Arnold Ridyard

Major collector and donor to the West African ethnology collection and Natural History collections

Arnold Ridyard (1853-1924), a chief engineer with the Elder Dempster & Company shipping line and a major donor to the Derby and Mayer Museums. He also donated West African items to the Salford Museum, Manchester Museum and Bolton Museum. Some of the items Ridyard donated to the Salford Museum were subsequently donated to the World Museum Liverpool by the Salford Museum in 1954.
Ridyard’s success in adding objects to the Liverpool Museums’ collections is that he was able to build up an extraordinary network of well-connected resident and indigenous collaborators on the coast, who also donated artefacts to the Museums. Although Ridyard collected very many objects himself, many others were given to him by West African chiefs, members of the British-educated African elites, traders, and colonial administrators who he knew.

When Ridyard retired he was made the subject of a short address delivered to the members of the Museums Sub-Committee of the Liverpool City Council by Joseph Clubb, the Curator of Museums, at a meeting of on the 17th March 1916. In his address Joseph Clubb began with due formality, “I beg to report” he intoned, “that, with the present donation of Ethnography from West Africa, the valuable services of Mr A. Ridyard … in collecting for the Museums come to a close, as he has now retired from the service after a strenuous life at sea of 42 years.” Arnold Ridyard had been the most prolific and frequent donor to the city’s combined Derby and Mayer museums for more than two decades. In their deliberations the Sub-Committee resolved to have the Curator’s Report on the Collections Made for the Liverpool Museums by Mr. A. Ridyard, printed and copies distributed to City Council members, to Arnold Ridyard himself and to the Elder, Dempster & Co. shipping line, Ridyard’s employers for the previous forty or so years.
When Ridyard began donating objects to the Liverpool Museums in 1894 he held the rank of Chief Engineer on the SS Niger, one of the steamships of Elder, Dempster & Company’s West African service. His extra-curricular collecting work was facilitated by the company’s director Sir Alfred Jones (and his successors), who permitted free passage for items addressed to the Liverpool Museums from West and Central African ports. Between about June 1894 and February 1916 Ridyard transported, at regular three to four month intervals, an astonishing total of 6,450 “specimens” to the Liverpool Museums from seventy-seven voyages along the coast of Western Africa. Out of this total 3,969 were classified as natural history specimens, including 1,586 live animals for the aquarium, while 2,481 were classified as ethnography. But this was not all. Arnold Ridyard also made a personal collection of African artefacts and he contributed several hundred additional “specimens” from his voyages to other museums in Northwest England (Peel Park, Salford; Manchester Museum; Bolton Museum). Furthermore, Joseph Clubb reported that Ridyard had given the Liverpool Botanic Gardens numerous live West African plants, some of which proved to be new to science. This resourceful chief engineer was the first to successfully import live “walking fish” or mudskippers (Periophthalmus koelreuteri) into Europe and, by his “constant personal attention” during voyages, he was also able to keep alive numerous other fish, … with which he stocked the Museums’ aquarium. In his address, Clubb reminded the Sub-Committee members that these charismatic West African fish, had “created great interest in scientific circles … and formed the basis of important exchanges with New York and other scientific centres.”

Address: Liverpool Adresses:
16 Rock Lane West, Rock Ferry (1897 &1908)
11 Wentworth Avenue, Liscard, Wallasey (1920)
In 1921 he moved to Bolton at 362 Belmont Road.
Address at death: Tarquah, Westcliffe Road, Astley Bridge, Bolton.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Lancashire: Leigh
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Lancashire: Leigh
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded

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