Rye Church, Sussex

The Church is Rye is very large and stands in a prominent position over looking the whole town. The church was begun in the 12th Century when the town and everything in it was owned by the Abbey of Fecamp, Normandy. Rye then became one of the founders of the Cinque Port Confederation and both these benefactors endowed it with a large and important church.

In 1377 disaster struck when French forces invaded and set fire to Rye and looted the town and the church. The roof of the church fell in and the church bells were stolen and taken back to France. The following year men from Rye and Winchelsea sailed to Normandy, set fire to two towns in return and brought the bells back. One of these was hung in Watchbell Street and was used to give warning of any other attacks – it did not get back to the church tower until the 1560s.

The “new” clock was installed in the tower in 1561/2 and is one of the oldest church clocks in the country that still functions. The clock faces were added two hundred years later and the bells were re-cast in 1775 to replace the original 12th Century ones.

As ever the Victorians did some restoration work on the church, but it was relatively minimal and today’s church is largely as it was in the mid-1700s. The tower is open daily and gives magnificent views over the town and the Sussex levels beyond it.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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