Lewes Town Council invited the public to explore the historic Town Hall as part of the Heritage Open Days festival on Sunday 10 September
It’s estimated that over 200 people visited the building during the event, which saw Town Councillors, Council Staff and Volunteers welcome the public and take on the role of tour guides. Visitors were free to browse the Town Hall at their own pace, with the guides on-hand in the many different rooms to offer interesting facts, historical knowledge and (of course) refreshments.
For younger visitors there was a dinosaur hunt to take part in, and children and adults alike enjoyed the opportunity to complete a Town Hall Trail quiz, try on council robes and meet the Mayor of Lewes and other councillors.
Town Councillor Matt Bird, who is currently Mayor of Lewes and Chair of the council’s Buildings and Amenities Committee, said after the event:
“It was fantastic to welcome people to our Heritage Open Day event at the Town Hall and share some of the amazing histories and stories it contains. It was good to speak to people who had walked past the Town Hall for years and had always wondered what it was like inside! I’d really like to see more people visit and use the Town Hall. It’s open most days, not just Heritage Open Day!”
The building, which has changed use several times since the 14th century, has served as a pub, a prison, a political headquarters, a corn exchange, and more recently, council offices and events spaces. The oldest part of the building, the medieval vaulted undercroft, was infamously used to hold the 17 protestant Martyrs burned at the stake in Lewes under the reign of Mary Tudor between 1555-1557.
Now home to the Town Council (and the Borough Council before that), the building holds a unique art collection alongside other artifacts and valuables, including works by Nicaise de Keyser and Julian Bell, original Baxter prints, and the town’s Civic Insignia and Regalia.
The building is operated by the Town Council as one of its three community venues, meaning that alongside its function as the offices and meeting place of the council, the rooms are available to hire on a regular or one-off basis for functions, meetings, classes, weddings and events of all shapes and sizes. Visitors are also welcome Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm (excluding rooms booked for private use), and a number of books, information leaflets and activity guides are available from the Town Hall reception.