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Rye, Sussex

Historical Description

Rye, a market-town, a municipal borough, and a parish in the Eastern parliamentary division of Sussex. The town stands on the river Rother, near the outlet of the Military Canal, with a station on the S.E.R., 71 miles from London, 2½ N of the Pother's month, 3 W of the boundary with Kent, and 9½ NE by E of Hastings. It was surrounded in the Roman times by the sea, but was afterwards gradually deserted by it; was given by the Confessor to Fecamp Abbey in France; became at an early period one of the Cinque ports; was fortified in the time of Stephen by William de Ypres, earl of Kent, and the Castle still remains. The town reverted to the Crown in the time of Henry III.; derived great and permanent advantage from the inundation of 1287, which began to bring the Pother from its old course through the marshes to run this way; sent nine ships to the siege of Calais in the time of Edward III.; was burnt by the French in 1377 and 1447; was visited by Henry VII. in 1487, by Elizabeth in 1573, by Charles II. in 1673, by George I. in 1725, by George II. in 1736; received French refugees as settlers after the massacre of St Bartholomew and after the revocation of the edict of Nantes; had as a vicar Bishop Fletcher of Bristol, and as a native John Fletcher the dramatist Rye is a borough by prescription, and was first chartered by the Confessor; sent two members to Parliament from the time of Henry III. till 1832, and afterwards only one till disfranchised in 1885. It is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who act as the urban district council; is a head port, a seat of petty sessions and county courts; has undergone some revival of prosperity, after a long period of decline; occupies the slopes and skirts of a steep uneven rock, at the margin of a great expanse of marsh; presents an antiquated appearance, with narrow, winding, grass-grown, bouldered by-streets; and has a head post office, two banks, two breweries, three chief inns, a town-hall, a police station, a custom-house, a remaining gate of its ancient walls, three bridges, a railway swing bridge, a church, five dissenting chapels, remains of ancient Carmelite and Augnstinian friaries, an endowed grammar school, alms-houses, and a workhouse. On the east side of the harbour, at Camber, there are golf links which are considered to be amongst the best in England. Numerous artists visit the town to sketch its ancient buildings and streets. Area of the municipal borough, 973 acres; population, 3871; of the civil parish, 2442 acres; population, 4354; of the ecclesiastical, 4368.

The town-hall and ancient market-place form a neat brick building. The church is large and cruciform, partly Norman partly Early English, has a Norman central tower, contains some brasses and monuments, and was restored in 1882. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Chichester; net value, £300 with residence. Patron, the Duke of Devonshire. The , church of the Holy Spirit is a chapel of ease to Icklesham parish church. There are Congregational, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Calvinistic chapels, and Salvation Army barracks. A corn and cattle market is held on every alternate Wednesday. A good trade exists in fish, wool, corn, hops, timber, and oak bark; shipbuilding is carried on; works for making concrete blocks and chemicals are at the harbour; and kettle-nets, for catching mackerel and other fish, are on the shore. The harbour has been much improved by cutting a new channel to the sea and blocking out the old one, and it receives vessels of 12 and 13 feet draught A concrete pier is on the E side of the mouth, and a neat wooden groined embankment is on the W side, leaving an entrance 160 feet wide. A line of railway, called the Rye Harbour line, extends from the town to the harbour, and is open for goods traffic and cargoes of coal brought to the station for transmission to Hastings. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1895 was 55 (2600 tons).

Rye Parliamentary Division, or Eastern, Sussex, was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 57,090. The division includes the following:-Battle- Ashburnham, Battle, Brightling, Catsfield, Crowhurst, Dallington, Ewhurst, Hollington, Hooe, Mountfield, Ninfield, Penhurst, Sedlescombe, Westfield, Whatlington; Burwash- Bodiam, Burwash, Etchingham, Salehurst, Ticehurst; Frant-Frant, Lamberhurst,Mayfield,Rotherfield,Wadhurst; Rye-Beckley, Brede, Broomhill (part), East Guldeford, Icklesham, Iden, Northiam, Peasmarsh, Playden, Rye (Foreign), Udimore; Hastings-Bexhill, Fairlight, Gnestling, Ore (part of), Pett, St Leonards (part of), St Mary-in-the Castle (part of); Winchelsea, ancient town; Sluice Liberty, non-corporate member of Hastings; Petit lham, non-corporate member of Hastings; Hastings, municipal borough; Rye, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySussex 
Ecclesiastical parishRye St. Mary 
Poor Law unionRye 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Rye from the following:


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Newspapers and Periodicals

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CountyEast Sussex
RegionSouth East
Postal districtTN31
Post TownRye