Jimper remembers the shops in Rye when he was a youth – The buildings remain but the shops, in the main, sell different things than in those far off days!
Shops in Rye
Coming into the citadel of Rye through the Landgate Arch, you enter the Ancient Town of Rye proper. The first change from my early days is on my left, where the forge once was. The open fronted shed has been enclosed and is now a shop. Further up and not visible from the road the lookout shelter down the steps, presented to Rye by one time Mayor of Rye E. F. Benson, has been closed and the doorway bricked up.
Opposite the Collegiate School has now become the classy Rye Lodge Hotel. Turning into the high street a few black and white bollards protect the pavement and Ellis the Ironmonger has gone, replaced by a kitchen ware shop. I remember my brother and I collecting metal from Mr. Ellis and out the back we found wooden tubs of shoe nails, a relic of times long past.
Keeping to the right hand side of the street, the next shop was run by C W Williams who sold leather wear, accessories, country sports requirements and board games like Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders and Chess Sets. I bought, and still have, a Williams Chess Set and am amazed that the name of the shop is embossed in one of the white squares. They also sold air rifles and ammo for shot guns and I got my 12 bore shells from them, they were yellow and called ‘wizard’. With these I seldom missed my target, years later I learned that the powder they were loaded with burned that little but faster than those in conventional cartridges.
The High Street is numbered 1-2-3 and so on all along one side and only changes at the top of The Mint. Then it goes back till you are where you started from. Confused well a lot of people are and they are not all visitors either.
As all the premises are numbered in such a way, I will reveal those I remember in that order, returning on the opposite side of the road.
Next was the Custom and Excise offices where used to register my transfer, it is now a private house. Passing conduit Hill, Adams was run, way back in my memory by a Mr. Crampton. The next place I remember is the Bank that is still there but no longer The Midland. The following shop I remember so well was a large Greengrocers, Schofields. This place holds memories dear to me because my mate worked there every weekend and he was always purple at the end of his day. He still recalls the mornings he spent out the back of the premises cooking beetroot. The shop now trades as the Surf Shack.
Next door to that is the old building that was the Gents hairdressers run by Mr. Clark and his colleague Frank Brann. My Mother called it the shop that charged ‘fifty snips for a bob’. For the kids to have their hair cut, Frank Clark would place a wooden plank across the arms of the Barbers Chair and they had to sit very still to avoid slipping off.
Next to this was the Post Office, before it moved to the new premises build by the station approach. Everybody knew the next shop for all the wrong reasons because it was the Doctor’s Surgery where Dr. Hartley held surgery. The surgery building is now the Mariners Tea Rooms. The High Street surface itself has been changed, as a young lad I remember the road was all the same black Tarmac, now 100 ft. or so in Front of the George Hotel has been replaced by brick blocks.
The shops now used as a charity shop for Ryder is one place I cannot recall from my younger days. I have asked many older people of Rye and I got many different suggestions but the most likely was that it was a shop that sold clothes for women, if so that could well be the reason I do not remember it as it would have held little attraction for me.
Next door has been a chemists for as long as I can remember. My wife worked there for many, many years, until her recent retirement. Next to that was the Home & Colonial Grocers (or was it the International Stores?) and adjoined to that a superb tobacconists, run by a lovely Rye man called Mr. Stocks, no matter what size walking-stick you took to him, he had a rubber tip to fit it. Freeman and Hardy ran the shop next door and I remember having my feet x-rayed for a pair of sandals and saw at all the bones in my feet. Standing on a platform the staff would switch on a green light. How many years they used an X ray to see how well the footwear fitted I have no idea.
The big house next door, now the White Vine Hotel, was where Doctor Hartley lived. He looked after me in Rye Hospital when I spent ten days in there after the removal of my appendix.
Boots the big chemist firm were next in line. They had the shop with the steps and highly polished brass hand rail which is now Sladen House Off Licence. Then came Goulden’s paper shop and library. In those days you could hire a book from the library they ran, now the premises have become the Martello Bookshop an up market outlet specialising in Rye and local publications and new releases. The book shop has been there a long time as has the shop next door which sells items of leather.
The road leading to Cinque Ports Street has seen many changes but I will carry on past towards The Mint. The first shop, now a Jewellers, was once home to Mr. Fabes second-hand bookshop with many leather bound books on shelves. Adjoining it was a butchers shop which is now a greengrocers with a Delli next to it. Then comes Barclays Bank. Still there but with the high steps now removed, along with the coal chutes and covers from this pavement and all the others around the town.
Next to Barclays bank was Woolworths until recently, now the the old Woolworth building and the adjoining premises that Woolworth took over from what was an off licence and wine shop, has become the new Rye Library. Next a lovely smelling shop run by Mr. Dunk, that sold tobacco and smoking paraphernalia. His window had bowls of tobacco, loose and in plugs and flake, ready to roll in the palm of the hands before putting it into a pipe, or chewing it like my grandfather did till it lost its flavour – then it was rolled until nearly dry and fit for his smoking pipe.
The public house called the Bell comes next and father told me that on V.E. Day a soldier stole the bell that hung over the door and rang it till all Rye was awake late that night.
Further down the Mint was a huge green grocers. Then the public house called the Standard. Nothing else has changed to my memory. The pubs are still there and the street scenery is the same it is only the owners of the premises and the goods they sell that have changed, There is now only one butchers in Rye where in my young days there were five to my recollection, tobacconist have vanished apart from the off licence in the High Street. Iron Mongers as I knew them are things of the past, now screws come in little pots and bags and you can no longer ask for 12 number six screws or 4 six inch nails.
“Rye’s Own” May 2011
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