New home for county records office in Falmer opens next week

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A wealth of fascinating material relating to Lewes is housed in The Keep, the world-class archive resource for East Sussex which opens to the public on Tuesday (November 19).

It includes a tooth of Gundrada, who together with her husband William de Warrenne, established Lewes Priory, where they were buried in 1081.

Vintage local photographs include images of South Street and Cliffe Bonfire Societies’ tableaux from the 1920s and 1930s.

There’s also a particularly fine collection of historic maps including one depicting the River Ouse from Lewes to Newhaven which shows the Priory, and a beautiful map of Rodmell dating from 1829.

The Keep represents the next generation of archive centres. A ‘Centre of Excellence’ for conservation and preservation, it provides an unrivalled record of the region’s history, through documents dating back more than 900 years, as well as important 20th and 21st century literary, political and social history archives, and database records of sites and finds from early pre-history onwards.

Situated at Woollards Field, Moulsecoomb, with excellent access by public transport and ample parking, The Keep houses the collections of East Sussex Record Office, Royal Pavilion and Museums Local Collections, the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections, Sussex Family History Group library, and East Sussex Historic Environment Record database.

The Keep is for everyone, with a drop-in service, and fast retrieval times for original archives throughout the day. There is free public access to all its collections; and The Keep has been created for different people to use in different ways: the adult and community sectors, schools, colleges, universities, scholars, specialist researchers, and businesses.

The Keep Frieze by acclaimed Lewes-based artist Carolyn Trant is an exterior frieze representing the landscape and traditional activities of East Sussex, from Hastings and Eastbourne to Lewes and Brighton and Hove. It wraps around three sides of the upper part of the building.

Carolyn has established a national reputation for her woodcut books with hand cut texts. These methods informed her approach to The Keep Frieze, for which she studied original documents and themes in the East Sussex Record Office’s archive.

Selected images have been replicated in colour to create magnificent large scale panels in the foyer and cafe area within The Keep.