THE REAL HISTORY OF THE PHOENIX WORKS
Jennifer Chibnall (Dr) Historical researcher for Lewes Phoenix Rising
I am grateful to the Lewes History Group and in particular to the work of local historians, Fiona Marsden, Sarah Hitchings, David Joyce, John Farrant, John Blackwell and Ron Martin, which informs this account. The errors are my own.
The effect of this application by Santon and Lewes District Council seems to be the suppression of the real industrial history of this town. The summary of the history of the Phoenix in the Planning Statement which is part of the application seems only to acknowledge any historic significance to the ‘Victorian’ ironworks.
Once ‘this heavy industry evolved and the ironworks became redundant, other uses such as warehousing and small scale manufacturing filled the void with a variety of light weight industrial buildings in the 1950’s/60’s’ (p.4) This fails to understand the importance of the development of steel work and engineering by Every’s in the early twentieth century and ignores the work of the East Sussex Engineering Company which is still vital in the living memory of people in the town.
These flexible structures, designed and made in Lewes by Every’s to house the various manufacturing processes in which they engaged, are entirely suitable to be renovated. If the present worn out cladding is removed, the original structures can be exposed and clad in suitable modern materials. Thus they can continue to house many of the manufacturing, creative and community enterprises which now occupy the space and be ready to for those of the future. Santon’s plans make no secure provision for either. The ‘flexible workspace’ they provide is so loosely defined that it may actually all be retail space.
To replace these historic buildings with pastiche ‘industrial’ buildings, such as the ‘Chimney Building’ proposed in Santon’s development, actually confuses the understanding of their history and cannot be considered to comply with the requirements of the National Park. This development is too large to be designed with so little regard to the actual history of the site and its present use.