Posts Tagged ‘Lewes’


May 24, 2016

I used to love train spotting at Lewes. It was a busy station and there was always something happening. In any ordinary hour you’d see:

  • The fast train from London to Eastbourne and Hastings
  • Two stopping trains from Brighton to Eastbourne and Hastings
  • A stopping train from Brighton to Seaford
  • A stopping train from Horsted Keynes to Seaford
  • A train from Brighton to Tonbridge

Of course, there were the trains in the opposite direction to match so there were certain to be 12 trains an hour. Most of them were electric, but the Tonbridge trains were steam hauled and on top of the routine there’d be a few freight trains, holiday specials and the unlikely train heading off to Birkenhead which all could be steam hauled. Newhaven boat trains usually had one of the electric locos on the front. There was plenty of variety.

My photo is not the best and dates from after my train spotting days.


The train we see is one of the stoppers to Eastbourne. The rear unit, nearest us, is a 2Hal. It has been painted in the awful BR plain blue with an all over yellow end. It made a neat little train look hideous. The leading unit had escaped the blue paint and is in green.

Clearly some kind of work is going on at the platform ends. Perhaps it was to be the end of the lovely array of semaphore signals which, I presume, were operated from the box just beyond the platform.

We can see the now closed Tonbridge line curving off to the left by the train and beyond the train is the Caburn range of the South Downs with the infamous Lewes cliff.

Happy memories for me!

Granny’s Auntie Ellen

April 28, 2013

If Ellen was my gran’s aunt then she must be my great great aunt. Needless to say, I never knew her but I did know she was a favourite of my gran.

Ellen’s birth goes back a long time. She was born on 7th September 1840, in Blythburgh in Suffolk. This was a couple of months before her parents married. Her parents were James Crosby and Mary Ann Smith. This begs the question of whether Ellen was a Crosby or a Smith – but it goes deeper than that. Her Mother, Mary Ann was a Smith – also born before her mother married a Cullingford, so young Mary Ann became known as Mary Ann Cullingford. So just possibly Ellen was a Cullingford. What with these possibilities and the fact that Helen and Ellen were interchangeable names, it’s no wonder I haven’t yet found Ellen in the official birth records. However, she was baptised at Blythburgh Church on 25th October 1840.

For the 1841 census Elenor Crosby lived with her parents in Blythburgh. By 1851 they had moved to Butley, further south in Suffolk. They had arrived there in about 1848 after a stay in Tunstall also in Suffolk.

In 1861 Ellen was a servant in Marylebone London.

Before 1871 Ellen married. The 1871 census shows Ellen as Ellen Snowden and her husbands as William Snowden from Capel St Andrew which is very close to Butley. But the couple had moved to Sussex – to Isfield in fact and William who had been a shepherd in Suffolk was now a game keeper in Sussex.

Once again, records rather have me beaten. I cannot trace a marriage although a William Snowling married an Ellen Smith in the Uckfield district in 1862. Isfield is in the Uckfield district.

William died in 1881 – before the census was taken – so that year we find Ellen as a widow. She was working as housekeeper to George Huntley – a young widower. This situation continued in 1891. But in December of that year Ellen became Mrs George Huntley.

And that’s where we find Ellen in 1901 and again in 1911.

In about 1912 Ellen probably accompanied her niece and great nephew to Lewes where they had Sticky Back photos taken. Ellen was now in her 70s.


Ellen died in 1921. George joined her in 1924. They are buried at Isfield and have a stone.


Kids Camping

March 9, 2013

Our camp, on the downs quite near Lewes, was a truly memorable annual event. I feel that those weeks on the downs have had an enormous influence over my life. I love chalkland and feel some kind of harmony with the world when I set foot on chalk downland.

Let’s go back to 1954.  My impoverished parents had somehow acquired a motley collection of camping equipment of quite extraordinary proportions. We had three main tents. One was a standard ridge tent in which we had a toilet – that being, in early days, a seat over a trench my dad dug. One was the childrens’ zone – an old heavy square bell tent and the third was the main living room which doubled up as parents’ room. It was a frame tent with a huge, heavy wooden frame which got covered in huge, heavy canvas. When erected it was about 10 feet square.

But here we look at kids camping, and here we are all seemingly trying to escape from the bell tent at the same time.


I’m at the bottom with my brother making the sandwich filling between me and my sister. That bell tent was a dark and gloomy tent with no windows although the door could be pulled open to above child height. On those dull days of incessant drizzle we had to amuse ourselves with games played in that tent. We had no wireless or any other kind of entertainment. We had to amuse ourselves with what games we had brought from home and those we could invent in our heads. Altogether, I spent about 6 months of my life living from that tent. The effect on my life far outweighs the comparatively short time spent on those South Downs.

Now a close up on those kids.


A Card to Great Great Granny

February 24, 2013

Well, what a strange card this is.


We appear to have a barn yard with, amongst others, top hatted and newspaper reading babies hatching from giant hens’ eggs. This card was sent to my great great grandmother, Helen Stevens, in 1904


I find it interesting that the address could just be a person’s name and a village.

Unfortunately, the sender hasn’t signed it so I’m guessing just a bit.


The message reads, ‘We will be over next Friday night am going to kill the pig on Wednesday will bring you it ??? bone’. I’m not sure which bone was on its way to Helen.

There is evidence here to this being sent by my Great Aunt Nellie. She’d have been Helen Stevens’ granddaughter. Nellie and her husband, Frank, always kept a pig. Indeed, I’m told that in my early childhood our Christmas dinner was based around a bit of Aunt Nellie’s pig. She lived in Firle and that would have got a Lewes postmark. But in 1904 she wasn’t married, was in service and could hardly have kept a pig and, in any case, the handwriting is all wrong.

That handwriting, and the lack of punctuation and grammar, make me think this was sent by Sarah Ann Stevens, my great grandmother, and daughter in law of Helen.  Now I didn’t know that she and great grandfather George kept a pig.

They lived at Ringmer which does seem to be the initial postmark so it all ties in. Even the picture on the card ties in, for Great Granny called my grandmother her little china chick. I believe Granny was staying with her granny, Helen, at this time.

So, another lovely snippet of family history.

A Sailing Barge at Lewes

November 24, 2012

I’ve commented before on my Dad’s interest in almost everything and here’s a case in point. In August 1954 Dad snapped this picture.

The scene is the River Ouse just on the downstream side of Lewes, county town of East Sussex. The famous cliff is on the right – scene of the awful tragedy of December 1836. Amazingly, it wasn’t so much a cliff collapse as an avalanche of snow which crashed down the cliff destroying a row of cottages and killing eight people.

Let’s lighten the mood. One of my favourite spoof book titles, remembered from childhood was, ‘The Cliff Tragedy’ by Eileen Dover.

And now back to the photo where all looks calm, still and a tad grey on this August 1954 day. Holding centre stage is a sailing barge. I’m sure dad would have taken this shot knowing their days were numbered. Now I’m not an expert on sailing barges – different styles were adopted for specific circumstances in different parts of the country – but I think this is a Thames sailing barge. Do tell me if I’m wrong.

They do still exist although whether any really carry cargo, I don’t know. My dad hired one in 1975 as part of an Industrial Archaeology Course he was running. I was there! We set sail from Malden in Essex.

That’s dad at the helm

A group of ‘passengers’ go ashore on the tender. That’s the Thames sailing barge (she was called Dawn) in the background