A pre-Christmas visit to Rye (aka Smuggler’s Top)

December 24, 2011 at 12:19 am | Posted in Anne, George, Travel | Leave a comment
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Anne and I popped down to Rye yesterday for a pre-Christmas break. As some readers may know, Rye was the inspiration for Smuggler’s Top, the setting of the fourth Famous Five adventure. It’s a lovely cobbled town, built on a hill and once the home of smugglers as well as many literary types including Henry James, Radclyffe Hall and E F Benson.

We stayed in the cosy and splendidly decorated Jeake’s House. It was built by an astrologically-minded Samuel Jeakes and a plaque in the wall records the position of the stars at the time the foundation stone of the building was laid in 1689. After various travails across the centuries, Jeake’s house was bought by the American poet Conrad Aiken in the 1920s, and in the 1980s taken over by Jenny Hadfield who has turned it into a very nice place to stay. The bedrooms are now named after Aiken and various literary and artistic luminaries who visited or lived in Rye. We were in the snug and ceiling-beamed ‘T S Eliot’ room but you can also bed down with Radclyffe Hall and Malcolm Lowry amongst others.

It’s ideal for a winter’s stay as there are plenty of communal spaces in which to relax including the parlour (pictured above) and the theatrical-looking bar which is well-stocked with board games, newspapers and alcohol (just write down what you have and it’s charged to your room). Breakfast was in part of the house which was formerly a Quaker chapel. Anne had the full English; I had my current favourite morning repast – a boiled egg with Marmite soldiers.

Top (cold and wet weather) things we did during our brief visited included: a drink by the Giant’s Fireplace in the legendary Mermaid Inn (hangout of smugglers in the 18th century); a trip to the Rye Art Gallery to see an excellent little exhibition on animator John Ryan (creator of Captain Pugwash and long-time resident of Rye); and a look around the Lion Street Store, a wonderful emporium of prints, jewellery, stationery and much more, showcasing work by makers and illustrators such as Emily Warren, James Brown, Nicholas John Frith and Alice Pattullo. A great place for last minute gifts for people with good (nay, excellent) taste.

It’s now officially Christmas Eve and I’m back in London, typing this in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. Tomorrow we collect our bird from the butchers – not a turkey from Kirrin farm, alas – and stock up on Brussels sprouts.

Good luck to everyone who still has presents to buy!


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