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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Ryde Architecture

Welby Institute, West Street, Ryde


The property was originally called Tower House, and then in about 1890 it became known as West Hill Towers.

Mrs. Easty & family were living at the house in September 1884 and then by 1890 the Rev W. E. Youngman and Mrs Youngman were in residence, together with Mr. Grainger.

In June 1892 Lieut-Col Walkey, R.N. was at the house, possibly for the season while the Rev and his wife were away.  Mr. A. Banks, FRCS, and Mrs. Banks & family were the occupants from at least 1900 till August 1912.

In October 1912 the alterations to convert West Hill Towers, which was presented to All Saints’ Parish by Mrs. Florence Laura Welby, into a church institute were proceeding rapidly. In the Parish magazine, the Vicar said; “We much hope to have the work completed by our Dedication week.”

Mrs. Welby was the widow of the Rev W. H. Welby, formerly Rector of Harston, Leicestershire.  In conjunction with her husband, she did a great deal for All Saints’ Parish Church and after his death in February 1912 she purchased West Hill Towers close to the church and having put the building into thorough repair, presented it to the church to be used for parish purposes, in memory of the late Mr. Welby.  The building was formally opened in November 1912 by Mrs. Welby, the Bishop of Southampton being present.  She was a liberal donor to all the local charities. Florence Laura Welby died at her residence, St. George’s Lodge, on 17 September 1913.

The property which had been re-named The Welby Institute, was used for a great many things, a few examples from the local press are listed below.

IW Observer 10 July 1915 Welby Institute – As the result of the recent sale of work at the Vicarage gardens, a sum of £45 has been handed over for the maintenance of the above-named institute.

IW Observer 2 November 1918 Ex-Servicemen’s Association – The first general meeting of this new local society was held at the Welby Institute, West Street, on Tuesday evening.  The Vicar, the Rev. Hugh Le Fleming consented to undertake the duties of Treasurer. A Managing Committee of six members was formed.  By the kindness of the Trustees of the Welby Institute, the Association’s headquarters will be the rooms in that building formerly used by the Men’s Guild.

IW Observer 17 May 1919 Jumble – There was another rush of bargain hunters at All Saints’ jumble sale at the Welby Institute on Thursday.  One lady was provided with a special ticket, yet all she could secure were a pair of pyjamas, one for herself and the old man.

IW Observer 29 November 1919 Choir Party – Mr. Wallace Wheeler, who besides being an excellent vocalist, can also “fill the chair” with ability, presided over a very jolly little choir party at the Welby Institute recently.

IW Observer 6 November 1920 Girls Socials – Mrs. Corbyn and Mrs. Welsh are holding social evenings for young women and girls over 15 at the Welby Institute on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m., consisting of physical drill, whist games, etc.

IW Observer 14 May 1921 Queen of the Jumble – A much-looked for event, namely, the annual jumble sale organised by Lady Mountmorres, on behalf of All Saints, took place on Thursday afternoon.  In addition to ticket holders there was a long queue of bargain-hunters and the rooms set aside for the sale in Welby Institute were soon crowded.

In December 1927 Miss Dann proposed opening a Girls’ School at Ryde, temporarily at the Welby Institute, giving special attention to preparation for Public Examinations and for Commercial and Professional Careers.  However, it didn’t appear to be quite so temporary, as in September 1930 an advertisement in the local press stated: Ryde High School for Girls at the Welby Institute, preparation for University Local Examination. Pupils received from the age of 6.  Term commences Sept. 18th.  The principal will be at the Welby Institute on Wednesday for interviews.

In March 1957 at the annual meeting of the Parish Church, the building of a new church hall was discussed.  The old vicarage was too big to convert and it was deemed that by selling the Welby Institute together with other church properties, that would release enough funds to build a new hall on the church lawn.  In 1959 Welby Institute was still in the market, and although not sold, the committee had decided to close it at Easter, and transfer all activities to church house.

At the annual general meeting of All Saints’ Parish Church in March 1960, it was reported that the sale of the Welby Institute had been completed for a sum of £1518.

Sources: IW Observer, IW County Press
Image: Tracy Welstead, RSHG Archive

Article: Ann Barrett