Friends of Lewes plants wildlife hedges at Lewes Cemetery

In January this year the Trees Committee of the Friends of Lewes planted over 200 whips (small trees) in the grounds of Lewes Cemetery to make two wildlife hedges along the bottom wall and fence near to the Winterbourne. The trees include Alder, Blackthorn, Alder Buckthorn, Guelder Rose, Hawthorn, Hazel, Hornbeam, Dog Rose, Rowan, Spindle, Willow and Field Maple.

Together with the 27 trees that we planted there in November 2020, and the Elm which we planted earlier in January this year, they will help to make sure that there is a long flowering season for the many pollinators recorded at the Cemetery.

The work was completed over three mornings by small family pairs of volunteers as part of the Lewes District Council and Lewes Urban Arboretum project to further increase the biodiversity of this important Local Wildlife Site. Our plans to involve more volunteers had to be changed because of the current Covid-safety regulations but the whips needed to be planted as soon as possible before they came out of their Winter dormancy.

We had intended to pay for the hedge whips ourselves, but thanks to collaboration with Chris Bibb of Lewes District Council, and Jan Knowlson of the South Downs National Park, it has been fully funded by a successful application for a “Beelines” grant from South Downs National Park Trust.

Hedge planting at Lewes Cemetery
Hedge planting at Lewes Cemetery, January 2021. Click image to enlarge


Lewes History Group talk: Source to Sea: the River Ouse – Monday 8 February 2021, 7:20 for 7:30pm start

A Zoom Webinar

Geoff Mead: Source to Sea: the River Ouse

Geoff Mead’s talk for Lewes History Group follows the course of the river across geological and historic time; its journey from the sandstones and wooded heights of the High Weald through the gentle pastures of the Low Weald to the deep valley through the South Downs National Park and on to the changing coastline of the Channel. Tributaries enter the main stream from the Weald and the downland creating their own basin features.

The course of the Ouse has eroded the covering of the Weald over millions of years, allowing our access to the core of Southeast England; this area has provided source materials for generations of inhabitants from rock shelters in the Neolithic, through Romano-British ironworking to Tudor gun founders, and Regency estate builders.

Later developments revolved around improved communications with a canalisation, railways, and new roads. The 21st century brings concerns of climate change, water consumption and the loss of particular environments and urbanisation. We cover a range of topics in this fluvial journey, from source to sea.

River Ouse south of Lewes
River Ouse south of Lewes

To join this talk, you need to
  1) register your intention in advance
  2) receive our confirmation email with a link to the talk
  3) click on that link to attend the talk 10 minutes before it starts

Lewes History Group Members can attend our talks for free. We will send members emails with a link to Zoom registration. Then please follow steps 1, 2, and 3 as above. 

Non-members of LHG can buy a ticket (£4) from TicketSource. The ticket will provide a link to Zoom registration. Then please follow steps 1, 2, and 3 as above. 

Please join the webinar at 7:20pm.

We would recommend a computer screen or an iPad as a minimum screen-size for viewing our webinars.

Our presenters will be speaking live, and you can ask questions by typing in the Q&A box in Zoom.

See the Talks page for a list of  forthcoming monthly events organised by the Lewes History Group.


New Year – “New Horizon”

This year made a positive start for the Trees Committee of Friends of Lewes with the planting of a new Elm tree, Ulmus “New Horizon”, at Lewes Cemetery on January 15th. The tree was awarded to us by the Tree Council as the result of a successful application for one of the thirty trees they wished to donate to Tree Wardens to celebrate thirty years of their Tree Wardens Scheme. In our application we explained the nature conservation value of Lewes Cemetery, which is designated as a “Local Wildlife Site”. It provides a good habitat for a wide range of pollinators, and the rare Long-Tailed Blue Butterfly, Long-horned Nomad Bee and Brown-banded Carder Bee were all recorded there in 2020. Elms are the sole food plant of White-letter Hairstreak butterflies and this species has suffered as a result of Dutch Elm Disease.

The Ulmus “New Horizon” was introduced in 1957 by Eugene Smalley, who was determined to “put a smile on the landscape” by creating disease-resistant Elms that could tolerate the harshest of conditions. The tree is said to be 100% immune to disease and able to grow despite drought and floods. It is the same variety as the four lovely Elms which we planted on St. Anne’s Hill as a joint project with ESCC in 2017-2019.

Our tree is planted at the top end of the Cemetery, just inside the gate nearest to the Winterbourne Hollow entrance. We are very grateful to Lewes District Council, especially Chris Bibb, LDC Specialist Adviser, for their permission and support in planting this tree – and the twenty-seven other trees which we planted at the Cemetery in November.

Friends of Lewes Planting resistant Elm
Planting the disease-resistant Elm, Ulmus “New Horizon” at Lewes Cemetery


Building Materials in Lewes – Friends of Lewes talk, Wednesday 3 February 2021, 7:20 for 7.30pm

A Zoom talk

Marcus Taylor: Building Materials in Lewes: our Architectural Heritage

What is it that makes Lewes such a special town? In addition to its superb geographical downland setting, astride the gap cut through the chalk by the River Ouse, and its rich cultural history, Marcus Taylor hopes to convince us that a wealth of building materials over the years has led to some very distinctive streetscapes and fascinating architectural details, which also deserve full credit.

In this rapid, image-led sweep through the centuries, he highlights what Lewes houses are made of and why – and also why that is good news for residents and visitors alike.

Mathematical tiles in Lewes

The talk will be free, and all are welcome.

Please click to Register in advance for this talk

After registering, you will receive an automated confirmation email containing your personal link for joining the meeting.

Please click on that link to attend the talk 10 minutes before it starts.

We would recommend a computer screen or an iPad as a minimum screen-size for viewing our webinars.

Our presenters will be speaking live, and you can ask questions by typing in the Q&A box in Zoom.

See the Diary page for a list of  forthcoming events organised by the Friends of Lewes


Lewes Priory Trust: Looking back 900 years: new insights – 4-15 May 2021

To mark the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of Priory Park to the public, Lewes Priory Trust is presenting a season of 16 short talks in 4 evening symposia, online on Zoom. This free programme is for anyone with a love of Lewes history, telling the story of how our magnificent monastery became one of the top ten in England 900 years ago.

Make a note in your diary for the four symposia listed below – further details about registration will be available in April.

Tuesday May 4, 7.30pm: What did the Cluniacs ever do for us? This aims to show what was so special about the pathway to heaven offered by Cluniac monasticism, and how its great scholars and administrators put Lewes firmly on the European map.

Friday May 7, 7.30pm: The destruction and rediscovery of the Priory. The story of its demolition – which, thanks to the engineer’s reports, tell us much. The evening also tells how the driving of the railway through it, 300 years later, in 1844-6, led to more discoveries and the founding of the Sussex Archaeological Society.

Tuesday May 11, 7.30pm: Caring for a heritage site into the future. The present day’s conservation challenges are discussed in the third symposium. Speakers include the Lewes Town Clerk – the Council is the latest of the many dynasties of Priory owners and benefactors – as well as the Trust’s architect, and local flintman David Smith.

Friday May 14, 7.30pm: What the latest research is telling us. New insights into the lavatorium where the monks washed their hands before meals, and its associated  but still mysterious tunnel. Also encouraging news of possible new excavations on the Priory site that would be scrutinised by Historic England, and evidence of the preservation of the Priory’s first small church for centuries, with its service as a shrine to Canterbury’s Saint Thomas Becket.

The series will then be rounded off on Saturday 15 May with a Guided Tour of the Priory Remains by two of the Trust’s experts.

Further information and complete programme


Jim and Maureen Franks

A note from Marcus Taylor, former Honorary Secretary of The Friends of Lewes

It is a sad duty to let you know that Jim Franks and his wife Maureen have died recently, within a few days of each other: two people who made a considerable contribution to the civic life and heritage of Lewes over several decades. Perhaps best remembered for the family’s remarkable restoration of the derelict Fitzroy House at the foot of School Hill, there is so much more than that.

Jim was born in 1927 and was brought up in Brighton. He completed military service with the Royal Engineers in the Middle East and Kenya. Returning to Brighton after the war he was preparing to qualify as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor when he met Maureen. After marrying they were looking for somewhere to live. He found a plot of land for sale high up on Cuilfail where, with the help of some friends, he built a bungalow. He and Maureen had two children there.

Jim became a Principal Lecturer in ‘Building Trades Management’ with the then ‘Brixton School of Building’, which became part of ‘London South Bank University’. He wrote regular articles for trade journals, many of which became books, alongside some of his other published writing, including ‘Scram from Kenya’ and ‘Making Lewes’ History Model’. An incorrigible archivist, Jim kept journals since the late 1950s and made many records, written and photographic, of things that have interested him.

One of Jim’s passions was the conversion and restoration of old buildings, including Nan Kemp’s Corner on Kingston Ridge, the Almshouses in Keere Street and the Fitzroy Memorial Library, where the Franks lived for over 40 years. Jim served as a Lewes Town Councillor, as Deputy Mayor, President of the Institute of Quantity Surveyors and President of the Lewes branch of the British Legion. He was Vice President of the Friends of Lewes, of which he was an active committee member for over 30 years and amongst those instrumental in seeing off the Inner Relief Road plan in the 1970s in favour of a by-pass. He was also a qualified mediator, being entitled to follow his name with five different sets of letters, indicating professional or academic achievement.  Remarkably, being a man of prodigious energy, he did many of these things at the same time!

Maureen was born in Southampton and moved around the South Coast in her early years before her mother settled the family in Brighton.  Working as a secretary for a construction company she didn’t initially think much of the ‘slightly bumptious and full of himself’ trainee Quantity Surveyor who joined them for some work experience. However, views do change, and they were to be married for almost 70 years.  Once the children became old enough to need her less, Maureen spent much of her time and energy in voluntary roles, ultimately becoming chairman of Age Concern, East Sussex having also been instrumental in setting up the ‘House of Friendship’ and also Clevedown.

A qualified Marriage Counsellor and very involved in St Pancras Church, Maureen provided quiet support for many people, being a very good listener and adept at asking pertinent questions which provoked reflection.

Alongside these roles she also supported Jim in his many projects, as his personal secretary and project manager. They travelled much of the world together, often combining book research with holidays, and considered themselves always to have been very fortunate to be able to make the most of the new opportunities that arose in their lives.

They will both be sorely missed.

Jim and Maureen Franks
Jim and Maureen Franks


Friends of Lewes Planning Committee Report 4 November 2020

Representations made on planning applications following the meeting of the Planning Committee held on 4 November 2020: 

SDNP/20/03687/HOUS: Replacement of single glazed windows to the front of the house with wooden framed double glazing. 16 Eastport Lane.
Friends of Lewes object to the design of the wooden window frames proposed. The original windows have integral glazing bars as part of their design. The proposed replacements have dummy glazing bars attached to the double glazing units which is unacceptable in the conservation area.

SDNP/20/04088/HOUS: Erection of single story side extension and loft conversion with rear roof dormer, and replacement of existing pvc doors and windows with white aluminium windows and doors. 24 Winterbourne Close.
Friends of Lewes object to the proposed box dormer which is excessively large, extends above the ridge and does not conform to the recommendations set out in the Friends of Lewes ‘Planning Advice for Dormer Windows’. The design, which includes altering the hipped roof to a gable end, will destroy the symmetry of the pair of semi-detached houses and unbalance the whole building. Although there are already some large box dormers in Winterbourne Close they are to the rear elevations and are not visible from the street. This development will be very visible from Winterbourne Lane at the junction with Delaware Road to the detriment to the existing street scene.

SDNP/20/04231/HOUS: Single storey rear extension. 17 Fitzgerald Road.
Friends of Lewes comments that the extension appears to be oversized and out of place in the context of the existing block of terraced houses.

SDNP/20/04273/HOUS: Conversion / re-roof/ refurbishment of existing flat roofed garage into new utility and family room/home office linked to main house by narrow flat roofed extension strip and new pitched roof to garage. Existing conservatory to have new lead/ composite slate roof. 1 Juggs Close.
Friends of Lewes have no objection to the proposed development but comment that the street scene would be enhanced if the detailing of the brickwork surrounding the existing windows of the front elevation is replicated in the new window.

SDNP/20/04388/HOUS & SDNP/20/04389/LIS: New window and internal alterations.  2 Lansdown Place.
Friends of Lewes have no objection to the proposals but comment that nowhere in the application does it state that timber windows will be used. This should be confirmed.

SDNP/20/04532/HOUS: Hip to gable roof conversion with dormer to the rear. 3 Clare Road.
Friends of Lewes object to the proposed box dormer which is excessively large and does not conform to the recommendations set out in the Friends of Lewes ‘Planning Advice for Dormer Windows’. The design, which includes altering the hipped roof to a gable end, will make the pair of houses unsymmetrical and visually unbalanced. It would be out of character in this street of low single storey buildings.

SDNP/20/03019/ADV: Installation of 1 x externally illuminated facia sign, 1 x double sided pictorial sign with bracket and lights, 1 x new amenity board, 2 x new chalkboards, 1 x new lantern and 10 x new 30w LED floodlights.  The Kings Head 9 Southover High Street.
Friends of Lewes object to the proposed floodlighting as the application fails to demonstrate that Strategic Policy SD8: Dark Night Skies of the South Downs National Park Local Plan will be met. This requires development proposals to conserve and enhance the intrinsic quality of dark night skies and demonstrate that all opportunities to reduce light pollution have been taken.  Proposals must ensure that the measured and observed sky quality in the surrounding area is not negatively affected, having due regard to a hierarchy that avoids the installation of lighting or if it cannot be avoided is demonstrated to be necessary and appropriate. The application contains no statement of justification for outside lighting, drawings showing luminaire mounting details, an explanation of how glare control is addressed, whether the colour temperature of the light sources complies with SDNPA requirements  of </= 3000 degree K or the lumen output and light distribution of the luminaires. In addition the application fails to demonstrate that the design complies with best practice ie. Institute of Lighting Professionals (ILP) guidance GN01:2011 Guidance Notes for the

Reduction of Obtrusive Light, and SDNPA Technical Advice. Furthermore the Society objects to external floodlighting of commercial buildings in the Conservation Area, which is detrimental to the wider street scene.

SDNP/20/04712/LIS: Retrospective application for the retention of private artist studio at Pipe Studios, Pipe Passage with repairs and flashing works to adjacent walls, including the listed Town Wall: Pipe Studios Pipe Passage.
Friends of Lewes comment that the capping on the town wall looks visually acceptable. The aluminium capping in Pipe Passage is less successful and a softer soil and vegetation capping as promoted by Historic England would be preferred. The Society considers conditions are required that prevent future change of use from an artist studio.


The Committee examined the following applications and had no observations to make:

SDNP/20/03615/LIS 13 Keere Street. Replacement and repair work.
SDNP/20/04085/HOUS 23 Houndean Rise. Two storey rear extension.
SDNP/20/04144/LIS 204 High Street. Reposition and install new boiler and flue.
SDNP/20/04216/LIS 197 High Street. Alterations to approved new build.
SDNP/20/04300/HOUS 3 St Andrew’s Place. Second bathroom in approved rear extension.
SDNP/20/04468/LIS 39-40 High Street. Remedial work due to flood damage.
SDNP/20/04473/HOUS 43 Houndean Rise. Garage conversion and loft conversion with front and side rooflights and 2 new dormers.
SDNP/20/02745/FUL Howard Cottage, Broomans Lane. Change use from A2 to C3 (residential).
SDNP/20/04128/HOUS 3 St Nicholas Lane. Replace single glazed windows with double glazed.

Planning Application Approved


Friends of Lewes Planning Committee Report 8 October 2020

Representations made on planning applications following the meeting of the Planning Committee held on 8 October 2020: 

SDNP/19/05619/FUL: Demolition of the vacant building and the construction of 28 residential units with associated landscaping and on-site car parking (Revised Plans). Astley House Spital Road.

Friends of Lewes support the overall layout, which represents a huge improvement on the existing light industrial shed. The scale in relation to Spital Road and De Montfort Road is appropriate and the layout of the terrace houses replicates the existing urban grain. Materials seem appropriate in principle but will need careful specification. The decision to provide a larger block of apartments at the western end of the site fronting onto Nevill Road is supported but the Society has reservations about the west-facing elevation.

Spital Road:
This successfully picks up the rhythm of the existing terrace houses to the east with a varied roofline. The Society supports the restricted palette of materials and the small number of window types, which unify the whole development without becoming dull. The planting in front of the houses is commendable as it contributes to the public realm and provides subtle screening from the road.

The relatively large windows are supported; windows come in all shapes and sizes in Lewes and there is no compulsion to replicate the familiar Georgian sashes.

De Montfort Road:
This is a vast improvement on the present situation. The revised (lower) roofline is appropriate to the narrower street; the rhythm and scale of the proposal sits happily with the existing houses.

Nevill Road:
The Society does not support the changes made in response to comments from the planning authority. The reduction in roof height is successful, but the decision to break the west-facing façade into three gables buildings with setbacks looks contrived, fussy and unconvincing. The gables do not sit comfortably against the adjacent stable roofs in Nevill Road when viewed from the west and do not convey a feeling of presence.  A unified overall design, reflecting the layout behind and without arbitrary setbacks would look better. The scale of the main entrance is too large and a strong central entrance serving the four high level flats would be more visually appropriate.

It is hard to improve on the arrangement proposed and the logic of the in/out arrangement is recognised. The Society supports the provision of roof gardens above, which will bring softer landscaping into the scheme.

Two mature trees at the west end of the site should be retained if at all possible; failing this they should be replaced with trees that will grow to similar size. They provide screening facing the highway and welcome softening on a busy road. This whole area requires more design input.

The planters along Spital Road are welcomed.

Materials and detailing:
The restricted range of proposed materials and the unity achieved by the use of repetitive details is supported. The challenge is to translate these into real life buildings that will look crisp and unfussy when completed, and will weather well over time with minimal maintenance. Key details drawn to an appropriate scale should be part of the approved documents, so that any future developer/builder will have to adhere to these or seek approval for any deviation. Key details include:

  • Door and window details including reveals, cills and heads.
  • Copings – these appear to be brick on the drawings and should not be replaced with pressed metal. Flashings and damp courses will need careful consideration.
  • Planters – materials, edges
  • Screen walls and handrails
  • External doors to parking, bin stores, cycle stores.
  • Hard and soft landscaping.
  • Service entries, meters, bin storage, extract grills.
  • Materials: a large sample panel or panels should be built well before construction starts so that there is an opportunity to review and comment.

Affordable housing:
The Society remains disappointed at the lack of affordable housing provision and looks to the planning authority to robustly challenge the justification.


SDNP/20/03425/FUL: Application for 2 new conservation style rooflight and an automatic opening vent on the rear roof pitch. 223 High Street.
Friends of Lewes have no objection in principle to the proposed rooflights. However it does not agree with the statement in the Design and Access Statement that ‘as the rear pitch faces the car park and is set back from being overly visible from the public roads, this will mitigate any concern with the visual impact of the additional rooflights.’ The roof is very visible when viewed from Phoenix Causeway and materially contributes to the wider views of the roofscape to the west of Harvey’s Brewery.  The Society comments that the three small roof dormers on the Waterstones bookshop next door enhance the roofscape. It considers the substitution of the rooflights proposed for 223 High Street by three similar small roof dormers would greatly enhance this key view of Lewes.


The Committee examined the following applications and had no observations to make:

SDNP/20/02453/FUL & SDNP/20/02454/ADV Southover Parish Church, St John Sub Castro Parish Church and St Michael’s Church. Welcome boards.
SDNP/20/02943/LDE 22 Toronto Terrace. Enclose side passage, erect conservatory and rooflight.
SDNP/20/03214/FUL 143 High Street. Change of use to C3 (residential).
SDNP/20/03450/HOUS 49 Hereward Way. Side window on ground floor.
SDNP/20/03681/LIS 30 Sun Street. Works to roof.
SDNP/20/03878/FUL 47 Fitzjohns Road. Change use of shed to dog grooming business.
SDNP/20/03921/HOUS 91 Highdown Road. Rooflight to rear and replace flat roof with pitched roof with rooflights on side and rear extensions.
SDNO/20/SDNP/20/03311/CND Saxonbury, Juggs Road. Variations of conditions 1 and 5 of conditionally approved application to alter window arrangement and tile hanging to second floor.
SDNP/20/03951/NMA 24 Dale Road. Amendment to approval for cedar shingle wall and roof cladding to be replaced by plain clay tile wall and roof cladding.

Planning Application Approved

Pavement repairs in Lewes

Highway Maintenance – The Conservation of Character

East Sussex County Council has proposed that future repairs to the pavements in Lewes town’s conservation area will be made with a single use bituminous macadam, except for the High Street from Cliffe Bridge to Irelands Lane, where the present paving slabs and brick paviors would be reinstated.

The result of this proposal would mean pavements outside of this designated area could look like this permanently:

Pavement repair, Lewes High Street

The Friends of Lewes Executive Committee objects to the proposals which we feel would be detrimental to the character of the historic core of the town of Lewes. We intend to set up a small working group within the Friends of Lewes to clarify the County Council proposals and better understand the consequences, particularly on streets where enhancement works have been undertaken.

If there are FoL Members willing to assist with this work or help identify streets and twittens that should be subject to special protection, please get in touch.

See the full report