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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 a postcard view of the Pantiles by Valentines from the 1930's in which on the left can be seen the Ye Mecca Café at No.'s 44-46 in the upper walks. This image also shows the famous "Musik Gallery on the right at No. 43.  The firm of Ye Mecca Café was founded in London in 1884 by Beare and Gosnell. It was reconfigured, after running into financial trouble as Ye Mecca Limited which company was incorporated in 1933. In 1904 Ye Mecca Cafes had 24 branches in London and 19 in other towns and cities. Local directories for Tunbridge Wells show listings for  Ye Mecca Cafes at 44-46 Pantiles  from 1930 to 1938. When the business began and ended at that location was not established. It was a popular spot to obtain refreshments while shopping in the Pantiles by both local residents and visitors. It served coffee, tea, baked goods, and a light lunch, much appreciated by its patrons who wished to rest and take a break. The sign on the shop shown in this postcard reads "The Mecca Café" and hanging over the entrance is a sign " Mecca Lunch".


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: August 2,2018


Farming has always been a perilous occupation where the success of a farming venture often depends on events beyond the farmer’s control, such as adverse weather. Even when crops are good the farmers can, and have, suffered great losses to their crops from the attack of pests, such as birds that eat the grains before the harvest, and rats who eat or otherwise spoil the crop during storage.

In an effort to reduce these losses farmers implemented measures on their own, such as the setting of traps, the use of poison, netting etc. Like minded farmers decided that perhaps a more effective method of dealing with pests was a community effort where Rat and Sparrow Clubs would be formed where subscribers payed an annual fee per acre of land for the protection afforded by these Clubs.  Upon the formation of these Clubs bands of boys and men throughout the country caught and killed as many pests as they could, in exchange for which the Club paid them a bounty.

Staggering numbers of birds (not only sparrows), rats, stoats, weasels, moles, and other furry pests were killed, much to the consternation of the RSPCA who condemned the wanton destruction of wildlife and the disruption that resulted to the balance of nature. Comments by the Tunbridge Wells branch of the RSPCA (established in 1873) in their annual report of 1888-1889 about the loss of birds through Rat and Sparrow Clubs forms part of the information about Rat and Sparrow Clubs provided in this article.

Food shortages and the resultant rationing during WW 1 brought the topic of pest control to the foreground. A letter from the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office dated June 6, 1917 stated “In view of the importance of taking all practical measures at the present time for protecting the national food supply, the Board of Agriculture has recommended that certain measures be taken for the destruction of rats and house sparrows. A bounty of one shilling (5p) for every dozen of rats’ tails, two pence a dozen for heads of unfledged house sparrows, three pence a dozen for heads of fully-fledged sparrows and one pence a dozen for sparrows’ eggs will be paid.” As a result the number of Rat and Sparrow Clubs across Britain mushroomed during the war and many of these clubs continued throughout most of the 20th century.

Although pest control is just as important now as before, measures are taken in a more sensible and selective manner to protect the natural environment on one hand while serving the needs of the farming community on the other.

In this article I report on the formation and operation of Rat and Sparrow Clubs with a particular emphasis on its relevance to Tunbridge Wells. Shown above is a photograph dated 1922 showing members of the Kemsing Rat and Sparrow Club.


The origins of the RSPCA date back to 1824 in London when a group of men concerned about the welfare of animals met and organized under the name of the SPCA ( Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Royal patronage followed in 1837 and in 1840 Queen Victoria gave permission to rename it the RSPCA, an organization that is known worldwide today.

Branches of this organization were established throughout Britain, including one in Tunbridge Wells in 1873.

One can find online annual reports for this branch of the RSPCA, then called the Tunbridge Wells Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals dating from 1882 onwards. Of these reports the one for the years 1888-1889 makes specific reference to the loss of birds. This report gave in part the following “ In the United Kingdom our farmers and fruit-growers hold meetings offering 4d per dozen for sparrows, chaffinches, greenfinches, tomtits, larks and starlings. By such means boys are taught to look upon killing some of our brightest and sweetest song-birds as a laudable and profitable occupation. …Such murder of our bird allies works mischief more than people think. Even the barn owl, whose special prey is mice and rats the gamekeeper and farmer ruthlessly exterminates. This year rats have swarmed like a plaque of locusts upon farmers crops. It might perhaps have been better to spare, at lesser cost, a few rat-eating weasels…..The destruction of some species tends to the multiplication of others, interferes with the balance of Nature, and manifestly fails to procure ‘the survival of the fittest. The sturdy, plucky sparrow, against whom war is now being pitilessly waged, is the sold representative of wild bird-liffe in many towns. A vast increase of insects and creeping things has followed their destruction”.

During the period of the 1880’s Mrs Phillips of Culverden Castle in Tunbridge Wells was the treasurer and honorable secretary of the local RSPCA committee with fire chief Edward Westbrook of 3 Dudley Street, Tunbridge Wells acting as the local inspector who had the power to lay charges against offenders.


The need for the establishment of these clubs was largely initiated by various Farmers Clubs in the country, including The Tunbridge Wells Farmers Club in the 19th century.

Clubs began to spring up across Britain in the first half of the 19th century. In Pelton in 1843, as reported in the Essex Standard of February 10,1843, the following article appeared. “ War against the sparrows- A Sparrow Club, we understand, has lately been formed at Peldon, Essex, which numbers about twenty members, each of whom is subject to penalty in default of bringing ten sparrows per week to the appointed depot”.

In the nineteenth century Rat and Sparrow clubs were formed expressly to cull these creatures. In Essex many local newspapers referred to the various clubs formed and reported on tens of thousands of birds being killed by their members, It would seem that often the evidence required by the club was simply the bird’s head, so presumably the rest of the bird was used in Sparrow Pie. It was estimate that each single sparrow ate over four pounds of grain each year and because food was at a premium a ‘bounty’ was put on the sparrow’ head. Churchwardens accounts exist, as far back as the 17th century itemising payments to villagers for the sparrows they caught.

To gain a feel for the existence of Rat and Sparrow Clubs in Kent, a review was undertaken of newspaper reports making mention of them in the county of Kent. For all years it was found that over 1,300 articles appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries referring to them and their activities. In the period of 1860 to 1900 only five articles were found. The earliest of them was in 1862 when the Crawley Sparrow Club was referred to in the Kentish Chronicle of December 20,1862. The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 24,1879 reported on a meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Farmer’s Club at the Great Hall Restaurant in the south wing of the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road (image opposite). At that event some discussion took place about establishing a local Rat and Sparrow Club but it appears that the club was not formed until a few years later.

The Bowl Inn at Hastingleigh, Kent served as a meeting place since 1853 for the local Rat and Sparrow Club where members gathered on a weekly basis bringing along their haul of sparrows heads and rat tails to be counted. At the end of the year the member with the highest tally received a cold meal and modest reward that was presented by the landlord of the inn.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 8,1893 reported that the Groombridge Rat and Sparrow Club was formed that year at a meeting held at the Chequers pub.

Mention of a Rat and Sparrow Club in Lamberhurst dates back to at least 1894 and that in 1895 brought in to their meeting was 33 sparrows and 332 rats.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of October 23,1896 reported that the Farmers Club had decided to start a Rat and Sparrows Club in Tunbridge Wells.  

The Essex Records Office has a recording about the Rickling Rat and Sparrow Club that makes for interesting listening. This club was the means of ensuring that responsibility for pest control was shared throughout the community and also served as a social activity for working men of the village. The voice on the recording gives explicit details about the clubs activities and listening to it is not for the faint of heart. In one part of the recording is reference to boys going out at night with torches to catch birds and boys with pitchforks seeking out rats in  piles of hay.

It is known that the Southborough and Bidborough Rat and Sparrow Club was formed in the 19th century as was the Speldhurst Rat and Sparrow Club.

Several sources of information about early clubs of this type can be found on the internet.


In the 20th century, a leaflet published by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1903 stated “ While no one wishes to exterminate the sparrow, it is generally agreed that any good it may do in destroying harmful insects is so greatly outweighed by the damage done to crops that a reduction is as necessary as in the case for rats, or any other destructive pest”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of Sept 4, 1903 reported “ A Rat & Sparrow Club for the parish has recently been formed having its headquarters at the Queens Head Hotel. With Mr. H.P Lee as its Hon. Secretary and Treasurer it should prove a great success. It is understood that one of its members, ambitious to win the first prize offered, is trying to induce all the rats and sparrows to visit his locality by judiciously scattering oats broadcast. His first venture, however, in ratting was not a success, the result being nil, but a ferret lost. His motto is “nil desperandum”, so he may achieve his ambition”.

A follow up article about the same club stated “Rat and Sparrow club Dinner -The Annual dinner of this flourishing, club was held at the Queen's Head Hotel on Wednesday evening, when Mr Frank Austen presided. Amongst the numerous company were Messrs J Luxford,H Boorman, H.P.Lee, A Gibbs,J. Eley,F.Gadd,J. Giles, P. Tompsett, A. Leach, J. Baker,G. Streeter, [many more] Host and Hostess Tulley catered in their good style, On the removal of the cloth, the chairman submitted the usual loyal toast.” It then goes on to give the report of the year.

Closer to home the Kent & Sussex Courier of April 13,1906 reported that the Speldhurst Rat and Sparrow Club held their annual dinner and awarded prizes for the rats and sparrows turned in.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 12,1907 reported that the Speldhurst Rat and Sparrow Club held their annual dinner at Northfield House and that Mr William E. Hardwick presided supported by Mr E. Taylor (vice chair). A similar report appeared for this club in the Courier of April 30,1909.

On page 73 of the Civic Society book ‘Tunbridge Wells in 1909’ was given the following for June 1909. “ Speldhurst had its own form of recreation-the Rat and Sparrow Club- a society dedicated to the extermination of small animals and birds. The club met in April to award prizes: to Mr Ashby, for 1,295 rat tails; Mr G. Still , for 75 stoats’ tails and 68 weasel tails; Mr O Austen for 31 bullfinches, and so on. In all they destroyed 2,707 moles, 82 jays, 56 crows, 199 bullfinches, 5,246 rats, 6,584 sparrows (or similar),280 stoats, and 186 weasels”. The sources of this information, given by the author, was the Kent & Sussex Courier of January 8th and April 30th.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 22,1912 reported that the Speldhurst Rat and Sparrow Club had their annual dinner at the George Hotel in Speldhurst.

In 1919 the Speldhurst and District Rat and Sparrow Club held their annual meeting at the Hare & Hounds in Bidborough. Several other newspaper reports about this club appeared well into the 20th century, One from the Sevenoaks Chronicle of May 24,1935 reported that Councillor W.E. Hadwick had been the chairman of the club for 57 years (since 1878).

The Chelmsworth Village Website noted that Chemsworth had a Rat and Sparrow Club which began in the years before WW1 and that a subscription of 2d was paid per acre of land. Paid out was 3d per dozen for sparrows heads; 1-1/2 d per dozen for sparrows eggs and 1d for each rat. A yearly account for this club noted that payments totalling 9 pounds 6s 3p were paid out for turning in 4,941 rats; 1,022 sparrows and 270 sparrow eggs. This money was distribute to just five men, who accounted for all of these collections.

The First World War saw an unusual battle take place on the Home Front across Hampshire as rats and sparrows in their thousands were tracked down and killed throughout the county. With food so scarce during the war years, people worked hard to stop animals and birds eating the seeds planted in the fields or the crops that had grown. Rats were considered pests, but sparrows were also seen as a problem. Many neighbourhoods ran “Anti-sparrow Clubs” where money was paid out by the Board of Agriculture for every sparrow or rat caught and killed. People presented sparrows’ heads or rats’ tails to claim their cash. Not only was this activity seen as an important contribution to safeguarding food supplies but tracking down these “enemies” was also a social pastime for working men.

A letter sent by the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office on June 6, 1917 gave the following . “During the First World War the government was extremely worried about the preservation of food supplies and about the avoidance of waste, mainly to reduce the amount of food imports and the risk of getting ships past the enemy. German ships and submarines took a heavy toll of merchant shipping. To prevent waste, pests had to be culled. The Home Office and the Board of Agriculture set up a scheme which was to be monitored by the police.” The official letter said: “In view of the importance of taking all practical measures at the present time for protecting the national food supply, the Board of Agriculture has recommended that certain measures be taken for the destruction of rats and house sparrows.” A bounty of one shilling (5p) for every dozen of rats’ tails, two pence a dozen for heads of unfledged house sparrows, three pence a dozen for heads of fully-fledged sparrows and one pence a dozen for sparrows’ eggs would be paid. Local police were required to pay rewards from their own pocket and then claim reimbursement.  It was usually the policemen’s wives who had to count to gory trophies, do the paperwork and hand over the cash. It’s not known if the scheme succeeded locally. It seems the parish council considered it and requested further details from the Home Office. This government leaflet also encouraged the setting up of Rat and Sparrow Clubs to encourage the population in the destruction of pests.

The US Department of Agriculture in their Farmer’s Bulletin of October 1917 gave in part the following information about England . “ Cooperative efforts to destroy rats have taken various forms in different localities. In England and some of its colonies contests for prizes have been organized to promote the destruction of the English, or house, sparrow, but many of the so-called sparrow clubs are really sparrow and rat clubs, for the destruction of both pests is the avowed object of the organizations. A sparrow club in Kent, England, accomplished the destruction of 28,000 sparrows and 16,000 rats in three seasons by the annual expenditure of but 6 pounds in prize money”.

A review of newspaper accounts shows that far more Rat and Sparrow Clubs were established during WW 1 than at any other time before or since although many were still being established during  the interwar years. During the interwar and postwar period National Rat Week was advertised in every borough during the first week of November to promote rat destruction and to that end 1-1/2 d was paid for every rat tail with poison provided free of charge by local Health Officers. An attempt was even made through the Board of Agriculture to use rat skins for profit by making gloves and slippers out of them.
Shown above is a photograph dated 1939 showing a group of men counting rat tails turned in at a Rat and Sparrow Club meeting . The funds paid out provided an opportunity for extra cash handed out in convivial surroundings.

From newspaper accounts Rat and Sparrow Clubs were still in existence in the late 1950’s but one can expect that few if any still exist today.


Released in 2013 was a song of the above title by Tom Reeve of York. This song was inspired by an episode of a BBC documentary called Birds Britannia. The words to the song are given below.

Bring along your bounty, boys. Your severed tails 'n' beaks,

'Cos tonight's the Rat And Sparrow Club but it's not for t' mild nor meek.

 We meet for ales at 8 o'clock and the count begins at 9,

 Then we'll celebrate our deeds until the landlord calls for 'time'.

 There's a war on boys so don't you know we're doing all we can,

 To rid this town of filthy vermin just to lend a helping hand.

 And with every beat of dirty wings or scurrying of feet,

 They spread disease around our houses and throughout these cities' streets,

 Thats why we're proud to fight this good fight... to the death.

 They're multiplying daily just to foil our noble cause,

 I can feel their beady eyes on me and hear their scratching claws.

 But I swear they'll make no fool of me and it's blood I'm bound to spill

 For there's no hiding place in nests or holes or for birds upon the wing.

 There's a war on boys so don't you know we're bound to take a stand

 Against the filthy little blighters running wild across the land.

 With every beat of dirty wings or scurrying of feet

 They spread disease around our houses and throughout these cities' streets

 Thats why we're proud to fight this good fight... to the death.

 Rodent hearts beat faster, feathers fly when I go near,

 Tiny whiskers all start trembling, birds take flight to flee in fear,

 It's a question of survival, old Charlie Darwin, he knows the score,

 In the march on speciation death's the only rule of law.

 There's a war on boys a call to arms, let's carry out the plan,

 It's time to stand up and be counted every boy and every man.

 There ain't no time for shirkers, all just get behind the cause,

 It's a fight between the species, 'Hands and feet' v. 'Beaks and paws'.

 We'll all tell tales of victory over furred and feathered pests,

 I hear the stories getting wilder as we vie to tell the best.

 We've all sworn an oath of fealty, it's a brotherhood for life,

 Not just a fine excuse for drinking to escape the kids and wife,

 But still we're bound to drink these good pints... to the death.



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

Date: July 27,2018


The Bayreuth Orchestra was a group of 16 London musicians who performed under the conductorship of Fred (Frederick)Stephens. A review of newspapers for the country of Kent from 1870 to 1930 resulted in finding over 160 references to them performing in Tunbridge Wells from 1903 to 1910. The earliest article being June 19,1903 and the last being September 9,1910. A photograph of this orchestra, consisting of musicians playing drums, wind and stringed instruments is shown opposite.

This orchestra borrowed it’s name from the 120 strong orchestra of the same name in Germany that had been founded circa 1876 by Wagner and still performs today under the name of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra.

They had been hired by the Tunbridge Wells Band Committee to perform in the town during the band season of July 1st to September 30th, a 12 week engagement, which in 1910 cost the town 682 pounds.

The orchestra was a popular one and delighted residents and visitors to the town at a variety of venues, including the Pantiles bandstand and The Grove bandstand, just to name two.  As you will note from a sample of articles given in the next section of this article they provided entertainment at various other venues and through H.G. Groves, a businessman on the Pantiles who ran the post office, this orchestra could be booked through him for garden parties.

The reason for the orchestra’s performances ending in the town at the end of the 1910 season was not established and all references to them ceased after 1910.


In this section are a sample of newspaper accounts making reference to the orchestra in Tunbridge Wells. No references to them performing anywhere else in the county of Kent were found. Among the articles referenced is the earliest one located dated June 19,1903 and the latest one of September 9,1910. Two references to the orchestra were found in 1912 but they were retrospective in nature.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 19,1903 gave “GARDEN PARTIES, FETES, &c. THE BAND COMMITTEE BEG TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE CELEBRATED BAYREUTH - ORCHESTRA CAN BE ENGAGED ANY AFTERNOON AFTER JUNE 11.For terms apply to H. G. GROVES, Pantiles” . Shown opposite is view of Mr Groves shop in the Pantiles.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 26,1903 gave “Local News- The Borough Band—The Bayreuth Orchestra performers, under the conductorship of Mr Fred Stephens, commences its season's engagement on Monday next. “

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 17,1903 gave “ Local News-The Bayreuth Orchestra.—The Bayreuth Orchestra, having been so thoroughly appreciated in the town, the Band Committee, with much enterprise, and with…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 24,1903 gave “THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA……..the Orchestra is at the present time delighting all listeners…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 7,1903 gave “THE ORCHESTRAL TIMES AND THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA-The following appears in the Orchestral Times for August about the Bayreuth Orchestra. Many years ago Tunbridge Wells provided a string band for the entertainment of its visitors the Pantiles, but instead describing…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 11,1903 gave “MUSIC ON THE PANTILES-Lovers of music will be delighted to learn of every possibility that the Bayreuth Orchestra will continue to perform on the Pantiles until October. The rumour that the season would have to come to conclusion owing to a lack of funds, has proved incorrect”. Shown opposite is a postcard view of the Pantiles showing the orchestra playing in the bandstand.

The Kent & Sussex of August 12,1904 gave “CORPORATION BAND SEASON The BAND COMMITTEE beg to announce that the Celebrated BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA (Conductor : Mr. F. Stephens) is available in the afternoon for Garden Parties etc. Any number can be arranged. For terms apply to H.G.Groves, the Pantiles Post Office”.

 The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 9,1904 gave “CORPORATION BAND CONCERTS-The Pantiles was thronged with visitors each of the mornings in question, to hear the Bayreuth Orchestra, which, under the talented baton of Mr Fred Stephens, is proving more popular than ever.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 16,1904 gave “ CORPORATION BAND SEASON.  THE GREAT HALL, TUNBRIDGE WELLS. WEDNESDAY EVENING, SEPT. 21st. The Band Committee beg to announce an EVENING CONCERT AT ABOVE, BY THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA, Conductor Mr. Fred. Stephens.”A view of the Great Hall is shown opposite.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 23,1904 gave “THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA INDOOR CONCERT. On Wednesday evening, the Orchestra forsook the Pantiles for the Great Hall, where a concert was given, not altogether  a farewell performance, for  the season last”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 14,1905 gave “TUNBRIDGE WELLS CRICKET WEEK-THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA. The Pantiles has been the scene of considerable animation mornings and evenings throughout the week. The Bayreuth Orchestra, under the able conductorship of Mr Fred Stephens, has…………”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 11,1905 gave “BAND SEASON AT TUNBRIDGE WELLS- One cannot but have observed the fashionable audiences which have assembled the Pantiles, each morning this week, to listen to the strains of the Bayreuth Orchestra, although Monday (Bank Holiday) morning it was found necessary…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 18,1905 gave “ Local News- A cigarette case. —The case, which was exceedingly handsomely engraved, with the inscription’ F. Stephens, Esq. From the Bayreuth Orchestra, with best wishes. Season 1906.’—Mr F. Stephens, in acknowledging the gift, said he had been taken completely by surprise by the gift”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 25,1905 gave “CLOSE OF THE PANTILES BAND SEASON-There was a. very large assembly seated on the Pantiles in the morning to hear the concluding classical programme by the Bayreuth Orchestra, which proved, as in the case of those previously given, a thoroughly enjoyable character. An enormous throng was in attendance”.

Kent and Sussex Courier of July 13,1906 gave “The Bayreuth Orchestra will perform on the Pantiles morning and evening, and the special engagement of the Smart Set Entertainers will be warmly welcomed by Tunbridge Wells people who have pleasant recollections of the attractive character of their performances last year. Mr Walter George and his company will doubtless be pronounced even better than before. There have been slight changes in the company since they visited Tunbridge Wells last year, the most important of which is the engagement of Mr Herbert Oliver as musical director. Mr Oliver is a relative of one of our well-known townsmen, and is a most capable composer although only 22 years of age. One of the greatest hits has made was “If I were Vanderbilt,” sung by Mr Walter Passmore in “The Talk the Town” at Lyric Theatre, London, while his “Centoria March” was played by the Bayreuth Orchestra here three seasons ago, and even now is frequently played by the Guards Bands. In addition to the “Centoria,” he is the composer of six other successful military marches, and about 40 songs, some of which have been specially written for the “Smart Set” entertainers, and include: “If I were King.” “The Chiffon Girl,” “Mashona Maid,” “The Bandstand Promenade.” “Hush-a-bye young darkie,” and “The Little One’s Bedtime**.” Mr Oliver is, we understand, writing more numbers for musical comedy for the Autumn. We consider Mr Walter George has strengthened his most excellent combination by the inclusion of such a talented young composer, whose career many will watch with considerable interest.-

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 31,1906 gave “THE PANTILES BAND SEASON- This week innovations have been introduced on the Pantiles by Fred Stephens, the ever-willing and truly popular conductor of  the Bayreath Orchestra, this gentleman deserving the warmest encomiums from thousands who through  his instrumentality, have been the recipients of…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 20,1906 gave “Local News- There will be a service at St. John's Church in the afternoon, and in the evening the Bayreuth Orchestra will give a sacred concert in the Grove.” A postcard view of the Grove is shown opposite showing the bandstand that the orchestra played in.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 2,1906 gave “ ….some interest the somewhat amusing, if not instructive speech of Councillor W. Bournes, at the final performance of the Bayreuth Orchestra for the season, and without disparagement to the qualities of this Band, who by the way are all London musicians, I……”

The Kent & Sussex Courier  dated July 19,1907 gave “MUSIC IN THE GROVE. To the Editor. Dear Sir, —Can any of your readers say how it is that the Bayreuth Orchestra have obtain permission from the Railway and Parks Committee to play in the  Grove at  the Charity Concert? Is this the Corporation's Season Band?”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 22,1907 gave “ H. G. GROVES' AGENCY FOR Refined and Fashionable Entertainments. . SUITABLE FOR ALL OCCASIONS . BANDS FOR DANCES. Blue Hungarian Band, and the Celebrated Blue Viennese Band ~ Bayreuth Orchestra White Viennese Band, - Mr. Fred Stephens). ANY NUMBER OF THE ABOVE CAN BE ENGAGED. TERMS ON APPLICATION.” (Mr H.G. Groves was a well known local businessman who had a shop in the Pantiles and at which location he ran the post office).

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 29,1908 gave “ THE APPROACHING BAND SEASON. Whit-Monday, June 8th, ushers in the arrival of the celebrated Bayreuth Orchestra, which the Corporation Band Committee hired for the season”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 5,1908 gave “ THE CELEBRATED “BAYREUTH ” ORCHESTRA (conductor Mr Fred Stephens) will be available in the  afternoon for GARDEN PARTIES, etc.  Apply to  Mr. H. G. Groves, Pantiles Post Office, Tunbridge Wells”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 19,1908 gave “THE CORPORATION BAND SEASON.—Favoured with excellent weather, the Bayreuth Orchestra have had considerable crowds of listeners during the week, the Pantiles each morning being comparatively full of listeners”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 24,1908 gave “ AN AFTERNOON AT SHERWOOD PARK……attractions to compete with the natural beauties of Sherwood Park. Music was provided with a three hours' programme by the Bayreuth Orchestra, under the conductorship of Fred Stephens, who had selected some the most attractive Items of his repertoire for the…” Shown opposite is view of the mansion and grounds at Sherwood Park.

The Kent & Sussex of August 7,1908 gave “ At the Grove there was an enormous assemblage, every seat in the enclosure being occupied, and manifestly thousands outside. The Bayreuth Orchestra, which performed morning, afternoon and evening, under the conductorship of Mr Fred. Stephens, met with unstinted…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier  or August 21,1908 gave GOLD BATON PRESENTATION….Fred Stephens, the esteemed conductor of the Bayreuth Orchestra, was yesterday privately presented with goldmounted baton (in white, silk-lined case) from a few friends in recognition…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 4,1908 gave “CONCLUDING WEEK…”the Pump Room has on several occasions ' been requisitioned. A special solo evening, in which some of the members of the Bayreuth Orchestra were to participate, had been arranged for Wednesday in the Mount Sion Grove, which would undoubtedly have proved…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 12,1909 gave “THE MAYOR’S BENEDICTION…It was felt necessary that the public should augment that sum and assist the Band to be progressive and prosperous. They would all admit that the Bayreuth Orchestra was a very fine one—(applause)—but, like every other Bands, it needed support and he hoped the public would…”

The book ‘Tunbridge Well In 1909” on pages 84-86 and 96 gave the photograph of the Bayreuth Orchestra shown in the 'Introduction' above and the following information. “ July 1909- On June 21st the town’s band season began. A joint committee was formed to make arrangements for Cricket Week, with the income  to be split between the Amusement Committee and the Tunbridge Wells Band Committee. The Council confirmed the allocation of 500 pounds to the Band Committee, and this committee engaged the Bayreuth Orchestra for the season. It also hired the rival Ceylon Band for a series of evening concerts in the Grosvenor Recreation Ground”. On July 14th a concert was given in the Calverley Grounds and was a great success “ a prettier or more acceptable  form of summer  evening amusement  has rarely been provided for the edification of Tunbridge Wells  people”  was reported. “It took the form of a café chantant with the Bayreuth Orchestra providing the music. After the music there was a fireworks display …..The evening was so successful , with an audience of over 5,000 that it was repeated on the Saturday (the 17th)”. July 18th 1909 was Hospital Sunday, an event used to raise funds for the hospitals. Some 10,000 spectators lined the street to watch the parade and in the evening, at The Grove bandstand, a sacred concert was held where the Bayreuth Orchestra  “ played pieces  by Mendelssohn, Gounod and Schubert, and selections from ‘Lohengrin’. The concert ended with the singing of ‘Abide with Me’. The event raised just over 168 pounds.

The Kent & Sussex Courier  of June 11,1909 gave “CORPORATION BAND SEASON- Mr Groves  (hon. secretary), have done wisely again engaging the Bayreath Orchestra, under the thoroughly efficient leadership of Mr Fred Stephens. For the six years the Bayreath Orchestra has delighted the residents and visitors with charming and various…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 25,1909 gave “ THE CORPORATION BAND SEASON. AN AUSPICIOUS OPENING. SPEECH BY THE MAYOR. THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA COMPLIMENTED. The Tunbrldge Wells  Corporation Band season opened at the  Pantiles Monday morning in a most auspicious manner. The weather was brilliant, and a large crowd”

The Kent & Sussex of September 3,1909 gave “CORPORATION BAND CONCERTS- With the exception of Wednesday evening the concerts have been of the usual al fresco nature. The excellent performances by the Bayreuth Orchestra, under the experienced conductorship of Mr Fred Stephens, makes one still more regret the fact that the Band engagement will soon end”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 10,1909 gave “CORPORATION BAND CONCERTS……approach of the absence in our midst of Mr Fred Stephens and the Bayreuth Orchestra. We have hammered away at the absolute necessity of providing some form of building in which the Orchestra could be beard in comfort, and maintained for a longer period than…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier  of February 25,1910 gave “ WHAT BAND SHALL WE HAVE………The Bayreuth Orchestra last year cost £682, an Item In the balance sheet which bad been studiously avoided by members of the Band Committee…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 17,1910  gave “ Visitors and residents alike may have the opportunity hearing and enjoying music by the celebrated Bayreuth Orchestra (under the conductorship of Mr, Fred Stephens), which for another period makes its welcome Monday next”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 1,1910 gave “THE CORPORATION BAND SEASON…Afternoon performances by the Bayreuth Orchestra on the Pantiles end after to-morrow (Saturday) until further notice. It is possible they may returned later in the season”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 8,1910 gave “ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS CRICKET WEEK,CALVERLEY GROUNDS, from 8  p.m. (Grenada open 7.30. Popular Prizes. THE BAYREUTH ORCHESTRA will perform with “THE GROTESQUES,” Events conclude in the evening with a MAGNIFICENT DISPLAY OF FIREWORKS “.

The Kent & Sussex of September 9,1910 gave “LAST WEEK OF THE SEASON-If it were possible to do so during this, the sixth season,there has been more satisfaction than ever. The Bayreuth Orchestra consists of 16 performers, each member being a musician of undeniable talent, and moreover there are skilled soloists..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 9,1910 gave “It too late to continue The Bayreuth Orchestra this year, but the Opera House Orchestra might give morning and afternoon performances at  the Pump Room….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 17,1912 gave “Local News-Ceylon Band and other professional musicians. Some seven years have elapsed since Mr. Marks left to make way for the Bayreuth Orchestra, but while he was here he won the esteem and respect of all classes, and his visit on Whit Monday is already being looked..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of October 4,1912 gave “CORPORATION BAND SEASON….Mr. Gurney Russell, who it will be remembered used to pay visit in the early years of the Bayreuth Orchestra, naturally convulsed his hearers, he singing no less than ten songs Saturday evening, six the first and four in the…”



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

Date: July 24,2018


The CEYLON BAND was a wind and brass band that was perhaps one of the most popular bands to perform in Tunbridge Wells in the 19th and early 20th century.  Newspaper reports suggest that it typically had 16 members and obviously its members changed from time to time.

The band derived its name from its association with the steamship CEYLON of the Intra-Oceanic Yachting Company. A newspaper account dated October 29,1881 reported on the death of Mr E. McGrath on the steamship Ceylon while off the French coast and that he was a member of the Ceylon Band, which band had been engaged for the winter season to play on the steamship during a cruise around the world and that during the summer season this band played in Tunbridge Wells. It noted that this band had performed in Tunbridge Wells “for several years past” which suggests that the band began its performances in the town in the 1870’s although no newspaper accounts of the band prior to 1881 were found.

The band proved to be so popular in the town that Council offered them a subsidy for the winter season to remain and perform in the town, and thus with this subsidy they no longer had to perform on the steamship.

An investigation into the history of this band was undertaken by the researcher by reviewing newspaper accounts about it in the County of Kent from 1870 to 1930.  It was found that over 1,000 newspaper reports about the bands activities were found in the Kent & Sussex Courier. The earliest newspaper report about the band was from 1881 , suggesting that it was in that year that the band began to give performances in Tunbridge Wells although a 1881 report suggests, as I have noted above that they also performed in the town before that.

The last newspaper report of them as actively performing was in 1915  in which only four newspaper articles appeared. The activities of the band were severely hampered by the start of WW 1. In June 1915, in the midst of the Great War, it was decided that a carnival would be held in the town as a fund raiser for the hospitals and the band performed in the carnival. Depending on the age of the members of the band it is to be expected that several were called upon to enlist of military service and that the band effectively broke up because of this. No reports of the band were found after 1915 except for one newspaper report from 1926 of the death of a former member of the band.

The Tunbridge Wells Band Committee, given the task of organizing band performances at the various bandstands in the town, contracted with a number of bands, one of which was the Ceylon Band. In the 1880’s this committee was provided with an annual allocation of a few hundred pounds to hire the required bands. Up to about 1909 the Ceylon Band was payed between 7-12 pounds per week, the fees reviewed annually. Initially the Band Committee found the bands it needed through tender calls but after a time found that tendering was not necessary when their satisfaction with a band resulted in an annual renewal of a bands contract. The contracts were adjusted to specify the rates of renumeration, the number and times of performances and the venue(s) each band were required to perform.

A band called the “Pantiles Band” performed at the bandstand in the Pantiles. Other bands performed at the town’s other bandstands. The first reference to the Ceylon Band was a contract to perform at the Grosvenor Recreation Grounds bandstand, however they also performed from time to time at the other bandstands in the town.  At the end of this article is some information about the various bandstands in the town.

Several newspaper reports throughout the period of 1881 to 1915 show that performances by the Ceylon Band were not restricted only to Tunbridge Wells. Accounts indicate that they also performed in such places as Maidstone, Pembury, Groombridge, Southborough,Penshurst and elsewhere in Kent at various times. The Ceylon Band also advertised in the Courier that they would perform at Weddings, at private home Garden Parties , Flower Shows and other events. Newspaper reports note that they performed in the town at sporting events and  Whit-Monday events; in various parades such as Hospital Sunday etc. Further details in this regard are given later in the various newspaper reports of the time.

In the following sections various sources are listed making reference to the Ceylon Band, the bulk of which are newspaper articles. Due to the large number of newspaper accounts, only a sample of them has been given by the researcher and those referenced appear only as extracts of the complete articles.  Gaps in the annual reports do not suggest in any way that there were no reports of the bands activities for a particular year for reports of them are continuous from 1881 to 1915.

In this article a few photographs are provided in the form of postcards, some of which show the band performing.


The following account appeared in The Advertiser October 29,1881 ““DEATH OF MR. E. McGRATH –We regret to say that intelligence has been received of the death of Mr. E. McGrath, leader of the band which has been so popular in Tunbridge Wells for several years past. The band, as our readers are aware, accepted an engagement on board the steam yacht Ceylon, which started in the early part of last week on a cruise round the world. From what we hear, it appears that on Saturday night last, when the steamer was off the French coast, McGrath was suddenly missed, and one of his comrades discovered that he was overboard. Efforts were made to rescue him but without avail and he was drowned.

McGrath, who was a splendid musician, leaves a wife and several young children totally unprovided for, and we hope that the case will not be lost sight of by the kind-hearted residents of this town. The Special Correspondent of the Sportsman, who is on board the “Ceylon”, gives an account of the occurrence, and says; ‘the man who went overboard was the chief of the band. He had been drinking heavily on shore, and was suffering from an attack of delirium tremens. The doctor gave orders for him to be well looked after, but his brother-in-law, who was with him on deck, was unable to seize him in time to stop his final leap.’

This accident cast a gloom over the ship, and this morning a subscription has been got up for the widow and two children. About £30 so far has been subscribed.”

A Civic Society Newsletter of winter 2009 continued after the above with “ There are frequent references to the CEYLON BAND in the late 19th century history of Tunbridge Wells, but little definite information about it. Margaret Gill, in her book of old postcards, claims that “with time, the band dwindled till finally there was but one cornet player ‘whose somewhat melancholy solos, in weather fair, foul or cold, only ceased when, poor man, he could no longer play’.” Jean Mauldon, however, in her book on Tunbridge Wells as it was, suggests that the band was simply renamed the Bayreuth Orchestra; yet Chris Jones has references to both the Bayreuth Orchestra and the Ceylon Band being commissioned by the Council for performances during 1909. Clearly, further research is needed.”

From the book ‘Tunbridge Wells as it was’ by Jean Mauldon here is exactly what was said and opposite is a photo from the book entitled ‘ Listening to the CEYLON BAND on the Pantiles 1890’. “The band was so-named because it cruised on a steamship called the Ceylon during the winter. It was later renamed the Bayreuth Orchestra.” Shown opposite is a view of the Ceylon Band playing at the Pantiles in 1900.

Shown below are two views of the Intra-Oceanic Yachting Company’s steamship CEYLON . The view on the left is from ‘The Graphic’ dated October 1,1881. The other image is undated.


NEWS OF 1883

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 6,1883 gave “ They should have the Ceylon Band for morning performances only as that was the time when visitors mostly assembled on the parade. On those terms it was thought they might get the band for £7 or £8 per week ; by that means they could give the band a longer engagement”.

The Kent and Sussex Courier of June 6,1883 reported  “What was the use the band playing all over the town.The Ceylon Band went away to suit their own convenience.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 23,1883 gave …”the “Story of the Cross will be sung, accompanied on reed instruments the members of the Ceylon Band, who attend the special Sunday services held for them and the members of the Police Force on each Sunday afternoon at this..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 22,1883 gave “THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS. ANOTHER PUBLIC MEETING…..the Tunbridge Wells Subscription Band, with the word ‘Ceylon’ in brackets underneath.” In regard the various terms offered them, the sub -committee the acceptance by the general committee the following That the band play for two hours every morning, and…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 28,1883 reported “Ceylon Band Concert.— On Wednesday evening, the annual benefit concert of the Ceylon Band was held at the Great Hall. Owing to the unpropitious weather the hall was not quite filled….”


"The first Tunbridge Wells Dog Show was held in the Calverley Park Gardens, Tunbridge Wells on Thursday and Friday 21st and 22nd August 1884. There were 50 classes of Sporting and Non-Sporting dogs - open to all England, and 6 local classes - for residents within a 10 mile radius of Tunbridge Wells.

The catalogue showed an entry of over 500 dogs. The main breeds represented were Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Great Danes or Boarhounds, Collies and Sheepdogs, Greyhounds, Pointers, Beagles, Fox Terriers, Spaniels, Setters, Hunt Terriers, Rough Terriers, Black and Tan Terriers, Bulldogs and Pugs. In addition to the breed classes there were also some fun classes.

The show was held over two days. There were promenade concerts and the gardens were decorated with floral displays and arches together with 2500 Chinese lanterns and ornamental lights - all gas of course, as well as balloons and magnesium and coloured lights all donated and supported by local tradesmen. This enabled the displays to be kept open in the evening. There was a grand firework display in the evening on Thursday and the Tunbridge Wells Military Band and CEYLON BAND attended on the Friday.

Rosettes, medals and cups were presented in various classes by tradesmen and societies in the Kent area and also the Society’s president, the Marquess of Abergavenny who, followed by his nephew and this son, remained Patron until 2000."

NEWS OF 1884

The Kent & Sussex Courier  of July 30,1884 gave “THE ‘'CEYLON' BAND AND THE BAYHAM DRUM AND FIFE BAND will give a performance………

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 30,1884 gave “SEASON 1884-Support for one band only , which will be ample (under present arrangements) to supply all the music required for the coming season, and enable them to extend the engagement of the Band for longer period than heretofore. The well-known “Ceylon Band …..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 18,1884 gave “ Applications have been received from the bandmasters of the Parade and Ceylon Bands, and after thoroughly discussing the various projects have come to the conclusion that the Ceylon Band be engaged under the following terms ; To play two hours in the morning the…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier or November 14,1884 gave “ THE FRANCHISE BILL-Mr. Charlton, of the Parade, also supplied some of the plants for the occasion. The Ceylon Band was in attendance, and took their station on the platform, where they performed several popular selections of music “.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 11,1884 gave “Several excellent songs were contributed by various brothers, accompanied on the pianoforte by Bro. Seymour (of the “ Ceylon ” Band), who was initiated an honorary member that evening. Several others were proposed as members of the Court, and the Secretary…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 11,1884 gave  “….will parade in Drill Hall, at 8.30, and march to South Eastern Railway station, and proceed Maidstone by 9.20 a.m, train, Ceylon band will attend, and play the companies to and from the station, 25 rounds of blank ammunition per man will be issued at the….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 1,1884 gave ... “The Eridge Drum and Fife Band. Members Tonbridge Working Men’s Conservative Association. Carriages of Members of Conservative Party with Members of the Association. Outriders. The Ceylon Band. The President and Committee with their friends…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 18,1884 gave “. The Parade Band played on the ground from eleven o’clock until one, and the“Ceylon” Band played during the afternoon.”

NEWS OF 1885

The Kent & Sussex of May 22,1885 reported “THE IRISH SOCIETY was in favour of some modification of a band of brass instruments, but not a new band altogether. It is believed there were men in the Ceylon Band who were players of two instruments, and he would recommend that the Ceylon band be engaged, and that it be left to……….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 20,1885 gave “ They saw that string bands, and bands of softer instruments were much appreciated. In wet weather the band could occupy the orchestra. Mr Dunkley supported the Ceylon Band, and considered that if they could put on a string band, variation of the two…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 2,1885 gave “The Ceylon Band Concert.— The annual Christmas concert given by the members of the “Ceylon” Band took place the Great Hall, on Monday evening last. The attendance, we regret to say was less than expected”. A photograph of the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road is given opposite.

The Kent & Sussex of December 4,1885 reported “Enthusiastic Crowd Mustered in Strong Numbers-Several members of the Tunbridge Wells Working Men’s Conservative Association, took part. The Ceylon band was engaged, the Conservative colours were carried round in triumph. With a plentiful supply of torches, the procession…”


The Kent & Sussex dated June 11,1886 gave “ CHURCH SCHOOL-Military band permission to use the orchestra. He did not know whether the Ceylon band would commence playing once or not, but he thought in courtesy the other band, they might continue that permission till the engagement of the Ceylon band actually commenced”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 12,1886 gave “CELEBRATIONS OF THE FIFTH were carefully mapped out and met general satisfaction. The Ceylon Band accompanied the procession with some martial airs, and the services of the boys of the local Gordon Drum and Fife Band had also been secured, and they played remarkably well.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 12,1886 gave “ On Monday a procession was organised headed by the handsome banner of the Order and the Ceylon Band. The juveniles and brethren of the Order, in their regalia, mustered in good numbers at the Rose and Crown, and the procession…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 17,1886 gave “some of their senior brethren, mastered in creditable numbers for the occasion, and marched to the Church, headed by the Ceylon Band. There was a large congregation at the service, amongst which the society members in their silk scarves formed a prominent…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 15,1886 gave “A cordial vote of thanks was passed to Lady Siemens, for her kindness in engaging the Ceylon Band the previous Saturday, for the entertainment.” The reference to Lady Siemens pertains to the Siemens family who had a mansion called Sherwood off Pembury Road. A photograph of this mansion is shown above.

NEWS OF 1887

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 20,1887 gave “the proceeds during the evening was handed over to the Band. The following was the programme : Selection, “Ceylon’’ Band; songs, Bros. Bassett and Boakes; overture, “Nabuco,” the Band ; song, The Harbour Lights,” Bro. G. Miles ; song, Parson and…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 17,1887 gave “THE CELEBRATION OF THE JUBILEE-Crowborongh Hill. The Pantiles Band. —An adjourned meeting of subscribers to this band was held at the Pump Room on Monday evening, and it was decided to engage the Ceylon Band for the season at a sum of £l2 10s. per week, the band to play each morning, and…”


The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 8,1888 gave “ With respect to Mr Durant, he seemed to have discovered a secret which no one else had, that the Ceylon Band was the best behaved. He believed they would remember that the Ceylon Band in their last engagement, in ten weeks disappointed them 14 times. Though he was one…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 2,1888 gave “ VOLUNTEERS AT CHURCH- The regiment held their annual Church Parade, when a very good number of rank and file marched to the church, headed by the Ceylon Band, under the command of Capt. Alfred T. Simpson and Surgeon Marsaok. For the first time for some years the Rev. Canon Hoare….”


The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 12,1889 gave  “ The Tunbridge Wells Horticultural Show-The annual show of the Horticultural Society held Wednesday last, when the committee were again fortunate, by a promenade. Messrs. Gilbert kindly lent some Jubilee illuminations. With the strains of the fine band of the Royal Artillery in the afternoon, and the Ceylon Band in the evening. The public evidently appreciated this part of the day’s programme.” These Horticultural Shows were held annually, most often in the grounds of the Spa Hotel, an image of which is shown opposite. This view of the Spa Hotel is by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 21,1889 gave “FASHIONABLE MARRIAGE AT TUNBRIDGE WELLS.- What may termed the wedding of the month in the town.  Along the carriage drive were flags, which vied in brightness with the prettily set out lawns. Here the “ Ceylon Band was stationed, and struck up the strains of the “Wedding March”, a dashing pair of greys, the coachman wearing  bouquets….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 1,1889 gave “…a bugle call had sounded the advance. The advance guard of the local troop of Yeomanry and a line of banner bearers preceded with the Ceylon Band playing lively marching air, and then came the D company of Volunteers under the command of A. Simpson, and their solid…”

The Kent & Sussex of May 24,1889 gave “NOTES ON NEWS….was read from the Ceylon Band offering their services for the ensuing season on the usual terms, and it was decided to engage them commencing from July 8th. Some discussion took place as to whether it would be possible to erect a band stand on the new promenade…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 7,1889 gave “THE LAWRENCE FUND…on Friday by Mrs Blair, of Finchcocks Park, Goudhurst. Delightful weather was experienced, and during the afternoon the Ceylon Band from Tunbridge Wells rendered a choice selection of music.”

NEWS OF 1890

From the Gravesend Reporter, North Kent and South Essex Advertiser Kent, England July 19,1890 was the following “ THE CEYLON BAND EACH DAY. Admission —First Day. 10 to 1.30, 2;6 each., 1.30 to 7, 1/0 amok; Second Day, 9.30 to 6, 1,0 'sh ; 10/0 each Grand Stand, 2/6 and 1/0 earth. GRAVESEND Horticultural Improvement Society”

NEWS OF 1891

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 13,1891 gave “SUNDAY MUSIC-£5O to the Pantiles Band Committee for  the ensuing six months, upon condition that, the Band shall play in the Grosvenor Recreation Grounds  on Saturday afternoon. Alderman Robb, in moving the adoption, said that the Ceylon Band was well known to one and all.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 20,1891 gave “Firemen’s Church Parade-……..Salvage Corps in Nevill-street, and afterwards joined each other at the Volunteer Brigade Station, from whence headed the Ceylon Band they Journeyed to Southborough. The officers present were Major C. R. Fletcher Lutwidge in command. Second Officer Hosmer in charge…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 22,1891 gave “CRANBROOK-Business was transacted by the Secretary at the Bell Inn, after which the members paraded, and were preceded by the Ceylon Band, from Tunbridge Wells, marched to the church where a stirring sermon was preached by the Rector. After the service, the principal……….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 24,1891 reported on a local benefit and gave in part “ The Last Rose of Summer” (with solo for euphonium), Messrs. Roach. McGrath. Saunders, and Ellis (members of the Ceylon Band) ; song. Mr Copiard; recitation, Mr Rolls (encored); song, Mr G. Weller; violin solo, Mr Wall: songs. “I’ve worked eight..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 15,1891 gave ….”Walter obtaining first and E. W. Harding second honours. . 300 Yards (Ceylon Band) Handicap.—This race was one of the most novel on the programme, and was for the members of the Ceylon Band, who had to run carrying their instruments. There were starters…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 26,1891 gave “The local clergy may be interested to learn that the programme selected the Ceylon Band for a performance next Sunday which consists largely of music performed by the band on various occasions in St. Barnabas’ Church, and one selection which the bandsmen have…” Shown above  is an image of St Barnabas Church.

NEWS OF 1892

The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 4,1892 gave the following “ CEYLON BAND-Councillor Saunders called attention to what looked like a breach of faith on the part of the Watch Committee, with respect to the Ceylon Band playing in various parts the town, which was the only condition which the £5O was granted.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 5,1892 gave  “THE CEYLON BAND AND THE BAYHAM DRUM AND FIFE BAND-Will Play during the Afternoon. The Grounds open from Two till Eight p.m. The Prizes will be given sway by Mrs. Philip Green at Six o’clock. Admission:—From Two to Four o'clock…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 23,1892 gave “The Borough Bands. —On Saturday afternoon the Band Committee arranged a public performance in the Queen's Grove, when, favoured by fine weather, there was a good attendance, and the chairs provided were well patronised. The Ceylon Band who, observe,…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 26,1892 gave PROMENADE CONCERT- It was carried out at twenty-four hours' notice, which reflected great credit on the committee. For the musical programme, the Ceylon Band was retained, and Miss Featherstone, Oliver, and Mr Sinnock came to the rescue as vocalists. A level walk at the bottom of the Pantiles……….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 17,1892 gave “TO COAL MERCHANTS AND OTHERS-Lunch,from 12 to2p.m Tableaux Vivants and Waxworks; Art Gallery ; Amusements various kinds. BAND OF THE ROYAL MARINES. CEYLON BAND, Band and Pipers or the Gordon Boys’ Home.” Followed by admission fee schedule.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 26,1892 gave “ The Royal Pantiles Band Committee have arranged for the Ceylon Band to play in the Queen's Grove, on the Common from 3.50 to five o’clock on Saturday (to-morrow)afternoon, when chairs will be provided, and also for the Military Band to play in the Recreation Grounds”.

NEWS OF 1893


The Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser dated July 20,1893 gave “ THE CELEBRATED CEYLON BAND-Each day “ followed by a list of admission fees and a contact for tickets.

NEWS OF 1894

The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 15,1899 reported on a concert to be provided by the CEYLON BAND.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of Mary 11,1894 gave “ Justice was done to the noble Marques hospitality, which was enlivened by the capital selection of music which the Ceylon band played daring luncheon. At the conclusion of the repast those present assembled in group in front of the pavilion. Lord…………”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 7,1894 gave “To the Editor-I feel l am capable of testifying to the great ability of the Ceylon Band, and have pleasure in saying that of all the bands 1 have beard, I never met with another of its precision……”

NEWS OF 1895

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 17,1895 gave “PRIZES TO THE VALUE OF ….. THE CEYLON BAND-Will play Choice Selection of Music during the Morning and Afternoon. The Sports will commence at 11.0 o'clock…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 24,1895 gave THE CEYLON BAND Will play a Choice Selection of Music during the Morning and Afternoon. The sports will commence at 11 o’clock.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 12,1895 gave “ASSAULTING A BANDSMAN-In Camden-road on 3rd July. Complainant, first cornet player in the Ceylon Band, stated he was going home and the defendant called him back. He then said he had beard the band playing in the Grove that evening, and that after playing two tunes the bandsmen………”


The Electrical Review of January 18,1895 included a long article about the election of Sir David Lionel Salomons as Mayor of Tunbridge Wells (image opposite) and that to mark the occasion a banquet was held Saturday evening at the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road. A large group of distinguished gentlemen came down from London on the train and arrived in the town at the SER station. It was stated “ On our arrival in the town at the train station we were greeted with hearty cheers from a considerable crowd and the CEYLON BAND at the same time played the ‘Coronation March, from Le Prophete”.


The book ‘ Poems and Prose’ by Joseph A Gwyer(1895) included a poem entitled ‘Tunbridge Wells and its Environs’ which in part gave

“Upon the Pantiles here at night

Most charming music gives delight

The CEYLON BAND through summer play

In this sweet spot some twice a day

This band is thought the very best

Go and hear it, and thus them test…..”

A postcard view of a band performing in the Pantiles is shown opposite.

NEWS OF 1896

The Kent & Sussex of March 13,1896 gave “PEMBURY-The original Ceylon Band, the committee need engage a band simply for the season, and It played in the Dutch Oven Orchestra. If a band of twelve performers only is engaged it will not be an easy matter to find better music than the Ceylon Band.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 5,1896 gave “ PROCEEDINGS OF COMMITTEES-The committee recommended the acceptance of the terms. The Band Committee met twice, when the arrangements made for the coming season.The terms agreed upon with the Ceylon Band were that they should be under a Bandmaster for a period of three months.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of October 23,1896 gave “Ceylon Band Benefit Concert.—On Wednesday evening, the Ceylon Band held a benefit concert in the Culverden Park Nursery, by the kind permission of Mr F Barley”

The Kent & Sussex of May 1,1896 gave “ MOTOR CARRIAGES- Cup competition. The entrance and stand were gaily decorated with flags and bunting, whilst the Ceylon Band, who generously gave their services free, enlivened the proceedings with capital selections.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier Kent of October 9,1896 announced “RE-CONSTRUCTION OF THE CEYLON BAND….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of October 7,1898 gave “They all joined with him in wishing success to the Ceylon Band during the winter, hoping that they would all perform again next season (renewed cheers) The Band having resolved itself into the original Ceylon Band.”

NEWS OF 1898

The Kent & Sussex Courier \of October 21,1898 gave “TUNBRIDGE WELLS IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION-…Some people complained of the Band Master having five guineas per week, but it must be remembered that he had no share in the subsidy, which was given to the Ceylon Band during the winter to help to keep them together. He thought the Band Committee….”

NEWS OF 1899

The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 15,1899 gave “ CEYLON BAND Will commence  their annual events Friday, with good Selection of Carols. Hymns, etc. “

NEWS OF 1901

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 8,1901 gave “TUNBRIDGE WELLS TOWN COUNCIL-The Band Committee met once. It was resolved that the committee pay the Ceylon Band 18s 6d per week per man for the remainder of the present week, and Is per week per man for next week on the condition that the Band do not give their usual….”

NEWS OF 1902

The Kent & Sussex Courier of October 1,1902 gave “ TUNBRIDGE WELLS TOWN COUNCIL-Messrs. G. Ellis, Turner and Lord, as representatives of the Ceylon Band, attended the meeting and discussed with the committee questions relating to a grant being made to the Ceylon Band during the winter. It was decided to further consider the matter…”

NEWS OF 1903

The Kent & Sussex of April 190,1893 reported “TONBRIDGE SCHOOL-Band Race . A race by members of the Ceylon Band resulted in the drummer with his two instruments being first first…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 20,1903  gave “Will the Ceylon Band be engaged; this town has to support them? Mr Bule: It has bean decided to have an orchestral band as the Ceylon Band players could not perform any stringed instruments…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 27,1903 gave “CORPORATION BAND. To the Editor. Sir,l see by your last week's issue that the Band Committee have engaged a conductor, and are arranging for a new band of performers for the ensuing season. By this they intend to totally ignore the members the old Ceylon Band, which….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 25,1903 gave “PRIMROSE LEAGUE FETE AT BROOMHILL….Following the concert was a promenade concert for which the music was supplied by the Ceylon Band, in accordance with the programme….”

NEWS OF 1904

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 24,1904 gave “ FLOWER SHOW WILL BE HELD AT BAYHAM ABBEY, the GROUNDS adjoining the Mansion, TUESDAY, JULY. THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS CEYLON BAND will play Selections during the afternoon, and will be presented the successful competitor by TBI MARCHION 80 CAMDEN Rd”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 5,1904 gave “THE CEYLON BAND- I noticed how the Ceylon Band had gone down, and the way men are being treated. I think…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 22,1904 gave FLOWER SHOW WILL BE HELD AT BAYHAM ABBEY, the GROUNDS adjoining the Mansion, TUESDAY, JULY THE TUNB RIDGE WELLS CEYLON BAND will play Selections during the Afternoon, the Prizes will be presented  to the successful competitor by THE MARCHIONESS CAMDEN”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 30,1904 reported on a football match between Sittingbourne and the Tunbridge Wells Rangers at Culverden Down”where in addition to music by the Ceylon Band a young Dutch acrobat amused the onlookers during the interval.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier  of August 19,1904 gave “The death of Edward Warters, aged 45, who for years occupied the position of 2nd clarionet player in the Ceylon Band. Warters was a popular member of the band, and his ability as a clarionet player was appreciated all Who knew him. Warters had for some time…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 1,1904 gave “Sportians….Luncheon and tea were served on the ground, and the dull afternoon was enlivened by some capital selections by the Ceylon Band…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 5,1904 gave “THE CELEBRATED 'CEYLON’ BAND are open for ENGAGEMENTS, such as GARDEN PARTIES, AT HOMES etc etc. Splendid Repertoire of CLASSICAL AND UP-TO-DATE MUSIC .Terms and particulars. Secretary, Ceylon Band, Castle Hotel, Tunbridge Wells. “

NEWS OF 1905 (insert ‘Nevill Ground’)

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 28,1905 gave “ Football-A match was held at the Nevill Ground” The receipts constituted a record for a friendly at this popular rendezvous. The Ceylon Band was in attendance…” A postcard view of the Nevill Ground is shown opposite.

NEWS OF 1906

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 6,1906 gave “FLOWER SHOW will be held at BAYHAM ABBEY, in the Grounds adjoining the Mansion, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST Ist, 1906. THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS CEYLON BAND Will play Selections during the afternoon. The Prize’s will presented to the successful competitors by THE MARCHIONESS CAMDEN”.

NEWS OF 1907

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 26,1907 gave “HOSPITAL SUNDAY PARADE. Hearts of Oak Society, Comical Fellows, Salvation Army Band, Ceylon Band, Juvenile Oddfellows, Adult Oddfellows, Railway Servants, Juvenile Foresters, Adult Foresters, Military Band, Bugle Band of the Church…..” A postcard by Harold H. Camburn  of a Hospital Sunday Parade is shown opposite.

NEWS OF 1908 

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 19,1908 gave  “CEYLON BAND TUNBRIDGE WELLS. The above Band can accept engagements, such as GARDEN PARTIES. FLOWER SHOW etc . This Band has been established for years and has always given satisfaction to their numerous patrons. For terms apply. Secretary, Castle Hotel”. A view of the Castle Hotel  is shown opposite.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 11,1908 gave “Mr Herbert Sanders, of 14, Warwick-road, who was the oldest member the Tunbridge Wells Military Band, and had been previously connected with the Ceylon Band, for over 20 years. The deceased, who was 57 years of age, had been ailing for some time past…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 12,1908 gave “WHIT-MONDAY SPORTS- A GOOD RACING. ACCIDENT TO MOTORIST. The popular Whit-Monday sports on the Tunbridge Wells Grounds….The cycling races were also interesting character, and altogether some attractive contests were seen. The Ceylon Band entertained the audience to some admirable music, and the rain fortunately held off and the enjoyment of the crowd was not marred…”


From the book ‘Tunbridge Wells in 1909 by Chris Jones of the Civic Society the following was given. June 21st  marked the opening of the band season in the town but it was cricket week that dominated the summer. The Corporation Band Committee was in charge of making arrangements for band performances during the season and were given a budget by Council to provide these entertainments. “Council confirmed the allocation of 500 pounds to the Band Committee, and the Committee engaged the Bayreuth Orchestra  for the season. It also hired the rival CEYLON BAND for a series of evening concerts in the Grosvenor Recreation Ground (image opposite.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 4,1909 gave “THE WHIT-MONDAY SPORTS were an unqualified success, and the committee are to heartily congratulated the gratifying result of their efforts. The Ceylon Band enlivened proceedings with selection choice music played at Intervals. At the conclusion the sports, the prizes were presented…”

NEWS OF 1910

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 2,1910 gave “PEMBURY”- Through their kindness Saturday the Ceylon Band from Tunbridge Wells played selections during the afternoon…

NEWS OF 1912

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 9,1912 gave “BANK HOLIDAY SPORTS AT PENSHURST….Then the cricket match between Penshurst and their rivals, Chiddingstone Causeway, began soon after eleven. The Ceylon Band, which was to play at the Flower Show, arrived about °one o'clock, and the flower Show, which is reported elsewhere, was…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 31,1912 reported “ EMPIRE DAY…commencement the National Anthem was sung with much spirit, and The Empire Hymn followed. The singing was led by the Ceylon Band. The Union Jack was then hoisted by the two senior girls, Alice Latter and Edith Kilby, and saluted by all the children…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 14,1912 gave “Local News-A member of the Ceylon Band, while running in the band race, fell and dislocated his shoulder. A medical man who was on the ground replaced the bone”.

NEWS OF 1913

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 30,1913 gave “EMPIRE DAY AT SOUTHBOROUGH-The children of Southborough and High Brooms Schools marshalled at Speldhurst road, each child red, white, blue rosette, and headed the Ceylon Band, marched through town to the Cricket Ground, where a  large number of people were assembled. Some 1,300 children……….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 20,1913 gave “ SKINNERS' SCHOOL SPORTS….”the success of the function, both from an  athletic and social standpoint…The afternoon selections were rendered by the Ceylon Band. On  the conclusion of the sports the prizes were  distributed by Mrs. …” Shown opposite is a postcard view of the Skinners School by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.

NEWS OF 1914

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 29,1914 gave “EMPIRE DAY-A procession of school children was formed at the Speldhurst-Road, the High Brooms scholars joining in. Headed by the Ceylon Band, Bandmaster Fox, and a Corps of Boy Scouts, the procession marched through London-road to the Common, where demonstration….”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 26,1914 gave “ SKINNERS' SCHOOL ATHLETIC SPORTS-…Selections of music were played during the afternoon by the Ceylon Band. LIST OF RESULTS. School mile…..”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 17,1914 gave “ERIDGE HUNT STEEPLECHASES….During the afternoon the Ceylon Band rendered an enjoyable programme….”


In June 1915, in the midst of the Great War it was decided that a carnival would be held in the town as a fund raiser for the hospitals. The day was packed with various events including an early evening procession through the town’s commercial districts. Among the afternoon attractions was a musical entertainment by the CEYLON BAND held in the grounds of Calverley Park.  The grounds in Calverley Park were at that time the property of the Calverley Hotel. It was not until 1922 that the town came in possession of the land which was known as the Calverley Grounds and in which a bandstand was erected.

NEWS OF 1915

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 26,1915 gave “OBITUARY. THE LATE MR. LAWRENCE. The funeral took place Monday of Ellis Lawrence, 10. Sutherlandroad. Tunbridge Wells, who was a well-known member the Ceylon Band, died Wednesday his residence on Grove Hill  Road Tunbridge Wells, leaving a widow and nine children. Ellis was a talented trombonist, and had frequently played In oratorios at the Great Hall. He was one of the Band who made famous….”

NEWS OF 1926

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 22,1926 gave “…..Baptist Chapel, Hanover-road. He was one of the last surviving members of the old Ceylon Band, which was at one time well-known in Tunbridge Wells, and toured the world with the Band. One son and daughter are left to mourn their loss. The funeral took place at…”

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser Kent of January 22,1926 gave the same report as that above.


Although all but gone now (apart from the bandstand in the Pantiles) in the 19th and early 20th century, musical band entertainments were held during the summer season in the various bandstands scattered about the town. One was constructed in each of the following locations (1) The Pantiles (2) The Grosvenor Recreation Ground (3) The Calverley Ground (4) The Grove in Mount Sion (5) The Queens Grove on the Common. (6) The St John’s Recreation Ground. Postcard views of these bandstands are shown below.


Details about the history of these bandstands , and other photographs, were given in my article ‘History of Tunbridge Wells Bands and Bandstands’ dated December 26,2012.

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