I was about to start doing my ironing the other day so I had to decide which DVD to watch whilst doing it as I absolutely must have something to distract me from the task, yes the ironing does suffer and I often end up ironing in even more creases but it keeps me semi-sane! Anyway, I plumped for the Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson which I’ve watched several times before but more than anything I just wanted to re-visit the lovely wee town of Rye in the only way that I can at the moment. Lots of Rye locations were used in the filming of the series and they’re all very recognisable. It occurred to me that I had never shown any of the photos of the garden before, not that they’re all that exciting, I hope it was better when the house was owned by E.F. Benson and before him by the American author Henry James, or the several other authors who seem to have lived there in the past. I can see why people love the place despite it being a bit of a tourist Mecca, it was a well known haunt of smugglers in the past, as well as French invaders and the whole place is very atmospheric – and it has a secondhand bookshop!
The Landgate, Rye dates from around 1339 when the powers that were in Rye decided that they need a gate and walls to protect Rye from the sporadic invasions from the French, who managed to burn the whole place down, with only a few stone buildings remaining. We were there early before the shops opened to get this photo sans traffic.
But as you can see there were still plenty of cars about. Rye seems to have been captured by the French and settled by them several times. We’re all a bunch of mongrels on these British Isles between the Viking invasions and the Norman, Saxon and Angles too, there’s really no such thing as a ‘foreigner’. Not that you would believe that if you witnessed how many times we had to repeat ourselves whilst in England, despite not having strong accents – which is more than could be said for many of the people questioning us! It reminded us of why we only stuck it out in the south of England for a couple of years. I must say that I’ve never NOT been able to understand any accent if the person is speaking English – even if they originate on the other side of the world, so it puzzles me how anyone can be so insular.
From there it’s a fairly short walk, albeit uphill to Ypres Tower which is nothing to do with the battle in France in WW1. This was used as a prison until the middle of the 1800s for both men and women. Only in comparatively recent times were the sexes separated. The mind boggles at that!
The view in the photo below is the side which would have been nearest the sea.
People who didn’t ‘deserve’ to be imprisoned might just be stuck in the stocks for a length of time where they might be targeted by people who weren’t so unlucky. They wouldn’t have been throwing tomatoes at them I’m sure.
From the top of Ypres Tower you can see one of the local rivers which will lead to the sea, eventually. The sea has receded about two miles since Roman times I believe.
I think that the presence of three rivers in Rye probably goes some way to explaining how popular the town is as so many people love messing about in wee boats on rivers.
The tower in the photo below is what was the women’s prison when they were eventually separated from the men. It’s not very big so I hope there weren’t that many of them.
A narrow lane from the castle/tower takes you to The Castle Inn which no doubt supplied plenty of beer to the prisoners over the years. Smugglers who were due to be hanged were taken there for their last two flagons of beer.
Rye in East Sussex, England, is one of the Cinque Ports and is a lovely place to visit for a few days, I’m not sure what it would be like to live there permanently though as it seems to be one of those places that attracts more than its fair share of tourists – albeit of the more genteel variety. I’ve just googled Rye which I should of course have done before visiting the place because surprise surprise – I didn’t know it all. Anyway the link above is just to the Wiki page as East Sussex also seems to have more than its fair share of bloggers who have written about Rye, I didn’t want to choose between them.
It’s a small medieval town which used to be on the coast but the sea is now two miles away as over the centuries the sea has receded and what used to be the sea is now Romney Marsh. The town still feels coastal though, probably because there are three rivers, the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. Rye was a centre for smuggling due to the high taxes on so many goods and one of the smuggling gangs met in The Mermaid Inn. I was amused to see that the house opposite The Mermaid Inn is called The House Opposite. Quirky names seem to be all the rage for houses here, another one was called The One Next Door. I should have written them all down as I’ve forgotten them now.
Apart from Henry James and E.F. Benson lots of authors were attracted to the place including Rumer Godden, Stephen Crane, H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Monica Edwards, Radclyffe Hall, John Christopher, Malcolm Saville. Joan Aiken was a native of Rye, Sir Paul McCartney and Spike Milligan lived there as did the artist Paul Nash. I wondered why Captain Pugwash featured in the Museum but apparently his creator John Ryan was a resident of Rye although he was born in Edinburgh. Rye is a very popular place to live.
The house below was the artist Paul Nash’s home.
I’m sure the street below which is just at the church also featured a lot in the TV series with Quaint Irene painting the weatherboarding at one point.
Below is The Mermaid Inn from the back, you can easily imagine it being a favourite meeting place for smugglers.
I would definitely visit Rye again, if I can brave the horror that is the M25 motorway again. We rarely got above eight miles an hour!
Since I realised that the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson were set in Rye in East Sussex I’ve wanted to visit the place, especially as Rye was the location for the TV dramatisations. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as it’s a lovely place albeit one that has more than its fair share of tourists but that’s to be expected I suppose although I was surprised that there were so many German visitors around, I wonder why, is it the Mapp and Lucia aspect? Or maybe it’s Henry James. Both authors lived in Lamb House which used to be the home of the mayor of the town many years ago. It’s difficult to get a good photo of some of the buildings as the streets are so narrow.
The study below is on the right hand side as you enter the front door. The cabinets are full of Henry James and E.F. Benson books, I had no idea that Benson had written so many.
The drawing room below is on the left hand side as you go through the front door and is bigger. There’s a drawing by Beatrix Potter on the wall.
There’s also a framed L.P. of Land of Hope and Glory whose words were written by Arthur Benson, E.F.’s brother.
Henry James had always admired the house but never thought it would come on the market so when it did he snapped it up and lived there happily for decades. When Henry James died his family agreed to lease the house to E.F. Benson so between the two the house has hosted lots of visits from other writers over the years, but now it belongs to the National Trust and is a popular tourist destination.
The dining room is at the back of the house with doors which lead out to the garden.
Only one bedroom is open to the public and it’s quite sparse, but I do love the corner fireplaces in Lamb House.
It isn’t a particularly large house and not all of the rooms are open to the public, but I can see why those men both wanted to live in it as it would be a comfortable home and the garden is beautiful, but I’ll leave those photos for another day.
Of course E.F. Benson did end up being Mayor of Rye, for three terms I believe so he must really have thrown himself into the whole community. I don’t think he will ever have had to look far for his characters!
Over the last week or so I’ve been gallivanting around parts of the UK, specifically spending three nights at Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in north Wales. Then on to the south of England – Rye in East Sussex for a couple of nights before going on to Ashby de la Zouch in Staffordshire which is around about the English midlands. Lastly one night in Gateshead in the north of England to visit friends. I enjoyed being away and having a change of scene but it’s lovely to be back home again. Of course, books were bought, but I’ll tell you about those later.
I must admit that I had never even heard of Gladstone’s Library when I was given the mini break as a 60th birthday treat, but since then it seems to be popping up everywhere, even being on TV’s Flog It apparently. Our bedroom decor leaned towards the spartan and the rooms don’t have a TV but they do have a radio if you can’t stand not knowing what’s going on in the news. However as a resident you do get access to the books in the library. I was disappointed when I realised that about 80% of the books are on theology – not a favourite subject for me. However as it turned out there were a few books about the sedition trials of 1794 so I was able to do some interesting research on William Skirving, that distant ancestor of mine who was transported to Australia. As a bookworm it was quite a thrill to be given my own key to the library which is locked at 5 o’clock and when I was in there after hours I was the only one there! Most of the other guests were acquainted with each other and seem to have been church groups or choirs. In the blurb on the place it says that clergymen get a discount. I wonder how much as it’s quite a lot more expensive than places of a similar standard accommodation wise.
I’ve wanted to go to Rye for years as I love E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books and Rye is the setting although in the books it’s called Tilling, named after the River Tillingham which flows through Rye. The town is as quaint as you could wish and it’s easy to imagine the place being awash with smugglers as it was in times past. The American writer Henry James loved the town and eventually managed to buy Lamb House which had been the home of the mayors up until he bought it. He lived there for 25 years and when he died E.F. Benson leased the house from the James family until his death. So the house has been frequented by hordes of writers over the years as they each had friends who also wrote. Lamb House now belongs to the National Trust and the house and garden are definitely worth a visit.
Photos of Gladstone’s Library and Rye will be forthcoming – when I get organised.
I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time in East Sussex over the years as I had an aunt who lived there but for some reason I never got around to visiting Rye. Mind you, way back then I hadn’t read E.F. Benson‘s Mapp and Lucia books, but Lisa May at TBR 313 has been discussing E.F. Benson’s writing and the upshot is that I’m adding Rye to my list of places to visit. Although Benson’s fictional town is called Tilling, it was based on Rye where he was the town mayor for years.
I had a wee look on You Tube to see if there were any excerpts from the Mapp and Lucia TV series – and there were but what I really liked was this Thascales ‘album’ of a visit to Rye which s/he has uploaded onto You Tube. The TV series was filmed in Rye and the buildings are all very recognisable.
If you like a twee 1930s setting and a bit of a laugh then you’ll enjoy the series, I wonder if it’s available on Netflix. Geraldine McEwan as Lucia in particular has lovely outfits to wear, it’s a feast for the eyes if you like vintage clothes.