SEAWARD SUSSEX - online book

A Description of Travels in Sussex During the early 1900s

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Martyr, and St. Martin. The chapter-house and church were by far the most splendid apartments of this stately pile; the latter was richly adorned by the painter and the sculptor."
The wooden chapel of St. Pancras which existed here in Saxon times probably stood where later the high altar of the great Norman church was reared, and across this site the Eastbourne trains now run. The station itself is supposed to be on the site of the convent kitchens and consequently the present ruins are very scanty. Though the foundations laid bare at the cutting of the railway in 1845 show the great extent of the
buildings, the battered walls which now remain give but little indication of the imposing dimensions quoted above, and the visitor will have to depend on sentiment and the imagination rather than on actual sightseeing. The excavators in 1845 had a gruesome experience, for they discovered a charnel pit containing thirteen cart loads of bones of the fallen warriors at the battle of Lewes. Although nearly six centuries had elapsed the stench was dreadful.
That the archaeological interest of Lewes owes much to the making of the railway will now be seen.
The following account appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1845:
"On the morning of Tuesday, October 28, a most interesting discovery was made by the workmen employed in forming a cutting for the Lewes and Brighton Railway, through the ground formerly occupied by the great Cluniac Priory of St. Pancras, at Lewes. It is well-known that the original founders, in 1078, were William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, of a great Norman family, and his wife Gundred, the daughter of William the Conqueror and his Queen Matilda; that they pulled down an old wooden church to replace it by a stone one, and that after their deaths in 1085 and 1088, they were buried in the chapter-house of their Priory. So effectual, however, was the destruction of the buildings in 1537 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Henry VIII that the very site of the church has been uncertain, and there has long been nothing visible of the ruins but a confused mass of broken walls and arches half buried under the soil. The bold intrusion of a railway into these hallowed precincts has thrown light upon this obscurity, and in the course of their excavations the workmen have found,
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