Antiquary and Athlete.
Mr. Walter Rye, who died at Norwich on Sunday at the age of 85, was known both as an athlete and as an antiquary.
The seventh child of Edward Rye, a London solicitor, he was brother of M. S. Rye, the pioneer of the movement for gutter children now carried on by the Waifs and Strays Society. At the age of 14 he entered his father's office, and early formed the habit of taking long walks. He was the "father" of paper-chasing, the name given to cross-country running when he introduced the sport, and it is interesting to recall the scorn with which he regarded paper-chasing into racing over closed circuits with the accompaniment of betting. "Some day," he wrote in the Badminton Library, "when the loathsomeness of the roping and betting has disgusted the better class of runners, a championship in which gentleman can take part without loss of self-respect will probably be again instituted on the old lines." Mr. Rye, who was the founder of the Thames Hare and Hounds, the oldest English paper-chase club, and president to the day of his death, and who won the Seven Miles' Walking Championship 61 years ago, lived to see much of the evil of which he complained disappear, for cross-country sport to-day is unquestionably almost as healthy in spirit as when he instituted it over half a century ago. He won over 100 prizes for walking, running, and cycling, and in 1868 he held all-world walking records from one mile to seven miles. He then took up tricycling and won three open races in 1882, but an attack of illness compelled him to confine himself to sailing on the Broads, and when he had to give that up he practised archery and pistol shooting. Years ago he was hon. secretary of the London Athletic Club.
Admitted a solicitor in 1866, Mr. Rye practised till 1900, when he retired. He was founder and hon. solicitor of the Norfolk Broads Protection Society, and the author of several works on the Broads. He settled in Norwich, where he was highly esteemed and was Mayor in 1908, and a co-opted member of the Library Committee. As an antiquary, Mr. Rye was both able and industrious; he compiled and published over 80 indexes, handbooks, and the like, mostly relating to Norfolk topography and pedigrees. He possessed a valuable collection of Norfolk MSS., which, it is understood, he has bequeathed to the City of Norwich. In rescuing interesting buildings from destruction he spent a good deal of money, acquiring or helping to acquire among many other properties the Maid's head Hotel, Anguish's house, Bacon's house in Colegate, and the Norman leper chapel at Magdalen Gates. He was a determined, combative character, and as great a foe of fictitious pedigrees as the late Dr. J. H. Round himself, but as he was not himself always beyond criticism he was often involved in controversy. He did much good in his generation, and he will be remembered with affection not only in Norwich. His wife, of whom he wrote, "she was both the prettiest and the pluckiest woman I ever saw," died in 1910, leaving a large family. His third son is Mr. Frank Rye, M.P., a former Mayor of Westminster, and a former hon. secretary of the Thames Hare and Hounds Club.The funeral will be at Lammas, Norfolk, to-morrow, at 2.15.