The Museum at 3 East Street is the main exhibition area for Museum artifacts illustrating different aspects of Rye’sl history. This building was once a butchery and then a bottling factory for the local brewery, and it was attached to the shop that is now Help the Aged, in the High Street. The Museum bought the old bottling factory in 1995 and with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, converted it into a Museum in 1998/9, opening it to the public at Easter 1999.
The long entrance to the Museum features not only our second hand bookstall but a pair of ever-so-high stilts used in hop picking, objects from Rye potteries, a vegetable garden and a series of displays on Rye fishing.
One of the prime exhibits is Rye’s Old fire engine, built in 1745 and in use until 1865. That’s 120 years! It is one of the few surviving from that period and could hold 60 gallons of water.
With its leather hoses and battered lead-lined water buckets, it is quite complete. Originally it was on a sledge, which enabled it to travel more quickly over the cobbled streets, but it needed a team of strong men to pull it along as it weighs about 56 cwt (2.8 Imperial tons or 2.845 Kg).
Another especially popular exhibit is the penny farthing , the first machine to be called a bicycle. Can you imagine getting on it and off it, and riding it over Rye’s cobbles?
There is another display on the changes to the coastline over the last thousand years and how this has affected Rye, bringing prosperity and then taking it away. The retreat of the sea, the silt brought down by the rivers, the changes in trade and size of ships all caused the harbour and its trade to decline from the Elizabethan high point.