Exploring Inside Ryde Theatre/Town Hall – Abandoned Isle of Wight


Ryde Theatrer is a large Victorian grade II
listed building located in the center of the Islands largest town. Its central
clock tower forms part of Ryde’s characteristic skyline, its multiple
clock faces and distinctive copper dome are visible for miles out to sea. This
once grand Victorian structure had a number of uses throughout the years but
has remained empty for almost a decade since closing as a music venue back in
April 2010. Last summer we were tipped off that the
building was accessible and took the opportunity to give the site a visit The building was designed by London architect James Sanderson and it was
constructed as part of redevelopment of the town center in Ryde. Building started
in 1830 and the site opened in 1831 as a market house & Town Hall. In 1868 the
building was extended with a larger venue Hall being added and also the
central clock tower. As a town hall it was extensively used for musical
entertainment and concerts. The building contains a historic organ
installed in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. On the 6th of
June 1933 a fire broke out which caused extensive damage to most of the building
many valuable pictures and the organ were lost during the blaze. The damaged
sections were reconstructed which allowed for many of the facilities to be
updated and a new organ was installed. The halls were officially reopened by
the Mayor on the 1st of June 1934. In 1990 alterations were carried out to
convert the upper floors of the building into a theatre with the capacity to hold
up to 500 people, this opened in March of 1991 as a theatre and the site was also
briefly used as a cinema, although, the cinema closed after only eight weeks
into a 13 week trial due to a lack of attendance. In July 2007 the council
started to consider closing the site as it was in need of renovation. In 2009 the
estimated cost to refurbish the theatre was 1.8 million pounds, the cabinet
decided that the council should seek proposals from community groups and
commercial operators for the redevelopment and management of the site The property was advertised for sale on April 2009 and an offer of £390,000 was accepted by the council from Platform One a local music college who were interested in keeping the site open as a
theatre and music venue, unfortunately, this period coincided with the economic
downturn and Platform One struggled secured its anticipated funding and the
purchase was withdrawn in March of 2011 By this point the site had been closed
since April of the previous year the property was re-advertised for sale in
October of 2011 and this time the sale was on an unrestricted basis, a company
called Phantom Productions purchased the property from the council in early 2013
for an estimated £300,000 the organisation was rumoured to be
affiliated with the Isle of Wight Festival organisers and aimed to reopen
the site as a music venue, but this failed to happen and today the site’s
remain closed. During our visit inside it was clearly visible that some work had
been started to renovate the site although it didn’t appear as though much
work had been carried out on the inside for quite some time. In March of this
year a feasibility study was submitted to Ryde town council by the Ryde Empty
Buildings Group regarding acquiring and developing the site as a landmark
cultural centre. The proposed plan is supported by the Isle of Wight Council’s
regeneration department, however, as the building is still owned by Phantom
Productions nothing can be done to reopen and restore this historically
significant building without an agreement from the owners to sell the
building

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