• WACOR Celebrates!

    WACOR Celebrates!

  • Museum Highlights 2013-14

    Museum Highlights 2013-14

  • East Street News Flash

    East Street News Flash

  • Rye Castle: Talk July 8th

    Rye Castle: Talk July 8th

  • Medieval Conference artist

    Medieval Conference artist

  • Once a Prison, Now a  Success Story

    Once a Prison, Now a Success Story

  • Introducing our  Virtual Tour

    Introducing our Virtual Tour


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.   (Be sure to note what has been happening at East Street for example.)  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.  Click on MEDIEVAL CONFERENCE   for updates on this major event on 18th October.

WACOR Celebrates

 Did you click on the WACOR Celebration photo in the slideshow?   If no, try it now, or click here.

A Special Exhibition: The French Connection
13th – 28th September  East Street Museum   FREE ENTRY
10:00 am – 4:00 pm weekdays    10:30 am – 4:30 weekends

Come see this exhibit for the Rye Arts Festival of  paintings, old Rye documents and materials from Medieval and Tudor times illustrating the links between Rye and France.  Did you know Rye was once owned by France?  That St Mary’s church owes its existence to monks of the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy?   That many of today’s Ryers are of Huguenot ancestry?

The display covers the period between the 11th and 13th centuries when Rye was owned by the Abbey through to the influx of Huguenot refugees in Elizabethan times.  The unique documents included in the exhibition are on loan from the East Sussex Archives at the Keep in Brighton.  You will find more details on the Culture page of RyeNews.

History around us: The Ashburnham Family by Mary, Lady Ashburnham

A capacity audience gathered at the East Street Museum on Tuesday evening (9th September) to hear Mary, Lady Ashburnham age 90,  now a Rye resident,  tell us stories sad, amusing and instructive about the Ashburnham  family and its role in a thousand years of English history.  In particular we learned about the Guestling branch — barons — of the family who lived at Broomham  Hall — which we now know as Buckswood School.

Lady Ashburnham was raised on a farm in Udimore and clearly considers herself fortunate to have grown up in a time when children could roam, climb, fish and explore unsupervised and certainly without the restrictions of Health and Safety.  Her husband Denny was named for the English landowner and politician Sir Denny Ashburnman,  1st Baronet (c.1628–1697)  who sat in the House of Commons at various times in the late 17th Century.

But the stories began with Bertram Ashburnham, Constable of Dover Castle when William the Conqueror came to England.  (The post was later merged with that of Warden of the Cinque Ports.)  Bertram lost his head and  later Ashburnhams  spent time in the Tower  but the Restoration brought happier days and several Ashburnhams had a flair for finding wealthy heiresses to help build the family fortunes.  From the 18th century the Ashburnhams were best known for their prominence in the ironmaking industry of the Weald and for the  library and art collection at Ashburnham Place, west of Battle, and considered one of the finest houses in the Southeast.  That branch of the family died out in 1953 with the death of Lady Catherine  Ashburnham and all that remains of the fine house is now part of a Christian conference centre (thought the former medieval deer part Ashburnham Park remains as a site of scientific and scenic  interest).

The 15th century manor house belonging to the Guestling branch of the family has fared better.   Since 2000 it has been Buckswood of Broomham Hall and is  home to students from some 50 countries — half the student body — and can  boast  high ratings and extensive grounds including riding stables  and a performing arts centre.

Thanks to our own Lady Ashburnham for providing such an interesting evening  and helping us to appreciate another facet of our local area.

New Award for Museum

Trip AdvisorCongratulations to the Museum. All the hard work over the past years have paid off with this Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.


More Accolades for Rye Castle and our East Street Museum

  • Two stories about our revitalised Rye Castle have recently appeared in local media. From Rye’s new online newspaper RyeNews: Women Behind Bars  and from the Rye and Battle Observer a piece headed ‘Exciting New Attractions now open at Rye Castle’. 
  •  A lovely card from Blue SpSchool visitruce Class, Beckley School after their visit to the Castle.
    Inside the card reads “Thank you for showing us around your museum and talking to us about smuggling.”
  • And 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.