Major search for battlefield clues in Lewes


Tuesday, May 14, will see the 749th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

Attention will focus on the site of that momentous day in history in the Landport Bottom area ... and perhaps even cast into doubt whether this actually WAS the battlefield.

Archaeologists are launching a major investigation there on Tuesday, hunting for evidence that the battlefield marked on the maps is the right location.

Led by Luke Barber, Research Officer for the Sussex Archaeological Society, and Stephanie Smith, the region’s Finds Liaison Officer based at Lewes Castle, a large team of volunteers will do a thorough sweep of the area, bagging and recording any significant finds.

The hope is that some evidence of that day in 1264 will be uncovered, from arrowheads to belt studs.

The search will resume on Friday and continue through to May 20.

Luke said: “We already know that most of the fighting didn’t happen high up on the Downs where it’s marked on old Ordnance Survey maps. In fact accounts from the time indicate it took place mainly on the western side of the town, with very heavy fighting near St Anne’s Church.

“But despite all the building work that’s gone on in this area over the years, we have never found a single piece of definitive archaeological evidence that the battle was ever fought here.

“We will be lucky if we find one thing that gives us that firm evidence. It will be like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Mid Sussex Ramblers will team up with the Sussex Archaeological Society to retrace some of the steps that the rebel army, led by Simon de Montfort, might have taken in 1264 from their camp at Fletching to Lewes.

The ‘Advance Guard March’ commemorates the victory that forced King Henry III to consult his nobles – so marking the beginnings of a representative government in England.

Organiser Peter Varlow said: “We’re looking for people to organise more walks. I live in Cinder Hill at Chailey and can just imagine some of Simon de Montfort’s men trudging down our lane in battle gear.

“Mid Sussex Ramblers have plotted a route using modern footpaths – from Fletching, through Newick, Chailey and Plumpton. The climax is the climb up the Downs to Boxholte, near Mount Harry, where historians believe the rebel army gathered before the fight.”

This year’s Advance Guard walkers will follow 13 miles of paths that De Montfort’s army might have taken, finishing not on the slopes of the battle but for a much-deserved tea at Lewes Castle.