With nearly 900 years of history including duels, smugglers, crooked gangs and murder most foul, it is little wonder that this stunning relic, of ages gone by, has more than a few resident ghosts.
Home to Many Ghosts
If given the choice book room 1 – 'The James' and settle in for the night. Toss off the clothes you wore during the day, leave them on the chair near the fireplace and then jump into bed for a good nights rest... A pleasant sleep is to be had in the large, luxurious, old antique bed, unless you are awoken by one of the inns 'extra' guests.
You may wake up in the night to find that you are no longer alone, the chair you left your clothes on is now occupied.
A lady dressed in white (sometimes grey) sits there, a empty, blank expression on her face. She may look at you or just into the room in no particular direction. She will stay visible for a minute or two before fading into nothing. Depending on your thoughts you may likely be in shock and make haste from the room.
However, about one in five rooms at The Mermaid Inn have their stories, such as the man who walks through the bathroom wall in 'The Fleur de Lys' room, crosses past the bed to disappear near the opposite wall. Maybe you accidentally stumble into 'The Elizabethan Chamber' where bottles have been reported to fall off the shelves or the man who sits on occupied beds in 'The Hawkhurst Suite'.
Stuff it, you give up and go downstairs and try to make yourself as comfortable as you can on one of the lounges as many patrons of The Mermaid Inn have done before you. Hopefully, those clothes you left in your room will now be soaking wet, another calling card of the Lady in White/Grey who haunts 'The James Room'.
Why all the ghosts?
A Criminal Yet Fascinating History
About fifty years after this attack on Rye, the inn was rebuilt and served as the main inn in the town. Most of the materials used in this new construction were recycled timbers from dismantled ships, the stone from their ballasts and no doubt much of the labor was provided by crewman awaiting more work on the seas.
The Mermaid became very prosperous during the 16th and 17th centuries, brewing its own ale, serving 'suitable' food and providing accommodation along the towns main road. That all changed briefly in the mid 1700's when the rather infamous and bloodthirsty Hawkhurst Gang used the Inn as a second centre of its operations smuggling stolen goods.
The gang originated in the town of Hawkhurst in Kent but as their influence extended far beyond their town they set up several other locations where they could ply their rather illegal trade. It is said that as they lounged in the Mermaid Inn that they would keep their weapons at the ready, plainly visible in site on the tables before them. Although this would be considered an outrage, the law was not keen to tangle with disreputable men in such large numbers and the locals were happy to support them as they provided well paid work.
However it soon became obvious that the gang were involved in a number of quite bloody and violent murders – disappearing people who took too much of an interest in them, burying a customs officer alive, beating people to death and even throwing one poor soul down a well before throwing large rocks in after them.
It is believed that one or more of the Hawkhurst Gang haunts the Inn along with one of their girlfriends who was killed by fellow gang members as 'she knew too much about their operations'.
The wife of one of the gangs founders, George Gray, was said to haunt 'The Kingsmill Room'. She would be seen in a old rocking chair or the chair would be seen to rock on its own. The chair has since been removed due to the number of guests who had been disturbed by the site.
Soon after this period of time serving as a base for the Hawkhurst Gang the Inn ceased to be open to the public. It was eventually bought and used as a private home before reopening to the public as a club in 1913. Canadian officers used it as a billet (sleeping quarters) during World War 2 before being purchased by one of them.
Today it is still open to the public, serving as a place to spend the night, eating the fine foods and drinking the wide range of ales, beers and wines (and no doubt more than a few spirits).
One of the more interesting experiences is that of a previous landlord and a medium who briefly stepped back in time (a timeslip?) and watched a duel play out before their eyes. The fight was said to carry through several rooms before one man ran the other through with his blade before concealing the corpse beneath a floor board. Unfortunately I can not find anything that details whether that area of the underfloor was later searched.
The Mermaid seems to have seen it all ranging from the town being sacked and set on fire by the French, through a brief period of smugglers using it as a base, a billet during WWII and of course the many and varied hauntings. The mermaid still has more secrets to uncover with several secret passages having been discovered over the years and rumours of even more linking up several buildings in the area.