Lewes History Group: Bulletin 144, July 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: 11 Jul 2022, Helen Poole ‘Sir John Gage of Firle and the Tudor Court’
  2. Chair’s Report (by Neil Merchant)
  3. Lewes Inns and Beershops
  4. Lewes Races in 1787
  5. A Lewes Fire Engine
  6. The Prosecution of the Cliffe Gang
  7. Historic Lewes for sale: The Three Mariners
  8. The sale of the Castle Brewery
  9. Guidebooks to Lewes
  10. A Complete System of Cookery


  1. Next Meeting         7.30 p.m.       King’s Church Lewes       Monday 11 July     Helen Poole         Sir John Gage of Firle and the Tudor Court

Life in the Tudor court gave great opportunities for advancement and equal chances for disgrace and disaster. One man who survived and prospered at the court of King Henry VIII, despite setbacks and staying loyal to the Catholic faith, was Sir John Gage (1479-1556). Starting as a junior member of the household of Henry VII, he proved a capable administrator who was knighted in 1525, succeeded to some of Thomas Cromwell’s roles after his fall and became a Knight of the Garter in 1541. He served Henry VIII as Comptroller of the Household, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Constable of the Tower of London and Queen Mary as Lord Chamberlain. He was for many years MP for Sussex, and used his influence and patronage to ensure Lewes elected MPs who were acceptable to the court.

He used some of his accumulated wealth to establish a large estate in Sussex, much of it formerly the lands of the dissolved Battle Abbey, and he built an imposing house in West Firle that still survives, much modified, as the Gages’ home nearly 500 years later. Our speaker, Helen Poole, was the speaker at the first ever Lewes History Group meeting in October 2009, and has told us more recently about Thomas Cromwell’s local role. Helen Poole is a museum curator and was previously Director of Lewes Castle and Museums.

King’s Church will be open to those who have booked tickets from 7 p.m.


  1. Chair’s Report                                                                (by Neil Merchant)

We were happy to assist the Friends Of The Keep Archive (FOTKA) in launching a series of talks to raise funds for, and awareness of, FOTKA, whose purpose is to support The Keep financially and in other ways. We did this by hosting the first, free, talk (by Chris Whittick) on our Zoom license. This was to give them some experience while they prepare to host the rest of the series, which will be chargeable, themselves.

We have our annual August break in our monthly talks program, and we’ll be reviewing our Covid-related approach to staging them before we resume in September. Following resumption of talks in King’s Church in April, attendances have been around 130, lower than in the pre-Covid era, but that’s to be expected for the time being.


  1. Lewes Inns and Beershops

The simple question “How many pubs have there been in Lewes and where were they?” is easy to ask, but will probably never have a satisfyingly complete answer.

There have of course been some serious attempts to answer this question. The best known is probably Leslie Davey’s ‘The Inns of Lewes past and present’, published in 1977 and updated in 2006, which lists almost 100. As soon as one starts to look seriously at the topic the questions arise as to what counts and what does not; how far back should one try to go; and indeed where are the boundaries of Lewes. The front room of a pretty standard house used as a beershop by a few neighbours is a very different establishment from a coaching hotel such as the White Hart. For the more modern period there are licensing records, but these include establishments that, at least formally, were for sales for consumption off the premises only.

A new record that has recently come to my attention is the Lewes section of the Sussex Pub History Index, available online at www.pubwiki.co.uk/SussexPubs/Lewes. This carries 88 entries for Lewes and the surrounding villages, of which 69 come within the seven parishes of today’s Lewes. The number of establishments listed is fewer than in Les Davey’s book, but this index covers a more restricted period. The main sources used to construct it have been local directories, supplemented to some extent by census data, so it is focused strongly on the 19th and early 20th centuries, and those establishments of sufficient size to advertise. Its strength is that for each entry it lists, it also provides the name of the landlord, and more detailed information about the period of operation. Where available there is also a photograph.

Checking the pubwiki list against Les Davey’s index I found four extra Lewes entries, but three of the four are actually mentioned in Les Davey’s text. The exception was the Rising Sun, Brighton Road, which is recorded only in a single 1867 directory, so was presumably very short lived. The Rising Sun has already been mentioned, on the basis of the same source, in Bulletin no.54.


  1. Lewes Races in 1787

The 6 August 1787 edition of The Times carried an account of the races at Lewes taken from the report in the Brighton Gazette published three days previously. There were two races, the County Plate, valued at £50, for which four horses competed, and, after dinner, His Majesty’s Plate, value  one hundred guineas, for which there were three entrants. Each event was scheduled to consist of three successive 4 mile heats, but the County Plate was awarded after the same horse won both the first two heats, and after the first heat of the second race the winner of the first heat walked over. One of the losing horses in the second race was owned by the politician Charles James Fox.

The social aspects of the races were also reported:

 “Lord Abergavenny sported an elegant phaeton on the course, drawn by six steeds that would not have disgraced the car of Phoebus, well matched and beautiful in all points. 

  The Stand-house was filled by the first company – the Prince, the Royal Duke and Duchess, the Gallic Princesses, the Duchess of Richmond, Rutland and Ancaster, Mrs Fitzherbert, Mrs Pelham, Duke of Queensbury, Lords Egremont, Clermont, Grosvenor, Col. Fitzpatrick, Col. St. Leger, Mr Fox, etc. 

  When the Right Hon. Charles James Fox first entered the Stand-house the Princess de Carignon was heard to exclaim very audibly “Mon dieu voila, de Man of de People”. Considering the high respect which the French ladies entertain for the consequence of externals, and Charles’s slovenly and repulsive appearance, the remark was not outrageously malapropos – no doubt the sister Frenchwoman thought a Briton a very dirty character, if the self-baptised Charles was considered a type of their perfections.”


  1. A Lewes Fire Engine

This Edwardian postcard issued by the Mezzotint Company of Brighton was offered for sale recently on ebay. Mezzotint postcards in this format usually date from about 1909-1911, but often use older images.

The Old Lewes Fire Engine, Mezzotint postcard

Bill Young’s book ‘Line of Fire: A history of firefighting in Lewes’ identifies this as one of two manually pumped fire engines bult by Bristows of London Fields and added to the Borough’s inventory in 1783. They were kept initially in a purpose built engine house on the left side of the way from the High Street to the Barbican, but in 1818 moved to a new Borough Engine House and Record Room on Fisher Street. They carried long lengths of hose. When required they had to be manoeuvred to the site of the fire, connected to a water supply and vigorously pumped by a team of volunteers. Beer was provided in quantity by the authorities whenever they were tested.

1783 Lewes Fire Engine in Anne of Cleves HouseIn 1842 they proved inadequate to the task when a fire destroyed Messrs Lee’s printing works in Watergate Lane, despite the assistance of 158 people who carried water and pumped the engines. Considerable expense was incurred repairing the engines and their hoses, but they were replaced by a more modern and up-to-date machine in 1843.

One of the 1783 machines, presumably the one above, survives at Anne of Cleves House.


  1. The Prosecution of the Cliffe Gang

In March 1850 three London newspapers noted that for several weeks the inhabitants of the town of Lewes and its neighbourhood had suffered fear and apprehension from the activities of a notorious gang of burglars. Warrants had been issued by the Lewes magistrates, and on the same day the Sussex Police arrested five men, Gower, Carey, Richardson, Funnell and Darby, and lodged them in Lewes police station. Most of the arrests were made at Gower’s beer shop in the Cliffe. The men were examined by two Lewes magistrates on the Friday afternoon, and remanded in the House of Correction.

At the Spring Assizes case three of the arrested men were charged with an aggravated burglary on a house at Jevington on 7 January. They had broken in to the dwelling house of an old man in his eighties who had since died, and whose equally elderly wife was too ill to give evidence. The prosecuting counsel said this was one of a number of burglaries committed recently in the area. Richard Funnell, Edward ‘Nipper’ Carey and Allen Gower were charged largely on the evidence of an accomplice called George Cossam. A fifth man named Shepherd, evidently known to the household burgled, was still at large. Gower had not actually participated in the burglary, but was charged as an accomplice before the fact. Funnell and Carey had broken in to the house by removing a window, let the other two in through the front door and demanded money from the old couple and a servant. The servant identified Funnell and Carey. Funnell had a flail in his hand and Carey a carving knife.

George Cossam deposed that he Funnell, Carey, Gower and Shepherd had planned the attack in Gower’s beer shop in the Cliffe, and that Gower had driven them there in his horse and cart but waited some distance away while the others robbed the house. Several turnpike gate keepers on the route gave evidence about Gower’s cart having passed through their gates on the evening in question, and some stolen handkerchiefs were found in Funnell’s possession. The proceeds on this occasion amounted to less than 10 shillings for each of the party. All three prisoners were found guilty by the jury. Cossam, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, to be followed by transportation for ten years, the first sentence to give him an incentive to serve his country further by making further disclosures, and if he did so the second sentence might be reconsidered. However, he was warned against the enormity of making false accusations against innocent men.

At the Sussex Summer Assizes held in Lewes another of the arrested men was tried and convicted, this time for a burglary on 7 February on Wellingham House, Ringmer. He was Trayton Darby aged 23, described as “a stout-built, determined-looking countryman”, charged with breaking and entering the house and stealing two watches valued at £50, two gold chains, two gold seals and other items. Wellingham House was occupied by the wealthy former brewer John Rickman and his wife, a couple well into their seventies, and two of their unmarried daughters.

John Rickman, a Quaker, affirmed that he lived at Wellingham and had gone to bed about 10.30 pm. About 2 o’clock he heard a noise, the bedroom door was burst open and three masked men came in, one carrying a bludgeon. Two of them stood either side of the bed and demanded money, at which he had had the presence of mind to say “I am sorry for you”. They rifled his trouser pockets and took two valuable watches from the head of the bed, one a gold repeater. One ransacked some drawers, but he did not see what they took. They ran away when his great alarm bell rang out.

Sarah Horne Rickman, his daughter, said that their servant Divall had locked the house. She was disturbed when three men came into her bedroom, where she shared a bed with her sister. Two of the men were in smock frocks, one rather tight about the neck, and they rifled through their drawers. Her sister asked her to ring the bell, which she did, and her sister also tried to ring her bell, for which she was struck with a bludgeon by Darby. She could not identify either of the men. Rachel Rickman, the older daughter, in her fifties, gave corroborative evidence. They could not identify any of the men by their faces, and but Rachel Rickman heard a voice, which at first she thought was a woman’s. She had since heard a man named Richardson being examined, and by his voice she was certain he was one of the men in her room.

Wellington House, Ringmer, Victorian photograph
A Victorian photograph of Wellingham House from ESRO AMS 6839/3.

Thomas Richardson, an approver [accomplice turned Queen’s evidence], said he was aged 27 and had just come from gaol, where he was committed for trial charged with this burglary. He knew George Darby, and on 7 February had gone with him to Allen Gower’s beer shop in the Cliffe, where they had spent the evening with Richard Funnell and Edward Carey. The four of them then agreed to go to Mr Rickman’s in Wellingham, but were careful to leave the beer shop separately. They came together again near Upper Stoneham Farm. They remained there until about one o’clock and then went on to Wellingham. They first tried unsuccessfully to cut their way in via the water closet window, but then went to a larger window which Carey broke and Funnell opened. They went in, struck a light, and opening some cupboards and drawers in that room got two silk handkerchiefs.

After exploring another downstairs room they went upstairs. Darby, Carey and himself went into the ladies’ room, armed with sticks and with crepe over their faces. Funnell stayed on the landing. Carey demanded the ladies’ money and when one rang the bell he caught hold of her hand and pulled her down. Darby went to the other lady and prevented her ringing the bell, striking her with a stick. They then went to Mr Rickman’s room and burst in, where they found Mr Rickman and a lady. He took one watch, Darby the other. A plated candlestick and a box of lozenges were also taken.

Funnell then came into the room, with his disguise off. He gave the alarm, and hearing the alarm bell ring they left the house. As they ran back to the town across the fields of Lower Stoneham Farm. Darby got something in his eye when he ran into a bush, and the next day had a handkerchief over it. They went to Allen Gower’s, and left the property overnight in a silk handkerchief. On leaving Gower’s that night Darby and he went over Southerham bridge. The next day they all met at Allen Gower’s and he had three sovereigns from Gower for his portion. The other three each received the same. The prisoner made the counter-allegation that Richardson would say anything to get anyone in trouble in order to get the reward money.

Three other people gave evidence about seeing Darby near the beer shop on the evening of the robbery, and a druggist reported taking something out of the prisoner’s eye at about the time of the robbery. The judge, summing up, pointed out that a man could not be convicted solely on the evidence of an accomplice, and it was for the jury to consider how well Richardson’s evidence was corroborated by others. He noted that Richardson gave his evidence without having heard any of the other evidence presented, and his account of John Rickman saying “I am sorry for you” matched the victim’s.

The judge said this was one of the most alarming and daring burglaries he had heard of, invading the victims’ sleeping apartments and terrifying them. He sentenced Trayton Darby, who had shown himself ready to attack one of his victims, to transportation for life. In response the prisoner gave an impudent grin and walked away from the bar, apparently quite unconcerned. The other men concerned had already been tried at the Spring assizes for the Jevington burglary and sentenced to be transported for life, so were not tried for this offence.

The case heard immediately before Trayton Darby’s trial was a case in which Friend Gower, a hawker aged 30 (and the man named as Shepherd in the case at the Spring Assizes), was charged with having on 7 January broken and entered the Jevington dwelling house and stolen an oak chest (5s 0d), three handkerchiefs (3s 0d), a pair of silver sugar tongs (5s 0d), two silver watches (35s 0d), a silver table spoon (10s 0d), 12 silver tea spoons (30s 0d), two silver shoe buckles (20s 0d) and 2s 6d in money. The judge intervened to ask whether there was any evidence against him except that offered by Cossam, the convicted accomplice. When told there was not, the judge ordered the jury to acquit the prisoner.

Prison records identify Edward Carey as aged 22, single, a labourer, with his next of kin a bargeman. Richard Funnell was 25, single, and a labourer or lime burner. Allen Gower, 40, married, was variously described as a labourer, lime burner or beer shop keeper. All three were sent to Pentonville Prison, opened in 1842 and then regarded as a model prison, with individual cells, three carefully defined meals and thirteen hours work per day picking oakum or weaving.

Gower’s wife Jane was noted as in lodgings in New Street, Lewes. In the 1841 census labourer Allen Gower, 30, lodged in North Street, Cliffe, with an Arthur Gower, beershop keeper, and his family. He had no previous convictions. Edward Carey had a previous conviction for fighting and Richard Funnell one felony conviction and three convictions for summary offences. One of Richard Funnell’s convictions was reported in the 18 January 1849 Sussex Advertiser: he had been caught poaching in Plashett Wood by Viscount Gage’s gamekeeper, and with a previous conviction he was given three months in the House of Correction.

Gower was despatched from Pentonville to the hulk ‘Defence’. HMS Defence, a 74-gun ship of the line, was built in 1815 and converted into a prison ship at Woolwich in 1849. The two younger men were discharged from Pentonville to the Cornwall, heading for Gibraltar, where there was a convict colony, housed in hulks, from 1842 until the 1870s. HMS Cornwall, another old ship of the line launched in 1812, was from 1859 used as a juvenile reformatory school in London.

Sources: accounts of the arrests in the 13 March 1850 Morning Advertiser, 13 March 1850 Sun (London) & 17 Mar 1850 Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper;  accounts of the trial at the Sussex Spring Assizes in the 19 Mar 1850 Sussex Advertiser & 21 March 1850 Brighton Gazette; accounts of the trial of George Darby in the 26 July 1850 Sun (London); 26 July 1850 Evening Mail; 1 August 1850 Brighton Gazette & 3 Aug 1850 Hereford Times; Prison & census records from FindMyPast.


  1. Historic Lewes for sale: The Three Mariners

The medieval former Three Mariners inn, Southover High Street, 3 bedrooms, available this Spring via Oakley Properties at £960K.

Former Three Mariners Inn, Southover High Street, Lewes

Former Three Mariners Inn, Southover High Street, Lewes, living room, and second floor room 1

Former Three Mariners Inn, Southover High Street, Lewes, second floor room 2, and master bedroom


  1. The sale of the Castle Brewery

The Castle Brewery, within the Castle Precincts, and its chain of 17 inns, public houses and beerhouses was offered for sale by auction in 27 lots on 10 September 1856. Lot 1 was the brewery with its adjoining residence. Lot 2 was a double cottage and other buildings [the former Castle Inn, now Castle Lodge] and lot 3 the newly built malthouse. The properties in Castle Precincts are shown on a plan. There were four Lewes houses: the Kings Arms in North Street, the Bird in Hand in Commercial Square, the Grape Vine near the railway bridge on the Newhaven Road and the Kings Head in Priory Street, Southover. The brewery also owned the Rainbow at Cooksbridge, six licensed houses in Brighton and others in Waldron, Burwash, Westham, Battle and Hawkhurst.

This sale marked the demise of the Castle Brewery which had survived for almost a century on the site of Castlegate House and its garden, tucked inside the section of the Castle wall that collapsed recently into the gardens of Castle Ditch Lane. The first recorded brewer here was Robert Chester, who in 1759 inherited this property that had previously belonged to his mother Abigail Chester and his merchant grandfather Benjamin Court. By his 1768 will he bequeathed the Brewery to his nephew Robert Chester Cooper, the son of his sister Elizabeth, but as the nephew was only 8 years old, it was initially run by his father William Cooper, previously a Udimore farmer and grazier.

Under William & Robert Chester Cooper the brewery appears to have thrived, and in 1803 it was inherited by the latter’s son, a second Robert Chester Cooper. This young man, an only son aged 21 at his inheritance, owned the brewery property until his death in 1833, but ran the business for only a very few years before becoming a Brighton-based gentleman and a captain in the Sussex militia, marrying an MP’s daughter and fathering a large family. The management of the brewery business passed to two of his cousins, Benjamin Cooper Langford and John Langford, younger sons of the elder Robert Chester Cooper’s sister. They had been born in Icklesham, near Rye, where their father was a farmer and grazier. The brewery continued to flourish under their care.

From the mid-1830s the business was in the sole hands of John Langford, and he died in 1850. His will shows that he had extensive land holdings in Icklesham and Brede and was a very wealthy man, but had no children. He distributed his fortune between his surviving siblings and his nephews and nieces, with his nephew Frederick Langford, already the heir to substantial landholdings in the parishes around Rye, the principal beneficiary. However, management of the Castle Brewery passed to Frederick’s younger brother Alfred Langford, who received a bequest of £3,000 from his uncle John to augment £1,000 he had already inherited in 1845 from another uncle. The 1841 census finds Alfred Langford as a teenage pupil boarding at Button’s Academy in the Cliffe, but by 1851, aged 25, he was the resident brewer at the Castle Brewery, living with two maiden aunts and his last surviving uncle.

Its final few years were not a good time for the Castle Brewery, although Alfred Langford built the large malthouse across the bowling green that was, over a century later, to house the County Record Office. The next five years saw the deaths of both maiden aunts and Frederick Langford, the owner of the brewery and its pubs. In March 1856 Alfred Langford was made bankrupt. It took two years to settle his affairs, during which the brewery assets were dispersed. The malthouse was sold to Edward Beard’s nearby Fisher Street brewery and the retired draper William Crosskey, who purchased the site, demolished the old Castle Brewery buildings. Throughout its century of existence the Castle Brewery was thus owned and run by members of a single extended family.

Sources: ESRO AMS 7036/4/1 & ACC 3801/2/2/2 are amongst the five copies of these 1856 sale particulars to survive in the archives at The Keep; Colin Brent, ‘Lewes House Histories’; Peter Holtham, ‘Breweries of East Sussex’ in Sussex Industrial History vol.36; probate copies of the wills of Robert Chester (proved 1768), Thomas Cooper Langford (proved 1745) & John Langford (proved 1850) in the National Archives PROB 11 series; Familysearch website; British Newspaper Archive.


  1. Guidebooks to Lewes

The very interesting article on this topic by Michael Chartier in the April 2022 Sussex Past & Present (issue no.153, p.28) makes the point that there is no comprehensive list of Lewes guidebooks. Given that the most successful guidebooks pass through numerous editions, and that those marketing them sometimes omit the publication date to avoid them looking out of date, this is perhaps true, but there is a very useful list published on the LHG website. This is available at: https://leweshistory.org.uk/research-resources/lewes-history-group-bibliography/lhg-bibliography-guide-books-to-lewes/, and lists fifteen different guidebooks, many of them with multiple editions.

The earliest guidebook, recorded as such in both sources, is ‘The Brighton and Lewes Guide’ written by the teenage John Viney Button and published by John Baxter in 1805. There were at least three more published in the 1840s, one by Baxters and others by Gideon Mantell and Mark Antony Lower. Michael Chartier links this to the arrival of the railway at Lewes in that decade, increasing the ease with which tourists from London or Brighton could visit the town. Walter H. Godfrey’s many editions are the most frequently encountered from the 1930s onwards, but we can probably all agree that the late-20th century guidebook by Colin Brent for Lewes Town Council is the most scholarly and comprehensive. The most recent on our list, the LHG website list, and the only one new for the 21st century, is that written by Andy Thomas and published  by SB publications in 2007. Michael Chartier comments that the future for such formally published guidebooks may be limited – today’s tourists are more likely to find the necessary information, regularly updated, on their mobile phones.


  1. A Complete System of Cookery

The advertisement below was published in the 13 October 1759 Public Advertiser

William Verral - A Complete System of Cookery, advertisement


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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