Ref Number: 0092
Ref Number: 0092
Ryde Pier Tramways
On June 29th, 1813, the first stone was set for the Ryde Pier that John Kent had planned. It was built primarily to accommodate the expanding number of people taking trips across the Solent and to make Ryde much more convenient for the increasing number of Victorians taking vacations there.
A year later to the day, the pier was opened to the public. The original building measured in at 527 metres in length, and it had a 12-foot wooden jetty for docking purposes. The pier needed to be enlarged since both the number of passengers and the size of the ships that wanted to dock grew. The pier was enlarged in 1824 and again in 1827, bringing its total length to 2,020 feet (618 metres). In 1833, the pier’s length was increased to 2,250 feet (686 metres), and in 1842 and 1850, the pierhead was enlarged.
Anyone wanting to access transit at either end of the structure now had a very lengthy walk ahead of them. So, as you can see in the photograph below, in 1864 it was decided to install a pier tramway that would first be driven by horses.
Various industrial experiments were conducted on the Ryde tramway. After electricity failed, steam traction was used to power the trams, but it was only there for a short while. In the wake of its demise in 1866, electric power was introduced, and with it, electric traction and a third rail feed for trams. The opening of the electric railway in Ryde made it just the second such line in England, after Brighton.
In the years that followed, pier and tramway use skyrocketed. In 1877, with the island’s steam at the esplanade, it was decided to construct a new pier to include the area around the pier head. This once provided a direct route from the dock to the so-called Victorian Riviera of Sandown, Shanklin, and Ventnor.
The electric tram system was abandoned in favour of the more practical gasoline-powered railcars in 1927. In 1959, two Drewry railcars powered by diesel engines were purchased to replace them.
These continued in use until the last tram ran in 1969, and the tram pier was decommissioned at that time.The tramway was transformed into a temporary walkway in 2010 while the main promenade pier to the right underwent extensive structural repairs.
The pier’s entrance underwent extensive renovations in 2022–2023, and a newly renovated permanent promenade was opened to the public.