Disappearing Lewes - The Naval Prison

It may be a reflection of the sometimes punitive nature of the Lewesian that the town at one time had two prisons . As well the one at the top of the town, most famous for accomodating Mick Jagger following the 'girl and the mars bar 'drugs bust, the town also had a Naval Prison. This was Lewes’ first gaol and preceded the present Victorian prison which was built in 1853 . Today’s town hall now sits on the site of the even earlier prison vaults of the Star Inn where the protestant matyrs were kept before being burned at the stake in the 16th century. The Naval Prison building later served for a time as the town’s work house but once this became rather unfashionable the building had no obvious use, and stood empty for many years. It then caught the eye of the county council as it stood in the path of the proposed Inner Relief super highway and was demolished during the 1960’s. It was replaced by one of the top five dreariest buildings in Lewes, Springman House, used until recently to imprison NHS employees.

Incidentally, Lewes-based arts company The Paddock have commisioned a chamber opera about the naval prison featuring the story of hundred Finnish prisoners who were interned there during the Crimean War. ‘A joint production between writer Stephen Plaice and composer Orlando Gough, directed by Susanah Waters, the opera tells the tale of two intertwining love-stories. The first in the Victorian era between one of the prisoners and a local girl, the second a startling parallel relationship in the present day.’ Well, I for one am intrigued. What were a hundred Finnish prisoners doing in Lewes anyway? SC

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Bleak House: the naval prison was pretty grim, but is this
monstrosity (put cursor on picture) any better?