Historic Ryde Society

‘Giving Ryde’s Past to the Future’

Historic Ryde Society Quiz Night Thursday 30 November 2023 at Yelf's Hotel, at 7p.m. for 7.30pm.

Leisure and Entertainment

Ryde in the 19th century was a very entertaining place to be! In the season, bands played every day on the pier, plays and burlesques were performed in the theatre, there were exhibitions in the Victoria Rooms, (now Town Chambers in Lind Street), and balls and concerts in the Town Hall! On the Poetry page you will see a poem written by a lady bemoaning the fact a whole year has gone by without a Fancy Ball……….this was a rare event. In the local newspapers, lists of attendees were published, which included a full description of costumes of both ladies and gentlemen. On this page, we’ll be explaining how the residents of 19th century Ryde spent their leisure time. You may be quite jealous!

Leisure in the 1850s

Leisure in the 1860s

Leisure in the 1870s

Leisure in the 1880s

Leisure in the 1890s

The “Old Madrid” Fancy Fair, April 1907

The Old Madrid part 2

Leisure in the 1900s



Another of these interesting entertainments was given at the Town Hall, on Thursday evening, on which occasion the large room was well filled, and we have no doubt that as a result of the entertainment the Royal Isle of Wight Infirmary and the School of Art will be benefitted to a considerable extent, the proceeds being devoted to these two excellent institutions. The chair was taken by the Mayor (B BARROW Esq.); and Dr J RICHARDS Esq., acted as interrogator, and Alfred WOODWARD, Esq., and Mr W B SMITH as referees. The words were much better selected than on the last occasion, and there could not now be many complaints of a lack of fairness. After the Mayor had opened the meeting, the first competition for the juniors (ie those under 16 years of age) commenced. There were about 25 young girls and 25 lads, and with these Mr RICHARDS, who was an admirable interrogator, soon began to deal. “Phaeton”, “furlough”, “clergy” and “axiom” (spelt acciom), “nucleus”, “rhythm”, “indict” (spelt indite), and a number of other similar words, soon removed more than one half of the competitors from the platform. “Sirloin” was spelt correctly, but the Mayor said he would give a prize to anyone who would tell him how the joint came by the name. Two or three answers came from different parts of the room. King Charles II was dining off this particular joint, on one occasion, and declared it to be so good that he said he would knight it, which he did and it had ever since been called sirloin. “Altar” (for alter) soon sent another off; as did also carboine (for carboy), rapsody (for rhapsody), sensorious (for censorious), sycholl (for cycle); hyatus (for hiatus), which was some of the worst spelling of the juniors. The girls were certainly the best spellers, and soon the number was reduced to five – three girls and two boys – the number of prizes. The next competition was to see who would take first and second prize &c. Before this took place, however, Mrs GURNELL favoured the audience with the good old song, “My lodgings are on the cold, cold ground,” which she sang with great sweetness and taste. In response to the loud encore, she gave “I’d be a butterfly”.

JULY 1904

ALTERATIONS AT THE THEATRE ROYAL, RYDE. – Mr J BANNISTER HOWARD, the new proprietor, has spared no expense in cleaning and re-decorating the Theatre Royal. The work has not been done in a perfunctory manner, but the lower part of the Theatre, beneath the stage and pit, has been thoroughly cleaned out, and we understand over three tons of paper and rubbish have been cleared away. The dressing rooms have been cleaned and whitewashed, and the machinery under the stage seen to. Mr H LEONARD, the acting manager, discovered a passage, intended to give access, when the house is crowded, to the side of the pit, but it had evidently never been used. An extra gallery entrance and exit to the street is being made on the front of the Theatre, and the newly used entrance to the stalls from Lind Street has been repapered and decorated. The new paper which has been placed on the walls of the Theatre, is a Japanese embossed pattern, which looks rich without being too gaudy. In fact the whole of the decorations are in very good taste. We trust Mr BANNISTER HOWARD will find the new seats he has been able to add to the pit stalls and pit appreciated and well filled.
(The Theatre Royal burned to the ground in May, 1961. The National Westminster Bank was built in its place.)

The postcard below shows members of Ryde Amateur Dramatic Society in “The Peacemaker” Town Halls, Ryde, April 17, 18 and 19, 1907.