The skull of notorious Rye killer could be displayed

Rye Gibbet Cage
Rye Gibbet Cage

ONE of the most macabre artefacts in Rye could be put on public display at Rye Heritage Centre.

The skull and iron gibbet cage of the town’s most notorious murderer Jon ‘Butcher’ Breads is currently stored out of sight in the attic of Rye Town Hall and can only be viewed by arrangement with Rye Town Council.

But there is a high demand to see the grisly artefact from visitors to Rye Heritage Centre who have their imaginations whetted by hearing the tale of the murder as part of the Town Model and Light Show.

A replica is on show at the Heritage Centre, but now there has been a suggestion to put the real skull and cage on show there.

Heritage Centre manager Peter Cosstick was keen to point out that any display will be sensitively handled, with the likelihood being that it will be in a smoked glass case which visitors can illuminate if they want to view it.

He said: “Around a third of our visitors ask to see the original exhibit and remains and lots of people are disappointed.

“I think there is an opportunity to display it in a very controlled and sensitive way.

“There may be people who would not want to see it so putting it behind smoked glass with under lighting would give visitors a choice. Some may find it a little too macabre.

“We have not done any costings yet but it is a good marketing opportunity. People love the story.

“The plan would be for it to be installed in November.

Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore said: “I have always thought it was a really wasted resource.”

Cllr John Breeds said: “It worries me a bit. This is a specific known person’s remains and it may give ammunition to those who would like to see him buried.”

John Breads was a local butcher, and landlord of the Flushing Inn, who was executed and hanged in chains for the murder of Allen Grebell, the Deputy Mayor, in St Mary’s churchyard in 1742.

He lay in wait at night in Rye churchyard, armed with a knife, but his real target was the Mayor James Lamb James Lamb, because he had fined him for selling short weight.

Alan Grebell, the Mayor’s brother-in-law had borrowed the Mayor’s cloak to attend a function in the Mayor’s place.

According to the popular story, the next day Breads was heard drunkenly shouting ‘Butchers should kill Lambs’.

He was actually tried and convicted by James Lamb, the very man he was intending to kill, which is thought to be a first in English legal history.

He was hanged and his corpse was gibbeted and left hanging in an iron cage for all to see.

It is said that local women stole bits of him for their rheumatism potions. Now only his skull remains.

Members of Rye Town Council’s policy and resources committee, voted that the issue of where the remains should be kept should be decided by a meeting of the full council.