A Christmas shock

The adoration of the Magi, painted and interpreted by John Ryan for Rye Town Hall

A visitor writes: I was born, grew up in Rye and my parents lived there for many years after the family all fled the nest. Despite now having no family left in my home town, I return three or four times a year to visit the old haunts and enjoy the unique Rye ambiance.

One of the highlights of my yearly Christmas visit is to see the John Ryan nativity (displayed in the Buttermarket underneath the town hall in Market Street and shown above), spot Captain Pugwash and point him out to other visitors who have not discovered John Ryan’s cheeky secret.

I visited on Saturday December 5, had a lovely walk, lunch in Webbe’s, but was horrified when visiting the nativity to see Joseph’s head had been broken off and fixed roughly with two bright shiny Phillips screws.

Screws hold Joseph together

This is a unique piece of original art work from one of Rye’s foremost talented artists and should be treasured and looked after much better than it currently is.

What do we need to do to get it fixed properly for Christmas 2021?

Image Credits: Rye News library , Seana Lanigan .


  1. Repairs and restoration works to the John Ryan triptych were planned for this year, but unfortunately these were prevented from happening due to the pandemic.
    When the triptych is dismantled in January, it will be heading off for some much needed love and attention!

  2. That is good to hear! Looks lovely at the Town Hall. Pleased also that the John Ryan ‘Memorial seat and garden’ opposite Jempsons is looking a little tidier l, albeit a little dull and uninteresting!

  3. Lets also not forget the jungle forming on our beloved Landgate Tower again, encouraging the sea gulls and pigeons to nest again, and most probably another huge bill,when Rother realise,they cannot keep ignoring, our important Landmark.

  4. Glad to see improvements continuing at The Heritage Centre. Could we not add a bit of Festive Cheer in the window…pushing the Skeleton and Gibbet Cage into the background (been the headline exhibit for many months now) and replace it with a jolly picture or model of Captain Pugwash and his crew. At the same time adding a bit of history about his creator Mr. John Ryan and his close connection with Rye.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Wout, we’ll add it to the list of great ideas for consideration that we have to improve the offering at the Centre. Watch this space as they say !

      Simon Parsons, Chair – Rye Heritage Centre CIO

  5. It’s so good to hear that the John Ryan Nativity is to be restored to its original magnificent glory after this Christmas. I look forward to seeing it in 2021, thank you. Also its a wonderful idea from Wout that Rye should try to celebrate John more. I would happily put a few quid in the pot and I am sure others would if that’s whats required to make it happen .

  6. Rye Castle Museum’s East Street site has a large cabinet celebrating Captain Pugwash and his creator. John and Priscilla Ryan were good friends of the museum and the display features many items loaned by the family. The Castle and East Street also host a Pugwash Treasure Hunt for children.
    Sadly both Museum sites have been closed since March due to Covid, as an independent charity it has been a difficult year for us but we hope to bounce back next year!

  7. At the moment there is a big Pugwash display in the windows of the Flushing on Market St, kindly organised by Isabel, John and Priscilla’s daughter. This is part of A Rye Good Window Wanderland.

  8. There is also a splendid and arresting Captain Pugwash (and Cutthroat Jake) display in the ground floor and first floor windows of Rye Fine Wines in Cinque Ports Street!


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