher & proprietor), High street, published Saturday
  • Sussex Agricultural Express (W. E. Baxter, proprietor & publisher), 35 High street


  1. Road Traffic Incident

The 15 Sep 1894 Surrey Mirror reported: “On Wednesday evening, about 6 o’clock, as a horse belonging to Mr Page of Ringmer was drawing a milk-van along Station-street, Lewes, it fell near Mr Chevens’ shop and expired”.


  1. The Odeon                                                                                       (by Brian Beck)

The Odeon was altogether different [from the Cinema de Luxe], brand new in the Arte Deco style and the height of luxury. Sited opposite St Thomas’s Church at the end of the Cliffe High Street, the entrance through swing doors led into a parade about thirty yards long. On the left were display units like shop windows, hired by local shops and businesses. I remember Cootes gents clothing. On the right was a small tea room. In the interval it would provide tea, ordered prior to the performance, to people in the “gods” circle. Also during the interval a spotlight would pick out the ice cream girl with tubs and snowfruits – she stood her ground and you had to rush to join the growing queue.

Through swing doors to the foyer bigger than a tennis court, with the ticket office and the entrance to the stalls facing the customers. The stairs to the circle were opposite. Visiting the cinema to see main feature films was a rare opportunity for the under tens and meant going with mum and dad. For us it was the Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club. You were enrolled and given a membership card and badge. The morning show cost thrupence. The format was cast in stone and always started with the club song:

Every Saturday morning where do we go
Getting into mischief oh dear no
To the Mickey Mouse Club with badges on
Every Saturday morning at the O-DE-ON

This was followed by a couple of Disney cartoons, always a Mickey Mouse and perhaps a Donald Duck. Other characters included Mickey’s girlfriend Minnie , Pluto the dog, Goofy, Horace Horsecollar and Clara Cluck. Another cartoon character was Popeye the Sailor who maintained his strength by swallowing great dollops of spinach straight out of a tin can, with his girl friend Olive Oil and a fat character, who was always eating hamburgers, Wimpey.

After the interval we came to the serious part of the morning the Adventures of Flash Gordon, space traveller extraordinaire, he had travelled to more planets than we could count, his spaceship was straight out of Blue Peter. The serial was ongoing and based around the most improbable adventures and each week always with our hero in mortal danger the screen would go blank and a voice would say something on the lines of “will Flash escape? See next week’s show”. I expect that this would ensure that the Odeon had a loyal audience but they needn’t have worried: although we were young we had worked out the system and Flash would escape somehow only to get in another spot of bother to get us on tenterhooks for the next week. The only end of an episode I can remember was Flash in a cage with an enormous gorilla with a foot long horn sticking out of its chest and just as the monster was about to embrace him “will etc”.

I’m afraid I can’t remember the following week’s start so this might have haunted me for all of the subsequent seventy years. I continued my membership until the start of World War II put a stop to it.


  1. Lewes Racecourse Memorabilia Exhibition, 10 am-5pm, 13 September 2014

An exhibition of racing memorabilia of Lewes Racecourse from 1727-1964 will be on display at the White Hart. This will include the names of the winning horses, newspaper reports & people’s stories.


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




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