What to see

Historic Lewes Castle

Historic Lewes

Historic Lewes which began life as a Saxon village back in the 5th century teems with interesting relics including Lewes Castle, built by the Normans after their conquest in 1066 and the ruins of the Priory of St. Pancras, also founded by the Normans. (Click image for more information). Now a museum, the house of Anne of Cleves, 4th wife of King Henry VIII is another historic landmark. Lewes’ Medieval streets nestle beautifully among the surrounding green hillsides, and whilst exploring its ancient buildings and twittens (one-person wide lanes) you’ll come by independent galleries, artist studios and lots of small individually-owned shops you won’t find anywhere else. The Bloomsbury Group laid down roots near Lewes at Charleston, home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, while Virginia Woolf wrote several books at her summer retreat, Monk’s Cottage. There are many other things to do and see during your visit, such as:

  1. Glyndebourne. The world-famous opera house launched in 1934 by land-owner and opera-lover, John Christie & his wife Audrey Mildmay. This year's festival opens on 18th May with Le damnation de Faust by Hector Berlioz. For details of other performances, visit the website glyndebourne.com
  2. The South Downs. Lewes rests between the South Downs which roughly run from Winchester to Eastbourne. This region became the UK’s newest national park in 2011. 
  3. Southover Grange. Just seconds away from Lewes Station, Southover Grange was built in the 1570s using ashlar stone from the recently dissolved Lewes Priory. The house was visited by the Prince Regent in the 1790s when he came for the Lewes Races.
  4. Monk's House. In the village of Rodmell, three miles south of Lewes is the 17th-century weatherboard cottage owned by Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard as a country retreat. They purchased Monk’s House in 1919 and while staying here entertained luminaries from the Bloomsbury Group like E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry. 
  5. Barbican House Museum. The official name for this attraction is the Museum of Sussex Archaeology and there’s a spectrum of artefacts to view from the Stone Age to Medieval times. Among the finds are flint tools, pieces of pottery, jewellery and weapons. 
  6. Bentley Wildfowl & Motor Museum. A day out tor the whole family, this museum combines classic cars with a wildfowl collection in opulent formal gardens. 
  7. Needlemakers. Once a factory that manufactured candles before switching to hypodermic needles during the First World War. Today the brick building in the town centre on West Street has been taken over by a set of one-of-a-kind shops and craft studios. 
  8. Harvey's Brewery. Established in 1790, Harvey’s Brewery makes traditional English cask ales that are sold across the South East of England.

The Priory of St. Pancras in Lewes

The Priory of St. Pancras

Founded around 1081, the Priory of St. Pancras was a Cluniac priory and the first Cluniac house in England. (Click image for more information)

Anne of Cleves Tudor House. Fourth wife of Henry VIII

Anne of Cleves Tudor House

Visit the museum at the timber-framed Wealden hall house once owned by Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. (Click image for more information)