The river runs through it


The ever-popular William the Conqueror pub at Rye Harbour has a new addition to brighten up the surroundings – a newly painted mural on the path through its garden by the River Rother.

The bright and colourful painting covers the steps and path that runs through the tables in front of the pub and depicts the river Rother as it snakes across the marsh and past various local landmarks including the red roofed hut, the windmills, the RNLI flag, the Landgate, Ypres Castle and the Gun Garden, and St Mary’s Church.

The painting was the idea of the landlords, Maria and Neil Smallwood, who wanted to add some colour to the outside seating area. They commissioned the Hastings-based artist, Luke Brabants, to design and paint the path, having previously used him to paint a 1066 Bayeux Tapestry-inspired mural in the garden of another of their pubs, the King’s Head in Battle.

Luke Brabants studied at the East Surrey College of Art Design and Media and is a full-time artist mainly working with spray paint rattle cans on detailed murals and elaborate designs on vehicles.

He said: “Nearly all my work is commission-based so whatever the customer wants I work with them on ideas and design, to then create the finished outcome.”

Maria was keen to incorporate the steps into the design so that the image flowed from them onto the path.

Luke explained: “Maria knew the look and style she wanted for this job which luckily was a simple style of block colours and black outline and similar to the old travel posters of the early 20th century. She wanted a montage of lots of the key features of Rye and Rye Harbour including a river flowing from the top to the bottom of the space.”

The painted path by Luke Brabants in the outdoor seating area of the William the Conqueror pub in Rye Harbour

Overcoming challenges

The commission came with some challenges: the river is shown in birds’ eye view but the buildings are shown from ground level so Luke had to incorporate the different perspectives. He also had to consider how to paint on an area that people will be walking over in all weathers.

“The job was completely different to anything else that I had done before as I was working on concrete on a floor that lots of people will walk over. I usually work on walls where the risk of it fading is minimal. First, I prepped with garage floor paint as the base coat and somehow managed to paint downwards with spray paint which isn’t the easiest. I then protected it all with decking oil with anti-slip, as a varnish would have made it terrible if it was wet. This should make it last. Time will tell.”

There has been lots of positive feedback from visitors to the pub, both while Luke was working on it and now that it has been completed.

Maria is very pleased with how Luke has represented her brief. “Customers love it,” she said. “They make some very good comments. It is a lovely way to celebrate the area and we are confident that all tourists will love it when they visit Rye Harbour this summer.”

They certainly will! It is wonderful that Maria and Neil have acted on their obvious passion for the area to give a local artist the opportunity to represent their vision and to give pleasure to others. Oh and the food and beer are excellent too!

You can see more of Luke’s work at

Image Credits: Courtesy of William the Conqueror , Luke Brabants .

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  1. The painting is lovely and well done to the owners for giving the pub frontage a fresh coat of paint, much improved. Strictly speaking, though, and I am happy to be corrected on this point, but as far as I am aware the grass bank to which the “path-painting” leads is not part of the pub’s grounds and in fact the top is a public footpath. So technically I am not convinced that the pub owners should still have extended their tables and chairs permanently placed on top of the grass bank. These appeared during the parts of lockdown when outdoors was allowed and it seemed reasonable at the time to afford customers space to sit with distance in mind. Now I have no strong feelings on the matter but I’m afraid it is questionable that the tables and chairs still remain, it does limit the amount of space for non-customers to walk past with dogs, children etc. In addition there is an additional sign advising the tables and chairs are for pub customers only, which feels a bit cheeky. At what point does the footpath revert to being “public” again?

    • Aside from the well made points by Kate H about encroachment onto public land by Shepherd Neame, surely I can’t be the only person who thinks this looks absolutely horrific? It looks like something you’d see in a knock-off theme park.

  2. I just hope the tables are cleaned as soon as possible to avoid the seagull problem that at times is utterly ridiculous. I’m also going to call for the grounds to be kept clean and tidy.
    As for the graphic, I’m indifferent and as long as nobody parks there I’ll be happy and it must be better than that last covering of pebbles and cigarette ends.
    The footpath, see my first point regarding keeping the tables clean. I guess if it’s not blocked it should be ok, is it not owned by the pub but with a path? Is it blocked?
    Where has the owl gone from above the chalkboard?
    I’ve not been down there for a while, time for a visit.

  3. The footpath with the tables on won’t belong to the pub, it’s part of the flood defences and as such belongs to and is the responsibility of the environment agency.

  4. I’m sorry I’m not keen on this. Not the actual art but where it is. It just doesn’t look right at rye harbour. It’s a thumbs down from me I’m afraid .


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