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.
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 .