Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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James Leonard Fry – September 2006

James Leonard Fry
James Leonard Fry

When we held the exhibition for the Local History Week, in May 2006, Pat Southcott told us about her Great Grandfather, James Leonard Fry, who died in a fatal accident while hanging bunting to decorate the shop front of “Jupe’s”, in Union Street, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Research carried out since then, in the local County Records Office, and with details provided by Pat who has researched her own family history has revealed the following details:

James was born on 20 Oct 1854 at Breamore, Hampshire, the son of George Fry, who was a gamekeeper on the Breamore Estate, and Sarah Wareham. James married Emma Caroline Butt on 21 July 1877 at the Bible Christian Chapel, Sandown, Isle of Wight.

In the 1861 census, James, aged 6, was living on the Breamore Estate, Breamore, Hampshire, with his widowed grandfather James Fry, age 78 , his father George Fry, age 64, a Gamekeeper on the Breamore Estate, and his sisters Eliza Fry, age 10, and Mary A Fry age 8.

James joined the Navy as a boy cadet when he was 15. On the 1871 census, James, aged 16, was found at the Blockhouse Fort, Portsmouth Harbour, Royal Navy St Vincent; he was listed as a Boy 2nd Class. On the 1881 Census, he was found on Vessels Royal Navy Superb, age 26, and listed as Captain of Main Top, born Fordingbridge. There is no record of James on the 1891 Census – he would have been 36, and may have been away at sea.

The photograph of James in his sailor’s uniform was taken in Corfu. James is seated in the middle of the front row.

James Fry

Several articles about the accident were written in the Isle of Wight County Press, in August 1897:


On Saturday morning last, the Mayor of Ryde (Ald. E. Groves) received the following letter from the Queens Private Secretary:-
“Osborne, 30th July, 1897.
Dear Sir, The Queen has commanded me to inform you of her gratitude for the enthusiastic and loyal welcome with which Her Majesty was yesterday received by the inhabitants of Ryde. The Queen was delighted with the beautifully decorated streets and with all the arrangements which you and the authorities have evidently spared no pains to initiate and carry out.
Her Majesty has heard with deep regret of the sad fatal accident which occurred yesterday morning during the arrangement of the decorations. I am now telegraphing to you to inquire on Her Majesty’s behalf for the survivor, who was seriously, though, it is hoped, not fatally, injured. I am, dear Sir, yours very faithfully. ARTHUR BIGGE.
The Mayor of Ryde.”


The Mayor of Ryde received the following letter on Saturday:-
“Osborne, 30th July, 1897.
Dear Mr Mayor, The Queen was greatly concerned to hear of the sad accident that occurred yesterday at Ryde during the preparations of the decorations, by which a man named James Fry unfortunately lost his life, and another man was injured.
Her Majesty asks you to convey her sincere sympathy to Fry’s widow and family in their sudden bereavement and trouble, and further commands me to ask you to be good enough to hand Mrs. Fry the enclosed £10, as it may possibly be of some help to her at this time.
I also enclose £5, which the Queen thinks may be of assistance to the other poor fellow who was injured.
Believe me, yours faithfully, FLEETWOOD I. EDWARDS.


The funeral of the poor man who was killed took place at the Cemetery on Saturday. Deceased being a naval pensioner the bier was drawn by four coast-guardsmen, and the Union Jack was used as a pall. The Rev. W R A Budd, Bible Christian minister, of East Cowes, officiated. Mr and Mrs Jupe were amongst those present, who included representatives of the Bible Christians, Congregationalists, and Railway Mission. The Rev. W R A Budd gave a short address on the uncertainty of life, and contended that deceased had met his death in the discharge of duty.
A floral tribute was sent by the Mayor and inhabitants, with deep regret and sympathy. Other bore the inscriptions: “In remembrance of faithful service, with heartfelt sorrow”, “With sympathy, from the sister of a distinguished naval officer.” We are glad to hear that the young man Gimblett is progressing satisfactorily. He was sufficiently well on Monday to be removed to his home.

The following report appeared in the Isle of Wight Times in 1966 and was a letter to the Editor.


In your recent report of the late Mr Price Marvin’s’ passing, it is stated that his father, the late Ald. E Marvin was mayor here in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, when the late Ald. Ernest Groves was our Chief Magistrate, and I feel sure that a reference to your files will duly confirm my statement.

Queen Victoria paid an official visit here on the 24th. She had been similarly to Newport, when the visit was highly auspicious, though here (in Ryde) the memorable occasion was marred by a fatal accident to my father while helping to decorate his place of employment, upon which fatality every vestige of décor was at once taken down, so it was the only premises so bared in the whole length of Union Street while her late Majesty rode down to the Esplanade. She was very surprised and intrigued to note that bare appearance of what was an ironmongery business run by the late Councillor A E Jupe.

Then on returning to Osborne and of course via her private Secretary, she enquired of the Mayor as to why or how those premises were totally unadorned. Alderman Groves at once replied it was because a fatal accident had happened that morning, then again from Osborne an expression of her deeply felt grief with sympathy to my mother and us four children (the latter of whom I only survive). Also with the Royal message came a gift of £10 to my mother and one of a £1 (actually £5) to the young fellow who shared the tragedy, due to the sudden collapse of a small iron balcony where they both stood, as had I myself seen earlier from across Union Street, on my way to a paper-delivery round in the Haylands and Swanmore area, at a wage of 3/- weekly! In 1897 to wit, when mostly an adult male worker was paid 18/- in fact. What a contrast in the rates of these days.

I vividly recall it was Ald. Groves who visited us then in Arthur Street, and handed the letter from Osborne to my mother, this same document is kept by a kinsman of mine, it’s paper somewhat marked by age, 69 years past, needless to remark, but I do remember Ald. Marvin as our Mayor, the exact year of his term now failing my memory, as I am nearing my 83rd “milestone,” you see. But I can easily call to mind when Waylands ran the “Times” and published their annual Almanac. While I am always so interested by your “News in those Days” column, the 75 or 50 year reminiscences I clearly recollect, though obviously not those of 100 years, since that July of 1897, Ryde has never been so lavishly and strikingly adorned, not even the Mafeking scenes in 1900.

I can recall 1887 Golden Jubilee, and our first Carnival in 1888, one of it’s main characters a grotesque figure called “Ally Sloper,” whose wife Tootsie was impersonated by a Mr Charlie Tyrell, a neighbour of ours in Arthur Street. Ally sported a huge synthetic nose, whilst Tootsie flaunted Sally Hatch to the life, as coloured firs were swarming from tops of several buildings, all highly exciting, to be sure. All this seems to show it was Ald. Groves’ Mayoral year then, Sir, sparing you any more verbiage, and remaining your constant reader,

Yours faithfully, JAMES H FRY

James Fry grave page