‘Rye has never been typical’

Another insistence that ‘Rye is unique’

A previous post quoted A G Bryant’s assertion that ‘Rye is unique’.  This paragraph with a similar beginning is from Paul Kleber Monod’s The Murder of Mr Grebell: madness and civillity in an English town (Yale University Press 2003). (Editor’s italics)

Rye has never been typical.  Call it odd or unusual, special or strange, but do not try to force it into the straightjacket of typicality. Its uniqueness is rooted in a long, complicated history. From its foundations as a port in the late eleventh century until today, the town;s location and poor land connections have given it a strong maritime character that it still retains despite the silting up of the harbour. Its incorporation in the thirteenth century set up a fiercely independent system of local government that endured until the 1830s in practice, long after that in spirit. Confederation with the other Cinque Ports inthe early 1300s further separated Rye from its rural setting, giving the town a powerful sense of civic identity.  This helped to prevent the local gentry from exercising the influence that they enjoyed in other English towns. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, its dwindling fisheries, lack of naval facilities, and peripheral connections with trans-Atlantic or East Indian trade meant that Rye went through difficulties that were not shared by more prosperous ports.  On the surface, then, it had little in common economically, socially or politically , with a bustling packet station like Falmouth, a naval bastion like Portsmouth, a booming tobacco haven like Whitehaven, or a ship-building centre like Great Yarmouth. Rye might easily be written off as an eccentric pin-prick of a place, an incurable anachronism, an  insignificant exception to every rule: except that it was not.

The book explains why.

First posted in Said About Rye on 9th December 2012
Last updated: 20th February 2013