THE delightful picture of cottages at the bottom of Castle Banks shows how much was lost in central Lewes in the interest of the motor car.
At the time that these cottages and those on the south side of Little East Street were demolished, the County Highways Department had a plan for an inner relief road stretching all the way from Phoenix Causeway to the Prison.
This would have literally cut the town in half with its route across St John Street, Sun Street, Mount Pleasant, along the Paddock, under St Ann’s Church and along St Ann’s Crescent. The only point of access for Lewesians would have been a ‘gyratory’ (roundabout) at the Elephant and Castle, and this required the demolition of the cottages shown in your picture.
The county council had bought up such properties and begun their removal, fortunately not all, and some were subsequently renovated, including 2 to 7 Castle Banks which a friend and I restored with our own hands in 1972-73.
In doing so we incorporated superb tiles, bricks and oak beams from some of the ten cottages in New Street, opposite the Coop, which were being demolished for – guess what? – a car park.
When we learned of their imminent demise, I questioned the wisdom of reducing the housing stock thus. Lewes Borough responded by saying they were ‘damp’ and, anyway, nobody would want to live in this type of house and location.
The current popularity and price of such houses throughout south east England, and Lewes in particular, shows how wrong local authority officers could be.
The success of road planners in the 1960s can readily be seen in towns such as Horsham and Ashford in Kent – towns whose character has been forever destroyed.
It took immense effort on the part of the Friends of Lewes and others to get the Inner Relief Road scrapped and a by-pass built in its place. Sadly this was not before the county council had successfully closed the Uckfield line, whose reopening they have resisted ever since.
Their pro-car and anti-rail stance still persists with their proposal for a new road at Uckfield station. This would sever the line and remove land needed for the rebuilding of a larger station to accommodate full-length trains and load the costs of a road bridge onto the railway.
Chris Yarrow, Mayfield