Alice Dudeney’s house up for sale in Lewes

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AN HISTORIC house with strong literary connections is on the market in Lewes.

The Old Poorhouse was bought by the prolific novelist Alice Dudeney in 1928.

The author of nearly 50 books, she enjoyed considerable fame in the early years of the 20th century but was then largely forgotten.

She came to prominence again in 1998 with the publication of A Lewes Diary 1916-1944, edited by Diana Crook.

It offered a fascinating glimpse of the county town during those years, enhanced by Alice’s candid and often scathing comments on local residents.

Her marriage to Henry (Ernest) Dudeney – the writer of mathematical puzzle books – is of particular interest. The relationship swings from vicious arguments and cold rages to considerable affection.

On November 26, 1924, Alice recorded: “At lunch no Ernest. I waited till half past one, worried myself into a fit of acute indigestion, kept looking out the window for an ambulance; actually (how mad it seems!) went to the outside lavatory to see if he had hanged himself. Then remembered that he had said he was going to Brighton.”

Alice bought several properties in Lewes and the diary always speaks of her money, her lawyer, her agent.

She acquired The Old Poorhouse, in Castle Banks, in the Twenties and converted it into a dwelling. The transaction was recorded in the diary.

It was built in 1633 by the Church of St John sub Castro as an almshouse for the needy.

The Grade II listed four-bedroom property is on the market for £750,000 with Lewes Estates. Call 01273 477377 for more information.

Alice Dudeney left her diaries to the Sussex Archaeological Society with the proviso that they not be opened for 25 years after her death.

However, it was thought that, even then, what she had written still had the capacity to hurt people living in Lewes so the Society closed them again until 2000. The ban was relaxed two years before that date.

While caustic and catty, she could also be funny.

October 13, 1938: “I bought myself a 6d Penguin book to read. Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. Filthy and blasphemous. Shall burn it (but finish reading it first!)”