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Deterioration of Rye's Historic Water Pump

Deterioration of Rye's Historic Water Pump in Rye, East Sussex

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Julia Watson
27 Sep 2016

My family have lived in Rye since 1974 when my parents became custodians of Lamb House before moving to Church Square. My widowed mother now lives next door to the Rye Water Pump, a beautiful historic construction. I am a regular visitor to my mother, so when I came down in spring and saw just how congested the pump's garden had become with weeds, her wonderful carer and I set about pulling them up and piling them up for removal by whatever authorities keep the conservation areas and buildings of Rye in good order.

This week, I noticed that not only had our weed pile not been removed but that other citizens had decide the area behind the pump hidden from passing view had been established by our weed pile as a dump for their own vegetation, and two hewn birches had been left there.

It seemed to me that this garbage would be more likely to be collected if I were to toss it all over the pump garden wall and into the corner of the churchyard, which I have now done. Two of my mother's carers and I then spent the morning weeding and clearing the pump itself of toadflax, young buddleia and foxgloves and other dislodgers of mortar.

The pump is in a perilous state. It became clear while weeding as high as we could reach that not only is the building's mortar considerably weakened and many of the bricks loose, but the pump's roof is now dropping tiles. There is also a leak at the base of the pump rising a third of the way up the brickwork.

The wood steps that originally allowed public access to the interior of what is a remarkably sophisticated structure of wide interest were long ago allowed to disintegrate and have been removed. Now the wood surrounds of the pump handle in the road outside the garden are beyond repair.

This is an important historical structure and one which draws tourists to it, and is part of regular formal tours of Rye. When my parents first arrived in Rye, maintenance of key historic buildings such as this were the pride and enthusiastic responsibility of the Rye Conservation Society. Now it is being allowed to disintegrate without care.

It is a remarkable achievement that £1.4 million of private money was raised locally to build the Kino. However, tourists on whom Rye greatly depends do not come to spend their time in the cinema. Can money not be found to restore an important and beautiful structure in this unique historic town before it is too late?

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