Lewes History Group: Bulletin 133, August 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. LHG Evening Talks in 2021 & 2022 (by Neil Merchant)
  2. Lewes Heritage Open Day weekend (by Neil Merchant)
  3. An LHG group project: contrasting communities in 1851 (by Sue Berry)
  4. St James’s Hospital by Paul Sandby, R.A.
  5. St Michael’s Church about 1806
  6. Lewes Photographers: High Higham (by David Simkin)
  7. Refractory Apprentices
  8. Cruttenden’s Bakery, Southover High Street (by Lawrence Garner)
  9. The Morning Star
  10. Dial House in 1934


  1. LHG Evening Talks in 2021 & 2022                                        (by Neil Merchant)

At our June committee meeting we discussed our options for delivering our monthly talks, as the pandemic continues. We have researched what other organisations are doing, what they plan to do, and read advice from sources such as the British Association of Local History groups. Essentially there are three choices: continuing to use Zoom, face-to-face meetings and a hybrid. A further variation would be to record Zoom meetings for later online sharing.

We have evaluated the demands and complexities of hybrid meetings (live-Zooming a face-to-face talk), and concluded that this is beyond our technical abilities and means. In fact, we have not found any successful examples of similar organisations doing this. So, as far as our monthly talks are concerned, it’s a choice between Zoom or face-to-face.

We are currently inclined to the view that recording our Zoom talks and subsequently sharing them online risks copyright infringements, and is something that some speakers would not be happy with, so we couldn’t offer a consistent experience month-to-month. Given our membership demographics, the continuing emergence of significant new Covid-19 variants, and current concern about a resurgence of influenza this winter, we’re taking a conservative approach for now. All our remaining 2021 talks will continue on Zoom. Later in the year we will ask you what your preference for the first part of 2022 would be: Zoom or face-to-face, or perhaps alternating the two.

None of these options is ideal, nor will they please everyone: we can only seek to do the best we can in the prevailing circumstances. Note also that venue capacity may be reduced significantly if social distancing is either mandated or clearly preferred/expected.

On the more positive side, as you can read elsewhere in this bulletin, Sue Berry is preparing face-to-face courses for small groups of members for September/October, and we hope to arrange some local visits in roughly the same period. These will provide some opportunity for the social interaction that is a key LHG feature for many of us. Other suggestions would be welcome.


  1. Lewes Heritage Open Day weekend                          (by Neil Merchant)

As part of the Heritage Open Day weekend, 11-12 September, the Lewes History Group will be holding an exhibition in Lewes House. More information in the next Bulletin.


  1. An LHG group project: contrasting communities in 1851 (by Sue Berry)

2021 is the year of the decennial census, and we hope it will also see a return to something resembling normality after the Covid pandemic. We are therefore planning a practical group research project for this autumn that we hope will interest some of our members. It is based on the 1851 census, the first really detailed one. It will capture two local communities soon after the railway first arrived; a section of Lewes High Street still in its commercial prime and Stanmer House whilst it was still heavily used by the family and the head of a prospering estate. So, we have two contrasting communities to explore, separated by a few miles. Many of the buildings standing in 1851 are still standing today.

If you are interested in exploring the way in which we can use the Victorian census to look at the socio-economic structure of communities then this is for you. Both family and street histories benefit from looking at the census in this way. For example, what was the community your ancestors lived in like – the village, the country house, or the town street? For street histories – how did the social structure of a street – or a single house – change over time? How typical of the street as a whole was the occupancy of the house you are studying?

The assessment of each community will occupy a three hour session, probably on a weekday afternoon. We can accommodate about 10 people in the group. You will get large handouts to read which includes transcripts of the census we will be looking at on spreadsheets, to make life easier. You will be expected to read the handouts beforehand, have a crack at the questions, and I would look forward to your own questions too. If they can come in advance, that would be helpful.

Click to email to register for a place on this group

Upper High Street Lewes and its side streets in 1851

I have chosen a length of the High Street with some side streets, running west from the White Hart Hotel. Many of the properties are still standing. There is the typical mix of households common in towns in 1851 – this was much less so by 1901, because wealthier people moved out to the edges. The 1851 census shows a part of Lewes before that happens. 

Stanmer and Stanmer house in 1851 – a small rural community and its country house 

In 1851, Stanmer House was fully occupied – it is packed with the family, guests, and staff. A great contrast with the much simpler social structure of the village. The entire community worked on the Stanmer Estate, which included a typical downland farm. So, this is a manageable but interesting rural case study. It is now possible to visit the entire site because it is now a public park.

Households were usually bigger than we are used to today. Usually, residents of poorly paid occupations were either born in the town they lived in or moved in from nearby parishes. Houses on a fashionable public road were occupied by wealthier households, and poorer residents lived along the side streets. Was this true of Lewes and Stanmer? What other information can we extract from these important census records?

It would also be possible, following this project, to arrange a visit to Stanmer church and village, looking at the way its landscape has evolved and developed.

Other, future, small group activities that have been suggested and that we think we could run are:

  • A short course in basic Latin for Local Historians
  • Understanding title deeds
  • Planning and writing up your local history research
  • The changes in worship and fashion in design on four Lewes churches

Click to email to register your interest in any of the above


  1. St James’s Hospital by Paul Sandby, R.A.

St James's Hospital, Lewes, Paul Sandby drawing, C18

This pencil and wash drawing by Paul Sandby (1731-1809) features St James’s Hospital, Lewes, with St Anne’s church faintly visible in the background. It was offered for auction in April 2021 by Bonhams, London, with an estimated price of £800-£1,200 and sold for £750 (£956 including buyer’s premium). Paul Sandby, born in Nottingham, was a landscape painter who is regarded as the father of British watercolour painting. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768, and exhibited there for the rest of his life.


  1. St Michael’s Church about 1806

St Michael's Church, Lewes, by Henry Petrie, c.1806

This view of St Michael’s church, unusually shown from the north, is from the Sussex Archaeological Society’s Sharpe Collection.

The Sharpe Collection of watercolours of Sussex churches by Henry Petrie was purchased in 1975, with the aid of the Art Fund. Pat & Sue Berry have scanned 330 watercolours from this collection, which are now available online via a link on the LHG website.


  1. Lewes Photographers: Hugh Higham                              (by David Simkin)

Hugh Higham is another Lewes-based photographer not mentioned in my original Lewes directory on the Sussex PhotoHistory website. As can be seen on the attached scans, I have a carte de visite [CdV] with an indistinct rubber-stamped trade plate. The incomplete name reads ‘H. ***HAM’. However, the business address – ‘MARKET STREET, LEWES’ – is legible. After some research, I have concluded that this photographic portrait was made by Hugh Higham (1877-1948), the fifth of 12 children born to Thomas Higham (1847-1924), a chemist and druggist, who had premises at 11 Market Street, Lewes in the 1891 & 1901 censuses. In November 1883 he took a 21 year lease of 11 Market Street, on the corner of West Street, at the rent of £35 p.a., which had previously belonged to the chemist & druggist Edward Henry Roswell who had died at the end of 1882. The birthplaces of Thomas Higham’s children indicate that he moved from Brighton, to Lewes between 1882 and 1884. Up to 1881 he was in St George’s Street, Brighton, where he had been born, and where in 1868 he married Amelia Sarah Packham. They had a large family. His father, also Thomas Higham, was a Brighton tailor, but a native of Lewes. The chemist Thomas Higham also took photographic portraits in Lewes. Apparently, a CdV printed with the name “T. Higham”, which originated from Lewes, was up for auction on eBay some time ago [picclick.co.uk]. He died at 9 Dorset Road, Lewes, aged 76.

Photographic portrait of a couple, by Hugh Higham, Lewes, c.1890s, and reverse of the carte de visite

Hugh Higham was born in Brighton on 12th November 1877, and moved to Lewes with his parents.

He was no longer in Market Street, Lewes, at the time of the 1901 Census and so it is likely the photograph was taken in the 1890s. This is borne out by the fashions worn by the people in the photograph. I would suggest a date of around 1897, when Hugh was 19 or 20 years of age.

Hugh Higham then trained as a medical dispenser. By 1911 he was back in Lewes, but not living with his father in Market Street. The 1911 Census records him as a 34 year old single man boarding at the Royal Oak Hotel, Station Street, Lewes, with his occupation as ‘Dispenser – Medical’. In 1913, Hugh Higham married Ethel Crabtree (born 29 July 1886). Geoffrey Higham, their son, was born in Brighton in 1920. The couple’s second child, a daughter named Joan, was born in Hove in 1923. In the 1939 Register Hugh Higham gave his occupation as Dispenser’, and he and his wife were residing at 149 Queens Park Road, Brighton. Hugh Higham died in Hove in 1948, aged 70.


  1. Refractory Apprentices

In March 1850 the proprietor of the Sussex Advertiser, George Peter Bacon, brought two of his apprentices before the Lewes bench charged with the criminal offence of disobeying the orders of their master. Both Mr Bacon and the apprentices had counsel to represent them. The specific allegation was that on the previous Wednesday the two lads had refused to work from 4 pm until 7 pm. The background to the case was that a frame of type had been knocked over by accident. One lad had immediately gone to the overseer and admitted to the accident, but on the following day it appeared that he was taking the blame for another, unidentified, lad. However, no one would own up and one defendant, Joseph Johnson, defiantly refused to say who was responsible. George Bacon decided that as a punishment all the lads should be required to work for an extra three hours that day, when they would normally have been free. Johnson and another lad, Walter Waters Townshend, refused to do the extra hours (for no extra pay), which led to the case. Mr Bacon could not say whether or not it was one of the boys he penalised who was responsible for the accident.

George Bacon gave evidence to the magistrates about the hours normally worked by his staff. On a Monday, the day before publication of his weekly newspaper, the men and boys worked from 5 am until the paper was finished – always late at night and sometimes until one or two o’clock in the morning. On Tuesday they did not start until 6.15 am, and worked until 7, 8 or 9 in the evening. On Wednesday they started at 7 am and worked only until 4 pm, which they regarded as a half-day. The apprentices were to be punished by depriving them of this early finish, and instead work until 7 pm. Then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday they worked standard hours of 7 am until 7 pm. The normal working week could thus be up to 80 hours, spread over 6 days and including a single shift of up to 21 hours on Mondays.

The case against Joseph Johnson was heard first. The magistrates told him that they had no hesitation in convicting him, as he was legally bound to obey any reasonable order from his employer. It did not appear to the bench that there was anything unreasonable about him being called on to do extra work – it would have been a different matter if any unlawful or improper punishment had been inflicted. However, they only intended to inflict a small punishment, namely a fine of the 2s 6d shown by his indentures to be his wages for the week, plus costs. Mr Bacon then considered his aim had been achieved, and withdrew the second case against Walter Waters Townshend. Proud to have established his point, he ensured that a very detailed account of the case was included in the following week’s newspaper. He evidently considered himself an enlightened employer, quoting in the report a condition in the apprentices’ indentures that “as correction by blows is not permitted in the office of George Peter Bacon, he should be entirely at liberty to withhold any payments for extra hours worked if he thought fit, as punishment for misconduct or negligence.”

Both Joseph Johnson and Walter Waters Townshend were natives of Lewes. In the 1851 census both were printer’s apprentices aged 17 and 16, Joseph Johnson living with his parents in Priory Street, Southover, and Walter Waters Townshend lodging in St Martin’s Lane. Joseph Johnson died in 1853 at the age of 19, and was buried at Southover. Walter Waters Townshend married in Brighton in 1858. In 1861 he was a printer, bookseller and stationer in Uckfield High Street, supporting a growing family, and with his own resident servant, a shopwoman. By 1871, when he and his wife had six children, he was still in Uckfield but had become a poulterer.

Sources: 2 April 1850 Sussex Advertiser; FindMyPast


  1. Cruttenden’s Bakery, Southover High Street      (by Lawrence Garner)

I enjoyed Richard Pearson’s piece in Bulletin no. 131 on the history of the Southover bakery because, reader, I was there…  It was 1950 and we were living at 49 Southover High Street, now a bijou residence, then an Elizabethan slum.  Pocket money was short, so I got a Saturday morning job at Cruttenden’s, the bakery opposite Southover church. “So what?” you may ask.  Well, while most youngsters nowadays seize the chance of earning money if they can it was fairly unusual then, apart from the traditional paper round.  For a pupil of Lewes County Grammar School it was almost unheard of.  So I kept it a closely-guarded secret and lived in fear of being discovered at my degrading toil by a school friend or teacher.

Apart from that I quite enjoyed it. Mr Cruttenden wore rimless spectacles and was a Plymouth Brother, neither of which prevented him from making excellent bread and cakes in his old coke-fired oven. His rather forbidding sister managed the shop and lived over it, while his wife helped out in benign fashion at busy times. The only full-time bakery employee was an amiable man named John Halsey. The general working conditions would have made a modern public health inspector gasp in disbelief, but I am pretty sure that nobody ever got a tummy upset from a Cruttenden doughnut. I hope not because they were mainly my responsibility. It was I who took the balls of dough, deep-fried them in fat on a gas stove, injected jam into their centres with a kind of giant hypodermic needle and finally rolled them in sugar. It was I, too, who squirted the cream into the cream horns, sliced the cream splits with a skilful hand and brushed syrup over the penny buns.

My most arduous job  was cutting up the bread dough, which churned away in the giant mixer that Richard Pearson mentions. The flour was stored in the loft overhead and poured into the mixing bowl through a trapdoor. When ready the dough had to be cut out in large armfuls with a sharp and treacherous knife.  On one occasion I cut off half a fingernail, which disappeared into the dough.  I never found it, but no doubt somebody did. Then came the clever part – weighing out the dough into 2lb and 1lb lumps which John miraculously kneaded into neat potential loaves.

I never saw the oven refuelled. The temperature gauge was always at zero, having ceased to function long before, but some baker’s instinct ensured that the loaves went in at the right time to be perfectly baked in the dying embers. It was then my backbreaking task to carry them up to the shop in basketloads – a nerve-wracking business because I had to appear, aproned, sweating and self-conscious, in front of customers patiently waiting for the new bread. Cruttenden’s attracted discerning middle-class customers from all over the district, among them the Marchioness of Reading, who used to look in on her way home to Kingston, putting the Cruttenden ladies into a sort of semi-curtseying flap and provoking mutters as she moved effortlessly to the head of the queue.

What I feared most was the possible appearance of another regular customer – my headmaster, Neville Bradshaw. As I have said, I was terrified of being exposed in my role of baker’s assistant. On the one occasion when it happened he greeted my appearance with a grave nod, and I spent the rest of the weekend and some days afterwards in fear of being summoned to his study and denounced as a disgrace to the school. In the event some years elapsed before he mentioned the incident, and then he commended my enterprise. It was nice of him, but I wished he had said so at the time.

My final job before knocking off was to load up Cruttenden’s elegant Edwardian handcart with 4lb loaves for delivery to the Manor School, a short distance up the road. It was a simple enough task, made mortifying by the bawdy heckling of the youthful kitchen staff as I carried the bread to the pantry. I got 7s 6d for my morning’s work, 37p in today’s money, but it lasted me for a week. Sometimes there would be opportunities for overtime. Hot cross buns, for example, did not appear at the end of January as they do today.  We worked feverishly for most of the night and produced hundreds of them for the early-morning queue on the morning of Maundy Thursday. Christmas Eve would be another big day, and when the last Christmas cake order had been collected we would stoke up in readiness for the chickens and turkeys that customers would bring in to cook slowly overnight in the dying oven. Often the poultry would appear quite late because if you were on a tight budget the trick was to wait until the very last moment on Christmas Eve when the shopkeepers became so desperate to dispose of their birds that they offered them at knock-down prices. It was then a matter of plucking and gutting at high speed before the trip to the bakery. It seems odd now, when chicken is such a cheap meal, to recall that it in 1950 it was a once-a-year luxury that really made a Christmas dinner something special.


  1. The Morning Star

This image, probably taken about 1910, shows the Morning Star public house at 128 High Street, on St Anne’s Hill, just below the Pelham Arms. It was part of the chain of public houses in and around Lewes that belonged to the Southdown & East Grinstead Brewery. The house was occupied by a plumber, painter and glazier until in 1866 it was purchased by the brewer Edward Monk, who opened it as the Morning Star, run for over 30 years by the former Brewery employee Thomas Nye and then by his son-in-law John Brinkhurst. Edward Monk sold the Bear Brewery to the Southdown and East Grinstead Brewery in 1898. It was closed in 1922. The building later housed the Bow Windows Bookshop.

This image was posted on the Lewes Past Facebook page by Bev Taylor and the date of its closure was provided by John Hawkins. Other information is from Colin Brent, Lewes & Cliffe House Histories.

The Morning Star public house, Lewes, photograph c.1910

A more recent picture of the house, from closedpubs.co.uk, is shown below.

Residential home, formerly The Morning Star public house, Lewes


  1. Dial House in 1934

Dial House, Lewes,1934 photograph

This image of Dial House, 220/221 High Street, is taken from a 1934 Sussex County Magazine. The Historic England listing describes it as dating from the mid-18th century, with early 19th century alterations. The ground and first floors are faced with Caen stone, and the second floor rendered.

It is first recorded in 1789 as both owned and occupied by the prosperous Quaker corn merchant and miller Thomas Rickman (1718-1803), who also had a country house at Barcombe Mills. After his death the house was subdivided by his son and partner, Thomas Rickman junior. The western third was home in the 19th century to the banker Thomas Dicker, the draper Henry Browne, the brewer Alfred Hillman, the chalk and lime merchant George Newington and then the solicitor Isaac Vinall. The eastern two thirds was the house of the attorney Samuel Gwynne before becoming a girls’ school run first the Quaker Godlee sisters and then by the Misses Jones, daughters of the Rev Evan Jones, Pastor of Tabernacle, opposite. By 1882 it was the office of the solicitor Edward Hillman. It was there, in the offices of Messrs Hillman, Hillman, Vinall & Carter, that I signed the contract to purchase my first Ringmer house in 1969.

Sources: Britishlistedbuildings.co.uk; Colin Brent, ‘Lewes House Histories; This image of Dial House was posted recently on the Lewes Past Facebook page by Richard Hibbitt.


John Kay

Contact details for Friends of the Lewes History Group promoting local historical events:

Sussex Archaeological Society
Lewes Priory Trust

Lewes Archaeological Group
Friends of Lewes

Lewes History Group Facebook, Twitter


This entry was posted in Art & Architectural History, Biographical Literature, Economic History, Family History, Legal History, Lewes, Local History, Social History, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.