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

Date: January 29,2019


Robert Henry Douglas was born 1881 in the small farming community of Amberley, New Zealand. He was the 2nd son of Thomas Douglas (1840-1919) who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860’s where he married Janet Harriette Harper (1845-1938) in 1869 at Christchurch.

Thomas Douglas was a wealthy gentleman who had been born at Whickham, Durham, the son of the Rev’d Canon Henry Douglas (1793-1859) and Eleanor Douglas, nee Birt (1802-1879).

By 1888 Thomas Douglas and his wife and children returned to England  and in 1888 the family were living at Frant, Sussex.

By 1900 Robert Douglas and his parents were living at Derwent Lodge in Tunbridge Wells, and in that year Robert entered Cambridge University. At the time of the 1901 census Robert was living with his parents and two sisters at 1 Lansdown Road, Tunbridge Wells and was an undergraduate at of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Robert obtained his B.A. in 1903 and his M.A. in 1907. He entered the church and served as a curate in various churches before WW1. During the war he served as Temporary Chaplain to the Forces from 1916 to 1919 and after the war he became the second vicar of All Saints Church in Langton Green.

In 1921 at Langton Green Robert married Edith Joy Williams (1893-1980). She had been born in Langton Green and was among three generations of the wealthy Williams family who lived at a grand estate called Shirley Hall  on Leggs Lane in Langton Green, which had formerly been Sherlock’s Farm.

Edith Joy Williams was the daughter of Frederick V. Williams, a J.P. and Alice Williams and was one of several children in the family. Edith lived with her parents and siblings at Shirley Hall up to the time of her marriage in 1921 but at the time of the 1911 census was attending a girls boarding school  in Wandsworth, London.

Robert and his wife Edith had five children between 1923 and 1929, all of whom were born in Langton Green.

Robert continued as the vicar of All Saints Church Langton Green until 1959.  His father Thomas died in Tunbridge Wells in 1919 and Robert’s mother died at 17 Park Road in Southborough in 1938.  Robert died January 21,1970 in Tunbridge Wells and his wife Edith died June 17,1980 at Broom Bank, Langton Green June 15,1980.

In this article I present information on the life and career of Rev. Robert Henry Douglas and his parents. Also provided is information about his wife Edith and the Williams family. Shown above is a photograph of Robert and Emily taken on the occasion of their wedding in 1921, a photograph taken by Southborough photographer Alex Brook, who is noted for the many photographs he took during WW1 of various VAD hospitals in the area.


I begin my account about the Douglas family with Thomas Douglas (1840-1919) and his wife Janet Harriet Harper (1845-1938).

Thomas Douglas was born March 1,1840 in Whickham, Durham and was one of 14 children born to The Reverend Canon Henry Douglas (1793-1859) and Eleanor Douglas, nee Birt (1802-1879. His parents were married September 30,1823 at Newland, Gloucestershire. Information about Rev Canon Henry Douglas can be found in Crockfords Clerical Directory.

Thomas lived with his parents and siblings in Whickham, Durham  until July 15,1859 when on that date his father died at The College, Durham. After that date he lived with his widowed mother and siblings until he decided to immigrate to New Zealand. Passenger records for New Zealand Colonists listed Thomas Douglas ,born 1840, departing from London and arriving at Queensland June 18,1865 on the ship EMPRESS OF THE SEAS (image opposite).

Upon arrival in Australia he made his way to the land office in Christchurch where he obtained a large plot of farm land in Cantebury Amberley. Amberley is a small town located in the Hurunui District in North Canterbury on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, about 50km north of Christchurch.  Amberley was noted as largely arable and sheep farming land and it was there that Thomas started up a large sheep farm and prospered in this business.  Records of the University of Canterbury, NZ gave “Thomas Douglas, esquire, of Newlands, Amberley in the County of Ashley, New Zealand.

On June 10,1869 at St Luke’s Church, Christchurch South Island N.Z. Thomas married Janet Harriette Harper (1845-1938).  She had been born August 18,1845at Stratfield, Mortimer, Berkshire and was one of 15 children born to Bishop Henry John Chitty Harper (1804-1893) and Emily Wedell Harper, nee Woolridge (1808-1888). Shown opposite are photographs of her parents taken circa 1875 in New Zealand who both died in New Zealand.

Thomas and Janet had six children between 1872 and 1888, among which was Robert Henry Douglas (1881—1970) who was the last child to be born in Canterbury, Amberley, N.Z.  The youngest child Bridge was born 1888 in Frant Sussex. When Thomas and his family arrived back in England was not established but it was after 1881 and before 1888.

Thomas Douglas died December 11,1919 in Tunbridge Wells. His wife Janet died April 12,1938 at 17 Park Road, Southborough.


As noted in the previous section Robert was born March 27,1881 in Canterbury Amberley, New Zealand the son of Thomas and Janet Douglas. Robert was christened April 24,1881 at Amberley (image opposite)

Sometime before 1888 Robert and his parents and siblings sailed for England arriving in London. From London they took the train to Tunbridge Well, arriving at the Central Station on Mount Pleasant Road  and them tool up residence in Frant, Sussex where the last sibling of Robert was born, namely his sister Bridget Emily Frances Douglas (1888-1976) who was born in Frant.

The records of Cambridge University gave the following “ Robert Henry Douglas- Adm at Pembroke College Oct. 1900. 2nd son of Thomas (formerly a farmer in New Zealand), of Derwent Lodge, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. B. Mar. 27,1881 at Amberley, Christchurch, New Zealand. Schools, Hereford Cathedral and Haileybury. Matric. Michs. 1900; B.A. 1903; M.A 1907. Ord. deacon (Durham) 1905; priest,1906; Curate  of St Peter’s Jarrow, 1905-8; Curate of Halifax, 1908-12; Curate of Lightcliffe, 1912-1914; Curate in charge of St John’s, Hebden Bridge, 1914-1916; Temporary Chaplain to the Forces, 1916-1919; Vicar of All Saints, Langton Green, Kent 1919-1941.”

The 1901 census, taken at 1 Lansdowne Road, Tunbridge Wells (image opposite)  gave Thomas Douglas as living on own means. With him was his wife Jane and their children Mary, Robert Henry and Bridged. Robert at that time was an undergraduate at Pembroke College. Also there were two domestic servants.

The 1911 census, taken at 3 Prescot Place in Yorkshire West Riding gave Robert as a clerk in holy orders and living as a lodger with the family of Arthur James Mattingley who was a manager of an aerated water factory. He was living there in premises of five rooms and still single.

After serving in WW1 Robert took up residence at the vicarage in Langton Green and conducted services at All Saints Church in Langton Green.

The Courier of March 11,1921 announced “The engagement if announced between the Rev. Robert Henry Douglas M.A. vicar of All Saints Langton Green and Edith Joy Williams, eldest daughter of Frederick V. Williams, M.A. J.P. of Shirley Hall, Langton Green.

On June 14,1921 Robert married Edith Joy Williams (1893-1980) at Langton Green, and with her had five children between 1923 and 1929, all of whom were born in Langton Green. His son,the second eldest child, Robert Vernon Douglas (1924-1996) followed his father’s footsteps and entered the church. Shown here are two photographs of Robert and his wife taken by Southborough photographer Alex Brook, details about whom can be found in my article ‘ The Photographic Businesses of 140 London Rd Southborough’ dated December 11,2014. These two photographs were taken at the entrance to Shirley Hall and not the church.

Details of the aforementioned marriage were given in the Courier a few days after the marriage and on June 24,1921 a second article appeared describing additional wedding gifts given to the happy couple.

Edith Joy Williams came from a wealthy family. She had been born February 7,1893 at Langton Green and lived with her parents and siblings at a grand estate called Shirley Hall. Three generations of the Williams family lived at Shirley Hall, and estate that had been built on the site of Sherlocks Farm. Shown in a separate section of this article are photographs and information about Shirley Hall. One photograph of it is shown opposite.

The 1901 census taken at Shirley Hall, Langton Green gave Frederick V. Williams as a J.P. living on own means and employing others on his estate. With him was his wife Alice, age 56 and four of their children including Edith Joy Williams. Also there were two visitors and ten servants. The census also recorded the existence of Shirley Hall Stables occupied by a coachman and his wife as well as a groom and stableman. At Shirley Gardeners Cottage was the head gardener and his wife and son. At Shirley Farm was a farm bailiff and his wife and son.

The 1911 census, taken at Levena House, Princess Road, Wandsworth London gave Edith Joy Williams as a student in a girls school. After she completed her schooling she returned to live with her parents and siblings at Shirley Hall up to the time of her marriage in 1921.

A listing for 1939 , taken at the Vicarage in Langton Green gave Robert Henry Douglas, clerk in holy orders born March 27,1881. With him was his wife Edith, unpaid domestic duties, born Febrary 7,1893, one domestic servant and two others who may have been their children but information about them was not given.Robert was last given as the vicar of All Saints Church in 1959  and so it appears that he retired that year.

Robert died in Tunbridge Wells January 21,1970. His wife Edith died June  17,1980 in Tunbridge Wells. Probate records gave Edith Joy Douglas of Broom Bank, Langton Green (image above) when she died. Both she and Robert were cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium.


Shirley Hall was occupied by the Williams family for three generations. It was a large estate built on the site of Sherlocks Farm. It consisted of the main mansion, and several outbuildings including a gardeners cottage and stable block. Associated with it was Shirley Hall Farm operated on behalf of the Williams family by a farm bailiff.

Shirley Hall, 1 Leggs Lane,  is one of the very few buildings in this neighborhood to have been mentioned in the Domesday Book.

When the father of Edith Joy Douglas, nee Williams died in 1932 the family moved out and the house remained empty until a Mr. King from Danemore park bought it as a grain store for several years. In the early 1940’s Shirley Hall was taken over by the army and the 265 Command Field Park Co. Royal Engineers moved in. About the same time the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers took over Ashurst Place (next door) and a service road was laid to link both buildings. Just after D Day, June 6,1944, all the troops were moved across the channel and one of the jobs they had to do was to build a bridge over a canal in Holland, which they names Shirley Bridge.

After the war the house was bought by a developer, R.J. Billings, who restored it, but for some years after that one could still see doors marked “Sergeants Mess” and toilets marked “Officers Only”. Several targets were painted on the outside walls and to this day some of the circles are still visible through the paint. Shown here are some images of Shirley Hall as presented in a brief article in Langton Life March 2018.


All Saints Church was built in 1863 by Chambers of Penshurst in a version of the Early English Style, considered at the time of the Gothic Revival to be the only truly Christian style.  It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert-Scott, the celebrated Victorian architect. Shown in this section are two postcard views of the church (card 11 and card 90) by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.

In the early 1860’s a fairly large corner of the Green was given by Mr. Charles Powell of Speldhurst and a public appeal was launched to build a ‘Chapel of Ease at Lankton’ (only later to become Langton Green).

In the church are windows by Morris and Co. (all very early), Clayton and Bell, Powells, C.E. Kempe and Gerald Moira.

The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1863 of a building which was a simple two-cell church. This grew by the addition of a north aise in 1888 and a south isle in 1901. A new vestry was built in 1911 and a anew church room in 2006 was constructed. As the church grew it furnishings-from the porch to stained glass windows and font-were moved about making it quite difficult to appreciate the church in its original form. The interior is dominated by the huge 5 light window ( Tree of Jesse) by C.E. Kempe and Co. Beneath it is the find reredos of alabaster by Farmer and Brindley with Opus Sectile work by Powell’s –not surprising because the Powell family of Speldhurst were connected to the famous firm which also of course led them to Burne Jones. Powell’s also supplied some of the other windows in the church.



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

Date: January 27,2019


On August 2,1922 the American 4 part play ‘The Piper’ by Josephine Preston Peabody (1874-1922) was performed in the beautiful grounds of Chancellor House on St John’s Road. This event was attended by a large audience and enjoyed by all.

Although this article concentrates on the play performance itself information is given about the author of the book ‘ The Piper ‘ first published in 1909 and a brief overview of Chancellor House.

During the event local photographer Christopher John Durrant of St James Park took a series of photographs of the event, which images were turned into postcards. The numbering of his cards indicates that he produced at least nine images of the event. One of the images appeared in the Chronicle of August 2,1922 below a description of the event.


The Courier of July 28,1922 reported ‘Pastoral Play- On Wednesday August 2 at 6pm a Pastoral Play entitled ‘The Piper’ will be performed by kind permission in the grounds of Chancellor House for the benefit of the General Hospital (image opposite). There will be some 70 performers”.

The Courier of August 2,1922 reported “ ‘The Piper’ at Chancellor House- An excellent performance –The beautiful grounds of Chancellor House formed a most appropriate setting for a performance of ‘The Piper’ on Wednesday evening in aid of the General Hospital. A large audience was present including Miss Parsonage and Miss Millingtow, Miss Ross, Mrs Pearce, Mr. E.G. Bretheston, Mr. J.J. Webb and Mrs R.C. Dawson. “The Piper’ is an American version of the famous ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ by J.P. Peabody and was in four acts. All of the members of the long cast did well and the many and amusing dramatic situations were carried through with zeal and gusto. The scenery and dresses added materially to the success of the production. The scenes were on open space showing the road between Hamelin and Rudershelm and in the woods.” Given after this was a long list of performers. “ The members of the Pembury Choral Society performed as townsfolk of Hamelin. The play was produced by Miss Brenee-Tower and Miss S.L. Thompson. An orchestra, under the direction of Miss Northey gave some well-rendered selections, the musicians being the Misses Northey, Ferguson, Lowden, Leshley,MN. Lilley, G. Lilley, Garnall and Lurston. The whole function was under the general direction and organization of Mrs Robert Webb of Frant Road, to whom great credit is due for a most successful effort”. Although a photograph appeared below this article showing the members of the cast it was of such poor quality that it could not be shown here, but was one of several photographs taken by Mr. Durrant.


Josephine Preston Peabody, (born May 30, 1874, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.—died Dec. 4, 1922, Cambridge, Mass.), American writer of verse dramas and of poetry that ranged from precise, ethereal verse to works of social concern. Her book ‘ The Piper A Play in Four Act’ first came out in 1909 and has republished again in subsequent years. Shown in this section are three book covers, one of which has a photograph of her, and also a larger image of her.

Peabody grew up in Brooklyn until 1884, when the death of her father and the consequent poverty of her family forced them to move to the home of her maternal grandmother in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Peabody had absorbed her parents’ love of literature and the theatre, and she read and wrote constantly. Her first published work was a poem that appeared in The Woman’s Journal in 1888, when she was 14 years old. Her formal schooling nearly ended with three years at the Girls’ Latin School in Boston (1889–92), but, after poems of hers had been accepted by the Atlantic Monthly and Scribner’s Magazine in 1894, Peabody was enabled by a patron to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge as a special student (1894–96). Her first volume of verse, The Wayfarers (1898), was followed by Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1900), a one-act play built on Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Marlowe (1901), a verse play on Christopher Marlowe. From 1901 to 1903 she lectured on poetry and literature at Wellesley (Massachusetts) College.

After a European tour in 1902 Peabody produced The Singing Leaves (1903), a collection of poems. Her early verse shows the influences of Shakespeare, Robert Browning, and the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Christina Rossetti; it is marked by delicacy, clarity, and a certain otherworldliness. In 1906 Peabody married Lionel S. Marks, a Harvard engineering professor. In 1908 she published The Book of the Little Past, a collection of poems for children, and in 1909 The Piper, a verse drama on the Pied Piper legend, which won the Stratford Prize Competition and was produced at theatres in London and New York City. The Singing Man, a collection of poems exhibiting Peabody’s growing concern with social injustice, appeared in 1911. Her other works include The Wings (1907), a verse drama; The Wolf of Gubbio (1913), a drama about St. Francis of Assisi; Harvest Moon (1916), poems; The Chameleon (1917), a comedy; and Portrait of Mrs. W. (1922), a play about Mary Wollstonecraft.


Details about Christopher John Durrant, his family and career presented here were originally given in my article ‘ Christopher John Durrant- A Tunbridge Wells Photographer’ dated March 2, 2016. Shown in this section are two of a series of postcards he produced for the play The Piper, which bear that name and the date “July 1922”. 

Christopher John Durrant was born in Rushtall, Kent in the 1st qtr of 1886. He was one of two children born to Christopher Durrant (1860-1932) and Ann Elizabeth Durrant (1862-1944). Christopher’s father worked all his life as a railway signalman with the London & Brighton and South Coast Railway.

The 1891 census, taken at 76 West Street in East Grinstead, gave Christopher Durrant senior as being born in Groombridge, Kent in 1860 and working as a railway signalman. With him was his wife Ann Elizabeth who had been born in Rotherfiled,Sussex. Also in the home was their two children Christopher John, age 5 and Annie Elizabeth (1887-1964)

The 1901 census, taken at East Grinstead gave Christopher Durrant senior as a railway signalman. With him was his wife Ann; his two children Christopher, who was working as an ironmongers assistant, and Annie who was attending school. Also in the home was one boarder.

The 1911 census, taken at 27 Green Hedges Avenue in East Grinstead, gave Christopher senior as a signalman with the LB and SC railway. With him was his wife Ann; his son Christopher John, who was working as an ironmongers apprentice; his daughter Annie Elizabeth Emily Durrant, who was working as a milliner. Also present was a 17 year old young lady who was working as a milliners assistant. The family were living in premises of 5 rooms and the census recorded that the couple had been married 26 years and had only the two children.

In the 3rd qtr of 1914 Christopher John Durrant married Ellen Dale (1885-1967) at Faversham, Kent. Christopher and Ellen had a son Gordon John Durrant (1916-1992) who later was married and had two sons. Gordon had been born August 12,1916 in Surrey and married Violet Irene Perry (1921-2000). Gordon died in the 3rd qtr of 1992 at Ringwood and Fordingbridge,Hampshire.

Ellen Dale had been born in Sheldwich,Kent and was one of at least six children born to Henry Dale, a gardener domestic, and Mary J Dale. Ellen lived most of her life before the time of her marriage in Sheldwich and in 1911 was working as a domestic servant. Ellen died in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1963.

Examples of the photographic work of Christopher John Durrant are difficult to find. Details about when he began working in Tunbridge Wells as a photographer were not established. An article by Keith Hetherington that appeared in Vol 20 of Bygone Kent a few years ago gave this  “ Christopher John Durrant…..Another local man who spent his whole life as a photographer was Christopher John Durrant. Working from his studio at 106 St James Park, he photographed any events that happened in the town. These he would supply to the local paper or bring them out as postcards. Some of his photos were also used to illustrate local publications. In 1948 he retired, to concentrate his time on following the fortunes of the town cricket team and to indulge his other hobby, playing bowls for the Grove Bowling Club. He was eighty-one when he died in 1967.” Death records show that his death was registered in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1967.

No directory listings of him as a photographer were found in local directories. St James Park was a residential subdivision and so obviously his studio was in his home.

At some point in his career he formed a partnership with a Mr Cox and during that time operated as Cox & Durrant and produced CDV’s.

The last piece of information for Christopher is his probate record that gave him of 32 Princess Street,Tunbridge Wells when he died on April 12,1967 at the Kent & Sussex Hospital. The executor of his 3,798 pound estate was his son Gordon John Durrant, airline area manager. He was likely cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium and his urn buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.


Details about Chancellor House were given in my article ‘ The History of Chancellor House’ dated August 16,2012. That article is reproduced below.

[A] Overview

Chancellor House was an impressive mansion located in Mount Ephraim on a large estate. It had been built for 1st Baron George Jefferies in the 1600's although it is said he never lived there. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor from which position the mansion in Tunbridge Wells was named, a name that stuck with the place for all of its existence.The mansion was one of the finest ones in the town and until its demolition in or shortly before 1930 it was the residence of many notable people- from Jefferies " The hanging Judge" to  Rachel Beer "The First Lady of Fleet Street" with the residents in the intervening years being people from the upper class, the gentry, and those who made their financial fortunes in business, and for good measure the mansion has seen its share of well- known military men. It has certainly been a residence occupied by "colourful characters" and dominated a spot on Mount Ephraim that could be seen for quite some distance. Shown here is an image of the mansion taken in the 1900's which appeared in a book entitled "Rachel Beer; First Lady of Fleet Street.

Today the former site of the mansion is occupied by another Chancellor House but this time it is a 5 storey residential building constructed in 1930 and consists of 52 expensive flats constructed near the present site of the former Wellington Hotel.However, not all traces of the former grand estate have been erased for its Gardeners House, Coachmans House and Stable House have survived the wrecking ball and are still in use today as private residences.

[B] Description of the Mansion

Peltons 1839 map of the town clearly shows the location and to some degree the shape and size of the building. From this map it can be seen that the mansion was located off Mount Ephraim Road on a long private lane that snaked its way back from the road a considerable distance.Comapring the size of the residence to others in the area I am of the opinion that is was the largest of them all. The irregular shape of the building confirms,at least in my mind, that the historical account of the building being enlarged and improved on by a former resident is correct for most of the buildigns along Mount Ephraim were of a more simple rectangur shape. It certainly was in an excellent location on high ground overlooking the expansive and scenic Tunbridge Wells Common.

The mansion  was built of stone, probably local Tunbridge Wells Limestone, and as can be seen from an early 20th century photograph was three storeys high and at the time the photograph was taken was covered on the front by ivy. It is known that it was located on a very large grounds exceeding 5 acres for the new Chancellor House I referred to at the top of this article is on 5 acres and that does not include the parts of the former estate that were divided off over the years not the area of the land occupied by the mansions former Gardeners House, Coachman’s House and stable block. These three outbuildings that still exist today as private residences would have formed part of the outbuildings of the original estate and there may have been other less significant outbuildings on the site that have not survived the passage of time .

It is known from mentions made of Chancellor House early directories that the building had been altered. Colbran's Handbook of 1855 for example gives " Chancellor House stands in some extensive grounds near Nye's Tunbridge Ware Manufactory. It was formerly the residence of Judge Jefferies. It afterwards became the property of Sir Richard Heron, Bart, who considerably enlarged and improved it". A further account appeared in "Tunbridge Wells and its Neighbourhood in 1810" by Paul Amsinck,Esq. in which he states "Another place on Mount Ephraim, worthy of some remark, is that which was the property and residence of the late Sir Richard Heron,Bart. The original of this house (which has been added to and diminished till a very small part of the first structure remains) was built for the celebrated or rather infamous Judge Jefferies; and, in consequence, long retained the name of Chancellor's House;though it does not appear that it was ever occupied by him.It was, till purchased about thirty years since by Mr Heron,only a lodging house. It was again let during his absence in Ireland,as secretary to the Earl of Buckinghhamshire. During his residence there he was created a baronet; and ,on his return,meaning to make this place his future summer residence, he considerably enlarged it. A part of his improvements here was effected with materials brought from the magnificent seat of Sir Gregory Page, on Blackheath;the doors,floors,chimnies etc, having originally formed part of that ill-fated mansion. It is to be lamented, however, that so little should have been done for the real improvement of this place; which affords capabilities equal to any in the vicinity. The ground is beautifully varied; and the views towards Holmedale, and the Kentish and Surrey Hills,are various, and extensive. On this spot was the original bowling green, (the ballroom and other accommodations being in the adjoining range of building,now occupied by the manufactory (referring here to Tunbridge Ware)). and in later times, in the valley behind the house, were the fish ponds; a place of public resort,for variety of amusements; which have been discontinued since the property has fallen into private hands. In the valley between the house and the fish-ponds there is a well of the finest and purest water".

The last description of the estate is given by Colbran in the 1840 " New Guide for Tunbridge Wells" in which is given the following; " Chancellor House, the residence of W.W. Pattesson, Esq., stands in some extensive grounds near the Tunbridge Ware manufactory. It was formerly the residence of Judge Jefferies, who’s name is "damned to everlasting fame" for the barbarities practiced by him in the West of England and elsewhere, when trying the prisioners taken during the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth in 1635.It afterwards became the property of Sir Richard Heron, Bar., who considerably enlarged and improved it. There is a marble chimney piece in the dining room, and one in the drawing room, which were purchased with the mahogany doors and window shutters from the mansion of Sir Gregory Page Turner, at Blackheath.The chimney pieces are beautifully carved-in with fruits, flowers etc-the other has a square tablet of white marble in the centre, on which appears a group of boys, one of whom is frightening his companions by concealing himself behind a sheet-their appearance and attitudes are extremely natural".

For  art enthusiasts there is a watercolour entitled " In the Grounds of Chancellor House" dated circa 1835 by a Mrs Cox. I have recently seen it advertised for sale by one of the art auction houses but unfortunately they were not prepared to send me an image of it and the one on the website was not of sufficient size and quality to reproduce. Im sure the grounds looked spectacular with an assortment of trees,shrubs and flowers proporgated by or at least tended to by the estates head gardeneer and his assistants. Im also sure that given the status of the residents that on the premises would have been a fine carriage or two and the best team of horses money could buy to pull it with well constructed stables to keep them in and a good coachmans house for the coachman and his groom to live in with their families.

Another clue as to how the estate grounds have changed is found in an article by the Friends of the Commons about the Wellington Hotel. It says of the hotel " Built in around 1873, partly on the site of a pair of houses called Gilead Place, and partly in the grounds of Chancellor House, the property originally formed a mansion block of eight terraced houses..."

[C] The Estate Residents

I have provided here a brief overview of the various known residents of Chancellor House, arranged in more or less chronological order. For some more notable residents of the house there is extensive information available about them on the internet or in books so if you are interested in more detail I would suggest you check out the other sources of reference material to get the complete picture of their life and career.


As noted above he was the one who had Chancellor House built but seems to have never occupied the mansion himself . Nonetheless, here are a few words about him. He was a Welsh Judge known as "The hanging judge". During the reign of King James II he became Lord Chancellor and it is from that position that he named the mansion Chancellor House. He came from a father and grandfather that were High Sherriff's and Chief Justices. He had been educated at Shrewsbury School from 1682-1689; attended St Paul's School in London from 1659-1661 and Westminster School in London 1661-1662.He became an undergraduate at Trinity College Cambridge University in 1662 but left after one year without graduating and entering the Inner Temple for law in 1663. In 1667 he married Arah Needham or Needham and had seven children by her before she died in 1678. George married again this time to Ann the widow of Sir John Jones of Fonmon Castle, Glamorgan. George's career makes for interesting reading but neadless to say he got his reputation for issuing 144 death sentences in the 1685 trial of captured rebels.When James II fled the country during the "Glorious Revolution" Jefferies tried to do the same but was unsuccessful and begged his captors for protection from the mob. Jefferies died of kidney disease while in custody in the Tower of London April 18,1689. So based in the birth and death dates of Jefferies the construction of Chancellor House dates back  to the mid to late 1600's.

(2) SIR RICHARD HERON (1726-1805)

Sir Richard Heron  was a politician in the Kingdom of Ireland. He was the youngest son of Robert Heron of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1748, made a Commissioner of Bankruptcy in 1751 and a Remembracer in the Exchequer in 1754. He sat on the Irish House of Commons as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Lisburn from 1777 to 1783, and served as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1776 to 1780. He was sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1777 and was made a Baronet in 1778 of Newark-upon-Trent.He died in 1805 at his home in London. He had married Jane, widow of Stephen Thompson,daughter and coheir of Abraham Hall. He had no children. We have only the historical accounts in Peltons and others to rely upon regarding his residency at Chancellor House.


John Reid Becher was born at sea in the English Channel in 1819. His father was Colonel John Becher who belonged to the Bengal Cavalry and of his 10 sons eight of them entered various branches of the East India Company's service, including his son John. John was brought up by an uncle at Chancellors House in Tunbridge Wells. John was partly educated at Brice Castle in Tunbridge Wells-a school of which the famous Rowland Hill of post office celebrity was one of the originatiors. John entered Addiscombe early 1836; passed out the end of 1837. He was an accomplished amateur artist. He arrived in India in 1839 and joined the headquarters of the Bengal Sappers at Delhi. After the return of the army John was employed on occasional surveys and was an Engineer of Public Works and passed through the ranks in the military until finally achieving the rank of General.

After returning to England in 1860 he lasted a further 24 years but was in ill health and no doubt during that time retired to live at Chancellor House in Tunbridge Wells to recover. In May 1884 he took seriously ill at Southampton.He had taken part in almost every campaign in India from 1839 to 1858 and had  been severely wounded. He died July 9,1884 at Southampton and was buried there.He left an estate valued at about 9,000 pounds. Sir Arthur Mitford Beecher,Johns brother was the executor of his estate. John had been married  as he is noted in the 1881 census as being married but his wife was not with him when the census was taken and I have no information about her, The Jackson's Oxford Journal of April 10,1847 gives the following " Deaths-At Sunny Hill, Louisa, relic of the late Robert Becher,Esq, of Chancellor House, Tunbridge Wells". And also  from the same journal but dated January 15,1831 is " Marriage-at Reading Thomas Kirby RN of Mayfield Essex to Louisa Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the late R. Becher of the Hon East India Company".

The 1861 census records him living as a visitor at Croydon,Surrey as a retired General with Her Majesty's Service.He is living there with many others at the Addiscumbe Military Seminary. John retired from military life in 1866.The 1881 census records him living at Brighton,Sussex. John seemed to move around alot as civilian life did not suite him.

Other clues as to the dates of  residency at Chancellor House are found in Colbrans 1844 directory which states that Richard Beacher is a resident of Chancellor House. A publication entitled " A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1811 gives Charles Becher, Esq, Chancellor House,Tunbridge Wells as a subscriber to the publication. These men may be brothers of John Reid Becher.There is also an 1823 listing for John Becher, Esq., Chancellor House, Tunbridge Wells".

(4) JOB MATHEW RAIKES (1767-1833)

As can be seen from the image shown here Raikes is a rather dashing figure. This image is a portrait which sold at auction for over 43,000 pounds .The auction house gave the following information. " The sitter was Job Mathew Raikes, the son of William Raikes(1738-1800) of Valentines, Essex, a director of the nephew of Robert Raikes(1735-1811) and proprietor of the Gloucester Journal. Job Mathew Raikes, was of Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire and Chancellor House in Tunbridge Wells".

Job Mathew Raikes was born July 12,1767 at Woodford, Essex. He was the son of William Raikes and Martha Pelly Mathew who were married in 1766 and had 3 sons and three daughters. Job Raikes married Charlotte Susan Bayly (sometimes given as Bayley)June 30,1798 in St Mary's Woodford. She was born 1770 in Jamaica to a wealthy plantation owner. She died August 8,1834 at Woodford,Essex.

Job and Charlotte produced nine children among whom were Charles Raikes(1812-1885) who was a well -known writer about India and who had entered the Bengal Cavalry in 1830. After a career in India he retired from civil service in 1860 and then became a magistrate for Wiltshire and Sussex.

Job Mathew Raikes died October 1,1833 at Marsailles, France. In 1829 Job was one of the directors of the South Sea Comapny in London. In 1811 he had been one of the managers of the 'London Institute for the advancement of Literature and the diffusion of useful knowledge'.In 1811 he was one of the vice presidents of the Vaccine and Fever Institution and in 1821 a committee member of the Marine Society.

His residency at Chancellor House in Tunbridge Wells is entirely attributed by me to the information given about him in relation to the painting of him.

(5)  QUEEN MARIE AMELIA (1782-1866)

Her residency at Chancellor House, albeit a rather unusual one, is attributed to Peltons Guide of Tunbridge Wells which states "Queen Marie Amelia, the relict of Louis Philippe with her family and suite, for several seasons before her death made Chancellor House her summer resort".

Sometimes known as Maria Amelia of the Two Sicilies she was a Princess of Naples and Sicily and later the Queen of the French from 1830 to 1848, consort to Louis Philippe I. She was born April 26,1782 at the Caserta Palace just outside of Naples. Her father was King Ferdinand IV and III of Naples and Sicily.Her mother was Maria Carolina of Austria, an Austrial archduchess and daughter of Francis I,Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Maria Amelia was one of nine children in the family.

On the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 her aunt and uncle were executed and her parents joined the First Coalition against France in 1793.Although peace was made with France in 1796 by 1798 conflict was again fierce and so the family decided to flee to the Kingdom of Sicily. While on the ship her brother Alberto died. Marie Amelia was forced to leave her home at the age of 18 and for the next five years jumped from various royal dwellings to escape turbulent times in Italy. It was while in flight that she encountered her future husband who had also been forced from his home in France.The two were married in 1809.In 1814 she and her husband went to live in France.In 1830 Louis-Philippe became king of France with Maria Amelia as his consort and queen of the Monarchy.After her husband was forced from kingship in 1848 the royal family fled to England with Louis Philippe dying two years later. It was during the years of 1848 to 1866 that the "Queen" spent her summers at Chancellor House in Tunbridge Wells.


This gentleman proved to be a real challenge to trace. His name is also given in accounts as W.W. PATTERSON which did not make the job any easier. His residency at Chancellor House is recorded in the Colbran 1840 Guide which I have given the details of earlier suggesting the way it is written that sometime just before the guide was written Mr Pattisson was the current resident of the mansion. There is also a listing in 1840 Pigots directory for a W. Pattison,Esq at Chancellor House.Since Colbran’s of 1844 says that at that time the mansion was occupied by Richard Becher then it would be safe to conclude that Pattisson was there sometime in the period from 1840 and earlier. A search of the census records of 1841 for Tunbridge Wells did not result in finding anyone by this name or variations of it.

(7) OSWALD MOSLEY (1804-1856)

Oswald was born December 2,1804  at Rolleston,Staffordshire and was christened there on December 4th.. He was the son of Oswald Mosley (1785-1871) and Sophia Anne Every (1780-1859) and was one of ten children in the family. He was married August 11,1835 at St Marylebone, London to Maria Deborah Bradshaw who died November 21,1855.

The 1851 census taken at Tunbridge Wells records him living at Chancellor House with his wife Maria and seven servants. Oswald is given as a magistrate and deputy Lieut. for the County of Staffordshire. Oswald died September 25,1856 at Burton upon Trent,Staffordshire.

(8) WILLIAM HENRY DIXON (1809-1867)

William is found at Chancellor House in the Kelly directories of 1862 and 1867. In 1874 the mansion was occupied by Edward Dunbar Kilburn. When one left and the other arrived is not known to me.

William was born May 11,1809 at St Pancras,London to Henry and Hannah Dixon and had a sister.William was baptised at St Pancras,London on November 24,1809.nOn April 30,1836 William married Sophia Wathen. Williams father died February 1848 and his mother April 27,1850.

In 1841 he was working as a solicitor. By 1851 he had retired and in that year was living at Clapham,Surrey.The 1861 census taken at Chancellor House,Tunbridge Wells records the presence of William Henry Dixon,age 51, a fundholder. Living with him is is wife Sophia A. Dixon.born 1813 Strand,Glouchestershire and their daughter Adelade Elizabeth Dixon, born 1842 in London. Also present in the mansion is one visitor and five servants. Also on the estate at Coachmans house is Thomas Eldride with his wife and two children, and at the estates Gardeners House is Frederick Maynard, his wife and five children.

William and his wife had two children in total. In addition to his daughter Adelade(sometimes given as Adeline) he had a son Edward H.W. Dixon born in 1839.

William Henry Dixon died December 1867 at Ticehurst,Sussex.


Edward was born May 27,1822 at Hampstead,London.His parents were Thomas Kilburn (1786-1830) and Catherine Ward or Wood, born 1789. Edward was one of ten children born to the couple and also had a half sibling.

Edward had been married twice. Details about his first wife are unknown but he had two children by her. His second wife was Annie Sophia Walford,born 1834 who he married in about 1866. With Annie he produced five children. In 1871 he was living at Folkestone,Kent but came to Tunbridge Wells and lived at Chancellor House. He is found at Chancellor House in the 1881 census,age 58, and shown as an East India Merchant. With him is his wife Annie, their four children and nine servants. Edward continued to live at Chancellor house at the time of the 1891 census but in 1901 was in London as an East India Merchant employer with seven servants. Edward died March 1912 at Paddington,London.

Edward had quite a business career. He went to India in 1849 and became senior partner in Shane Kilburn & Co. ; Kilburn & Co; and Kilburn Brown & Co. His companies were in the business of being East India merchants of Calcutta, India and London,England. Edward was also a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. In the London Gazette of August 1,1873 was an announcement that " Notice is given that the partnership between Edward Dunbar Kilburn, Henry Tolputt, and Henry Frances Brown as East India and General Commission Metrchants at London under the name of Edward D. Kilburn & Co and at Manchester, Lancaster and also at Calcutta, India under the name of Schoene,Kilburn and Co has this day (April 30,1873) been dissolved by mutual agreement and the busines will continue by Edward D. Dixon and Henry Francis Brown under the name of Edward D. Kilburn and Co and at Calcutta as Schoene,Kilburn & Co.".

(10) RACHEL BEER (1858-1927)

Rachel Beer was a fascinating woman who saw great success in the newspaper business until her husband passed away and she had a mental breakdown. Her family had her declared insane and she was sent off to Tunbridge Wells with a staff of caregivers to live out her remaining years.

Rachel Beer is the last known resident of Chancellor House. She was still living in London until about the end of 1902.Although she is not found in a 1903 directory for Tunbridge Wells she is recorded by the authors of the book "Rachel Beer; First Lady of Fleet Street as having taken a short lease on Earl's Court on Mount Ephraim Road and that sometime after May 19,1903 barrister Thomas H Fisher,the Master in Lunacy,"took the trouble to see Mrs Beer at her home in Earl's Court,Tunbridge Wells". A week later,Fisher declared Rachel to be "a person of unsound mind...".By 1904 Rachel had moved to new premises at Chancellor House and remained there the rest of her life.Much,but not all ,of the information given below is based on the above mentioned book.There are a number of articles about her on the internet.

Rachel Beer(nee Sassoon) was born into a wealthy Jewish family 1858 at Bombay,India. She was the daughter of David Sassoon(1832-1867) and Flora Reuban(1838-1919). Her father, of the Iraqi Sassoon family, one of the wealthiest families of the 19th century, became known as the "Rothchild of the East". As a young woman she volunteered as a nurse in a hospital.

She married the wealthy financier Frederick Arthur Beer,an Anglican Christian, in 1887 and spent her married life in London. She converted to Christianity, something which resulted in great personal turmoil in her life for her family were so displeased by this that they refused to have anything further to do with her,disowned her, and she lived almost in complete isolation from her relatives for the rest of her life. Soon after her marriage Rachel began contributing articles to The Observer,which the Beer family owned and in 1891 she took over as the newspaper’s editor,becoming the first female editor of a national newspaper. Two years later she became the owner of the Sunday Times and became the editor of it as well.It was during her time as editor that The Observer achieved one of its greatest exclusives;the admissions by Count Esterhazy that he had forged the letters that condemned innocent Jewish officer Captain Dreyfus to Devil's Island. The storey provoked an international outcry and led to the release and pardon of Dreyfus and court martial of Esterhazy. During her newspaper career Rachel reported on many other "contraversial" matters relating to faults in the political system as just one example. She won both acclaim and great criticism and was not accepted in an industry which until then had been male dominated. In today’s language she had "broken through the glass ceiling" and became the "First Lady of Fleet Street".

In December 1901  her husband Frederick passed away and was buried in the Highgate Cemetery in London. Exhausted, malnourished and deeply depressed Rachel suffered what we would call today a nervous breakdown but her family saw things differently. They had her declared insane; appointed an administrator to manage and dispose of much of her estate(including the two newspapers),took advantage of the situation for their own financial gain and then sent Rachel off to Tunbridge Wells with a personal assistant and two nurses.

Rachel took up residence at Chancellor House with her aides in 1904 and although she subsequently recovered to some degree she lived the rest of her live at the mansion. The 1911 census records her at the mansion and with her was her personal aid Ethel Marguerite Ross and two "mental nurses" and five domestic servants. Ethel is also given in the census as a Mental nurse"In care of" (Rachel Beer) but I was not able to confirm she had any medical training and was in fact a "nurse" and in my opinion was more of a personal aid/caregiver to Rachel.

Rachel's life in Tunbridge Wells improved and she began to take some part in the life of the town,albeit in a very sedate way. In the summer, everybody came out to see and be seen during cricket week which took place not far from her residence. In the autumn, they all drove for fox hunting to Eridge Park, the home of the Marquess of Abergavenny. Accompanied by Miss Ross, Rachel would come to meet the hounds in her smart,four-wheeled dogcart, with a pair of high-stepping horses. As her nephew Siegried trotted past her, she appeared uninterested-"her large dark eyes would stare at me,apathetic and unreconizing,from under a hat of the latest mode. Someone was sitting there, but it was only a brooding sallow stranger,cut off from the rest of the world". To the three pianos that she had brought with her from the house in London, Rachel now added a two-manned chamber organ, which had been expicially built by Walker and Sons to suit the acoustics of her lounge.She would play the grand instrument, and she would also invite the organist of St Mark's Church, the well- known William Wooding Starmer, to entertain small groups of guests for the sake of charity. With her concern for the future of women still intact, she joined other ladies of the town in giving financial support to the Leisure Hours Club, which offered young working-class girls a safe haven from pubs,alcohol and men.

Though far from the front, Tunbridge Wells was made well aware of the ravages of WW1, and Rachel did all she could to help. As the war progressed large numbers of wounded men came to Tunbridge Wells for treatment and to recover which put a strain on the local hospital facilities. Most of the men were brought to the Rust Hall VAD hospital which eventually could not cope with the numbers. Rachel Beer came to the rescue by becoming a major benefactor of the hospital and when it became too small to accommodate the huge number of wounded, she paid for the rent of additional grounds, as well as for two hostels for the nurses.A new ward, which she financed and equipped, was to be named after her. Rachel's assistant Miss Ross arranged concerts,entertainments and fancy dress competitions in the town's opera house and at Parish Hall for the wounded soldiers. Among the interesting objects found today at St Paul's Church is a Red Cross flag that once flew over the Rust Hall VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) that Rachel did so much to support. Rachel was a very generous women ,and for someone in such a poor physical and mental state and nearing the end of her life, she deserves great credit and recognition for what she did for the town.

In May 1924 word spread to the Sassoon family that Rachel didnt't have long to live and Siegfried, Rachel's nephew, far from being upset by the news, wrote in his diary that he hoped he and his brothers would get their aunt's money soon stating "We have been waiting for it about 20 years". On April 27,1927 Rachel Beer of Chancellor House passed away after suffering from stomach cancer and then dying of heart failure. She had no children and two members of the Sassoon family became the executors of her estate valued at the time of death of about 318,000 pounds. Despite wishing to be buried with her husband, her family had her interred in the Sassoon family mausoleum in Brighton upon which is simply marked the words "Daughter of the late David Sassoon".

It wasnt until recently that historians began to take a serious interest in Rachel's life. For anyone interested in a more detailed account I can suggest "First Lady of Fleet Street" A Biography of Rachel Beer by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev, a 526 page book about her. I have also written a separate article about her which was posted to my website that has as its central focus her life in Tunbridge Wells.

(11)1930 AND BEYOND

The death of Rachel Beer in 1927 appears to have coincided with what would soon become the demise of Chancellor House for sometime soon after her death the mansion was sold to developers who obtained planning permission to demolish the the old mansion and construct a new building.

In 1930 demolition of the old mansion was complete and in that year a new 5 storey stone structure was constructed on the footprint of the old mansion which from that time onward has been a multi-unit residential building, consisting of 52 luxury flats located on five acres of property. A recent image of the building is shown here and it was and still is known as Chancellor House. Flats in the building command very high prices so one needs to have a lot of dosh to live there.

It has been many "famous" residents itself over the years such as Brigadier Stephen Hensley Longrigg(1893-1979) the Oxford University graduate who spent his life in the Iraq oil industry and wrote many books about Iraq,the oil industry and other parts of the middle east. Another author F William Cock M.D. F.S.A. lived there and published a long list of articles and books in the 1920's and 30's.

As mentioned at the top of this article the Gardeners House, Coachman’s House and the Stable Mews that once were on the old estate are today used as private residences. I have included in this article a current photograph of the Gardeners House that was recently offered for sale by a local estate agent. White a quaint little place!


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

Date: January 30,2019


Waiting for a bus where there is no bus shelter has seldom been a pleasant experience particularly in harsh weather where passengers are left waiting for extended periods of time exposed to the pelting rain and strong winds. The experience is made even worse when you are laden down with shopping or in care of young children where there is no place to sit and rest.

It may surprise those using the bus today that there were no bus shelters in Tunbridge Wells until the 1940’s. Appeals for bus shelters in the town first appeared in 1938, a cause championed by the Kent & Sussex Courier, but their arrival was hampered by concerns over who should pay for them, their use for immoral acts, the shortage of materials to due to WWII, where and how many of them were to be provided. The debate continued until finally the Courier of September 18,1942 announced “ Bus shelters at last” but that was not the end of it for the first bus shelters were not installed until 1944.

In this article I provide some background information about the history of bus shelters in England and then details with photographs about bus shelters in Tunbridge Wells.


Nobody knows where and when the first bus shelter was installed in England but most likely it was in London in the WWII era.

From an excerpt in a publication entitled ‘Public Space Amenities’ it was stated “ A good bus shelter is an essential part of any successful urban mass-transit system. What constitutes "good," however, depends upon your point of view. From the perspective of the city agency that is responsible for its management, a good shelter is one that has low maintenance requirements and is vandal-resistant. From the rider's point of view, an ideal shelter is one that allows visibility and easy access to the bus, is comfortable and convenient, provides clear information, and is safe. Both viewpoints are equally important to consider, because an unused shelter is a waste of money and an unnecessary maintenance problem. A well-designed, comfortable shelter can make waiting for a bus a pleasant -- and even interesting -- experience! Unfortunately, many poorly designed shelters also exist. No uniform design of bus shelters was established and over the years they came in a wide variety of sizes and built on various materials. Trash dumped near bus shelters, as can be seen above, is a constant problem as is vandalism as shown in the photo opposite.

The earliest bus shelters were rather crude utilitarian structures. Many with corrugated iron roofs supported on a metal framework with no windows or screening from the wind. They kept you dry though and in some cases a hard bench was provided as seating. The early shelters were free of advertising, apart from a sign providing information to passengers on bus times and routes. Later their design became more elaborate with either glass or Plexiglas panels on the sides with a flat roof or in later years a more attractive shelter with a clear round top to better shed the rain.

Bus shelters were once boringly functional affairs, built solely by local councils. Some were iron-and-glass edifices covered in peeling municipal green paint; others were made of brick; some in rural areas even had thatched roofs. Then in 1969, two advertising billboard companies, More O’Ferrall and London and Provincial, joined together to form a company called Adshel. The idea behind the new firm was simple: Adshel would supply bus shelters to local authorities for nothing, in return for the right to display advertising on them. In the early 1970s, it began installing its first shelters in Leeds, which is why the Adshel bus shelters in Leeds are still numbered “0001”. The ads were displayed in “6-sheet” panels - now universally known as “Adshels”, whether they adorn shelters or other places like supermarkets and motorway service stations. Shown opposite is a bus shelter of the unique style, located on London Road in Southborough just past the fountain.

Bus-shelter ads really started to boom in the 1980s. In 1984 Adshel launched a campaign for a fictitious product called “Amy”. Market research revealed an impressive awareness of this imaginary product among the public – and since it could only have come from bus shelters, it proved the value of advertising in them. Then, in 1988, a new data system called OSCAR (Outdoor Site Classification and Audience Research) provided information on vehicle and pedestrian traffic for poster sites. This allowed advertisers to direct their campaigns at passing pedestrians and motorists as well as bus users. Bus shelters soon had illuminated posters and cantilevered roofs so the adverts could be seen by everyone.

Adshel and its rival firm JCDecaux now supply most of Britain’s bus shelters. The bus shelter is no longer just somewhere to wait for a bus; it has become a marketing opportunity. These two firms have built themselves into global brands – bus-shelter builders to the world. They are increasingly branching out into other types of street furniture, one of the fastest growing areas of the advertising industry. In a post-Thatcherite world in which local authorities contract out many of their public services to private companies, our towns and cities are being colonised by advert-laden objects – not just bus shelters but automatic toilets, benches and litter bins.

Sean Skipton wrote “I think bus shelters are much more ephemeral structures than they used to be, as are many (post-)modern artefacts. Not just in terms of materials, but also location (here today and gone tomorrow). Function is an interesting one. In rural areas, where bus services are notable by their absence, bus shelters tend to be more solid structures and have long been used as community noticeboards. Now with the prospect of more bus services disappearing, the function of the bus shelter, solid or transient, is likely to become even more of a site for advertisers.”

Another wrote “Growing up in the middle of nowhere in the 1970s, with only two buses a week, the deserted bus shelter was also a place for teenagers to hang/make out. With the decimation of rural public transport, & the subsequent demise of the rural bus shelter, teenager dependency and supervision has increased. The sexual history of the bus shelter is probably nearing its end.”

From the website Wikipedia is given “ Bus stop infrastructure ranges from a simple pole and sign, to a rudimentary shelter, to sophisticated structures. The usual minimum is a pole mounted flag with suitable name/symbol. Bus stop shelters may have a full or partial roof, supported by a two, three or four sided construction. Modern stops are mere steel and glass/perspex constructions, although in other places, such as rural Britain, stops may be wooden brick or concrete built.

The construction may include small inbuilt seats. The construction may feature advertising, from simple posters, to complex illuminated, changeable or animated displays. Some installations have also included interactive advertising. Design and construction may be uniform to reflect a large corporate or local authority provider, or installations may be more personal or distinctive where a small local authority such as a parish council is responsible for the stop. The stop may include separate street furniture such as a bench, lighting and a trash receptacle.” Shown above are two modern views of bus shelters on Mount Pleasant Road.


From a review of local newspapers covering the period of 1900 to 1949 the first mention of a bus shelter in Tunbridge Wells appeared in the Courier of April 15,1938 stating “ Bus shelters not used by lovers- It was suggested that bus shelters would be used for immoral purposes. A Women’s Institute member however said that bus shelters are not used by lovers as they prefer fields and stiles”  Other issues of the Courier from 1938 onwards called for the provision of bus shelters in the town, a campaign initiated by the Courier itself. Letters to the editor on the subject supported the call for bus shelters. However, the arrival of bus shelters in the town was a slow one. Few could argue against the merits of having bus shelters but concerns were expressed about who should provide them-Local Council or the bus company; who should pay for them . Concerns about maintaining them and vandalism were also expressed. The debate went on and on for years.

Crowding , crushing ,and disorderly conduct at bus stops had long been a concern and it was suggested that some form of action be taken. Among the suggestions was some form of legislation or Act and some suggested that bus shelters may be helpful. Shown above is a photo of a bus queue on Mount Pleasant Road at the Civic Center taken before bus shelters were installed.

The Courier of March 27,1942 reported “ New Bus Stops On Monday-Bus travellers will have to watch their steps in future, otherwise they may be left behind, for the new regulations calling on the public to form queues comes into force officially on April 13th.

The Courier of May 8,1942 reported “ Matter to be persued with Ministry- Ratepayers should pay for the bus shelters or the bus company. We do not think that the poor ratepayer should be made to pay for them. The bus company was run for profit and thought it was the duty of the company to provide the shelters…”

The Courier of September 2,1942 reported on the “crush at bus stops” stating “ Although the introduction of the queue system at stopping places has been appreciated by many of the travelling public it has also led to much grousing and grumbling…”

The Courier of September 11,1942 reported “ When is the Town Council, the bus company, going to provide the sorely tried Tunbridge Wells public with much needed bus shelters?.....

The Courier of September 13,1942 gave a brief article expressing concerns over the cost of bus shelters and who should pay the cost.

The Courier of September 18,1942 gave “ Bus Shelters At Last- To be erected at chief points. For some years the Courier has been advocating the provision of bus shelters in Tunbridge Wells and last week the question was asked “When is the Town Council or the bus company going to provide the bus shelters?”

The Courier of February 12,1943 reported “ Bus Shelters- May we not have some explanation why bus shelters promised in your issue of September 18,1942 have not yet appeared? The local Transport Commissioner guaranteed the material, and corrugated steel sheets have be advertised for. …..”

The Courier of June 2,1944 reported “ The Council agreed to recommend to the Regional Transport Commissioner that bus shelters were needed at the following places-Crowborough Cross, Chelwood Gate,Danehill…..”

The Courier of December 22,1944 reported “ Bus Shelters- The Council agreed to support the Tonbridge Trades Council in their representation top the Maidstone and District Motor Services for the provision of bus shelters at principal bus stops in the Tunbridge Wells Urban and Rural Areas”.

The Courier of December 7,1945 reported “ The present bus shelters could be moved to other convenient places. It was not easy to get materials for bus shelters at the present time, and in his opinion it was far more important to get houses erected than bus shelters”.

The Courier of September 13,1946 gave “ Cost of Bus Shelters- The Council decided to support Hallow Parish Council in their letter asking that legislation should be brought in enabling Parish Councils to contribute half the cost of the erection of bus shelters”. Some others were not in favour of this action.

The Courier of June 4,1948 reported “ Lack of Bus Shelters- Passengers must continue to get wet. Tunbridge Wells Watch Committee has received a letter from the Lord of the Manor answering Council’s offer of rent for land on which to stand bus shelters. His refusal states that…Shown below are two views of bus shelters with corrugated roofs taken outside the Great Hall in 1965.


And so it appears that the first bus shelters erected in Tunbridge Wells was not until 1944 and they were few and far between. The first ones were erected on Mount Pleasant Road beside the Civic Centre and War Memorial. Shown below are some images of this part of town from the 1950’s. At that time the shelters had no glass or Plexiglass on the sides and just a corrugated metal roof. Later others of the same style were erected on the towns main commercial thoroughfares such as Monson Road and  Calverley Road . Additional bus shelters were also installed in front of the Great Hall (image opposite). The exact number of bus shelters installed; their dates of installation and their locations was not established and not doubt these records no longer exist.

Shown below are some other images of bus shelters in the town, in which can be seen the evolution of the design of them. The one on the left was taken in the 1960's on Calverley Road and the one beside it was taken 1963 on Monson Road where the bus shelter can be seen at the rear of the bus.  

Shown below are two images of Mount Pleasant Road taken in the 1940's before the bus shelters were installed.


Shown below are some views of Mount Pleasant Road from the 1950's in which the bus shelters can be seen.

As is always the case nowadays where people congregate trash is a problem even though trash bins are often provide beside or near bus shelters. Reports of vandalism at bus shelters are common, with broken glass or other panels cast about in the street and sidewalks. Spray painting of graffiti on these structures combined with other forms of vandalism cost thousands of pounds a year to fix.



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

Date: January 14,2019


Drum and fife bands date back to at least the 16th century and there were hundreds of them in the UK throughout the 19th and 20th century, but are not as common today. Initially the use of drums and fifes had a military connection, both being found on the battlefield

Fifes originally accompanied companies of men providing music on the march, usually songs from home. Drums have always had a military role going far back into history.

It became customary for each company of 100 or so men to be assigned 2 fifers and 2 drummers to sound signals, hours and alarms, as well as play popular music on the march. When the companies of a Regiment or Battalion were gathered together, it was customary to assemble the fifes and drums from all the companies into a 'band' to march at the head of the column on parade. When a regimental military band (woodwinds and brass) were also present, the fifes and drums marched at the head, followed by the military band. This is still the custom with British Regimental bands. To this day, the drum major's preparatory command to move a British Army band is, "Band and Drums...". This is referring back to the segregation of the fifes and drums as a separate entity from a military band.

Fifes have always been an infantry musical instrument. Assigned at the company level with 1-2 fifes and 1-2 drums per company (or formed as a band at the regimental level), fifes and drums were used to regulate the daily activities of the troops. They signaled when the troops should rise in the morning and retire at night, when to eat, when to assemble, and to sound an alarm. The infantry used the side drums (snare/field, long drum/tenor drum and the bass drum). When detached to the companies, the drummers used only the side drums. Cavalry and Dragoon (mounted infantry) units never used them (only bugles were used).

Most fife and drum corps march in parades, perform concerts in festivals and fairs, and expositions.


Shown above is a postcard view of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Drum and Fife Band  presented on a postcard by Southborough photographer Andre Page who had his studio at 140 London Road. Andre Page was a prolific and talented photographer and many examples of his work, particularly in the 1930’s can be found. The image by him here was taken in Southborough about 1936. During this period various bands of the district held an annual contest in the Calverley Grounds, described in the borough guide as “a memorable occasion, the rival bands making a brave display during their march through the town”. Further information about Andre Page and his career can be found in my article ‘ The Photographic Businesses of 140 London Road Southborough’ dated December 11,2014.

Several references to the Tunbridge Wells (Royal) Drum and Fife Band can be found in local newspaper reports of the 1930’s in connection with the band contests in the Calverley Grounds. 

In Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area, including Southborough, High Brooms, Rusthall etc the Tunbridge Wells Drum and Fife Band (later the Royal Tunbridge Wells Drum and Fife Band) could regularly be found performing in all types of local parades, such as Hospital Sunday Parades, Coronation Parades, Peace Parades. Whit Monday and Cricket Week events often included this band.  A review of local newspapers notes the first mention of this drum and fife band in the Courier of August 25,1899 with the last mention of them on September  29,1939. As no mention of this band was found after that date it appears that the band was disbanded during WWII. Whether it was reformed after the war was not established.

Shown opposite is a photograph of the band  from the 1930’s with related text from the book’ Images of England-Southborough and High Brooms’ by Chris McCooey (1998). As noted in the text many members of the band were residents of Southborough. The band drew upon musicians from Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area.

Apart from local events, the band also performed at events and band competitions in towns beyond Tunbridge Wells. They were always a popular addition to events and in most cases, as noted in Courier accounts of Tunbridge Wells ,that they were one of a number of bands that could be found in each parade through the town.

As members of the band changed regularly no investigation was made of band members throughout its history. It was noted from the Courier of August 18,1939 that the bandmaster was a Mr Hinton.



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