The Landgate entrance gateway to Rye’s High Street looked stunning in the sunlight of a winter’s day last Friday, January 22, standing out against a cerulean blue and cloudless sky. It is such an iconic piece of history, standing firm since the 14th century.
Sadly, I was not there to simply admire this scheduled ancient monument, but to check on a report of a dead pigeon and broken netting visible from the High Street side of the Landgate up at the top, as you can see in the picture. There is indeed such an unfortunate bird tangled in the strands, the vision not helped by other pigeons pushing it aside to land on a perch under the nets.
I am not going into the history of lengthy and difficult negotiations over many years to get a solution to the continuing maintenance and repair of the Landgate. The setting up of the informal Friends of the Landgate and subsequent stakeholder meetings between Rother District Council, Rye Town Council, the Conservation Society, Rye Castle Museum and the Friends of the Landgate resulted eventually in agreement in 2018 that the structure’s future was as a stabilised ancient monument, not a particularly creative solution in my view, but it did resolve the then urgent need to maintain it.
If you have followed the progress of efforts to get the structure repaired, you will remember that in September 2018, Rother District Council agreed, with support from Rye Town Council, the Rye Fund and Rye Conservation Society, to release funds of up to £74,000 to see the clock house repaired, an old wooden flagpole and dangerous electrics removed, the tops of the walls checked, weathered and secured and the guano cleared, which was real progress and felt like a considerable success for everyone involved.
It was not possible to put a roof on the structure, which in my view was really the only proper solution to stabilising this ancient monument. Too expensive and a planning nightmare, as I recall. Other uses for the towers were not followed up, either, for much the same reasons and an understandably distinct lack of motivation.
The problem that was never resolved, and has raised its head again – dead pigeon and torn netting as evidence – was the continuing need to fund and carry out the maintenance on the monument. It was agreed a Rye Landgate Action Group would be set up, and draft terms of reference were circulated and agreed at a meeting in September 2018. Rye Town Council’s then mayor, Michael Boyd, was to convene and chair this. I have absolutely no recollection of a meeting ever happening.
I am perfectly aware that we languish in the middle of an awful pandemic but I feel really strongly that life, even on Zoom, has to go on. Rye needs to preserve its cultural heritage as much now as it did when the steeplejacks were cleaning the inside of the two towers in 2018/2019. Rye is going to need every tourist it can get.
The question is, will the Landgate once again deteriorate to its previously sorry state?
Image Credits: Gillian Roder .