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Name Derivation

General Details

11 miles east of Hastings on the A259, Rye sits on a hill top with the church tower at the highest point, and the buildings clustered all around. The town is situated a few miles from the sea, however during the Middle Ages it stood on a promontory. It was linked to the land by a narrow, easily defensible neck of land, guarded on either side by the wide estuaries of the Rivers Tillingham and Rother.

The Saxons called it 'Atter Ie', meaning 'on the island'. Over the years this was altered to 'Atte Rie', and finally to just Rye .

During 1287 AD a severe storm hit the channel, and the movement of shingle from Dungeness blocked the outlet of the Rother at New Romney , the river changed its path to its current position to Rye. Due to this major piece of good fortune the town was together with its neighbour Winchelsea linked to the Cinque Ports as an 'Antient Town' in 1289 AD, and was responsible for supplying ships to the English Fleet.

In the same year it was given the status of a Royal Borough.

In 1377 and 1448 the city was burned down by the French. From the 15th Century, its importance declined, due to raids by the French, and the silting up of the estuary and the build up of shingle along the foreshore. However its fishing fleet remains important, and still survives today - the boats unload their catches on the quayside on the Eastern side of the town.

In 1539 the harbour was looked on as important by King Henry VIII and the small defensive fort of Camber Castle was expanded to provide cover to the harbour in the Camber(Chambre) between present Camber , East Guldeford , Rye and Winchelsea. The fort became obsolete by 1637 as the Camber had silted so badly.

In 1573 Queen Elizabeth I visited Rye and was so pleased by her reception that she gave the town the right to call itself 'Rye Royal'.

In 1726 George I was grounded on Camber Sands, and he stayed at Rye for 4 days, at Lamb House, Rye's grandest town mansion.

It was built and owned by James Lamb, a member of the Lamb family who ran the town throughout the 18th century. The house has been the home to two famous writers. The American novelist Henry James lived there from 1897 - 1916, and E.F.Benson, who was also mayor of Rye in 1934.

Mermaid Street is Rye's most photographed street. It is cobbled, and lined with beautiful old houses. The Mermaid Inn, full of beams and Inglenooks is said to have been founded in the 11th century, and in the 'olden days' it was frequented by the notorious and vicious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers .

Parts of Rye still look today very much as they did in the Middle Ages. It is one of the gems of the East Sussex coast, and in summer is packed with tourists who come to admire its half timbered Georgian houses, its cobbled streets and its medieval fortifications. Its superb setting between the rolling sussex countryside, and the levels of Romney Marsh with the sea beyond stretching into the distance, makes for some magnificent views.

This village is associated with the Sussex Bonfire Societies , who provide noisy processions, unbelievable outfits and fantastic firework displays throughout the month of November - a spectacle not to be missed.


St Marys church (Rye East Sussex)
Rye is the main shopping centre for many of the surrounding villages. There are many small shops, and a supermarket in the town, along with many gift shops, pubs and eating places.

The Hastings to Folkestone hourly bus service travels through the town, with less frequent services to Tenterden .

The town has its own railway station on the Ashford to Hastings line, with an hourly service during the day, and more frequently during rush hour.


Mermaid Street (Rye East Sussex)
There are many views in Rye , walk up to the church, and follow Mermaid Street down to the Quay .

The old High Street is very enjoyable to walk down.

Walk down to the Landgate , and then look down on the Fishing Quay, and the expanse of flat land across the Dungeness Marshes.

The most impressive view for those who like wide vistas, is probably from the old Town Gaol (which now houses Rye Castle Museum), looking out on the Marshes to the left, Camber in front and Fairlight to the right. The 1066 Country Walk runs to the town.

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