The Invasion of Lewes

Box D


D8861/004 — Mortgage Matters, 81 High Street, Lewes — 2017

Image 2: H07556 — Boxing Day tea (The Assembly Rooms, Lewes Town Hall)


‘Sussex Express 17 September 1914 — 10,000 Troops at Lewes’ — Richard Attlee, Actor.

Audio transcript at bottom of page


“Sussex Express 17th September 1914





This week another chapter has been added to the history of Lewes, a chapter unparalleled within the memory of living man.


An “invasion” has taken place, but the invaders are not Germans or Austrians; they are our own “Tommies”; men imbued with a fine patriotic spirit who have come forward to swell Lord Kitchener’s Army. True, some old soldiers are among the number, but the majority may be classed as “raw recruits,” who need licking into shape. How long they will remain in the County Town and where their ultimate destination will be is somewhat of a mystery. The authorities are wise perhaps not to divulge it, but the scenes which are being daily witnessed in the town are worthy to be placed on record. The invaders roughly number 10,000 and they hail from Lancashire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Wales, and elsewhere. The people of Lewes have been called upon to billet them and few homes including Wallands districts, are without one or more members of H.M. Forces. Every available accommodation has been utilised, including the principal public buildings of the town, warehouses, and malt houses. Even the old Naval Prison has at last come in useful; while sleepers have been substituted for debaters in the Council Chamber of the County Hall.


Imagine it! Straw strewn on the floor of the dignified Chamber, along the corridors, in the anterooms, and in the Assize Court. The prisoners’ dock now serves as a haven of rest. The County Town’s “white elephant,” the old Workhouse, has once again become inhabited, and the Welsh miners seem quite happy in their new quarters. The Corn Exchange presents a kind of dormitory scene, and the spacious Assembly Room has been transformed into a mess room. At the Eastgate Baptist School Room the soldiers are being specially cared for by members of the congregation.


Where bedrooms are not available householders have given up sitting rooms to the military, and beds are improvised on the floor. In fact the inhabitants have adapted themselves to circumstances in a remarkable manner, and the way they are feeding their visitors is equally wonderful. Local caterers and traders, too, are doing their best to meet the situation, and the “Tommies” are grateful for the hospitality extended to them. But the fact remains that Lewes has been over-taxed, and one cannot help thinking some one has blundered.”