Navigational tips and beauty spots around the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight.
Ryde – the loss of the Royal George
Its prodigious bar forced upon Ryde its signature construction: the pier. It’s the fourth longest, and Britain’s oldest. Ferries from Portsmouth serve the pier and a hovercraft also runs from Southsea seafront to the base just east of the pier. Ryde also has a small harbour that dries 2.3m.
On 28 August 1782, the 100-gun first rater HMS Royal George was anchored in Spithead preparing to sail with a fleet commanded by Admiral Howe to relieve the fleet at Gibraltar. Most of her crew was onboard, along with many of their relatives and workmen finishing her refit and merchants making sales.
To allow workmen to complete work on the hull, her cannon were rolled onto one side to generate heel. Unfortunately she heeled too far and water rushed into her open gunports and, despite the order being given by Lieutenant Philip Charles Durham, the officer on watch, to reposition the cannon and correct the heel, she foundered. Of the estimated 1,200 people onboard at the time, around 900 died, including 300 women and 60 children. Ryde was the tragic destination for many of the bodies. They were buried under what is now the esplanade and a plaque commemorates their loss.
Several cannon were salvaged that year using diving bells and more were recovered in 1834 when the Deane brothers used their pioneering diving helmet. The Deane brothers also discovered the wreck of the Mary Rose after being asked by fishermen to find out why their nets snagged at a location 1km northeast of the Royal George. In 1840 the Royal Engineers destroyed what remained of the wreck in a detonation that shattered windows in Portsmouth. Several of her bronze cannon were melted down and are now decorating the base of Nelson’s Column and one 24-pounder remains in Southsea Castle.