Did you or someone you know used to work in one of Lewes’s many breweries? Do you remember beer deliveries, or the smell of brewing wafting through the streets? Perhaps you went on hop-picking holidays? If so, new heritage project Ale & Hearty wants to hear from you.
Over the next 12 months, arts and heritage organisation Strike A Light will be digging deeper into Lewes’s rich brewing history.
Boosted by a thriving agricultural trade, the town at one stage boasted nine breweries, including Southdown, Lyells, Beards, Verralls, Ballards and of course Harvey’s, the town’s longest-standing brewery.
Although most are long gone, the buildings in which they were founded remain, while many of the pubs and inns of that time – from the White Hart to the Lewes Arms – are still beloved today.
“Lewes was built on brewing,”
says Strike A Light’s Nicola Benge, “You only have to look around the town at buildings named The Maltings or The Old Brewhouse to see evidence of it. It’s a very big heritage but I don’t know how many people are aware of it.”
The project, funded by a £36,600 Heritage Lottery grant, will see local people interviewed about their memories of all aspects of the Lewes brewing trade, photographs collected to form a visual archive and exhibition, and various free reminiscence sessions where people can share their recollections.
“There is a lot of archive information on this topic but it’s rather dry and disparate,”
says Benge. “We want to build a dedicated resource.”
The increased funding for local history projects like this reflects what Benge describes as the democratisation of history.
“There’s been a change in the way history is gathered and now the everyman’s story is seen as being as important as that of kings and queens and prime ministers. There’s a lot of interest in collecting stories directly from the people who remember them.”
To volunteer as an interviewer – or to put yourself forward to be interviewed – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A monthly collection will take place in Lewes Library where people can lend or donate relevant photographs.
l For full details of the project, visit www.strikealight.org.
Elsewhere, Screen South East’s Movies & Memories project is using archive film to encourage reminiscences about life in Worthing, Shoreham, Littlehampton and Bognor Regis.
A team of volunteers are in the process of documenting the memories of elderly people in the four towns but they are still looking for more to come forward to be interviewed.
Those with strong memories of life in those towns from the 1930s to the 1970s are invited to take part in interactive film screenings, local history workshops, archive open days and interviews.
Extracts from the interviews will be combined with the films to create a DVD to be released this summer.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery, project officer Sara Who says, “The focus is on the older generation who have a strong connection with the region’s past and whose memories are at risk of disappearing if not shared and recorded now. We’d love to hear from anyone who would like to share their recollections of life in these towns.”
For more details or to view the archive film clips, visit brighton.ac.uk/screenarchive/ moviesandmemories.
*If you would like to participate, email community project officers Gillian Edom and Sara Duffy at moviesandmemories@gmail.
com or call 01273 643214.