The Retrouvius design team recently embarked on a trip to Rye to celebrate the completion of The George and to explore the local area…
This is a project we’ve revisited through several iterations since it was purchased by Katie and Alex Clark in 2004. We first met Katie when she visited our London shop. She had dropped her keys behind an enormous stack of timbers and, in the 2 hours it took to free them, she and Maria kindled a friendship that’s now seen almost 2 decades of working together. In 2019 the building was decimated by fire. A devastating loss, but one that made it possible to re-imagine the space and reconsider the flow of the public rooms.
The building itself is rooted in history, dating back to 1575, when it was a coaching inn. Its 18th century frontage covers a timber structure at least 200 years older, while the interior reveals wooden beams from an Elizabethan galley and an antique wig store, amongst other quirks. Today, the lapboard and paint colour on the front of the building were inspired by Hastings and Rye Harbours and the traditional net huts.
Always a meeting point, The George has entertained three King Georges, Wellington, and the Mayor of London. The ballroom was built in 1818 as an assembly room for farmers coming to market, and at the beginning of the 20th century, the banqueting kitchen was used as a masonic lodge.
The George remains very much central to the Rye community and it was important to Katie that the building is equally welcoming to Rye residents as visitors from further afield. Few experiences are quite as irritating than being turned away from your local for not having booked!
Public spaces are plentiful. The restaurant offers all-day dining with a delectable menu of freshly-caught seafood straight from Rye Bay. Nestled next door, the Dragon Bar has a relaxed, rustic atmosphere with plenty of cosy nooks for a craft ale or glass of local wine. There’s also an enticingly elegant parlour (the perfect spot for reading the Sunday paper) and a sunny courtyard garden that we made excellent use of.
Aside from the charming cobbled lanes and timbered mediaeval houses, Rye is abundant in intriguing and inspiring places to visit. Top of our list was a visit to Alex Macarthur’s 14th century monastery, which is the backdrop to an incredible collection of decorative and architectural curiosities that are available to buy.
Graced by glorious sunshine, we made our way to Great Dixter before heading home to London. Designed by architect Edwin Lutyens, it’s a combination of 3 houses, with the original house dating to the mid-15th century and later additions including a 16th century yeoman’s house that was relocated from Kent. All surrounded by the most marvellous and dynamic gardens that flourish in the hands of Fergus Garrett. The gardens are brilliantly described as ‘always fluid and never stodgy”. An absolute must visit!