What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
=How to get there.=–Train from London Bridge or Victoria. London, Brighton, and South-Coast Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Lewes. =Distance from London.=–50 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 1-1/4 to 2-1/4 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 8s. 6d. 5s. 0d. 4s. 2d. Return 15s. 0d. 9s. 0d. 8s. 4d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"The White Hart Hotel,” “Crown," “Commercial,” “Temperance Hotel,” etc.
Lewes, a prosperous agricultural centre, situated on the Sussex Ouse, is a place of great antiquity, in spite of its present modern appearance. Its early history is vague, but it is known that it was of importance even under the Saxon kings, and was fortified in Alfred’s time. William the Conqueror gave Lewes to Earl William de Warenne, who had married Gundrada, said to be the daughter of Queen Matilda and the Conqueror. De Warenne built the castle, or considerably enlarged the old Saxon fortress, which is now in ruins. The castle possessed a curious feature, of which no other examples now remain, in having two keeps, each built upon a mound. Only one of these keeps (admission 6d.) still exists, its towers covered with ivy. From its summit a splendid view of the surrounding country can be obtained towards the chalk bluffs of the South Downs and the valley of the Ouse. The great gateway of the castle still stands, and in Southover, the suburb of Lewes, are the remains of the once large and wealthy Priory of St. Pancras. This was the first Cluniac establishment in England. It was founded by De Warenne and Gundrada, and continued to be of great importance up to the dissolution. Until about sixty years ago the old pigeon-house of the priory, containing 3228 pigeon-holes, was still standing. When excavations were going on during the construction of the railway, which passes through the priory grounds, the workmen came upon two leaden coffins, which were discovered to be those of William de Warenne and his wife. These were removed to Southover Church, and Gundrada’s grave has now its original tombstone of black marble, which was found in Isfield Church. On the site of the race-course was fought in 1264 the battle of Lewes, between Henry III. and the insurgent barons, led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. There are a few old houses left, and the modern town hall contains a beautiful oak staircase and panelling taken from the old Star Inn.
[Illustration: Photochrom Co., Ltd. THE BARBICAN AT LEWES CASTLE.
The castle was built by William de Warenne, who had received Lewes from William the Conqueror.]