Friends of the Lewes Arms Banner

'When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves. For you will have lost the last of England.'
- Hilaire Belloc

Bonfire boys and girls with pints of Harveys supporting the Friends of the Lewes Arms campaign

The following testimonies, images and tales explain the diverse, interesting and fun community activities that take place at the Lewes Arms throughout the year.

The Lewes Arms PubThe Lewes Arms Pub Sign

The Lewes Arms is more than 220 years old and at first sight nothing much seems to have changed in the intervening centuries.

The pub is within an arrow’s shot of the town’s Norman castle, and backs onto a mysterious “Mound” of even more ancient origin.

A succession of dedicated and creative landlords (and landladies), as well as the regulars, devised an astonishing range of regular activities.

Apart from the usual darts, toads (an old Sussex game), crib and chess tournaments, the Lewes Arms hosts:

  • The Annual World Pea-Throwing Championship. The adult record is an amazing 38.7 metres, set by Danny Tear in 2003. The size, weight and outer skin of the peas are strictly invigilated. The event has regularly attracted TV crews from all over the world.
  • The Annual Lewes Arms Dramatic Society (LADS) panto, staged in the pub’s upstairs room to an audience of 50 for a week each March. Renowned for the erudition of its scripts and the subtlety of its acting, this is not a family event, but has contributed mightily to local charities for more than 20 years. In 2007, the LADS decided to go “on tour” in the light of the situation at the Lewes Arms. They performed at the Lewes Constitutional Club, the temporary home of the exiled regulars who were boycotting the Lewes Arms.
  • The annual Dwyle Flunking match between the Lewes Arms regulars and the thespians of the Lewes Operatic Society dates back to the last century. The rules of the game are impenetrable and the result is always contested. Much Harveys is drunk, and spilled.
  • Spaniel Racing for dogs, or at least animals, who do not have to be spaniels but must dress like them.
  • The Harvest Festival. The Ray Dabson Memorial Plate is awarded each year for the best produce from the town’s gardens and allotments.
  • The annual Marbles tournament, for some reason held on Good Friday, and in the autumn, a fiercely-contested conkers competition.
  • The pub also runs stool ball and mixed netball teams.


Photograph of many Friends of the Lewes Arms circa 1991 or 1992. Thanks to Leigh Simpson for the copy.

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The Lewes Arms Pub - by Wheatstone of Lewes

"I've been drinking in the Lewes Arms for a good thirty-five years - in fact, I used to drop in during my school lunch hours. For all that time it's been the pub in Lewes you visit to meet friends; as a woman, I can say that I've always been completely comfortable going in there on my own and knowing that I'll meet someone worth talking to.

It's a pub that has always generated its own entertainment. People have ideas for events and activities and actually put them into practice, rather than forgetting about them once the beer has worn off. That's why we have been blessed with People outside the Lewes Arms

- a week-long pantomime which has run for twenty-nine years;

- dwyle-flunking (there's a photo of dwyle flunking on the wall on the stairs showing my three-year old son: he's now twenty-one and captains the Lewes Arms cricket team);

- an annual harvest festival to which regulars bring their produce for judging and then auction it for charity;

- pantomime animal racing;

- the world pea-throwing championships;

- a sports day, including sack racing, egg and spoon racing and jelly wrestling;

- all-day vocal and instrument workshops for traditional music which have a national reputation among the folk community and bring a lot of business to the pub;

- the usual range of darts, crib, toad-in-the-hole and cricket teams.

Regulars chatting in the Lewes Armsand various other one-offs such as Mandarin Chinese lessons. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but the most important thing about it is that all the activities have been devised and run by the locals themselves. They haven't been imposed by the owner deciding that since it's St. Patrick's Day all the bar staff are going to be forced to dress as leprechauns from standard uniforms issued from Headquarters.

- Wheatstone of Lewes

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Spaniel Racing & Doggy Fashion


------------ Sidney the Racing Spaniel by Tim V -----------

What is the best form of racing on earth? Some say it's Formula One: the thrilling high-octane roar of powerful cars speeding past in a blur of colour. Others wax lyrical about the thunder of horses' hooves on the lush green turf of Ascot or Cheltenham. Yet more find their pulses quickening at the thought of yachts crashing through the ocean waves in pursuit of the Admiral's Cup. Although all these sports can indeed be marvellously exhilarating for both competitor and spectator alike really there is nothing that can match the global appeal or the sheer majesty of top-flight, competitive ... Spaniel racing.

Dog wearing a hat

The highlight of the Spaniel racing calendar, the Blue Riband event, was always of course the Lewes Arms 'Annual Spaniel' race. And when Spaniel-racing veterans gather together to discuss great races of the past it's not long before the classic 2005 event becomes the main topic of conversation.

If ever a dog was destined to win it was Sidney - or Kenilworth Goldenspark III to give him his full Kennel Club name. In the Parade Area before the race he stood aloof, his magnificent undocked tail standing proud and looking like a cross between the plume on a knight's helmet and a whiplash aerial on a 1970s Ford Cortina. His sleek golden coat was shining in the afternoon sun and such was his demeanour it appeared that he was expecting a coronation not a competition. 'Who here can beat me?' he seemed to be saying, 'who here truly believes they can outrun the Golden Legend?' The smart money was certainly impressed; bets of thirty, forty, even fifty pence were being placed with wild abandon. Even Murphy, Sidney's younger brother and training partner, was merely expecting to contest second place.

Another well dressed dog

The crowd grew and the excitement slowly mounted as race time approached. The teams exchanged banter with each other whilst secretly eyeing up the competition and at the same time trying not to let the nerves show. Eventually it was time to go. Sidney's racing support team, like all the others, split into two: the 'Setter Off' took Sidney up to the starting line whilst the 'Caller In' took her place behind the finish. If the other dogs were apprehensive they were hiding it well, there was the odd nervous bark, a quick final scratch and then they were under Starter's orders. This was it. Sidney had won the sprint in the 'Spaniel Stroll' at Stanmer Park but this was The Big One. Now we would see if all the hype was true. Now was the time to deliver.

Two spaniel race contestants

"Go!" shouted the Starter. The Setter Off released his hold on Sidney's collar and he was away. Oh what a sight it was! Dozens of thoroughbred racing Spaniels pounding their little paws on the hard road with Sidney out in front like a canine Linford Christie. His clear purposeful eyes were fixed on his Caller In whilst his long golden legs ate up the yards in what looked like record-breaking time. With his ears flapping like sails in the wind he powered towards the finish leaving all the other dogs snapping and yapping in his wake. As predicted it was turning into a procession rather than a race and with the crowd roaring him on and victory only a few paw lengths away there was surely nothing that could stop the Brighton Barker from joining the pantheon of racing greats... And then disaster struck.

With the finishing line in sight and the competition blown away the great golden hope of British Spaniel racing suddenly stopped, turned round and ran the other way.

"No, Sidney darling this way, come on!" shouted the Caller In in desperation as Sidney stopped to sniff one of the walls, but it was no use, the race was lost, lesser dogs streamed past him and Sidney's chance to join the racing immortals had vanished.

Congratulating the winner of the spaniel race

Why did he do it? Why in the moment of triumph did he literally turn his back on glory and fame and throw it all away? Was he finding it too easy? Did he feel that by suddenly retiring in mid-race he'd been seen as an enigma and not as a mere race winner? The inquest was long and vociferous and perhaps we'll never know the true reason.

There were dark mutterings of course. Shadowy Far-Eastern betting syndicates were mentioned and there was talk of someone rustling a packet of crisps to distract him but maybe, just maybe he did it because he's terminally stupid and actually prefers running round in circles. Whatever the reason for months afterwards the locals would gather over pints of Harvey's in the Lewes Arms and mull over the great Sidney Spaniel Race Disaster.

And they're off! The Spaniel race in actionWell dressed dog

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The World Pea Throwing Championships

The World Pea Throwing Championships in action

External Links

Virtual Brighton
The Argus Newspaper

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Dwyle Flunking

The girter prepares to flonk!The girter gathers

Dwyle flunkers taking a breakPeter and Rebecca preparing for Dwyle Flunking

Dwyle Flunking outside the Lewes Arms  The Flonker with the driveller

Sussex Express cutting featuring Dwyle Flunking at the Lewes Arms


External Links

Elliott Avedon Museum and Archive of Games
Viva Lewes
The Argus Newspaper

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Lewes Arms Dramatic Society Panto

Characters from the Lewes Arms PantoMore characters from the Lewes Arms Panto

Scene from the Lewes Arms Panto

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