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Wynne Baxter’s Gift to Lewes

Wynne Edwin Baxter was born and raised in Lewes to a local printer William Baxter, and he was educated at Lewes Old Grammar School. He started his first legal practice in the town in 1867 which is now arguably Sussex’ largest law firm, Mayo Wynne Baxter.

Wynne Baxter dedicated some of his career to serving the people of Lewes and held numerous public offices including:

  • 1868 - Junior Headborough
  • 1878 – Junior High Constable
  • 1880 – Senior High Constable
  • 1881 – The first-ever Mayor of Lewes

All six of his children were born in the town, and although he moved to Stoke Newington in London, he always maintained a strong link with his hometown.

On 12th December 1915 William Nevill, 1st Marquess of Abergavenny and Earl of Lewes, died aged 89 and what followed would leave a lasting legacy for the people of Lewes.

Probably to be able to pay the death duties at the time, the Trustees of the Marquess’ estate sold off some of his lands in Lewes, including an area known as the Pells. Wynne Baxter saw this as an opportunity to do good, and on 11th March 1920, he bought the land from the estate. In June of the same year, Baxter donated the land to the people of Lewes for it to be used as a ‘public pleasure resort’.

This generous gift completed a park close to the River Ouse which included the Pells lake, the recreation ground and the now-famous Pells Pool. Wynne Baxter died on 1st October 1920 aged 76, and he was buried in the family vault at All Saints Church in Lewes.

A hundred years on, The Pells and St Johns Neighbourhood Association wanted to celebrate the Pells’ centenary and had organised a raft of events for the 6th and 7th of June. But then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and now many of the activities that were planned have been postponed to 2021. One thing that is going ahead is the publication of a book by the Lewes History Group entitled ‘The Pells of Lewes: Pool, Park, People, Places’. Fifteen Pells residents have written the book, and it covers the history of the area, including the sacred springs and the development of the Victorian houses they live in today.

The richly-illustrated, 160-page book covers many other intriguing elements of the Pells. It will be available to order from 1st September 2020 priced at £12.50 via the Lewes History Group’s website, and from other outlets too. Three of the authors are also planning to do a talk, and details will be announced on the group’s website soon.

As you can see Mayo Wynne Baxters roots are firmly in Lewes and we are proud of our rich heritage in Sussex.