In the 19th century the people of Ryde went to great lengths to provide entertainment during the season for the inhabitants and the elite who came to the Island, Ryde being a very fashionable place, especially as Queen Victoria was often in residence at Osborne. Many owners of the big houses would either have affluent house-guests to stay for a few months, or let out their Villa’s while they went on tour. There was a list in the local newspaper every week of all the comings and goings.
Each year the attractions had to be more spectacular or unusual, so that visitors were encouraged to return time and time again. The Regatta provided a great public draw, with various events scheduled for a week in August, culminating in a splendid firework display off the pier.
Military Bands would be invited to play in the Eastern and Western gardens and on the pier. There would be yacht racing from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, also racing of skiffs, wherries, and rowing competitions of teams entered by all manor of groups and clubs. The coastguards would put forward their own 2-oared and 4-oared rowing boats and some very keen oars-manship would ensue. There were some excellent prizes to be rowed for, including a pig and a purse.
There were Cycle Gymkhana’s, Hoop Parades, Balls and Banquet’s. In 1912 Mr Grahame White, the well-known aviator, made a flight in the direction of the gardens.
One notable event that added to the fun of Ryde Regatta in 1883, was the rope walking performance of Mons Croix, from Portsmouth, which attracted great attention. (19th century photo right) Unfortunately, the performer, after keeping the immense crowd waiting till it was nearly dark, had to abandon the attempt to cross the lake, the rope being too slack for the purpose. He promised, however, to do it the following day, when he successfully accomplished the feat.
Ryde in the 19th century and early 20th century, was obviously a very entertaining place!
Sources: RSHG Archive & IW Observer
Photo: Roy Brinton Collection