Place:Lewes, Sussex, England

Alt namesLewes (district)source: should not be used before 1974
Cliffesource: suburb from 19th century
Southoversource: suburb from 19th century
Westoutsource: suburb from 19th century
TypeBorough (municipal)
Coordinates50.867°N 0.017°E
Located inSussex, England
Also located inEast Sussex, England     (1865 - )
See alsoLewes Rape, Sussex, Englandrape in which it was located
Swanborough Hundred, Sussex, Englandhundred in which it was located
Lewes District, East Sussex, Englanddistrict municipality covering the area since 1974
Contained Places
Lewes Priory
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Lewes is the county town of East Sussex and by tradition of the historic county of Sussex. Lewes remains the police and judicial headquarters for all of Sussex and is also the location of Lewes Prison. It is a civil parish and is the centre of the Lewes [local government] District as well as the seat of East Sussex County Council. The settlement is a traditional market town and centre of communications and, in 1264, it was the site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264 (see below). The town's landmarks include Lewes Castle, the remains of Lewes Priory, Bull House (the former home of Tom Paine (1737-1809)), Southover Grange and public gardens, and a 16th century timber-framed Wealden hall house known as Anne of Cleves House. Other notable features of the area include the Glyndebourne Festival, the Lewes Bonfire and the Lewes Pound.

The area of the civil parish is 11.4 km2 (4.4 sq mi) and its population, according to the UK census of 2011, was 17,297.



After the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror rewarded William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, with the Rape of Lewes, a swathe of land along the River Ouse from the English Channel coast to the border with Surrey. He built Lewes Castle on the Saxon site; and he and his wife, Gundred also founded the Priory of St. Pancras (or Lewes Priory), a Cluniac monastic house, in about 1081. Lewes was the site of a mint during the late Anglo-Saxon period and also during the early years after the Norman invasion. In 1148 the town was granted a charter by King Stephen. After receiving its charter, the town became a port with docks along the River Ouse.

The town was the site of the Battle of Lewes between the forces of Henry III and Simon de Montfort in the Second Barons' War in 1264, at the end of which de Montfort'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 (reign of Queen Mary I), Lewes was the site of the execution of seventeen Protestant martyrs, who were burned at the stake in front of the Star Inn. This structure is now the Town Hall.

Through the 17th and 18th centuries, Lewes developed as the county town of Sussex, expanding beyond the line of the town wall. It was an active port and developed related 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 railway stations. The development of Newhaven ended Lewes's period as a major port. During the Crimean War, some 300 Finns serving in the Russian army captured at Bomarsund were imprisoned at Lewes. Lewes became a municipal borough in 1881. Prior to 1881 the boundary of Lewes was defined by a town wall (probably in disrepair even then). Following 1881 Lewes's boundaries expanded to included South Malling

end of Wikipedia contribution

Early Suburbs

The following description from A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, Lewes Hundred, section on the Borough of Lewes is provided by British History Online.

"The ancient boundaries of the borough included a considerable area outside the walls. Starting from Lewes Bridge and following the river southeastwards they turned west, enclosing the house and property of the Grey Friars. Thence they proceeded westwards, coinciding with the boundary of All Saints parish, and passed north through the suburb of Westout to a boundary stone, near St. Anne's (formerly St. Mary Westout) Church in Ireland's Lane. From the end of this line they passed north-east, skirting the outside of Hangman's Acre, as far as the Town Brooks, where they turned east to the river and along the water to Lewes Bridge.
"The two other important suburbs, now within the borough, were formerly independent of its jurisdiction. Southover, which grew up outside the gates of the Priory of St. Pancras, occupies the slightly rising ground south of the Winterbourne stream. Cliffe lies east of Lewes Bridge, and although in the Rape of Pevensey, had a close connexion with the town from the earliest times. The boundaries were enlarged in the years 1881 and 1934. Modern building estates have been developed on the Wallands (northwest), Malling Hill (northeast, part of South Malling), the Neville estate (west), and on the Kingston Road (southwest). A new estate is now being built east of the Wallands and of the Offham Road.

Ecclesiastical parishes within Lewes

The following list of churches is taken from Kelly's Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867 and listed in GENUKI.

St. Michael's Church is in High-street.
SS. Peter and Mary Westout, in High-street, now called St. Anne's
St. John's-under-the-Castle (also known as St John Sub Castro or Lewes the Castle Precincts), is in the vicinity of a small camp within the walls
All Saints, in Church-street
St. Thomas-a-Becket, in High-street, Cliffe
St. John the Baptist, Southover
The Baptists, Unitarians, Society of Friends, Wesleyans, and Independents (4) had meeting-houses. The Westgate meeting-house was originally a residence of the Goring family, but converted to its present use in 1687.

Outside the borough in 1900 were the civil parishes of Lewes St. Ann Without, Lewes St. John Without, South Malling Without, and Southover Without which were in located in Chailey Rural District from 1894 and mostly absorbed into Lewes Municipal Borough in 1934. Some far-flung detached sections were merged with their neighbouring parishes. Prior to 1900 these had been in the hands of various parishes within Lewes who used the rents from tenants to supplement their income from the urban parts of their parishes.

Research Tips

  • The East Sussex Record Office, The Keep, Woollards Way, Brighton, BN1 9BP, United Kingdom (email holds material for the Archdeaconry of Lewes, present-day East Sussex, and therefore generally holds historical material for East Sussex parishes only. An on-line catalogue for some of the collections held by the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO) is available under the Access to Archives (A2A) project (a nationwide facility housed at The National Archives, Kew).
  • The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies' Sussex Collection (PDF). This is a 9-page PDF naming the files relating to Sussex in their collection-a possible first step in a course of research.
  • Further resources may be found on GENUKI's main page on Sussex.
  • The National Library of Scotland has a website which provides maps taken from the Ordnance Survey England & Wales One-Inch to the Mile series of 1892-1908 as well as equivalent maps for Scotland itself. The immediate presentation is a "help" screen and a place selection screen prompting the entry of a location down to town, village or parish level. These screens can be removed by a click of the "X". The map is very clear and shows parish and county boundaries and many large buildings and estates that existed at the turn of the 20th century. Magnification can be adjusted and an "overlay feature" allows inspection of the area today along with that of 1900. The specific map from the series can be viewed as a whole ("View this map") and this allows the inspection of the map legend (found in the left hand bottom corner. Becoming familiar with the various facilities of these maps is well worth the trouble.
  • GENUKI on Lewes
  • British History Online. A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, Lewes Hundred, first of three chapters on the parish and borough of Lewes
  • Maps of the local area are to be found on the WeRelate page for Lewes Rape and on that for Newhaven Rural District.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Lewes. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.