Of all of the hideaways we’ve visited for Kip, none has such a tangible sense of history as Tudor Cottage. It is absolutely brimming with character, and you can really imagine the past lives the house has led when you stay. We adored its wonky stairs, vast fireplaces and mullioned windows, and loved being able to just casually wander off the high street through our front door, to the envy of all passers by.
Inside, you’d hardly know you’re in the centre of town. It feels utterly peaceful, a place to slow down and just be. We stayed for 2 nights and the time flew as we explored beautiful Rye, with its quirky independents and cobbled streets, and the countryside around. We could happily live here, we mused to one another, and when we talked to owners Barrie and Jo, they’d done exactly that for a few months during lockdown, and described it as a really magical time. Here’s the back story of their very special cottage…
Photography by Will Westaway.
“The house was originally built in 1480, and would have just been the front of the current building, connected to a similar space in the neighbouring property. It was half of a traditional Hall House where life happened in a large vaulted room with an open fireplace for cooking, heating, drying and the like. The house has been developed over the centuries but its facade as you see now is very much 16thC with its original upper mullion windows and wooden quatrefoil decorations. We were lucky enough to be given the old sale deeds to the house dating back to 1708, so have been able to trace its previous usage. Being in the commercial part of Rye, it has been home to a wigmaker, a tallow chandler, a hairdresser, a shipwright and a gentleman farmer.
Rye was once a bustling port, with trade ships coming up the river directly in to the town. This also made it a haven for smugglers. Stories abound of smugglers escaping law enforcers by moving from house to house through secret doors in the eaves. Our house has a tiny wooden ‘door’ in the top-floor bedroom — a space which would have been in the attic of the house –which may well have been one of these escapes.
How did you come to own the house?
We initially bought it as a weekend retreat when we were living in London, and used to rent it out Mon-Fri, then have it as a refuge of relaxation for ourselves at weekends. We would drive to Rye after work on a Friday and just feel the stress fade away as soon as we arrived. We always felt a little sad to leave on Sunday night, so decided to make the life change to live here permanently — to rent this cottage out full-time and buy a smaller house on the other side of Rye for ourselves. But almost as soon as we’d sold our London house, the country went into lockdown before we’d completed on our Rye home, so we moved into Tudor Cottage for a few weeks, which became a few months… We absolutely loved living in a space that has so much history — it felt very special to be part of its story.
What was your design inspiration for the interiors?
Most importantly, we wanted to create a space that was totally sensitive to the age of the house and its traditional features. We wanted to have modern comforts but in a way that blended in rather than stood out. We very much mixed old and new throughout, with antique and vintage furniture, textiles and objects alongside pieces made today. Modern pieces are often handmade by small independents, such as the cast iron beds made to traditional patterns and methods but in the larger modern sizes. The joinery in the kitchen and dining room was made locally by a very talented craftsperson. The antique and vintage pieces have a simplistic, rustic feel and very much show their age and prior life. We think this helps the house feel laid back, and adds to its soul.
What are your favourite elements of the hideaway?
I love the large inglenook fireplaces as there’s such pleasure in having them crackling away in the background – the perfect setting for a game of post-dinner scrabble or cards, or for cosying up and reading a book. I also love the bathrooms, with their cast-iron baths – the back one is wonky, and has a view out of its tiny windows into the garden; taking a bath is a real joy.
Where did you source the furnishings?
A lot of antiques and vintage pieces were found locally in Rye, Hastings, St Leonards and a little further afield. Namely Puckhaber, Antiques Hadden, Crock and Cosy, Cosy Dot Company, AG Hendy. Contemporary art was discovered at McCully and Crane who have the most beautiful selection. Our French vintage chairs reupholstered in old French linen were from The French House.
And what’s your favourite time of year to be in Rye?
Without sounding cheesy, it really is good all year round. In the summer when it’s warm and sunny, there’s nothing better than swimming in the sea or paddleboarding along the rivers. In stark contrast, when it is cold and perhaps even a bit wet and the nights draw in early, we love to have a delicious dinner at the local pub and then decamp to the house to stoke up the fires and watch a movie or play a very competitive board game.
There are lots of festivals through the year celebrating food, music and local tradition. One of the most amazing is Rye Fawkes; a large gathering of pirates, smugglers, gentry and ghouls form a drum-playing procession and carry flaming torches made of chestnut and tallow. They weave through the ancient streets right past Tudor Cottage before heading down to The Salts where there is a large bonfire waiting to be lit. The finale, a display of fireworks, lights up the sky as the bonfire starts to wane.
Finally, tell us about Soap & Salvation.
It’s our new business, on the other side of Rye in a collection of lovely old buildings on Rope Walk. There’s a shop selling our selection of antiques, vintage and repurposed homewares, objects, art and books, as well as the work of some contemporary designers and artisan makers. Alongside is an intimate space housing a collection of art, design, fashion and photography books which we will be opening as a creative library for research and meetings. Externally is a courtyard where we will mix a selection of outdoors pieces with a changing selection of interesting, independent food vans. We hope it will be a space for people to come and spend time and enjoy, as well as a place for us to collaborate with like-minded businesses and individuals who might come in to the space for a time or create pieces for us.
Read our full review of Tudor Cottage and book directly with the owners here.