Lewes is an ancient market town of steep narrow streets, lined with fine buildings of all periods from half-timbered Tudor, to traditional Sussex brick and flint dwellings. An important place since Saxon times, it was the capital of all Sussex until the county was divided into East and West Sussex in 1974. It is now just the county town of East Sussex.

Lewes High Street
Lewes High Street © Travel About Britain

Lewes retains much of its original character. The steep streets of the old town are linked by narrow passageways called 'twittens'. The High Street has many fine Georgian houses and some much older, faced with mathematical tiles giving the impression of brick frontages. One of the most interesting building on the High Street is the 15th-c Old Bull Inn. Currently a restaurant, it was once the lodgings of the pro-revolutionary author Thomas Paine.

Lewes Barbican

Lewes Barbican Gate © TAB

The shopping centre has a good selection of antique shops and bookshops, plus a number of arts and crafts workshops, and many small independent retailers. There is a surprising number of eateries, catering for all tastes, with restaurants, cafes and pubs offering delicious local produce.

The ruins of a Norman castle, which dominates the town to the west, is reached through an a massive outer gatehouse or barbican. The castle and grounds are open to the public and well worth a visit. Opposite the castle is Barbican House, a handsome 16th-c timber-framed building, which is now an archaeological museum displaying a wide range exhibits and local artifacts from prehistoric times to the 19th-c.

The Battle of Lewes (14 May 1264), was fought on the Downs just east the town, where Simon de
Montfort and his barons defeated Henry III. The king's ensuing terms of peace are now considered to be the beginnings of English parliamentary government.

Lewes is the scene of spectacular festivities on November 5th, when bonfires roar and an effigy of the pope is burned, in commemoration of several Sussex Protestants burnt as heretics by Queen Mary I in 1555.

Places of Interest to Visit in Lewes

Anne of Cleves House

A large 16th-c Tudor property given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII, following their divorce in 1540. Now a local history museum, it has displays covering local arts and crafts and farming.

Opening times: Feb to Nov, daily from 10am - Admission Charge
Location: 52 Southover High St, Lewes BN7 1JA
Tel: 01273 474610
Website: sussexpast.co.uk

Barbican Museum

Barbican House Museum

The fine Elizabethan house opposite the castle, which is host to a museum covering archaeology, prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and medieval periods. A collection of local paintings and prints are also on display.

Opening times: daily (exc. Jan) - Admission Charge
Location: Bull House, 92 High St, Lewes BN7 1XH
Tel: 01273 486290
Website: sussexpast.co.uk

Lewes Castle

The ruined Norman castle, built on two artificial mounds near the centre of Lewes, has commanding views across the town and surrounding countryside. Originally built as a wooden palisade by William de Warenne in 1069, it was rebuilt in stone towards the end of the 11th-c. The remains of the keep date from the 13th/15th century, with much restoration and additions in the 19th-c.

Opening times: daily (exc. Jan) - Admission Charge
Location: Bull House, 92 High St, Lewes BN7 1XH
Tel: 01273 486290
Website: sussexpast.co.uk

Lewes Priory

To the south of the town at Southover stand the crumbling remains of a medieval priory, founded by William de Warenne (brother-in-law to William the Conqueror). The nearby 16th-c Southover Grange, set in delightful public gardens, was the boyhood home of the diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706)

Opening times: Any reasonable time - Free Entry

Map of Lewes

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Towns and Villages in Sussex

Arundel, Battle, Brighton, Bosham, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Haywards Heath Horsham, Lewes, Rye, Shoreham-by-Sea, Worthing

Attractions in Sussex


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