Rye’s Part Time Firemen


Rye’s part time Firemen

Since the first recorded history of the town of Rye, fire has been one of the most reported news items. The French ‘sacked and burned’ Rye  in the Middle Ages and Ryers had their revenge more than once.

Rye Fawkes Celebrations, in both recent and not so recent years, have always been ‘fiery’ affairs. It is surprising that the people of Rye are so keen to play with fire, for the layout of the older parts of the town make them a fire hazard, with the old oak beamed houses built on top of each other.

Nevertheless, save for the French raid, the organised fire fighting units in the Town through the last 600 years have successfully prevented any really disastrous catastrophes.

In the Middle Ages, each householder was charged with having his own fire fighting appliances, usually a leather bucket and a hooked pole, to hand in the event of fire and so many persons were responsible for fire security in each ward of the Town. This system was quite successful but the expansion of the Town eventually resulted in a proper Brigade being formed.

Modern Times

Rye Fire Brigade 1965

In modern Rye the system of Part Time Firemen is still operated with success. Sixteen men under the leadership of Station Officer Bourn, who has been with the Rye Fire Service since 1930, man the two appliances that are always at constant readiness in the Fire Station in Ferry Road.

E F Benson with Rye's New Fire Engine 1936
E F Benson with Rye’s New Fire Engine 1936


This building was first opened in July 1937 by E. F. Benson and has, since then, except for the war years, been manned by a part-time staff.

Raising The Alarm

The ‘turn out’ time is remarkable in view of the fact that each man has to come from his home or place of work when the siren is sounded. The first appliance is on its way within two minutes of the alarm and the second pump follows two minutes later if required. It is of interest to note here that the number of appliances put into operation depends on the person raising the alarm.

Fire at Johnson's Supermarket.

If ‘chimney fire’ are the words used in the message only one appliance is sent but if the word ‘fire’ only is uttered two pumps are sent. It is, therefore, most important when requesting the aid of the fire service, to state clearly the type of fire; that is, House fire, Chimney fire, Farm fire, and most important of all to give the correct address.

Eighty Calls a Year

The number of calls received each year at Rye vary but on an average about eighty calls are dealt with per annum. The Rye firemen can be sent to the assistance of any other unit but their own immediate area is Rye, Camber, Iden, Peasmarsh, Winchelsea, Pett, Fairlight. In recent years two of the biggest blazes dealt with by the men were in Cinque Ports Street.

Central Garage Fire
Central Garage Fire

The Central Garage was gutted but thanks to the fine work by our local men, the blaze was controlled before it could reach the block of shops and houses next to it. The Co-operative Building opposite to the Garage was saved by the prompt action of the Rye Brigade a few months earlier, and on that occasion breathing apparatus was used.


Training takes place every Wednesday evening and efficiency is of a very high standard as can be judged from the results of the 1965 East Sussex Brigade Station Efficiency Competition when Rye took third place in the Open Section competing with 25 other stations.

Youngest Fireman

Rye’s youngest fireman at the present time is nineteen years old Bob Rogers from Cooper Road. He has just completed his initial training and is now taking part in fire calls.

Rye Firemen at Farm Fire Leasom Lane

Social Committee

The Rye Section Social Committee arranges the Annual Dinner for the Rye Station and also helps local organisations like the Bonfire Society to stage their events. Plans are being made this year to hold a Children’s Christmas Party.

From the January 1966 issue of “Rye’s Own”

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