Memories of Phoenix will rise, thanks to Heritage Lottery grant

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 Local entrepeneur Paul Miles, who was fortunate to be one of the last apprentices at the Phoenix Works shows Charlotte White, aged 9, the skills of welding in the foundry shop of the IronworksMenof the Phoenix IronworksImage of the interior of the works in the early 20th Century 

Lewes’ celebrated Phoenix Ironworks will rise again – at least through the recorded memories, photographs and artefacts of local people, thanks to a history project awarded a £50,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).


The Lewes Phoenix project is the brainchild of locally-based Artemis Arts Ltd who will be working with the community – from schoolchildren to elderly residents – to capture the stories and images of the former iron foundry and engineering company, the site of which is to form part of a major town centre redevelopment.


A documentary film will cover the history of the ironworks whose products included the railings of St Paul’s Cathedral and girders for the piers at Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. Many lampposts in Sussex streets, along with oven doors, soot boxes for local homes as well as parts for oil wells and sugar refineries, were manufactured at the ironworks which for part of the 19th century was the largest employer in the town of Lewes.


In addition to the film, a website will be created and a series of exhibitions, presentations and workshops will be held targeting the whole community. Educational materials linked to the National Curriculum will also be produced. The oral history recordings, photographs and other documents collected will form a heritage archive to be kept at Lewes Record Office with copies at the Lewes Castle Museum.


Enthusiastic support has come from many quarters, including the county, district and town councils; East Sussex Youth Development Service and the YMCA, Sussex Archaeological Trust, and half a dozen local schools.  Support has also come from developer Angel Property which has given permission for access to the normally closed site for the duration of the project.


Project managers Christine Hall and Wenda Bradley said: “We are delighted that we have an opportunity to research a vital part of Lewes’ industrial past and to record the important contribution made by the foundry workers and engineers who worked at the Phoenix.  We look forward to inspiring young and old in creative responses to the project and exciting outcomes for all those who will be involved.”


For the Heritage Lottery Fund, Head of HLF South East Region Michelle Davies said: “This project will provide many opportunities for the local community and local schools to participate in researching heritage, gathering information and celebrating their local history together.”


  • The Phoenix Ironworks started business in North Street, Lewes, in 1832 with a furnace “cooled with a fan driven by a horse walking round a large wheel.” The premises were burnt down in 1835 but, true to its name, the Phoenix rose again in Railway Lane. It outgrew this site and relocated to North Place in 1861. The foundry was run in turn by four generations of the Every family and by the early 1900s was exporting products across the British Empire. The company declined after the Second World War and finally closed down in 1986.
  • The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage.  From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy.  Since 1994 the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded over £378 million to more than 2,660 projects in South East England.