RYE is a cinque port, parliamentary borough, market, union, seaport town, railway station and polling lace for the Eastern division of the county, on the navigable river Rother, in Goldspur hundred, rape of Hastings, diocese of Chichester, archdeaconry of Lewes, and deanery of Dallington, 83 miles from London, and 9 north-east from Hastings.
The parliamentary borough comprises the parishes of Rye, Winchelsea, Peasmarsh, Iden, Playden, East Guldeford, Icklesham and Udimore. The number of registered electors is as follows:- Rye, 215; Winchelsea, 37; Peasmarsh 32; Iden, 27; Playden, 18; East Guldeford, 17; Icklesham, 30. total 392; showing a decrease of 22, as compared with the year 1865.
Petty sessions of the magistrates for the division are held here. The county court district comprises the following places:- Beckley, Brede, Broomhill, Camber, East Guldeford, Icklesham, Iden, Northiam, Peasmarsh, Playden, Rye, Udimore, and Winchelsea. The board of guardians for the Rye Union also hold their meetings in the boardroom in the Union Workhouse at Rye Hill.
The town is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors. There are six magistrates for the borough, appointed by the Crown.
The markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays – the corn market on Wednesdays, at the George inn, and the stock market every alternate Wednesday. There is a fair on August 10.
The port has been improved by cutting a new channel to the sea, and blocking out the old one: vessels of 200 tons can now enter. The trade is considerable, Rye being the port of Tenterden, Cranbrook, and the valley of the Rother, and having access by the Royal Military Canal to Romney Marshes. Ship-building is carried on here to a considerable extent. There are kettle nets erected on the seashore, near Rye Harbour, during the summer months, and at times very large quantities of mackerel and other fish are caught. Hops are considerably grown in the neighbourhood. A great trade in wool is carried on here; also in corn, timber, hops, oak bark, &c.
The church of St. Mary is cruciform, with the characteristics of a cathedral: it consists of a nave with clerestory, aisles, lateral divisions or wings, transept, running north and south, and an embattled tower, springing from the intersection. At the eastern end of the south aisle (the portion usually set apart), and near the south transept, are the remains of a private chauntry, or sepulchral chapel, in the Early English style, the roof of which is groined with moulded ribs, ornamented in the centre with a boss where the ribs intersect; this chauntry was for many years the vault of the Lamb family, but was opened and restored 10 years since, when a circular quatrefoil window was inserted; it is now the vestry: over the altar is the magnificent east window, the style of which is at once distinguishable by observing that the mullions are continued through the head of the window, and that the perpendicular, lines prevail throughout the tracery. This window, which is in the Early or better part of the Perpendicular style, is similar to one in St. Mary’s Church, Oxford and was no doubt erected somewhere about the end of the fourteenth century; it is divided by a transom which is embattled, the upper and lower tier of lights being cinque foiled; it is admirably adapted for a painted window; the six divisions below and above the transom taking the twelve Apostles, while above, the tracery in the head forms a smaller window for the four Evangelists. The registers date from 1538. The flying is a vicarage, value £410 per annum, with residence, in the gift of the Duke of Devonshire, and held by the Rev. Barrington Stafford Wright, M.A.: the Rev. T. Lewis to curate.
The market-house and public hall are in the centre of the town.
Here is a free Grammar school, situated in the High-street, built and endowed by Thomas Peacock; and a school for instruction in navigation, &c., founded under the trusts of the will of James Saunders, is now amalgamated with the Free Grammar school, and held together in the same schoolroom, under one master.
A church, named the Church of the Holy Spirit, is situated at the harbour mouth, for the use of the coastguard and their families, and others engaged in that locality; it is a neat stone structure, with ornamental tower and 1 bell; it is within the parish of, and forms a chapel of ease to, Icklesham. A National school is erected contiguous to the church, and there are also a good library and reading-rooms, where such refreshments as tea, coffee, &c., can be had by the members.
Here is a line of railway called the Rye Harbour line, which is open for the goods traffic and cargoes of coal brought to the station for transmission to Hastings.
There are several Dissenting chapels for Baptists, Independents, &c.
The Union Workhouse is for the following parishes:- Beckley, Brede, Broomhill, East Guldeford or Guildford, Icklesham, Iden, Northiam, Peasmarsh, Playden, Rye, St. Thomas the Apostle, Winchelsea, and Udimore.
The gaol is small and adjacent thereto is the police station. Here is a custom house.
One of the gatehouses of the town wall yet remains, and that is the North or Landgate, and is in a good state of preservation.
The parish contains 2,313 acres, and in 1861 had population of 4,288. The borough of Rye (and the electoral district) contains 8,495 inhabitants, and returns one member to Parliament.
Parish Clerk, William Apps.