Built in 1834, Ridley Hall is an imposing structure made of local stone and brick with a slate roof. One of the few remaining stone structures in the Harbour Grace area, Ridley Hall housed one of the community's most prominent families during the first 60 years of its existence.
From 1820 to 1870 Thomas Ridley was one of the most important fishing/sealing merchants in Newfoundland. Known for his stubbornness, he was the only ship owner to refuse concessions to a group of striking sealers in 1832 and enraged sealers tore down the mast of one of his sailing vessels. During an attempt to become elected to the House of Assembly in 1836, Ridley encountered similar difficulties and was forced to withdraw because of violence and intimidation. In 1840 he was nearly killed during his second attempt to obtain a seat. Eventually he managed to get elected, and he served on the Executive Council from 1843 until 1848.
Because of his wealth and power, Ridley and his family were involved with several "firsts" in Harbour Grace. In 1854 he was the first to use gas lighting and in 1866 he was the first to use a steamship in the annual seal hunt. Thomas Ridley's son, William, was one of the founders of the Harbour Grace Water Company, the Harbour Grace Railway and the local grammar school.
Financial difficulties ultimately led to the Ridleys' downfall. In 1873 their business went bankrupt, mainly because of the collapse of the cod fishery. Ridley Hall was sold after the disastrous bank crash of 1894. Over the years several families and private companies have owned the house. During the 1930s and 1940s it was used as a cable station. From 1954 until the 1980s, the Archibald family owned the dwelling. After they left, it stood vacant for a number of years, eventually falling into disrepair. It requires extensive work to restore it to its former state.
Ridley Hall is one of the most prominent structures along Water Street in Harbour Grace. Sometime after its initial construction, a ballroom, the doors of which led to a series of formal English gardens, was added. At its peak, Ridley Hall was the centre of most of the social, political and economic activities in the community. A ball given by the Ridleys in 1855 was reported at the time to be been "in every respect the most brilliant entertainment that has ever taken place in Newfoundland." It was common for ships sailing into Harbour Grace to salute Ridley Hall as they sailed past.
Ridley Hall was recognised as a Registered Heritage Structure in June 1994.(Note: In 2003 the building was severely damaged by fire. For more information visit Ridley Hall Ruins on the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador web site.)
View the Ridley Hall Ruins Registered Heritage Structure on the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador web site. The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site has on its site only a portion of the registered heritage structures in Newfoundland and Labrador. To view a complete list or search for a particular structure visit the Heritage Foundation's Property Search page.