Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario, Canada
Date: July 3,2016
Pembury Road, now a busy thoroughfare, ran in the early 1900’s from the intersection of Calverley Road/Bayhall Road /Prospect Road northeastward toward the town of Pembury(from which the road obviously derives its name).In the beginning of the 19th century it was a dirt road on which many grand mansions were built, and referred to as “Millionaires Row”. Today the road is much improved and paved and residents along it are served by a good bus service.
In the 1820’s, during the time of John Ward’s Calverley Estate development, it was known as Fairmile Road or “Calverley Fairmile” with the only mode of transportation on it being horses and horse drawn carriages and wagons. Anyone travelling upon it would have seen little in the way of buildings and although some land had been cleared for agricultural purposes, much of the roads route was tree lined and offered great views of the countryside.
With the passage of time in the 19th century and the early 20th century before WW II ,the road was improved and grand mansions began to spring up along its route. Motor cars and lorries began to make their appearance in the early 1900’s although by that time motorized transport was something relatively new and few residents of the town, apart from the rich and famous, owned a motor car.
This article presents a selection of early 20th century postcard views of Pembury Road. Some of the views show the fine walls and entrance gates leading to the grand homes along the route; people walking and cycling etc but all provide a glimpse back in time to an era when life moved at a slower pace and the street scene was a bucolic one, unlike today when the road is filled with a constant stream of motor cars,lorries and buses and any view along it is just a blur, and any of the grand homes built along it that survived the wreckers are mostly well hidden by tall trees, shrubs and hedges. A selection of old photographs of some of homes along Pembury Road and a reference map showing where they are (or were) is also presented.
Shown above is a photo of a family on Pembury Road in front of their residence getting ready for a nice ride out. The back of this photo has in writing “Pembury Road Tunbridge Wells” but no information unfortunately was given for the name of the home or the family.
A DESCRIPTION OF PEMBURY ROAD
Given in this section is a report dated November 2000 entitled ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells Conservation Area Appraisal’. Within this section I present a selection of images of Pembury Road from the early 20th century. In the next section I present a map of Pembury Road with images and information about the homes built along it.
To begin with I present a postcard view of Pembury Road by the postcard company “EAS”, who did several views of the town. Note the man on the left sitting on a bench (waiting for an omnibus?) near a lamp post; the tree-line road screening the homes from the road, and the series of driveways/ gate posts/ gates and iron railings associated with the homes lining the road.
Following this image below are two more scenes of Pembury Road. The first is a black and white postcard by an unidentified photographer from the early 1900’s which features on the right an elaborate entrance to one of the grand mansions and in front of it some men and school boys nicely dressed. In the background coming up the road is a horse and carriage and some people on bicycles. The next image in this series is a colour postcard by ‘Valenine’ who produced many views of the town in colour. This image features in the foreground two ladies on bicycles and others in the background.
As can be seen from these images Pembury Road at that time was quite lovely, much different than it is today.
The Conservation report of November 2000 states in part “The area more or less equates to an elongated plateau of land at about 150 m above sea level from Sandrock Road in the west to the A21 in the east, which reduces to a narrow ridge above Dunorlan Park. The topography gives enormous potential for views from the area, which is best expressed at Dunorlan Park…..There is dense planting along the Pembury Road corridor. At Sandrock Road and Pembury Road west of Dunorlan Park the conservation area includes a broader area of housing, which is linked in age and character to the Victorian suburban area of Camden Park and St James. Pembury Road is one of the major access routes into Tunbridge Wells. Not only dies this generate very high traffic flows and congestion on Pembury Road itself, it also attracts traffic from Halls Hole Road, Sandrock Road and Sandhurst Road”.
The Historical Background of Pembury Road states “ At the time of the development of the Calverley Estate, Pembury Road was known as Fairmile Road. In the 1860’s William Willicombe developed some enormous mansions here and along Sandrock Road, and some of the wealthiest people in Tunbridge Wells came to occupy them. The heart of this area has been redeveloped, and the great houses lost. However, a number of Willicombe’s houses survive on the north side of Sandrock Road, and one or two other houses on Pembury Road (such as Concord House, Chilston House and St Christopher’s). At this period, plans were also made to develop the area between Pembury Road and Camden Road along similar lines, with a central reserved area and tight stipulations to the value and type of development permitted. They did not come to fruition, and it was not until the 1890’s that Louis Beale, who also built Maderia Park, began to develop the area. His mansions included Macquarie Lodge, Rosset Holt and Kingswood Birches. By the 1900’s many of the larger houses were, because of their size, changing to institutional uses. St Christopher’s, originally Ravensdale, became a Catholic girl’s boarding school as early as 1881. The Salvation Army’s interests in the area also expanded in Kingswood Road. The fate of Dunorlan House, built in 1862 for Henry Reed, was finally sealed after the Second World War, when it was demolished. Its splendid grounds have, however, passed into the ownership of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the enjoyment of the general public”.
“With the loss of so many of the mid 19th century mansions from the area, the specifically architectural interest of the conservation are is diminished. Nevertheless, there are some key remaining buildings, and their remaining lodges and gate piers that still provide important architectural references.” The report continues with a reference to Pembury Road being lined with trees,shrubs and hedging which screens the homes from the road and describes Sandrock Road and Dunorlan Park with its entrance opposite Sandrock Road and found there as “unusual and elaborate wrought iron and timber gates” and that “the lodge itself is a relatively simple single-storey building… modernized and lacks chimneys or other architectural detail. Opposite Dunorlan Park, St Christophers retains much of its original character, with its extensive grounds and remaining gate lodge. The setting is spoiled by a number of subsidiary buildings and annexes in the grounds, but the overall low density of development is maintained. Similar issues apply to Beechwood, an extensive Italianate mansion, now a private boarding school”.
“ A busy traffic note occurs at the junction of Halls Hole Road and Blackhurst Lane, known as Blackhurst Corner. Despite the challenging environment created by the traffic, Pembury Road retains an informal character. Of particular note in this respect are the grass verges and the footpath set back from the road edge on the southern side, which meanders around mature trees to lend unexpected and much needed charm. Views within the area are generally limited to those along Pembury Road, characterized by subtle curves and changes in angle that are generated by the road line. There are also excellent views northwards across the open fields under the canopy of roadside trees.”
“The area shows the change in tastes from the classical Italianate styles by Willicombe in the mid 19th century in the Sandrock area to the more English revivalist styles of the Edwardian period…”
THE MANSIONS ON PEMBURY ROAD
A few years ago I embarked on and completed a project to research the history of all the grand homes on Pembury Road, the result of which work was a series of articles by house name. These articles and related images were all posted to my website. Below is a list of them for reference purposes.
 Allen Gardiner House-Pembury Road (Feb. 23,2012)
 Beale & Sons-Tunbridge Wells Builders (Jan 2,2014)
 The Beechwood Estate Pembury Road ( Jan 10,2012)
 The Blackhurst Estate-Blackhurst Park Tunbridge Wells (Feb. 4,2012)
 The History of Calverley Lodge (Jan 11,2012)
 A Retrospective View of Dunorlan Park (Dec. 18,2011)
 The Fernclyffe Estate (Jan 20,2012, updated Nov. 14,2013)
 The Chilston House/Gorsebrook Estate Pembury Road (Jan 31,2012)
 The Heathfield Estate Pembury Road (Jan 29,2012)
 Kingswood Birches Estate Pembury Road (Jan 26,2012)
 The Kingswood Estate-Pembury Road (Jan 25.2012)
 The Ravensdale Estate (Jan 9,2012)
 The Rosebank/Shandon Court Estate (Jan 30,2012)
 Rossett Holt-Pembury Road (Feb. 25,2012)
 The Shandon Lodge (Jan 31,2012)
 The Sherwood Estate (Dec. 28,2011)
 The History of Sandown Park (March 12,2014)
 The History of the Macquarie Manson Pembury Road (July 31,2014
 The History of the Oakleigh Estate Pembury Road (April 30,2013 updated March 28,2016)
 The Sandrock Road Development (July 11,2014)
 The Wilderness Mansion Pembury Road (Jan 30,2012)
 The Woodlands –A Pembury Road Mansion (Jan 23,2012)
Given here is a 1907 OS map of Pembury Road on which I have labelled the mansions reported on in the next part of this article. The lettering used to identify each mansion is the same one used in the heading of each residence (namely A to R). The information given for each residence is just a brief outline based largely on the "Overview" given in the detailed articles listed above and although the original article presented several maps and images for each residence ,and in some cases it occupants, just one , or just a few images of each home is given. In some cases, particularly those where the mansion has been demolished ,no image is available
[A] ALLEN GARDINER HOUSE
The Allen Gardiner House (photo opposite) is another of those great Pembury Road mansions that began use as a private residence but now is serving a useful existence under institutional use. It was built in the 1930's in the Edwardian style very similar in appearance in many ways to other types of homes constructed on Pembury Road by the well- known local builder Louis Beal & Son. This three storey structure was finished with a combination of brick and stucco with steep pitched roof lines with dormers and gables and three chinmeys and although the building retains its basic original appearance it has been extended to the east and the exterior finish has been altered and now includes exposed wood beams in a tutor style.
The name of this mansion is given variously as Beechwood Hall,Beechwood Park or just Beechwood . Built in 1855,this grand old mansion at #12 Pembury Road,or sometimes referred to as #12 Calverley Fairmile Road, in Tunbridge Wells resembled the Victorian Italianate style of architecture of the Ravenhurst mansion built and occupied by the well- known builder William Willicombe about the same time as Beechwood but its actual architect is unknown. Beechwood also bore a striking resemblence to Osborne House.It continued in use as a private country home until purchased by the Sacred Heart Convent in 1914 and from that time onward the estate site has been used for institutional purposes,the same fate that many grant old mansions suffered due mainly to heavy taxation,the general poor state of the economy,the onset of war, and the need for large plots of land for development.
Shown here are two postcard views of the rear of Beechwood. The top image shows the south east elevation of the complex and the one below it is the only view I have seen taken in the opposite direction (of this vintage)and was produced by local photographer and postcard printer/ published Harold H. Camburn. The original building was much smaller than is shown in these views. A number of extensions had been made over the buildings history, producing a huge complex of buildings in all shapes and sizes and uses.
Blackhurst is located on the south side of Pembury Road right beside the intersection of Pembury Road and Hall's Hole Road.
The Blackhurst mansion was a large two storey stone residence designed by architect Decimus Burton and constructed on large grounds in 1838 on land initially owned by John Ward as part of his extensive land holdngs in Tunbridge Wells.In 1836 Ward granted a building lease for 90 years for 6.5 hectares of land to Ford Wilson who had the mansion constructed and became its first occupant.When Ford Wilson passed away in 1862 Blackhurst contined to be occupied by his wife Eliza until she passed away in 1863.Upon her death Blackhurst reverted to the Ward Estate and John Ward's son Arthur Wellesley Ward became the sole owner.Arthur Wellesley Ward never occupied the mansion himself but instead leased it out to various occupants.In 1878 William Wilson Morley became the occupant of the estate and remained there until he moved to Eastbourne in 1881.In 1886 Sir Samuel Morton Peto moved during retirement to the estate with his wife and remained there until his death in 1889 and then his wife Eady lived there until her death in 1892.
In 1892 the estate was sold to Frederick Frank who made an addition to the mansion;undertook other renovations; and improved the grounds by way of extensive landscaping.Ownership of the estate passed to his sons when he passed away in 1915.Blackhurst was used for a few months during WW1 in 1919 as a military hospital.Sometime soon after Frederick's sons sold Blackhurst to Thomas Bolton who undertook improvements to the propery during his tenure.There is a record of Thomas Bolton living at #7 Nevill Park,Tunbridge Wells from 1913 to 1918 so it appears he did not move to Blackhurst until 1919.When Thomas Bolton passed away in 1937 the executors of his estate sold Blackhurst to Alfred Matthew Cawthorne,an architect and speculator from London. Alfred Cawthorne bought Blackhurst as a business investment and never occupied the mansion himself.Instead he leased the estate to the Ardath Tobacco Co. Ltd who began their occupancy before 1939 and remained there until 1944.They had relocated their administrative offices from London to Tunbridge Wells to avoid the bombing of London thus ensuring the continued operation of their business during the war.
In 1944 Alfred Caththorne,who was in financial difficulty by this time,sold Blackhurst to the Kent County Council who transferred it to the Ministry of Health who ran it as a preliminary nurses training school from 1949 until 1969.The mansion was then at that time converted and used to provide accommodation for the Tunbridge Wells National Health Authority staff. In 1994 this organization,now named the Weald of Kent Community National Health Service Trust, refurbished Blackhurst as its headquarters.
In 1998 Blackhurst was sold to a development company and became a gated community.The old mansion,including the stable block and adjoining gardens became four seperate buildings. Eaton House,Blackhurst Hall and The Grange were formed from the old mansion with the fourth building comprising the C19,single-storey stable block which was renamed The Old Courtyard.The entire property then became known as Blackhurst Park and continues in 2012 under communal private ownership.
Unlike many grand mansions of that time it is gratifying to see that Blackhurst was not demolished.It survives today as a fine example of the architectural style favoured at the time and its continued preservation is assured by its British Heritage Grade II listing.
The image of Blackhurst above is from a painting by Ernest Arthur Rowe. He also produced some lovely paintings of the gardens. A modern photo of the building is also given, little changed from when the painting by Rowe was made.
[D] CALVERLEY LODGE
Calverley Lodge was a grant old Victorian mansion located on a large plot of land on the north east corner of Pembury Road and Bayhall Road on property that was once part of Wards extensive land holdings in the area.Believed to have been constructed in the 1820's the existance of the manor first appears on a map of 1828 and is also shown in Colbran's map of 1839 for Tunbridge Wells and is shown fronted on Pembury Road for its address is always given as #2 Pembury Road or Calverley Fairmile Road. Current street views of the area indicate that the property had two entrances,one off Pembury Road and another on Bayhall Road for at Bayhall in particular is still the remnants of what appears to be an original stone wall and gated entrance to what is now the Salvation Army building.This wall still extends to and around the corner of the property at the intersection of Pembury and Bayhall Road.Both the 1839 map referred to above and one from 1910 show that in addition to the mansion house itself there was to the north east of the mansion ,a distance of about forty feet away,a second building,no doubt a service building to the mansion,set back from Pembury Road the same distance as the mansion. I have provided with this article sketches made from both maps showing the buildings and grounds.The entire estate I estimate from the maps to have been about 6 acres and mansion being about 4,000 square feet on each floor.
Calverley Lodge remained as a private residence for the rich and famous until its ultimate conversion into institutional use at the beginning of the 20th century as a Military Hospital.Calverley Lodge served as one of several VAD hospitals in the town from April 1915 to the end of hostilities in 1919
After WW I the building became a medical centre run by Dr Percy Low who remained there until the end of 1969.It has remained in institution use to this day but the original mansion has not survived and was demolished and where the mansion used to be can now be found the Salvation Army building which was constructed on the site in 1970.The mansion service building on the 1910 map still survives in 2012 and is a residence called Calverley Cottage and based on a map from the 1980's appears to be unchanged in terms of the buildings dimensions. On the grounds of the mansion between Calverley Cottage and the property line was constructed at some point in time another residence fronting on Pembury Road called Hassle Lodge.Also, the back half of the original estate was combined from property next to it on Bayhall Road to created what is now known as Bucklers Close.The Salvation Army Citadel,with its entrance from Bayhall Road continues to occupy most of the former site of the Calverley Lodge.
There are no known photographs of Calverley Lodge but maps label its location. The original article included detailed maps and photos of the site at the time that the Salvation Army built upon it.
Given here is the “Overview” from a rather lengthy article which gives all the details about the long and interesting history of the mansion and its extensive grounds and its occupants.
The history of Dunorlan Park makes for fascinating reading as it spans 4 centuries and during that time the property has undergone several changes in ownership and use.Today,thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Dunorlan Park, and others,the park is a wonderful sight to see and is open to the public for their enjoyment.Before being acquired by the Tunbridge Wells Town Council after WW II the property was under private ownership and used as a county residence by wealthy owners Henry Reed and several members of the Collins family.The family who lived there the longest was that of Brenton Halliburton Collins and his descendents,who other authors claimed occupied Dunorlan for seventy years in the period of 1874 to 1944. During WW II Dunorlan was requisitioned for military use. A fire after the war all but destroyed it. I was not however rebuilt but instead demolished in the 1950’s. Today all that remains of the mansion is its terrace and stone wall and steps and some lovely features in the garden such as the Pavilion and the fountain.
The image shown above is an artist’s drawing provided by the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. A large selection of photographs of the mansion , its grounds and its occupants can be found in the original article, one of which is shown below the drawing.
The following information was originally presented in my article of January 20,2012 but was updated November 14,2013.
Fernclyffe is a fine old country stone mansion on the west side of Pembury Road (#7) which although built in the 1860's has managed to survive the onslaught of redevelpment and survives today as an 8 bedroom single family home.It is a spacious Grade II listed building with British Heritage built as a detached Regency villa in the style of Decimus Burton.The building was occupied for residential use by several owners up until 1949.From 1949 until 1973 it went into institutional use as Concord College but when the College outgrew its premises they sold the building and it was returned once again to single family use and there have been several owners of it since vacated by Concord College.
Recently (2014) this property was listed for sale for 3.6 million pounds and was described as follows “One of five prestigious villas built by William Willicombe, pupil of Decimus Burton, on what was originally called Calverley Fairmile and known locally as Millionaires Row, this outstanding Regency style property constructed in the mid 1800's of local sandstone and set in about an acre of land has a wonderfully rich provenance. Originally commissioned for a scientist, complete with laboratory, it is thought that the owner would signal from the viewing platform to two other scientists living locally, one of whom was believed to have been Dr William Siemens, residing at Sherwood House from 1874, and the other David Salomon, at the Nearby Salomon estate. Fernclyffe House was owned in the early 1900s by the Raphael Tuck family, chief exponents of both the Christmas card and postcard, and was later a renowned foreign language college, home to students from all over the world, including middle eastern Royalty. It was returned once more to a grand family home by its current owners in 2006. Just a short walk from the centre of town with it's shops and excellent restaurants and easily accessible to all of the local schools, this outstanding property of over 9000sq ft is believed to be the largest private house in Tunbridge Wells. The beautifully proportioned rooms have a wealth of original period features with stunning cornice work, deep skirtings, marble fireplaces, internal full length wooden shutters and many oak and parquet floors. The mature gardens are abundant with Rhododendrons, Azaleas and completed by a heated swimming pool with limestone terrace, leading directly from the kitchen for perfect outside summer dining. This prestigious 9 bedroom house with 4 spacious reception rooms, games room, den and wine cellar includes a one bedroomed apartment with independent access. Tunbridge wells mainline station to London is within easy walking distance.”
[G] CHILSTON HOUSE/GORSEBROOK
This estate on the south east side of Pembury Road was first occupied by the Douglas family who named it Chilston House in memory of their ancestral home.When the last member of the Douglas family passed away in 1911 the estate was acquired by Brenton Robie Collins, who had grown up on the Dunorlan estate in what is now Dunorlan Park. He renamed the estate Gorsebrook in memory of the Collins family ancestral home by that name in Halifax,Nova Scotia,Canada.
The large estate,like most others along Millionaries Row,consisted of a large plot of land upon which was constructed the mansion and a number of outbuildings such as gate houses/lodges,gardeners cottages and stables.All of the buildings were of Victorian style constructed of red brick with slate roofs. With the coming of the automobile in the early 20th century the horses and carriages of the estate were replaced by the motor car which was kept in the stables.
This estate was located next to the former Kingswood estate on the south west which is now occupied by the more familiar names of Trinity Close and Florence Balls House and others. Across Pembury Road from Chilston House is currently an apartment building called Heathfields which sits on the grounds of the former Heathfield estate near the intersection of Pembury Road and Sandrock Road.
Brenton Robie Collins lived at Gorsebrook from 1911 until 1944 and died in 1956.In about 1944 the two gate houses of the estate became single family homes occupied by families who had no connection to the mansion and today these two buildings are known as Park View and West Lodge. As can be seen from a site plan ,where the old estate was located,the area has undergone extensive redevelopment and in additon to these two lodges that have survived as well as the mansion in modified ,form called once again Chilston House,there can be found a number of other residences called Gorsebrook,The Pinfold,The Dordens,Little Chilston,The Old Bothy,Wildings and Chilston Mead.
Shown above is a modern view of the west lodge of Gorsebrook,virtually unchanged from the time it was built. Below it is a modern view of the front and back of Chilston House.
The Heathfield estate was located on the north west corner of Pembury Road and Sandrock Road.It occupied land of about 9 acres with frontage along Pembury Road of about 900 feet and along Shandrock about 1,000 feet. The original estate was built in the early 1860's with the mansion being first occupied in 1862. Along with the mansion was a gate house located at the entrance to the estate on Pembury Road. Elsewhere on the estate was a gardeners cottage.The estate lands were once part of the major land holdings in the area of the Ward family.
The estate remained intact as a single family residence for the wealthy until 1955 at which time the property was sold to developers and the estate divided up into four main parts namely an apartment building known today as 'Heathfields', and three single family residences built in the 1950's known as Heathfield Lodge and Little Heathfields,both with driveway access to Pembury Road and Heathfield Cottage accessed from Sandrock Road.
Heathfield and sometimes Heathfield House ,as the estate was named, is also referred to in directories and census records as #9 Calverley Fairmile Road and #9 Pembury Road and was one of several large mansiions on Pembury Road fondly referred to as 'Millionaries Row'.
[I] KINGSWOOD BIRCHES
The origin of this estate dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and was originally part of the extensive land holdings of the Ward brothers in Tunbridge Wells. The estate initially consisted of a mansion set well back off of the east side of Pembury road right at the north east corner of Penbury and Kingswood Road and a much smaller gate house or servants cottage located at the north east side of the grounds near the property line and quite close to Pembury Road.Both of these Edwardian style buildings were constructed by the local building firm of Beale & Sons who constructed several other homes of similar style on Pembury Road.
Over the passage of time the entire area around the intersection of Pembury and Kingswood Roads have undergone a significant transformation at the hands of developers and what began at the start of the 20th century as a fairly sparcely populated stretch of Pembury Road ,predominated by large mansions on large grounds,and often referred to as 'Millionaires Row',has become a scene of many new buildings and several of the original mansions have either been altered or demolished.The two residences in Kinswood Birches have also undergone signifant change.In the early 1900's the two buildings on the estate were known as Kingswood Birches Lodge (the main mansion) and the service building as Kingswood Birches Cottage. For many years both of these buildings remained part of one estate but then the land was divided into two parts.The smaller part accommodated the Kingswood Birches Cottage and became a private residence,a use that it is still put to today.The larger plot of land contained the Kingswood Birches Lodge continued in use as a private residence well into the early 1980's.
Later in the 1980's the mansion was purchased and transformed by its new owners into the Kingswood Birches Hotel but this business venture was not successful and its owners resided on the premises for a few years and made many unsuccessful attempts to promote the business;to alter the premises to make it more profitable, but eventually gave up and sold the hotel to developers who in 2004 obtained Planning Authority approval to demolish the hotel and put up in its place a munti-unit residential building which in 2012 one can see occupying most of the propery right on the north east corner of Kingswood and Pembury Road.
Shown above is a recent photo of what was once the entrance lodge to the Kingswood Birches mansion which is referred to today as either Kingswood Birches Lodge or Kingswood Birches cottage. This building has been enlarged since originally constructed but retains much of its exterior finishes.
The Kingswood mansion was built for John Lidgett in 1855 on a plot of land purchased from well- known local architect/builder William Willicombe.This Victorian cement rendered brick mansion has gone by the names Kingston House,Kingswood Lodge and Kingswood and was constructed on east side of Pembury Road with addresses given variously as #4 Pembury Road or #4 Calverley Fairmile Road and was one of many mansions of the time on "Millionaires Row",owned as the name would suggest by men of fame and fortune.From 1855 to 1961 the mansion remained in residential use passing through several owners during that time.During WW1 is served as a VAD hospital.
By 1934 and until 1961 Arthur Gibbs, a magistrate, owned Kingswood and he would be its longest resident.In 1961 Major Bryman N. Gibbs became the owner and he retained it until his death in 1965.He was the son of Arthur Gibbs and inherited his father’s estate.In 1965 the executors of Bryman Gibbs sold the estate to the builder/developer Detering Limited who were responsible for converting the Kingswood estate into the Trinity Close residential community.This company used the old mansion as their sales office from 1966 to 1968 while they constructed new homes in Trinity Close.In 1969 they leased the mansion to the Hamilton House School who only remained there during 1969.In 1970 The Worshipful Company of Innholders aquired the mansion and converted it into a home for the elderley.They named the mansion Esther Porritt House and retained ownership of the building until 1996 when a charity called Esther Porritt House Limited took over ownership and retained the name of the building. In 2000 Esther Porritt House Limited ceased operations and the mansion became owned by Parkview Properties(Tunbridge Wells) Ltd and they renamed the building Parkview.Parkview (photo opposite) is still there in 2012 and it leases out flats in the building.
This large white stone mansion ,that was christened with the name of Ravensdale, and now known as Willicombe House ,was designed and built by William Willicombe(1800-1875),the well known local architect and builder.The mansion was built in the Victorian Italianate style on about 15 acres of land and stands today as a fine example of the architectural style of those times on what is now a small plot of land on the west side of Pembury Road near the corner of Willicombe Park and Sandhurst.The mansion has seen many occupants over the years and remained as a single family country home until 1934 when in that year it came into institutional use as a nursery training college and has gone through a few owners since then.Over the years portions of the original grounds were developed and what now remains of the grounds and the mansion itself is the property of Audley Court Ltd. who operate a retirement village off Pembury Road and use the mansion itself,bearing the name of Willicombe House over the front entrance, as their club house.
The first owner of Ravensdale was William Willicombe a designer and builder of many fine structures in Tunbridge Wells.Ravensdale was the first home designed,built and occupied by him on Pembury Road.Legal documents dated June 3,1859 record that Willicombe purchased a plot of land on Pembury Road from Arthur and Neville Ward and it was upon this land that he laid plans to build a mansion.The property he aquired was located on the south west corner of Pembury and Sandhurst Road.He built the mansion late in his life in 1867 but he did not occupy it until sometime between 1871 and 1872.Before moving in himself he let out the residence to architect/surveyer William H. Wright in 1867 and Wright remained there until Willicombe moved in.Willicombe continued to live there until his death in 1875.His wife remained at the mansion after his death for a short period of time before moving to London where she died there in 1884.
There is a gap in the occupancy record from about 1880 to about 1881 which may indicate the residence was vacant during that time although it has been suggested,which I have not been able to confirm,that it was occupied during that time by a group of nuns.
Alfred Pulford,the uncle of Richard Thornton was living at Ravensdale from about 1883 until 1891.He died 1896.
Records show that Richard Thomas Thornton owned Ravensdale from 1891 to 1897.Richard was a religious practitioner but is best remembered from his distinguished career in sports as a cricketer.He sold the estate to the Davies family sometime in 1897 and moved to Sussex.
Theophilus Harris Davies became the new owner in 1897.His stay was a short one for he died at Ravensdale in 1898 but his wife continued to live there until 1905 when it was sold to Capt. Dawson.Mrs Davies moved 1905 to Beverley in Frant Road and died in 1907. Mr Davies was a very successful and wealthy businessman who had made his fortune as one of Hawaii's "Big Five" sugar firms.
In 1905 Captain William Henry Dawson became the new owner and he remained at Ravensdale until he died there in 1931.Capt. Dawson was born into a family of money and spent most of his life in London and used Ravensdale as his country home.His occupancy of Ravensdale was the longest of any.
Ravensdale was sold from the estate of Captain Dawson to the Tunbridge Wells building firm of T. Bates and Sons Ltd in 1932.The mansion remained unoccupied from 1932 to 1933 as the Bates company had plans to subdivide and develope the estate but nothing became of their plans and Ravensdale remained intact.Instead Bates leased Ravensdale to St Christopher's in 1934 and remained in ownership of the estate until 1947.
In 1934 the occupancy of Ravensdale was taken over by the St. Christopher's Nursery Training College, the first institutional occupants of the mansion.St Christopers were still the occupants of Ravensdale when it was sold by T. Bates and Sons Ltd to Dr. Bernardo's in August 1947 who continued to run it as St Christopher's. In December 1966 Bernardo's found it necessary to sell off some of their land holdings,some of which went to the company Bridge Walker Homes however St Christophers was not one of the properties disposed of for they are still listed as the occupant of Ravensdale in 1972 and it is known that they remained the occupants until 1974. It is also recorded that during the war years Ravensdale was used as a reception centre for mothers and babies from London during the austerity period.Other manions along Pembury Road such as Sherwood,Beechwood and Dunorlan were also taken over during the war and put to various uses in support of the war effort.
There was, as I mention elsewhere in this article,an application for Planning Authority approval made by Barnordo's in 1991 to demolish Ravensale so they obviously still owned the property at that time,but the application was withdrawn after strong opposition to the proposal.A 1997 application for planning approval stated that Ravensdale was vacant and in a bad state of condition and had been damaged considerably by vandalism.In 1997 the mansion was set on fire by vandals and badly damaged.
In 1999 Audley acquired the property from Barnado's;repaired the damage to the mansion from the fire and renovated the interior to modern standards and used it as their club house.It was Audley who renamed the building Willicombe House in 1999 and had the name painted on the front of the building above the entrance.
In 2012 Willicombe House is still owned by Audley Court Ltd who operate a retirement village in Tunbridge Wells and still use the old manor as their club house.Throughout recent years,especially during Tunbridge Wells Heritage Days, the doors to this great mansion are thrown open to members of the public so they can see and learn about Willicombe House.
Shown above top is an old view of the front of the mansion and below it is a view from the rear. The last image is a modern view of the front.
The Rosebank estate was located on the north west corner of Calverley Park Gardens and Pembury Road with an address of #3 Pembury Road and had a frontage on Pembury Road of about 400 feet. The original grounds of the estate was about 10 acres in area and initially consisted of a large mansion,bigger in same size then the current Allen Gardiner House and was physically located right across the street from it and set well back off of Pembury Road.Rosebank in 1910 was about twice the size of the abutting Wilderness mansion and quite irregular in shape indicating that by that date the original mansion had been added on to by a wing constructed on the north east corner of the building. Also part of the estate was a gardeners cottage and a cochman’s cottage and a gate house(Lodge) with and long driveway leading back to the mansion from Pembury Road and as can be seen from the map of 1910,the grounds were very well landscaped.The map shown,dated about 1910, shows the extent of the estate at that time and the surround area. Just to the West of Rosebank,and set well back off Pembury Road is the "Wilderness" mansion(now gone) with its "Fish Pond".Going in an easterly direction one finds Shandon House(now gone) and further east Shandon Lodge(still there).
The mansion is believed to have been built in the late 1850's for its first occupant is recorded living on the estate in 1860 and a directory from 1858 does not record its existence. The last reference to Rosebank is in found in an 1882 directory but according to Chris Jones of the Civic Society "It (Rosebank) was renamed " Shandon Court"....It was remodelled architecturally in the 1890’s by Sir Mervyn Macartney who was quite a significant architect".. It had been remodelled for Charles Fletcher Ludwidge,who was the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells for four terms. He died in 1907.
A map of 2012 only records the existence of Shandon Lodge with the rest of the land being occupied by a fairly recent residential development on a road that was cut through the old estate called Shandon Close.
[M] ROSSETT HOLT
This Edwardian style building, built about 1912 by Tunbridge Wells builder Louis Beale, is located on the south-west corner of Pembury Road and Kingswood. It has had a number of occupants over the years and is still in use today although altered somewhat in appearance and size since it was first constructed but is a good example of the architectural style popular at the time.Beales' was a prolific builder and on Pembury Road he also built Kingswood Birches Cottage , Kingswood Birches Lodge and Macquarie Lodge on Pembury Road of the same style. A map of Pembury Road,dated circa 1912 shows the residence as it was constructed situated on grounds of about 375 feet wide and 460 feet deep.The main building,although irregular in shape has a footprint of about 130 feet in length by 66 feet wide.The smaller building on the site is an "L-shaped structure being about 67 feet in length parellel to Pembury Road and about 22 feet wide.to the west end of this small building the building extends back a total of 33 feet with a width of 44 feet.All dimensions given are appoximate. A map of 2011 shows that the smaller building on the site is now called Saxon House and has been altered sometime in its history. The Rossett Holt building has had an extension added sometime before 1974,during the time is was in use as a care home for the elderly and this extension added to the back of the building along its Kingswood Road flank measures about 66 feet long by 33 feet wide.This extension was so well designed and constructed that it matches very closely the original building.
From 1953 until 2012 Rossett Holt has been used as a home for the elderley.In the directories of 1963 to 1969 the name of the occupant is given as "Home for the Aged Christian Ladies,Rossett Holt" and from that time onward it appears in the directory under the heading of "Old People Homes".In 1982 W.J. Chisell was the manager of the home.
Today Rossett Holt is described as an elegant house"typical of the architecture of Tunbridge Wells.It is set in a charming and peaceful gardens within 10 minutes walk of the town centre.It has 18 rooms (majority en-suite) all with call-system,telephone and television points;residents lift;dining room and pleasure lounge,tastefully decorated building with tranquil gardens,residents are welcome to bring own furniture and belongings; no smooking policy.Mrs Marilyn Luck is the manager".
[N] SHANDON LODGE
Shandon Lodge was built in the 1880's on the north side of Pembury Road across the street in general terms from the current Allen Gardiner House. Compaired to the other mansions on Pembury Road,often referred to as 'Millionaires Row' Shandon Lodge is a more modest red brick residence but quite quaint and of some historical significance in the town.
Shandon Lodge has seen a number of occupants over the years,all of whom at least in the early years,were among the well off. For recent times I have provided information on two residents namely Stephen Bird and Miss K.N. Taylor.
There is a commemorative plaque on the residence that does not actually pertain to Shandon Lodge at all but was put there so it could be seen by the public. The plaque relates to Charles Fletcher Ludwidge who actually lived at the Rosebank/Shandon Court estate just to the west of Shandon Lodge.Its presence commemorates Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)who apparently visited his cousin,Charles Fletcher Lutwidge at his residence.As most will be aware Lewis Carrol is famous for authoring Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.Charles Fletcher Lutwidge was well known locally as the mayor of Tunbridge Wells.
The photo above is a modern image of the residence on which can be seen the claret plaque pertaining to Lutwidge referred to above. The home is little changed on the exterior from the time it was built.
The history of the Sherwood estate on Pembury Road makes for fascinating reading as it has been in the possession of several owners since it was created in the 1860's and still exists today although it pales in comparison to its original Victorian splendor.In general terms the large estate was located in the vicinity of the junction of Pembury Road and Blackhurst Lane and was in the order of 100 acres when originally established,but subsequently enlarged to 160 acres.Now the manor house of Sherwood is located on a small plot of land within the Badgers Holt gated community and the mansion itself has been transformed over the years from a grand county home occupied by a single family to institutional use during the years 1939 to 1995 and then back to residential use from that time on but divided up into luxurious flats.
As was the case with all of the land in this area,it formed part of the 1,000 acre Calverley Estates which John Ward intended to use for the creation of a new town at the top of Mount Pleasant hill to rival the old village centered on the Pantilles.As anyone familiar with the history of Tunbridge Wells will recall,John Ward,the land developer, and Decimus Burton(1800-1884),the architect,together did much to transform the area into what it is today.
Those who read my article about the history of Dunorlan Park and its initial occupancy by Henry Reed will know that it too was situated on land originally owned by John Ward.The Sherwood estate was located just up the road from Dunorlan but the manor house at Sherwood was constructed after Dunorlan(1862) and although Sherwood is among the oldest in the area it was not the first in that part of Pembury Road.
By the time the Sherwood estate was created, John Ward of Holwood and Calverley Park,born about 1780,had passed away and his land holdings in the area were inherited by his two sons Arthur Wesley Ward(1813-1878) and Neville Ward(1817-1872).In 1861 the two sons were living together with their wives and children at Taplow House in the parish of Taplow,county of Buckinghamshire.It was while they were residents there that they entered into an agreement to sell part of the their Pembury Road land holdings to John Guy(1809-1881),the senior partner in the London law firm of Guy and Wilkinson.The purchase and sale agreement between John Guy and the Ward brothers was made on July 11,1867 and soon after John Guy hired an architect to design for him a grand Victorian style mansion;had it constructed and moved into it in 1869 and remained there until the end of 1873.
Subsequent owners of the estate were the famous Civil Engineer Sir Charles William Siemens(1823-1883) from 1874 to 1883 and then his wife Lady Ann Siemens(1824-1901) to the end of 1901.The estate was then sold to the wealthy accountant Benjamin Minors Woollans(1857-1909) and upon his passing in 1909 the estate was owned by his wife Martha Woolan(1854-1928) until the end of 1911.From 1912 to 1919 Sherwood was occupied by John Smith.Esq., and from 1920 to 1931 by wealthy London banker Ernest Lambton Errington-Wales(1867-1949),who was the last private resident of the estate.Sherwood suffered the same fate as thousands of other grand country mansions in England who's owners had fallen on hard times due to the stock market crash in 1929;the resulting collapse of the economy,and excessive taxation.
In 1932 Sherwood came into institutional use as the Sherwood Park Clinic & Spa run by the Scottish born medical doctor Alexander John Douglas Cameron(1887-1938).In 1935 the name of the institution was changed to the International Clinic & Spa but doctor Cameron was still with the clinic up until the time he died.In 1939 plans were being made in London to relocate many London institutions out of the city into safer locations due to the fears of bombing during WW II.One such institution was Guy's Hospital and Dental School and a decision was made to relocate the institution to Tunbridge Wells.They took occupancy of a number of buildings in town,Sherwood being one of them,which they continued to occupy until the end of 1944,at which time they moved back to London.Sherwood then sat empty from 1945 to 1949 and its prospects of survival began to look slim.However at the end of 1949 or possibly early 1950 the Tunbridge Wells Hospital Committee moved into Sherwood and used it as their administrative office until 1975 when their name became the Tunbridge Wells District Health Authority.The 'Authority' occupied Sherwood until the end of 1981 and in 1982 it was renamed the Tunbridge Wells Health Authority and they continued to occupy the building until sold in 1995 by the Secretary of State for Health,who were the actual owners of the premises.
In 1995 a purchase and sale agreement was entered into between the Secretary of State for Health and a builder/ development company called Gleeson Homes Ltd. who aquired the Sherwood mansion and some of the surrounding land that formed part of the estates original land holding.The government had sold off other parts of the estate lands to developers in previous years and continued to offer the remaining Sherwood lands to other buyers and it is believed that all of the original estate lands have been disposed of by the government.Gleeson Homes Ltd., extensively changed the exterior and interior appearance of the mansion house and converted it into high end flats.On the land that went with the mansion there were a number of residential units constructed and the entire development is now found as a gated community off Blackhurst Lane called Badgers Holt and contains some of the most expensive homes in Tunbridge Wells.
Shown above is an old artists view of the rear of the mansion overlooking the lake. The modern view below is of the front of the mansion, somewhat altered from the way it looked when originally constructed.
Macquarie was one of the large mansions built on Pembury Road in what is often referred to as ‘Millionaires Row’. This fine red brick home of Edwardian style was constructed in 1903 by well- known local builder Louis Stephen Beale. The land itself was part of a large tract of property of several hundred acres acquired by John Ward(1779-1855), of Calverley Park fame, back in 1824 which upon his death was passed to his two sons Arthur Wellesley Ward (1813-1878) and Neville Ward (1817-1872)and through other owners before the land was built on in 1903.
Macquarie was built for the wealthy newspaper Fairfax family of Sydney,NSW . One of the sons of this clan,namely Edward Ross Fairfax(1842-1915), became the mansions first owner and when he died his wife Catherine lived there until 1916. During WW1 Macquarie served as a VAD hospital from early 1918 until March 1919. The home reverted back to residential use after the war and was occupied by a succession of families.The first was Bernard Bowles Harrison(1858-1936), who renamed the mansion “Hurstmead” circa 1920, and who died there in 1936. His son Geoffey Harrison was killed in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.
The mansion was next occupied from 1937 to no later than 1944 by retired Lt. Col. William Dudley Coles(1886-1962) who had served with the Territorial Army from 1909 to 1914, then served in WW1 with the army from 1917 to 1919.
In 1944 the mansion was acquired the Salvation Army who ran it as a care home by the name of Sunset Lodge until for financial reasons they sold the mansion and related buildings for 1.5 million pounds in June 2014. As of this date, plans for the property are unknown.
It is good to see that this mansion has survived, as has its entrance lodge, a cottage, and what looks like the original curved stone wall and pillars at the entrance to the property on Pembury Road. As is to be expected some alteration to the exterior has occurred over time and of course the interior has undergone renovation and upgrading to suit modern living standards, with the greatest alteration made in 1944/45 when the single family home was converted into a care home run by the Salvation Army.
The Oakleigh estate occupied a large tract of land (26 acres in 1916) on the south east side of Pembury Road about half way between Blackhurst Lane and the Hastings Road, on the current site of Oakley School.
Oakleigh, as it was originally called, was designed for its first occupant, William Hogg(1825-1895) and his wife Eliza Susannah Hogg(1833-1894 ).Built in the 1860’s it was a grand mansion ,constructed of the best materials, and lavishly furnished, befitting a wealthy man of his stature. The mansion sat on beautifully landscaped grounds upon which were constructed the mansion house, an entrance lodge, stable block/coachmans house, and other outbuildings suitable for a working farm where William Hogg raised and showed at the Royal Agricultural Fair cattle that had been attended to by his stockman.The grounds were laid out and maintained by the estate gardener.The earliest reference to Oakleigh is from a 1867 Kelly directory in which is stated “ Oakleigh is another handsome modern stone mansion …the residence of William Hogg, esq.”
When William Hogg passed away at Oakleigh in 1895 the estate came into the hands of his son William Henry Jenner Hogg (1851-1900). He and his wife Mary Elizabeth Hogg had no children but enjoyed the country life at Oakleigh.When he died in 1900 his wife continued to live on the estate.Mary later left Oakleigh but the date of her departure is unknown to the researcher. A 1903 Kelly records her there but that is the last record for her.No records are found for Oakleigh until 1911 suggesting that it was vacant until then.
In 1911 Oakleigh became the residence of Hugh Hamilton Gordon (1847-1921) and his family.The 1911 census records the home as Oakleigh but soon after it was renamed Strathbogie, after the families former place of residence at Strathbogie, NSW, which itself is derived from their ancestral home in Strathbogie,Scotland.Hugh Hamilton Gordon was a magistrate in Australia and derived his wealth from the families extensive land holdings(exceeding 100,000 acres) in Australia and the ranching activities carried out by them at Strathbogie. In 1916 Strathbogie was put up for sale but the Gordon family remained there until they moved to a 17 room home at 8 Tonbridge Road in Pembury called Brackenston, in late 1919 which they renamed Strathbogie. Hugh died at ‘Strathbogie’ ,Pembury,in 1921 and was survived by his wife Maria who died in 1927 but had moved to London after her husband’s death.She is known to have still been a resident of Strathbogie on the Tonbridge Road in 1922 and 1923.No exact date is known by the researcher as to when she left Strathbogie, but she would have been the one to sell it to new owners.Shown above is a photograph of Strathbogie on the Pembury Road taken during the time of its occupancy by the Gordon family.
After 1922 the ownership record of the estate,its occupancy and the name it went by (Strathbogie and Pembury Place)become uncertain.
Another occupant of the estate was Owen Parry (1856-1936) who made his fortune in the oil seed business with extensive premises in London and Colchester,Essex. His probate stated he was “of Pembury Place,Tunbridge Wells but died September 3,1936 at Pulpit Rock Bonchurch Isle of Wight. He was survived by his wife Annie Gertrudge Parry who died in 1951 while a resident of 10 Royal Chase, Tunbridge Wells.There is also a record of an Owen Parry living at Pulpit Rock, I.O.M. from 1911 to 1936 inclusive,who is believed by the researcher to be the same man.
The records of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Coral Society refer to an open air concert being held at “Pembury Place’ on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of King George V (1935).So based on the above for 1935 the estate is given as both Pembury Place and Strathbogie and it is occupied that year by both Henry Noel Norcott Winter and Owen Parry.
Further research will be required to clarify the historical record during the years 1923 to 1948. The website of Oakley School states that St George’s School purchased ‘Pembury Place’ in 1948,that it was formerly known as Oakleigh,Strathbogie and Pembury Place and that the former mansion was used to accommodate their Senior students until the school closed in 1960.
The Wilderness mansion was built about 1870 well back off of Pembury Road just west from the Rosebank mansion(now gone) that was built in the 1860's and accessed in 1910 by a long drive which is now a road called Shandon Close.When "Wilderness" was constructed it was built,according to Chris Jones of the Civic Society on ground "that was the site of the Calverley Waterworks reservoir.The water was pumped up there from the Jack Woods Spring down by where Grosvenor Bridge is now" and the mansion "was in the gabled style similar to those facing Calverley Park Gardens".The mansion was first occupied in 1872 and from the map one can see that there was a gate house well back off Pembury Road,a "Fish Pond" and other service buildings. In the 20th century the entire site was redeveloped into what became the Shandon Close residential community accessed from Pembury Road by Shandon Close. A sign at the entrance to this road makes reference to the former Wilderness estate in its reference to the names of "Wilderness Cottage" and "Wilderness Mews.
This mansion,located on the north west side of Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells is a Grade II listed building with British Heritage. It is a three storey building built in the 1850's and constructed of Tunbridge Wells stone.It has remained in residential use throughout its existance up to the current time but the site upon which it was originally built has undergone significant change as the once grand building and grounds have been altered by a series of Planning Authority approvals which have resulted in a number of residential buildings being added to the grounds rendering a view of the old mansion from Pembury Road impossible. However, this old mansion still stands as a fine example of an architectural style popular at the time and continues to provide residential accommodation although in the 1970's the old mansion was remodelled on the interior to convert what was once a single family dwelling into what is now a building of four leasehold flats.The mansion has been occupied by a number of residents over the years.
The mansion was constructed about 1857 on land once part of the large property holdings of the Ward family who are well known locally for the Calverley development in the early part of the 19th century.It appears that the plot of land acquired for the estate of the original occupant of the mansion was not much more then a few acres.Signicant changes to the site of the mansion make it somewhat difficult to ascertain the full extent of the original land holdings.
SHEEP GRAZING IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Written By; Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Date: July 2,2016
Sheep farming has always been a favoured persuit in the area and the showing of sheep at the annual agricultural fair in the town has always been an important part of the show. The image opposite is a photo of a prize winning sheep at the 1916 show and what a fine specimen it is. The sight of all that wool makes me want to snuggle up in a nice warm wool sweater on a cold Canadian winters day. On my trip to Tunbridge Wells in the summer of 2015 I saw many sheep grazing in the fields as I travelled between London and Tunbridge Wells. Of equal importance historically is the grazing of sheep on the Commons,which is the central focus of this article.
The following article about gazing on the Commons appeared in ‘This Is Kent’ on June 22,2010 and suggests that the return of sheep grazing in the Commons and in other parks in the town would be beneficial. It states “SHEEP could replace lawnmowers as a way of managing local commons and open spaces, says Tunbridge Wells commons warden Steve Budden. Following widespread concern over the cash-strapped borough council's recent decision to save thousands of pounds by leaving some public areas to grow wild, Mr Budden said: "The idea is not as wacky as you might think. "Allowing sheep to graze has become quite popular in urban and suburban areas, and my personal feeling is that this is an ideal location in which to do it." Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators are committed to restoring the open heathland, which characterised local commons for centuries, and in 2005 they commissioned Kent Wildlife Trust to produce a grazing feasibility report. It concluded that as well as reducing mowing costs, grazing animals would increase the diversity of plant and wildlife habitats by helping to cut down scrub as well as opening up the landscape to make it more attractive to residents and visitors. Commenting, "arguably, this open pastoral aspect to the town is as culturally important as its fine buildings and just as worthy of conserving", the report said a project of this kind could attract support from external funding. However, it was never implemented. Brighton and Hove City Council's flock of sheep, on loan from local farmers, is regularly seen grazing on the town's green spaces, from public parks to smaller areas of grass in residential areas. It has not only proved a big hit with local people, it has also attracted so many volunteer shepherds – or "lookerers" – that the waiting lists have had to be closed. The council said it hoped the initiative would save around £22,000 a year. The introduction of traditional rare-breed sheep on Ashdown Forest has been similarly successful, and the idea has also been adopted by many local councils, including Surrey. Bristol City Council has gone a stage further, investing in its own herd of beef cattle, which graze in public spaces and are used to provide fresh, locally-reared meat for school dinners under the healthy school meals programme. Sheep farmer Paula Bull, who keeps around 70 Jacob and Portland sheep at Kelsley Wood in Wadhurst, said: "I would certainly support the idea of sheep in Tunbridge Wells as long as there was some sort of fencing to keep them in. It could work very well on the commons, especially as traditional breeds like mine graze differently from modern varieties." As local parks and recreation grounds are allowed to grow wild, grazing animals could also become a way of controlling areas of grass in places like St John's, Hilbert, and Grosvenor and Hawkenbury, as well as The Grove and The Nevill. "I think it's a very good idea," said Alan Bullion, who accused councillors of "penny-pinching" after the cabinet voted to stop using mowers. "I'm all in favour of bio-diversity, but you can't just let everything get overgrown. This seems a good solution." The KWT report suggested that ponies would probably be the animals best suited to the commons since they are able to digest a wider variety of plants, so would be able to graze all year round. Cattle would also be useful, since they trample through bracken to create glades and paths, and goats could also be of benefit as they eat a wide range of vegetation. Any recommendations by the Commons Conservators would have to be approved by the borough council before they could go ahead.”
The grazing of sheep and for that matter cattle, on the Commons forms an interesting part of the towns history, for this activity has been going on since the area was first settled in the 17th century. Thanks to their feeding activities the growth of weeds and other unwanted vegetation was kept in check and the Commons presented an attractive and “open” aspect. Grazing of these lands continued for centuries and many postcard views of the Commons ,dating up to at least WW 1, show the presence of sheep and cattle munching their way through tons of greenery. In this article I present a selection of these tranquil postcard scenes for your viewing pleasure.
The Commons was not fenced and these animals were free to roam where they pleased. As the town developed and interests swung towards private ownership of land rather than communal land and motorized transport replaced the horse and wagon, concerns about sheep roaming about resulted in the loss of free grazing and with that the growth of vegetation was left unchecked. As a result much of the Commons is overgrown today and the once pastoral image of it has been largely lost. Efforts in recent years by the Commons Conservators have been concentrated on clearing out unwanted vegetation but too many years have gone by to return the Commons to the way it was originally and any work done, by volunteers or hired help is an onerous and expensive undertaking of human and financial resources. Perhaps as the article suggests, it’s time to let the animals do the work for us, and if the Commons needs to be fenced to keep the animals in then perhaps this is a price one has to pay for the anticipated benefits of having sheep.
JAMES THOMAS DANN-A TUNBRIDGE WELLS PHOTOGRAPHER
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario,Canada
Date: July 4,2016
During my research on the Dann family, and in particular the photographer J.T. Dann of 3 St John’s Road,Tunbridge Wells, it became clear that little definitive information about the man and his career as a photographer was available and since there were two John Thomas Dann’s (father and son) it was difficult to establish whether it was the father or the son who worked in Tunbridge Wells as a photographer. Further research on this topic at a later date may shed more light on the topic. Given below is information about John Thomas Dann senior and junior and the only two examples of photographs by Dann in Tunbridge Wells. Note the unusual use of pink studio cards!
THE DANN FAMILY
James Thomas Dann was born October 10,1856 in Frant, Sussex. He was baptised November 9,1856 at Frant, Sussex and was one of several children born to James Dann (1832-1917) and Mary Anne Dann,nee Bryant aka Balcombe (1838-1887). James Dann senior had been born in Sandhurst,Kent and died at Canterbury,Kent. Mary Ann Dann was born September 16,1838 at Tunbridge Union, Rusthall and died June 1887 in Ticehurst,Sussex. She appears to have been married previously as she had children before her marriage to Mr Dann.
The photographic career of James Thomas Dann is a bit of a mystery for he had no photographic background and for most of his life had a variety of occupations unrelated to photography. However by 1911 John Thomas Dann became a “photographer on own account”. Examples of photographic work by Dann are scarce and no local directories list him. The only clues to his existence in the town as a photographer are two examples of his work presented in this article, on the back of which is given “ J.T. Dann photographer 3 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells”.
There is also an interesting connection between the Dann family and the Balcombe family. The 1861 census for example gave James Dann,age 5, born 1856 Tunbridge Wells as “grandson”. He was living at that time at the Bell Inn in Ticehurst,Sussex with his grandfather Thomas Balcombe, born 1812 in Cranbrook, Kent who was working as an agricultural labourer. Also there was Thomas’s wife Martha, born 1817 in Franfield, Sussex and the son Thomas Balcombe, age 20, an undergraduate, and two lodgers.
The 1871 census, taken at 4 High Street in Ticehurst,Sussex gave Thomas Balcombe as a labourer. Living with him was his wife Martha and his grandson James Thomas Dann, age 14, born in Tunbridge Wells, who at that time was working as an errand boy.
Sometime before 1879 James Thomas Dann senior moved to Tunbridge Wells and wed Mary Jane Hobbs, who was born 1853 at Etchingham,Sussex.
The 1881 census, taken at the Crown Coffee Tavern on High Brooms Road, gave James T. Dann, as born 1855 at Hawkenbury, Kent and working as a timekeeper to the gas company. With him was his wife Mary Jane born 1854 at Etchingham and their sons James T. Dann, born 1879 in Tunbridge Wells, and Charles Dann, born in Tunbridge Wells in 1880.
The 1891 census, taken at High Street, Witney, Oxfordshire, gave James T. Dann as a gas manager born in Tunbridge Wells in 1856. With him was his wife Mary Jane and his three sons James T. born 1879; Charles,born 1880, and Florence, born 1882. All three children were born in Tunbridge Wells.
The publication ‘Engineer’ of 1892 listed an application for letters patent (3937) for a constructing meter for water etc under the name of J.T. Dann of London and refers to “a communication from A. Schmid August 17,1882”.
The 1899 Kelly directory gave “James Thomas Dann, George and Dragon Private Community Hotel, Lamberhurst,Kent”.
The 1901 census, taken at 12 Kennington at St Mark, Kennington, London gave James T. Dann, born 1856 Tunbridge Wells as a furniture porter. With him was his wife Mary Jane; his son James T,age 22, a “baker fancy bread worker” and three members of the Harrington family which included Edward Harrington (son in law) his wife and daughter of J.T. Dann (Florence) and their son Alfred.
The 1911 census, taken at 99 Upper Kennington Lane, Kennington, London gave James Thomas Dann, born 1855 at Ticehurst, Sussex with the occupation of “photographer on own account”. Living with him in premises of only 2 rooms, was his wife Mary Jane, age 57 . His children had all left the family home and were given as still living.
Directories of 1913 and 1918 listed “ James Thomas Dann, Red Lion Public House, 66 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells. It is unclear to the researcher if this record pertains to James Thomas Dann senior or his son of the same name but since James Thomas Dann senior appears in London at the time of the 1911 census and there also from 1923 onwards it is my opinion that the James Thomas Dann at the Red Lion was the son. The record I presented earlier from the back of the CDV’s of a J.T. Dann of 3 St John’s Road may also be an indication that the images I presented by J.T. Dann were by the son and not his father, even though by 1911 his father was working as a photographer. Shown here are two photographs of the Red Lion pub. The image on the left shows the pub in the early 1900’s and the one on the right shows a parade float in front of the pub dated 1911 pertaining to a coronation. Details about the history of this pub are given in my article ‘ The Red Lion Public House on St John’s Road’ dated September 30,2014.
Directories of 1823 to 1930 gave James Thomas Dann and Mary Jane Dann at 90 Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, London. As noted above James Thomas Dann (senior) died in Lambeth, London in 1931. No definitive information about what happed to his son of the same name after the 1901 census was obtained.
BENJAMIN WOOD THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario,Canada
Date: July 27,2016
Benjamin Wood is one of those rather obscure photographers of Tunbridge Wells for whom very few examples of his work can be found. The front and back of the only example found of his work is the studio CDV shown in this article. On the back of the CDV he advertised himself as a Landscape and Portrait photographer with his studio in Mount Ephraim.
Benjamin was born 1822 in Brighton, Sussex and was baptised May 8,1822 at St Nicholas Church in Brighton. His parents were given as Richard and Philadelphia Wood.
In the 3rd qtr of 1846 Benjamin married Margaret Milliner at Lewes, Sussex. Margaret had been born in Liverpool in 1824. By the time of the 1861 census Benjamin and his wife had six children. The first four children namely Margaret Mary, Benjamin William, Jane and George Alfred were all born in Lewes between 1848 and 1852. In 1854 their fifth child Fanny Cecillia was born in Hertfordshire. Their sixth child, John William Wood was born at Ighton,Kent in 1855.
When Benjamin took up residence in Tunbridge Wells is not known. He was not found in the 1858 Melville Directory, but appeared in the 1861 census taken at Ephraim Terrace where his occupation was given as newspaper proprietor and photographer, suggesting that he had a newsagents shop and a photographic studio in the same premises. Living with Benjamin at that time was his wife Margaret and the six children I referred to above, the eldest five of which were attending school.
What became of Benjamin after 1861 was not established, for he does not appear in the 1871 census for Tunbridge Wells and no other definitive records were located. The 1867 local directory for example gave two records for a Benjamin Wood. The first gave the listing “Benjamin Wood, lodging house, Vale Road” and the second record listed him with four others as agents for the Liverpool & London & Globe, and that Benjamin was of 10 Mount Ephraim. A search was done for the whereabouts of his children and from that it was determined that none of them were living in Tunbridge Wells at the time of the 1871 census. His daughter Margaret Mary Wood for example was married in 1875 to James Crofton Dodwell (1845-1902) and with him had three children between 1876 and 1880, and all of them were born in Australia. Benjamin’s daughter Fanny was found in the 1871 census working for a governess as an assistant teacher in Hertsfordshire. Due to the absence of British census records for Benjamin and his wife after 1861 it is possible that he, like so many others, emigrated to Australia.
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