Southover Grange was home to a colourful family for 300 years

Southover Grange
Southover Grange

‘The Newtons of Southover Grange’ will be the subject when the Lewes History Group hosts a talk by Malcolm Kitch on Monday, March 10.

It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for a house built by a prosperous Elizabethan family to remain in the ownership of descendants for almost 300 years.

Mr Kitch, formerly Reader in History at the University of Sussex, will talk about one such house that remains a prominent Lewes landmark (albeit currently in a somewhat distressed state) and about the personalities and lives of the family who occupied it from 1572 to 1859.

William Newton came from Cheshire in about 1540 to establish the Southover branch of the family. He initially lived in the former Priory, and used Priory stone to build the Grange.

Although they were the leading Southover family, they were also London lawyers for a century and a half, so spent only part of the year in their house. The Grange, with its 14 acres of grounds, was the largest and grandest house in Southover. The family also owned land outside Lewes, but they never became large landowners.

The second William Newton was a leading Puritan during the Civil Wars of the mid 17th century.

In 1760 the fifth William, and the last male Newton, followed his father into the army and rose to command the 10th Dragoons, the Prince of Wales’ own regiment.

William regarded ‘Prinny’ as a friend and the Prince stayed at his house in the early 1790s – perhaps it was during this period that the future King George IV drove a carriage down precipitous Keere Street for a wager.

William’s marriage to the tactless Elizabeth Knatchbull established a connection with the writer Jane Austen.

William’s niece Elizabeth was the last of the family line. She married William Courthope Mabbott, an interesting and colourful character who took an active, if controversial, part in local affairs.

The venue for the talk is the King’s Church building, Brooks Road, opposite the Homebase car park.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start and everyone is welcome. There is a small admission charge on the door and free refreshments.

Visit for more information on the group, its meetings and other activities.