This year’s traditional St George’s Day Parade Service at St Mary’s church for uniformed organisations in Rye had a French flavour to it as visitors from Fecamp Abbey joined the congregation. Before the service Rye’s Mayor took the salute on the Town Hall steps and after the service a local long term Scout leader, Bill Perfitt, received an Award for Merit marking his distinguished service.
St George has been the patron saint of England dating back to Norman times and the Crusades in the 12th century. At that time Fecamp Abbey owned Rye and surrounding lands, and the work of building St Mary’s – then a Roman Catholic church – began in 1103. Parts of this very English event last Sunday were therefore in French as St Mary’s Rector Canon David Frost welcomed the Fecamp visitors, and Deacon Dehais Didier from Fecamp took part in the service.
Before the service British Legion standard bearers, led by Colonel Anthony Kimber, together with local Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies paraded before the Mayor, Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore, in front of Rye’s historic Town Hall before marching into the church.
The six visitors from the Fecamp Abbey group stayed with members of St Mary’s congregation and joined them for lunch in the church after the St George’s Day service. St Mary’s was nearly completely destroyed by French raiders in the late 14th century, when a fire also destroyed much of the town, but had been owned by the French Abbey for around 200 years from before the Norman Conquest.
A booklet about Fecamp and its links with Rye and St Mary’s by former Mayor Jo Kirkham was published in 2003, nine hundred years after work started on St Mary’s, to mark this long standing link with France, and is currently being updated for a new edition.