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Ann Barrett, RSHG

Rickard & Records

“We moved to Ryde in 1965 from East London and I’ve always lived in the area since then. Back in the 60s, Ryde was such a vibrant place with lots of holidaymakers especially when all the holiday camps were open. The pier used to be chock-a-block with people patiently queuing in the summertime.

“The hotels were busy and there were places to go dancing in the evenings. It really was a great place to be.

“But as foreign holidays became more popular, there was a general decline in the traditional seaside holiday.

“In recent times, it has become quieter and it would be nice to see the glory days return again.

“The High Street has wonderful buildings and it would be great to see small shops opening that would encourage people to browse and spend time there.

“I would really like to see the accommodation above the shops being lived in again and to create that real feeling of community once again with neighbours talking to each other.

“The research I have done into the people who ran shops in the High Street in years gone by means they feel like real people to me. One of my favourite photos is of Mr Edmund Rickard outside the jewellers shop he ran in 1902. All his family worked in the shop and you can sense the pride they had in the shop.

“It would be nice to get that feeling back in the High Street once again.

“Ever since I was at school, I have always had an interest in history and after I left school, I’ve always done some sort of research.

“When I first came over here in 1965, I went to the Records Office every week and researched all sorts of things. I ended up knowing far more about the Isle of Wight than I ever did about where I was born.

“I had one of the first home computers on the Island. Communication was by post in the early days and that’s how I started helping people from all over the world who wanted things looking up about the Island.

“In 2002, two friends started looking at the grave stones in Ryde and transcribing them. They formed a little website and they had no idea how popular it would become. They asked me if I would like to join them as a researcher, looking into the lives of the people buried in the cemetery.

“It mushroomed from there and Ryde Social Heritage Group became a fully constituted group in 2005. We have got more than 23,000 files on the website and 105 members. It is fascinating to discover all the interesting things these people did – it really brings them to life for me.

“When I walk through the cemetery, I feel as if I know the people personally.”