Ancient carving at Plumpton given face lift

Plumpton Cross
Plumpton Cross

Plumpton Cross, dug by monks in the 13th century as a memorial to the fallen in the Battle of Lewes, has been given a much-needed facelift.

The tidy-up on the face of the downs above the village was carried out by the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service (VRS) ahead of the 750th anniversary of the battle this May.

Working over the winter the South Downs VRS, led by South Downs National Park Ranger Mark Hayward, has been clearing scrub in and around the sunken cross to make it more of a feature of the landscape.

The work also contributes to wider plans to safeguard and enhance endangered chalk downland, led by the South Downs National Park Authority.

Ranger Mark said: “The monks of the Priory of St Pancras in Lewes dug the cross in memory of those who were killed during the Battle of Lewes in 1264. With the 750th anniversary of the battle rapidly approaching we wanted to make the cross more visible as part of the commemorations.”

The cross, which measures approximately 100sq ft, lies in an area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest on grounds rented by Plumpton College from Novington Estates. Although now no longer in place, well within living memory a sandstone block at the centre of the cross bore the inscription ‘Battle of Lewes 1264’.

The chalk has long been overgrown, but to the knowledgeable eye the cross is still visible due to its lighter-coloured grass. It can also be seen from a distance of several miles in favourable light conditions – that is, when the sun is low and the depression is in shadow.[

The village of Plumpton lies in the valley just below the cross and a number of events are being planned in the village to mark the milestone anniversary.

Carole Nicholson from Plumpton 1264, the team that is organising the events locally, said: “The work of the South Downs volunteers is much appreciated and allows the cross to be seen much more clearly.

“It is also very timely as Plumpton 1264 is planning a commemorative service on May 14 at the Plumpton Cross site, and later on the same evening at St Michael’s Church followed by a medieval feast – to which everyone is invited.”

The village is also working with the South Downs National Park to place a new interpretation panel in the village to provide a long-lasting memorial to the Battle of Lewes and all that it has meant to democracy in this country.