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

Date: December 29,2018


The St Clair Ladies School located at 25 Frant Road and was one of the numerous private educational establishments that have abounded in Tunbridge Wells since Victorian Times.

At the time of the 1911 census the building was described as a 20 room building and as one can see from photographs of it in this article it was a grand building, which before becoming a school was a private residence.

The School began operation in the 1860’s and was run by two spinster sisters, namely Mary Catherine Bingley (1832-1915) and Maria Singleton Bingley (1837-1911). These sisters came from a wealthy family and were the daughters of Francis Edward Bingley (1811-1896) and Mary Singleton (born 1809).  Francis Edward Bingley had financial interests in mines, railways, newspapers, breweries and other ventures and before retiring from business lived and operated primarily in Yorkshire, where both he and his wife and children were born.

When the 1871 census was taken at the “St. Clair Educational School for Young Ladies” at 25 Frant Road, Francis Edward Bingley was a financial agent. With him was his wife Mary and their daughters Mary and Maria who were both “proprietors of a ladies school” and language teachers. At that time 12 girls ranging in age from 11 t0 14 attended the school.   

The two Bingley sisters continued to run the school up to at least 1903 but by 1911 they had moved to Hastings,Sussex where they died. Their father had died in Tunbridge Wells and was buried  March 5,1896.

After the departure of the Bingley sisters, the school was taken over by Carrie Emily Desprez Vickery (1867-1939) who was born in Clifton, Gloucestershire. Carrie was a spinster and was one of several children born in Clifton to Henry Vickery (born 1829), a teacher of music, and Mary Vickery (born 1831).

At the time of the 1901 census Carrie was a teacher at the Hamilton House School in the Woodbury Park area of Tunbridge Wells but by the time of the 1911 census she was the principal of the St Clair school. At that time there were seventeen young ladies at the school who came from various counties in England but also from such places as China, Barbados and India.

Carrie died at the St Clair school March 29,1939.

In the post WWII era 25 Frant Road was converted into office space, a use it retained until 1999 when Berkeley Homes (Kent) Limited purchased the building and obtained approval that year to demolish the former school building. In its place they obtained approval to construct a block of 12 flats called ‘ Beaumont Court’ which use the building retains in 2018.

Shown above is a photograph from the early 1900’s of the St Clair School and shows the back view from the lawn.


No. 25 Frant Road is located on the east side of Frant Road just north of Roedean Road. The location of the building is shown on the 1995 map opposite.

Apart from the photograph of the rear of the building presented in the ‘Overview’ above the best description of the building is from various photographs of it and related text from a Planning Authority application of July 26,1999 by Berkeley Homes (Kent) Limited who sought and received approval on appeal to demolish the building and construct in its place a new building containing 12 flats.  Given in this section is a selection of images of the building taken at a time when it was an office building occupied by the tenant Agra Europe (London) Ltd who were there up to at least 1995 and before them by various other office tenants.

From the planning files the following information was given. “ 15 Frant Road is a substantial detached late Victorian building with later extensions on all elevations. The building is of solid load bearing red brick construction throughout, with yellow stringcourse, under a timber framed and pitched slate tile roof. The main roof comprises a double pitch and valley gutter. Floors throughout the building are of suspended timber construction other than the ground floor or the rear (west) wing and later extensions, which are of solid construction. The building appears to have been constructed for the purpose of a single residence comprising six principal rooms on the ground floor, eight principal rooms on the first floor. The second floor accommodation comprises mansarded rooms within the rear (west) wing and a mansarded attic space within the pitched roof of the main building. On the North elevation there is an external door which appears to lead to a small basement area. The building has long been converted to office use  comprising approximately 5,906 sf. Hot water to the offices was provided by a wall mounted electric “instant” water heaters situated within the toilet and kitchenette area. The offices were heated by a low-pressure water system serving wall mounted electric fan assisted radiators. The boiler room is located to the rear of the ground floor, accessed externally. The first and second floor accommodation is accessed internally via a single ‘open riser’ steel staircase. At the rear of the property is an external open steel fire escape. All of the roofs, including those of the later extensions, are in need of general repair and overhaul.” The report continues with a list of other defects in the buildings gutters, downspouts, chimney stacks, brickwork, windows etc  and noted a woodworm infestation within the roof structure and rising damp as well as building cracking and settlement. Shown below is site map for the new building and a modern photo of it.

There were many objections to the demolition of the old building, including those of the Civic Society who took the position that the building should be repaired and retained . Initially the application was not approved but after resubmission on appeal the applicant was successful in obtaining approval to demolish the old building and proceed with the construction of a new 12 flat building.

As noted in the report above the building has had a number of exterior and interior extensions and alterations over the years, all predating 1999, some of which may have been executed post 1939 when the building was converted from a former school into office premises and some no doubt in the 19th century when the building was converted from a single family home into the St Clair School. 


When the original single family residence was constructed and who occupied it prior to the 1860’s when it became St Clair School was not established but sometime after 1861 and before 1867 it came into ownership of the Bingley family and was converted into a school for ladies.

From local directories and other records the occupancy of buildings by the Bingley family and later Miss Vickery from 1867 to 1939 are given below. In the following sections is to be found information about these occupants.

1867…………Misses Bingley, Frant Road

1871…………Francis Edward Bingley, St Clair Educational Ladies School

1874…………Francis Edward Bingley, 23 Frant Road

1881-1887. Francis Edward Bingley, 22 Frant Road

1891………….Francis Edward Bingley, St Clair, Frant Road

1899-1905…Miss Bingley, 25 Frant Road

1911…………..Carrie E.D. Vickery, St Clair 25 Frant Road

1913-1918….Miss Vickery, 25 Frant Road

1930-1939….Miss C.E. Desprez Vickery, St Clair, 25 Frant Road


For the purpose of this article the patriarch of the family was Benjamin Kennett Bingley (1786-1866) who was born in Hemsworth and died in the 1st qtr of 1866 at Hampsted, London.  He was one of eleven children born to John Bingley (1751-1802) and Mary Bingley, nee Kennett born 1760.

Benjamin Kennett Bingley was baptised February 23,1786 at Hemswoth near Wakefield, York and given as the son of John Bingley, a farmer.

On August 3,1807 Benjamin married Charlotte Howitt (1788-1861) at St Cuthbert Church Ackworth, Yorkshire ( image above). Benjamin at that time was a bankers clerk of Wakefield parish.  In 1820, at the time of the birth of his daughter Mary Ann Caroline Bingley Benjamin was working as a bookkeeper and living at Holbeck,Yorkshire.

In 1826 Benjamin was a cashier living at Mill Street in Leeds, Yorkshire. A directory of 1830 gave him as a cashier living at Marshall Street in Leeds. He continues to be found in Leeds in directories up to 1857.

Benjamin and Charlotte had the following children (1) Mary Ann Caroline Bingley ,born June 29,1820; baptised October 26,1820. (2) John Bingley (1809-1874) who was born and died in Wakefield, Yorkshire. In 1833 he married Martha Johnson (1814-1883) and with her had five children between 1836 and 1845. John became a waterman/master shoemaker. (3) Francis Edward Bingley (1811-1896). As a key figure in this account further details are given about him later. (4) Benjamin Bingley born in the 3rd qtr of 1813 and baptised at Leeds St Peter, Yorkshire October 6,1813.  An image of this church is shown opposite. (5) William Howitt Bingley born September 20,1817; baptised November 27,1817 at Holbeck St Matthew and New Wortley St John the Baptist, Yorkshire.

The 1841 census, taken at Manor House Noor Garforth, Yorkshire gave Benjamin Kennett Bingley as a coal agent born 1786 in Yorkshire. With him was his wife Charlotte, age 52 and their daughter Mary Ann,age 20. Also there was Letitia Howitt, age 56, sister in law and one domestic servant.

The 1851 census, taken in the village of Garforth, Yorkshire (image opposite) gave Benjamin Kennett Bingley as a coal merchant. With him was his wife Charlotte ; his daughter Mary Ann; his sister in law Letitia Howitt,age 65, an annuitant; and one domestic servant.

The 1861 census, taken at 14 Grove End. St Marylebone, Middlesex, gave Benjamin Kennett Bingley with his wife Charlotte ; his daughter Mary Ann; one boarder and one domestic servant.

Benjamin Kennett Bingley died in the 1st qtr of 1866 at Hampstead, London.


As noted above is was one of the children of Benjamin Kennett Bingley (1786-1866) and Charlotte Bingley, nee Howitt (1788-1861). He was born March 31,1811in Yorkshire and baptised at Saint Peter Church, Leeds, Yorkshire.

He had left the family home sometime before 1830. On December 4,1830 he married Mary Singleton at Armthorpe, Yorkshire.  Francis and Mary had the following children (1) Mary Catherine Bingley (1832-1915). She was born December 30,1832 and baptised February 20,1833 at St Peter church in Leeds, Yorkshire. She died a spinster in the 4th qtr of 1915 at Hastings, Sussex.  (2) Maria Singleton Bingley (1837-1911) . She was born in 1837 and baptised October 21,1837 at St Peter church in Leeds, Yorkshire. She died a spinster  in the 1st qtr of 1911 at Hastings, Sussex. She was buried in Kent (most likely in Tunbridge Wells, January 3,1911. (3) Charlotte Louisa Bingley; born September 20,1831; baptised January 3,1832. She appears to have died as an infant.

The 1841 census, taken at Manser Street in Leeds,Yorkshire, gave
Francis as a commercial businessman. With him was his wife Mary and his daughters Mary and Maria. In the period from 1847 to 1851 Francis had premises at 4 Brunswick Place in Leeds. A directory of 1843 gave Francis as the proprietor of the Grifton Wood Brewery in Grifton Wood, West Yorkshire.

The 1851 census, taken at Carr Lodge (image opposite), Leeds, Yorkshire,  gave Francis as a manufacturer employing 11 people. With him was his wife Mary; his two daughters Mary and Maria; two visitors and two domestic servants. Francis was leasing this home from the Carr family.  In 1860 Francis had premises at 4 Alpha Road in London.

The 1861 census, taken at 4 Alpha Road, London, gave Francis as a dealer in pictures. With him was his wife Mary and their daughter Mary. Also there was one domestic servant.

Sometime after 1861 and before 1867 Francis and his wife and daughters Mary and Maria moved to Tunbridge Wells after Francis had effectively retired from business and took up residence on Frant Road where his spinster daughters Mary a Maria established the Clair School for Ladies at 25 Frant Road.

The 1871 census, taken at St Clair Educational School for Young Ladies , 25 Frant Road, gave Francis as a financial agent. With him was his wife Mary; their daughter Mary (teacher of French) and daughter Maria (teacher of French). Also there was one French governess, twelve girl boarders and four domestic servants.

The 1881 census, taken at 22 Frant Road, gave Francis as a managing director. With him was his wife Mary; his daughter Mary ( proprietor of ladies school); his daughter Maria ( proprietor of ladies school). Also there were fifteen girls ranging in age from 11 to 14 ; one other teacher and six servants. In the same census at 25 Frant Road was a gardener and his family. No listing for 27 Frant Road was found but at 29 Frant Road was Samuel Buxton, a drapers assistant and his family. Further references to 25,27 and 29 Frant Road are given later w.r.t. Carrie Emily Desprez Vickery of the St Clair school.

The 1891 census taken at 25 Frant Road Young Ladies School gave Francis as a widower. With him was his daughter Mary (ladies school principal); his daughter Maria (ladies school principal) ; his widowed sister Mary C. Nichols, age 70; 18 girls ages 7 to 17; one boarder who worked there as a laundress; one French Teacher; one English teacher and four domestic servants. At 27 Frant Road were two more domestic servants and at 29 Frant Road was Ann W. Mansfield, a widow living on own means with three of her daughters and three domestic servants.

Francis Edward Bingley’s death was registered at Ticehurst, Sussex in the 1st qtr of 1896. He was buried in Tunbridge Wells March 5,1896.

The 1901 census taken at St Clair School 25 Frant Road gave Mary and her sister Maria as school principles. With them were several girls and domestic servants.  A directory of 1903 recorded the sisters still at the school but by 1911 they had left Tunbridge Wells and by that year Carrie Emily Desprez Vickery took over the school. Mary  died in Hastings in 1915 and her sister Maria died in Hastings in 1911.

Before leaving the Bingley family it was noted that Francis Edward Bingley was involved in a number of business ventures during his life including  three silver-lead mines in Wales (Elgar Mine, The Snow Brook Silver Lead Mining Co. Ltd and The Central Van Lead Lining Co. Ltd) , railways, newspapers (The Leeds Times), Breweries (The Gipton Wood Brewery) and other ventures such as being a printer, stone merchant and picture dealer. He had not always been successful financially for the London Gazette of 1835 reported that he had gone bankrupt but was discharged. The London Gazette of April 12,1864 reported his second bankruptcy while a picture dealer of 13 Old Bond Street, Middlesex (image opposite). The Parliamentary Papers of 1846 recorded that he had subscribed 15,500 pounds to the railways. The Annual Report of the Committee of the Leeds Mechanics Institute & Literary Society recorded that Francis had been a generous contributor. Shown opposite is an advertisement for the Leeds Times dated 1847.  The book’ Hartley Coleridge; A Reassessment of His Life and Work’ , which can be seen online describes a publishing contract between Hartley Colleridge and his publisher Francis Edward Bingley in 1832. The Railway News of May 6,1871 gave a prospectus for a mining company which listed Francis “of St Clair Tunbridge Wells” as one of the directors. One can find online from the London Gazette a number of reports of the dissolution of partnerships involving Francis and mention of his business activities often appeared in newspapers.


The last record of the Bingley sisters at the St Clair school was 1905 and the first record from for Miss Vickery at the school was the 1911 census. When Miss Vickery definitively took over the school was not established.

Carrie was born 1867 in Clifton, Gloucestershire and baptised at Clifton St John the Evangelist Church in Gloucestershire (image below) on July 17,1867 and her parents were given as Henry Daniel Vickery and Mary Jane Vickery. She was one of eight known children in the family.

The 1871 census taken at 13 Hampton Terrace in Gloucestershire gave Henry Daniel Vickery as born 1829 in Bristol and was a teacher of music. With him was his wife Mary Jane who was born 1831 in Kilburn, London. Also there were five of their children born between 1859 and 1868 including Emily who was the youngest child. Also there was one domestic servant. The four eldest children were attending school.

Sometime between 1873 and 1881 Henry Daniel Vickery passed away in Gloucestershire. The 1881 census taken at 5 Chertsey Road in Gloucestershire gave Mary Jane Vickery as a widow and head of the household and with the occupation of “teacher”. With her were seven of her children including Carrie who at that time was in school.  Mary’s daughter Alice C. Vickery , born 1859 in Bristol, Clifton, was working as a teacher and three of her brothers were “clerks”. Also in the home were five boarders and two servants.

Sometime after 1881 and1891 Carried left home. She had been educated in the arts and is listed in the Rewards of the Royal Academy of Arts.

The 1891 census, taken at Manor House, Collingham, Nottinghamshire gave Carrie working as a governess for the John Wigram family. John Wigram was a land agent and lived at this residence with his wife and five children. Also present in the home, as a visitor, was Carrie’s sister Ethel M. Vickery, age 18, who was a musical student.

Sometime after 1891 and 1901 Carried moved to Tunbridge Wells and obtained a teaching position at the Hamilton House School (image opposite) in the Woodbury Park part of Tunbridge Wells.

The 1901 census, taken at the Hamilton House School gave Carrie as a teacher, one of several teachers there at the time. The girls at this school came from all over the world, as noted from the place of birth of the pupils.

Sometime after 1905 and before 1911 Carrie left Hamilton House School and took over the running of the St Clair School from the Bingley sisters.

The 1911 census, taken at St Clair School 25 Frant Road, gave Carrie as a “principal of private school”. Carrie was single and never married. With her was one assistant teacher; seventeen girl pupils ages 7 to 16 and four domestic servants. Two of the girls came from France, one from Barbados West Indies, four from London, one from Shanghai China, one from Lucknow India, one from Edinburgh Scotland, one from Tunbridge Wells with the rest from various counties in England, including Kent. The census recorded that the building had 20 rooms.

From the book ‘ Royal Tunbridge Wells in Old Picture Postcards’ by Margaret A.Y., Gill, it states in part “About 1905 Miss Vickery took over the premises at No. 25 Frant Road from a Miss Bingley; within two years she had developed the school and acquired property in Warwick Park, to which she retired ten years later leaving the school under the charge of an unmarried relative (probably her niece), Miss C.E. Desprers Vickery”. This account misspells her part of her name incorrectly refers to Miss C.E.D. Vickery as a niece. In fact it was Miss Carrie E.D. Vickery who took over the school from the Bringley sisters and there was no niece at the school. Also in error is the statement that she retired from the school after 10 years as you can see from her probate record below. Whether there is any truth to the statement that he had a house in Warwick Park or not was not established.  The referenced book continues with “ The rear view of the school ( see the ‘Overview” image) from across the lawn was sent by one of the mistresses or the Matron in 1914 to a friend, explaining that she would be unable to come to Rusthall next morning as ‘ I have two girls in the sick room and Miss Vickery will be away all day, so I must not leave’.

Probate records gave Carrie Emily Desprez Vickery of St Clair, 25 Frant Road Tunbridge Wells, spinster, who died March 29,1939. The executors of her 20,616 pound estate were Alexander Robert Cheele (solicitor) and Maud Florence Louise Benn, widow.



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

Date: December 28,2018

For the purpose of this article the patriarch of the Diggens family is Alfred Diggens (1824-1893) who began life in Hambledon, Hampshire, one of five children born to William Diggens (1793-1861) and Elizabeth Diggens, nee Keene (1792-1851). William Diggens died in Tunbridge Wells in 1861.

In 1844 Alfred married Mary Ann See (1820-1891) in Macclesfield, Cheshire and it was there that the couple had four children, including a son Wlliam Alfred Diggens (1849-1939).

In about 1860 Alfred Diggens took up residence in Tunbridge Wells at the Murray House Girls School in Mount Sion. At the time of the 1861 census Alfred and his wife Mary and his three children, including William Alfred Diggens were living at this school where Alfred was a schoolmaster. Alfred’s daughter Emily, born 1847, was a pupil teacher at that school also.

A list of candidates who had passed the examination for admission into the normal schools for Christmas 1869 gave “First Class-William A. Diggens, Tunbridge Wells, Free Chapel”.

At the time of the 1871 census Alfred and his wife Mary and children Alfred James Diggens, age 17,  a pupil teacher, who would later also become a schoolmaster was living there with his sister Georgina, age 19 who was a photographic artist.

By the time the 1881 census was taken Alfred and his wife and daughter Georgina were living at 4 Cumberland Walk, in Mount Sion where Alfred was working as a schoolmaster and Georgiana a photographic artist.

A directory of 1882 gave “ Chapel of Ease School, established 1688, for 200 children (boys) Chapel Place, William Alfred Diggens, master”.

At the time of the 1891 census Alfred (a schoolmaster retired) and his wife and son William Alfred Diggens (a schoolmaster certified and a widower) along with two grandchildren and servants, were living at 6 Cumberland Walk. On June 8,1893 Alfred Diggens passed away in Tunbridge Wells and was predeceased by his wife Mary Ann in 1891.

William Alfred Diggens, who was born 1849 a Siddington, Cheshire had lived with his parents and siblings up until his marriage on September 9,1879 in Warwickshire to Eliza Isabella Young  (1854-1884). Eliza had been born in Jamaica and died in Tunbridge Wells in 1884.

The 1881 census, taken at Murray House School gave William Alfred Diggens as a certified schoolmaster. With him was his wife Eliza and one domestic servant. The couple had no children and it is likely that Eliza died during childbirth. Shown opposite is a photograph of Murry House School.

A record of 1882 for the National Union of Teachers listed (1) Mr. W.A. Diggens, Chapel of Ease School, Tunbridge Wells (2) Mr. A. Diggens, Chapel of Ease School, Tunbridge Wells.  An annual report of the National Union of Teachers for 1890 listed “ President-Mr A. Diggens, King Charles School, Tunbridge Wells”. Shown below is a postcard view of King Charles the Martyr Church, which the Diggens family attended. Note in this image the police constable directing traffic at the intersection and the absence of traffic The sundial on the wall of the church can also be seen as well as  the opticians shop on the corner with the eyeglass sign in the window.

As noted above the 1891 census recorded William Alfred Diggens as a widower and living at 6 Cumberland Walk, Tunbridge Wells with his parents and working as a certified schoolmaster.

In 1900 William Alfred Diggens married Elizabeth Shirley (maiden name unknown). She was born 1852 at Greystead, Northumberland. The 1901 census, taken at 192 Upper Grosvenor Road gave William as a schoolmaster. With him was his wife Elizabeth and their son Alfred William  Diggens, who had been born 1882 in Tunbridge Wells and who by this time was working as a school tutor. A 1899 directory gave the same address for the family.

The 1911 census, taken at 196 Upper Grosvenor Road gave William as a head teacher Tunbridge Wells Education Committee. With him was his wife Elizabeth, one domestic servant  and one visitor. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 8 rooms. A 1913 directory gave the same address for the family.

Elizabeth Shirley Diggens died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1930. Probate records for William Alfred Diggens gave him os 192 Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died March 1,1933. The executor of his 961 pound estate was his son Alfred William Diggens, schoolmaster.

Alfred John Diggens (1854-1946) was one of the sons of Alfred Diggens (1824-1893) and had been born in in Cheshire January 25,1854. His wife was Mary A. Diggens. A 1939 directory listed Alfred as a retired schoolmaster. With him at 22 Gordon Road in Southborough was his wife Mary A. Diggens, born February 9,1875 and their daughter Blanche E. Diggens, born April 12,1889 who as an assistant school teacher. Later Blanche married a Mr. Billows.

Shown at the top of this article is a postcard dated 1905 showing one of the classes of King Charles School. The gentleman standing in the back row on the left is William Alfred Diggens. On his retirement in 1914 after thirty-five years as Headmaster, William was described as a “ born organizer and stickler for details….a thorough scholar, and a skilful imparter of knowledge. He is a firm disciplinarian but a humane and humorous master. His scripture lessons are full of profit and delight; he can read and recite with the best, he is the slacker’s most pitiless foe, and so mighty a host is he in English grammar that Old Boys in writing to him from far corners of the globe thank him with the keenest relish for teaching them that ‘the verb to be is never transitive’”. To the disgust of one School Inspector, who regarded them as ‘of little educational value’, he taught the boys shorthand and book-keeping, and in 1904 experimented with ambidextrous training, issuing copy books to all classes for practice in left-hand writing”. Shown above are three other images pertaining to King Charles the Martyr School from the book 'Tunbridge Wells in Old Photographs' with related text.

Roger Farthing in his book ‘A History of Mount Sion’ gives a good account of Murray House School and a brief mention of Alfred Diggens and the Chapel of Ease School.


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

Date: December 27,2018


Harold H. Camburn was born 1876 in Sutton, Surrey and took up photography at an early age. By 1894 he took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and worked with Percy Squire Lankester at his Great Hall Studio in the north wing of the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road. In the years leading up to 1904 Harold and Percy operated as partners under the name of Lankester & Co but in 1904 Harold decided to go on his own and established a photographic studio at 21 Grove Hill Road.

Although some examples of Harold’s portrait studio work exist his specialty became photographing street scenes, mostly throughout Kent and Sussex, scenes which he printed and published as postcards, which he sold to post offices and stationers shops. He was a very prolific photographer and printer and publisher of postcards and it is estimated that he produced some 10,000 views.

In 1906 Harold purchased  Rotary Photographic Postcard Printing equipment from Tunbridge Wells inventor Ellis Graber. This equipment allowed Harold to rapidly print a high volume of postcards. To fully utilize the equipment’s capabilities he made use of it to print not only his own images but those by others. The postcards he printed for a client in the Orkney Islands is but one example of this.  A second example, which is the focus of this article are the “Nautical” postcards showing images of ships.

Harold had a long and successful career in the town. While he was away serving in WW1 with the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) as an Air Mechanic his wife, with an assistant, took care of his business in Tunbridge Wells. After the war he returned to Tunbridge Wells where he continued his photographic and postcard work. He retired in 1951 and moved to Hampshire where he died in 1956, leaving a body of work prized by historians and collectors alike.


From the beginning of time images of ships have been the subject of many paintings and sketches. With the introduction of photography shipping enthusiasts took or collected photographic images of ships, either as photographs or as postcards. These images created a whole new industry of Nautical Postcards.

These images became important to ship enthusiasts intent on building up a collection of images of their favourite ships or shipping companies, and specialized companies such as the Nautical Photo Agency (which concentrated on sailing ships) or B&A Fieldon of Blundellsands, Liverpool. Shipping companies used these postcard views extensively to promote their passenger services and coloured cards were always available on board the ship free of charge. These found their way into many family albums as keepsakes, documenting in part their travels.


In the early 1900’s Camburn was hired to produce a long series of postcard views of ships. The images as well as the cardstock to print them on were supplied by his client and Camburn printed them at his premises on a contract basis and when the order was completed he sent them off to his client with the original images his client gave him.

Contacts of this type were an important source of revenue to Camburn’s business and made sure that his expensive equipment maximized the return on his investment.

Given here and elsewhere in this article are ten examples of Nautical Postcards that Camburn produced. Given below is the front and back of card 60 , the back of which gives “ Printed by H. Camburn, Tunbridge Wells & published by the Journal of Commerce Liverpool for the Nautical Photo Agency”. All of the cards in the series, which must number about 100, all bear the same information. All of them are identified as “Real Photo Postcards” and all are divided back cards. A logo of a ships anchor is shown centre back. None of the examples of these postcards printed by Camburn were ever posted strongly suggesting that they were part of a nautical postcard collection. Based on the fact that Camburn was not operating on his own until 1904 and since the name of his client changed in 1911 this gives a window in which this series of postcards were produced. All of his postcards in this series gave a handwritten title and card number on the front.


In terms of dating it is known from a review of records that the “Journal of Commerce Liverpool” was the original name of the business and operated under this name from about 1870 up to 1911, when from 1911 to 1968 it became “ The Journal of Commercial Shipping
Telegraph” and from 1968 to 1970 is was known as “ The Journal of Commerce (Liverpool, England). This company was  daily newspaper (except Sunday) which reported on all matters pertaining to shipping in the UK. All of their publications contained images of ships supplied to them by a variety of photographers and it was some of these images that Camburn turned them into postcards. Shown below left is an image of a newspaper wrapper from 1933  and below right is an advertisement for the Liverpool Journal of Commerce which in part states “ The Liverpool Journal of Commerce is now enlarged and contains later and more comprehensive shipping and commercial news than any other paper”.


The other business given on the back of these postcards is the name of “The Nautical Photo Agency”, which company specialized in amassing an extensive collection of photographs and other images of ships, which material they sold copies of to clients and which also found their way into books and other shipping publications of the business.  References to ship images by The Nautical Photo Agency can be found in archives around the world as well as in the Smithsonian in the USA, who have a large collection of their images.  Directories note that the Nautical Photo Agency was located at 8 Russell Grove, Mill Hill N.W.3 London. Shown here is a Camburn postcard of the Empress of Australia for The Nautical Photo Agency (card 29).

In 1966 The Nautical Photo Agency sold a collection of many hundreds of negatives to the National Marine Museum. These images were found when Snargate Street in Dover was bombed during WWII. The negatives had originally been the property of Amos & Amos photographers of the High Street in Sandgate, Folkestone who were in business from 1856 to 1943. Amos’s particular forte was maritime pictures and he took special interest in ship design. Today these images form part of the collection of the Dover Museum.

A letter dated August 22,1939 from Fred C. Poyser of the Nautical Photo Agency contained two photographs of camouflaged ships during WW1. This letter is in the collection of the University of Glasgow. Shown below is the front and back of a Camburn post card of the Lancastria (card 94).

In 1928 Admiral Sir George Hope was able to announce at the 1928 Annual General Meeting that the Society had ensured that the unique MacPherson Collection of ship images would become part of the National Marine Museum’s collection. This consisted of engravings, books, atlases and paintings which ranged from the early sixteenth to the late nineteenth century. The collection had been bought for 108,000 pounds A.G.H. MacPherson (1873-1942) was a famous yachtsman. He had assembled over 11,000 prints and drawings of maritime and shipping subjects. Sir James Caird (1864-1954) a Scottish ship owner, who was passionate about marine heritage bought the MacPherson collection in 1928 for the purpose of donating the collection to prevent it from going abroad but instead sold it to the National Marine Museum. I contacted this museum to determine if any of Camburn’s postcards form part of their collection. Their curator replied in the affirmative but was unable to prove me with images of them or a list.


Given above is the rest of Camburn’s cards from this series that have been found to date. An image of card 38 showing a view of the “Metagumo’ could not be obtained but was seen on the internet on a website that sells views of ships. The highest number on cards found to date is No. 99.



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

Date: November 29,2011

Charles Vigor had a watchmakers shop in Tunbridge Wells in the last half of the 19th century. He was born January 9,1849 at Burwash, Sussex and baptised there on January 28th.He was one of four children born to Thomas and Hannah Vigor.

His father Thomas was a cabinet maker born October 1819 at Burwash. His mother was Jessie Janet who had been born 1823 in Scotland. Thomas and Jessie were married 1847 in Kent and produced their first child Thomas in 1848 at Folkestone,Kent. Their third child, Mary Hannah Vigor was born June 1851 in Burwash and then the family moved to Tunbridge Wells sometime before the 1861 census was taken.Their fourth child Alexander James Vigor was born August 1862 at St James Church,Tunbridge Wells.

In 1861 the Vigor family were living at #2 Roebuck Cottage. The couple remained in Tunbridge Wells and completed their family with the birth of Arthur Ernest Vigor in 1863 and Frederick James Vigor in 1867.

While a young man Charles learned the trade of watchmaker working as an apprentice for another watchmaker in Tunbridge Wells. By 1874 he had struck off on his own and opened his watchmakers shop at 32 Garden Road, Tunbridge Wells.

In September 1876 Charles married Elizabeth Gilbert (1856-1922) and from 1877 to 1900 the couple produced 12 children. His wife Elizabeth had been born in Hunton,Kent.

In 1881 Charles,his wife,and children Charles,Edwin and Percy were living above the watchmakers shop located at that time at 22 Crescent Road. Charles son Edwin,born April 1878, took an interest in his father’s trade and learned about watchmaking from his father.

In the 1891 census Charles,his wife and his children Edwin,Edith,Ray,Rose,Jessie and Dora are all living together at Charles new watchmakers premises at 31 Crescent Road. Charles was  listed in the census as a watchmaker and jeweller employing assistants in his shop. Charles was still found at this address as a watchmaker in 1899 but by this time his son Edwin was 21 years of age and is working in the business more as a partner with his father then as an employee.

Charles Vigor, when only 52 years old, passed away in Tunbridge Wells in 1901 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on February 12th of that year. His estate was left to his wife Elizabeth. It seems that Edwin decided not to continue with the shop for long as no trace of it could be found in a 1903 trade directory under his name and there was no other watchmaker listed at 31 Crescent Road.

The 1901 census recorded the absence of Charles from the family unit with Elizabeth the head of the household at 31 Crescent Road. Living with her were her son Edwin, listed as a jewellers assistant "gold" along with 9 other children. No occupation was given for Elizabeth and since Edwin was the oldest member of the family he was the main breadwinner. Edwin’s sister Edith was a milliners assistant and another sister a clerk but the rest of the children were still infants or of school age and unable to contribute to the family income.

After his father died and the shop closed Edwin went to work for another watchmaker/jeweller in town. Edwin Vigor passed away June 1947 at Croyden,Surrey and was buried in the local cemetery.

Shown above is the photograph of a fuse pocket watch movement by Charles Vigor and below it is a postcard view of Crescent Road at the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road in which can be seen a man loading trash into a wagon.



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