Back to Sussex


The history of Lewes goes back a very long way.  Archaeologists have uncovered much evidence from historic people who settled here.  The Romans also left their mark, as did the Saxons, who built a large castle, spanning two manmade hills, or mottes.  The remains of the current castle were built by the Normans, who took over the town after the famous invasion in 1066.

The town has witnessed a number of tragedies over the years, including the Battle of Lewes in 1264, the burning of 17 protestant Martyrs during the  Marian Persecutions of 1555-1557, and an earthquake in 1864.  The town was also host to the worst ever recorded avalanche in England.  This tragedy happened after a huge amount of snowfall on the nearby cliffs gave way, and it buried a number of cottages. Eight people died as a result.

The most recent tragedy to hit the town was the flood in the year 2000.  A  continuous wet spell in that year brought flooding to many parts of the UK, but no place in the UK was as badly affected as Lewes. 

The town is probably most famous for the annual Bonfire event on the 5th of November. Like other towns, the Lewes Bonfire remembers marks  Gunpowder Plot of 1605, but it also remembers the 17 Protestant martyrs, who were burnt at the stake in the town.  The highlight of the Lewes Bonfire is a procession through the small streets of the town, with several torches providing an incredible spectacle.