Opening up of original martyr steps divides opinion in Lewes

New railing and window around Lewes Town Hall cellar steps SUS-160323-231440008
New railing and window around Lewes Town Hall cellar steps SUS-160323-231440008

The original steps where martyrs would walk on their way to the stake have been opened up for public view in Lewes - but not everyone is happy about it.

As part of the renovation of the Lewes Town Hall façade, it was decided to maximise the historic interest of the site and create a hole in the pavement on High Street, to allow people to see the steps that accompany the story of the martyrs, as told on a plaque outside the Town Hall.

While the addition has been welcomed by many, some have expressed concern about the glass panel covering the steps and the railings surrounding it.

Dominic Aynsleigh, of High Street, said: “On Friday, as I passed the Town Hall, I came across a hole in the pavement with a sheet of glass over the top and some ugly, tubular railings around it. This shows the original steps to the cellar of the old Star Inn.

“As a member of a Lewes bonfire society, I understand the historical significance but I have a few questions.

“Firstly, I don’t remember seeing any notice up about planning permission for this? As I would certainly have objected. Secondly, didn’t the Town Hall look much prettier without this tubular eyesore?

“Thirdly, an already narrow section of pavement has now been made narrower, which should be interesting on the fifth of November as this will now be even more dangerous with spectators likely to stand on it due to being crammed behind safety barriers.”

Steve Brigden, Town Clerk at Lewes Town Council, said: “This is one of the ancillaries of the refurbishment and restoration of the Town Hall, which was started last year.

“It was the brain child of Mike Chartier, a councillor and historian. It was thought that as so many people stop to read the stone tablet about the martyrs, why not open up the steps for them to see.

“The idea is to make the most of the history we have at this site. So many residents and tourists are interested in the story of the martyrs - hopefully this will enhance the visitor experience.

“The job isn’t finished yet - there are parts of a gas pipe down there that needs taking out, we’re going to lime wash the steps and there will be low level lighting fitted.

“The railings are a necessity for highway regulations. The contractors were supervised by officers from the county highway department, so everything is as it should be. The listed building consent was granted last year, when the restoration started.”

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