Caught by the River

SLYNDE: Tall Tales from a Sussex Village

29th November 2023

Opening this Friday at Gallery 207, Lewes, SLYNDE: Tall Tales from a Sussex Village is an ongoing body of work by Emma Carlow, Jo Lamb and Isobel Smith. It is their response to an imagined residency in the lost village of Slynde. In the summer of 2023 the artists were granted sole access to the site and permission to make use of whatever they uncovered.

In the 1970s a new reservoir was created in Sussex where an isolated village had existed since 60AD. The village centred around a small abbey and had no gas, electricity or forms of communication and could be reached only by downland tracks. The last remaining inhabitants were persuaded to live elsewhere and the area was flooded to make way for the reservoir.

For centuries the hills around Slynde were the natural habitat of the pantomime horse. Until the village was lost, thousands made an annual pilgrimage for the global pantomime horse festival, held at the village pub, the Nags Head, and performance of the Slynde Players’ mummers play, believed to be an origin story of the pantomime horse.

Slynde’s most notable resident was Eleanor, Abbess of Slynde Abbey, canonised in 1613. She was a wise woman, a learned herbalist and fierce adversary of the local earls, who took a dim view of her unusual determination to educate women in the area. She was responsible for the introduction of the Slynde Terrier, hunter of rare (now extinct) red truffles and propagated the Slynde plum, used by the abbey to make award winning jam. Privately, people thought her a white witch, aided by her troupe of dogs and loyal hare.

The work on show is Carlow’s, Lamb’s and Smith’s response to this research, aided by local museums and descendants of families from Slynde.

The residency and show has been funded by The Fondamento Dello Scherzo, a fictitious funding body, fabricated by Carlow, Lamb and Smith to free their imaginations.

All works are for sale and available at the show.

Open from 1st-17th December, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10.30am – 5pm.