1966 Unveiling

Enzo Plazzotta at the unveiling ceremony



On Saturday, the 14th May 1966, a Memorial will be unveiled at the Priory Grounds, Lewes, in Sussex, to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes which was fought on the 14th May 1264. It was the culmination of a long military and political struggle between Henry III and the rebel barons led by Simon de Montfort, and the decisive defeat of the king led to important advances towards a representative Parliament.

The battle itself was therefore of national significance, but the ceremony at Lewes is essentially of a local character. The memorial is a gift to the people of the County Town from Sir Tufton Beamish MC who has been their Member of Parliament since he succeeded his father, the late Rear-Admiral Beamish, in 1945. The occasion marks his family‘s long and close association with the Borough, as well as his interest in the subject. Sir Tufton has made a study of the barons' rebellion, and his book Battle Royal (Frederick Muller 1965), which he dedicated to the People of Lewes, describes the events leading to the Battle of Lewes and the constitutional changes that followed.

The Priory of Saint Pancras, outside the walled town of Lewes, served as headquarters to the royalist army, and many men who fell in the battle were buried there by the Cluniac monks. The Memorial has appropriately been erected on a site in the grounds, near the ruins of the splendid buildings that were demolished in 1537 on the orders of Henry VIII by his nefarious minister, Thomas Cromwell. lt incorporates the Cross, symbolising the part played by the English Church in the fight against a stubborn and despotic king, and a frieze carries eight scenes from the battle which were recounted by contemporary chroniclers. The main structure is sand cast in aluminium, and the frieze is cast by the cire-perdu method.

The work has been designed and executed by the Italian sculptor, Enzo Plazzotta, who studied in Milan at the Accademia di Brera under Giacomo Manzú. Mr Plazzotta was one of the war-time leaders of the Italian Resistance Movement, and twice escaped after capture by the Germans. In 1947 he was commissioned by the Comltato di Liberazione to create a tribute to the members of the British Special Forces who cc-operated with the Italian Resistance movement. His bronze sculpture, which is entitled 'Spirit of Rebellion' and represents a youthful David challenging Goliath, stands in the Special Forces Club in Herbert Crescent, London, SW1. lt was this task that brought Mr. Plazzotta to London, and he has lived and worked here since. He has a studio near the river in Chelsea. An Exhibition of his work opened in Paris on the 3rd May this year at the Galeries des Anciennes et des Modernes on the Left Bank, to coincide with the Festival des Arts.

The unveiling ceremony will be performed by His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Lieutenant of the County. The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Lewes will take part, and the guests of the Mayor of Lewes will include Mr Patrick Colvin, the High Sheriff of Sussex; Signor Paolo Pansa Cedronio, the Italian Minister representing the Italian Ambassador; Monsieur Emanuel Arnauld d'Andilly, representing the French Ambassador; the Chairman of the East Sussex County Council, and the Chairmen of neighbouring Authorities. The Mayor will be supported by Members of the Borough Council and the Chief Officers. Music will be provided by the Band of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

lt is expected that a large crowd will gather to accept this gift In the name of the Borough, and that further interest will be stimulated in the effort to expose and preserve the ruins of the Priory. An appeal Fund was opened for this purpose in 1964 and after completing part of the work the balance stands at almost £2,000, but more money is urgently needed if the remaining ruins are to be saved from decay.

The message of this Memorial for the People of Lewes, and for the wider public, is expressed in the words inscribed round the frieze which are translated from The Song of Lewes, a Latin poem written by an unknown churchman after the battle:

"Now Englishmen, read on about this battle fought at Lewes' walls. Because of this you are alive and safe. Rejoice then in God."
"Law is like fire, for it lights as truth, warms as charity, burns as zeal. With these virtues as his guides the king will rule well.”

Download the Battle Booklet