RYDE, a market-town and chapelry, in the parish of Newchurch, liberty of East Medina, Isle of Wight division of the county of Southampton, 7 miles (E. N. E.) from Newport, 5 (S.) from Portsmouth across the Solent, and 77 (S. W.) from London; containing 5840 inhabitants. This place, anciently denominated La Rye, was a post for the sentinels who guarded this part of the island, and in the reign of Richard II. was burnt and laid waste by the French. It is situated on the shore of the Solent Water, opposite to Stokes bay and Portsmouth harbour, and commands a fine view of Spithead and the Motherbank, with a more distant prospect of Haslar hospital, and the town of Portsmouth. From an insignificant fishing-hamlet, it has within the last century assumed the appearance of a handsome and populous town. The original distinction of Upper and Lower Ryde is still preserved, the former comprising the more ancient houses of the old town, and the latter that part situated nearer the sea-shore; but the two districts are now united by buildings of recent date. The town is laid out with regularity, upon the slope of a hill rising from the sea, and its principal streets, of which the footways are well paved, are spacious, especially that called Union-street, which contains some very handsome shops. The private houses consist chiefly of large modern cottages, constructed of stone from quarries in the immediate neighbourhood; the smaller cottages are stuccoed, and roofed with slate: the greater number are let furnished during the season. The aspect of the town as approached from the water is remarkably picturesque, the different lines of dwellings, relieved with trees and shrubs, rising in tiers one above another. The facility and accommodation for bathing, the number of excellent hotels and boarding-houses, and the delightful walks and rides in its vicinity, render the town an extremely agreeable place of resort during the summer; and the assembly-rooms, an annual regatta, the libraries, and a small theatre, erected by the late Mr. Thornton, add to its attractions. The constant communication, by means of steam-boats, with Portsmouth and Southampton, and thence by railway with London, has of late years much favoured its growth and prosperity.
A pier was constructed in the year 1814, in accordance with the provisions of an act of parliament, at the expense of £12,000, raised in shares of £50 each; it was originally only 1740 feet in length, but in 1833 was extended to 2226 feet, and now forms an excellent promenade, having seats sheltered from the weather at intervals on both sides. Under the powers of an act passed in 1829, the town has been paved, lighted with gas from works erected by a company in 1839, and otherwise improved; and reservoirs for the supply of the town and of shipping with pure spring water, were formed by the Pier Company in 1840. Soles and lobsters are caught; and the herring-fishery affords employment to many of the poorer inhabitants. A handsome market-house and town-hall, situated in Lindstreet, and having a frontage to the south of 200 feet, was completed in 1831: the market, which is held on Tuesday and Friday, and is supplied with fish, fruit, vegetables, poultry, &c., is not, however, much resorted to, the shops in the town being numerous and respectable. The town-hall, an elegant room where the commissioners for improving the town hold their meetings, is over the corn-market, which occupies the centre of the building. The Royal Victoria Yacht Club-House was commenced in the early part of 1846, the first stone being laid by Prince Albert: the estimated cost of the building was £5000. A fair for pedlery takes place on July 6th.
The parochial church of Newchurch being inconveniently situated seven miles distant from the town of Ryde, Thomas Player, Esq., in the year 1719 erected a chapel here, and endowed it with a yearly stipend of £10, payable to the vicar of the parish for performing the duty. The population having greatly increased, George Player, Esq., built the present more commodious structure on the foundation of the old chapel, in 1827. It is dedicated to St. Thomas, and is a neat edifice in the early English style, with a well-proportioned tower rising to a considerable height and terminated by a light spire. A little to the west is St. James's episcopal chapel, formerly belonging to the Rev. R. Waldo Sibthorp, from whom it was purchased in 1841 by the Rev. Mr. Hewett. It was erected in the year 1827, by William Hughes Hughes, Esq., and is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a campanile turret over the western entrance; its internal decorations are elaborate, and at the east end is a fine window of stained glass. A district church dedicated to the Trinity has been erected, for the accommodation of the greatly increased and still increasing population: it was consecrated in Oct. 1845, cost £5000, and is in the early English style; the chancel windows are of rich painted glass, and the font is very handsome. The living is in the gift of the Vicar. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans.