Oyez! Oyez! Meet Rye's town crier who gives spooky town tours

'You can ring my bell' - Town Crier Paul Goring of Rye in East Sussex

'You can ring my bell' - Town Crier Paul Goring of Rye in East Sussex - Credit: Jim Holden

Rye town crier Paul Goring, 57, mingles with celebrities and gives terrifying guided tours around the haunted streets after dark. Here he reveals why he has a job worth shouting about  

Photos: Jim Holden   

‘While other boys wanted to be astronauts or Prime Minister when they were little, I always knew what I’d be when I grew up – a town crier,’ Paul Goring chuckles.  

‘My gran took me to The National Town Criers Championship, which is held in Hastings each year, when I was a lad of six or seven and I absolutely loved it. I vowed then I’d be a town crier and 50 years later, I finally am. 

‘It’s the best job in the world. I love the tradition, of being in command of an audience and projecting my voice. It means I can officially be loud.’ 

Accountant Paul, 57, became Rye’s town crier in May 2018 after two years as deputy. ‘I’ve always had a loud voice, so it came naturally,’ he says. ‘My mother told me that when I was born in hospital, all the nurses could tell when it was me crying as I was the loudest baby on the ward.  

‘Growing up friends would tell me to talk quieter and to ‘Ssssh’ but this role makes use of my natural ability.’ 

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Paul, who lives in Hastings, takes looking after his voice seriously. ‘I always carry a bottle of water and throat sweets,’ he explains. ‘If I really need it, I’ll suck on a Fisherman’s Friend – that soon clears the airways.’  

In his official role, which dates back to medieval England when the town crier was the only public way people could hear news, Paul cries at weddings, charity and local events, functions, and the Town Hall. He wears an 18th century-style town crier’s uniform of a tricorn hat, with a feather in it which was originally a quill to show the crier could read and write, a coachman’s coat with cape, jabot frilly collar, waistcoat, with breeches, white stockings and buckle shoes.  

Spreading the news. Town Crier Paul Goring of Rye in East Sussex.Picture by Jim Holden

Spreading the news. Town Crier Paul Goring of Rye in East Sussex - Credit: Jim Holden

‘I have an official bell which is engraved with Borough of Rye, but it’s very heavy so I mostly use a lightweight modern one.  

‘I shout Oyez – which comes from an old French word ouir, meaning to listen – three times, and always finish with the same sign off: “God bless old England and the ancient town of Rye and God Save the Queen.”’ 

A qualified Master of Ceremonies, Pre-Covid Paul ‘performed’ at an average 60 – 70 weddings in Rye a year where he waited on the Town Hall steps to publicly announce the marriage and walk the newlywed couple through the streets to their wedding reception.  

‘Obviously I haven’t done that many during the pandemic,’ he says, ‘but that’s a lovely part of the role. I am still giving guided tours around Rye, which has a perfectly preserved Tudor centre, and taking people to see haunted spots in the town. 

‘I take them out after dark to the church yard and to The Mermaid Inn, which is the most haunted inn in England. People who’ve stayed there have told me about waking up to two men having a sword fight by their bed and others have fled when a family of four – two children with their parents – walked through the walls of their room.  

‘The foundations of the inn go back to 1156, and this role goes back 750 years in the town which makes it so interesting.’  

The role involved making public announcements, helping arrest criminals and in Rye it was the town crier’s job to whip naughty children outside the town hall, where there is still a whipping post. 

‘If they’d stolen something or caused criminal damage, the town crier would tie them to the whipping post and whip them publicly.’ 

Nowadays Paul is more likely to be posing for tourists’ photos or even meeting celebrities like the model Caprice and former footballer Paul Merson, who were filming in Rye for an episode of Celebs on the Farm.  

‘Every day is different, which makes it so special,’ Paul says. ‘I love my job and don’t have any plans to give it up anytime soon. My predecessor retired at 87 and I hope to last even longer than that.’