Friday 3 February 2023

Pier Street : A Failure Of Enterprise

Before the arrival of "tourists", Ryde was just a few fisherman's cottages at the sea front.

The Royal Pier Hotel was an early arrival as Ryde began to develop as a "seaside" town. It was built much at the same time as the first piet.
The two stood proudly next to one another.

Also in the old illustration were a couple of tow boars, horse drawn, that would have been made redundant now that boats could park at the pier head.
The Hotel (with little evidence of real Royal connections!) was both imposing and popular. Combined with the wooden pier, visitors soon flocked to this delightful seaside town with it's glorious and spacious beaches ...
... accessed by a delightful sail across the Solent.

As the other two Piers were added to the mix, the Hotel remained a distinctive feature of the pier area, filling most of the seaward side of Pier Street.

The Island's bus companies all served the pier area ...
... and, way back when,  carriages were also available.
But in 1929 it was the steepness of Union Street that was the undoing of "The Royal".

Here is Union Street in the early 60s, still with two way traffic and with its view of pier and sea at the bottom.

But take a close look at this much older equivalent.
Although it is a bit fuzzy, you can see that buildings block the view of the pier and those building are part of the block that includes the hotel and which sat on the seaward side of the now-disappeared road.

An old map explains it.

Consequently, traffic coming down Union Street had to navigate a sharp right-hand turn into what was then Pier Street.

With the arrival of the motor car the turning became notorious as an accident black spot and was the subject of many complaints to the council, all of which were ignored ­— until events one afternoon in March, 1929.

Charlie Wheeler, a driver for the Enterprise Bus Company ...

... was driving his bus down Union Street when disaster struck.

As an aside, The Isle of Wight Bus Museum has painted and ex Southern Vectis single decker in the livery of the erstwhile Enterprise bus company.

Enterprise never operated an MW, and the company was bought out by Southern Vectis!

His brakes failed halfway down and he took the corner at nearly 30 miles an hour. Horrified lunchtime shoppers watched aghast as the bus turned over on its side, leaving two people dead, including the conductor, Fred Bull, aged just 19.

A full version of this tragedy is published on-line by the County Press.

This accident finally made the Council sit up and take notice that the right hand turn at the bottom of Union Street was far too risky for the motor cars and buses of the early 1930s.

So the whole hotel block was summarily demolished.

This does seem a very drastic solution and fbb can find no mention of compensation to the owners; or maybe a recognition that other hotels in Ryde were more modern and better equipped leading to a decline in trade.

The art deco Royal York might well have been more attractive, situated at the top of steep George Street, parallel to the ill fated steepness of Union Street.

It was certainly bigger and posher than the Royal Pier Hotel.
But grand and posh it was no more.
But a rebuild and revamp is now in progress,
Residents of the jtown have been calling for work to be undertaken on the once luxurious building in George Street for a number of years, with many calling it an eye sore of the town, however the planning decision now means that the art deco hotel will once again open its doors as a central hotel with the addition of 4 residential flats.

fbb is unsure of the timeline here, but the "York" would have been perceived as superior to the "Pier".

But back to the hole left by the Royal Pier Hotel demolition and the effect on the Western Gardens that lay between it and the sea.

What happened to the bandstand and its associated compound once roofed and protected from the prevailing precipitation?
fbb vaguely remembers the walls of the formerly sumptuous edifice being in place, although looking forlorn, in 1958; but ultimately the Western Gardens became the western non-roundabout, but much much bigger than today's version.
There were "gardens" in the middle, but somehow the area had lost its charm.
Hey ho - the motorist rules once again.

But the next change was the construction of a bus station on Ryde Esplanade now being deconstructed and reconstructed.

Of which more in due course.

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 4th February 

1 comment:

  1. I think the MW was repainted when still in SV's ownership- it was part of their vintage fleet in the 1990s.