Lewes History Group: Bulletin 126, January 2021

Please note: this Bulletin is being put on the website one month after publication. Alternatively you can receive the Bulletin by email as soon as it is published, by becoming a member of the Lewes History Group, and renewing your membership annually.

  1. Next Meeting: 11 January 2021: Chris Taylor, ‘The Mill Road Street Story’
  2. A.G.M. Report
  3. Treasurer’s Report for 2020 (by Ron Gordon)
  4. A Century of Women’s Votes (by Diana Wilkins)
  5. Ellis Kelsey’s Lewes Photographs (by Malcolm Cornwall)
  6. The Borough Council Portrait of Henry Fitzroy
  7. A View across the Brooks
  8. John Stempe the younger of Southover and Lewes (by Terry Collett)
  9. A Theft of Brandy from Harvey & Windus
  10. Ouse Warehouses of the 1950s
  11. A Postcard Message
  12. St Anne’s May Queen in 1946 (by John G. Wells)


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

Chris Taylor                          The Mill Road Street Story

The story of Mill Road, Malling is about the development of its industries and buildings alongside discovering a few of the people who have lived and worked there since the 16th Century. In this talk Chris Taylor will present the findings of his recent investigation into the history of Mill Road, the latest in Lewes History Group’s ‘Street Stories’ series.

Mill Road got its name from an imposing windmill that was present from at least the late 16th Century until it was destroyed by fire in 1908. A laundry overlapped with the mill and flourished for 40 years at the bottom of the road, where the flats now stand. It too burnt to the ground in 1941.

Malling Mill and Mill House, Lewes, c.1860
Malling Mill from The Wallands, c 1860
Image courtesy of the Sussex Archaeological Society

Generations of families have lived in Malling Hill Villas, an Edwardian terrace, built on the mill land. Facing them, a street of mixed council-built and private housing was developed in the 1920s and 1930s. Chris Taylor comments, “Over the years Mill Road has been home to millers on the fiddle, at least one Mayor of Lewes, wartime evacuees and a troupe of travelling players. I hope the audience will enjoy finding out about this small street’s past as I have.”

This meeting will again be a Zoom webinar, and to attend you must register in advance. You will then be able to join the meeting from 7.20 pm. LHG members will be sent a link to register directly: non-members will need to purchase registration via TicketSource.


  1. A.G.M. Report
  1. It was agreed unanimously that the annual membership fee for 2021 should be increased to £10 p.a., to include free admissions to our monthly webinars and talks (59 votes).
  2. It was agreed to charge non-members £4 for admission to our webinars and talks (58-1).
  3. It was agreed unanimously to elect Neil Merchant as Chair, Ron Gordon as Treasurer and Krystyna Weinstein as Hon. Secretary.


  1. Treasurer’s Report for 2020       (by Ron Gordon)

Treasurer's report 2020

We have ended this unusual year with a surplus of income over expenditure of £1,076, largely thanks to the success of the Pells book which is currently showing a profit of £606 on the total sales and expenditure of both editions. There has been a lot of activity in the year, and it will be interesting to see how things work out next year with the various changes planned.


  1. A Century of Women’s Votes                                             (by Diana Wilkins)

To celebrate the 2018 centenary of women getting the vote the Vote 100 Lewes community group has published a book called ‘A 100 Lewes Women: Women’s lives in Lewes Past & Present’.

It is in full colour (cover image attached) and contains:

  • Articles and interviews on 50 Lewes women past and present
  • A list of a 100 notable Lewes women who have made a difference to our town
  • Features on the local events from the suffrage centenary in 2018
  • A report of the mayor’s‘Girls Talk’ event held in 2019 when girls and young women talked about their hopes for the future

Hardcopies of the book can be ordered through the website http://www.vote100lewes at £8.50 including postage. Copies will also be on sale at the Lewes Tourist Office and Lewes Football Club once lockdown has been lifted. All profits will go to the Brighton-based domestic abuse charity Rise UK. A free pdf of the book can also be downloaded from the Resources page of the Vote 100 Lewes website.


  1. Ellis Kelsey’s Lewes Photographs                                  (by Malcolm Cornwall)

We were extremely interested in Kevin Gordon’s article and photographs in Lewes History Bulletin no.125, as we think we can add additional relevant information.

The picture up Gundreda Road shows a lone house in the course of construction. That house, we believe, is ours – 14 Gundreda Road. Using information from The Keep, we have discovered that our house was the first to be constructed on the ‘West’ side of the road, in 1923, fixing a date for the picture. I think the house was named ‘Wayside’.

De Warrenne, Prince Edwards and Gundreda Roads junction, Lewes

The picture looking down Gundreda Road shows a large house on the corner; this house is in De Warren Road and the space next to it up Gundreda Road was its garden, on which two houses were later built (Nos. 1a and 1b). The photograph was taken from a slightly elevated position, which could well have been from the upstairs of ‘Wayside’.

View down Gundreda Road, Lewes

The  third, ‘unidentified’ picture shows No 1 Gundreda Road (still extant), again from a slightly elevated position, so it was probably taken from the upstairs of ‘Wayside’.

View taken in the Wallands, Lewes

The plans for ‘Wayside’ show that it was commissioned by the photographer, Ellis Kelsey, though he never lived there. It seems that he might have used the partially-built house as a photographic vantage point. 


  1. The Borough Council Portrait of Henry Fitzroy

The following letter was published in the 8 December 1894 Sussex Express:

“Sir: I saw in the Council Chamber the other day a small oil portrait, which I was gravely informed was that of the late Right Hon. Henry Fitzroy, M.P. for Lewes 1837-1859. This once popular gentleman is still remembered by many of the older voters and inhabitants, and his memory is perpetuated by the costly library built by his widow (Hannah, sister of Baron Rothschild) for the benefit of the town, and as an acknowledgement of the firm support given to the right hon gentleman during his political career. Mr Fitzroy was a singularly handsome and aristocratic looking young man, and his likeness was published, showing the gold watch chain given him by the ladies of his party, and the salver by his constituents. Several of our townspeople probably have a copy of this excellent engraving, which would at once prove that the painting in question was not in the remotest degree intended for him, and the sooner it is withdrawn from exhibition as his portrait the better.

Yours truly,

An Old Voter

P.S. A copy of the engraving would be quite at home in the Fitzroy Library”


  1. A View across the Brooks

The photograph below is from a postcard in the William Burgess collection [see Bulletin no.91].

View across Malling Brooks towards Offham Chalkpits, postcard

This view across Malling Brooks looks towards Offham Chalkpits. After passing Every’s Phoenix Iron Works the Uckfield line crosses the river and slices through the present Tesco site. Upstream of the Iron Works what appears to be a boat is being built on the western bank of the river. Nearby stands a Scotch derrick. Behind lies the grassy downland slope that is now Landport.

View across Malling Brooks towards Offham Chalkpits, postcard, detail


  1. John Stempe the younger of Southover & Lewes    (by Terry Collett)

I have transcribed, translated and arranged in date order a large number of documents related to John Stempe the younger (1515-1594) of Southover and Lewes and a copy of my collection can be viewed at The Keep, ref. LIB/509272. This collection is not a biography because there are still too many unanswered questions about John Stempe and his family for me to attempt that task. Suffice it to say that there is a considerable surviving record of his activities, which shows that he was an important resident of 16th century Lewes. His contribution to civic life forms part of the history of Lewes and that is why I believe that he should be remembered.

My principal reason for this research is that in 1555 John Stempe the younger owned a tenement and land in Plumpton called ‘Stonyngs’ and I presently live at that address. A mission that started as a house history project soon prompted me to dig deeper into his history and record my findings. My collection includes a Plumpton deed showing John Stempe as the owner of ‘Stonyngs’ and his freehold is confirmed in ‘The Book of John Rowe’ [Sussex Record Society, vol.34, p.236].

John Stempe the younger was born in the parish of Southover where his father, John Stempe the elder, was Auditor at the Priory of St. Pancras and owned a house, Otelands alias Pondgarden. This stood close to the present site of Tanners Brook in Garden Street and overlooked the Free Grammar School, which then occupied a plot at the junction of Garden Street and Eastport Lane, now part of The Grange gardens. The school was founded by the widow Agnes Morley in 1512 only 3 years before John Stempe the younger was born. His lifelong attachment to the school would be explained if he was a pupil there. He became a trustee of the school in 1536 and a feoffee in 1544 and was one of the surviving feoffees in 1591.In 1557 he travelled to London bearing a letter from Edward Gage and other feoffees to plead the case that the rents and revenues that had been confiscated by Thomas Cromwell in 1537 should be returned to support the school. Following the Dissolution the feoffees, including John Stempe who was their spokesperson and ‘chief doer’, had subsidised the very successful school out of their own pockets.

The records show that both John Stempe the elder and his son were employed at the Priory of St. Pancras and at the Dissolution both were granted rewards by John Milsent on behalf of Thomas Cromwell when the Priory was dissolved in 1537. After the Dissolution and the termination of his employment John Stempe the elder retired to his house in Fletching and took no further part in the civic affairs of Lewes. He died in 1553 and I have used his and other family wills to construct a Stempe family tree that is included in my collection. Sadly, I have not yet found a will for John Stempe the younger or for his eldest son, a third John.

John Stempe was chosen to represent Lewes at Parliament in Westminster in November 1554 to accord with Queen [Bloody] Mary’s request for resident members and he was joined at that Parliament by John Morley, also of Lewes. He served as Constable and a senior member of ‘The Fellowship of The Twelve’ between 1546 and 1585. ‘The Twelve’ were a group of the prominent townsmen of ‘The Burrough of Lewes’ who had the power to set the rate, collect taxes and spend the proceeds on behalf of the borough and account for the expenditure at the end of each annual term of office. The constitution of ‘The Twelve’ is fully described in the ‘Town Book of Lewes, 1542 – 1700’. Two Constables were elected annually and John Stempe served as Constable more often than anyone else. He also sat as a juror at post mortem inquisitions and quite often his name was first on the list of jurors. This was probably because he was well versed in the interpretation of legal documents, particularly those related to property title.

During the reign of Queen Mary, and whilst he was a leading member of ‘The Twelve’, Protestant martyrs were burned alive for heresy outside The Star Inn, now the site of Lewes Town Hall, and John Stempe, as a civic leader, must have witnessed or even taken an active part in the martyrdom of those unfortunates. He lived close by in the High Street but I have found no record of his involvement in those horrendous events.

John Stempe and his eldest son purchased the manor of Southover from a Crown Commission in 1557 following the death of the Lady Anne of Cleves. The local possessions of the Priory had been granted to Thomas Cromwell after its dissolution, but after confiscation on his attainder they were granted to Lady Anne of Cleves following her divorce, returning to the crown at her death in 1557. In 1575 John Stempe, gentleman, was made Bailiff and Collector of the rents and revenues of the Crown’s portions of the tithes of all the Sussex properties previously belonging to the late Priory of Lewes. This appointment was made by Queen Elizabeth on the advice of Sir William Cecil, the 1st Baron Burghley, her Secretary and Lord Treasurer of England, and Baron Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1582 John Stempe and his wife Anne and sold the remainder of the manor of Southover to the courtier Sir Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst.

In 1564 John Stempe was Reeve of the Manor of Ditchling Garden, which had been a possession of the Priory of St. Pancras. Also in 1564 a Mrs. Holter, widow, bequeathed £10 toward the building of a Market House and John Stempe was amongst the members of ‘The Twelve’ who contributed a further £10 to make up the building’s cost, citing that ‘the said legacy given to such a necessary use by so virtuous a woman should not be otherwise employed’. In his will one William Everett bequeathed £80 to John Stempe for the building of ‘your Market Crosse’. I have long believed that John Stempe should be remembered for his contribution to the history of Lewes and, if he had built it, his ‘Market Crosse’ might now be his memorial, I suspect that he had seen the Cross in Chichester, but his dream was never fulfilled. A more modest Market House was built and this was demolished in 1649. There is a depiction of a building in Randoll’s 1620 map of Lewes standing in the High Street close to the Barbican and in his book ‘Pre-Georgian Lewes’ Dr Colin Brent names this building as ‘Market House’. According to Thomas Walker Horsfield it stood there for only 85 years.

John Stempe the younger moved from Southover to St. Michael’s, Lewes and in 1581 he joined with other worshippers to build the foremost seat (Pew) in St. Michael’s Church. However, in the same year he resigned from his part in the new joint seat and built another new seat for his own family ‘forever’. In his will of 1592, Robert Thorneton, servant, refers to his master as ‘the worshipful Mr. John Stempe’.

John Stempe died on the 13th of August 1594 and his Epitaph reads as follows:

“Beneath this tomb John Stemps body lies
His Soul’s a Joyfull Tenant of the skies
Aged he was saw four score Summers flow
Lord of the Glebe wherein he now lies low
Of Temper Sweet, and Rich in Learnings Store
Right pure of Faith and Bounteous to ye Poor
To others woes he kind attention paid
And still redress’d them with his friendly Aid
Thus, Thus O Sire Being Supreme most high
Grant Me like him to Live like him to die”

He was buried at Southover alongside his wife Anne who had died in 1584.

My collection concludes with the death of his grandson, yet another John Stempe, who sadly died childless. However, the female line did continue with the marriage of John’s only daughter Anne Stempe to Harbert Springett and thence, three generations later in 1672, Gulielma [Wilhelmina?] Springett who married, as his first wife, William Penn, founder of the State of Pennsylvania.

There are many unanswered questions in the story of John Stempe the younger of Lewes but for me the most pressing item is the whereabouts of his will, if it has survived. I would be extremely pleased if it could be found and seek the help of members of Lewes History Group to this end; it is not at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which surprises me, nor at The Keep. I can be contacted by email at t.collett723@btinternet.com.


  1. A Theft of Brandy from Harvey & Windus

Theft of brandy from Harver and Windus, Lewes, 1825
Source: 22 August 1825 Sussex Advertiser


  1. Ouse Warehouses of the 1950s

Ouse warehouses in Lewes, 1950

This photograph posted recently on the Lewes Past website by Brian Prevett shows the row of warehouses along the River Ouse just below Cliffe Bridge, backing on to Railway lane, as they would have appeared during the childhoods of many LHG members. They present a very different appearance today.


  1. A Postcard Message

The message on a postcard postmarked at 11.45 a.m. on 5 August 1905 and sent from Lewes to Redhill read: “Am returning tonight about 8 p.m.” One hundred and fifteen years ago the writer could be confident that his postcard would arrive before he did. One wonders what he would make of today’s postal service.


  1. St Anne’s May Queen, 1946                                  (by John G Wells)

In 1946 I took part in the May Day Revels organised by my school, St Anne’s Infants School in De Montfort Road. This was an annual event under the direction of the head teacher, Miss Anne Dumbrell, who was very keen on country dancing. We had to rehearse the Maypole dancing in the school playground, to thread the coloured ribbons around the pole in a set pattern. The pole had a wooden stand so that it could be set up in the playground, and then transported to the venue. The event was held at the Castle Bowling Green, then part of the garden of Dr J.A.H. Smart. We processed from the school via he twitten through Castle Banks into the Castle Precincts. The procession was led by the May Queen, Pat Robins, riding a pony and, aged 7, and her two attendants. I was one of three drummers who followed her.

The event was reported and many of the participants named in a report in the 24 May 1946 Sussex Express, which includes a poor quality photograph of the May Queen being crowned by Mrs Holman, a school governor. After the crowning Michael Bartlett called for three cheers and announced “Let the revels commence”, which was followed  by dancing. Unfortunately neither the Sussex Express nor The Keep appear to have retained any archive photographs from this period. I have contacted most of the people mentioned in the article, and Patricia Robins (now Wood) had kept a copy of another Sussex Express photograph of the event, below.

St. Anne's May Queen, Lewes, 1946

I have now been able to contact almost all the children shown in this photograph. 


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

Lewes History Group Facebook, Twitter


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