Scaffolding down, paintings up


The Tuesday Painters Club opens its 51st annual exhibition this Friday August 15 in St Mary’s Centre at 2pm. The exhibition will run until August 25 and will be open between 10am and 6pm daily, including Sundays. This coincides with the removal of scaffolding over the centre after several months during the roof’s renovation. Access to the centre is restricted, and will continue to be so until building work on the new cinema complex behind the centre is complete. Kino Digital, who will run the cinema, are advertising for staff for the twin screen cinema’s planned November opening.

The centre’s roof, built in 1874, required major renovation work to be carried out but despite having restricted access the centre managed to stay open while the work was being done. Early in summer the centre hosted a BBC reception for citadel residents before the filming of EF Benson’s comic Mapp and Lucia novels started. Many local residents were affected by the filming and some had their homes used as film sets, while others appeared as “extras” in crowd scenes. A year ago the centre housed Rye’s new Studio School during it’s first term until the new school building was ready.

Access to the centre is restricted while work continues on the Kino cinema at the rear
Access to the centre is restricted while work continues on the Kino cinema at the rear

“The work has cost £130,000” said Shelley Jebb, Chair of the Management Committee, “and we’re looking forward to the cinema opening as access has been so restricted. The roofing repairs were done by Robin Johnson and his team from Rye Roofing who have done an excellent job of restoring the diamond pattern in the roof tiles.” The centre is a Grade 2 Listed Building.

St Mary’s Centre on the former South Coast College site in Lion Street was previously used as a library and Further Education Centre. The college had planned to sell the land in 2010 for housing development; however the land was covered by the Meryon family’s covenant requiring it to be used for educational purposes only, so the college’s plan was blocked. Instead the whole site was acquired by St Mary’s and the Fletcher in Rye Community Interest Company, named after the Jacobean dramatist whose house is near the site. This project is helping to preserve Rye’s heritage by establishing creative and sustainable uses for it’s historic but potentially redundant buildings.

St Mary’s Church used to own the historic Austin Friars monastery in Conduit Hill which it used as a meeting centre. The monastery was sold and the proceeds held in trust by the diocese until they were used to buy the former Further Education Centre in Lion Street. The monastery, which is an Ancient Monument and the responsibility of English Heritage, was most recently used as a pottery. The conversion of the monastery into a theatre has been considered in the past but the monastery is now up for sale.

St Mary’s Centre has two halls and catering facilities for hire and is used for pilates classes, weddings, receptions, meetings and WEA lectures. Other possible uses, including fulfilling social needs in the area, are being considered. For booking enquiries and information please ring 01797 222318 or e-mail:

Photos by Tony McLaughlin

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