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Eighteenth Century

An interesting article on Ryde printed in the 9th June 1934 edition of the Isle of Wight County Press.

Ryde has not much ancient history, nor can it boost of venerable charters or even having its very own Member of Parliament when such member seemed to have been abundant on the island. But no doubt there has been a settlement of some kind here from time immemorial. Considerable quantise of burial urns have been dug up at Swanmore, embedded in the clay used for brick making, and it seems probable that there was an early British village there of some size. There is little evidence of any Roman occupation of the district unless Play-street, like Havenstreet and Rew-street, can be considered a survival of a Roman way.

The first historical fact connected with Ryde is that it was burned by the French in 1377. This was the first year of the reign of the young Richard II, and John of Gaunt was the virtual ruler of the land. A bitter war was being waged with France, which culminated in the battle of Agincourt, and no doubt Ryde suffered in one of the French marauding expeditions, Newport, Newtown, Yarmouth and Shamblord. At the mouth of the Medina, also suffered in the same manner. Ryde must have soon started to recover from this disaster, for in 1380, we are told there were 45 householders, 30 farmers, 6 blacksmiths, a carpenter and butcher.

Ryde was always been within the boundaries of one manor, which previous to the reign on Elizabeth was known as the Manor of Asscheye. The manor was held by the Benedictine Convent of nuns at Wherwell near Andover. They maintained a flourishing daughter house at Ashey, where East Ashey farm now stands. In the 20th year of Elizabeth’s reign the manor was known as the Manor of Ashey and Ryde. When Wherwell suffered the common fate of all the monasteries and nunneries in the reign of Henry VIII, the monarch granted the Manor of Ashey, to one Giles Worsley.

The manor soon passed out of the hands of the Worsleys and eventually came into the possession of the Dillingtons, who then lived at Knighton, one of the islands most important seats. The male line of the Dillingtons became extinct, and the manor passed through several hands until, in 1789, it was purchased by Joseph Betesworth. It remained in his family for nearly 50 years until it was purchased by representatives of the Player family. Mr Player’s son left it to his daughter, who married Mr. Lind, and from the Lind family the greater part of the manor passed by marriage to the Brigstockes. The names of many local street and roads testify to the popularity of these families.

In the time of Henry VIII there was a small fort or battery in front of where the Pier Hotel was subsequently built, but all traces of the fort have disappeared. It is said that part of the Convent of the Cross, in the High street, is a stone house built in 1611 by John Pedder, if so; this is by far the oldest building in the town. The Ship Hotel, on the site now occupied by the Royal Esplanade Hotel was built in 1631; and when the Star Inn in the High Street was pulled down and rebuilt in 1873 a stone was discovered with the inscription 1613. Unfortunately both these old inns have been demolished and replaced by modern buildings.

Charles II appears to have granted to Thomas Coteile, Lord of the Manor of Ashey, the privilege of protecting 20 men from the impress, for the use of the passage at ‘Ride’ and Charles visited the place himself in 1665, and paid a visit to the Ship Inn, afterwards playing cards on the shore outside the inn while waiting for the tide to refloat the royal barge.

An interesting picture of Ryde nearly 200 years ago is given by the great English novelist Henry Fielding who paid an unexpected visit to the Isle of Wight in 1754. Fielding was then 47 years old and in poor state of health and reroute to Lisbon in an effort to restore his health, and he wrote about his stay; -
“The landing of an invalid is difficult for between the sea and the shore at low water there is an impassable gulf, if I may call it so, deep mud, which could neither be traversed by walking or swimming, so for nearly half the 24 hours Ryde was inaccessible by friend or foe”.

He however, had plenty of good words to say about Ryde after his unfortunate arrival—“This pleasant village is situated on a gentle ascent from the water, whence it affords that charming prospect I have described. Its soil is gravel which assisted by its declivity [slope], preserve it always, so dry that immediately after the most violent rain, a fine lady may walk without wetting her silken shoes” Even to this day Ryde has a reputation for clean streets which is possessed by few other towns.

He went on to say “the fertility of the place is apparent from its extraordinary verdure [greenness], and it is so shaded with large and flourishing elms, that its narrow lanes are natural grove or walk which, in the regularity of its plantations, vies with power of art, and its wanton exuberancy greatly exceeds it. In a field in the ascent of this hill, about a quarter of a mile from the sea stands a little chapel, it is very small, but adequate for the number of the inhabitants, for the parish doth not seem to contain above 30 houses”. This church was erected by Thomas Player in 1719 due to parish church at Newchurch being some six miles away. It was dedicated to St Thomas, and the manor paid £10 annually to the vicar of Newchurch to provide a person to officiate at St Thomas’s. As a consequence of the rapid growth of Ryde, the little church was superseded by the present church, built by George Player in 1827.

Fielding’s adventures at Ryde were most amusing, they fell at once into the hands of a landlady who treated them like gentry; she did nothing that they desired and charged them accordingly. She offered them damp rooms, but Mrs Fielding found a dry one, and ordered the cloth to be laid there, “it was a dry warm oaken-floored barn, lined on both sides with weather beaten straw, and opening at one end onto green fields and a beautiful view”. It was the middle of July and Fielding complained that the butcher did not kill during the beans and bacon season. This limited type of food did not suit the visitors, and by chance they found next door a supply of fish, which included soles, whiting and lobsters and allowed then to eat in style.

This concludes the report of Ryde in bygone days.

Source: Isle of Wight County Press, 1934

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:27

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