Rye Town Model Show

Raids, Royal Visits, Murder, Mystery and Mayhem…

For over 40 years, the unique ‘Story of Rye’ Town Model Sound and Light Show has brought pleasure to thousands of visitors, bringing seven hundred years of Rye’s rich history to life.

  • A snowy night in Rye

History of the Model

The Town Model was lovingly hand built by local couple Joy and Ted Harland between 1973 and 1976. A retired teacher and keen amateur artist, Mrs Harland was inspired after travelling in France and Belgium  by the ‘Son et Lumiere‘ shows she had seen to create an educational and entertaining equivalent for Rye.

Joy used a combination of written records, building surveys, aerial photographs and the Ordnance Survey Map of 1872 to recreate the Rye of approximately 1830 – the time she considered Rye to be at its most architecturally beautiful –  and spent three years working tirelessly in her home to produce each and every detail to 1:100 scale. Ted was a retired electrical engineer; he spent six months wiring in the lights and creating the original audio track once the model was complete.

The Sound and Light Show

The model is now housed in a purpose built theatre that can seat up to 40 people, with a beautiful backdrop of the surrounding countryside painted by beloved local artist John Izod. The stories chosen by Joy and Ted for the show reflect some of the most dramatic episodes in Rye’s long illustrious history – from its early days as a coastal Cinque Port to a smuggling base of the 18th century, via French raids, monastic intrigue, two royal visits and a notorious local crime…

As the stories unfold, the commentary is enhanced by dramatic sound and light effects, all of which combine to capture the imagination in a way that is sure to echo in your mind as you explore the cobbled streets and passages of Rye.

Show times



First show:  10.00 daily, then on demand or by prior booking throughout the day.
Last show: 20 minutes before closing time (4.40pm in Summer, 3.40pm in Winter)


Adults (16+): £3.50

Children 5-15: £1.50 

Under 5’s: Free

16 years and under and must be accompanied by a full paying adult

The show lasts approximately 20 minutes, and is available in English English, French French, German German or Spanish Spanish.

All ages are welcome, although parental discretion should be exercised as to the suitability of the stories for young or sensitive children.

The Town Model theatre is fully wheelchair accessible, and scripts of the audio dialogue are available for the hard of hearing.

Please be aware that the show contains flashing lights.

Special group rates for groups of 10 or more available- please see the Information for Groups page or call on +(44) 01797 226696 for more information