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Ypres Tower Rye

The Rye Museum has two sites: Ypres Tower built in 1249 as part of the town's defences and East Street, where we display items from our collections. Open 1 April - 31 October. See website for times.

Landgate Arch in Rye

landgate arch by Clive Sawyer

For centuries Rye was an island with only one land connection at high tide to the mainland through the Landgate.

See also nearby Winchelsea which is also steeped in history. Visit Winchelsea Church which is part of the ruined Monastery.

Winchelsea Church by Clive Sawyer

Historic Rye, East Sussex

Explore the history of rye

Whereas many towns boast a colourful story but have little evidence of it, Rye can bear testimony to its eventful past.

To really capture the feel of the town we know you will enjoy a guided tour by Mike Carver a teacher of History for twenty years, formerly head of History at Battle Abbey School for twelve years. Book a place on a walking tour Rye History Walks


Originally granted to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy in 1017, Rye was reclaimed by Henry III in 1247 and blossomed as a Cinque Port, vital to England's defence.  As you wander about, look for landmarks like the Ypres Tower or Rye Castle, the Landgate and the Monastery.

Other buildings, such as Lamb House, once the home of Henry James and later, E F Benson, in West Street are also open to the public. 

Views from the Tower

Don't miss the view from the top of the tower of St Mary's Parish Church and when you explore the churchyard, look out for the Town Water Cistern built in 1735. 

View from St Mary's Church Tower by Clive Sawyer
Quay at Rye by Clive Sawyer

13th century storms had changed the shoreline and moved the River Rother to enter the sea at Rye, giving it a large, safe harbour.  In the 14th century, Rye became a Head Port of the Cinque Ports Confederation.  The fishing fleet can still be seen at the newly refurbished Fishing Quay

Smuggling in Rye

Perhaps one of Rye's most exciting periods in history was the 18th century when it was often regarded as the smuggling capital of England.  Smugglers' hoards were stored in the old vaulted cellars and some of these can still be seen on a tour of the town.

Rye survived frequent French attacks but in 1377 all but the stone buildings were burned, and the church bells stolen in one raid.  Many of the half timbered houses now seen in the town date from the rebuilding after this event.

See the Shapes and Colours of Rye prepared by the Rye Conservation Society.  It gives an interesting insight into the buildings and materials used over the centuries.



timber framed house rye by Clive Sawyer
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