Landgate views

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The Landgate in January

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.

Dead pigeon and still broken clock

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 .

18 COMMENTS

  1. Gillian,
    You are right to highlight the apparent disinterest in The Landgate. I feel immensely proud of it as I drive through and would support you in a campaign to maintain it.
    I simply do not understand why Rye Authorities, and shops and commercial premises do not appreciate it. It is literally a gateway to a lot of business’s. It sets the stage, if you like to the uniqueness of Rye.
    Rother DC it seems to me is ambivalent to anything if it’s not on there doorstep.

  2. Rother District Council’s Estates Surveyor will be inspecting the condition of the Landgate (including netting) w/c 1 Feb. Once I have his report I will look at arranging an online meeting of the Landgate Action Group.

  3. I couldn’t help noticing the vegetation growing from the top of the Landgate and the general state of it, the other day.

    I did contact Rye Town Council regarding it and what plan there was to refurbish it and get the clock working. The Town Clerk informed me that very little was being progressed and the fund started by the previous Mayor for the clock had very little in the pot.
    In conclusion, there seems to be little interest and despite the current restraints, surely RDC should be doing something not spending more money on repairing fountains outside the Del a Warr?

    • Yes RDC do need to put their hands in their pockets for this ancient monument instead of pouring so much money into the Del a Warr pavilion! Perhaps they could use the money from outrageous parking fees in their car parks in Rye ie. Gibbet s marsh car park!!

  4. Well Said Steve, will we get a reply from our two representatives on Rother district Council i very much doubt it,Councillor Norton comes out of the woodwork sometimes,as for ms Stevens her silence is deafening as usual.

  5. Not to mention the shrub growing well on the top!! Will the clock ever go again? It would be amazing to see the Land gate properly,wholly restored

  6. What is the logic for using the limited financial resources that are available to fund the repair of a clock, when the very thing it is attached to is crumbling away. A view taken from the wrong end of the telescope I fear.

    As was the case in 2018/19, using any available funds to produce a meaningful and comprehensive Strategic Plan that could secure the preservation of the complete structure, including the clock, would be more far-sighted. It could also be used to approach various funding sources and help secure The Landgate a longterm future for Rye, rather than be back in this same cycle of dilapidation and disrepair every few years.

  7. Frustration, annoyance, despair!
    If it hadn’t been for Gillian’s and others, concerns and initiatives, in 2018, nothing would have been done. However, having pushed for action in 2018, RDC took over. That just resulted in reports and poor value for the funds that were spent. “Friends of Landgate” and offers of constructive input, were sidelined. RDC took over!
    I am a retired civil and structural engineer, a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and Fellow of the Institutions of both Civil Engineers (FICE) and Structural Engineers (FIStructE). I spent more than 45 years finding solutions and achieving value for money, for mainly private commercial clients. I offered to help, as a volunteer, in 2018 but that came to nothing!
    Clearing guava and covering Landgate with netting, was never going to last long. Water is the enemy of old structures. The weather needs to be kept out. There are historic and conservation justifications for achieving this and it should be achievable in terms of the structures and funding.
    In 2018, I asked if the contractors could take record photographs inside the tower but never heard if this was done.
    Unfortunately, RDC has to follow bureaucratic procedures. It needs to commission reports and services from consultants, so that other organisations take responsibility. They must protect the council and be auditable. That shapes what they are able to do and how they do it. Maybe that’s why I chose to work mainly for private commercial clients?
    The future of Landgate is not all despair. It is deteriorating but that process has been ongoing for more than 600 years. Exposure to the weather means that the structure is deteriorating faster now than it has in the past but the risk of catastrophic collapse is very low. Impact by vehicles will not help but the vehicles will come off worse! Ongoing inspections are essential, in order to eliminate risks associated with pieces falling off and to protect public health. It is RDC’s responsibility to do this. Whether anything more will be done, who knows?
    Has anyone inspected the condition of the surface on the approach road?

  8. I agree with much of the above, but as I have said elsewhere in Rye News, although RDC has been lax, they have had their funding cut drastically by the central government. Indeed, the Robert Jenrick wants local authorities to dispose of assets that are not deemed “necessary” or to use that infamous phrase, “value for money”. The works in 2018/9 were obviously not done thoroughly, as we see by the shrub growing back etc. and I do agree the idea of a roof would seem to be best. I remember from being involved in the outcome of work at the Ypres Tower, that RDC do not follow up effectively on poorly done work. However, sadly, unless there is an income for it, or a not for profit body that has access to regular funds, it has to be the local authority. Elsewhere the Landgate would be seen as it should be a heritage asset that must be maintained for both the town and the country. Unfortunately, in the UK, this is not seen as such. They must be disposed of, so as to avoid using public funds and thus save money. Of course, most the funds to restore will also come from the taxpayer, but from a different source. However, RDC must co-ordinate a plan, with regular maintenance to ensure it does not deteriorate further. I rather agree that the clock comes second.

  9. I’ve never understood why as one of the towns most iconic structures it’s has never been utilised as a tourist attraction. Creating or involving it within tours showcasing its rich history and importance to the town. Also this would offer a source of revenue to upkeep the ancient monument..

    • William – the Landgate is included in many guided tours of the town but the income generated from these tours would not sustain any significant contribution to the costs of its upkeep. To actually involve it as a visitable tourist attraction in its own right would be totally impractical due to its location and structure unfortunately – it is a nationally important historical feature which deserves proper protection but in the current economic climate will need private or charitable funding. Unlike the De La Warr pavilion it isn’t able to generate an income in return for investment so will never be an attractive prospect for Rother District Council.

  10. Yesterday (Thurs) RDC’s contractor was cleaning out out the guano so officers can have a closer (and safer) look inside.

  11. Can I rebut the suggestion made by several of your correspondents recently that Rother District Council is neglecting its responsibilities to protect the Landgate. This prejudice, like others directed at RDC, is totally false. The accumulated pigeon guano was cleared out last week. Work to make safe the electrical consumer unit in the eastern tower is imminent. Quotes to remove plant growth and carry out an assessment of the masonry will be carried out in concert with Historic England later this year. Netting to deter the pigeons and periodic removal of accumulated vegetation have not succeeded in halting the deterioration of the fabric. RDC is committed to finding a more permanent solution.

    Everyone wants to preserve the Landgate as a precious reminder of Rye’s proud history but perpetual sniping at Rother District Council is unfair and doesn’t help anyone.

  12. Rye Conservation Society has raised concerns over the Landgate for years as as a result a comprehensive survey was undertaken and some remedial work done a couple of years or so ago. However, netting perishes and has to be renewed. The structure has no potential use other than perhaps to install a communications hub. The repair of the clock is both expensive and not sensible while the structure is open.

    If a roof was installed it would obviate the need for netting, enable restoration of the clock and contribute to the safety and stability of the building. The cost would in the longer term be offset by the savings in recurrent cleaning, re-netting etc. And I think that if guava is collecting the greengrocers should be told!

  13. Thanks Andrew, that’s raised a smile on a Friday morning in lockdown.
    Not sure if it’s my fat fingers, an elderly mobile screen, incorrect autocorrect or a combination of all three. Guava or guano, let’s call the whole thing off! My wife talks to her mobile phone. “How to prune a pieris” drew the answer “Pieris is the capital of France”

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