Ryde Pier

Coordinates: 50°44′12″N 1°09′38″W / 50.736721°N 1.160623°W

Ryde Pier
Ryde Pier seen from the pier head, showing the well-known twin spires of Ryde.
Official nameRyde Pier
TypeWorking pier with landing stages and railway
CarriesCars and Island Line trains
SpansThe Solent
LocaleRyde, Isle of Wight
DesignJohn Kent of Southampton
Total length745 yards (681 m)
Opening date26 July 1814

Ryde Pier is an early 19th century pier serving the town of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. It is the world's oldest seaside pleasure pier.[1][2]

Before the pier

Before the pier was built, passengers had the uncomfortable experience of coming ashore on the back of a porter and then, depending on the state of the tide, having to walk as far as half a mile across wet sand before reaching the town. The need for a pier was obvious, especially if the town was to attract the wealthy and fashionable visitors who were beginning to patronise other seaside resorts.[2]

The original pier

The pier was designed by John Kent of Southampton, and its foundation stone laid on 29 June 1813. The pier opened on 26 July 1814,[3] with, as it still has, a timber-planked promenade. The structure was originally wholly timber, and measured 576 yards. By 1833, extensions took the overall length to 745 yards. It is this pre-Victorian structure that has, with some modifications, carried pedestrians and vehicles ever since.


Ryde Pier, IW, UK
The "three piers": the pedestrian and vehicle pier (left), the remains of the old tramway (centre) and the extant railway line (right)

A second 'tramway' pier was built next to the first, opening on 29 August 1864.[3] Horse-drawn trams took passengers from the pier head to the esplanade. Before construction of the railway pier, the tramway continued to Ryde railway station at St John's Road. From 1886 to 1927 the trams were powered by electricity from a third rail, and from then until 1969 were petrol-powered.[4]

Ryde Pier ex-LSW 0-4-4T geograph-2687966-by-Ben-Brooksbank
Ex-LSW 0-4-4T on Ryde Pier in 1965

On 12 July 1880 a third pier was opened, alongside the first two, providing a direct steam railway link to the pier-head.[3] The railway was part of the Portsmouth and Ryde Joint Railway (a company owned jointly by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and London and South Western Railway), as far as Ryde St John's Road, to connect with their ship services to Portsmouth. However, trains were run by the independent Isle of Wight Railway and Isle of Wight Central Railway, who owned the tracks beyond St John's Road and operated services to Ventnor and Cowes via Newport respectively.

In 1895 a concert pavilion was constructed at the pier-head, and over the next sixteen years the original wooden piles were replaced with cast iron. It was at Ryde Pier that the Empress Eugénie landed from Sir John Burgoyne's yacht "The Gazelle", after her flight from Paris in 1870.

The pier head was remodelled in the 1930s using concrete, and during the Second World War was used for military purposes, after various modifications.

Ryde Pier
Ryde Pier shown from Ryde.

The Concert Pavilion was at the centre of the narrative in Philip Norman's book, Babycham Night; the author's family ran this venue when it was known as the Seagull Ballroom in the 1950s, and his relatives produced the eponymous champagne perry. The pavilion was later demolished, but a few of the rotting piles are still visible around the edge of an extended car parking area constructed in 2010.

The tramway closed in 1969[5] and the structure was partially dismantled. This has left the disused and decaying tramway pier between the railway and promenade piers. The remaining structure has proved useful for temporary diversions, such as when a ship sliced through the promenade pier in 1974. In autumn 2010 the whole length was fitted with a temporary deck to provide a walkway, during re-building works on the Promenade Pier.

Ryde Pier was made a Grade II listed building in 1976. In the early 1980s a modern waiting area, including some of the original buildings, replaced the original Victorian waiting rooms at the pier-head. Further modifications were made in 2009, including provision of a conservatory-style refreshment area with views towards Ryde. In May 2011 the lighting columns on the Promenade Pier were fitted with Victorian-style brackets and lanterns.

The pier today

Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight
View along the pier from Ryde Esplanade station

The pier is still a gateway for passenger traffic to and from the Isle of Wight, with the Island Line train running from Ryde Pier Head railway station (at the pier head), via Ryde Esplanade down the eastern side of the island. The Wightlink catamaran runs regularly between Ryde and Portsmouth. It is possible to drive along the pier, and there is parking at the pier head.

People are still allowed to walk along the pier, but must contend with motor traffic driving along the same wooden walkway. From the pier head there are panoramic views across the Solent to Portsmouth four miles away. On clear days, Fawley and its Refinery can be seen away to the west.

In 2005, Ryde Pier featured briefly in the film Fragile, in an inaccurate scene where Calista Flockhart is driven along the Pier after leaving a Red Funnel car ferry. In reality, the pier is only served by Wightlink craft, with Red Funnel services based out of Cowes and East Cowes, six miles to the north-west.

From August 2010 to March 2011, Ryde Pier was closed to vehicles to allow structural repairs underneath the promenade pier, which had failed a regular inspection by Trant. The pier remained open to pedestrians, who from October 2010 used temporary decking on the tramway pier. Some Wightlink foot passengers were allowed to use Island Line train services along the pier free of charge. Work to extend the Pier Head to allow for additional car parking continued during this period. The promenade pier then re-opened.

On the weekend of 26 July 2014, the pier celebrated its 200th anniversary.[6]

Victoria Pier

For a few decades, Ryde had a second pier, the Victoria, a few hundred yards to the east. It was promoted by the Stokes Bay Pier and Railway Company to provide a landing for a rival ferry service from Gosport. It opened in 1864 as the main pier was getting its tramway. Being somewhat shorter than Ryde Pier, it could not be used at all points of the tide, and so offered little competition to the main Ryde to Portsmouth ferry services. When the Stokes Bay company was acquired by the London & South Western Railway in 1875, the ferry service ceased, and Victoria Pier became a pleasure pier only, with public baths at the head and a swimming platform at the dry end.[7]

By 1900, use of the bathing facilities was declining, and the second pier gradually became derelict. The austerity of the First World War led to it being considered redundant and a hazard, and in 1916, its demolition was authorised by Act of Parliament. By the 1920s it had gone. Until the construction of the marina in the 1980s, the outline of the shore-end abutment could be made out in the sea wall near Ryde Pavilion, and at low spring tide the stumps of the piles could be seen in the sand offshore.

Pier Hotel

The Royal Pier Hotel was built soon after the original pier, to serve its increasing trade and traffic. It stood on Pier Street opposite the bottom of Union Street for a hundred years, becoming a well-known local landmark.

Its position across the end of the steep final section of Union Street created a difficult 90-degree turn for drivers. In 1930 a bus descending Union Street took the turn into Pier Street too fast and overturned, killing several passengers and pedestrians, and damaging the south front of the Hotel. At the inquest the Pier Hotel was found to be a hazard to drivers, and instead of being repaired its demolition was ordered. By 1931 the Pier Hotel and the entire range of buildings back to the end of St. Thomas's Street had been removed, and Pier Street itself ceased to exist, becoming part of the Esplanade.[8]


  1. ^ "The expert selection: British seaside piers" (1 August 2014). Financial Times. 15 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Medland, John. "200 Years of Ryde Piers: The Island Story". IW Beacon. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "History of Ryde Pier". National Pier Society. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  4. ^ Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. p. 9. ISBN 1-85414-276-3.
  5. ^ Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. p. 24. ISBN 1-85414-276-3.
  6. ^ BBC news report Retrieved 27 July 2014
  7. ^ "History of Ryde Victoria Pier". National Piers Society. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Royal Pier Hotel, Ryde". Island Eye. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
British Rail Class 483

The British Rail Class 483 electric multiple units were originally built as 1938 tube stock units for London Underground. They were extensively refurbished between 1989 and 1992 by Eastleigh Works, for use on services on the Isle of Wight's Island Line. This was despite having already worked for nearly 50 years on the London Underground. The units replaced the even older and life-expired British Rail Classes 485 and 486 units, which were introduced in 1967, but were originally built as 'Standard' stock units for the London Electric Railway in 1923.

The stock is 80 years old and still in service as of 2019, making it the oldest type in Great Britain to remain in regular service. The current operator, South Western Railway, have submitted a plan to the Department for Transport to replace the elderly stock with newer Class 230 units. These trains are also former London Underground Stock, formerly designated as D78 Stock.

HSC FastCat Ryde

HSC FastCat Ryde is a high speed catamaran ferry which operates between the Isle of Wight and mainland England. The vessel was originally built in Singapore for service in the Philippines as Water Jet 1. She was bought by Wightlink in 2000 and following an extensive refit entered service on the Ryde Pier to Portsmouth route since August 2000 along with her sister ship HSC FastCat Shanklin.From early Autumn 2009, Wightlink took delivery of two new vessels to operate the route, Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II. Both the FastCat Shanklin and FastCat Ryde were retained by Wightlink until Spring 2010 and drafted in as replacements as teething problems occurred with the new vessels. They were then sold on to new owners in Bristol.On 12 January 2010, the FastCat Ryde crashed into Ryde Pier by landing heavily causing superficial damage to the vessel and a section of the pier. No one was injured in the crash and the vessel was sailed back empty to Portsmouth Harbour for a full investigation to be carried out.In 2010 she was sold, along with her sister craft, to Severn Link in Ilfracombe to operate a service between there and Swansea. As a result of a local competition she was renamed Rapparee. The projected service failed to materialise and in August she returned to Southampton. In May 2011, having been sold to Alien Shipping, a Russian company, the two craft were transported to the Black Sea on board the Beluga Fantasy.

HSC Our Lady Pamela

HSC Our Lady Pamela was a high-speed catamaran ferry which operated between the Isle of Wight and mainland England. She had operated on the Wightlink Ryde Pier to Portsmouth route since 1986 under Sealink along with her now scrapped sister ship HSC Our Lady Patricia. Both ships were named after the daughters of Lord Mountbatten, who had been the Governor of the Isle of Wight.

In March 2009, it was announced that Wightlink would be replacing its FastCat catamarans with two new vessels, Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II. Our Lady Pamela was, however, taken out of service earlier than the two other vessels, FastCat Ryde and FastCat Shanklin. This was partly due to an engine fire causing significant damage, This vessel was scrapped at Esbjerg.

HSC Our Lady Patricia

HSC Our Lady Patricia was a high speed catamaran ferry which operated between the Isle of Wight and mainland England. She operated on the Wightlink Ryde Pier to Portsmouth route from 1986 to 2006, in conjunction with her sister ship HSC Our Lady Pamela, after which she was sold. She was scrapped at Marchwood in 2006.

HSC Wight Ryder I

HSC Wight Ryder I and her sister-vessel HSC Wight Ryder II are two high-speed passenger catamarans operated by Wightlink on the Ryde to Portsmouth ferry route.

Both vessels left their construction site in the Philippines in June 2009, and began service in September 2009. In preparation for their arrival, berth improvements at Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier were carried out. Following the introduction of the Wight Ryders into service, the existing vessels, FastCat Ryde and FastCat Shanklin were phased out, and eventually sold to new owners in Bristol.Unlike the older catamarans, the new vessels do not feature yellow and white "FastCat" branding, but are painted in a similar livery to Wightlink's larger car ferries. They include an open-air upper deck whereas the previous catamarans were fully enclosed.

On introduction, the vessels were criticised for being too slow and too small, with a seating capacity reduced from 294 to 260. Wightlink stated that a new timetable would be introduced offering more services during the day to ensure that there would be sufficient places to meet demand. The maximum speed is 26 knots compared to 34 knots for the earlier vessels, but as significant time is spent in the speed-limited region round Portsmouth Harbour, only a couple of minutes are lost, and fuel consumption is significantly less. However, the tight turnarounds can give cumulative delays if only one vessel is in operation on an hourly service.

A private naming and dedication ceremony took place on 17 September 2009 following the issuing of the passenger certificate. The vessels were initially expected to go into service on 21 September, with two days of discounted travel enabling passengers to trial the new vessels, but this was later postponed and occurred towards the end of September.Following the launch, further problems arose when Wight Ryder II suffered a generator fault. This was followed by more problems on a later crossing involving a bang. The vessel returned to Ryde Pier, and was temporarily replaced with an older FastCat vessel. Wightlink were criticised by passengers for poor levels of communication. The older FastCats were again drafted in the following weekend when engineers discovered fuel contamination affecting both vessels.

Island Line, Isle of Wight

The Island Line is a railway line on the Isle of Wight, running 8 1⁄2 miles (13.7 km) from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin on the Island's east coast. The line was electrified (630 V DC third rail) in 1967. Trains connect with passenger ferries to Portsmouth Harbour at Ryde Pier Head, and these ferries in turn connect with the rest of the National Rail network via the Portsmouth Direct Line. The line also connects to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, a steam-operated heritage railway at Smallbrook Junction. For much of its length the line runs alongside the A3055, criss-crossing this road by means of the Ryde Tunnel and bridges at Rowborough, Morton Common, Lake Hill and Littlestairs.

Island Line (brand)

Island Line is a brand of the South Western Railway train operating company which runs the ​8 1⁄2-mile Island Line on the Isle of Wight. A stand-alone franchise from 1996 until 2007, it then became part of the South Western franchise operated by South West Trains until August 2017 and since by South Western Railway.

Isle of Wight Railway

The Isle of Wight Railway was a railway company on the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom; it operated 14 miles of railway line between Ryde and Ventnor. It opened the first section of line from Ryde to Sandown in 1864, later extending to Ventnor in 1866. The Ryde station was at St Johns Road, some distance from the pier where the majority of travellers arrived. A tramway operated on the pier itself, and a street-running tramway later operated from the Pier to St Johns Road. It was not until 1880 that two mainland railways companies jointly extended the railway line to the Pier Head, and IoWR trains ran through, improving the journey arrangements.

An independent company built a branch line from Brading to Bembridge, and the IoWR operated passenger trains on the line from 1882, and later absorbed the owning company.

The IoWR was itself absorbed into the Southern Railway in the "grouping" of 1923.

The Bembridge branch closed in 1953, and in 1966 the Ryde Pier Head to Ventnor line was truncated to terminate at Shanklin. This was electrified, and former London Underground tube train stock was brought into use on the line; this arrangement continues to the present day.

Langston railway station

Langston was a small station on the Hayling Island branch. The station along with the rest of the line closed in 1963, and it served the Langstone area of Havant, a former village which had become contiguous with the larger town to its north. The railway companies always used the old spelling "Langston" for the station, in spite of this form not being used by the local community, and it can be seen in many photographs of the station sign.The line itself crossed the sole road on and off Hayling Island, which is now the A3023, with a gated level crossing and wooden platform (upgraded to concrete in 1950). This would cause huge traffic jams during peak hours, especially in summer, since the Island had the closest sandy beach to Portsmouth, and trains ran every fifteen minutes at peak times.The station had no freight facilities (neither did North Hayling, the other intermediate station), however in the Victorian period, there was a slipway for a rail-served ferry to the Isle of Wight immediately south of Langston station. The ferry ran to Bembridge, where there was also a railway station, this being prior to the construction of the pier stations at Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head by the LSWR to create a direct rail-ferry link for the Island.

The station structure has since been demolished, but one can still walk the route up to Havant station.The stationmaster's house was destroyed by fire in December 2018.

PS Shanklin (1924)

PS Shanklin was a passenger vessel built for the Southern Railway in 1924 for use on the Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier route.

Portsmouth Direct line

The Portsmouth Direct line is a railway route between Woking in Surrey and Portsmouth Harbour in Hampshire, England. It forms the principal route for passenger trains between London and Portsmouth, and also provides a partial rail link to the Island Line on the Isle of Wight, with passengers disembarking at Portsmouth Harbour before taking the Wightlink catamaran service to Ryde Pier, where the Island Line commences at Ryde Pier Head. The name was derived unofficially, but has entered widespread use for the physical infrastructure between Woking and Portsmouth Harbour, and for the passenger train service from London over the route. The final section of line from Havant to Portsmouth is shared by other passenger routes.

Railways on the Isle of Wight

There once existed a 55 1⁄2-mile (89.3 km) network of railway lines on the Isle of Wight. They were opened by several companies between 1862 and 1901, and all but the 8 1⁄2-mile-long (13.7 km) Island Line closed between 1952 and 1966. A further 5 1⁄2 miles (8.9 km) have reopened as the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.


Ryde is an English seaside town and civil parish on the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight, with a population of 32,072 at the 2011 Census. It grew in size as a seaside resort after the villages of Upper Ryde and Lower Ryde were merged in the 19th century. The influence of this era is clearly visible in the town's central and seafront architecture. As a resort Ryde is noted for its expansive sands revealed at low tide, making the listed pier necessary on the wide beach for a regular passenger ferry service. The pier is the fourth longest in the United Kingdom, as well as the oldest.

Ryde Esplanade railway station

Ryde Esplanade railway station serves the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and forms part of the Ryde Transport Interchange. Located on the sea front, it is the most convenient station for the majority of the town. Ryde Esplanade is also the location of the principal ticket office and all lost property facilities for the Island Line. The larger St John's Road station houses the area office and is next to Ryde depot, where all in-house maintenance for the line takes place.

Ryde Pier Head railway station

Ryde Pier Head railway station is one of three stations in the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Situated at the end of the town's pier, it is adjacent to the terminal for the Wightlink fast catamaran service connecting the island with Portsmouth on the UK mainland. Passengers can use this to connect with the rest of the National Rail network at Portsmouth Harbour station, which is adjacent to the Portsmouth terminal. Through rail tickets for travel via Pier Head station are available to and from other stations on the Isle of Wight. These include travel on the catamaran service to or from Portsmouth as appropriate.

Trains run down the eastern coast of the Isle of Wight to Shanklin (the Island Line), the last remnant of a network of railways on the island. Because of the restricted loading gauge, particularly through the tunnel under Ryde, services are operated by Class 483s (London Underground 1938 Stock).

The ticket office at the station is run by Wightlink and not Island Line.

Ryde St John's Road railway station

Ryde St John's Road is a railway station on the Island Line, and serves the town of Ryde, Isle of Wight. The station is 1.25 mi (2 km) south of Ryde Pier Head—the Island Line's northern terminus. When the station opened in 1864, it was known as Ryde railway station, as it was the northern terminus of the Isle of Wight Railway at the time. Rather than a railway, a tramway continued northwards to where the current Ryde Pier Head railway station stands; the railway was extended to Ryde Pier in 1880.

Sandown railway station

Sandown railway station is a railway station serving Sandown on the Isle of Wight, England. It is located on the Island Line from Ryde to Shanklin.

Smallbrook Junction railway station

Smallbrook Junction railway station is a railway station on the Isle of Wight, England. It is unusual because it has no public access but exists purely to provide a connection between two rail systems.

Another similar station is Manulla Junction in County Mayo, Republic of Ireland. However, that station allows interchange between two national network rail routes, rather than between a network route and a heritage route.


Wightlink is a ferry company operating routes between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in southern England.

The core routes are car ferries between Lymington and Yarmouth (40 minutes) and between Portsmouth and Fishbourne (45 minutes). A fast passenger-only catamaran operates between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head, taking 22 minutes, and directly links with the Island Line rail line.

In recent years the firm has been owned by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund, then sold to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners in 2015, but as of 2019 is owned by Basalt Infrastructure Partners and Fiera Infrastructure Inc. Each of whom own a 50% stake in the firm.

Wightlink's main competitors are Red Funnel, who run passenger catamarans between Southampton – Cowes and vehicle ferries between Southampton – East Cowes, and Hovertravel who operate passenger hovercraft between Southsea and Ryde.

Other pages
Former piers

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.