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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 lovely colour postcard franked Tunbridge Wells 1905 entitled " Through the Woods Tunbridge Wells to Southborough" by postcard publisher "JWS" (card No. 1393) as marked on the front lower right corner. Many postcard views of the town were produced by the same publisher in the early 20th century.

This image presents  a romantic view of an unidentified location along a path leading from Tunbridge Wells to Southborough on which can be seen a young lady in a lovely costume  with her little dog. She is looking back towards another young lady with her baby in a perambulator, sitting on a rock or stump beside the path. One can speculate that the two ladies were friends and out for some exercise and fresh air. One might be hard pressed today to find such a lovely spot for a walk in the town. It never ceases to amaze me that ladies fashions of that time called for gowns down to the ground and apart from their faces and upper neck no visible signs of skin elsewhere. Although socially acceptable modesty in women's attire is understandable in that era, soiling of the bottom of lovely gowns on pathways such as that shown here must certainly have resulted in a considerable amount of time being spent doing laundry at a time when women did not have the advantages of the modern laundry machines available today. One hopes that these ladies had servants to care for their clothing but on the other hand one has to pity the poor servant who had to do the cleaning mostly by hand or by crude hand operated washing machines.


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. Most of my relatives 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, born in Tunbridge Wells and her son born in Canada. 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.


In the December 2017 edition of my website I posted an article about William Samuel Andrews, who began his working career in Tunbridge Wells  as a chemists assistant at 57 High Street for Dunkley & Rogers and who later went into business for himself at 57A High Street as a photographer and dealer in photographic materials.

As noted in the article William was killed in WW 1. As a result, his photographic career was very short, and consequently examples of his photographs are rare. Since posting that article I have come across another of his photographs, a very interesting view of a group of musicians at an unidentified event in Tunbridge Wells.

Shown below is the front and back of this postcard image. On the front lower right can be seen the impressed words " William S. Andrews 57 A High Street. The back of the card has a message pertaining to band practice.


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

Date: October 20,2017

The origins of the branch of the Watson family reported on in this article are found in Frant, Sussex with James Watson (born circa 1810) who married Elizabeth Waghorn (born 1814 Frant) on May 4,1835 at St Albans Church(photo opposite)in Frant. James and his wife had three children, including John Watson (1851-1890) who was born in Frant. James Watson died in the 1850’s leaving his wife to raise their youngest children on her own.

The 1861 census, taken at 4 Richmond Terrace on Wood Street in Tunbridge Wells gave Elizabeth as a widow and working as a cook. With her was her daughter Elizabeth (a dress maker) and her sons Edmund (errand boy) and John who was age 11 and still in school. At the time of the 1871 census, the family were living at 10 Wood Street, Tunbridge Wells where Elizabeth was working as a charwoman. Her sons Edmund (a painter) and John,age 20 (a clockmakers assistant) were living with her. It was during this time that John Watson (1851-1890) learned the clockmaking and jewellers trade and which resulted in him later opening a jewellers shop in Tunbridge Wells at 32 High Street.

In the 4th qtr of 1874, at Christ Church with St Paul in Forest Hill, Lewisham, John Watson(1851-1890) married Frances Godley (1853-1911) who was born in Rotherfield, Sussex. John and Frances went on to have six children who were all born in Tunbridge Wells between 1875 and 1890). Among these children was the eldest child Arthur Henry Watson (1875-1953), one of the central figures in this article. After the marriage John and his wife settled in Tunbridge Wells. The marriage record for John and Frances gave John as a bachelor and a jeweller of 5 Emsley Cottages, and the son of James Watson (deceased). Frances was given as a spinster, the daughter of Luke Godley (deceased) also of 5 Emsley Cottages.

By the time of the 1881 census John and his wife Frances and three children, including Arthur Henry Watson, were living at 128 Camden Road. John at that time had the occupation of “working jeweller”. At the time of the 1881 census the John and his wife Frances and three of their children,including Arthur Henry Watson, were living at 128 Camden Road where John was a working jeweller.

In the late 1880’s John established his jewellers shop at 32 High Street, just up the road from Paynes Jewellers on the opposite side of the High Street (No. 37), who’s clock hanging from their shop over the sidewalk ,stands out in postcard views of the High Street (photo opposite). John unfortunately passed away at just age 39 in the 4th qtr of 1890 in Tunbridge Wells, leaving his wife in charge of his shop. John was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on November 20,1890. Johns mother Elizabeth Watson, nee Waghorn died in 1884 while living at 67 Auckland Road, Tunbridge Wells.

The 1891 census,taken at the Watson jeweller shop,32 High Street, gave Frances Watson as a widow with the occupation of “watchmaker employer”. Assisting her in the business was her son Arthur Henry Watson (1875-1953) with the occupation of “watchmaker worker”. Her son John Watson (1877-1933) also worked in the shop with the occupation of “watchmaker worker”. There were also four other Watson children there, who were attending school and one lodger.

The 1901 census, taken at the 32 High Street shop, gave Frances Watson as a “jeweller shopkeeper employer”. Her son Arthur Henry Watson as working as a “jewellers assistant” to his mother. Her son John was not living with his mother at that time and had left the business. Also living with Frances were three of her younger children aged 15-20 who’s occupations were not recorded.

Frances Watson died in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1911 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on March 24th. Upon her death her son Arthur Henry Watson took over the business. The shop of John Watson was operated during his life under the name of John Watson and continued to operate under this name after his death. The last listing for the business was given in a 1922 directory as “John Watson, watchmaker, 32 High Street” and the earliest listing for the business was from a 1899 directory.

As noted above Arthur Henry Watson (1875-1953) took over the family business at 32 High Street when his mother passed away in 1911. His birth had been registered in the 4th qtr of 1875 in Tunbridge Wells. At the time of the 1901 census he was living and working at 32 High Street with his widowed mother and siblings and working for his mother as a jewellers assistant.

At the time of the 1911 census, taken at 32 High Street Arthur Henry Watson was given as the head of the family and working as a “jeweller on own account”.  The census recorded that the premises consisted of seven rooms. Also there was Arthur’s sister Frances, of no occupation; his brother Alfred,age 21, a “jeweller worker”, who was assisting his older brother in the business. Also there was one visitor.

On July 7,1915 Arthur Henry Watson married Mary Louisa Wiggins (1885-1980), the daughter of Wilfred Harry Wiggins (18631949), a motor man and former railway foreman and railway engine driver, and Mary Jane Wiggins,nee Collins (1863-1937). Mary had six siblings and one half sibling.The Wiggins family in the period of 1891-1911 lived in Paddington, London. The marriage took place at St Andrew,Willesden. Mary was working in 1911 in Paddington as a domestic servant. How she and Arthur met is not known. After the marriage the couple returned to Tunbridge Wells with Arthur continuing the jewellers shop business at 32 High Street. The couple had at least one child for birth records note the birth of their first child, and perhaps their only child, in Tunbridge Wells in 1916.

The 1891 census, taken at 41 Fordingley Road in Paddington, London, age Harry Wiggins as born 1861 at Ascot, Bucks and working as a “foreman metro railway”. With him was his wife Mary, born 1863 in Suffolk and their daughter Mary. The 1901 census, taken at 109 Fortune Gate Road, Willesden gave Harry Wiggins as a railway engine driver. With him was his wife Mary and daughter Mary. When the 1911 census was taken Mary Wiggins was living at 6 Egerton Terrace in Paddington and working for Annie Ellen Neame and her daughter Monica as one of several domestic servants in the 11 rooms house.

As was the case with some jewellers, they often sold optical instruments. A directory from 1913 for example gave the listing “ A.H. Watson, 32 High Street, optician and jeweller”. Directories of 1914,1918 and 1922 gave “ A.H. Watson, 32 High Street, optician”, suggesting that his role as an optician had replaced his role as a jeweller. No listing for a Watson business at 32 High Street was found in directories of 1930 and beyond. No., 32 High Street is located on the west side of the High Street just north the Paynes Jewellers at No. 37 on the east side. Shown below are some photographs of No. 32 High Street and other buildings nearby.

The Kent & Sussex Courier and Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of December 4,1931 posted an announcement regarding a change in business address for A.H. Watson, stating in part “ Change of address-A.H. Watson wishes to state his appreciation for the support given him during the 43 years at 32 High Street, and to notify that he has now opened more central Sight Testing rooms at 8 Monson Road,Tunbridge Wells . Telephone 1751. These rooms have been fitted out on the latest scientific lines to give a personal and up-to-date service to his customers…” Shown opposite is a case for glasses recently offered for sale on ebay on which the name and location and credentials of A. H. Watson are given on the lid.  No. 8 Monson Road was part of the Monson Colonnade which began at the intersection of Monson Road and Nelson Road and extended around the corner until it met the Opera House building. A modern map shown below gives the location of No. 8 and also shown is a photo of 8 Monson Road and the adjoining shops.


The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 25,1931 announced in part “ Arthur H. Watson, f.s.m.c. Sight Testing Optician 8 Monson Road, late of 32 High Street. National Health Insurance Optician”.  The Courier of October 30,1936 gave Arthur at 8 Monson Road with the same occupation. As no directory listing for him were found after 1936 it appears that he retired for in 1936 he would have been age 61.

Arthur Henry Watson lived out the remainder of his life in Tunbridge Wells. His death was registered in the 1st qtr of 1953 in Tunbridge Wells. No burial record was found for him in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery but it is the believed by the researcher that he was buried in this cemetery. Death records gave Mary Louisa Watson, born September 6,1885 died 1st qtr 1980 Tunbridge Wells. She was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on January 7,1980. Her year of birth is given variously as April 17,1887 and census records of 1891 and 1901 gave it as 1888 in Paddington suggesting that the birth date of April 17,1887 is more reliable.

The Watson family had been in business in Tunbridge Wells as jewellers, watchmakers and opticians for over 70 years, an accomplishment few businesses can lay claim to.



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

Date: November 26,2017


The Order of The Sons of Temperance were a Friendly Society founded in the USA in 1842 who promoted the Temperance Movement. This order was introduced in the UK in Liverpool 1849 and spread rapidly to other parts of the UK. On April 6,1855 a charter was granted by the parent body for this institution.  Like other “secret” societies is had elaborate ceremonies and only men were allowed to be members. Women interested in being active in the Temperance Movement formed their own organizations.

The Temperance Movement began in response to the ills of alcohol abuse; its impact on families and society at large. Various factions of the Movement supported either an outright ban on alcohol through legislation or more commonly a Movement to change the views of society about alcohol consumption. With the movement came the manufacture of Temperance beverages and the creation of Temperance establishments such as Temperance Pubs where non-alcoholic beverages were served.

Tunbridge Wells had branches of both the men’s and ladies Temperance Societies. Meetings were often held with large groups that had assembled on the Commons and regular meetings of the Friendly Societies were held at the Friendly Society Hall on Camden Road. It was common to see floats relating to the Temperance Movement in parades held in the town.

In this article I present information about the Temperance Movement with an emphasis on the people and events in Tunbridge Wells.


The Teetotal Temperance Movement has been a largely overlooked social movement, but could be one of the most important in British history. As more and more spent their wages on alcohol in pubs after work, the state of welfare in the Uk was falling to its knees. Pint after pint saw families tearing apart. As workers drank their money away and lost their jobs because of it, children were sent to workhouses. Domestic abuse was at an all-time high and the conflict of drink and religion brought shame and misery to communities. The drinking of beer was first encourages as a healthier alternative to the consumption of spirits and as a safer alternative to drinking water of questionable quality. The over consumption of beer however posed the same problems as spirits and members of the Temperance Movement campaigned to have as many pubs closed as possible and to have opening hours reduced.

Temperance supporters organized themselves in groups all over the UK and formed organizations of various names. Churches of all denominations supported the movement as did the Salvation Army and temperance was even part of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Publications such as The Temperance Recorder sprang up and reported on activities throughout the country.

During WW I controls were put in place to reduce consumption, which took the form of reduced operating times for pubs and the closing of pubs near military related establishements. The alcohol content of beverages was also reduced and a tax on alcohol was raised. Many breweries were also transformed into munitions factories and nationalized, limited the supply of alcohol in Britain.

The Temperance Movement was popularized in Britain in the 19th century. It led to the establishment of the British Association  for the Promotion of Temperance in 1835 and temperance was soon adopted by working class movements fighting for the right to vote. Who hoped that abstinence would lend them an air of respectability. Despite growing calls for temperance, Britain never implemented an American-style prohibition law, in part because temperance advocates believed abstinence should be based on moral values rather than fear of the law.

The idea of prohibition never caught on in Britain. Today there are few remaining relics of the Temperance Movement, though this could be set to change with one in six Britains claiming they do not touch alcholol.


This organization was a brotherhood of men who promoted the Temperance Movement and mutual support. It had been founded in New York, USA in 1842 and spread rapidly. Initially it had a highly restricted membership. To be a member one had to be nominated by an existing brother and three brothers would then investigate his life to determine if he as worthy.

The organization had secret ceremonies, passwords, hand grips and regalia. An induction fee was charged and women were only admitted as guests, until in 1866 women were admitted full membership.

This organization, like others, acted as an early form of insurance company where money collected from its members was used to pay the funeral expenses of members.

This organization was introduced in England in 1849 in Liverpool and quickly spread elsewhere, including Tunbridge Wells. By 1855 it was sufficiently widespread that a charter was granted from the parent body on April 6,1855.

The elaborate ceremonies had long since been modernized and the Society had ceased the provision of insurance, savings etc, but its social, and educational activities continue today.

One person who played an important role in the Sons of Temperance was Guy Mayler. A photograph of him wearing his regalia is shown opposite. He had been born in 1850 in Battle, Sussex. He was married in 1874 in Kennington to Ann Elizabeth Harris and with her had eight children . After the marriage he and his wife moved to Hull where they ran the Heyler’s Temperance Hotel , Temperance Club and Billiard Room. From an early age he was a temperance supporter and took an active role in its meetings and events. He became Secretary of the North of England Temperance League. In 1864 he went to Tunbridge Wells and though young took part in the Temperance work, assisting at the meetings on the Common and other places. In 1866 he went to London and joined the Poland Street Temperance Society and later the United Kingdom Alliance. Further details about this interesting man can be found online on the website


One could write a book about the people and events connected with the Temperance Movement in the town. Much information about this topic can be found on the internet and for that reason only some brief information and some interesting photographs are given in this article.

The Temperance Recorder of 1842, which publication was one of many that reported on events pertaining to the Temperance Movement, gave the following about Tunbridge Wells. “ The flourishing society at Tunbridge Wells held its second anniversary on 27th December. About 120 members and friends partook of some cheering good creatures which were plentifully provided. At 7 o’clock the public meeting commenced, Mr Edgar in the chair. J. Inwards,the agent of the Kent association, and M.W. Crawford, from London, pleaded our cause to a crowded and respectable audience, with much earnestness, and we trust with good effect. On the next evening another public meeting was held in the same place. Doctor Duncan presided, M.W. Crawford again had marked attention of numerous and very respectable audience. The result was the accession of twenty respectable, and most of them influential, inhabitants to the ranks of our society”.

Two interesting photographs (below) by James Richards were recently located taken on the occasion of the annual fair in the town in June 1913 and June 1914. Both of these images, shown below, provide an image of the Sons of Temperance floats entered in the parade that meandered along the main streets of the town as part of the fairs events. James Richards, who I have written about before took many photographs in the town in the early 1900’s and had a stationers shop on Camden Road.

Public meetings on the Commons (photo below) were quite common, including many in support of the Temperance Movement. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the management of the Commons was in the hands of the Freeholders, who were responsible for regulating the use of the Commons. In the late Victorian and Edwardian period, the Commons were probably to be seen at their best. They were much frequented by residents and visitors, as can be seen from the numerous postcard views entitled 'Sunday Afternoon on the Common' which depict crowds sitting on the grassy slopes overlooking London Road.

The Commons are administered by the Commons Conservators, established by the Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act 1890 and their regulations stipulated in part “From and after the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful to deliver utter or read aloud any public speech lecture prayer scripture sermon address discourse or other matter of any kind or description whatever or to sing any sacred or secular song or to enter into any public discussion maintaining the right to deliver utter or read aloud any public speech lecture prayer scripture sermon discourse address or other matter or to hold or cause or take part in any public assemblage or (without the consent of the conservators) to play any musical instrument upon any road or footpath on the commons or upon any portion of the commons other than the portion coloured green upon the deposited plan. Any person offending against the provisions of this section shall be subject to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings and it shall also be lawful for any constable of the borough or officer of the conservators to remove from the commons any person so offending.” Shown above is a postcard by local photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn of a group of people assembled at the Queens Grove on the Common.

The Order of the Sons of Temperance, like other Friendly Societies in the town held their meetings as the Friendly Society Hall(photo opposite) on Camden Road marked by the heads of elephants each side of the door entrance. My grandfather Francis Reginald Gilbert who held a position with the Foresters used to tell me about the meetings he attended in this building.

During WW 1 pub hours of operation were shortened throughout the town, a topic which is reported on in the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society book ‘The Shock of War’ (2014), which can be purchased on the societies website.

The book ‘Temperance Standard Bearers of the 19th Century’, by Peter Turner,published 1898  identified among a long list of people associated with the Temperance Movement, two men of particular note from Tunbridge Wells. One of them was William Scott who had been an abstainer for more than 30 years and was a zealous co-worker with the late Rev. G.M. Murphy, Jabez Inwards, George Thorneloe, and others. He had been born 1820 in London and lived for many years in Tunbridge Wells.

The second man was Benjamin Knight (1818-1892) who was an active teatotler  for upwards of 50 years and a member of the local temperance committee. He also took an earnest interest with the International Organization of Good Templars((I.O.G.T.) founded in 1851. He died aged 74 October 31,1892 in Tunbridge Wells. His widow Mrs Eliza H. Knight (1822-1897)had also been an active worker in the temperance movement for more than 50 years. Benjamin was one of eight children born to Samuel Knight (1781-1842), a blacksmith, and Mary Elizabeth Knight, nee Blackwell (born 1781). He had been born in Tunbridge Wells June 2,1818 and baptised in Tunbridge Wells June 20,1818. In 1841 Benjamin married Eliza soon after the 1841 census was taken at the family home on London Road. The couple don’t appear to have had any children. From about 1851 to 1868 Benjamin and his wife lived at 1 Elm Cottage, on Quarry Road. By 1871 they had moved to 118 Camden Road and were still there in 1874. From 1881 until the time of his death on October 31,1892 he and his wife lived at Maple Villa, 6 Albion Road. His wife died in Tunbridge Wells at the same residence on June 12,1897. Both of them were buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. A photo of their headstone is shown above.



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

Date: November 22,2017


The National Provincial Bank  operated in England from 1833, when it was founded by Thomas Joplin, and continued in operation until  it merger into the Natational Westminster Bank (Nat West) in 1970. It continued to exist as a dormant non-trading company until it was voluntarily struck off the register and dissolved in 2016

The company had grown by an ambitious campaign of acquisitions. By 1836 there were 32 branches and by 1886 had it had grown to 165 branches. By 1900 there were 200 branches and over 450 by 1918.

The bank had two branches for a time in Tunbridge Wells. The first was at 49 Mount Pleasant Road, at a time when the bank was known as the National Provincial & Union Bank of England Limited, which bank appeared in local directories in 1918. The manager of the bank at that time was Charles Henry Bertram Draper (1877-1853) who lived in Tunbridge Wells in a fine 2 sty red brick home at 1 Earls Road in the Molyneux Park development. Charles had been born in Dulwich, Surrey, the son of Henry Draper (1845-1890), a bank clerk, and Edith Emily Baillie(Cooper) (1851-1925). In 1902 Charles married Rhoda Mary Rice, born 1876 in Camberwell, the daughter of Harry Oliver Rice and Sarah Elizabeth Rice. Charles was working as a bank clerk in Nottingham before taking the position of bank manager in Tunbridge Wells.

In the spring of 1929 the old shops on the north east corner of Mount Sion Road and the High Street , between the intersection and the former Eclipse pub, were torn down and an impressive 3 sty brick and stone building was constructed in its place at 81 High Street and became a second branch of the National Provincial Bank, also managed by Charles Henry Bertram Draper until his retirement in 1933.  This fine building opened in May 1929 and was designed by an in-house architect for the National Provincial Bank . Architect Frederick Charles Richard Palmer(1874-1934) became the in-house architect for the bank in 1920 and later architect Walter Frederick Clarke Holden (1882-1953) joined the bank and took over from Palmer in 1934.  

The 1934 directory gave the listing of the bank at both 49 Mount Pleasant Road and 81 High Street, with Mr. A.H.B. Read as the manager. In 1938 the manager of the bank at 81 High Street and the branch at 91-93 Mount Pleasant Road was Mr R. Clark. When these branches closed was not established. A 1974 directory still listed the bank operating at 81 High Street as the Nat West Bank. In recent times the building at 81 High Street has been the premises of Pizza Express.

Recently an album of 23 CDV’s pertaining to the Wade family were offered for sale. In that album are two photographs taken in Tunbridge Wells in the 1850’s at the studio of George Glanville who’s studio was located at No. 1 The Broadway. The two sitters were Richard Blaney Wade (1821-1897) and his wife Adelaide Amelia Louisa Teresa Caroline Wade, nee Shadwell, who he married in 1850 and with whom he had at least 10 children. Richard trained as a lawyer and then entered banking becoming chairman of the National Provincial Bank and later held other important positions in the bank. He had a son Herbert Blaney Wade (1853-1900) who was born in Tunbridge Wells and became a London solicitor. The Wade family were frequent visitors to Tunbridge Wells but never long- time residents. They used to come to Tunbridge Wells during the summer season to escape London and take advantage of the town’s fresh air and pleasant surroundings.

This article presents some brief background information about the National Provincial Bank with a more detailed coverage of the branches in Tunbridge Wells. Information is given about Mr Palmer who designed the bank building at 81 High Street and Mr Holden, also an architect with the bank. Also provided is information about Mr Draper who served as the banks manager in Tunbridge Wells until his retirement in 1935. Information is also given about the Wade family along with family photos. Several photographs and postcard views of the two bank branches in Tunbridge Wells are also provided. Shown above is a photograph from the 1920’s of the National Provincial Bank at 81 High Street, Tunbridge Wells. Next door to it on the left is the Eclipse Pub.


The National Provincial Bank was founded in 1834 by Thomas Joplin. The banks first branch opened that year in Gloucester and was followed in rapid order by branches in other parts of England. Many of the banks they opened in the 19th century came from acquisitions of local banks. It was not until 1866 that the bank opened a branch in London, which by then the bank had 122 branches. By 1866 the bank had grown to 166 branches; by 1900 to 200 0 branches and by 1918 to 450 branches.

Details about the history of the bank and the banks it took over can be found on such websites as Wikipedia.

In 1970 the National Provincial Bank merged into the National Westminster Bank (Nat West) and continued to exist as a dormant non-trading company until it was voluntarily struck off the register and dissolved in 2016.

The National Provincial Bank was one of “The Big 5” in England and the only one to have in-house architects to design their buildings. Of particular interest from a Tunbridge Wells perspective was the architect Frederick Charles Richard Palmer (1874-1934) who joined the bank in 1920 and designed many buildings for the bank including the one in Tunbridge Wells at 81 High Street. He was later joined by architect Walter Frederick Clarke Holden (1882-1953) who took over from Mr Palmer as the banks chief architect when Mr Palmer passed away.  

The new bank buildings, as was generally the case with all bank buildings, were typically substantial buildings, built of brick or stone or a combination of both, intended to give the image of being “solid” and “permanent” . Ornate features such as pediments and columns with plaques and carvings were often incorporated. A typical plaque employed by the National Provincial Bank over doors and as key-stones over windows was the lions head, where the lion represented strength, authority and control being important attributes of banks.  Such symbolism was employed on the banks in Tunbridge Wells. The use of the lions head can be seen on old Roman coins and is a common symbol found in use in other ways.


Frederick Charles Richard Palmer F.R.I.B.A. (1874-1934) began his employment as the banks in-house architect in 1920. As the banks chief architect he was soon joined by fellow architect Walter Frederick Clarke Holden (1882-1953) who took over from Mr Palmer as the banks chief architect when Mr Palmer passed away. As noted above it is most likely that both architects collaborated on the various bank design projects.

Frederick designed many buildings for the bank including their branch building at 81 High Street, Tunbridge Wells which opened in 1927-1929. More information about the design and construction of this bank is given later in this article.

Frederick had been born 1874 in Dover,Kent, one of at least three children born to George Sacre Palmer, born 1844 at Hougham on Dover,Kent, who in 1891 was running his own coach builders business. Frederick’s mother was Mary A. Palmer, born 1838 in Dover.

The 1881 census, taken at 3 Priory Street in Dover gave George as a master wheelwright employing 13 men and 2 lads. With him was his wife Mary and four of their children, including Frederick who was attending school. Also there were two visitors.

The 1891 census, taken at 3 Priory Street, Dover gave George S. Palmer as a coachbuilder employer. With him was his wife Mary and three of their children, including Frederick wo was in school. A sister in law by the name of Alice B. Whitmarsh, born 1862 in Greenwich, Kent was also staying with the family.

On February 1,1899, at Holy Trinity Church in Dover Frederick married Elizabeth Kate Mynall, born 1875 in Dover, the daughter of John Mynall.

The 1901 census, taken at 18 Blackett Street in Putney, London gave Frederick as an architect “civil service post office”. With him was his just his wife Elizabeth.

The 1911 census, taken at 29 Holroyd Road in Putney, London gave Frederick as an “ architect civil service post office”. With him was his wife Elizabeth and their two children Gwendolen,age 9, and Marion,age 4. Also there was one governess. The census recorded that the family were living in premises of 8 rooms; that they had been married 12 years and that they had just the two children.

Probate records gave Frederick of 3 Castello Avenue in Putney when he died December 17,1934. The executor of his 8,034 pound estate was the National Provincial Bank.

The Dictionary of Scottish Architects listed Frederick and stated that he was an architect who practised in London; that he was architect and surveyor to the General Post Office from 1908 and to the National Provincial Bank from 1930 until his death. His obituary was presented in the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Journal February 9,1935 V42 page 458.


As noted above Walter Frederick Clarke Holden was an architect who during part of his career worked in house with the National Provincial Bank. He began his career with the bank not long after Mr Palmer became chief architect with the bank in 1920 and when Palmer died in 1934 he Walter took over as chief architect.

Walter was born in Edinborough, Scotland in 1882. He was one of two children born to Frederick Thomas Holden (1854-1916) and Ann Sarah Holden, nee Clarke (1851-1939). Walter’s sister Mary Beatrice Holden (1888-1977) was also born in Scotland.

Soon after the birth of Walter’s sister the Holden family moved to Sawston, Cambridgewhire. The 1891 census taken at High Street, Sawston, Cambridgeshire gave Frederick Thomas Holden as born in Cambridge and working as the head master of a school. With him was his wife Ann, born in Cambridge and their two children Walter, a scholar, and Mary. Also there was one governess; one visitor and three domestic servants.

The 1901 census, taken at St Pauls Place, Hill Road, Cambridge gave Frederick Thomas Holden as a livery stable keeper employer. With him was his wife Ann and their two children Walter, an architects pupil, and Mary. Also there were two domestic servants.

The 1911 census, taken at Essex House, London End, Beaconsfield, Amersham District, gave Walter as a boarder with the Elizabeth Myhers family. Walter at that time was single and working as an architect and surveyor.

In the 4th qtr of 1914 Walter married Kathleen Beatrice Maurice (1890-1988) at Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Kathleen had been born April 6,1890 at Croydon, Sussex and baptised at Croydon St Michael Church May 4,1890. She was one of two known children born to Geraled J.F. Maurice, born 1863 in Crantock, Cornwall, and Ada C. Maurice, born 1866 at Marylebone, London.

The 1891 census taken at 120 Addiscombe Road in Croydon gave Gerald J.F. Maurice as a retired bank manager. With him was his wife Ada and their daughter Kathleen. Also there was Geralds brother Charles H.S. Maurice, born 1861 in Penzance, Cornwall who was working as a bank manager. Also there was one domestic servant.

Sometime in the late 1890’s Kathleen’s father passed away. The 1901 census taken at 338 High Road in Hampstead, London, gave Ada C Maurice as a widow. With her was her daughter Kathleen and two boarders.

It does not appear that Walter and his wife had any children. Walter enlisted for service in WW 1 and in 1918, when he was awarded the DSO at the 1918 Birthday Honours, he was a temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Army Service Corps. After the war he resumed his architectural career in London. Walter’s father passed away in Cambridge.Cambridgshire May 24,1916. Walter’s mother died in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire January 29,1939.

Walter became one of the partners in the architectural firm of Burgess, Holden & Watson. Architect Legender William Myers (1878-1958), who began his independent practice in 1904 at Beaconsfield has worked for the partnership of Julian Gulson  Burgess (born 1876) and Walter Frederick Clarke Holden from 1906.

A website about the Nat West bank at 24 Broadgate, Coventry, that was formerly a National Provincial Bank had been built 1929-1930 to the designs of “ F.C.R. Palmer and W.F.C. Holden” and was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage. Mr Holden, while with the bank is also credited as having designed the Osterley, London, bank in 1935, which was also Grade II listed.

The website of the Watford Borough Council referred to a bank at 99 St Albans Road that was a nee-Georgian style bank built in 1928 for Lloyds Bank, which “was designed by architects Burgess ,Holden & Watson. Julian Bulson Burgess and Walter Frederick Clarke Holden F.R.I.B.A were London based architects. Holden was the chief architect for the National Provincial Bank.They both achieved fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects”.

Probate records gave Walter of Salters Ave Gregories Road, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire when he died April 18,1953. The executor of his 22,441 pound estate was his widow Kathleen Beatrice Holden.

Probate records for Kathleen Beatrice Holden gave her of Salters Ave, 116 Gregories Road in Beaconsfield when she died May 15,1988 leaving an estate valued at 448,005 pounds.


The National Provincial Bank had two branches in Tunbridge Wells, one located on Mount Pleasant Road, which first appeared in the town in a 1918 directory and a second branch built new at 81 High Street, which bank opened May 1929.

A review of local directories gave the following listings. No listing for the bank was found in a 1913 directory and the only available online directories to the researcher ended in 1938.

1918……….National Provincial & Union Bank of England Limited…49 Mount Pleasant Road (Charles Henry Bertram Draper, mgr)

1922………..same as 1918

1930………...National Provincial Bank, 49 Mount Pleasant and 81 High Street (Charles Henry Bertram Draper, mgr)

1934…………same listing as 1930 but A.H.B. Read given as the bank manager

1938………..National Provincial Bank, 91-93 Mount Pleasant Road, R. Clark mgr

1974………..Nat West Bank, 81 High Street

For some unknown reason no listing for the bank at 81 High Street was found in the 1938 directory but it is clear from later directories that the bank at that location was still in operation. The most recent directory available for viewing at the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library was that of 1974 which by then after the takeover the bank at 81 High Street was that of the Nat West Bank. When the bank closed at that location was not established.  In recent times 81 High Street has been and still is the premises of Pizza Express( photo above).


The location of this branch is given in the above directory listings and indicates that the bank was located on Mount Pleasant Hill. Shown opposite is a 1924 photo of the Nat West Bank on Mount Pleasant Road.  It appears that the bank was constructed as a new bank building sometime after 1913 and before 1918. Some confusion regarding street addresses on Mount Pleasant Road are attributed to the fact that the buildings on the street were all renumbered many years ago.


In this section are postcard views of High Street looking north from the intersection of Mount Sion Road and High Street. The bank at 81 High Street was opened in May 1929 on the north east corner of High Street and Mount Sion Road. The early 20th century postcard views in this section show that prior to the construction of the bank building that a block of shops occupied the site between the intersection and what was once the Eclipse pub. The Eclipse pub building was still there when the bank building was constructed. The block of shops on the bank site were demolished to make way for the construction of the bank building. Shown below left is a photo dated 1924 looking north with the future site of the bank in the foreground on the right. The photo to the right is dated circa 1951 and in the foreground right is a view of the bank.

The opening of the bank at 81 High Street was announced in The Courier of May 10,1929, which article I provide here. As can be seen in this article the buildings at 79, 79a,81 High Street along with No. 1 and 3 Mount Sion were purchased by the bank. No. 3 Mount Sion was converted into flats and the other buildings were demolished to clear the site for construction of the bank. The bank building itself was in two parts, namely the ground floor occupied by the bank with the upper floors used as flats. The article provides the name of the architects and contractors involved in the design and construction of the bank building. This bank was built largely of brick (later rendered) and stone and ornate stone architectural features at the ground floor level.

Palmer and Holden collaborated on the design of various banks including the branch building at Broadgate Coventy which English Heritage, who listed the building, states dates from 1929-30 and which was designed by Palmer and Holden. One can safely speculate that the two architects played a hand in the design of the branch at 81 High Street Tunbridge Wells, although the article in the Courier of May 10,1929 about the bank opening states that Palmer designed it and makes no mention of Mr. Holden.

As can be seen from the image of the bank given in the “Overview” this bank building was a substantial one, being built of brick (later rendered) and stone. Above the two doors of the bank are a roundel. One shows a lion’s head, below which was the letter “A” with a character in front, a letter who’s significance has been a matter of inquiry and speculation. The letter “A”,without the character in front of the “A” sometimes refers to “Able”, a quality a bank certainly wants to convey, but whether it appears on the building for that purpose has yet to be determined. Chris Jones of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society has speculated that “perhaps the “< A” might symbolise lettering found on coins - he has identified a very similar lion's head motif at a bank in Coventry, part of a bigger piece designed by Walter Holden and said by Historic England to be based on British, Irish and ancient Greek coins. (He has an alternative suggestion: that the  “< A”  represents G&A Brown who were responsible for the fibrous plaster and stone carvings on the building.) Chris Jones adds some other interesting comments and observations about the symbols on the building in the Winter 2017 Civic Society Newsletter. The article about the banks opening identified the firm of A. Burslem as having done the  stonework. Could the “A” be a reference to the Burslem firm? The significance of the “A” and its related character will no doubt be the topic of further investigation.


As note from the directory listings for Tunbridge Wells from 1918 to 1930, Charles Henry Bertram Draper (1877-1953) was the manager of both Tunbridge Wells branches of the National Provincial Bank. He retired from business in 1933 but remained in Tunbridge Wells up to the time of his death.

Charles was born 1877 in Dulwich.Surrey. His birth was registered at Dulwich in the 1st qtr of 1877. He was one of a number of children born to Henry Draper (1845-1890) and Edith Emily Baillie (Couper) (1851-1915). It appears from records that Charles mother had been married before she married Henry Draper.

The 1881 census, taken at 12 Lancaster Road in Lambeth gave Henry as born 1844 in St Pancras with the occupation of bank clerk. With Henry was his wife Edith, born in Camberwell and his son Charles. Also there were two nephews (Henry and Reginald Stevens, age 7 and 9 respectively who were born near London).

The 1891 census, taken at 31 Lancaster Road, Lambeth, gave Edith Emily Draper as a widow living on own means. With her was her son Charles, a scholar, and one domestic servant.

At the time of the 1901 census Charles was living as a boarder at 6 Nelgarde Road in London with the occupation of bank clerk.

In 1902 Charles married Rhoda Mary Rice in London. Rhoda had been born 1876 in Camberwell and was baptised there at St Giles Church, Southwark on June 2,1876. She was given as the daughter of Harry Oliver Rice and Sarah Elizabeth Rice. Her father at the time of the marriage was a cashier at a bank.

The 1891 census, taken at 1 Altofts Villa at Ventnor, Hampshire gave Rhoda as a boarder at the premises of Frances Sutton. Also there were four other pupils and two domestic servants.

The 1901 census, taken at 58 North Hill in Colchester, Essex gave Rhoda as a visitor with the Pointing family. No occupation was given for Rhoda in that census and appears to have been a lady of independent means.

The 1911 census, taken at 10 Zulla Road in Nottingham gave Charles as a bank clerk. With him was his wife Rhoda and one servant. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 9 rooms; that they had been married 9 years and had no children.

While living in Tunbridge Wells  Charles was found in directories and in his probate record as a resident of No. 1 Earl’s Road (photo opposite) a substantial red brick tudor style home at the intersection with Molyneux Park Road.  This home was recently offered for sale by a local estate agent who described it has having 5 bedrooms; 2 baths; 3 reception rooms; with a lovely garden and a garage.

Probate records gave Charles Henry Bertram Dryer of 1 Earls Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died April 1,1953. The executors of his 3,383 pound estate was his widow Rhoda Mary Dryer and his solicitor. His wife continued to live at this home for some time but where and when she died were not established. No burial or cremation records for Charles or his wife were found in the records of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery or the Kent & Sussex Crematorium.


Although the Wade family had no connection to the two branches of the National Provincial Bank in Tunbridge Wells, the head of the family Richard Blaney Wade (1821-1897) was a lawyer who entered banking becoming in 1867 Chairman of the National Provincial Bank of England, which position he held up to 1897. He was President of the English County Banker’s Association from 1890 to 1895.  He had a very successful banking career with this bank and held office within a number of charitable organizations including the St Marylebone Female Protection Society and the Samaritan Free Hospital for Women and Children. He was a principal shareholder and a member of many baking committees and became a very important man in London.

Apart from his banking connection, one of his ten children,namely Herbert Blaney Wade (1853-1990) was born in Tunbridge Wells on August 19,1853 and in that year the family had escaped London to take advantage of the clean air and nice surroundings to spend part of the summer in Tunbridge Wells, something they continued to do in subsequent years.  During the 1853  visit Richard and his wife had their portraits taken (images opposite) at the studio of George Glanville. George Glanville had a long and successful career as a photographer in Tunbridge Wells and many notable people had their photos taken at his studio at No. 1 The Broadway, a studio located just a stone’s throw away from the SER station on Mount Pleasant Road, in an area commonly referred to as Mount Pleasant Hill. George Glanville (1846-1925) had come to Tunbridge Wells to set up his studio in the early 1850’s and died in Tunbridge Wells.

Richard Blaney Wade was born 1821 at County Kilkenny,Ireland and had a brother Sir Thomas Francis Wade (1818-1895) who was in the clergy and spent much of his career in China. The parents of Richard and Thomas were Colonel Thomas Wade of the Black Watch (1790-1846) and Frances Anna Wade,nee Smythe( born 1792),the daughter of William Smythe of Barbavilla, County Westmeath, Ireland.

Richard was educated at Trinity College and obtained a degree in law.  Trinity College record noted “entered Michs 1840 Trinity College “. At the time of the 1841 census Richard and a few servants were living at 25 Alfred Street in St Giles in the Fields, Middlesex where he was a man of independent means.  

In 1850 , at Richmond Surrey. Richard married Adelaide Amelia Theresa Louisa Caroline Shadwell (1831-1896). Adelaide had been born 1831 at Chiswick,Middlsex. The marriage records gave Richard’s father as Thomas Francis Wade, deceased Colonel and the father of Adelaide was lancelot Shadwell. V. Chancellor of England. The ceremony was performed by Julius Shadwell.

The 1851 census, taken at 58 Upper Seymour Street in London gave Elizabeth Couper as an annuitant; head of the household, born 1785 in Ireland. With her, identified as her cousins were Richard Blaney Wade, a landholder and his wife Adelaide. Also there was Richard Edward Lancelot Wade, born 1851 in Marylebone and Francis Anna Wade, born 1793 in Ireland who was a visitor. Also there were seven servants.

As noted above the Wade family visited Tunbridge Wells in 1853 and on August 19th of that year Richards son Herbert Blaney Wade was born in Tunbridge Wells. In the same year Richard and his wife had their photographs taken at George Glanville’s studio.

Richard and his wife Adelaide went on to have at least 10 children, 8 of which are featured in lovely leather bound album that recently was offered for sale on the internet for 250 pounds which album in total contains 23 CDV’s of the Wade clan. It is from this album (image above)that the photographs of the Wade family shown in this article were obtained.

Shown opposite and below are some examples of images from the album, including those of Herbert and his brother Cecil and Cecil’s wife Fanny Mackay Wade, nee Frew. The building photo among this collection is a view of the National Provincial Bank that Richard worked at. The photo of Fanny was taken by G. McKensie of Paisley. One other photograph in the album was that of Richard and Adelaide’s son Reginald Dudley Wade (1864-1924), which photograph was labelled as “Reggie” on the front.  The back of the image shows that the photograph was taken by Edward Sims(1831-1914) of Culverden Grange, Tunbridge Wells. This photograph based on the age of the sitter appears to have been taken in the 1870’s. In 1867 Sims ran his business from various premises during his career. Details about him can be found in my article “ The Photographic Careers of Edward and Thomas Sims’ dated March 1,2012.

The 1861 census, taken at 58 Seymour Street London gave Richard as a “director of public company and proprietor of bank and other shares”. With him was his wife Adelaide; seven of their children born between 1851 and 1861, and 10 servants.

The 1871 census, taken at 13 Seymour Street in London gave Richard as a banker. With him was his wife Adelaid; six of their children born between 1855 and 1870. Also there was Julius Shadwell, brother-in-law, the Rector of Washington Durham, who had married Richard and his wife. Also there were seven domestic servants.

The 1881 census, taken at 13 Seymour Street, London gave Richard as a banker. With him was his wife Adelaide and six of their children, including their son Herbert Blaney Wade who was a solicitor. Eight servants were also in the home.

The 1891 census, taken at a hotel called Holdenhurst in Bournemouth, Hampshire, was Richard, a banker, and his wife Adelaide and 33 year old spinster daughter Elizabeth.

Probate records gave Richard Blaney Wade of Seymour Street, Portman Square, Middlesex,esq., when he died July 29,1897. He left an estate valued at 59,776 pounds. Richard and other members of his family were buried at the Kensal Green Cemetery. A photo of the headstone is shown opposite.

The Probate record for  Herbert Blaney Wade gave him of 10 Hyde Park, London and of 8 Old Jewry, London, a solicitor, when he died November 25,1900 at 10 Hyde Park. Herbert never married and appointed his brother Cecil Lowry Wade (1856-1908) as the executor of his 21,972 pound estate. Herbert was also buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery, his name also on the headstone shown above. Cecil did not go to university, instead deciding to work in the stock exchange.

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