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

Date: December 29,2017

The Nevill Café derived its name from the Nevill Bakery which by 1903 had premises at 5 High Street; 4 Nevill Street and 57a St John’s Road and the business was still at the same addresses until at least 1938. Of these buildings the one of particular interest for the purposes of this article was their building at 5 High Street, located next door to (south of) The South Eastern Hotel, a large building located on the east side of the High Street south of the High Street Bridge, which itself was located at the intersection of the High Street/ Grove Hill Road/Vale Road and Mount Pleasant Road. Shown opposite is a sketch of the High Street showing the Nevill Café by David Peacock from the book ‘Tunbridge Wells Sketchbook’ (1978) which sketch is dated August 1978. Shown below is a postcard view of the High Street looking towards Christ Church, the tower of which can be seen behind the Nevill Bakery building. This view is by local photographer and stationer James Richards and dates circa 1909, Not that the glass widows of the Nevill Café were not present at that time.

In the early 1900’s the well-known local dairyman John Brown of John Brown’s Dairy expanded his business empire by taking over the Nevill Bakery. In an article from the Bottle Digging Uk website this information was given about John Brown and his business and offers information about his connection to the Nevill Café. “Around 150 years ago, Tunbridge Wells dairyman John Brown made an extraordinary pledge to his many customers. He promised them that no matter where they lived in the town, milk from his herd could be delivered to them within ten minutes of milking, presumably still warm from the cow. It would be ferried to them by his fleet of bowler-hatted milkmen, either carried in pails suspended from a yoke across their shoulders or, for longer distances, by horse and cart. As a photograph shows, John Brown was a tiny man, but his ambition was huge. He had come to Tunbridge Wells from Hertfordshire aged 20 to take up a job in service, but within a few years he had opened a small dairy in Berkeley Road Mount Sion. It was the first step in what would become a business empire built on hard work and a flair for marketing. For as well as advertising his milk and butter, Brown had a keen eye for grabbing the hearts and minds of his customers. As the business expanded through the acquisition of other dairies, he opened shops in different parts of the town and also bought Ramslye Farm so that he could raise his own herd of 60 cows. When in their local shop to buy butter or cream, customers were offered entry cards to the farm so they could see for themselves the healthiness of his animals and the modern methods he employed. As his business prospered, with outlets in Vale Road, the Pantiles, St John's and the High Street, Brown increased the size of his herd, buying farms at Great Culverden in Mount Ephraim, where he kept 20 cows, and Court Lodge in Frant, where he had another 30. He also opened a new depot in the large former Methodist church in St John's Road, still used by the present-day Dairy Crest. By now a household name in the town, during 1905 John Brown sealed his position by joining the town council and also became a co-director of the Opera Company. Being a born entrepreneur, he couldn't resist the challenge of building up another business in the same way as his dairy venture, and so he turned his keen eye to one of the town's oldest bakeries. The original Nevill Bakery was based at the junction of Nevill Street and Market Street to the rear of the Pantiles, but by the time Brown became involved it also had a shop in the Pantiles. The company ran a shop and cafe at the top of the High Street too, and it was here that Brown saw the potential for expansion into the old South Eastern Hotel next door. He converted the main part of the hotel into two shops, both of which were eventually taken over by Godkin's the chemist. Having sorted out the structural side, Brown allowed his imagination free rein by erecting a 100-seater wood and glass fronted tearoom on the first floor (now an Italian restaurant). Originally part of a large orangery from a country mansion, it was an easily recognisable local landmark and, of course, a fine advertisement for his business. According to historian Frank Chapman, by the 1920s it was the heyday of the afternoon tea dance, and the Nevill Cafe had become one of the most popular venues in town, with a rush to procure seats around the dance floor and up on the balcony before the music began at three o'clock. In her childhood memoir 'I Was Born on the Pantiles', Josephine Butcher described the cafe as "like a miniature Crystal Palace" and remembered John Brown and his family, noting: "Mr Brown married twice….he was short, however his second wife was very tall, the children were both short and tall and very intelligent." By the time of his death in 1934, this self-made man had secured his place in the history of his adopted town.

Here is a second account from the book ‘Tunbridge Wells Sketchbook’ (1978) by Peacock and Chapman. “ In the nineteen twenties, heyday of the ‘the dansant’, people would hurry to the Nevill Café in the High Street long before the music started to secure the best seats for a view of the dance floor. The three-piece orchestra, usually all women but occasionally with a man at the piano, arrived just before three, ready to launch into the first number on the hour. By that time the first couples were beginning to arrive, and soon every seat round the floor and in the balcony was filled. There room for about a hundred people in the attractive first-floor tea room, with its large glassed-in section overlooking the street. This was the idea of Mr John Brown, owner of the Nevill Café beside the railway bridge and the Nevill Bakery. He bought part of an orangery from a country house and had it fitted on to his balcony,making the tea room the most popular afternoon venue in Tunbridge Wells. Another section of the orangery was installed in a house in Warwick Park. Mr Brown was a leading businessman of his day, baking bread in Nevill Street and confectionary in the High Street, where there was a street level café as well as the upstairs premises. They closed in 1964. Mr Brown also founded John Brown’s dairy in an old chapel in St John’s Road…”

Another mention of the widow of the Nevill Café comes from  ‘Tunbridge Wells News U3A News’ July 2016 which stated the Lord Astor made changes to Hever Castle in the 19th century and parts of the orangery were incorporated into what later became the window on the first floor of Signor Franco’s restaurant on the High Street”.

As reported above the most distinguishing feature of the Nevill Café was its arched glass front stated above to have been “part of an orangery from a country mansion”, but stated by Magdalena Szczerbova, the manager of The Warren restaurant, which now occupies the premises, that the single glaze glass front of the restaurant “was originally part of a large orangery at Hever Castle. It was added to our building-then the Nevill Café-by very talented local entrepreneur John Brown in the early 1900’s. At the time the Nevill Café was one of the most popular venues in the town for its afternoon tea and dance”.  She goes on to state that sitting by this window can be chilly on a cold day despite the heating but the view from the window is a pleasant one. The Warren derives its name from the 650 acre Crowborough Warren Estate where herds of cattle, sheep,boar and fallow deer are found which keep The Warren restaurant supplied with meat. The address of this restaurant is given as 5A High Street.

Shown below is an interior view of The Warren and one of the exterior taken January 3,2016 where a sign was posted on the building stating “ Opening Soon-The Warren” on Tunbridge Wells High Street in what previously had been the Italian Restaurant ‘Signor Franco’s’.

Going back in time to the early 1900’s one can see that a number of buildings existed between the South Eastern Hotel and the old High Street Bridge, such as the old Advertiser office on Grove Hill Road and a row of shops between the hotel and the bridge known as Edger Terrace. These buildings were demolished in connection with the new High Street Bridge that was constructed in 1907.

The 1903 Kelly directory listed the Nevill Bakery Limited at 5 High Street and at No. 3 High Street was “James Lockey, restaurant”.

As can be seen in other photographs in this article , one of the bridge abutments can be seen just past the former South Eastern Hotel and later as it appears in modern photos as the Nevill Café and later still as Signor Franco’s Italian restaurant (up to 2016) and now as The Warren restaurant. Shown below left is an old postcard view of the High Street and the High Street Bridge looking north in the pre Nevill Café era. Below right is a view of High Street looking south from the High Street Bridge in which the tall building on the left is the South Eastern Hotel that became the Nevill Café with two shops at street level.

Shown below left is a photograph of the building taken March 29,2009 when it was Signor Franco’s restaurant. To the right of it is a photograph taken March 5,2019 showing the café/restaurant identified by the name of “Bacchus”.

Shown below left is a photograph of the building when it was the Nevill Café from the 1950’s and to the right of it is another photo dated June 1964 in which Hodkin’s Ltd chemists can be seen occupying the street level shop below the café.

The Nevill Café apart from being a tea room with dancing also was hired out for wedding receptions as noted in the Kent & Sussex Courier of April 22,1938 which referred to “bridesmaids Miss Jane Simmons and Miss Muriel Groves dressed in floral pink and blue silk with John Walden as best man and that a reception was held at the Nevill Café after which the bride and groom left for their honeymoon at Hastings”.




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

Date: December 28,2017


Herbert Dalton was born in April 9,1821 at St Giles, Camberwell,Surrey although census records give his place of birth as Peckham,Surrey. He was one of seven known children born to draper John Dalton (1780-1851) and Hannah Dalton, nee Neale (1784-1822).  John Dalton was admitted to the Company of Drapers by his father William Edward Dalton (1755-1797), who was a draper, in 1801, and so the background of the Dalton family was connected for many years in the draper’s trade. Herbert Dalton himself joined the Company of Drapers March 23,1842.

Herbert was baptised May 20,1821 at Peckham Hanover Chapel-Independent, at Camberwell,Surrey and was a Methodist. His parents both died in Camberwell. A photo of the Peckaham Hanover Chapel (meeting house) is shown opposite.

Herbert became a “Colonial Broker” as he described his occupation in census records from 1851 to 1871. His first wife was Sarah Curling who he married at Camberwell in 1845 and with her had just one child namely Herbert William Dalton (1847-1909). Sarah Curling was born September 18,1821 at St Mary Islington, Middlesex. She was one of several children born to Daniel Curling and Jane Sarah Curling, nee Davies.

Colonial Brokers worked as clerks, interpreters and in other administrative jobs and were often also referred to as Colonial Administrators.

At the time of the 1851 and 1861 census Herbert and his wife and son and servants were living at Stanmore Lodge in Brixton, Surrey. Herbert’s occupation was given as “Colonial Broker”.

Sometime after 1861 he and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells and took up residence at a home they named ‘Glenrosa” at 12 Broadwater Down, one of many grand homes built in the Broadwater Down Development beginning in the early 1860’s.  Sadly this home no longer exists, having been demolished in the 20th century and replaced by more modern homes.

The 1871 census, taken at 12 Broadwater Down gave Herbert as a Colonial Broker. With him was his wife Sarah ; four servants, and his son Herbert William Dalton (1847-1909) who had been born June 17,1847 at Tulse Hill,Surrey. More information is given about him in a later section of this article.

The 1881 census, taken at 12 Broadwater Down gave Herbert living there with the occupation of “ house and properties” with his wife Sarah and four servants. The same information was given in the 1891 census except that Herbert’s son Herbert William Dalton was there as a visitor. Sarah Dalton died at 12 Broadwater Down in May 1897 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery May 21st.

In the 3rd qtr of 1898 a marriage was registered at Ticehurst between Herbert Dalton and his second wife Annie Caroline Temple (1864-1944).She had been born at Koushtia, Bengal, India. Information about her parentage and siblings was not established.  

In my article ‘ A History of Christ Church High Street’ dated December 27,2017 I reported in part about the Christ Church Parish Hall that had been built next to Christ Church in 1899 and payed for by funds raised by donations and gave the following “The building was designed by the prominent local architects H.H. and E. Cronk and the building cost about 1,200 pounds, which sum was raised through donations from members of the congregation and others connected to the church. An especially generous donor was Herbert Dalton (1821-1903), a retired colonel administrator and former director of the Kent Waterworks Company, whose second wife Annie Caroline Dalton, nee Temple (1864-1944) laid the building’s foundation stone in July 1899.” A photograph of this building is shown opposite.

The 1901 census taken at 12 Broadwater Down gave Herbert as a retired colonial administrator. Living with him was his wife Annie ; two visitors and seven servants in a home of 12 rooms.

Probate records noted the death of Herbert Dalton and gave him of ‘Glenrosa’ 12 Broadwater Down when he died December 6,1903 leaving an estate valued at over 92,000 pounds. He was buried with his first wife Sarah in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on December 10th. Both of their names appear on the same headstone ( his wife Sarah’s first and his second).

When Herbert’s second wife Annie left Tunbridge Wells was not established but she likely remained at 12 Broadwater Down for a short period after the death of her husband. The 1911 census, taken at ‘Speldhurst’ Grove Park Road in Weston Super Mare gave Annie as a widow of independent means. Living with her in premises of 10 rooms were just one visitor and two servants. Probate records gave her of 2 Lansdown Place in east Bath, a widow, who died January 7,1944 at The Lauriston Hotel (photo opposite) in Weston Super Mare. The executors of her 38,158 pound estate were her solicitor and Barclays Bank Limited. Her was not returned for burial in Tunbridge Wells.


Herbert was the only child born to Herbert Dalton (1821-1903) and his first wife Sarah Dalton, nee Curling (1821-1901).

He had been born June 17,1847 at Tulse Hill, Surrey. He was living at the time of the 1851 census with his parents at Stanmore Lodge, Brixton,Surrey.

At the time of the 1861 census he was a pupil in a boys school at Reton, Derbyshire. In 1868 he was admitted into the Company of Drapers under application by his father.

At the time of the 1871 census he was living with his parents  and four servants at 12 Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells  with the occupation of “Colonial Broker’ and was still single.

By 1881 he married Emily Sarah Curling born in the first qtr of 1848 in London. She was related to his mother Sarah Dalton, nee Curling (1821-1901) and likely was his cousin. He and his wife don’t appear to have had any children.

At the time of the 1881 census he and his wife Emily were living at Lewisham, London where he was working as a Colonial Broker.

At the time of the 1891 census, he was living at 12 Broadwater Down,Tunbridge Wells  as a visitor to his parents.

At the time of the 1901 census he was working as an “East India Merchant” and living as a visitor at the Burlington Hotel in Dover, Kent.

His death was registered December 6,1909 at Ticehurst, Sussex but he had died August 25,1909 at Ipswich,Suffolk. What became of his wife was not established.


Details about Broadwater Down were given in my article ‘The Broadwater Down Estate Development’ dated November 22,2013.

The Broadwater Estate Development was an undertaking of the 4th Earl of Abergavenny,the Rev’d William Nevill ,who set about to transform,what was in 1860, an area that had become a heather covered ridge, but  originally part of the ancient Waterdown Forest, into a residential estate complete with a church (St Marks),church vicarage and church parsonage  and eventually, in the initial development, a residential  subdivision of 45 grand Victorian mansions  on a lovely lime tree lined road named Broadwater Down. Shown here are two postcards from the early 1900’s showing how lovely Broadwater Down was.

When the home at No. 12 was constructed is not known but construction of homes in the development began in the 1860’s and progressed from  Frant Road westerly and so one can conclude that No. 12 was likely built in the late 1860’s. By 1867 the following buildings were completed- Numbers 1 to 7, #10 and St Mark’s Church(#43). By 1871 the homes from #1-14, 16, 18,20-27,33,37,39, 43 were finished giving 61% compete of the 46 planned. By 1874 all of the buildings had been completed except for 15,32,34-36,38,40,42,44-46, representing 35 of the 46 done or 76% of the total. By 1881 the only buildings not competed were 35,44 and 45 representing 93% complete. By 1899 numbers 44 and 45 were finally completed leaving on #34 undone until it was finally constructed sometime between 1901 and 1907

The home at No. 12 was built on the north side of Broadwater Down north of what later was a new road branching off Broadwater Down in the 20th century called Broadwater Rise. Initially the only road in the development was Broadwater Down itself but in the 20th century several branch roads were built through the former grounds of the original homes and sadly many of the original homes have not survived, No. 12 being one of those demolished. It appears that No. 10 still exists, but can’t be seen from the road as it is screened by tall trees and shrubs. At the entrance to No. 10 is an elaborate black iron gate and just to north of it is what appears to be its original gate house. Shown opposite is a photo of No. 10.  No. 10 along with nine other homes in Broadwater Down were requisitioned for war use during WW II but No. 12 was not among them.

Today No. 12 Broadwater Down is a 20th century white stucco residence called ‘The Maples’ a home of no particular architectural merit and therefore a poor substitute for the original home. Although all of the homes built in the development are different in appearance they all were of the typical Victorian architectural style with the typical bay windows, slate roofs and large chimneys. Some were constructed of stone, others being in various colours of brick with stone elements around the windows and doors. Some but not all of the homes had gate houses and or gardeners cottages. Shown above is a map of Broadwater Down on which the location of No. 12 is highlighted in red.  A review of Planning Applications shows that references to homes in Broadwater Rise began in 1974 suggesting that by in the early 1970’s No. 12 was demolished to make way for the new development as the road Broadwater Rise was built through the grounds of this residence. Maps pertaining to Planning Authority applications for its neighbour at No. 10 all pertain to the original gate house and no sign of the original No. 12 can be found on maps in the 1980’s.

From my original research here is the occupancy record…. #12-Herbert Dalton,49,M,East India Broker(1871)Herbert Dalton(1874);Herbert Dalton,59,M,house and property(1881);Herbert Dalton(1882);Herbert Dalton,69,M,own means(1891);Herbert Dalton(1899);Herbert Dalton,79,M,Retd (1901);Herbert Dalton(1903);In care of servants(1911);Mrs Gray(1913);John William Erskine(1930);John William Erskine(1934). Who was living at No. 12 at the time of the 1911 census was not determined as the home was occupied only by servants.



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

Date: December 27,2017


Christ Church is one of a few old churches in the town that once served the community well until deemed redundant and demolished to make way for redevelopment of the site. It was located on the East side of the High Street south of the intersection of the High Street with Mount Pleasant Road, Vale Road, and Grosvenor Road. To the north of it was a row of shops known at the time as Edger Terrace and a few other buildings.

The church, built of white brick and stone in a pseudo-Norman style was designed by Robert Palmer (Paloner)Browne, of Greenwich. The first foundation stone was laid September 9, 1835 but the building was not completed until 1841.It was consecrated May 9,1841 but a parish was not assigned to it until 1856 from Holy Trinity Church.  Messrs Cole,Thorpe and Scantlebury, being the builders.

The property was purchased by Rev. Thomas Ward Franklyn, for the sum of 8,500 pounds. In 1856 he gave it to the district.

Colbrans 1839 guide dated September 9th stated “ The elegant structure intended to bear the designation of Christ Church is not yet finished though far advanced towards completion, and will probably by consecrated and opened for Divine Worship during the present Season, (1839). It was built from the designs of R.P. Brown, Esq., of Greenwich; Messrs Cole,Thorpe and Scantlebury, being the builders. It will contain 1,300 sittings, nearly one half of which will be free. The building was erected partly by Subscription, and when finished, will cost upwards of 6,000 pounds. The foundation stone was laid the 9th of September, 1838.

In 1851 the church had a seating capacity of 885 souls with one bell in the tower.

A directory of 1855 gave the following. “ Christ Church is a new church established to afford accommodation to the increased number of residents and visitors. It is a handsome structure in the Gothic style, and reflects great credit on the architect, Mr Decimus Burton, and also on the builders Messrs. Barrett of Tunbridge Wells. The living is a perpetual curacy, and the property by purchase, of the Rev. Thomas Ward Franklyn, M.A., the officiating minister; the church is supported entirely by pew rents.”

The Melville directory of 1858 gave “ Christ Church is a very handsome edifice in the Gothic style, and was erected principally for the accommodation of the visitors. The living is a perpetual curacy.

In the summer of 1862 galleries were built, and a chancel and vestry were later added.

Peltons 1883 guide reported “ On the east side of High Street, was consecrated on the 9th of May 1841, the first stone having been laid so far back as the 9th of September 1835. The property was purchased by the Rev. Thomas Ward Franklyn, for the sum of 8,500 pounds. In 1856, this gentleman munificently assigned the whole to the district. The accommodation being found inadequate to the demand, galleries were added in the summer of 1862. Exterior alterations were afterwards made, and a chancel and vestry have since been added. Recently the old pews were removed and the church entirely reseated, and a handsome stained glass window placed over the Communion Table. Sunday Services: Morning, 11; Afternoon, thirds Sunday in the month at 3:15, and last Sunday at 3; Evening, 6:30. Week-day Services : Wednesday and Holy Days, Morining, 11; Thursday Evening,7:30. Holy Communion is administered on the first and third Sundays in each month at 11 a.m.; second and fifth Sundays at 8 a.m.; fourth Sunday, 6;30 p.m.; and (for invalids) first Friday at 12. Hymnal Companion to Book of Common Prayer is used. The Rev. L.C. Walford, M.A. is the Vicar.

The 1891 Kelly reported that the Church had 1,200 sittings; that the register dates from the year 1841; that the gross yearly income was 400 pounds derived from pew rents, with house in the gift of 1886 by the Rev. John Campbell of Cambridge.

The 1903 Kelly reported “ Christ Church parish was formed March 7th 1856. The church ,located on High Street, was erected at a cost of 8,500 pounds and opened May 9,1841. It was constructed of white brick in a pseudo-Norman style and has a tower containing one bell. Of the sittings, 250 are free. The register dates from 1841. The living is a vicarage with income derived principally from pew rents, with residence the gift of trustees, and held since 1897 by the Rev C. Edward Story M.A. of Exeter College, Oxford.

It was decided in 1996 to demolish the church and its adjacent Parish Room. On the site was built , in 1999 (some say 1997)by Gleeds UK,the Christ Church Centre(photo opposite), a building that resembles a small shopping mall. Christ Church Centre is a modern multi-functional building, now the centre for the merged Holy Trinity/Christ Church parishes. This building incorporated stained glass windows salvaged from the old church. The church continued to make their facilities available to the local community and, in a link to the past, recent hirers have included the Tunbridge Wells Labour Women’s Group.


Little has been reported on the life and career of Robert Palmer Brown given variously as being born in 1803 or 1806 in Lambeth, Greenwich,Kent. He was actually baptised February 25,1803 as Robert “Paloner” Browne  at St Mary Newington, Southwark,Surrey and given as the son of Robert and Winifred Browne,but his middle name became by common usage “Palmer”. His surname of “Brown” is often given incorrectly in various records but correctly as “Browne” in the 1861 and 1871 census and in some other records. His death registration in the 1st qtr of 1872 gave his name as Robert Palmer Browne. The Dictionary of British Architects gave the listing “ Robert Palmer Browne (1803-1872). Details about Robert from this source are unfortunately not available online.

Some background into the Browne family, with information about Robert and his parents and siblings is given in the following account entitled ‘Mrs Hayes Diary’ which in part gave “Mr  Robert Tucker age 27, wholesale linen draper in partnership with William Bedford in Newgate St, married at West Ham 30.10.1770 Winifred Aurback age 22 of Stratford Green (Lloyds Evening Post 31.10.1770 & marriage licence). Winifred had been baptised 14.6.1747 at St Botolph Bishopsgate daughter of Jno Christr & Winifred Aurbach, her mother's will PCC 1771 Winifred Aurbach widow, all to daughter Winifred Tucker. Robert & Winifred Tucker baptised a daughter Winifred on 15.9.1773 at Christchurch Newgate. Robert Tucker appeared in London directories 1775 to 1777 as worsted man & lace man of 76 Newgate St, and the London Gazette of 22.2.1777 announced the bankruptcy of Robert Tucker laceman of Newgate St - he got his certificate on 7.4.1778. Robert son of Robert & Winifred Tucker was born 1.6.1799 and baptised 12.7.1779. On 15.12.1799 Robert Tucker married Frances Hunt at St Anne Soho - although this was late enough to have been Robert Tucker junior, it fits better with Robinson's description of Miss Tuck as Mrs Browne's sister to assume this was Robert Tucker senior's second marriage. Frances Winifred dau of Robert & Frances Tucker of High Holborn was baptised 10.4.1801 at St Andrew's Holborn. On 16.2.1804 Robert Browne bach and Winifred Tucker sp botp were married at St Pancras by banns. Robert Palmer son of Robert & Winifred Browne was born 30.1.1803 and baptised 25.2.1803 at Newington St Mary, so born a year before their marriage. Robert Palmer Browne, eldest son of Robert Browne of Maize-hill Esq was admitted to the Middle Temple on 14.4.1823. Vanburgh Castle, built by John Vanbrugh (DNB 1664-1726) was at Maze-hill, Greenwich. On 17.5.1828 William Marshall bach & Frances Winifred Tucker sp botp were married at St Pancras by lic. According to the Belfast Newsletter of 27.5.1828 he was late of Belfast and she was of Vanburgh Castle, Blackheath. In the 1841 census Vanbrugh Castle was the residence of a Mr Potts, and Robert Browne age 70 born Ireland and Winifred Browne age 60 were living at Mills Terrace, Hove. Robert Browne was probably the person of that name whose death at Brighton in his 85th year was reported in the Standard of 11.8.1846, (also in Gents Mag). On 17.8.1846 the Cork Examiner also reported this death, apparently saying he was born in Cork (paper not seen). In the 1851 census Winifred Browne annuitant age 77 born Christchurch London was living at 2 Blackheath Hill with her son George H Browne unmarried age 45 clerk in the Paymaster General's Office born Middlesex, New Road. The Morning Post of 29.10.1864 reported the death on 26th inst at 12 Royal Place, Greenwich of Mrs Winifred Frances Browne widow of Robert Browne Esq in her 92nd year. Robert Palmer Browne became surveyor for Greenwich for the Metropolitan Board of Works and appeared in the 1871 census as architect and surveyor age 69 unmarried born Kennington, Surrey  He was buried 27.12.1872 at St Andrew's, Hove (where his father I guess was buried). His brother George Henry died in 1892 also unmarried”

When Robert died in 1872 the publication ‘The Architect’ had this to say about him. “ Mr Palmer Brown, of Royal Hill, Greenwich was widely known as an architect of considerable accomplishments. He was a man of the highest rank in his profession”. One would think therefore that much more information about him would have been published but sadly that does not appear to be the case.

The 1841 census, taken at Royal Place in Greenwich gave Robert Brown (born 1896) as an architect. Living with him was his 36 year old brother George Brown, a clerk. George Brown is always reported in census records as being single such as that of 1851 taken at 14 Royal Place, Greenwich where he was given as single and working as an architect. Living with him was just one domestic servant.

Electoral records from 1858 to 1879 consistently record him living in a house at Royal Place, Royal Hill, Greenwich. Blower’s Architects list of 1864 gave “Robert Palmer Brown, architect, 15 Royal Place, Royal Hill ,Greenwich SE”.

The London Gazette of 1839  announced that the partnership between Robert Palmer Brown (given as Brown) and Charles Hennan, carrying on business at 30 Clement’s Lane, Lambeth Street, London and Royal Place, Greenwich, as architects, surveyors and estate agents was dissolved by mutual agreement on June 27,1839.

The publication ‘The Metropolitan Building Act’ of 1855 listed Robert Palmer Brown (given as Browne) as a surveyor at his residence at Royal Place, Royal Hill, Greenwich.

The 1861 census, taken at Royal Place, George Street, Greenwich gave “Robert Palmer Browne” as single with the occupation of architect and surveyor. Living with him were four servants.

The publication ‘Metropolitan Board of Works Proceeding (1865) refers to proceedings taken by Robert Palmer Brown(given as Brown) in 1865 before the Magistrate, for contravention of the rules of the Building Act, with reference to divisional party walls at the works of the Blakeley Ordnance Company, East Greenwich.

The Minutes of Proceedings of the Metropolitan Board of Works (1869) referred to”Mr Robert Palmer Browne” as the District Surveyor of Greenwich and that he had appointed Mr T.H. Raiman as his Deputy for a period of six weeks.

The 1871 census, taken at 11 Royal Place, Greenwich gave “Robert Palmer Browne” as single with the occupation of architect and land agent. With him were two servants.

At the beginning of this section I gave the last piece of information found for him, namely the comments made upon his death in 1872 at Greenwich in ‘The Architect’ 1872.

The design of churches is quite a specialized field of architecture and no doubt his selection as the architect of Christ Church was based on his record as the architect of other churches.

An exhaustive search of records regarding the various buildings designed by Robert was not undertaken but it was observed that much of his work was centered in Greenwich and the surrounding area. However there are many buildings by him from further afield.  Just a few examples of his projects are given below.

It was noted that in reference to St Alfrege’s Hosptial and before it was constructed there was an infirmary that opened on the site in 1840 and that “The architect Robert Palmer Browne (1803-1872) later described his design as ‘plain but cheerful and almslike’. An article about Petham House at Petham near Canterbury noted that in 1850 Thomas Henry Mackay who owned it hired architect Robert Palmer Browne to design a large stuccoed Italianate Villa on the site of Baldock House which was demolished to make way for the new building. It was also noted that Wesbourne Terrace (No. 1-31) in Westminster was designed by “the builder Robert Palmer Browne”. The General Steam Navigation Company, founded 1824 became London’s foremost short shipping line for almost 150 years. They operated wharves in Coldharbour and near the London Bridge, “with some piers and buildings designed by company architect Robert Palmer Browne”.


The builders of the church were identified is Colbrans 1839 directory as Messrs Cole,Thorpe and Scantlebury and apart from this source nothing else was found for them in connection with this church or for that matter any other building in England but obviously this firm did other buildings.

What is known is that the business was based in London and that all three gentlemen were descended from families connected with architecture and building.  The name Scantlebury is most associated with the Devon and Cornwall part of England and although the occupations of this family line were varied a large number of them were builders. Reference was given in the Parliamentary Papers of a case involving the construction of house where a Mr Scantlebury was hired under contract dated October 5,1852 to construct a residence for the complainant. In this case it was stated that Mr Scantlebury had built his own home and at least adjacent to it some 7-8 years previous. London directories of 1843 listed (1) John Scantlebury, builder, 11 David Street, Baker Street, Portman Square (2) William Scantlebury, builder, 6 Bathurst, Sussex Square. It is believed by the researcher that one of these men was the partner in the firm of Cole, Thorpe and Scantlebury.

With respect to the Thorpe family, records dating back to the 16th century note the existence of John Thorpe “ a most eminent architect of his age”. Who the Thorpe was in the partnership with Cole and Scantlebury was not established but John Thorpe was a man of considerable wealth and had a large family, including several sons, and it is believed by the researcher that it was one of the descendants of John Thorpe who was a partner in the firm.  A John Thorpe (1798-1860) was a builder born in Fleet Fen,Lilconshire .He married Elizabeth Garret in 1823 at St Pancras and with her had five sons and one daughter between 1829 and 1843. He died at 17 South Street, Camberwell November 17,1860. His son William Jacob Thorpe (1825-1899) became a master builder. His son John, born 1829, became a house painter and his son Christopher Robert Thorpe, born in 1840 became a house painter.

With respect to the Cole family, many references to various members of this clan were found as builders, most notably Charles Cole who was a builder and surveyor and who in 1772 came into possession of Ely Place in London and demolished it and constructed a new building on the site. He died age 65 in 1803 leaving a large estate to his three sons and one daughter. It is believed by the researcher that one of the descendents of Charles Cole became the business partner with Thorpe and Scantlebury.

It was surprising and disappointing that concrete evidence of who the men were in the firm that built Christ Church were for sadly any records for the firm give only their surnames, making it virtually impossible to obtain more detailed information about their families and lives.  No announcements regarding the formation or dissolution of partnerships was found, which normally are an excellent source of information about the full names of business partners.


Given below is a partial list of known vicars of the church. An exhaustive study was not undertaken on this topic. Details about them can be found in Crockford’s Clerical Directory which can be viewed online.

1)   Rev. J. Ridgeway, father of the late Bishop of Salisbury (Past and Present 1846 by C.H. Strange). John Charles Ridgeway (1841-1927) was ordained in 1866. He spent a Curacy at Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells before becoming Vicar of North Malvern, Rector of Buckhurst Hill and Rural Dean of Paddington. His father was Joseph Ridgeway (1802-1871) who was also a Vicar of Christ Church in Tunbridge Wells. Joseph Ridgeway is listed in Crockford’s Clerical Directory of 1868 at Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells.

2)    Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906) took his Holy Orders in 1850 and soon after was a Curate at the Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells before coming Rector of Hinton-Martell in 1852.

3)    Rev. Thomas Ward Franklyn was the incumbent (1858 Melville). He was also there 1855. Thomas is listed in Crockford’s Clerical Directory of 1868 at Onslow Square in South Kensington and given as “formerly P.C of Christ Church,Tunbridge Wells.

4)    Rev Charles Edward Story M.A. of Exeter College held his position at the church since 1897 and was still the Vicar there in 1908, according to Crockfords 1908 Clerical Directory.He had been from 1891 to 1897 at St John, Hudderfield from 1891 to 1896..

5)    Rev Lancelot Charles Walford, M.A. was the Vicar of Christ Church,Tunbridge Wells 1875-1886. In the period of 1886 to 1906 he was at St Saviour Upper Chelsea and before coming to Tunbridge Wells was “R. of Bucklerham,Suffolk 1869-1875” according to Crockford’s Clerical Directory of 1908.

6)    Rev John Campbell of Cambridge became Vicar of Christ Church Tunbridge Wells in 1886.


The Parish Room, adjacent (south of) Christ Church was opened January 10,1900, after a six month building program. In addition to the main hall, which measured 55 feet by 25 feet, there was also a smaller classroom, a kitchen and a spacious lobby at the back which could be used as a choir vestry. Shown opposite from the Courier of 1899 is an image of the Parish Room, set back from the road on nicely landscaped grounds behind an iron fence. Below from the Winter 2017 newsletter of the local Civic Society is a more modern view (c1960)of the front of the building. Other views of it, mostly partial views beside the church, as shown throughout this article. 

The building was designed by the prominent local architects H.H. and E. Cronk and the building cost about 1,200 pounds, which sum was raised through donations from members of the congregation and others connected to the church. An especially generous donor was Herbert Dalton (1821-1903), a retired colonel administrator and former director of the Kent Waterworks Company, whose second wife Annie Caroline Dalton, nee Temple (1864-1944) laid the building’s foundation stone in July 1899. From at least 1871 up to the time of his death at “Glenrosa” 12 Broadwater down the Dalton family lived in this fine home, which home was later demolished in the 20th century and the site redeveloped. Probate records show that when Herbert died his estate was valued at over 92,000 pounds and when his wife Annie died her estate was valued at over 38,000 pounds clearly indicating that the family were very well off financially. Details about the Dalton family, their residence in Tunbridge Wells and Herbert’s life and career will be the subject of a future article.

At the opening it was suggested that, as well as being used for church events, the Parish Room would be used for “meetings of an instructive, recreational, useful and wholesome kind” as reported in the Kent & Sussex Courier of January 12,1900.  The Parish Room went on to host a variety of other activities. In its first year, these included a ‘Patriotic Concert’ by Maude Beeby; a school prize giving; a church social; several political meetings and a series of lectures on the French Revolution.

On May 8,1905 one of the first Votes for Women meetings in Tunbridge Wells was held in the Parish Room, with about 100 people in attendance. The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society Newsletter of Winter 2017 contains an article by Anne Carwardine entitled “ Christ Church Parish Room and the Votes for Women Campaign” in which she describes the various meetings held in the Parish Room in connection with the Right to Vote Movement, which meeting continued until 1918 when the ‘Representation of the People Act received Royal Assent, giving the vote to women over 30 who met certain qualifications and on December 14,1918 women voted in the general election for the first time.  To assist women in their voting a Tunbridge Wells branch of the Women Citizens Association (WCA) was formed. The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 14,1918 reported on the WCA, which organization held their first meeting in the Parish Room June 12,1918 with Amelia Scott being appointed the Treasure and who spoke at the meeting.

The Parish Room continued to be used for a wide range of purposes. However, after women gained the right to vote on the same basis as men in 1928, the last of the town’s women’s suffrage organizations ceased to exist and no further women’s suffrage meetings were held there.

In 1996 the Christ Church Parish Room was demolished along with Christ Church itself.


As noted earlier the architects of this building were H.H. and E. Cronk. Details about them were given in my article’ Henry Hickman Cronk-Architect  dated March 23,2012 but updated April 7,2013. Below is the updated article.

Henry Hickman Cronk's claim to fame in Tunbridge Wells was for the design he and his cousin Edwyn Evans Cronk (1846-1919)did for the extensive changes to St John's Church but later in this article is a description of the other projects he is known to have done.

Henry was born January 12,1839 at Rotherfield,Sussex and was christened  on January 25th at St Deny's Church.He was one of six boys and three girls born to John Cronk(1812-1851) and Elizabeth Taylor Cronk(nee Round)(1804-1875).His father John  was born March 1812 at Seal,Kent and his mother 1808 at the same place.His parents had been married September 29,1936 at St Peter's Church in Seal,Kent.

By the time the 1851 census was taken Henry's father had passed away and left his wife to look after the family farm (New Terrace Farm in Southborough)consisting of about 200-300 acres. To run the farm Elizabeth hired 9 men and 3 boys.In the census for that year Henry is living on the farm with his mother and four siblings.By the time the 1861 census was taken Henry had learned to be an architect by attending the South Kensington School of Art and articled with another architect.In the 1861 census taken on Mount Pleasant Road Henry is working as an architect and surveyor and living with his mother and two siblings Margaret ,age 15 and Egbert,age 13.

The Building News and Architectural Review of August 22,1862 announced that Henry Hickman Cronk was the architect of three residences in Tunbridge Wells for which he had received tenders from contractors and from which he selected the winning bids. The three residences were firstly a villa for Stephen Busden,esq, at #11 Hungershall Park, the second was a villa residence for Edward Churchill,esq, of Tunbridge Wells on Sand Rock Road. Churchill is best known locally as the proprietor of various hotels. The third residence was a villa for another Tunbridge Wells resident by the name of Charles Edwards, esq. No address was given for the last residence listed.

On May 1,1862 Henry married Emma Clark(1833-1923) in Tunbridge Wells and began to raise a family. With Emma he had seven daughters and one son,Cuthbert, who would later go on to a career as a music professor and for 40 years was the organist at St. John's Church in Tunbridge Wells.

In the 1891 census,taken at 4 Mount Ephraim Road, Henry is an architect and surveyor operating his own practice and has assistants working for him.With him at this address is his wife Emma and seven children.His son Cuthbert is a professor of music.In the 1901 census,taken at the same address, Henry is still running his architect/surveyor practice and living with him at this time was his wife Emma and eight of their children.

In addition to being an architect Henry is recorded in an 1867 directory as the secretary of the Literary,Scientific & Useful Knowledge Society at the Parade,Tunbridge Wells,a position he held until at least 1899.Henry was also the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells from 1893-1894.

His business premises in 1874 were at 2 Mount Ephraim and from at least 1881 to 1903 at #4 Mount Ephraim.The directory of 1899 records for the first time that he and his cousin Edwyn Evans Cronk are working together for the firm is listed as Henry H & E Cronk. In 1903 the company is still listed by this name at #4 Mount Ephraim even though records show that by 1887 Edwyn has left Tunbridge Wells and set up his own practice in Chelsea,London. However it is known that both Henry and Edwyn continued to work together on various projects and in some cases both of their names appear on the plans and specifications.

Some of the projects credited to Henry Cronk include the redesign of St Johns Church in 1887.The plans and specifications for this work bear the names H.H.Cronk and his cousin E.E.Cronk.Henry also designed St Peters Church in Tunbridge Wells in 1874.This church was the only one entirely designed by Henry on his own.The Vale Towers on London Road was a collaborative work by Henry and Egbert Cronk.Henry also designed the bank at the top of Mount Pleasant which was at that time called  Beechings,Hodghin & Beeching Bank.The manager of this bank was Henry's eldest brother Richard Widen Cronk.Since November 1,1890 this bank had been Lloyds Bank.In 1862 Henry Cronk designed Ashdown House at #11 Hungershall Park,Tunbridge Wells.At 76 Mount Ephraim,Molyneux Place is a building that began as a mansion called Earl's Court.In 1904 Henry Cronk added two floors and a rear addition to the original building which served thereafter as Earl's Court Hotel.Henry is also credited with the design of "Bredbury" an Italionate mansion called Bredbury House on Mount Ephraim.Henry was also called in to provide his input April 1,1870 at a meeting of the members of the Corn Exchange for the purpose of seeing if more space could be obtained.The records held by the Centre orf Kentish Studies for St John's Church indicate that they have the plans for the 1897 changes to St John's Church and that the set of 13 plans bear the names of H.H.Cronk and E.Cronk.Also,a plan with both their names on it is on file regarding a seating plan for the church dated November 1896.Also on file bearing the same names are various plans dated 1909-1913 regarding alterations and additions to the interior of St John's Church.Also on file is a set of 10 plans bearing the name of H.H and E Cronk dated February-May 1892 regarding additions to the Girls Memorial School and another set of three plans dated 1901 for proposed additions to the Girls Memorial School.The firm of H.H. and E. Cronk were also hired by the carriage building firm of Rock & Son of Hastings to design for construction in 1892 a large four floor brick and stone building at the north east corner of Grosvenor Road and Grosvenor Park in Tunbridge Wells. Although there was an extensive five in this building in 1915 it was saved and restored to its former glory and still exists today as a commercial building. No doubt other projects Henry Cronk undertook will be uncovered with further research. H.H. and E. Cronk were also the architects hired to design the Christ Church Parish Room adjacent to Christ Church in 1900.

Architect Stanley William Worth Delves,who in the period of 1895-1914 was an architect in Tunbridge Wells, articles with Henry Hickman Cronk at the beginning of his career. Architect Egbert Augustine Crooke also articled to Henry Cronk and Edwyn Cronk when they were working as partners.

Henry Hickman Cronk passed away on December 11,1907 at #4 Mount Ephraim Road,Tunbridge Wells.His estate of just over 21,000 pounds was left to Egbert Cronk,architect,Constance Emma Cronk,his spinster sister and to Cuthbert Cronk,organist.

Henry’s cousin Edwyn Evans Cronk (1846-1919( was the son of Edwyn Evans Cronk (1821-1886), an auctioneer, who in 1881 was at 138 High Street,Sevenoaks with another son William Henry Cronk (1848-1921) who became a land agent. Edwyn junior was linked to an architectural business with his father and brother as late as 1903 when it was described as architects, surveyors and land agents. He had joined it even before he was articled to his cousin Henry Hickman Cronk, architect of 4 Mount Ephraim, Seemingly, he went from this position to join the office of W.M. Teulon, whose partner he became in 1869. After Teulon retired, Cronk opened an office at 2 Pall Mall and then from 1915 at 1B King Street nearby, where he remained until his death. He is also listed as Henry Cronk’s partner in St John’s Road,Tunbridge Wells as late as 1887, but probably lived in London. He died at Kensington in 1919.



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

Date: December 26,2017


The Monson Colonnade has been the home of shops and residences in Tunbridge Wells since it was by 1896 by local builder/beer retailer Henry Adams.

This fine structure occupies a large block of land on Monson Road that extends just south of Calverley Road down Monson Road until it joins up with the Opera House building on Mount Pleasant Road. At the time of the 1911 census the shops/residences in this block were numbered up to No. 50 Monson Colonnade and included almost every kind of shop imaginable. It has always been a popular place to shop and over the years it has been home to hundreds of different shops with few vacancies. When my friend Mrs Susan Prince and I visited Tunbridge Wells in 2015 we visited many of the shops in the Colonnade. One of our favourites was a tea house/bake shop called the Patisserie Valerie (photo opposite) that opened February 2015. It had a very inviting and tasty selection of tarts and cakes on display in the window, a display we could not resist and so we sat inside at a small table enjoying some lovely British pastries and a nice cup of tea before setting of on our days adventures in the town.

The somewhat unique feature of this block was in the way it was designed in that the residences above the shops were entirely separated from the shops below and accessed not through the shops(as typically was the case) but rather by staircases that extended from the road at convenience distances to a second floor balcony from which occupants gained access to the residences. The balcony itself had the advantage of providing shelter to those patronizing the shops below.

The Monson Colonnade is an impressive three sty building with bay windows on the top two floors with the entire structure following the typical Victorian Era style of architecture. The balcony itself is very decorative and extending upwards from it is a line of large gas lamps (at the time it was built but now electric) which provided illumination to shoppers and the residents, something that was lacking in other parts of the town.

Traditionally shop buildings were designed with the shop at street level and private accommodation for the shopkeeper and his family above, or in some cases these quarters were occupied by employees of the shop owner.

This article provides a brief history of the Monson Colonnade site; the building itself; its builder; and some information about those who occupied the building.  This article is by no means and exhaustive historical account of the subject, one which might best be presented in the form of a book. Shown above is one of several postcard images of the building presented in this article.


Shown opposite is a 1907 os map on which highlighted in red is the Monson Colonnade building, occupying the west and north side of Monson Road from just south of Calverley Road ,at Newton Road, up to where it meets the Opera House building just east of o Mount Pleasant Road. The addresses of the units are numbered in an east to west direction.

Details about the Opera House building were given in my article ‘The Opera House-88 Mount Pleasant Road’ dated February 7,2012 in which I reported in part “The decision to have a grand opera house in Tunbridge Wells began with the intention of having it completed in time to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 but like most plans not everything worked out the way it was intended and construction was delayed. Three foundation stones were laid for the building on October 10,1901,one by the town's Mayor William Henry Delves, the second by Mr Fred Horner, Member of Parliament, and the third by the well- known actor Sir Beerbohm Tree, most often associated with His/Her Majesty's Theatre in London….. It was not until 1902 that the building finally opened.” And so it can be seen from this that the Monson Colonnade building,constructed in 1899, predated the Opera House building. Although completed before the Opera House building construction of both of them overlapped.

The Ordnance survey map of 1899 shows the Monson Colonnade but not the Opera House building, which on its site were two smaller buildings demolished to make way for it.

A map of 1872 shows that most of the land later occupied by the Opera House, the Monson Colonnade and other buildings was largely unoccupied; that Monson Road and Newton Road did not exist; and that on part of the site of the future Monson Road, was Monson House from which the name Monson Road was derived. In 1872 the property south of the future Monson Road was largely occupied by Hervey Town and John Ward’s Calverley Parade/Terrace/Mews etc fronting along Crescent Road and Mount Pleasant Road. In fact access to the Calverley Mews, located behind the Calverley Parade ,was off a small lane running east off of Mount Pleasant Road which became part of Monson Road and later the site of the Monson Baths built on the south side of Monson Road just east of Mount Pleasant Road. This information is best illustrated in the larger scale map of 1849 where the brief origins of Monson Road at Mount Pleasant Road can be seen.

Over the years I have written a number of articles about various buildings along Monson Road including some about certain shops in the Monson Colonnade. The list is quite extensive and for the sake of brevity I have not listed them here.


An interesting book given to me by my second cousin Christine Harrison and her husband Alan of Tunbridge Wells in 2017 by David Peacock and Frank Chapman entitled ‘Tunbridge Wells Sketchook’ published in 1978 provides an interesting account of the building and its builder Henry Adams. David Peacock was the artist who did the sketches of the buildings described in the book by Frank Chapman. His sketch of the Monson Colonnade is shown above in 'Background'. and text associated with it given below.

“There is no lack of architectural innovation in Tunbridge Wells, and this description must include the Monson Colonnade of shops with dwelling houses above. A feature of the development is that the shops and the houses are separate, for it was never intended that street-level commerce should be troubled by domestic affairs. Monson Colonnade was built in 1899, by an enterprising local builder, Mr Henry Adams, who conceived the idea and saw it through to completion.” The date given of 1899 is actually in error for as you will see below an image of it appeared in Peltons 1896 guide. When exactly the building was constructed was not established but it was certainly there in 1896.

Continuing with the book…” The Colonnade continued in the ownership of the Adams family until quite recent years. Mr Adams offered his idea thus: ‘This quadrant of shops is designed to overcome all inconveniences generally found in shop property. The private houses are essentially separate from the shops, having their front entrances from a balcony approached by some stone steps from the road at convenient distances’. Monson Colonnade provided a great attraction to local traders, and has remained so. Businesses have come and gone, but it has been rare to see an empty property in Mr Adams’ ‘quadrant’. He supplied shops of a high standard, using the balcony to give under-cover shopping, and providing large gas lamps outside each property. Among the early tenants were P. Peters and Co.,selling ornamental and plain designs produced at their Pembury pottery”. The items referred to here were known as Pembury Ware, a photo of which is shown above along with an advertisement from Peltons 1896 Continuing with the text in the book…” An additional attraction in the shop was the potter’s wheel. It could be seen working on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at a charge of twopence per person. Mr Adams had his office and building supplies business at Number Four. A near neighbour was the well-known Tunbridge Wells enterprise of J.G. Murdoch and Co selling pianos and other musical instruments. In the first shop of the Colonnade Mr L.A. Standen sold tobacco and cigars-and guaranteed to obtain anything requested in the smoking line if he did not happen to have it in stock. Next door was Mr G. Webb, tailor and outfitter, and at Number Nine, Henry Rose’s grocery and provision store combined with his Italian Warehouse. The Monson Colonnade, although feeling its age, is zealously guarded by the Tunbridge Wells protection groups whose concern will surely ensure its preservation”.

With respect to protection of the building No.’s 8 to 36 even Monson Collonade was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage who gave the following. Note the date they suggest it was built ! “Terrace, circa 1870, with a parade of shops at street level. Built over four storeys, with ground-floor shops, and residential storeys set back above. The original shopfronts had large canted windows with colonnettes to the corners, and central entrances flanked by slender cast-iron columns with barleysugar shafts; a significant proportion of historic elements survives in several of the existing shopfronts (Nos 16, 18, 20, 26). The top of the parade forms a walkway, bordered by a decorative cast-iron balustrade with integral lamp standards. Round-headed doorways opening from the walkway are accessed by steps from the street; openings between the shopfronts are framed by tiled pilasters. Above the walkway, the buildings are of yellow brick with stucco dressings; the windows have timber sash frames. Each building is defined by a small pedimented gable, some with paired windows and some a single window; beneath this is a double-height canted bay, the angles of the windows having cast-iron colonnettes. Each storey, as well as the eaves, is marked by a moulded storey-band or cornice.No 8 to 36 (even) form a group.”

Monson Road has been over its long history the route of many parades in the town among which in recent years is the Winter Lantern Parade held in February each year with Monson Road being only one to two roads used for this event. The street comes alive to the sounds of beating drums and colourful torches. Shown below left is view of the parade as it passes by the Monson Colonnade and to the right of this image is another parade passing it headed past the Monson Baths towards Mount Pleasant Road from the early 1900’s

The best description of the building itself is by way of a selection of photographs given throughout this article below covering the period of the early 1900’s from postcards to recent times. There can also be found on the internet and interesting article in Kent Live containing firsthand information and modern (1980’s onward) photographs of the Monson Colonnade that is well-worth taking a look at.

With respect to Mr Henry Adams, the gentleman credited with having conceived and built the Monson Colonnade, in the next section is presented the results of my research.


As reported in the previous sections of this article Henry Adams, a local builder and sometimes beer retailer is credited as having conceived and built the Monson Colonnade. The information given in this section is based in part on the research I did for the article about his son George Thomas Adams who was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1881 who became a mechanical engineer and founder of the motor car company Adams & Co of Tunbridge Wells.  In this section I have provided more information about Henry Adams and less about his son and his business. To read more about George Thomas Adams and his life and career see my article ‘Motor Car History-Adams & Co. of Tunbridge Wells’ dated December 14,2015.

Henry Adams was born in 1854 and baptised as Henry John Adams September 5,1855 at Hastings, Sussex. He however is most often referred to simply as Henry Adams with his place of birth given variously as Sedlescombe, Sussex or Mountfield,Sussex. A view of the church in Mountfield is shown above and given opposite is a view of Sedlescombe. His parents were Thomas Adams (1818-1894) and Mary Adams, nee Stevens (1817-1872). Henry came from a large family and had at least six siblings and a family tree suggests that his father had been married twice and had two other children from another marriage. I did not investigate this claim choosing instead to concentrate on Henry Adams.

It is knows from birth and early census records that in at least the period of 1854 to 1861 Henry lived in Seddlescombe, Sussex with his parents and siblings. The 1861 census taken at Beech Cottage at Chichester,Sussex gave Thomas Adams as a builder employing two hands. With him was his wife Mary and his children George Thomas, a bricklayers apprentice, born 1843 at Mountfield; Ann, a laundress born 1844 at Mountfield; Emily, a laundress born 1846 at Mountfield; Clara a scholar born 1851 at Sedlescombe; Charles William,born 1853 at Sedlescombe; HENRY ADAMS, born 1855 at Sedlescombe,Sussex and Sarah E Adams born 1857 at the same place. The four youngest children were all attending school.

The 1871 census, taken at Church Street, Ore, Sussex gave the head of the family as Thomas Adams, a builder employing two men who was born 1818 in Robertsbridge,Sussex. With him was his wife Mary, born 1818 at Catsfield,Sussex and their children Ann,age 27; Emily,age 24; Clara,age 20; Charles William, age 18; HENRY ADAMS,age 16 and Susan Adams age 14. The daughters Ann, Emily and Clara were all working as laundress and the sons Charles William and HENRY ADAMS were both working in their fathers business as bricklayers.

In the 2nd qtr of 1874 Henry Adams married Elizabeth Sarah Ann Hallifax. The marriage was registered at Thanet. The birth of Elizabeth was registered at Brentford, Middlesex in the 2nd qtr of 1853. She was baptised July 10,1853 at Hounslow, Middlesex and given as the daughter of William and Sarah Hallifax. At the time of the marriage Henry’s name was given as Henry John Adams. At the time of the 1861 census Elizabeth was living at Margaret St John the Baptist with her parents and siblings. The 1871 census, taken at 31 Fort Crescent in St John,Kent gave Sarah Hallifax, born 1823 in Margate as a widow. Living with her was her daughter Elizabeth and her daughters Margaret and Alice born in Margate 1856 and 1859 respectively. Elizabeth continued to live with her widowed mother and siblings up to the time of her marriage to Henry in 1875.

Henry and his wife took up residence in Tunbridge Wells soon after the marriage. The 1881 census, taken at 1 Camden Road gave Henry Adams as the innkeeper. With him was his wife Elizabeth S.A. Adams and the following children four children who were all born in Tunbridge Wells (1) Frederick W.H.C. Adams, born 1876 (2) Alice M Adams, born 1878 (3) Isabel Adams, born 1880 (4) George Thomas Adams, born 1881.  No.1 Camden Road was located near the intersection of Calverley Road and Camden Road with the Camden Inn located on the north east corner and always given in records with an address on Calverley Road. Henry’s inn was obviously located in close proximity to the Camden Inn as the numbering of buildings on Camden Road began at Calverley Road and increased northward.

Henry and Elizabeth had two more children that were born in Tunbridge Wells namely Elvira Drusilla, born 1882, and Mabel, born 1887.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 14,1890  reported on a “Disasterous Fire” in Tunbridge Wells to the premises of Mr Henry Adams and others on Newton Road and Monson Colonnade. A second article on the same topic appeared in the Courier of November 14th. The fire was spotted by a local policeman about 3:10 am on November 12 and the fire brigade arrived on the scene; hooked their hoses to four hydrants on Newton Road and Monson Road and tackled the blaze which lit up the sky. Some firemen were injured. The large workshop of Henry Adams was ablaze and the fire spread to other sheds etc but fortunately did not spread to neighbouring houses thanks to the efforts of the fire brigade. A detailed damage report appeared in the newspaper with premises at 26 and 28 Monson Colonade and 1-7 Newton Road part of which premises were owned by Henry Adams and occupied by tenants. 

The 1891 census, taken at 28 Monson Road gave Henry Adams as a builder. With him was his wife Elizabeth and their children Frederick, Alice, Isabella (Isabel), George Thomas, Elvira Druscilla, and Mabel. Also in the home were two domestic servants. The 1899 Kelly directory gave the listing “ Henry Adams, 28 Monson Colonnade, builder, and beer retailer at 9 Camden Road”.

At the time of the 1901 census, Henry appears to have been away on business but he and his family took up residence in the Monson Colonnade when it was competed and Henry set up a shop there at No. 4 where he sold builders supplies.

The 1901 census, taken at 30 Monson Colonnade gave Elizabeth Sarah Ann Adams as married with no occupation. With her was her children Alice M, Isabel, Elvira and Mabel. Isabel and her sister Elvira were both working at that time as assistant school teachers. Also there was one boarder. The 1903 Kelly directory listed Henry Adams and Mrs H. Adams at 30 Monson Colonnade.

The 1911 census, taken at 20 Monson Colonnade gave just Henry’s daughter Mabel Adams, age 24, single in 8 rooms. Her parents and other siblings were away at the time.

Henry’s daughter Alice Margaret Adams later married David Allen Aston, an iron foundry owner, born 1877 in Shorditch. Alice is found living with her husband and two children and her married mother Elizabeth Sarah Ann Adams, age 57, at 30 Manor road, Stoke Newington. They were living in premises of 6 rooms and the Aston’s had been married 5 years. As you will see later quite a connection had been made between the Adams and Aston family for Henry’s son George Thomas Adams married into the Aston family (to Nellie Eliza Ashton) in 1907, details of which are given later.

Moving ahead in time to 1920 it is found that Henry Adams wife Elizabeth Sarah Ann Adams was buried at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on November 10,1920.

Probate records gave Henry Adams of Cleverley Mayfield Sussex when he died June 28,1921. The executors of his 19,814 pound estate were Alice Margaret Aston (his daughter and wife of David Allen Aston); Isabel Adams (his daughter and wife of Gilbert Adams, her cousin?) and Violet Winniefrith Adams (wife of George Thomas Adams). Records show that Henry Adams was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on July 1,1921 .


A detailed coverage of the history of this business in Tunbridge Wells was given in my article ‘Motor Car History-Adams & Co  Of Tunbridge Wells’ date December 14,2015. In this section I have provided some extracts as part of the history of this business involved Henry Adams although in the early history of the business it was founded and run by son George Thomas Adams in partnership with another gentleman. As you will read however ,Henry Adams played an active and important role in his sons business.

The business, which was a mechanical engineering/motor car business was established in Tunbridge Wells in 1903.

The companies premises were at 16 Newton Road, a three sty red/brown brick commercial building on the south side of Newton Road not far from Mount Pleasant Road. The business is recorded at this address during the period of 1913 to 1918, and listed as mechanical engineers. Directories of 1922 to 1930 (the last listing for the business) gave them operating from premises on Monson Road.

This business, like so many others at the start of the 20th century, focused its attention on the design and manufacture of small motorcars, advertised as  “One of The Best”,  and related products, such as jacks and lifting devices which the company received a patent for in in 1906. This patent (US 837372A) was registered December 4,1906 under the name of Henry Adams who identified himself in the patent records as a resident of 30 Monson Colonnade. Details about this patent including  drawings and text can be seen in its entirety online.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 12,1890 reported on a devastating fire in the town which did serious damage to many premises, including that of Henry Adams.

George Thomas Adams had been well educated and graduated from university with a degree in mechanical engineering. As his father had no engineering background it was George Thomas Adams who was the technical brains behind the business. George Thomas Adams had initially formed a partnership with Frederick Rowan Bonamy Price (1882-1916) and operated a “General Engineers” business under the name of Adams & Co,  but when this partnership ended in 1907 the business was carried on by George Thomas Adams and his father Henry.

George Thomas Adams married Nellie Eliza Aston in 1907 at St Andrew, Stoke Newington. Nellie was born 1873 in London and was the sister of David Allen Aston, who ran an iron foundry in Stoke Newington. Alice Margaret Adams (born 1878 in Tunbridge Wells), the daughter of Henry Adams (1854-1921) married David Allen Aston and raised a family. George Thomas Adams and Nellie, at the time of the 1911 census were living in premises of seven rooms at 6 Someset Road,Tunbridge Wells but had no children. By 1922 George and his wife lived at 154 Upper Grosvenor Road. When the business of Adams & Co ended in 1929 he and his wife left Tunbridge Wells and moved to London where he died in 1967.

Although little has been reported about the history of Adams & Co the products they produced drew considerable attention. The company was a regular exhibitor at the Motor Shows in Olympia, most notably those of 1903 where they demonstrated an apparatus that allowed for the conversion of a horse drawn carriage into a motor car; the 1905 show where they displayed a small 2 cyl motor car which they sold under the name of “One of the Best”. They also produced, on a very limited scale, larger motor cars such as a 10 hp rear drive Tourier, a photo of which is shown in this article-and a very rare machine indeed! The company also exhibited in 1908 motor jacks and a patented elevator for service motor cars, as well as washing device. The products they produced (two of which were patented in 1906)were widely reported on in the trade magazine ‘The Commercial Motor’. The last time the company exhibited was at the 1929 Commercial Exhibition at Olympia.

The business was set up in premises at 16 Newton Road,Tunbridge Wells. Shown here is a modern photograph of the building.

The business got off to a fast start, for they were exhibitors at the 1903 Motor Car Show in Olympia. Wikipedia gave the following “H. Adams, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, offered a conversion set that converted horse-drawn carriages into motorized automobiles. The engine was mounted on a swivelling fore-carriage, and steering was achieved through wheel and vertical column. In 1905, Adams produced a small 2-cylinder car sold under the name 'One of the Best' “ (Ref. Georgano, G.N., "Adams", in G.N. Georgano, ed., The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars 1885-1968 (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1974), pp. 27.)

A book entitled “Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry” gave the listing… “Adams & Co, Tunbridge Wells…founded 1903; still operating 1906. Made small cars”.

A review of patent records for the USA gave two records of patents by Adams & Co namely (1) “Henry Adams Tunbridge Wells-Jack for lifting and transporting motor cars etc #818859 dated April 24,1906 (2) Henry Adams Tunbridge Wells-Means for elevating and transporting motor road vehicles #811116 dated January 30,1906. Above I have referred to a third patent of 1906 under the name of Henry Adams and it was interesting to note that all of the patents were taken out in the name of Henry Adams rather than his son.  There were comparable patents taken out in England also for all of their inventions.

The London Gazette of May 10,1907 announced that the partnership between Mr Price and George Thomas Adams, carrying on business as “general engineers” at 16 Newton Road,Tunbridge Wells, has this day been dissolved by mutual agreement and the business in future will be carried on by me, the said George Thomas Adams in conjunction with Henry Adams of 30 Monson Colonnade Road, Tunbridge Wells. “This announcement bore the names “F.R. Bonamy Price and G.T. Adams” and was dated April 27,1907. From that time forward the driving force behind the business, at least in terms of technical work was by George Thomas Adams with his father Henry playing a managerial but less technical role than his son.

Graces Guide gave the following information about the activities of Adams & Co at the 1908 Motor Show in Olympia, at which show the company demonstrated products in the “Accessory Section”. It reads “ Messrs Admas and Co. of Tunbridge Wells, have their usual selection of motor jacks and their patent elevator, which can raise a car sufficiently to enable workmen to operate beneath it, this doing away with the necessity for a pit. Their new, motor washing device is ingenious. It consists of a flexible jointed spray nozzle, which can be fitted to any water lead, and is controlled by a lever in the hand, the flow ceasing when the lever is released. A rubber cup round the orifice acts as a protector in case the nozzle is roughly thrown about. Fitted in the same way is a motor-cleaning brush, with hollow handle and small perforations, which keep the bristles always clean. The two devices are great time and water savers”. Shown opposite is a photograph taken at the 1908 show which was held November 13 to November 20th.

The Commercial Motor publication of July 17,1913 gave the news “ Preliminary notices of some of the more interesting exhibits at the 1913 Olympia Motor Show….. Adams and Co., Newton Road,Tunbridge Wells…[ stall 123]…JACKS AND LIFTERS…The ingeniously designed brush which can be connected to a water supply for use when cleaning down vehicles, which will be shown in service, will naturally create much attention. Of greater interest to our mechanically-minded readers will be the Adams patent hydraulic lifting and weight-recording jack, and the Adams patent lifting and transfer jacks. The first of these appliances is already well known to us as the “jack which weighs while it lifts”, descriptions of this early type of which have already appeared in the pages of this journal”. The 1913 show was held at Olympia from July 18-26th . A document entitled “Applications to Exhibit at Olympia” dated May 8,1913 described the show as the Commercial Vehicle Exhibition and that in the Components and Accessory Section, Adam & Co of 16 Newton Road,Tunbridge Wells, had applied for a stall.

A review of Tunbridge Wells directories gave the following results (1) 1903…….Mrs Adams,30 Monson Collonade (2) 1913 and 1918…..” Adams & Co, mechanical engineers, 16 Newton Road . Also in 1913…” Henry Adams, 30 Monson Collonade (3) 1922 and 1930…..”Adams & Co., mechanical engineers, Monson Road”. No listings for the business in 1934 or afterwards was found, indicating that the business had ended sometime between 1930 and 1934. It should be noted that directories of 1934 and 1937 list “Adams & Co., motor engineers, Winerstoke Rd, Bristol” but there is no evidence that company is connected in any way to the one of the same name in Tunbridge Wells.

A review of the trade publication “ The Commercial Motor” produced several results where the products produced by Adams & Co of Tunbridge Wells were written about, most of which pertained to the companies jacks and lifting devices. These articles date from 1903 up to 1929.

As a word of caution, to avoid confusion, one finds that the name of Adams appears in many records pertaining to the manufacture of motor cars, such as the Adams Manufacturing Company Ltd of Bedford and others but they are not connected in any way to the company in Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately writers have been careless in describing certain motor cars as an “Adams” without clarifying the name of the actual maker.

The last record I present for the company is a report that appeared in The Commercial Motor of October 1,1929 (see opposite). The heading of the article was “ Devices for Solving the Jacking Problem” and in part stated “ An interesting new type of lifting mechanism is being made by Adams and Co., Monson Road,Tunbridge Wells. It consists of a three-wheeled trolley having two wheels on an axle at one end and a single castor wheel at the end next to the operator. It minimum height is 71 ins, and it has an effective reach of 6 ft 9 ins., which should be sufficient to tackle any vehicle with a long overhang behind the rear axle. The continuous lift of 10 ins, gives a total overall height when fully extended of 1 ft 51 ins. There are no springs, pawls or ratchet teeth to wear, and the price is 9 pound 10 shillings. It will be on view at stand No. 406 at the forthcoming Motor Show at Olympia from October 17th to 26th” The article goes on to give technical details and refers to one of the jacks shown in the illustration.

Shown at the top of this section is a 10 hp rear wheel drive motor car called a “tourer” which was recently shown at an International Classic Car Show. The show catalogue listed this vehicle as being made by Adams & Co. of Tunbridge Wells. Their vehicles must be quite rare for no other examples of motor cars made by them were found on the internet. As would be expected any motor cars made by them would have been hand made on a small scale.Being advertised as “one of the best” suggests that they were of high quality but no review of  their motorcars was found on the internet and the items they displayed at the Olympic Motor Shows tended to be products other than motor cars. No company advertisements were found either.

The 1911 census, taken at 6 Somerset Road,Tunbridge Wells gave GEORGE THOMAS ADAMS as born 1881 Tunbridge Wells with the occupation of “manufacturing engineer”. Living with him was his wife Nellie Eliza Adams,nee Aston, (see my comments above about the Aston family). Nellie had been born 1875 in London and she had married George Thomas Adams on March 30,1907 at St Andrew Stole Newington. Her father was given on the marriage records as David Aston (deceased), iron founder. She had been living before the marriage at 48 Manor Road and was a spinster.In the marriage record George Thomas Adams was given as a bachelor with the occupation of “engineer” and that he was of Holy Trinity, Tunbridge Wells. The 1911 census showed that the couple had no children; that they had been married 4 years and that they were living in premises of 7 rooms. No. 6 Somerset Road is located in Southborough north of Culverden Down east of St John’s Road and is one of several similar red brick homes on the north side of Somerset Road.

George’s wife Nellie passed away in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1911. Probate records gave Nellie Eliza Adams of 6 Somerset Road,Tunbridge Wells (wife of George Thomas Adams) who died April 30,1911. The executor of her 60 pound estate was her husband George Thomas Adams, manufacturing engineer. Nellie was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on May 4,1911.

George Thomas Adams continued to operate Adams & Co until about 1930 and appears to have given it up then. The 1922 Kelly directory gave George Thomas Adams as living at 154 Upper Grosvenor Road a detached 5 bedroom home with two baths and two reception rooms which today is divided up into at least three flats. What became of George is not certain for no record of him in the Tunbridge Wells directories of 1930 onwards was found. There is a record of a George Thomas Adams being cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on September 26,1966. There is also a probate record for a George Thomas Adams of Long Hedges Packhams Hill, Rotherfield, Sussex who died September 19,1966 who left an estate valued at 57,089 pounds to Violet Winniefrith Adams, widow. These two records appear connected on the time scale. No record of a death for George Thomas Adams was found in Tunbridge Wells, just the cremation record given above. The only death record which certainly applies to the cremation record is that George Thomas Adams who died in 1966 was born in 1881, which is the same year that the central figure in this article was born.



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