38 Facts About Lewes


Place-name 'Lewes' is first attested in an Anglo-Saxon charter circa 961 AD, where it appears as Læwe.

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Lewes suggested that the name Læwe instead derives from the rare Old English word læw, and reflects the fact that from the top of School Hill Lewes overlooks the narrow, steep-sided 'gash' where the River Ouse cuts through the line of the South Downs.

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Lewes is located at the point where the River Ouse flows through a narrow gap in the east-west line of the South Downs.

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Information about Lewes becomes much more plentiful from the reign of Alfred the Great onward, as it was one of the towns which he fortified as part of the network of burhs he established in response to the Viking raids.

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The peace and stability brought by Alfred and his successors evidently stimulated economic activity in the area, for in the late Anglo-Saxon period Lewes seems to have been a thriving boom town – during the reign of Alfred's grandson Æthelstan it was assigned two royal moneyers, more than any other mint in Sussex, and according to Domesday Book it generated £26 of revenue for the crown in 1065, almost twice the amount of any other town in the county.

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English Reformation was begun by one of these Tudor monarchs, Henry VIII, and as part of this process the monasteries of England were dissolved; Lewes Priory was consequently demolished in 1538 and its property seized by the crown.

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Lewes recovered relatively quickly after the Civil War, and prospered during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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On Tuesday 27 December 1836 this snow cornice collapsed, and the resulting Lewes avalanche was the deadliest ever recorded in Britain.

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Name Lewes is the name of the parliamentary constituency and the local district council as well as Lewes Town Council.

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Lewes is where the East Sussex County Council has its main offices, located at County Hall in St Anne's Crescent.

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Parliamentary constituency Lewes has been held the Conservatives since the 1870s, with the exception of the period from 1997 to 2015 when Liberal Democrat Norman Baker held the seat for 18 years, before being defeated by Maria Caulfield who retained her seat in the 2017 and 2019 general elections.

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In organisational terms, Lewes became one of the non-county boroughs within the then Sussex, East county under the Local Government Act 1933.

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In 1974, Lewes District Council was formed on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, and was a merger of the former borough of Lewes along with Newhaven and Seaford urban districts and Chailey Rural District.

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Town of Lewes became a civil parish with the title of town; there are four wards, Bridge – 5 Councillors, Castle – 4, Central – 1 and Priory – 8.

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You can see Lewes lying like a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalk hills.

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Lewes is situated on the Greenwich or Prime Meridian, in a gap in the South Downs, cut through by the River Ouse, and near its confluence with the Winterbourne Stream.

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Lewes Downs is a site of biological interest, an isolated area of the South Downs.

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Lewes Farmers' Market, one of the first in the UK, was started in the 1990s by Common Cause Co-operative Ltd and is a popular re-invention of Lewes as a market town.

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In September 2008, Lewes launched its own currency, the Lewes Pound, in an effort to increase trade within the town.

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

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Distinctive feature of the centre of Lewes is the network of alleyways or 'twittens' which run north–south on either side of the High Street and date back to Anglo-Saxon times.

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The South Downs Way passes close to Lewes, crossing the Ouse at Southease, some four miles south of the town.

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The Eastbourne and Lewes Walking Festival was created in 2018 to promote walking in the local urban and rural South Downs area.

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East Sussex College, formerly Sussex Downs College, has one of its campuses in Lewes, and provides a range of courses including A Levels, GCSEs, Functional Skills and Access courses and vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs.

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The Musicians of All Saints is a Lewes-based chamber orchestra founded in 1987 who perform both new works and standard repertoire.

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Orlando Gough's opera The Finnish Prisoner is set in Lewes, telling the story of the Finnish prisoners of war held in Lewes after the Crimean War.

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New independent three-screen cinema, the Lewes Depot, opened in May 2017 in a multimillion-pound redevelopment of a former Harvey's brewery depot close to Lewes station.

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Union Music Store based in Lewes has become a centre for modern folk, country and Americana, both promoting and hosting live gigs, and recording and producing local musicians.

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The town of Lewes was the UK location for the Mumford and Sons' Gentlemen of the Road tour stopover in 2013.

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

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Lewes has a strong tradition of distinctive local pub games, including Toad in the hole, Dwyle Flunking, and the World Pea Throwing Championships.

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Viva Lewes was founded as a weekly web magazine in January 2006 and as a monthly print handbook in October 2006 covering events and activities in and around the Lewes area.

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Moyleman, an off-road marathon event over the hills around Lewes, starting and finishing in the town, was created in 2014 and first run in 2015.

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Lewes Racecourse, located immediately to the west of the town on the slopes of the Downs, operated for 200 years until closed in 1964.

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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.

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In 1956 suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams had his committal hearing in Lewes before being sent to the Old Bailey, London for trial.

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Lewes was tried and convicted in Lewes in 1957 for fraud, lying on cremation forms and obstructing a police search.

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Lewes is twinned with Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany, since 1974 and with Blois, France, since 1963, although informal links between these two towns began in 1947.

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