Rye Harbour is a village located on the East Sussex coast in southeast England, near the estuary of the River Rother: it is part of the civil parish of Icklesham and the Rother district. Rye Harbour is located some two miles (3.2 km) downstream of the town of Rye.
The River Rother from Rye seawards, and including the village of Rye Harbour, is under the control of the Environment Agency. At the village itself there are yacht moorings; a small fishing fleet (coded RX: Rye SusseX); some commercial shipping; and a long-established lifeboat station. There is also a holiday village called Frenchman's Beach alongside the village itself.
The village community has set up a pictorial website, aimed at promoting its history.
Rye Harbour village is 200 years old, having been built on an extension of the shingle beaches, progressively deposited by the sea over the last 800 years. These deposits limit access to the original open medieval port of Rye, now two miles (3 km) inland from the sea. The village has one of the chain of Martello Towers constructed during the Napoleonic Wars; it was built on the beachline of the time. The beachline has now advanced a further kilometre southward.
Its geography has thus been shaped by its position at the frontier with the sea and at the frontier of the United Kingdom.
The initial establishment was that of a company of dragoons in 1805, followed shortly after by the first fishermen's huts and the building of the Martello Tower (1809/10). As the Napoleonic wars ended so the smuggling trade which had long flourished all along the south coast again increased in scope and intensity, leading to the establishment of the Coast Blockade. A watch house was built about 1825 to provide shelter and support for the blockade detachments and still stands, complete with the flagstaff for signalling to shipping.
The harbour is also known for the tragedy of the Mary Stanford lifeboat. At 6:45 am on the morning of 15 November 1928, the Mary Stanford from the Rye Harbour RNLI station responded needlessly to a Latvian steamer in distress. The crew of the Mary Stanford did not know that the vessel had already been rescued by another lifeboat and, in heavy rain and seas, all of the seventeen-man crew of the Mary Stanford were drowned. The reason for this is still somewhat contested. The bodies of all but the Coxswain's son, John Head, were found and buried. A memorial service in honour of the Mary Stanford and its crew takes place every year in the village.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was established in 1970 and offers special wildlife experiences to 360,000 visitors a year. Managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust, it has national and international designations and is home to more than 300 rare or endangered species. There is a staffed information centre 300 yards (270 m) south of the village and the private road and birdwatching hides are ideal for wheelchair users.
In 2019, the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre is being built on the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. This is a new visitor centre, and a joint project between Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
Media related to Rye Harbour at Wikimedia Commons