Window on a Very Different World
For almost 900 years the Parish Church of Rye, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, has dominated the hill on which the old town stands. It has stood through good times and bad. In 1377 when the town was looted and set on fire by French invaders the church was extensively damaged. The roof fell in and the bells were carried off to France. They were recovered the next year when men from Rye and Winchelsea sailed to Normandy and took them back!
In 1742 a murder took place in the churchyard when Allen Grebell was killed by John Breeds who mistook him for the Mayor. John Breeds was hung and his remains placed in an iron cage on Gibbets Marsh. Later this was moved to the church and later still to the Town Hall where it is to this day. The grave of Allen Grebell can be seen in the Clare Chapel.
There are several interesting stained glass windows in the church, although none are very old. The most beautiful is by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1891) in memory of Mary Tiltman and can be seen in the North Aisle.
The figure in the bottom right hand corner (in mayoral robes) is the mayor of Rye, E. F. Benson, also writer of the fabulous Mapp and Lucia sories. This is his memorial window. His black dog also appears in foreground of the Nativity scene. Benson himself drafted the design of this window. The angels 'tumbling down' from the top are all his idea. His brother, A.C. Benson was Archbisop of Canterbury and wrote the (now politically incorrect) words to 'Land of Hope and Glory'. He is commemorated in another window in the church.
(Info supplied by John Breeds)