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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200th Anniversary of the Pier Act
200th Anniversary of the Pier Act

Friday 23rd March 2012 was a glorious spring day – warm and sunny with just a light breeze – and we spent an enjoyable afternoon at Ryde Pier Head as guests of Wightlink to witness the unveiling of the plaque commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the passing of the Ryde Pier Act.

We arrived early and set up our display boards, showing the history of Ryde Pier, in the new pavilion, Costa coffee shop. Then we waited for the other guests to arrive and in the meantime talked to people travelling to and from the Pier Head.

HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex visited Ryde to officially open the new Bembridge Building and Wessex Quadrangle at Ryde School and then to unveil a plaque at the recently restored Ryde Pier.

At 2pm the Costa CafÉ was closed to the public and the various guests began to arrive. While we were waiting for the Prince to complete his official duties at Ryde School and then move down to the Pier Head we met the Chief Executive of Wightlink, Russell Kew, and other members of the Wightlink Board who all showed a great interest in our display and the information on the history of Ryde Pier. We spoke to David Knowles, Mayor of Ryde who was very appreciative of the work of our Ryde Social Heritage Group. Ann had a long conversation with Robin Freeman, the Managing Director of the Isle of Wight County Press. He was interested in the kind of research that she and our Research group do to find out about the history of Ryde and the assistance given to people from across the world to help them with their research into ancestors from the town. We also spoke to representatives from Costa head office, Dimbola Museum, St Catherine’s School, Trant Contractors Ltd and the local police. Unfortunately there was not time to speak to all of the guests.

When the Prince arrived at the Pier Head he was given a tour and shown the recent works. Then he was brought into the Costa cafÉ and we were lucky to be the first people he was introduced to. He was very easy to talk to and asked lots of questions about why the pier was needed and how people got to shore before it was built. He was also curious about the Torpedo experiments off the Pier in 1874. He thought that carrying out such experiments near a busy shipping lane might have been a bit dangerous!

After speaking to us for a considerable time the Prince moved on and spoke to several other groups before the official unveiling of the plaque, which naturally was over very quickly. Then he was taken out and shown one of the newer vessels of the Wighlink fleet before taking his leave and returning to his awaiting helicopter in Simeon Street recreation ground.

We had a really enjoyable afternoon and now we are looking forward to the Party on the Pier on 31st March. Come and join us there will be lots going on, lots to see and do.

Photography by Arthur Williams, Shelagh Gaylard and Carol Strong