|St Pancras Station, Gothic Revival fantasy|
|St Pancras New Church|
|St Pancras Old Church|
William de Warenne was charged by the Norman Conquerer, William, to subjugate a great part of Southern England. He established his power base in Lewes, which guarded the approach from the South, the cleft in the South Downs giving access from the coast towards London. On the hill he built a great Fortress.
|Lewes Casstle Keep|
|Harold swears to support William's claim - on the bones of St Pancras the oath-keeper|
Five centuries later another king with a tenuous claim to the English throne, the Welshman Henry Tudor, also set about dominating the kingdom by force. The Priory of St Pancras in Lewes, one of the wealthiest religious houses in England, was demolished by Thomas Cromwell, employing an Italian skilled in attacking cstles. He undermined the walls, set fire beneath them, and brought the entire building to the ground. Cromwell sold off the building materials at great profit. Less survives than of almost any other monastery. There is a corner of the Monks' dormitory and a fragment of the Reredorter, the lavatories - that's all that stands above ground. The Priory was so huge that you might gain an impression of how immense the other buildings must have been if this was just the loos.. Henry VIII also enlisted a Saint's aid - by removing him from the Kalendar. That was Saint Thomas Becket, named by Henry 'Thomas Traitor' - but that's another story.
|Remnants of Lewes Priory|
Lewes Town chooses not to remember its monks, who ran schools and hospitals and cared for the poor. Instead they hold Bonfire parades, burn the Pope in effigy, and make much of the seventeen Protestants burned at the stake in Mary Tudor's reign. That is rather how history has been taught in England since the Reformation - it is written by the winners. Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' supplanted all memory of what was lost through the suppression of the Monasteries and the breach with Rome. Mary is called 'bloody', while the blood on the hands of Henry, Edward and Elizabeth is conveniently forgotten and the Catholic martyrs expunged from the record. If you want to start to get the record straight read Eamon Duffy* Diarmaid MacCulloch* and other modern historians. They throw a rather diffent light on "Merrie England".
* Eamon Duffy: Saints, Sacrilege & Sedition; Voices of Morebath;Reformation Divided; The Stripping of the Altars &c.
* Diarmaid MacCulloch: All things made new; The Reformation - a History. The Later Reformation in England &c