See A. T. Kitchel, George Lewes and George Eliot (1933); H. G. Tjoa, George Henry Lewes: A Victorian Mind (1977).
Town (pop., 2001: 15,988), Lewes district (pop., 2001: 92,187), administrative county of East Sussex, historic county of Sussex, England. It lies on the River Ouse 6 mi (10 km) north of the English Channel. In 1264 Simon de Montfort vanquished Henry III at the Battle of Lewes. Historic sites include the ruins of an 11th-century castle and the 16th-century Barbican House (home of Anne of Cleves). An administrative centre, Lewes has some light industry. Glyndebourne, a renowned opera centre, is nearby.
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Lewes (Lewis) is the county town of East Sussex, England and gives its name to the Local government district in which it lies. The settlement has a long history as a bridging point and as a market town, and is today an important communications hub, and tourist-orientated town.
The town was the site of the Battle of Lewes in the Second Barons’ War in 1264. At the time of the Marian Persecutions of 1555–1557 Lewes was to witness the deaths of seventeen Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake in the town.
Lewes is also the seat of two other local government administrations. The East Sussex County Council offices are located at County Hall in St Anne’s Crescent; and Lewes District Council, second tier of local government, is administered from offices in the High Street
The current Member of Parliament for the Lewes constituency is Norman Baker, who won the seat in the United Kingdom general election, 1997. Norman Baker was re-elected in May 2005 and was Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, until his resignation from the post following the election of Sir Menzies Campbell to the post of party leader.
|Theft of a motor vehicle||1.67||4.04|
|Theft from a motor vehicle||4.59||9.56|
|Violence against a person||16.75||19.97|
Lewes is situated in a gap in the South Downs, cut through by the River Ouse, and near its confluence with the Winterbourne Stream. It is approximately seven miles NNW of Newhaven, and an equal distance north-east of Brighton.
The South Downs rise above the river on both banks. The High Street, and the original town, occupies the right bank, climbing steeply up from the bridge; the summit on that side, 2.5 miles (4 km) distant is known as Mount Harry. On the left bank there is a large chalk cliff (Cliffe Hill) that can be seen for many miles.
The latter gives its name to the one-time village of Cliffe, now part of the town. The southern part of the town, Southover, came into being adjacent to the Priory, south of the Winterbourne Stream. The town boundaries were enlarged twice: in 1881 and 1934, and now include the more modern housing estates of Wallands, Malling Hill, Neville and on the Kingston road
The Greenwich Meridian runs through the western part of Lewes.
In October 2000 the town suffered major flooding during an intense period of severe weather throughout the United Kingdom. . The commercial centre of the town and many residential areas were devastated. In a government report into the nationwide flooding, Lewes was officially noted the most severely affected location. As a result of the devastation caused Lewes Flood Action, a pressure group, is in existence to press for better flood protection measures.
The town's most important annual event is Lewes Bonfire - Guy Fawkes Night celebrations on the 5th of November. In Lewes this event not only marks the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, but also commemorates the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs.
The current celebrations take the form of a series of torchlit processions through the town. The event is organised by the local bonfire societies, under the auspices of the Lewes Bonfire Council. Lewes itself currently has seven bonfire societies (Nevill Juveniles is a children's society and holds its celebrations a week or two before 5th November; Southover, which disbanded in 1985, reformed in 2005) and a number of nearby towns have their own bonfire societies. The other five local bonfire societies from the town (Cliffe, Borough, Commercial Square, South Street and Waterloo) each proceed on their own route accompanied by a number of other societies from the neighbouring towns.
Each bonfire society has its own traditional costumes (ranging from Tudor dress to Mongol warriors). A number of large effigies are drawn though the streets. Effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V, who became head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1605, feature every year. In addition, each of the five main local societies creates a topical "tableau" (usually, but not always, representing a human figure or figures), and the Cliffe society displays on pikes the heads (also in effigy) of its current "Enemies of Bonfire", who range from nationally reviled figures to local officials who have attempted to place restrictions on the event. Restrictions are generally ignored by the Societies.
In 2001 an effigy of Osama bin Laden ensured that the annual event received more press attention than usual (it featured on the front page of some national newspapers) as did the Firle Bonfire Society's 2003 choice of a gypsy caravan. To mark the demise of the 17 martyrs, 17 burning crosses are carried through the town, and a wreath-laying ceremony occurs at the War Memorial in the centre of town. A flaming tar barrel is also thrown into the river Ouse; this is said to symbolise the throwing of the magistrates into the river after they read the Riot Act to the bonfire boys in 1847, but may also be an echo of Samhain traditions. The festivities culminate in five separate bonfire displays, where the effigies are destroyed by firework and flame. Up to 80,000 people have been known to attend this local spectacle, coming from all over the South and sometimes further afield.
From 1794 beers, wines and spirits were distributed from Lewes under the Harveys name, and the town is today the site of Harveys brewery.
In September 2008, Lewes launched its own currency, the Lewes Pound, in an effort to increase trade within the town. One Lewes Pound is equal to £1. Like the similar currency in Totnes, the initiative is part of the Transition Towns movement.
Lewes, from its inception, has been an important transport hub. Its site as a bridging point was probably originally a ford: today the main routes avoid the town centre. The A27 trunk road taking traffic along the south coast between Eastbourne and Southampton passes to the south of the town. The A26 from Maidstone to Newhaven; and the A275 (the London road) both come in from the north. The Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company serve the town. Lewes railway station was originally the junction for six routes. Today the two erstwhile country routes to the north are both closed at the Lewes end; but the East Coastway Line, connecting London with Eastbourne and Hastings, and the two branches to Brighton and Seaford remain.
Bright 106.4 FM radio station broadcasts to the Lewes area. The local newspaper is the Sussex Express; the Lewes Forum is a website dedicated to "news from the county town of East Sussex".; and Viva Lewes is a "What's On" web magazine with a similar purpose.
Lewes is also the headquarters of the Sussex Archaeological Society.
The 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. During the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland several prominent figures involved in it were in Lewes Prison, including Eamon de Valera (1882–1975); Thomas Ashe (1885–1917); Frank Lawless (1871–1922); and Harry Boland (1887–1922). Others have included George Witton (1864–1902) involved in shooting prisoners during the Boer War.
Lewes assizes have seen many important trials. In 1949 serial killer John George Haigh was sentenced to death. In 1956 suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams had his committal hearing in Lewes before being sent to the Old Bailey, London for trial. He was subsequently tried and convicted in Lewes in 1957 for fraud, lying on cremation forms and obstructing a police search. An early case was that of Percy Lefroy Mapleton (1860–1881) hanged for murder and the subject of the first composite picture on a wanted poster.