Event to mark the 250th anniversary of the year Thomas Paine rode into Lewes – Tuesday 30 October 2018, 6pm

A triple bill in the Depot cinema in Lewes – FREE TO ALL!

The Melvyn Bragg documentary Radical Lives – ‘Rights of Man: Thomas Paine’
(Runtime one hour)

Paine wrote three of the bestselling political essays of all time: Common Sense, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. His books changed the world and helped shape modern democracy. He lit the fuse for the American Revolution, was an active participant in the French Revolution and laid the foundation for political reform in Britain.

Melvyn Bragg travels from Norfolk to Philadelphia, New York and Paris as he follows in the footsteps of one of the great champions of democracy and human rights – Thomas Paine. Along the way, he shows how the freedoms we all now enjoy grew out of 18th-century Enlightenment thinking and were given popular voice in the works of Thomas Paine.

Melvyn visited Lewes and found out about Paine’s first writing ‘The Case of The Officers of Excise’ penned while Paine lived in Lewes 1768-1774. This features in this excellent documentary which was only screened twice on BBC 2 on prime time. Bragg managed to get the whole of Paine’s life into 60 minutes, and did it very well indeed!

The Case of The Officers of Excise: directed  by Mick Hawksworth produced by Artemis Arts
Runtime 20 mins

Mick Hawksworth was asked to produce a film about Paine in Lewes as a part of The Thomas Paine in Lewes festival. Mick is an accomplished director who has worked at the highest level for ITV and Channel 4 news. Previously Mick has directed and produced two documentaries for Lewes about Rodin and Caro, both screen nationwide.

Many Lewes characters were recruited to act in the film, some seasoned actors for Lewes Theatre Club including  Miles Jenner, Simon Hellyer and Roger Murray and others who showed their talents: Julian Bell, Adam Frost, Dave Hobson and Merlin Milner to name but a few.

Mick wrote the screenplay based on Thomas Paine in Lewes 1878-1774: A Prelude to American Independence by  Colin Brent Deborah Gage and Paul Myles. It was shot in Lewes over one weekend and to date has had one screening in a Lewes cinema. This is a rare outing for this still relevant film.

Thomas Paine: The Case of The Officers of Excise by Paul Myles
A short talk with Q&A

An introduction to the publication of Paul Myles’s latest book, showing the events that led to Paine being plucked out of obscurity to pen his first national document, here in Lewes.

Paul will show the documents that lay hidden in the Treasury Boxes in the National Archives – the missing signatures. This tells a different story about Thomas Paine, about how he was trying to make things better in the United Kingdom with the help of some friends in very high places.

A quote from Professor Richard Whatmore of the University of St Andrews (History and Intellectual History) about Paul’s book:

“This original and scholarly work explains the rise of Thomas Paine, who was chosen by a Commissioner of Excise, George Lewis Scott, to write The Case of the Officers of Excise, a work which identified and condemned the deep corruption within the English excise service, and called for the organization of workers to improve their pay and conditions. The origins of Paine’s links with figures such as Benjamin Franklin, so important when Paine moved to North America, is thereby explained”

The book is due to published early next year, and this is a peek preview of the story that emerged from the finding of these documents.

Venue: The Depot, Pinwell Rd, Lewes BN7 2JS
Entry: free, but please obtain tickets from The Depot, online or phone 01273 525354


Thomas Paine, copy by Auguste Millière after an engraving by William Sharp after George Romney oil on canvas c. 1876-1792


Supported by Lewes Town Council and The Depot cinema, Lewes and The Thomas Paine Society UK





Women’s Suffrage in Lewes: Friends of Lewes talk – Wednesday 24th October 2018 from 7.45pm

Frances Stenlake: Women’s Suffrage Campaigning in Lewes

This year is the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act and of the general election in which some women were able to vote for the first time, along with millions more men.

Author and local historian Frances Stenlake recounts the story of women’s suffrage in Lewes.

Women's vote - Stenlake talk to the Friends of Lewes

7.45pm Lecture Room, Lewes Town Hall (Fisher Street entrance)

Open to all – admission free to Friends of Lewes members, £3 for non-members

Wine and juice can be purchased in the interval

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

We appreciate your feedback or suggestions regarding our events programme. Please use this form to convey your comments. You can also contact us by email if you have an enquiry.




Friends of Lewes new season of talks, 2018-2019

The new season of events begins with the Lewes Heritage Open Days from Thursday to Sunday 6th – 9th September 2018, organised by the Friends of Lewes.

Saving Fitzroy House, Lewes“Saving Fitzroy House” is the subject of a talk by Eleanor Austin and Marcus Taylor on September 13th. This event will be at Trinity Church, Southover, at 7:45pm. (right)

In the centenary year of the Representation of the People Act 1918, Frances Stenlake will speak on “Women’s Suffrage in Lewes” on October 24th, at 7:45pm in the Town Hall Lecture Room.

On January 17th  Norman Baker, our former MP, will give a personal view of our town, “Lewes Looking Back and Looking Forward”, 7:45pm in the Town Hall lecture Room.

Provisional: February 13th will see an eco-themed evening with a number of speakers on themes including Litter-free Lewes, local water quality, and an update on our recent tree survey as part of the Urban Arboretum project. More details of this will be available later in the year.

Further events will be announced in due course.

See the Friends of Lewes Diary of Events for details




The history of Pipe Passage explained

The pedestrian way that leaves the upper High Street beside the Freemasons Hall and connects to New Road is Pipe Passage – and its history is now explained in an information board, recently put up by the Friends of Lewes.

For most of Queen Victoria’s reign clay pipes were made and fired in a large kiln on the western side. Though only part of the remains of this is now visible, the board explains the manufacturing process through text, illustration and photographs.

Pipe Kiln in Pipe Passage, Lewes - information board
Information board put up by the Friends of Lewes

The story behind the names of other streets in Lewes is fascinating too and can be followed in the revised edition of The Street Names of Lewes, published by Friends of Lewes and available from the Tourist information Office.





The Friends of Lewes Society’s comments in response to the formal consultation on the submitted Lewes Neighbourhood Development Plan, July 2018

The South Downs National Park Authority published the submitted Lewes Neighbourhood Development Plan for public consultation which ran from 11th to 23rd July 2018.

The plan contains planning policies on Housing, including allocations for at least 220 new homes in Lewes, as well as policies on Low Cost Housing, Ecosystems Services, Heritage, the Environment, Sustainability, Design, Working & Shopping, Getting Around and Local Green Spaces. Once adopted, these policies will be used to determine planning applications locally along with the South Downs Local Plan.

The Friends of Lewes Society’s comments in response to the formal consultation on the Submission Lewes Neighbourhood Development Plan, July 2018 [pdf 122kb]

Lewes Submission Neighbourhood Plan June 2018 cover

Further information on the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan is available from the lewes4all.uk website

Friends of Lewes responses to consultations




New book on the Lewes Town Hall Pictures

Sarah Bayliss: The Lewes Town Hall Pictures: Stories behind our paintings

Three significant paintings from Lewes Town Hall: ‘The Visit of William IV’, ‘The Protestant Reformers’ and ‘The Battle of Lewes’, have been restored by the The Hamilton Kerr Institute, part of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge.

These paintings  relate specifically to important historic events that helped shape the cultural identity of Lewes.

Lewes Town Council has published a book putting these 3 paintings in the context of more than 30 others which make up the Town Hall’s collection. Researched and written by Sarah Bayliss, this book was designed by Mick Hawksworth, with photography by Tom Reeves of Edward Reeves Photography.

The book is available from Lewes Town Hall for a voluntary contribution.

Bayliss - Lewes Town Hall Pictures