£725,000 bid to save Lewes Priory Medieval monastery wins Lottery Fund boost

By Culture24 Staff | 11 December 2009
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A photo of stone monuments on grass

A £725,000 bid to save the decaying Norman skeleton of a Grade I-listed Medieval monastery will go ahead in a two-year rebuilding campaign after Lottery chiefs agreed to fund 75% of the costs.

Lewes Priory, a Scheduled Ancient Monument set opposite a castle in the picturesque East Sussex town, will use the £545,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to create new pathways, benches, interpretive signs and education programmes during an extensive building programme expected to run throughout 2010.

"This is a massive gain for the town of Lewes," said John Lawrence, Chairman of campaigners the Priory Trust, which has helped to win the funding from the HLF, English Heritage and the local Town Council.

"What we now have to do is to ensure that all of the benefits are maintained into the foreseeable, or even the unforeseeable, future."

A photo looking through the wall of a stone monument on grass

Building work at the former monastery will begin in 2010

The 11th century precinct is a rare relic of Medieval England, having been systematically demolished after the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Henry VIII's reign in the mid-16th century.

Three hundred years earlier it served as a stronghold for Henry III's troops during French attacks, becoming the site of his parliamentary surrender.

It was originally founded by William de Warenne as a home for Cluniac monks in 1081, forming a shrine to St Pancras in a link between Saxon England and Rome. Conservationists have been studying the current ruins since the 18th century.

Local resident Baroness Kay Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, applauded the "wonderful news".

"Such a significant part of our national history will now be made safe and brought back to life," she gushed.

"It's wonderful for the whole Lewes community and for everyone who will visit, enjoy, learn about and care for the Priory in years to come.

"We owe a major debt of thanks to the Priory Trust who have kept the faith and worked so hard to bring this achievement about."

"This is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the region," added Stuart McLeod, Head of the HLF in the South East.

"With little interpretation for locals or visitors to understand the sites' rich history, and it currently being fenced off as unsafe, this much-needed award will provide a bright future for Lewes Priory for generations to come."

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