Arthur’s Cinque Ports Street Part Two

By Arthur Woodgate

From the new shops to the corner of Market Road where Jempson’s now have a restaurant. That building has housed many businesses in my life. Don’t know how long but not too many hundreds of years ago customers would have got their feet wet stepping out of there into Cinque Ports Street. Slip across the bottom of Market Road from Jempsons Restaurant to Phillips & Stubbs – a nice big new looking building where they sell houses. I said new looking, well to me it is new, I first remember that site with rather rubbishy looking small building scattered about it, mainly offices, for the Borough Surveyor Council foreman and so on. The space at the back was a stonemasons yard which officially was in Market Road, although the front of the site bordered “Cinque Ports Street”.

My father and a mate Harold Vincet are seen working at the spot in the picture below

Harold Vincett left working with Arthur's father in Cinque Ports
Harold Vincett left working with Arthur’s father in Cinque Ports (on the right) around about 1910.

The buildings in front were pulled down whilst I was still at school and the new shop built over the whole of the front of the site. A young bricklayer, who had just finished his training, worked on it. He was killed in WW2. So that gives some idea when that corner was cleaned up and the ‘new’ building erected.

My father, who was a stone mason employed by Ellis the Builders was moved to another part of Cinque Ports Street. I can remember him better there. Jones Garage, next to this corner site had taken another site next to what is now the car park. Ellis Brothers installed father in a bit at the end of the garage site which gave him shop front show room and lots more working space. There were two floor levels with the top part up a slope for vehicles going up from the bottom where there was a house on the town wall.

Opposite the garage is the Baptist Church. It was in 1909 that the Baptist folk decided that their meeting place needed reviewing. Their decision was to move out of Mermaid Street and into Cinque Ports Street where they found a vacant site and built a new Church on it. So the Baptists of Rye got their meeting place between a fully licensed pub and a restaurant with an off licence! The Elizabethan Restaurant was first run by Frank Taylor with fish and chips on one side.

In 1926 when the great General Strike began A black board appeared outside Tailors Fish shop! with this message – “Strike! Strike! Strike A light Frank Taylor is frying tonight”. This building is still a restaurant but the fried fish are gone.

The Rye vets now have their surgery behind in the area part of which was Cinque Ports Square. Little remains of the open area now. It used to be a bit further to the East, so there is a mixture of old and new, but not antique.

Next to the Restaurant is the building now know as “Rye Retreat” – it is a very big building. My father had moved, with all his stone, to what was a part of Central Garage, but soon he had to ‘make a retreat’ to what is what is now the Retreat. He was given the bottom floor as a store. His employer, Ellis Brothers, gave him some building stock to look after and to sell the odd drain pipe etc. to DIY merchants. Being quite young at that time I would help dad by getting anything I could carry, out from a dirt floored area. Below the ground floor. At that time a Mr Pearson used the front of the building for the supply and repair of bicycles.

Whilst all this was going on rooms of various sizes were let to various organisations for regular things as offices, meeting rooms etc. and by most local trade unions. I remember T.H. using them for a long time. Sort of “All of a sudden” (to me) the Co-op bought to place and established a shop on the ground floor and was quite popular, I think it was because of the well liked manager, Sid Baker. He was in there when the German bomb made a bit of a mess in that area of the town but much to the customers joy, Sid came out from behind the rubble still alive. When he had to retire and my brother in law, Jim Hatter, took over the Co-op managerial-ship. Later the Co-operative movement offered him their insurance job for this area. After careful thought he agreed he would be better off and a man named Edwards took over the shop.

Which ever one was in charge then gave the firm I worked for the contract to renovate the building. It was given a thorough repair and general brighten up. The co-op were using the whole place building for their retailing and employed a baker’s rounds-man, a man called Jack Wright, he only had one eye and was quite a comic and said “Yip” to every person, customer or not, and he entertained all the co-op children at a party each year. He used to tell people he would never have his bread barrow stolen because he could take one eye out to keep an eye on it. He kept his loose flour high up in the building and part of our contract was on the roof even higher, so we were very careful to make sure the flour bin lip was well shut and covered with dust sheets. Jack came and bagged up some flour for his round “Did the bin get covered again?” Not likely!! When we looked our dust was raining well down into the flour and Jack was well on his way and with a yip! He was gone. We just had to report this to the manager and when I got home I told my mother not to buy any co-op bread until I told her it was safe.

It was about this time we had decided to fight the Rye building employer for paying us 1d (1 penny an hour) below that agreed by the NFBTE and NFBTO – nationally the plans and specifications that were handed down to the site must, at that time, have had that on them and the builder would have that page torn out before the document reached the site. After lots of arguments and threats of action and propaganda, the firm had to bring legal action in so we eventually got our penny back and fixed for future jobs. It was good that one of the firms produced the agreement and ordered that this be put right. Rye Co-op made Cinque Ports Street part of Union History which I have written in full earlier on.

Having moved on from the Retreat, I jump the Cinque Ports Hotel (now the Police Station) and Regent Cinema site and pick up with the property from there to the off licence at the top of Rope Walk. They have all been the same to look at but have had lots of “change of use” and of course repairs. There was an entrance into what was at one time into a builders yard before which was an electric shop (Vic Moor), a hairdresser (Ashenden’s), several small houses were homes and workshop combined – they would repair and make new shoes and boots and keep your clothes nice and clean. A bigger house there was called “Haddock Place” Although I think it was spelled “Plaice!” They all look the same during my life but I don’t know if the “i” is still in the name – I think it was there at one time as I heard laughing as they went by and arguing as to whether it was the fun of the owner or that it would have been altered.

I don’t get around much now but I think that group of buildings still look alright although many of we building men have repaired them from time to time and a row of houses behind that have been pulled down. That brings us to the off licence at the corner into Rope Walk. Now that is the northern side of our cinque ports street so will jump back to the south side and the bottom of market road or what we used at one time to call “Cattle Market Hill”. When my dad moved east from there the next building (Central Garage) is no longer there and for a long time has been a boarded up empty site, but news is about that a brand new modern building is going up so that will no longer be an antique area of the town.

Central Garage
Central Garage

It had been another part of Central Garage. Between the two parts of the garage (during my time) the building in between has been used for all sorts of things and changed about a lot there – has been a betting shop, an electrician and before the last War I remember one of the Gassons had it. Tom Gasson claimed to be an inventor and had a model of a machine he had invented for the Royal Navy in his shop window. He hired out bikes and, the story went round that instead of mending punctures he would stuff the tyres up with old rag. He looked like an old rag himself and he smelt if one got too close to him – he was however pretty intelligent and according to another story he went into Rye Club in Market Road one day where he stood at the bar next to a Mr Milsom, who turned to him and said

“Mr Gasson, you stink”

and the answer came back from old Tom Gasson

“Mr Milsom, if your morals were as clean as my body things would be a lot better than they are now”.

The car park is backed by the town wall. There is a brick wall about 2ft high with holes along the top for flower plants separating the pavement from the car park. I first remember that wall was about originally 10ft high. The ground of the present car park was a garden to No. 11 High Street belonging to our town benefactor, Miss Lucy Proctor.

A German bomber had made a hole in the roadside wall and no doubt weakened the rest of the wall. It was eventually pulled down and rebuilt to its present height, and the car park replaced the garden A John Bannister use to look after the garden for Miss Proctor. He was the “Mountsfield” professional gardener and often could be seen coming through a small gate from number eleven with a trug full of all sorts of vegetables. Knowing of the good nature of Miss Proctor I reckon they were going to the Headquarters of the local District Nurses which was later the Doctors Surgery on Cinque Ports Street.

The town ditch would have to have stopped at Conduit Hill and Tower Street. Water wouldn’t go up hill! So the Postern Gate would have been joined with the wall with a landing structure – there is no talk of or sight of a lock.

That’s Cinque Ports Street dealt with and now I am pondering on the many replacements inside the Town Wall. I might look at that situation in time.

“Rye’s Own” June 2012

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