Lewes - the town with a leading role in cinema

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Lewes has provided the backdrop to a number of feature films down the years – usually with an horrific or murderous theme.

None more so than Spring Heeled Jack (2008) where the chilling bogeyman in black of the Victorian era – reputed to breathe flames and capable of prodigious bounds – resurfaces in the 21st century to continue a killing spree.

Director William Honeyball chose the peaceful streets of the county town as the unlikely setting for his low-budget but successful horror.

Sam Walker (played by Matthew Butler) and his friends found themselves the target of Spring-Heeled Jack upon his sudden return. After several deaths, Sam had to turn to a mysterious immortal woman for help as he discovered why he had been chosen by the supernatural killer.

More than 40 years earlier there had been Jigsaw (1962), a Brighton-based murder thriller starring Jack Warner of Dixon of Dock Green fame which featured scenes shot at Lewes Railway Station.

The Bonfire Night celebrations and witchcraft – a heady combination – were the theme of the strangely titled Home Sweet Home – The Bold Fisherman ((1991) which starred John Wells. The Long Man of Wilmington appeared in a dream sequence.

More recently, the EE (Everything Everywhere) Network Service last year used Hollywood star Kevin Bacon in its advertisement campaign filmed locally. The Barbican House Museum was one of the locations used.

Lewes’s role in the cinema is part of a fascinating new book entitled Sussex on Screen, A Guide to Filming in the County. Local author Daryl Burchmore has compiled thousands of films, television programmes, pop videos and commercials that were made in Sussex between 1896 and 2012.

He lists them in alphabetical order in his forthcoming publication – and it’s surprising how even the most obscure corners of our county have found their way on to the big screen.

Daryl also includes a fascinating fund of trivia. In the case of Lewes, two local men became involved in films. John Dartnell had only been acting for two years when he landed a part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets because of his long beard! Andy Prior, also from the town, had a major starring role in Left For Dead due to his martial arts skills.

Hilda Wright, the creator of children’s favourite Bill and Ben – The Flowerpot Men, died in the town in 2002 at the age of 88.

Sussex on Screen is published by Pen Press, an imprint of Indepenpress Publishing Ltd. Copies will be available on Amazon, or call 01323 410085.