• Found any antiquities lately?

    Found any antiquities lately?

  • Winchelsea Corporation and  the Court Hall Museum

    Winchelsea Corporation and the Court Hall Museum

  • Norman and Medieval Times: 1066-1485

    Norman and Medieval Times: 1066-1485

  • History near you

    History near you

  • WACOR Celebrates!

    WACOR Celebrates!

  • East Street News Flash

    East Street News Flash

  • Once a Prison, Now a  Success Story

    Once a Prison, Now a Success Story


Welcome to the Rye Museum website!  There is lots to explore.  Click on a slideshow photo or the photos in the other boxes to see the whole article.     Plan ahead by clicking on the Talks tab above to find out who will be talking about what at East Street during the coming year.  Click on a topic at right for a choice of articles in that category. For other tips on using the site click  here.   For other current news keep scrolling down.


We’ve totted up attendance figures at East Street over the months April – October.  We’ve been open only at weekends except for the Rye Festival fortnight when we opened every day.  Yet thanks to our new stop-and-look banner and FREE  admission and wonderful volunteers, we attracted over 8000 visitors to our second site during the season just ended.  That means a whopping increase in visitors numbers over the same period last year  of over 605%!   (Update: More than that!  Watch for the updated InfoGraphic coming soon.)

The Ypres Tower, open every day of the year except Christmas, always attracts a good number of visitors but it too has had an exceptionally good year,  The opening of the Women’s Tower, the WACOR Project — and recommendations from East Street — have all helped to increase footfall to this major Rye attraction.



Banner 2 - s

Banner 1 - sIndeed  the distinguished speakers and the many participants from throughout Britain did make for a most stimulating  Medieval Conference at the Milligan Theatre, Rye College on Saturday October 18th.

This year’s theme was The Hazards of Life and Causes of Death in Late Medieval England.   We all learned much and several myths about health hygiene during the period were demolished.  [Do you think our problems are new?  Ray Prewer  compares Then and Now in a makes-you-smile-and-think piece on the Conference in RyeNews.  Click for it here.]

(Click to enlarge photos.)

James lecture - 1Professors from the Universities of Cambridge, East Anglia, Winchester and University College London  presented on such topics as

  • ‘Poky pigges and stynkynge makerels': Food Standards and Urban Health in Late Medieval England
  • An Archaeology of Disease: Leprosy and Leprosaria  in Medieval England
  •    The Black Death|: Fact or Fiction?
  •  Growing Pains: Adolescent Life Experiences and Expectancy of Medieval Scholars
  • The Incidence  of Accidents. Broken Bones and Death by Misadventure in the Proofs of Age

James lecture - 2Rye Museum is most grateful to the Rye Academy Trust, the Rye Fund and Entertainment Workshops Rye for their support for this event and also to  Jordan Seabrook, a student at Rye Studio School, for designing the publicity poster and students of both Rye College and the Studio School for their assistance at the event.



How much do you know about Medieval Rye?

Strandgate 1784In addition to a two week exhibition of Rye’s medieval French Connection (see below) during the Rye Arts Festival,  two Medieval Rye walks were offered by our Rye Museum Association chairman, Jo Kirkham,

Her  tours concentrated  on the Strand Quay, Mermaid Street (once guarded by a long arcaded stone gate at the bottom, facing the Mint), a now gone Queen’s Arms behind the facades of what we know as West Street, the Churchyard (aka God’s Acre), the Ypres Tower (begun 1249) and Market Street (the market once extended all the way through to the present top of Mermaid Street).

Missed the walk? You can still learn a lot from Jo Kirkham’s article on Norman and Medieval Times: 1066-1489, available from the slideshow above. It provides details of the medieval period in chronological order and is highly recommended . Some supplementary information, much of it deriving from things Jo told us on the walk is available here.

 The French Connection Exhibition

The French Connection, a collection of Rye-owned maps , manuscripts and artefacts dating from the time when Rye was held from the King by the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy, formed a most successful and much-visited exhibition at the Rye Museum during the Rye Arts Festival. The collection has been returned for safekeeping to ESRO’s The Keep in Brighton The good news is that  another exhibition is planned for next year’s Rye Festival period.

 WACOR Celebration

 Did you click on the WACOR Celebration photo in the slideshow?   The event was to mark the end of a most successful project related to the Heritage Lottery Funded restoration of the Women’s Tower.   If you answered No, try it now, or click here.

 Brian Hargreaves: His Life and Work

Were you fortunate enough to see the outstanding work of Brian and Joyce Hargreaves at the recent Rye Art Gallery exhibition?  Even if you were not, a write-up of Brian’s work which accompanied the exhibition should be of interest as the Hargreaves together have done so much for the Museum — as Joyce continues to do.  Click here  (or on Brian Hargreaves under Local History at right).

Accolades for Rye Castle and our East Street Museum

Trip Advisor Besides the recent Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor,  two stories about our revitalised Rye Castle have recently appeared in local media: in Rye’s new online newspaper RyeNews: Women Behind Bars  and in the Rye and Battle Observer:  a piece headed ‘Exciting New Attractions now open at Rye Castle’. 

  •  Inside a lovely card from Blue SpSchool visitruce Class, Beckley School after their visit to the Castle is the message: “Thank you for showing us around your museum and talking to us about smuggling.”
  • And there are tributes in the new Visitors’ Book at East Street too, e.g.
    –  So interesting to see how things were down back in time.  A must for all!
    –  A wonderful museum.  So nice to find out about the people behind the objects!

For more tributes see the infographic on the slideshow above.

High Praise from High Sheriff

High Sheriff & wife

The East Sussex High Sheriff C.J.M. Gebbie Esq. OBE  and his wife came recently to see our newly refurbished Ypres Tower and the newly opened Women’s Tower.  They were so impressed with all they saw at the Tower they are coming back to see more!

What is a High Sheriff?   A High Sheriff is an independent, honorary, non-political Royal appointment for a single year. In Saxon times the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for maintaining law and order within his shire or county and for collecting taxes due to the Crown. Today High Sheriffs support and encourage crime prevention agencies, emergency services, the voluntary sector and local charities.

CJM Gebbie High SheriffWe are fortunate that our High Sheriff knows a great deal about ancient monuments and the organisations which support them and was able to fully appreciate what has been done in Rye to preserve our Ypres Tower and restore the Women’s Tower.



Not been to the Ypres Tower lately?   It’s certainly time to go again!

While we await the Go-Ahead for our plans for development at the Ypres Tower  so that we can have everything on one site, we urge you to revisit it as it has been transformed during the past year and the feedback from visitors is glowing!  In the main tower there’s  the wonderful new Virtual Tour  and the skeleton of  John Breads in the very  cell where he awaited his fate.  Kids love it! and John Ryan’s book Murder in the Churchyard  is on sale at the Tower.  And in the newly opened Women’s Tower with its Audio-Visual display you can  learn about life as a woman prisoner nearly two centuries ago.  You can find out more about these attractions elsewhere on this site.

There are LOTS of other additions and improvements at the Tower:  new furniture and display panels, smartened-up exhibits, better lighting, a new model of the changing shoreline . . . .

Don’t forget to admire the views from the Lookout (the balcony).  Here is a recent Marsh panorama contributed by Peter Varley.  For more views — by Clive Sawyer, click here.

Marsh Panorama

A Virtual Tour of Romantic Rye

Move around Rye without leaving your chair. courtesy Visit Rye Bay.   To go directly to the video click here. Mercifully free of chatter,  it will lead you up and down the streets, zooming in on houses, buildings, views. . .   If you’ve been to Rye can you recall where all these places are?  If you’ve not, we encourage you to come and tour the town for real.


Among other recent visitors . . .

Russian visitors May 2014



Rye’s Castle gets visitors from around the world as well as a steady stream from France, Germany, Belgium and Holland. Most recently there have been groups from Taiwan, South Korea and Hungary — and the two Russians pictured here with our Chairman Jo Kirkham.

Eduard Schaffer is a Russian helicopter pilot who flew many sorties over the burning Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor from 26th April- to 2nd May 1986, dropping various compounds into the fire caused by the explosion, in order to put the fires out. He was accompanied by his interpreter, Nicolai, who first came to England about 10 years ago on one of the month long visits to the UK for children from the Chernobyl area– similar to the ones we have hosted annually in Rye for many years. Eduard spoke (with Nicolai interpreting) at the recent St George’s Day Youth Service at St Mary’s.

During their time in Rye the two particularly enjoyed seeing our new exhibit at the Women’s Prison Tower, offering interesting comparisons with prisons in Russia.



The BBC at the Tower (again!).  Watch for the programme

J S Porter TV

With its  Rye Scallop Festival and Wild Boar Week and proximity to Romney Marsh and its lambs, not to mention its award-winning restaurants, Rye is on the British food map. So it is no surprise the BBC came here again to film for their new television series A Taste of Britain.

Pictured are chef Brian Turner and presenter Janet Street-Porter on the balcony at the Ypres Tower during the filming.

The pair talk a bit about the town before preparing some recipes which should, of course,  include those Rye Bay scallops and Romney Marsh lamb.

The programme will be transmitted on BBC1 in September.  Meanwhile the BBC has been here yet again to film a new production of the ever-popular  Mapp and Lucia  which will be shown in December.