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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 photograph taken in the 1930's on Meadow Road,Tunbridge Wells in which is shown a 1931 Bedford WLB bus operated by the Warren bus Lines who ran a service in the 1930's between London, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. Although the bus itself is quite interesting in terms of the towns transportation history its the buildings in the background that are of particular interest. Shown behind the bus on the right are the business premises of J. Austen, wholesale merchants who were listed in a 1934 directory as J. Austen & Co. Ltd., Meadow Road,Tunbridge Wells, wholesale grocers. Their business was to supply the local grocers shops with groceries.

The second business of interest is that shown on the left of the photograph , namely that of the Baltic Sawmills. The sign on the building notes that it was their "retail yard". This company had operated in Tunbridge Wells for many years and had premises in a number of locations such as on Goods Station Road not far from where this photograph was taken. This company traded as timber merchants and sold a variety of wood products made at their milling premises and sold directly to the public at their retail outlets. Shown to the right of this 1930's image is a modern view of a restored 1931 Bedford WLB. There is quite a following of buses by transportation enthusiasts and they sometimes appear on display at antique motor car shows. The 1930's photo was taken by A.B. Cross/G.Robbins. Very few examples of these old buses remain as most were worn out and sent to the wreckers. The business premises of Baltic and Austen are also long gone as the redevelopment of Meadow Road resulted in their demolition to make way for car parks.


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.


In the November 2018 edition of this website I posted an article entitled 'The Tunbridge Wells Amateur Film Unit' in which I referred in various forms to Basil F.A. Cooper (1924-2013). The correct spelling of his surname is "Copper' NOT  'Cooper'. Unfortunately the error was not discovered until after it was impossible to make the correction in the posted article. Please make note of this important correction.

Well it's that time of year again when thoughts of celebrating the Christmas season preoccupies out mind. Local shops have been busing stocking their shelves and for many businesses their survival depends largely on a good Christmas trade. I would encourage residents of Tunbridge Wells to shop locally as much as possible to help ensure the survival of local shops. Why not, as the postcard opposite suggests, spent a "fiver" or more and do a little shopping. Although the days of one shop independent businesses are quickly fading away, being replaced largely by chain stores with multiple shops in various towns, they do hire locally and so the maintenance of the their employment is essential to the community.

In the early 1900's ,when postcards were more popular than today , several postcards were produced for Christmas, on which the words "Christmas Greetings" or even " Christmas Greetings from Tunbridge Wells" appeared for sale at local stationers and newsagents shops. Costing only a few pence at the time they were an inexpensive means of conveying greetings for the season and the backs of them usually contained a brief message from a friend or family member to a loved one. Shown here are just a few examples to get you into the Christmas spirit. Tunbridge Wells was blessed with a number of very competent photographers and postcard printer/publishers such as Photochrom but several postcards showing views of Tunbridge Wells and conveying a Christmas message were made beyond the boundaries of the town in such places as London, Sevenoaks and elsewhere. Even the Mayor and Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells sent out Christmas greetings as can be seen in the last two images of this small series of examples.



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

Date: November 4,2018



The collecting of postage stamps is a popular hobby, perhaps not as popular today as it was in the 1950’s and 1960’s  when postage stamps were comparatively less expensive then today.  Although some collected mint stamps ,which could be ordered from the GPO as they came out, the supply of mint and used stamps from other parts of the world had to be purchased from stamp dealers, such as those from Harry Burgess who operated his business from his house in Pembury at 56 Hastings Road under the name of Harry Burgess & Co.  He is found at that address in local directories from 1959 up to 1972.


I begin my account of this business by noting that directory listings throughout the period of 1959 to 1972 consistently gave “ Harry Burgess & Co, philatalists, 56 Hastings Road, Pembury. His place of business was not a shop but like so many other stamp dealers he operated from his residence, which still exists today and is a 2 sty red brick home located on the south side of Hastings Road near the post office on the corner of Hastings Road and Belfield Road. It is known however, from the address of his advertisments  and from envelopes address to him that he was living in Pembury from at least 1940.

Harry’s involvement in the stamp dealers business dates back many years before he settled in Pembury. Shown in the Introduction for  example is an advertisement for an offering of free stamps to anyone who subscribed to his stamp approval business. This advertisement gave his address as New Malden where he lived for several years.  Shown above right is a letterhead with Pembury on it and at the top it refers to Harry having 36 years experience with Reids and Sons in Leeds. For those not familiar with stamp collecting, stamp approvals is a process where the stamp dealer sends to the collector a selection of stamps to look at, from which the collector selects which ones he/she wishes to purchase and returns the unwanted stamps along with payment for those kept back to the stamp dealer. Usually once a month the stamp dealer sends out a new selection of stamps.

It was noted that many similar offers were made by Harry in what generally can be described as children’s publications. The advertisement in the 'Introduction' above appeared in the October 25,1930 publication ‘ The Children’s Newspaper’. He also advertised in such publications as ‘The Meccano Magazine ‘ (in which his address was in Pembury) and The Stamp Magazine of October 1934.  Shown above are two envelopes postmarked 1940 addressed to Harry Burgess & Co Pembury and shown opposite is one addressed to him in Pembury for the Royal Philatelic Societies Centenary Exhibition being held from May 6-14 , 1940.

In addition to selling stamps Harry offered for sale a selection of stamp albums such as one entitled ‘ The Royal Family Miniature Stamp Album’ “published by Harry Burgess & Co, Kent”. He also published an album called ‘ The Princess Elizabeth New Zealand’.

Harry is also known to have published books on the topic of stamps such as one on stamps of the Indian States described as “ A specialized study and catalogue by H.N. Burgess and C.T. Sturton with the title of ‘Bundi: The Sacred Cows 1915-1941.

Shown opposite is a catalogue published by Harry Burgess & Co. Pembury in 1959 entitled ‘ The Stamp Collectors Guide and Catalogue’.

A number of philatelic  publications and library holdings made reference to the stamp catalogues and albums published by Harry Burgess & Co  such as The Philatelic Association of NSW and the International Society for Japanese Philately.

Although nothing has been published or found to date about the man himself there can be no doubt that he was thoroughly knowledgeable about stamps from around the world and no doubt did a good business selling stamps, albums and catalogues.  One can only speculate that he was born as Harold Norman Burgess but since many men of the same name were found no definitive information about him was possible.



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

Date: October 26,2018



Madeira Park is a residential development dating back to April 1883 when Louise Beale operating as builders under the name of Beale & Sons made the first application for the development. Some 33 homes were built in the following eight years, including the fine 2 sty brick home at 48 Madeira Park. In the years following, over a period of some forty years, additional homes were built totalling 60 detached residences. In 1898 you could buy one of these homes for about 2,000 pounds. Details about this development can be found in the Civic Society book ‘ The Residential Parks of Tunbridge Wells’ (1988).

No. 48 Madeira Park (image above) has been occupied by many residents over the years, some who owned a freehold interest and some who leased it. The occupants ranged from spinsters and widows to clergymen and tradesmen.

This home remained a single family residence until after WWII and went by the name of ‘Hillcrest’ for a time. In the 1950’s the home was converted into a seniors care home called ‘Madeira Court ‘and during that time the residence was expanded by the addition of an annexe at the side.

The building remained a senior’s care home until it became converted into three flats. In 1996  approval was given to its owner Mr Tom Tudor-pole to convert the building into single dwellings, and at that time the building was known as ‘Alexandria Court’. In 2007 he obtained approval to convert the annexe into a separate dwelling.

An estates sale brochure of 2018 noted that the residence had been sold in April of that year and was advertised as “ A well-presented and imposing period house with a separate annexe”.

In this article I present information on the site and a description of the residence along with a brief listing of its occupants.


The residence at 48 Madeira Park was constructed by Beale & Sons circa 1898, being a large 2sty brick home with tudor styling, the best description of which is given in the photographs provided above and below.

Shown opposite is a map dated 1996 on which the location of the residence is shown outlined in black with the “X” beside it. In this map one can see the annexe jutting out from the SW side of the original residence, an annexe that was added in the last half of the 20th century, most likely in the 1950’s.

A Conservation Report of February 2017 described Madiera Park dating back to 1893 and situated on a gently curving road on which are detached and semi-detached Victorian/Edwardian homes of red brick with clay tile roofs and pebble-dashed finishes. The roofs were steeply pitched with gables and dormers used to break up the mass of the roof.

The home remained a single family residence until in the 1950’s when it became a seniors care home. Shown in the 'Overview' is a postcard of the home sent by Ruth who was a resident of the care home. Her comments make for interesting reading. At the time the postcard was sent the home was referred to as “Hillcrest’ but later its name was changed to ‘Madeira Court’.  Ruth stated to her friend that she had come to Millcrest to give it a try and that she liked it. She stated to her friend that for the time being she was not going to sell her house.

The seniors home was run by two ladies, as noted by Ruth on the postcard she sent and a 1976 Planning Authority document pertaining to the installation of an external staircase gave the owners as Misses Codd & Oxley.

In 1987 Planning Authority approval was sought but refused for a change in use of the building from an old peoples home to a guest house. The applicant was K. Spary.

In 1996 Planning Authority approval was granted for a change in use from a nursing home for the elderly to a single dwelling. The name of the building at that time was ‘Alexandria Court’ with the applicant being Mr. Ton Tudor-pole of 5 Grecian Road, Tunbridge Wells.

In 2007 Planning Authority approval was granted to Mr Tom Tudor-pole for conversion of the existing annexe to form a separate dwelling house with the name of Madeira Court, which residence had the numbers 48 and 48a Madeira Park. The application stated that the existing building was three dwellings. A set of four plans (2 existing and 2 proposed) show what the building looked like in 2007 and what it would look like after the work had been completed. These plans can be seen online in the Planning Application part of the towns website.

The estate agents Savills published a brochure for the home in 2018 noting that it had been sold April 2018 and listed the building as having a self-contained 699 sf annexe and a 6/8 bedroom home of 3,896 sf with 2/3 reception rooms, kitchen/breakfast room, family room, an attractive town garden , a garden room , a garage and off-street parking. Details the complete listing can be found online. Shown below are two photos from the brochure showing the front on the left and the rear and garden on the left.



Given below is a list of known occupants of the residence from 1899 to 1938.  This list is based on directory and census records and is not likely a complete record of all the occupants.

1899………………No listing found (may have been vacant)

1903……………..Rev. William Henry Barlee. He was not found there in the 1901 census and he died in Tunbridge Wells March 10,1905 at 2 Vale Royal on London Road . The executors of his 1,895 pound estate were his widow Martha Ann Barlee and his son Herbert Barlee, gentleman.

1911………………Samuel Douglas Wickens (a tailor born 1951 Frant, Sussex who lived there with his wife Emily Catherine Wichens, nee Lewis)

1913……………….Mrs Cropper (a widow)

1918………………..No listing ( may have been vacant)

1922……………….Mrs Hayward (a widow)

1930-1934……… Miss Coulson James (spinster)

1938…………….....Edward Ernest Beard

Also found was an Oxford University for James Spencer Granville of 48 Madeira Park who got his BA in 1885 and his MA in 1896 who became a deacon 1896 and a priest in 1897 and was the Curate of Nromanton 11 Norman Villa.

A newspaper announce the death of Ernest J. Hunt late of Buenos Aires who died peacefully on November 22,1945 at 48 Madeira Park.

The London Gazette of February 23,1967 announced the death of Ida Ferris Gerrin, widow, at 48 Madeira Park on January 30,1967.

In 2001 Stuart Blakeway Burton was the resident of The Garden Flat, 49 Madeira Park.



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

Date: October 25,2018



The central figure in this article is May Edith Hilton (1917-2018) who after a long career in nursing died at the Red Roofs Home (care home) in Newark-on-Trent at the grand old age of 100 on April 16,2018.

May was born in Maidstone, Kent May 22,1917 , one of five children born to Robert Henry Hilton (1887-1922) who at the time of the 1901 census was working as a gardener. Her mother was May Hilton, nee Hall (1888-1926).

May spent her early life in Maidstone where she attended a local school and then underwent training as a nurse at St Bartholomews Hospital in London.

By 1939 she was working as a general hospital nurse at the Hill End Hospital in St Albans, Hertfordshire. By 1943 she was living and working at Westholme, Taunton Road, Bridgewater.

St Christopher’s, a Barnardo’s training institution for its nursing staff, was opened in 1947 on Pembury Road,Tunbridge Wells. The establishment had previously been the privately run St Christopher’s Nursing College where the fee-paying students looked after children many of whose parents were travelling or working abroad. When Barnardo’s took over St Christopher’s, many of the children in residence had been wartime evacuees from London. Under Barmnardo’s tenure, the focus moved to housing single mothers and young children. After expansion in the following years it was closed in 1976. The main building of this facility dates back many years earlier when it was once a large private residence called Ravensdale once owned by William Willicombe.

In 1947 May Edith Hilton was recruited to run St Christopher’s on Pembury Road for Barnardo’s.

She spent the remainder of her working life with Barnardo’s and advised government ministers on setting up courses for social workers and in childcare. She travelled extensively in the UK and abroad, including Scandinavia, giving lectures and got to meet Princess Anne several times.

At the 1968 Birthday Honours she was awarded the MBE. As a lady who never married and spent part of her life living with and near her married sister Constance (1919-1998) she was described by a companion that “She is an unmarried mother of 100 children”.

A birthday celebration to mark her 100th birthday was held at the Red Roofs care home in May 2017 and although living a full life she sadly passed away a year later.

In this article I present information about the St Christopher’s facility on Pembury Road including a large selection of photographs (many from an album of 1947-1949  containing 49 pictures, including some showing May Edith Hilton). Information is provided about the life and times of May Edith Hilton and the Hilton family, including some family photographs. Shown above is a photo of May taken on the occasion of her 100th birthday from the May 25,2017 edition of the Newark Advertiser.


I begin my coverage of the family with May’s parents Robert Henry Hilton (1887-1922) and May Hilton, nee Hall (1888-1926).  May was one of five children in the family. Her siblings were (1) Robert John Hilton (1915-1967) (2) Isabella (Billie) Hilton (1918-2000) (3) Constance Hilton (1919-1998) (4)Joyce Hilton (1921-2010). Some brief information about May’s siblings are given later.

Robert Henry Hilton was born January 20,1887 at Broughton, Manchester and died in the 1st qtr of 1922 in Maidstone, Kent. At the time of the 1891 census he was living in Broughton, Lancashire with his father John Isaac Hilton (1846-1926) and Mary Hannah Hilton, nee Wilburn (1846-1904). John Isaac Hilton was born in Crumpsall, Lancashire and died in Maidstone. A photo of John Isaac Hilton, taken circa 1918 at Osborne Cottage is shown opposite.

The 1901 census, taken at Broughton, Lancashire gave Robert and his sister May Edith living with their parents where his father was working as a gardener domestic and Robert was working as an ironmongers assistant.

The 1911 census, taken at 61 Dover Street in Maidstone, Kent, a residence of 4 rooms, gave William J. Knight age 33, a gardener with the Kent County Asylum as the head of the household. Also there was William’s wife May Edith Knight, nee Hilton ( Robert’s sister) borm 1876 in Salford, Lancashire, and Robert Henry Hilton (brother in law to William) who was working as a hardware salesman.

Military records show that Robert Henry Hilton served in WW1 as a private  (No. 8199) with the Lancashire Fusiliers and was awarded the Victory and British War Medals for his service.

At the beginning of the war Robert was still at home and in 1914, at Maidstone he married May Hall (1888-1926). Information about May Hall and her family are given in the next section. Robert and his wife May had the following children (1) Robert John Hilton (1915-1967) (2) May Edith Hilton (1917-2018)(3) Isabella (Billie) Hilton (1918-2000) (4) Constance Hilton (1919-1998) (5)Joyce Hilton (1921-2010). All of the children were born in Maidstone.

Robert Henry Hilton died in Maidstone in the 1st qtr of 1922 and his wife May died at Maidstone in the 4th qtr of 1926.


The connection between the Hilton and Hall families is by way of the marriage between Robert Henry Hilton (1887-1922) and May Hall (1888-1926) at Maidstone in 1914.

May Hall was born 1888 in Tottenham, Middlesex and was one of eight children born to Richard Albert Hall (1852-1922) and Priscilla Eliza Gratham (former married name Jubber) (1855-1922).

At the time of the 1891 census the family were living at Tottenham, Middlesex but by 1894 the family had moved to Edmonton, Middlesex. In the late 1890’s they lived in London. At the time of the 1901 census, May was living with her parents and siblings in Maidstone.

The 1911 census, taken at 32 Upper Fant Road in Maidstone, in premises of 6 rooms, was Richard Albert Hall a tin plate worker. With him was his wife Eliza and their six children including May (a packer); Emily( general servant); Arthur (warehouse lad); Henry (assistant postman); Maud (general servant) and Daisy who was attending school. The census recorded that the couple had been married 31 years and of their twelve children eight were still living.

May continued to live with her parents and siblings in Maidstone up to the time of her marriage to Robert Henry Hilton in 1914.

May’s mother died in the 2nd qtr of 1922 at St Martin, London and her father died in the 2nd qtr of 1922 in Maidstone.


May had four siblings born in Maidstone between 1915 and 1921 the eldest being Robert John Hilton who was born January 16,1915 and who died July 11,1967 in London. No further details about him were investigated.

May Edith Hilton was the second eldest child and details about her are featured elsewhere in this article.

The third eldest child was Isabella (Billie) Hilton who was born Septeber 9,1918. She later married and had two sons.

The fourth eldest child was Constance Hilton who was born December 27,1919. She married Tim Welsh (born 1909) and with him had two daughters and one son. Constance and her family moved to Long Bennington and May Edith Hilton eventually followed them there. For a while May lived next door to her Constance. Constance died February 2,1998 at Grantham, Lincolnshire.

The last sibling of May’s was her sister Joyce Hilton who was born September 21,1921. On October 7,1950 at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, she married John Holliday Tibbett (1921-2014) and with him had two daughters. She remained in Jersey for the rest of her life, dying there of pneumonia July 28,2010.


From a 1939 directory her birth was given as May 22,1917 in Maidstone. Details about her parents and siblings were given earlier and it was noted that she lived with her parents and siblings in Maidstone until about 13 when she completed her basic education at a local school. Shown opposite is a postcard view of Maidstone dated 1914.

The directory of 1939 provided a long list of ladies at the Hill End Hospital including May Edith Hilton where she was listed as “general hospital nurse”. This hospital was located at St Albans, Hertfordshire. An interior view of this hospital is shown below.

An article about May Edith Hilton from the Newark Advertiser  taken at her 100th birthday celebrations stated in part that “Miss May Edith Hilton began her working life as a nurse straight from school at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, affectionately known as Bart’s. She remembers working through the blitz and operations that were carried out in the basement while the Luftwaffe bombs fell”.

The Nursing Register of 1943 gave the following “ May Edith Hilton; Registration date November 27,1942 London. Living at Westholme, Taunton Road, Bridgwater. Qualifications- St Bartholomews Hospital London 1939-1942 by examination”.  Shown below are  nurses at St Bartholomew’s taken during the time May was there.

A Nursing Register of 1949 gave the same information as the 1943 register except that he was the principal  of “ St Christopher’s Nursing Training College, Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells”. Other records including photographs of St Christopher’s from 1947 to 1949 which gives the names of the people in the photographs show that May began her long career at the Pembury Road facility in 1947, the details of which are given in a later section of this article.

Details about the rest of May’s life and career were summed up as follows from an article dated May 25,2017 in the Newark Advertiser on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

“ A  woman (May Edith Hilton) awarded the MBE for looking after children at a Barnardo’s home has celebrated her centenary”.  Her name appears on the Queen’s Honors list of 1948 as receiving the MBE in the Civil Category. The article continues with the information given above about her schooling and St Bartholomew’s Hospital and her time during the Blitz and then continues with “ Soon after the second world war ended, she was recruited to run a Barnordo’s residential home for children-St Christopher’s-in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. When she collected her MBE she was told by an aide that she was now entitled to use one of the chapels at St Paul’s should her children wish to marry there”. May never married however. “ She is an unmarried mother of 100 children, you’ll be busy, was the reply from her companion. Miss Hilton remembers taking a boy to Brighton so she could fish from the beach while she sat huddled in a raincoat in a torrential downpour. During her time with Barnardo’s Miss Hilton advised government ministers on setting up courses for social workers and in childcare. She travelled extensively in the UK and abroad, including Scandinavia, giving lectures. She met Princess Anne several times. Miss Hilton’s sister and her husband moved to Long Bennington and she eventually followed them. For a while the sisters lived next door to each other. Miss Hilton, who never married or had children of her own, also lived in Bottersford, Leicestershire for a time. Around nine years ago she went to stay at the Red Roofs Care Home on Grange Road,Newark, for respite care and liked it so much that she moved in. She celebrated her birthday there with fellow residents and staff and then had a second party on Monday with family and some of her ‘100 children’. Miss Hilton is affectionately known as the shop steward of the care home as she acts as a voice for the residents. “ I wouldn’t have had any of it (her life) any differently”, she said. ‘She loves it here and she is spoilt rotten’. Said her niece Janet Welsh. The cake at the birthday party at Red Roofs was provided free by Asda Newark. When staff went to order it, the store refused payment after hearing what it was for”.  Shown below left is a view of Bottesford and show below right is a view of Long Benninton. Bottesfoed is a village and parish lying in the Vale of Belvoir and forms part of the Borough of Melton in Leicesterhire and locate about 20 miles east of Nottingham. Long Bennington is a village and parish in South Kestevan district of Lincolnshire about 7 miles north of Grantham and 5 miles south of Newark-on-Trent.

Shown in the’Overview’ at the top of this article is a photo of May that was included with the Newark Advertiser article on the occasion of her birthday. Unfortunately the researcher was unable to locate any photos of May or her family prior to 1947.  Shown above is a photo of the Red Roofs home located at 35a Grange Road at Newark-on-Trent, a purpose built home with 30 single rooms. The niece Janet Welsh was the daughter of May’s sister Constance, information for whom was given earlier and Constance and her husband were the ones referred to at Bottersford where May lived for a time.

May Edith Hilton died at the Red Roofs home on April 16,2018. The Newark Advertiser gave the following notice. “ Miss May Edith Hilton formerly of Bottesford, died peacefully at Red Roofs Home Newark, aged 100 years. Funeral services at Grantham Crematorium (image opposite) April 26th at 4:30”.

The Telegraph of April 2018 gave the following “ May Edith Hilton died peacefully April 16,20187 in Red Roofs Residential Home,Newark, aged 100 years. May devoted most of her working life to Barnardo’s and was a great influence and valued member of the Barnardo’s family. Funeral service at Grantham Crematorium Thursday April 26th at 4:30. Donations in lieu of flowers for Barnardo’s may be sent to E. Gill & Sons Ltd. funeral directors at 55 Albert St Newark, Nottinghamshire”.

In the next section I present information and several photographs (dated 1947-1949)  of St Christopher’s on Pembury Road, some of which show May at this facility.


Shown opposite is a map from 1963 showing St Christopher’s on Pembury Road, just south west of the intersection of Pembury Road with Sandhurst Road.  By this time the site had been significantly changed from the origins of the main house ‘Ravensdale’ from the 19th century.

A website on children’s homes gave the following information about this facility. “ St Christopher’s, a Barnardo’s training institution for its nursing staff, was opened in 1947 on Pembury Road,Tunbridge Wells. The establishment had previously been the privately run St Christopher’s Nursing College where the fee-paying students looked after children many of whose parents were travelling or working abroad. When Barnardo’s took over St Christopher’s, many of the children in residence had been wartime evacuees from London. Under Barmnardo’s tenure, the focus moved to housing single mothers and young children. The accommodation on the site was expanded in 1972 with the opening of day-care units known as Ravensdale and Woodlands. However, the establishment was closed in 1976. The property is now known as Willicombe Park, a residential retirement centre”.

Details about the history of St Christophers and its origins as a grand private residence called ‘Ravensdale’ were given along with several photographs and maps in my article entitled ‘The Ravensdale Estate’ dated January 19,2012. The Introduction to that article reads “ This large white stone mansion that was christened with the name of Ravensdale, and now known as Willicombe House was designed and built by  William Willicombe(1800-1875),the well-known local architect and builder.The mansion was built in the Victorian Italianate style on about 15 acres of land and stands today as a fine example of the architectural style of those times on what is now a small plot of land on the west side of Pembury Road near the corner of Willicombe Park and Sandhurst.The mansion has seen many occupants over the years and remained as a single family country home until 1934 when in that year it came into institutional use as a nursery training college and has gone through a few owners since then.Over the years portions of the original grounds were developed and what now remains of the grounds and the mansion itself is the property of Audley Court Ltd. who operate a retirement village off Pembury Road and use the mansion itself,bearing the name of Willicombe House over the front entrance, as their club house. Shown above is an old postcard view of Ravensdale and a modern view of the building is shown below right with a photo of nurses pushing prams at St Christopher's in 1949.

In October 2018 an album appeared for sale on eBay for St Christophers’s on Pembury Road containing 49 photographs of the facility, staff and children covering the period of 1947 to 1949, at a time when May Edith Hilton was the principal. The seller displayed only a sample of the photos in the album,which photos are shown below. May is identified in the photos as Matron and in some cases by name and is the tall lady wearing glasses in the front row of the group photo and the tall lady with glasses standing towards the rear of the photo showing the children arriving by bus.  For the sake of privacy I have not shown all the photographs in the series of images as most give the names of the children beside the photograph.




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