Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 8

The coal cart was of unusual design. It was a four-wheel flat top with a barrier or fence which was about four feet high, this was to prevent the sacks of coal falling off.
The Rag & Bone man was not such a common sight in the 1950s
Lewes Bus Station. Originally built in the late 1950s by local bus company, Southdown.Today it is run down, uncared for and despite being at the centre of the town, it is a hideous, unwelcoming blot.
Beards themselves stopped brewing in 1958 at their Fisher Street brewery in Lewes, and, although they still retained their pubs, neighbouring brewer Harveys (sigh) continued to brew the beers.

These are a few little stories of both Lewes and Lewes Police on working their areas in what we would consider to be really ‘old fashioned means’

A much slower pace of life

Somehow in those days it seemed to work. Mind, with modern day working, it would possibly have been either easier or better and more efficient. However, looking back now to those days, the slow way was considered the best way. Bear in mind in those days not one officer could have believed all the technology that affords our officers now. This is just a way of explaining the following stories. You cannot acquaint life then to now, a mere 50 or 60 years ago. This is certainly within many people’s lifetime and they would easily remember those days. A much slower pace of life although those who were police officers probably didn’t think so in those days.

Mr. Best still delivered his coal by horse and cart and Mr. Kenward, a greengrocer used similar transport; the occasional herd of cattle was driven through the Cliffe, having arrived at the town by train. In the western road area Mr. Leney delivered milk using a handcart and carting the milk in a churn.

The tradesmen such as the plumbers, window cleaners and carpenters, would be seen pushing handcarts around the town. Then there was Mr. Arnold who sold ‘watercress’ from his barrow outside the White Hart public house, and the Brighton ‘Rag and bone’ men who would push their barrows or old prams around the town plying their trade, and shouting out ‘any rags and bones?’ Another rather famous man always seen in the town, was a one-legged shoe-mender who rode around the town (usually from pub to pub) on a bicycle and could often be seen falling off it after visiting one too many pubs.

These were the characters of the town, all long gone now. They were all very friendly to everyone as they worked their way around the town.


If there were urgent messages to be passed to the constables on duty in the town, this would be done by telephone to one of the shopkeepers. In in the Cliffe, this was usually done to Dewhurst’s the butchers, and Bob would then go out into the street and wave his arms about to attract the attention of the constable. A mid-morning or mid-afternoon wave was usually the signal for a very welcome ‘cup-of-tea.’ In the high Street the message would come via the Evening Argus or sometimes via the Bus Office at number 174. The main bus stops for The Southdown motor service routes were in the High Street, with a bus inspector being in the office. Southdown ran a very efficient operation with the buses arriving at regular intervals to all parts of the County and beyond. I think there was a service to Brighton every 10 or 15 minutes, the fare was about a shilling.

After hours drinking

It was once said that Lewes could boast of having 7 churches, where people regularly attended in numbers, the same number of breweries, (7) and 70 inns and pubs. In 1950, these number had dropped drastically, in fact there were, I think only 36 public houses in the borough, most of which, has to said were very well conducted. However the night shift guys would still ‘see out’ the pubs at closing time. This was to make sure that there was no ‘after hours drinking.’

On Saturday nights it was slightly different as the night shift would ‘see out’ the Town Hall area where dancers spilled out onto the streets. There were very people who could boast of being a car owner and so most of these people walked home and usually feeling ‘very happy.’

To ‘see out’ the pub or Town Hall just meant that a policeman would be outside the door in full view of the occupants. Quite often, you would see one person leaving the pub, would suddenly duck back inside to tell the publican that the police were outside, with a minute that person came out again, often saying ‘goodnight officer.’

The Public houses which have closed since those times include the following: – White Hart Shades, Jolly anglers, Crown Shades, The Wheatsheaf (later called The Cleopatra,) The Fountain, Prince of Wales, The Fox, The Railway Inn, The Red, White and Blue, New Station Inn, The Bell inn, The Jolly Friars, Kings Arms, The Fruiters and the Blacksmiths. There were two breweries operating in Lewes – Beards in Fisher Street and Harvey’s and now there is just the latter remaining. One new public house, ‘The John Harvey,’ has now opened in Bear Lane and the Bear Hotel, which once stood on the site, now occupied by Argos.

Between these two eras the site housed a garage, which was originally owned by J. C. Martin and now by Caffyns.

At the bottom of North Street, on the west side, was a residential area of small terraced cottages in Brook Street and Spring Gardens, which was known as ‘Tiger Bay’, and this was quite often the scene of domestic disputes, these required police attendance. These cottages were later demolished and made way for the car park. The Fire Station was also at the bottom of North Street and then next to that was the town mortuary. There was also a short row of cottages, which was generally known as The New Street Cottages.’ This is where the West Street car park now stands.

There is no doubt that so much has changed in Lewes over the past few years.

These small chapters have been taken for the book ‘The Police in Lewes.’

This was written out on 27th October 2015 by David Rowland, author, but not of this book.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *