The Ypres Castle (pronounced wipers locally and misguidedly renamed Rye Castle in recent times by those who should know better) is steeped in the history of Rye.
It is now the home of the Rye Museum, a very fitting role for this fine old building which has been used as a fort, garrison, prison and even a soup kitchen.
It was described in Victoria’s time in Black’s “Guide to Kent”. “It was built by William d’Ypres, Earl of-Kent. From the rocks whereon it lifts its weather-worn walls, it looked out afar, in the olden times, over many a mile of gleaming waters studded by the white sails of ships of Rye. It is now a jail for the devil-doers of the neighbourhood.”
The Castle was built around 1250 to protect the town from French invaders. It was one of the few buildings left standing after the disastrous French raid of 1377 when 90% of the town was burned to the ground.
The illustration below shows a building attached to the walls of the Castle. This building was the prison warder’s residence and demolished in 1890 as a result of action taken by the local Association for the Preservation of our Ancient Buildings.
The picture above shows the Castle with a pointed roof. This was removed between the wars further restoring the building towards its original appearance.
In 1870 a ‘Soup Kitchen’ was opened by Rye Corporation to feed the poor of the town during a very severe winter period. The north west angle of the Tower was converted for this use. Bread and Soup was distributed on a daily basis.
The picture above shows the Ypres Castle in its modern guise as the Town Museum. It contains a vast selection of Rye treasure and is well worth a visit.
One wonders what the Castle will be used as 100 years from now, hotel or guest house might be a good guess. One thing is sure, whatever name they put on it then, it will still be known as the Ypres Castle to all true Ryers.
“Rye’s Own” November 2000
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