Lewes History Group: Bulletin 106, May 2019

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: 13 May 2019: Tom Reeves ‘Edward Reeves & the Evolution of Photography’
  2. The WarGen Project (by Shane Greer)
  3. Lewes trade in 1805
  4. View from the Wallands (by John Davey)
  5. Rainwater Goods at Malling House
  6. Councillor Michael Chartier
  7. Lee Miller and Roland Penrose in Lewes (by Antony Penrose)


  1. Next Meeting              7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.                    Monday 13 May

   Tom Reeves      Edward Reeves and the Evolution of Photography

At our May talk Tom Reeves will cover the development of his family’s photographic business in Lewes that goes back to the 1850s. Using a Victorian glass-plate camera, he will demonstrate how a picture was created in the late 19th century, and how what now appear to be quite mundane images did in fact take considerable skill to produce. To finish there will be an update on the Reeves Archiving Project.

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. The WarGen Project                                                                  (by Shane Greer)

WarGen was founded by broadcaster & historian Dan Snow and author & broadcaster James Holland: see www.wargen.org. I am the project coordinator of a small team with big ambitions. We are creating a crowd-sourced online oral-history repository from the people who lived through World War II and we are asking you to help us. We are looking for individuals willing to join our volunteer team as interviewers and to go out into your local communities and record these important stories of a fast disappearing generation or to let us know if they have a family member or friend or even know of someone who they believe would like to have their stories recorded. Please check the website for the interviews that have already been carried out the length and breadth of the country. I would appreciate if you could spread the word about the WarGen project and have any interested parties contact me at this email address.

The amazing generation who lived and fought through the Second World War is slipping away, their numbers dwindling daily. All too soon there will be none left at all and that war, like conflicts before it, will fall out of living memory. It is of vital importance that we capture as many memories as we can while we still have the chance. Once they have gone, they have gone. While they are still living, they remain crucially important witnesses to the most cataclysmic war the world has ever known. This generation is so important. World War II was an incredible and destructive war – every man woman and child was involved in that conflict. Help us to find these surviving veterans and civilians, and to then sit down with them and record their testimonies, their life stories. They have incredible tales to tell – these ordinary men, women, and children from all countries who were caught up in something completely beyond their control. Ordinary people made to do extraordinary things. We want people to record interviews with them while we still can.


  1. Lewes Trade in 1805

The principal manufacture now carried on in Lewes is that of paper, which is made of very excellent quality. A mill was erected for the purpose some few years ago by Messrs Molineux, Johnston and Lee, who have lately had the honour to be appointed paper-makers to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. An attempt has been made to introduce a cotton manufactory, but it proved unsuccessful. The trade of the town is on the increase, and the ready communication with the harbour of Newhaven and the metropolis render it the emporium from which the adjacent country is supplied. The shops are well furnished and the tradesmen remarkable for civility and despatch. A very respectable bank has been long established. It is at present under the firm of Whitfield and Molineux and the hours of business are from nine to five.

Source: J.V. Button, ‘The Brighton and Lewes Guide’, printed and published by J. Baxter in 1805.


  1. View from the Wallands                (by John Davey)

This view from the as-yet-undeveloped Wallands must date from the 1860s. It shows in the foreground two of the houses of Wallands Crescent (one now extended to become Claydon House), and in the middle distance the former paper mill down in the Pells. In 1871 No.8 was called Admiralty House, the home of Charles Maxwell Luckraft, retired Royal Navy Captain, and by then a prison governor. The Pells mill, by then a steam-driven flour mill, was finally demolished in 1868 [Bulletin no.98], less than a decade after the houses on Wallands Crescent were constructed.

Lewes Old Mill from the Wallands

Photograph from the Leslie Davey collection

In the far distance a chalk scar has at its foot the old route of the Malling to Wych Cross turnpike, running to the north-east of Malling Mill and its Mill House. The track of the present A26, constructed in 1830 to run west of the windmill and then round to Earwig Corner is also visible, as is the lane that ran from the old turnpike past the mill, across the new turnpike route and then down Church Lane to Malling House and South Malling church.


  1. Rainwater goods at Malling House

On the side of Malling House, now the headquarters of the Sussex Constabulary, are some ancient-looking lead drainpipes with ornamental panels. The panel on the downpipe to the left of the front is dated 1726, and carries the initials of John Spence (the third of three successive John Spences to have owned this property) and his second wife Gratiana. 1726 may well be the date that the present house was built.

By another ornamented lead downpipe another lead plaque is affixed to the wall, undated but bearing the initials GB & NB. They are the initials of Sir George Boughey and his wife Noel, who moved to Malling House in 1924.


  1. Councillor Michael Chartier

Michael ChartierCouncillor Michael Chartier, who has represented Lewes Castle ward on Lewes District Council as a Liberal Democrat since 1987, and was by far the longest-serving councillor on the District Council, is stepping down at the May elections after 32 years. He is also stepping down as a Lewes Town councillor, where he has also represented Lewes Castle ward for many years, and served as mayor on several occasions, most recently in 2017-8.

Photograph from the Lewes Town Council website


  1. Lee Miller and Roland Penrose in Lewes                                (by Antony Penrose)

Lee Miller, the fashion model who was celebrated by some of the key photographers of the 20th C herself became a surrealist photographer. During the war she was a war correspondent and then a combat photographer for Vogue. She married Roland Penrose in 1947 shortly before the birth of their son Antony. Roland, a surrealist artist became the biographer of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Man Ray and Antoni Tàpies. He co-founded the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and became a trustee of the Tate Gallery where he curated retrospective exhibitions of Picasso and Miró. Antony gives his recollections of their connections to Lewes.

Lewes was one of the deciding factors that nudged my parents Lee Miller and Roland Penrose to buy Farley Farm in Chiddingly in 1949. Although Roland rightly felt the peace and rhythm of the countryside would help Lee get over the dreadful Post Traumatic Stress Disorder she suffered as a result of her war work, they were not about to bury themselves in rural isolation. The location of Farley Farm satisfied their Francophile passions with its proximity to Newhaven and connections to Dieppe and Paris, but more important was Lewes with its frequent and reliable rail link to London. Steam locomotives were in service and a source of great fascination. There were lovely archaic touches like the venerable pear tree that stood in the corner of the goods yard nearest the tunnel. It flowered every year, and in its lower branches hung five or six scythes left safely there by workers who never returned. Porters had used their barrows so long the wood handles were polished to a gloss and the well-oiled cast iron wheels ran smoothly. A flood came with water up to the platform and there was the market to watch while waiting for the train. Lewes station was a fixed point in our lives, the Alice in Wonderland moment when passing through it was the portal whence we left our secure rural existence and entered the world.

Lewes was important for other things. Lee, by now a Surrealist gourmet cook would scour School Hill and the Cliffe for herbs, spices, unusual vegetables and other things. The two cinemas were often the focus of outings, sometimes with visiting friends such as the Mexican sons of the artist Leonora Carrington who shrieked with mirth at the one line in Spanish in The Alamo. Harper and Eede in the Cliffe was one of Lee’s mainstays. They sold Kilner jars and other things for food preserving vital to us before the deep freezer became ubiquitous. For Roland visits to Lewes were often serious affairs. Strutt and Parker were his farm agents and he banked at Barclays with its impressively formal mahogany counters populated by people whose formality often hid kindness.

Lewes friends included the Ravilious family, but Lewes was not really about socialising. It was the key place for the firms supplying essentials for the running of the farm. A place where during our purposeful visits its architecture was loved, its shops appreciated and its benign atmosphere cherished.

Farleys House and Gallery are open every Sunday from the beginning of April to the end of October. For more information visit www.farleyshouseandgallery.co.uk


 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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