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

Ryde School of Art, George Street, Ryde

Laying the foundation stone (17 August 1874)

The occasion of the laying the foundation stone by the Crown Prince of Germany, of the new School of Art in George-street, was one of such brilliancy that it will not soon be erased from the memory of those who had the good fortune to witness the ceremony.  The rapidity with which the transformation scene was effected in George-street was wonderful in the extreme.

On Monday crowds of the aristocracy of the Island were sitting on the spot where on the previous Monday the sage relic of the past, the hero of many summers—“The Cottage”—now, alas! a thing of the past.  On Monday last all was gay where only a few days before the dear old cottage stood in sober, solemn, and silent dignity, a sentinel for such a long period.

The committee of the Ryde School of Art had spared no effort to obtain a suitable suite of rooms for the pupils of the school, as, since their rejection from the rooms at the Town-hall they had appeared to be homeless.  The committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association offered the hand of welcome, but the accommodation was inadequate for their requirements. The officials spurred by necessity looked for a suitable site for a new building.  They attempted to negotiate for the old cottage which stood a few yards above the Congregational Church, in George-street, but the attempt was unsuccessful, and their attention turned to “The Cottage” and spacious grounds in which it stood, a few yards higher up. This was procured and the work of demolition commenced.

Mr. W. Newman was the builder for the new school and soon the old place was razed and cleared away. The new building was to be built from designs by Mr. R. J. Jones, architect, and hon. secretary of the school, it was estimated that the structure would cost about £2,000, of which £1,000 had already been secured.

The ceremony of laying the foundation stone was witnessed by a brilliant assemblage of the elite of the town, the seats being arranged so as to form a large square, and in the centre a raised dais for the use of their Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess. The edges of the dais were bedecked with floral arrangements from the establishments of Messrs. C. Dimmick and Sons, Mr. Williams, and Mr. James James.  The stone—not corner stone, as it was to be exposed in the central room—was supplied by Mr. Joseph Ellery, of West-street, and was of Portland material.  Within the structure was a recess for the purpose of depositing a bottle containing documents &c.

By the time announced for the arrival of the Prince and Princess—1 o’clock—most of the reserved seats were occupied.  The dais was elegantly furnished with magnificent gold-tipped chairs.  In the street the footpaths were crowded with spectators anxious to catch a passing glimpse of the visitors. A guard of honour, formed by about 120 men of the 101st Royal Bombay Fusiliers, was drawn up in front of the entrance, and the band of the regiment played a selection of popular music.

A few minutes after 1 o’clock the carriage containing the Imperial party drove up, and their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess entered the enclosure amid hearty applause.  The Prince was attired in usual private costume, though only about an hour previously he was in the German uniform engaged in reviewing the troops the other side of the Solent.  The Princess wore a silvery grey silk dress, white lace and white silk polonaise, and white and pink bonnet.  They were received by Mr. B. Barrow (the president of the school).  The Princess was graciously pleased to accept an elegant bouquet of flowers.  The Princess was handed a solid silver trowel with suitable inscription, and the Prince was handed a sealed bottle to place in the recess beneath the stone.

After much ceremony and speeches, the Imperial party drove to Southlands, the residence of Mr. B. Barrow, who had prepared a luncheon which was of almost indescribable magnificence.  Their Imperial Highnesses then drove to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, and went aboard the schooner yacht, Elmina, belonging to Sir Richard Sutton (vice-commodore).  The yacht proceeded eastward, landing the Imperial party at Sandown.

The Ryde School of Art was first established at the Town-hall, in January, 1870.

Sources: IW Observer 22 August 1874
Image: RSHG Archive Roy Brinton Collection

Article: Ann Barrett