Rye was a major seaport in the Middle Ages. Then, the harbor dried up and all the shipping left. The town, however, didn't leave. On the other hand, it never changed from a Middle Ages seaport either. Going to Rye is almost like going back in time. Rye was once part of the land of the Manor of Rameslie. Between 1023 and 1033, King Canute made this land over to the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, honoring a promise made by Ethelred the Unready when he had been given refuge there in 1014. In 1204 Normandy, which had belonged to England, was lost to the French, and in 1247 Henry III decided it would be safer if Rye, being coastal, became Crown property; an exchange of lands was peacefully negotiated whereby the Abbey of Fécamp was instead granted inland manors. In 1287 the Great Storm which drowned Old Winchelsea diverted the course of the River Rother so that it flowed to the sea at Rye. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Rye was a busy market town and important sea port, and by the fifteenth century was one of the finest Cinque Port harbors; in 1573 Queen Elizabeth, according to tradition, gave Rye the title 'Rye Royal'. But the sea was already beginning to recede from the town itself; the wide harbor began silting up and the whole appearance gradually changed. Check out their site at http://www.rye-sussex.co.uk/
This is the Land Gate into Rye. The Land Gate was built in 1381 as part of a general rebuilding of the town walls. Its called the Land Gate because back when this gate was built, Rye had an extensive shoreline. Now of course, the harbor has dried up into a 3 foot wide creek, and the term Land Gate is kinda redundant..
This is the oldest house in Rye, and one of the few that survived the fire that destroyed most of the town in 1377 when a French attack leveled the town.
This is a road that is pretty typical of Rye. Very narrow, very cobble stoned. I pushed my mom down this road (well, rather I kept her from careening down it uncontrolled).
This is an aerial view of Rye, as seen from the tower of the St. Mary's church. When we climbed this tower, we had to climb this old wooden ladder right next to the church bells. Of course, they rang when I was about 3 feet from them. My ears just stopped ringing last week.
This is St. Mary's church. In 1742 a murder took place in the churchyard when Allen Grebell was killed by John Breeds who mistook him for the Mayor. John Breeds was hung and his remains placed in an iron cage on Gibbets Marsh. Later this was moved to the church and later still to the Town Hall where it is to this day, complete with Breed's skull. If you want to see it (the cage and the skull), go in and make an appointment in City Hall. The grave of Allen Grebell can be seen in the Clare Chapel.
This is the view of the area of Rye that used to be their shipping port - that little river way over there used to be 20 times bigger.
This is Ypres Tower, one of the older buildings in town. There's a museum there now, but it was closed when I was there. Thanks to http://www.rye-tourism.co.uk/ for the picture.