• East Street Entrance

    East Street Entrance

  • Rye’s Fire Engine 1775 -1865

    Rye’s Fire Engine 1775 -1865

  • Captain Pugwash

    Captain Pugwash

  • Penny Farthing

    Penny Farthing

  • Rye Fishing boat RX20

    Rye Fishing boat RX20

  • Marian Zagury schooner clipper

    Marian Zagury schooner clipper

  • Smeaton’s Harbour Remains

    Smeaton’s Harbour Remains

  • Jubilee display case

    Jubilee display case

  • Rye Pottery pigs

    Rye Pottery pigs

East Street

Scroll down for a map

The East Street Museum is open every weekend from the beginning of April until the end of October from 10.30 until 4.30.

Entrance is free but donations are always gratefully received as we receive no funding.

There is a ramp from the main entrance going up into the  exhibition room which is flat and accessible to all. 

Please find our Access information here:Access Statement 19092017


Groups wishing to visit the East Street Museum may book to do so.  Groups of over 8 people have a special rate and it is possible to arrange for a guide or a talk on a particular subject. The Museum Education Team can arrange special class visits for various curriculum subjects.

For further details please contact the Museum on 01797 226728 or e-mail info@ryemuseum.co.uk.


Director John Lanigan is the man who manages the stewards’ rota and  more volunteers are always welcome!    Those who have given up half a day on a Saturday or Sunday (or two) per month in the past to greet visitors to East Street will vouch for it being an interesting job with a chance to meet interesting (and interested) people and learn more about your town for yourself.    The East Street Museum of course continues to be available for group bookings (such as school visits) and special events — talks, coffee mornings,  children’s activity days and the like  (and we always need people to help on these occasions too).  Ring 01797-226728  for more information.

Meanwhile remember that the Ypres Tower is open every day!

 What you will find at the East Street Museum

For more articles click on East Street Museum at right.

The Museum at 3 East Street is the  main exhibition area for Museum artifacts illustrating different aspects of Rye’s history.  This building was once a butchery and then a bottling factory for the local brewery, and it was attached to the shop that is now Help the Aged, in the High Street. The Museum bought the old bottling factory in 1995 and with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, converted it into a Museum in 1998/9, opening it to the public at Easter 1999.

The main entrance to the Museum features not only our second hand bookstall but a pair of ever-so-high stilts used in hop picking, objects from Rye potteries and a vegetable garden with a beautiful quince tree. 

One of the prime exhibits is Rye’s old fire engine, built in 1745 and in use until 1865. That’s 120 years!    It is one of the few surviving from that period and could hold 60 gallons of water.

With its leather hoses and battered lead-lined water buckets, it is quite complete. Originally it was on a sledge, which enabled it to travel more quickly over the cobbled streets, but it needed a team of strong men to pull it along as it weighs about 56 cwt (2.8 Imperial tons or 2.845 Kg).

Another especially popular exhibit is the penny farthing, the first machine to be called a bicycle.  Can you imagine getting on it and off it, and riding it over Rye’s cobbles?

There is another  display on the changes to the coastline over the last thousand years and how this has affected Rye, bringing prosperity and then taking it away. The retreat of the sea, the silt brought down by the rivers, the changes in trade and size of ships all caused the harbour and its trade to decline from the Elizabethan high point.

This display also looks at the project known as the Western Solution, or Smeaton’s Harbour, which was supposed to revive the fortunes of the harbour by taking it to what is now Winchelsea Beach, and how after almost sixty years of work, it failed within six months. The remains are just about still visible at Winchelsea Beach today.

Fortunately, Rye’s shipbuilding industry did revive to thrive between about 1840 and 1918.   In other displays you  can see many of the tools used and models of ships built such as the handsome clipper schooner Marian Zagury built in 1843 for the fruit trade.  . There are several paintings showing the changes in Rye, its rivers  and  harbour over the past few centuries.

 Younger visitors always enjoy the Captain Pugwash Treasure Hunt as well as  the  Captain Pugwash display.  A prize is given each month to the young contestant who has followed the Treasure Hunt clues most successfully.   Thanks to creator John Ryan’s wife and daughter this exhibit was expanded and has proved very popular. .

The Museum also has  exhibits of toys and games which  grandparents and great-grandparents remember from their childhoods as well as some furniture and  equipment from bygone nurseries–such as the Georgian Horse.

As for education in Rye, there are photos and even old exam papers.  Could you answer the questions?

Rye Museum is the proud owner of seals from the days of Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I, the Commonwealth(Oliver Cromwell) and Queen Victoria,  another  whole case is devoted to Victorian Rye and still another to the Jubilee celebrations in Rye for both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.  See how much has changed in the last 150 years!

Many of our visitors are especially interested in the wooden mosaic pieces, the tobacco pipes and the various kinds of pottery made in Rye for which the town was famous.  The Sussex pigs that ‘won’t be druv’ are an example. Even quite recently excavations and building work have unearthed new finds. In addition, there are some older, medieval pottery finds on display too.