Busy Day at Landgate 1887

By Jim Hollands

This photograph from the Frank Palmer Collection was taken 130 years ago this very month. More than 20 figures are faithfully captured at that moment in time. For born and bred Ryers this is a particularly explicit picture. Could they be ancestors? The answer in many cases would be yes! There are folk from all walks of life.

Landgate Tower 1877
Landgate Tower 1877

Who were the town’s leaders at that time? To find out more I delved into the pages of Vidler’s “History of Rye.” Charles Pix Meryon was Mayor, indeed this was his seventh year in that office, he was elected for the next two years but had served just one month of his ninth successive year in office when he died in the December of 1879. Two other great men of the time, Major E.B. Curteis, J.P., the Squire of Leasam and Dr. E.H.S. Banks J.P. died in that same year. Edwin Pulford and Charles Cook were the Town’s Mace Bearers. Edwin Pulford was also the Town Crier. Henry Burra became an Alderman, replacing Robert Jones Hoad who died late in 1877.

On Bonfire Night the two town constables were augmented by several Bonfire Boys who were sworn in as special constables for the ‘fifth’. This was a necessities as the custom in Rye was to drag burning boats filled with tar around the streets. On a previous occasion Parker Butcher, the head constable, was thrown into a blazing boat, top hat and all, and was only rescued with difficulty. The sequel to this was that he developed chronic inflammation of the brain and died on 9 October 1876. He was succeeded by James Bourne the second constable.

It might have been 130 years ago but the reader will see that of the few names mentioned there are at least one of each still resident in the town today.

Four years later there was an extraordinary high tide, measuring 20’9″ at the Pierhead Rye Harbour. It broke through the wall at Rock Channel and flooded all the low lying parts on the south and west of the town, including the Almeshouses. It is said that the smell from the dead worms on The Salts, after it had receded, was most offensive. The grass took some years to recover.

With thanks to information gleaned from Leapold Amon Vidler’s “A New History of Rye.

“Rye’s Own”November 2007

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