What future for our Landgate?

10
1902
The Buddleia growing out of the brickwork, now bigger since this picture was taken

Back in 2016 I interviewed the then leader of Rother District Council and, amongst other topics, we discussed the state of the Landgate. He obtained for me a statement from the council that included a comment on “the overall plan on how the Landgate is managed in the future”.

We have since learned, of course, that the overall plan consists of no plan and no management unless forced into it. A couple of years ago the condition of the structure was so worrying that Rye News led a campaign to get something done and it was this campaign that finally forced RDC to spend a little of the cash raised in this town (but more often than not spent in Bexhill, often on such white elephants as the De La Warr Pavilion).

A minimal amount was then done – removing excess vegetation including a bush growing out of the original access tower to the roof (when there was one), clearing out the pigeon guano with high pressure hoses (potentially doing further damage to the interior), and putting netting over windows and the exposed interior in an effort to prevent pigeons continuing to use it as their local public convenience. We were also told that a continued maintenance schedule would be instigated to prevent further damage.

Since then it has become all to apparent that the “maintenance schedule” has not changed since my 2016 interview, that is to say, the schedule consists of no maintenance. The result has been that the netting (never a permanent fix) needs repair, the interior is doubtless filling once again with the droppings of hundreds of pigeons and the ever-present gulls, and the bush that was supposed to have been removed, was clearly just cut back and has returned to start developing into something approaching a young tree.

The living and the dead: pigeons atop Landgate’s tower and the netting is requiring repair

Rother will, of course, have an excuse – they always do – and the pandemic provides a ready made one for them on this occasion. However, pandemic or no pandemic, our Landgate has stood for over 700 years and it would be shameful if our generation was the one, after all that time, that finally allowed it to deteriorate into such a condition that at some point, it might even have to be demolished on the grounds of safety.

Covid is in retreat, Rye is coming alive again and are visitors and tourists are returning. This is good news for a town where tourism plays such a large part in its economy. But to continue to attract them we need to have something impressive to show them and as the first structure that many will see as they enter the town, our wonderful Landgate must be preserved for the future. Rother (whose name, more appropriately, should be Bexhill District Council) will do nothing. Our council representatives, however hard they try (and so far it does not seems that they have not tried very hard) will always be in a minority with over 50% of councillors representing wards in or around Bexhill. So it is up to us, the citizens of Rye, to show our pride in our town and come up with a solution that will safeguard the heritage for which we are the current custodians.

Image Credits: Rye News library .

10 COMMENTS

  1. A meeting of interested parties – including Historic England (HE), Rother, the Town Council, Rye Conservation Society, Rye Museum and members of the former Friends of Rye Landgate – to discuss the Landgate was held yesterday. Highlights include: Rother is seeking agreement from HE for a 5-year maintenance prograamme which would see the guano cleaned out every 6 months and vegetation growth inspected annually; the permanent removable of the (always problematic) bird netting; discussions are ongoing with HE on adding the Landgate to the Heritage at Risk Register (which should help to access funding); HE will be providing guidance on preparing a heritage impact assessment on permanent roofing options; the Deputy Mayor (Andi Rivett) taking a lead on ensuring that this momentum is maintained.

  2. Might it have a good idea to flag up this meeting in Rye News ie. a more proactive exercise in (God forbid) PR so that the Rye townspeople could see/read/appreciate that the powers that be ARE concerned with the well-being of both the people and built heritage of this ancient town

  3. I’m confused by Rye, there seems to be a lot of apathy regards preserving its historic appearance. Yet, that’s exactly what people from all over the world come to see. I could live anywhere, but I chose to live in Rye because of its historical appearance and charm. Many envy that I am able to live in such a beautiful location. I will do what I can to preserve it. But it’s clear people need to be more vocal if they care. Is Andi Rivett the man who we need to support ?? What exactly does Rebekah Gilbert do ? And what on earth does the Rye Conservation Society do, as they don’t even reply to communication ? Unless we are given guidance it’s like banging your head against a wall while Rye becomes eroded. Answers please!

    • I am really pleased that we are working together with the many parties involved in this, to see that the Landgate is maintained for the future. There were a number of Rye Town councillors at the meeting that I chaired as Deputy Mayor, and the Mayor (who was committed to other community work at the time of the meeting) is fully on board with us all to making improvements. When we are a little further forward and have progress reports, we will make sure they are communicated with the town. Cllr Andi Rivett.

  4. As someone who lives elsewhere but but loves Rye very much (I first visited in 1952 and have returned many times) I am horrified that the Landgate should be at risk. Is there any organisation such as “Friends of Rye” to rally support from the wider world for a town which is a unique treasure and must be cherished and preserved? I have been proud to be a Friend of St Mary’s Parish Church for some years to support their excellent work. If no such body exists for the town, surely it is time to create one bringing together the civic authority and the commercial interests before it is too late.

  5. Well Done John.
    I have constantly looked at The Landgate and worried about the state of it. I would like to join with you and any organisation who are willing to protect this Portal into Rye.
    Winchelsea has two similar arches. Who looks after those?
    Many years ago I lived and worked in Hampstead and I believe that the Rotary club were responsible for keeping the High Street in particular up to scratch with its historic buildings and facades.
    John, would you or any body or organisation get in touch with me please. I can make a mean placard.

  6. I agree with this article that the Landgate is in need of maintenance and share concerns that there has been little remedial activity since the clean up three years ago. However I can say that the Conservation Society has for years sought to establish a long term programme of repairs and together with the local friends of the Landgate group and others saw Rother commit the funding for a clean up three years ago.
    As the town clerk writes above a new group has been established to try and project a way forward. It includes Historic England who need to consent to any changes to the structure and even to a maintenance programme and I am optimistic we will see progress. We hope that there will be a feasibility study for a simple roof structure to replace the netting which has proved inadequate in that has not stopped the bird mess and also causes suffering to birds that get caught up in it. Without some sort of roof, wind and rain will continue to penetrate the building.
    On a more general point the Conservation Society is a group of volunteers, all interested in maintaining the best characteristics of Rye and I am keen that more people join us in our efforts to preserve the fabric of the town, including the Landgate. So please get in touch if you can help. We may have been less visible owing to the pandemic and associated lockdown, but we are here dealing with planning and other policies and I do reply to correspondence unless it has been lost in the post.
    BW

    • This is certainly very encouraging. I am sure there will be many who will remain vigilant to ensure that good sentiments produce good results.

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