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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 tranquil view of a hops farm in High Rocks from the early 1900's. On the right is an oast house and related farm buildings where the hops were dried and stored until placed in sacks and taken to a brewery. Note the boy on a tricycle passing over a bridge constructed over a stream that ran through the farm and the man standing in front of the farm house, who was probably the boys father. One can also see in the field between the oast house and the farmhouse some poles leaning together, their purpose unknown to the researcher, but perhaps left there to dry and used to support the hops vines. In the top left corner of this postcard, the publisher of which was not identified on the back, is a sign " Tunbridge Wells" pointing the way to the town. As most will know 'High Rocks' is the name given to an ancient and interesting rock formation, the subject of hundreds of postcard views, and one of the favourite places to be seen by residents and those visiting the town.

Shown below left is another postcard view of the same farm taken from a different angle and beside it is a framed photograph of the same farm by M.J. Glass.












ANNOUNCEMENT


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.

ABOUT ME


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.


PEDERSEN & BECKER IN THE PANTILES

 

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

Date: February 21,2019

Pedersen & Becker began their business in London as woollen merchants but in the 1960’s and 1970’s had fabric and ladies clothing shop in Tunbridge Wells at 64 Pantiles.

London directories of 1930 to 1938 gave “ Pedersen & Becker, woollen merchants, 9 Brewer Street. Directories of 1940-1941 gave “Pedersen & Becker, woollen merchants, 52 Brewer Street London.

On December 22,1961 the business was incorporated as Pedersen & Becker Limited (00711548). Business records quoted the above date of incorporation with the following beside it “ 57 years 1 mth” suggesting that the business had been operating 57 years before incorporation, but directories for the business prior to 1930 were not located. Incorporation records gave their registered address as “ 46/48 Nelson Road, Hawkenbury, Tunbridge Wells”.

Shown above is an advertisement for the business at 64 Pantiles in 1979 which shows the front of their shop and notes on the window “ George Cole Designs” and as can be seen in this image they sold both fabrics and finished clothing (both women’s and men’s). From the label shown opposite left and the ladies waistcoat shown opposite right from which the label was photographed, it indicates that they handled sheepskin, furs, suede and leather, and Scottish Tartans.  Items of clothing like the one shown occasionally come up for sale on ebay, and are examples of well -made products of the time. Shown below is a postcard from the early 1900’s by J. Salmon showing the shop of Jupp & Son at No. 68 with 66 and then 64 Pantiles beyond it which has the same pair of lamps on the front of the building as those shown in the 1979 advertisment. 

Later in the company’s history it and other clothing businesses were bought out by Sims & McDonald sellers of luxury cloth.

In recent times the former premises of Pedersen & Becker have been occupied by Woods Restaurant and Bar at 62-64 Pantiles in the western end of the Pantiles on the upper walks.

The Pantiles are the oldest retail commercial district in the town and over its long history shops and come and gone in the Pantiles and during over 300 years there have been a number of business operating from 64 Pantiles.

 

 

THE GROVE SPA HOUSE IN LITTLE MOUNT SION

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

Date: February 21,2019

The Grove Spa House, which still exists today and is little changed, was built for C.E. Ansell in 1878 on a plot of land on the south west corner of Little Mount Sion Road and Mount Sion Road which was shown in 1873 as lot 3. Shown opposite is a modern image of the building from Little Mount Sion.

This fine looking and large 2 sty red brick building was designed by W. Mason of 26 Calverley Street who was identified in the application of November 9,1878 to construct a dwelling house and aerated water manufactory building as the architect. Who constructed it was not established.

This building was constructed for C.E. Ansell the owner of the building and the proprietor of a mineral water and ginger beer manufactory which he established at this building. He and his family lived above the manufactory.

The mineral water business of Mr Ansell was known as C.E. Ansell and later as Ansell and Company and then under the name Grove Spa Mineral Water Company and under different management, which continued until about 1905. Details about Mr Ansell and his business can be found in my article ‘ The Mineral Water and Ginger Beer Manufacturing of Tunbridge Wells ‘ first written January 5,2013 and updated June 23,2014. Shown opposite are two bottles of the Ansell business.

In 1909 Edward George Miles, a fly proprietor, was listed in Pelton’s guide at Grove Spa House, having moved there from the Royal Oak Stables (the present Tyre centre) opposite the Royal Oak Pub in Prospect Road. Shown below is a photograph of the building as Miles Garage with the address of 69 Mount Sion and 48 Little Mount Sion.

 Miles Garage is still in operation today having moved through the years from tending to horse drawn carriages to early motor cars and then to modern vehicles.



The website ‘ Kent County Council-Exploring Kent’s Past’ listed this building as a monument being the former site of a mineral water manufactory at Grove Spa House on Little Mount Sion and identified as such under the name of C.E. Ansell in Kelly’s 1886 directory.

GEORGE BRUCE SHEPHERD- A TUNBRIDGE WELLS PHOTOGRAPHER

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

Date: February 21,2019

OVERVIEW 

In this article I present information about the photographic career of George Bruce Shepherd (1833-1921) who had been born in Margate, the son of George Shepherd (born 1807) ,a cordwainer master, and Anna Maria Shepherd (1812-1866).

He and his family lived throughout the 1830’s to  1850’s in Ramsgate, Kent, until his marriage in 1856 to Elizabeth Dixon (born 1837). After the marriage George and his wife moved to High Street in Hythe, Kent where George opened a photographic studio. The 1861 census recorded George as a photographic artist with his wife on the High Street in Hythe and it appears that he and his wife never had any children. While there George became a member of the Stereoscopic Exchange Club.

In the late 1860’s George and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells where he established a photographic studio at 3 High Street. The Illustrated Photographer’ of October 2,1868 carried a letter to the editor by G.B. Shepherd in which he referred to a dispute with the railway over the breakage of photographic equipment in his luggage, which letter was sent from his premises at 3 High Street, Tunbridge Wells in September 1868.

His photographic career in Tunbridge Wells was a short one and examples of his photographic work are very scarce. He and his wife left Tunbridge Wells by 1871. He died July 6,1921 in Woolwich. Shown above is a CDV by G.B Shepherd taken at his Tunbridge Wells studio, the only example of his work located by the researcher over the past 10 years. It is obvious from this image that George was both a studio photographer and a field photographer.

THE MAN AND HIS CAREER

George Bruce Shepherd was born December 2,1833 at Margate and was baptised the same day in Margate at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. She was listed in baptism records as the son of George Shepherd and Anna Maria Shepherd.

George Shepherd senior was born 1807 in Poplar, London and worked most of his life as a cordwainer. He died in Ramsgate in the 1860’s. Anna Maria Shepherd, nee Le Fevre, was born 1812 in Margate, Kent and died 1866 in London. George and Anna were married in 1830 and had at least six children between 1832 and 1851 with their son George Bruce Shepherd being the eldest child.

The 1841 census, taken in Ramsgate, Kent listed George senior with his wife and three children, including George who was in school.

The 1851 census, taken at Ramsgate gave George Senior as a cordwainer master. Living with him was his wife Anna and four of their children, including George Bruce Shepherd (no occupation was given for him).

In the 2nd qtr of 1856, at Thanet, Kent, George married Elizabeth Dixon who had been born 1837 in Margate,Kent.

The 1861 census, taken at George’s photographic studio on the High Street, Hythe (image above) gave George as a photographic artist. Living with him was his wife Elizabeth. The lack of children listed in this census strongly suggests that George and his wife never had children. No examples of his photographic work from Hythe were located by the researcher.  The Photographic News for Amateur Photographers dated October 26,1860 gave a list of gentlemen who had complied with the conditions of the Stereographic Exchange Club, which list included “ G.B. Shepherd, Hythe (large and small)”.

By 1868 George and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells where he established his studio at 3 High Street (image opposite).

The Illustrated Photographer dated October 2,1868 gave the following “ Mr G.B. Shepherd states, in a contemporary, that allowing his photographic apparatus to be conveyed as luggage by rail, he had a thick glass bath, full of nitrate solution, smashed inside his dark tent, and after writing to the secretary for compensation he received the following reply “ Mr G.B. Shepherd, 3 High Street, Tunbridge Wells-Sir: Referring to your communication of the 1st inst. On the subject, I beg leave to acquaint you. I have caused inquiry to be made, from which it appears that on the 28th ult whilst in course of conveyance for you to Shorncliffe as passenger’s luggage, a package containing a photographic bath and chemicals sustained damage in some way. In a case of this kind, however much the company regret the loss to the owner, they cannot, as a principle, admit liability upon themselves in any way in this matter, such things not really being passenger’s luggage within the meaning of the Act. I am , your obedient servant-C.W. Esorall, General Manager. We do not agree with the secretary as to the legal non-liability of the company.”

As no listing in census records for G.B. Shepherd was found for 1871 and beyond it appears that the operation of his studio in the town was relatively short.

The only record for him after 1868 was a probate record which gave George Bruce Shepherd of 42 Samuel Street in Woolwich, Kent who died July 6,1921. The executor of his 8,108 pound estate was his widow Elizabeth Shepherd. George was buried July 12th at Greenwich, London. His wife Elizabeth died in Woolwich in the late 1920’s and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

THE TUDOR TRIO

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

Date: February 16,2019

INTRODUCTION 

The Tudor Trio was a group of three ladies namely violinist Miss Austen (who became Mrs Jackson); pianist Elsie Harding (who became Mrs Winter) and cellist Elsie Allchin (who became Mrs Beau Smith).

This trio derived its name from the Tudor Café located at 34-36 Mount Pleasant Road on Mount Pleasant Hill, which café opened July 1905 and closed in 1967. It along with the Cadena Café at 26-28 Pantiles, which opened in March 1902 were both owned by Lloyds Oriental Cafes which had a chain of about 20 cafes. Both cafes had finely decorated dining rooms at which musical entertainment was regularly provided.

Local newspaper references to The Tudor Trio were found from 1926 to 1936 providing performances at the Tudor Café as well as other venues in the town. All three ladies were accomplished musicians and were very popular performers in the town. The onset of WWII and the ladies marriages no doubt brought the trio to an end. Shown above is a photograph of the trio taken in the 1920’s.

THE TUDOR AND CADENA CAFES 

Cadena Cafes Limited was a chain of coffehouses in South West England that was established in 1895 under the name Lloyd’s Oriental Café, subsequently Lloyd’s Cadena Cafes Ltd.

It became Cadena Cafes in 1907 and went on to operate over twenty branches. It took over Paignton based Dellers Cafes in 1933. It was eventually taken over by Tesco in January 1965 and the cafes closed during the 1970’s.

In 1902 Lloydes Orental Café had branches in Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Oxford, Hastings, Southsea and Richmond which served a coffee blend called ‘Cadena’. The business after that time expanded it’s operations.

In Tunbridge Wells they had two cafes. The first was the Cadena Café at 26-28 Pantiles which opened in March 1902 in a building that today is known as Cadena House with a shop on the main floor and flats above. This café was decorated in an oriental theme and when it opened it had a gentlemen’s smoking room and a ladies tea room. Hanging above the shop then, as it does now, is the Pantiles Clock.

The second café was the Tudor Café that opened July 1905 at  34 Mount Pleasant Road, which due to expansion became 34-36 Mount Pleasant Road on the east side of Mount Pleasant Hill. Due to renumbering of Mount Pleasant Road in the mid 1930’s the address changed to 74 & 76.

An article from the website of the Rusbridge Family Bakery which in 2013 celebrated 40 years in Southborough, stated “ When the Cadena Café/Bakery (this is a reference actually to the Tudor Café) that was in Mount Pleasant Road closed in 1967, Mr John Temple the Bakery Manager, bought a small craft bakery in Silverdale Road, Tunbridge Wells to run it with his wife, Eileen”. In later years other family members joined the bakery and by 1973 they were operating from premises at 53 London Road in Southborough.

The Kent & Sussex Courier article of August 5,2011 entitled ‘Strict Rules and Delicious Treats at British Café’ stated in part “ Long before the invasion of the ubiquitous American-style coffee chains which dominate today’s high streets, the very English charms of Cadena cafes, with their carpets and cream cakes, captured the affection of all generations.”

Details about the history of the Tudor and Cadena Café’s in Tunbridge Wells were given in my article ‘ The Cadena Café’ dated August 2,2016.

Shown at the top of this section is a postcard view of the Pantiles dated 1905 showing the Cadena Café, the name of which appears on the bottom of the clock. Shown below this image is a  view of  the Tudor Café on Mount Pleasant Hill taken during the winter.

THE LADIES IN THE TRIO

The earliest reference to The Tudor Trio, which derived its name from the Tudor Café ,where they performed, was from a Courier article of 1926. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of August 21,1925 referred to the Tudor Café “now booking evening engagements-dance or other music” but no mention of the Tudor Trio was given.  Given below is a sample of other articles making reference to the Tudor Trio

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of November 23,1928 reported in part “ Miss Elsie Harding’s Tudor Trio 4 to 6pm during which special dainty teas will be served 1/6 per head”. This article and others suggest that Miss Elsie Harding was the head of the trio and the photograph given in the ‘Introduction” shows her at the piano and that she appears to be older than the other two ladies. This article refers to the trio playing Scotch music.

The Courier of March 15,1929 reported that the Tudor Café “ Miss Elsie Harding’s Tudor Trio will contribute to the programme of Irish music on March 18th”.

The Courier of April 18,1930 reported “ Tudor Café-34-36 Mount Pleasant-Selections of old music by Miss Elsie Harding’s Tudor Trio.

The Courier of October 17,1930 reported “ The Tudor Café- The popular rendezvous for daily tea in the afternoon welcomes the return of the Tudor Trio providing selections from their various repertoire Saturday evening 4-6 pm. The spacious rooms of the café may now bee booked for dances, parties, suppers”.

The Courier of February 6,1931 reported “Cafes Staff Party- The staff of the Tudor and Cadena Cafes and their friends spent a happy evening at a party organized by themselves that was held at the Tudor Café on Saturday. The event was augmented by the Tudor Trio which played for dancing and a variety of games were enjoyed”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of July 17,1931 reported “Tudor Café Thursday July 23rd Gilbert and Sullivan offered by the Tudor Trio with Miss Plyllis Ogden (messo soprano) and Mr Lyn Hepworth (baritone)”.

The Courier of April 22,1932 reported ‘ Concert on April 26th 4-6 pm with Mr Lyn Hepworth (baritone) and The Tudor Trio with Miss Elsie Harding (piano) Miss Allchin (cello) and Mr J. Colyer (violin) with tea to be served”.

The Courier of February 16,1934 reported ‘ Grand Fashion Parade has been arranged for Tuesday next at 11 am and 2:30 pm with a musical programme by the Tudor Trio under the direction of Miss Elsie Harding. Refreshments also provided”.

The Courier of March 2,1934 reported “ Aged People- The Mayor moved from table to table wishing them all an enjoyable time. Meanwhile the Tudor Trio played bright music, including  the tunes of some 30 to 30 years ago. Tea was served at the tables of the Tudor Café.” 

The Courier of March 13,1936 reported “ Special music by the Tudor Trio 4-6 pm at the Tudor Café. A selection of Irish songs for St Patrick’s Day sung by James Winter”.

The Courier of November 13,1936 reported ‘ Southborough Amateurs Concert at Tunbridge Wells. Music from ‘No, No, Nanett was played by the Tudor Trio”.

Several other articles were found in the Courier from 1925 to 1936 announcing musical performances by The Tudor Trio at the Tudor Café.

No mention of the Tudor Trio was found from a review of newspaper articles from 1937 to 1949 but the Courier of September 19,1941 referred to a wedding and that “ Their mother Mrs Winter, will best be remembered as the former leader of the well- known Tudor Trio.

The onset of WWII and the ladies marriages no doubt brought the trio to an end.

Although the Tudor Trio was not formed until circa 1925 references to Miss Elsie Harding were found dating back to the Courier of March 29,1919 where Miss Elsie Harding A.L.C.M. was doing pianoforte solos and also was an accompanist in a musical programme.

As noted from the Courier articles of July 22,1927; July 17,1927; November 9,1928  and others Miss Elsie Harding played the piano at various events without the other two ladies of the trio.

 

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