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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Carol Strong and Derek Warman
Carol Strong and Derek Warman

We had 29 members and 1 visitor to our AGM and received apologies from 20 members.

Welcome and Chairman’s Report

Janette Gregson, Chairman, welcomed everyone to the meeting and gave the Annual Report of activities which incluced:

October 2013 – Tree Survey of Ryde Cemetery updated on RSHG website
November 2013 – Launch of RSHG WW1 Centenary Project ‘The Changing Face of Ryde’ at Ryde Library.
Member Ralph Jenvey passed away on 10 November RIP
December 2013 – Break for Christmas
January 2014 – RSHG Members meeting with illustrated talk ‘The Secrets of the Diary’ by Lin Waterson of Carisbrooke Castle Museum
Maps and details of burials at St John’s Church Cemetery added to the RSHG website.
February 2014 – Archive and Records Day at Ryde Library
March 2014 – RSHG group visit to the IW Records Office
‘Spring has Sprung’ exhibition in the South chapel at Ryde Cemetery
Ryde Characters visit Osborne Cottage Residential Care Home in East Cowes
April 2014 – RSHG Members’ Meeting with illustrated talk on The Royal Pier Hotel by Hilary Lloyd
New addition the Education section of RSHG Website WW1 studies for Primary Schools.
May 2014 – Exhibition at IW Family History Society’s one day conference and AGM at Northwood House.
Family History Shrine workshop in the North Chapel at Ryde Cemetery
Two Open Days with exhibitions, guided walks, displays and Ryde Characters in Ryde Cemetery
June 2014 – Carol and Janette represent RSHG at a Buckingham Palace Garden party
Ryde Characters visit the Elim Church Senior Circle, Albert Street, Ryde.
Member Pauline McCall passed away 11 June following a short illness RIP
Three Exhibitions for Ryde Arts Festival:
Ryde Library – 200 Years of Ryde Pier and Life in Ryde 100 Years Ago.
St Thomas Heritage Centre, St Thomas Street, Ryde – WW1 Stories
Ryde Cemetery Heritage & Learning Centre – ‘Summer’
July 2014 – Members Meeting with short talks by members Sally Ouston on her Grandfather Louis Zink,
Rosemary Matthews spoke about her father Ernest Fry a WW1 veteran, and Peter Campbell spoke about his family history and memories of Ryde.
Wightlink’s Party on the Pier celebrating 200 years of Ryde Pier
August 2014 – A one day exhibition on WW1 at Yarmouth Town Hall with members of the Vectis Military Historical Society
September 2014 – A three day exhibition for Heritage Open Days at St Thomas Heritage Centre, St Thomas Street, Ryde. The exhibition had two themes: WW1 and the Swinging 60s and there was a ‘Meet the Residents’ event on all three days.
RSHG Group outing to the IW Postal Museum.

Janette said it had been another busy and successful year for the group and thanked everyone for their support and participation in all our events.

Finance Report

Arthur Williams, Treasurer, gave the financial report which shows the group continues to be in a sound financial position.

Membership Update

Kate MacDonell, Membership Secretary, gave the membership update. We have currently 83 members, a very healthy, active and supportive group. During the year we have welcomed 10 new members. 6 members chose not to renew during the year & sadly, as already mentioned 2 loyal members died. We have 13 mainland members, 3 international members & the rest are Islanders.

Election of Officers

Kate reported that the only nominations received had been for:

Chairman – Janette Gregson
Treasurer – Arthur Williams
Membership Secretary – Kate MacDonell
Other committee members: Marilyn Newsham, Ann Barrett (Research Team Leader), Barbara Hunt (Secretary), Jo Dodd, Carol Strong (Publications Team Leader), Shelagh Gaylard.

It was proposed by Sally Ouston and seconded by Maurice Richards that the whole committee be re-elected as it stands. Vote passed by unanimous show of hands by members present.


Transcribing Group – Janette Gregson

Because it has been such a busy year with events and exhibitions the transcribing group has only managed to meet up about 5 times this year and although we are tantalisingly close to the Pellhurst Road end of the Cemetery there are still many weeks work to complete the project.

We currently have records for over 14,000 individuals buried in the various cemeteries in Ryde on our website.

Mapping and Cemeteries – David Earle

David reported that there is little mapping to do but plenty of photographing and transcribing graves that have been uncovered. David has given training to John Martin, the Cemetery Sextion, on how to use the RSHG website to help people locate graves when David is not there.

Recently another volunteer has started work in the Cemetery. Tom is ex-Army and has been doing odd jobs and woodwork in consultation with John. The Bothey has been tidied and is used by Tom as a workshop. He has been doing minor jobs but is now working on the planks that form the seats in the Cemetery and treating them with wood preservative. The ones he has done look very smart, actually smarter than they did when they were new.

David continues to assist people in finding graves when he is in the cemetery.

Research – Ann Barrett

Ann reported that once again it has been a very good year. The research group has been participating in just about everything that has taken place, exhibitions, the magazine, and taking our “Characters” out and about. Also in the past year we have added biographical information to the files of 507 people on our website.

Ann reported on one story when she was browsing FaceBook and came across a gentleman who was seeking information about a Ryde family, for a couple who were staying in bed-and-breakfast at his property, which was interesting, as he lives in what was originally the old St Matthews Church at Ashey.

Ann contacted him straight away as she remembered researching the family a while back and was able to give him and his holiday guests some pleasant surprises. She told them which map to print that showed them the plot at Ashey Cemetery, which they then visited. They were going to print all the other detail and obituaries when they returned home. They certainly sounded very pleased.

The enquiry was about William Oliver Bembridge Pride BALL who died in 1949, he was born in Bembridge, so that might have had something to do with his name.

William BALL and his brother travelled the country, with their father’s travelling fair until they settled in Oakfield about 1894. The fair then became a familiar feature on the Island. By looking at the birthplaces of the children it gave an idea, where and how far, they travelled. These included: Lincoln, Kent, Sussex, and Yorkshire,

The Fairs in the 19th century were nothing like today, they were mostly side-shows, such as Boxing-Booths, Menageries, Freak-Shows, also Swing-boats and bicycle-powered roundabouts known as Velocipede. A few had a ride of crudely made horses, called Gallopers and although steam-power for roundabouts was available in the mid 1860’s, only the larger and static Fairs used it until the end of the century.

When they settled in “Providence Cottage” Oakfield, they set up a scrap metal business. As well as taking the Fair around the Island.

Upon the death of William’s father in 1938, the family disposed of the Fair, and the scrap-metal business was taken over by 2 of Williams sons. When William himself died in 1949, it would appear from the list of mourners (Aldermen and Bank Managers, etc) at his funeral, that William was a very respected man. He was a member of the R.A.O.B. It even told of his favourite drinking places, the Terminus Hotel and Commercial Hotel.

Ann thanked all her friends, colleagues and group members for a very happy and successful year and said she hoped the coming year is just as good.

Publications Team – Carol Strong

Carol reported that this has been our busiest year with displays, talks, exhibitions and archive days. Our main focus has been on the First World War Centenary and how, as a result, life in Ryde changed forever. We started our project called ‘The Changing Face of Ryde’ in September last year by looking back to 1913, 100 years ago and encouraging members to find out about their houses, streets, community or family. As a result we already have a collection of 22 information folders, each on a different street or area of Ryde and an A to Z folder for other streets just starting to be researched.

In January our quarterly magazine ‘History is all around us’ documented some of Ryde’s street furniture making us think of a different aspect to the changing face of the town. The streets project will be ongoing throughout the next year and we hope more members will join in and add memories and photographs of their street.

Carol reminded members that yesterday is already history and it is just as important to document events taking place now as in the past. Everyone has a story to tell.

During the year we have helped members find out about and document our town. The first archive day of 2014 took place in Ryde Library in February where members were joined by Richard Smout who brought material from the IW Record Office and information on the First World War records held on the Island. Following the success of this event Richard kindly opened the record office for an exclusive RSHG afternoon in March and gave a talk on the type of information available, how to research and some of the pitfalls that may be encountered.

This year we have taken our exhibitions to the Ryde Library, St Thomas’ Church and the Pier. The displays in Ryde Cemetery change with the seasons and not only document the wildlife of the cemetery and the people buried there but life and entertainments in the town. We have recently changed the display from summertime to a First World War commemoration documenting not only the casualties but survivors of the war from the town together with general information from 1914. This exhibition will continue throughout November before changing to celebrate Christmas in Ryde in December.

We have hosted two school visits to the cemetery, the first from Dover Park Primary working on World War Two and the second from Oakfield Primary investigating the First World War and the first group to try out our First World War trail. Displays were set up in the Learning Centre for both visits and refreshments served by RSHG volunteers.

For the first time we have taken our displays out of town and our ‘Ryde Characters’ have been on tour. First to Osborne Cottage Residential Home, East Cowes, the former home of Princess Beatrice, to perform for the residents in March. The afternoon was a great success and we were invited back at the end of August to their annual fete where we put up a display about Ryde and talked to visitors about the Group. The ‘characters’ have also been to the new Age UK group at Seaview and performed similar plays.

Our First World War exhibitions have been to Ryde and Newport libraries, Northwood House, and we spent a great day at Yarmouth Town Hall on 3 August with our exhibition at a special First World War Centenary event.

Our latest exhibitions for Heritage Open Days at St Thomas’ Church, Ryde in September were a huge success and gave us a chance to show for the first time the amount of work already undertaken by Group members to commemorate the First World War Centenary with 2 double sided display boards dedicated to this project. The project will continue throughout the centenary years and aims to document how the war changed the town; already we have seen the usual social events and entertainments curtailed – Ashey races were cancelled, the regatta fireworks did not take place, football was suspended. Concerts continued to take place but all in aid of the war effort to raise funds. Not only were the troops mobilised but women set up sewing and knitting guilds making garments to Red Cross patterns for the troops on the Front and for those wounded soldiers who had already began arriving in Ryde by the end of August 1914. Reports of casualties, the missing and those who had been killed were published in the local press and the reality of war became all too apparent for Ryde families.

In stark contrast to the war, the exhibition also featured ’50 years on, 50 years ago’, Ryde in the 1960s. Many changes had taken place in the town and the ‘Swinging Sixties’ were upon us. Music and entertainment took centre stage with many top bands and artistes performing in Ryde, the hovercraft arrived, the trains were axed, and driving became popular with a whole range of new cars available. Sindy, Barbie, Dinky Toys and Scalextric were among the toys to have.

Those who have spent time at our exhibitions and events this year, must realise the amount of work and dedication put in by members to produce such quality material and Carol thanked the committee and members of the publications team for their efforts.

Any Other Business

John Martin, the Ryde Cemetery Sexton said a few words about his work in the cemetery and how much he enjoys working with RSHG.

After the business of the meeting concluded there was a raffle and refreshments and then members present were encouraged to make poppies for the Garden of Remembrance for Ryde Cemetery.