Literary Rye

Mermaid Street, Rye

We’ve visited Rye in East Sussex before on this blog, looking at Lamb House which was associated with various literary figures, including Henry James and Rumer Godden.

Let’s now see a selection of who else with bookish leanings found so much to inspire them in this picturesque and historic town.

Jeake’s House, Rye: yes, Mermaid Street is that steep!

We begin with the 17th-century Jeake’s House, one-time home of American author Conrad Aiken. Here was born his daughter Joan Aiken (though unlike her father she has no plaque to mark her connection here). Now a superior B&B, its interior is sumptuously furnished and decorated, to judge from just its ground floor rooms.

Hallway of Jeake’s House, Rye

In the living room facing the steep cobbled thoroughfare of Mermaid Street is an early Broadwood piano, with walls lined by antique prints and paintings.

Living room, Jeake’s House
Mermaid Street viewed from Jeake’s House

Other public rooms retain a rich, almost decadent Victorian feel, while board games and — naturally — books invite guests to linger awhile in comfort.

Dining room
Book corner

Also in Rye one can see the frontage of the Gothick house where Radclyffe Hall, best known for her lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, lived in the 1930s.

Radclyffe Hall’s house, Rye

Radclyffe Hall was friends with E F Benson who, we’ve previously noted, based his stories of Mapp and Lucia at the early Georgian Lamb House.

Lamb House entrance

Just inside the front door is where Henry James’ visitors would leave their visiting cards, and the National Trust has indicated the range of famous guests by placing modern versions of these on a table in the hall.

Incidentally you can see the mechanism that was devised should any resident mistakenly forget their key after shutting the front door: the door knocker can be twisted to operate a latch lever.

The hallway of Lamb House, Rye

Also in East Sussex is Monks House, home to Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and it is here where we shall next arrive for a prolonged visit.

12 thoughts on “Literary Rye

    1. Yes, Lizza advised me to talk to Jenny the proprietress of Jeake’s House if I wanted a tour of the house, including Conrad Aiken’s former study, but unfortunately she was in a meeting when I enquired so I was only able to have a look round the ground floor. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the virtual tour, Dale!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m sure you’ll love Rye, Charlie: atmospheric streets and buildings, independent shops and antique stores, literary associations and a decently stocked bookshop—what’s not to like? 🙂 Hope you enjoy Monks House too, and take plenty of pictures!


  1. Pingback: #Review: Mapp and Lucia by Edward Frederic Benson – Literary Potpourri

  2. Fascinating, such a great post. I am now very interested in East Sussex literary connections, but it wasn’t always the case with me before. I have been to Rye twice, but needless to say did not explore its literary connections at that time. I know Monk’s House near Lewes, but have not been there either. Other literary connections in East Sussex…I have been to Rudyard Kipling’s House in Burwash, East Sussex – it impressed me immensely, and since you mention Rumer Godden in your other post I know that she and Angela Carter were born in Eastbourne, but I know of no special places to visit there connected to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a Mecca for writers: Edith Nesbit lived the other side of Romney Marsh near Dymchurch, didn’t she, and is buried in St Mary in the Marsh. I also recently noted that Sam Youd, who as John Christopher wrote classic SF novels like the Tripods trilogy, lived in Rye for many years; this year was the centenary of his birth. Children’s novelist Malcolm Saville lived in nearby Winchelsea, as did Spike Milligan, who is buried there (though we never got to visit his grave in the churchyard).

      Liked by 1 person

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