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Author Topic: Rye War Memorial  (Read 65 times)
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« on: April 05, 2018, 07:57:39 AM »

Rye is probably one of the most historic and prettiest towns in East Sussex.  Many years ago, in medieval times, Rye Harbour was directly next to the sea and was one of the most important ports on the South Coast.  There were a number of 'great storms' and the coastline changed considerably with the result that the town that most people now visit is some two miles inland from the 'new' Rye Harbour.

I could go on for hours about the history of Rye but I shall refrain.  There are many references here on our own Forum and many hundreds more on the internet.

The 'new' Rye Harbour is a village in its own right and has its own War Memorial.  I have already posted some details about that and they can be found HERE .  This post is about the Rye War Memorial in the 'old' town.

Rye War Memorial stands in the entrance to the churchyard of St. Mary Church.  It is described as "a two-stepped base surmounted by two stone blocks, a plinth and a tapering shaft with a cross of sacrifice with a metal sword on the face of the cross with the inscription carved into the sides of the blocks".

The WWI inscription details the 145 men from Rye who fell in 'The Great War'.  After WWII there were an additional 48 names added, this number is made up of 40 military personnel (that number includes one Home Guard volunteer) and eight civilian air raid casualties and then there is a later addition of one soldier from the Gulf War.

The original memorial was unveiled on the 19th October 1919 by Lord Leconfield and dedicated by the Rev. A P Howes. The sculptor was Sir Reginald Blomfield.

The following newspaper article is quite long but it includes a lot of local history so I have taken the time to transcribe it.

Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 24 October 1919




With solemn and impressive ceremonial the War Memorial Cross in Rye Churchyard was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was marked by a visit from the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex (Lord Leconfield) and great public interest was manifested in the proceedings.

The memorial cross stands on a piece of turf at the south-east corner the churchyard. Over 160 names are recorded on the monument —mournful evidence the heavy proportion of its manhood that the Ancient Town has lost in the war.  It has been designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, R.A., (appropriately a resident Rye), and follows his general design for war memorial crosses throughout the cemeteries where lie our fallen heroes in France. Constructed of Bath stone, the cross is octagonal in shape, with steps at the base. The simplicity of its lines and grace its proportions make it a beautiful memorial, worthy of its purpose and the scene in which it is set.  The inscription reads: — "In memory of the officers and men from Rye who gave their lives in the Great War, MCMXIV—MCMXIX. Their name liveth lor evermore".

The day was one of perfect weather - bright, calm and warm. From the tower of the Parish Church the bells rang out a half muffled peal, and an air of deep and reverent interest pervaded the large concourse who flocked to take part in the service of dedication.  The first part the service was held in the church, which was crowded in every part.  

The Mayor and Corporation attended in full state and a guard of honour and bugle band were furnished by the Rye Branch of the Comrades the Great War, under Captain Arthur Adams.

Lord Leconfield, accompanied by the Mayor (Councillor J. L. Deacon, J.P.) and the Town Clerk (Mr. Walter Dawes), inspected the guard of honour outside the Town Hall, and on going into the Council Chamber, the Mayor introduced his lordship to the other members of the Corporation and officials.   The civic party then walked procession to the church, which was entered by the south door. The company included, in addition to those already mentioned, the Vicar (the Rev. A. P. Howes), Mayor's Chaplain, and the Rev. J. D. Kenwood (curate), the Deputy-Mayor (Councillor G. Ellis. J.P.), Alderman F. Jarrett, Alderman W. E. Colebrooke. J.P., Alderman G. F. Burnham, J.P., Councillors H.J. Gasson, F. J. Thompson, Major W. B. Hacking, R. Neeves, J. Cooper, R. McKenzie and T. Golden, Major H. Fiennes, Sir Reginald Blomfield, R.A., Colonel E. W. Skinner, J.P., Mr. W.H. Delves, J.P., the Borough Surveyor (Mr. E. Heybourne), the Sanitary Inspector (Mr. H. C.Gower), the Water Engineer (Mr. W. J. Burnham), and the Rate Collector (Mr. C. J. Fletcher).  The Police were under Superintendent W. Whitlock. The Mayor was preceded the Mace-bearers (Messrs. W. Clark and H. Southerden), the maces having black bows of ribbon upon them.  The contingent of ex-Service men immediately followed the Corporation. The churchwardens (Messrs. A. Truelove and F. Hoad) met the procession as it entered the church.

Mr. W. Sprigg Walker was at the organ, and the choir was augmented by members from other denominations. The Rev. W. M. Cannell (Weslyan minister) and the Rev. S. H. Wing (Baptist minister) were also present.

While the congregation were assembling Mr. Walker played three voluntaries, "Blest are the Departed" (Spohr), "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Handel), and "0 Rest, in the Lord" (Handel).


The Vicar opened the service with an address.  Let them thank God, he said, for that, glorious day, at the end of a beautiful summer. On that great occasion they could not doubt that there was great cloud of witnesses watching their proceedings that afternoon.  He could not think that those who had fallen in the war, and of whom they thought that, afternoon, were absent from them.  They had been called away from our world to a higher service.  Let us not think that the thousands of young lives that had been cut down in the war had failed.

The Vicar next drew attention to the magnificent position the memorial cross.  It was erected at the south-east corner of their pretty little churchyard, and their expectation as to it being a suitable site bad been entirely justified.  He would remind them also its of its unique position in this respect.  Standing next to the cross they looked over the Gun Garden, the marsh, towards Rye Harbour, the distant line of the blue sea, the Channel, and they could see their mind's eye the graveyards France, where many of those who had fallen in the war lay.  It was that which he thought would at once justify the choice of the site, especially for those who had lost their dear ones across the water.  And then there was another aspect.  They came from the Gun Garden, and they saw again how magnificently the cross was situated, with the background of that grand and beautiful church crowning the hill-top of Rye. They would all agree that nothing could be better than the site which the cross stood, and the beauty of the cross itself.  He was glad think that all those who had worked together for the erection of that memorial had worked with happy unanimity and agreement. That cross would always stand as a grand memorial of those men who gave their lives for us, and we were proud of them.  They had gained the victory for us, and let us follow on; let us build up; let us justify our victory doing our little part in what was called the Reconstruction of our land.

The hymn, "Stand up! Stand up for Jesus" was sung. The Vicar intoned the prayers, and the Rev. J. Kenwood (curate) read the Lesson, which was from the third chapter of the Book of Wisdom, beginning "The souls the righteous are in the hands of God" Psalm cxxx., "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee," was sung.

At the conclusion the first part the service the civic party walked in procession to the memorial, followed by the choir, the clergy and ministers, the ex-Servicemen, numbering about 150, and the relatives of the fallen.

A big crowd had already assembled to witness the unveiling ceremony, and was swelled by the congregation from the church.  Large as the gathering was, and in such a confined space, excellent order prevailed.

The Mayor, addressing Lord Leconfield and the inhabitants of that Ancient Town thanked him most sincerely for kindly coming that day for the purpose of unveiling that memorial cross to the brave sons Rye who had fought and fallen the late war.  The memorial itself needed no comment. It spoke for itself.

Lord Leconfield unveiled the memorial by releasing the cords holding up the large Union Jack in which it was draped. He aaid it gave him very great pleasure to come there to unveil that memorial.

The Mayoress (Mrs. Deacon) then laid a beautiful floral wreath the foot the cross, inscribed : "To the memory of our fallen heroes. 'God hath them in His keeping.'— E. Deacon, Mayor of Rye".  A laurel wreath inscribed : "In memory, from the Rye Branch of the Comrades the Great War" was also deposited the base of the memorial by one the ex-Service men, Sergeant Swaine, D.C.M.

The Vicar having dedicated the cross, the hymn "For all the Saints who from their labours rest" was sung.  The service was brought to an impressive conclusion by the sounding of "The Last Post" by four buglers the 5th Royal Sussex Regiment.  Flowers were subsequently placed at the foot of the cross by relatives and friends of men commemorated.


On the return of the Mayor and Corporation to the Two Hall his Worship expressed the great pleasure all felt in having Lord Leconfield in their ancient town for the first time.  He added that was the first occasion of a Lord Lieutenant visiting Rye officially within living memory.  Sad as was the event that brought him to Rye that day, they hoped that his few hours stay would be sufficient to induce his Lordship to honour them with another visit at a future date when he might fully be able to inspect the points of interest for which the old town was noted (applause).

Lord Leconfield thanked the Mayor and said that he had heard much about Rye and for some years had desired to visit it but no opportunity seemed to come until that day when in his official capacity he had been invited.  He could assure them that he was greatly in love with their old town and intended to come again as soon as it was convenient for him to do so, either officially or as a private visitor and bring Lady Leconfield with him as she was most deeply interested in antiquity (applause).

The Mayor then paid tribute to Sir Reginald Blomfield R.A., who had not only allowed them  to have his design for the memorial cross, but had also arranged as architect every detail, including the site, and had seen it carried out without charging a penny (loud applause).  He congratulated Sri Reginald most heartily on the beauty and success of the work, and would also add a word of praise for the Deputy Mayor (Councillor George Ellis) who has also given his services in the erection of the cross (applause).

Sir Reginald Blomfield, in acknowledgement said it had been a pleasure to him to do what he had, and he was always pleased to do anything for the old town with which he felt closely connected (applause).

Lord Leconfield then took leave of the town and motored back to his home at Petworth in West Sussex.

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Man of Kent1
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2018, 08:56:52 AM »

If only I'd known that I would eventually become a member of this site when I stayed and worked in Rye in 1957 and 1958 I would have photographed this memorial then!
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Opportunities always look bigger going than coming

« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2018, 09:10:57 AM »

CWGC and Sir Reginald Blomfield

John's post about the sword and cross


By the time you make ends meet, the've moved the ends.
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2018, 20:47:34 PM »

I produced a Presentation Book for Rye RBL for 2014 and I believe their website has more info since then.
They kindly included me in the Credits - as did Battle "The Brave Remembered" by George Kiloh.

I'm in Spain at the moment, sweltering with 28 degree heat - I know, you feel for me - but if any queries, I can answer on my return in June.....  Roll Eyes
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