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Discover the fascinating people and places of Tunbridge Wells.Take a journey back in time to the 19th and early 20th century. See what the town was like in the days of the horse and carriage and what the people did who lived there. See the vintage postcards and photographs.Read the articles about the different trades and professions and the people who worked in them.Learn about the historic buildings and the town's colourful history.

This month I feature a postcard view of Rusthall Church from the pre WW1 era. Although postcard views of this church are common, most were produced by firms in Tunbridge Wells or at least in England but the one featured here is somewhat unique for it was printed in Germany,and more surprisingly ,it was published by  D. Macropolo & Co of Calcutta India. Many early postcard views of Britain were printed in Germany for they were more advanced in this aspect of photography than England ,and it took a while before production shifted to England. Macropolo began operations in India circa 1900 and was a leading postcard producer in that country. Thousands of their postcards showing views of India, Nepal and Pakistan can be found on the internet but apart from the one postcard of Rusthall Church featured here, no other views of Tunbridge Wells or anywhere else in England were found made by them. It would be inconceivable however to think there are no others, but in the past 6 years of studying postcards I have found none, making this a rare find indeed. One has to wonder why a company in India would be interested in producing views of Tunbridge Wells and to whom they marketed them when they would largely be of interest to only people in England and more specifically to people with a connection to Tunbridge Wells.  

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). 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 I am the self appointed genealogist of my family line. A complete family tree of my family going back five generations can be found on the Ancestry UK website.Although my greatgrandfather of Tunbridge Wells had three sons and four daughters I am the only surviving descendent with the surname of Gilbert.

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 and her husband were kind enough to drive us around Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. It was a memorable holiday, and one that will be reported on in various articles of this website. Also shown above right is a photograph of me that appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier in August 2015 from an article written about my visit to the town.This photograph was taken by the Courier photographer at the Victorian B&B, 22 Lansdowne Road, where I stayed during my visit. A reception was also held on June 30,2015  to commemorate my visit  and my work in writing about the history of the town by the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society in the garden at the home of John Cunningham,who is a member of the Civic Society.John, Chris Jones and some 30 others came out for the reception and afterwards Susan Prince and I had a lovely meal and evening with John and Chris and their wives at John's home.

I hope you enjoy reading about my family and the articles I have written about the history of Tunbridge Wells.



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

Date: May 31,2017



One of the sights of Tunbridge Wells that puzzled many a stranger from 1929 when it was built until 1950 when it was dismantled, was a ship that never sailed called the SS Scouter, marooned on the lawn of Rosehill School for Boys in London Road. The idea for the ship was that of Colonel Robert Saunders Johnson (1872-1948) who served as headmaster of the school from 1925 up to the time of his death at the school. The vessel was built for the benefit of the Sea Scouts by the schools handyman with the help of pupils. Measuring some 50-58 feet long( depending on what record is consulted) it was expertly built as a replica of a real ship and apart from being imbedded in a slab of concrete on the lawn of the school it looked like it could literally sail away.

This article provides a few images of the ship and the sea scouts who trained on it; information about the man who’s idea it was to have it built; and some first- hand accounts about those who help build it and those who wrote about seeing it while growing up/visiting the town.

I have touched on this topic before in such articles as ‘ The Allfree Family-Tunbridge Wells Educators’ dated August 3,2012 and ‘An Overview of Scouting in Tunbridge Wells’ dated August 20,1012 which article was updated September 28,2014. Some extracts relating to the SS Scouter have been incorporated into this new article about the ship itself.

From my article ‘ The Allfree Family-Tunbridge Wells Educators’ dated August 3,2012 I wrote in part the following. [Wikipedia gives " In 1924 the Old Rose Hillions Society was set up and in 1929 the building of "the Scouter" on the Rose Hill lawn was completed. It became a famous landmark in Tunbridge Wells attracting many curious onlookers and it was used for Sea Scout meetings and Sunday services until it was dismantled in 1950 to be replaced by a swimming pool. In 1948 Jack Grange became Headmaster and in 1966 Rose Hill moved to new premises on Culverden Down on property that until 1954 was the site of the Culverden Down Golf Club. The old school was demolished to make way for housing."A website article entitled " A short History of Sea Scouting in the United Kingdom" reports that the Sea Scouts, referred to above, began in 1909 and although initially popular in places along the coast of Britain became well established inland and there was a Sea Scouts 'Troop' in Tunbridge Wells since the first quarter of the 20th century. With respect to 'The Scouter' at Rose Hill School the article states ' February 1934..The training ship "The Scouter" was built in the grounds of the Rose Hill Preparatory School in Tunbridge Wells, the former school of Baden Powell (founder of Boy Scouts) and his brother Warrington Baden-Powell,for the school sea scout troop. The boat is 50 feet long,equipped with mast and rigging and was built on the school lawn". Warrington Baden-Powell in April 1912 wrote a book entitled "Sea Scouting and Seamanship for Boys".] Shown above is a view of  Romanoff House by local artist C.T. Dodd in 1840. The site of Rose Hill School was just to the left of Romanoff House, a building which still exists and on this building is a plaque relating to Baden-Powell, Chief Scout.

From my article ‘An Overview of Scouting in Tunbridge Wells’ dated August 20,2012 but updated September 28,2014 I recorded the following. [The Sea Scouts were formed in 1909 and records also indicate that there were Air Scouts as well,formed in 1941. Although one would not think it possible,being located inland, Tunbridge Wells also had Sea Scouts.A recent article on the Anke website gives the following information regarding the former location of Rose Hill School on London Road, founded by the Allfree family. "In 1929 the building of "The Scouter" on the Rose Hill lawn was completed. It became a famous landmark in Tunbridge Wells attracting many curious onlookers and it was used for Sea Scouting meetings and Sunday services until it was dismantled in 1950 to be replaced by a swimming pool". The Sea Scouts had been formed following an experimental camp held on board the Training Ship Mercury based on "Sea Scouting for Boys" by Warrington Baden-Powell.From "A Short History of Sea Scouting in the United Kingdom" is given this information about "The Scouter"; "Training Ship The Scouter built in the grounds of Rose Hill Preparatory School Tunbridge Wells, the former school of Baden-Powell and his brother Warrington, for the school Sea Scout Troop. The boat is 50  feet long,equipped with masts and rigging and is built on the School lawn". The Sea Scouts came into their own during WW1.]


Robert Saunders Johnson served as the headmaster of Rose Hill School on London Road from 1925 until his death in 1948 and is credited as being the man responsible for deciding to have the SS Scouter built on the front lawn of the school.

Jane Bakowski of the Kent & Sussex Courier, in her article of December 9,2016,  referred to the SS Scouter and Mr Johnson as “Colonel Robert Saunders Johnson” although how he came by the name “Colonel” was not determined from my research. Of him Jane wonders “ Quite why headmaster Colonel Robert Saunders Johnson opted to launch the Sea Scouts at the school”, but this he did and to that end decided that a replica ship should be built on the school grounds so that the local Sea Scouts could receive some nautical training.

Wikipedia and other sources report that Robert-Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts was a pupil of Rose Hill School in 1868 .It was Robert-Baden-Powells brother Warrington who established the Sea Scouts and there is no record of him having attended Rose Hill or any school in Tunbridge Wells.

Robert Saunders Johnson’ birth was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1872 at Eastbourne, Sussex, but his year of birth is consistently given in census records as 1873. His only sibling was a sister by the name of Lillian M. Johnson who’s birth is given in census records as 1877 in Eastbourne but was actually born in the 2nd qtr of 1876 at Eastbourne. Roberts father was Robert Loof Johnson who was born 1845 in London and was a jewellers master and watchmaker who ran his own business in Eastbourne. Robert Saunders Johnson’s mother was Sarah Johnson who was born 1846/1847 in Middle, Shropshire. Her name is given variously in census records as either Sarah or Alice but her year and place of birth is consistent in all census records regardless of the name she was listed by and her death record gave her as Sarah Johnson.

The 1881 census, taken at 68 Seaside Road in Eastbourne gave Robert Johnson senior as a jeweller master employing one man. With him was his wife Sarah; his two children Robert, a scholar, and Lillian. Also present was one domestic servant.

The 1891 census, taken in Eastbourne, gave Robert senior as a wathchmaker and jeweller employing assistants. With him was his wife Sarah and their two children Robert and Lillian.

By 1901 the Johnson family moved from Eastbourne to Tunbridge Wells. The 1901 census, taken at 11 Mountfield Gardens (image below) gave Robert senior as living on own means, having retired from business in Eastbourne. With him was his wife Sarah (given as Alice born 1847 Middle,Shropshire) and his son Robert who’s occupation was given as “organist music”. Also there was one domestic servant. Lillian M. Johnson did not come to Tunbridge Wells with the family and presumably got married in Eastbourne, although I made no attempt to trace her after the 1891 census. Also in the home was one domestic servant. Robert Saunders Johnson was age 28 at this time and single and was still single at the time of the 1911 census. No records were found indicating that he was ever married and his probate record makes no mention of a widow.

The 1911 census, taken at 86 Stephens Road (photo below) at a residence listed by the name of ‘Hereford House’ gave Robert Saunders Johnson as the head of the household with the occupation of school master employer. What school he was the headmaster of in 1911 was not determined for it is known he did not become headmaster of Rose Hill School until 1925. Nor was it determined how he had worked his way from being an organist in 1901 to a school headmaster in 1911. With him at this 7 room residence was his father, given as Robert Loof Johnson, a retired jeweller, and his mother Sarah (given as Alice) who’s occupation was given as “house” referring to her domestic role in the home. The census recorded that Robert senior had been married 40 years (1871) and had just the two children.

The Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser announced on January 30,1948 that “Mr Robert Saunders Johnson, the principal of Rose Hill School,Tunbridge Wells died January 24,1948 age 75 leaving an estate of 23,672 pounds.

Probate records gave Robert Saunders Johnson of Rose Hill, Tunbridge Wells, when he died January 24,1948. The executors of his 23,672 pound estate was Lewis Arthur Wiggins, accountant. Robert was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on January 29th. His father Robert Loof Johnson died in Tunbridge Wells in 1931 and was buried in the same cemetery as his son on August 2,1931. Robert juniors mother survived her husband and was buried in the same cemetery as her husband on February 17,1942.


As noted above Jane Bakowski wrote an article in the Kent & Sussex Courier dated December 9,2016 entitled ‘ School Garden Was Kept Shipshape by SS Scouter’ in which she said in part “ One of the strangest sights in Tunbridge Wells in the interwar years was a ship apparently washed up on someone’s front lawn. The top of the masts could be seen above a wall facing London Road, and was visible from as far as Mount Ephraim at the top of the town. The vessel, a model coastal steam ship, was owned by Rose Hill School at its original base in London Road. Built by the school handyman with the help of pupils, the 58 ft vessel was for use by the school’s Sea Scout troop…..”

Wikipedia, in addition to referring to Robert Baden Powell being a pupil of Rose Hill School also recorded “Lewen B.O. Tugwell” as a pupil of the school from 1926 to 1929 and that “Whilst there Tugwell worked in the Carpentry Class on the construction of the SS Scouter. His two younger brothers also attended Rose Hill. Robert Baden Powell and his wife Olave were friends of Lewen’s parents. When Lord Baden Powell couldn’t be present, Lewen’s parents Basil and Mysie Tugwell alternated in giving out prizes on Prize Day at the school, and reading a message to the boys from the Chief Scout”.

The Lewen B.O. Tugwell referred to was Lewen B.O. Tugwell, who was born July 31,1917. A photo of him is shown opposite. He had been born in Coope Wing, Ramsey Hospital, Tallital, Naini Tal, India. He was the son of William “Basil” Pope Tugwell, Lt. Col. and Marion (Mysie) Bryce McG. Cousens. Lewen was also the ex-husband of Joan McSwiney.Her great uncle was Thomas R. Allfree who founded Rose Hill Schoo.  Lewen was the brother of Gordon Dudley Tugwell (photo below)and Maurice Arthur John Tugwell and the father of two children. Lewen’s occupation was given as “Major, Retired Indian and British Army-Sculptor and inventor”. He died of Parkinson’s Disease May 27,1993 in Sunningdale, Berkshire and was buried at All Soul’s Church, South Ascot, Berkshire. Gordon Dudley Tugwell,who was born August 22,1921 in India,  got married and had children and died May 29,1996 at Umbilo, Durban, South Africa. There is an excellent family tree for the Tugwell clan on the internet including a photo of William “Basil” Pope Tugwell  and his wife Marion (Mysie). From this internet reference it was stated in part “ In 1927 the family travelled from India on the HMT Marglen to England, where Lewen, aged 10, entered a boarding school, Rose Hill, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent and that from 1927 to December 1929 Lewen attended Rose Hill School. This school was founded in 1832 by Thomas R. Allfree as Romanoff House (school), renamed Rose Hill School later, remained at its original location till 1966, when it relocated to Coniston Avenue. Whilst there, worked in Carpentry Class on the construction of the SS Scouter. His two brothers also attended Rose Hill”.

From the book ‘Tales of Old Tunbridge Wells’ by Frank Chapman, published in 1999, which book I purchased on my trip to Tunbridge Wells in the summer of 2015, is the following article on page 109 entitled ‘ A Ship that never sailed’ . “ One of the sights of Tunbridge Wells that puzzled many a stranger until the 1960’s was the ship that never sailed, marooned for ever on the lawn of Rosehill School for boys in London Road. The SS Scouter was the idea of the headmaster Robert Saunders Johnson. He started the Rosehill Sea Scouts and kept a boat on the Medway at Tonbridge but felt his boys ought to learnbig ship handling too and had his carpentry teacher construct a wooden model of a coastal steamer as a woodwork project. Boys were divided into two watches and spent whole days “at sea”, hoisting signal flags, logging weather reports, taking turns at the helm and serving food from the “galley”. A visiting Royal Navy commander said of the SS Scouter: “From bridge to cabin it is such a splendid idea for instruction and must be a great joy to them all”. Inevitably the ship deteriorated over the years and had been replaced by a swimming pool before Rosehill moved in 1966 to a new school built on its playing fields in Culverden Down. Distinguished old boys of Rosehill, originally Romanoff House School dating from 1832, include Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of Mafeking and the first Chief Scout who used to walk in every day from Speldhurst.”

From ‘This is Essex’ dated February 23,2009 is the photo opposite of the Sea Scouts and their SS Scouter and the following information. “ Afloat but ashore-Rose Hill Schools SS Scouter with one of the many “crews” who “sailed” her among the lawns and flower beds. The creation of Robert Saunders Johnson during his headship of Rose Hill School 1925-1948, the SS Scouter introduced the boys to the responsibilities and skills of navigating and watchkeeping. A later headmaster, Jack Grange, moved the school from London Road to new purpose built accommodation in 1966”.

Interest in the SS Scouter reached well beyond the shores of England as noted in the following account from The Age of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia’ dated July 30,1937. “ A training ship on a hillside. A surprising sight to be seen at Tunbridge Wells in Kent,England, is a large steam launch riding high and dry on a hillside, 60 miles inland from the sea. The craft is the SS Scouter, and was built and fitted out by the boys of the Tunbridge Wells school. The stout little vessel riding all storms safely on a bed of concrete. The bridge contains a wireless set electrical signals to the ‘engine room’ and all the controls necessary for the safety of a ship and all highly polished; A rack for flags –seaman everywhere signal with flags, it must be remembered is in one corner. The boys send signals that vary from S.O.S. to a request for water. The port and starboard lights hang in a place on the ships bows. A white riding light swings from the mast head. The cabin, large enough to accommodate 60 boys, is beautifully decorated as a chapel, but when the boys are ‘on watch’ doing their scout duties, such as washing down decks, and keeping a for’ard lookout, and the chapel service is over, the cabin is just like the cabin of any sea-going vessel. On weekdays she is a training ship for sea scouts-when we are told that Lord Baden-Powell, world Chief Scout, years ago went to this school as a boy, we can understand why these boys are today keen on scouting, and the reason for their enterprise-the building of a ship some years ago. Its size, can be seen by comparison with the three lads standing in its bows.” A photo from this article is shown above.

Another book, entitled ‘Still Life- Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood’ (image opposite) by Richard Cobb, published in 2009 gave the following first hand account. “ In 1927 behind the tall Rose Hill buildings, and partly hidden by it, the masts, derrick, bridge, superstructure, wheelhouse, the big red funnel circled in black, white railings, four lifeboats, attached to their hoists, and three lines of port-holes, there stood out boldly a full-sized merchant ship, black with a white surround, and a waterline just visible in red, very spick and span, its paint gleaming even on dull days. On certain days-generally on the weekend there would be complicated signals in four lines of little flags, flying merrily from the fore-mast, spelling out their coded coloured messages. The ship could be spotted from the football pitch, and further up. And even from Mount Ephraim, the top of the funnel, the masts and the derricks could still be made out, as they peeped between the elms of Rose Hill garden. I don’t know what visitors can have made of the land locked ship harbouring in this riverless town, well over 20 miles from the sea, and which, even close to, could be observed to be floating in grass up to its so-called waterline, but residents were rather proud of it, and one might be of a shared joke or of being in the secret. Its presence seemed to add to the singularity of the place: and there could be no harm in that, for Tunbridge Wells was not like other places. We had a merchant vessel, with a scrubbed deck and coiled ropes laid out in neat patterns, a bridge, a compass, a sextant, speaking tubes, a wheel-house, two fog horns, charts in little pigeon holes, port and starboard lights, three decks, a hold, living-quarters, hatches, winches, all in the garden of a preparatory school. In 1942 two Polish airmen, who were then my pupils, came to Tunbridge Wells. As they were unable to return to London, that night I walked them to the ship and took them onboard up the wooden steps, and laid them out on some mattresses below deck, where they spent the night”.

In closing off my coverage of this interesting topic I present above two sill photos from a 1946 British Pathe film that runs 1 min 11 seconds and can be seen in its entirety on the Youtube website entitled ‘Aground’. The film provides several views of the SS Scouter and the local Sea Scouts “running” the shop and going through their “seamen’s” manouvers.



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

Date: May 31,2017

Thomas Jay (1818-1999)  began life in Castle, Hedingham, Essex,(image opposite) one of several children born to William Jay, a gardener and later a brewer, and Hannah Jay.  He had been born at Hedingham in May 1818 and was baptised there on May 17,1818. Castle Hedingham is a village in northeast Essex, England, located four miles west of Halstead and 3 miles south-east of Great Yeldham in the Colne Valley on the ancient road from Colchester, Essex, to Cambridge.It developed around Hedingham Castle, the ancestral seat of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford.

His first marriage was in London in 1838 to Jane Martin (1816-1850) who was born in Middlesex and the daughter of John Martin a sugar broker. With her had just one child namely Emma Jane Jay (1842-1920) who went on to marry  Edward Bestg (1844-1894) June 13,1866 and raise a family of six children. She died in Camberwell,London in the 2nd qtr of 1920. At the time of the marriage Thomas was a shoemaker and his father a gardener.

The 1841 census, taken at Brick Lane in Christ Church, Spitalfields,London  gave Thomas as a book maker. With him was his wife Jane and daughter Emma Jane Jay. Jane at that time was working as a dressmaker. An old view of the Brick Lane Market in Spitalfields is shown opposite.

After the death of Jane in Hackney in 1850 he married Ann E. Bates in Hackney,London. At the time of the marriage Thomas was a town missionary living at 14 Paradise Street St James ,Shoreditch. His wife  was a spinster of the same address and the daughter of Edmund Bates a farmer. After the marriage Thomas and his wife Ann and his first daughter Emma Jane Jay took up residence in Hampton, Middlesex.

The 1851 census, taken at High Street in Hampton, Middlesex gave Thomas as a missionary (Baptist). With him was his wife Ann, born in Middlesex, and Thomas daughter from his first marriage Emma Jane Jay.

Frank Chapman, in his book ‘Tales of Old Tunbridge Wells’ published in 1999 , in an article entitled ‘ Death but not the workhouse’ stated in part “While Tunbridge Wells deserved its reputation as a wealthy and prosperous place, there was a good deal of hidden poverty up until the end of the Second World War and probably for some years afterwards”. He refers to the workhouse in Pembury and that a Tunbridge Wells writer in the late 19th century declared “ Pauperism prevails at the present time to an alarming degree and unless an improved code of Poor Law regulations is introduced and rigidly enforced, there is but a small probability of the onwards course of this demoralising agency being checked”.  Frank continues with “ Children born into poverty became the concern of Thomas Jay when he arrived in Tunbridge Wells in 1851 to recuperate from an illness. He stayed to become Town Missioner and founded the Ragged School for urchins around the gasworks, an area now covered with shops and restaurants of Royal Victoria Place. Thomas Jay soon found a poor woman who let him use a broken-down cottage, its windows stuffed with rags, for the first few ragged boys. In time it progressed to a proper building in Golden Street where Tom Jay and his team of voluntary teachers, many of them well-off ladies with time to spare, built a proud reputation. Sixty boys from the Ragged School went into the Royal Navy, and Tom Jay claimed proudly that “not one of them turned out bad”.

The ‘Town and Mission Record’ of both 1853 and July 1,1866 listed Thomas Jay of Tunbridge Wells as a Town Missioner and the occupant of a seat on the local committee.

Although no census record for Thomas was found anywhere for 1861 the record above confirms he and his family were still residents of Tunbridge Wells.

Thomas and his wife Ann had two children while living in Tunbridge Wells namely Ebenezer William Jay in 1853 and Albert H.A. Jay born in 1862.

The 1871 census, taken in Tunbridge Wells at 4 Garden Road gave Thomas as a town missioner. With him was his wife Ann (given as Susan) listed as born 1831 in Teddington, Middlesex who at that time was a school mistress, no doubt at her husbands Ragged School. With them were their son Ebenezer, a commercial clerk, and Albert (given as Alfred) who was in school. Also there was one domestic servant.

The 1881 census, taken at 12 Dudley Road (image above) in Tunbridge Wells gave Thomas as a town missioner. With him was his wife Ann, given as born 1832 in Teddington, Middlesex and their son Albert H.A. Jay who was working as an upholsterer. Also there was his grandson Albert Best, age 11 born in Gravesend, Kent, and who was attending school. Also there was one boarder and one lodger.

Thomas and his wife Ann continued to live in Tunbridge Wells up to the time of his death in the 2nd qtr of 1889. No record of his being buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery was found and what became of his wife was not established.



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

Date: May 23,2017


Susan Hyand (1888-1960) was born as Susan Wickenden in Wadhurst, Sussex one of several children born to bricklayer John Wichenden and his wife Frances. She had been baptised at Wadhust October 28,1888 and throughout the period up to marriage in 1908 to Ernest Edward Hyland (1887-1923) she lived with her parents and siblings in Wadhurst.

Her husband Ernest Edward Hyland came from unknown parentage and received little education. He began his working career as a farm labourer and it is expected that his father was a farm labour also. It was stated by another researcher ( Frank Chapman) in his book ‘Tales of Old’ that Ernest’s grandfather was a wheelwright. Ernest’s Canadian Immigration records of June 1923 state in his own words that he “could read very little”.   Ernest Edward Hyland had been born in Wadhurst and since his future wife Susan was also from Wadhurst it is most likely that it was there that they met at some church or social function.

After the marriage the couple continued to live in Wadhurst having a son Ernest Edward Hyland there in 1910 and a daughter Millicent A Hyland in 1914. Both births were registered in Ticehurst, Sussex.

Ernest Edward Hyland enlisted for service in WW 1 with the Queens Own RWK Regiment and served in France. Since he was not awarded either the 1914 or 1914-1915 Star medal he entered the war after Manditory conscription came into effect in 1916. His medal index card suggests his military service was in France, although Frank Chapman states he served in Salonika.

Ernest survived the war and returned to his family in Wadhurst, where he worked as a farm labourer. In June 1923 he decided to emigrate to Canada with the understanding that he would later call for his family to join him. His immigration records show that his reason for coming to Canada was ‘to better myself” and that he intended to remain in Canada and work on a farm. Canada at that time was in need of farmers and farm labourers and the British Empire Act of 1922 passed by Parliament encouraged and offered incentives for British citizens to emigrate to Canada.

On June 8,1923 Ernest boarded the Cunard Line steamship ANDANIA (photo opposite)at Southamption and arrived at Quebec, Canada on June 17th. Frank Chapman claims in his book that while the ship was being towed to port by a tugboat there was an accident causing Ernest to fall overboard which led to his death later from pneumonia although I was unable to find any information about this claimed accident. While it is true that Ernest Edward Hyland died in Canada his detailed death records report that he died June 21,1923  from “ influenaza with pleurisy contributed to by acute cardiac dilatation”. Ernnest had died at a farm at Concession 2 Lot 18 in Beverley (west of Hamilton, Ontario). He had traveled to Beverley by train from Quebec. How or when he contracted Influenza is not known. It was certainly a pandemic  during WW 1 and throughout most of the world. He must not have showed signs of the illness when he left England otherwise it is not likely he would have felt well enough to travel, and so he most likely contracted it during the voyage. Ernest was buried at the Grove Cemetery in Dundas, close to where he died.

A review of Ernest’s military records show that his medals were sent to his last known address in England but they were returned. Frank Chapman stated in his book that a “Canadian clergyman investigated and informed Susan Hyland that her husband had died in Canada. This news most certainly affected her mind.

It appears that after Ernest’s death Susan Hyland moved to Pembury as Frank Chapman states she was known to the people in Pembury for some 40 years. What makes Susan in my words “The Mysterious Woman of Pembury” is that this little woman, referred by the nicknames “Black Annie” and “ Running Jane” and even “ London to Brighton” was seen every day walking between her home in Pembury to the SER station in Tunbridge Wells, “ wearing dark clothes and large boots, always hurrying, never speaking and always refusing a lift” in the belief that her husband was still alive. On each trip this poor deranged women would arrive at the train station and ask the staff “ Has he come yet” which inquiry was met by them shaking their heads and answering kindly that he had not come as they believed accounts that her husband had been killed in the war.  On a dark wet night  November 21,1960 Susan was walking home to her little semi-detached home on Henwood Green Road in Pembury when she was knocked down by a car. She was taken to the Pembury Hospital with broken bones in both legs. Although she appeared to be on the mend and looking forward to spending Christmas at home but she suddenly collapsed and died on December 5,1960.

This article reports on the Hyland and Wickenden families with a concentration on the tragic lives of Susan Hyland and her husband Ernest Edward Hyland.


Susan Wickenden(1888-1960) was born in Wadhurst, Sussex in October 1888 . Her birth was registered at Ticehurst in the 4th qtr of 1888 at Ticehurst. She was baptised at Wadhurst October 28,1888 and given as the daughter of John Wickenden (1858-abt 1920) and Frances Wickenden, nee Nye (1858-1934).

Susan’s father was a bricklayer by trade and came from a typical working class family of limited financial means. He had been born 1859 in Wadhurst,

The 1891 census, taken at Pook Pitt No. 1 Cottage in Wadhurst gave John Wickenden as a bricklayer worker. With him was his wife Frances, born in Tunbridge Wells in 1858. At that time there were three other families living at Pook Pitt in other cottages and all of them were farm labourers. Shown opposite is a photo of a cottage at Pook Pit. An interesting article in the Kent & Sussex Courier reported on the “Terrible Tragedy at Wadhurst-Women Murdered-Her Son Arrested” in which was mention of an incident December 15,1905 when in a tiny two-roomed cottage at Pook Pit, which lies between Wadhurst and Coursley Wood, a widow was "done to death" under most brutal and horrifying circumstances. The woman referred to was Frances Stevens, a widow. It’s a long article which I will let my readers obtain from the Tunbridge Wells Referene Library or look on the internet for it on the website of the Wadhurst History Society.

John Wickenden married Frances Nye January 29,1881 at Wadhurst. Frances had been born 1858 on Victoria Road, Tunbridge Wells and died in Tunbridge Wells in 1934. She was one of five children born to George Nye (born in Tunbridge Wells July 31,1823) and Sarah Nye, nee Baker (1818-1906). George and his wife were married in Tunbridge Wells December 15,1845. George and his wife are found living in Tunbridge Wells in census records from 1851 to 1881. George died in Tunbridge Wells and his wife Sarah died in the town in June 1906.

John Wickenden and his wife Frances went on to have nine children between 1881 and 1899, all of whom were born in Wadhurst.

The 1901 census, taken at ‘Partridges’ in Wadhurst, gave John Wickenden as a bricklayer worker. With him was his wife Frances; their son John, age 18, a bricklayer worker, and six other Wickenden children, including Susan, age 12.

Susan continued to live with her parents and siblings up to the time of her marriage to Ernest Edward Hyland(1887-1923). Her marriage was registered in the 4th qtr of 1908 at Ticehurst.


In this section I continue the story about Susan from the time of her marriage to Ernest Edward Hyland in 1908. The marriage was registered in Ticehurst but it is most likely the marriage took place in Wadhurst. It is known from Ernest’s immigration records that his religion was “ Church of England”. What church they were married at was not established. Since both Susan and Ernest were born in Wadhurst and spent their early lives there it is expected that they came to know one another from either church or social gatherings in the community. Their families were certainly of comparable financial status, her father a bricklayer labourer; Ernest a farm labourer, believed to be the son of a farm labourer, and stated by Frank Chapman in his book as the grandson of a wheelwright.

Local people will of course know where Wadhurst is but for others it is located on the Kent & Sussex boarder about 11 km south of Crowborough and 7 miles (11 Km) south of Tunbridge Wells, and not doubt there were times when Susan and her husband visited Tunbridge Wells.

After the marriage Susan and her husband remained in Wadhurst where Ernest worked as a farm labourer. The 1911 census, taken at Holbeam Wood, Whiligh, Sussex in Ticehurst gave Ernest as a farm labourer. With him in their premises of just 3 rooms was his wife Susan and their son Ernest Edward Hyland, born 1910 Ticehurst and one lodger. They stated on the census that they had been married 2 years and that they had just the one child. The birth record for their son Ernest Edward Hyland shows his birth was registered in the 1st qtr of 1910 at Ticehurst. They went on to have a second child by the name of Millicent A Hyland,who’s birth was registered at Ticehurst in the 3rd qtr of 1914.

As noted in an article about the death of Susan Hyland, her daughter Millicent died at age 16 and her son Ernest died shortly after WWII from an illness contracted in a German POW camp.

Holbeam Wood (photo opposite) is a grade II listed building in Ticehurst that was listed May 13,1987. The records of English Heritage state that the north wing dates to C18 and the south wing C19. It is a 2 sty building constructed of red brick and located just east of Wadhurst about half way between Wadhurst on the west and Ticehurst on the east. At the time of the 1881 census it was occupied by Samuel Tompsett and described as a farm of 245 acres on which he employed 8 labourers and five boys. This farm is still a working farm today but also serves as a B&B .

From the birth record of Susan’s daughter Millicent, the family were still living in Wadhurst in 1914. It is known from the account of Susan Hyland by Frank Chapman that Ernest had served in WW 1. He had been living at Best Beech, Wadhurst before the war and that “Ernest joined the army in 1914-1918 and as far as most people were concerned was one of thousands who never came back. But this was not so. He served in Salonika and survived, but after demobilization decided to emigrate to Canada..” A check was made to see if the Queens Own RWK served in Salonika and it was found that they did not. Shown opposite is the medal index card for Ernest Hyland which gave him as a private with the Queen’s Own RWK regiment (G/23200). The bottom of the card makes no mention of where he served but the normal practice was to show nothing if he served in France . Of particular interest is the entry that the two medals he was awarded ( the Victory and British Medal) were both send out to Ernest (or his wife) after the war but were returned. Whey they were returned is not known but is most likely that Ernest and his wife were no longer at the address given in his military records and could not be delivered. One has to wonder however whether Susan Hyland send them back. It would all depend on when the medals were sent out (before Ernest left for Canada in June 1923 or after he left). If they were sent out after Susan Hyland became aware of her husband’s death in Canada then perhaps she returned them in denial of her husband’s death. Shown above is his medal index card. The fact that Ernest was not awarded either the 1914 or the 1914-1915 Star medal gives a clue as to the timeframe he served. A clue is all we have for his service records were not found and were among the thousands of records destroyed by fire during WW 1 bombing. From Wikipedia is a description of both Star medals and the dates required for their entitlement. If a soldier did not enlist until conscription in 1916 then he was not entitled to any Star medal.

The 1914 Star, colloquially known as the Mons Star, is a British World War I campaign medal for service in France or Belgium between 5 August and 22 November 1914. The 1914 Star was authorised under Special Army Order no. 350 in November 1917 and by an Admiralty Fleet Order in 1918, for award to officers and men of the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces who served in France or Belgium between 5 August and midnight of 22–23 November 1914.The former date is the day after Britain's declaration of war against the Central Powers, and the closing date marks the end of the First Battle of Ypres.

The 1914–15 Star is a campaign medal of the British Empire which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the First World War against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915. The medal was never awarded singly and recipients were also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.The medal was initially not going to be awarded to soldiers who served in the Gallipoli Campaign. Those soldiers were to be awarded the Gallipoli Star instead. The 1914–15 Star was instituted in December 1918 and was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served against the Central European Powers in any theatre of the Great War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915. The period of eligibility was prior to the introduction of the Military Service Act 1916, which instituted conscription in Britain.No clasp or bar to the medal was approved. To be eligible for the award of the medal, a member must have served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war during the relevant dates of operations in that theatre.Excluded from eligibility for the medal, were all those who had already qualified for the award of the 1914 Star, those who qualified for the award of the Africa General Service Medal and those who qualified for the award of the Khedive's Sudan Medal of 1910

It is known from passenger, immigration and death records for Ernest that in June 1923 the family were living in Wadhurst, where Ernest was a farm labourer. It is expected that work and employment opportunities ,and perhaps the state of the economy in England in the early 1920’ was poor ,after the devastating effects of WW 1 and that finding work and live in general was difficult. This no doubt prompted Ernest to find a better life for himself and his family, untimately resulting in his decision to leave England and move to the land of opportunity ‘Canada’. He decided to make the trip on his own; get established; and then call for his family to join him, but fate intervened to unravel his plans.

The Empire Settlement Act (Canada 1922) was an initiative of the Canadian Government, due to low immigration rates after the war, to encourage immigration for the settlement of the country. Preference was given to farmers and farm labourers and women in domestic service. The new Act was a joint effort between Canada and Great Britain as Britain had an interest in exporting its citizens to other countries. The scheme included the selling of land on credit, agricultural training and the establishment of a special transportation rate for the targeted groups. Thousands of British citizens took advantage of the Act and came to settle in Canada. The passing of this Act may have been something which Ernest Hyland considered. However his immigration records , when asked about who paid for his passage answered “self”, but did indicate that he was destined to “Hamilton Ontario  D. Hugh Sweeney Canadian Government Agency, Hamilton” suggesting that there was some government sponsorship of his trip.

The outgoing passenger records of the Uk gave Ernest Hyland, born 1892 departing from Southampton June 8,1923 destined for Quebec, Canada on the Cunard Line steamship RMS ANDANIA, under the command of Captain E.D. Britton. The passenger list gave him of “Lodge Cottage, Wadhurst, Sussex New Farm F.J.” and that he was a labourer born in England with his permanent address stated to be “ Canada”. He was travelling alone.  Shown opposite is a photo of the ANDANIA from the files of the Cunard Lines. Other images of the ship are given below with related text.

The RMS ANDANIA  was a British ocean liner launched in 1921 as a replacement for a ship of the same name which had been sunk during WW 1. It as a class A liner, the first of six 14,000 tons vessels built for the Cunard Line in the early 1920’s The ship was launched in Hebburn,England by its builder Hawthorn Leslie and Company and could carry 1,700 passengers with a crew of 270. She first worked on the Hamburg to New York route, and later between London and Quebec and Liverpool and Montreal.

Shown above is an abstract of log of the voyage of the RMS ANDANIA on voyage No. 12 in June 1923  on which Ernest sailed. The ship began in London, then to Southampton where Ernest boarded the vessel, and then to Cherbourge,Quebec and Montreal. The log shows the vessel was at the company wharf June 7 in London and in the morning of June 8 was at Southampton where it left at 3;49 pm arriving at Cherbourg at 8pm. It departed from Cherbourg at 8;46 pm and sailed for Canada in a strong breeze and rough sea June 9 and by the 10th the ship was in gale winds and very rough seas. From June 11 to June 15 the weather had much improved, to a moderate to light breeze, much to the relief of passengers, many of whom would have been sea sick.
On June 17th the ship reach the Father Point lighthouse (photo opposite). From there the ship went on to dock at Quebec.  Shown below with text are photos of the ship at various points in the voyage. The image of the log referred to is the back of a postcard handed out to passengers on the ship. The opposite side of the postcard shows an image of the ship itself.  Father Point, or Ste Anne de la Pointe au Pere, is a village in Rimouski country, Quebedc on the south shore of the St Lawrence River, five miles from Rimouski and three miles from St Anaclet, on the Canadian National Railway. It is there that ocean liners navigating the St Lawrence stop to take aboard or set ashore their pilots and at that place is the lighthouse shown in the photo, details of which can be found on the internet.

Shown below is a series of photos of the ANDANIA organized from top to bottom left to right (1) At Southampton docks 1920 (2) Approaching Quebec, Canada (3) Being towed to the dock in Quebec (4) Arriving at the dock in Quebec.

As the RMS ANDANIA approached the dock in Quebec it would have been guided along the way by tug boats. Frank Chapman in his book states “ As the ship was being pulled into harbour by a tug there was an accident and Ernest Hyland fell overboard. He was rescued, but died of pneumonia..”. This same account was given in the Courier article in December 1960. Whether this account is true or not was not established. A search for information online about such an event was made but not reference to it was found. The reference to Ernest dying of pneumonia is not supported by the cause of death given in his death record, although information about Influenza does mention that pneumonia may be caused by the disease.

Canadian immigration records gave Ernest Hyland born 1887 England and that he departed from Tonbridge England in 1923 and arrived at Quebec Canada June 17,1923 . His age was given as 36 and that he had arrived on the RMS ANDANIA of the Cunard Line. His immigration records note that Ernest took the Canadian National Railway (CNR) form Quebec to his destination, Dundas just west of Hamilton, Ontario. A photo of the train arriving at the station is show below left and to the right is a photo of the market square in Dundas.

The immigration record for Ernest is a comprehensive one page document from which the following information was recorded.” Arrived on the RMS ANDANIA; 3rd class;arrived at Quebec. Travelled by Canadian National Railway destined to Hamilton, Ontario. I Ernest Hyland, age 36m male, married, not travelling with spouse, present occupation-cowman; intended occupation –mixed farm worker; birthplace-England; Race of people- English; citizenship-British; Religion-Church of England; Object of going to Canada-To better myself; Do you intend to remain in Canada- Yes; Money in your possession- 5 pounds; I am aware that I must have on my arrival in Canada the sum of  (illegible); Can you read-very little; what language-English; By whom was your passage paid-Self; Destined to –Hamilton, Ontario D. Hugh Sweeney Canadian Government Agency Hamilton; By what railway are you travelling-Canadian National; nearest relative in country from which you came- wife Susan Hyland of Blackhurst  Lodge Cottage, Wadhurst, Sussex”.

From Ernest’s Canadian death record was the following; “Ernest Edward Hyland born 1886 England, died June 21,1923 County of Wentworth, Ontario, Division of Beverley Township, at Concession 2 Lot 18. Married, age 37. Born England. Occupation of farm labourer. Length of residence-2 days to place of death, 2-1/2 days in Ontario, 3 days in Canada. Nothing is known of this man’s ancestry as he only arrived in Canada from England about 3 days ago. He was buried at the Grove Cemetery in Dundas, West Flamborough Township, Wentworth County, Ontario. D. E. Knowles of Dundas was the undertaker. His physician was W.A. Loeaver M.D. Medical practitioner who attended the deceased June 19,1923 to June 21,1923. Cause of death-Influenza with Pleurisy contributed to by acute cardiac dilation”. Ernest’s personal effects were sent to his wife. Shown above is a map of 1818 showing the location of Beverley just west of Hamilton and below it is an enlarge map on which highlighted in red is the location of Concession 2 Lot 18 where Ernest died on a farm.


Frank Chapman who I have referred to in the previous sections was the former editor of the Kent & Sussex Courier who died age 87 in 2011. An article about his life and career can be found online dated January 13,2011 by Jane Bakowski. Like me he was interested in local history and his book ‘ Tales of Old’ which I have referred to was but one of a number of books and publications of his. Much of what Frank reports is based largely on the Courier article of December 1960.

Here what he had to say about Susan Hyland in page 136  of the aforementioned book which I managed to pick up on my visit to Tunbridge Wells in 2015 along with a few other books at the nice bookshop in the Pantiles.  “ Familiar over more than forty years to everyone using the road between Tunbridge Wells and Pembury was the figure of a small woman in dark clothes and large boots, always hurrying, never speaking and always refusing a lift. Only a few people knew her name, but everyone had heard a version of her sad story. Each day she went to Tunbridge Wells Central Station (photo opposite) and asked the staff, “ Has he come yet?”. They shook their heads and answered kindly, for they knew the story, that she had lost her husband in the Great War and never ceased to hope he would return. On a dark, wet night, in November, 1960, while walking home to Henwood Green Road, Pembury, she was knocked down by a car and fatally injured. People learned that she was Mrs Susan Hyland, aged 71, a women of determination and intelligence who loved country life and was respected as an excellent worker on various farms………The loss of her husband affected her mind. She refused a widow’s pension and became a solitary and private person outside her family, convinced to the end of her days that Ernest would come back and that she would meet him at the train station. Her family knew little about this side of her life and she never disclosed whether she knew about the legend of herself as a tragic war widow. To have a husband survive the war, then lose him in an accident thousands of miles away must have been almost impossible to bear”.

Similar brief mentions of Susan Hyland were found on the internet where she was referred to as “Running Jane who was Susan Hyland, nee Wickenden. She lived in Ticehurst, Best Beech, and also Pembury. Born about 1888 and died after an accident”.

The Pembury Village News of Spring 2006 mentions Susah Hyland in two separate accounts. In Pembury Past was the comment by a resident (Ray Pennell)“ I recall Sue Hyland. ‘London to Brighton;’ was her nickname. She would walk to all stations around her. They say, to meet her husband from the train-but sadly they say he was killed. Something she could not accept-so she’s walk and hope to meet him off every train that she met”. A second account in an article by Mike Crouch tells of his life in Pembury as a boy after WW II and refers to “Black Annie- a diminuative old lady dressed from head to toe in black, a black belted raincoat even in the height of summer, black lisle stockings, highly polished black boots. She seemed to walk from Pembury into Tunbridge Wells every day. She never spoke directly to you nor smiled, winter, summer, rain or snow she could be seen in the Lower Green Road and from the bus windows into town. She always walked at very high speed and we youngsters could never keep up with her nor did we want to if truth be known, the rumour and mystery that surrounded her terrified us all”. No photos of Susan Hyland were found but perhaps looked much like the little old lady in the image opposite.

When Susan Hyland first came to Pembury was not established. Based in Frank’s article she must have settled there in the 1920’s. It is known from my own research that she was still living in Wadhurst with her two children in June 1923.

It is known that Susan lived in a little white rendered red brick Terrace at 158 Henwood Green (photo opposite). In the photo opposite her residence is the one just to the right of the home with the gable roof.

Frank referred to her being knocked down by a car in November 1960 (actual date was Novbember 21)and passing away from her injuries. Death records gave a Susan Hyland born 1888 dying in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1960. Probate records gave Susan Hyland of 158 Henwood Green Road, a widow, who died December 5,1960 at the Pembury Hospital. The executor of her  197 pound estate was Alice Wickenden, her spinster sister.  The Courier printed an article under the heading ‘ Motorist did not see ‘hooded figure’ Death was accidental’ which in part stated : In her long black dress, Mrs Susan Hyland, aged 72, of 158 Henwood Green Road, Pembury, on November 21 was knocked down by a car and died as a result of her injuries. At an inquest held into her death in Tunbridge Wells on Wednesday, a jury returned a verdict of accidental death. Dr. Priga Darsham orthopedic surgeon at the Pembury Hospital said that she was admitted she had broken bones in both legs. She progressed for a number of days and then collapsed and died.” The lady who knocked down Mrs Hyland said at 5:15pm November 21 said she “ saw a black hooded figure about the middle of the road.She was walking quite briskly straight across the road”. She stood on the brakes but could not avoid Mrs Hyland and knocked her down. In a statement to Pc Harold Fumardson Mrs Hyland said “she saw no traffic in the road when she went to cross”.

The distance between Pembury and the SER station on Mount Pleasant Road is some 4 miles and since the average able bodied person walks at 3.1 miles per hour, it would have taken a person about 1-1/2 hours to walk between the two points and probably took Susan Hyland longer than that, particularly in her advancing age. This trip she made each day, both ways, occupying some 3-4 hours a day in search of news about her deceased husband-What a sad tale indeed.


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

Date: May 29,2017


Henry Albert Seymour (1860-1938) (photo opposite) was a British secularist, individualist anarchist, gramophone innovator and survey author, and Baconian. He published his first English Language anarchist periodical ‘The Anarchist’ in 1885 and is credited , in 1913, with introducing the Edison disc into the country.

He first came to prominence in 1882, while living in Tunbridge Wells. He was appointed secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Secular Society and was convicted in the summer of 1882 of blasphemy, the event being reported on in the local newspaper. The events leading to his prosecution involved the publication of a placard advertising a meeting of the society.

The first issue of ‘The Anarchist’ was begun while Seymour was a resident of Tunbridge Wells but was not completed until 1885 while living in London. In addition he published a wide range of pamphlets and tracts, and printed handbills for other groups, including the Tunbridge Wells branch of the SDF, which pamphlet was published by the ‘International Publishing Company’ which was owned by Seymor. He produced a wide range of works on anarchist subjects and was involved in the late 19th century radical community in London.

In the early 20th century Seymour became involved in the nascent gramophone industry. He wrote about Edison’s photograph in ‘Sound Wave’ magazine and wrote ‘Reproduction of Sound’ in 1917 which was acknowledge as “ the standard work on the subject” at that time. He produced a gramophone called the Superphone and was responsible for many innovations in gramophone technology.

In later life he became involved in the Francis Bacon Society, and was editor of the society’s journal, ‘Baconiana’.

Born in Hayes, Kent in 1860 he died February 3,1938 while living at 544 Caledonian Road in Islington, Middlesex.

This article reports on his life and interesting career with an emphasis on his life and activities while a resident of Tunbridge Wells.


Henry was born January 26,1860 at Hayes, Kent and was baptised there on February 16,1860, one of five children born to William Seymour (born 1835) and Harriet Seymour (1839-1882).

Henry’s father had been born in Buxted, Sussex and is found in census records of 1861 and 1871 as a boot and shoemaker. Henry’s mother Harriet had been born in Edenbridge, Kent and was a housewife.

The 1861 census, taken at Hayes, Kent gave William Semour as a shoemaker employing two men and one boy. With him was his wife Harriet ; their son Henry and one shoemakers apprentice.

The 1871 census, taken at 15 Model Cottages in Charlton, Kent, gave William Seymour as a bootmaker. With him was his wife Harriet and four of their children, including Henry who was attending school.

On December 5,1880 , in Tunbridge Wells, Henry Albert Seymour married Clara Elizabeth Spice(1860-1934), the daughter of William Spice. What year Henry first took up residence in was not established but since his wife Clara was born in Yalding in 1860 it appears that Henry was already a resident of Tunbridge Wells before the marriage.

Henry and Clara went on to have five children (two daughter and three sons) between 1881 and 1896. Of these children the first child Henrietta was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1881, followed by their second child Desmond in the town in 1884. The three remaining children Florence, Reginald and Edward were all born in London between 1886 and 1896.

The 1881 census, taken in Tunbridge Wells at premises given as “1 The Yard” on Camden Road, gave Henry with the occupation of publisher. With him was his wife Clara and their first child. A postcard view of Camden Road is shown opposite.

On July 4,1882 Henry’s mother Harriet died in Tunbridge Wells. Where she was buried was not established for no record of her was found at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. It appears that Harriet’s husband had passed away and that she move to Tunbridge Wells to live with her son. In 1885 Henry and his family left Tunbridge Wells and moved to London.

At the time of the 1891 census Henry and his wife and children were living in London where Henry was given as an author and publisher.

The 1901 census, taken at 83 Liverpool Road in Islington, London gave Henry A. Seymour as a “sign writer paint own account”. With him was his wife Clara and his five children and his brother Charles, age 38, a boot maker.

The 1911 census, taken at 291 Goswell Road in London gave Henry Albert Seymour as a talking machine manufacturer. With him was his wife Clara; his daughter Florence, age 25, a costumer; his son Edward,age 15, a zinc? Worker; his son Raymond Henry Seymour, age 19, a mechanical engineer. Also there was Gladys E. Seymour, his five year old granddaughter. The census recorded that the family were living in premises of 6 rooms; that they had been married 30 years and that all five of their children were still living.

Henry and his wife lived out the remainder of their lives in London. Clara passed away in the 4th qtr of 1934 at Islington. Probate records for Henry Albert Seymour gave him of 544 Caledonian Road, Islington, Middlesex when he died on February 3,1938. The executors of his 904 pound estate were his sons Reginald Henry Seymour, scientific instrument maker, and Edward Vincent Seymour, carpenter.


Seymour first came to prominence in 1882, while living in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Seymour was appointed the secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Secular Society and he was convicted in the summer of 1882 of blasphemy. The events leading to his prosecution involved the publication of a placard advertising a meeting of the society.

In 1885 Seymour published the first English-language individualist anarchist periodical in Britain, The Anarchist. He began work on the first issue while still living in Tunbridge Wells, although it was not published until he completed his move to Islington, London.

A blog about Henry Albert Seymour refers to the Science Library in Tunbridge Wells, which was listed as an agent for ‘Justice’ which was a publication of the Social Democratic Foundation. The address of the shop was 98 Camden Road according to an 1885 issue of ‘Justice’. It is interesting to note that this shop opened in January 1885, just before Seymour moved to London. “Monday April 9th marks the 130 anniversary of the day that Seymour posted the placards that led to his prosecution for blasphemy in Tunbridge Wells.

The paper was produced from 1885–1888 and was briefly co-edited by Peter Kropotkin and Charlotte Wilson, both of whom went on to form Freedom following disagreements between the three. In 1888 Seymour published ‘Anarchy; Theory and Practice’

As well as producing The Anarchist, Seymour published a wide range of pamphlets and tracts, and he printed handbills for other groups, including the Tunbridge Wells branch of the SDF. The SDF pamphlet was published by the "International Publishing Company", owned by Seymour.

Seymour is important in the history of British anarchism, particularly individualist anarchism a branch of anarchism which has dwindled in influence in Britain since the early 20th century. Seymour published a wide range of works on anarchist subjects. He was involved in the late 19th century radical community in London and it seems likely that Seymour printed material for many individuals and groups.

Seymour was involved in many groups and causes during the latter 1900s. He was a founding member of Free Currency Propaganda and produced a pamphlet called The Monomaniacs – A fable in finance.

Seymour took over editorship of The Adult following the arrest of George Bedborough, the previous editor.

In the early 20th century Seymour became involved in the nascent gramophone industry. He ran his phonograph business from his home at 544 Canedonian Road in Islington. This buildings was later knocked down and replaced with flats. Examples of his phonographs can be found in the Revelstoke Nickelodeon Museum in Revelstoke, British Columbia Canada, and in other museums in Britain. These are usually referred to as ‘Seymour Superphone Gramophones’.

He introduced Edison's Diamond Disc phonograph to Britain in 1913, and wrote about it in Sound Wave magazine. He wrote The Reproduction of Sound in 1917, described as "acknowledged as the standard work on the subject" in the industry at the time. He produced a gramophone called the Superphone and was responsible for many innovations in gramophone technology. He was key in the development of EMG Gramophones and produced parts for the early production models.

Henry Seymour , one of the founding fathers of the British phonograph & gramophone world has not quite been erased from history, but was "shunned"by the big companies for his anarchic behaviour namely Creating forgeries of copyrighted recordings. At the time it must have seemed ungentlemanly and poor Henry must have had his hands smacked, or at least tied up against having anything to do with phonographs and gramophones. He then seems have passed the mantle to EMG and the rest is history.

He has been credited with creating quite a sophisticated cylinder copying machine and of all things a "Seymour Death Ray machine".

Seymour’s book the "Reproduction Of Sound", it is very well written book on acoustical record making from 1918. In it's pages are drawings of blank molds; reaming machines, building of Gramophone and Phonograph recording machines; both vertical, and lateral kinds. A variety of formulations for master cylinders, and master discs, electroplating masters, molding cylinders, in both celluloid and metallic soap are also explained, as well as very good formulations and electrical connections, and holders for the making of the master, electrotype. Drawings and photos of record pressing from which shellac 78s are made.

There is a 3 part podcast on the internet of his life by the West Kent Radical Society. The archives of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has some interesting snippets about Seymour.

One of Henry’s descendants, Sarah has a wealth of information about Henry’s family life, including a photo of Henry’s wife Clara, which I was unable to obtain a copy of. Sarah, who is Henry’s granddaughter, has a number of stories passed down to her by her mother and from her childhood and that members of the family referred to Henry as “Pops”.

For further reading about Henry as an anarchist there is an excellent and very detailed article on the internet entitled ‘The Anarchist and Freedom…and Dan Chatterton’,which can be read in its entirety by searching under the article title. The article goes on for eleven pages, and for that reason it has not been include in my article. Of Tunbridge Wells the article states in part “ In December 1882 two distributors of the paper ‘Liberty’ in England were George Standing and ‘The Science Library’ in Tunbridge Wells which was run by the local secretary of the National Secular Society, Henry Seymour. He had achieved minor notoriety by posting a ‘blasphemour’ bill in Tunbridge Wells and being summonsed for it at the request of local Christians. On Bradlaugh’s advice Seymour had pleaded guilty in July 1883 and was fined. The accusation of cowardice raised against him for following this advice seems to have rankled, but the fact of his prosecution had given him a certain status. His interest in Anarchism seems to have originated wish his secularism-illustrated in his publication in 1883 of Bakunin’s essay ‘God and State’. He seems to have converted to Anarchism by 1884…”


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