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SAR AH GORDY

A B I LIT Y A M B A S S A DO R

WAYNE THOMAS N E W I C K’ S RU G BY H E RO

THE KNI GHTS OF TE MPL AR M E D I E VA L M A R AU D E R S

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TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK / VOL 05

I N T H I S I SSU E . . .

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30 EMMA TUCKER The deputy editor of The Times newspaper started her career with the award winning editorship of Popcorn and an interview with The Goodies all at the tender age of 8. Emma tells us about her school days in Lewes, how her road to journalism started and what a typical working day looks like working for The Times

NATALIE COURTOIS BEAUTY EDITOR

SARAH GORDY MBE We meet the formidable and exceptionally talented Sarah Gordy MBE, who tells us why Lewes is home, about being an ambassador and how it’s her mother who copes with any first night nerves

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Natalie Courtois is a freelance Beauty journalist & blogger. Passionate about skincare as well as the latest beauty and grooming trends, she will be reporting from the front line for Town & County readers. Follow her on Instagram @lafemmelondon and share your own favourite finds!

STAY I N CONTACT LEWES

56 WILLIAM NICHOLSON How does a leading screenwriter find inspiration for blockbuster movies such as Gladiators and Les Miserables? We find out over a cup off coffee at his lovely farmhouse in Barcombe

We’d love to hear from you! If you are a local business within the Lewes District or resident with a story to tell and you’d like to be featured, or if you have any comments or feedback please email: editorial@townandcountymag.co.uk To advertise please email: info@townandcountymag.co.uk or call 01273 033 500


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HELLO

I can’t wait for our readers to see this month’s issue - it’s all about inspiration in a host of shapes and forms. First of all we have an article on Wayne Thomas, a truly inspirational man who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, was determined to come out fighting and raise a big chunk of money for Cancer Research UK. The Town and County team were privileged to be invited to go along to his charity rugby match, Kick Cancer Into Touch, held at Newick Rugby Club. The support from the local community and other sports clubs was amazing and Wayne and his family, friends and supporters were blown away by the amount of money they raised. Their initial target of £10,000 was topped before the event had barely started on the Saturday and by the end of the weekend had soared to well over £34,000, the money will go to Cancer Research UK. Lewes is rich in writers and artists, for many of whom the town and its surrounding countryside has provided with the inspiration to achieve great things. In this issue you can read about the amazing and talented Sarah Gordy, who shares with us her life on screen and how she is a role model – not only to other people with Downs Syndrome – to all of us. We hear from William Nicholson, a screen writing legend who works from his Barcombe farmhouse, drawing inspiration from the fantastic Sussex views around him, and not forgetting our article on Emma Tucker – Deputy Editor of the Times with an exciting look into her daily working life and her history in Lewes.

SEÁN KANE, E D I TO R

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the big interview

A S H IN ING E X AM PLE Jo Rothery discovers how Sarah Gordy’s zest for life and wealth of natural talent have seen her effortlessly captivate audiences as well as becoming an important ambassador for people with disabilities

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ust like champagne, Sarah Gordy’s favourite drink, everything about her sparkles. This effervescent actor glows with enthusiasm and excitemet for her chosen career, combined with a lively sense of fun and the awareness she is an impressive role model. Her hard work and dedication have not only seen her cast in a diverse range of challenging roles in the theatre and on television series, but also the accolade of being awarded an MBE for services to the arts and people with disabilities in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours. She was the first woman with Downs Syndrome to receive an MBE and in the same year she received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Nottingham, she is the first person with Downs Syndrome to be awarded such an honour by a British university. Now Sarah is rehearsing for a prestigious performance in July at The National Theatre in London, revisiting her starring role as Kelly in Jellyfish, the radical and heartfelt play about coming of age with Downs Syndrome which had a sold-out

run last year at the Bush Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush. Unlike many who have gone on to stardom in the world of theatre and television, acting wasn’t a childhood dream for Sarah - it was at the core of her being right from the start. “I didn’t dream about being an actor,” she says. “That is what we did all the time as a family, we enjoy fantasy. I didn’t think about it as a job, it’s always been just what I do.” Lewes has been the family home since 1992. Sarah’s father comes from Abbeville in Louisiana and her mother is from Kent. They met in London while working for two different oil companies and because of her father’s job, they moved to the United States, later returning when Sara was 16 and settling in Lewes. Sarah attended Sussex Downs College and with her creative side coming to the fore, it was only natural that she would become increasingly involved in acting and make it her career. “I learn through creativity,” she explains. “Every story is a new world and you have to learn about it and the people. To understand today you have to understand a bit of history.” It wasn’t long before acting roles came Sarah’s way and it quickly emerged that she had enormous talent and flair. Her mother Jane took on the role of drama coach and mentor. “Carlton TV were looking for somebody with Downs Syndrome to do three weeks filming for Peak Practice,” Sarah recalls. “Although I wasn’t part of Carousel Theatre in Brighton, they knew of me and made the introductions. My mum rehearsed me to my fingertips so on set, people kept asking me what I had done before. I took to it like a duck to water and after the filming finished, I felt lonely without my character sharing my head. “The programme was well received and the writer Lisa Evans - I call her the Mother of my Career - was commissioned to write a play called Once We Were Mothers. It was performed in TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 9


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the big interview

Newcastle-under-Lyme, in a big space with seven or eight hundred seats in the round. During rehearsals everybody obviously forgot I had never been in a professional play before. Janice McKenzie asked me if I ever got first night nerves, as though I had done it many times before. “I replied ‘I don’t do nerves, it’s my mum who does nerves’. That has become a family story - that I contract out my nerves! Mum often says it isn’t my problem, that’s her job. She got me to do my daily dance workout in the space every day so that I made it my home, filled with imaginary friends. So when we opened, for me it wasn’t a first night.” As Lisa went on to play a huge variety of roles in both theatre and television, she became one of the pioneers in leading the way for those with Downs Syndrome being respected as actors in their own right and given roles because of their talents rather than solely in relation to their condition. “In the beginning most of the TV roles for an actor with Downs Syndrome were not very complicated,” Sarah explains. “I think I have made a difference and creative people started to see difference as an opportunity. “I am so grateful to writers like Lisa Evans, Heidi Thomas and JK Rowlings. Heidi created a wonderful role in Upstairs Downstairs and then wrote for me in Call the Midwife. JK Rowlings trusted me to play a character with brain damage in The Silkworm, part of the Strike series. “In the very beginning, assistant directors were always worried that I might slow down the schedule - they are under great pressure on a TV project. After a couple of days they treated me like I was the best thing since sliced bread. I do my job, I am very fit and very happy. “What I have done at various conferences and other platforms is to encourage commissioners to trust the writers and other creatives who want to create interesting characters, different characters, played by people who are different.” One of Sarah’s most challenging roles was performing in Cultural Device at The Royal Opera House and developing her dancing skills. “I am a woman and an actor first,” she says. “However Daniel Vais of Cultural Device gave me wonderful opportunities to be truly liberated

Sarah performing in The Cultural Device, The Royal Opera House

through dance. We would go to a gig and I would hear the music for the first time when they were doing the tech, lights and sound. The second time would be the actual performance. “I danced in several countries in Europe, to pieces by Kraftwerk and other strange and wonderful stuff, once to something like a ticking clock. The music comes into my ears through my body, it always seems to create a story in my head. Sometimes I am fighting for my life or experiencing other high emotions. It feels great not to be polite and gentle all the time. “The choreographers saw me dance to something else and wanted me for the Sacrificial solo in the Rites of Spring, which got the Royal Opera House interested. Daniel put together a company of people with Downs Syndrome and together with some of the ROH ballet dancers, we performed at the Hamlyn Hall to a full house. “We did a couple of hours every Friday for a few months with people in the ballet. They were so kind and very, very interesting. It was truly wonderful for us all, a joyful experience and I am very grateful.” Sarah is now in rehearsals for Jellyfish at the National Theatre, a provocative play which focuses on coming of age for a character with Downs Syndrome - and that memorable first kiss. “It isn’t my first stage kiss and it is not a problem, my characters have lives,” she says. “By the time you actually kiss in a performance you have worked and made friends with other actors and it is our characters who kiss, not us.” Sarah loves every element of her career but top of the list is being part of a play or TV drama series. “It is what I live for. Being with a team, creating TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 11


Sarah performing in Jellyfish

a story, I’m truly happy when I work. I’ve worked with wonderful people, some wellknown, some not so well-known. Perhaps I have the casting directors to thank for creating teams who are happy and generous in their work. Nearly all my friends are people I have worked with, often several times, especially writers. “I have drunk champagne with the naughty Judi Dench and would love to work with her because I know I would learn so much and it would be really fun. Same with Eddie Redmayne, he is modest, good company and a good actor. Working with him would be great. “I really love working, I am living another life which energises me. To relax I love to sit and chat with actors and other colleagues, have a drink, eat some food. I do need physical exercise almost every day, dancing or working out to youtube clips does the trick. Time off, I love the theatre of course and the cinema. I am really pleased The National and The Royal Opera House etc stream live performances to cinemas. I don’t always have time or money to see performances live. “I am on several local government committees which is interesting and I enjoy my colleagues there too. I do love variety and being useful.” Sarah is used to her significance as a role model for people with disabilities and this has led to her doing a considerable amount of high-profile modelling in front of the camera. “I’ve done quite a lot of photographic work, have been in Vogue Italia and will be in Elle soon as the photoshoot for this had already happened. I haven’t done any catwalk work - I’m only five foot tall so they would have to do quite a bit of planning and 12 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

sewing before they used me! But the fashion world is interested in me, so maybe I will do it one day. I like new experiences and I love clothes. “Mencap had a campaign with Rankin and he was wonderful, did some amazing photography. All the models were photographed in black T-shirts but I brought my black leather jacket and tight black trousers. It was fun and outrageous. Rankin was a sweetheart, he had heard I liked champagne and gave me a bottle of Dom Perignon, it was lush.” Sarah’s wider role as an ambassador for people with Downs Syndrome led to one of the highlights of her life so far, receiving her MBE from Prince William last November. “I was so happy to meet Prince William, he was so charming and really interested in my acting and work on Mencap campaigns. That evening the family celebrated in West Dulwich at my sister’s house and a few glasses of champagne were enjoyed. A really great day to remember.” Family is very significant for Sarah. As well as her mum Jane being vital as drama coach and mentor, Sarah’s younger sister Catherine helps write her speeches and talks as well as managing her website. Equally important is Sarah’s life in Lewes. “I really enjoy the days when I can help out at the Lewes British Heart Foundation shop and see my friends there,” she says. “After Peak Practice and Once We Were Mothers, I joined the junior drama group at The Lewes Little Theatre. That was great fun, lovely people. I didn’t actually perform there but it was a great experience. “Lewes is a great place to live. I like to go to independent businesses where possible, so I love all the pubs and cafes available like Needlemakers, and The Depot is cool. “I love the town’s history, too. We made a short film called Time Slip, set in Lewes and it’s on my website. Unfortunately in history, people like me were hidden, so to date there haven’t been many roles for me in period drama. “Jellyfish will be shown at The National from June 5-16, with a tour to follow later in the year. I have quite a bit of TV in the pipeline also, although that hasn’t been made public yet, and Catherine and I are working on a really exciting project at the moment - still secret!”

Images: Snooty Fox, Richard Kaby, Samuel Taylor

the big interview


IN THE NEWS

KEEPING IT LOCAL

GOOD FOR EWE LADS

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pair of council waste workers turned into impromtu animal rescuers when they spotted a lamb trapped in a ditch during their morning rounds. Lewes District Council waste operatives Matthew Liddy and Luiz Sanchez sprang into action after noticing the stranded lamb while driving along Lewes Road. They pulled over and climbed through the undergrowth in order to free the young animal. After checking the lamb had no injuries they released it into the adjoining field where it was happily reunited with its mother. “Matthew and Luiz waited to see if the lamb was okay and once he trotted back to his mum, they continued on their way,” said Darren Liddy, a chargehand based at the Robinson Road depot, who is also Matthew’s father. “It didn’t take them long but their act of kindness freed a young animal from a very distressing and dangerous situation.” However, it seems the pair remain sheep-ish about their heroic deed. Darren added: “They are considerate young men and quite shy so aren’t the kind of people to go round telling others about what they did.” 14 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

G R ANTS O N O F F E R

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eaford Town Council’s annual grants scheme has opened for applications and local community groups, charities or voluntary organisations can apply for a financial award. In the 2018/19 scheme, grants totalling £23,000 were made. Small grants of up to £500 and larger grants up to a maximum of £3,000 are available. Criteria that must be met to be eligible can be found in the grants policy on the council’s website, seafordtowncouncil.gov.uk, where application forms for both grants are available. Closing date for submitting applications is Friday, June 7.

Above: Last year’s successful large grant applications receiving their awards by Seaford mayor Linda Wallraven and Cllr Mark Brown


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IN THE NEWS

KEEPING IT LOCAL

HERE COMES THE SUMMER

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eaford has welcomed back food concessions to the seafront, with La Creperie returning to sell a range of delicious crepes and, new this year, the Holy Cow! with its homemade ice creams. La Creperie proved a huge success last summer, offering both sweet and savoury fresh crepes. This family-run business, with its five-star hygiene rating, child-friendly service, locally-sourced ingredients and plastic-free philosophy, is a unique offering to the town. It will be on the promenade opposite Dane Road through to September. Holy Cow! Ice Cream Company is a newcomer and will be run from a traditional ice cream tricycle by business owner, Laura Gutane, and her team, sited on Seaford promenade by the Esplanade car park near Splash Point. It also has a five-star hygiene rating and as well as artisan soft scoop ice cream offers doggie ice cream, ice cream sandwiches and locally-grown pressed juices.

THEY CAN FIX IT Chailey Repair Café had a great response when we featured it in a recent issue of Town and County and is heading for another busy day when they open for business again at the village hall on Saturday, May 11. Already lined up for their attention are two pressure washers, a rechargeable toothbrush, a blender, an electric shaver, a personal CD player, a watch, and a bike or two - and those are just the items they know about.

The Repair Cafe is open 10am-1pm on the second Saturday each month.

S h a re d se r v ic e s a re a s good a s gold

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ewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council pioneered a new and innovative strategy of shared services which has resulted in them winning the public sector Councils of the Year Award 2019 and a Gold Award for Working Together. Lewes council leader Andy Smith said: “We had to implement a shared system of service delivery with Eastbourne that balanced the expectations of our residents with the fundamental requirement for significant savings from the council budget. “I’m extremely grateful to colleagues, both council officers and other councillors, for their support, expert advice and wise counsel throughout the project.” The integration of services has achieved year-on-year savings of £3.2m. TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 17


IN THE NEWS

KEEPING IT LOCAL

WINNING PARTNERSHIP

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eaford Town Council joined forces with Sam Taylor in order to make beach access a reality for all, fulfilling another feature of the Seafront Improvement Plan. While Sam has been fundraising with indomitable determination and using his social media skills to raise awareness, the council’s Tony Jackson has been working hard, meeting and instructing contractors, liaising with other interested parties such as the Environment Agency and colleagues at Lewes District Council, sourcing the necessary materials at the very best price, and carrying out risk

assessments to ensure the final access is safe for everyone. The Environment Agency has worked with the council to prepare the beach area in readiness for permanent decking to be put down and to plan the project which is being completed in two phases.

Sam is absolutely thrilled with the success of this joint venture. “The Seaford Beach Access campaign, with the support from Seaford Town Council and the public, has meant that the vision of having access for everyone onto Seaford beach can become a reality,” he said.

SK ATE S O N

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onstruction has begun on the eagerlyawaited new skatepark at The Salts in Seaford and it will be up and ready to use by the end of June. CCTV is to be included as part of the project, with the aim of providing better protection for the users, eliminating vandalism to the equipment and generally making the whole area safer to use. Floodlighting, currently awaiting planning permission, should be installed by October, enabling the skatepark to be enjoyed well into the evening hours in the winter, as well as in the summer months. There will also be seating for spectators and litter bins on site.

18 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Jet Lange, a keen scooter rider, said: “I’m really looking forward to the new park. The design is awesome, especially the bowl, and the CCTV should make it safer for all riders.” Together with Jack Jenner, 14, who had a hand in the design process, Jet will be enthusiastically practising his tail whips, buttercups and bar spins. The skatepark is being paid for from Section 106 funds, a generous donation from the NPS Lions and a grant from Sport England, so comes at no cost to the council taxpayer. The council is currently working on obtaining necessary funding in order to renovate the adjacent tennis courts.


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A WI N N I NG SCORE ‘Go big!’ was the advice given to Wayne Thomas and his partner Ross when they first suggested a charity rugby match to raise money for Cancer Research UK

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nd go big they did, much bigger than they could ever have hoped for, with the Kick Cancer Into Touch event at Newick Rugby Football Club on Saturday, April 6 raising an amazing £34,000 with the total still rising as more donations come in. Sixty of Newick RFC’s star players past and present took part in a hotly-contested game, some flying in from as far afield as Dubai to throw their support behind Wayne. The fundraiser also brought the whole community together, with other local sports clubs, businesses and individuals getting behind it and hundreds of spectators turning out on the day to cheer on the players. Among the crowd was Piers Morgan whose parents live locally.

It all came about after fifty-two-year-old Wayne, chairman of the Newick rugby club, was diagnosed last year with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus and liver. The diagnosis was terminal, a devastating blow, but he was determined to come out fighting. He decided that an event that combined rugby and a community effort would be a good way of raising money for Cancer Research UK. “When you hear the fateful words ‘you have cancer’ you immediately think ‘why me?’, but actually cancer touches all of us in some way,” he said after his diagnosis. “Once I was through the four months of chemotherapy I felt it was right to celebrate as well as raise money for a brilliant charity. And what better way to do that than to bring the local community together for a friendly


interview Fundraiser Ross; Centre: Wayne in rugby mode; Below and main: Match action

game of rugby!” Wayne and his partner Ross discussed the idea with their friend Kate Alexander and the original aim was to raise a few hundred pounds, but it wasn’t long before they realised that their Kick Cancer Into Touch event had greater potential. “Kate told us ‘go big or go home’ and she took on the task of organising it,” says Ross. “It was a horrible time when Wayne got the diagnosis but the support from friends has been incredible. Everyone has rallied to support the match, not just on the day but with sponsorship beforehand and players of all ages wanting to take part - from 17 years old to friends in their 60s who hadn’t played for a while but wanted to be part of it.” Kate Alexander, a long-standing friend whose son Harry is Wayne’s godson, devoted a huge amount of time and effort into arranging Kick Cancer Into Touch, putting the whole thing together in just a couple of months. “Wayne is a modest but very popular man and although he and Ross thought at first of raising just a few pounds, I knew all his friends would come up with much more than that. But I never expected the support to be quite so amazing,” she said. “We held our first meeting in February and started by asking for shirt sponsors for the match local businesses responded really quickly and soon we had more and more offers of raffle prizes and items for the auction as well as sponsorship. The rugby club has been fantastic but all the other local sports clubs also got involved. “It has turned into a tremendous community effort and now we hope it will become an annual event in Wayne’s honour.”

With 60 players lined up for the match, it was arranged for them to be split into two sides, current members of the Newick squad battling it out against the Wobbly’s XV of mainly past players, alternating in 20-minute quarters so that everyone had a chance to play. Wayne himself was one of the Wobbly’s. Cheering him on were his daughter Jemma and her son Archie. “From the age of 18, standing on the side of a rugby pitch has been part of my life,” said Jemma. “We’re so proud of my dad and the support for him has been incredible.” No holds were barred during the game as even the older players were determined to make their mark. Taking a well-earned break, one of Wayne’s oldest friends, Ginger Shiell, told Town and County he thought the event was a fantastic way to raise funds to fight cancer. “The tremendous support from everyone reflects the marvellous support Wayne has given to this club for 30 years,” he said. “He’s

‘ R ug by pl aye rs st ic k t oge t h e r. A n d eve r yo n e is g iving eve r y t h ing t h ey ’ ve got - n o - o n e is h old ing ba c k’ TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 21


interview

enormously popular in the village and particularly with the rugby club. He’s been totally loyal and has never played for any other club and was captain on every side I played for. “There are players here today who started with him when they were just 17. We’re all here for him today rugby players stick together. And everyone is giving everything they’ve got - no-one is holding back.” One of the youngest players on the day was Kate’s son Harry, 17, who is at school in Switzerland and hadn’t hesitated to head for Newick to join the fundraiser. “I’m so glad I came back for this,” he said. “My grandfather founded the club so it’s been a big part of my life. I’m very close to Wayne, I idolise him and he’s like a father figure to me - it’s so wonderful to see the whole community coming together like this for him. “I was very proud to be on his team, especially when we were the winning side!” The game was followed by a charity auction and raffle and there was a very special surprise awaiting Wayne - a video of messages of support from some of the rugby greats past and present including Will Carling, Jason Leonard, Ben Cohen and Danny Cipriani as well as other sporting legends like Freddie Flintoff. The day was a hugely emotional occasion for Wayne, who told Town and County he had been blown away by the support from friends, family, sponsors and the Newick community.

“It has been fantastic, amazing,” he said. “We knew it was going well and thought we might raise £10,000 but then look what happened - it was £20,000, and then £34,000. I’m just gobsmacked. “For me it’s been a very emotional day, seeing so many players from yesteryear, some friends I hadn’t seen for years as well as the current group. After the game it took me an hour-and-a-half to walk back to the clubhouse as so many people wanted to talk to me. By the time I got there, the showers were freezing cold. “I can’t thank people enough - it’s been a brilliant day and we’ve raised so much for a very good and worthy cause.” Louise Wardle, the local fundraising manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “The support from Newick RFC will make a real difference. With one in two of us experiencing cancer in our lifetimes, research is crucial if we are to ensure more people survive the disease and that survival rates continue to rise as they have over recent decades. While this is largely thanks to our scientists and their treatment breakthroughs, those breakthroughs are only possible with support from people like Wayne and communities like Newick RFC. “We rely solely and heavily on the generosity of supporters to help us bring forward the day when all cancers are treatable and we can’t thank them enough for their support and donations.”

If you would like to find out more or add to Wayne’s incredible fundraising achievement, visit newick-rfc-kicks-cancer-into-touch

‘ Way n e re c e ive d a vid e o o f m e ss age s o f su p po r t f ro m so m e o f t h e r ug by g re at s inc l u d ing Will C a r ling , J a so n Le o n a rd , Be n C o h e n a n d D a n ny C ip r i a n i’ 22 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Images: © Town & County magazine

Wayne with Harry Below: Match action


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history

AR M S , LEG S AN D B U M P S A DAI SY! * I S M E LL M U R D E R He embraced her with promises of a new life together then slipped a noose around her neck Words Keith Hayes

24 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK


Left: Celia Holloway Plaque in St John’s Church, Preston Park; Far left: View of the sea and West Pier in Brighton

W

hen Sarah Ann French was hanged in public in 1852 outside Lewes prison, a crowd of around 4000 gathered to watch her die. When convicted murderer John Holloway’s body was put on display in Brighton in August 1831, 25,000 turned up to look at his corpse. The importance of Gala Day, or Gallows Day as it was originally called, was exemplified by John Holloway’s path to the noose. He was convicted in Lewes, hanged in Horsham then his body was taken to Brighton to dramatically be put on public show. Pretty gruesome by our standards but then 19th century society had different ideas about social injustice than we do today. Holloway was found guilty of murdering his wife Celia. But she was only his wife because he had been forced into what would have been called in the early twentieth century, a shotgun marriage. And who held the shotgun? An angry father, an outraged brother, a sanctimonious family relative? None of the above. It was the State. Holloway had met Celia on a day at the races. Not much of an Adonis, Holloway seemed to have a charm that attracted women and soon talked her into bed, making her pregnant. Celia was from Ardingly, a village not too far from Lewes, and was a chambermaid. Holloway worked on the now defunct Chain Bridge in Brighton, as a painter. When he refused to marry Celia because his salary of two shillings a week wasn’t enough to pay maintenance, the court slung him into Lewes gaol

to think things over. Holloway tolerated the prison food for almost five weeks, before relenting and agreeing to wed Celia. Released, he took his pregnant bride back to Brighton where they lived together until Celia sadly gave birth to a stillborn child. Holloway was a bit of a playboy, despite his lowly and badly paid job. He publicly claimed that he didn’t want Celia, that she didn’t turn him on and that he would like to be shot of her. Despite his protests, he made her pregnant again and to avoid another stint in Lewes prison, and its filthy food, he decided to push off to sea, leaving the pregnant Celia to fend for herself. But playboys can’t keep their zippers up for long and Holloway not only impregnated another woman but bigamously married her. Goodness gracious me. Holloway was faced with two pregnant women, a bigamous marriage and another stint in gaol. Obviously the lack of culinary expertise in the Lewes lockup drove Holloway to find another solution. He apparently consulted with his second wife, Ann Kennett and the two decided Celia just had to go. Such was his hypnotic power over Celia, he lured her to a broken down Brighton tenement and there,

‘ To avoid a n ot h e r st in t in Lewe s p r iso n , a n d it s f ilt hy f ood , h e p u s h e d o f f t o se a , le aving t h e p reg n a n t C e li a t o f e n d f o r h e rse l f.’ TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 25


history

as he embraced her with promises of a new life together slipped a noose around her neck and with the willing help of bigamous wife Ann, strangled the poor woman to death. Holloway had once worked in a butcher’s shop and had picked up certain dismembering skills. He now used them, not on an animal’s carcass but on Celia’s body. Press reports at the time said the body parts had been amputated with some considerable skill, as sinister Holloway cut off the head, arms and legs to make the corpse easier to dispose of. 19th century slums were no joke and residents kept their business to themselves. So, it was only later that witnesses reported seeing a barrow and a trunk outside the Holloway household. The murderer and his accomplice took the body to the place on Margaret Street where Holloway had been living and stuffed arms and legs into an outside toilet. But the torso wouldn’t fit, so they took a second trip along a remote lane ironically called Lovers Walk near Preston Park and buried the remains of the corpse. They didn’t do a very good job at either venue. A fisherman in the park noticed that earth had been dug recently, and looking around, discovered some bloodstained wood near the shallow grave. The smell of rotting flesh alerted neighbours to the rest of Celia’s body stuffed down the loo and the game was up. Holloway found himself back eating the prison slop which he had hated so much in his previous incarceration, this time facing the death penalty. Amazingly, his accomplice Ann Kennett was found not guilty, perhaps because Holloway ended up making several contradictory confessions while in the lock up. Be that as it may, it turned out to be a lonely lothario, John Holloway who walked his last journey to the gallows, before becoming a public

The Rockery in Preston Park

‘ t h ey t oo k a se c o n d t r ip a lo ng a re m ot e l a n e iro n ic a lly c a lle d Love rs Wa lk n e a r Pre st o n Pa r k a n d b u r ie d t h e c o r pse ’ spectacle to the blood thirsty people of Brighton who crowded around the killer’s corpse hanging in front of the town hall. Brighton was once termed The Queen of Watering Places, but a wag in the 1930’s, just about a hundred years after the Holloway murder, dubbed it the Queen of Slaughtering Places after yet another two bodies-in-the-trunk type murders. In the first one, the killer got away. A box at Brighton Station left luggage office suspiciously began to smell badly and when opened revealed the dismembered body of a young woman. As with the Holloway murders almost a century before, the lady had been very expertly cut up and only her torso was still in the box. A widespread search eventually revealed the legs and arms situated in a trunk at Kings Cross station in London. Suspicion fell on a Brighton abortionist, but he was never convicted and the girl, named TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 27


‘Jo h n Holloway wa lke d h is l a st jo u r n ey t o t h e g a llows , be f o re be c o m ing a p u blic s pe c t a c le t o t h e blood t h irst y pe o ple o f B r ig h t o n w h o c rowd e d a ro u n d t h e k ille rs’ c o r pse h a ng ing in f ro n t o f t h e t ow n h a ll’ ‘Pretty Feet’ by the media because of her petite dancing legs were never identified. No such luck for a copycat murderer in 1934. Tony Mancini was tried at Lewes Assizes for the murder of girlfriend Violette Kaye. Violette was a dancer and occasionally sold her body to pay the rent. Mancini was a small time crook. They met in London and moved to Brighton to set up home. The two were frequently seen bickering and quarrelling. Violette kept the income flowing by waitressing, and Mancini enjoyed the life of a seaside town, even then known for the small hotels in the resort where guests never signed the register. Mancini and Kaye in fact lived in a seedy Brighton, with a flourishing underworld that Graham Greene describes in his famous novel, Brighton Rock. 28 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Arms Legs and Bumps a Daisy. 1930s song - Vera Lynn

Images: Jez Nicholson, Martin Robson, Sheep “R” Us /Flickr, Shutterstock

Brighton Town Hall

The 42 year old Kaye was jealous by nature and there was a flaming row one night when she accused the younger 26 year old Mancini of flirting with one of her fellow waitresses. The next time she was seen was as a corpse, once again, you’ve guessed it, stuffed into a trunk. Mancini apparently transported the body from their home at Park Crescent to a new flat he’d rented in Kemptown. He then proceeded to send a telegram to her sister in law saying she had gone to Paris. Incredibly, he used the trunk with Violette’s body inside, as a coffee table, persuading suspicious friends and acquaintances that the smell was coming from outside. Violette’s friends, who were suspicious about her disappearance alerted the police, who started to ask questions. Mancini then panicked and fled back to London. Luck was not with him. The police were searching premises for clues to the other unknown body in the trunk, when they found Violette. Mancini was then arrested in London and taken to Lewes for trial. The five day court trial took place in December 1934 and the jury took just two and a half hours to reach a verdict. So where was Mancini hanged? Well, he wasn’t. The jury found him not guilty after a brilliant defence by a noted trial lawyer of the day, Norman Birkett and a rare defeat for a prosecution including Quinton Hogg, later Lord Hailsham. It was only in 1976 on his death bed that Mancini confessed to the murder, saying he had thrown a hammer at Kaye in a fight and accidentally killed her. The one common thread to these stories is that no one knows what happened to the damn trunks!


NINA MURDEN

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C H A LLE N G I N G

TIMES Emma Tucker talks to Jo Rothery about the high-flying career that has seen her scale the heights of journalism

Emma relaxing in The Depot


interview

A

s deputy editor of the Times, Emma Tucker bears a huge responsibility. It’s her job to ensure the highly-respected national newspaper maintains its reputation for providing readers with the very best of accurate up-to-the-minute news together with expert analysis and comment. It’s a task she bears with unruffled ease and good humour, a tribute to her impressive career as a journalist who has reported on some of the most seismic events and changes in politics and economics over the past three decades. Strangely enough, though, Emma’s high-flying career in journalism wasn’t something she had always planned - it simply came about as a natural progression from her studies and many interests at university. There was a very early clue, however, that newspapers might play a major role in her life. At the tender age of six she was one of a group of pupils at the Wallands school in Lewes who had created their own newspaper, Popcorn, and Emma was sent to interview The Goodies and write a piece about them. Popcorn then went on to win an award for the best school newspaper. Emma’s schooldays continued at Lewes Priory before going to the United States for her sixth form and then on to study PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford. Between school and university she had several articles published, including one which appeared in the Guardian that was about her experience of watching the Royal Wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson while she was abroad. At Oxford in the 1980s, it was only natural for her to become editor of the student magazine as well as contributing more articles to the Guardian, one of which was to have far-reaching implications. “That was about the ‘rugger buggers’ in my college,” she explains. “One night the captain of

‘ E m m a h a s re po r t e d o n so m e o f t h e m ost se is m ic eve n t s a n d c h a nge s in polit ic s a n d e c o n o m ic s ove r t h e pa st t h re e d e c a d e s’

the rugby team was flung into my room, naked. I complained about it but was just told ‘boys will be boys’. I wasn’t the only one, the same kind of thing had happened to other people. I wrote an absolutely ferocious article that went in the Guardian and one of my professors read it, he told others and eventually the college was forced to acknowledge it.” Having decided on a career in journalism, Emma applied to the Financial Times graduate trainee scheme and having won a place was sent on the Westminster Press training scheme in Hastings. Although she took the course very seriously, it was a time packed with energy and enthusiasm for her and her fellow students and there were plenty of opportunities for her irrepressible sense of humour to come to the fore. “I spent from August to the end of the year at the training centre in Hastings - it was like being on holiday,” she says. “We were based in Hanover House, a beautiful 1930s building, and we christened it Hangover House. “It was very good training and I still recognise the names of other people who were there with me, now working at quite a high level in the media.” On the Financial Times, Emma initially worked as a general reporter and then specialised in politics and economics which saw her covering the House of Commons and major events such as the ERM crisis in 1992 when a collapse in the pound sterling forced Britain to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 31


interview

‘ E m m a st a n d s in f o r t h e e d it o r a n d it h a s be c o m e a st a n d ing jo ke t h at t h e big st o r ie s a lways b re a k w h ile h e is away ’

But Emma had already set her heart on reporting events further afield. “I was absolutely determined to be a foreign correspondent and every time that kind of job came up, I applied, hoping for exotic locations like West Africa or Brazil, although the foreign editor told me that if I did get West Africa, I’d spend my time writing about cocoa prices. “I did eventually get my wish but in about the most unexotic place you could think of - Brussels, although it was a very important posting and working there actually saw me build up some really good contacts, use all my languages and stood me in very good stead for what I’m doing now. “I was the most junior person in the office and my job was to cover the building of the European Single Market, all the ‘grunt’ work like food packaging, spare parts, bottling, the real nitty-gritty stuff. Britain was really driving the Single Market and a huge amount of effort and energy went

interview

into it. I also covered the rules around asylum and immingration which of course is in the news so much now. “While I was in Brussels I had two children and when my then husband was posted to Berlin with the Telegraph, I took time out because by then had a third baby. “It was ten years after the Berlin Wall had come down and it was a city still in transition. Bleak and grim but such an exciting place and once you’d been there for a while, you came to love it.” Back in the UK, Emma returned to the FT to edit the Weekend section and had to meet the challenge of handling an important role with bringing up three children. “I tried every permutation of job share, parttime, working from home, as well as commuting. Looking back, it was a big job and I don’t know where I got the energy,” she says. In 2008, Emma joined the Times as features editor, a move she is very glad she made. “There was much more scope at the Times and after a year I was made editor of Times 2, a great job which I did for five years. Then just before he left, the editor asked if I would take on a more executive job, developing ways editorial and commercial could work together more effectively.” In 2013 she was appointed deputy editor of the Times’ and her main role now is focusing on the 33 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK


interview

34 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

‘ I a m su r ro u n d e d by in t e re st ing , c leve r a n d f u n ny pe o ple w h o k n ow w h at m at t e rs so I e n joy eve r y m in ut e o f it ’ effort around a big story and we are known for getting stuff that our readers can’t get elsewhere. Exclusives like tracking down Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, and expert analysis and comment. “I am lucky to have such a fantastic job and my colleagues are brilliant - I am surrounded by interesting, clever and funny people who know what matters so I enjoy every minute of it.” Will Emma’s three sons follow her into journalism? Her youngest, 18-year-old Joseph, is the only one still living at home and has had an offer from Cambridge where he hopes to study English. Billy, who is nearly 21, is at university in Leeds and Tom, 23 is at university in London. Emma also has three stepsons, the eldest of whom is now editing an eco magazine. South-east London is now home to Emma but she is a frequent visitor to Lewes where her mother and father live and she also keeps in touch with many of her old friends from her days at Wallands school and Lewes Priory.

Images: © Town & County magazine

growth of digital and the challenge of building the revenue stream by increasing subscriptions. “What we have to do is grow our subscriptions model,” she says. “We need to attract more young people, more women, appeal to a broader section of society. We now have 520,000 subscribers, 300,000 of which are digital only.” A typical day starts early for Emma at home, reading all the newspapers online before heading into work for an ideas meeting at 10.45am, followed by conference at 11am and then a midday leader conference to discuss editorials. After a brief lunch break there will be meetings with marketing or commercial, talking about various projects and checking up on digital before setting things up for the next day’s edition and then the second news conference of the day at 3.30pm. Emma stands in for the editor when he is on holiday and it has become a standing joke that the big stories always break while he is away. “It’s incredible how that kind of thing seems to happen while I’m acting as editor, big events like the Westminster Bridge attacks,” she says. “Brexit has been massive for us. For all the media, of course , but particularly for us as people want trusted information and views - unlike some newspapers, we have taken a middle course. We cover all bases, international as well as national. “There’s always a very good co-ordinated


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gardening

history

Beautiful lilac; Below: Cow parsley; Centre: A Fern frond unfurling

LIL AC TI M E Town & County Gardening Words: Ciar Byrne

G

oing to see the river man/ Going tell him all I can/ About the plan for lilac-time,’ sang Nick Drake in his song ‘River Man’. The Lilac Time (also the name of a British folk-rock band inspired by Drake) will soon be upon us. The sweetly fragranced flowers of Syringa vulgaris do not stick around for long, so enjoy them while you can. Their hues range from purest white, through delicate violet to deepest purple. Sometimes two different colours can

appear on the same shrub if a cultivar reverts to its root stock. One of the most beautiful varieties is the pristine white ‘Madame Lemoine’, although I think the real pleasure is in the contrast of shades on show around town. If you plant one in your own garden, be warned they sometimes take a year off, only to return with added splendour the following year. They fall into that category of shrubs with a short flowering season which some people feel are not worth the space they take up for the return, along with Magnolias and Forsythia. For me the arrival of lilacs signifies that we are coming into that magical time of year when the hawthorns in the hedgerows put on their frothy white bridal array, while cow parsley bridesmaids fill the verges with foamy umbels. As the weather grows warmer, shady areas of our garden where we can seek relief from the midday sun become more important and the green fronds of ferns unfurl from their winter brown. This year alongside our shuttlecock ferns TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 37


(Matteuccia struthiopteris) I am planning to plant the Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) for its distinctive long points. Hostas are another great plant for shade that are prized more for their wide, ridged leaves than for their flowers, although they are a favourite with slugs and may fare better in pots ringed with copper bands. Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle is long-lived and easy to grow in shade, with attractive fan-shaped leaves and yellow

Alchemilla mollis; Centre: Forget Me Nots; Below: Bluebells in the woodlands

flowers in early summer, while shade-loving heucheras can provide interesting contrasts of red, orange and lime foliage. Forget-me-nots or Myosotis sylvatica are woodland flowers which are quite happy in partial shade. I managed to inadvertently transport some seedlings from the garden at Charleston farmhouse where I volunteer and this year they have spread like crazy. Bees and butterflies love their pretty tiny blue flowers with distinctive yellow centres. Blue is the colour of the season. If you go for a woodland walk, you will see carpets of bluebells. In the garden they can become a weed, particularly the Spanish bluebells or English/ Spanish hybrids, which have wider petals than the native flowers and spread easily. Personally, I don’t mind them and just pull them out when they become too plentiful. May is the month when the garden comes alive, brimming over with new growth, casting its spell on us as the nights grow longer and midsummer approaches. Enjoy the lilac time.

38 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Images: Ciar Byrne, Shutterstock

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RECIPES BY JAMES BENNING F R O M T H E B AC K YA R D C A F E

Delicious Indian Style Tenderstem Broccoli Salad SERVES: 4 Ingredients • 2 tbsp black mustard seeds • 3g dried curry leaves • 3 inch piece of ginger • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled • 3 tbsp pure coconut oil • 70g desiccated coconut, preferably organic • 2 good pinches of sea salt flakes • 1kg tenderstem broccoli • Small bunch of coriander for garnish For the cashews: • 150g plain cashews • 1/2 tsp olive oil • 1 tsp any Indian curry paste • 1 tsp maple syrup Method Preheat oven to 160 °c Put a large pot of water on a medium heat 1. Peel and grate the garlic and ginger, any ginger that clumps together chop with a knife. Use the standard side of the grater. A good tip for peeling ginger easily is using the side of a dessert spoon and peel away from you. 2. Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with olive oil then stir in the curry paste and the maple syrup making sure you coat them all well (the slower you turn them in the bowl, the better the coverage will be) then leave them to one side. 3. Take a medium or small non stick pan and heat the coconut on a medium to low heat. Put in the mustard seeds and curry leaves and heat until 40 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

the mustard seeds start to pop then quickly add the garlic and ginger and turn the heat down a little more.You don’t want to burn the the garlic and ginger, just release the flavour. Keep turning ocaionally and cook for around 10 mins or until just starting to colour. 4. Whilst the seasoning is cooking, turn up the heat under the water to high. Then spread out the cashews on a baking tray and cook in oven for around 8 minutes or until looking roasted and yummy, a little black is always good. When the water is boiling turn the heat down a quarter, cook the broccoli for 6 minutes then drain thoroughly. Put in a salad bowl while still warm. They will keep cooking out of the water and softening. 5. By this time the seasoning should be ready. Remove from heat if you haven’t already and allow to cool for a minute or two then pour over the broccoli, season with the salt and turn over gently making sure all the broccoli gets covered. Mix in the desiccated coconut then allow to cool. 6. Scatter with the cashews and some big sprigs of coriander and serve. Enjoy :)

Easy & Healthy Green Smoothie SERVES: 1 Ingredients • 1 very ripe banana • 1 green english apple (cored) • 1 ripe avocado (seed and skin removed) • 100g baby leaf spinach

Method Put all the ingredients in a blender and add 350ml of water, blend for ar.und 45 seconds. Most blenders will vary so blend until thick and smooth. I like to sprinkle mine with some desiccated coconut. Enjoy!

James Benning is the owner of Backyard Cafe, situated in The Needlemakers in Lewes


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interview Nicholas taking his dog for a walk by the river; Right: The old shop front

ON H I S OWN M E RIT

Nicholas Parrish is the head of one of the largest and most successful local companies but still finds time to pack in a busy personal life


N

icholas Parrish is managing director of a family firm with a history going back over a century, but he was always determined to achieve success in his own right before joining the business. He believes that the enormously diverse experience he gained through his late teens and 20s was the ideal preparation for heading a company which has survived and thrived thanks to its ability to respond to changing circumstances throughout the decades. Nicholas is the fourth generation Parrish at the help of Wightman and Parrish, a firm which has steadily evolved over the decades from its small beginnings to become a pre-eminent business supplying hygiene products and equipment all over the south-east of England. The firm’s roots go back as far as 1880 in Lewes when George Wightman and James Palmer bought a blacksmiths and wheelwrights, making deliveries throughout Sussex by horse and cart. In 1915 the first Parrish, Nicholas’ greatgrandfather Frederick, joined the business and Wightman and Parrish was born. Seven years later Frederick’s son Eric became an apprentice at the age of 16. During his career at W&P he realised the blacksmith’s trade was in decline and developed the builder’s merchant aspect. Eric was made managing director in 1933 and was well respected locally. He was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Lewes and other high-profile roles included mayor, magistrate and chair of Lewes Petty Sessional Division. His mother, Catherine Parrish, stepped in to run the company while Eric was serving in the army during World War II. In 1959 it was the turn of Michael, Eric’s son, to join the board. He is the current chairman and still plays an active role in the business. Part of his mark on the firm was developing the retail side, while his wife Pam dealt with pricing and payroll.

‘ It wo uld h ave se e m e d n at u r a l f o r Mic h a e l’s so n t o f ollow in h is f oot st e ps , b ut Nic h ol a s wa s d e t e r m in e d t o p rove h im se l f f irst The family firm took a giant step forward in 1968 when the Sussex Police Authority established their headquarters in Lewes and Michael won the contract to supply them with industrial cleaning products, signalling the start of W&P’s expansion into the major company it is today. By 1976 it had outgrown its Lewes premises and bought a warehouse in Hailsham. All the staff moved with the company, with the pledge their transport to the new locations would be paid. Michael honoured this for 25 years until the last person from Lewes retired. With all this family history behind what has become one of the largest and most successful local businesses, it would have seemed only natural for Michael’s son to follow in his footsteps, but Nicholas was determined to prove himself before he took that step. After gaining a degree at Kingston University, he joined Shell and worked for them for eight years, mainly on the retail fuel side, before taking a year off to go travelling. “I spent most of that time in Australia and New Zealand but it wasn’t a holiday - I was working and running around all over the place,” he says. “I did everything from knocking in tent pegs to working in an insurance office, lots of manual work including picking melons and butternut squash in 40 degree heat - that gave me a new perspective on the food we put in our mouths! “It was all good experience but working with Shell gave me a lot of confidence. When I left they told me that if things didn’t work out, there would TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 47


Nicholas in his office; Right: view over School Hill

48 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

‘ Now t h at h e is at t h e h e lm o f W&P, Nic h ol a s we lc o m e s t h e c o n st a n t c h a lle nge s t h e b u sin e ss wo r ld t h rows at h im’ real challenge and Rebel came from a bad home so needed a lot of patience. At first she wouldn’t eat or drink properly and even now we have to encourage her. She’s worth it though, and Rachel took an animal behaviour course at Plumpton College which was very helpful.” Now that he is at the helm of W&P, Nicholas welcomes the constant challenges the business world throws at him and is continuing the philosophy of adapting the company to deal with changing circumstances, a strategy which has seen it thrive through two world wars, recessions and ever-increasing competition. “You have to be able to adapt and move on, and W&P has always been very successful at reengineering itself. We’re always looking at how we can do things differently and better.” Nicholas is proud of his family’s long history with Lewes and he has lived there since the 1970s. “Rachel and I love dog walking and that has opened up my eyes to different places around Lewes, the Downs and the river. “The town itself is great, it isn’t just a shopping centre, there are so many independent businesses, hard-working entrepreneurs, which is so good to see. There’s a huge choice of different places to eat, ranging from somewhere you can just get a quick pizza to somewhere for a special occasion. And we’re so lucky to have a high-class cinema right on our doorstep. “When I came back from Australia, Lewes was top of my list of where I wanted to live, there’s such a marvellous sense of community here.”

Images: Edward Reeves, © Town & County magazine

always be a job with them for me as I’d been earmarked for senior management. “When I was a kid we had a shop in Lewes and I used to help out there at weekends and during the holidays, and in the warehouse. While I was doing my degree I had an industrial placement with Robert Dyas and worked in several departments. I liked all aspects of it but I found the retail part interesting and exciting. “I suppose I’d always known I would want to join our family business eventually but before doing that, I wanted to prove I could make it on my own, be successful in my own right.” Nicholas joined W&P in 1995 as sales and marketing director, adding a new branch to the business in the form of healthcare equipment and being appointed managing director in 2005. Nicholas certainly hasn’t sat on his laurels since then. He embarked on an MBA with the Open University, studying in his own time. “It was hard work doing that alongside a full-time, demanding job but it proved very worthwhile,” he says. “It gave me a better understanding of the business world and a professional management qualification. “I wasn’t married then so I didn’t have any other distractions apart from work, studying and sport it’s amazing how you can find the time if you really want to do something.” Nicholas has always managed to find time for sports. He studied martial arts for about ten years, gaining second Dan in Aikido, the next level up from Dan. He also became involved in triathlons, starting with small and simple events but moving up to compete in the daunting Iron Man contests. “I never thought I’d be able to do that and I ended up pushing myself to the limits” he says. Nicholas and his wife Rachel, a solicitor, do a lot of walking - an essential part of their lives since they adopted a lively collie-cross called Rebel. “Taking on a rescue dog can sometimes be a


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Beautiful Cuckmere Haven beach, surrounded by the South Downs National park


county life

S M UGG LI N G S E A F OR D Citizens could strip a ship of its cargo in no time flat Words: Keith Hayes

N

ow before you go wild and attack the publisher of Town and County, let it be known he is very good about not interfering with his scribes’ copy, unless he absolutely has to. So it was with a positive spring in my step that I handed in this story and hailed him with, ‘Hey, Chief. Here’s your story on shagging.’ Lois Lane, working purposefully in the corner, dropped her pencil, the print presses fell silent and a hundred pairs of eyes looked down the newsroom at me. What? What have I said? Then it occurred to me that these were journalists who of course knew every slang expression in the book. Yes, the word ‘shag’ is given in the dictionary as meaning one who loves copious quantities of sex. But the real meaning is a glutton, gourmand or even a greedy guts. In a roundabout way, it came to mean on the South Eastern coast of England in the 17th and 18th centuries a ‘cormorant’, the bird which was the common term for piracy and smuggling. And there were no greater shags than the people of Seaford.

This beautiful little village, with a population including the surrounding countryside is a village of 23,000 and is as genteel a place as you can get. It has a beautiful bay, with a long, bending beach, albeit mostly pebbles; it lies in the shadow of the Seven Sisters cliff range, the snowy white frontages of which welcomed back as many wartime pilots as the famed White Cliffs of Dover. And its town centre reflects the small 19th century fishing village it became, even though military threats from abroad gave it membership of the exclusive Cinque Ports protection club. So why are the inhabitants called shags? Ahhh.You see, today’s sophisticated and civilised society of Seaford, was not always thus. Their ancestors were Shags, or Cormorants. Accomplished and lethal smugglers. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when the smuggling gangs of East Sussex were a law unto themselves, the good burghers of Seaford were accomplished in the fine art of smuggling. Whenever a ship was wrecked in the bay, a not uncommon occurrence in those times, these not so ‘god fearing’ citizens could strip it of its cargo in no time flat, have it ashore and on the road to market before the authorities and especially the


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Old Coastguard Cottages at Seaford Head

‘A thriving trading centre in Medieval times, firstly Seaford fell afoul of the Hundred Years War, which customs men, knew it had foundered. Although my favourite source of history, word of mouth is the authority for their shady dealings, Seaforders were said to gather on the cliffs with lanterns and signal to passing vessels that their passage was safe, but really luring them onto the rocks so the ‘strippers’ could go to work. The sea and the town have always been closely wrapped together in the history of the area and Seaford was once one of the busiest ports on the South Coast, frequent targets of pesky French marauders. Today it is one of the most attractive tourist spots in East Sussex. A thriving trading centre in Medieval times, firstly Seaford fell afoul of the Hundred Years War, which began in 1337. The conflict was confusingly dubbed the Hundred years War with France because in good English tradition it actually lasted 116 years until 1434. Several times the village was burned to the ground by these French raiders. On one famous occasion the Lewes Prior was duped into taking his soldiers to Rottingdene, leaving Seaford and Lewes defenceless, and the intruders sailed around the

coast, up the River Ouse and sacked Lewes itself, although fearless English bowmen, who were left to defend the monastery, did so bravely and with skill’. Then Sir Nicholas Pelham courageously marched to the town, and bravely took on and beat the French in 1554 at Seaford. A Norman family oversaw the rise and fall of Seaford as High Sheriff. William Levett owned many estates in the area, intermarried with the great and the good and at some point an extant seal shows that an ancestor John de Levitt was Lord of Firle. The Ouse, so long a contributor to the prosperity of the town, bringing goods and iron from the Sussex hinterland, also went on to become its worst enemy. In the 1500s, flooding was frequent and widespread, and in 1539 a cutting was dug to allow the waters to take a different path shifting the port to Newhaven, keeping Seaford dry, but moving its importance as a port to its sister township. So a hundred years later, the shaggers were born and carried on the illicit smuggling trade to well into the 19th century But Seaford was occupied well before then. A Hill Fort and Bowl Barrow, (burial site) suggests that there were dwellers there in the Bronze Age of 2500 BC, through to the Iron Age of 1000 BC. The fort was so sophisticated for its time, Roman pottery suggests the invaders of a later age also had residential centres there. TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 53


history

‘The names of residents, past and present , are dotted with noted people’

The coming of the railway brought Seaford out of its slump in 1864 and has proved as loyal a friend as the Ouse, some 800 years before. Seaford became a seaside resort, featuring the start of the cliff walks along the Seven Sisters and a magnificent view from a towering bluff, Seaford Head, which looms over the town. The trains also brought commuters, at first to Eastbourne and Brighton and later on of course, City workers in London. Seaford was also a town of ‘eggheads’. Well not so much eggheads, although it turned out many illustrious people from its schools. Between the late 1800s and 1960s, the town had dozens of private and state schools so that ‘crocodiles’, that’s children walking in an orderly file, were a common feature of the town. One street had a sign warning motorist there were seven schools within a mile. The list of notables from Seaford Schools reads like a panorama of English life. 54 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Sir Anthony Blunt, artist, keeper of the Queen’s pictures and a notorious Soviet Spy went to school there, as did actor Nigel Davenport. Comedian Dickie Henderson was a pupil along with Dame Penelope Keith. Mind you in those days, girls and boys were kept very, very separate, so it isn’t likely they were in the same class. Another noted actress Margaret Rutherford listened for the school bell and so did astronaut Piers Sellers. The names of residents, past and present, are dotted with noted people. Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine lived there, so did stunt rider Eddie Kidd and top cricketer Colin Wells. The list goes on and since grocery lists aren’t part of the T&C package, I’ll desist. There are some very decent restaurants worth vissiting in Seaford and some charming historic villages with amazing pubs. So, shall I venture out tonight for a meal and a bit of a fling after a hard week? If I do, my greatest fear is that no one will remember to simply address me with the formal word for a resident of Seaford. But I bet they will all remember what to call a man whose a smuggler, bon vivant and a man about town. Greedy guts? No, I bet they’ll remember the real term for someone from Seaford and that is a ………. Bite my tongue.

Images: Grassrootsgroundswell /Flickr, Shutterstock

Left: View over Seaford; Below left: St Leonard’s Church; Below: Beach huts on the sea front.


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ROAM I NG I MAG INATION William Nicholson achieving Hollywood heights from his Sussex farmhouse

William relaxing in his beautiful garden; Right: At home surrounded by his many books


interview

W

here does a leading screenwriter find his inspiration for blockbuster movies such as Gladiator and Les Miserables? Barcombe, of course, where William Nicholson sits at his desk gazing out over the South Downs and letting his imagination run riot. The tranquility of the East Sussex countryside is a far cry from the dramatic scenes he creates for the big screen, but the peaceful setting is just what he needs to allow his mind to conjure up emotionally-charged and action-packed scenarios. Sussex has always been close to William’s heart - he grew up in Seaford. His much-loved old farmhouse just outside Barcombe has been home to him and his wife Virginia, a well-known social historian, since 1990 when they decided to leave London and settle in the countryside. “We literally stuck a pin in Lewes on a map and drew a circle around it when we were looking for a house to buy,” William recalls with a smile. “The house which has now been our home for almost 30 years was Virginia’s favourite but wasn’t the one I liked best at first. “Her mother found it and I agreed to go and look at it even though an old farmhouse with very low ceilings wasn’t what I had in mind. It’s an old hall house with lots of character, but it was the enormous view, looking out at the Downs, that sold it to me and I very quickly fell in love with it. “We are very lucky to be here and it feels unthinkable that we could ever live anywhere else. “It was a wonderful house to bring up our three children. As a child I moved four times but our children never knew any other home when they were young. We did a lot as a family, a lot of

walking, and they thought of this as their natural habitat, that this was how the world is supposed to be. I like to think that kind of strong grounding is ideal for forming psychological roots. “The children have all left home now but come back a great deal and bring their friends.” William has enjoyed a remarkable career as a highly-respected screenwriter who has been nominated twice for an Oscar. After studying English at Cambridge University, he worked for the BBC as a director of documentary films between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, and gained renown as a novelist and playwright when the first book of his popular Wind on Fire trilogy won the Blue Peter best book award and the Smarties Gold Award for best children’s book. He has several popular novels and fantasy books to his name. He was twice nominated for Tony Awards for best play, for Shadowlands and the Retreat from Moscow, and also turned Shadowlands, based on the relationship between CS Lewis and Joy Gresham into a BBC TV play in 1985 and

‘ Willi a m h a s e n joye d a re m a r ka ble c a re e r a s a h ig h lyre s pe c t e d sc re e nw r it e r w h o h a s be e n n o m in at e d t wic e f o r a n O sc a r ’ TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 57


an acclaimed film starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger in 1993. He later worked as a writer on the Academy Award-winning epic Gladiator in 2000 and wrote and directed the 1997 film Firelight, set around Firle Place. In 2007 he co-wrote Elizabeth: The Golden Age and 2012 saw him adapting Les Miserables as a film. His achievements were recognised in 2015 when he was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours for services to drama and literature. “My life in the film industry consists of sitting in my study at home, writing,” he says. “Essentially I am a writer, I sit there in the study and my brain goes all over the world. I don’t feel I have to leave here to find the big world outside. “I’ve just completed a film, Hope Gap, which will be released later this year, which meant I did have to spend a lot of time in London where we have a base as well. And of course I spent time in Seaford, where I grew up and where the film is largely set. Lewes is also part of it and I researched the

architecture in great detail. “One of my characters works in the planning department at Lewes and has to come to terms with changes to conservation work in an imaginary village close to Lewes. A lot of my characters are based on people I’ve known in Lewes and who have populated my imagination. “My favourite film is always the most recent but I’m extremely proud of Hope Gap because I’ve both written and directed it. That gives me control of what I do and because it is local, it’s where I live, it’s what I know and what I love.” Of the big Hollywood films like Gladiator which William has been involved with, one stands out as particularly significant for him - Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom. “He was such an important subject, an extremely important man,” William says. “His life came to change his country so he is such a model, a compromiser who managed to bring together two groups who hated each other by getting them to understand one another and their fears. “That kind of greatness and leadership are exactly what is needed in all countries where groups feel contempt for others’ views.” Close to home, William spends a lot of time in Lewes and he has great admiration for the town. “It’s where I like to shop and I have a lot of friends there,” he says. “There is a wonderful diversity about Lewes and the people who live there, and so many artists and writers. It’s a small town but you never feel it has a small horizon and it never feels provincial, perhaps because of its tradition of always being radical. In these days you hear so much about town centres dying, but Lewes is full of life.”

‘ His a c h ieve m e n t s we re re c og n ise d in 2 015 w h e n h e wa s awa rd e d a n OBE in t h e New Ye a r Ho n o u rs f o r se r vic e s t o d r a m a a n d lit e r at u re ’ 58 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

Images: © Town & County magazine

interview


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A KN IG HT I N SHINING ARMOUR A strange and not widely reported incident took place on the eve of the battle Words: Keith Hayes

1844 Illustration of Templar knights; Right: Seal of Henry III

60 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK


history

D

id Templar Knights really fight in the Battle of Lewes? The notion isn’t as daft as it first appears. Perhaps the most colourful knights of the Medieval age, the Templars were contemporaries of two other famous groups of fighting men, The Hospitallers and The Teutonic Knights. The funny thing is that the Templars weren’t simply a military organisation, they were bankers. Started in 1119 by just nine knights, the order grew to be the most incredibly wealthy organisation in mediaeval times. Much is written of these three groups but suffice it to say that the Templars did have a fearsome, elite fighting force, who were not only combatants in the Crusades, but guarded a pilgrim and trade route between Europe and The Holy Land. It was along this safe road the Templars made some of their fortune by cleverly introducing a form of banker’s draft. They took cash in Europe in exchange for a promissory note, redeemable in Jerusalem. A sort of early Travellers Cheque, the first of its kind. Along with the first ever safety deposit boxes and ‘commercial’ loans the order became filthy rich and powerful to boot. The Templars built churches, banks and headquarters all over Europe.

They were fewer in numbers, but no less important in England. Today the quiet but scenic village of Saddlescombe, eight miles from Lewes, is a tourist attraction. In the Middle Ages it was the southern headquarters of The Templars, Sussex being a county heavily populated with Templars.. Saddlescombe was partly funded by the Earl Warrene, descended from the very first Norman family to govern Lewes. When King Henry III was attacked by Simon de Montfort in 1264, he had been feasting in Lewes Priory, built by the de Warrenes in 1079. The de Warrenes had fought side by side with King William at Hastings and were close to King Richard the Lionheart and his Crusades. It was not unexpected then that the Earl, by all accounts a brave and fearless soldier, in 1264 was on the King’s side in Lewes when Henry III faced Simon de Montfort on the outskirts of the town. Henry had amassed an army of 15000 men, made up of the armed retainers of the nobility. Warrene had funded the Saddlescombe Templar base, so it’s not too farfetched to assume he called on the knights there to fight on behalf of the King. Flimsy evidence for supposing Templars took part in the Battle? I suppose. But a strange and not widely reported incident took place on the eve of the battle. While

‘ Th e Te m pl a rs d id h ave a f e a rso m e , e lit e f ig h t ing f o rc e , w h o we re n ot o n ly c o m bat a n t s in t h e C r u s a d e s , b ut g u a rd e d a pilg r im a n d t r a d e ro ut e ’ TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 61


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history

Illustration of a Templar knight

de Montfort was covertly gathering his troops to mount an attack on the King, he took some royal knights hostage. He had these captives tied to a stake and then dressed them in the long outer dress that identified Templars, then had the extended black cross which was the Templars’ military insignia, painted on the front. Why? Contemporary accounts suggested it was to frighten the enemy, just as Count Dracula had done in Transylvania, putting the heads of captive soldiers on pikes. Why bother? Surely it was to say to the King, you might have the finest elite soldiers of the age on your side, but we don’t give a fig. See what we can do to them? The other reason I suppose could have been a defiant thumbing of the nose at the King who had ordered his supporters to wear a white cross to make them easily identifiable. Although on the losing side, Warrene’s men fought bravely, passionately defending the castle as a last ditch defence. It was only the headstrong Prince Edward who lost the day by breaking ranks and chasing the enemy. One other factor that could point to the Templars is that the King had a large overseas force among his troops, and he had used Templars for diplomatic missions in the past. The Templars had a fleet and were far more numerous in France than in England. Strangely, the Battle of Lewes is

mentioned in some later Templar texts, indicating they did have knowledge of the conflict and its resulting consequences. So, did Templars fight in the battle of Lewes? They are one of the most romantic orders of all history and if they were in the fighting at Lewes it would only add to their magical aura as the elite force of their age, win or lose. Half a century later, the Templars fell afoul of one of the greatest betrayals of History. France’s King Philip IV, who owed the order huge amounts of money, lusted after the Templar treasure and on a night of long knives in 1307, on Friday October 13th a date considered from thereon as a day of bad luck, took the order by surprise, with the complicity of the Pope. Their fearless leader

‘ Th e Te m pl a rs we re a lso a m o n a st ic o rd e r. Th ey m a d e vows o f c h a st it y a n d r a re ly c h a nge d c lot h e s . Pe r h a ps it wa s j u st a s we ll t h ey we re c h a st e ’ TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK | 63


history

Lewes Priory

Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1314 and thousands of knights were arrested and imprisoned, and the order disbanded. England’s King Edward II thought the charges of heresy were phoney (one charge was that novitiates had to kiss a man’s bottom) and although he eventually bowed to the Pope’s demands, he did so halfheartedly, and huge numbers of Templars simply disappeared from sight. Apart from banking and military expertise, the Templars were also a monastic order. They made vows of chastity and rarely changed clothes. Perhaps it was just as well they were chaste. Their clothes must have smelled to high heaven. Not particularly romantic. They never took off their gloves except to administer the sacrament and were extraordinarily disciplined in their spartan lifestyle. But thousands of Templars were not rounded up, seemingly just disappearing into the ether. Did local Templar’s end up in Lewes Priory? Certainly, there appears to be a strong link between the Priory and the Warrene family and the Warrenes and the Templars. The Hospitallers weren’t affected by the pogrom. Indeed, the Templar treasure was to be made over

to them. Disciplined monks were always in short supply, so fleeing soldiers would have fitted in well. This article is pure speculation from start to finish. But there is enough historical fact to set a challenge for the romantic soul to gather them together and develop a convincing argument. The bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code is based on the Templars and the secret of their treasure and especially the most sought-after item, the Holy Grail. Author Dan Brown’s thesis is that the treasure and the Grail ended up in Scotland. Legend had it that the large Templar fleet disappeared with the end of the order. Now Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven were important ports. So, my gut feeling is that the treasure ended up here and is concealed somewhere in plain sight! Perhaps under the statue of the medieval knight’s helmet in Priory Park. But I’m not about to go down there to try digging it up. No, no, no. I’m going to write a novel about all this called The Lewes Helmet. It will sell a million, Tom Hanks will star in the movie and I’ll make tons of brass. Then I won’t give a damn where the Templar treasure really is.

‘ B ut t h o u s a n d s o f Te m pl a rs we re n ot ro u n d e d u p, se e m ing ly j u st d is a p pe a r ing in t o t h e e t h e r. D id loc a l Te m pl a r ’s e n d u p in Lewe s Pr io r y ? ’ 64 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK


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Because every life is unique


UNION MUSIC STORE’S TIMELESS CLASSICS

REMAIN IN LIGHT

C

utting their teeth on the mind blowing. That’s one of vibrant, experimental the things about Talking Heads, New York art rock scene they manage to capture all in the early 70’s, Talking Heads the artistic strands - sound, have gone on to become one of visual, dance - in one beautifully the world’s most loved bands. conceived package. Any budding record collection Side two opens with the would benefit from any ‘Heads ‘hit’ single “Once In A Lifetime” albums, but the starting point has which many will remember to be the seminal Remain In Light, from the video of Byrne freaka record that perfectly captures dancing in a huge oversized suit. all facets of their unique sound. Trust me, it’s lost none of it’s Released on Sire Records in playfulness or instant charm 1980 and produced by long-time over the years. ‘ So u n d s a s f re e , collaborator and friend Brian Eno, There are moments on f r i vo l o u s , f re n e t ic Remain In Light is an incredible Remain In Light that you hear a n d f a b u l o u s a s it mix of hard hitting African grooves Eno’s influence in full, like the d i d u p o n re l e a se - inspired by the legendary extraordinary ‘Seen And Not n e a r ly f o r t y ye a r s Nigerian musician Fela Kuti Seen,’ an otherworldly gem that ag o ’ mesmeric electronic loops and seems to draw its driving pulse full scale sonic assaults that once from some far off galaxy. listened to will become so ingrained in the senses Some bands have their moment in the sun, one that it will become that ‘go to’ record for any brilliant album amongst a sea of averageness. Talking occasion. Kicking off with the relentless rhythmic Heads aren’t one of those bands. Talking Heads are masterpiece ‘Born Under Punches (The Beat Goes a band whose output is all straight from the top On), a track that will have even the shyest of dance drawer, a body of work that singles them out as floor deniers up shaking some butt, this is an album one of the truly great bands of our lifetime. that is both inventive and essential. “Crosseyed Remain In Light is their zenith and deserves a place And Painless’ offers no respite whatsoever as it in any record collection. This is a piece of work literally smashes its way free from the confines that still sounds as free, frivolous, frenetic and of your speakers whilst ‘The Great Curve’ is just fabulous as it did upon release nearly forty years magical with guest Nona Hendryx playing the ago. Breathtaking and brilliant. perfect foil to Byrne’s random outpourings. On Del Day and Danny Wilson run Union Music Store YouTube there is amazing live footage of Talking in Lansdown Place in Lewes specialising in new and Heads from 1980 performing in Rome. They play pre-loved Vinyl, CDs and guitars. all of Remain In Light on that tour and it’s truly unionmusicstore.com

66 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK


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Profile for Town and County Media

Town and County Lewes Issue 5