Lewes History Group: Bulletin 65, December 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: 14 December 2015. Street Stories in progress: Grange Road & South Street
  2. Chair & Executive Committee Reports for 2015 (by Ian McClelland)
  3. Treasurer’s Report for 2015 (by Ron Gordon)
  4. LHG membership in 2015 (by Neil Merchant)
  5. LHG communications in 2015 (by Jane Lee)
  6. LHG website & social media report (by Barbara Merchant)
  7. Artillery Salute for King George III
  8. Luke Spence Esq of South Malling, Sussex
  9. Garden Street: a forgotten chapel in Southover (by Marcus Taylor)
  10. James Lambert Junior at Gorringes
  11. The Pubs of Lewes


  1. Next Meeting 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.                      Monday 14 December


Bridget Millmore       The Story of Grange Road

Jim Hillage                 The Story of South Street

After the A.G.M. we shall have presentations on the progress to date of two of our Street Stories teams. The Grange Road group is a relatively new Street Stories team that met for the first time in April this year and has begun to explore different aspects of the road’s history. This presentation will introduce results to date from some of the ways in which they plan to explore that history, using documents about the sale of building plots, photographs of unusual events, oral testimonies of residents and finding out about who lived in the individual houses. The South Street team has been at work for longer, but the project is more ambitious than any other reported to date. South Street is not only a long street, but it also has a much longer history than the streets established only during the expansion of Lewes in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As usual the meeting will be at the King’s Church building, Brooks Road, and all will be welcome. This will be our Christmas meeting and there will be no entry charge for members. The charge for visitors will remain at £3. We shall be serving mulled wine and mince pies, instead of coffee and biscuits, from 7 pm.


  1. Chair & Executive Committee Reports for 2015          (by Ian McClelland)

This report covers the third year of the Lewes History Group (LHG) as a ‘formal’ group. As noted in last year’s report we set out two important aims for the Group which remain the focus for the LHG:

  • 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.

Membership: Our membership has remained steady in 2015 (see below). This confirms that the LHG is indeed filling an important role in the life of the town.

Finances: The LHG remains solvent – see the Treasurer’s report below. The Development Fund remains untapped as a way to support member projects.

Bulletin: We have continued to publish our monthly Bulletin, including some original content and a good number of illustrations.

Meetings: The programme of monthly meetings covered a wide variety of topics and, in general, were well attended and very well received by our audiences. From this we may conclude that we are satisfactorily meeting the first of the two aims noted above. However following very high attendances at three meetings early in 2015, we have noticed some decline in audience numbers in recent months. To date it is not clear why, but we will monitor the situation and aim to reverse this trend in the coming months.

A small but important part of the Group’s work is the Research Meetings programme. The purpose of these meetings is to enhance the expertise of LHG members who want to undertake investigations. Two particular initiatives which both proved to be very successful were 1) the course on Interpreting Wills and Deeds run by Christopher Whittick of the Keep and 2) the Family History Workshop run by Mat Homewood and David Simkin. The course run by Christopher Whittick has been extended into 2016. In addition we have held regular quarterly meetings for the Street Stories project.

Projects: The EC wants to do more to satisfy the second aim noted above. We regard the active involvement of members in projects as vital to the long term vitality of the group. Clearly not every member needs to be active but the EC would like to see a broader portfolio of projects than just the Street Stories evolve over the coming years. Apart from the Street Stories the group has no other active member projects underway. The EC would like to encourage and support members who want to develop initiatives. So if you have proposals and want help in getting a project underway please contact a member of the EC.

Our most important current initiative is the Street Stories project. We now have several active groups and a programme of quarterly meetings to review progress and provide mutual support. To date little demand has been put on the LHG to support the project financially. However we expect this to change as we get closer to looking for opportunities to disseminate the results to the wider public.

Communications: Our regular marketing activities continue to build awareness of the Group and to attract large numbers of members and visitors to the monthly talks. See report below for more details.

Digital Presence: Our online presence – our website, Facebook and Twitter – continues to evolve and extend our reach. It is a key part of publicising events, raising our profile, and bringing us new audiences in the UK and abroad. Our statistics continue to show a healthy growth in their usage.

LHG Executive Committee: The focus of the LHGEC work in 2015 has continued to focus on developing the organisation. This will continue but with a significant shift of focus in 2016 towards encouraging the development of research activities. The LHGEC continues, unfortunately, to operate without a Secretary. We hope that a suitable candidate comes forward in 2016 and to fill this position. Both Ron Gordon as Treasurer and myself as Chairperson are happy to continue in post for 2016.

Thanks: I would also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all LHG members, to record thanks to the following for their valuable contributions to the work of the LHG during 2014:

  • To your Executive Committee for all their hard work; Ron Gordon, Ann Holmes, John Kay, Jane Lee, Barbara Merchant and Neil Merchant.
  • To all our speakers at our public and research meetings.
  • To all the people who have helped to run the Public Meetings, especially Tessa Bain for preparation and mounting the LHG display; Peter Holmes and others for preparation of the meeting room; Anna Kay & Jan Osborne for providing the refreshments; Dee O’Connell for helping at the admissions desk; and everyone else who has helped out over the last year.
  • To Dee O’Connell, Peter Earle & Janet Kennedy for putting our posters in their windows.
  • To Lloyd Raworth for designing the LHG leaflet.
  • To Mike Stepney for auditing our accounts.
  • And most importantly, to yourselves for your continued support; the members, the attendees at our meetings and the many on our list of friends.


  1. Treasurer’s Report for 2015                                                   (by Ron Gordon)

Lewes History Group income for the year 1st Dec 2014 to 30th Nov 2015 was £4,406.06 and expenditure for the same period was £2,568.86. Both income and expenditure were similar to the previous year. Expenditure for research projects is shown as a separate category for 2014/15.

The end of year balance £5737.41 continues to show a healthy surplus which provides a good base for the group to extend its activities in research projects. It is proposed to retain the same entrance fees and membership subscription for the next year.

Lewes History Group
Summary of Income and Expenditure 2014/2015
Income 2014/15 2013/14 Expenditure 2014/15 2013/14
£ £ £ £
Membership Subscriptions 1,653.50 1,411.00 Room Hire 630.00 1,000.00
Entrance Fees 2,589.30 2,948.45 Speakers’ Fees 435.00 450.00
Bank Interest 3.26 2.67 Meeting Refreshments 148.82 134.00
Research Projects Income 160.00 0 Research Projects Expenses 136.40 0.00
Research Projects Speakers and Hire 1,034.00 595.00
Publicity and leaflets 21.70 236.80
Administration expenses 162.94 320.26
Total income for the year 4,406.06 4,362.12 Total expenditure for the year 2,568.86 2,736.06
Surplus of Income over Expenditure 1,837.20 1,626.06
Balance at end of year 5,737.41 3,904.62



  1. LHG membership in 2015                                                     (by Neil Merchant)  

Last year I reported that we had 218 members, and our current 2015 membership is almost exactly the same, at 219. This is encouraging in that a stable membership level allows us to budget and plan confidently. We also still have over 200 names on our “Information only” email contact list, so we’re in touch with over 400 people in total. 2016 renewals are also going well, with 64 people rejoining at the November meeting. Membership fees for 2016 are unchanged, at £8 and £4.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone for their helpfulness over membership matters, which has made my job a pleasure. If you have not already done so you will be able to renew your membership at our December and January meetings, where new membership cards will be waiting for you.


  1. LHG communications in 2015                                                       (by Jane Lee)

What was achieved in 2015? Our marketing activities have been maintained at the same level during the year. The Sussex Express and Viva Lewes are still the prime ways of reaching non-members.

LHG promotional activities in 2015 included:

  • Taking a stand at the Societies Fair in July
  • The Street Stories teams in The Pells put on an exhibition jointly with the church at St John sub Castro on 12, 19 & 26 Sep, showing their research into the history of the area and how its residents had lived. About 400 visitors attended and there was a lot of praise for the content.
  • Ordering a reprint of the group’s leaflet x 1000 in Nov/Dec.
  • Talks’ promotion in the Sussex Express; Viva Lewes magazine & website; Lewes News; online what’s on pages: Lewes.co.uk, Freegle, LoveLewes.com, Sussex Life & LDC; newsletters & websites of associates e.g. Friends of Lewes, Priory Trust, Sussex Archaeological Society, Lewes Archaeology Group; posters in Tourist Office & Library and the windows of members in Keere St, Little East St & Friars Walk; putting leaflets in locations around town; posting on our Twitter & Facebook accounts; LHG website & bulletin.
  • Using our social media accounts to promote our own and other local history events. We now have 373 (was 204 in 2014 & 69 in 2013) following @LewesHistory on Twitter & 296 on Facebook facebook.com/LewesHistoryGroup (was 150 in 2014, 42 in 2013) as at 17/11/15.


  1. LHG website and social media in 2015                        (by Barbara Merchant)

The usage of our website continues to grow, with a daily average of 97 views per day for 2015, almost 10 times what it was back in 2010, and amounting to over 35,000 views this year. However there are signs that usage is reaching a plateau, so we will be considering new features to address this.

Our website serves two overlapping audiences, highlighting news and events for our local users, and providing access to resources for researching the history of Lewes to all UK, and international viewers (17%). This year, we expanded our resources pages in areas such as house and family history research, and access to digitised journal issues remains our most popular feature, followed by information about our meetings and Bulletins.

Facebook and Twitter help to magnify the reach of our news and events postings, most importantly to the 60% of our regular followers who live within travelling distance to attend events in Lewes. Street Stories, Reeves photography and Lewes Priory stories topped the popularity list.


  1. Artillery Salute for King George III

From the ‘Lewes News’ included in the 7 June 1813 Sussex Weekly Advertiser

“Last Friday being the anniversary of His Majesty’s birth-day, the artillery in Ringmer barracks took their guns to the East and West of the town, and at one o’clock fired a Royal Salute in honour of the day.”


  1. Luke Spence Esq of South Malling, Sussex

William Wisdom of Glynde recalls this story in his journal, edited by Andrew Lusted as ‘The Book of Wisdom’, Part 1, p.36. Luke Spence, a leading member of the Lewes bench, lived at Malling House.

“Mr Spence was a plain country gent and a magistrate, a very steady man and kept a good house, but he was one of those who they say ‘will never set the Thames on fire’. He had an only son, and him as wild as the old gent was tame. One day Mr Spence said to his son, “Harry, Harry, why can’t you be steady and live as I do?” “Live Sir” quoth Harry, “Why to be sure you have stood and growed as a cabbage does, but as to living you never lived a day in your life”.


  1. Garden Street: a forgotten chapel in Southover             (by Marcus Taylor)

I have previously written in the Southover Church magazine about a chapel that once existed at the junction of Garden Street and Eastport Lane, Southover, of which little or no trace remains. This was once the home of a small chapel, built where numbers 12 to 15 Garden Street now stand. This is the St. Bartholomew’s church referred to in Bulletin no. 64.


I am grateful to Margaret Campbell for providing this Reeves photograph. When the chapel was removed, four houses were built – see below – in one of which, No 15, Margaret has lived since she moved a few yards from Dorset Road.

So I had a photo – but how to find out more? “No problem: just Google it” is a frequent response today. But what to do when even the mighty search engine cannot produce anything? The answer is to go to the people who actually know – in this case, Zena Rector who lives at No 12.

Zena and her late husband Bill knew from the deeds of their house that the chapel had been built by a wealthy eccentric called Frederick Bickford-Heard at his own expense in 1914. It was described as being part of the Reformed or Free Episcopal Church of England, which had been formed in the USA in 1873. However an edition of the Southover Church parish magazine for October, 1914 stated “this place of worship has no connection whatever with the Church of England” and goes on at some length to disassociate itself. A letter to Bill Rector in the 1950s from the Free Church of England makes it clear that they did not recognise this church, describing it as an “affiliated group only, later forbidden by the Reformed Episcopal Church”.

The chapel was to have a short life: by 1920, Bickford-Heard had been ordained as an Anglican priest and briefly became Curate at Southover church. In 1922 the chapel building was removed and re-erected in Moulsecoomb. It remained the church there until 1934, when it became their church hall. It was finally demolished in 1957. Bickford-Heard retired in 1926 and died in 1945. His obituary makes no mention of his time in Lewes. I am greatly indebted to Zena for these details.

Lower Garden Street today

There is so much more to history than can be held in the mighty data-store of Google, or even in the human memory.


  1. James Lambert Junior at Gorringes

Gorringe’s October 2015 Fine Art, Antiques and Collectables sale included as lots 1006 and 1007 two fine ink and watercolour drawings by James Lambert junior (1741-1799).

Lot 1006

Lot 1007
Images reproduced, with permission, from Gorringe’s online catalogue

Lot 1006, showing Lewes Castle from the [St Michael’s] cemetery was signed and inscribed ‘Lewes 1792’. Estimated at £800-£1,200, it was not sold.

Lot 1007, showing the Castle gateway from the south, was signed and inscribed ‘drawn 1772’. It sold for £700, at the lower end of the estimated range.

The 1792 drawing shows an impressive crack in the castle’s curtain wall and both show adjoining buildings that no longer exist.


  1. The Pubs of Lewes

Russell_Pubs_of_Lewes_2015This recently published book is by David & Lynda Russell, who are based in Hastings and have previously published books on the history of the pubs in other towns further east in East Sussex. The text is very well illustrated, though you may recognise some of the images – several of them have previously appeared in these Bulletins, and the Lewes History Group gets a credit in the bibliography.

There are accounts of about 40 present and past Lewes pubs, with chronological lists of licensees from the petty sessions licensing records and from local directories. The text is enlivened by anecdotes from the local newspapers. It is quite a thick paperback at 322 pages, and there is an index.

Copies are available from a number of Lewes bookshops, with the Barbican House bookshop offering a discount for members of the Sussex Archaeological Society. Alternatively you can order copies online from the hastingspubhistory website at £14.99.


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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