Discover the history of Lewes’ pubs

The White Hart in Lewes where Thomas Paine developed his radical ideas with the Headstrong Club.
The White Hart in Lewes where Thomas Paine developed his radical ideas with the Headstrong Club.

Did you know the founder of American democracy Thomas Paine used to frequent The White Hart in Lewes?

Or that The Lamb in Fisher Street is said to have sheltered refugees from the French Revolution?

These are just some of the fascinating facts you could learn on a guided walk on Bank Holiday Monday in Lewes with historian Malcolm Campbell.

He said: “The county town of Lewes had some 70 drinking establishments at one time or another, about a quarter of which survive today – a greater number than of other towns of its size.

“These range from historic coaching inns to small 19th century beer houses.

“Two of the principal inns identified as far back as 1769 - The Crown and The White Hart are still in business today.”

The White Hart Hotel is an historic coaching Inn with Tudor origins.

The celebrated 18th century chef William Verrall, owned the hotel from 1737 to 1760. His recipe book remains in print today.And Thomas Paine’s radical policies, which inspired the American Declaration of Independence, would have been formed here.

The Headstrong Club which he started, met regularly in the hotel’s Sheriff Room and Tudor Room. This was a debating club based in Lewes.

The Assizes courts helped attract business to the inns, with those involved in the trials needing accommodation and food.

On livestock market days, drovers and cattlemen were the main clientele.

Malcolm said the landlord of The Crown would summon the drovers and cattlemen to their midday meal by ringing a large hand bell in his doorway.

The Crown at the top of School Hill was built in the reign of King Charles I.

The first reference to the pub was as the Black Lyon in 1638 when Henry Townsend was its landlord.

In 1790 Joseph Spittle changed the name to the Crown Inn.

And it even had a royal visitor. When he was staying at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton William VI visited the inn.

The cellar of the former Star Inn housed the Protestant Martyrs on the night before they were burned at the stake in the 1550s.

Today the Star Inn is used as the Town Hall but the original building dates back to the 14th century.

Some of the smaller pubs, long closed, have been turned into homes.

The walk can be joined at 11am outside Lewes Library in Styles Field. Tickets £7.

Reservations are not required. The walk will last an 1 hour and 30 minutes. Dogs are permitted on short leads.