Facts about Lewes
Lewes (/ˈluːɪs/) is the county town of East Sussex, England.[note 1] It is the police and judicial centre for all of Sussex and is home to Sussex Police, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Lewes Crown Court and HMP Lewes. The civil parish is the centre of the Lewes local government district and the seat of East Sussex County Council at East Sussex County Hall.
Lewes is located at the point where the River Ouse flows through a narrow gap in the east-west line of the South Downs. The immense strategic value of the site, which is able to command traffic between the Channel coast and the Sussex interior, was recognised as early as the Iron Age, when a hill-fort was built on Mount Caburn, the steep-sided hill that overlooks the Ouse (and the modern town of Lewes) from the east.
During the Roman period there was an aristocratic villa at Beddingham, at the foot of Mount Caburn, and there have been several finds of Roman coins and pottery sherds in Lewes itself. The Victorian historian Thomas Walker Horsfield therefore reckoned that there must have been a Roman settlement on the site, and he identified it with the otherwise unlocatable town of Mutuantonis. Another antiquarian, John Elliot, even suggested that central Lewes’s distinctive network of twittens was based on the layout of a Roman legionary fortress; however modern historians are rather more cautious about the possibility of a Roman Lewes, as there is as yet no archaeological evidence for a built-up area dating back to the Roman period.