Lewes History Group: Bulletin 64, November 2015

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: 9 November 2015. Simon Stevens, ‘Old Walls, Wellies & Wasps’
  2. Lewes Priory Ruins
  3. LHG news & events alerts by email (by Barbara Merchant)
  4. Lewes History Group membership renewal for 2016 (by Neil Merchant)
  5. Licensed Victuallers in 1781
  6. Plumer Verrall Auctions
  7. St John the Baptist Church, Southover
  8. Pub Chains of the Victorian Breweries in Lewes
  9. Sidney Clayton Woodroffe, V.C.
  10. Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Eastport Lane
  11. School Hill


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

Simon Stevens:  Old Walls, Wellies & Wasps – Recent Archaeological Work at Lewes Priory

I suspect that not many of our current members will remember the excellent talk on ‘Loads of Old Rubbish’ (about the excavations in the grounds of Lewes House) that Simon gave in our first ever season of Lewes History Group talks, way back in 2009. This month Simon will be telling us about what has been revealed by recent archaeological work at Lewes Priory. He is a Senior Archaeologist with Archaeology South-East, and a very entertaining speaker.

As usual the meeting will be at the King’s Church building, Brooks Road, and all will be welcome. Coffee and biscuits will be served from 7 pm.


  1. Lewes Priory Ruins


The Priory, along with the Castle and the Pells, seem to have been the most popular subjects for Edwardian Lewes postcards. This hand-coloured Valentine’s postcard is typical.


  1. LHG news & events alerts by email                          (by Barbara Merchant)

The History Group website maintains an up-to-date list of local events of Lewes history interest. You can receive automatic email notification of such events, whether or not run by the Lewes History Group, by entering your email address on our website at http://leweshistory.org.uk and following the instructions.




  1. LHG membership                                                                          (by Neil Merchant)

LHG memberships fall due for renewal on 1 January 2016. You will be able to renew at the November, December and January meetings, where new membership cards will be waiting for you. Fees are again unchanged at £8 for the first member and £4 each for others at the same address.


  1. Licensed Victuallers in 1781

On 11 September 1781 the magistrates called a meeting at the Star Inn, Alfriston, where all the licensed innkeepers and ale house keepers of Upper Pevensey Rape (which included the parishes of Cliffe and South Malling) were required to post £10 bonds that they would keep good order in their premises in the following year. The two magistrates present were both from South Malling – William Kempe, Serjeant-at-Law, who lived at Malling Deanery and Luke Spence Esq. of Malling House.

The record shows that at that date there were five licensed houses in the Cliffe, but only one in South Malling parish. The licensee is also named. This record survived only because it was written on a nice piece of parchment, later re-used as the binding for another document.

Cliffe parish Bear John Hardyman
Dorset Arms John Durnford
Fountain Nicholas Hubbard
King and Queen William Sattin
Ship Evan Davis
South Malling parish Wheat Sheaf William Weller

According to Leslie Davey’s ‘The Inns of Lewes, Past and Present’ The King and Queen was on Cliffe High Street, next to the Bear (now Bills), while the Old Ship and the Fountain were both on South Street. Of the six, only the Dorset Arms survives.


  1. Plumer Verrall Auctions

The auctioneer Plumer Verrall was very active in Lewes in the 1830s. He appears to have been equally happy to sell property, household furniture, business stock-in-trade, building materials or livestock, including horses. The records of the sales he conducted between 1832 and 1839 survive in the East Sussex Record Office, as AMS 6941/1/1. In a sale held on 17 December 1833 at the Star Door Mr Mantell’s black gelding sold for £16 6s 6d, while Mr Pockney’s pony made only £3.

On 17 February 1838 he conducted a sale at the Star Inn of property in St John-sub-Castro parish by order of the Poor Law Commissioners. Lot 1, a copyhold building used as a workhouse, was bought in at £295, but lot 2, a copyhold blacksmith’s shop occupied by W. Wilmshurst, was sold for £116 to Jesse Funnell. Later that year the Poor Law Commissioners tried again. In an auction at the Star Inn on 18 June 1838 the former St John’s parish workhouse was sold to Mr Richard Willard for £190.

Lewes_SJSC_Parish_workhouse_Castle_BanksThe St John-sub-Castro parish workhouse in Castle Banks, photographed by Jonathan Spencer. He notes that it was built about 1639, had been an alehouse and was once the home of the Lewes diarist Mrs Henry Dudeney.



On 10 November Plumer Verrall held another auction at the Star Inn to sell some property of the late Mr John Shelley, comprising two dwelling houses within the precincts of Lewes Castle, near the bowling green there, and including a range of stabling. They were brought in by builder George Harman, at £1,025. Three weeks later, on 30 November, there was a second sale of the late Mr John Shelley’s furniture at Castle Gate House, which realised £55 1s 6d.


  1. St John the Baptist Church, Southover


This unusual postcard view of Southover Church, probably c.1920, was offered for sale on ebay in July.


  1. Pub Chains of the Victorian Breweries in Lewes

It has long been the practice for British breweries to build up chains of tied public houses that provided a captive market for the brewery products, and Lewes was no exception. The Register of Licences for Lewes inns and beerhouses drawn up in 1873 records the names of the individual who held the licences, and when they changed, but also provides the names of the owners.

Probably the leading brewer within Lewes was Thomas Edward Beard, whose brewery was on Fisher Street. He owned The Lamb, The Lewes Arms and the Royal Oak in his home parish of St John-sub-Castro, and also the White Lion in St Michael’s, The Black Horse in St Ann’s, The Stag in All Saints, the Swan and the Old Ship in the Cliffe and the Wheat Sheaf in South Malling. He also owned an unnamed beerhouse in Fisher Street, the Green Man in Ringmer, the Abergavenny Arms in Rottingdean and beerhouses in Ditchling and East Chiltington.

William Verrall’s Southover Brewery ran Beards close. He owned the King’s Head, The Swan and an unnamed Spring Gardens beerhouse in Southover, the Pelham Arms in St Ann’s, the Brewers Arms in St Michael’s, the King’s Arms in St John-sub-Castro, the Dolphin in All Saints and the Fountain in the Cliffe. He also owned the Blacksmith’s Arms in Hamsey, The Cock in Ringmer and The Lamb in Ripe.

John & Alfred Hillman’s South Malling brewery, at the end of Thomas Street, had the numbers but not perhaps the same quality. They owned the Dorset Arms in the Cliffe, the Prince of Wales in South Malling and the Elephant & Castle in St John-sub-Castro. They owned the Newmarket Tavern, in St Ann’s parish, but well out of town, the Ark in Newhaven and the Station Inn at Barcombe. They also owned unnanmed beerhouses in Cliffe (2), St John-sub-Castro (3, including one in Sun Street and one in Station Street), South Malling, Ringmer and Rottingdean.

Edward Monk’s Bear Brewery owned the Bear itself in the Cliffe, but otherwise only the Thatched House in the Cliffe, the George in All Saints and five unnamed beerhouses in North Street, Cliffe, Keere Street, St Michaels, High Street, St Ann’s, North Street, St John-sub-Castro and Priory Street, Southover. He also owned the Old Ship in Ringmer, the Yew Tree in Chalvington, the Half Moon in Plumpton and the White Horse in Ditchling.

Alexander Elmsley’s South Malling Steam Brewery, Malling Street, owned only four named inns, the Snow Drop in South Malling, the Elm Grove in St Michael’s, the Railway Inn in Ringmer and the Rainbow in Hamsey. There were also four unnamed beerhouses in Cliffe High Street, Malling Street, South Malling, Southover and John Street, St John-sub-Castro. John Maxfield Smith (who had been in partnership with William Harvey) had only the Trevor Arms in Beddingham and four beerhouses in Eastport Lane, Southover, High Street, St Michael’s, North Street, St John’s, and in Berwick. I didn’t identify any inns belonging to Ballard’s Brewery in Southover – perhaps because I failed to identify the owner.

There were of course other chains based outside the town, and a good number of free houses. Vallance & Catt from West Street, Brighton, had a long chain of inns along the coast but also the Running Horse in St Ann’s, the Railway Inn and the New Station Inn in All Saints (at either end of Friars Walk) and the Anchor at Ringmer. Lord Gage owned three inns on his own estate, the Ram at Firle, the Barley Mow in Alciston and the Fuller Arms in Berwick. The Earl of Abergavenny owned not only the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell, but also the White Horse in St Michael’s, long established as the Whig headquarters in the town. Ownership of the Star and the Crown also lay outside the brewery chains.

  1. Sidney Clayton Woodroffe, V.C.

Sidney_Clayton_Woodroffe_V.C.Sidney Clayton Woodroffe, whose death in an action in France for which he was posthumously awarded the V.C. was noted in Bulletin no.58, was born at Lewes on 17 December 1895. He was aged 19 at his death in July 1915. He was the fourth and youngest son of Henry Long Woodroffe and his wife Clara Clayton. On leaving Marlborough College, where he was senior prefect and captained the Officer Training Corps, in 1914 he was awarded a Classics scholarship by Pembroke College, Cambridge, but instead enlisted in the 8th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade. Two of his elder brothers were also killed in the Great War as officers in the Rifle Brigade. One was severely wounded in the same action as Sidney was killed. The eldest brother, Hugh C. Woodroffe, remained in Lewes, living at Highfields, the Wallands.

Sidney Woodroffe’s Victoria Cross was presented to his parents at Buckingham Palace by King George V in 1916. They then lived at Branksome Avenue, Bournemouth. All three brothers are remembered on the war memorial in All Saints Church, Branksome Park, Bournemouth. Sidney is one of the many Great War soldiers with no known grave, but is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres, on the Rifle Brigade memorial in Winchester Cathedral, and on the war memorial and the Victoria Cross memorial at Marlborough College. A stone and plaque in his memory was laid in the terrace outside Lewes Library on 30 July 2015, marking the centenary of his death. His V.C. became part of Lord Ashcroft’s collection, now in the Imperial War Museum.

The introduction to the ESRO Beard’s Brewery archive identifies Henry Long Woodroffe as appearing in Lewes about 1883, when he entered into partnership with the established Browning family as a wine and spirit merchant, to form the business of Browning and Woodroffe, trading from the Corn Exchange Buildings in the High Street. Shortly afterwards he took over the business, which was later merged into Beard’s Brewery.

19 Feb 1884 London Gazette

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Frederick George Browning and Henry Long Woodroffe, carrying on the businesses of Wine, Spirit, Ale and Stout Merchants, at Lewes and Brighton, both in the county of Sussex, under the style or firm of Browning and Woodroffe, has been dissolved, by mutual consent, as from the 1st day of February instant; and that the businesses will in future be carried on by the said Henry Long Woodroffe alone, on his own account under the style of Browning and Woodroffe. All debts due from and owing to the said late partnership will be paid and received by the said Henry Long Woodroffe.—Dated this 16th day of February, 1884.

Frederick George Browning.
Henry Long Woodroffe.          

In 1889 H.L. Woodroffe, wine merchant, of High Street, Lewes, was given permission to build a new house designed by the Lewes architect Alfred Oakden at 18 King Henry’s Road [ESRO/dla25/DL/A/25/59]. This house was later called Highfield. Henry Long Woodroffe was buried at Branksome Park, Bournemouth, in May 1927, aged 71.


  1. Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Eastport Lane

The list of Church of England places of worship in the 1914-5 Blue Book Directory of Lewes includes, in addition to the expected seven Anglican churches, St Bartholomew’s on Eastport Lane. There were Sunday services at 11 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., communion on the first Sunday of the month at 8 a.m. and on other Sundays after either morning or evening prayers, and a full set of weekday services and activities. It was specifically noted that all seats were free and unappropriated. The incumbent was the Rev F. Bickford-Heard, of Highlands, Wallands, licensed by the Right Rev Bishop Eldridge, D.D., Reformed Episcopalian Church.

The Reformed Episcopalian Church was formed in the USA in 1873 to counter the increasing influence of the Oxford movement. It spread to England where, though it looked back to the Anglican church of Thomas Cranmer, it had an uneasy relationship with the Church of England. Bishop Philip X. Eldridge was consecrated to serve the church in England in 1892. Wikipedia notes that by 1910 it had 28 ministers and about 2,000 communicant members in England. Lewes seems a very credible base, and it may perhaps have utilised the old Baptist Meeting House on Eastport Lane. In 1927 the Reformed Episcopalian Church merged into the Free Church of England, another movement with broadly similar views and aims.


  1. School Hill


This hand-coloured postcard of the view up School Hill was published by A.H. Homewood of Burgess Hill. It carries a 1913 postmark, but I suspect the original photograph was taken a decade earlier.


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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