Box 8

H11114e — Every burnt bridge removal (Bear Fire), 1918

Image 2: H11114e — Every burnt bridge removal (Bear Fire), 1918


‘Kenward’s billeted soldiers’ — Mr Russell, grandson of Mr Kenward

Audio transcript at bottom of page


The Bear Hotel fire burned so fiercely that it destroyed not only the hotel, but warehouses, granaries and stables on both sides of the river; eight terrified horses had to be rescued. The damaged bridge was removed by Everys and never replaced.


As a result of the fire, the 1892 bridge was dismantled by workers from John Every’s Phoenix Ironworks. A crane has been set up on the east bank to assist.


The bridge, designed and built by Charles Wells of the Etna Ironworks, had been a significant structure. The Sussex Agricultural Express for 24 September 1892 gives details concerning its construction – Two lattice type girders being 71ft 6in long by 5 ft deep. It was 6ft 9in wide and was constructed with over 8 tons of iron and two tons of timber.


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“On the occasion when I believe everyone in Lewes had to take in soldiers waiting to go to France. My grandfather, Mr Kenward, and his family, including three children, two young teenage girls and a younger brother were all living above the jewellers shop by Cliffe Bridge. Several soldiers were sleeping on the attic floor. Before turning in Mr Kenward went up to see if they were all right. He found the room full of gas. And of course turned off the gas lamp and opened the windows. Luckily no one had decided to have a smoke and so blow the place up or have an explosion. At that time whilst gas lighting was becoming common in towns it was only in towns and the soldiers merely blew it out when they went to bed. The burner, so called gas ring burner would have looked very much like an oil lamp.”