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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The French Connection

Today, I was showing friends round Lewes, historic county town of East Sussex and one of my favourite places - it has everything, independent shops, restaurants, steep passages and lanes (locally called twittens) lined with knapped flint houses and houses dressed with mathematical tiles, mansions that belonged the county gentry who wintered in the town, a castle, the ruins of a Clunaic abbey, Anne of Cleves' House....all set amongst the beauty of the South Downs chalk hills. Here it was that Tom Paine, sometime acknowledged author of the American Revolution lived, and the American Edward Warren commissioned The Kiss from Rodin. Running up to the High Street from the wharf is School Hill where a number of boarding establishments for girls and boys were kept from the mid 1700s - some of them French boarding schools. Commercial links between Lewes and France were strong and hindered only by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, when either the French were stranded in Lewes or Lewesians in Paris. So, it is no surprise that schools advertised in French on the grounds that parents seront bien aises de faire instruire leurs enfans dans la Langue Fran├žoise - parents would be well advised to have their children instructed in the French language and English motif samplers with French texts should be a fairly common feature of this area. Some of these samplers have been mistakenly attributed to France. This rather neglected specimen is for auction by Gorringes of Lewes on 8 September - it is Lot 125 with an estimate of £200-£300.

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