Here’s this week’s reminder of the lost splendour
that once graced the streets of Lewes. This is the Congregational
Tabernacle, which was built in 1818 as a place of worship
for many of Lewes’ prosperous non-conformists, including
the brewer William Harvey. A drop off in church attendance
after the war, however, meant that many ecclesiastical buildings
in the town became redundant and thus fodder for the bulldozer.
This decline in Lewes’ moral standards was not all-pervasive
and some fine examples remain including the Friends Meeting
House in Friars Walk and the Calvinist Jireh Chapel whose
grade 1 listed interior is particularly well preserved, presumably
out of the fear of god on the part of its congregation. Or
at least Ian Paisley, who has been known to visit.
Sadly for the Tabernacle the town planners lacked the foresight
to see what a marvellous conversion opportunity it would offer
local developers in the early 21st Century and knocked it
down in 1954. Since then there have been not one but two dreadful
buildings on this site. The first was, by fifties standards,
a very modern plate glass fronted building which at one point
housed Lewes’ first proper supermarket, Lipton’s.
Although one could hardly regard this building as attractive,
in retrospect it had charm compared with the Trumpton-inspired
shop frontage of today. Anyway, it would at least have made
some groovy loft style apartments. SC