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Map of Lewes
(Supplied by Google)
History bulges in the fascinating town of Lewes with its castle, Anne of Cleves house and other old buildings of interest, and long history of intense bonfire celebrations. One church in the town is even reputed to contain graffiti from Tudor times. These days, the county town's shopping scene, with independent outlets and a big focus on antiques, is positively buzzing. The layout of Lewes is also interesting with twittens [cars occasionally make a wrong turn and get stuck] and a wonderful woodland, the Railway Land Nature Reserve, nestled next to the River Ouse. Easily accessible from the town centre, the woods are rich in wildlife and you may even catch a glimpse of an otter on the river bank. Residents are passionate about the welfare of Lewes and there are plenty of spirit rousing pubs where you'll hear folk chatting about topics of the day. Lewes is a honeyspot site for tourists and pleasant to visit, whether you are a resident in Sussex or further afield.
Residents live in a respectable mix of homes on streets such as Landport Road, Nevill Road, Western Road, Prince Edward's Road or the interestingly named Winterbourne Hollow. The arts culture is buzzing in Lewes with various exhibitions by local artists throughout the year. Lewes is also famous for a wonderful array of second hand bookshops, antiques shops and a number of individual retail units selling all kinds of intriguing artefacts. Flooding by the river has caused havoc a number of times in the town's history but the residents are robust and have pulled through some difficult times together. Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, lived in Lewes during an influential period of his life, where he became involved in civic matters.
Lewes bonfire celebrations, as aforementioned, are universally famous. There are arguably few towns, which capture the excitement of November 5 so well and draw so many crowds. Several bonfire societies work hard to make the event a great success: Lewes Borough, Cliffe, Commercial Square, South Street, Southover, Waterloo and Nevill Juvenile (for children). There are plenty of traditions and rituals for the colourful spectacle: individuals wear their own society smuggler jumpers; processions include School Hill, St Anne's Street and High Street, with respects paid at the war memorial. Effigies and tableaux are created by the societies and often carry a political or cultural statement. Large firework and bonfire displays are held by the bonfire societies at different fire sites on the borders of the town. A focus of the event is not only on Guy Fawkes and the 1605 Gunpowder Plot but the martyrdom of 17 Protestants in the Marion Persecutions between 1555 and 1557.
Any visitor to Lewes would find it hard not to fall in love with the place. The combination of petit twitterns (where cars can occasionally take a wrong turn and get stuck!), streets and individual shops with a commercial strength in books and antiques, together with the castle and historic buildings - it's a heady cocktail of interesting sights, and you can easily spend a day in Lewes, and still want more of it. The railway land nature reserve aforementioned also presents an opportunity to enjoy nature at its best. Spot an otter in the River Ouse and other flora and fauna. The pubs in Lewes are proud of their heritage and offer robust food with real ales and, of course, the Harveys Brewery is well-represented in the inns across town. The brewery itself offers tours of the premises and opportunities afterwards to buy not just the splendid beer but unusual wines - it's just off the Cliffe High Street. Walking around Lewes, ogling at antiques, buying a book, enjoying a pint of local ale and tucking into sumptuous Sussex fare - it's a wonderful way to spend a day.
There are two local newspapers which serve Lewes: the Sussex Express and the Evening Argus. The Sussex Express, currently owned by Johnston Press, was founded in 1837 under the name The Sussex Agricultural Express and it then became known as the Sussex Express & County Herald and later, the Sussex Express. The Sussex Express serves not just Lewes but also Hailsham, Newhaven and Peacehaven. The Argus is the flagship newspaper in Brighton & Hove, with different editions serving other parts of Sussex, including Lewes. Founded in 1880, the newspaper was known as the Evening Argus for many years. Some copies of both newspapers throughout the years are held at the County Hall in Lewes.
Famous residents in Lewes come from a wide range of backgrounds. Thomas Paine aforementioned is without a debt, most famous - one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Paine, who lived from 1737 to 1809, was an excise officer in Lewes before moving across the Atlantic. His written work in the form of pamphlets, most notably 'Common Sense' (1776) were hugely influential in the American Revolution. Some residents in Lewes are passionate about honouring his memory and a £39,000 statue was unveiled outside Lewes Library in 2010. Other famous folk in the town include Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Arthur Brown and Herbie Flowers. Virginia Woolf owned the Round House in Lewes, an eccentric residence, which is now privately owned. Writer Daisy Ashford inhabited Southdown House and diarist John Evelyn grew up in Southover Grange.
It's no surprise with its proximity to the South Downs, that many residents in Lewes are passionate about sports and the outdoor life. Walking not just in the charming town centre but in the pleasant environs is a popular pastime. There are hockey, cricket and rugby clubs, which are well-supported. Hockey players meet at Cockshut Road and have been playing since 1903. The rugby and cricket teams play at Stanley Turner Ground in Kingston Road. Lewes also has a tennis club and athletic club as well as a swimming group, bowling and cycling clubs. Lewes Football Club's history stretches back to 1885 and the players meet for games at the Dripping Pan ground. Golf players are also represented with the local golf club teeing off near Cliffe Hill.
Lewes Castle, a must-see for any tourist, is superbly placed within the town of Lewes, in fact it's considered to be the highest part in the town. The origins were a wooden keep, then made into stone and the castle itself, once known as Bray Castle, was constructed in 1069. The man responsible was the First Earl of Surrey, William de Warenne, who was related to William the Conqueror. The castle became the responsibility of Sussex Archaeological Society in the mid 19th century and now owns the building, after Sir Charles Thomas-Stanford generously gave the structure to the society. These days, the castle is open to visitors and also for events such as weddings, tours, and children's parties. The sights of the town and nearby countryside are lovely from the castle and any visitor would benefit from spending an afternoon at Lewes Castle.
Lewes is known for a strong sense of individualism - a champion of local businesses. Harveys Brewery is a great example of that and there are a number of smaller outlets selling books, antiques, perfume and other products in one or two of the larger business centres, open to the public, in the town. A particularly exciting story of success when it comes to this entrepreneurial journey is Bills Food and Produce Store. The greengrocer began by Lewes man, Bill Collison, started blossoming with him and his staff serving fresh-from-the-field eatery treats - incredibly delicious - with a cafe/food outlet, which emphasised sumptuous veg and fruit dishes. Bill worked hard, and overcame various struggles (flooding in the town being one of them) for his business, and it's now turned into an incredible success, with Bills store opening further afield in Brighton, various locations in London and. . . it really is a case of watch-this-space.
The Battle of Lewes was a savage conflict fought between Henry III and his son Prince Edward against barons led by Simon De Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. Dr Montfort was furious that Henry III refused to adhere to demands placed upon him by powerful noblemen and so the battle was known as the Second Barons' War. It happened on May 14 1264 and saw Henry III losing the conflict after Prince Edward and his soldiers chased some of the barons' men off the battlefield, which caused Henry to be exposed and defeated near Offham Hill. The king had no choice but agree to the Mise of Lewes, handing over much of his power to Montfort.
Lewes in the current day serves commuters in two ways. Residents journey on from the town to outer areas for work, such as Eastbourne, Brighton and even London. There are also a good number of workers who come into the town; such as those who are employed by East Sussex County Council. Lewes Railway Station runs a regular service for those leaving and arriving. There's also a good bus service to and from Brighton. Drivers are also able to motor along the A27 in no time. This fluidity in travel for work helps to bolster the culture of Lewes with strong connection to cities, towns and villages outside the immediate residential and commercial areas.
Education plays a key role in the culture of Lewes and there is a respectable widespread provision of facilities for youngsters. There are a number of primary schools such as Southover School; Lewes New School; South Malling School; Western Road School and Pells School. Priory School and Lewes Old Grammar School are the two main secondary schools with Ringmer Community College and Sixth Form, some three miles away, which is accessible for pupils as well. South Downs College, with a campus in the town, caters for qualifications ranging from access courses to A levels.
Lewes Prison is located at the far end of High Street as you enter the town, about a half-mile from the town centre. The main building became a prison in 1853 and not long after, 300 Finnish prisoners from the Crimean War were imprisoned there. Today, the prison hosts male adult offenders, on local remand and convicted. There are no sentenced young offenders. Lewes town also has a crown court further in the town centre.
Lewes and the nearby area contains a wide variety of buildings related to the Christian faith. King's Church meets in Brooks Road at 10am every sunday with a lively, friendly service. There's also St Michael's in the High Street; St Anne's - ideal for reflection; St John sub Castro in the old town; St Thomas a Beckett in Cliffe; St John the Baptist on Southover High Street; and St Michael in South Malling, which has been absorbed into the greater part of Lewes. All Saints is a fascinating building with the location next to a Franciscan priory site. Other religious buildings include the Roman Catholic Church of St Pancras; Quaker house; Jireh Chapel; Westgate Chapel and Eastgate Chapel; Christ Church; and Southover General Baptist Chapel.