Soldiers of Rye by Chris Viner

Twenty-five years ago a young couple decided to move from the outskirts of London and start a business in Rye. With two small boys to care for the decision was not taken lightly, for it involved leaving, after nineteen years, a steady job and moving away from friends, family and the comfort zone of ‘what you know’.

Rye was chosen for a number of reasons including its history, its unhurried ambience and the fact that the town attracts many tourists each year.

Soldiers of Rye began trading from The Mint Arcade, where it joined a fine mix of collectable and other items being offered by a variety of sellers. The business grew as a natural progression from a childhood filled with playing soldiers, where metal figures replaced metal ones and where self moulded pieces joined bought in models. Once the decision to move and become self-employed was made, well frankly, I couldn’t do much else but make and paint toy soldiers.

One of the most important aspects of the business was that I sat within view of the passing public, making and painting my ‘troops’. Now from my own shop at 110 High Street, I still maintain that ‘shop window’ position and still attract the same attention from passers by.

Those passers by come from more countries across the World than I care to remember. My soldiers ‘live’ as far from Rye as Australia and New Zealand, North and South America, South Africa, all across Europe and into Russia! Where other generals have failed, Soldiers of Rye has conquered!

From sets of Roman Legionaries, Napoleonic troops, Zulu warriors and individual soldiers to handmade figures made to represent family members who have given or still are giving valuable service in defence of our country and the freedom we cherish.

One of the most interesting aspects of collecting toy soldiers is the appeal they still create in very young people. It is often suggested that children don’t want to collect such things any more, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth, for my youngest enthusiast is five years old, and my current oldest a mere 92!

Small boys and girls may have to live in a world filled with computer games and i-pods, but when they see train sets,Airfix kits , dolls houses and Toy Soldiers the appeal is still the same. Such things trigger the imagination of young and old alike, just as they always did.

There have been many benefits of living and working in Rye. This grand old town appears timeless and perhaps it is. It seems to envelop its residents within it’s ancient walls and offer protection from outside. A mighty claim, but one which I am sure many would agree with.

But there is one thing above all others that I am grateful for after twenty-five years. It is the friendship and help I have received from day one from the traders and citizens of Rye. I believe that it is as much their attitude as the splendours of the Ancient Town of Rye that draws the visitors who enjoy the place so much and causes them to return time and time again. Rye is fortunate to have such people inside her boundaries.

“Rye’s Own” March 2012

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