Lewes History Group: Bulletin 66, January 2016

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  1. Next Meeting: 11 January 2016, John Bleach, ‘Lewes in Art’
  2. A Windmill on the Downs
  3. Miss Parnel Baldy of the Cliff
  4. The Spital
  5. Gunner Bernard Francis (by Marcus Taylor)
  6. Charles Knight, Recording Lewes


  1. Next Meeting 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.                      Monday 11 January

John Bleach              Lewes in Art

John Bleach will give an overview of the ways the town and its surroundings have been depicted from 1600 to 1950. He will be approaching this potentially vast subject area from two angles: as an historian interested in the land-use and architecture of the town, and as a picture browser with a penchant for topographically-based watercolours and prints. Some of the artists represented are anonymous and unknown, some are named and little known, and one or two are just plain famous, but what they have in common is that they looked at a view or building and interpreted it with pencil, pen, brush and burin.

If you would like to bring along your own paintings and prints of Lewes to share with the audience attending the meeting, please bring them along at 7 p.m. If you let John Kay know (contact details at the end of this Bulletin, email preferred) he will do his best to ensure that a suitable display place is available.

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.


  1. A Windmill on the Downs


My personal contribution to this event will be this watercolour drawing of one of the windmills on the Downs above Lewes.

I think it is probably the corner of the prison that can be glimpsed just over the hill. There is a pencil note “S.I. 1901” in the bottom left-hand corner and “Nr. Lewes” in the bottom right hand corner

The windmill featured appears to be the same tower mill that was the subject of the oil painting by William Luker that was included in Bulletin no.18.

  1. Miss Parnel Baldy of the Cliff

William Wisdom of Glynde recalls this story in his journal, edited by Andrew Lusted as ‘The Book of Wisdom’, Part 1, p.35.

“Have heard from my father that in about 1735 there was a very substantial grocer in the Cliff, of the name Baldy, who had a beautiful daughter named Parnel. Sir William Gage [of Firle Place], who was a lecherous gent, found means to seduce her, and I think had one child by her. One day in going through the Cliff he called at the shop. Mr Baldy came out, and Sir William said “Well Mr Baldy, and suppose I were to marry your daughter, what would you give her?”. “Give her, give her? Why, I will give £500”. “£500”, rejoined Sir William, “Why that won’t find her pin money” and immediately drove on.

They soon after parted and a young gentleman soon took a fancy to her, and they were married. He, dying soon after, left her a handsome fortune with a country house. Sir William Gage heard of it and, wishing to renew his acquaintance, drove his carriage to her door, sending in his servant with “Sir William Gage’s compliments, wishes to know if Mrs So-and-so was at home”. The lady directly sent an answer that she was at home to any gentleman but Sir William Gage. I need not add that Sir William immediately drove off, and never attempted to renew his acquaintance afterwards.”


  1. The Spital


This lithograph is by James Rouse, and probably comes from his self-published book ‘The Beauties and Antiquities of the County of Sussex’ (1825), which contained 148 hand coloured lithographs.

Source: posted by Alexandra Loske on the Lewes Past Facebook Page, Sept 2015


  1. Gunner Bernard Francis                                                      (by Marcus Taylor)

Bernard Francis was born Lewes on 17 August 1898, the son of a corporation street paver, and is found with his family at 38 Sun Street in 1901 and at 16 Talbot Terrace in 1911. He was himself a corporation labourer when he enlisted in the Royal Navy in September 1915, shortly after his 17th birthday. He served throughout the Great War as a naval gunner on Admiral Beatty’s flagship, the battlecruiser HMS Lion.

He remained in the Royal Navy after the war and was posted to a coastguard station in Ireland. On 14 May 1921 Bernard Francis and another Royal Marine were out walking near their station at Eastferry, Queenstown, when they were kidnapped by the I.R.A., murdered, and their bodies dumped in a quarry. His body was returned to his family home, Mill House, Talbot Terrace, and he was buried with full military honours in St John-sub-Castro churchyard. The 20 May 1921 Sussex Express carried a report of his death, and the following week’s newspaper a report of his funeral.

Source: http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/marines/francis/francis.html


  1. Charles Knight, Recording Lewes

‘Recording Britain’ was a project conceived by art historian Kenneth Clark as part of the War Artists Scheme. A number of leading British artists were commissioned to produce over 1500 watercolours and drawings of Britain’s landscape and townscape just in case they were no longer extant after the war. One of the artists commissioned was Charles Knight of Ditchling (1901-1990) – indeed he was seen by artist Russell Flint as the ‘star turn’ and by Kenneth Clark as the ‘jewel in the crown’. Of the 40 drawings Knight undertook 10 were included in the final publication. His work was mainly in Sussex and included half a dozen illustrations of Lewes. During the War he also attracted media attention as having been invited in 1944 to instruct Princess Margaret in art.

Charles Knight was a highly respected topographical landscape painter, and an important figure in the Brighton School of Art over many decades. He attended the School as a student from 1919 to 1923, before studying at the Royal Academy (RA) Schools where he was influenced by the Keeper, Charles Sims and visitors such as Walter Sickert and Sir George Clausen. Whilst there he was awarded the Landseer Scholarship and the Turner Gold Medal for a landscape Llangollen (1925), subsequently hung in the RA Annual Exhibition (1926) and purchased for the Tate Gallery. He began his long association as a teacher with Brighton School of Art in 1926 and retired as Vice-Principal in 1967.

Source: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/faculty-of-arts-brighton/alumni-and-associates/associates-and-alumni/graphic/knight,-charles-1901-1990. Images are copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.


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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