Centuries captured on canvas

Richard Adams in his studio signing 'Rye's Heritage'

How do you go about encapsulating Rye’s rich and diverse history in a format which is easily accessible to everyone whilst at the same time injecting a bit of fun into the proceedings? This was the conundrum facing the centre manager and trustees at the Rye Heritage Centre (RHC) on Strand Quay when formulating plans to relaunch, due to reopen in April until Covid-19 knocked us all for six.

Not an easy remit, but in a town rich with such a wealth of diverse and hugely talented artists the answer lay right under our noses. Richard Adams, one of Rye’s most popular and successful artists, was approached and, without hesitation, he agreed to a commission on behalf of the RHC to encapsulate as much of the town’s history as was possible on canvas for all to see, share and enjoy.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Richard on previous occasions, at his home exhibitions and in his studio on the High Street, and between us we bounced around various ideas of how the picture could look – but it is his vision and interpretation which makes this picture so unique and special.

The process started in the summer and the photos below show in varying stages how the picture evolved, culminating in the finished masterpiece which Richard named “Rye’s Heritage”, a fitting title considering it will soon be on public display at the RHC and, before too long, copies will be available to purchase from the RHC.

With a pre Christmas opening on a date to be confirmed very much on the cards this could be the ideal opportunity to buy a special ‘present with a difference’ this Christmas.

Seeing “Rye’s Heritage” go from a blank canvas to the finished picture has not only been an education, but a privilege to witness such an accomplished artist at work.

Tim Roche at Roche Gallery on Rye High Street was the natural choice to get the picture framed, and he was approached and was only too pleased to become involved in the project and, within days, the picture was ready to hang, resplendent in a bespoke frame which Tim very kindly donated as a gift to the RHC.

“Rye’s Heritage” includes historical references to the French invasion in the 14th century, our local industries, including fishing, ship building and pottery to name but a few, local tradition and folklore including the Rye Bonfire, ghosts and smuggling, cultural references to the Rye jazz and arts festivals, and so much more.

If you look closely enough you just might spot a figure wearing a facemask, something all of us will look back on and talk about in years to come. The detail in the picture is fantastic and, as you might expect with an Adams picture, mermaids and gulls also make a humorous appearance.

Richard has very kindly donated his signed picture to the RHC, where it will be hung within the main reception area, soon to be transformed with the superb ‘new’ reception desk kindly donated by Heringtons solicitors and delivered free of charge by Bournes removals as highlighted in a previous article.

I won’t spoil the surprise, but watch this space for further exciting news about your Rye Heritage Centre, even though it’s temporarily closed it certainly hasn’t been forgotten about, and before too long the phoenix will rise from the ashes.

Image Credits: Nick Forman , Richard Adams .


  1. How lovely to see how the picture evolved and for Richard to kindly donate it to The Rye Heritage Centre! And to the others who have kindly donated and given their time for free too! It all sounds exciting as to what has been going on behind the scenes and we look forward to when it can be open again in it’s new format!


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