The quarries and combe of Cliffe Hill stand up with fine effect immediately east of the town, which sinks from where we stand to the Ouse at the bottom of the valley. More to the south-east is Mount Caburn above the bare and melancholy flats through which the Ouse finds its way to the sea; due south-west the long range of Newmarket Hill stretches away to the outskirts of Brighton, and the Race Course Hill brings us back to our starting point. Beautiful as is the distant prospect the greatest charm of this unique view is in the huddle of picturesque red-tiled roofs and greenery beneath us.
Of the history of the Castle there are but scanty records; its part in the making of East Sussex seems to have been fairly quiescent, and in the great struggle of May 1264 between the forces of the Barons and Henry III, for which Lewes will always be famous, the fortress took no actual part and merely surrendered at discretion.
"The battle was fought on the hill where the races are held. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, headed the Baronial army. The Royal forces were divided into three bodies; the right entrusted to Prince Edward; the left to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, King of the Romans; and the centre to Henry himself. Prince Edward attacked the Londoners under Nicholas Seagrave with such impetuosity that they immediately fled and were pursued with great slaughter. Montfort taking advantage of this separation, vigorously charged the remaining division of the Royalists, which he put to rout. The King and the Earl of Cornwall hastened to the town, where they took refuge in the Priory. Prince Edward, returning in triumph from the pursuit of the Londoners, learned with amazement the fate of his father and uncle. He resolved to make an effort to set them at liberty, but his followers were too timid to second his ardour, and he was finally compelled to submit to the conditions subscribed by his father, who agreed that the Prince and his cousin Henry, son of the Earl of Cornwall, should remain as hostages in the hands of the Barons till their differences were adjusted by Parliament. In this contest 5,000 men were slain. The King, who had his horse slain under him, performed prodigies of valour. Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was taken prisoner."
By all accounts it was a good fight, and the best men won. A touch of humour is added to one record wherein it is related that Richard, King of the Romans, took refuge in a windmill, wherein he was afterwards captured amid shouts of "Come out, thou bad miller." This mill stood near the old Black Horse Inn, but has long since been burnt down.
Accounts vary exceedingly as to the number of the slain, some authorities giving as many as 20,000, others no more than 2,700.