The Flushing Inn

Two weeks ago I promised you some sad tales about Rye, which was once a fortified hilltop town, surrounded by sea.  It also played an important role in defending the south coast of England, and today it is home to a local fishing fleet, but in the 1700s the harbour would have seen plenty of ships anchored, which brings me to our first sad tale.

A great party was to be held on 17 March 1742 on board a ship anchored at Rye harbour.  John the eighteen year- old son of the town Mayor, James Lamb, was to make his first voyage and the Captain had invited the Mayor to attend the farewell dinner.  With such an important guest to entertain the captain wanted to impress.  Soon it was the talk of town, and rumours spread that French brandy had been smuggled on board and that a lavish extra delicacy of meat was being prepared for the table.

Clock tower

On the evening of the dinner, Allen Grebell called in on his brother-in law and found the Mayor very unwell, in fact he told him he couldn’t face the prospect of tucking into such rich food table and drink, but he didn’t want to let the captain or his son down.  The Mayor thought for a minute.  Why not ask Allen to take his place.  After all Allen was a former Mayor and he felt sure the captain would be delighted, to at least have a Mayor present.  Allen agreed, saying he would be delighted and was looking forward to the evening, but first he must go home and fetch a cloak. It had been a cold biting day with sleet showers and he would need something to keep him warm as he made his way to the harbour.  ‘No need,’ said James, ’Take mine, and go and enjoy the evening, and make sure you give my apologies to my son.’ Thrilled to receive his unexpected invitation the ex-Mayor made his way to the harbour wrapped in the warm mayoral robe.  Previously John Breads, butcher and owner of the Flushing Inn was heavily fined by James Lamb, then a local magistrate, for selling his meat short in weight. John was known for his sullen way and bad temper and those grievances he could not resolve by fighting, he would brood over, and after a few drinks in his Inn he would make vicious jibes to his cronies about butchers not liking lambs.

Lamb House Rye

Over time the grievance had grown into an obsession with Bread’s, vowing that one day he would get his revenge on Lamb. The forthcoming dinner had become a talking point in the Inn and most probably the meat for the dinner had been ordered from Breads, and he decided this was the perfect time to get even with Lamb. After closing time he made his way to the parish churchyard and hid behind one of the tombstones.  As the parish clock struck three-quarters to midnight he pulled his dark cloak around him to keep out some the cold chilly wind and waited.

Soon a solitary none too steady figure picked his way through the churchyard, and in the moonlight he could see the mayoral red cloak Breads grabbed his opportunity,  and tiptoed from his  hiding place  and stabbed the man twice deep in the back. Breads casually threw the knife into the undergrowth and made his way home jubilant, shouting ‘Butchers should kill Lambs,’ believing at last he had got even with Lamb.  Allen must have made the most of the brandy on board because he wasn’t aware that he had been stabbed, and staggered the short distance to his home and told his manservant that a drunken man had jostled with him as he crossed the churchyard, and he felt rather shaken.’  You go up to bed,’ he told the manservant, and I will sit here for a minute in front of the fire, then I’ll retire.’ Wrapping the mayoral cloak around him he sat down in the parlour to recover.

Meanwhile the Mayor, feverish from his illness was drifting in and out of the disturbed sleep dreaming of his late wife, Allen’s sister, who appeared to him twice, speaking of her concerns for her brother.  Each time he dismissed it and tried to drift back to sleep, but when it happened for the third time and as dawn was breaking he decided to get up, dress and cross the road to his brother-in-laws house.  He managed to rouse the servant who assured him that his master had returned safely, just after midnight, but the Mayor was still uneasy, and asked his servant to go to Allen’s bedroom to see if he was alright.  White faced the servant returned and said his bed was empty and had not been slept in.  Together they went to the parlour and found Allen slumped in the chair in front of the dying fire. The Mayor shook him gently, but he slumped to the floor having bled to death.   The servant was arrested as being the last person to see Allen alive, but after an hour or so he was released.

The following day Breads boasted to everyone that ‘Butcher’s kill Lambs’ and to make matter worse the knife was discovered in the churchyard, a bone handled knife with John Breads engraved on it.  He was arrested and taken to the Ypres Tower and tethered to the iron ring in the floor. His trial was set for May 5 1743 and the presiding magistrate was none other than James Lamb, the very man he meant to kill, unique in legal history.  Breads was asked what he had to say on the matter, was defiant to the end and shaking his fists, he shouted, ’I did not mean to kill Mr Grebell. It was you I meant it for and I would murder you now, if I could.’  On June 8, Breads was taken from the Ypres Tower to the Flushing Inn for a last farewell drink with his cronies, and then hanged outside the Strand Gate. The following day, Breads dangling body was cut down, put in an iron cage and hung from a gibbet on Gibbet Marsh, to the west of Rye.  Breads’ decomposing body remained for 50 years until only skull remained as a warning to others. Today it is in the Town Hall.


About Wendy Hughes

Wendy turned to writing, in 1989, when ill-health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Since then she has published 26 nonfiction books, and over 2000 articles. Her work has appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British, and Guiding magazine. She has a column in an America/Welsh newspaper for ex-pats on old traditions and customs in Wales. Her books include many on her native Wales, Anglesey Past and Present, The Story of Brecknock, Brecon, a pictorial History of the Town, Carmarthen, a History and Celebration and Tales of Old Glamorgan, and a book on Walton on Thames in the Images of England series, a company history and two books on the charity Hope Romania. She has also co-authored two story/activity books for children. Her latest books are: Haunted Worthing published in October 2010, a new colour edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire published in March 2011, and Shipwrecks of Sussex in June 2011 and Not a Guide to Worthing in 2014. She is working on a book entitled A-Z of Curious Sussex which will be published in 2016 Wendy also works with clients to bring their work up to publishable standard and is currently working on an autobiography with a lady that was married to a very famous 1940’s travel writer. Wendy has spent many years campaigning and writing on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a progressive genetic connective tissue disorder from which she herself suffers. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raises awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession, and produces the group’s literature, and has written the only book on the condition, Stickler The Elusive Syndrome, and has also contributed to a DVD on the condition, Stickler syndrome: Learning the Facts. She has also writing three novels, Sanctimonious Sin, a three generation saga set in Wales at the turn of the century, Power That Heal set in the Neolithic period entitled Powers that Heal, and a semi biographical book entitled New Beginnings which deals with two generations coping with blindness and a genetic condition. She has also had a handful of short stories published, and in her spare time is working on several at the moment. She also gives talks on a variety of subjects including Writing and Placing Articles, Writing Local History, Writing as Therapy, Writing your first novel, etc, and runs workshops on the craft of writing – both fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and a member of the Society of Authors.