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Discover the fascinating people and places of Tunbridge Wells.Take a journey back in time to the 19th and early 20th century. See what the town was like in the days of the horse and carriage and what the people did who lived there. See the vintage postcards and photographs.Read the articles about the different trades and professions and the people who worked in them.Learn about the historic buildings and the town's colourful history.

This month I feature an image of the Covent Garden Supply Store at 14 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, one of several Camden road photographs collected in recent years as part of the Camden Road in Camera project.  This shop appeared in local directories at 14 Camden Road from 1930 to 1934 but was not found listed in the directories of 1922 or 1938. They also had a shop at 77 High Street, Tonbridge in the 1930's and were advertised as wholesale and retail fruiterers and florists, located next to the Woolworths shop. Local advertisments in the Kent & Sussex Courier advertised the shop on Camden Road offering " top quality fruit and vegetables". The name of the shop was derived from the well-known Covent Garden in London. In this image one can see a large display of products on offer set out in an "open front" shop manner. The gentleman in the white coat was no doubt the shop manager and with him can be seen two ladies as shop assistants with the one beside him most likely his wife.


The articles on this site are replaced by new ones on the first of the month, so come back and visit this site often. Feel free to copy any text and images of interest to you.Due to the quantity and size of the images in this website users will find that some of them are slow to appear. Please be patient, as they are worth waiting for.Those without high speed internet service will no doubt have to wait longer than others. To move from one page of the website to the next simply click on the page number in the bar at the top of the page-not the "Go To" instruction at the bottom of the page.

Also note that if you attempt to print any pages from this website before the page has fully loaded, some images may not be printed and the layout of the page may be distorted, as the text and images are repositioned during loading. For the best copy wait for the page to fully load.

There is no provision for contacting me from this website. If you wish to contact me I would suggest contacting the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library or the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society who will forward your inquiry to me. Their contact details can be found on their websites.


I am a researcher and writer of articles about the history of Tunbridge Wells and was a member of the Tunbridge Wells Family History Society (TWFHS) until its recent demise. I had been a regular contributer to the TWFHS Guestbook and Journal. I assist others with their genealogical inquiries on various websites such as Rootschat and the Kent & Sussex History Forum. I have had many articles published in various society journals, Newsletters and Magazines in England and Canada. I am decended from three generation of Gilberts who lived in Tunbridge Wells since 1881.

Shown here is a photograph of me taken in July 2015 proudly displaying my T-shirt. I was trained and worked as a Civil Engineer and in the late 1980's changed careers and became the owner of two corporations engaged in General Contracting and the supply of building materials. Upon my retirement in 1998 I devoted my spare time to research,writing and gardening. I lived in southern Ontario from 1950 to 1981 but moved to Thunder Bay,Ontario (about 950 miles north of Toronto) to work as a Supervising Engineer in NorthWestern Ontario. My father Douglas Edward Gilbert (1916-2009) came to live with me in 1983. He had been born in Tunbridge Wells but came to Canada with his parents/siblings in the early 1920's. All but one my relatives (mostly second cousins, none of which have the surname of Gilbert) live in England and some still live in Tunbridge Wells. The only Gilberts from my family line in Canada are me (born in Canada 1950). My dads sister Mabel Joan Gilbert, born in Tunbridge Wells in 1921 died October 2017 in Barrie, Ontario. Her only child Garry Williamson is living in Barrie with his wife and two adopted sons. Since I never got married I am the last of the family with the surname of Gilbert in Canada and England and I am the self appointed genealogist of my family line. Although my greatgrandfather of Tunbridge Wells had three sons and four daughters I am the only surviving descendent with the surname of Gilbert. A complete family tree of my family going back five generations can be found on the Ancestry UK website.

I established this website in 2011. Every month I replace all of the articles with new ones so please come back and visit again. If there are any articles you wish to keep for your records feel free to copy them. There is no archive of older articles on this site but the Tunbridge Wells Library and the Museum retain copies of my articles for their local history files,so please contact them to see them. I am in regular contact with the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society (Chris Jones) who takes an interest in my work and may have some of my articles in his files. Occasionally I republish older articles that have been updated with new information.

On October 9,2014 I was presented with a Civic Society Community Contribution Award in recognition of the contribution that this website has made to the town, especially in the field of history and family history. In the summer of 2015 I had the pleasure of visiting Tunbridge Wells and seeing first hand all of the places I had written about and those which will be featured in future articles. Shown above (left)is a photo taken during this trip at Hever Castle by Alan Harrison in July 2015 in which I am wearing my "I Love Royal Tunbridge Wells" T-Shirt, a slogan which accurately expresses my great interest in the town and its history. Shown with me is my good friend and neighbour Mrs Susan Prince of Thunder Bay,Ontario, who organized the trip,and the lady in dark blue on the right is my second cousin Mrs Christine Harrison of Tunbridge Wells. Christine's grandfather Robert Herbert Gilbert is my grandfathers eldest brother.Christine and her husband were kind enough to drive us around Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. It was a memorable holiday, and one that will be reported on in various articles of this website. Also shown above right is a photograph of me that appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier in August 2015 from an article written about my visit to the town.This photograph was taken by the Courier photographer at the Victorian B&B, 22 Lansdowne Road, where I stayed during my visit. A reception was also held on June 30,2015  to commemorate my visit  and my work in writing about the history of the town by the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society in the garden at the home of John Cunningham,who is a member of the Civic Society.John, Chris Jones and some 30 others came out for the reception and afterwards Susan Prince and I had a lovely meal and evening with John and Chris and their wives at John's home.

I hope you enjoy reading about my family and the articles I have written about the history of Tunbridge Wells.



Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Date: May 1,2019



In this article I present a photograph of a brickmaker and his son taken in the late 1880’s or early 1890’s at the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company (founded 1885) in High Brooms near Tunbridge Wells by a gentleman identified on the back of the CDV as  H.L. Mills of Bedford Road, Southborough.

This image is remarkable for two reasons. Firstly it is the only known example of this photographers work to have survived or at least shown on the internet. Secondly is was found a few years ago in a large box of portraits bought at auction in Boston, Massachuesetts, which box had belonged to a dealer who wrote the price and inventory number on the bottom of the images with, in some cases, information about the sitter, subject or photographer. In the example shown in this article only the price of $28 and an inventory number had been added by the dealer.

In this article I present information about the photographer who took the picture and his family. Also given is information about the CDV itself and a suggestion as to who the man and boy are that were photographed.


The H.L. Mills identified on the CDV as the photographer was in fact born as Herbert Louis Thatcher March 6,1871 at Sandhurst, Kent and was the illegitimate son of his mother Elizabeth Thrift Thatcher (1852-1922) who married Albert Mills (1849-1924) in the 2nd qtr of 1873 at Cranbrook, Kent.

Elizabeth Thrift Thatcher was born in the 1st qtr of 1852 at Sandhurst, Kent, one of six children born to Richard Thrift (1824-1897) and Sarah Thrift, nee Thatcher (1827-1881). The surnames of some of Elizabeth’s siblings appear in records as Thatcher and others as Thrift.

The 1861 census, taken at The Green in Sandhurst, Kent gave Elizabeth in school and living with her grandparents Samuel Thatcher (a bricklayer employing two men, including his son William) and Mary Thatcher.

The 1871 census, taken at The Green in Sandhurst, Kent gave Elizabeth as single and living with her parents Richard ( a sawyer and dealer) and Sarah Thatcher and five of Elizabeth’s siblings. As noted above on March 6,1871 she gave birth out of wedlock to a son Herbert Louis Thatcher.

In the 2nd qtr of 1873 Elizabeth Thrift Thatcher married Albert Mills (1849-1924) at Cranbook, Kent.  Elizabeth and Albert went on to have  nine children between 1874 and 1891. Their son Albert Egar Mills (1874-1922) was born in Hawkhurst; their daughter Kate Alice Mills (1876-1957) was born in Rolvenden, Kent; their daughter Rose Minnie Mills was born 1878 in Staplehurst, Kent; their daughter Lily Florence Mills (1880-1961) was born in Southborough, Kent. Their remaining children Violet Emmeline Mills (1881-1945) William Mills (1886-1930) Frederick Mills (1886-1941) Frank Mills (born 1888) and Ernest Walter Mills (1891-1970) were all born in Southborough.

Albert Mills was born 1849 in Sandhurst, Kent. At the time of the 1871 census he was living with his parents and siblings in Sandhurst, Kent and it was while there that he met and fell in love with Elizabeth Thrift Thatcher.

The 1881 census, taken at Springfield Road in High Brooms, Southborough (image opposite of 67 Springfield Road) gave Herbert Louis Thatcher as the stepson of Albert Mills. Herbert at that time was also living with his mother Elizabeth and four Mills siblings and attending school. Albert at that time was a general labourer and it is believed by the researcher that when the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company began operations in 1885 that Albert worked there in the brickyard.

The 1891 census, taken at 5 Elm Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave Albert Mills as a general labourer. Living with Albert was his wife Elizabeth and eight Mills children as well as “Herbert L. Mills”  given as “son” and working as a photographer “ neither employer or employee” suggesting that by 1891 he had established a photographic studio at Bedford Road in Southborough.

In the 2nd qtr of 1891 the marriage between “Herbert Louis Thatcher” and Emily Sophia Wickenden (1873-1960) was registered at Tonbridge. A review of records show that Herbert was identified as H.L. Mills only on the photograph presented in this article and as Herbert L. Mills in the 1891 census. All other records gave his surname as Thatcher suggesting that Herbert was never officially adopted by Albert Mills.

Herbert and his wife Emily went on to have the following children (1) Florence Violet Thatcher (1896-1978) who’s birth was registered at Chatham, Kent. She later married and had two children and died November 16,1978 at Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand (2) Herbert Ernest Thatcher (1913-2000) who was born November 23,1913 in Auckland, New Zealand. He later married and raised a family and died in Auckland.

Returning to Herbert’s wife Emily Sophia Wikenden, she was born in the 3rd qtr of 1873 at Pembury, Kent and died 1960 in Auckland, New Zealand. Baptism records note for Hever that Emily was baptised July 20,1873 and that she was the daughter of George William Wickenden (1926-1914) and Esther Wickenden, nee Chandler (1838-1902). Emily was one of seven children in the family and that most of her siblings were born in Sevenoaks, Kent. The 1881 census, taken at Belmons Green in Sevenoaks gave Emily with four siblings living with her parents George ( a farm labourer) and Esther. Emily was attending school at that time. The 1891 census, taken at 44 Culverden Park Road in Tunbridge Wells gave Emily working as a servant for Jane Jarrett, a widow living on own means.  How Emily and Herbert met was not established. Emily’s parents both died in Sevenoaks.

The 1901 census, taken at 68 Springfield Road in High Brooms gave Albert Mills with his wife and three children and working as a general labourer. He and his wife and some children were still living at that address at the time of the 1911 census. Albert died in the 2nd qtr of 1924 at 68 Springfield Road. His wife Elizabeth died at 68 Springfield Road on May 5,1922.

The 1901 census, taken in High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells gave “Herbert L. Thatcher” with the occupation of “colporteur of books” which means “a peddler of books, newspapers, and similar literature or someone employed by a religious society to distribute bibles and other religious tracts”. Living with his was his wife Emily and his daughter Florence.

Immigration records and passenger lists record that Herbert L. Thatcher and his wife Emily departed on the ship BREMEN (image opposite) from Liverpool and arrived at Sydney Australia November 17,1910. His occupation as listed in the passenger list was “Colporter “. Their daughter Florence did not travel with them but as noted above she later left England and settled in New Zealand. Their stay in Australia was a short one for as noted above they had a son Herbert Ernest Thatcher who was born in Auckland , New Zealand on November 23,1913.  Herbert and his wife and children lived out their lives in New Zealand.  The SS BREMEN was a German steamship launched November 14,1896. Its port of registry was Bremen and was owned by the North German Lloyd Line.  Further details about the ship and other images of it can be found on the internet.

Herbert Louis Thatcher died at Auckland New Zealand in 1951 and his wife Emily died there in 1960.


In reviewing the back of the CDV presented at the top of this article it can be seen at the bottom that the cardstock was manufactured by Jonathan Fallowfield. This gentleman was of 146 Charing Cross in London from 1890 to 1923. He is found in the ‘Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photographers’ by John Hanney as an English chemist and photographic chemical supplier in 1835. By 1856 he was advertising as a photographic chemical and material warehouse. From the 1870’s he primarily sold cameras and photographic materials. He died in London February 23,1920 leaving an estate valued at 51,360 pounds. In 1888 the company was purchased by F. W. Hindley (1856-1925) who expanded the business but kept the company name. The business passed through other hands in subsequent years, the details of which can be found on the internet. Of particular interest for the purposes of this article is that the cardstock used by H.L. Mills for his photograph can be found in use by other photographers who like Herbert just had their name and address stamped on the back. While most CDV backs found in use by other photographers had the cards specially made for them with their name and address “printed” Herbert’s use of a stock card with his name and address “stamped” on it suggests that his photographic business was either just starting out or doing photography on a casual basis or that his business was  of short duration. No photographs of his premises bearing his name on Bedford Road was found and his exact address there was not established. Other examples of his photographic work have not yet been found by the researcher on the internet since 2011 suggesting that his work is “rare”.

Turning to the front of the CDV one can see an elderly gentleman sporting a beard and holding his son. The gentleman is obviously a labourer and is sitting on a brick barrow, a form of wheelbarrow used in a brickyard or by bricklayers to transport bricks. In the background of the image one can see a large quantity of bricks. The site at which the image was taken was determined to be at the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company and the image was dated to be no earlier than 1885 when the company was founded and no later than the 1890’s . As noted earlier the 1891 census gave Herbert as a photographer but he was not given as a photographer in the 1901 census.

The gentleman shown is wearing gaiters below the knees, probably to keep his legs dry or clean. Shown above is a view of the premises of the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company and to the right of it is a view of workers at the company.  The group photo was taken by Carr & Hopperton of Tunbridge Wells. The gentleman in the back row with the hat and beard bears a striking resemblance to the man in the H.L. Mills photo who appears to be about age 40. The boy in the photo appears to be about at 3. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that the man in the image is Herbert’s stepfather Albert and boy is most likely his son Frederick Mills (1886-1941). Shown opposite is a photograph of the High Brooms Tug of War team winners in which can be seen a man in the front row holding a boy who bears a striking resemblance to the boy in the Mills photograph but who’s father has no beard.



Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Date: May 1,2019


A Glebe House by definition is a parsonage, rectory, or vicarage and is the official residence provided by a church. A Glebe also refers to an area of land the proceedes of which supported the parish and its minister.

In this article I present information about a Glebe House built in 1836 in connection with St Peters Church on Church Road in Southborough, which church was the oldest one in Southborough, dating back to 1830.

This Glebe House was designed by the well-known architect Henry Roberts (1803-1876), the same London architect who was responsible for the design of a number of workers cottages on Newcomen Road in Tunbridge Wells, details of which were given in my article ‘ A History of Workers Cottages on Newcomen Road’ dated April 12,2018.


Recently four of a series of nine architects plans for the Glebe House in Southborough were made available for viewing online by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which drawings are shown below. Beginning in the top left is a drawing entitled ‘ Section through the library and staircase looking west’ (drawing No. 8). Next to it is a second plan entitled ‘ Elevation of back and front’ (drawing No. 7). In the second row left is one entitled ‘ Elevation of entrance front’ (drawing No. 6). The last drawing is not numbered but shows views of the coach house and stables.


The date on the drawings is given as May 12,1836. One plan has a date of June 1836 which suggests that the building was most likely constructed late summer or early fall in 1836.

The address on the bottom of the plans was given as 18 Adams St. Adelphi, London which was the address in the 1830’s of architect Henry Roberts (1803-1876). Information about the architect and his career were given in the above referenced article about the homes he designed on Newcomen Road. Two other handwritten names appear on the plans namely John Martin and V.A. Barrett for whom no definitive information was found but it is speculated by the researcher that they were the builders of the residence or in some way connected with its construction, particularly since other notes regarding changes to the plans appear to be in the same hand as the signatures. The images in the drawings indicate that the residence and outbuildings were built of brick.

The only church in Southborough in 1836 was St Peters Church on Church Road, opposite the commons. St Thomas Church was not consecrated until 1860 and Christ Church on Prospect Road was not built until 1871. Given these dates it was concluded that the Glebe House of 1836 was for St Peters Church. A site plan of this church shows a number of buildings to the rear of the church and it is believed that the Glebe House was one of them. Given the date of construction of it, however, it is doubtful that it still exists. In 1883 the church was extended and significantly altered by Evan Christian and it is possible, although no evidence was found, that the Glebe House of 1836 was replaced with a newer structure. An on-site inspection of the buildings on the Church site would be necessary to confirm this. Shown above is an image of St Peters Church dated 1896.



Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

 Date : April 27,2019


The use of mosaic tile as a decorative feature in buildings dates back to ancient times. They were to be found mainly in the interiors of grand buildings both on floors and walls. They were always an expensive decorative feature and so naturally their use was limited.

Threshold mosaics were common in shops at the main entrance and could be found either at the exterior or interior of the shop doorway. Their use was common during Victorian times and during the early 20th century. These shops often had a doorway recessed in a small lobby, and the mosaic on the floor was a way of reinforcing the owner’s identity-another kind of advertising, if you like, to add to the name on the shopfront and the display in the window.

Now customers and passers-by can enjoy them as charming bits of craftsmanship or as useful historical clues to the past owners of the shop premises. Apart from showing the name of the proprietor some mosaics also name the type of business. They range in style from simple to very ornate and in themselves are works of art. Sadly over the years many of them have been lost, due to renovations at sidewalk level and in some cases were removed when the business changed hands. Today very few examples have survived. Those that remain are found in various stages of repair- some looking almost as good as new with others cracked and broken and missing pieces.

It is a sad fact that modern buildings rarely have the artistic flourishes and details of their forebears. Once buildings were often proudly decorated with eye catching touches, such as elaborate cornices and ornately carved door frames and in the 19th and early 20th centuries, nothing was quite as swish and fancy as a beautifully tiles threshold.

Mosaic tile work on the interior of shops, institutional buildings and private residences have survived better than their exterior counterparts, being protected from the ravages of weather.

In Tunbridge Wells a few examples of threshold mosaics that have survived are given in this article along with some brief information and the shop owner to whom the mosaic pertained. Also included is one example of decorative mosaic work found in a local residence.


Shown in this section are three known examples of surviving threshold mosaics found at the exterior of shop entrances. It would be interesting to find ,and record ,information about any other examples that have escaped being photographed.

The first example is from a recent photograph taken by a visitor to the area of the Pantiles. Sadly the specific address of the shop was not given and its location simply described as being “ near the Pantiles”. This example is of simple design with the field produced in white tiles within which are the overlapping (in reverse) of the letter “C”. What this lettering applied to was not established.

Shown opposite is a second example- this one for the shop of “C. Simpson” on the High Street. Charles Simpson had a gents clothiers shop at 64 High Street. His shop was found at that location in the directories of 1913 to 1930 but he was also found there in the 1911 census as born 1880 in Guildford, Surrey. He was single at that time and the only person living with him was a widow who was his housekeeper.

Charles had been baptised May 30,1880 at Guildford Holy Trinity Church and given as the son of John Simpson (a linen draper) and Emily Simpson, nee Hall. Charles was living with his parents and siblings in Guildford at the time of the 1881 and 1891 census.

The 1901 census, taken at a large drapers and outfitters shop in Folkestone, Charles was working as an outfitters assistant.

By the end of 1909 at the latest Charles moved to Tunbridge Wells and established his outfitters shop at 64 High Street. On October 25,1911 at St Marylebone Charles married Frances Elizabeth Mary Molyer Lander (age 32) who was given as the daughter of George Lander the licensed victualler of the White Lion Pub, where Frances was living.

Charles enlisted for service in WW1 with the Royal Army Guard (No. 157168). He was a private at the time of attestation on December 11,1915 and served as a gunner until demobilization in 1919. His address at the time of enlistment was 64 High Street Tunbridge Wells and his occupation was given as “ proprietor of a clothing and outfitters shop”.

On April 10,1916 Charles and Frances had a daughter Betty Emily Marianne Simpson who was born in Tunbridge Wells.

Sometime after 1930 and before 1934 Charles and his wife left Tunbridge Wells. Subsequent proprietors of his shop kept the “C Simpson” mosaic at the entrance to the shop and today is in very good condition.

The third example of a threshold mosaic is that of George Farrer, who was the proprietor of a jewellers shop at 19 High Street and found at that address in directories of 1882 to 1959. The business was begun by George and carried on by subsequent generations of his family.

A detailed account about George Farrer, his family and his business was given in my article ‘ George Farrer The Tunbridge Wells Jeweller’ dated November 8,2014 but given below is an abbreviated version capturing some the high points.

George Farrer (1840-1901) the son of a toll collector,came to Tunbridge Wells from Hertfordshire in the late 1860’s and took over the jewellers shops of Mr E. Dobell in the Pantiles at 43 & 46 Parade. George was still given at that location in 1874 but by 1881 had moved his business to a shop  on the east side of High Street, at No. 19, located north of Payne & Sons  Jewellers (No. 37) about half way between Christs Church on the north and South Grove in the south. There has been a Farrer’s  shop at this location for some 135 years  and although the business is no longer run by the Farrer family the floor of the front entrance (shown opposite) ,door and walls below the windows still bear the name of George Farrer.

George’s sons  all became jewellers etc , as did many of his grandsons and from one generation to the next the business was continued. As the family and business grew members of the family dispersed and established successful jewellers businesses in other towns , and today as “Goldsmiths” , or “George Farrer Goldsmiths” as they are sometimes referred to as, the business can  be found in many parts of England.

The jewellers shop of Payne & Sons at 37 High Street does not currently have a threshold mosaic outside the front door but those who have visited the shop report that there is mosaic tile on the floor inside the front entrance. No photograph of it was available for inclusion in this article. Details about this business, that was established in 1790 (but now recently closed) was given in my article ‘ Payne & Son Tunbridge Wells Jewellers and Silversmiths’ dated November 28,2011.


Most mosaic tilework in residential applications is found in the interior. Although commonly found in homes of the Victorian era in the foyer its use in some cases extends into hallways and other rooms. The homes in which mosaic tilework is found is most often in the grander homes of the town as it was an expensive feature. In this section are a couple of examples of residential use. In many cases tile other than mosaic tile is used inside homes. One example of exterior mosaic tile used at the entrance to a home in Tunbridge wells in Boyne Park was found and presented in a previous article about the home and its occupants.

The example shown opposite is the entrance hall to the Sherwood Estate off Pembury Road. Details about the history of this grand residence was given in my article ‘ The Sherwood Estate-Tunbridge Wells’ dated December 28,2011.

The land upon which the residence was built was owned by the Ward brothers until 1867 when it was purchased by John Guy who had an architect design the home for him. John moved into the home 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 Woolans(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 and came into further institution use in subsequent years. In 1995 it was bought by developers who converted the residence into flats.

A second example is the one shown above of the entrance hall of Chilston House, a large mansion off Pembury Road that backs onto Dunorlan Park.


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