DAVID ARNOLD - When Charlie Watts drummed up a fiver

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts

“The Police in Lewes” published in 2004 is a fascinating little tome containing memories and reminiscences of county town law enforcement officers who served in the period from the late 1940s through to the 1970s.

That all the contributors were obviously retired gave them a lot of leeway in what they could say. Here’s a bit of gossip concerning a Rolling Stone: “A member of an internationally acclaimed rock group, who for a number of years in the Sixties lived in Southover High Street at the junction with Winterbourne Hollow, came to Lewes Police Station wanting a firearms certificate for a gun. He was handed an application form to fill in and was told it would cost him five shillings. Charlie’s jaw dropped and he said, ‘I knew this sort of thing went on in the Met, but I didn’t know you were at it down here!’ He then dug into his pocket and produced the required fee. Thinking about it, a bribe of five shillings was not a very large sum for which to risk a career.”

The photograph of Charlie Watts reproduced here may well have been taken in the town as the flint and brick wall in the background looks very Lewesian. It was ironic that the drummer chose to live in Lewes given that the leader of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, also once came to stay here – but in entirely different circumstances. In June 1967 Jagger spent a night in Lewes Prison after being found guilty of a drugs offence. He should have served three months but was released after just one day partly because of a leading article in The Times that was headlined “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?”