The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Lewes; The Mount

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Calvary

In the civil parish of Lewes.
In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of East Sussex.
1974 county of East Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex (Rape of Lewes).

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ41560966
Latitude 50.86910° Longitude 0.01053°

Lewes; The Mount has been described as a Timber Castle but is rejected as such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Motte, predecessor to Lewes, large but much altered. Long enclosed by the priory founded 1077 and probably by that date abandoned for the better site at Lewes. (King 1983)

There appears to be no conclusive evidence as to the origin and purpose of 'The Mount' and the adjacent 'Dripping Pan'. The site comprises a mound some 45ft high adjoining a large sunken rectangular piece of ground surrounded by banks.
According to Horsfield the mound was formed of earth excavated from the Dripping Pan, and was by tradition, erected by one of the Earls of Dorset.
Allcroft considers the earthwork to be the original castle of William de Warrenne (the builder of Lewes castle) but Salzman disagrees on the grounds that even if it had been a purely temporary castle some trace of a ditch would be expected; he himself inclines to the view that it was connected with the Priory of St Pancras, with the spiral path round it, to a chapel or calvary, or even a summer house or gazebo. It is shown as 'Calvary' on the 1775 map of Lewes (Figg 1861). It is suggested in VCH that there may have been a salt-pan here, since in Essex (Christie and Dalton 1928) such pans are accompanied by mounds, perhaps for windmill pumps.
According to NES Norris, Curator of Lewes Museum, general opinion supports the salt working mound supposition. Horsfield records saltpans of the Domesday period in the vicinity of Lewes (F1 VEL 10-FEB-53).
'The Mount', a turf-covered bowl-shaped earthen mound some 12.0 - 13.0m in height, is in appearance and construction, a typical Norman motte. It is situated at the eastern end of a low spur of land at the northern edge of 'The Brooks', a wide expanse of land which, in Md times, was covered by sea water at high tides. The position commands the entrance to three valleys, to the W, N and SE.
It is possible, in the absence of a ditch, that the material for the mound came from the nearby 'Dripping Pan' but would account for little more than a third of the soil that has been removed from that place.
The spiral walk to the summit is most probably an added feature of late date.
The situation of 'The Dripping Pan', now a sports ground, rules out any probability of it having been a salt pan. It has been cut out of the lower slopes of the spur, whereas a salt pan could more easily have been created upon the water meadows immediately below. It may have been no more than a chalk or clay pit (F2 ASP 11-MAY-72).

Just east of the priory ruins is 'the Mount', a mound some 45 ft. in height, the top of which is reached by a spiral path. (Toms) Nothing is known as to its origin; but the fact that it adjoins 'the Dripping Pan', a large sunken rectangular piece of ground surrounded by banks, may point to there having been a salt-pan here, since in Essex such pans are accompanied by mounds, (Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. N.S. xviii, 27–54) perhaps for windmill-pumps. (VCH)

The Mount, which is up to 13m high, and is constructed from large fragments of chalk and flint bound together with clay (all derived from the local geology), was cored in Autumn 2015. The team drilled two boreholes: one from the summit, and a second down-slope a little. In the laboratory a large number of charcoal fragments were extracted, and these fragments were submitted for radiocarbon dating. The results showed that charcoal from a range of sources had been incorporated into the mound during its construction, but the dates were clear: The Mount was constructed at some point after the mid-15th to early 16th century. This means that The Mount was either built right at the end of the life of the Priory, or perhaps more likely, after the Dissolution when the site became part of the gardens of a substantial house, known as Lords Place. As such, it seems most probable, that this mound is indeed a garden feature. (Phil Stastney 5 Oct 2016)

The reason for an earlier castle at Lewes is gone into by Allcroft although his argument, mainly seemingly based of interpretation of placename evidence from the Domesday Book, seems somewhat convoluted and doesn't seem to be supported by archaeological evidence. However his discussion on the C11 topography of the area is of interest. This may well be a mound of relatively late date the spoil from a salt works used as a prospect mound or, based on the name, a feature used in religious ceremony.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:31

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact