The Preventative Waterguard was instituted in 1809 under three inspecting commanders. In 1816 the Preventative Waterguard passed to the direct control of the Treasury. The service was later renamed The Coastguard in 1822.
The first evidence found relating to Coastguards in Ryde dated from around 1835/36 and by 1848 there were 10 coastguards commanded by a Lieutenant from the Royal Navy. Presumably the reason for having this amount of personnel, which was more than most other stations on the Island, was because at Ryde there was such a large stretch of coastline to patrol. Launching boats was a particular problem, as the water went out so far at low tide.
Smuggling was rife probably due to the large numbers of fishermen and longshoremen in the area. Records of court cases tell of offences related to rum, brandy & spirits in quite large amounts such as seventy-nine gallons, thirty-six kegs, ninety-two tubs, as well as the handling of tea and tobacco, and Hoarding and Aiding Contraband. When apprehended, the smugglers were in court within a week, and the sentences were often harsh.
The Ryde Station consisted of 2 parallel blocks of 2 Houses, and a watch-house on the beach, prior to the Esplanade being built. You can just see the back-to-back blocks from the 2009 photo below left. Two further dwellings, for the Chief Officer, were built at a much later date around 1876, to the west of the other houses.
Apart from apprehending smugglers, it is known from items in the Isle of Wight Observer that the coastguards were very active with regards their participation in the various events on the Esplanade, particularly the Regatta’s, when they took part in the races, and staged their own race where they rowed against each other for the honour of first place (see the postcard photo above right).
One of the events in the Regatta of August 1898, was a Gig Race for Service Men. Prizes, £3, £2, £1. — 1st, Southsea Coastguard; 2nd, East Cowes Coastguard; 3rd, Gosport Coastguard; 4th, Ryde Coastguard. — There was a protest against the Southsea boat that she did not use service oars, but spoon shaped oars of a lighter make. The committee upheld this protest, so Ryde would get third prize, East Cowes would be first and Gosport second.
In 1906 the local press related that targets were rigged up on the Appley private pier for the purposes of revolver practice by the local coastguards, when a goodly number of people watched with evident interest from the shore. This appeared to be a regular routine and of course, attracted some regular spectators.
The Ryde Coastguard Station closed in 1921 and the property was sold.
A few entries from the Ryde local directories state:
1859 White’s Directory – Adolphus Tudor, Coastguard, Esplanade.
1878 White’s Directory – There is a Coastguard Station on the Esplanade, and sea-walls extend from it along the coast to Seaview, &c., to prevent the encroachment of the ocean.
1878 White’s Directory – Geo. Jeffery, chief officer, coastguard station, and 10 Nelson Street.
1878 White’s Directory – David Pengelly, chief boatman, coastguard station, Esplanade.
Sources: Ryde Audio Trail, IW Observer and RSHG Archives
Images: RSHG Archive Roy Brinton Collection and Ann Barrett