Rye, Clocks, Murder, Smuggling, Captain Pugwash, and strange front doors: part three of my ‘jolly’.

Windmill in Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Windmill in Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Part three of my birthday ‘jolly.’

If you’ve been following my two previous posts about my birthday treat earlier in the month you will realise I’ve been in Sussex and visiting all manner of wonderful places.  I’ve not posted in sequence but I am sure you won’t worry about that.

Bright and early one morning we set off (my sister and I) for a day in the ancient Cinque Port of Rye.

For those of you who don’t know, a Cinque Port (member of the Cinque Ports Confederation), is a town which was allowed a certain amount of self-government – in Feudal times – in return for supplying the King with a Navy.

‘God Save Englonde and the Towne of Rye’

(quote from the Ancient Rye Customal or Law Book)

We visited the Parish Church of St. Mary in Rye which for almost 900 years has dominated the hill on which the Old Town stands.  The Domesday Book, completed in 1086, records ‘The Abbot of Fecamp holds Rameslie from the King, and held it from King Edward – there are 5 churches and a new Borough with 64 Burgesses.  Hastings has 4.’

St Mary's Parish Church, Rye - 900 years old.  (c) Jane Risdon 2014

St Mary’s Parish Church, Rye – 900 years old. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Think the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy defeated King Harold just down the road, and if you are wondering about the Doomsday book in 1086, that was the very first Census in a way;  William needed to know who owned what and how much, to put it plainly.

Rye - Cinque Port - (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye – Cinque Port – (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye is a well-known tourist destination.  The houses and cobbled streets are fascinating and the views from the roof of the church are well worth the agonising journey up many narrow stairs and two ladders.  We were amazed when we got to the roof of the church to see a very elderly lady appear from the narrow little door, complete with walking stick.  I was amazed I’d managed it; respect to her though.

These get narrow and steeper as you climb (c) Jane Risdon 2014 St Mary's Parish Church, Rye

These get narrow and steeper as you climb (c) Jane Risdon 2014 St Mary’s Parish Church, Rye

 I should mention that it is wise to climb to the roof when the big bells are not about to toll on the hour. Even though it is a single toll, I am told it really rocks your socks.

Cast in 1775 these bells replaced bells stolen by the French in 1377 (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Cast in 1775 these bells replaced bells stolen by the French in 1377 (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The bells were re-cast in 1775 and each one has the maker’s name, Pack and Chapman, and a rhyme on them.  These bells were re-hung in 1995.  The bells are not the original ones however, those were stolen by the French in 1377.  There are 8 bells and their total weight is almost 5 tons.

I don’t have a photo of the Clock but I do have one of the mechanism which I managed to take in spite of the gloom.  The clock mechanism is one of the oldest church turret clocks still functioning and chimes the quarters and a single hourly toll.

Mechanism of one of the oldest church turret clocks still functioning (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Mechanism of one of the oldest church turret clocks still functioning (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The clock has a beautiful blue face – called ‘the new clock,’ and was made by the Huguenot ,Lewys Billiard, in about 1561-62.  The pendulum. a much later addition, swings in the body of the church.  The present exterior face of the clock and the original ‘Quarter Boys’ (so-called because they strike the quarters but not the hours) were added in 1760.

On the clock decoration are the words ‘For our time is a very shadow that passeth away; Wisdom 11v.’

The view from the church roof is wonderful; over the red roofs of Rye.

Never far from the sea - rooftop view of Rye - (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Never far from the sea – rooftop view of Rye – (c) Jane Risdon 2014

      Never far from the sea there are lots of channels leading to it; I’ve taken photos of the whole panorama  from the roof as you can see for miles.

The golden weather vane on top of the tower (white dome photo two here) dates from 1703.  The church has been a look-out from the day it was built and has been assistance to sailors as a landmark, to be seen from Dungeness to Fairlight.

We spent quite a time on the roof, the wind was rather cold and refreshing and the weather threatened rain but to see the whole of Rye and so far into the distance was worth shivering for.

I must admit the thought of the journey back down the stairs and steps did occupy my mind for a while.  I managed it backwards as the narrow steps and twisting stairwell was a bit of a nightmare.  Modern folk are so much taller, wider, and have larger feet  than those 900 years ago I think.  Plus carrying cameras and handbags is an added nuisance when trying to find something to hold on to.  Not for the feint-hearted or those with a fear of heights and confined spaces I think!

Rye from the church roof (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye from the church roof (c) Jane Risdon 2014

There are some gorgeous stained glass windows in the church depicting various events in the history of Rye.  We had a giggle when we noticed that Captain Horatio Pugwash – TV cartoon character from when my son was a toddler – was mentioned in the church brochure.  John Ryan, his creator, lives in Rye.

St Mary's Church Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

St Mary’s Church Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Up above the roofs and house...(c) Jane Risdon 2014

Up above the roofs and house…(c) Jane Risdon 2014

For our American friends you might be interested to know that the township of Rye, New York State, was founded in the early 17th century by settlers from Rye, Sussex.  Both parishes observe the 2nd Sunday in Advent as an annual day of commemoration.  An inscribed slab under the tower crossing was donated by the Americans, and in return a piece of stone from the fabric of the church was sent to Christ’s Church, Rye, New York USA.

Inside St Mary's Parish Church Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Inside St Mary’s Parish Church Rye (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Now, you know I love a good murder so trust me to find one in Rye and not just murder,  but smuggling too.

Apparently parts of the church have been used over time for various activities, and in 1569 guns and stores for the town had been stored in the South Chancel, and later in 1637 a complaint was made that it contained ‘arsenals, prisons and places of execution of punishment’.  Later the South Chancel was divided and used for a school.  The North Chancel was used as a lumber room, the home of the town’s fire engine (now in Rye museum) and for hiding smuggled goods.  However, until 1854 it was still being used to bury people.

Two graves feature in a famous Rye story. 

Next to each other lie Allen Grebell – murdered by mistake in 1742 by John Breeds – and members of the Lamb familyJames Lamb having been the intended victim.  The murder took place in the churchyard when John  Breeds killed the Deputy Mayor instead of the Mayor.  Various explanations have been offered, including vengeance, mental illness, or the Rye smuggling Mafia diverting attention from their activities.  From 1792 – 1862 the murderer and his victim lay together in the North Chancel, the remains of John Breed’s skeleton, in an iron cage, having been moved there from Gibbets Marsh.  In 1862, when the Chancel Chapels were re-opened, the iron cage and its contents were removed to the attic of the Town Hall in Rye.

There is an inscription which I didn’t have chance to find, which apparently reads:

‘Here lyeth the Body of ALLEN GREBELL Esq.r

Who after having served the Office of Mayor of this Town for Ten Years with the greatest

Honour and Integrity fell by the Cruel Stab of a

Sanguinary Butcher on the 17th of March 1742

I can imagine all the Historical novelists reading this wanting to know more.

Churchyard view with houses in the background (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Churchyard view with houses in the background (c) Jane Risdon 2014

We took a wander around the town and I managed to take some photos of some of the more interesting buildings and streets after having lunch at a little tea rooms we found.   The Cobbles Tea Rooms was delightful and not too expensive.  They serve afternoon teas (cream teas) homemade scones, cakes and luxury carrot cake by the way.  I enjoyed their Ploughman’s Lunch – cake is not my thing.  They have an extensive range of loose leaf teas too and high quality coffees.  The Cobbles Tea Rooms,  I, Hylands Yard, Rye. TN31 7EP.

Here are some more of the photos I took on our visit.  I do hope you enjoy the front doors especially; they tickled me.

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

I love the cobbled streets and the style of houses. 

So many are really ancient and those I’ve photographed nearly all date from around 1400.

The street below is where novelist, Henry James lived.  You can see the plaque marking his house on the left.

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Rye Sussex (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Henry James lived here from 1895-1916 (shown below).

Henry James, Novelist, lived in Rye.  (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Henry James, Novelist, lived in Rye. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Henry James lived here (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Henry James lived here (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Some of the houses are really fascinating and it is no wonder people enjoy wandering around looking at them.  I enjoyed it no end. 

These houses all have strange names.  Look closely. 

Interesting front doors in Rye. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The First House (c) Jane Risdon 2014


The House with the Seat (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The House with the Seat (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The House with Two Front Doors - (c) Jane Risdon 2014

The House with Two Front Doors – (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Nothing happened on this spot apparently. (c) Jane Risdon 2014

On this site Sept 1782 nothing happened (c) Jane Risdon 2014


The House Opposite – (c) Jane Risdon 2014

I hope you find these fun.  I love them.  

Oak Corner repaired 1490 (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Oak Corner repaired 1490 (c) Jane Risdon 2014

    Anyway, we had a fantastic day.  I took dozens of photos – too many to share here.   I hope if you ever get the chance to visit Rye you will take it and have a good time discovering everything it has to offer. 

My ‘jolly,’ hasn’t ended;

I have more to share with you and so keep an eye out for lots more next time.

Thanks for visiting and do please let me know what you think.  

Now I must pop off and get down to writing Murder at the Observatory – a short story to be included in my Crime Anthology due out in a couple of months.  Murder at the Observatory is a stand-alone Ms Birdsong Investigates story, not from the novel, but I couldn’t resist having her investigate evil deeds in the Vale of the White Horse.      

All photographs are copyright Jane Risdon 2014 All rights reserved.          


  1. Thank you for sharing, I felt like I was there with you. I love history and wandering through places that are rich with it. It sounds like you had an awesome adventure and saw so many things. Loved it. The only thing better is if I get to go. 🙂 One day I hope.


    • I am glad you enjoyed it Maggie I really did. Had such an awesome birthday treat – so far I have posted three pieces with pictures and more to come…so lots more history and nice places to see. Stay tuned in about a week and I will have sorted out the castles at least. I hope you get to visit them soon. Worthwhile, and so interesting. Cannot guarantee a murder in them all though. 🙂


      • Had to laugh about not finding a murder in all of them. 🙂 It made me wonder how many don’t have one? it seems that many would, at least in my stereo-typed version. Hmmm. Something to research at some point I think. I look forward to more of your trip and pictures.


        • When I get time, got to do Mother duty this weekend so might not fit a new post in before next week. Usually do them weekends. I shall have to research to find another murder….don’t hold your breath! lol Have a great weekend if we don’t natter again before then. 🙂


  2. A great post Jane. it looks like you had a great time. You can’t beat England for a huge span of history and strange places. I love the house with a seat. A toilet seat perhaps? XD


    • LOL these amused me no end. Every house had something interesting but I couldn’t include everything of course. Yep the history was interesting for me too. Glad you liked the post…more to come later next week. Saw so any lovely places. So pop back when I’ve done the others. Nothing as wonderful as your photos but I try! 🙂


      • I went to Cirencester and some houses have doors from the Roman occupation, fascinating. I’m looking forward to your next post. BTW your pics are great. 🙂


        • So glad you enjoyed the photos, my camera is a bit ancient and the lighting is never great when out and about but I have a go. I love anything Roman and history and archaeology interest me greatly too. I sued to live where there was a lot of Roman occupation, Neolithic and Iron age activity so enjoyed walking and visiting these places. 🙂


          • Do you use your camera on auto settings Jane? I went to the Roman museum there, it was wonderful. Loved it. Well anything ancient interests me. -D


            • I often do as I cannot be bothered to fiddle. It is a Canon digital and is very good usually. Some of those I took for Rudyard Kipling’s House were taken on my phone. The church and Kipling’s house would not allow any flash photography, didn’t want damage to paintings etc. Apparently one flash going off is the equivalent to two years sun exposure for an old oil painting! I love Roman history, but all of it actually and not just for England and GB., but history anywhere and of course, archaeology too. It must have been wonderful seeing the museum. 🙂


              • If you take a little tripod along you can set your camera on it use manual settings and take pictures in these places without using the flash. I know, it’s fiddly. -D We certainly share a common interest with history Jane. I love digging things up too. The museum was great.


                    • I have a tripod but don’t use t as it is difficult for me to carry – shoulder/collar bone etc and climbing up narrow ladders and tiny stone stairs inside ancient buildings is a no, no, carrying one. I spend more time when on my own taking photos. Not easy when with others who are anxious to move one and not hang around whilst I mess around. Back now and about to put the next jolly up. Jane xx


  3. You have the best fun! You do know the cage with the bones just begs to be a part of your mystery right? A clue or some such? Your photos ate gorgeous and the holiday sounds awesome. Thanks for taking us all with you!


    • I did have a few thoughts about the cage, if I ever write a historical novel I am bound to include it, though my Secret of Willow Cottage (parts 1 & 2) had a historical theme…now you got me thinking. It’s all about time though….I had a blast when away. First holiday in years and such fun. I get to go on lots of trip throughout the year, a weekend here or there and always find myself soaking up history, beauty and of course the local vino or cider. Glad you enjoyed it all….more still to come. 🙂


  4. Jane – What a lovely time you had! All of your pictures are delightful, as they always are, but my eye keeps getting drawn to St. Mary’s and to the old castle. Incredible! And I’ve read about the Domesday Book – what an undertaking! Thanks for sharing.


    • Margot, glad you liked the photos It is all so interesting and so much to see. I had a struggle finding the right photos – far too many, thanks goodness for digital. So much history, that castle is a Martello tower I believe; we had them built around the coast to keep Napoleon out. I was disappointed with it as it had a public loo build on the side, not too attractive either, and so I didn’t take as many photos of it as I might. I was so happy to find a murder and dastardly deeds and smuggling, but then I would have been surprised had there not been any. Castles coming next time…and a gorgeous 13th century house….some lovely gardens and more. Thanks so much for popping in again. Appreciated. 🙂 Going to keep plugging away at the book for Mothering Sunday gifts this weekend. 🙂


  5. I’m currently awaiting the arrival of the paperback copies. I’ve bought the Jiffy bags and your copy will be in the post to you as soon as it arrives. They should be here by the weekend so I’ll (hopefully) be posting out next week.


    • Grand, I hope it all goes well. I am excited and cannot wait to read it, do sign it please. :). I will let you know when it arrives – just let me know when it is sent so I can keep an eye out. Hope it sells well. send me links to my FB author page when ready and I can share. 🙂


  6. Absolutely love Rye, Jane! You were very brave to climb to the top of St Mary’s. When we stayed with friends we women only made the first floor and left the men to climb to the top. We felt a little wimpish when children passing through with parents seemed to take those very steep stairs in their stride! Hope you had a fabulous time there – we stayed at Willow Tree House B & B.


    • Sounds wonderful Jo. Yep considering I only have one working arm/shoulder/neck etc., I am very chuffed with myself but it was worth it. The elderly lady with the stick was amazing; how she got up there I’ve no idea. It is a lovely place and I’d like to spend more time there. I was staying with my sister in a tiny village right out in the sticks about 30 minutes from Rye I think. Lovely area. How is the book release coming along? Hoping all is well. 🙂


Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.