Town Crier

                              News and Gossip Pages

By Jim Hollands

                            50 Years Ago

The amazing picture on the centre pages represents a generation of Rye history. The photograph was taken in the Drill Hall for what was almost certainly a Dance put on by 2274 Squadron (Rye) Air Training Corps. Percy Mitchell, the Rye ATC Commanding Officer is seen seated with two Air Force Officers, probably from R.A.F. Rye, the Home Chain Radar Station, locally known as ‘The Pylons’. The Pylons were at Kent Ditch Corner and the living accommodation for the unit was further on, where the Filipino Village is today.

The photograph, taken in 1954 or 1955 would possibly have been the last occasion that the Drill Hall was used as a dance hall. Soon after R.A.F. Rye was closed, so this picture represents the end of an era in more than one sense.

Those that remember the occasion or were in Rye at that time will be able to put names to many of the faces. I myself know most of the faces but many of the names escape me.

Fifty years on and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. The Drill Hall is gone and on the site stands Rye’s modern Fire Station. The Rye A.T.C. was disbanded twenty years ago and sadly many of the people in the picture are no longer with us. Ken and Doris Kewell, in the picture right behind Percy Mitchell, emigrated to Australia and made a successful life there. They have both passed on but a grandson, Harry has moved to England and plays for Liverpool in the Premier Division. Pity Rye & Iden United could not have signed him up!

No doubt I shall hear many more stories sparked by the publication of this photograph, some will be happy others sad. Some will be about those who stayed and made their life in Rye and others about those that left in search of adventure and different life styles. Most will reflect the part that this town played in their story for at the end of the day 90% of those in the picture were born in Rye and still have their roots here. Most that left will have returned, some for a visit others returning for good, for as one old Ryer once said, “The sound of Rye Church Bells will draw you further than gunpowder can blow you”.

                                  40 Years Ago

“Rye’s Own” was first published in November 1965, forty years ago!

How did it come about? I can reveal after all this time it was born because I had an altercation with the “Sussex Express” who I supplied Rye news pictures to. The upshot was that I would publish my own photographs. But how?

It was Jim Foster of Adams who came up with the idea of a monthly magazine, after we had discarded the idea of producing a weekly newspaper. He could print the new magazine. It was all agreed. Next came the search for a title and Winnie Hollands came up with the name “Rye’s Own”. There was no more discussion and the November issue hit the news stands on 20 October 1965.

The years have gone by but forty years on the magazine still stands on the same principals, it supports Rye and the people of Rye, even those that sometimes do not always go along with the policies the magazine advocates.


Big business is annihilating the small trader. I have watched with growing foreboding the change in shopping habits of the British public. Supermarkets are hailed for their ‘convenience’ and ‘high standards of hygiene and cleanliness’.

Lets look at convenience first. It really means convenience for the supermarket. In the old days our local grocer, butcher and fishmonger would take your order in a little book they provided, get it up and deliver it to your door. You paid the following week when you put your book in with your new order! Would the supermarket give a weeks free credit? Milk and News were also delivered to your doorstep, again with a weeks credit.

The ‘convenience’ is all on the side of the supermarket. You run around and load up a trolley, often buying things on a whim that would not have been included in the old grocer’s book. You unload at the cash out, pay ‘on the nail’, load into bags and cart the stuff to your car, or stagger home with the load if you have no car.

Cleanliness and hygiene? It all looks good, wrapped in polythene with colourful labels but you don’t see it handled or who handles it. It is not all machine wrapped and experience tells us that not all is even fresh. Remember the reports on television about the condemned chicken that got into the supermarket food chain?

Rye is a town of small shopkeepers, still employing far more people than are used at the Rye supermarket but they have suffered badly over the years. In 1960, before supermarkets arrived on the scene, there were four butchers, ten grocers and greengrocers, three fishmongers, five newsagents, three shoe shops, countless dress and clothes shops, three ironmongers and many specialist shops. Look around the town now!

Budgens have not been the main cause of this demise. Before they came to town the trend was already set, carloads of goods were being purchased in Hastings from the many supermarkets that had sprung up there and transported back to Rye.

Big business will prevail and we must move with the times but if another supermarket is going to be forced upon us let it not be on ground that morally belongs to the town. The Ferry Road School site should be used for public amenities, not to the advantage of big business. This also goes for the Freda Gardham and Tilling Green school sites. Jempsons had their application for a superstore turned down on a private site. They would have provided a service more in keeping with this town.

Rye is a unique town, let us work together to find ways to keep it that way.

                                  The Festival

This must have been one of the most successful Rye Festivals ever. Many events were complete sell out, all of those I attended were absolutely packed. Two were absolutely outstanding. The performance by the children and young ladies of the Rye Dance Centre “Dance Dance Dance” had the audience clapping and cheering all evening.Dejas


“Delta Moon” an American group who had only flown into England three days before, put on a performance at the Rye Community Centre that was so full of energy it even had the over eighties on their feet dancing.

Tom Gray
Tom Gray

Tom Gray vocalist and fantastic steel guitar and Hammond Organplayer , Mark Johnson guitar , PhilS kipper bass and Scott Callison drums/percussion, would be an outstanding outfit in their own right but add the unbelievably powerful voice and endless vitality of Kristin Markiton and “Delta Moon” become a group that will undoubtedly reach the very top.

Kristin Markiton
Kristin Markiton          

                        A Look Around the Festival

Dejas10The Colin Welch Quintet



Don Rendell                                                    Colin WelchDejas3

Dance, Dance, Dance

Rye Dance Centre presented a Fantastic Show

Street Theatre came to the Gungardens and the Lion Street School on Tom Gray the last day of the FestivalDejas13

The amazing voice, stunning looks and effervescent personality of Delta Moon’s vocalist Kristin Markiton was, for many, the highlight of the Festival

Great Dixter

Great Dixter in late summer
Great Dixter in late summer

I enjoy looking at old buildings and the treasures that some contain. I went to Great Dixter at Northiam with Jo’ the other day and discovered the delights of the wonderful garden and some of the secrets of the old building itself.


There are many historic buildings within a stone’s throw of Rye, close enough to be visited in an afternoon. Details of many of them can be found at the Heritage Centre. Do check before going that they are open at the day and time you want to visit. Many close for the winter.


                       Reunion at the Festival

Don Rendell (left) and Laurie Stevens.

Laurie Stevens, son of Jim Stevens one time postman of Rye,paid a nostalgic visit to the town and enjoyed several of the Festival events.

One he particularly relished was the performance of The Colin Welch Quintet featuring Don Rendell, on tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet. Laurie first saw Don Rendell performing at the White Rock, Hastings during the War (1943). He was so taken with the quality of Colin’s music, he became a fan and has followed him ever since.`

Now Don Rendell is one of the elder statesmen of British modern jazz.

Laurie Stevens, whose father I remember as being a member of Rye Sports Committee and ringing the bell for the last lap of every race on Rye Sports Day, now lives in Coventry but even though he has been away from Rye for more than forty years his heart is still here. “It’s a strange thing, the town itself has something about it” he said ” I came back every year with my wife until she died five years ago”.

No doubt Laurie, who is a true Ryer at heart, will be back again soon.

                    Motor Bike ‘Menace’

I have said it before and I will say it again, the motor cycle mecca on The Strand every weekend does not interfere with the lives and wellbeing of the people of Rye. Except for a few mavericks the motorcyclists that visit Rye are more than welcome. They are pleasant respectable people and bring lots of trade into the town.

What I do worry about are the group of youngsters from Rye who own 49cc. bikes that make a terrible noise, similar to lawn mowers, racing round and round the town in a group thinking they are impressing girls waiting for buses at Station Approach. Most are learners aged 16.

They have also be seen charging down the cycle path under Cadborough Cliff and then tearing round a farmer’s field. Beside being a danger to the public they are a danger to themselves. Come on boys, get your act together, put the silencers back on and use your bikes properly, girls like mature young men, not hot heads. Play your cards right and they may be riding pillion after you pass your tests!

                           That Man Dan

I see that our favourite PCSO Dan Bevan is getting letters written about him in the papers. Mrs. Jones was most impressed in the way he conducted himself and brought a group of youths from Ashford down to size by making them clear up a mess they had made outside Rye station and then marching them onto the platform with instructions to wait for their train home quietly.

Dan has made an enormous impression by his keenness, helpfulness and identification with the young people of Rye. He seems to be popular with everyone and has contributed in no small way to the reduction of crime in the town. He is, as one elderly lady told me, just like the old policemen.

Perhaps it is time that the leaders of the police came to realise what most of us have known all the time, a policeman on the beat reduces crime. Perhaps if they all came away from their computers and out of their cars the reduction of criminal activity would be so great there would be no need to fill in all the forms and pump statistics into computers, for as any retired policeman will tell you “Prevention is better than cure”.

                          Another Mad Plan

Another mad plan that will cost the ratepayers of Rye more money and, if I am not very much mistaken, will cause traffic jams the like of which we have never seen during the summer months. The plan, which has cost thousands in consultancy fees already, is to make the road from Ferry Road past Budgens and up the Station Approach ONE LANE ONLY! This will allow for three or four buses or coaches to park opposite Budgens and for the pavement to be widened by half as much again on the Post Office side of Station Approach.

Are these people really serious or is it just the Feasibility Study fees they are after?

Will East Sussex County Council, whom I assume must have funded the study, please tell us One – Did the Feasibility Study for the Station Approach scheme cost more or less than £40,000.

Two – Is the scheme going to cost more or less than £5,000,000 to complete and Three – What is the object of the new layout?

As a last criticism, for this time at least, why is the original pedestrian crossing across Cinque Ports Street not being moved at least 20 yds. west? It is right on the corner, I myself have been knocked over on this crossing and there have been several other near misses that I know of.

Jim Hollands

From “Rye’s Own “ October 2005

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