Southover Grange witnesses family romances

A HISTORIC manor house has played a part in the romances of two generations of one family, separated by more than a century.

Ian Kerr returned to Southover Grange in Lewes recently to marry in the very rooms where his grandmother, Amy Boyson, wrote love letters to his grandfather at the turn of the 19th century.

Ian, from Friston, married fiancée Jenny Watson at the Grade-II* listed building on Saturday, September 11, following in the footsteps of his grandmother who lived at the property while courting his grandfather, Henry (Hal) Gibson.

Amy sent many love letters to Hal from the house between 1898 and their marriage in 1901, which by happy coincidence also took place on September 11.

Extracts from some of Amy’s letters, which are believed to have been written in the room where the ceremony took place, were read during Ian and Jenny’s wedding.

The letters, addressed to My own darling Hal and signed Your loving girlie, offer an insight into Amy’s genteel world in Lewes at the end of the 19th century.

In a letter written on February 28, 1900 she tells Hal that her mother does not approve of him visiting Southover Grange every weekend:
We can have you on Friday darling and I asked Mater too. She said of course it was very bad for me to have you down every weekend {at the Grange}, but of course I know it is very good for me.

A year later in January 1901 she talks excitedly about assembling her trousseau for their forthcoming nuptials with a visit to a draper’s shop in Lewes High Street:
I have been wonderfully busy and getting all my trousseau as the sale is now on at Mitchells – there are no sales again till the end of July so Mater thought I had better get all my under clothing. I felt very happy choosing my things and I have even got my petticoat that I shall wear the day we are married.

A number of Amy and Hal’s descendants returned to Amy’s former home to celebrate with Ian and Jenny including another grandson, a great granddaughter and two great-great grandchildren.

Before the afternoon ceremony, the groom and his family were given a private tour of the historic property by registrar Lynda Chismon. The family were presented with a history of the building, supplied by kind permission of the Friends of Lewes, and photographs of the Grange following the refurbishment.

Ian said: “Southover Grange was the obvious choice for our big day given our ties to the house and the part the historic building has played in two family romances.

“My grandmother spent the first years of her relationship with my grandfather at Southover Grange, and being able to marry at her former home made our wedding extra special.

“It is lovely to see this beautiful house being used to celebrate important life events in people’s lives and I am sure my grandmother would be very happy at the joy, love and laughter that is shared here.”

Southover Grange was built in 1572 as a private residence for William Newton, Steward to the Earl of Dorset, using stone from the ruins of the nearby Lewes Priory.

The council carried out an extensive three-year refurbishment project between 2014 and 2017 to bring the property, home to Lewes Register Office, back to its former glory.

Three ground floor rooms and the central hall now form a magnificent ceremony suite complete with original oak panelling and stained-glass windows.

Steve Quayle, Registration Manager at East Sussex County Council, said: “Southover Grange is a beautiful building in a stunning location and is a perfect venue for weddings, civil partnerships, naming ceremonies and all manner of celebrations.

“It is lovely to see someone with a family connection to the manor house marry here, and we have been delighted to learn more about Amy and the part the house played in her romance with Hal.

“I’d like to offer Ian and Jenny our warmest congratulations and wish them a happy life together.”

East Sussex has more than 100 licensed venues including castles, hotels, stately homes and barns. The details of all licensed venues in the county, as well as information about ceremonies and suppliers can be found at

For information on giving notice and booking a ceremony call 0345 60 80 198.