Contractors have been working on the Landgate Arch, cleaning the internal floors and stairways of the drum towers either side of the gatewayand preparing the way for a full investigation by Rother District Council. This will review what work is needed to repair the neglected ancient monument. Rye Conservation Society (RCS) has long been pressing for access, in order to establish the condition of this Grade I listed ancient monument, but this had been denied on health and safety grounds by Rother District Council, the building’s owners, because of the build-up of pigeon guano, now removed.
Rother had been under pressure from many quarters since last summer over the Landgate, as reported in Rye News. The Campaign for Democratic Rye (CDR) had complained to the Town Council about many aspects of neglect in the town, including the Landgate. Last September Nick Taylor wrote a detailed article about how the Landgate had been neglected. RCS had been looking at asking English Heritage to put the Landgate on its “At Risk” register, and Rother council then announced it would commission a survey.
Rye Town Council said Rother’s annual budget of £2,000 for maintaining the Landgate seemed to be inadequate and Mayor Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore proposed setting up a fundraising body, the Friends of Landgate, to ensure the monument was properly looked after. “Pedestrianisation would become a sudden and stark reality” said Alan Bolden of CDR “if the arch was suddenly declared to be dangerous” and, if Rother’s survey came to that conclusion, “has anyone visualised the chaos in our town?” Bolden asked.
Much work may need to be done on the Landgate, as a Freedom of Information request to Rother from Rye Town Cllr Mary Smith in December found that Rother had not been spent any money recently on its upkeep. The last expenditure on the Arch had been in 2011-12.
High pressure water jets of up to 4000 psi (1500 gallons per hour) were used, and reclaimed back into separate compartments of the supply tanker (pictured), using state of the art technology developed by Kroll GmbH of Germany, in order to clear up the pigeons’ mess. The contaminated water was then sent for recycling, with up to 95% ‘grey water’ recovery, according to Graeme Sanderson, a manager at Countyclean Environmental Services Ltd from Eastbourne.
The clean-up was carried out without the need for a road closure, and the way is now prepared for an inspection by expert conservation architects, Thomas Ford & Partners from Sydenham. Their survey report is expected to include an assessment of what immediate and future maintenance is required for the safeguarding of this iconic entrance to the centre of Rye. It may also subsequently be possible to devise a scheme for public access to the tower, although the roadway passing underneath presents a major obstacle.