Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Rye is another former port which has been left high and dry; due to the receding of the sea it now lies two miles inland. The town sits on a hill and is a charming tangle of winding cobbled streets populated by half-timbered and Georgian houses. The town’s 13th century defences, of which Ypres Tower remains and is now a museum of local history, failed to protect it from the ravages of the French, who burned most of the town down in 1377, following which several of the town’s leaders were hanged for “faintheartedness”. Lamb House, run by the National Trust, was built in the 18th century by the prominent Lamb family, and was occupied by the novelist Henry James before the First World War. The Lamb family were victims of a murder in 1743 when a local butcher and innkeeper called Breads killed James Lamb’s brother-in-law, believing him to be James himself. Breads then went on a drunken rampage shouting “Butchers should kill lambs!”. He was hanged for his crime, and his skull is now kept in the town hall.

Rye has a number of lovely old inns, many of which were bound up in the smuggling trade, but the most famous of them all is the Mermaid Inn. Not surprisingly, there are a number of ghost stories associated with this inn, one of which concerns a haunting alleged to take place each year on 29 October. Two ladies once slept in the room concerned to see if they would witness anything, and one of them stayed awake long enough to observe two men dressed in doublet and hose fighting a duel. The winner of the duel then tossed his opponent’s body down a shaft in the corner of the room. However, the lady who witnessed this subsequently noted that the shaft had long since been sealed up.

For events in Rye see here.

Map of the area.

The Mermaid Inn. Photo by Richard Rogerson, via Wikimedia Commons

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