• Making Things at East Street

    Making Things at East Street

  • The Story of  ‘Rye Royale’

    The Story of  ‘Rye Royale’

  • Father Christmas in his East Street Grotto

    Father Christmas in his East Street Grotto

  • Know your local history

    Know your local history

  • 5 star ratings for the Ypres Tower

    5 star ratings for the Ypres Tower

  • ‘Conspicuous Consumption’ a Draw to Rye

    ‘Conspicuous Consumption’ a Draw to Rye

  • Look Again at Buildings Around You

    Look Again at Buildings Around You


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.  And within an article, click on a photo to enlarge it.
  • Click here for a quick video introduction to our Museum.  Many thanks to Dilys Major for the script and to staff and students at Rye Studio School for the filming and narration.
  • 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.

peter-challonsChanging the local history record:
Peter Challons’ talk on the Playden Barracks

Peter Challons gave a talk entitled Playden Barracks: The Mystery Unfolds! at the Museum Thursday night, March 9th. Peter, an engineer, began his search for the real location of the Playden Barracks on the Internet, which led him to the East Sussex Record Office (The Keep, in Lewes), various military and parliamentary sources, tithe maps, church records and Rye Museum’s own artefact collection.

He learned many fascinating facts along the way, including the extraordinary number of weddings and births among the soldiers recorded in parish records. Though there is a confusion of spellings (Playden, Pleyden and Playdon, among others) and several separate encampments, including those for  both horse and foot soldiers and a hospital, he has definitively located the barracks fields just above the King’s Head — and not, as everyone has assumed, under the Hospital at the very top of the hill.

The talk was very well attended and we are delighted that he has agreed to write up his findings for the next issue of the Local History Journal.

With thanks to Sarah Cooper for the report and the photo.

Do you need more space on your bookshelves?

The East Street Museum Bookstall is being restocked ready for the reopening of that site to visitors on April 1st.  So far we have  quite a lot  of Science, History, Travel, a reasonable amount of Reference and Biography/Autobiography but so far very little Fiction.  Perhaps you could scan over your shelves to see whether you have some good reads you’d be happy to share – so you’d have room for new ones on your own shelves?  Other genre welcome too of course.

And many thanks to those who have already deposited bags/boxes at East Street.   It’s probably a good idea to ring the office before you come just to be sure you’ll be able to get in to leave your books.  And if you leave your name then we can let you know we’re grateful for your contribution.

ryeinthetwentiesRye Royale in the Nineteen Twenties by Jo Kirkham
The latest Rye Museum publication 

While Jo’s latest talk at the Museum, The Story of Rye Royale, presents highlights of Rye’s centuries-long story of its connections to the Crown, this book,  Rye Royale in the Nineteen Twenties, is specifically about a particular period, featured in one of the most recently mounted exhibits at the East Street museum. The exhibit and the book are in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s ninetieth birthday and present Rye as it was in the decade of her birth: the people and events, the industries and entertainments the shops, schools, hospitals, courts and theatres.   The illustrated 54 page book costs £5 and is available at the Museum.

crocus-2crocus-1Have you seen the Ypres Tower crocuses?

There are many good reasons to visit (and revisit) the Ypres Tower. Just now the  display of crocuses is one of them. They were planted by the Rye and Winchelsea Rotary Club — here and worldwide — to raise awareness of their End Polio Now Campaign. This crocus was chosen because the purple colour matches the purple dye painted on the fingers of children who have been immunized.

The planting was hard going outside the Tower as the soil hadn’t been dug over in years but the reward is that the flowers are through now and look lovely.  Come see and while you are there come in and see what’s new within since your last visit!

.Trip Advisor Recommendations

There are lots of compliments for our Ypres Tower site on Trip Advisor.  You can see them here.  Our only ‘bad’ report, spoiling our near perfect score, seems to have come about because a visitor who had just had a maddening time trying to find a parking space in Rye  was looking for someone to blame their parking problems on! (They made no comment about the museum itself.)

 East Street opens on Saturday April lst!

While the Ypres Tower is open daily all year round,  East Street closes during the winter except for events.  The date for its reopening is Saturday, April 1st after which we will welcome visitors every weekend — and possibly on a weekday as well!  That last will depend on response to our invitation to join the band of volunteers to welcome visitors on a morning or afternoon.  It’s a pleasant job and one meets a variety of interesting (and interested) people!  Contact the office if you would like to find out more.  01797-226728

Update on a recent speaker

Rye Museum certainly hosts some fascinating talks!  An outstanding one was Hands of Genius by micro-engraver Graham Short during the Rye Festival.  (Click here to refresh your memory or, if you missed it, to find out why it was so special.)  He’s recently been making the news again, this time by secretly releasing four five pound notes worth thousands of pounds as part of a project by a gallery in the Borders. On each of the new plastic notes he had engraved  a tiny (5mm) portrait of and a quote by Jane Austen to mark the 200th anniversary of her death. You may remember that his portrait of the Queen on a pinhead had sold for £100,000.  These, each with a different quote, are said to be worth thousands more, though the finders of the first two have decided to keep them rather than sell them.

Father Christmas at the Museum

santa-and-childFather Christmas was kept busy throughout the day in his grotto at East St Museum which had been decorated for the festival theme of ‘Tales of Old’. He saw almost 400 children plus their parents, grandparents uncles, aunts, cousins, friends.  (In fact it seemed like the whole town had come to see him!) Rye was buzzing from the moment Father Christmas appeared at the Town Hall and threw out chocolate coins and walked to East St Museum.

penguin-in-sleighThe entrance was popular with all the children and grown ups as there was a wonderful snow machine, a bubble machine and photo opportunity on a  mock sleigh and the Father Christmas cut-out. It was also home of the ‘Snow Queen’ – on the Town trail. Thank you to Dilys for the mannequin display and Heather had made the crown and the background setting with help from Yvonne Metcalf and Sarah Cooper.

floyd-johnson-familyThe booking system assured an easy entry into the  beautifully decorated grotto where, after a brief chat with the man himself, each child received a small gift. Father Christmas also surprised some children with a magic trick. Then there was time for the all-important photo of Father Christmas with each child or family. Treasure these memories.

The grotto was supported by a large team of volunteers, mostly museum members, who did a sterling job, in particular Yvonne Metcalf and Sue Manktelow who also provided the catering as well as having helped Heather with the decorations and preparations. There are many more to thank – a well deserved round of applause. Such a happy day for all the children who it was designed for. A great big thank you to Father Christmas for appearing in Rye at his very busy time of year and helping to make the towns Christmas Festival a huge success.

Thank you all for coming – from a very weary grotto co-ordinator.

Heather Stevenson ( see you next year !!)

And Rapunzel’s hair at the Castle!

rapunzels-hairsnow-queenThe Museum’s Ypres Tower (Rye Castle) was another attraction for families on Rye’s Tales of Old day.    The Tale Trail offered 15 illustrated posters of familiar tales — Cinderella,  the Elves and the Shoemaker, The Steadfast Tin Soldier being just three of them — and children had to indicate on a map which tale was to be found at which listed location.

At East Street they had found The Snow Queen.  At the Castle it was Rapunzel’s hair!

visitor-from-australiaFrom Another Rye

Did you know there are other Ryes in other countries thanks to former residents of our Rye and to ships built here which conveyed them to pioneer posts?   Rye, Sussex has maintained strong links with the Rye in Australia and those in New York and New Hampshire in the USA.  We have just had a visit from the former Chairman and now Secretary of the Rye Historical Society, Victoria, Australia, Mrs Pauline Powell  who last met our Chairman Jo Kirkham here in 2003.   This time Mrs Powell brought her daughter and they two particularly enjoyed time with Jo at the Castle seeing the latest attractions. They also attended the Sunday morning service at St Mary’s Church — where the daughter took the picture.

Click here for a story about the founding of Rye, New York.


knight-1 A Knight Visits the Ypres Tower

Visitors to the Tower on Sunday were delighted to discover this bonus attraction: Knight Stuart Hopper  in splendidly shiny armour, accepted an invitation from his friend Ted Emson, one of the guides at the Tower — so often mentioned in visitor feedback as ‘so friendly and knowledgeable’–to add to the ambience.

Stuart reports that he too enjoyed his time but that wearing armour makes you feel very hot when you wear it for any length of time.


 Dates for your Diary

Be sure to check the Events box at right above for coming events!

Walk around Huguenot Rye with Geotourist!

Geotourist is an application for your smartphone that takes you on guided walk audio tours of real world places. The Museum has done one on Huguenot Rye with Jo Kirkham narrating, and it’s finally been published.   Click here to find and use it.  If you try it and like it,  tell us so we will know whether to build more tours exploring different aspects of Rye.

 Update on Publications

By popular demand as a result of Fred Walker’s recent talk, we now have copies of the beautifully illustrated From Ships to Sheep: The Story of Smallhythe: £8.  Other additions are small booklets on Camber Castle and Rye Harbour at £1 each.  We also have new supplies of the popular glitter pens, with lanyard and without.

We now have a splendid new display console at East Street so that we can show our publications and retail items to much better effect.  Come see!

Special Offer: RYENNIUM

RYENNIUM. a publication to celebrate the turn of the millenium,  was published by Rye Town Council as one of its Millennium Projects and printed by Adams of Rye as  a limited edition using hot metal type.  With text by Jo Kirkham and illustrations by Brian Hargreaves and  originally published at £14.95, our remaining copies are on special sale for £5.00.  Contact the office or visit the Ypres Tower if you would like one.

Healing Herbs of War

Be sure to click on the Healing Herbs of War slideshow photo above to read Lin Saines’ illustrated article on Healing Herbs of War Throughout the Ages.  You can then come to look for the featured plants in the Ypres Castle Medieval Garden and the Still Room.

The Still Room now has a more Edwardian look including rose petal, oatmeal and lavender bath-bags, roses and a change of herbs. (It smells lovely.) Lin has added a Lavender bag with original 1940’s ladies’ ‘Rever’s’ collars in embroidered net-lace. The family who owned these machines worked Princess Diana’s lace for her Wedding Dress.  According to Lin, Victorian and Edwardian ladies  loved making sachets in home-made lace this way

Lin’s book, The Garden Beyond the Tower, illustrated by Brian and Joyce Hargreaves and published by Rye Castle Museum, is about our Medieval Garden and the Still Room in the Tower and is available at both of our museums.

A write-up of Brian’s work, Remembering Brian Hargreaves, which accompanied a recent Rye Art Gallery 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). We hope you noticed the featured post above on Remembering Brian Hargreaves.

Recently at the Museum

Digging up new facts on history:  Conference on|The Plague of 1665
7th November: East Street Museum

If you didn’t click on the slideshow’s Digging Up History photo, be sure to do so for a link to a grand aoount of our recent conference on The Plague of 1665.

We’re Still Breaking Records!

We have continued to welcome record numbers of visitors both at the Tower and at East Street, such good news for a museum that is entirely independent, relying for income on an admission charge at the Tower and donations at East Street.   We earlier reported that thanks to a stop-and-look banner and FREE admission — and wonderful volunteer stewards — we’d attracted over 8000 visitors to our second site during last year’s summer season — a whopping increase in visitor numbers  of over 605%!  Recently we noted that we’d welcomed nearly 1650 visitors to East Street during the first four weeks of the season, mostly because of our weekend openings — and we are only open at weekends there! Now we’ve topped that several times can top that too:  On Saturday and Sunday August 29th and 30th we had nearly 300 each day!  And during the Rye Arts Festival fortnight, when we had a superb exhibition  featuring the model soldiers of Chris Viner (Soldiers of Rye) in battles leading up to Waterloo, we had 1776 visitors!

As for the Tower which is open every day of the year and continues to be a major Rye attraction, there have been as many as 600 visitors in a single day!  Our regular guides need a lunchtime break.  If you would like to join our  band of volunteer stewards to spell  one of them off for an hour midday do let us know.  It’s fun and rewarding and a chance to meet interesting people.

We share Tower visitors’ comments with you in one of the featured articles on the slideshow above; they make us very proud.  RyeNews is now running a 5 part series on the recently replaced Visitors’ Book, the latest featuring our three much praised guides.

 The WACOR Project

There’s a lively and informative illustrated book online showing all the projects, events, workshops, courses, memory days and discovery days of the WACOR Project in about 36 pages. A splendid summing up of two very productive years. Click here to see it.

If you missed the Slideshow feature on the very successful WACOR Project, you can click here to see any or all of the four YouTube products.  So many more people of all ages have become acquainted with the Museum and what it offers,  and learned a great deal about Rye while having a great deal of fun.  Many thanks to all those who took part and supported! 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

 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.