Lewes History Group: Bulletin 129, April 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: 12 April: Sue Berry, ‘Lewes and the County Gentry’
  2. Fashion & Family History
  3. John Levett’s Fate
  4. Licensing Day
  5. Thomas Gravesend, MP for Lewes
  6. St James’s Hospital, Southover, in 1786
  7. A New Picture of the Friars (by Glenn Foster)
  8. Hazards from Footpads and Smugglers
  9. The Edwardian Wallands
  10. Lewes Photographer: Edward Brummitt (by David Simkin)
  11. Lewes Baptisms by John Townsend
  12. George Holman’s Premonition
  13. Lewes Cyclists’ Club 1901 outing to Litlington Tea Gardens
  14. Lewes Railway Station


  1. Next Meeting                       7.30 p.m.                                                  Monday 12 April

Sue Berry  Lewes and the County Gentry, c.1640-1830, Politics, Leisure & Patronage

In April, local historian Sue Berry considers the many ways that the aristocratic and genteel owners of various country house estates around Lewes influenced the politics, social life and the economics of the county town of Lewes, from the mid-17th century until the 1830s.

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 https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/lhg.

Firle Place, by Lambert Jnr 1786
James Lambert junior’s 1786 view of Firle Place, the home of the Viscounts Gage,
© Sussex Archaeological Society

The Gages were, along with the Pelhams of Halland & Stanmer, amongst the leading county families who influenced the town’s politics and its social activities throughout this period, and provided economic opportunities for the town’s entrepreneurs.


  1. Fashion & Family History

Fashion and Family History, by Jayne Shrimpton, book coverThe latest book by Lewes-based fashion historian Jayne Shrimpton is ‘Fashion & Family History’ (2020), published by Pen & Sword Books at £14.99. Jayne’s book is available from Waterstones, the Book Depository or direct from the publisher.

This is Jayne’s eighth book on fashion history in little more than a decade, and she has also written many academic and popular articles on the subject. Her new book covers the period 1800-1950. The rapid changes in the details of both men’s and women’s fashion mean that her expertise is widely called upon by local and family historians to suggest likely dates for historical photographs. She has kindly provided dating advice for art works and photographs published in these Bulletins, based on such details as the date of introduction of the Eton collar, the practice of wearing a visible pocket handkerchief in a jacket pocket or the different styles of sleeves found in women’s dresses. She was formerly an archivist at the National Portrait Gallery.


  1. John Levett’s fate

Bulletin no.120 included an item on John Levett, guard on the London-Brighton coach, who was sentenced to transportation in 1845 for the theft of 20 sovereigns entrusted to his care. This item somehow came to the attention of his great-great-grandson Rick Smith, who contacted us with further information about him. He reports that John Levett was born in Lewes in 1821 and lived in Lancaster Street with his parents and siblings, so would have been in his mid-twenties when he was convicted. This is confirmed by the 1841 census, which shows his father as a labourer, and John (aged 20) and both his brothers as male servants. Several other Levetts were buried at St John-sub-Castro, but in unmarked graves.

Rick Smith notes that after his arrest John Levett was housed in the House of Correction at the end of Lancaster Street, before being sent up to London, and then on to Tasmania. He was one of 250 convicts sent to Tasmania on the ‘Joseph Soames’, which left England in December 1845 and arrived in what was then Van Diemen’s Land five months later. He was in poor health when he arrived in Tasmania, suffering from diarrhoea and abdominal pain, and spent some time in hospital after his arrival. From then on his life improved. His convict record shows he was 5 feet 5 inches tall, of slight build, with a sallow complexion, small head, dark brown hair and blue eyes. He was a Protestant, and could read and write, though imperfectly. Despite minor breaches of good behaviour he was given a conditional pardon after serving 8 of the 10 years. After serving his sentence he married a wife almost 20 years his junior, had at least 8 children, and was variously a labourer, groom, baker, storeman and farmer. He died in Hobart in 1888, by which time he had changed his name to John Smith.

Further details are available on: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ricksmith61/levett/ps01/ps01_001.html


  1. The Licensing Day

The 8 September 1825 Brighton Gazette reported the outcome of the ‘licensing day’ at County Hall, Lewes, a rendezvous for all the publicans of the district. The Beggar’s Opera, alias the Castle, was to be done away with, and the licence transferred to a new house built by Messrs Langfords near the site of the old tan yard, which was to bear the sign of the King’s Arms. John Venus had opened a retail beer house in St John’s Street, which was to be supplied by Mr Thomas Berry, brewer, of the Cliffe.


  1. Thomas Gravesend, MP for Lewes

Thomas Gravesend was chosen as one of the two MPs to represent Lewes borough in 1553, and again in 1555. We know that at least in 1553 he was actually nominated by the parishioners of Southover, under an agreement dating from before the Reformation that Southover could nominate one of the two borough MPs at every alternate Parliament.

Thomas Gravesend was not a local man, with other documents showing connections with Shoreham (he was probably the son of a Shoreham merchant) and London. A brief biography was included in a University of Bristol thesis by R.J.W. Swales, who researched the activities of the known Members of Parliament representing Sussex seats during the 16th century. This shows, however, that he was a close associate and servant of the courtier Sir John Gage of Firle (1479-1556), and it was doubtless through this connection that he was selected.

Sir John Gage had himself held the Sussex county seat on several occasions during the reign of Henry VIII. His father died when he was a youth, but in 1502 he married the daughter of the Comptroller of the Royal Household. He had a close personal connection with Henry VIII, being appointed Esquire of the Body in 1509 when the young king came to the throne. This, coupled with evident administrative competence, led to an active and successful career at court. He was a magistrate for both Sussex and Surrey, collected taxes, oversaw the valuation of monastic estates, led military campaigns against the Scots and the French, and was sent on important diplomatic missions. State offices he held included Vice-Chamberlain, Privy Councillor under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary, Constable of the Tower of London, Comptroller of the Royal Household, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Despite setbacks arising from his adherence to the old religion, he convinced the king of his personal loyalty and survived in office. He survived the turbulent years of Edward VI’s reign, and on Queen Mary’s accession was appointed Lord Chamberlain, a role normally held by a peer, but which he held until his death.

Naturally Sir John became very wealthy. His Firle estate was greatly augmented by lands formerly belonging to Battle Abbey or to the Archbishop of Canterbury, for whose temporalities he acted as steward. He was one of those who provided Thomas Cromwell with information about the final years of Cardinal Wolseley, and Cromwell thought Gage himself as of sufficient importance to keep a close eye on him. On Cromwell’s fall Sir John was one of those promoted to fill his role, and it was then that he became a Privy Councillor, Constable of the Tower and Comptroller of the Household. He also became steward of Thomas Cromwell’s former estates in Sussex, which included Lewes Priory, soon granted to Anne of Cleves. Sir John ensured a number of his acolytes were appointed to represent Sussex boroughs, so the information that Thomas Gravesend had his support was doubtless sufficient for the burgesses of Southover to approve his nomination.

Like Thomas Cromwell, Sir John Gage needed able assistants to do his bidding, and it seems that Thomas Gravesend was one such young man. In the 1530s and 1540s he witnessed legal deeds for Sir John and acted on his behalf. A surviving account by Gage’s rent collector notes him delivering cash to Lady Gage, from the proceeds of his office. He was listed amongst the servants to whom Sir John left bequests in his 1556 will. In Edward VI’s reign Thomas Gravesend joined a group of London merchants dealing in former monastic estates. One property that he acquired in 1546, after negotiating a pension with the priest who had held it, was Sherman’s Chantry in Lewes, but there were other, much larger, deals in Sussex and elsewhere. Most of the properties he acquired were soon sold on at a profit. The transition from the strongly Protestant reign of Edward VI to the Roman Catholicism of Queen Mary did not affect Thomas Gravesend’s increasing prosperity, as evidenced by his return to represent Lewes in 1553 & 1555. Like Sir John, he was in 1555 a founder member of the Muscovy Company of merchant traders, and his standing in the City is evidenced by his 1557 appointment as Assay Master at the Tower of London mint.

Source: R.J.W. Swales, ‘Local Politics and the Parliamentary Representation of Sussex. Vol.2,  1529-1558’, University of Bristol (1964), available online as a Google book. See also historyofparliamentonline.org.

  1. St James’s Hospital, Southover, in 1786

This plan of St James’s Hospital is included in Henry Boswell, ‘Historical Descriptions of New and Elegant Picturesque Views of The Antiquities of England and Wales’, published in 1786 by Alexander Hogg of Paternoster Row, London. It shows that what we see today is only a small part of the medieval hospital.

St James's Hospital, Southover, 1786 Plan
Click image to enlarge


  1. A New Picture of the Friars                           (by Glenn Foster)

This original pen and ink drawing of The Friars came to my company, Studio 78 Art & Interiors, from a fellow dealer who acquired it from a house clearance. It is dated 1826. On the reverse are some historical notes about the house, and the label of D. Blagrove & Son, 73 High Street, Lewes. The drawing is available for purchase – I would like to put a price of about £100 on it. Further pictures to illustrate condition are available from highfieldantiques@hotmail.co.uk, 07979 448893.

The Friars. Lewes, 1826 pen and ink drawing

The Friars, Lewes, 1826 drawing, words on reverse

Editor’s note: For other views of The Friars by James Lambert, Archer and Thomas Henwood see Bulletins nos.9, 60 & 103 (the latter two relating to King William IV’s 1830 visit, when the house was Nehemiah Wimble’s). This is clearly the same house, demolished in 1846 to make way for the first Lewes railway station. Daniel Blagrove came to Lewes about 1851 and was the first known professional photographer in the town, although initially he had a range of business interests [see Bulletin no.41]. He was a photographer and picture framer, based at 73 High Street by 1862 and died in 1899. D. Blagrove & Son, picture framers and art dealers, were still at 73 High Street as late as 1951, but had been replaced by 1964.


  1. Hazards from Footpads and Smugglers

The 4 December 1815 Sussex Advertiser reported recent attacks by footpads on two Lewes residents.

On the previous Sunday evening Mr Mantel, a Lewes butcher, had been riding home from Brighton when, near one of the Earl of Chichester’s lodges at Stanmer, a footpad had darted upon him, seized his horses bridle, demanded his money and simultaneously aimed a blow at his head with a bludgeon. The bludgeon missed its aim, hitting only his knee, and Mr Mantel was able to escape by spurring on his horse.

Between 8 and 9 p.m. on the following Saturday Mr Weller of Southover was walking out to Ringmer, when a little distance beyond Malling Hill a footpad had jumped out from behind a bush, pressed a cocked pistol to his breast and with “horrid imprecations” demanded his money. Mr Weller gave him about six shillings, in silver and halfpence. When in his agitation he dropped some of the money the villain made him pick it all up, and then demanded his watch too. The robber then let him depart on his way, watching him to make sure he did not try to return to Lewes and give the alarm. The footpad, dressed in a rough great coat, then retired to the Wheat Sheaf on Malling Hill, where he ordered some strong beer. Mr Weller recorded that the pistol was a long one, with a bright barrel, and that he had distinctly heard the snap of the spring when the footpad drew it from his great coat and cocked it.

The same newspaper reported that a Man of War’s boat and a Custom-house cutter had been stationed at Newhaven to try to suppress the smuggling that had resumed all along the coast with the peace that followed Waterloo. The editor, who blamed the smuggling on the high excise taxes, claimed that small publicans who during the war had paid their London spirit merchants £150 p.a. were now doing less than half as much business with their legitimate suppliers.


  1. The Edwardian Wallands

This Francis Frith series postcard postmarked 1 April 1904 shows the view over the Wallands towards distant chalk pits on the Downs. It appears so different from today that I’m not sure I can easily orientate the view. Which road are the houses in the middle distance on?

The Wallands, Lewes, Francis Frith postcard postmarked 1904


  1. Lewes Photographer: Edward Brummitt                   (by David Simkin)

I would like to share the information I have on Lewes-based photographers who are not listed in the ‘Directory of Photographic Studios in Lewes 1851-1910’ on my Sussex PhotoHistory website, http://photohistory-sussex.co.uk/LEWESdirAG.htm

I am attaching a scan of a carte-de-visite (CdV) portrait taken by Edward Brummitt around 1891. According to the publicity printed on the reverse of this CdV, Brummitt operated from a photographic studio located at 84 High Street, Lewes. Luckily, Edward Brummitt and his wife Margaret Brummitt were residing in Lewes when the 1891 census was taken, but, unfortunately, Edward Brummitt’s habit of lying about his age, and together with the existence of several men named Edward Brummitt, this made research into his life and career difficult.

Carte-de-visite portrait taken by Edward Brummitt c.1891, and reverse

At the time of the 1891 census (5 April 1891), Edward Brummitt and his wife were living at 85 High Street, Lewes. It is odd that Brummitt gave the business address on his printed CdVs as No. 84, because during the period 1890-1892 84 High Street, Lewes, was a building occupied by Miss Florence Crockett’s Ladies’ School. That house was still in the hands of the Crockett family in 1899, when Miss Annie Crockett (Florence’s sister) was based there as a harpist and music teacher.

On the 1891 census return, Edward Brummitt is described as aged 31, and a self-employed ‘Photographer’, originating from Lincoln. Edward’s wife, Mrs Margaret Brummitt, a milliner, gives her age as 30 and her place of birth as Hythe, Kent. In fact, at the time of the 1891 census, Edward was approaching his 36th birthday and Margaret was aged 39.

Edward Brummitt was born in the city of Lincoln in April 1855, the son of Edward Brummitt senior (c.1824-1892), a blacksmith, and his wife Martha. Edward Brummitt junior was baptised at St Mary-Le-Wigford church in Lincoln on 22 April 1855. His parents then moved to the village of Pinchbeck, where in the 1871 census the teenage Edward, living with his parents, was described as a printer’s apprentice. After his wife died in 1879, aged 51, Edward Brummitt senior married Hepzibah Stevens and shortly after their wedding in 1880, the family moved from Pinchbeck to the nearby town of Spalding. In 1881, Edward Brummitt senior was working as a ‘Blacksmith & Agricultural Implement Agent’ in the town of Spalding and his son, 26 year old Edward Brummitt junior, was employed by his father as a ‘Blacksmith’. It appears that some time after the 1881 census, Edward Brummitt junior ran away to London with Margaret Martha Shrewsbury and in 1888 the couple were married in Hackney (the marriage of Edward Brummitt and Margaret Martha Shrewsbury was registered in the London district of Hackney during the 3rd quarter of 1888).

Margaret Martha Shrewsbury, Edward’s bride, had been born in Hythe, Kent, on 24 January 1852, the daughter of Margaret and Thomas Shrewsbury (c.1798-1886), a ‘Letterpress Printer’, bookseller & stationer. In 1871, nineteen-year-old Margaret Martha Shrewsbury was described on the census return as an ‘Artist’, but by 1881 she was working in St Ives, Huntingdonshire, as a ‘Milliner‘, an occupation she continued for the rest of her life.

It appears that Edward Brummitt and his wife Margaret moved from place to place in the early years of their marriage (Brummitt might have been working as an itinerant photographer during the late 1880s). By 1889, Edward Brummitt had joined with a Mr Andrew to form the partnership of Brummitt & Andrew, ‘Artistic Photographers’, operating from a photographic studio based at Robert Appleby’s bookshop and stationery business at 10 Market Pace, Spalding, Lincolnshire. The photography firm of Brummitt & Andrew were in business for only a very short time and are not listed in Lincolnshire trade directories of the period.

Early in 1891 Edward and Margaret Brummitt were in Leicestershire, where on 8 March 1891, at St Martin’s Church, Leicester, they issued their wedding banns. It was odd to announce their intention to marry as it appears they had been husband and wife since 1888. On 30 March 1891, at the Church of St Mary and St Nicolas in Spalding, Lincolnshire, Edward Brummitt married Margaret Martha Shrewsbury. On this occasion, Edward Brummitt gave his correct age (36) but Margaret, who was three years older than her husband, declared that she was 35, when in fact she was 39 at the time of their (second) wedding. On 10 April 1891, the notice of their marriage was published in the ‘Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury‘ viz. “March 30, Edward Brummitt, photographer, of Spalding to Martha Shrewsbury of Leicester“. Both the 1888 and 1891 marriages were legally registered.

Not long after their second marriage Edward and Margaret Brummitt arrived in Lewes, where Edward Brummitt established a photography studio in the High Street (either at No.84 or No.85). Brummitt was in business as a photographer in Lewes for only a brief time – he is not listed as a professional photographer in Lewes when Kelly’s Directory of Sussex was compiled in 1891. To locate a new photographic studio in Lewes directly opposite the long-established and well-respected studio of Edward Reeves at 159 High Street was probably a big mistake. There is little evidence of a photographic studio at 84/85 High Street and sadly the original building was destroyed in a fire in 1904, when it was known as Frank Dusart’s Emporium. Today, I believe 84 & 85 High Street is occupied by A & Y Cumming, the bookshop and antiquarian bookseller, and ‘Brats’, a baby & children’s clothing store.

Edward and Margaret Brummitt eventually returned to Spalding to live and work. When the 1901 census was taken Edward Brummitt and his wife were living at 7 Francis Street, Spalding. Edward Brummitt was now employed as a ‘Cycle Repairer’ and his wife Margaret was recorded as a ‘Milliner (own account)’. Again, the couple were not prepared to give their real ages for the census return. Edward Brummitt gives his age as 36 when, in fact, he was 46. Margaret, Edward’s wife, declared that she was 39, when she had celebrated her 49th birthday earlier in January 1901.

Given that Edward Brummitt trained as a blacksmith, he probably had the required skills to become a repairer of bicycles. However, it may be significant that, for 40 years, commercial photography in Spalding had been dominated by the Beales Family, who since the 1880s had combined their photography business with a cycle manufacturing concern.

When the 1911 census was taken on the evening of Sunday, 2 April, 1911, Edward Brummitt and his wife Margaret were residing at 9 Foundry Lane, Spalding. Edward Brummitt was again working as a professional photographer. On the 1911 census form he gave his occupation as ‘Photographer (own account – at home)’. This time on the census form, Edward Brummitt stated that he was 37, when he was actually approaching his 56th birthday. On the 1911 census form, Margaret Martha Brummitt’s age is given as 40 but in reality she was 59 years old. Margaret Martha Brummitt is described on the 1911 census form as a ‘Milliner (own account – at home)’. Edward Brummitt declared on the census form that he and Margaret had been married for 17 years (i.e. since 1894) when evidence suggests that they had been a married couple since 1888, the year of their first wedding in London.

It is difficult to determine when Edward Brummitt died because of his unreliability in recording his correct age. The death of an Edward Brummitt (aged 60) was recorded in Lincoln in 1918. It appears he died before 1919 because when Kelly’s Directory of Lincolnshire was compiled in that year only Mrs Margaret M. Brummitt – a milliner living at 9 Foundry Lane, Spalding was listed. His widow was still alive at the start of World War II, when she appears in the 1939 register, living alone at 70 Park Road, Spalding, and providing her correct 1852 date of birth.


  1. Lewes baptisms by John Townsend

John Townsend was a Protestant dissenting minister who in 1784 established himself as minister of the Independent or Congregational Chapel, Jamaica Row, Bermondsey, Surrey, but in a chapel register that he maintained there he included a section: “The following children were baptised by me before I settled in Bermondsey but are entered here for the sake of the families to which they belonged in case they shall be enquired after and there being no other entry of them”.  They include a series of Lewes baptisms all carried out on 19 August 1781 that identify their parents as at that date Protestant non-conformists.

  • James son of William & Sarah Child of All Saints, born 9 August 1780.
  • Henry son of Henry & Mary Lawrence of St John-sub-Castro, born 22 April 1781.
  • Joseph son of John & Mary Maxfield of St Peter and St Mary Westout, born 8 July 1781.
  • Sarah daughter of John & Sarah Waller of All Saints, born 28 September 1780.
  • Mary daughter of Abraham & Mary Weston of St Michael’s, born 26 March 1781.
  • Holly daughter of Joseph & Susannah Sims of Cliffe, born 11 June 1781.
  • Jemima daughter of Thomas & Sarah Mantell of St John-sub-Castro, born 20 January 1781.

The other baptisms that John Townsend records at about this time were in various locations in Surrey and Middlesex. The register notes that he was minister at Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, 1781-1784, and his published memoirs record that he took up his Kingston post in June 1781. He was brought up in London in a non-conformist family, but came to Lewes for 6 weeks in 1780 when he was considering entering the ministry, and ended up staying for 8 months. At this time the new minister at Cliffe Chapel (founded 1775), Rev Joseph Middleton, was a man who disapproved of infant baptism, a matter which divided his congregation. Five years later this led to a schism, when he led part of the chapel congregation away to form a new Baptist church that survives today at Eastgate. The two main leaders of the Cliffe chapel group that did believe in infant baptism were John Maxfield and Abraham Weston. To have their children baptised during Rev Middleton’s leadership of the chapel, they had to invite in another minister, in this case their old friend John Townsend.

Source: Jamaica Row chapel register deposited in 1836 and digitised by FindMyPast. Rev John Townsend’s memoirs are available online at https://archive.org/details/gu_memoirsrevjoh00town/page/n41/mode/2up.


  1. George Holman’s Premonition

George Holman in ‘Some Reminiscence’s’ wrote: “I do not pretend to be superstitious, or in any way affected by occultism, but I cannot ignore certain things that have happened to me in the past, which have afforded me much thought and perturbation, I was walking round my garden one morning when a voice behind me said “Reggie will die”. I was alone – not a soul in sight. I tried to dismiss it. My eldest boy had a short illness and died within a month.”

Source: Diana Crook, ‘A Box of Toys’. George Holman, born in Lewes in 1850, worked for Baxters, rising to become manager of the Sussex Express. He served seven terms as Mayor of Lewes, being elected to the role in 1898-1900 and 1907-1910. His portrait in his mayoral robes is reproduced in Bulletin no.19. He was the author of ‘Some Lewes Men of Note’. His eldest son Reginald George Holman, born in 1879, died aged 18 in 1897. George Holman died in 1932.


  1. Lewes Cyclists’ Club 1901 outing to Litlington Tea Gardens

“On Wednesday the Lewes Cyclists Club held its annual run to Litlington Gardens, and participated in a tea of strawberries and cream with their friends of the Eastbourne Club. The ladies left headquarters, under the leadership of Miss Wilmshurst (sub-captain) at 4.00, and the male section followed half an hour later with Mr G. Langridge (sub-captain) in command. The recent rains had much improved the road and the ride was a pleasant one. Litlington was reached about 5.30, and at 6.00 tea was served under the shady trees in the gardens. Mr J. Niedermeyer, the Eastbourne captain, was at the head of the central table, and Messrs Miller (sub-captain) and Barber (hon. sec.) were in evidence looking after the wants of their friends at other tables.  

 About 100 cyclists were present – 40 from Lewes and 60 from Eastbourne. At the conclusion of the meal an adjournment was made to a meadow outside the hotel and various amusements were indulged in until about 8 o’clock. The two clubs started for home at 8.30. The return journey was more enjoyable for the Lewes club than for their Eastbourne friends, as the wind was then more in their favour than otherwise, and Lewes was reached about ten, both sections having had another delightful outing with their friends, the Eastbourne Cyclists Club.”

Source: 6 Jul 1901 Sussex Express


  1. Lewes Railway Station

Lewes railway station, Carlton Series postcard, postmarked 1918

This postcard of Lewes railway station labelled ‘The Carlton Series, Brighton’ is postmarked 1918, but the clothing of the ladies featured looks Edwardian. Motor travel has changed the appearance of our town.


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


This entry was posted in Art & Architectural History, Family History, History of Religions, Legal History, Lewes, Local History, Political History, Urban Studies. Bookmark the permalink.