When I visit Parliament I regularly pass the statue of the former Prime-Minister David Lloyd-George. The sculpture shows the great Liberal politician in an animated pose. Lloyd George is remembered for his many reforms including those responsible for welfare and women’s suffrage.
As a young lady my Grandmother, Bessie Gordon, was a keen photographer. In later years she was also a member of the Liberal Party so it was not surprising to find a photo of the famous statesman in her collection of ‘snaps’. The small photograph shows a grey-haired moustachioed man with a smile walking through a crowd. The man is clearly Lloyd-George. The photograph is labelled ‘Dripping Pan Lewes”
The Dripping Pan, near Lewes Station is now the home of Lewes Football Club. It was probably a medieval salt-pan, presumably used by the residents of the nearby Priory. The site is a natural arena and it was chosen by the former Prime Minister to launch his 1926 Autumn Campaign.
The October meeting was not a particular success; the police had been advised that a crowd of 20,000 were expected but, although the former Premier was given a police escort, the crowd only amounted to about 4,000. These included the prospective Liberal candidates for the eight Sussex constituencies, Alderman J.H Every of Lewes Town Council and, of course, my grandmother who was then just 25 years old and who had travelled from her home in Eastbourne.
When Lloyd-George rose to speak there was cheering and the crowd burst into song. ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ caused the statesmen to smile. He started his speech by reminding the audience that on his previous visit to Lewes he had played golf and hoped that he would be a better speaker today than the golfer he was then!
The main thrust of his speech was agricultural policy. “The County of Sussex, one of the greatest agricultural counties, as it certainly was, and you may say is, but I would say it certainly out to be!” caused a cheer. He said that in 1871 Sussex had 32,000 agricultural workers but that figure had now halved. “We must have better farming, with more investment, better credit, better transport and better marketing so that our railways carry produce of our native land not foreign goods.”
He certainly knew how to work the audience and was cheered throughout. He ended by saying. “Give every man a prospect! Not every man can be a millionaire – and I think that is a good thing! – but every man ought to feel that he has the same chance as anyone else of becoming one! – If a man does his best he will get the best!”
At the end of the meeting over £50 had been collected for ‘Miner’s wives and children Fund’ and Lloyd-George caught the train back to London.
In 1975 my Grandmother wrote in her diary ‘A political meeting was held in a field called the Dripping Pan in Lewes in the 1920s. I remember that there was an enormous crowd waiting expectantly for the arrival of the great man; the Right Honourable Lloyd-George. He was a little late, but, at last he appeared and mounted the rostrum. His magnetism was immediate. The handsome face, the white windswept hair and the vibrant Welsh voice. He enthralled us all‘
The great statesman must have made a lasting impression on my grandmother, although she admitted that she could no longer remember the subject of his speech. Today I still have her photograph of Lloyd-George as a reminder of the her special visit to Lewes.