Visit Rye and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Rye, Sussex. One of the most picturesque towns in England, which, while catering in a modern way for an ever-growing inflow of tourists, has managed to keep its ancient character. It is a town for strolling in, with hilly streets, many of them cobbled, and a wealth of medieval, Tudor, Stuart and Georgian houses. All have been well kept up, and necessary restoration and rebuilding have not spoilt them.
Today Rye stands near the mouth of the Rother, nearly 2 miles inland, yet it was once a flourishing port, the sea at its walls. It was one of the original Cinque Ports, and suffered many naval attacks and raids. At least four times the French landed here and in 1377 they burnt Rye to the ground, except for a handful of stone buildings, its prosperity declined with the silting up of the harbour in the second half of the 16th century. Since then it has had ups and downs and smuggling was for long an important part of its economy.
There is much to see in Rye; perhaps it is best first to visit the museum, housed in one of the most historic monuments, Ypres Tower, restored for this purpose in 1928. This was the old town fort built in the 13th century and then called Badding Tower; it survived the burning of 1377. But less than 100 years later it was considered to be of no further use and was sold to a John de Ypres, from whom it took its name. It was re-acquired by the authorities in 1518 and served various purposes, including nearly three centuries as a prison. The building is square with three-quarter round towers and a detached tower of the 19th century. The exhibits in the museum relate to the history of the Cinque Ports, ships and ship-building and the various local industries, including pottery.
Below the tower is Gun Garden, so called because a battery of cannon were once kept here. Now it is a terraced garden with a view over the river and yacht anchorage. Another of the pre 1377 structures is the Land Gate, built some decades earlier. It is the only gate left of four that gave access to the walled town. The Augustinian Friary also dates from this era; it is now used as a pottery.
The Parish Church of St Mary was first built during the 12th century. Despite severe damage done by the French in 1377 and by time, some of the original fabric remains. There have been several additions over the centuries and a major restoration in the 19th century. The church escaped severe damage in the Second World War; post-war restorations were occasioned by old age. Today it is a mixture of Norman, Transitional, Early English, Decorated, and modern.
The altar is magnificently carved mahogany dating from the early 18th century; the fine candelabrum hanging in the chancel is dated 1759; the font, of Caen stone, is 19th-century. The windows are mainly of the late 19th and 20th centuries.
A major point of interest is the clock, claimed to be the oldest church turret clock in England still functioning with its original works. It was made in Winchelsea in 1560. The giant pendulum swings inside the church where the original weights used to hang. The distinctive painted clock-face is flanked by the figures of two boys who strike the bell on the quarter hours but not the hours; hence the name Quarter Boys. There is a fine view from the top over the town and the surrounding country, much of which was once sea.
Mermaid Street is, perhaps, the best-known of Rye streets: steep, cobbled, it is lined by houses which are mostly of the 15th to 17th centuries. Although generally much restored, they have kept their original form. Here stands the Mermaid Inn, the most notorious of the smugglers' haunts in the 18th century. At one time it was a headquarters of the Hawkhurst desperadoes, greatly feared and seldom opposed. Much of the rear of this hotel is as it was in those days.
Across the street is The House Opposite, so called, it is said, because of the number of people who came looking for the Mermaid Inn; the occupants became so wearied with these enquiries that they adopted this name, inferring that they were opposite the popular inn. Just around the corner from Mermaid Street, in West Street, also largely of buildings of the same periods, stands The Other House. This was occupied by a carpenter who bore the same name as another family in the street. The latter were constantly receiving callers seeking his services who were informed that the carpenter was ‘at the other house’ - and so it became named.
In a quiet spot good for bird-watching, about 1 mile from the town, are the ruins of Camber Castle, built in Henry VIII's reign as part of the defences against possible invasion from France. Originally sea-lapped, by the mid-l7th century it was high and dry and some distance from the water. Further on is Camber, noted for its fine sandy beaches.
Nearby towns: Ashford, Battle Cranbrook, Hastings, Folkestone, New Romney, Robertsbridge, Tenterden, Winchelsea
Nearby villages: Aldington, Appledore, Benenden, Bilsington, Bodiam, Brede, Brenzett, Brookland, Dungeness, East Guldeford, Fairlight, Guestling, Ham Street, Hawkhurst, Icklesham, Iden, Ivychurch, Lydd, Newenden, Northiam, Old Romney, Ore, Orlestone, Pett, Playden, Rolvenden, Romney, Ruckinge, Rye Harbour, Sandhurst, Sedlescombe, Snargate, Snave, St. Michaels, Staple Cross, Udimore, Wavehorne, Winchelsea, Wittersham, Woodchurch
Have you decided to visit Rye or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Rye bed and breakfast (a Rye B&B or Rye b and b)
- a Rye guesthouse
- a Rye hotel (or motel)
- a Rye self-catering establishment, or
- other Rye accommodation