Rye At Peace

By Jim Hollands

During this year of 2014 we shall be reminded of the War of 1914 by many commemorative programmes and the millions of words that will be written.

On other pages in this issue Tony May’s fine article ‘Hastings & The Great War’ paints a picture of that terrible conflict through the eyes of a Hastings family and conveys, in detail, how hope of early victory turned slowly to despair as the years went by and the battles claimed more and more victims. Families in every city, town and village in the country, indeed in every country that participated in the endless slaughter, suffered similarly.

So I thought I would look on the other side of the coin and write a piece about Rye in peacetime. I could do a lot of research and get dates and names of officials and dignitaries but instead I will recall my father’s stories of times between the wars and my own memories from after the Second World War.

My dad told me of the day he and a friend converted a Go-Cart to wind power. They added a mast and sail and set off from the Sluice Gates at The Strand towards Winchelsea. It would have been around 1929 when there was very little traffic and the long straight New Winchelsea Road with a strong backwind was a tempting journey for such a vehicle. Unfortunately they failed to reach even the start of New Winchelsea road. After 200 yards they were speeding along with ease, faster and faster – then disaster – the crossing gates that protected the branch line for goods trains to Rye Harbour were closed. The ‘brake’, a piece of wood held on by a nail, had no effect on the speed and the go-cart slammed into the gates with some considerable force. Dad told me this was how he lost his front teeth.

Arthur Woodgate was at school with my father, same class, so when he talks to me of the people he knew before the war I am able to surprise him by knowing all about many of them, even though some I had never met. This is because dad and I worked together through my teen and twenty years, so I heard his stories repeated many times and the names became indelible in my memory.

There were tales of Harry Crampton, the famous Rye fisherman, who ‘visited’ my grandfather’s sister Maud in one of the row of terraced houses that are at last being refurbished in Fishmarket Road. Harry was a legend in local fishing circles, there have even been songs written about him. When he retired he would sit, wearing a navy blue high neck sweater, favoured by fishermen, in his favourite chair at the Ypres Castle Inn. He entertained visitors with stories of his adventures in Rye Bay. Harry was a great story teller, so good in fact it was rumoured he never had to buy a drink. An oil painting of Harry Crampton adorned the wall above his seat for many years after his passing.

My Grandfather, James ‘Jumbo’ Hollands and my dad, went into business together as grocers at 6, Cinque Ports Street, around 1934. Dad had already trained as a ‘pastry cook’ at Thompson’s bakehouse and cafe in Landgate. They had use of a large oven in the ‘Neadles Passage’ where young Jim baked bread and fancy cakes which he told me sold in the shop like ‘hot buns’! They soon progressed and purchased 12 Cinque Ports Street, a much larger premises, and moved the business into there in 1937.

Dad met Winnie Wilson at a dance in Winchelsea. He told me that she did not like him much at first and ran back to Rye rather than let him walk her home. But he persisted and eventually a lift home from a ‘Grand Dance’ on the Car Park at Camber resulted in a change of heart. They were married on Boxing day 1937 and I do not think there could have been two more suited people anywhere.

They were always Page Ten happy together and had a huge circle of friends. Then the War came and by the time it finished in 1945. I was five. Peace returned and the lights were switched on again. The first Rye Fawkes Night after the war came just a few months after VJ Day. I have vivid memories of the procession passing 12 Cinque Ports Street and went with mum & dad to The Salts to see the bonfire and firework display. The fireworks ended with ‘The Set Piece’ – saying ‘GOOD NIGHT’. Unlike these days, the Fire came after the fireworks and was set ablaze that year by long time Society member John Winter. During the following years film stars and celebrities were carried shoulder high by members of Rye Fire Brigade in a sedan chair to light the fire.

During the following years I came to know many of the great characters who organised the bonfire celebrations. Frank Taylor, Bobby Edwards, Alf Horner, David Sharp and the Bloater Boat and Frank Brann to name just a few. Then there was the Burning Boat that was dragged around the town, scorching the paint off doors in The Mint and melting overhead telephone wires. No ‘Health & Safety those days but an earlier custom of rolling barrels of burning tar down Conduit Hill and The Mint had been abandoned by this time.

Jimper once told me of a trip to Battle Bonfire when they took the Burning Boat, the emblem of Rye Bonfire Society, to advertise that Rye Bonfire would be the following week. It was a very cold journey home, so they kept stoking the fire in the back of the boat to keep warm. It got so hot the metal hull melted and the back of the old fishing boat, complete with roaring fire, fell off into the road. The tractor driver who did not see it go and could not hear the shouts of the passengers riding in the remaining section of the boat, just carried on to Rye. The only comment Jimper made about the incident was that “It was a bloody cold journey home”.

All Ryers of my age would know the names of Rye school teachers from the 50’s and 60’s. There were very few staff changes in those days. Mr Beavers (Head Master), Miss Baker, Mrs Jordan, Miss Welfare, Mrs. Smith and Miss Trenairy spring readily to mind when I recall Rye Primary School in Ferry Road. Those that went there will also remember the magnificent mural of Rye that decorated the wall at the rear of the stage in the community hall. I always wondered who painted it. They had a great football team. Mick Mills, Colin Paine, Ivan Polly, Colin Ralph to name but four.

At Rye Secondary Mr. Blackman was in charge. Mr. Wooley, Miss Cornelious, Mr. Blacka, Mr. Huckstep (He was a bomber navigator in the War), Mr. Fullock, Mr. Holmes, Mr Dorman, Miss Bloodworth. At eleven, the names of girl pupils seem to spring to mind first. Sylvia Sperring, Sylvia Swan, Sylvia Button and Jennifer Paine, then Peter Weller, Mervyn Robbins, Keith Pope and Frank Dear, who sadly died in a motoring accident in South Africa when he was 22.

At the Grammar School, Mr. Jacobs ruled with a rod of iron, Headmistress was Miss Lamb. There were some great teachers there too. Mr. Alnutt, who taught maths to so many Rye children, was a keen sportsman. The Rye Football Pavilion was named after him. Mr. Hawes was popular with the girls and respected by the boys. Mr Bagley was another favourite, and who could ever forget Professer Edwards?

Tilling Green United was a boys football team from the new estate, made up with youngters aged from 12 to 16. They ran for three seasons and actually won the Scriven Cup at the third time of trying. Stars were Colin Newstead, who later played for Rye United, Eric Turner, Victor Fisher, David Smeed, David Robus, Robert Cutting, Tony Scriven and many others. Barry Oldfield was ‘Mascott’.

Rye Sports Day, organised by a committee headed by Frank Clarke, the barber, took place every year, save the war years, from 1899 – 1969. It included athletics and grass track cycle racing and was held on August Bank Holiday Monday at Rye Cricket Salts. Athletes and racing cyclists came from all over the country and, at its height, an estimated 4,000 spectators attended. Some years it was followed by a Page Eleven Carnival and Carnival Dance.

There were things in those days that would not be accepted in these enlightened times. Most Carnivals had ‘special events’. At Rye Cricket Salts one year a ‘Greasy Pig’ was released and the person that caught him could take him home. In the event, there must have been too much grease on the pig, it escaped from the grasping hands every time and made a dash for freedom. It was last sighted strolling along Military Road.

Another ‘Special Event’ at Carnival time was staged by the Rye Fire Brigade. They set up a canvas water storage unit, then ‘kidnapped’ good looking ladies from the crowd and threw them in! No way would they get away with that these days, although the ladies did seem to enjoy it and it was a very hot day.

The 1950’s were the years to be young and Rye was the place to be young in.

The legendary Peter Mitchell was in charge of Rye Youth Club which opened its doors on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Rye Youth Club was a mecca for youngsters from 14 – 18. Music, board games, snooker, darts and light refreshments were all that were on offer but it was a 100% safe environment where sociable fun, with absolutely no trouble, was enjoyed by all. The Club opened at 7pm. and closed at 9pm. Then it was off to the Fish & Chip shop in The Mint, and a slow stroll back towards Tilling Green for those that lived in that direction. Regulars in this group included John & June Woolley, Mick Mills, Peter Weller, Ann Adair, Sylvia Sperring and Mick Crafer.

The summer school holidays were spent on Camber Sands, on Sundays some Rye youngsters caught the bus to Hastings and then on to St. Leonards where they spent many hours at the Open Air Swimming Pool. Besides swimming and diving there were Table Tennis tables and a nice Restaurant.

Every teenager had a cycle, so rides were undertaken to places as far away as Hastings and Hythe by many youngsters. The Rye Wheelers were active with Jimmy Catt, who worked as a bike mechanic at Odell The Cycle Man’s shop in Market Road, Jim Sergent and Gordon Lamb organising runs every Sunday. Even Albert Booth, a Prewar track rider from the club was about for some rides.

There was a Rye Trades Festival held at The Monastery every year. It was a well supported event with all the best businesses from the town represented. The monastery was sectioned off and every inch, upstairs and down, even the balcony and garden were brought into use. These were the good times for High Street business, before Retail Price Maintenance was dropped and the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury destroyed the fabric and heart of High Streets up and down the land on the pretext that price competition would bring down prices! A Mars Bar was 6d. (two and a half new pence) for the whole of the 50’s – How much do they cost now?

Rye is still a wonderful place but it was an even better place in the 50’s & 60’s with it’s Borough Council, who’s own work force kept the streets, sports and recreation grounds and gardens in pristine condition. The Cobbled streets were immaculate and its housing stock was second to none with a beautifully laid out council estate at Tilling Green.

Those were the days when Doris Day, David Whitfield and Adam Faith were pop idols. Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard did not arrive on the scene until the end of the 50’s and The Beatles first chart hit “Love Me Do” came in 1962.

By the end of the 1960’s television was beginning to take a hold and the world began to look smaller.

The ‘good times’ ran on through the 60’s but then came the ‘winter of discontent’, the explosion of ‘cut price’ retail, the boom in petrol prices, a massive increase in crime and Rother District Council.

‘Extra special’ festivals season ahead for Hythe, Folkestone & Romney


PREPARATIONS for 2014 festivals, events and entertainment season are well under way – and the forecast is that it will be the best in south east England, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and contribute millions of pounds to the local economy.

Features include top-line events as well as traditional carnivals and the return of the acclaimed three-month Triennial exhibition of outdoor art.

“No other area in south east England will be able to match Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh for fun, thrills and spectacle this year”, claims Chris Kirkham, manager of the Discover Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh tourism marketing organisation (DFHRM).

“From early summer right through to autumn, in the air, on land and by the sea, there will be events everyone can enjoy. The two May Bank Holidays are packed with family-fun events and will give a great start to the season. All these plus live shows, concerts, exhibitions, events and activities at Port LympneWild Animal Park and the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, sporting events and country fairs will make 2014 an extra special year.

“There will be solemn occasions, too. Folkestone will host the biggest commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War outside London and also events to mark the town’s role in WW2”.

Adds Mr Kirkham: “Events are an important reason why people come to Shepway.

What’s more, the spending they generate accounts for a substantial part of the district’s visitor economy, worth more than £200 million a year at the most recent count.”

                  Some dates to note:

MAY: 11. Sandling Park Open Garden for Pilgrims Hospices. MAY 18 – Sociable Cycling Ride for Pilgrims Hospices. MAY 24 – Charity Zumbathon Norton Kntachbull Shool. MAY 24 – Sociable Walk Sweet Willow Wood for Pilgrims Hospices.

MAY 24 & 25 Canterbury Cathedral Open GardensWeekend (Pilgrims). MAY 25 – Open Garden – Primrose Cottage, Rose Hill, Wittersham for Pilgrims Hospices. JUNE: 7, 8 – Folkestone Airshow;

JUNE 11 – Pamper Day at the Granary Spa Great Chart. JUNE 13-15 – Folkestone Multi-Cultural Festival; JUNE 21 – Lydd Club Day Carnival; JUNE 21-30 Hythe Festival; JUNE 22 – Rotary Club of the Weald of Kent – North Downs Walk Starts and finished Harrietsham Village Hall; JUNE 22 Sociable Walk Ulley Farm. Kennington Recreation Ground; JUNE 25 – Jazz Evening at Godinton House JUNE 28 – Pyjama Walk Ashford;

JULY 1- Battle of Britain Memorial Day; JULY 1-6, Hythe Festival continues; JULY 16-20 – War and Peace Revival; JULY 19-20 – Folkestone Mermaid Festival; JULY 20 – Hawkinge Summer Spectacular; JULY 25-28 – VW Festival and Scooter Rally; JULY 26 – New Romney Country Fayre; JULY 26 – Folkestone Trawler Race.

AUGUST 4 – WW1 Centenary March and Unveiling of Memorial Arch; AUGUST 8-10 – Folkestone Ska Fest; AUGUST 9,10 – Folkestone Donkey Derby; AUGUST 16-17, Folkestone Harbour Festival and RYA National Powerboat Championships; AUGUST 23-25 – Open Air Show; AUGUST 30 / November 2 – Folkestone Triennial; AUGUST 23-24 – Sandgate Sea and Food Festival; AUGUST 23-25 – Dymchurch Day of Syn Festival;

SEPTEMBER 1/30 – Folkestone Triennial continues; 20-21 – Euromilitaire Military Model Exhibition.

OCTOBER:1/31 – Folkestone Triennial continues; AUGUST 4-5, Folkestone Model Railway Show.

NOVEMBER: 1-6 – Folkestone Triennial; NOVEMBER

Rye’s Own May 2014

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