Ice Skating in Victorian Times
In mid-Victorian England ice skating was a most popular and enjoyable form of entertainment. Ice rinks were appearing all over the place, many were temporary during the winter season but advances in technology also led to the development of indoor ice rinks.
In September 1874 the Isle of Wight Observer reported that:-
“The novelty and anomaly of being able to enjoy the pleasures of skating with few of its dangers, and in the midst of moderately warm weather, has attracted considerable numbers each day to the skating rink now open at the Victoria-rooms. The floor of the room has been treated in such a way that no inequalities can be perceived, and the skaters glide along in exact imitation of the easy motions of the proficient on the ice. ”
The article concludes by saying that people should find the exercise “nearly as enjoyable as when cold winds are blowing and Jack Frost has it all his own way.”
One of the most famous indoor rinks was the Glaciarium in the Kings Road, Chelsea, opened in 1876. We might like to imagine that the rink in the Victoria-rooms in Ryde looked similar to this.
In February 1876 there was much talk of a new outdoor skating rink opening in Ryde. The Isle of Wight Observer reported that:-
“We are in the position to state that the question of a grand central skating rink in Ryde is now definitely settled. There has long been a want of some place of outdoor amusement in the town, and this want will now be supplied just where it will be most central, most convenient and most likely to meet the requirements of both visitors and inhabitants. The piece of land now known as Mr. Yelf’s garden, between St. Thomas’- street and Union-street has been secured, and a public company is in process of formation to carry out what everyone will agree to be a work likely to prove of the greatest benefit to the town of Ryde.
No better site could possibly have been secured and we understand that Mr. Yelf has met the new company in the most generous and liberal way. In the centre of the ground a large open rink will be laid down upon the most improved principles, having entrances from St. Thomas’-street, opposite the end of Spencer-road and from Union -street. ”
Source: Isle of Wight Observer 12 September 1874 & 19 February 1876
Picture sources: Interior of glaciarium, London Illustrated News 13 May 1876 from Wikimedia; Silhouette skating from Graphics Fairy