December is here, the official start of winter, and we are entering a season that is a favourite one with children – and not a few adults as well. Christmas lights are up in the High Street and elsewhere around the town, shop windows are being decorated and not a few windows of private houses will soon follow. Next week sees the Rye Christmas Festival with a welcome banning of cars and delivery vehicles from the High Street and both Ryers and visitors thronging the streets and enjoying the events and the spectacle. The organisers have done an amazing job over the last couple of years in transforming the Town’s Christmas celebrations. However, amid all the fun, colour and activities, there has been one small area that remained dark, unlit, ignored and rather forlorn.
I am, of course, referring to the Landgate. Now, the Festival organisers can do little about this as the building is owned – for the moment, at least – by Rother District Council. One would have thought that it could, for relatively small cost, at least be floodlit, just as our even more ancient parish church is. There are even floodlights installed (at no cost to Rother) but which have been allowed to fall into disrepair and have not now worked for many years. Following an interview, in the summer of last year, with the Chairman of Rother, internal council correspondence revealed that they had no intention of repairing or replacing them. It is now probably too late and would cost too much, but how nice it would have been if the Festival organisers could have installed even temporary lights for the occasion. But would Rother have let them – I suspect the answer would have been, no. One must just hope that the building’s future owners, whoever they may be, will take a different attitude.
Coming in to Rye by road, particularly from the East or West, the first sight is of the town standing, rather self-importantly, on its hill and topped by the tower of our lovely church. Approaching in the evening the tower is floodlit and its friendly glow stands out like a welcoming beacon. This writer, certainly, always has that warm feeling of ‘I’m home’ when it comes into sight. How good it would be if the Northern approach down Rye Hill at night would show not a dark, rather sinister arch beneath a forbidding stone structure, but a glowing inviting entrance to an ancient town.
There will be an enormous amount of expensive work to be done on the building, but let us not forget the finishing touches and demonstrate justifiable pride in our inheritance by turning its current darkness into light.
Photos: Rye News library and John Minter