The George Hotel

The George Hotel

Slightly adapted from an article in Rye’s Own 161 (December 2007)

Rye’s Oldest Coaching Inn

by Gemma Pocock

When I think of Christmas in Rye I always think of The George as this is where the lights are traditionally turned on and by who other than the big man him self, Father Christmas.  The George is Rye’s oldest Coaching Inn, originally established in 1575. The George was not always in this position in the town, it moved to its current site in 1719. It has been gradually added to over the years and now consists of a series of interconnecting buildings all surrounding a central courtyard.

The current ballroom was built in 1818 as an assembly point for farmers who came to market. This grand room has catered for many political meetings and civic functions. Here it was where the great ‘pro-Rye’ movement of the town celebrated when the Parliamentary Reform Act came into power, allowing a fairer system of democracy giving all men of Rye a chance to vote. Many banquets were held in this imposing room over the years and one’s mind can easily travel back in time and imagine the finery of the ladies and the elegance of their gentlemen in the days of Empire when Britain ruled vast areas of the world and the wealthy had the wherewithal to afford the very best clothing and jewellery.

The George has many special features including the original fireplace which can be seen in the Tap Room. The Gill Parliamentary clock still takes pride of place on the wall dating to the 1700s. These large face clocks get their name from an Act of Parliament that put large taxes on clocks, pricing them out of range of the average man in the street. Parliamentary clocks were installed in Public Houses and Inns for the benefit of the masses who could not afford the tax. It was a sure-fire way of attracting customers.

A cupboard resembling a dumb waiter is actually an 18th Century wig store, I don’t think many people will be using this today.

The George has entertained many people, not just town’s folk : three King Georges, Wellington and the Mayor of London . . . . Around 1778 the first long distance coach, the Diligence, embarked on 16 hour journeys between Rye and London. At the beginning of the 20th Century a certain room within The George was used as a masonic lodge, but over time The George became run down, being sold between different hotel groups.

In 2004 Alex and Katie Clarke purchased the famous Inn and after a whole 12 months of renovation it re-opened in 2006. The George has been brought up to date but still retains its atmosphere and history.  So when Father Christmas switches the lights on at the Christmas Festival and  the Mayor and Santa appear on the balcony,  just take a little thought as to the great history The George has to offer our wonderful historic town.

Further information on the history of the George Hotel is available on the hotel’s website.

First posted in Rye Buildings and Defences, Rye Trades and Industries on 22nd September 2010
Last updated: 28th November 2012
Tags: ,