THE Women’s Tower section of Rye’s landmark Ypres Castle has re-opened after being transformed by an extensive renovation project.
It is a great turn-around as at one stage it was feared the building could be lost due to water damage.
The work has come about as part of the Heritage Lottery backed Women and Children of Rye project, a partnership project between the Rye Museum Association and the Rye Partnership.
The Women and Children of Rye Project is a three-year project, which will end in the autumn of this year.
The project has given many members of the community the opportunity to learn about the rich heritage of Rye, in particular that of local women and children, and in some cases about the lives of their ancestors.
The renovation work includes a new exhibition in the Women’s Tower and a Virtual Tour giving disabled visitors an insight into all areas of the Museum for the first time.
Guests at the opening event, including Councillor Jenkins, the Chairman of Rother District Council and Alastair Fairley from the Heritage Lottery Fund, were treated to the sight of the Rye Town Crier and the Town Gaoler (Museum volunteer Mike Berry) taking a woman prisoner (Val Berry) to be incarcerated in the Tower.
This was followed by the official opening of the Women’s Tower by the Mayor of Rye, Councillor Shaun Rogers.
Jo Kirkham, Chairman of Rye Museum Association, said: “It was great to see the Women’s Tower finally opened.
“At one point we thought we might lose the building as the damage from the water penetration was so bad.
“We are very grateful that the HLF fund has not only enabled us to make essential repairs, but also to undertake research into the lives of local women and children.”
Rain did not dampen thespirits of those attending and in the afternoon participants in past projects run by the Women and Children of Rye Project were then invited to come and view the Tower.
The project’s Community Learning Officer, Michelle Playford said: “We still have a full programme of activities and events between now and the autumn. I hope that more people from the town will come along and get involved.”
The Women’s Tower is believed to be the country’s oldest women’s prison to survive in its original form.
Before the project won lottery funding Rye Museum Association, which owns the site, had been advised by experts that remedial work was urgently needed for the Grade 1 Listed Women’s Tower to survive.
The tower suffered bomb damage during the Second World War.
Rye MP Amber Rudd said: “I am delighted that such an important site in Rye could be saved and restored, thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.”