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Coordinates: 50°52′32″N 0°01′04″E / 50.875627°N 0.017855°E / 50.875627; 0.017855

Harveys Brewery (Lewes).jpg
Harveys' Brewery
Lewes is located in East Sussex

 Lewes shown within East Sussex
Area  11.4 km2 (4.4 sq mi[1]
Population 16,222 (Parish-2007)[1]
    - Density  1,423 /km2 (3,690 /sq mi)
OS grid reference TQ420104
    - London  44 miles (71 km) N 
Parish Lewes
District Lewes
Shire county East Sussex
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LEWES
Postcode district BN7
Dialling code 01273
Police Sussex
Fire East Sussex
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Lewes
List of places: UK • England • East Sussex

Lewes (pronounced /ˈluːɨs/) is the county town of East Sussex, England, a civil parish and is the centre of the Lewes local government district. The settlement has a history as a bridging point and as a market town, and today as a communications hub and tourist-orientated town. At the 2001 census it had a population of 15,988.[2]



Archaeological evidence points to prehistoric dwellers and it is thought that the Roman settlement of Mutuantonis was here, quantities of artifacts having been discovered in the area. The Saxons built a castle here, having first constructed its motte as a defensive point over the river; they gave the town its name.[3]

After the Norman invasion Lewes was given by William the Conqueror to William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey. He built Lewes Castle on the Saxon site; and he and his wife, Gundred also founded a Cluniac priory here in about 1081. Lewes was the site of a mint during the Late Anglo-Saxon period and thereafter a mint during the early years after the Norman invasion. In 1148 the town was granted a charter by King Stephen. The town became a port with docks along the Ouse.

The town was the site of the Battle of Lewes between the forces of Henry III and Simon de Monfort in the Second Barons’ War in 1264, at the end of which de Monfort's forces were victorious. The battle took place in fields now just west of Landport.

At the time of the Marian Persecutions of 1555–1557 Lewes was to witness the deaths of seventeen Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake in front of the Star Inn, now the Town Hall.

Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Lewes developed as the county town of East Sussex expanding beyond the line of the town wall and serving as a port and developing iron, brewing and ship building industries.

In 1846 the town became a railway junction with lines constructed from the north, south, and east to two railways stations. The development of Newhaven ended Lewes' period as a major port.[citation needed] Lewes became a borough in 1881.


Lewes became one of the non-county boroughs with the then Sussex, East county under the Local Government Act 1933. In 1974 it became a civil parish with the title of town;[4] there are three wards, Bridge, Castle and Priory, each being served by six councillors.[5] The Mayor for 2009/10 is Councillor Amanda Dean.[6]

Traditionally, Lewes was dominated by the Conservative Party, both at local and national levels. However since 1991, when the Liberal Democrats won the District Council for the first time, there has been a swing away from the Conservative party. The Liberal Democrats' candidate, Norman Baker won the Lewes constituency in 1997 narrowly, and then again in 2001 with a sensational result. Baker held the seat in 2005, with a small swing of 1.6% in the Conservatives' favour, although they too saw their share of the vote fall. Although the Conservatives made a mini-revival in the 2007 District Council elections, the Liberal Democrats enjoyed a swing in their favour in the seats that cover the town in East Sussex County Council elections of 2009.

Lewes is the seat of two other local government administrations. The East Sussex County Council offices are located at County Hall in St Anne’s Crescent; and Lewes District Council, second tier of local government, is administered from offices in the High Street.[7]

The current Member of Parliament for the Lewes constituency is Norman Baker, who won the seat in the United Kingdom general election, 1997. Norman Baker was re-elected in May 2005 and was Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, until his resignation from the post following the election of Sir Menzies Campbell to the post of party leader.

On 31 March 2009 Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced his decision to confirm the designation of the South Downs National Park and that this will include Lewes.


Crime rates in Lewes:[8]

Crime rates in Lewes (per 1000 population) 2005-2006
Offence Locally Nationally
Robbery 0.17 1.85
Theft of a motor vehicle 1.67 4.04
Theft from a motor vehicle 4.59 9.56
Sexual offences 0.83 1.17
Violence against a person 16.75 19.97
Burglary 2.99 5.67


You can see Lewes lying like a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalk hills ... on the whole it is set down better than any town I have seen in England.
- William Morris (1834-1896)
Panoramic view of Lewes

Lewes is situated on the Greenwich Meridian, in a gap in the South Downs, cut through by the River Ouse, and near its confluence with the Winterbourne Stream. It is approximately seven miles north of Newhaven, and an equal distance north-east of Brighton. The Greenwich Meridian runs through the western part of Lewes, where a pub was named after it.

The South Downs rise above the river on both banks. The High Street, and earliest settlement, occupies the west bank, climbing steeply up from the bridge taking its ancient route along the ridge; the summit on that side, 2.5 miles (4 km) distant is known as Mount Harry. On the east bank there is a large chalk cliff Cliffe Hill that can be seen for many miles, part of the group of hills including Mount Caburn, Malling Down (where there are a few houses in a wooded area on the hillside, in a development known as Cuilfail) and Golf Hill (home to the Lewes Golf Club). The two banks of the river are joined by Willey's Bridge (a footbridge), the Phoenix Bridge (a recent, concrete road bridge, named after the old Phoenix Ironworks) and Cliffe Bridge (an eighteenth century replacement of the mediaeval crossing, widened in the 1930s and now pedestrianised).

The High Street runs from Eastgate to West-Out forming the spine of the ancient town. Cliffe Hill gives its name to the one-time village of Cliffe, now part of the town. The southern part of the town, Southover, came into being as a village adjacent to the Priory, south of the Winterbourne Stream. At the north of the town's original wall boundary is the St. John's or Pells area, home to several nineteenth century streets, the Pells Pond. The Pells Pool, built in 1860, is the oldest freshwater lido in England. The Phoenix Industrial Estate lies along the west bank of the river. This area is home to the old fire station and subject of a potential regeneration project.

Malling lies to the east of the river and was once an area as historic and picturesque as any in Lewes with eighteenth and nineteenth century houses and two notable breweries. Road engineering and local planning policy in the 1970s conspired to clear many streets here including Malling Street for "slum clearance" and to allow the flow of traffic which now goes along Little East Street, across the Phoenix Bridge and through the Cuilfail Tunnel to join the A27.

The town boundaries were enlarged twice (from the original town walls), in 1881 and 1934, and now include the more modern housing estates of Wallands, South Malling (the west part of which is a tiny , previously separate village with a church dedicated to St. Michael), Neville, Lansdown, and Cranedown on the Kingston Road.[9]

Countryside walks can be taken starting in Lewes from several points. You can walk over Mount Caburn to the village of Glynde starting in Cliffe, traverse the Lewes Brooks (an RSPB reserve) from Southover, walk to Kingston near Lewes also from Southover, or wander up along the Ouse to Hamsey Place from the Pells. The South Downs Way rises just below Lewes and hikers often stop off at the town.


Natural sites and events

There are three Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the parish; Lewes Downs, Lewes Brooks and Southerham Works Pit. Lewes Downs is a site of biological interest, an isolated area of the South Downs.[10] Lewes Brooks, also of biological importance, is part of the flood plain of the River Ouse, providing a habitat for many other invertebrates such as water beetles and snails.[11] Southerham Works Pit is of geological interest, a disused chalk pit displaying a wide variety of fossilised fish remains.[12] The Railway Land nature reserve is on the east side of the town next to the Ouse, and contains an area of woodland and marshes known as the Heart of Reeds. The Winterbourne stream, a tributary of the Ouse, flows through it. This stream flows most winters and dries up in the summer, hence its name. It continues through Lewes going through the Grange Gardens and often travelling underground. The Heart of Reeds is one of the sites in East Sussex and Kent home to the marsh frog, an introduced species, and is popular with pond-dippers and walkers. A centre for the study of environmental change is due to be built at the entrance to the nature reserve.[13]

On 27 December 1836, an avalanche occurred in Lewes, the worst ever recorded in Britain. It was caused by a large build-up of snow on the nearby cliff slipping down onto a row of cottages called Boulters Row (now part of South Street). About fifteen people were buried, and eight of these died. A pub in South Street is named The Snowdrop in memory of the event.[14]

On 21 August 1864, Lewes suffered an earthquake shock measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale.[15]

In October 2000 the town suffered major flooding during an intense period of severe weather throughout the United Kingdom. The commercial centre of the town and many residential areas were devastated. In a government report into the nationwide flooding, Lewes was officially noted the most severely affected location.[16] As a result of the devastation caused Lewes Flood Action, a pressure group, is in existence to press for better flood protection measures.[17]

Religious buildings

Church of England

  • St. Michael's is located at the top of the High Street and like St. Peter's in nearby Southease it has a round tower (with a shingled spire). Its length runs along the street rather than away from it and the cemetery is separated from the High Street by stone walls with iron railings on top. Next to it is a building which is used upstairs as a Sunday School.
  • Further west is St. Anne's,[18] a quiet church surrounded by its graveyard, which gives its name to the street it is on.
  • St. John-sub-Castro's (Latin for St. John-under-the-Castle's) is the northernmost church in the old town. The surrounding town quarter is called St. John's. The church's boundaries are actually protected on one side by the Town Walls, although originally St. John's was a small Saxon building. It was destroyed in the 18th century but the main door was kept and used as an east door for the large new church, built in 1839 by George Cheeseman[19] in flint and brick. In the graveyard there is a memorial to the Finnish prisoners kept in the old naval prison in the 19th century. St. John's Church Hall is a couple of streets away in Talbot Terrace.
  • In Cliffe there is St. Thomas à Becket's, where the Orthodox Community also worship.
  • In Southover, St John the Baptist's is located on Southover High Street next to the local War Memorial. The nave incorporates the hospitium of the Priory.[20] Neighbouring it is Church End and down the road at St. James Street cul-de-sac, the Church Hall.
  • St. Michael, South Malling dates from 1628 and was once in a village of its own. The development of the suburbs has connected South Malling to Lewes although the church mainatins its village setting by the River Ouse, with the neighbouring rectory.


  • All Saints' is next to the site of a Priory of Grey Friars (Franciscan monks) the only relic of which is an archway at the end of the church boundary wall, which is on the line of the town wall. The mediæval tower survives, abutting a later brick nave by Amon Wilds (1806)[19] and nineteenth century gothic style chancel. This church is now deconsecrated and serves as a community arts space, home to the Lewes Cinema.[21]


  • The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to St. Pancras in memory of the Priory and is a red-brick building over the street from St. Anne's.
  • The Religious Society of Friends (finished 1784) is a Quaker meeting house next to the All Saints'(now an arts centre) on Friar's Walk.
  • The Jireh Chapel, off Malling Street, is a Grade I listed building,[22] being a rare survivor of its type dating from 1805. It now houses the Lewes Free Presbyterian Church.
  • Westgate Chapel is a sixteenth-century building located in a yard at the top of the High Street (Grade 2 listed). So called because of its position at the old West Gate of the town wall, the Chapel first officially opened for worship as Westgate Meeting in 1700 as English Presbytarian but soon joined by an Independant congregation it's liberal stance allowed it to become a Unitartian church by 1820 (when Lewes General Baptist Chapel congregation joined) and is still a Unitarian chapel today.
  • Eastgate Chapel is a very different building; a neo Norman design of 1843 in dark flint, it originally had a pepper pot dome but this was removed in favour of a traditional spire in case traffic vibrations below made it fall off. A modern extension was added to the church.
  • Christ Church Hall, a modern building, serves both the United Reformed Church and the Methodist worshippers.


In 2001 the service industries were by far the biggest employers in Lewes: over 60% of the population working in that sector. A little over 10% are employed in manufacturing, mostly in the smaller industrial units, particularly those in The Mallings Business Centre.

The town is a nett day time exporter of employees with a significant community working in London and Brighton whilst it draws in employees of the numerous local government and public service functions on which its local economy is strongly dependent.

An important part of the town’s economy is based on tourism,[23] because of the town's many historic attractions and its location.

Lewes Bonfire

Procession of the martyrs crosses, as part of Lewes' Bonfire Night celebrations
Colonial soldiers carry a banner, exploding with bangers, commemorating Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators.

Arguably the town's most important annual event is Lewes Bonfire, or Bonfire Night - Guy Fawkes Night celebrations on the 5th of November. In Lewes this event not only marks the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, but also commemorates the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs. The celebrations are the largest and most famous Bonfire Night celebrations in the country.[24][25]

History of Bonfire

Bonfire festivities on the 5th began when the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot was declared a national holiday. Celebrations in Lewes were not planned or carried out annually, but were more random events that were more like riots. They continued until they were banned by Oliver Cromwell during the Commonwealth. However, they were reintroduced when King Charles II returned, but still on a random basis. Interest waned by the end of the 18th century but in the 1820s large groups of Bonfire Boys started celebrating with fireworks and large bonfires. The celebrations became more and more rowdy until in 1847 police forces were drafted in from London to sort out the Bonfire Boys. There were riots and fighting, and restrictions were clamped down on the celebrators, their locations moved to Wallands Park, at that time fields, not the suburb it is today. However, in 1850 they were allowed back to the High Streets. By this time the former riots had become much more like the processions carried out today. In 1853 the first two societies, Cliffe and Lewes Borough were founded and most of the others were founded later in the same century.

The Societies

All societies attend "outmeetings" or "outfires" (the nomenclature varies between the societies), where they march with the societies from other towns and villages nearby on their respective bonfire nights, before or after the Fifth in Lewes. On the Fifth, the first six societies process separately around their own particular quarters before all except the Cliffe and South Street join together in Western Road to parade down St. Anne's Street, the High Street and School Hill, followed by members of visiting societies from nearby towns and villages. After several processions, including acts of Remembrance for the war dead, each society marches to its own fire site on the edge of the town, where there is a large bonfire, firework display and burning of effigies. The societies then return to their HQs for Bonfire Prayers. Whilst marching nearly all members carry torches, some carry bangers and some carry burning crosses, banners, musical instruments or burning letters spelling out the initials of the society. In recent years the police presence on the night has increased to deal with the large crowds attracted to the event.

Many of those processing wear smuggler uniforms (striped jumper, white trousers, black boots and optional red hat). All Societies have different coloured striped smugglers' jumpers. A number of large effigies are drawn though the streets. Effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V,[26] who became head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1605, feature every year. In addition, each of the five main local societies creates a topical "tableau", and the Cliffe and Southover societies display on pikes the heads (also in effigy) of its current "Enemies of Bonfire", who range from nationally reviled figures to local officials who have attempted to place restrictions on the event. Restrictions are generally ignored by the Societies. The local St. John's Ambulance team has posts around procession routes to care for anyone who has been injured.

Torch-making is a time-consuming process and begins in September, with many society members joining in. Members have to make or buy their own costumes.

In 2001 an effigy of Osama bin Laden ensured that the annual event received more press attention than usual (it featured on the front page of some national newspapers) as did the Firle Bonfire Society's 2003 choice of a gypsy caravan. To mark the demise of the 17 martyrs, 17 burning crosses are carried through the town, and a wreath-laying ceremony occurs at the War Memorial in the centre of town. Ladies' and men's races pulling flaming tar barrels; the barrel run, take place along Cliffe High Street at the start of the evening. A flaming tar barrel is also thrown into the river Ouse; this is said to symbolise the throwing of the magistrates into the river after they read the Riot Act to the bonfire boys in 1847. The festivities culminate in five separate bonfire displays, where the effigies are destroyed by firework and flame. Up to 80,000 people have been known to attend this local spectacle, coming from all over the South and sometimes further afield.

The current celebrations take the form of a series of torchlit processions through the town. The event is organised by the local bonfire societies, under the auspices of the Lewes Bonfire Council[27] (or Bonco for short).Lewes itself currently has seven bonfire societies:


The Cliffe, founded in 1853, traditionally represents the Cliffe and Lansdown areas of Lewes (centred around Cliffe High Street), but recently they've also claimed the South Malling suburb. Their smugglers' jumpers are black and white, and the pioneer fronts are Vikings and Moors. The Dorset Arms is the society's HQ, and the local church is St. Thomas à Becket's.[28]

Commercial Square

Founded in 1855, they represent the St. John's area north of Lewes Castle, based around Commercial Square, which is where their HQ, the Elephant and Castle pub, is based. The pioneers are Native Americans (this theme was picked after Lewesians visited the USA in the nineteenth century and realised their hardships) and American Civil War soldiers, and the smugglers wear yellow and black jumpers. The society also claims the Wallands Park and Landport suburbs. The local church is St. John-sub-Castro's.[29]

Lewes Borough

Lewes Borough is the joint oldest with Cliffe, formed in 1853. Their jumpers are blue and white, their pioneers are Zulus and Tudors. Representing the western half of Lewes and based around Western Road, their HQ is St. Mary's Social Club, which is unlike the others not a pub. The local church is St. Anne's.[30]


Southover has roots in the mid-nineteenth century but it disbanded in 1985, and then reformed in 2005. It represents the Cranedown and St. Pancras areas as well as the old village of Southover. Based around Southover High Street, the local church is St. John the Baptist's, where there is a war memorial, and the HQ is the King's Head. Their jumpers are red and black and their pioneers are monks (representing the remains of the Priory of St. Pancras nearby) and buccaneers. Southover also have a Samba band, El Bloco Fuego. Banners carried include a large Tudor rose (to represent Anne of Cleves' House on Southover High Street) and a banner bearing a picture of William of Orange landing at Brixham in southwest England on 5 November 1688.[31]

South Street

South Street was formed in 1913 as a society for the children of members of the Cliffe; however, the Cliffe now accepts members of all ages, and so does South Street. Their jumpers are brown and white, and their pioneers are English Civil War soldiers and Siamese dancers. They are based around South Street and the small area to the west between it and the River Ouse, and their HQ is the John Harvey Tavern. Their firesite is on the Railway Land.[32]


Waterloo represents the area just to the east of the main Commercial Square part (there is a fair bit of overlap between the two) based around Market Street, a quarter of Lewes with little population as it was heavily destroyed by the local planning council to make way for roads. Waterloo's jumpers are red and white and their pioneers are Mongols and Ancient Greeks and Romans. Their HQ is the Lamb Inn.[33]

Nevill Juvenile

Founded in 1967 specifically for children, Nevill has remained a juvenile socity and represents the Nevill Estate. Their HQ is St. Mary's Social Centre. They hold their celebrations a week or two before the other societies with help from those six. Their pioneers are Valencians and Medieval people, their jumpers green and white.[34]


The Lewes Chamber of Commerce represents the traders and businesses of the town.[35] The town has been identified as unusually diversified with numerous specialist, independent retailers, counter to national trends toward 'chain' retailers and large corporate retail outlets.

Lewes Farmers' Market, one of the first in the UK, was started in the 1990s by Common Cause Co-operative Ltd[36] and is a very popular re-invention of Lewes as a market town. The Farmers' Market takes place in pedestrianised Cliffe High Street on the first Saturday of every month, with local food producers coming to sell their wares under covered market stalls. Occasionally French traders from the Twin Town of Blois attend, vending on Cliffe Bridge.

From 1794 beers, wines and spirits were distributed from Lewes under the Harveys name, and the town is today the site of Harvey & Son's brewery celebrated as one the finest ale producers in England.

In September 2008, Lewes launched its own currency, the Lewes Pound, in an effort to increase trade within the town.[37][38] One Lewes Pound is equal to £1. Like the similar local currency in Totnes, the initiative is part of the Transition Towns movement. The Lewes Pound and the Transition Towns movement have received criticism for a failure to address the needs of the wider Lewes population, especially lower socio-economic groups.[39] Such local currency initiatives have been more widely criticized in light of limited success stimulating new spending in local economies and as an unrealistic strategy to reduce carbon emissions.[40] The Lewes Pound can be exchanged for the same amount of pounds sterling in several shops in Lewes and can be spent in a wide range of local businesses. Many of the notes were sold on Ebay at a higher amount. Early numbers and sequenced notes fetched very high prices from foreign collectors.


Lewes Castle

The town is the location of several significant historic buildings, including Lewes Castle, the remains of Lewes Priory, Bull House (the former home of Tom Paine), Southover Grange and public gardens, and a sixteenth century timber-framed Wealden hall house known as Anne of Cleves House because it was given to her as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII, though she never lived there. Anne of Cleves and the Castle are owned and maintained by the Sussex Archaeological Society (whose headquarters are in Lewes). The Round House, a secluded former windmill in Pipe Passage, was owned by the writer Virginia Woolf.

The steep and cobbled Keere Street is home to many historic buildings, including a timber framed antiquarian bookshop. The gardens of the buildings on the east side of the street border the old Town Walls. The Prince Regent once drove his carriage down the Street, and a sign at the bottom commemorates this event.

The ancient street pattern survives extensively as do a high proportion of the medieval building plots and oak framed houses, albeit often masked with later facades. The eighteenth century frontages are notable and include several, like Bartholomew House at the Castle Gate, that are clad in mathematical tiles which mimic fine brick construction. Numerous streets of eighteenth and nineteenth century cottages have survived cycles of 'slum clearance' as models of attractive town housing.

At the highest point of the old town the limestone and Coade stone facade of the eighteenth century Crown Court, the brick Market Tower and florid War Memorial mark the historic centre, although trade has tended to concentrate on the lower land in modern times. At the lowest part of the town, by the river, Harvey & Son's Brewery, 'The Cathedral of Lewes' is an unspoilt nineteenth century tower brewery and is the only one of the town's five original major breweries still in use. The railway station is the other important monument of the industrial era.

Bull House: Thomas Paine's home

Lewes has limited public garden space hence the popular appeal of the Grange Gardens. Southover Grange was built in the sixteenth century of Caen limestone sourced from the demolition of Lewes Priory and is used as a nursery school and as a location for weddings and exhibitions. The gardens are open to the public for most of the light hours of every day of the year. The north wing of the building is home to a craft shop and The Window café (open in spring and summer). The Grange has a strict and lengthy list of rules controlling its visitors and the Winterbourne stream runs through it. A tulip tree was planted there by Queen Elizabeth II and a mulberry tree dating perhaps to the seventeenth century is now enclosed by steel fencing. The history of these significant, historic gardens is under researched.

Pelham House dates back to the sixteenth century and features architecture of all subsequent eras and a private landscaped garden facing the Downs. It now serves as an independent hotel. Shelleys Hotel is likewise of some antiquity with a private garden and family associations with Percy Shelley.

The centre of Lewes is notable for a consistently high calibre of regional vernacular architecture and variety of historic construction materials and techniques.


Lewes railway station, looking east. South Downs in the distance

Lewes, from its inception, has been an important transport hub.[41] Its site as a bridging point was probably originally a ford: today the main routes avoid the town centre. The A27 trunk road taking traffic along the south coast between Eastbourne and Southampton passes to the south of the town. The A26 from Maidstone to Newhaven; and the A275 (the London road) both come in from the north. The Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company serve the town. The Bus Station was closed for a while but reopened in late 2008.

Lewes railway station was originally the junction for six routes. Today the two erstwhile country routes to the north are both closed at the Lewes end; but the East Coastway Line, connecting London with Eastbourne and Hastings, and the two branches to Brighton and Seaford remain.

The Vanguard Way, a long-distance footpath from London to Newhaven, passes through countryside to the east of the town.


Primary schools

There are many primary schools including

  • Southover School[42]
  • Western Road School[43]
  • Morley House (Lewes Old Grammar School's junior department)[44]
  • St. Pancras School
  • Wallands School
  • Pells School

Western Road and Southover School, despite being separate schools, are housed in linked buildings. The original Southover buildings are of red brick in the Queen Anne style, dating back to the early 20th century. The additions to it now forming the Western Road buildings date from after 1945. The two schools share a field but Southover do not allow Western Road to use a small outdoor swimming pool, despite it being attached to Western Road.

Secondary schools

There are two secondary schools in the town

Further education

Sussex Downs College provides a range of courses including A levels, GCSEs and vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs.


Located four miles outside of Lewes is Glyndebourne opera house. Founded in 1934, the venue draws large audiences for its Summer Festival and has attracted a host of international talent throughout its history.

The principal town museum is Barbican House Museum at Lewes Castle, which hosts the Lewes Town Model[47] as well as four galleries of Sussex archaeology. Anne of Cleves House has various collections relating to the history of Lewes. There is also the Star Gallery in Market Street and occasional art exhibitions mounted at the Town Hall.

The website of the local civic society, The Friends of Lewes, refers to the "... beauty, history and character of the town ...".[48] Lewes is also the headquarters of the Sussex Archaeological Society. Local arts organisations include theatre, literary, philosophical and cinema societies.

Bright 106.4 FM radio station, based in Burgess Hill, broadcasts to an area which extends to Lewes. Lewes has its own RSL radio station, Rocket FM,[49] which broadcasts via FM and the Internet for three weeks in October/November each year, covering the Bonfire period.

The Lewes Forum is a website dedicated to "news from the county town of East Sussex".[50] Viva Lewes is a "What's On" web magazine with a similar purpose.[51]

The Lewes Film Club produces short movies (including the recent adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm), and Lewes Cinema is based in the All Saints' Church.

Local dance schools include Wendy Baker, East Sussex Dance and ballet groups. Starfish Youth Music is based at Priory School and the young bands who take part regularly perform in local venues such as the Paddock and the All Saints' Centre. Annual events include the Lewes Guitar Festival, ArtWave and the children's Patina procession.

Lewes has been influenced by its close proximity to Sussex University and Brighton University in terms of significant numbers of academics and students living in the town.


The Sussex Express newspaper is published every Friday. It has served the people of Lewes, where it is based, and much of East Sussex since 1837. It has four editions and includes extensive coverage of the local sports scene. It is part of the Johnston Press network of newspapers.[52]


Lewes Priory Cricket Club will play in the Premier Division of the Sussex League in 2009 and are based at the Stanley Turner Ground, Kingston Road. The club were Sussex League champions in 1986 and 1990 and Division 2 winners in 1999, 2006, and 2008.

Lewes Rugby Football Club, founded in 1930, runs several rugby teams at various competitive levels, including the senior men's sides, the women's, girls' and junior teams. Lewes RFC's home turf is the Stanley Turner Ground, Kingston Road.

The local football team is Lewes F.C. (home ground "The Dripping Pan") founded in 1885 who currently play in the Conference South.

Lewes Wanderers Cycling Club was reconstituted in 1950.

Lewes Racecourse, located immediately to the west of the town on the slopes of the Downs, operated for 200 years until closed in 1964. It is still used as a training course, and there are several stables nearby.[53] Race days are held at nearby Plumpton Race Course.

Lewes Athletic Club caters for junior and senior athletes. The club trains at the all weather 400m track at the end of Mountfield Road, and other locations in the area.

There are a number of Service Clubs in Lewes of which one is the Lewes Lions Club which is a member of Lions Clubs International, the largest Service Organisation in the world. The club runs various events including the Christmas Concert in December each year with the LGB Brass and the annual "International 'Toad-In-The-Hole' Competition" and holds street collections to raise funds so as to assist people and organisations in and around Lewes.[54]

Notable people

Among the many notable former residents of Lewes is Thomas Paine (1737–1809), who was employed as an excise officer in the town for a time from 1768 to 1774 when he emigrated to the American colonies. The Paine association sits at the centre of a radical tradition that is represented today by writers working in the town.[citation needed]

The sciences and natural enquiry are represented by Gideon Mantell who is credited with the first discovery and identification of fossilised dinosaur (iguanodon) teeth. Lewes doctor, Richard Russell, popularised the resort of Brighton.

Lewes is the birthplace of sixteenth century madrigalist Nicholas Yonge and more recently home in the 1960s to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones as it is now to other musicians, notably Herbie Flowers and Arthur Brown.

Daisy Ashford lived at Southdown House, 44 St Anne’s Crescent from 1889 to 1896 where she wrote The Young Visiters. Virginia Woolf lived in the Round House, a windmill in Pipe Passage, from 1912 to 1919 before moving to her final home, Monk's House in Rodmell. Arthur Conan Doyle resided in Castle Banks House for some time. Diarist John Evelyn spent his boyhood at Southover Grange.

Criminal Associations

The fact that Lewes has a Crown Court, and a prison, is reflected by the fact that many notorious people have been connected with the town. During the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland several prominent figures involved in it were in Lewes Prison, including Eamon de Valera (1882–1975); Thomas Ashe (1885–1917); Frank Lawless (1871–1922); and Harry Boland (1887–1922). Others have included George Witton (1874–1942) involved in shooting prisoners during the Boer War.

Lewes assizes saw many important trials. In 1949 serial killer John George Haigh was sentenced to death. In 1956 suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams had his committal hearing in Lewes before being sent to the Old Bailey, London for trial. He was subsequently tried and convicted in Lewes in 1957 for fraud, lying on cremation forms and obstructing a police search. An early case was that of Percy Lefroy Mapleton (1860–1881) hanged for murder and the subject of the first composite picture on a wanted poster.

Twin towns

Lewes is twinned with:


The name Lewes comes from the plural form of Anglo-Saxon "Hlaew", which means "hill".[55] This refers to the hills of the South Downs or ancient burial mounds within the area.


  1. ^ a b "East Sussex in Figures". East Sussex County Council. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  2. ^ Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Lewes Retrieved 2009-11-03
  3. ^ Wilson, John Marius (1870-2). "Descriptive Gazetteer entry for Lewes". Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales. Great Britain Historical GIS Project. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  4. ^ "Lewes Town Council". Lewes Town Council. 2007. pp. 1. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  5. ^ List of Councillors, 2008
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Lewes District Council
  8. ^ Crime Statistics
  9. ^ From: 'The borough of Lewes: Introduction and history', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7: The rape of Lewes (1940), pp. 7-19. URL: Date accessed: 19 May 2008.
  10. ^ (PDF) SSSI Citation — Lewes Downs. Natural England. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  11. ^ (PDF) SSSI Citation — Lewes Brooks. Natural England. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  12. ^ (PDF) SSSI Citation — Southerham Works Pit. Natural England. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  13. ^ Railway Land Project
  14. ^ Notes on the avalanche
  15. ^ see List of earthquakes in the United Kingdom
  16. ^ The flooded railway station featured on the cover of that week's Private Eye with the caption "Your Rains Tonight"
  17. ^ Lewes Flood Action
  18. ^ Details of Church of St. Anne, Lewes from Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland
  19. ^ a b The Buildings of England: Sussex - Ian Nairn, Nikolaus Pevsner
  20. ^ Stephen Bamber. "Southover Church Website - Who We Were". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  21. ^ "Lewes Cinema". Lewes Cinema. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Lewes Town Profile
  24. ^ Times Writers (November 5, 2009). "Tonight’s the night: bonfires and fireworks". Times. 
  25. ^ Lewes Bonfire Council
  26. ^ Cliffe Bonfire Society web site
  27. ^ Lewes Bonfire Council
  28. ^ "The Member Societies: Cliffe Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  29. ^ "The Member Societies: Commercial Square Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  30. ^ "The Member Societies: Lewes Borough Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  31. ^ "The Member Societies: Southover Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  32. ^ "The Member Societies: South Street Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  33. ^ "The Member Societies: Waterloo Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  34. ^ "The Member Societies: Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society". Lewes Bonfire Council. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  35. ^ Lewes Chamber of Commerce
  36. ^ Common Cause Cooperative
  37. ^ BBC News: Lewes launches its own currency
  38. ^ The Times: Town's pound note bucks the downturn
  39. ^ Report from The Guardian on the Lewes Pound
  40. ^ The Undercover Economist on Local Currency
  41. ^ ‘’British History Online‘’
  42. ^ "Welcome to Southover School". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  43. ^ "Western Road Community Primary School". 2006-03-27. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  44. ^ "Lewes Old Grammar School :: One of Sussex's leading schools". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  45. ^ "Priory School - Lewes". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  46. ^ "Lewes Old Grammar School :: One of Sussex's leading schools". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  47. ^ Lewes Town Model
  48. ^ The Friends of Lewes
  49. ^ Rocket FM
  50. ^ Lewes Forum
  51. ^ Viva Lewes Magazine
  52. ^ Sussex Express
  53. ^ Lewes Racecourse
  54. ^ Lewes Lions Club
  55. ^ Whynne-Hammond, Charles (2007). English Place-names Explained. Countryside Books. p. 229. ISBN 9781853069116. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Lewes is the county town of East Sussex.

Get in

By train from London Victoria (70 min), Brighton (20 min) or Eastbourne, Hastings.

By bus from Brighton (30 min), Eastbourne or Tunbridge Wells via Uckfield

  • Just walk. There is a town bus, but the place isn't really big enough to bother.
  • Lewes has probably the most parking attendants per a head in the UK, maybe even Europe, and therefore you WILL be caught if you incorrectly park your car, fines are also quite steep, if you plan to visit by car use one of the towns (surprisingly few) car parks, or have £40 or more spare. Lewes District Council [1] have more information


This is the best place to celebrate Guy Fawkes night (5 Nov) (it is where the event started), with torchlit parades through town followed by fireworks displays by six local bonfire societies [2]. The town is closed to traffic on Guy Fawkes night, and additional trains are laid on from Brighton.

Lewes Castle, Lewes
Lewes Castle, Lewes
  • Lewes Castle
  • Anne-of-Cleves' House
  • Glyndebourne[3] is an internationally renowned opera house, just a few miles from Lewes. Enjoy great opera in a purpose built opera house situated in the grounds of an English stately home. The 80 minute intervals allow you to enjoy a picnic on the lawns.
  • Walking on the South Downs.
  • Southover Grange Gardens Southover Grange is a house built in 1572. It is not open to visitors, but has lovely gardens which are. Beautiful flowers and trees (including, at 350, one of the oldest mulberry trees in the country), and a knot garden with a fountain. The park is open from dawn to dusk all year round, and has a tea and ice-cream kiosk in the summer.


Lewes is rightly proud of being one of the least "modernised" towns in England. You'll find lots of small independent businesses here, and Lewes shops are particularly good for old women's clothing, art, second hand books and antiques. Almost opposite the castle entrance is Catlins [4] an old fashioned sweet shop with a large range of loose sweet, fine chocolates, tobaccos and pipes. Not only has Lewes retained its historic atmosphere through its old shops and buildings but it also produces its own type of currency. The Lewes Pound. Historically the town produced its own notes and as a tradition it has continued to do so. The Lewes Pound is only valid in Lewes, nowhere else in the UK.


You'll find Indian, try newly opened Chaulas [5]), Chinese, Thai, Italian, and English restaurants. Most of the pubs do food including The Elephant & Castle, John Harvey Tavern [6] and The Swan

Bills deli on Cliffe High St. always has a delicious menu, if expensive, for eating in and a range of produce to take home afterwards..

Harveys Brewery, Lewes
Harveys Brewery, Lewes

The night life is basically pubs and restaurants, but Brighton is 20 minutes away with all the night life that you probably came to avoid.

  • Harvey's bitter[7]. One of the oldest independent breweries is right in the middle of town. Sample their wares at the John Harvey Tavern [8], or get take-aways from the Brewery shop on Cliffe high street. Fine wines, too.
  • The Lewes Arms used to be the local pub for local people until it was bought out by Green King and stopped selling Harveys! Thankfully this has been re-introduced but the new owners have changed many things. The folk singers have moved to the Elephant & Castle which provides them with the function rooms on nights they need.

The 'Elly', Lansdown and John Harvey Tavern are all definitely worth a visit if you're after a drink centrally. [9]

  • White Hart Hotel, High Street, Lewes, BN7 1XE, +44 (0)1273 476694, The 16th Century White Hart Inn is charming, central and the service is moderate. Better value can be found at the Crown Hotel[10] opposite or The Dorset [11] down the hill at the end of Cliffe High Street.
  • Pelham House, Saint Andrews Lane, 01273 488 600‎.  edit
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

="">See Lewes (disambiguation) for articles sharing the title Lewes.

LEWES, a market-town and municipal borough and the county town of Sussex, England, in the Lewes parliamentary division, 50 m. S. from London by the London, Brighton & South Coast railway. Pop. (1901) 11,249. It is picturesquely situated on the slope of a chalk down falling to the river Ouse. Ruins of the old castle, supposed to have been founded by King Alfred and rebuilt by William de Warenne shortly after the Conquest, rise from the height. There are two mounds which bore keeps, an uncommon feature. The castle guarded the pass through the downs formed by the valley of the Ouse. In one of the towers is the collection of the Sussex Archaeological Society. St Michael's church is without architectural merit, but contains old brasses and monuments; St Anne's church is a transitional Norman structure; St Thomas-at-Cliffe is Perpendicular; St John's, Southover, of mixed architecture, preserves some early Norman portions, and has some relics of the Warenne family. In the grounds of the Cluniac priory of St Pancras, founded in 1078, the leaden coffins of William de Warenne and Gundrada his wife were dug up during an excavation for the railway in 1845. There is a free grammar school dating from 151 2, and among the other public buildings are the town hall and corn exchange, county hall, prison, and the Fitzroy memorial library. The industries include the manufacture of agricultural implements, brewing, tanning, and iron and brass founding. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 104 2 acres. - a ...

The many neolithic and bronze implements that have been discovered, and the numerous tumuli and earthworks which surround Lewes, indicate its remote origin. The town Lewes (Loewas, Loewen, Leswa, Laquis, Latisaquensis) was in the royal demesne of the Saxon kings, from whom it received the privilege of a market. ZEthelstan established two royal mints there, and by the reign of Edward the Confessor, and probably before, Lewes was certainly a borough. William I. granted the whole barony of Lewes, including the revenue arising from the town, to William de Warenne, who converted an already existing fortification into a place of residence. His descendants continued to hold the barony until the beginning of the 14th century. In default of male issue, it then passed to the earl of Arundel, with whose descendants it remained until 1439, when it was divided between the Norfolks, Dorsets and Abergavennys. By 1086 the borough had increased 30% in value since the beginning of the reign, and its importance as a port and market-town is evident from Domesday. A gild merchant seems to have existed at an early date. The first mention of it is in a charter of Reginald de Warenne, about 1148, by which he restored to the burgesses the privileges they had enjoyed in the time of his grandfather and father, but of which they had been deprived. In 1595 a "Fellowship" took the place of the old gild and in conjunction with two constables governed the town until the beginning of the 18th century. The borough seal probably dates from the 14th century. Lewes was incorporated by royal charter in 1881. The town returned two representatives to parliament from 1295 until deprived of one member in 1867. It was disfranchised in 1885. Earl Warenne and his descendants held the fairs and markets from 1066. In 1792 the fair-days were the 6th of May, Whit-Tuesday, the 26th of July (for wool), and the 2nd of October. The market-day was Saturday. Fairs are now held on the 6th of May for horses and cattle, the 10th of July for wool, and the 21st and 28th of September for Southdown sheep. A corn-market is held every Tuesday, and a stock-market every alternate Monday. The trade in wool has been important since the 14th century.

Lewes was the scene of the battle fought on the 14th of May 1264 between Henry III. and Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Led by the king and by his son, the future king Edward I., the royalists left Oxford, took Northampton and drove Montfort from Rochester into London. Then, harassed on the route by their foes, they marched through Kent into Sussex and took up their quarters at Lewes, a stronghold of the royalist Earl Warenne. Meanwhile, reinforced by a number of Londoners, Earl Simon left London and reached Fletching, about 9 m. north of Lewes, XVI. 1 7a on the 13th of May. Efforts at reconciliation having failed he led his army against the town, which he hoped to surprise, early on the following day. His plan was to direct his main attack against the priory of St Pancras, which sheltered the king and his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, king of the Romans, while causing the enemy to believe that his principal objective was the castle, where Prince Edward was. But the surprise was not complete and the royalists rushed from the town to meet the enemy in the open field. Edward led his followers against the Londoners, who were gathered around the standard of Montfort, put them to flight, pursued them for several miles, and killed a great number of them. Montfort's ruse, however, had been successful. He was not with his standard as his foes thought, but with the pick of his men he attacked Henry's followers and took prisoner both the king and his brother. Before Edward returned from his chase the earl was in possession of the town. In its streets the prince strove to retrieve his fortunes, but in vain. Many of his men perished in the river, but others escaped, one band, consisting of Earl Warenne and others, taking refuge in Pevensey Castle. Edward himself took sanctuary and on the following day peace was made between the king and the earl.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



from the Saxon "hlaews" - hills, referring to the several mounts in Lewes.

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. a town in East Sussex, England

Simple English

Lewes (said "Lewis") is a town in East Sussex, England, UK. A battle was fought there in 1264.


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