Lewes History Group: Bulletin 99, October 2018

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:  8 October 2018: Carlotta Luke, ‘Capturing Lewes History on Camera’
  2. New L.H.G. Chairman required
  3. H.M.S. Lewes
  4. Rev Thomas Barnard and Westgate Chapel
  5. Empire Day, 1904
  6. The Fox Inn, Southerham
  7. Railways at Lewes (by Marcus Taylor)
  8. A Poet’s View of Lewes


  1. Next Meeting         7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.                  Monday 8 October

      Carlotta Luke                         Capturing Lewes History on Camera

Carlotta Luke against doorCarlotta Luke has been documenting the renovations of some of Lewes’s most iconic buildings over the past eight years. She will be sharing her photographs and talking about the insights her work gives us of the history of these buildings and the lives lived in them. The first house Carlotta photographed was a quintessentially Lewesian Victorian terraced house on Sun Street that was completely unmodernised when she began. Following this, she was commissioned by Viscount Hampden to chronicle the extensive renovations at Glynde Place in 2011-12. She documented the refurbishment of Southover Grange for the East Sussex County Council in 2016-2017, and Harvey’s Depot as it became the Depot Cinema from 2015-2017. With all her projects, Carlotta typically begins photographing before construction has started, continuing with regular site visits throughout the length of the work. She uses her camera to capture details that reveal the history of a building and its transformation, while her particular aesthetic transforms the spaces and light into works of art.

Carlotta is American-born, but has lived in Britain for the past 27 years. She has lived in Lewes for the past 11 years.

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. New LHG Chairman required

Ian McClelland, who has chaired the Lewes History Group ever since it became a formal organisation, has announced that he will be stepping down from the role at our A.G.M. in December. We all owe a great debt to Ian, who has not only chaired our events but also led the Executive Committee and behind the scenes played a key role in promoting the History Group and its research activities. We shall need a replacement.


  1. H.M.S. Lewes

Over the centuries just two naval warships have borne the name H.M.S. Lewes. Both of them were built in the final year of the Great War.

The first H.M.S. Lewes was one of 32 Racecourse-class paddle-minesweepers built between 1916 and the end of the Great War. They were 235 feet long, displaced just over 800 tons, carried a crew of 50 sailors and were armed with two guns. They had a top speed of 15 knots and were designed for coastal minesweeping. Built by the Scottish shipyard of Fleming & Ferguson, H.M.S. Lewes was one of the last of her class, launched in March 1918. When the war ended she soon became surplus to requirements. She was one of 13 minesweepers decommissioned at Rosyth in January 1921 and was sold for scrap a year later.

The second H.M.S. Lewes was a 4-funnel destroyer, launched in June 1918 as the U.S.S. Craven. She was built in the U.S. Navy yard at Norfolk, Virginia, and was a larger and more powerful ship. She was 315 feet long, displaced over 1,100 tons, carried a crew of 150 and had four guns, one forward, one aft and two others amidships. She also had anti-aircraft guns and twelve torpedo tubes. She had four powerful steam turbines, four funnels, and was capable of 30 knots. However, the war ended before she had fully completed her trials, and after brief service as a weather ship and other peacetime duties she was laid up in 1922. In 1939 she was renamed U.S.S. Conway – her original name was transferred to a new destroyer.

She was recommissioned only in 1940 as one of the fifty lend-lease destroyers sold to Britain in return for the U.S. being granted land for military bases in British territories. When the Royal Navy acquired the ship in October 1940 she was given the number G68 and renamed H.M.S. Lewes. She was re-armed for convoy duties. Her torpedo tubes were removed and she was equipped with modern anti-aircraft guns and depth charges instead. While being re-fitted at Devonport she was damaged in an air raid, and was posted to Rosyth to join the East Coast convoy force only in 1942. The town of Lewes presented a special plaque to the destroyer, to mark her adoption by the town, and the local War Savings Committee maintained contact with the crew thereafter. She saw some action when one of her convoys was attacked by German E-boats later that year.

H.M.S. Lewes

H.M.S. Lewes – Image copyright of the Imperial War Museum (FL 3259)

The lend-lease destroyers did not prove very successful at escort duties, and by the end of 1942 H.M.S. Lewes was withdrawn to become an air target ship, used for training aircrew for operations against enemy warships. In 1943, after a further refit on the Humber, she was sent with a troop convoy to Simonstown, South Africa. She continued to serve as an air target ship in the South Atlantic and the Pacific, transferring first to Ceylon and eventually Australia, where she was based when the war ended. Her crew were paid off at Sydney in November 1945. The ship was stripped of everything useful and then scuttled off Sydney in May 1946.

Sources: Wikipedia; www.dreadnoughtproject.org; www.naval-history.net; 20 Feb 1942, 3 Jul 1942, 25 Sep 1942, 2 Oct 1942, 31 Dec 1943, 26 May 1944 & 19 Oct 1945 Sussex Express.


  1. Rev Thomas Barnard and Westgate Chapel

Thomas Barnard was born in Lewes in 1643, during the civil war period, a son of Richard Barnard of Lewes, draper, who died in 1666. In 1662 the Restoration authorities ejected those ministers who would not conform to the Act of Uniformity passed that year. There were about 70 such ministers in Sussex, including Rev Edward Newton of St Anne’s and Southover and Rev Gwalter Postlethwaite of St Michael’s, and under the Five Mile Act such ministers had to leave the towns and villages in which they lived. The many Lewes people who preferred the doctrines of these ejected ministers formed conventicles that met secretly and illegally in the town.

Edward Newton was excommunicated, because he refused to attend the established church. He, continued to preach privately in the town but managed to evade the authorities. His South Malling conventicle was believed to have at least 500 Presbyterian adherents. On Sunday 29 May 1670 two informers infiltrated an outdoor service, where the visiting preacher had been ejected from the living at Rodmell, and a heavy fine was imposed on those present. Those given the heaviest fines were the grocer Walter Brett, Thomas Barnard and his brother the draper Richard Barnard. As they refused to pay, goods to a higher value were seized – six cows, worth at least £20, twice the value of their fine, were seized from the Northease farm run by the Barnard brothers’ mother.

After Charles II’s 1672 Declaration of Indulgence, licensed dissenting meetings were permitted, and both Edward Newton and Gwalter Postlethwaite obtained such licences for their Lewes congregations. Thomas Barnard committed himself to spreading God’s Word outside the established church in 1673. In 1687 he was formally ordained by a trio of other dissenting ministers, including Rev Edward Newton, in a service held at Glyndebourne. In 1695 he joined the now-elderly Edward Newton back in Lewes. Unfortunately the two quickly fell out – the younger man had more ambitious plans to spread the Gospel and was anxious to secure larger premises.

Their congregation split and about 1700 Rev Thomas Barnard purchased the Bull Inn in the High Street. He converted some buildings to its rear into the Westgate Chapel, to which he led the majority of the Presbyterian congregation. It prospered under his leadership up to his retirement in 1715. In 1711 the congregation founded by Rev Gwalter Postlethwaite, then under the care of the Rev John Ollive, merged into the Westgate congregation. In 1719 Thomas Barnard of Lewes, gentleman, conveyed the former Bull Inn and its chapel to Samuel Swane of Lewes, maltster, and his son-in-law John Olive junior of Lewes, gentleman. Later that year they separated the chapel premises from Bull House, conveying the chapel and an adjoining stable to 13 trustees:

Thomas Fissenden of Lewes, apothecary Thomas Norman of Lewes, bookseller
Richard Ridge of Stoneham, yeoman Thomas Barrett of Lewes, clockmaker
Richard Button of the Cliffe, gent William Attersoll of Lewes, carpenter
Stephen Weller of Lewes, tallow chandler John Peckham of Lewes, dyer
William Read of Lewes, haberdasher of hats John Chatfield of the Cliffe, yeoman
William David of Willingdon, glover Stephen Jackson of Lewes, upholder
James Reeve of Lewes, currier

John Ollive retained Bull House, and bequeathed it to his eldest son Samuel Ollive, who became a tobacconist there. Samuel Ollive, a member of the Westgate congregation that his father had led, was appointed a trustee of Westgate Chapel in 1755, but died in 1769, dividing his estate between his three sons and his daughter Elizabeth, who married the excise officer Tom Paine.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the Westgate membership included some of the most important businessmen in the town and wealthy farmers from the surrounding villages, giving it influence beyond its numbers. The Ridge and Boys families were prominent in the 18th century, followed by the Brownes, Crosskeys and Everys in the 19th. Several members served as constables of the old borough, or mayors of the post-1881 borough. However, as its original Calvinist doctrines faded into Unitarianism, the new Calvinist and Baptist chapels in the Cliffe far outgrew it in size and enthusiasm. It continued to operate as a Unitarian chapel into the 21st century, though services seem now to have ceased. Its website suggests the former chapel is now merely a meeting venue run by volunteers from the Oyster Project.

Sources: J.M. Connell, ‘The Story of an Old Meeting House’ (1916); ESRO SAS/SAT 218-226; ESRO NU 1/9/1-14.


  1. Empire Day, 1904

From 1902 onwards Empire Day was celebrated each year on 24 May. Its aim was to remind children across the Empire what it meant to be part of the glorious British Empire on which the sun never set. Typically schoolchildren would be released early from school, march to the location chosen for the celebration, sing patriotic songs including ‘God Save the King’, listen to inspirational stories about the heroes of Empire, salute the Union Jack, play games and have an excellent free tea provided by the town’s gentry and tradespeople. This James Cheetham postcard shows Lewes schoolchildren dressed up in their Sunday best saluting the flag in the Convent Field on Empire Day, 1904. This postcard was sold on ebay last year.

Empire Day 1904, Lewes school children, Cheetham postcard

In 1958 Empire Day became Commonwealth Day. The date was changed twice, and it is now largely forgotten except by the Queen, who still marks the new date (the second Monday in March) by sending a special radio message to the Commonwealth’s youth.


  1. The Fox Inn, Southerham

An old photograph of the Fox Inn at Southerham was included in Bulletin no.53. The 1929 rating valuation list for South Malling Without parish lists the Fox Inn as then owned by Tamplins Brewery, occupied by Mr P.G. Burr, and rated at £26 p.a. This was a modest rateable value for a public house, but comparable to the Cock Inn (£30) and the Old Ship Inn (£20) on the A26 north from Lewes. There are also licensing records at The Keep that enable you to track the dates of operation and changes in ownership and licence holders of any local public house.

Sources: ESRO DL/C 89/15 [South Malling parish] and ESRO DL/C 89/12 [Ringmer parish]


  1. Railways at Lewes                                                          (by Marcus Taylor)

LHG members may be interested to know of the paper by Robert Cheesman about ‘Railways at Lewes’ published on the Friends of Lewes website earlier this year. The paper is an expanded version of a short talk given to the group, but runs to 2,630 words and, including its plans and illustrations, 12 pages of A4.

Lewes station c1905_John Hollands collection
A.H. Homewood postcard of Lewes Station c. 1905, John Hollands collection

This Edwardian postcard shows the London to Paris boat train setting out from Lewes for Newhaven


  1. A Poet’s view of Lewes

This short poem called simply ‘Lewes’ by Donald Horsley of Broyle Lane, Ringmer, was included in his volume of poetry entitled ‘A Thousand Dancing Images’, published by the author in 1970. Other poems in the same book are titled ‘Anne of Cleves House’ and ‘Southover Grange’.

“How heavy hangs the air
On this quiet Sussex town.
The rising smell of people
Held by the towering Downs
Stifles and suffocates me,
As round the dusty streets I wander
Gasping like a new caught fish
For air and the freshness of the wind.
Not till eventide rises
Cooling, refreshing from the
Dust of the day,
Can I live and breathe again “


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

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


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