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Looking back: Quirky Lewes, a town which is steeped in rich history
7:00pm Wednesday 10th July 2013 in News
With its blend of historic architecture, its labyrinth of twittens and charming high street, the town of Lewes is steeped in rich history.
But from exploding parking meters to secret schoolboy gamblers, some events in quirky Lewes have been left out of the history books.
For example, postwar Lewes found itself in a midst of a housing crisis, with council tenants constantly at risk of increased rents.
Town council meetings were filled with strife as they struggled to solve the issue.
However, a solution actually came from the most humble of places.
On October 8, 1953, in the midst of a fierce debate, a shy Lewes tenant came forth to voluntarily increase his own rent by an extra 2 shillings and 2 pence.
The act of selflessness encouraged 30 more residents to do the same and prompted praise and admiration.
“It is a very welcome sign” an Argus reporter commented, “that the grand spirit of independence has not entirely succumbed to the more modern habit of taking as much as possible for nothing.”
The town’s own spirit of altruism did not stop there and often it was combined with a sense of solidarity.
In 1953, the schoolboys of Lewes County Grammar school campaigned for the building of a school chapel, and decided to get their hands dirty by mixing the mortar themselves.
The boys of Lewes Grammar were given an added blessing in 1967, when they were visited by pop sensation Cliff Richard.
To a hall of starry-eyed sixth formers, the youngmusician answered questions on the pop scene, showbusiness, and his interest in religion.
Cliff told the sixth formers: “My advice to youth is that they should work out their problems through the Bible.”
Schoolboys of Lewes Priory School were less than saintly, however, when in 1978 staff interrupted secret gambling sessions on the school grounds, with stakes up to £10 were reportedly wagered.
More recently, locals were surprised to find another long-lost resident.
Excavators uncovered the remains of a medieval male on the grounds of the medieval hospital of St Nicholas at Spital Lane.
The male, who suffered from a severe spinal deformity, was buried in a coffin with his head supported by two chalk blocks.
And in the last decade, Lewes became a graveyard for the humble parking meter.
In October last year, police offered a £1,250 reward for information after two parking meters were blown up by fireworks.
Ticket inspectors discovered the mangled machines in Phoenix Place and another in Friars Walk, in Lewes.
Officers said they were damaged after fireworks were jammed in the coin slots before being set alight.
More than 200 parking meters have been attacked since they were introduced in 2004.
ON THIS DAY
1212: The most severe of several early fires of London burns most of the city to the ground 1938 Howard Hughes sets a new record by completing a 91-hour airplane flight around the world.
1978: World News Tonight premieres on ABC.
1992: In Miami, Florida, the former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug and racketeering violations.
1997: In London scientists report the findings of the DNA analysis of a Neanderthal skeleton which supports the “out of Africa theory” of human evolution placing an “African Eve”at 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
The Argus’ popular “Looking Back” feature has been compiled into an A4, soft back book which catalogues the events that have made their mark on the people of Sussex. The fascinating archive of “Looking Back” images dates back to the 1930s when The Argus first started to print photographs. The book costs £6.99 including postage and packing. To order please visit theargus.co.uk/store
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