Opening of the Royal Victoria Arcade
(extract from the “Freemasons’ Quarterly Review,” 1836)
RYDE, ISLE OF WIGHT, JULY 1st. – The opening of the Royal Victoria Arcade, the first stone of which gem of art was laid with Masonic Honours in May, 1835, by the Rt. Hon the Earl of Durham, then DGM of the Order of Freemasons, was celebrated this day in a style and manner that gave the greatest possible delight. Our limits prevent us giving an ample detail of the Arcade, which, as a work of art, reflects the highest possible credit upon the talented architect, Wm Westmacott, Esq., and as an elegant structure, may be justly considered one of the chief ornaments of this beautiful town.
The order of the procession was Masonically arranged, and was sanctioned by the presence of the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Mr Blachford.
The procession assembled at the Pier Hotel, whence they proceeded, headed by a band of martial music, to the Arcade; they then passed through the Avenue, and round the Rotunda, passing through a double column of ladies assembled in the Arcade. On emerging from the Arcade the procession went in the same order to St Thomas’s Church, where the Rev Moore, (lately initiated into Masonry) performed the service, and concluded with an appropriate address to the Brethren. On leaving the Church, the procession returned to the Arcade, and passed up the stairs leading to the lead flat in front, when the copestone, (bearing the crown on the arms) was laid with Masonic ceremonies by the RWDPGM Blachford, of Newport, before a great concourse of people, in Union Street, of all classes, the windows and places being thronged with beauty and fashion. After the copestone had been laid, the RWDPGM briefly addressed the assembly.
Mr Blachford regretted Lord Yarborough was not present, through indisposition, though he could assure them he felt the deepest interest in the object, and as his substitute, would fulfil the deficiency to the best of his power. He was proud to see the progressive improvements of the town of Ryde, and happy to witness so great an addition as the splendid building opened; and he hoped, as it was highly ornamental so it would be equally beneficial. The Provincial Grand Secretary for the Island, Mr James Harland, then concluded with a brief address as follows:-
‘Allow me to congratulate you on the completion of another building, one which, I trust, will give additional splendour to the beautiful and flourishing town of Ryde.
Something more than a year has elapsed since we assembled to lay the foundation stone. We have beheld its rise and progress, and now witness its completion. I trust the means used in this case will be crowned with abundant success, and in imitation of the language of the inspired penman, I would say, “Peace be to its walls, and prosperity to the undertaking.”’
After which, the Brethren, and remainder of the procession, returned to the Pier Hotel.
A select number of about eighty in number, partook of a sumptuous dinner, prepared by Mr Hale, at the Pier Hotel, being an invitation to W H Banks Esq., (the founder of the Arcade), by his friends. Among the company are noticed Sir J Milbank, Bart, DPGM of Hants, Sir R Simeon, Bart., and other members of his family; Captains Marshall, Legan, Lock, Ribeleau and Butterfield, of the Royal Navy; T Clive Esq., the Rev W Moore, C Deacon Esq., J Lindgreen Esq., and numerous other gentlemen.
(Lord Yarborough was MP for Newport, and lived in Appuldurcombe House in Wroxall. He was created Baron Worsley in 1837 and founded the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes. The Sea Mark on Bembridge Down was erected in memory of Lord Yarborough after his sudden death on board his ship ‘Kestrel’ in 1846.)
The customary loyal toasts were given; after which the following: ‘The Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master of the Isle of Wight, all the Lodges of the Isle of Wight who kindly assisted in the ceremony, and the Deputy Grand Master of the Province of Hants’.
The DPGM Blachford returned thanks, regretting the indisposition of Lord Yarborough, who would have so well fulfilled the duties of the day, concluded his address with an anxious wish to initiate the whole country as Masons. Mr Deacon, as Master of the Southampton Lodge, hoped Mr Banks would meet the just return of his zeal for the town of Ryde.
B Sherer Esq., in a neat speech, proposed, ‘The health of T Clive Esq., the Chairman. (Great applause).
The chairman returned thanks in a brief and humorous speech.
W H Banks Esq.,said, after the many toasts which had been drunk with so much enthusiasm, he had one to propose, which had great claim to particular attention. The ladies in the Isle of Wight were fair and good-tempered; he had been accused of submitting to a command in the proposal of Friday, as an untimely day, but the gentlemen would recollect that the Romans, who had conquered the world, dedicated that day to Venus, and therefore to beauty. He now proposed, ‘The Ladies of the Isle of Wight’.
Sir R Simeon rose and said it required particular courage to make an amendment to such a toast; he would, notwithstanding, propose that it should be, ‘Mrs Banks, and the Ladies of the Isle of Wight.’ (Drunk with great applause).
Tune: ‘Here’s a Health to All Good Lasses’.
The DPGM Blachford then proposed, ‘The Architect,’ ‘The Clerk of the Works’, and lastly, ‘Mr Saunders, the Builder’, who returned thanks.’
Thomas Saunders was the publican of the Vine Inn in Pier Street. It is reported that he was never paid for the building of the arcade, and it was the last building he ever built, as he returned to the pub trade.