Mermaid Inn rye

Double AA Rosette Restaurant

The Mermaid Inn, Rye
One of England’s oldest and loveliest Inns
Tel: +44 (0)1797 223065
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The History of the Mermaid Inn
1156 to the present day
The Mermaid is unquestionably the most beautiful of all smugglers’ inns and undoubtedly one of the loveliest of all the inns in England.  It stands in Mermaid Street, for which thoroughfare it is claimed - and justly claimed - that no other street in the world exhibits such a wealth of antiquity; and of this antiquity the best specimen is the Mermaid Tavern.
From “Romantic Old Inns” by Leonard P Thompson

The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7EY - Tel: +44 (0)1797 223065 - email
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Mermaid Inn rebuilt 1420



Rye, as a prosperous harbour was admitted to the Membership of the Cinque Ports.   With its Norman cellar and foundations, the original Mermaid Inn probably dates from this year.


The Mermaid stood on this present site, built of wattle, daub, lath and plaster.  The Mermaid brewed its own ale and charged a penny a night for lodging.  Rye was a busy port; in 1336 the town contributed four ships to the Cinque Ports Fleet and maintained and repaired the King’s Galleys.


The French made one of their frequent raids on the town but this time with more success.  They destroyed by fire every building that was not built of stone.  This included the Mermaid and the only the present cellar survived.  The cellar is cut from rock and has a barrel-vaulted ceiling - the oldest part of the Inn - and it has always been the Wine Cellar.



The Inn was rebuilt, much as it still stands today, as the principal Inn of Rye.  Not only were ships’ timbers used in constructions, but also baulks of Sussex oak.  The several fireplaces were carved from French stone ballast rescued from the Harbour. Mermaid Street, formerly Middle Street, was the main entrance from the sea through the Strand Gate.  The anchorage below Mermaid Street had 20 feet of water at high tide,


The Mermaid harboured Catholic priests, fleeing the Continent from the Reformation.  The forbidden letters “J.H.S.” (Jesus Homnium Salvator) may be seen carved in the oak panelling in “Dr. Syn’s Lounge”.


In this period the Mermaid was very prosperous, being used by the Town Corporation for celebrations such as the ‘Sessions Dinner’, the ‘Gentlemens Freeeman’s Dinner’, ‘Mayoring Day’ and the ‘Herring Feast’.  


Michael Cadman, landlord of the “Mearmade in Rye” issued Trade Tokens, made in the Mint.


In February 1735 a smuggler named Thomas Moore had been released on bail.  He went directly to the Mermaid with several cronies, dragged the Bailiff of the Sheriff of Sussex from the Inn and down to a boat in the harbour.  He also took the bail-bonds and warrants against the smugglers.  However, the Bailiff was rescued by the Commander of the Rye Revenue Sloop ‘Amelia’, who found the Bailiff in the “utmost consternation”.


The infamous Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers, numbering 600 men, were frequent users of the Mermaid Inn.  A gentleman born in Rye in 1740 remembered: “when the Hawkhurst Gang were at the height of their pride and insolence having seen them (after successfully running a cargo of goods on the seashore), seated at the windows of this house (the

Mermaid) carousing and smoking their pipes, with their loaded pistols lying on the table before them; no magistrate daring to interfere with them”.


The Mermaid was bought by Mrs May Aldington, mother of the novelist Richard Aldington, and run as a club.  Many artistic people visited, including Dame Ellen Terry, Lord Alfred Douglas (Oscar Wilde’s Bosey), A.C. And E.F. Benson and Rupert Brooke.


Having been used as a billet for Canadian officers during the Second World War, the Mermaid was acquired by a Canadian, Mr L Wilson, who had been billeted at the Inn.


The Installation of Her Majesty the Queen Mother as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was welcomed with great enthusiasm, as well as her visit to Rye in 1980.  A great honour was bestowed on the Mermaid Inn in organising a private luncheon party for Her Majesty in 1982.


bedroom chamber
cellars at Mermaid Inn
There are many stories of haunting at the Mermaid.  With its secret passageways, moving panel and Priest’s Hole, every corner of the building is steeped in history.  See Ghost Stories at the Mermaid
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five-and-twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson
‘Baccy’ for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy

And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by.

Rudyard Kipling                            
Judith Blincow



The Mermaid was purchased in 1993 by 2 local families:  
Judith Blincow (above) and her business partner Robert Pinwill. “We pride ourselves on offering our customers a personal and friendly service in this beautiful historic building”.