Lewes Street Stories: Sun Street

Sun Street is in the conservation area of Lewes situated in the area known as the ‘New Town’ on the North side of the main High Street in the parish of St John sub Castro.

Sun Street Lewes

The street is almost unique in Lewes in that at least the frontages of most of the houses in the street are as they were built in the early 19th century. Although the houses at first glance appear similar, they are of many different designs with materials used ranging from Mathematical tiles, weather boarding as well as brick.

A team of members of the Lewes History Group who had interests in this amazing street carried out the research into the various aspects of its history – according to their own areas of expertise or interest.

We were fortunate to have the late Brian Cheesmur in our team and he was able to provide first-hand knowledge of the construction of the houses, having worked on some of these and similar Lewes buildings, as managing director of the building firm J. Cheesmur and Sons Ltd.

The people who had, or who were currently living in the street figured heavily in our research. Their stories, with previously unpublished photos, formed a whole chapter in the book The Sun Street Story published by the Lewes History Group in 2016 from the results of the research.

The stories about the people of the street from a while before – recorded in the local newspapers of the time, provided another view and these were subsequently brought to life in a play with music entitled ‘The Darker Shades of Sun Street’. This play has been presented at many different venues locally and continues to be performed and of interest.

The research covered the businesses carried out in the street during its existence, with an  in depth look at the Fruiterers Arms and the old Police Station – the previous uses of the old Police station site of particular interest. Also discovered and photographed, was the model held at The Keep in Brighton of the now infamous new carriage way proposed in the 1960s, with a look at the impact that this road would have had on the houses and occupiers of the street at the time.

The project took three years of research (from 2013 to 2016) with a number of exhibitions and presentations being given during this time. At the end of the project in 2016, the research results were summarised and published in The Sun Street Story book mentioned above. The book is now unfortunately out of print but copies are available at the East Sussex Library in Lewes, the Sussex Archaeological Society library and at East Sussex Record Office, The Keep, Brighton.

Other output from this project include:

‘The darker shades of Sun Street’ a dramatic presentation by Lewes Little Theatre, accompanied by Valmai Goodyear of Lewes Folk Club, created from the Sun St Street Story team’s work. The performance in November 2016 to the Lewes History Group was recorded by Rocket FM.

The December 2016 Love Lewes Podcast featured co-author Rosemary Page talking about The Sun Street Story, and the activities of the Lewes History Group.

In addition, Rosemary Page and Brian Cheesmur were interviewed on location by Karen Dobres from Chalk TV about the history of Sun Street in 2017.