There are many reasons to visit Lewes. Harvey’s Brewery for a start and then there are the town’s many historic buildings including the 16th century timber-framed house that belonged to Anne of Cleves and the 15th century bookshop.
And of course, there’s also the magnificent 11th century castle that watches benevolently over the town and surrounding countryside and the evocative Priory ruins that gaze back up.
Modern-day Lewes also happens to be home to an excellent Friday food market and a bi-monthly Farmers Market as well as a modest craft market. And on top of all that, one of the town’s best-kept secrets has to be its extraordinarily eclectic and slightly bizarre flea market.
A cavernous journey of discovery
Having stumbled upon the flea market by chance (I knew about it, but was on my way to the castle and not planning a visit), I couldn’t help but be drawn inside. There’s just something about the oddity of the outside that says, “Come on in and explore” and what’s not to love about the combination of a stone lion, a bathtub, and the Queen’s Guard as a welcome.
Once inside, prepare to lose yourself for a while because spread across two floors, and with every conceivable crevice filled to bursting, is the most diverse and intoxicating selection, of well, er … stuff! Indeed, whilst you may not know what you’re looking for, you’ll have a great deal of fun here trying to find it!
I’m told that I visited on a quiet day and that many of the individual stallholders make a visit come alive! But it made no difference to my experience. With music humming away in the background, this is the place for a wholehearted rummage! They have second-hand furniture, antiques, clothes, pottery, vinyl records, vintage typewriters, garden pots and furniture, lighting, jewellery … in fact, they have everything you could conceivably need and quite a bit more that you don’t (but may end up taking home anyway).
Lewes Flea Market first opened in 1992, long before many of us were thinking about upcycling, recycling and reusing. It’s a treasure trove of the unique and quirky, with a big dose of fun and humour about it and an undeniable sense of its own style.
Frankly, I’ve long held the view that we need more flea markets in the world. Browsing the stock is one of life’s slow, lazy pleasures that we’ve got out of the habit of enjoying. An hour or more spent in the market is indulgent, delightful, surprising, and fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
So next time you’re in Lewes, grab a coffee, book some time out for yourself and search out that once in a lifetime Beatles drum set, gramophone or vintage dress. It may not have a purpose, but I can almost guarantee that it will bring you a great deal of pleasure.
Lewes Flea Market is in an old Methodist chapel in Market Street. It’s easy to spot as it has a large vintage vehicle parked on the forecourt!