Office block in snow pre-tunnel in Lewes
Office block in snow pre-tunnel in Lewes

It was interesting to see the photograph of the old graveyard on the east side of Malling Street in Lewes in your January 30 edition, which brought back memories for me.

As a trainee engineer in the early 1970s in what was then the County Engineer’s Department of East Sussex County Council, I was given the task of carrying out a survey of the graveyards (I think there were two) to try to identify who was buried there so that any living descendants could be contacted prior to their exhumation.

So off I set on a number of days from the office, which was then in Southover Road (now Lewes District Council’s Planning Department), to sketch the graveyards and note down the names and details of who was buried there.

The graveyards had not been used for a long time and the gravestones were rather neglected and not very easy to read, but gradually I managed to build up a picture of names, relatives and ages.

The graves mostly dated from the 18th and 19th centuries and what became apparent was the number of children who were buried there. Child mortality was much more prevalent in those years and it was quite sad to see how many were there.

Gradually a picture emerged of names, families, history, life and death in those years and I became quite absorbed in the history of the age. It was also rather eerie and atmospheric on a misty morning searching around the graveyards, trying to clean the gravestones to reveal details of another family and their sad stories. Malling Street was much quieter in the early 70s than it is today.

All my survey work was taken back to the office and schedules were typed (no computers then) up by our secretaries who also said how sad it was that so many children were buried there.

I don’t know after that if and when any surviving relatives were contacted before the graves were exhumed and work began on the tunnel. It would be interesting to know if anyone has any information on that.

Am I right in thinking that some of the victims of the South Street avalanche were buried there?

Alan Jupp