PORTER’S SHOP IN THE PANTILES
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Date; August 31,2016
The Pantiles is one of, if not the oldest ,shopping areas of Tunbridge Wells, and its rich history dates back to the 1600’s. Of all the places in Tunbridge Wells the Pantiles ranks as the most photographed part of town, with hundreds of postcards produced from the late 19th century up to now, postcards produced by all the well- known postcard companies of the time. Of the images produced the most photographed spot is where the steps lead to the Upper Walks at the north end of the Pantiles where in the early 1900’s the large shop of H.G Groves could be found at No. 12-16. Mr Groves was still in business, albeit at No. 42 Pantiles, when he died in 1922. The poor man only had an estate valued at just 86 pounds 18 shillings which he left to Anna Mary Salmon,a spinster for whom I could find no further information. The low value of his estate was not doubt due to the fact that he had gone bankrupt twice.
H.G. Groves was an enterprising gentleman, who’s shop sign advertised him as a fine art dealer, seller of useful gifts and a stationer to name a few. He also ran a library and a post office, of which he was the sub-postmaster. Shown above is a view of his shop in a postcard which bears his name on the back as the publisher, one of many views of the town bearing this identification. Henry Groves did not take the photos himself but hired a postcard company to produce postcards for him, bearing his name as publisher, which he sold in his shop.
Details about the life and career of this gentlemen can be found in my article ‘H.G. Groves-His Business on the Pantiles’ dated February 28,2012.
After Henry Groves left 12-16 Pantiles his shop became occupied by “Porter’s”,a business that was begun in the Pantiles by Mrs Rachel Porter by 1903 at 22 Ye Pantiles. By 1913 she had expanded her business to also include a shop at 3 Grosvenor Road. Upon the demise of Mr Groves Rachel relocated her shops to his former premises at 12-16 Pantiles where she advertised the business as a Berlin wool repository, a sports outfitter and the seller of toys, games, and fancy goods. She also sold postcards, bearing her name as the publisher.
Given here is the front and back of an interesting postcard showing a 1748 print of the Pantiles which on the back bears the name "Published by Porter,The Pantiles,Tunbridge Wells.
Listings for Porter are found in directories from 1918 to 1939 at 12-16 Pantiles. Porter's frequently advertised in the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Advertiser throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, where she drew customers attention to a selection of dolls and other toys and a selection of sport outfitters wares.
Given below are the local directory listings for her business. Shown opposite is another view of the Porter shop. This one is number 149 in a series by local photographer and postcard printer and publisher Harold H. Camburn.
1903………..Mrs Rachel Porter, Berlin wool repository 22 Ye Pantiles
1908………..Porter’s, The Bazaar, 22 Pantiles
1913……….Mrs Rachel Porter, Berlin wool repository, 22 Ye Pantiles and 3 Grosvenor Road
1918-1922…..Porter’s Bazaar 12-16 Ye Pantiles
1925-1928…………Porters, 12-16 The Pantiles
1937-1939…………Porter’s Toyland 12-16 The Pantiles
No listings for her business appear after 1939. One can find no less that 18 different postcards of the Pantiles , by various publishers,showing the sign of Porter's proudly displayed to all who visited this thriving commercial area, an area which is a "must see" on every visitors list .
Strangely, no census records for Rachel Porter in Tunbridge Wells were found and no conclusive information about any other aspects of her life were located. No death or burial record for her was found in Tunbridge Wells.
After Porters ended operations Dust & Co Ltd moved in and was still there in 1972. This business had been founded by William Dust, who first established his silk mercers shop at 1-5 Pantiles in 1889. His shop went on to become the leading fashion house, of its time, in the town. No’s 1-5 Pantiles were located on the south side of the Pantiles diagonally across from No.’s 12-16, which was constructed in a Georgian Flat House style, and bears a date above the shop sign that read “ Erected 1664”. Details about the life and career of William Dust is given in my article ‘William Dust-A Pantiles Silk Mercer’ dated August 28,2014. That article noted that Dust was still in operation in the Pantiles in 1972 even though William Dust had retired from business and left Tunbridge Wells by 1911. When he retired from business he sold it, including the use of his name ,and it was the purchasers of his business who took up premises at 12-16 Pantiles, as can be seen in the postcard shown above. Another shop which occupied the same premises was the Fox Brothers, a view of which is the last image in this article. In 2014 the old shop at 22 Pantiles was a camera and radio etc shop by the name of The Pantiles Camera and Binocular Centre.
TEMPO LABORATORIES LTD OF ST JOHN’S ROAD
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Date; August 28,2016
Tempo Laboratories Ltd was a photofinishing business operating from premises at 80-82 St John’s Road,Tunbridge Wells during the 1950’s, but also printed and distributed a line of postcards, four examples of which are shown in this article. Shown opposite is a modern view of 80-82 St Johns Road.
Those who have read previous articles in my website will perhaps recognize the address of this company in relation to Harold Hawtrey Camburn, who was a photographer and postcard printer and publisher. Details about the life and career of Harold H. Camburn were given in my article ‘The Life And Times of Harold Camburn’ which was originally written August 12,2011 but updated August 26,2015.
This article reports on the business of Tempo Laboratories and their printing and publication of postcards by Harold Camburn.
THE CAMBURN ERA
Harold Camburn is recognized by many as a photographer of outstanding skill, and arguably the best local photographer and producer of postcards there was in the first half of the 20th century. His reputation in this regard is based on three factors; first his artistic ability of capturing the best view of his subjects; secondly his technical abilities as a photographer using the best equipment; and last but not least the use of the best paper and photographic materials then available. His use of the Graber postcard printing equipment, designed and manufactured in Tunbridge Wells by Ellis Graber allowed him to produce large quantities of postcards at high speed. As a result his business was highly successful and his photographic work highly prized and widely collected.
Harold Camburn is best known for the thousands of postcard views he created from his travels throughout Kent & Sussex on his motorcycle with sidecar, in which he transported his photographic equipment. In many cases his images serve as the primary source of how the town or village looked in years gone by. As would be expected, a major part of his inventory of images are those he took in Tunbridge Wells. He was on the scene for every major event in the town, including such events as the unveiling of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial; the Hospital Sunday Parade held annually; the arrival of Lord Baden Powell of Boy Scout fame and the various Royal occasions of Memorial Parades, Coronations, Jubilees etc. Apart from these special events he was out and about on a regular basis producing images of street scenes and interesting features in the town and surrounding area.
Harold Camburn had been born November 8, 1876 in Sutton, Surrey, England, the son of George Hawtrey Camburn,a Wesleyan minister. By 1901 Harold took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and began his photographic career working for another photographer namely Percy Squire Lankester (1866-1930) who had an impressive studio in the north wing of the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road and later became a partner in the business. Camburn continued to work with Lankester until he decided to strike out on his own about 1906 establishing his business premises at 21 Grove Hill Road and it was around that year the Camburn purchased the Graber postcard printing equipment.
Camburn’s postcards are differentiated from others by three typical features, namely handwritten captions and card numbers on the front; his name and address printed vertically on the back of the postcard, but most significantly by the use of the name “Wells Series” and “Real Photo Postcard” and the iconic image of the wishing well with bucket and rope on the back. Postcards showing the well image or just the name Wells Series, with the name on the back of someone other than Camburn were still images by Camburn and those by Tempo Labratories Ltd are just one example, for reasons I will explain later.
In the 2nd qtr of 1909 Harold Camburn wed Mary Jane Gillett in Tunbridge Wells. She was the daughter of local carpenter and builder William Gillett. Mary used to assist her husband in the business and she ran the business while her husband served in WW 1.
The 1911 census, taken at 17 Rosemont, Mereworth Road, Tunbridge Wells lists Harold as a photographic printer and publisher. Living with him in the 7 room residence was just his wife. The census records that they had no children at that time.
When Harold returned to Tunbridge Wells after the war in 1919 he operated his business from premises at 21 Grove Hill Road until the end of 1923. By 1924 he had premises at 21 Grove Hill Road and 80 St John’s Road but from 1925 onward he was only in business at 80 and later 80-82 St John’s Road.
In 1951 Camburn retired from business, vacated his premises on St.John's Road and sold his printing equipment and other supplies to Tempo Laboratories Ltd. Camburn and his wife spent the remainder of their lives in Hampshire. Harold’s death was registered at Portsmouth, Hampshire in the 3rd qtr of 1956. His wife Mary died in Hampshire in the 2nd qtr of 1967.
Shown above are four images described as “negatives” by Harold H. Camburn pertaining to the unveiling of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial. Note the absence of a caption and postcard number on the front suggesting that these are indeed original images. Examples of the same images in typical postcard format have not been found.
In June 1951 Tempo started operations at both 80 and 82 St. John's Road in the former business premises of Harold Hawtrey Camburn. Although the company was primarily in the business as photofinishers, they had bought the images, card stock and equipment to produce postcards from Harold Camburn.
Tempo was a photo processing lab for Agfa Film,one of only four labs in England established in 1951 to do so. Agfacolour chemicals and printing materials had been available in the UK since 1952 but were not sold to amateur photographers unless they had attended a course of instruction at the Agfacolour School (International School of Colour Photography). In 1958 the processing and printing of Agfacolour materials became straightforward and reliable enough Agfa to release the printing chemicals and paper for sale to the general public without the need for attending the school.
Examples of Wells Series postcards with the Tempo company name printed vertically up the left side can be found indicating that Tempo was using Camburn's old card stock for their own postcard views. Shown above is the front and back of one example. This one is a view of Amhurst Arms Hotel in Riverhead. Shown below are other examples showing the front of the card only. Listed in order from left to right are Church Porch Bidborough and White Hard Bletchingly. The front of all Tempo cards bear the typical handwritten caption and number found on postcards bearing Camburn's name on the back. No example of a postcard view of Tunbridge Wells with Tempo on the back were found but some examples must exist somewhere. Tempo distributed their postcards to stationers shops located in the towns and villages where the Camburn photos were taken.
From 1951 to 1960 Tempo Laboratories continued to operate from 80-82 St. John's Road . Advertisments for the company regularly appeared during this time in the ‘Chemist & Druggist’, as photographic chemicals and materials were often sold in chemists and druggists shops. Shown in this section is a Tempo Laboratories advertisement dated 1955, which provides an indication of the nature of their business and services they provided. It is also interesting to note that directories of 1958-1960 give two related listings namely (1) Tempo Laboratories Ltd, colour processing, 80 St John’s Road (2) Tempo Engineering Ltd, 80 St John’s Road. What differentiated these companies from one another was not determined.
A CV for Om Chand Mull found on the internet recorded that he had been the laboratory manager for Tempo Colour Laboratories, Tunbridge Wells, from 1955 to 1959; that he was the Export assistant Koadak AG, Stuttgart, Federal Republic Germany 1959-1960; Sales administrative manager Air India in Germany 1960-1994. He had been born October 16,1929 at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India and graduated in 1949 from LaMartinere College. He retired from his work in 1994.
No listings for Tempo after 1960 indicate that this was the last year of their business.
RANK TEMPO LABORATORIES LTD
Although local directories listed Tempo Laboratories in business in Tunbridge Wells in 1960 at 80 St John’s Road, the Chemist and Druggist of July 8,1961 presented an article entitled ‘ A Rank Subsidiary’s Bid For A Growing Market’ . This article referred to the Rank Organization with laboratories at Denham, Middlesex, who had reached the summit in the world of cine film processing, and that the group first indicated its intention to tread fresh ground in 1959, “when it acquired the Temp Laboratories at Tunbridge Wells, Kent “. A new company, Rank Tempo Laboratories Ltd was formed, and larger premises were sought that would accommodate the complex up-to-date machinery that the planners were determined to install. The resultant laboratory “at Cumberland Avenue, London, is now in its second year of operation…with floor space of 20,000 sf. “Messrs Rank Tempo are today able to offer the facilities of three giant processing machines, each capable of developing over 300 ft of colour negative film per hour….”
The Wikipedia website provides a detailed account of the “Rank Organization” which Rank Tempo Laboratories was a subsidiary of. Shown opposite is a photo of J. Arthur Rank who founded the Rank Organization in April 1937. He was an industrialist and his company quickly became the largest and most vertically inte4grated film company in Britain, owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities, and which diversified into the manufacture of radios, TVs and photocopiers.
There are no known postcards by Rank Tempo and no record of the company having business premises in Tunbridge Wells. All of the former Camburn images put out by and bearing the name of Tempo Laboratories all date from the 1950’s.
What became of Camburn’s catalogue of negatives and unsold postcards at the time of his take over by Tempo and upon the taking over of Temp by the Rank Organization is not known. However ,a few examples of images by Camburn have in recent years appeared on eBay UK that are described as “negatives” and do not have any captions on them, suggesting that they are in fact true negatives and that circa 1960 Camburns negatives found their way into private hands. In the section of this article entitled ‘Camburn Era’ I have presented four “negatives” for sale on eBay of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial unveiling. Whether all of Camburn’s photos were saved and sold is not known. Also not known is who the buyer (s) were. No bulk resale of them at auction was found, and so the whereabouts of the negatives remains a mystery.
CAPELL’S CABINET FACTORY
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario, Canada
Date: August 27,2016
Joseph Osborn Capell was born in Watford,Hertfordshire in 1842, the son of James Capell who in 1851 was operating a cabinet makers business, employing four men, in Watford.
As a young man Joseph worded as an assistant in his father’s cabinet making business and it was from this experience that he was able to go into business for himself by 1871 in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
He had married Sarah Claridge (1839-1918) in London in 1867 and with her had just one child ,namely a daughter Mary Osborn Capell ,who was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1873. Sarah had been born in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, and came from a large family. Her father George Claridge (1818-1893) was a master baker.
By 1880 Joseph and his wife and daughter took up residence in Tunbridge Wells, where he opened his cabinet makers business with premises at 74 Calverley Road. He was still at this location in 1882 but by 1899 he was operating as a cabinet maker, upholsterer, carpet warehouseman, undertaker and furniture remover from premises at 64 Calverley Road. The 1891 and 1901 census recorded Joseph with his family at 1 Monson Road with the occupation of cabinet maker and upholsterer. No. 1 Monson Road was attached , on the south side of 64 Calverley Road and so by 1899 Capell’s business premises occupied both addresses.
Shown above is a photograph dated May 20,1910 taken in front of Josephs shop on the occasion of the memorial procession for King Edward VII. This postcard image was published by Speedig Photograph works of Tunbridge Wells. Shown below is a second image of the same date showing the procession further along Monson Road from the same publisher.Later in this article I present a closeup view of Josephs business premises. In this image you can see on the right, near the beginning of the parade, two buildings with the name of Capell on it with the one on the right hand side displaying a sign which in part reads “ Capell’s Cabinet & Bedding Factory”, with signs on the building to the left of it referring in part to furniture removals “By Road and Rail”. This image shows, thanks to input from Chris Jones of the Civic Society, a view looking south down Monson Road from its intersection with Calverley Road. The Memorial procession had begun at the old town hall on Calverley Road just east of Camden/Monson Road, and then progressed down Monson Road and then east along Mount Pleasant Road. Capell’s shop was located on the south-east corner of Calverley Road and Monson Road and extended down Monson Road. Today Capell’s shop is occupied by Simmonds, the school clothing outfitter, at 64 Calverley Road. The part of Capell’s premises set back of the road just south of the shop on the corner is no longer there and has been replaced with two buildings with shop’s, the most northerly of which is part of Simmonds shop. This photograph appears to have been taken from the balcony of what today is Cook’s frozen food shop on the west side of Monson Road at No.’s 4-6. Attached today to the south of Simmonds shop is Max’s Italian food shop at 3B Monson Road.
The memorial services for King Edward VII, who died May 6,1910, held throughout the country was a sad but typically grant affair. As would be expected a memorial tribute to the King was organized in Tunbridge Wells. Speeches were given outside the town hall and also at the Pantiles. The Courier contained an announcement of the King’s death and several articles appeared in the paper afterwards, including one dated May 25,1910 which included photos taken by local photographers Percy Squier Lankester and Harold H. Camburn. Part of the memorial event included a grand procession that wound its way through the major roads in the town’s commercial district. The roads were lined with thousands of onlookers along the route of the procession. The photographer who created the image of the procession in this article is not known but most likely was taken by Lankester. Although Camburn cannot be ruled out ,the image does not have the usual hand written caption and postcard number Camburn put on his photographs.
Joseph Osborn Capell died April 1,1911 and his wife Sarah died in March 1918. Both of them were buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.
This article reports on the life and business activities of Joseph Osborn Capell and presents some related images of his shop and the surrounding area as it looked during his time and as it appears now.
JOSEPH CAPELL AND FAMILY
Joseph Osborn Capell was born in the 1st qtr of 1842 at Watford, Hertfordshire. He was one of five known children born to James and Mary Capell. James Capel was born 1804 at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and had been in business for himself as a cabinet maker for many years. As a boy and young man Joseph worked for his father and learned the cabinet making and upholsterer’s trade. Josephs mother was Mary Capell, born 1895 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
The 1851 census, taken at High Street in Watford (image above), gave James Capell as a cabinet maker employing four men. With him was his wife Mary and the following children (1) George, age 18 (2) Ann,age 17 (3) James,age 9 (4) JOSEPTH OSBORN,age 9, the twin brother of James (5) Arthur,age 6. All of the children were born in Watford with the youngest three children attending school. Also present as one visitor , one house servant and one journeyman cabinet maker working for James Capell.
The 1861 census, taken at the same shop on the High Street in Watford, gave James Capell as a cabinet maker and upholsterer, employing four men. With him was his wife Mary and their two sons James, age 19, a corn and coal merchant clerk, and JOSEPH OSBORN, a cabinet maker. Also present was one domestic servant and one warehouse servant, employed by James Capell.
On November 19,1867 Joseph Osborn Capell married Sarah Claridge, at Old Church, parish chapel, St Pancras, London. Sarah had been born 1841 at Leighton Buzzard, and was one of eight children born to George Claridge (1818-1893), a master baker, and Hannah Claridge, nee Church (1818-1878). Sarah was living with her parents at Leighton Buzzard at the time of the 1861 census.
The 1871 census, taken at Cheapside No. 3, Hemel Hampstead, Hertfordshire gave Joseph Osborn Capell operating his own shop as a cabinet maker and upholsterer. With him was his wife Sarah. At this time the couple had no children. By 1881 Joseph and his family moved to Tunbridge Wells where he established his business on Calverley Road.
The 1881 census, taken at 74 Calverley Road, just east of the Camden Road/ Monson Road intersection on the south side of Calverley Road, gave Joseph Osborn Capell as a “cabinet maker, upholsterer etc”. With him was his wife Sarah and their daughter Mary Osborn Capell, who was born 1873 at Hemel, Hampstead. Mary was their only child and left the family home in Tunbridge Wells sometime before after 1891 and before 1901. Also present at 74 Calverley Road in 1881 was one domestic servant and one upholsterers apprentice, who was working for Joseph.
The 1891 census, taken at 1 Monson Road, which abutted 64 Calverley Road, gave Joseph as an upholsterer and cabinet maker. With him was his wife Sarah and their daughter Mary of no occupation. Also living there was Sarah’s father, George Claridge, given as age 72, born 1819 at Leighton Buzzard, Bedforshire. . Also there was one visitor and a boarder who worked for Joseph as an upholsterer. Shown opposite is a postcard view of Monson Road looking south from Calverley Road at the spot where Monson Road swings west to meet up with Mount Pleasant Road. The little building in the island was at that time a flower shop but is now a restraurant, which my friend Mrs Susan Prince and I had a meal in during our trip to the town in 2015. The large glazed roof of the Monson Baths can be seen beyond it and the balcony of the Monson Colonnade ,from where the photo of Capell's shop/factory was taken ,is shown on the right.
The 1901 census, taken at 1 Monson Road gave Joseph as an upholsterer and house furnisher employing others. With him was just his wife Sarah and three servants.
From a review of local directories one gets a better picture of the business Joseph was in and his movements. The 1882 Kelly gave the listing “ Joseph Osborn Capell, 74 Calverley Road, cabinet maker, upholsterer and appraiser. The 1899 Kelly gave “ Joseph Osborn Capell, cabinet maker, upholsterer, carpet warehouseman, undertaker and furniture remover, 64 Calverley Road”. The 1909 directory gave “Joseph Oswborn Capell, Cassiobury, Wadhurst,Sussex” which was his private residence.
Shown in the overview is a photograph showing Josephs shop which at the time occupied 64 Calverley Road, at the south east corner of Monson Road and Calverley Road, as well as attached premises just to the south of it at 1 Monson Road which was his workshop and warehouse. Shown opposite is a closeup view of the Monson Road frontage of his two buildings on which can be seen his signage. On the building at 64 Calverley Road one can see two signs, one on each side of the south window, on which are references to his furniture removal service “by Road and Rail”. On the front of his warehouse building at 1 Monson Road can be seen a sign giving in part “ Capell’s Cabinet and Bedding Factory”. This photograph is dated May 20,1910 with a caption that refers to a Memorial Procession for King Edward VII, who died May 6,1910.
Shown opposite is another view of 64 Calverley Road which Simmons & Sons (the current occupants) moved into in 1927. Note the old hand cart on the side of Calverley Road and the tree and what appears to be a tented enclosure right on the corner that perhaps was installed over a manhole that men were working in. It must have been a quiet day for only one pedestrian is show walking past the building. The number "64" can be seen over the door entrance.
The King's death was noted throughout the country and most communities, including Tunbridge Wells, memorialized the sad event by conducting services and organizing a parade. The parade in Tunbridge Wells began at the old Town Hall (photo opposite) where speeches were given; worked its way westward to the intersection of Calverley Road/Camden Road and Monson Road; then went south down Monson Road and then proceeded south on Mount Pleasant Road. Details of the parade route and the various organizations that participated in it were given in the local newspaper. The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 25,1910 had an article in it about the King and two photos of events, one taken by local photographer Percy Squire Lankester at the Old Town Hall, and one by Harold H. Camburn, taken at the Pantiles. Since the image of the procession does not bear the typical handwritten caption and photo number on the front it is believed by the researcher that this photo was taken by Lankester from the balcony of what is today Cook’s frozen food shop at 4-6 Monson Road,located diagonally across road from Capell’s business premises.
Today No. 64 Calverley Road is occupied by the school outfitters shop of Simmonds. Simmonds also occupies a building abutting 64 Calverley Road that was later erected on the former site of Capell’s factory at 1 Monson Road. The building to the south of Simmonds on the site now, was probably also built on the former site of Capells factory and today is occupied by various shops including the most northerly one “ Max’s Italian Food” at 3B Monson Road. Shown opposite is a view of Simmonds shop looking south down Monson Road from Calverley Road. I wish to thank Chris Jones of the Civic Society for helping to identify the location of Capell’s shop as shown in the 1910 photo.
Probate records gave Joseph Osborne Capell of Wadhurst, Sussex who died April 1,1911 at Cassiobury, Wadhurst. The executor of his 10,336 pound estate was his widow Sarah Capell and Henry Arnold Stone, commercial traveller. Joseph’s body was returned to Tunbridge Wells and he was buried in the Tunbridge wells Borough Cemetery on April 5th. His wife Sarah remained in Tunbridge Wells and died in the town in 1918. She was buried in the same cemetery as her husband on March 8,1918. The name “Cassiobury” in Wadhurst is derived from Cassiobury Road and Cassiobury Park in Watford, places that Joseph would have been familiar with when he lived in Watford. An old postcard view of the gates to Cassiobury Park is shown opposite.
ALL ABOUT GOATS
Written By; Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Date: August 23,2016
My inspiration for reporting on goats in Tunbridge Wells was the discovery of the interesting postcard opposite showing a group of goats that had decided to have a rest at 5 Ways in the early 1900’s, much to the amusement of the onlookers passing by. At this time in the town’s history goats, sheep, cattle and other animals could be seen at times taking a stroll along the towns roads, many of them originating from the commons, until grazing on the commons was banned by the Commons Conservators in the early 1900’s.
After grazing on the commons was banned, a noticeable increase in the growth of undesirable vegetation began to take over, what was once largely open land frequented by local residents and visitors to the town. Concerns about the growth of this vegetation were noted after WW II and discussions took place to see if re-introducing grazing was feasible, but nothing was done. The feasibility of letting goats roam on the commons was discussed back in 1957. A Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons Grazing Feasibility Report was issued in January 2005 which provided a historical background ; commented on the concerns; and put forth recommendations. It was suggested that grazing may be desirable as an effective means for maintaining the important natural and semi-natural habitats of the commons, something which had been concluded in a 2003 review. At that time however it was not considered feasible due to the number of roads criss-crossing the commons and because it was used extensively by local residents. Another concern was the practicality and cost of fencing that would be necessary to prevent animals from wandering off the commons, which itself would limit access to the area by people. The 2005 report concluded that there were three benefits of re-introducing animals, namely defoliation, trampling and manuring. The merits of using sheep, ponies, cattle and goats was investigated and of them the best were considered to be ponies and goats. Regarding goats the study stated “ Goats-feral or semi-wild could have a significant effect on the vegetation. Goats are essentially browse feeding and would have a role in controlling scrub and secondary woodland”. To date nothing has been done to re-introduce grazing. Shown opposite is a early 20th century postcard view of the commons where one can see cattle and sheep and perhaps a few goats grazing.
From the earliest times the raising of goats formed part of the local agricultural scene. Goats eat almost everything, which in itself is a disadvantage; are comparatively easy to raise and feed, and produce highly valued milk, cheese, meat and clothing. They have also been used as a mode of transportation, in the form of pulling small carts, as can be seen in the postcard above taken at the Worthing pier. There are a few postcard views of Tunbridge Wells showing similar carts being pulled on the commons by ponies and donkeys but none unfortunately were found for goats.
During WW I Tunbridge Wells was inundated by soldiers before their departure to the front. This story and several images are presented in the Civil Society book ‘The Shock of War’ (2015). One of these regiments was the Liverpool Scottish, two members of which are shown in the image opposite wearing goat skin jackets at the front. Also shown is a soldier with the Royal Welsh Regiment with their goat mascot, and what a fine looking specimen the goat is. A regimental blanket was always worn by the goat over its back. The war diary of Private William Pearson contains in part a reference to him stopping one day at a farm in France where the farmers wife was good enough to give him a cup of goats milk. No doubt a few goats went missing on farms during the war and ended up being a meal for the soldiers.
Goats have always been part of the annual Tunbridge Wells Agricultural Show, as reported on in part in my article ‘A Photographic History of the Agricultural Show’ ,dated February 1,2014,which was held at Showfields on Eridge Road. Shown opposite is a page from The Daily Graphic of July 26,1902 which in part shows goats at this show.
The Bystander of August 8,1906 provided an account of the 1906 Agricultural Show in Tunbridge Wells where in part it stated “ The Tunbridge Wells Show seems to grow more popular each year, and the show just over, the forth fourth, attracted breeders from all parts, shire horses made a good display, and several notable animals were included among the stallions and colts, while the hunter, hackney, and polo pony classes were all well filled. One feature of this show is always the goats, and this was no exception to the rule. Taken all round, the quality of the stock exhibited was of a very high class, and the attendance was good on each day. The president for this year was Lord Leconfield”.
An authoritative book on the topic of goats is the one shown opposite by H.S. Holmes Peyler that first came out in the late 19th century but has been reprinted a number of times. One edition of this book makes reference to Mrs Handley Spicer who won the medal shown below at the Tunbridge Wells British Goat Society Challenge Cup event of 1909. This medal was recently offered for sale on the internet. Mrs Spicer was awarded this bronze metal (52mm dia) for her “He Goat” . The medal was made by J. Restall.
The British Goat Society was established in 1879. Its patron was HRH Princess Alexandria. The aim of the society is to circulate knowledge and general information about goats; to extend and encourage the keeping of goats; to increase the production and use of products produced from goats. An image of their logo is shown opposite left.
The following reference to Mrs Handley Spicer from ‘The Goat Book’ states in part ‘ More recently some Toggenburgs in the herd of Mr Sam Woodiwiss, as well as that of Mrs Handley Spicer, both of whom have taken up Swiss breeds of late, have shown some wonderful performances at the milking bench. Mr Woodiwiss’s goat ‘Martha’ gave at Tunbridge Wells in 1906 some 5-1/2 pints in two milkings and Mrs Hendley Spicer’s ‘Trima’ at the same show in 1908 gave rather over 9 pints in 3 milkings. The medal that Mrs Spicer won, that I referred to earlier is shown opposite. The Sussex Agricultural Express of April 22,1913 makes reference to Mrs Handley Spicer in connection with goats. These goat shows were held annually in London and in the Provinces. A number of Tunbridge Wells goat breeders attended these shows and competed for prizes.
The consumption of goats milk, cheese and meat have become more popular in recent years and the industry has seen a resurgence. Diced goat for example is sold at some local butcher shops such as that of Ian Chatfield who has a shop in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge. Goat milk and goat cheese is also sold locally. A number of restaurants such as the Beacon Hotel offer goat on their menu. Over the past decade goat cheese has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity because of its exceptional flavour, its health benefits, its lower fat content and its versatility.
An article about ‘Tonbridge People Town and Ancestry’ dated November 6,2015 entitled ‘ 1950. Daisy the Goat on Southborough Common’ presented the image opposite. The text below the image reads “ A sight no longer seen in London Road, Southborough. Daisy, the goat –pictured in the photo-and her mother, Gert, have been banned by the Urban District Council from grazing on this grass verge opposite the lovely common”. These goats were named after Gert and Daisy (photo below left) who were sisters of Jack Warner, of Dixon of Dock Green fame. Gert and Daisy were two characters of a British female comedy act who were particularly remembered for their contribution to film and radio entertainment during WW II. They were stalwarts of the BBC radio variety programme ‘Workers’ Playtime’. These characters were played by Florence Elsie Waters (1893-1990) and Doris Waters (1904-1978) who were sisters of Horace John Waters (1895-1981),better known as Jack Warner of Dixon of Dock Green Fame. Elsie and Doris were awarded OBE’ws in the King’s Birthday Honours list in 1946.
Although not all goats shared their names with such famous characters as Daisy and Gert, no doubt some interesting stories regarding the names of the goats in Tunbridge Wells could also be told, and who knows, perhaps one day goats in the common will once again become a common scene.
HIGH ROCKS LAKE-A PICTORIAL HISTORY
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Date: August 25,2016
On January 27,2013 I wrote an article entitled ‘ The History of the High Rocks Hotel’ which described the tourist attraction called High Rocks, a 3.2 hectare (7.9 acre) geological site about 3 km (1.9 miles) west of the town of Tunbridge Wells.
This site, once part of the Wealden Lake, contains some interesting sandstone rock formations that trace back to 6 million BC and today is an iconic landmark. Archaeological investigations have determined that the site was occupied in the iron age and upon a hill was once an old fortress. The natural beauty and interesting features of the place were exploited when a hotel was constructed, and a network of paths and bridges installed to lead one through the rocks. A tea garden and other attractions were installed to attract tourists, with the site made accessible by both road and rail. Over the years this facility has been run by many gentlemen and its attractiveness has ebbed and flowed.
One interesting feature of this place is a small lake, referred to variously as Trout Lake or High Rocks Lake seen in this image circa 1889. This lake was man- made, located in a natural hollow, and excavated by man and machine about 1850. At times the lake was not maintained and allowed to become choked with weeds and to silt up. In this article I present a series of postcard views of the lake.
The lake was used for boating and skating as well as fishing. According to Thomas Coster’s guide of his hotel, “whether we cross the bridge and sit upon the island, or lounge in the many nooks upon the margin, or take our turn in the splendid boats, there is a peacefulness and restfulness that will entrance both young and old alike”. The lake is near Bell Rock, a rock that legend says it got its name from the ringing sound produced by throwing a rock into the lake. The water in the lake is stated to have a red tinge, no doubt due to the iron content of the water and is spring fed.
Peltons 1876 guide had this to say . “ There is a small lake in High Rocks called Trout Lake, where fishing may perhaps be engaged in the summer. This lake, when frozen over in severe winter, is the resort of many who enjoy the healthful exercise of skating”.
The Anglers Diary and Tourist Fisherman’s Gazetteer of 1894 records “ There are some ponds at High Rocks where trout fishing can be had at the rate of 1s per hour.”
When Leonard Gibson Cowan took over the High Rocks Hotel in 1958 from Collar and Lison the grounds of High Rocks had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the lake had silted up. Cowan immediately undertook work to bring the place up to proper standards, including the restoration of the lake.
The lake has always been a popular feature of High Rocks, and is featured in a number of postcard views from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. At one time there was a small boat house on the shore where rowboats were kept, which could be rented for a shilling or two. Gentlemen doing a little fishing or couples wishing to glide upon its waters were commonly seen. It was a tranquil setting and one could walk around the perimeter of the tree lined lake on paths constructed for this purpose. Today one can purchase online a canvas print of the High Rocks Lake which shows what it looked like back in 1904.
In 2015, during my trip to Tunbridge Wells, my friend, Mrs Susan Prince, and I, had the pleasure of seeing the High Rocks site with my second cousin Christine Harrison and her husband Alan. Although for some reason we did not get to see the lake we had a tour of the paths and bridges that connected the rocks and spent some time in the hotel and relaxed in the well- kept grounds.
Shown opposite from the c1891 publication "Pictures of Tunbridge Wells and Neighbourhood' ,by the Lewis Hepworth Company on Vale Road,is a poor reproduction of a lovely view of High Rocks Lake. Unfortunately due to the large size of the original and limited file size a better copy of the image could not be included with this article. However, this photograph by local photographer Percy Squire Lankester, comes with a much nicer caption which reads " The lake at High Rocks is large and beautiful, and is situated here in a most enchanting corner. For those who prefer angling to geology, they cannot do better than try their luck, as trout, perch,roach, and other fish abound. It is satisfactory to know the surroundings are so charming, that even if the piscatorial art is lacking that excitement which some anglers look for, there is no end of change for those who visit this celebrated spot, and few, if any, will be displeased with their visit to the High Rocks. There is a cosy hotel opposite the rock's entrance, where every attention is given to those who require refreshments. The High Rocks are about a mile-and-a-half from the Common and well within walking distance, although conveyances run at frequent intervals from the back of the Pantiles". As an avid fisherman myself I would loved to have been there at the time this photo was taken to try my hand at catching some nice fish for supper, just as the two gentlemen in this photo are doing with their fly fishing rods. There is a saying in Canada "Teach a man to fish and he will play with his fly all day". A rather naughty sounding expression but all the same true if you stick to thoughts of fishing and forget the innuendo.
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