About US
Our Story

Our Story


The Rye Town Model is a magnificent 1:100 scale model of Rye as it was in the mid 19th Century – its scale has to be seen to be appreciated as it covers an area of around 15 square metres! Lovingly built by two local residents who started work on it in 1973, first exhibited in 1976 it forms the centre piece of a sound and light show – “The Story of Rye” – presenting 750 years of history including ghosts, myths and legends


Rye Heritage Centre is a registered Charity, registration no 1187978, a Charitable Incorporated Organisation
The charity was formed in early 2020 to take over the running of Rye Heritage Centre and to purchase the Rye Town Model to preserve its future.

It had been announced by the previous operators, Rye Town Council (RTC) in late 2019 that the centre would be closed and the model put in to storage as they could no longer justify the subsidy needed from Council Funds to continue. A strong swell of local public opinion resulted in a campaign to retain the centre and agreements were reached with RTC to take a lease on the building and to acquire ownership of the Model.

The Charity officially took over on 1st April 2020 with little or no ceremony due to the arrival of the pandemic which severely hampered intentions to re-open, finally in July 2019 with a little help from the Culture Recovery Fund and some generous local donations the centre was re-equipped with the basic necessities and the public were welcomed back.


The famous Rye Town Model is approaching 50 years old and has been located at Rye Heritage Centre for many years in a purpose-built auditorium. Still entertaining visitors but now owned and managed by the Rye Heritage Centre charity.

The rest of the building had been used as a Tourist Information Centre, a gift shop and housed some basic heritage information displays along with the Vintage Penny Arcade machines.

At the time of closure Tourist Information was transferred to Rye Town Hall along with retail equipment and stock leaving the Charity with an almost blank canvas to re-energise the centre for the future


Now in April 2022 the Charity has survived the damage done to visitor numbers over the last two years caused by the pandemic and to some degree by changes to the visitor demographic brought about by Brexit.

We now stand poised to move forward with our regeneration plans, there is much work to be done, more volunteers will be needed and, most importantly, funds will need to be raised to achieve our goals.


This year will see the refurbishment of the upper floor and the creation of The Smuggler’s Attic – a new walk-through interactive experience. Work has already started on designing and producing new heritage interpretation displays and exhibits and research projects are underway.

The electronics which operate the sound and light show are in need of renewal and modernisation, what was state of the art 30 years ago is now irreplaceable so this is a major project requiring considerable funding, so that will be a focus too

Our Charity

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For the future of Rye Heritage Centre.


More than 12 people visiting? Experience private showings and talks with exclusive group rates.


Working with schools & colleges we can provide educational materials and talks for many subjects.


Ghost tours, historical tours and more can be purchased directly from the center or here online.

Your visit

Every visit to Rye should include a trip to one of the most popular attractions in town – Rye Heritage Centre. Explore the rich history in which your very footsteps will follow.