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Traditionally home to the Wallumedegal Aboriginal people, the area which would become known as Ryde was first settled in 1792 when Governor Phillip gave 8 marines land grants in the area. Governor Phillip called the area Field of Mars, linking the Roman God of War to the town's military roots. The name Ryde coming into use after the village was divided up around St Anne church whose vicar George Turner came from Ryde in the Isle of Whight with the Field of Mars referring to a large common on which local farmers could graze their cattle.
Given the small allotments of land, Ryde was soon considered an unsuitable settlement for cattle farms, yet the fertile soil made it an ideal location for fruit orchards. Australia's Granny Smith apples originated from an orchard on the edge of Field of Mars Common owned by free settlers Thomas and Maria Smith, who developed the signature apple variety by chance from the remains of several Tasmanian grown French Crab Apples.
Ryde's location on the Parramatta River let it became a transportation hub with several shipyards established including the Kidman and Mayoh Shipyard who would go on to build the infamous Braeside and Burnside passenger ships in 1920. Reportedly the biggest wooden ships to be built in Australia at this time, they were riddled with engineering faults and were retired straight away with the Braeside coming to a dramatic end in 1923 when it was towed to Sydney Heads and set alight.
As a residential suburb, today Ryde has become a distinctly multicultural community with one of the largest Chinese communities in Sydney. With a substantial industrial area located in the suburb, local industry has shifted from agriculture and shipping and has instead tended towards retail and manufacturing.