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Ypres Tower and part of Rye Town Wall

A Scheduled Monument in Rye, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9498 / 50°56'59"N

Longitude: 0.7356 / 0°44'8"E

OS Eastings: 592248.008647

OS Northings: 120269.092348

OS Grid: TQ922202

Mapcode National: GBR RZ1.6T5

Mapcode Global: FRA D6FL.NDF

Entry Name: Ypres Tower and part of Rye Town Wall

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 11 May 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002302

English Heritage Legacy ID: ES 8

County: East Sussex

Civil Parish: Rye

Built-Up Area: Rye

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Rye

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a defensive tower and part of the Rye Town Wall. The date of construction of the tower is not known but it is most likely contemporary with the town defences and therefore built between 1329 and the end of the C14.

Source: Historic England


The monument includes a defensive tower and part of the Rye Town Wall most likely built between 1329 and the end of the C14. The tower has been the subject of archaeological analysis, particularly internally, by Martin & Martin (2007) and the following is therefore a summary only.

Ypres Tower is built of iron-stained sandstone coursed rubble masonry with evidence that this was once rendered or covered in a wash. Its ashlar dressings include ironstone and Caen stone. The internal walls were limewashed with some evidence of render at the ground floor.

The tower is oriented on a NW to SE alignment but for simplicity the cardinal compass points will be used in the following description (ie as though the entrance elevation is to the N rather than the NW. The tower is square in plan, with projecting ¾ round towers at each of its four corners, and sits forward (to the S) of the line of the former town wall. Access is through a town-side (N) elevation ground floor doorway which is protected by a portcullis. In the C19 a further external doorway was created in the centre of the basement’s W wall.

The tower is of three storeys – a basement, ground floor and first floor – but the fall of the land from N to S is such that the tower’s ground floor is at the first floor level of the S elevation. Access between the floors was via a spiral staircase in the NE tower but the basement is now (2016) reached by an inserted staircase of 1959. Room dimensions are from Martin & Martin (2007, 3): the basement measures 15’11’’ square (4.85m square) and is 7’8’’ (c2.35m) high; the ground floor dimensions are not given but this is the middling room in terms of size with a height of 12’ (c3.65m), and the first floor room is the largest at 17’4'' square (5.30m square) with a height of 13’8’’ to the wallplate (it is not known whether the original roof above was flat or pitched - see below - and the latter would have provided more space). Above is the modern flat roof with parapets.

There are four corner towers or turrets with the NE one housing the stair. The other three have small tower rooms at the ground and first floor (they are solid at basement level). A garderobe projects from the NE tower’s E elevation.

The PRINCIPAL ENTRANCE ELEVATION faces N towards the town. At ground floor level is a round-arched entrance with ashlar quoins (a mixture of historic examples and modern repairs). While the entrance to the tower has always been in this position (and elements of its original form can be observed internally) externally the entrance was remodelled in the C15. However, the protective portcullis above is a primary feature. The doorway was subsequently blocked and converted to a window (probably in the C17) which was subject to archaeological recording by Archaeology South-East (Martin & Martin, 2007) prior to its unblocking in 2006 and restoration as the principal entrance. Above the doorway at first floor level is a central window opening – an enlargement of the C15 or C16 - which has a segmental-arched head, ashlar quoins and has been fitted with an iron grille. The two turrets on this elevation are lit by narrow loophole openings with ashlar dressings and iron bars; there is a pair to each tower at ground floor level and a further three at first floor level, two to the NW tower and one to the NE. The western ground floor window to the NE turret has been restored (and has modern quoins) as there was a secondary doorway here in the post-medieval period (illustrated as such on an engraving of 1784 by S H Grimm; see Martin & Martin op cit, 37). Just to the N of this window is a cast iron pump with the date 1881. To the E of the NE turret is a projecting garderobe at ground and first floor level, the chute of which expels to the N of the former exercise yard wall at the ground floor. The western ground floor window to the NW turret was later cut through to form a doorway (extant when depicted by Grimm in 1785) but was subsequently infilled in rubble. There are modern railings and hand rails to the north of the tower in front of the main entrance and to the NE.

The W ELEVATION has a C19 inserted central entrance at basement level. This has a pointed-arched surround with ashlar dressings and a solid planked door. Above is a single loophole window to the first floor (to the S), with an iron grille. The turrets are again lit by similar loophole openings as before, in this case single windows lighting each tower at both ground and first floor levels. (Many of the ground floor windows in the NW, SW and SE turrets have been blocked.)

The S ELEVATION is lit by a central window to each of the three floors. These are flat-headed and barred with ashlar dressings and comprise a two-light opening at first floor and a single light to the ground floor and a two-light window at basement level. The latter is of unknown date but is not original: it is not shown on the Van Dyck drawings of 1633-4 (Martin & Martin op cit, A2) and is therefore presumed to be C19 when the other alterations to the basement took place. The turrets are lit by similar openings as before with two openings on each floor of each turret.

The E ELEVATION of the tower is largely concealed by the C19 cells (separately listed), but at first floor level there is now a flat roof (the roof of the cells and therefore separately listed) which can be accessed via a doorway formed from the former NE window of the SE turret. To the N of the cells is the stone roof of the garderobe which is steeply battered and falls from W to E.

On each elevation the PARAPET was raised in 2006-7. The original height and configuration is not understood. There is however archaeological evidence of the presence of machicolations, on the N, W and E sides. Evidence is inconclusive as to whether the original ROOF was flat or pitched. In the C15 or early-mid C16 this was replaced by a pitched roof (Martin & Martin suggest probably in 1552). This was in turn badly damaged by an air raid in 1942 and a flat roof was installed in the post-war repairs of the 1950s; and has been repaired subsequently. The present leaded covering was part of the restoration of 2005-7.

The BASEMENT has an inserted modern timber staircase and wooden ceiling (forming the ground floor above). The wall tops have been repaired and raised in brick in the C19 indicating that present ground floor level is slightly higher than the original. There are stone and brick corbels along the E and W walls, to support the floor, which are of the same date. A small modern kitchenette has been added against the E wall by the stair. There is a blocked doorway in the NE corner which formerly gave access to the spiral staircase. This has a two-centred and chamfered arched surround. A doorway was inserted in the W wall in the C19. This was covered at the time of inspection (November 2015) but according to Martin & Martin (op cit, A2) has a brick segmental arch. The inserted S window has a splayed brick reveal with a flat but stepped brick and stone cill, a segmental arched head and two lights, which are of stone and square-headed.

The GROUND FLOOR is fitted with a plank floor of possible C19 date. There is a modern reception/display unit to support the building’s use as a museum with the aforementioned flight of modern timber stairs to the E leading down to the basement. In the W wall is a small fireplace with a stone surround; this has a segmental arched head formed of two massive Kentish Ragstone blocks. The internal dressed jambs of the main entrance, which has a shallow pointed arch in contrast with the exterior, are largely from the primary phase of construction. The central S window, which has a segmental arch, has a splayed reveal converted to a walk-in recess. There is evidence for a blocked window with a two-centred segmental-arched head in the E wall. There are original stone corbels on all walls. The doorways to the corner turrets are set forward of the turret proper with the NW, SW and SE turrets all having recesses behind the internally-opening doors in which the doors could sit when open. The original form of doorway was of ashlar with a two-centred arch and a chamfered frame. The door, to the NE turret, of some antiquity but unknown date, is double skinned, with vertical planks to its exterior face and horizontal planks facing into the turret, with iron studs. A viewing hatch with iron surround and grill is cut in and there is a massive wooden lock and draw bolts allowing the door to be locked from the inside, thus preventing access to the upper floors. The doorframe here has a timber N jamb. Beyond, the spiral staircase with a central newel rises to the upper floors. Against the wall inside the turret is a heavy plank which is a remnant of the locking mechanism for the post-medieval external door (now removed and restored to its original window loop form). The door to the SE turret is similar. The SW turret entrance has been altered by the insertion of a timber-squared doorframe of C15-mid C16 date. The NW turret doorway is a modern replacement. All turrets have simple loophole window openings (some are blocked internally). The ceilings to the turrets are domed.

The FIRST FLOOR has a large stone open fireplace in the E wall. This has a massive timber bressumer set higher than and replacing the original stone one, traces of which survive. The roof above is timber and is a modern replacement, as are the stone corbels which support it. Windows on this floor have modern wooden casements inserted as secondary glazing. All bar the S window have chamfered segmental-arched heads and walk-in recesses, some blocked. Loop-hole windows within the turrets are largely as on the ground floor although generally slightly larger, and with varying degrees of alteration. All of the turret doorways on this floor are original and have simple two-centred arched openings, some parts of which are repairs. The NW, SE and SW turrets have a door recess internally. The NW doorway has an additional timber frame which may be from the C15 to mid C16 phase; there is similar in the NE turret. The surviving doors on this floor are of planked and studded construction as on the ground floor. The turrets have domed corbelled ceilings. Floorboards in the main chamber are not dated but are clearly of some antiquity with surviving graffiti where a chequerboard for a game has been scratched on the floor. The spiral staircase in the NE turret provides access to the garderobe and the roof. The doorway to the garderobe again has a two-centred stone arch. The garderobe chamber is cut into the thickness of the wall and has a part-flat and part-corbelled roof. The garderobe chute has a modern replica wooden seat.

The ROOF was not inspected.

There are modern and electrical light fittings throughout the interior, also metal bannisters added for safety to the spiral staircase.

On the W wall of the NW turret is the scar of the TOWN WALL: this is circa 2.1m wide with a very small section of wall still projecting. Martin & Martin have recorded that early photos indicate it was once of greater height than the scar now reveals (op cit, Appendix A, A7).

To the E of the tower is a more substantial section of town wall which extends from the garderobe projection of the NE turret for a length of at least 6.5 metres and which then merges into and forms a part of the N wall of the former exercise yard (which is separately listed). The wall is battered on its S elevation. The N elevation has been cut back to reduce its width and was incorporated as the S wall of the adjacent house(s). The position of the loopholes in the NE turret of the tower (when compared with those to the other turrets) would strongly suggest that either the tower post-dates the wall or they are contemporary, as the window positions accommodate the wall. However, as the town wall and the garderobe projection are bonded together it would seem that they are contemporary.

The monument includes the extant medieval fabric of the Ypres Tower and the two adjoining sections of the Rye Town Wall; it also includes a 2 metre buffer for the monument's protection.

Modern fixtures to the tower - secondary-glazed casements, electrical fixtures, fittings and lights, smoke alarms, mirrors, fixed fire extinguishers, radiators, the inserted timber stair to the basement, the basement kitchenette, the ground floor reception units, museum signage/boards, museum display shelves/units/hooks, safety signage, metal safety banisters/railings, the ground floor NW turret internal doorway, the replica garderobe seat, the first floor ceiling, tower roof, lead covering and supporting replacement corbels, the flagpole and supports - are all excluded from the scheduling, although any historic fabric surrounding them is included in the scheduling.

External to the tower any signage associated with the museum use (including safety signage) is excluded as are modern railings and handrails, safety railings, dwarf walls, electrical fixtures, fittings and lights, benches, the anchor affixed to the N elevation of wall to the E of the tower, rubbish bins, garden planters and climber supports, steps into and out of the former exercise yard, the exercise yard gate and paving slabs, although any historic fabric around these items, or the ground beneath them, is included in the scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Ypres Tower and part of the Rye Town Wall are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival/condition: these are substantial medieval defensive structures and while the survival of the town wall at this location is only partial it is still of considerable archaeological significance. The tower survives very well with later phases of adaption for its judicial/prison use adding to its interest and character;

* Period: town defences are representative of the medieval period and the Rye Town defences are part of a spate of such building in response to French attacks on the south coast during the Hundred Years War of the late C14 and early C15;

* Rarity: the tower is unusual in form in being relatively small and compact, yet massively built of local stone;

* Documentation: the tower has been the subject of archaeological building recording which enables a good understanding of its original form and subsequent development;

* Group value: Ypres Tower and this section of Rye Town Wall possess group value as part of the town's medieval defences with other stretches of town wall and the Landgate.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brodie, Croom, Davies, , English Prisons, (2002)
Draper, G, A History of a Sussex Cinque Port to 1660, (2009)
Goodall, J, The English Castle, 1066-1650, (2011), 218-9
Martin, D , Martin, B , Rye Rebuilt, (2009)
Rye Castle website, accessed 11 November 2016 from
Harris, R B, 2009, Rye Historic Character Assessment Report, Sussex Extensive Urban Survey (EUS)
Hogg, I, 2013, Archaeological Watching Brief Report Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex. Archaeology South-East report; project 5700
Margetts, A, 2011, Archaeological Watching Brief Report Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex. Archaeology South-East report; project 4847
Martin, D & Martin, B, 2007, An Archaeological Interpretative Survey of Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex. Archaeology South-East report; projects 466 & 2296.
Priestley-Bell, G, 2000, An Archaeological Investigation at Rye Museum, Rye, Sussex. Archaeology South-East report; project 1232

Source: Historic England

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