Lewes History Group: Bulletin 92, March 2018

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  1. Next Meeting:  12 March 2018: John Davey & team, ‘The Forgotten Lewes War Memorial’
  2. An escape from the Cliffe House of Correction
  3. Improvements in the Stagecoach service to London
  4. House to let in the Cliffe
  5. Images from Lewes Past: Cliffe High Street
  6. Alfred Wycherley (by Neil Merchant)


  1. Next Meeting             7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.              Monday 12 March

      John Davey, David Arnold and team:  The Forgotten Lewes War Memorial

Fifty-Five ‘Old Boys’ of Lewes County Grammar School for Boys died on active service in the Second World War in theatres of conflict all around the globe. Their monument is the truly impressive Memorial Chapel in the grounds of Priory School, Lewes, dedicated in 1960 and believed to be the only officially sanctioned war memorial in any state school in Britain. Down the years the Chapel’s origins have been largely forgotten. Now the tragic but epic story of the ‘Fifty-Five’ and the astonishing tale of dogged determination and perseverance behind the construction of the Chapel are revived and brought to vibrant life in a brand new book edited by Lewes writer David Arnold. The book, ‘The Fifty-Five: A Story Set in Stone’ will be launched at our meeting, following a fascinating illustrated presentation evoking a world long gone by. John Davey chairs the Lewes Priory School Memorial Chapel Trustees.

Priory School, Lewes, Memorial Chapel

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. An escape from the Cliffe House of Correction

George Beard, Keeper of the Cliffe House of Correction, placed the following advertisement in the 21 September 1767 Sussex Advertiser following the disappearance of one of his charges:

Whereas William Thomas broke out of the House of Correction in the Cliffe, near Lewes, between the hours of eleven and twelve o’clock in the forenoon on Sunday the 20th of September 1767, and made his escape, tho’ diligent search was made after him. Whoever will apprehend and bring the said William Thomas to the said house, or give information that he may be apprehended and taken, shall receive a suitable reward.”

George Beard appended a description of the missing prisoner. He was a “middle sized man”, about 5 feet 4 inches tall, with a palish complexion. He “wears his own hair”, which was almost black. He escaped wearing a light coloured flock coat, with a Nankeen waistcoat, and under that a flannel one, with leather breeches. He had the scar of a sore that had not healed well on the back of his left hand. He could talk “Welch” very well, and was much addicted to chewing tobacco.


  1. Improvements in the Stagecoach service to London

The second half of the 18th century saw dramatic improvements in the speed and convenience of travel by coach to and from London. This is illustrated by two advertisements in the Sussex Advertiser a generation apart, in 1761 and 1793.

A notice in the 6 April 1761 newspaper, quite soon after the new turnpike roads had started to spread across the Weald, reported that from Monday 13th April the Lewes one-day stagecoach would set out from the Star Inn at 4 o’clock in the morning. The two-day stagecoach that had formerly set out at 10 am would now start out at 1 pm on a Thursday afternoon. James Batchelor, who placed the notice, added the rider “If God permit”. He also declined to be answerable for the safety of any money, plate, watches or other valuables being transported, presumably reflecting the risk of highway robbery while crossing the wild Weald.

A generation later a consortium of ten men, including Pockney from Lewes, offered daily coaches at 7 am from the Castle, Old Ship, New Ship and Star & Garter on the Cliff at Brighthelmston via Lewes to the Golden Cross, Charing-Cross, London, returning every day at the same time. The coaches travelled up via Uckfield every day except Wednesday and back via Uckfield every day except Thursday – on those two days they went via Chailey instead. There were other coaches operated by the same consortium leaving Brighton at 8 am and 9 am daily that were routed via Cuckfield and Reigate, so avoiding Lewes. A rival coach operated by Whichelo, Crompton & Co ran three days per week each way travelled via Ditchling.


  1. House to Let in the Cliffe

The 22 July 1793 Sussex Advertiser carried an advertisement for the following tenancy, which was to be entered on immediately.

A very convenient house in perfect repair, fit for the reception of a small but genteel family, and situate in the yard opposite the Bridge Coffee-House in the Cliffe, Lewes, and late in the occupation of Dr Poole, deceased; together with the brewhouse, coach-house and stabling for three horses, a good and pleasant garden, with other convenient out-buildings.”

Particulars could be had by applying to the proprietor, Sir H. Blackman, at Lewes. Sir Henry Blackman traded at this date as a wine, timber and coal merchant from the Cliffe Wharf now occupied by Harvey’s Brewery.


  1. Images from Lewes Past: Cliffe High Street      

The two images of Cliffe High Street below are taken from the Lewes Past Facebook page featured in our February talk. They probably both date from about half a century ago, and were posted by Mick Symes and Ian Freeston respectively.

Gamleys, Cliffe High Street, Lewes

JF Bishop, Cliffe High Street, Lewes


  1. Alfred Wycherley                                                               (by Neil Merchant)

The 6 April 1934 Sussex Express carried a report of the death of Alfred Wycherley (1864-1934), the first of that name to run an estate agency in Lewes.

Sudden death of Mr A. Wycherley: On Tuesday morning the death took place of Mr Alfred Wycherley, the well known house agent of Lewes, following a seizure the previous day.  

Shortly before ten o’clock on Monday forenoon he went out riding with his granddaughter, Miss Vivienne Downey. It is thought he felt unwell and decided to return, and he was coming back along Rotten-row about half past ten when, in the act of dismounting, he fell heavily his head. He was conveyed to his home, Pelham Place, St Andrews-lane, in an unconscious condition and was found to be suffering from concussion. He passed away in the early hours of the following morning.  

Mr Wycherley, who was within a fortnight of his 70th birthday, was born at Wellingham, Ringmer, and took up residence in Lewes at an early age. He was employed by the late Mr Pullinger, a house agent, in Keere-street. He eventually took over the business and after some time he removed to 171 High-street, then to 60 High-street, and, ultimately, to 56 High Street. He was a great lover of horses and might frequently be seen out riding or driving. As a fairly extensive property owner he was naturally keenly interested in the affairs of the town, but did not take any active part in them. Like his father, he was a member of the Society of Friends. He leaves a widow, three sons, Mr C.A.[Charles Alfred] Wycherley, Mr W. [William Henry] Wycherley, Mr Sidney [Sydney Mahon] Wycherley, and two daughters, Mrs L.A. [Florence Edith] Downey and Mrs [Elsie Mildred] Bracken. 

The funeral took place at the Cemetery today and was preceded by a service at the Tabernacle Congregational Church.”

Editor’s note: Alfred Wycherley’s father, Henry Wycherley, was from Northamptonshire and lived at Wellingham House, Ringmer, where he was coachman to the Rickman family, who were prominent in the Lewes Quaker community. Henry Wycherley was already coachman to the Miss Rickmans at Wellingham House in the 1861 census, when he was aged 21 and the only man amongst their four resident servants. After his marriage he lived in a cottage by the house, and he was still coachman to the last Miss Rickman there in the 1901 census.

In the 1881 census his son Alfred Wycherley, aged 16, lived at Wellingham with his parents, but was described as a clerk in an office – an early commuter. He married Annie Eliza Mahon in Brighton in 1889. By the 1901 census he was a house agent, valuer and decorator living with his wife and children on Lewes High Street in St Michael’s parish. He gave himself the same combination of occupations in the 1911 census. Alfred Wycherley was succeeded by his son Charles Wycherley in 1933 and then by his grandson Ivor Wycherley, who was born in 1921 and became a partner in 1939 while still a teenager. Ivor Wycherley remained active in the business well into the 21st century. Following his recent death, his son and daughter, Charles & Anne, have established separate businesses.


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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