By Frank Palmer
25 April 1893 was an important day for Rye, it was the opening of the bridge over the Rother and road from East Guldeford.
Lord and Lady Monk-Bretton had accepted the invitation to perform the opening ceremony but at the last moment Lady Monk-Bretton was taken unwell and their daughter Hon. Miss Dodson came with her father and cut the red ribbon.
Lunch at the ‘George Hotel’, list of invited guests, speeches, the procession and the opening ceremony were all reported in the ‘South Eastern Advertiser’ in the issue of Saturday 29 April. The report took up 69 column inches!
The suggestion of a bridge had been discussed on and off since 1790 but for various reasons had not materialised, not least due to the objections from land owners over whose land the road would pass. The first Scots Float Sluice was built in 1736 and after this date it was possible to cross the Rother and travel to Rye via what is now Houghton Green Lane, but in 1804 Jeremiah Curteis, wealthy land owner, made a road under the cliff giving a more direct route to Rye, then in 1806 the government built the Military Road on this line. The road from the Marsh, Guldeford and Camber etc. crossed the drainage channel via Brooks Bridge to Scots Float Sluice and in 1808 Curteis erected a Toll Gate on this route. H.P. Clark Rye’s 19th. Century radical printer, produced an eight verse broadside (after Byron ) entitled “Childe – Curteis’ Gate Dedicated to Fair Play” against the paying of tolls to pass through Curteis’ Gate. Arguments and discussions went on for years, and one of the principle movers for a bridge was George Henbrey of Church Farm East Guldeford. In reply to a letter from Henbrey, E.B.H. Curteis wrote in December 1880 “I do not take the proposition in your letter with much serious consideration. I grant it would benefit a few farms like yours and Camber & Broomhill but the expense alone will beat you.” He continued “I will use my utmost endeavours to prevent it crossing my land. How will you be able to pay £6,000 to Major R. Curteis for compensation for his gate…….”. The Sluice at Military Road c1825
The Bridge is Built
Seven years later owners and ratepayers of East Seven years later owners and ratepayers of East Guldeford, Broomhill etc. called a meeting once again to pursue a bridge and road connecting Rye and East Guldeford. The matter was taken up by Alderman J. T. Vidler of Rye (Mayor in 1893 at the time of the opening) and of course George Henbrey. The successful conclusion coming on Tuesday 25 April 1893. The cost of the bridge was £4,390 of which the Town Council contributed £1,000, East Sussex County Council £500 and the remaining £2,890 from public subscriptions.
Who was Lord Monk-Bretton after whom the bridge is named? John George Dodson 1st. Baron Monk-Bretton was Liberal MP for East Sussex and later MP for Chester and then Scarborough. Deputy Speaker 1865-72 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He had been called to the Bar in 1853.
In his early days he had travelled in the Middle East and spent three months in Cyprus. His account of that island was reproduced in ‘Murrays’ Handbook until 1872. He was a member of the Alpine Club and had climbed Mont Blanc in 1859 and taken part in a number of Alpine expeditions.
He married Florence Campion of Danny. His father was Sir John Dodson (1780-1858 ) Tory MP for Rye 1819-23. In 1829 the Duke of Wellington appointed him Advocate to the Admiralty Court and in 1834 Advocate General. Other members of the Dodson family with Rye connections include Rev. William Dodson, who was Mayor of Rye in 1825. He married Elizabeth Dorothy, daughter of William Phillip Lamb of ‘Mountsfield’.
Henry Dodson, who was Town Clerk of Hastings 1730-37 and a lawyer living and working in Rye at the time of the Breeds murder. He wrote down his thoughts concerning the murder and trial on the end-papers of his bible.
Special thanks to Frank Palmer for his careful research of this article
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