In the severe winters during the 1800’s and early 1900’s, before Social Security was ever heard about, Soup Kitchens were provided by Rye Council to give some sustenance to the poor and needy of the town.
In 1870 a Soup Kitchen was opened by Rye Corporation, at the north west angle of the Ypres Tower.
In 1907 the Rye Council authorities made arrangements for the distribution of soup and bread to the poor and unemployed of the town.
The Town Crier visited necessitous districts, announcing to crowds that gathered at the tintinnabulations call of his bell that tickets for soup and bread would be distributed to deserving cases at the Town Hall in the evening.
At six o’clock sharp, on the evening in question, a large and representative gathering of the fishing and labour fraternity, who had been thrown out of employment or were otherwise afflicted by hard times, assembled at the Town Hall. Their cases were heard by officials who made orders for the necessary distribution of bread and soup. No less than 122 tickets were dispensed. The Soup Kitchen in Town Hall Street, at the top of the Rope Walk were opened twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Great preparations were made at the building, which was formally used as the Town Water Pumping Station, the power ‘generated’ by two horses harnessed to mechanical contrivances.
Two large coppers, each capable of holding seventy gallons of soup, were prepared and fuel was placed into the extensive fireplaces. For four hours each Monday and Thursday a couple of muscular Ryers were kept continuously ‘on the go’ peeling potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and onions.
A large quantity of split peas that was also to be used in the soup was soaked in water for the greater part of 24 hours whilst the joints of meat and bones were cut into small pieces.
Through the night through to 8am. when the Kitchen was declared open, the two brawny, impromptu cooks attended to the roaring, crackling fires and to the steaming cauldrons. Unceasingly they manipulated the four foot long ‘stirrers’ and spoons.
At opening time the soup was bubbling and gently steaming, and was declared by the connoisseurs to be ‘ready’ The doors of the building were thrown open and the savoury odour of soup permeated the neighbouring streets, from which came scurrying and running small boys and girls carrying such handy receptacles as ewers, water cans, pots, basins, buckets and other articles which were well worthy of being exhibited in a curiosity shop.
No less than 70 loaves of bread and 95 gallons of soup were distributed to 153 applicants in the first hour of the first day. The soup was very good and did great credit to the pair of hard working cooks who were assisted in the distribution of the hot soup and bread by The Mayor of Rye Councillor Kingsnorth Reeve and other Councillors.
“Rye’s Own” May 2008
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