H07544 — White Hart Stablehands & Soldiers, 1915
‘Sussex Express 17 September 1914 — Lewes Transformed’ — Richard Attlee, Actor.
Audio transcript at bottom of page
These men, probably billeted at the White Hart Hotel, were photographed outside the stables at the rear of the hotel. It is thought that the soldiers are from the Royal Field Artillery, most probably from the 22nd Division, who were stationed in Lewes in May 1915 when the photo was taken. They shipped to France in the September and on to Salonica later in the year. This Division was formed as part of Kitchener’s third army. Although not particularly clear, at least one of the soldiers is wearing a military stable belt, usually worn when cleaning stables. While there is no documentation indicating whether or not the soldiers were billeted at the White Hart, it appears the army was stabling some of its horses at the hotel.
The lettering on the canopy of the wagon delivering straw reads G P Kent, Contractor, Lewes; he had a yard on Soap Factory Lane according to the 1915 Lewes Street Directory. Soap Factory Lane is long gone, probably demolished when the Phoenix causeway was built; the lane ran from Malling Street towards the river.
The invasion of Lewes commenced in the early hours of Monday morning. Train after train discharged its freight of troops, who have been recruited from the industrial centres of the North of England. Next day a big contingent arrived from South Wales, and the population of the town has been almost doubled by the military occupation. The billeting of so large a number of men upon the townspeople has not been accomplished without some inconvenience, and in cases, perhaps, hardship; but the inhabitants have cheerfully complied with the demands made upon them, and recognising the part they have been called to play have given a hearty welcome to the men, and extended all the hospitality that is within their means. Mission halls, schoolrooms, and institutes have been thrown open for the use of the troops; the Corporation Baths have been placed at their disposal, and by countless little acts of kindness the inhabitants have endeavoured to make the lot of the men agreeable.
Never before has the whole aspect of the county town been so completely transformed. The main streets surge with the men whom the call of duty has drawn from every rank of life. Strange, indeed, has sounded the clatter of the clogs as the lads from Lancashire march through the streets. A peep inside the County Hall or the Corn Exchange reveals straw-strewn floors in every kind of apartment in which many of the troops are glad to find repose. On the whole they are wonderfully well-behaved, although the descent of such a large martial body has not unnaturally occasioned a little alarm to some of the inhabitants. It is expected that the men will move to Seaford as soon as the camp is ready for them.”