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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Pole Dance at Ryde!

Source THE NEW YORK TIMES Foreign News 16 August 1852

The company on the Ryde Pier, were lately amused by the display of “the pig and the pole.” A pole, 40 feet in length, was rigged out horizontally from the level of the pier into the sea, the surface being well greased. At the end, fastened up in a box, was a pig, and whoever could succeed in walking barefooted to the end of the pole, and letting the pig out of the box into the sea, was entitled to the prize. Frequent duckings were the result of the attempts to reach the desired object, several slipping from the greasy surface just as they were about to seize the box containing the porker. At length one man contrived to gain the end, let out the pig, plunged into the water after him, and finally succeeded in getting him into a boat and bringing him ashore in triumph.

Source: Punch Magazine 1 September 1855

One of the most amusing as well as intellectual of our old English sports and pastimes, is a competition consisting in the pursuit of an animal greased as to the tail, and in the endeavour to catch and hold it by that appendage. Another is the rivalry of climbing, or rather attempting to climb, a pole similarly lubricated, on the top of which is placed a similar animal. That animal is the prize of scansory or prehensile prowess; amusement results chiefly from unsuccessful exertion; the competitors are clowns in general: and the animal is always a pig.

The refined mind will admit that this diversion beats cockfighting by much, it is not superior to chess or billiards. To a more robust taste if not to a stronger intellect, it may appear insufficiently exciting, and capable of improvement in that respect. Something has been done towards filling the room for that improvement: as witness the copy of a handbill published at Ryde, in the Isle of Wight.

The horizontal arrangement of the greased pole and the pig over the water is a great improvement upon the perpendicular on terra firma. The fun of failure is much enhanced by the consequent ducking; besides which the sport has the interest of danger to the competitors. If one of them, in falling, knocked his head against the pole, he would perhaps be stunned, and then he would not only tumble into the sea, but would never rise out of it. However, some attendant emissary of the Humane Society might succeed in spoiling this consummation of the sport; and geese swim; therefore instead of suspending the pole over the sea another time, it would be advisable to set it over a tank of boiling water. A close plantation of spikes would answer the same purpose at less expense.

But what public spirited party is it that has been thus treating, or offering to treat, the isle of Wight people to games? Whoever that party may be, the Ryde Pier proprietors ought to be particularly obliged thereto: for no doubt the attraction held out by the pig and the “Pole Dance” to the intelligence of the Island was calculated largely to augment the receipts at the Toll House alluded to in the above quoted announcement.