William Thomas Rickard VC and Arethusa Cottage

Arethusa Cottage is a private house on the edge of Pig Leg Lane. It is an unusual name for a house that commemorates a very celebrated occupant. Quartermaster William Thomas Rickard VC retired to Ryde in about 1870 and named his house after HMS Arethusa, a ship on which he served during the Crimean War.

Rickard won the Victoria Cross “for gallantry in the face of the enemy” after he took part in a raid described at the time as “one of the most hazardous deeds recorded in Naval Annals“.

On 11 October 1855 in the Sea of Azov, Crimea, Quartermaster Rickard went with Lieutenant
John Commerell of HMS Weser and seaman George Milestone to destroy large quantities of forage on the shore of the Sivash. After a difficult and dangerous journey to the Crimean shore of the Putrid Sea they reached their objective—a magazine of corn—and managed to ignite the stacks, but the guards were alerted and immediately opened fire and gave chase. The pursuit was so hot that Milestone, through fatigued, fell into the mud and could not extricate himself. Rickard, however, although he was himself exhausted, went back and assisted him. The three men finally reached their ship and later the look-outs reported that the fodder store had burned to the ground. (Taken from an account by the Historic Ryde Society)

After retiring from the navy, Rickard joined the Coastguard Service as boatman, Chief Boatman and latterly as Chief Officer of Coast Guards, retiring in about 1870. In retirement Rickard was boatman to the Ryde Rowing Club and he and his family lived at Arethusa Cottage. He had four sons and two daughters. He died on 21 February 1905 and is buried in Ryde cemetery.

Rickard is one of two people buried in Ryde Cemetery who have been awarded the Victoria Cross. His VC is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.

The stolen ducks, 1889

This is an extract from the Isle of Wight County Press, August 31, 1889. It tells a tale that sheds a little light on the life of the Rickard family at Arethusa Cottage.

George William Bessant, 20, Sun-place, labourer, was charged with stealing four ducks and a rabbit of the value of 17s. 6d., the property of Wm. Rickard, V.C., Weeks, retired chief officer of coastguards.

Cissie Rickard, daughter of the prosecutor, said she lived with her parents at a cottage at Weeks, near the, hospital. They kept a number of fowls, ducks, and rabbits. The ducks were kept in the pigstye in the garden, the rabbits in a hutch at the bottom of the garden. On Friday night the police showed her two ducks which looked like two they had missed. Four ducks were missed altogether, two old and two young ones. Those produced were young ones. Cross-examined she could not swear to the ducks. She had not seen prisoner near the house.

Robert Jas. Rickard, son of the prosecutor, said that on Tuesday he searched the place for the ducks and rabbit, but could not find them. The hedge was broken where someone had got in. He could not swear to the ducks produced, but he was most positive that they were two of the missing birds.—Cross-examined: Believed the ducks were young ones. Had not seen prisoner near the house; he was away at work all day.

P S. Holloway said that on Tuesday he went to William Picknell, sen., Hill Street. On going into the sitting room he saw the prisoner sitting down in the back room picking one of the ducks, the other one lying by his side partly picked. Witness took the duck prisoner had in his lap into his hand, and asked how he came by it. He said he bought them, but he did not know from whom. On Wednesday, after the remand, on returning from the police-court, prosecutor was walking by witness’s side, with the prisoner. The latter said “Don’t you think you’ll have a hard job to swear to those ducks, Mr. Rickard? Have you got any mark on them?” Prosecutor did not answer.

Cross-examined: Prisoner did not say he bought the ducks of a man at the Oak corner. Prisoner now said he was standing at the top of St. John’s-road, on Tuesday, when a man came up to him and asked if he knew where he could sell two ducks. He told him he wanted 2s. for them, but he gave him 1s. 6d. Mr. Picknell did not buy them, but he let him pick them there that he might take them down to a shop and sell them. He did not know that any ducks were stolen till the sergeant came to him. Prisoner, who had been convicted of theft at Aldershot, had a certificate of discharge with ignominy from the Army as incorrigible and worthless, and had been in trouble at this court in 1886 for an assault on the police, and in 1888 for obscene language, was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment.