Today was my final day working at the Sussex Archaeological Society’s two properties in Lewes – Anne of Cleves House and Lewes Castle. Working in a Wealden Hall house and Norman Castle has been a fantastic experience, and I’m sad to be leaving.
Anne of Cleves House is one of nine Sussex properties given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement, after her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled. It’s a fifteenth century Wealden Hall house, a type of timber-framed hall house traditionally built in the South East of England for yeomen. Anne never visited her property in Lewes, spending most of her time at Hever Castle and Richmond Palace. After the Tudor period, the house was divided into smaller apartments: at one point, there are twenty-one households recorded as living in Anne of Cleves House. For a bit more detail you can read the listing on Historic England’s website here. (The house is supposed to be haunted and ‘paranormal investigators’ have regularly picked up readings in the bedroom!)
Lewes Castle is a Norman fortification, one of only two surviving double motte and bailey castles in England – the other is Lincoln Castle. Built in 1069 for William de Warrenne, the first Earl of Surrey, the castle precinct has had a vibrant history. Houses have been built up to the edge of the mottes, and within the castle precinct itself. Gideon Mantell – who discovered Iguanadon in 1822 – lived in one of the houses below the castle, and is known to have dug in to the side of the motte, discovering human skeletons and artefacts. At one point there was also a pub in the castle grounds; as the castle was owned by the Earls of Arundel, the pub was technically outside the jurisdiction of the Lewes Constabulary, and became a hotbed of criminality. The Sussex Archaeological Society acquired the castle in 1846, and opened the castle to the public in 1850.
So it’s onwards from these two very different properties owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society to another group of museums. I’ll be joining Brighton Museums as a Visitor Services Officer! The role involves a nice combination of visitor services, curatorial, and outreach work; it also fits nicely with my broader specialism in the popular culture of the ‘long’ nineteenth century (1789-1914).Brighton Museums is a very busy institution with a clear manifesto, which you can read here.
When the Mayor of Brighton opened Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in 1873, he stated that the museum would “Inspire the minds and morals of the people, forget the busy world and afford pleasure and consolation from illness or depression.” May all our museums inspire the visitor, and give them pleasure and consolation from the outside world.