Town Hall

Town Hall

With acknowledgement to L A Vidler, G S Bagley, G Mayhew and Jo Kirkham

A Handsome Georgian Building of Rye

The Town Hall is on the site of at least three earlier Court Halls. The first was burnt to the ground during the French attack of 1377. Its replacement was rebuilt between 1514 and early 1515; the timber, tiles, lead and other materials were sold to the Mayor for £38.16s.

Architect Andrew Jelf designed the handsome Georgian Town Hall of 1742 which we see today. His original scale model survives in the attic room of the building along with other relics of the past.

One of these relics is the Rye Pillory, last used in 1813 to punish a publican who had helped a French prisoner of war to escape. An unconfirmed story is that it was placed on the beach so that during the punishment his face could be turned to the coast of France.

Among other prized artifacts are a solid gold Mayoral Chain and a Mayor’s Bell which may date as far back as 1565 .

Rye has two pairs of Maces, which is unique. New maces were made of iron covered with silver in 1562 and 1507. The ‘Elizabethan ones’ used today may have been these, having been re-silvered. The Georgian pair, silver gilt and 4 ft. 7 in. long, date from 1767. Originally, on the principal ‘one office, one mace’, the Mayor and the King’s Bailiff each had one but in 1705 these offices were combined; the Mayor became ex-officio Bailiff and was thus entitled to two.

The cupola of the Town Hall held the Jurat’s Bell which was used to announce Council Meetings and Quarter Sessions.

it was restored in 1981 to mark the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana.

Rye ceased to be a Borough Council and became Rye Town Council in 1974. However it continued to be the Magistrates’ Court for Adults and Juveniles until 1993. Mayoring Day is still celebrated annually, when the new mayor throws hot pennies from the Chamber window.

Today the Council Chamber of the Town Hall is used for many town events and meetings.

It has become a popular place for weddings, with the town crier in full costume to cry the successful union.

Underneath the Council rooms is the former  Butter Market . A cart from the former Webb bakery across the street is still there.

The area is now used for special events such as fundraising by community organisations, the Ryesingers’ welcome for the Queen Mother on her visit to Rye in 1980 and for various Rye Festival events.

First posted in Rye Buildings and Defences on 16th November 2009
Last updated: 28th November 2012
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