HerStory of Rye – Judith Blincow


HerStory of Rye, funded by the Heritage Lottery Funded Project last year, explores women’s working histories in Rye. We are continuing to add to the project, interviewing and photographing additional women for the website

We are featuring twelve of the women we interviewed for Rye News over the year. You can listen to their stories in more detail on the website.

Judith Blincow is the owner and custodian of the famous Mermaid Inn in Rye. The Mermaid was established in the 12th century but the current building dates from 1420, although the original cellars survive. The inn has a strong connection with the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers, who used it in the mid-18th century as one of their strongholds. Judith first started working at the Mermaid forty years ago. She got the job almost by mistake. She knew how to do wages and accounts but her first role was as receptionist. As her parents did not even have a telephone at home she certainly started in at the deep-end.

After working as a receptionist for five years she moved on to accounts. The business then went into receivership and Judith sold everything – her house and car – and borrowed money from the bank – to buy the property.

She employs fifty-eight staff and she always tries to employ people who live in Rye as it is important to her to create a community. Her staff tend to stay and her housekeeper has been doing the job for forty years.

The maintenance for such an old building is both expensive and, at times, complex. The building has no foundations and is constructed of old ship’s timbers and so it moves, which can cause real problems. Judith relies on her plumber and roofer, and others,  or else the building would soon deteriorate.

Many famous people have stayed at the Mermaid, including the Queen Mother, the cast of East Enders and the cast of Coronation Street, but Judith’s most enduring memory is of the terrible storm of October 1987 when Rye was cut off from the outside world for five days. There were forty people staying at the inn and, without electricity, Judith and her staff had to feed and care for them. Luckily they had gas for cooking but Judith had to rope in all her family, including her 100-year old grandmother, to write out the menus each day. Many properties were badly damaged in the gale but happily the Mermaid only suffered one broken tile.

Judith says that 99% of her customers are lovely but there is always one who causes a bit of a headache!

The HerStory project is ongoing and we are still welcoming volunteers to undertake interviews. If you are interested please contact Ali Casey at ali.casey63@gmail.com for further information.

Image Credits: Susan Benn .

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  1. So great to hear of the longstanding ownership by Sally, from her initial post as receptionist. I’m always cheered to learn of local origins, particularly heartwarming stories, such as the Storm of 1987 and its involvement with residents and Sally’s family. Back in 2008, myself and my 2 teenaged daughters decided to visit The Mermaid after hearing that Johnny Depp had bought The House Opposite. The poor regulars – and bar staff – had to tolerate our nursing a soft drink each for longer than acceptable really, but funds were low at the time! Also, we couldn’t help but squeal every time the latch clicked and the bar door swung open…Is this him?! Of course, we since learned that it wasn’t so and our belated apologies go out to the ‘real’ owners, who may have received sloshy notes and some glittery stars which were hurriedly posted through the letterbox.


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