Reminiscences of Lewes

I have just returned from a two day stay in Lewes. This was a trip down memory lane for me.

I used to stay at my uncle and aunt’s in the fifties.

My mother used to put me on the train at Victoria. The guard used to keep his eye out for me on the trip to Lewes. When we arrived at Lewes my aunt met the train. I then spent five weeks of pure pleasure. My uncle and aunt owned Lewes fisheries in Lansdown place and lived in friars walk.

The pleasure started for as soon as I arrived, the station was a hive of activity, steam trains arriving and departing for London via Uckfield, electric trains from London to Eastbourne and Hastings with the pullman car in the centre, also to Newhaven and Seaford from Brighton and Horstead Keynes.

One of the best things was the goods yard at the back of my aunts house. I would spend hours watching the shunting of wagons from the bridge over the yard or from my bedroom window which was at the top of the house. Lewes signalbox if the wind was in the right direction you could hear the levers and the bells being operated. At night the signalbox used to be lit up. I think it must have been gas light. It was very bright. I was glad to see it was still in operation on my visit to Lewes.

It was sad to hear it will be gone by Sept 2013. The former goods yard now has houses. There’s no evidence of the line to Uckfield. Walking around Lewes a lot has changed. Caffins garage is an eating place a parade of shops where the railway bridge crossed Cliff High St The old cement works is now an industrial estate.

We visited Newhaven harbour. That does look a mess. In the fifties there used to be quite a bit of shipping and I think it was SS Brighton used to be the ferry operating the service.

I remember my uncle saying if you timed it wrong you could be stuck at the crossing gates for ages if they were shunting for the goods wagons. I did see the ferry arrive while there. Not a great deal of traffic arrived off the ship. I would assume it runs at a loss. I remember my aunt saying when they replaced steam with diesel trains on the Uckfield line, they sounded like the flying bombs (doddlebugs). She said it was quite frightful when they started up from the station, until they got used to them. My aunt died in the eighties, the shop shut and the house was sold.

I feel sorry for the man who lives there, and saw two people looking over the back gate. I showed my wife where I used to sleep in the very top room.My uncle remarried and stayed in Lewes. I lost touch in about 2003. When I lost his address, I did try to find were he lived but no luck, Everybody I asked did not live in Lewes. We had a great time in Lewes. We stayed at the White Hart Hotel. We were very pleased with it. I plan to visit again next year.

Michael E Bland

Isle of Wight