Lewes House to be used as art centre

James Page and Paul Myles outside Lewes House - Soon to become a history exhibition space.
James Page and Paul Myles outside Lewes House - Soon to become a history exhibition space.

Historic Lewes House is taking on a new lease of life ... as a centre for the Arts.

Now that the School Hill premises has been vacated by Lewes District Council staff, the building will be put to good use in an imaginative and exciting way.

Local academic Paul Myles has been asked to pull together creative and innovative ideas that will tell some of the stories of the area and its wealth of characters through the work of local artists and through exhibitions.

The invitation has come from Cllr James Page, Leader of the district council, who said: “This opportunity for the temporary use of some of the iconic ground floor rooms of Lewes House has come about as the majority of staff have moved to our new customer-friendly newly refurbished offices in Southover House.

“I know that Paul Myles has a wealth of experience and a proven track record for successful exhibitions and is keen to work with us on a rolling programme over the coming months.”

While the first and second floor rooms are being used by local groups such as Future Gov and others there is the opportunity for the ground floor rooms to be used in a whole new way. Volunteer Mr Myles was the Lead Director of the Auguste Rodin, Anthony Caro, Henry Moore and David Nash Exhibitions locally, and the Thomas Paine Festival.

He said the principal rooms will be prepared to mount the story of Lewes House and its inhabitants, including eccentric collector Edward Perry Warren and the Brotherhood, and also the unique heritage of Lewes Bonfire.

The building will host an exhibition featuring new research which shows how writer and revolutionary Thomas Paine was prepared in Lewes to change the world as a Founding Father of the United States of America.

“It is planned to be flexible,” said Mr Myles. “There are many stories to be told – the Phoenix Ironworks, Baxter’s Printworks, Peggy Angus and the profound effect she had on the cultural life of Lewes, and much more.”

He said volunteers would be needed to make the initiative a success. They will be organised by John Lawrence – contact him at john3a@talktalk.net or post you details through the letterbox at Lewes House. Community involvement and the memories of local people is also important.

To start the ball rolling there will be a series of pop-up Christmas lectures about Georgian life in Lewes, and lively tales from the 18th century Sussex Weekly Advertiser and Lewes Journal.

Some stunning 1930s images of Sussex will herald the revival of Lewes House as a centre for the Arts. The colour woodcuts of Eric Slater feature the landscape around Lewes and were considered an ideal first show for the former council offices. The exhibition will run through most of December.

The artist, who lived in Seaford, died in obscurity in 1963 after enjoying an international reputation between the wars.

On the 50th anniversary of his death, interest in his work has been re-awakened by the publication of a book called ‘Slater’s Sussex’ and a recent appraisal of his woodcuts on the Antiques Roadshow. Slater’s biographer James Trollope said: “I’m thrilled that his prints of Sussex are delighting a new generation.”