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About Raystede

  1. Home Page
  2. Our Charity
  3. About Raystede

About Raystede

In the 1930's a lady called Miss M Raymonde-Hawkins purchased a cottage with a small patch of land just outside of Lewes in East Sussex.

A former headmistress with a deep compassion for animals, she left the education sector to establish Raystede as an animal charity in 1952.

In the early days the charity was based in her cottage and back garden. But right from the start she pledged to provide facilities that were equal to or better than existing animal rescue centres.


Fast forward six decades and the vision behind Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare remains as strong and impassioned as it did when Miss Raymonde-Hawkins began her campaign to give unwanted and abandoned animals a better life. Today the site has expanded across 43 acres where we care for over 2000 animals a year, rehoming over 1000 animals and providing sanctuary to even more. We are one of the most diverse rescue centres in the UK because we care for so many different species of animals.

We now even have a dedicated charity shop where you can bag a bargain (designer labels and other hidden gems have been discovered) and a cafe where our staff bake fresh cakes every day.


Although Miss Raymond-Hawkins was a hero in her own right, Raystede has always been about our supporters. We couldn’t do what we do without our supporters, they make the centre what it is and provide the resources to rescue and care for animals in need. The friends of Raystede are some of our most passionate supporters, who care for animals as deeply as we do.

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CASE STUDY: Diane Page, animal rehomer and donor

Guinea pig fan Diane is one of many supporters who’ve had an association with Raystede since childhood. Not only has she given many animals a good home she’s now supporting us as a donor.

“I live in Hailsham, which is only about eight miles away, so I’d always known about Raystede since I was a child. For years I’d pop over, ad hoc. I think they work wonders, I really do. I’ve always had guinea pigs at home - four at a time, so whenever one has died, I’ve visited Raystede to get another. I think they’re cute but some people get them for children, and they don't like looking after them so they end up at Raystede.

“Recently I’ve started providing prizes for the auction at the May Ball. I do catering so for the prize I go to someone’s house to cook a meal for four people. I only do vegetarian and vegan which I think sits well with an animal charity. The ball is a good night. It’s really good to meet people from the team and put a face to a name.”

To find about more about rehoming an animal from Raystede click here

To donate and support our work click here


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Sadly not all animals can be rehomed. These animals, including donkeys, ponies, goats and many others, live out their lives with us in our sanctuary. This is supported by a promise to never put a healthy animal to sleep.

Many of the animals here at Raystede play an important part in educating pet owners of the future. With family friendly activities running at weekends and interactive school holiday programmes our education team work hard to give young people an early understanding of how to love and care for animals.

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CASE STUDY: Jenny Bushby, shop volunteer

After a spell of ill health, Jenny found a new lease of life volunteering in the shop at Raystede. She enjoys the camaraderie, the feeling she’s putting something back… and the furry visitors!

I had bad arthritis and was invalided off work but I wanted to do something. My sister used to work at Raystede so I joined as a volunteer in the shop.

I’ve been here probably ten years now. My arthritis is now under control thanks to the drug I’m on but I’m retirement age anyway now.

“The shop has just got bigger and better. I like doing the till. We’ve a good system, like rotating the clothes to keep it looking fresh.

“I absolutely love it. We’re treated very well and have meetings with tea and cake and get gifts of flowers and chocolates. I help with the Christmas fair and the summer fair as well. There’s such a good atmosphere.

“It’s a lovely, lovely working environment. You have a good laugh and chat with customers. It is a very rewarding place to work. I know everything we sell in the shop is all for the animals.

“The dog walkers are volunteers too. The dogs that have been here a little while pull them in here because they know they’ll get a cuddle and a treat! Volunteers also bring the donkeys to stop at the door so we can stroke them. I ended up rescuing a three-legged cat called Ricky myself. I was worried no one would want him.

“You forget how beautiful it is at Raystede when you work here. I took someone up recently who hadn’t been before and I loved seeing it through their eyes.

I'd encourage anyone to go and visit or volunteer.

If you'd like to find out more about volunteering at Raystede click here

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Raystede is incredibly visitor friendly, we have ample parking, excellent wheelchair access and we are dog friendly. If you would like to visit us, you can find details on how to find us here.


Alleviating animal cruelty, rehoming, providing sanctuary for animals in need, and educating people about how to care for animals remains at the heart of everything we do today.

Our work could not continue without our supporters.


"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Raystede Impact Report 2016 - 2017

Click below:

Raystede Impact Report 2016 - 2017

To ensure that Raystede continues to operate into the future please donate