Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
  • MENU

An Early Christmas Present for RSHG!

Local History News

We have been fortunate to have our book RYDE’S HERITAGE, OUR TOWN, YOUR HISTORIES reviewed by Dr Jane Howells of the British Association for Local History for the Autumn 2008 edition of Local History News:

“Ryde Cemetery provided the framework for Ryde’s Heritage, Our Town, Your Histories, the culmination of more than five years’ work by Ryde Social Heritage Group. From producing plot maps and transcribing the memorial inscriptions, the group went on to research the lives and deaths of those buried there, and have demonstrated how a cemetery is an important starting point for exploring and understanding the development of an area.

The town will be familiar to many as the destination of a ferry ride to the Isle of Wight. Its early history was based in two small communities – one on the shore, with all that meant for making a living from the sea, and the other was an agricultural settlement inland. The cemetery was officially opened in 1842, so it is nineteenth and twentieth century Ryde that is recorded in the memorials there. By that time the town had become a popular Regency sea-bathing resort, and was poised to expand rapidly to meet the needs of a growing population serving increasing numbers of visitors.

Churches, schools, transport, brewers, and the sea form the main chapters of this book, and in each the reader gets a detailed survey of that element of Ryde’s history, and the relevant individuals who are found in the cemetery. Its matter-of-fact style provides a valuable resource for looking up when things happened, such as the development of the Tramway Pier – opened in 1864, closed 1969, horse drawn tram until 1885 then electrified until 1927, replaced by petrol driven trams until 1959 when they changed to diesel railcars for the final ten years. Refreshment and accommodation is necessary in a seaside resort, and the convoluted relationships between brewery families are clearly explained. One particularly fascinating section examines the life of Captain Wallace Martin Caws who was a pilot with Cunard-White Star line, and thus responsible for guiding many famous ships safely along the Solent. This included taking RMS Queen Mary through her maiden voyage in 1936.

The book is well illustrated with a combination of modern photographs and older prints, drawings and postcards. It has an excellent index, useful bibliography and a chapter on natural history. A map would be valuable for non-residents.

RSHG obtained a Local Heritage Initiative grant for this project which largely paid for the development of their website where the results of their research can be found www.rshg.org.uk. They have also produced exhibitions, given talks and published materials for children. Any group contemplating a similar exercise exploiting the riches of their local cemetery should see what has been done in Ryde.”

Dr Jane Howells
Local History News

The book would make an ideal Christmas present for anyone interested in the history of Ryde. The price is £12 and it is available direct from RSHG, from the Isle of Wight County Press book shop in Newport or from Ryde Bookshop, 135 High Street, Ryde.