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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From Gordon Child's Family Album
From Gordon Child's Family Album

RSHG held their January Member’s Meeting at the George Street Centre and despite lots of apologies and pretty nasty weather, 34 people attended. Treasurer, Arthur Williams, acted as Chairman in Janette’s Gregson’s absence. Janette is now half way through her chemotherapy, feeling a little under par and must avoid crowded places in case she catches germs. (Arthur did point out he wasn’t suggesting that our audience were necessarily germy!)

Chairman’s Report – Membership Secretary, Kate MacDonell, read out Janette’s Chairman’s Report, accompanied with an interesting slide show illustrating the many activities and events the group has been involved with since our last meeting in early October 2014.

Mid October 2014 – Our WW1 Cast of Characters visited the Adelaide Club in Ryde. Their presentation was well received and stimulated lots of discussion afterwards over tea.

Late October 2014 – Members were busy at Ryde Library encouraging people to contribute to our Garden of Remembrance by making poppies, each one representing one of Ryde’s 500 Fallen in the Great War.

October & November 2014 – Throughout October and until November 11, many people contributed to our Garden of Remembrance installed in the South Chapel at Ryde Cemetery. Around 20 students from the Military Preparation College visited the cemetery one morning to make poppies and view our WW1 display. Several of the students returned later that week to help the 30 children from Dover Park Primary School who were completing their World War studies with a visit to the cemetery (this is the 4th year we have organised this visit for Dover Park School). About 20 students from Ryde Academy also came along one afternoon to make poppies and some of our members went to one of the 4th Ryde Girls Brigade meetings to explain about our Garden of Remembrance and they all made poppies. Many other people visiting the cemetery or simply passing by also contributed to the project.

A moving candlelit remembrance service, led by Canon Rev Morris, vicar of All Saints’ Church was held at the South Cemetery Chapel on the evening of the 11 November. Representatives from the British Legion and bugler Tom Seal assisted with the service which was very well attended.

November 2014 – As a follow up to the latest tree survey in Ryde Cemetery, which RSHG arranged to be done just over a year ago, Sexton John Martin was able to organise the removal of some of the identified dead trees.

December 2014 – Almost 60 people dropped in to join us for our Victorian Christmas Celebration at Ryde Cemetery. Both chapels looked very festive with a wonderful tree and traditional decorations. Our Victorian themed display boards and table tops looked very colourful. Several members dressed in period costume and refreshments and socialising were much enjoyed.

December 2014 – The day after our Victorian Christmas Event 60 children from Haylands Primary School completed their Victorian studies with a day visit to the cemetery. Several RSHG volunteers helped run the various activities and the children, mostly dressed as Victorians, had a wonderful time. Also as part of our Christmas events, several students from Ryde Academy made a beautiful silhouette nativity which was displayed on the altar in the South Chapel.

Janette finished her report by congratulating everyone involved in delivering our successful projects and on behalf of the committee wished all a happy new year.

Finance Report – Arthur Williams, Treasurer –
Arthur reported that we have now received the latest instalment of our 2014/15 IWC grant in respect of the work we carry out at the Cemetery Learning Centre. Currently this funding is scheduled to be available annually until March 2020. This healthy situation gives us the confidence to look at a comprehensive programme of replacement and up-grading of our systems and equipment

Cemetery Report – David Earle –
David started by saying that Rob Nelson and John Martin are giving him the lists of burials in Council Cemeteries which is very useful to RSHG. It allows David to take photographs and update Website records and maps. Dave Crouch from Wight Stone Masonry also tells him about new tablets etc.

David told us the interesting and amusing story of a Frenchman, Jean Luc Batt, whom he successfully helped to locate his family grave recently. The gentleman’s mother was able to translate and explain via mobile phone!

David also gave an update on the wonderful work Cemetery Volunteer Tom Crabtree has been doing lately, including refurbishing benches, making the wooden boxes used for the Garden of Remembrance.

Mark Stedman has been researching in Ryde Cemetery tracing the path of what is probably 1939-1945 German cannon shots across the Cemetery. David was able to help him by printing the RSHG Maps which record the headstones that have been damaged by shell fire. Mark was able to show David where there were additional strikes which have now been mapped. The path would appear to be directed to the corner of West Street and Arthur Street where a bomb was dropped. Several houses were destroyed and David has been able to produce a sketch map of the area, based on information from David Marshall, showing which properties were damaged or destroyed to be added to Mark’s records.

Since St. John’s Cemetery has been mapped and there is a new Vicar there, considerable interest has been expressed and several people have been able to locate graves. David Marshall has helped people locate graves there and has been able to introduce some Australians to distant relatives living in Elmfield that they did not know about. David Marshall has spent many hours photographing graves and transcribing some and details have been given to Carol. She has added large numbers of records for graves in that Cemetery to the Website.

Membership Update – Kate MacDonell –
Kate reported that we now have a healthy membership of 69. We also recruited two new members at the end of our meeting.

Reports from Research Work Group – Ann Barrett –
Ann reported that we have had a great few months with lots of interesting research, and gathering facts from many places. Recording, typing and uploading to the website takes a great deal of time.

In an email Ann received last week from a man in New Zealand, it said “You have found more in 24 hours than I have found in months/years, you are very cool.” So that was another satisfied customer.

Kate and Ann spent a few hours before Xmas and found 91 people and their plot numbers! Two of these people were William Frederick Mitchell and his wife Elizabeth and Ann told us their fascinating story.

William Mitchell was born at Calshot Castle, Hampshire, the son of Commander William Mitchell of the Royal Navy. In 1891 he had moved to 19 Argyll Street and he was listed as a Marine Artist Royal Navy, working from home. By this date he was married to Elizabeth and they had a 7 year old son Frederick. William gave the name “Calshot Villa” to the house in Argyll Street, probably after the place where he was born. William was well established as a Water Colour Marine Artist, illustrating well known publications. For years he illustrated “Brassey’s Naval Annual”. Also for other books, “Her Majesty’s Navy, Deeds and Battles” 1890 in 3 volumes, and many others too numerous to list. William and family moved from Argyll Street to Yelfs Road in 1900, he also called that house “Calshot”. In 1905, in conjunction with Christian Symons, be brought out a book on the fleet called “The British Navy, Past and Present.” This contained 30 chromolithographs. Surviving copies of the book today are on the market for between £84 and £265, depending on the condition. William died suddenly in 1914 aged 69 . After his death Elizabeth moved to Brighton, where she died in 1922.

What makes all this incredible, is that William and Elizabeth were both deaf and dumb from childhood. In those days a lot of people with disabilities were put into institutions, but this was obviously not the case, they probably received lots of support and encouragement from their families. It was said in the obituaries “they suffered the great affliction.” However, they were both described as “always bright and having a happy disposition”.

Report from Publications Group – Carol Strong –
Carol reported that since the last meeting we have organised the display boards for the First World War Centenary Remembrance event at the cemetery and a Second World War display for a school visit. After a short Christmas break we are starting to design new displays and events for 2015. The team has been busy preparing the January magazine which covers the Age of Motoring from the early 1900’s through to the fifties and sixties when car hire, registration and sales boomed in Ryde. It will be sent to all members shortly after the meeting. The display board in the cemetery chapel now has a wintertime theme with some of the past entertainments in the town and shop’s advertising their latest products.

The first event of the year which RSHG will be taking part in is at the George Street Centre between 10am and 4pm. on Saturday 24 January. Organised and run by Carisbrooke Castle Museum, there will be a First World War Roadshow with displays, artefacts, memorabilia and original film. Entry is free and the event is suitable for all ages including children. Experts will be on hand to help with identification of objects and enquiries on any aspect of the war or life on the Island during the conflict. Confirmed participants to date include:
Richard SMOUT, IW Record Office – letters and documents
David LANGFORD (WW1 Project) and Sarah LANG (CC Museum Curator) – Identification of objects, e.g. medals and equipment
Gareth SPRACK – identification and display of artefacts relating to the IW Rifles
Dan WHITEHEAD – replica uniforms for children to try on
Martin YATES – Vectis Military Historical Association
Estelle BAKER, Lin and Ian WATTERSON, Heritage Education Service – children’s activities
Graham and Pauline PETRIE – Scanning Table and Photography
Historic Ryde Society
Ryde Social Heritage Group
John MATTHEWS (Museum Trustee and project member) – meeting and greeting

A unique piece of film which has been produced with the help of the Imperial War Museum in digital format will be shown and there will also be a Book Stall of reference books to browse. Bring along any First World War letters, documents, stories and objects you’d like to discuss with the experts who can help with identification, advice and research. Valuations cannot be given at the event.

Any Other Business – John Martin, Ryde Cemetery Sexton, said a few words about how much he was enjoying working with our group and that he was looking forward to future events. His attendance at Ryde Cemetery has been curtailed slightly during the winter period due to extra commitments at the Crematorium. Mon- Thurs 10am – 5pm approx & Wed 10am-12 noon.

Illustrated talk by Gordon Childs on “Victorian Photography”. We were very pleased to welcome Gordon who has given talks for us before. Gordon, who now lives on the mainland, remains a frequent visitor and is from an ‘ancient’ Island family. Gordon’s talk focused on how his interest in photography was sparked by one of his own family albums from Victorian times. Gordon shared many interesting stories and photographs taken from his fascinating website www.childswebb.net

Photo from Gordon Child’s Family Album which inspired him to research Victorian Photography.

Saturdays 11 April, 11 July and 10 October at 10.30 am, George Street Centre, George Street Ryde.