This former Victorian public house in Lewes, built circa 1856, is now a smart four-bedroom house minutes from the train station in a particularly tranquil setting. Careful restoration through the use of antique finds sees the building reimagined as a white-painted, pared-back space, characterised by wooden panelling and flooded with natural light. The ground floor comprises open-plan living areas, while two terraces catch the best of the Sussex sunlight. A modernised annexe means there is a further bedroom for hosting guests – or for renting out – by virtue of its separate access from the street.
Setting the Scene
Minutes from the heart of bustling Lewes, Friars Walk occupies a surprisingly quiet setting, overlooking the Church of All Saints. The green-tiled façade, complete with signage proudly announcing the availability of ales and stout, is a testimony to its past iteration as a pub founded in the Victorian era. Also hinting at its former vocation are the wide windows stretching the length of the building, which would have originally beckoned in punters from the street.
A small door to the right of the house signals the steps down to the self-contained annexe. Inside, the original panelling and pub WC remain intact, along with a myriad of other carefully preserved features. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
A glazed door opens directly into a welcoming entrance room; once the former bar, this now doubles as a hallway and a workspace. A glass partition, constructed using glazed panelling and reclaimed glass doors, divides the area from the generous open-plan kitchen, living and dining room.
This room is the heart of the house. A Carrara marble work surface, fitted with a butler’s sink with brass taps, and set against bespoke cabinetry, falls underneath the large windows and provides a convivial space for cooking and dining. This room has two fireplaces, one fitted with a wood-burning stove, a marble surround and an off-white wooden mantlepiece. Full-length cabinets provide ample storage space and are fronted with glass doors reclaimed from a Regency house in Brighton. A westerly-facing sash window, set into a bay, bathes the room in natural light, which is maximised by white-painted walls and wooden floorboards.
Leading from this space is a more intimate room that serves as another sitting room. Paved in hexagonal terracotta tiles and painted in white, its French farmhouse feel is complemented by the glazed French doors that open onto the south-facing terrace. A door from here opens onto a hallway, which leads downstairs into the annexe. On this floor, there is also a useful utility space and guest WC.
A wide window over the staircase, which leads to the bedrooms, has unrivalled views over Lewes and up towards Mount Caburn. The upper floor formerly served as the pub’s private dining spaces; unusually, the walls of panelling would originally have been moveable in order to accommodate groups of differing sizes.
Now, it is configured to allow for four double bedrooms. The principal bedroom has a large west-facing window and a decorative fireplace. The other larger bedroom has a bay window, which looks out onto the church. Leading off the fourth bedroom is a terrace, a real sun trap and an ideal place for a morning coffee. The shared family bathroom comprises exposed brick walls, tongue and groove panelling, and white square tiles with black grouting.
Downstairs, on the lower-ground floor, a door opens into a useful storage space, which could also double as a gym or an office. Opposite, a door leads outside and to concealed steps, which lead back up to the terrace.
Here, another front door opens into the one-bedroom annexe, complete with an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area, a double bedroom and a stylish bathroom.
The Great Outdoors
The two terraces provide fantastic sun-drenched outdoor space with plenty of room for outdoor dining. From the ground floor terrace, a back gate framed by roses leads onto the lane behind the house.
Out and About
There is much to do in Lewes itself, which is home to plenty of independent shops, antiquarian bookshops and a number of antique markets. There are numerous cafes, such as Patisserie Lewes and Flint Owl Bakery, and galleries, including The Star Brewery Gallery and The Needlemakers Craft Centre. There are also many independent businesses that stock work by local craftspeople. Glyndebourne Opera House is only a few miles away, and special coaches are laid on at Lewes Station during the season. There is a new cinema and art complex, The Depot, which shows a variety of mainstream and arthouse movies. For a wider range of amenities, Brighton is also close by – only 10 minutes by train – with its countless restaurants, shops and cafes.
Lewes is known for its Bonfire Night, which it hosts annually on November 5th. It is a spectacle like no other, with a large costumed parade comprised of various bonfire societies that wind their way through the town to their separate bonfires.
With the South Downs on the doorstep, there are endless walks to be taken in every direction from the house. One particularly striking route – part of which can be seen from the house – is towards Mount Caburn, over the Lewes Gold Club, which offers expansive views towards the Sussex coast.
Lewes railway station has direct services to London Victoria in around 63 minutes and Clapham Junction in under an hour. There are also direct services to Gatwick Airport that take approximately 31 minutes. Lewes is on the A27, which connects with the A23 London to Brighton road.
Council Tax Band: E
Lewes has a history dating to pre-Saxon times as a significant strategic point thanks to its position on the slopes of the Ouse Valley. A Roman settlement is believed to have been positioned on the site, followed by Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman settlements, until around the 6th century when the town was founded.
Historically a busy river port exporting the Sussex crops of grain and wool, the agricultural nature of the area remained relatively unchanged from Saxon times right through to the beginning of the Victorian period.
The 19th century brought significant physical change after the old open field system was abandoned with the Enclosure Act of 1833. The act enclosed open fields and common land in England, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common, meaning poorer farmers could no longer work the land without owning fields.
The area grew and diversified throughout the early 20th century, with the decline of agricultural prominence and the establishment of Sussex University in the 1960s breathing new life into the area.