The ancient town of Lewes is now a bustling county town in East Sussex. Believed to be settled in prehistoric times, there is evidence that the Romans and Saxons were here as well. Today the town is known for its many landmarks and bonfire.
The most popular thing about this town is the bonfire. Held annually on November 5th, the Bonfire Night is known by a couple of names, Lewes Bonfire and Guy Fawkes Night. This bonfire celebrates the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This is when Guy Fawkes and his conspirators piled hundreds of barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords with the intent to blow them up. Many years later the stopping of the Gunpowder Plot was declared a national holiday. Originally the bonfires weren't carried out with any sort of planning or even annually. These events were more riotous than actual celebrations. They were banned for a short time by Oliver Cromwell but were reinstituted by King Charles II. Their popularity waned for years until several societies began popping up in the mid 1800s.
One of the most historical buildings in Lewes is the castle. The original castle, built by William de Warenne in 1087, was made of wood and later replaced by stone. It is a unique castle in that it has two mottes that were constructed first before the castle was constructed. Today visitors can tour the castle and get a feel for what it was like to live during that era. Tickets for the castle are actually sold in the Barbican house located across the street and include admission to the Town Model and Museum of Sussex Archeology, both of which are located on the castle grounds.
Lewes Priory is another popular stop. Officially known as the Priory of St Pancras it is the first Cluniac House in England. The Priory was also home to one of the largest monastic churches in the country. Built in 1081, the Priory was also founded by William de Warenne, the priory was in use until 1537 when it was surrendered to the crown. Thomas Cromwell, the King's secretary ordered the destruction of the priory during that time. Today visitors can view the ruined remains of this once great building.
The Wealden Hall House, also known in Lewes as the Anne of Cleves House, is a medieval timeber-framed house found in this area of England. It is actually found mainly in Kent but this particular house is of particular interest because of its history. It was the house given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from King Henry VIII. Even though she never actually set foot in the property it is now a museum of Sussex artifacts and interests.
Not open to visitors but still of interest for many is the Round House. Located in a secluded windmill in Pipe Passage, The Round House was once owned by Virginia Woolf. Literary buffs can enjoy viewing the former windmill in passing to see where Ms. Woolf spent her days.
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