Lewes History Group: Bulletin 77, December 2016

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. Christmas Meeting:  12 December 2016: Ian Everest, ‘The Women’s Land Army
  2. Tesco Supermarket, Cliffe High Street
  3. The Sun Street Story (by Brian Cheesmur, Rosemary Page, Frances Stenlake & Susan Weeks)
  4. Flying Officer Claude Mervyn Wheatley (by Patty Harris)
  5. A Petition against Slavery
  6. The Premier Inn: Spot the Difference
  7. Brighton Main Line 2
  8. The Lewes Railway Coach
  9. A.G.M Reports (by Ian McClelland, Neil Merchant & Jane Lee)
  1. Christmas Meeting 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.          Monday 12 December      A.G.M.
    Ian Everest                                 The Women’s Land Army

Ian Everest grew up with tales from his mother who was one of 80,000 Land Girls during World War II. His talk includes some of her personal memories and a history of the role of women on Sussex farms around Lewes during the two world wars. This illustrated presentation shows what a debt our country owed to these “Cinderellas of the Soil”, with their vital contribution in feeding our country only gaining official recognition many years later after their disbanding in 1950.

As this is the Christmas meeting we shall be serving mulled wine and mince pies between 7.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. and there will be no entry charge for members.


  1. Tesco Supermarket, Cliffe High Street


Image posted by Ian Freeston on the Lewes Past website

This photograph of the Tesco supermarket on Cliffe High Street, at the site now occupied by Bill’s, must have been taken in the 1960s. It looked like this when I first moved to the area, and I shopped there once. At the time I was used to shopping in American supermarkets, so it was just the once!


  1. The Sun Street Story (by Brian Cheesmur, Rosemary Page, Frances Stenlake & Susan Weeks)

Sun Street Book cover pageThe Lewes History Group was established in 2009 to promote an active interest in the history of Lewes and its surroundings. Members are encouraged to undertake research projects, and meet regularly to review progress and develop expertise. This book is the first LHG publication and is intended to be the first of a series about other streets in the town.

The co-authors came together as members of the LHG Street Stories project. Sue Weeks was living in neighbouring St John Street and had previously researched its history. Rosemary Page’s parents had lived briefly at the Old Police Station. Brian Cheesmur had 60 years experience with his building firm and had many older houses in Lewes and Frances Stenlake is a Sun Street resident who enjoys the close community spirit that still exists there today.

The Sun Street team started their research in 2013. One of the first aims was to egage with local residents, so that research reflected their interests and knowledge. As a result many Sun Street families, past and present, became enthusiastic contributors, sharing their memories, documents and photographs.

You may have heard a small part of the story of Sun Street, excellently presented in a dramatic format at our November meeting. Copies of ‘The Sun Street Story’ are available at £8.50p via our website or at our December meeting.


  1. Flying Officer Claude Mervyn Wheatley                                             (by Patty Harris)

By chance I saw online the item in Bulletin no.58 about Flying Officer Claude Mervyn Wheatley, the Spitfire pilot killed in action on 22 March 1940 who was the son of the proprietor of Browne & Crosskey’s Stores in Lewes, and I realised that F/O Wheatley was related to my husband. I contacted the Dutch Historian Sander Woonings and after much organisation he kindly came to England and met all the branches of our family related to F/O Wheatley. On 24 September 2016 Sander presented to us a PowerPoint presentation about our relative. We are so grateful to Sander for making the effort to contact our family. It has been a very emotional weekend for many of the family relatives and we owe Sander a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you for publishing his message.


  1. A Petition against Slavery

The 30 January 1826 Sussex Advertiser included a petition against various aspects of slavery in the British Colonies signed by 79 householders of the borough of Lewes. The signatories included the non-conformist ministers of Westgate Chapel (Thomas W. Horsfield) and Tabernacle (Evan Jones), the Unitarian gentleman William Boys, Baptist attorney John Webb Woolgar, banker Thomas Whitfeld, surgeon Gideon Mantell, ironmonger Nehemiah Wimble of The Friars, printers William Lee and John Baxter, butcher Benjamin Morris, auctioneer Plumer Verrall, bookseller R. W. Lower, draper William Crosskey and shepherd-schoolmaster John Dudeney. Many of the signatories were non-conformist Liberals but Anglican Conservatives were also represented.


  1. The Premier Inn: Spot the Difference

I have heard a range of opinions expressed about the new Premier Inn building on Friars Walk. Some, not all, have been quite favourable. We can thank the Friends of Lewes, amongst others, for a design that is certainly a considerable improvement on the original proposal.

The Premier Inn, 2016

Traditional Victorian grey brickwork with red window quoins in Friars Walk

A number of people have commented on the grey bricks used to clad the exterior of the upper floors. When I first saw an unsheathed panel of the new brickwork from a distance, approaching down Friars Walk, I thought the colour a good match. Then, as I got nearer, I realised that most of the new grey brickwork of the Premier Inn was in continuous stretcher bond (bricks laid with the long side outwards). It is a feature of the old grey brickwork that is so common in Lewes and neighbouring parts of Sussex that it is invariably laid in all-header bond, as shown above in the Victorian houses along Friars Walk (above). The grey colour was achieved by wood ash at a high firing temperature and was only found on the headers on the outer edges of the bricks stacked in the kiln. Are there any other examples in Lewes of grey bricks laid in continuous stretcher bond?

Premier Inn detail: continuous stretcher bond on all the straight sections of wall, but the traditional pattern of continuous headers just on the curved section of walling facing towards Friars Walk.


  1. Brighton Main Line 2

A public meeting was called on 25 January 1866 to support the proposed new railway from London via East Grinstead and Lewes to Brighton. The Honourable Henry William Bouverie Brand of Glynde Place, Liberal MP for Lewes, moved that the meeting should record its warm approbation of the proposal and pledge itself to support the undertaking with every means in its power. This was carried unanimously.

William Langham Christie of Glyndebourne, at this date still an unsuccessful Conservative candidate to represent Lewes, expressed the view that the immense amount of direct traffic between London and Brighton demanded a second railway in the hands of independent companies. Local businessmen Edward Monk and Ebenezer Morris said that the new railway would relieve Lewes trade from the serious delays in the transit of goods and lack of capacity caused by the existing monopoly railway company, who controlled both the main London-Brighton line and the line via Uckfield. It was unanimously agreed to ask the MPs for the borough and East Sussex to do all they could to ensure the new proposal was accepted.

Source: the Lewes Town Book


  1. The Lewes Railway Coach

An advertisement by George Leney in the 28 June 1842 Sussex Advertiser announced that, in compliance with the requests of several inhabitants in Lewes, a coach to Brighton would now leave his Lewes office every morning at half past seven in time to catch the 9 o’clock train to London. There would be a return coach every evening leaving Brighton at half past eight, on the arrival of the 6 o’clock London train.

At this date the railway from London had reached Brighton, but it was to be another four years before it reached Lewes. This service brought London within the reach of a day trip for Lewes residents, though it would be quite a long day. The advertisement shows that at this date George Leney ran six return coach trips each weekday between Lewes and Brighton.


  1. A.G.M. Reports        (by Ian McClelland, Chairperson)

This report covers the fourth 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 report (by Neil Merchant)

LHG membership now stands at 241, with a further 260 people (plus our 8 ‘Friends’) on our monthly email circulation list. Membership renewals for 2017 have started and will be available at our next three evening meetings, or by post.


The programme of monthly meetings covered a wide variety of topics and, in general, were well attended and very well received by our audiences. There was an average attendance of 147 per meeting during 2016 up to October. Our meetings included the best ever attendance to date of 201 for Brigitte Lardinois’s talk in October on Stories seen through a glass plate 1916: Lewes remembers life during WW1’.

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. One particular initiative that proved to be very successful in 2015 was the course on Interpreting Wills and Deeds run by Christopher Whittick of the Keep. This was extended into 2016. In addition we have held regular quarterly meetings for the Street Stories project.

Bulletin (by John Kay)

We have continued to publish monthly editions of the Lewes History Bulletin, and passed the milestone of Bulletin no.75 in October. Barbara Merchant’s magic means that when you make relevant google searches the relevant Bulletin articles generally pop up high on the list, but I maintain for my own use an electronic index of the Lewes people, places and topics mentioned, and if anyone would like a copy of the index for the first 75 Bulletins I would be happy to email it to you.


The EC wants to do more to encourage the active involvement of members in research projects.  Clearly not every member needs to be active but the EC wants to see a broader portfolio of projects than just the Street Stories evolve over the coming years.

In addition to the Street Stories project the group has now the REEL project which started earlier this year. This project aims to document the history of cinema in Lewes through text, image and film.  The project aims to exhibit the results as part of the launch of the Depot cinema in May 2017.

The most important research initiative remains the continued development of the Street Stories project. We have several active groups and a programme of quarterly meetings to review progress and provide mutual support.

Last year several LHG members, working in the Pells area of the town, exhibited some of their work as part of the Heritage Open Day (HOD) 2015 at St John-sub-Castro.  This exhibition was very successful and as a result the HOD organisers invited us to contribute to the 2016 event. Two Teams, South Street and Grange Road took up the challenge and showed some of their work in the Yarrow Room of the Town Hall.  This exhibition was very successful and again showed how many people are fascinated by the history of their own immediate surroundings. Our thanks go to Heather Downie (South Street) and Bridget Millmore (Grange Road) and their supporters for all their efforts in putting together a great HOD 2016 exhibition.

The most notable achievement to date has been the publication of the ‘The Sun Street Story’ in November, the first publication by the LHG. This was co-authored by Brian Cheesmur, Rosemary Page, Frances Stenlake and Sue Weeks. Our thanks go to the co-authors for all the hard work they have put into the project and the book itself. We wait to see how successful the book will be and to what extent other Street Stories Teams will be motivated to follow suit.  It is certainly our intention that the book is the first of a series.

Treasurer’s report (by Ron Gordon)

Lewes History Group income for the year 1 Dec 2015 to 30 Nov 2016 was £5,371.28 and expenditure for the same period was £3,621.53.  Both income and expenditure increased compared to the previous year.  Expenditure for publications, mainly the Sun Street book, is shown as a separate category for 2015/16, but no receipts from book sales are as yet included.

The end of year balance £7,491.19 continues to show a useful surplus which provides a good base for the group to extend its activities in research projects, and further publications.  It is proposed to retain the same entrance fees and membership subscription for the next year.

Lewes History Group
Summary of Income and Expenditure 2015/2016
Income 2015/16 2014/15 Expenditure 2015/16 2014/15
£ £ £ £
Membership Subscriptions 1,637.00 1,653.50 Main Meeting Room Hire 770.00 630.00
Entrance Fees 3,683.00 2,589.30 Speakers’ Fees 420.00 435.00
Bank Interest 1.28 3.64 Meeting Refreshments 221.00 148.82
Research Projects 0.00 160.00 Research Projects Expenses 237.38 136.40
Uncashed cheque 2014/15 50.00 0.00 Research Projects Speakers and Hire 487.50 1,034.00
Sun Street book sales 0.00 Publications 913.00 0.00
Publicity and leaflets 276.20 21.70
0.00 0.00 Administration expenses 296.45 162.94
Total income for the year 5,371.28 4,405.68 Total expenditure for the year 3,621.53 2,568.86
Surplus of Income over Expenditure 1,749.75 1,836.82
Balance at end of year 7,491.19 5,741.44


Communications report (by Jane Lee)

What was achieved in 2016?

Our regular marketing activities continue to build awareness of the Group and to attract large numbers of members and visitors to the monthly talks. We hit a record with 201 attending Brigitte Lardinois’ talk in October on the lightbox exhibition.

Our marketing activities were maintained at similar levels during the year and numbers have grown for both joining and attending. The Sussex Express and Viva Lewes are still the prime ways of reaching non-members.

LHG promotional activities in 2016 included:

  • Taking a stand at the Societies Fair in Sept.
  • The Street Stories teams for South St & Grange Rd put on an exhibition jointly for Heritage Open Days on 10-11 Sept, showing their research into the history of their areas. 323 visitors attended and there were a lot of complements on the content.
  • Article by John Kay in Lewes News in May on Lewes Spitfire pilot Claude Wheatley.
  • Article by Ann Holmes in Nevill Junior Bonfire Programme on the history of the Nevill.
  • New publicity partnerships established with Uckfield & Lewes DFAS & Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre, Uckfield.
  • Talks featured in:
    • Sussex Express
    • Viva Lewes magazine
    • Lewes News
    • Online what’s on pages: Lewes.co.uk, Freegle, LoveLewes.com & LDC
    • Newsletters & websites of associates e.g. Friends of Lewes, Priory Trust, Sussex Archaeological Society, Lewes Archaeology Group
    • Posters in Tourist Office, Library, Barbican, Bridge Cottage, U&LDFAS. Also the windows of members in South St, Keere St, Little East St, Friars Walk & the Pells. New locations for posters/leaflets found at Ringmer village hall, Nevill noticeboards & retirement homes
    • Leaflets placed in locations around town and at The Keep
    • Posting on our Twitter & Facebook accounts
    • LHG website, event emailings & bulletin
  • Using our social media accounts to promote our own and other local history events. We now have 489 (was 373 in 2015) following @LewesHistory on Twitter & 405 on Facebook facebook.com/LewesHistoryGroup (was 286 in 2015) as at 4/11/15.
  • No reprint required of the group’s leaflet as stocks are adequate.

LHG website and social media in 2016 (by Barbara Merchant)

Usage of our website continues to grow but the figures are plateauing. An increasing number of people have signed on this year to receive the website’s news and event announcements by email, and our Facebook and Twitter pages have been very successful in magnifying the reach of these announcements, and bringing us to a new audience.

We also compile lists of resources for researching the history of Lewes, and these web pages and those on Reeves events topped the popularity list in 2016.


The focus of the LHGEC work in 2016 shifted 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 2017 to fill this position. Both Ron Gordon as Treasurer and myself as Chairperson are happy to continue in post for 2017.


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 2016:

  • 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
  • Our public meetings
  • Our Research meetings.
  • To all the people who have helped to run the Public Meetings.
    • Tessa Bain; preparation and mounting the LHG display,
    • Peter Holmes and others; preparation of the meeting room
    • Anna Kay & Jan Osborne; refreshments,
    • Dee O’Connell; admissions desk
    • Dee O’Connell, Janet Kennedy, Peter Earl & Carol Todd; displaying our meeting posters,
    • and everyone else who has helped out over the last year.

My apologies to anyone in particular I may have unwittingly omitted.

  • To Lloyd Raworth for designing the LHG leaflet, our Heritage Open Day posters and the Sun Street book.
  • 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.


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
Uckfield & Lewes Decorative & Fine Arts Society – meets 2nd Wed. Guests £7 per talk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LewesHistoryGroup
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LewesHistory




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