A trip down memory lane

Barclays Bank at 30 High Street - closed

A walk around Rye recalls the shops that used to be here in the late 50s and early 60s when you could buy almost anything from a tap washer to bicycles, and most electrical items, including TVs and washing machines, as well as clothes.

Walking from Banisters Corner (at the junction of Ferry Road and Cinque Ports Street), which was a DIY store, a few doors along was Mr Holland’s electrical shop. That’s where we had our first black and white TV for about 3 or 4 shillings a week. Next was a fish shop and Mr Salmon was the owner – and the shop was obviously called Salmon’s fishmonger.

The next shop was Stocks carpet and furniture shop, next was Vidlers estate agents (now Rush, Witt and Wilson estate agents) and then the Post Office depot on the corner.

From there, looking to my right, was Winter’s Dairy, a butchers shop and a hairdresser (Blacklocks) and on the corner where Jempson’s tea rooms are now, was a sweet shop and café, a family run business owned by Mr John Easter.

Garage fire left a gap

Just across Market Road was Seeboard (South Eastern Electricity Board), a shop where you could buy almost any electrical components you wanted. Opposite that was the pub, I believe in those days it was called The Railway Hotel, the Cinque Ports as it is today, then the Baptist church. Opposite the church was a garage, but sadly a fire destroyed the premises.

Where Rye Retreat is, that was the Co-Op stores, then the Cinque Ports Hotel (hit by a bomb during the second world war) now the police station. Further along on the left hand side a clothes shop, then the Regent Cinema, very popular in its day, next to the cinema was another electrical shop and the owner was a Mr Vic Moore. Then Ashendens, gents hairdresser. I’m not too sure of the next few shops, but there was an off licence on the corner.

Rye’s only Micropub in Tower Street

Leaving Cinque Ports Street and going up Tower Street, to your left the old pumphouse toilets (now the Waterworks micropub) then I believe Bournes removal company, then the next building was, I think a dentist, (now Jane’s Stitches) then Deans Rag Book factory employing many Rye people.

Over the road from Deans’ a fish and chip shop called George’s Cafe, and up further at the top of Tower Street was a confectioners, owned by a Mr Luck.

Turning left going down Landgate was Bragg’s antiques, next came Burnhams builder’s office and then further down an espresso coffee shop and a hairdresser owned by a Mr Osborne. A few other shops and then the British Legion in King Street, also the Labour Exchange (now Eagle House). Past that was Burnham’s Yard and also Bournes Removals warehouse.

A small Electric Cinema

Back into Landgate and heading towards Hilder’s Cliff going up on the left a little cobblers shop, and in between was the small Rye Electric Cinema, then the Queens Head then on to Higgins’ fruit and vegetable shop.  Next door was where I was employed as a paper boy, the owner was mayor of Rye at one time, a Mr Horner, and later Reg and Chris Emson.

Next door was Bryan’s who sold toys and many other items including fireworks and next door to Bryan’s was I believe the Halifax Building Society, now GMP Accountants, then Thompson’s bakery owned by Mr Webb. Next and last shop coming up Landgate was Mr Wicken’s shoe shop, who also owned another shoe shop in Landgate.

Going up to Hilder’s Cliff on the right hand side was the Collegiate School, then into Rye High Street, first on the left hand side was Woolgars Jewellers (now Gilfrins). Following on, there was Doctor Parkes’ surgery at 112, the Rye borough engineer’s office (now the Pette shop) at 111, then the Red Cross, Britches and Rivers men’s outfitters (now a sweet shop), Casa Conti Italian Restaurant (now Hayden’s), and the North Kent Building Society (now Rye Art Gallery). Then came Bunty’s sweet shop (now tea rooms), and Hamilton’s materials and furnishings shop.

The Old Apothecary in the High Street

Across East Street was the Old Apothecary chemists, Rye Goldsmiths and an off licence nearby. Next was Ashbee’s butchers, and Bennett’s men’s outfitters. Across Lion Street was the George Hotel, John Dennis ironmongers, and Roseanne dress shop. Somewhere near was a Victoria Wine shop, then Adin Coates ladies undies and haberdashery, Miller and Macer’s delicatessen (now Nationwide), and the Hastings and Thanet Building Society.

Continuing along there was the International Stores now (the closed) Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Frank Golden’s clothes shop, and the National Westminster Bank. Across West Street was Lloyds Bank and Heringtons Solicitors at Bank Chambers. A little further down into the Mint a coffee bar which had skiffle group playing regularly – I think it was called The Playing Card coffee shop – and the Simmons guest house.

Going back to the start of the High Street at No 1 and coming back down the right hand side Ellis Brothers ironmongers, which became Ironmongers Extraordinary (and is now Puckhaber Antiques), Merryments wool shop, then a restaurant (can’t quite remember the name) then on to Monastery Restaurant, Customs House, Adams Stationers (now a Turkish cafe/restaurant).

All change in the High Street

Crossing over the top of Conduit Hill came Langtons Furniture (now Adams), and Midland Bank (later HSBC and now closed) then the Rye Mutual Building Society, that’s where we got our first mortgage from. Next was Waghorn’s fruit and veg shop followed by Frank Clarke hairdresser, and Rye Conservative Club in the old Grammar School, now Grammar School Records.

Along from the old Grammar School was a doctor’s surgery (now The Mariners tearooms), then the Home and Colonial / Lipton’s grocers, my first employment after leaving school; then the Post Office, (now Boots the Chemists), Stock’s tobacconist (now Penny Royal), and Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe shop.

The White Vine Hotel (formerly Holloway House and now the Whitehouse) was next to Boots the Chemists, then Threshers (up steps), now Rye Book Shop, and Eden’s florists. Cross over Market Road to a second hand book shop, Mence Smiths, Dewhurst butchers shop – Dewhurst butchers again, they had two shops next to each other.

Barclays Bank now closed was next to Woolworths (now Rye’s Library). Continuing into the Mint, there was another doctors’ surgery, the Old Bell Inn pub, the Copper Kettle tearoom, Dunks the greengrocers, a fish and chip shop and an antique shop.

This walk along Cinque Ports Street, Tower Street, Landgate and Rye High Street was remembered by me and my wife, Pauline and my brother, Ernie Vicarey and his wife Yvonne.

No doubt we’ve missed several shops out, but this is what we could remember.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , Nick Forman .


  1. Wonderful memories of when I first moved to Rye in the sixties. Thank you, one point though:
    The Jones Family owned the Central Garage in Cinque Ports Street and when the old Garage burnt down they used the insurance money to rebuild a modern Garage. This had workshops that could repair large vehicles and a Car Showroom selling new and secondhand cars. It was sold for redevelopment, sometime in the eighties.

  2. The doctors near Woolworths was Dr Deerhurst, mygreat aunt Lou was the receptionist. My grandad had a sweet shop where the freezer shop was. Mrs Law had a fish shop down from where the bistro is now and John Wicken main shoe shop was next door. My dad Bruce worked for Mrs Law until her death when her son Raymond took over, before selling to another Rye fishing family whose name escapes me at the moment. My dad used to smoke fish in the ‘devs/delves’ down Ailsworth Lane.
    There was a leather shop on the right as you looked down market road, which was next to Deacons stationers. Dont forget Williams leather shop up the other end maybe next to Ellis’ ironmongers. Also remember the Pizza shop …was it called PayPal Joe’s? Thunders news agents in Cinque Ports Street, Scissors barbers in Needles Passage. Tony and Pauline es which moved from the shop by the layby to Glasson old shop. Campers in Wish Ward, Odells in Market Road. Mary and I. Rye Model Laundry. The chiropodist owned by Mr Cummings.

    Just a few random thoughts. If I’ve got any wrong it’s as I get older !!

  3. Alf Redman took over the fish shop in the Landgate, the model shop in Cinque Ports Street later moved to right hand side of the Landgate next to Horners Stores.
    Mr & Mrs Law and their son Raymond lived opposite us in Lea Avenue for many years.
    Horners also had the shop on the corner of Cyprus Place where I first met Norman Gill who later had the shop in Rye Harbour and then the little shop in Brede.
    Along the road was Burslem’s stone masons which is now the store for a local builder, I spent many hours there watching them while at my Nan & Grandad in Cyprus place.
    They lived opposite the entrance to the council yard (Rye Hire) where the dust cart, road sweepers and maintenance gangs worked out of, better times when local work was done by local men.
    Where did those 60+ years go?

  4. Great to see the photo of Barclays bank where I started my bank career in 1969 along with first cashier Mark Bianci who could cast rows of £s shillings and pence simultaneously! So sad to see the building empty now!

  5. PaPa Joe’s was the Pizza restaurant who had one of the first real pizza ovens in the country. Central Garage after the Jones sold it was run by a man by the name of Lassman, he moved it upmarket and was into a make called Gilbern, these were fibre glass and made in South Wales. My brother and I used to collect the cars and bring them up for him. They were very fast but horrible in the wet!
    I always remember when petrol went over 5/- shillings a gallon for ordinary petrol (to the younger ones that was 25p and a gallon was 4.54 litres) and super (4/5 star) was 5/3d.

    Also missed off was Camier’s the cycle and motor cycle shop in Wish Ward and the large timber yard at the Strand where timber boats would come to from Scandinavia.

  6. I remember there were five grocers shop in the high street the three Vic & Ernie mention plus Schofields and World Stores. On the south side of the high street was Len Hadley Stocking Parlour, Cade the tailor, Jones the dentist Rye Goldsmith was Masters the clock shop the clock is still outside the shop. North side was Prebble Estate Agent, G W Williams leather and sport shop and Golden newsagent & book shop next to Eden’s florist.
    In Tower Street next to Landgate was Bournes General Store confectioner & tobacconist in Cinque Port Street Geering & Collier Estate Agent next door was East Kent Bus office and Waiting Room with their social club above.
    It be nice if us olden could meet have trip down memory lane one day when we allowed

  7. Thank you Vic for taking the time and trouble to share your memories of Rye which have obviously resonated with so many locals. This is exactly whats needed at the moment, interesting and positive articles which readers enjoy reading and are happy to comment on.
    I write regularly for Rye News covering stories about a wide variety of topics but Its very easy to continually churn out stories about parking problems, road works, noisy bikers, council agendas and general doom and gloom but lets face it, this is what’s happening around us locally, they are real events which effect us and readers like to be kept informed so they will continue to be written.
    Vic’s article obviously hit a chord with many readers, reminding us of what ‘normal’ used to look like, if only more readers would do the same and share their memories of Rye, Rye News would make a more interesting read and have a broader appeal.
    We could even be radical and inject a bit of humour into our weekly publication, we could all do with something to make us smile at the moment, come on folks, share your amusing anecdotes/photos with us all, surely “I haven’t got the time” cant be an excuse for the next month……or more? Nick Forman

  8. I grew up in the surgery at 112 High Street. There was a fruit and veg shop next door to us called Bartholemews run by a rather scary old lady. Where the pet shop is now was a music shop, I think it was Chandlers before they moved to Landgate. It had two pianos in the window which must have been somewhat difficult. It later became Mr Birtwhistle’s Deli where I made sausage rolls in the school holidays.

    Opposite the surgery lived Phil (mayor in the sixties) and Rusty Ellis who ran the Ironmongery shop. Rusty was very kind and allowed us to watch childrens’ telly at five o’clock if we knocked on her door. Mr Williams was also opposite in the leather shop and they lived upstairs in the huge flat. I used to feed their goldfish when they went away.
    Where My Sweet Old etcetera is was a fabric and wool shop and a little further down was the World’s Stores where you could buy ” Broken biscuits” from a glass topped tin. I think it then became Pappa Joes.

    Let us never forget Adams which has always been a great institution for Rye and I’m sure the same lino was there when I was about four! Clifford is a very sad loss to the town and I remember his father Jim Foster who ran the Methodist choir. An equally wonderful chap who give out music prizes at our school. Many happy memories of growing up in Rye where I still live and work. When I was very small my mother used to take me to a lady who was a child minder in Rope walk. I believe she also looked after John Tolhurst? Perhaps he will get in touch?

  9. What about Alec Henshaw who ran a coach which took me and my sister to and from school. She was at Rye Grammar andf I went to the Collegiate. Mrs Henshaw ran a little sweet shop halfway down Rope Walk. Very small and dark.

  10. What a fascinating article! As a relative newcomer to Rye (I arrived in 2013 after retiring from working abroad) I find it sad that even in such a short period of time many of the small businesses that were still here have disappeared. My sister, who still lives in Australia, flew over to help me move into my house, and said how much Rye reminded her of our early childhood in Melbourne in the late 1950s – early 1960s. It had the same feeling of community with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker in the parade of shops found in every suburb. The trip “into town” – that is into central Melbourne – to gaze into the shop windows of Swanston Street (past Darrel Lea chocolate and sweet shop – yum!), chic Collins Street and Melbourne’s answer to far-off London’s Harrods – Myers department store – in Bourke Street. Time doesn’t stand still, but some of the passing moments should be noted, as they are in this article, Sincere thanks to the author.

  11. Many thanks for all the precious memories of Rye in earlier days. My own memories go back to 1956 when Mummy and I first came to Rye. I remember the fudge in Simon the Pieman and all the goodies in Ye Olde Tuck Shoppe; Mary Warren JP in her best hat walking to the then Magistrates’ Court in the Town Hall; Mrs. Worth in East Street; Mr. Stocks the tobacconist in his long white apron outside his High Street shop; the Library (now the Kino); Woolworths (now the Library); the Regent Cinema in Cinque Ports Street; Mr. Bowen the dentist at his window in Chequers; 5 doctors in the High Street; the wonderful antiquarian bookshop run by Gilbert Fabes (now Simon Milne); George Carruthers in The Union; later Rumer Godden came to Lamb House and young families lived in Mermaid Street (the Baths, the Devlins).

  12. Nice article, thank you. Just a small point when walking up Landgate. My dear Father owned and ran the Newsagent at No 21 after the Horner family from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s. Dad brought the shop directly from Mrs Horner and re named it M & M Blackman. With no retail experience he and Mum soon learned the ropes and how much work was involved in running a shop in Rye. Trading 7 days a week and initially staffed by family, my brothers and I often reminisce about our long shifts before, after school and the long heavy paper rounds as far as Starlock, almost Peasmarsh or well past the top of Udimore Road and we did it all for .21 pence an hour! The experience of working in ‘The Shop’ set us all up for our future careers, especially mine which I will always be grateful to Mum, Dad and our wonderful customers who put up with the practical jokes and pranks we inflicted upon them to make our longs shifts more fun.

  13. Hello!
    Does anyone remember the name of the little restaurant/Bistro in Rye? My husband & I were staying at Camber Sands in 1983 & we loved Rye so much we ate there several times about 6! During our stay as food was amazing! I seem to remember it had dark Flock wallpaper like my Grandparents front room!! & possibly ‘plumb’ in the name of restaurant but I may have that mixed up with a Cottage we later stayed in in Romney Marsh ‍♀️
    My mum later moved to Kent so we have been back to visit Rye several times & We bought a beautiful Lead lite mirror from a delightful Antique/ furniture shop in the high street – I remember a lot of the shops mentioned previously- Rye is a beautiful quaint town but so sad that many of the old established businesses now have gone progress: yes but nostalgia lost


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