The building of Lewes Castle began soon after 1066. It was the stronghold of William de Warenne in Sussex. It was added to over the next 300 years and culminated in the magnificent Barbican.
55 BC - 49 AD Roman comings and goings. They left around 410AD.
477 Saxons stopped pillaging and settled. Sussex ruled by Saxons most local names are Saxon including Sussex.
853 Danes invade.
1006 Lewes granted powers to mint mainly to pay Danegelt
1066 Normans invade .
Lewes Priory was founded in 1077 by William de Warren and his wife Gundrada, and richly endowed by them and became very wealthy. It was the first Clunian Foundation in England. There is a fine collection of Charters of which about 150 still exist, but those existing from the twelfth and thirteenth century are a bare record of events. In the annals much is recorded of the Warren Family. They record the death of Gundreda in 1088, you can still see her tomb in the Church of John the Baptist in Southover. Which is by the site of the Priory. In the Charter Cott Xl 569 of 1145-6. it is clear that building was still going on, and at one stage the building was the biggest man-made structure in England. In 1225 an entry on the Close Rolls said in this year a ship was detained at Seaford, but its release was ordered because it belonged to the Prior of Lewes, and was on its way to Caen for stone.
The church was 420ft long by 69 feet wide, a whole host of eminent men became Priors of Lewes. The History can be found in the 'Sussex Room' in Lewes Library. Sussex Archeological Society: Vol 81
Eventually in 1537 the Priory was demolished by an Italian Engineer on the orders of the Royal Vandal Henry VIII. The ruins are now maintained by the Town Council.
1148 Lewes Charter of Independence - King Stephen
By 11th May Henry III, his son Prince Edward, his brother Richard, King of the Romans and their Royalist army were stationed in and around the castle and priory of Lewes, awaiting the advance from London of the rebel forces of Simon de Montford and his baronial supporters, who camped overnight at Fletching in the Weald woodland to the north.
After some skirmishing and the failure of peace talks, the rebels renounced their allegiance on 13th May. Next morning before dawn they climbed the South Downs and formed up north and north-west of the town. Hastily the royalists sallied out in three columns preceded by the Red Dragon banner.
Their right wing led by Prince Edward put to flight some cavalry and a cohort of Londoners on foot, and pursued them for several miles with much slaughter.
Meanwhile the rebels' central column commanded by Gilbert de Clare had smashed through King Richard's division and amid the confusion he was discovered, so tradition states, hiding in a windmill near the Leper Hospital.
The Royalist left wing, commanded by King Henry was left to meet the assault of De Montford and his knights. During it Henry was "much beaten by swords and maces" and retreated back to the priory. By then Prince Edward had retreated to find the battle lost and the rebels inside thwe town walls. So he joined his shaken father in the priory, which De Montford settled down to besiege.
However the day after, 15th May, a treaty known as the Mise of Lewes was brokered. Henry surrendered and agreed to accept the restrictions on his royal authority which he had consented to earlier in the Provisions of Oxford. To cement the support for the treaty representatives from the counties and boroughs were summoned to a parliament in January 1265, the first time they were convoked together, and so a milestone in English constitutional history.
1148 Lewes Charter of Independence - King Stephen
1264 Mise of Lewes
1265 First Parliament
1272 Keere Street
Keere Street (the street of locksmiths) was partly built on the dry ditch of the town wall. The central watercourse was paved with water-rolled flints (petrified kidneys).
In the ninteenth century the Prince Regent,who had a palace in Brighton, drove a coach and four down this treacherously steep and narrow lane for a wager.
1347 End of the de Warrene dynasty
1348-9 The Black Death ravaged Europe
1381 Locals broke into castle and stole wine and stone
1388 Justices of Peace meet for the first time in reign of Edward III
1409 Henry IV granted Charter to St Thomas's Church to hold a market in the High Street
1450 The rebellion of the peasants led by Jack Cade fully supported by people of Lewes
1486 Anne of Cleves House - Henry VIII
Henry VIII gave this fine Wealden house to Anne of Cleves as part of the their divorce settlement (although Anne never lived there).
The house is now a museum of Lewes from the 16th Century to present day.
1512 Lewes Free Grammar Scool founded by Mrs Agnus Morley
1537 Demolition of Lewes Priory
1542 In the First Town book The Body of 'Twelve' to Govern the town
1542 The house of Greyfriars was bought by John Kyne of Lewes and rebuilt into a large Tudor house
1545 French attack Seaford - beaten off by Sir Nicholas Pelham of Lewes. His house is now the White Hart Hotel.
1548 Edward VI - Lewes churches stripped of ornaments, statues and stained glass.
1558 Spanish Armada defeated. To celebrate two barrels of gunpowder rammed into the castle gun shook the town to its foundation.
1605 Gunpowder Plot
1612 House of Correction - 59 Cliffe High Street
1620-40 Continued suppression of the Puritans of Lewes - the more they were suppressed the stronger they became.
1627 Consecration of South Malling Church
1636 John Harvard founder of Harvard University was married in the new church at South Malling to Ann Sadler daughter of the Rector of Ringmer.
The Grange was built in 1572 using Caen (Normandy) stone taken from the ruins of the Priory of St Pancras. John Evelyn, the diarist, lived here as a boy from 1630 to 1637 whilst attending the nearby Grammar School. Part of the building now houses a craft centre. The lovely old world Sussex Gardens, divided by the Winterbourne Stream, are remarkable for some magnificent old trees, colourful bedding displays and well cared for lawns provide a restful retreat in the heart of the Town. The property is in the ownership of the Lewes District Council.
Thomas Paine was a leading protaganist for the cause of the independence of England's American Colonies, and later on his book Rights of Man popularised in Britain and abroad the ideology inspiring the French Revolution.
He arrived at Lewes in 1768 to work as an excise officer and lodged with a presbyterian grocer, Samuel Olive, at Bull House in the High Street. In 1771, after Olive's death, he married his daughter Elizabeth in St Michael's Church and took over his shop using a horse-driven mill to grind snuhh and tobacco.
He played bowls on the Castle Green, skated on local ponds and was often awarded the prize (an old Greek Homer) for being the "most obstinate haranguer" during disputations at the Headstrong Club, a debating society which met at the White Hart Inn. Being a householder for the first time, he participated too in the Borough politics of Lewes, attending Vestry and Town meetings to agree a rate, approve an account, or ban wheelbarrows from the pavements.
Using the pen-name HUMANUS he also wrote an eloquent letter to the Sussex Weekly Advertiser denouncing the Poor Law Authorities for speeding the death of an ailing metalworker, William Weston, by deporting him from Yorkshire to Lewes in an open cart. Most unwisely, however, he also published on behalf of his fellow excise officers a skilful plea that their salaries be raised, arguing it would increase efficiency and reduce corruption. This outraged his employers who promptly sacked him.
Meanwhile his marriage had broken up and the grocery business had failed, so in 1774 he left Lewes for London and emigrated shortly after to the American colonies.
The Freemasons' Hall at the corner and No. 146 adjoining conceal a substantial fragment of a bastion of the 14th century west gate of the town, which was pulled down about 1777.
1805 Jireh Chapel was built and still stands
1806 All Saints Church rebuilt now an Arts and Community Centre
1809 Lewes established a Lancastrian School in Lancaster Street which was an excellent idea
On Wednesday 9th November 1881 at 12 o'clock noon, the Lewes Town Council met for the first time in the Record Room of the Market Tower. The 18 Councillors present for the setting up of its committees and the election of its first mayor and aldermen had themselves only been returned at the polls eight days before, following the proclamation of the Charter of Incorporation the previous June.
Symbollically, the last senior High Constable, Wynne Edwin Baxter, became Lewes' first Mayor demonstrating the continuity between the old offices and the new.
Two weeks later on the 23rd November a further 6 councillors were elected to fill the casual vacancies resulting from the Aldermanic elections. The town Council was now complete.