Major Grant Awards

Putting Lewes Priory on the Map

Your Heritage Grant Press Release 

The town of Lewes has played a vital, but largely overlooked, role in medieval religion, the birth of parliamentary democracy and in the development of Roman Britain.

Now the recognition of this historical importance will be given a major boost thanks to two projects made possible by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grants totalling almost £188,000.

The subjects of the grants are seen as being of national, if not international, significance. One is a ruined priory, the other the site of a hitherto unmapped Roman settlement.

Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said: “Taken together, these projects shine a light onto centuries of history when the town of Lewes and its surrounding area was a witness to some pivotal moments in the development of Britain.”

Putting Lewes Priory on the Map aims to give much greater prominence to the Priory of St Pancras. It was founded in the 11thcentury by William de Warenne, who had fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, and his wife Gundrada. They persuaded the Abbot of Cluny, who controlled a network of hundreds of priories throughout Europe, to send four monks to Lewes and thus establish the first Cluniac Priory in Britain. In 1264 the Priory played an important role in the Battle of Lewes when Henry III surrendered to Simon de Montfort there and agreed for the first time to an elected Parliament. After Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the English Church Parliament approved the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. Lewes Priory was handed over to the crown in 1537 and all the religious buildings were demolished.

A grant of £96,800 will enable the Lewes Priory Trust to work with local people of all ages to increase public awareness of the Priory’s significance. Young people will play a key role, helping to draw up plans for educational visits and creating children’s guides to the site. Teacher training programmes will be created and lesson plans drawn up to ensure that the site’s importance will feature in the school curriculum. Students from a local college will translate guides into other languages and an archaeological dig will be organised.

Digital technology will be employed with a Priory Story podcast for visitors and the installation of QR attachments at specific points on the site.

The project continues into 2014 when the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes will be commemorated.

Lewes Priory Trust Chairman Sy Morse-Brown said: We are enormously encouraged that Heritage Lottery Fund has once again confirmed its confidence in the Trust and enabled it to take the Priory Project forward with an ambitious programme of development.

Bringing a Medieval Monastery to Life

In 2009 Lewes Priory Trust was granted funds to undertake major work to make Lewes Priory accessible to the public. The Heritage Lottery Fund  granted £545,000 and English Heritage £95,000 which, with matching funding, covered the total project cost of over £809,000.

Contractors Kier Longley took control of the site on 7 June 2010. During the works it was closed to public access but visits to see progress were arranged for many of those with a keen interest in the Priory. Among these were the County Archaeologist, representatives of Sussex Past and members of Lewes Archaeological Group. The work was the subject of a watching brief by Archaeology South East and regular inspections were made by English Heritage. The project was handed it back to Lewes Priory Trust on 26 November 2010 on time and on budget.

The buildings are no longer locked away behind safety fencing, and there are now pathways, seats, and interpretation boards explaining the rich history of the Priory and its part in Lewes life over the centuries. This is all supported by a carefully-planned education programme for schools and others, allowing access for everyone.

None of this would have been possible without the leadership and tireless efforts over many years of our President (then chairman) Dr John Lawrence MBE. 

The new guide book 'The Priory of St Pancras Lewes - Priory Park' was published in May 2011 together with leaflets on Priory Park and the Herb Garden. Copies are available from Barbican House Museum, Anne of Cleves House, 52 Southover High Street, Lewes and Tourist Information Centre by Lewes Town Hall.

The Education Resource Pack was launched in November 2011 and and extensive programme of contact with local schools has been undertaken by out Education Officers.

Project Bulletin No 3

Work in progress 16 August 2010

Bulletin No 3

Project Bulletin No 2

Ground breaking ceremony 29 June 2010

Bulletin No 2

Project Bulletin No 1

Start on site 7 June 2010

Bulletin No 1