An interpretation board, celebrating a rare feature of the industrial history and heritage of the Lewes area, was unveiled on May 28th 2015 by the CEO of the South Downs National Park Authority, Trevor Beattie, opposite the Chalk Pit Inn, near Offham.
The Offham pit was perfectly located, where the raw chalk of the Downs and the historic river highway were at their closest. After being loosened by gunpowder, the chalk was dug away and taken to on-site kilns to be burnt into lime, which was then transported by river barges to farms in the Weald, where it was used as fertiliser.
Steep tunnels under the road (now the A275) – the entrances to which can still be seen – once took lime by means of the first funicular railway in the south of England, down to barges in the Pellbrook Cut and on to the river Ouse. The tunnels and railway, which were designed and built by William Jessop and functioned from 1809 to 1870, were given Grade II listed status in 2013 by English Heritage – a process begun by the late Paul Millmore, whose widow, Bridget, attended the event.
The board, by the entrance to the Chalk Pit Inn’s car park, was funded by the Friends of Lewes and the installation was supervised by the local SDNPA Ranger, Mark Hayward.
Trevor Beattie said that the board, which complements one above the old quarry, was an excellent example of co-operation between the SDNPA, and local interests – including the enthusiastic support of the Chalk Pit Inn’s landlords, John and Emma Miles.
To find out more about Hamsey’s industrial heritage visit the Hamsey Heritage website.
More heritage events will be available to the public during Lewes Heritage Open Days event, 10th-13th September 2015, which is organised the Friends of Lewes.