Ok, so my next Hotel for freak week takes us into Rye, East Sussex. I adore Rye. Its one of my favourite places in the UK, and I wrote a full post on our visit there early last year, (you can read that in this post, Walking The Cobbles in Rye, East Sussex). Steeped in history, Rye has a long history and past with smugglers and pirates. There is a famous street in Rye, Mermaid Street, where it is said to be a street of “disrepute” for much of its past. Smugglers frequented the Mermaid Inn, which stands on Mermaid Street, so I suppose that didn’t help its reputation! The Mermaid Inn, Rye has long been reported to be haunted, with many guests telling similar stories. Read on to find out why I am looking forward to staying here in December.
The Mermaid Inn, Rye – A troubling past?
The Mermaid Inn has parts of it dating back to 1156, so it is one of the oldest Inn’s in England. During the 1700’s the notorious smuggling gang The Hawkhursts, were known to frequent the Inn, using it as one of their bases and strongholds. It is thought that some of the smugglers still haunt the Inn, looking for one last glass or rum maybe? Or perhaps a gin as the Mermaid has 50 gins to choose from! (Thats my idea of heaven right there, you know I love my gin) The Inn brewed its own ale and charged sailors and workmen a penny a night for lodgings, so there was lots of merry sailors, plotting smugglers and dodgy dealings afoot. As Rye was a thriving port then, business was plentiful! Catholic priests, fleeing from the 1500’s reformation also were welcomed at the Inn to hide. The Inn seemed to attract all manor of troubled and trouble seeking souls. There are hidden tunnels running under The Mermaid, some leading to the Old Bell Inn, which the smugglers used as a quick get away. With so much going on at The Mermaid, I suppose it is no surprise that lots of ghostly activity has been recorded.
The Ghosts of Mermaid Inn
Room 1 – (James Room) A lady is often seen sitting by the fireplace in a chair. Dressed in grey or white, the lady is said to just sit there. Guests have reported waking up to find their clothes wet on the chair. The Grey lady has also been seen walking through the room to sit on or stoop by the bed. A family of a Mum, Dad and child have also been seen walk through the wall and across the room.
Room 10 – (Fleur de Lys room) The ghost reported here is that of a man. It has been documented that he walks through the bathroom wall, into the main room.
Room 15 – (Dr Syns Bedchamber) This was the room that a seance was held, that I have spoken about in the staff experiences further down this post. There was also a camera crew setting up in this room a while back, and as they were running tests for lighting etc, lit up orbs were detected on the film, but not by the naked eye.
Room 16 – (Elizabethan Room) A lot of activity has been reported in this room. It is said to have been the place where a dual between two men took place. Guests have seen a man being dragged along the floor, both men dressed in 16th century clothing. There has also been numerous accounts of the sounds of a dual taking place, swords glinting in the light. Another ghost reported to haunt this room is the ghost of a maid, that worked at the Inn, but was also the girlfriend of one of the Hawkhurst gang. She was killed by other gang members as they feared she knew too much of their dodgy dealings. The activity in this room got so intense that staff members have resigned as they couldn’t cope with it.
Room 17 – (Kingsmill) Named after a Hawkhurst gang member, Thomas Kingsmill, I suppose its no wonder that this room is said to be haunted by smugglers and a wife of one of the smugglers, George Gray. Mrs Gray was said to sit in the rocking chair that was in Kingsmill, silent rocking and rocking. Guests have refused to stay in the room in the past as the apparitions were so regular. The chair was eventually removed from the room.
Room 19 – (Hawkhurst) Reported by several guests as having the ghost of a gentleman in old fashioned clothes, sitting at the end of the bed when they wake in the night.
Experiences of the staff
I have been speaking with the managers at The Mermaid Inn, as I wanted to know the best room to stay in for ghostly activity. My husband thinks I am crackers. One of the incredibly helpful managers, Martin suggested room 17, Kingsmill. Now I have got to put my money where my mouth is and book it haha! At one point, there was so much activity going on in room 17, that the chamber maids refused to clean the rooms alone. They cleaned it in pairs only. I cant say I blame them!
Five members of The Mermaid Inn’s staff also agreed to take part in a seance with a medium that was brought in. The seance took place in room 15. The medium informed the staff that a figure with a dog had come into the room. The staff were invited to put there hand out in the area that the medium could see the figure, and all members of staff felt that they had touched something that felt like dog fur! Spooky!
The Mermaid Inn also keeps records of any ghostly goings on that their guests tell them about. The manager sent some of these stories to me, and let me tell you, they are plentiful! Lots of guests told similar tales too, so it leads me to think that the spirits are regulars! One of the stories in particular spoke of the dual going on in room 16. A night camera was actually set up, and the sight of swords crashing together could be seen, as well as a shadowy figure to the right of them. This type of sighting has been reported by many guests. Guests also reported looking up at the window of the room and seeing the silhouettes of two people inside the room, despite there being no one in the room.
Secrets and Passageways
As I have said, there is secret passageways leading from and to The Mermaid Inn, but also within it. There is a secret panel in room 18 that leads into a secret passageway, as well as an entrance to the Priest’s hole in the back of the cupboard above the bars fireplace. You will also find a secret way from the bar to Dr Syn’s bedchamber. All of this history, all of the buildings secrets, make it a prime location for those things that go bump in the night……..
The Mermaid Inn really is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days. Fantastic restaurant menus, atmosphere a-plenty and the most warmest of welcomes. The history of Rye, the gorgeous antiques shops everywhere. There is also the most fantastic second hand book shop tucked away down one of the streets. I cant get enough of this gorgeous town, ghosts or no ghosts. Rooms start at £90 including a full breakfast, and you can see full details about a stay in The Mermaid Inn right here.
So, would you stay here? Have you stayed here? I would love to know any stories you have about anywhere similar. Am I bonkers to be booking into room 17. I may end up on my own as my husband is a scaredy cat! Let me know what you think!