June 25th, 2019

Gideon Mantell's House

This is Gideon Mantell's house in Lewes.

At one time it housed the greatest dinosaur museum in Britain- possibly in Europe. Mantell was one of the fathers of palaeontology and- most famously- the man who discovered and named the iguanadon. If we had our values straight we'd take Nelson down off his column and put Mantell in his place.

The house has capitals in the shape of ammonites. I'd like to believe Mantell commissioned them but understand it was a fashion of the time and the house was already standing in its present form when Mantell bought it. Mind you, I walked all the way up and down Lewes High Street and Mantell's is the only house that has them...

Sir Nicholas Pelham

A few weeks back I wrote a piece about a Lord Dacre who was hung for murdering a gamekeeper whilst poaching on the land of his neighbour, Sir Nicholas Pelham.

And here's that self-same Pelham- along with his wife and weans. His memorial occupies the north wall of St Michael's church in Lewes, right next to Gideon Mantell's- with a only a window between them.

And here (this being Sussex) Kipling sticks his elbow in- by virtue of his poem "A Ballad of Minepit Shaw"- which tells of two poachers who have an extraordinary experience after being rumbled by gamekeepers in Lord Pelham's deer park- and which ends with the very quotable couplet:

"I reckon there's more things told than are true/ And more things true than are told."

Pelham was your average Tudor politician. He went in and out of favour and spent time in the Tower of London accused of treason. He died young- but not on the scaffold like Dacre- and is best remembered in his native Sussex for leading a militia that beat off a French raiding party at Seaford in 1545. The verse on his memorial commemorates this exploit with the punning boast "This Pelham did repel 'em."