Some of you may remember my enthusiasm for the delightful English town of Lewes in Sussex as shared in my posts Historical Lewes and A Walk In Lewes. For those of you who love all things Tudor, you can view a few photos of ‘Anne of Cleves House‘ and read a few words about her brief marriage to the one and only King Henry VIII. And believe me, it was brief.
Packed full of history, Lewes is also filled with beautiful homes, quaint cafes and antique shops, and the most wonderful pet shop that hearkens back to the days when dog biscuits were sold loose from big, open sacks placed on the shop floor. I remember those biscuits tasted pretty good. Moving swiftly on.
In January, Lewes beckoned once again with more to explore, including spending a winter’s afternoon wandering around the old Priory. I’ll show you around, if you like, but I warn you, wrap up warm, it’s bitter out there.
Founded in 1078, the Priory of St Pancras was one of the largest and most important monasteries in England (and linked to the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, France), until, on Henry VIII’s orders, its destruction some 500 years later in 1538 during the Reformation.
It is almost impossible to imagine the sheer scale of this once magnificent Priory when you look at the remains of these old ruins today.
This is what the Old Priory looks like now as you approach from the front:
And this is how it once looked, in its heyday:
The bitter wind of a January afternoon whipped across the open expanse of lawn and winter-bare trees as I stopped on the path to take a few photos:
And then, as I walked further on, the sunshine broke through the ever-darkening clouds:
These ruins are mere remnants of the once wealthy and powerful monastery…
Looking through this archway, I tried to imagine what it must have been like
all those hundreds of years ago as the monks went about their day…
praying; eating (barely); working.
Not only do the ruins echo ghostly whisperings through their cold, dark walls, but other secrets lurk, buried deep within the grounds.
On the 14th of May, 1264, the Battle of Lewes was fought here between King Henry III and the barons led by Simon de Montfort. The barons wanted the country governed by a council, not a King.
When the soldiers encamped on the grounds on the 12th of May, two days before the battle, the monks suffered great disruption as this was the eve of the feast of St Pancras, an important religious celebration.
Simon de Montfort won the day, but the battle deeply divided the monks with some sent away to France, and others who stayed behind at Lewes punished. It wasn’t until 1845, during excavation for a railway line, that the discovery was made of a burial ground filled with hundreds of bodies from the battle.
This monument was created to mark the 700th anniversary of The Battle of Lewes:
Leaving the Old Priory as the day grew ever-chillier – but nothing that a cup of tea and toasted teacake wouldn’t cure – one more place of great historical interest beckoned: None other than The Round House, built originally as a windmill in 1802 and purchased in 1919 by Virginia Woolf:
And with Valentine’s Day almost upon us, I thought what could be more romantic than the words penned by the author herself describing her sentiments upon her discovery of The Round House:
‘We’ve bought a house in Lewes, on the spur of the moment…’
How could anyone be afraid of Virginia Woolf after reading that?
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of a different part of Lewes. This post is linked to the Weekly Photo Challenge theme of ‘Scale’ as well as Jo’s ‘Monday Walk’. Lovely Jo is away on her hols at the moment but will be back soon. Meanwhile, if you would like to join in with her, and she would be delighted if you do, click on the logo below for more information: