Lewes History Group: Bulletin 140, March 2022

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: 14 March 2022, Chris Horlock ‘A Sussex Scrapbook’
  2. Resumption of ‘live’ meetings from April (by Neil Merchant)
  3. A Lewes Tobacco Pipe Maker in 1715
  4. Lewes Castle in 1824
  5. The Lewes County School for Girls
  6. The Last Execution at Lewes Prison (by Geoff Bridger)
  7. Buying a new Bicycle from Arthur E. Rugg
  8. Water Bowser in the High Street
  9. Women of ill-repute


  1. Next Meeting                       7.30 p.m.                               Monday 14 March      Chris Horlock                     A Sussex Scrapbook

This month we welcome back Chris Horlock, who will be regaling us with an entertaining mix of anecdotes about famous people connected to our county, details of local historic buildings and landmarks, local traditions and folklore, quaint ‘health cures’ and all sorts of legends, tales and mysteries. What links the stories and features together is that they all reflect aspects of the mindset of the generations that preceded ours, and the attitudes and outlooks of their times.

A native of Brighton, Chris has spent a lifetime travelling round Sussex, exploring its history and heritage, and accumulating a collection of photographs, maps, historical prints and ephemera that he will use to illustrate his talk. His ‘Sussex Scrapbook’ talks have been so popular that there are actually three different non-overlapping versions – cognoscenti may like to know that this month we will hear the original version. Chris is a regular contributor to Sussex Life, and the author of several books on Sussex history. He has appeared on radio and TV, and is a natural storyteller.

This meeting will hopefully be our final 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.


  1. Resumption of ‘live’ meetings from April          (by Neil Merchant)

Last October, you voted almost unanimously (95%) in favour of our proposal to continue with Zoom through March 2022, and 86% in favour to return to face to face talks beyond that time, if conditions permitted. Given the trajectory of the pandemic, vaccinations and regulations since October, we feel we can continue with this plan without consulting you again. If you do feel strongly against this, do let us know.

Our planned April talk, which involves some Battle of Lewes re-enactment, is not in any case amenable to Zoom delivery, will be held in King’s Church. We are formulating our plans for the practicalities of doing this after 18 months on Zoom, and will provide more details next month.

We appreciate that this will not suit everyone, but it should suit the majority. As we’ve said before, we don’t feel able to deliver hybrid Zoom/live events that would provide a good experience to both audiences.


  1. A Lewes Tobacco Pipe Maker in 1715

At the Easter Quarter Sessions in 1715 the magistrates discharged William Marchant from his apprenticeship to Henry Apps of St John’s parish, Lewes, tobacco pipe maker. The reason for ending the apprenticeship was, unusually, not recorded.

Neither Henry Apps nor William Marchant appears on D.R. Atkinson’s list of Sussex clay pipe makers, which includes more than twenty Lewes pipemakers. However, his illustrations of clay pipe styles include an example from about 1700 carrying the initials of an unknown pipe maker, HA. A Henry Apps had a daughter baptised at All Saints in 1699, was churchwarden of St John-sub-Castro parish 1714-1718 and witnessed several Lewes property deeds dated between 1721 and 1731. Colin Brent finds a Henry Apps, carrier, as tenant of a Fisher Street property in 1733.

Source: Quarter Sessions order book, ESRO QO/15; D.R. Atkinson, ‘Sussex Clay Tobacco Pipes and the Pipemakers’ (undated pamphlet, post 1972); Familysearch website; Colin Brent, ‘Lewes House Histories’.


  1. Lewes Castle in 1824

Lewes Castle print engraved by Freebairn from drawing by Hakewill, c.1814

This hand coloured print of Lewes castle was engraved by Alfred Robert Freebairn (1794-1846) from an original drawn by the architect Jake Hakewill (1778-1843) and included in ‘Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast of England’, a multi-volume work published in instalments between 1814 and 1826. The plate, removed from the volume, was offered for sale recently on ebay. While the castle remains on the motte broadly match other contemporary drawings, there is no sign of the Barbican. Unless I am much mistaken the other houses and duckpond featured appear to have originated in the artist’s or engraver’s imagination.


  1. The Lewes County School for Girls

The six postcards below feature the County School for Girls, Lewes, (later the Lewes Girls’ Grammar School) and were published by Marshall, Keene & Co of Hove. The company were very active in this field in the 1930s, but these appear to be rather later. For more on the history of the school see Bulletins numbers 34, 35, 37 & 127.

Lewes County School for Girls - View of school, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
View of the school: postcard number 36317

Lewes County School for Girls - New Building, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
The New Building: postcard number 36316

Lewes County School for Girls - Library, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
The Library: postcard number 36319

Lewes County School for Girls - Art Room, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
The Art Room: postcard number 36323

Lewes County School for Girls - Chemistry Laboratory, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
The Chemistry Laboratory: postcard number 36325

Lewes County School for Girls - Assembly Hall, Marshall, Keene & Co postcard
The Assembly Hall: postcard number 36318

The postcard numbers suggest there were at least 12 different postcard views in the original Marshall, Keene & Co series.


  1. The Last Execution at Lewes Prison                                     (by Geoff Bridger)

Percy Evelyn Clifford was born in January 1881 in Holloway, London. He trained as an electrical wire-man before joining the Metropolitan Mounted Rifles, Imperial Yeomanry, on 2nd March 1901. Private Clifford served for six months in South Africa during the time of the [Second] Boer War and was slightly wounded, having been shot in the right arm on 21 July. As a result, in November 1901, he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit. His character was assessed at that time by his commanding officer as ‘very good’. For his war service Percy was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 and, to compensate for his injuries, a pension of two shillings per day. That amount incidentally, was twice the daily rate of basic pay for a private soldier in the forthcoming Great War.

Clifford, described in court as ‘coloured’, had led a life of petty crime before marrying Maud in 1911. Witnesses gave evidence that Clifford had a history of gambling, drunkenness, and violence since leaving the Army. Maud in turn was no angel, having previously served time in Holloway Prison for theft. To help pay for her husband’s gambling and drinking habits she turned to prostitution. It did not help. They separated in 1913, but continued to meet on occasions. The scheming Percy Clifford then arranged a rendezvous on 7 April 1914 with Maud in a flat at 57 North Road, Brighton. It appears that he was jealous of the money his estranged wife still earned from prostitution. This was despite him having encouraged her immoral earnings whilst they were still together. He now planned her murder and his suicide and had brought along a revolver for the purpose.

After a drinking session Percy shot Maud in the head, killing her instantly, and then turned the gun upon himself. The landlady discovered the bodies later that day. Clifford was somehow still alive despite a serious head wound. At his trial he pleaded not guilty and hinted that his old war wound had caused partial insanity. His plea was rejected by the judiciary, the letter he left asking that they be buried together doing nothing to establish his innocence. The judge described the murder as having been done ‘under circumstances of great treachery’ and sentenced Percy Evelyn Clifford to death. He was hanged by John Ellis on 11 August 1914 in Lewes Gaol, with the bullet from the bungled suicide attempt still lodged in his brain. It was the tenth and last execution ever to occur within the confines of that prison. Before 1868 executions were a macabre public spectacle.

The late John Eccles, in Lewes Rouser referred to a list given to him which purports to show twelve people executed at Lewes Prison from the earlier date of 1849 to 1914. John briefly mentions the crimes and fate of Mary Ann Gearing (1849), Sarah French (1852) and Martin Brown (1869) [real name Martin Henry Vinall]. He concludes his piece by saying “Just who were the others. And what brought them to the scaffold?” Perhaps the biographies of others executed in Lewes have already been published, but if not, perhaps we can challenge other Lewes History Group members to complete the task.

The copy of his Attestation on Army Form B.111 is essentially identical to that used to sign up millions of soldiers for the First World War. What is especially interesting are the first six questions on it (Name, Where born, Nationality, Age in years & months, Trade and ‘have you resided out of your father’s house for three years…….’). Although the form is signed by the soldier beneath a ‘truth’ declaration, brief examination of the very complex Army Acts reveals either a minimal or even no penalty for incorrect information. The rest of the form is not so forgiving. Questions seven and onward are preceded by the statement, “You are hereby warned that if after enlistment it is found that you have given a wilfully false answer to any of the following [my emphasis] seven questions, you will be liable to a punishment of two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.” Among those seven questions are ones about previous service, apprenticeships, and vaccination. The answers the recruit gave about his name, age, nationality etc could have been severely economical with the truth, and attract little comeback. No documentation such as birth certificates was required. That may help to explain the considerable number of soldiers alleged to have enlisted under age and the many others who used a false name. As an example we do know that well over 3,500 men served and died in the Great War under an alias rather than their true name. How many more survived, having signed up for the Army with an assumed name in that and other wars or periods of ‘peace’? And again, how many lied about their true age? We may never know.

Click image to enlarge:

Percy Evelyn Clifford Attestation form 1901

Sources: The National Archives: WO97/4543; Sussex Express 30 July 1914 and 13 August 1914; The National Archives reference: HO 144/1323/253968; The Hangman’s Record. (Vol. 2) Steve Fielding. Pub. Unwin Brothers Ltd. 1995; Sussex Express 11 February 2000, page 12.


  1. Buying a new Bicycle from Arthur E. Rugg

The invoice below for a new bicycle purchased from Arthur Rugg on Christmas Eve 1914 was offered for sale recently on ebay. The ten guinea price tag has to be compared to a working man’s wages of round about a pound a week, so the equivalent of several thousand pounds today. A quarter of the cost was covered by the purchaser trading in an old bike, and the notes at the bottom suggest  that Mr Mitchell paid the remainder in three instalments.

Arthur Rugg is better remembered today as proprietor of a major car sales and garage business in the town, but is here recorded as a cycle manufacturer and proprietor of a Fisher Street bicycle shop.

Click image to enlarge:

Invoice for bicycle from Arthur E. Rugg, Lewes

The Sparkbrook Bicycle Company of Coventry manufactured bicycles under the ‘National’ brand from 1884 to 1924. The image below shows a 1910 Sparkbrook National Lady’s Roadster from the Online Bicycle Museum.

1910 Sparkbrook National Lady's Roadster bicycle

From 1912 Sparkbrook added motorcycles to their range of products.

Arthur Ebenezer Rugg was born in 1862 in Lyme Regis, Dorset. The 1881 census finds him in Lewes, as an ironmonger’s assistant aged 18. He lodged in Abinger Place with the widow Caroline Dann, a needlewoman aged 49 from Heathfield. A decade earlier she had been the wife of William Dann aged 43, described as a minister, who died very shortly after the 1871 census. He was the minister of the Bethesda Calvinist chapel in St John Street. The ages and birthplaces of their children in the 1871 census show that William Dann had moved from Heathfield to Lewes between 1866 and 1870. In the 1867 Kelly’s Directory Bethesda Chapel is listed as ‘Independent’. It was one of the ten non-conformist chapels in Lewes at that date, but without a resident minister.

In 1887 Arthur Ebenezer Rugg married Mercy Dann, one of his landlady’s daughters, who in 1881 had been described as a dressmaker aged 19. By 1891 the couple had moved to Southover High Street, where they were accompanied by two daughters aged 2 and 1, and by Mercy’s younger sister, who acted as their housekeeper. In 1891 Arthur Rugg was described as an ironmonger’s clerk, but local newspaper advertisements show that by 1893 he had established his own bicycle sales business at 12 Southover High Street, aggressively marketing bicycles at substantial discounts to the manufacturer’s list price. In 1897 he purchased 1 Fisher Street, and moved both his business and his family to this much more central location. He continued to sell bicycles, and later motor cycles, from 1 Fisher Street until his death, but as his business affairs prospered he moved his household to a larger house at 15 The Avenue, which he called ‘Warecliff’ – the Ware Cliffs stretched westward from his boyhood home of Lyme Regis, where his father lived on the Cobb.

In 1923 he also acquired larger premises at 3 Fisher Street, to expand his motor car business. A decade later he and his son Cecil John Rugg, now trading as Messrs Ruggs, removed the motor part of the business to premises that had formerly been a stables at 6 Station Street, leased from timber merchant Albert Turner. These premises were further expanded in 1937, after Albert Turner purchased and demolished some cottages on St Nicholas Lane. Arthur Ebenezer Rugg died in February 1937, aged 74, but the business continued under the same name, initially controlled by his son, until finally sold in 1968.

However, Arthur Ebenezer Rugg’s business interests were by no means confined to the bicycle and motor business. He was also a lifelong and evangelical advocate of the building society movement and its role in propagating home ownership, and he joined the Lewes Co-operative Benefit Building Society before his marriage. In the 1901 census he gave his occupation as ‘cycle agent and Building Society secretary’, while in 1911, when he was clearly continuing with his cycle business, he described himself in the census as ‘secretary of Building Society’. He became the driving force behind the Lewes Building Society and remained in that position until his death. He appears regularly in the local press promoting the movement across the county and beyond. He practised what he preached, and in 1928 purchased 18 houses in St Peter’s Place from the Abergavenny family for £2,000, selling at least one of them that same year to the occupier, with the aid of a Lewes Building Society mortgage. In 1937, just a few days before his death, he sold the premises of the former Providence Baptist Chapel, Lancaster Street, to the Rev Kenneth Rawlings, for use as a theatre. That deal too was facilitated by a Lewes Building Society mortgage. These were not the only roles he played in the public life of Lewes. As early as 1893, when he had only just set up his business, he was secretary of the Lewes Early Closing Association. In 1909 he represented the Calvinistic Protestant Union at a Brighton event. In 1904 he was elected as a borough councillor, in 1909 he was a member of the Sanitary Committee, and he was chosen as mayor for four successive years, 1916-1919. He remained a Borough Alderman until his death.

He and his wife had six children born at two year intervals between 1888 and 1900, but in the first half of 1895 three of them, aged 5, 2 and a new baby, all died, leaving just their eldest daughter. They went on to have another daughter and then a son. His eldest and youngest daughters both earned their own livings, one as a clerk (until she married a bank manager) and the other a pharmacist. His surviving youngest son joined him in the motor business.

Sources: The Keep online catalogue; Familysearch website; Judith Brent, ‘Southover House Histories’; local directories; and the British Newspaper Archive.


  1. Water Bowser in the High Street

Tony Elphick contacted me after my December talk on ‘How well do you know Lewes’ to say that the mysterious object in the wartime High Street near the White Hart shown in slide 22 was not, as I had conjectured, an air raid shelter but a water bowser for use in case of emergency. As it is clearly numbered 3, there will presumably have been others too.

Water bowser on Lewes High Street c. 1943

Photograph A44/3418 from the Historic England archive, reproduced by Anna Cornwall on the Lewes Past Facebook page, c.1943.


  1. Women of ill-repute

The Lewes magistrates at Quarter Sessions held on 18 July 1776 considered the case of Mary Singleton and Sarah Tomsett, who were in the Cliffe House of Correction and charged with being common prostitutes. They were recommitted until the following day, when they were to be severely whipped and then discharged.

Source: ESRO QO/26/1776-07-18 


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


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