Bring Power Back To The Area

Let Rye, Winchelsea and the villages unite to bring power back to the area.

by Arthur Woodgate

All the recent arguments about the new doctors surgery make one think of the general deterioration of the importance of Rye.

If we set aside the grander of the distant past, as a senior port, and its importance to the King’s Navy, as well as its great commercial shipping history and look at only ones own memory.

A Rye Barge navigating the Rother in the Peasmarsh area. Peasmarsh
A Rye Barge navigating the Rother in the Peasmarsh area. Peasmarsh

The slide has been terrific and cant go much lower, so there is only one way now, that’s back up. The Mayor of Rye (in the “Rye and Winchelsea Directory”) is right to be proud that the port of Rye is coming back, but where is Rye Harbour? It’s in the parish of Icklesham, so is Winchelsea!

The day I first opened my eyes to this world the coaster “Sara Colebrooke” was launched at Rock Channel and brought round to The Strand to have her main mast fitted by the crane that was there for that purpose, so the ship building industry was in full swing at that time, but not for much longer. I do remember one more launch (there may have been others) whilst I was at school and some of us played truant to see it. It was christened “Ivanhoe” the same as the house in which I was born.

Its good that there are still boat yards going, long may they flourish and keep the Rye registration of R.X. still floating. Also when I first entered this world the letters B.O.R were on all council property and my minds eye, even now can see it going by on the side of the dust cart, as it made its way to “Pollards Wharf” now “Kings Avenue”. Now here is a thought, “Pollards Wharf” was a land fill site during my school days then they built a housing estate on it. Haven’t heard of any very serious difficulties with the buildings nor has there been an illness epidemic starting there.

The borough of Rye with its 12 councillors and 4 aldermen really meant something. Not only did they rule the town but had interests in the villages which were the territory of the old Rye Union Parishes and then Rye Rural District. I have no doubt these villages were at one time parts of the Borough of Rye and Winchelsea with ocean going shipping coming well up the three rivers. The jokes about Peasmarsh Harbour were not so funny or unreal. I say this because I had to build an irrigation dam in a ditch behind the Flackley Ash and Sharvel’s Farms, and just in from the River Rother. Having dried out with the aid of two temporary dams, we came across Camber Sand (shells and all) when all that water was around here, what brought in here and what is bringing it back again now? I will wager it has nothing to do with smoky chimneys, car fumes or people smoking. It is nothing to do with we mortals, but we can do something about bringing back the power of Rye as its sea comes back. It must be the centre of administration in this corner of our country.

Once the centre of a parliamentary constituency, it is now only the junior partner to Hastings and what is more, the old constituency has a boundary running through it. I was disappointed to see that Mr. Foster, the MP joined the selfish outlook regarding the Doctors Surgery issue. Our MP just up the road with many postern gate patients amongst his constituents, doesn’t seem concerned. He had Bexhill to look after. The Kent/Sussex boundary villages are in exile. Not to be bothered about by those within the town of Rye and too far from Bexhill to matter. It seems only the Post Office and British telephone see Rye as a natural centre of importance.

“Rye’s Own” has the right idea, they encourage we forced foreigners to contribute and purchase, they even bring us copies to Peasmarsh. Some of us who have been pushed outside the old borough boundary, are still Ryers at heart and like to see the old town well looked after. Doris Carey and Charlie Batcheler have recently been mentioned (the penultimate letter in the Rye batcherler family, is an E; not an O it has nothing to do with being single, its been anglicised from the Huguenots who were taken in by the folks of Rye hundreds of years ago and have been an asset ever since. My mother was one as was Charlie my uncle). What does that say about immigration? That being as it may, the bouldered streets are not getting the loving care they did from the Rye born pavers. What would Ray Cutting think if he could see the bottom of Conduit Street where one can see more concrete than boulders? Only natives can look after them and advertise them by their right name. There are many towns with cobbled streets but only one with Rye Harbour boulders. Where is Rye Harbour again? In Icklesham!

I remember well when we had our own recorder sitting over our own quarter sessions, judging even major theft and murder. When I joined the Rye bench of magistrates in 1955 we had members from the old country bench (comprising the old Rye union of villages) who used to meet in the Rye Town Hall and had; not long before, joined forces with the Rye Borough bench, yet again Rye proved to be a natural centre, this time for justice. Then the powers that be decided Rye and Battle should be one bench, which in turn was destroyed and added to Hastings, which in turn became part of a Sussex bench. I recently heard of a charged man having to go to Eastbourne for summary hearing. Tribute should be paid to the late Bert Catt, who fought hard to keep a Rye court going, and he lived in East Guildeford.

Technically Rye is still the centre of a Police Unit (when anyone is there) although it has the best police Station, I can remember but only a chief inspector in charge (no offence inspector) but I can remember when we had a superintendent. I think his name was something like Whitlock and he lived in The Mint. Before that we had a Supt. living in Ore and after that we had a native Rye Supt. Arthur Taylor. His office was in Battle. The local police of Rye and District and the policemen we knew is a fascinating subject of its own, which I am making some notes of.

Not one of the oldest of the Rye and District institutions (although nearly 100 years now) is the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Into which I enrolled in 1926. For many years, before the state took over the motor ambulance service, we ran it and at our height we had three vehicles operating from Conduit Hill, all purchased and maintained by voluntary contributions within the Rye area and voluntarily maned (both sexes) by us. There were also two first aid huts, one at Monkbretton Bridge and another at Camber (inside and one outside of the Borough boundary.) It would be unfair not to mention our employers who gave us time off to run the daily rotas, although it was well spread out because we had quite a big membership. One employer of that period was Mr. Suren, the owner of Nerus Brick and Tile Company of Rye Harbour. He lived at Barons Grange, Iden, both outside the Borough boundary. Mr. Suren enabled us to purchase Whitefriars for a headquarters and was extremely helpful in raising funds from his wealthy friends.

The fire brigade was in much the same situation with its appliance actually housed in Rye Town Hall and not stopped from dealing with a fire outside the Borough.

Whilst it is realised that Rye can not get all its powers back, although it would be nice to hear it called a borough again; it is fairly certain it could get some, but not in isolation.

Rye Town Hall was the natural centre for the old Rye Union and should still be a centre of authority from the Broomhill to Batchelers (not sure if that is a single male or a Huguenot) bump; and from Northiam to the Coast. The aim for all of us should be to get some powers, not dominated by Bexhill and its “White Elephant” Pavilion, but with direct responsibility, to the County Council.

No more talk of “out of town” from the bottom of Rye Hill. We are all one unit and were part of the Cinque Ports framework in its heyday.

How wonderful it would be to see the old Rye Union become the ‘Rye and Winchelsea Borough’ or the ‘Borough of the Ancient towns’. Let the twin towns and their villages become an administrative authority and leave Battle and Bexhill to look after the Western side of Senlac country.

“Rye’s Own ”June 2004

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