Rye Commerce 1937

With the “March of Time” in many of our Towns and Cities, old picturesque houses, rich with historical associations are now being demolished, and replaced by modern buildings. Rye still preserves its old world charm, her red-roofed gabled Houses rise in Terraces to the top of the Town, the quaint cobbled Streets, steep, winding and narrow, attracts as much as ever Artists and Tourists from all over the world. The strange paradox is that no better up-to-day trading facilities exists anywhere. The shopping centre of Rye is a credit to the local Traders. Modern frontages, with Stores well equipped, always with new and up-to-date goods, enables the proprietors to turn over their stocks much more quickly than is usual in a town of like size.

Arthur Jempson & Son
Arthur Jempson & Son


There are, too, several old reputable large concerns who, by sound business methods have built up a trade which extends far beyond local or district limits, especially should be mentioned the old Established firm of Gasson & Son, Government Contractors, whose stores and offices are in Cinque Ports Street; the name of Edgar L. Stonham & Co. Seed, Cake and Manure Merchants is a household word among farmers and agriculturalists all over Sussex, this firm was started by John Vidler in the last quarter of the 18th Century, up-to-date machinery is installed to meet their ever-growing trade demands. The Engineering industry is well maintained at the Rother Iron Works situated at South Undercliff. Here again, at these works modern methods are adopted in order to cope with increasing trade. At Rye Harbour trade activity is centred around the Nerus Brick and Tile Company’s Works, where daily large quantities of Bricks and artistic tiles are produced and despatched at all parts of the country. These brief observations will suffice to show that whilst Rye retains its old-time buildings and thoroughfares, yet Trade is still being built up and carried on by so many enterprising firms.

Seventy Years On

Now we are into 2007, just seventy years after those words were written. How does Rye stand today as a centre of commerce and trade? The sad truth is that despite almost all of those well established firms still being commercially viable right up to the 1970’s, ALL of them, including Rye Cattle Market itself, have vanished.

Rye Iron Works, Gassons, Stonhams, Wright & Pankhurst, Thomas Hinds & Sons, Suttons, the list goes on and on. Looking at the adverts in the 1937 Rye Market Official Handbook there are many well established High Street business names that have disappeared since 1970. Long Brothers, Bannisters, Vidlers Estate Agents, to name but a few. Of course, there have been new establishments to replace them but the character of the town has changed.

There is just one survivor from that 1937 Handbook – Jempson’s Transport

From the February 2007 issue of “Rye’s Own”