Disappearing Lewes - In the Ghetto

An unpredicted outcome from the County Councils diabolical road schemes meant that by the end of the seventies Lewes had a number of active squats, the most notorious of which were five houses in Malling Street, known throughout the town only by their numbers. 125 and 109 were particularly infamous and stories of wild drug taking, police raids, orgies and general decadence abounded.

In the pursuit of truth, I have managed to track down two of the original squatters to find out what really went on. Brian was only 17 and was working for Arnolds Removals when he went to move an old couple from their house in Malling Street which had been compulsorily purchased by the council as part of the road-widening scheme. “When we finished moving them, the old boy asked what he should do with the keys so I just said he should give them to me. We moved in that day and lived there for ages although there was no running water or electricity. It was lovely though and had honey suckle round the outside privy”. But what about the sex and drugs and rock and roll, we asked, somewhat disappointed by these horticultural memories. Quinn moved into 105 Malling Street in 1978, he remembers the squats as a kind of alternative hotel where people would crash for a night or maybe a few weeks. A communist named Pete acted as concierge and would only allow you in if you brought drink or drugs which you were prepared to share. “A bit like the loaves and fishes really” reminisced Quinn.

Squatter’s heights: Malling St circa 1968