Lewes Priory - Annual Open Day

Once Lewes boasted a church bigger than Chichester Cathedral – Lewes Priory, founded by William de Warenne in 1077, was the most important Cluniac monastery in England, with, in its heydey, 100 monks living within its walls. It is impossible to visualise exactly what it looked like, though it would have been built in the elegant Romanesque style, and modelled on the Cluniac Abbey in Burgundy, to which it was affiliated. We know from records that the church was 420 feet long and 69 feet wide, and was almost certainly at one time the biggest building in England. It was demolished under orders of ‘The Royal Vandal’ Henry VIII in 1537 by an Italian engineer.

The Priory Trust are giving guided tours of the remains of the Priory buildings under their jurisdiction from 2pm till 4pm. The land south of the railway, where you can still see the ruins, was where the monks’ dining hall, dormitories and lavatories were; the church itself was situated where the railway line now is. When the railway was built in 1846 the tomb of Gundrada, wife of William de Warenne, was found – this was moved to St Pancras Church. After the church’s demolition its stones were used to build a number of buildings in the surrounding area, particularly Southover Grange; you can still Romanesque decorations on a few of the building’s sandstone blocks. The last bit of the Priory to remain standing was the pigeon house, which was demolished in the 19th century because the pigeons which still inhabited it were considered a nuisance by local farmers.

Through the square window… we’ll transport you to Lewes priory
Priory ruins, next to the Convent Field
When? 2-4pm
How Much? Free