Trust the people of Lewes – whose appetite for burning authority figures is displayed every November – to name a pub after a once outlawed, 18th century political treatise. Thomas Paine, the revered writer in question, liked nothing more than a good muse about the merits of rising up in arms against overbearing Governments. The Rights of Man Lewes is named after the 1791 paper he penned, and also celebrates an ex-Lewes resident. Yes, Mr Paine once resided up the road in Bull House, and attended meetings and moulded his philosophies at inns such as the White Hart over the Road.
The Rights of Man Lewes really is colourful addition to Lewes High Street these days, with it’s green tiles and burgeoning baskets of flowers above the entrance. As you might expect from a Harveys pub with a historical reference, the aesthetic is traditional alehouse, totally wood clad with dark panelled walls throughout. There are a couple of tables catching the light through the windows, but otherwise the pub is fairly dimly lit throughout, and this makes the booth sections of seating across from the main bar feel dusky and intimate.
I hear that this pub got a total makeover in 2012. Having not visited before I expect the current look and fixtures of the pub are not very old at all and not until you get to the rear dining room of the pub do you feel the pub is more original. Apparently this was a separate back bar for a while before being joined into one pub and now the rear room is reached through a little corridor chicane. This back room feels like a dining area with lots more tables and chairs and room for larger groups.
In this room is a mural of a court room by local painter Julian Bell, apparently added because the pub is next door to Lewes Crown Court, but Julian also painted the mural of Thomas Paine in a passage near Lewes’ market, so this ties in neatly both local art and history.
The real niche of this pub is it’s fantastic terrace space upstairs. The first time you discover it is like finding a hidden Lewes gem; few pubs offer you an elevated sun-trap quite like this and it even comes with partial views of Lewes castle down the road. There are plenty of tables and chairs and it understandably gets very popular on sunny days.
Being a Harvey’s pub there are no prizes for guessing what you’ll find in the lines. There’s an impressive 6 cask pumps on the bar, so even on a bad day you should have a decent selection to choose from on the trad ale front. Being just uphill from the brewery should always have the current month’s special seasonal beer on as well.
On the taps you can get hold of Harvey’s keg options such as their Wharf IPA and their really very good Polish hopped Pilsner which Harvey’s started making in recent years. Other options include mass brands such as Camden Hells and Guinness.
The pub also specialises in Gins as well, with a number of tonics and garnishes to suit.
Over various visits I have been really impressed by the consistency of the food at The Rights of Man Lewes. Whether it’s Sunday Roast, the tapas menu, burgers, sandwiches or the pub classics, the Menu is crammed full of options you cannot go wrong with and portions are reasonably priced.
There’s a lot to like about this pub. Service is friendly, the aesthetics are nice and the roof terrace is a massive plus. The historical nod to a Lewes resident, who stood up for everyday people’s rights, is a nice touch and it inspired me to do a bit of reading. In fact I’m half tempted to pinch a quote from Mr Paine as the slogan for this pub exploring blog; “Ignorance is of a peculiar nature: once dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it.”
59 Queens Road
An independent tap bar with an easy-going charm
There’s an unassuming bohemian, almost Parisian vibe at the Idle Hands Brighton. It’s a good use of limited space with a variety of seasoned Chesterfield sofas, low sitting tables, some booth seating in the windows plus a few stools surrounding large barrels inside and out to perch your pint on. The all-important bar sits at the back, tucked into the corner, surveying proceedings.
If you’re looking for keg craft concoctions, you’ll be very happy here: there are ten taps with a rotating array of local brews and out-of-towners. These are poured by friendly and knowledgeable bar staff who seem happy to chat about their favourites and offer tastings. There are bottles and cans available as well, but no cask ale on pump.
There are no food options on our visit; we will update if we hear that a new kitchen has moved in.
If you’re picking a night to visit Idle Hands Brighton then we can strongly recommend the off-kilter, gypsy rock live music Thursdays, hosted by The Jones Street Boys.