Traditional Business Returns to Rye


By Jim Hollands

Rye and Shipping go together like coffee and cream. Since the days before recorded history Rye has been associated with shipbuilding and fishing.

The very first record of the town is from 1105 when “A fine large ship from Rye” tells historians that even then, shipbuilding was part of the story of area and very shortly after, around 1155, Rye & Winchelsea, the two Ancient Towns, were made members of the Cinque Ports Confederation and granted.

* freedom from toll, lestage, passage and similar taxes and duties; * exemption from the jurisdiction of external courts;

* the right to levy local taxes, to hold their own courts and to punish offenders;

* the privilege of den and strand (i.e. the right to dry and mend their nets and to organise a large and lucrative Herring Fair each year, in order to sell their catch), at the mouth of the River Yare in Norfolk; * honours at court (i.e. the right to carry the canopy over the head of the sovereign during the coronation procession and to dine at his or her right hand, at the subsequent banquet).

New Ship's Chandlers at Rye Industrial Estate
New Ship’s Chandlers at Rye Industrial Estate

In return Rye and the other Ports was required, under the system of ship service, to supply 57 ships, each with a crew of 21 men and a boy, for 15 days every year. These ships were to be used not only in warfare, but also to transport the King, members of his entourage and his armies to and from Normandy and other parts of the Continent.

The Cinque Ports Fleet remained in service till after the time of the Armada when they supplied just two ships, as by then, larger vessels were being built and used from the deep water ports in the South West.

All types of vessels from large ocean going craft, fishing boats and barges for use on local rivers and canals were constructed in Rye throughout the centuries.

Rye continued with her ship building industry and constructed six ‘Naval Trawlers’ for the MOD in WW2.

Thereafter small boats were built up to very recent times for the fishing industry and leisure activities.

All these activities required good chandlery services and there were always ship’s chandler businesses based locally until well into the 1990’s, when the last of them finally closed down.

Since that time the Port of Rye has been without a chandlery service despite a massive revival in shipping and boating activity. The fishing fleet has swelled to near record level, pleasure boating is at an all time high in popularity and Rye Wharf is seeing more and more coasters delivering and collecting cargos from Rye Harbour.

Chris and Elaine Codner, origanally from London, have been supplying boating enthusiasts in Rye from their Mobile Chandlery Van. They are based in Southampton, where they have a Wholesale Chandlery business which they founded three years ago. The Codners are keen boating enthusiasts and have been sailing out of Poole Harbour, where they started as boat hiring company in 2001.

Elaine and Chris Codner bring Chandler Shop back to Rye
Elaine and Chris Codner bring Chandler Shop back to Rye

They told Rye’s Own that they have been made very welcome in Rye on their visits and have fallen for the old town. Some of their customers suggested the need for a permanent chandler’s shop in the area so they decided to set up a business at Rye Industrial Estate, Rye Harbour Road, catering for the needs of local marine customers.

“Rye is very convenient to us” said Elaine. “We live along the coast at Eastbourne”.

Chris married Elaine seven years ago, they are a vibrant couple who will do well here. They enjoy working hard and take great pride in being able to meet almost any request for marine equipment, from servicing engines, boat transportation, finance, new & used engines, spares of all descriptions, cleats, ropes, stainless steel screws, even fishing tackle and EKG Spark Plugs. They also supply caravan parts, caravan overiders and even caravan fridges and hobs.

Chris has been a Marshal Arts enthusiast for 15 year and Elaine gets away from the boat business by organising a web site that encourages young people to get involved with fashion and design. is well worth a look.

“Rye’s Own” wishes Chris and Elaine the very best of luck with their new enterprise. I feel sure they will contribute greatly to the regeneration of business and employment in Rye.

From the May 2011 Issue of “Rye’s Own”

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