Rye Water House – Rye, England - Atlas Obscura
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Rye, England

Rye Water House

An ancient water supply dating back almost 500 years can still be found standing in East Sussex.  

Dating back to the 16th century, the Rye Water House is an ancient cistern—or water tank—that stands on the corner of St. Mary’s Churchyard in England’s East Sussex. 

According to Engineering Timelines, the Rye Water House predates most known Victorian water systems by more than 100 years.

It is estimated that the water house was built back in the 1500s in an effort to implement a more modern water system. Up until the installation of the cistern, locals would collect water by hand, so the installment of Rye Water House was a technological stride in its time. 

At the time of its construction, the area around the water house was commonly used for butchery. Lack of hygienic practices with the butchery businesses nearby led to unsavory discoveries of calves’ feet in the reservoir. Recognizing the health risk, it became a criminal offense to litter anywhere near the Rye Water House.

The Rye Water House is a dome-like structure, which tops the below-ground reservoir, and is served by bore elm pipes that replaced the initial lead pipes in 1733.  Said to be a prime example of Georgian brickwork, the water house has been likened to a “tea-caddy.”

Know Before You Go

Travelers keen on visiting the Rye Water House will find it on the Northeast corner of St Mary’s churchyard in East Sussex.