Infobox UK place
region=South East England

static_image_caption=Harveys Brewery
area_footnotes=cite web |url=http://www.eastsussexinfigures.org.uk/webview/ |title=East Sussex in Figures |accessdate=2008-04-26 |publisher=East Sussex County Council]
area_total_km2 =11.4
population=16,222 (Parish-2007)
population_density= Pop density mi2 to km2|3679|precision=0|abbr=yes
london_distance=convert|44|mi N
shire_county=East Sussex

Lewes (pronEng|ˈluːɨs "Lewis") is the county town of East Sussex, England and gives its name to the Local government district in which it lies. The settlement has a long history as a bridging point and as a market town, and is today an important communications hub, and tourist-orientated town.


The name Lewes comes from the plural form of Anglo-Saxon "Hlaew", which means "hill".cite book | last=Whynne-Hammond | first=Charles | year=2007 | title=English Place-names Explained | isbn=9781853069116 | publisher=Countryside Books | pages=pp.229 ] This refers to the hills of the South Downs or ancient burial mounds within the area.


The site that is now Lewes has a very ancient history. Archaeological evidence points to prehistoric dwellers; and it is also thought that the Roman settlement of "Mutuantonis" was here, large quantities of artefacts 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 also gave the town its name.cite web |url=http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/descriptions/entry_page.jsp?text_id=739550&word=NULL |title=Descriptive Gazetteer entry for Lewes |accessdate=2008-09-21 |last=Wilson |first=John Marius |date=1870-2 |work=Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales |publisher=Great Britain Historical GIS Project] 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 1078. Lewes was the also site of a mint during the early years after the Norman invasion.

The town was the site of the Battle of Lewes in the Second Barons’ War in 1264. 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 the town.


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 [ [http://www.lewes-tc.gov.uk/ Lewes Town Council] ] ; there are three wards, Bridge, Castle and Priory, each being served by six councillors [ [http://www.escis.org.uk/Directory/All_local_areas/Government_and_Local_Services/East_Sussex_Town_Councils/Lewes_Town_Council_Councillors/1 List of Councillors, 2008] ] . The Mayor for 2008/9 is Councillor Michael Chartier [ [http://www.lewes-town.co.uk/infopage.asp?infoid=817 Minutes of Mayormaking meeting of Lewes Town Council] ] (the fourth occasion [ [http://www.lewes.gov.uk/CMISWebPublic/Member.aspx?personID=30 Councillor Michael Chartier's profile on Lewes District Council web site] ] on which he has held this office).

Lewes is also 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 [ [http://www.lewes.gov.uk/ Lewes District Council] ]

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.


Crime rates in Lewes [ [http://www.findaproperty.com/crimefacts.aspx?edid=00&salerent=1&areaid=0876 Crime Statistics] ]


Lewes is situated 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 NNW of Newhaven, and an equal distance north-east of Brighton.

The South Downs rise above the river on both banks. The High Street, and the original town, occupies the right bank, climbing steeply up from the bridge; the summit on that side, 2.5 miles (4 km) distant is known as Mount Harry. On the left bank there is a large chalk cliff (Cliffe Hill) that can be seen for many miles.

The latter 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 adjacent to the Priory, south of the Winterbourne Stream. The town boundaries were enlarged twice: in 1881 and 1934, and now include the more modern housing estates of Wallands, Malling Hill, Neville and on the Kingston road [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: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=56908. Date accessed: 19 May 2008.]

The Greenwich Meridian runs through the western part of Lewes.

Natural sites and events

There are Sites of Special Scientific Interest at Lewes Brooks and Lewes Downs. [see List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in East Sussex] On 27 December 1836, an avalanche occurred in Lewes, the worst ever recorded in England. It was caused by a large build-up of snow on the nearby cliff slipping down onto a row of cottages called Boulder 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 [ [http://www.avalanche-center.org/News/2006/2006-12-27-uk.php Notes on the avalanche] ] .

On 21 August 1864, Lewes suffered an earthquake shock measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale [ see List of earthquakes in the United Kingdom]

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. [ [http://www.private-eye.co.uk/covers.php?showme=1013 The flooded railway station featured on the cover of that week's Private Eye with the caption "Your Rains Tonight"] ] As a result of the devastation caused "Lewes Flood Action", a pressure group, is in existence to press for better flood protection measures. [ [http://www.lewes-flood-action.org.uk/ "Lewes Flood Action"] ]


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. An important part of the town’s economy is based on tourism, [ [ Lewes Town Profile] ] because of the many historic attractions.

Lewes bonfire

The town's most important annual event is "Lewes Bonfire" - 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 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 [ [http://www.lewesbonfirecouncil.org.uk/ Lewes Bonfire Council] ] . Lewes itself currently has seven bonfire societies ("Nevill Juveniles" is a children's society and holds its celebrations a week or two before 5th November; "Southover", which disbanded in 1985, reformed in 2005) and a number of nearby towns have their own bonfire societies. The other five local bonfire societies from the town ("Cliffe", "Borough", "Commercial Square", "South Street" and "Waterloo") each proceed on their own route accompanied by a number of other societies from the neighbouring towns.

Each bonfire society has its own traditional costumes (ranging from Tudor dress to Mongol warriors). A number of large effigies are drawn though the streets. Effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V [ [http://www.lewesbonfirecouncil.org.uk/moreinfo/index.html Lewes Bonfire Council] ] , 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" (usually, but not always, representing a human figure or figures), and the Cliffe society displays 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.

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. 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, but may also be an echo of Samhain traditions. 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 Lewes Chamber of Commerce represents the traders and businesses of the town. [ [http://www.leweschamber.org.uk/ Lewes Chamber of Commerce] ] Lewes Farmers' Market, one of the first in the UK, was started in the 1990s by Common Cause Co-operative Ltd [ [http://www.commoncause.org.uk Common Cause Cooperative] ] and is a very popular re-invention of Lewes as a market town.From 1794 beers, wines and spirits were distributed from Lewes under the "Harveys" name, and the town is today the site of Harveys brewery.

In September 2008, Lewes launched its own currency, the Lewes Pound, in an effort to increase trade within the town. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/7605639.stm BBC News: Lewes launches its own currency] ] [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4744116.ece The Times: Town's pound note bucks the downturn] ] One Lewes Pound is equal to £1. Like the similar currency in Totnes, the initiative is part of the Transition Towns movement.


The town is the location of several historic buildings, including Lewes Castle, the remains of Lewes Priory, and the so-called "Anne of Cleves House" (given to the divorced queen but never lived in by her).


Lewes, from its inception, has been an important transport hub [ [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=56908 ‘’British History Online‘’] ] . 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.
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, follows the River Ouse through the town.


There are two secondary schools in the town: Lewes Priory School specialist in the Arts, Language and Science; and the independent Lewes Old Grammar School, which also has a sixth form. Sussex Downs College provides a range of courses including A levels, GCSEs and vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs.

Religious buildings

There are five Church of England (CofE) churches in the town, and several other denominational churches and chapels [ [http://freespace.virgin.net/nick.armstrong/ctld/jireh.htm Churches Together in Lewes] ] . The main parish church is dedicated to St Michael; the other CofE churches are dedicated to St Anne [ [http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/ed/sx/lewsa/index.htm Details of Church of St. Anne, Lewes from Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland] ] and St John sub Castro in the town itself; in Cliffe there is St Thomas a Becket (where the Orthodox Community also worship); and in Southover, St John the Baptist's. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to St Pancras, and Christ Church serves both the United Reformed Church and the Methodist worshippers.


In addition to the main town museum, there is also the Thebes Gallery [ [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/museum_gfx_en/MW2051.html Thebes Gallery] ] opened 2000. The local civic society - "The Friends of Lewes" - publishes its own website extolling the "... beauty, history and character of the town ...". [ [http://www.friends-of-lewes.org.uk/index.html "The Friends of Lewes"] ]

Bright 106.4 FM radio station broadcasts to the Lewes area. The local newspaper is the "Sussex Express" [ [http://www.lewestoday.co.uk/ Sussex Express] ] ; the Lewes Forum is a website dedicated to "news from the county town of East Sussex". [ [http://www.lewes.co.uk/ Lewes Forum] ] ; and "Viva Lewes" is a "What's On" web magazine with a similar purpose. [ [http://www.vivalewes.com/ "Viva Lewes" Magazine] ]

Lewes is also the headquarters of the Sussex Archaeological Society.


The local football team is Lewes F.C. (home ground "The Dripping Pan") who currently play in the Conference National having secured promotion as champions of the Conference South in the 2008/2009 season.Lewes Warriors Cycling ClubThe local Lions Club organises an annual international competition of the Toad in the Hole coin-throwing game.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. [ [http://www.sportingchronicle.com/2008/02/lewes-racecourse.html Lewes Racecourse] ]

Notable people

Among the many notable people was 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 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 (1864–1902) involved in shooting prisoners during the Boer War.

Lewes assizes have seen 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:
* Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany, since 1974
* Blois, France, since June 30 1963


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