If you have ever wondered about the previous occupants of Southover Grange in Lewes, now home to Lewes Register Office, a recent wedding at the historic manor house may help satisfy your curiosity.

Family romances, 120 years apart

Ian and Jenny after their wedding, with David another of Amy’s grandsons

In a wonderfully romantic tale, the Grade-II* listed building has played a part in the love stories of two generations of one family, separated by more than a century, when the grandson of a former resident was married there.

Ian Kerr married fiancée Jenny Watson at the house on Saturday, September 11, following in the footsteps of his grandmother, Amy Boyson, who lived at the property while courting his grandfather, Henry (Hal) Gibson.

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

Love letters

Ian and Jenny’s wedding ceremony

Amy sent many love letters to Hal from the house between 1898 and their marriage in 1901, and Ian and Jenny’s wedding ceremony took place in the very rooms where Ian’s grandmother is believed to have written her love letters.

Extracts from some of Amy’s letters 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.

On December 12, 1898 Amy writes that she is missing Hal since returning to Lewes, and that she must call on her neighbours: It is strange to be back again and I can’t help feeling rather dull with the good time we have had.

I must spend all tomorrow afternoon going round my district as they will all be thinking I have gone for good if I don’t.

Ian Kerr with his grandmother Amy

She wrote again the following day, December 13, 1898, saying: I have had such a busy day as all this morning I spent going round my district. I did enjoy seeing my people and they all said they were glad to see me back which cheered me up wonderfully.

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.

Many of her letters are filled with romantic thoughts of Hal and their upcoming wedding. She writes in one missive: Darling… you cannot guess dear how much lighter all my home trials are, since you have given me yourself to love, and in another: as you said dear it will all be right one day, when we are together always and it won’t be very long now I hope.

Wedding bells

Amy on her wedding day

Amy and Hal married at Blatchington in 1901, and by happy coincidence their wedding also took place on September 11.  Photographs from the time show Amy in a beautiful wedding dress, presumably wearing the petticoat purchased from Mitchells that she mentions in her letter to Hal.

Childhood visits

Southover Grange, Lewes

Southover Grange by JRP

The gardens at Southover Grange have been open to the public since the house was sold to Lewes District Council in the 1940s. Ian used to visit the gardens of the house with his mother as a child, playing in the Winterbourne stream and wandering the same paths as his grandmother would have done during her time there.


Fizzy Robot Photography

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.

A beautiful building in a stunning location, the house and is a perfect venue for weddings, civil partnerships, naming ceremonies and all manner of celebrations.

Following an extensive refurbishment project the three ground floor rooms and the central hall now form a magnificent ceremony suite complete with original oak panelling and stained-glass windows.

For more information

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 on the Ceremonies in East Sussex website.

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