LEWES is the county town, union, considerable market and borough town, and station on the Brighton and South Coast Railway, in the Eastern division of the county, diocese of Chichester, archdeaconry and rural deanery of Lewes, giving name to the rape and union, but having suburbs in Pevensey rape.
Lewes is the seat of the assizes, returns two members to Parliament, and is a polling place, and the seat of election for East Sussex. Petty sessions are held here every Tuesday. The quarter and intermediate sessions for East Sussex are also held at Lewes.
A county court is held here: the district comprises the following parishes:- Alciston, Alfriston, Arlington, Barcombe, Beddingham, Berwick, Bishopstone, Blatchington East, Buxted, Chailey, Chalvington, Chiddingly, Chillington East, Denton, Ditcheling, Eastbourne, Eastdean, Easthothly, Falmer, Firle West, Fletching, Folkington, Framfield, Friston, Glynde, Hailsham, Hamsey, Heathfield, South Heighton, Hellingly, Iford, Isfield, Jevington, Kingston, Laughton, Lewes, Litlington, Little Horsted, Lullington, Maresfield, Newhaven, Newick, Piddinghoe, Plumpton, Ringmer, Ripe, Rodmell, Seaford, Selmeston, Southease, Stanmer, Street, Tarring Neville, Telscombe, Uckfield, Waldron, Warbleton, Westdean, Westham, Westmeston, Willingdon and Wilmington. The union comprises eight parishes, viz.: All Saints; Castle Precincts; St. Anne or St. Peter and St. Mary Westout; St. John the Baptist, Southover; St. John-under-the-Castle, St. Michael, St. Thomas-in-the-Cliffe, and South Malling.
Lewes, which is a borough by prescription, is on the navigable river Ouse, 50 miles south from London, 8 from Brighton, and 7 north from Newhaven, which is its port situate on the eastern extremity of one of those bold and fertile eminences called the South Downs, The market is on Tuesday for corn and hops, and every alternate Tuesday for sheep, cattle and pigs. There are fairs on Whit-Tuesday and 6th May for horses, 26th July for wool, and 21st September for Southdown sheep, of which from 40,000 to 50,000 are often collected. The annual cattle-show of the Sussex Agricultural Society is held here in rotation with other places. There is considerable trade by the river in corn, malt, and coals.
The town is of very remote origin, and returned members to the parliament held at York, 1298 in the reign of the First Edward, and had a mint long previously: it is now governed by two high constables, chosen yearly at the court-leet of the lord of the manor.
The County Hall is a good building, with a painting by Northcote. The castle was long the chief seat of the potent De Warrenne family: the keep and gateway still remain; the former is fitted up as a museum of antiquities for the Sussex Archaeological Society: it was formerly strongly fortified, and, though few fragments are standing, the site of the walls may be easily traced. A castle here is mentioned in Saxon times, Alfred the Great being supposed to have been its founder.
Races are held annually in July or August, near Mount Harry, where the celebrated Battle of Lewes was fought, on the 14th May, 1264.
, The new county gaol is just without the town, in the parish of St. Anne.
The town it lighted by gas, and well supplied with water from the works in Southover. The Mechanics' Institution is in West-street. There is an excellent library, called the Fitzroy Memorial Library, in High-street, given to the town by the widow of the late member for the borough. There is a borough record-room and engine house, built in 1818; also assembly-rooms. William Huntingdon, s.s., was buried in this town.
St. Michael's Church is in High-street. The living is a rectory, yearly value £116, with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. Frederic Woolley, M.A., B.C.L.
SS. Peter and Mary Westout, in High-street, constitute a rectory, now called St. Anne's, yearly value £190, with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. Augustus Parsons, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge.
St. John's-under-the-Castle, is in the vicinity of a small camp: it has an ancient inscription to the memory of Magnus, a Danish prince. The living is a rectory, annual value £250, in the gift of the Rev. C. D. Crofts, M.A., and held by the Rev. R. S. Grignon, B.A.; the Rev. Alexander Levie is the curate in charge.
All Saints, in Church-street, is a rectory, value £206 per annum, in the gift of C. Goring, Esq., and held by the Rev. John Scobell, M.A., of Balliol College, Oxford.
St. Thomas-a-Becket, in High-street, Cliffe, is a rectory, value £130 per annum, in the gift of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and held by the Rev. J. C. Russell, M.A., of St. Peter's College, Cambridge.
St. John the Baptist, Southover, is a rectory value £97 per annum, with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. John Scobell, M.A. of Balliol College, Oxford, and rural dean.
The Baptists, Unitarians, Society of Friends, Wesleyans, and Independents (4) have meeting-houses. The Westgate meeting-house was originally a residence of the Goring family, but converted to its present use in 1687.
Here is one of the oldest educational establishments in England: the school was founded by Agnes Morley in 1512, and endowed by her with a rent-charge of £20 on an estate at Hamsey, and with a messuage in Southover, where the school was carried on for 200 years.
Here is also, at St. Anne's House, an English and Continental Boarding School, under the proprietary of Mr. Antony Lower, M.A., F.S.A., and F.A.S.L.
The priory of Lewes, whose ruler had a seat in Parliament, was founded in the reign of William the Conqueror by Gundrada, one of the daughters of that monarch, and her husband William, Earl Warrenne: on its dissolution by Henry VIll. the conventual buildings were mostly destroyed, and the remains are at present inconsiderable: in 1845, during the formation of the South Coast Railway, the remains of the illustrious founders were discovered, preserved in leaden chests, inscribed with their names; these relics have been deposited. in a beautiful mausoleum, built for the purpose, on the south side of the adjacent church of Southover.
Lewes enjoys many advantages-good air agreeable scenery, an excellent soil, and good water; while five railways and the Ouse, which is navigable, render it easily accessible from all quarters.
[Kelly's Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867.]