Queen Camilla to visit historic Sussex town this week

Queen Camilla is making a visit to the historic Sussex town of Rye today (Thursday)

She will visit the 900-year-old St Mary’s Church where bells will ring out to greet her arrival. Within the church, Her Majesty will have an opportunity to meet representatives from local

organisations who have supported their community. This includes the Royal Voluntary Service of which Her Majesty is Patron, Mothers’ Union, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and

Royal British Legion. Her Majesty will also meet the bell ringers who welcomed her.

After departing the church, The Queen will walk along picturesque West Street street to Lamb House. Lamb House is one of the most prominent residences in Rye. Built in 1723 by James Lamb and

now owned by the National Trust, the house has seen centuries of different owners, including the novelists Henry James, Rumer Godden, and E. F. Benson. A prolific writer of fiction, ghost stories and non-fiction, E. F. Benson is best remembered for his ‘Mapp and Lucia’ novels which were set in the fictional town of Tilling, based on Rye. Lamb House was the inspiration for Mapp’s home, Mallards, complete with the famous Garden Room, which was bombed during the Second World War.

After a brief tour of Lamb House, Her Majesty will view items relating to literature from the historic collection at the house and will then join guests for a Garden Party in celebration of Rye’s literacy history. Guests present will include members of the Friends of Tilling, the E. F. Benson Society, and staff and volunteers from the National Trust. During the Garden Party, Gyles Brandreth, President of the Friends of Tilling, will give a reading from the Mapp and Lucia novels in celebration of Rye’s literary history.

After departing Lamb House, Her Majesty will walk down Rye’s cobbled Mermaid Street and see some of the other houses that inspired E. F. Benson’s work.

Lamb House was built in 1723 by James Lamb, a wine merchant, politician and Mayor of Rye. Notably, in 1726, when King George I’s ship was driven ashore at Camber Sands, Lamb House was deemed the most suitable accommodation for The King. Mrs Lamb gave birth to her son that evening - he was named George and The King became his Godfather.

The house was eventually sold to novelist Henry James who wrote most of his acclaimed novels in it including The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. Many of Henry James’ well-connected literary friends stayed in the house including H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford and E.F. Benson who eventually made it his home.

Today, Lamb House is run by The National Trust and attracts over 20,000 visitors each year.

Whilst this may be a royal first for Lamb House, there have been more recent visits by members of the Royal Family to Rye. On 22 November 1995, HRH Princess Margaret opened

the Memorial Care Centre in Rye. In November 1966, Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II visited Rye and met Mayor John Hacking in Rye Churchyard. Finally in 1980, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, in her capacity as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, came to Rye as part of her 80th birthday celebrations.

René Olivieri CBE, Chair of the National Trust, said, “It will be an honour and a joy to host Her Majesty at Lamb House. The Queen’s passion for literature, together with Lamb’s fascinating literary history, will make for a real celebration of books and heritage. Lamb House is brimming with 300 years of stories, and has been the source of inspiration for many. We are so thrilled The Queen has decided to visit.

"I feel a personal affinity with Lamb House as it was home to one of my favourite authors – Henry James – and was gifted to the Trust as an enduring symbol of the ties that unite the British and American people, a tradition that I’m now proud to be part of.”