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

Date: May 5,2018



Harry Dupree(1864-1932) was born in Twichenham, Middlesex, one of six children born to William Dupree, a railway engine driver, (1829-1880) and Hannah Dupree, nee Jones (1828-1887). Of his siblings the best known is Colonel Sir William Thomas Dupree, 1st Baron of Craneswater, who apart from a distinguished military career, and founder of a prosperous brewing company, served for a time in the early 1900’s as the Mayor of Portsmouth.

At the time of the 1891 census Harry was living in Hampstead, London and running a wine merchants business. With him was his wife Frances (1858-1910).

Sometime before 1901 (some give circa 1892)Harry and his wife Frances moved to Tunbridge Wells and where Harry opened a wine and spirit merchants ship at 40-41 Crescent Road. He and his wife were at that address at the time of the 1901 census. His wife Frances died in the 3rd qtr of 1910 in Tunbridge Wells. The couple appears not to have had any children.

In the 1st qtr of 1912 at Ticehurst, Sussex Harry married Kate Evelyn Gilliam (1879-1967) with whom he had three children in Tunbridge Wells between 1913 and 1919.

Harry had moved into the former premises of Carr & Co at Carrs Corner ( corner of Crescent Road and Calverley Road), who were grocers and wine and spirit merchants.  In addition to selling wine and spirits he was also an agent for Long & Co’s stout from the Southsea Brewery, Hampshire. The Bottle Collectors Club recorded his business being in operation c1892 to 1940 and some examples of his stout/beer bottles and caps can be found in collections bearing his name.

Harry’s business was a prosperous one, and throughout its existence it operated from premises at 40-41 Crescent Road. Harry had been admitted into the Freemasons Pantiles Lodge March 6,1895. He had retired as president of a local association in March 1923. Local directories still listed his business in 1938 suggesting that after Harry died July 11,1932 at The Clarence Nursing Home, Tunbridge Wells, that his son Harry William Dupree (1913-2005) carried on the business for a time. At the time of Harry’s death and for many years previous he had lived at 23 Mountdale Gardens.

In this article I present information about the life and career of Harry Dupree with some information about other family members.


Harry Dupree was born January 1864 at Twickenham, Middlsex, and was baptised there on January 24,1864. He was one of six children born between 1856 and 1865 at Twickenham, to William Dupree (1829-1880) and Hannah Dupree, nee Jones (1828-1887).

The 1871 census, taken at 2 Railway Cottages, in Twickenham gave William Dupree as born in 1829 in Clerkenwell and working as a railway engine driver. With him was his wife Hannah, born 1828 at Pishill, Oxfordshire and their children (1) William Thomas Dupree (1856-1933),a telegraph clerk, further details of whom are given later (2) Frederick Dupree (1858-1911) a telegraph messenger  (3) Alfred Dupree (1860-1927) (4) Hannah Elizabeth Dupree (1865-1920). Harry’s sister Martha Dupree, born 1861 had passed away in 1863.  The youngest of the children were attending school.

Harry’s father died October 12,1880 in Middlesex, and Harry’s mother died in the 2nd qtr of 1887 in Middlesex.

Harry was living in London at the time of the 1881 census and working as a wine and spirit merchant. Sometime before 1891 Harry married Frances, who was born 1858 in Gosport, Hampshire, but the couple had no children.

The 1891 census, taken at Hampstead, London gave Harry as the proprietor of a wine and spirit merchants business. With him was his wife Frances and one general servant.

When Harry moved to Tunbridge Wells was not definitively established. The Bottle Collectors Club indicates circa 1892. The records of the Freemasons tends to support this as you will read in the next section.


When Harry and his wife Frances moved to Tunbridge Wells Harry moved into business premises at 40-41 Crescent Road, into the building at Carr’s Corner, so named after the grocers and wine and spirit merchants shop pf Carr & Co. who I reported in my article had premises at 46 Calverley Road and the High Street.  Their Calverley Road premises were located on the south west corner of Calverley Road and Crescent Road. A late 19th century photograph of their shop is shown opposite. Shown below is another view of the same building taken looking west along Calverley Road towards Crescent Road.

On March 6,1895 Harry, a wine merchant, was initiated into the Pantiles Lodge of the Freemasons. This record tends to coincide with the claim by the Bottle Collectors Club that he began his business in the town circa 1892.  As noted in the previous section he was still living and working in Hampstead at the time of the 1891 census.

The 1901 census, taken at 40-41 Crescent Road gave Harry as a wine merchant employing others. With him was just his wife Frances. The death of Frances was registered in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1910. She was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on July 11,1910.

The 1911 census, taken at 40-41 Crescent Road gave Harry as a widower and running a wine and spirits dealers business . With him was his nephew Alfred Edward Dupree, born 1888 in Salisbury, Wiltshire who was working for his uncle as a wine and spirits assistant. Also there was one general servant. The census recorded that they were occupying premises of 9 rooms.

On January 3,1912 Harry married Kate Evelyn Gilliam (1879-1967). The marriage, which was announced in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser reported that the marriage took place at Holy Trinity Church, Hurst Green, Sussex with the ceremony conducted by Rev. C.W. Hunt. Kate was born June 2,1879 at Dorking, Surrey, one of eleven children born to Joseph Burchett Gilliam (1844-1917) and Christiana Gilliam, nee Archer (1840-1895). Kate had been living with her parents and siblings at 40 West Street in Dorking up to the time of her marriage.

Harry and Kate went on to have the following children (1) Harry William Dupree (1913-2005) (2) Mary Catherine Dupree (1914-1988) (3) Brian James Dupree (1919-1997). All three children were born in Tunbridge Wells. Further information about them is given later.

The Bottle Collector Club reported “ Another name that appeared on local bottles was H. Dupree of 40-41 Crescent Road. He was an agent for Long & Co’s stout from the Southsea Brewery, Hampshire and operated from circa 1892 to 1940.” Shown above and opposite is a beer bottle stopper bearing the name of H. Dupree Tunbridge Wells and an old 1/2 pint beer bottle by H. Dupree.

Local directories from 1903 to 1938 recorded Harry Dupree, 40-41 Crescent Road, wine and spirit merchant  and directories of 1932 to 1937 gave his private residence as 23 Mountfield Gardens, Tunbridge Wells.

The wine and spirit merchants business in general was a flourishing trade in the 1800’s and up to the pre WW 1 era. In 1862 for example some 10,441,300 gallons of wine and spirits were imported into the country. Imported wines were taxed and so both legal and illegal products appeared for sale. For those familiar with the wine vaults of Tunbridge Wells, found most notably along Mount Ephraim but also in the Pantiles, large caverns existed for proper storage of wine. The large quantity of these imports were reflected in the proliferation of wine and spirit merchants that operated throughout the country and Tunbridge Wells certainly had more than their fair share of them. In Tunbridge Wells the wine merchants found the ideal situation for their trade given that the town was full of wealthy people who did a lot of entertaining. Many local firms flourished during this period of time but others found the competition too great and several bankruptcies were recorded in the wine and spirit trade. Many grocers also acted as wine merchants as did several publicans. The wine trade continued until WW1 when the decline of the upper classes and general depression of the country seriously affected the trade. Only the strongest businesses survived throughout and after the war. Wine and spirits of course are just a popular today as they ever were and are readily available.

Prices charged in the early times seem quite amazing when compared to today. Mr A.D. Gates, in 1850, for example advertised a gallon of brandy for 21s. pure Cadiz Sherry for 24s per dozen bottles; fine quality Champagne for 54s/ dozen. Pure Irish malt whiskey could be had bor 3s 4d per bottle. Scottish whiskey sold for about the same price and gin could be bought for 2s 2d  to 2s 10 d per bottle while Rum was between 2s 8d to 3s 4d a bottle. You had to pay 1d deposit on all bottles which was returned when you brought the bottle back. By 1909 typical prices had risen to 3s 6d per bottle of whiskey’ 2s 6d for Port; 2s for Burgundy or Claret with Brandy being 5s 6d.

The Kent & Sussex Courier reported in part “ Association held in Tunbridge Wells- Mr Thomas O. Butler, Camden Road was unanimously elected President for the coming year. Mr H. Dupree, the retiring President, who held the position for over two years was heartily thanked for his services and congratulated….”

Probate records gave Harry Dupree of 23 Mountield Gardens (photo opposite), Tunbridge Wells when he died July 11,1932 at The Clarence Nursing Home (3 Clarence Road), Tunbridge Wells .The executors of his 16,722 pound estate were Lloyds Bank Limited and Kate Evelyn Dupree, widow. Kate died in 1967 in Horsham, Sussex.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 15,1932 announced “ Death of prominent Freemason- We regret to record the death which took place on Monday at the age of 68 of Mr Harry Dupree, a prominent Freemason and wine and spirit merchant of Rydall Bank, Mountfield Gardens, Tunbridge Wells…Immediate mourners were Mrs Dupree (widow); Mr Harry W. Dupree (son) and Master B.J. Dupree (son); Miss Mary Dupree (daughter); Sir William Dupree (brother) and his wife Lady Dupree; Mr William Dupree….and others”.

Harry was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on July 14,1932.


William was born 1856 and died in 1933. He was the eldest brother of Harry Dupree, the Tunbridge Wells wine and spirit merchant.

William had served as a military officer for over 40 years. He served as Mayor of Portsmouth three times namely 1901-1902; 1902-1903; and 1909-1910.  He was Mayor during the coronation if King Edward VII and entertained naval officers from 16 Counties, for which he was knighted in 1902. At the 1921 New Years Honours he  became a baronet due to his support for the Industrial League. Shown here  is an image of William on a playing card.

He had once worked for the Reading based Simond’s Brewery. In the early 1890’s he became manager of this brewery in Portsmouth where he resided for the rest of his life. He later left to set up his own business, Portsmouth United Breweries which became extremely successful and by the late 1920’s was one of the largest breweries in Southern England. In 1927 he took over the Rock Brewery in Brighton and was renamed the Portsmouth and Brighton United Breweries Ltd, still with William Dupree as chairman.

William died March 2,1933 and was interred in a large mausoleum (photo below left) built in the French style with battered sides and a stepped pyramidal roof. It was built of smooth Balmoral granite with polished granite memorial tablets on the walls. This fine structure is located in Hyland Road Cemetery in Portsmouth. His wife Lady Marion (Mary) Dupree (photo below right) died in 1907 who’s plaque is on this memorial. The family has continued to use the building ever since, with the last interment being made in 1995. Lady Dupree died in 1952.

Lady Dupree was the daughter of John Price of Askeaton, Co. Limerick, Ireland. The photograph of her was taken December 20,1920 as a publicity photograph prior to the New Year’s Honour (Baronetcy) received by her husband at The Lafayette Studio , 160 New Bond Street, London.

The ‘Dupree Cup’ (photo opposite), one of the oldest powerboating trophies, that was donated by William Thomas Dupree in the 1920’s was awarded to the winners of the Portsmouth and Southsea Powerboat Race but on the outbreak of WWII, fearing invasion, the club secretary took it upon himself to hide the cup along with other valuables. Unfortunately he died before the end of the war without revealing where he had hidden it. Fast forward to the 1980’s when builders renovating the Queens Hotel in Southsea discovered the cup with other items hidden in a chimney breast. Despite having sustained some damage, the cup was put back on display at the club. It was later restored and recently was rededicated as the Dupree International Challenge Trophy.


[1] HARRY WILLIAM DUPREE (1913-2005)

Harry had been born January 20,1913 in Tunbridge Wells and lived with his parents in Tunbridge Wells until a young man. In the 4th qtr of 1939 , in Tunbridge Wells, he married and had two daughters and one son. He had left Tunbridge Wells soon after his marriage but it appears that he took over and ran his father’s wine and spirits business for a few years before selling it off.   His urn was buried at Amersham, Chiltern District, Buckinghamshire after being cremated at the Chilterns Crematorium.


Mary was born in Tunbridge Wells July 29, 1914 and lived with her parents in Tunbridge Wells well into the 1930’s. She later left Tunbridge Wells. Mary never got married and died as a spinster in 1988

[3] BRIAN JAMES DUPREE (1919-1997)

Brian had been born in Tunbridge Wells September 14,1919. He lived with his parents and siblings as a child and attended a local school. At an early age he decided to emigrate to Australia and while living in Sydney, Australia he married his first wife Anne  Jones (1926-2009) in 1945 and had two sons with her. His second marriage was to Annette Margaret Fielding (1928-1995) and with her had one daughter. His third marriage was on December 19,1959 at Sydney to Desiree Elizabeth Macarthur (1933-2000) but had no children by her. Brian died in Sydney Australia in 1997. Shown opposite is a photograph dated 1949 showing the famous Sydney Bridge.


Written By: Edward James Gilbert

Date: May 4,2018


Freehold land societies came into existence in the 1840’s as part of a politically inspired movement, organized by Liberal radicals to effect Parliamentary reform. These societies were initiated and encouraged as mechanisms by which the supporters of reform could become enfranchised within the existing system, and thereby change the balance of political power, and ultimately the system itself.

Following the Reform Act of 1832, the two most important voting qualifications were the ownership of a freehold with a minimum value of 40 shillings, and the occupation of a house worth at least 10 pounds a year.

James Taylor, a Birmingham nonconformist minister devised a means of extending the number of 40 shilling freeholders by registering the first freehold land society in Birmingham in December 1847 under the 1836 Building Societies Act. The society bought an estate with the financial assistance of trustees which was divided into plots worth 40 shillings which were purchased by members with money borrowed from building societies. The successful Birmingham venture was rapidly replicated in other urban areas, and in the 1850’s the ‘Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land Society’, later the ‘Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society’ was established.

Colbrans 1863 Guide or example reported in part (about advancements in Tunbridge Wells) that “ Considerable improvements have been made in other parts of the town, by the construction of elegant private residences, commodious lodging houses and shops upon estates previously laid out, and upon new ground. This is especially the case in the St John’s Estates- purchased by the Freehold Land Society. The same society has very recently allotted to its members certain portions of the Prospect Hill Estate, at the back of Calverley Park-a situation likely to be most advantageous for the erection of cottages and villas.

In this article I present some brief information about the history of Freehold Land Societies with a concentration on events pertaining to Tunbridge Wells.

Information related to the Conservative Land Society can be found in the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society book ‘ The Residential Parks of Tunbridge Wells’ as it pertains to the Woodbury Park  Road, Park Road and Grosvenor Park area of town. In 1856 the Conservative Land Society became owners of a large part of the Estate and chose to develop it for middle and upper middle class residential purposes under the name ‘The Woodbury Park Estate”.  Like other land Societies its creation was politically motivated and those who leased or purchased the land from them had to pledger their support for the Conservative party. 


Although initially a political movement aimed at facilitating the ability to vote based on a requirement for a freehold interest in property of a minimum value, it also provided great financial benefits to those wanting to purchase property. One of the largest in the country was the National Freehold Land Society (image opposite).

Land societies through the collective financial means could purchase estates, construct roads and services and create building lots for its members which the society sold at cost, this avoiding profiteering by private developers. This collective approach also greatly reduced the legal fees associated with conveyances. In Tunbridge Wells William Charles Cripps,senior, a local solicitor, became the sole solicitor of all conveyances of the Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society and when he died his son William Charles Cripps, junior, took over this aspect of the family legal practice. This exclusive relationship between the society and Cripps benefited both parties. For the land society it greatly reduced the legal fees normally charged and for Cripps it gave him an exclusive and steady stream of income for his services.

The book ‘Freehold Land Societies: Their History, Present Position, and Claims’ by J. Ewing Ritchie, which can be read online, provides a detailed account of the history of land societies, as it was when the book was written in 1853. In part it stated “Land Societies involve two commercial principals well understood-that purchasers should buy in the cheapest market, and that societies can do what individuals cannot. Till the movement originated, the purchaser of a small plot of ground had to pay in lawyer’s expenses connected with the purchase frequently as much as he paid for the plot itself. A society buys a large piece of ground. They make roads through it; they drain it; they turn it into valuable building land; they thus raise its value; and they divide it amongst their members, not at the price at which allotment is worth, but at a price which each allotment has cost. Being also registered under the Friendly Societies Act, the conveyance costs the purchaser generally from 25s to 30s; and thus a plot worth 50 pounds is often put into the fortunate allottee’s hands for half that sum. Thus a member generally, if he subscribes for a share of 30 pounds, pays a shilling a week and a trifling sum a quarter for expenses. With the money thus raised an estate is purchased. It is then cut up into allottments, and balloted for. If the subscriber has paid up, he, of course, takes the land, and there is an end of the matter. If he has not, the society gives him his allotment, but saddled with a mortgage…”


In various articles I have written extensively about the Cripps family and their legal practice. The Solicitors Journal of April 1,1882 reported “ Mr William Charles Cripps died in Tunbridge Wells February 23,1882 and had been born in 1831. He became a solicitor in 1852. He had practiced at Tunbridge Wells for nearly 30 years and for over four years was in partnership with his son Mr William Charles Cripps junior who became a solicitor in 1877. Mr Cripps senior was solicitor to the Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society among other things. At his death he was President of the Kent Law Society. He was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on the 27th last leaving a wife, two sons and two daughters. The Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society was at the time of his death one of the largest and most important societies of its class in the south of England”.

The Solicitors Journal of  April 8,1882 announced “ Mr William Charles Cripps, solicitor of Tunbridge Wells has been appointed solicitor for the Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society in succession to his father, the late Mr William Charles Cripps, solicitor”.  William Charles Cripps senior had been the solicitor for the local land society since its formation in the 1850’s.

In Tunbridge Wells there were two somewhat connected societies listed in Brackett’s 1863 guide namely (1) Freehold Land Society-Treasurer, Mr C.T. Dodd; Secretary, Mr Charles Hunnisett (2) Permanent Mutual Benefit Building Society, Mr E.F. Loof.

Mathiesons directory of 1867-1868 gave “ Amos Barfoot, Secretary, Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society, Hanover Road, Tunbridge Wells.

The Building News and Engineering Journal of January 5,1872 referred to “The Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society”.

The Building &Engineering Journal of June 9,1876 reported “ Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land Society-The annual meeting of this society was recently held. The total profit from the business transacted by the society for the past year amounted to 3,420 pounds 13s 3d…”

Directories for 1874 and 1882 listed (1) Tunbridge Wells Permanent Benefit Building Society (Edward Catchpole, secretary) 28 Dudley Road (2) Tunbridge Wells Permanent Building Society (John Read, secretary) 9 Calverley Road.

A number of conveyances of land by the Tunbridge Wells Freehold Land and Building Society handled by solicitor W.C. Cripps were found but only a few examples are given below.

On July 13,1866 there was a conveyance between Henry John David, gentleman of Tunbridge Wells, William Oakley, builder of Tunbridge Wells and James Hollman, manufacturer of Tunbridge Wells and Frederick Robert Ward, innkeeper of Tunbridge Wells for a plot of land at the Prospect Hill Estate. On the reverse of the documents is the signature of John George Ash, clerk to Mr W.C. Cripps, solicitor of Tunbridge Wells. The purchase price for the land was 59 pounds 10s 10d.

The Sussex Agricultural Express of June 15m1867 reported “ Prospect Hill Estate-Works to roads and path to prepare same for dedication to the town authorities.”. It continued by referring to Mr Cripps submitting his account for his time in the matter.

The second, as shown by the plan opposite, pertained to a conveyance of lot 17 on Princess Street  in the Prospect Hill Estate dated January 29,1868. As I noted earlier in this article Colbrans 1863 guide referred to the Freehold Land Society being involved with the creation of lots in the Prospect Hill Estate. Prospect Road was named after this estate and within it in part is Princess Street. Given below is a 1907 os map on which Prospect Road and Princess Street are shown. The aforementioned conveyance was from Frederick Robert Ward of Tunbridge Wells to William Pook for consideration of 100 pounds and also 10 pounds 10s paid to Levi Cath by William Pooke. The solicitor handing the conveyance was William Charles Cripps.

A third conveyance noted was dated July 22,1874 between John George Ash and Horace Wightemus Waller for a plot of land in Princess Street, Prospect Hill Estate, with Mr Cripps once again the solicitor.

Frederick Robert Ward, referred to above was from 1855 to 1874 the innkeeper of the Camden Inn on the north east corner of Calverley Road and Camden Road. An image of the Camden Inn is shown opposite. Further details about Mr Ward and the inn itself were given in my article ‘ The History if the Camden Inn-Calverley Road’ dated May 13,2014.

William Pook, referred to above was born 1832 in Buriton, Hampshire, one of six children born to Thomas Pook (1797-1886) and Anne Pook, nee Sparshott (1801-1890). Up until the 1840’s he lived in Buriton, Hamphshire. At the time of the 1851 census he was in Rotherhithe, Surrey where he worked as a porter. In about 1858 he married Mary, born 1832 in Hampshire and in 1859 at Kingston, Surrey he and wife had a son William. In 1860 the Pook family moved to Tunbridge Wells and in 1860 they had a daughter Mary A. Pook. The 1861 census, taken at 2 Warsop Place near Dale Street, Tunbridge Wells gave William Pook as a clothiers assistant. With him was his wife Mary; their two children William and Mary and Lucy S, Gammon, age 16, sister in law who was working as a drapers assistant. William and Mary had three more children in Tunbridge Wells namely Thomas in 1862; Ellen Lucy, in 1864 and Alice E. in 1867.  A local directory for 1868 listed William Pool at ‘Norsted Lodge’ Prospect Hill, Tunbridge Wells. By the time of the 1871 census the family had moved to Leicestershire. Mary A. Pook, nee Gammond died in the 4th qtr of 1875 in Reigate, Surrey. In 1877, in Tunbridge Wells, William married Catherine Sarah Bachellor (born 1846) and with her had four children between 1881 and 1887 while living in Redhill, Surrey. William and his family were living in Reigate Surrey at the time of the 1891 and 1901 census. When William died was not established.


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

Date: May 6,2018


Several hundred postcard views of the High Rocks, a natural sandstone formation located west of Tunbridge Wells, towards Groombridge, have been produced, most of which show views of the rocks themselves. However a much smaller, but no less interesting, selection of images can be found showing views of the High Rocks Hotel, the High Rocks Halt (where the train stopped); the High Rocks Entrance; the High Rocks Tea House ; the High Rocks Lake; and the High Rocks Playground.

A booklet entitled “Tunbridge Wells 1953” written by Peter Lord from original ‘Advertiser’ articles gives the following interesting reference to High Rocks. ‘By road the way to High Rocks is narrow, hilly and circuitous, and it has never had a bus service,but it can be reached by little trains stopping at an improbable station. Up to the 1920’s,however, it was well served by the open horse carriage which could always be hired at a rank in London Road, at the junction with Frant Road. Long before that, it had something approximating to a bus service. The open cart made frequent trips between the town and the High Rocks,with a return fare of sixpence. Quite possibly the service made a profit, but in any case it had other implications-it was run by a Mr Jimmy White, who was licensee of the Bridge Hotel at Tunbridge Wells and of the High Rocks Hotel.”

For hundreds of years High Rocks has been a “must see” destination for visitors to Tunbridge Wells and during my visit to the town in 2015 it was a place my friend (Mrs Susan Prince) and I visited on one of our outings with my second cousin Christine Harrison and her husband Alan.

In this brief article I present a selection of interesting views of some of the less often seen parts of High Rocks. Although the decorative entrance building to the High Rocks and the Hotel still exist the tea house and related playground disappeared from the site many years ago.


I have written articles about High Rocks before, which should be consulted for details about the place. These articles include ‘ The History Of The High Rocks Hotel’ dated January 27,2013 and ‘ High Rocks Lake’ dated August 25,2016.

High Rocks itself is a  7.9 acre geological site of special scientific interest located about 2 miles west of Tunbridge Wells in Frant, Sussex. This site of unusual rock formations was created at the time of the ice age and since man arrived on the scene it has been a place of amusement and a spot frequented by tourists and residents alike wishing to view the rocks and take a few snaps. After King James II visited Tunbridge Wells and made the woodland a resort in the 17th century, The Rocks became a tourist attraction with a maze, a bowling green, gambling rooms and cold baths. Despite the addition of these amenities the sandstone rocks themselves remain the central feature of the site. Access to the rocks is by an attractive entrance building. Some images of it by local photographer Photochrom and others are shown below.

Shown below is a selection of images of the Tea Room, nestled among the rocks. Among them is an 1884 view by local photographer George Granville.  Another view of the tea room can be seen on page 3 of this months website in my article 'Views of Tunbridge Wells-Charles, Reynolds & Co.'. dating back to the 1880-1890 period. The tradition of providing refreshments among the High Rocks dates back to the earliest days of their popularity.The tea rooms nestling against the cliffs or tucked into clefts appear in various 18th century views. The tea room in this image is probably the one described by J. Clifford in 1825 as recently erected. It fell into disuse during the rocks decline in popularity between WW1 and WW II and was converted into an equipment store for climbers but was taken down in the mid to late 20th century.

Shown below is a selection of views of the High Rocks Hotel. Its name has changed over time and the building that is there today is a replacement (built 1839) for a much smaller building erected after the ‘discovery’ of the High Rocks as a tourist attraction. The rocks were enclosed as part of the hotel grounds, and the proprietor was traditionally responsible for maintaining and embellishing them. The hotel’s original name was the Cape of Good Hope, but the name was changed to the High Rocks Hotel by Thomas Coster when he took over the place from James Fabian White.

Coster and White were particularly active in popularizing the High Rocks. Contemporaries criticized their placard claiming the rocks as ‘the grandest sight in England’. They devised several new features, including inventing ‘ancient legends’ to go with them.These included the Devil’s Oak and the Wishing Rock, where visitors had to catch three drops of water trickling out of a crack and throw them over their left shoulder while making their wish.

One attraction provided by the proprietors of the hotel was a trout lake. This lake was man- made, located in a natural hollow, and excavated by man and machine about 1850. Sadly the lake was not maintained and allowed to silt completely up. It was used for boating and skating as well as fishing. According to Thomas Coster’s guide of his hotel, ‘whether we cross the bridge and sit upon the island, or lounge in the many nooks upon the margin, or take our turn in the splendid boats, there is a peacefulness and restfulness that will entrance both young and old alike’. The construction of the lake is credited to the time of James Barnett in the 1850’s.

 One feature, that still exists today, is a series of eleven narrow suspension /swing bridges that link the rocks allowing visitors to pass from one outcrop to the next following paths layed out to create a trail. The maze,bowling green and gambling rooms I referred to earlier were not an original feature of the place but added later by one of the inns enterprising proprietors .High Rocks maintained its popularity in the 19th century and the overgrown bowling green was pressed into service as a tea lawn,the maze was rescued and a series of bridges linking the highest ridges was named the Aerial Walk. The old dignity of romantic walks and clever versifying was augmented by the provision of swings and seesaws. Shown below left is a photo with the caption 'Playground and Tea Chalet High Rocks'. To the right of it is one with the caption 'High Rocks the Tea House' beside which children are playing. Other views follow showing the playground. Note the tables and chairs with umbrellas where people could sit to enjoy some refreshments and the tea room tent behind them. Also note that the "tea chalet" in the first image is different in appearance to the tea room images given elsewhere in this article and may have been a later replacement for the 19th century tea house.

In the Victorian era the mania for railways brought a branch line to High Rocks in 1907 (when the fare was one old penny)and operated until  1952. High Rocks Halt was the station at the High Rocks Hotel .The train brought in many more visitors eager to see the sights. As well as using the swings and visiting the maze they could view the Devil’s Oak, go up to the observation point to enjoy the views, cross over the crooked bridge to enjoy the scenic walk, make a wish at the wishing well, or visit the Stone Age shelters and the Grottoes. Afterwards they could take a boat on the lake. With the hotel nearby they could enjoy a nice cool beer or visit one of the tea rooms in the grounds. Many would bring picnics and made a day of it. The High Rocks Halt stop has now been reinstated in the gardens of the High Rocks Inn. Shown below are some images of the High Rocks Halt. The photo below right is by Tunbridge Wells photographer James Richards and is dated 1912.

This “popular” period continued for the next half century. Turnstiles and a pay box marked the entrance to the fabulous playground, a place of simple wonder and recreation and a centre of climbing in south-east England.

Colbrans 1840 guide offers the following information about this place. “Despite being a deserted spot it grew into a place of importance and public breakfasts, diner and tea parties were given there by the leading fashionables residing at the Wells…music and dancing formed prominent features in most of the entertainments. These times have in a great measure passed away.Of late years a tea house has been erected and various rural places have been built where refreshments of every kind can be obtained. The present occupier Mr Jacobs has also gone to considerable expense laying out the grounds which are very tastefully done. He charges sixpence entry. A new public house is being built there which will afford increased accommodation for visitors. In the kitchen fireplace of the old house is an iron grate back which was probably cast at one of the foundaries that were formerly in the vicinity. It has the royal arms upon it, with initials of King James, I.R. 1602”.

The Peltons guide of 1883 provides the following description of High Rocks, which I have reproduced as written or paraphrased for the sake of brevity. “Crossing the brook which divides Kent from Sussex, and then passing over, by a bridge, the South Coast Railway, the visitor soon reaches the Cape of Good Hope Inn, the landlord of which rents the grounds containing the famous Rocks. Paying an entrance fee of sixpence, he is admitted through a glazed doorway into the grounds. The visitor in a very idle, musing mood, may spend a morning in strolling about the various paths above and below the rocks…they are of varying height, ranging from forty to seventy feet…which to some may seem insignificant. However, these ‘high rocks’ if not stupendous, have certainly a beauty of their own…..In the spring and early summer, wild flowers and ferns may here be seen in luxuriant abundance. There is a level greensward with a summer-house at one angle, forming an excellent lawn-tennis ground, and commanding a charming view towards the south-west. Refreshments may be had from the Inn, the cellars of which are caverns beneath the rocks, and are cook even in the height of summer. Amusements of various kinds are here provided….Young children expecially should not be allowed to play on the top of the rocks…”

James Fabian White took over High Rocks from Robert Lipscombe circa 1883. During his proprietorship of the inn, James made improvements to it and from all accounts kept the grounds looking good. He also extensively advertised the features and merits of the place to attract visitors. In 1899 James moved to Folestone,Kent and sold the inn to Thomas Coster. Thomas did a great deal to improve upon and promote the hotel and by all accounts did a good business. He died at the High Rocks Hotel in 1906. Several others followed Thomas Coster before Kelsey’s took it over during WWII.

A 1903 Kelly says that High Rocks “ affords many picturesque effects. They form chasms or passes varying in height from 35 to 80 feet and are crossed at intervals by rustic bridges.The summits of the rocks are overgrown with trees and brushwood”.

In 1950 Kelsey’s (Kelseys Culverden Brewery on St John’s Road) sold the the hotel and grounds to business partners Captain F.W. Collar, and Captain C.D.B. Lison. A 1950 advertisment announced “Under New Management…. The beautiful High Rocks grounds are of interest to young and old, and include swings,maze and a tea-chalet where teas,minerals,ices etc can be obtained.A spacious Hall will be available in the Autumn for Dancing and Private Letting”.

From 1958 to 1966 High Rock was run by Leonard Gibson Cowan. By 1958 the grounds had fallen into a state of disrepair and the lake had silted up. The rustic bridges needed repair and the maze was also in need of attention. Mr Cowan was followed by several owners in the following years.

Today “High Rocks” is the name of the former High Rocks Hotel and is no longer a hotel. It is found on a quiet country lane (High Rocks Lane) and is now a modern restaurant/banqued facility catering to weddings and other events. The old hotel building is still there and in use but it has been added on to and other buildings constructed to better serve the public.




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

Date: April 20,2018


Harrison’s Rocks, named after William Harrison, a 18th century  farmer, merchant and manufacturer of firearms, who once owned the property, is a sandstone formation about one mile south of the village of Groombridge, Sussex, off Eridge Road. Today it is a much visited spot, being popular with rock climbers, with some 381 climbs there. Today the site has a camping area and car park with washroom facilities, modern additions to a once somewhat isolated spot accessed off Eridge Road by a narrow winding lane.

The earliest reference to Harrison’s Rocks was found in a publication from June 1711 when the Manors of Birchden and Oresnarsh, Sussex, consisting of several farms containing several buildings, gardens, orchards, an iron furnace and forge and much more, comprising an area of a few thousand acres were offered for sale. Despite the attractive description of the property it did not sell and Richard Baker, George Hooper and Robert Bicknell remained in possession of the Birchden estate after 1711. In 1739, the manor and its ironworks were purchased by William Harrison “ a merchant and gunfounder” who appears to have remained in possession of it until 1750.  This estate included what became known as Harrison’s Rocks and it has passed through many hands since 1750.

Harrison’s Rocks, apart from its attractiveness to rock climbers, has been a spot where visitors to the area congregated for a nice days outing. In this article I present two family photos of such a visit in 1907.

Unlike High Rocks, near Tunbridge Wells, where postcard views and other images can be found in great abundance, but only one postcard of Harrison’s Rocks has  been found to date (image above).

Images of the rocks from the 1950’s onward are plentiful. One dated c1955 is shown below the postcard view.  

This article does not attempt to trace in detail the ownership of the property on which Harrison’s Rocks are located but some information in this regard is given briefly.


I begin my account of the land on which Harrison’s Rocks was located with the London Gazette of January 2-15 1708 which referred to Robert Baker, whose family had held Birchden for nearly a century, and who was declared bankrupt in June 1705, but complications with the first assignees meant that a new commission had to be put in place, which delayed the disposal of the estate. An inventory of Robert Baker’s ironworks at Hamsell and Birchden at the time was published in the Wealden Iron in 1983. Shown opposite is a map from1795 showing “Old Birchen” farm and the “Rocks”. Shown below is a map dated 1795 on which the rocks can be seen on the bottom left corner.

The Post Boy of June 16-19, 1711 announced “ To be sold, the Manors of Birchden and Oresnarsh, Sussex, consisting of several farms, about 350L per Ann. Whereupon is a large Brick-House, Coach-House, Stables, and Out-Houses, lately built, good Gardens, and Orchards, with a Paddock for Deer, new Paled, a Furnace and Forge for Iron Works, with plenty of Water, several Fish-Ponds, and River well stored with Fish, between 6 and 700 Acres of Coppice, or Wood-ground, with a good quantity of Timber, great part of it fellible, all near the said Furnace and Forge, within Three Miles of Tunbridge Wells. Further particulars may be had of Mr. Rich Baker, and Mr. George Hooper ,of Mayfield, Sussex, and of Mr Robert Bicknell, at his Chambers in the Inner-Temple, London”.

Baker, Hooper and Bicknell remained in possession of the Birchden estate after 1711. There is no indication as to who worked the furnace and forge at that time. In 1739, the manor and its ironworks were purchased “by William Harrison, merchant and gunfounder” (Ref. The Wealden Iron Research Group).

By 1732 William Harrison was  a partner with Josiah Wordworth, a London Ironmonger

The London Evening Post in 1742 referred to a farm at Westfield, Sussex and that “ the nearest active blast furnace to Westfield at that time was Brede, operated by William Harrison.

During the Seven Years War was in partnership Richard Topsell (circa 1752)was in partnership with William Harrison’s sons and Robert Bayshaw, which finally came to an end in 1757 until the end of hostilities in 1763  and had supplied ordnance for the war.

A website about Harrison’s Rocks gave the following in part. “ Harrison’s Rocks has a history as a climbing are dating back to the 1920’s. It is named after William Harrison who was a farmer and also the manufacturer of firearms at Harrisons until 1750”. This suggests that perhaps William Harrison died that year or simply ended his business.

When and where William Harrison was born and died was not determined. It is known that he was married and had at least two sons. An article about 18th century guns referred to “Andrew Harrison, the eldest son of William Harrison”.

Jasper Sprange in his 1797 guide had this to say “ Another curious range of rocks, more extensive that High Rocks and wildly romantic is called Harrison’s Rocks and being on the estate belonging to a gentleman of that name who’s benign actions and all vicasions, are so well known, that little need be said in the present instance, to express now may it appears to be his wish, by the many little conveniences he has formed near the spot, to render the company resorting there to not only an agreeable surprise, but every suitable accommodation. The distance from the Wells (Tunbridge Wells) is but 3-1/2 miles on the road leading to Brighton”.  From this one can conclude that William Harrison, during his time, made improvements to the site of the rocks to accommodate visitors to it. What these improvements were is not known but like in the case of High Rocks he no doubt did some clearing of the woods, built some pathways, and perhaps had a small tea house erected.


Of the rocks themselves Wikipedia gave “ Harrison’s Rocks is a sandstone crag approximately 1 mile south of the village of Groobridge, Sussex. The site is a notable example of a periglacial tor landform developed in rocks of the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation. It is popular with rock climbers, and is the largest of the cluster of local outcrops known by climbers as Southern Sandstone. Harrison’s Rocks is owned by climbers and is managed on their behalf by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC)with funding from the English Sports Council. In 1981 ‘Doctor Who’ was filmed at Harrison’s Rocks. A campsite was set up at Harrison’s Rocks as a memorial to Julie Tullis, a former club member, who died on K2 in August 1986 after reaching the summit with Kurt Diemberger. The campground is wardened by Chris Tullis, Terry and Julie’s son.

Harrisons is one of the largest and most popular of the Southern Sandstone climbing area and provides a variety of climbs at different grades. There are approximately 381 climbs at the rocks, varying in the degree of difficulty. In 1958 Harrison’s Rocks were bought by a group of climbers for the BMC and the rocks were owned by the Central Council for Physical Recreation. Ownership then passed to the Sports Council and the rocks were managed by the BMC, In 2006 ownership of the rocks was transferred fully to the BMC. Harrison’s Rocks is greatly linked to the Tullis family, a link that began in 1963 with Terry Tullis who was the voluntary warden of the rocks. Terry and his wife Julia ran the Festerhaunt in Groombridge which was a climbers café and shop.

Over the years improvements have been made to the site. The access road has been improved, a parking lot enlarged and paved and a washroom block added beside the car part.  In 2014 the funding to maintain and manage the toilet block and the lease with Sport England came to an end and the toilet block and car part reverting back to the Forestry Commission on November 9,2014. After a program of work the toilet block and campsite were reopened by The Forestry Commission in the Spring of 2015 with fees charged for use of the car park and camp site.

Going back in time references to various plants at Harrison’s Rocks appeared in various publications in the 1830’s such as ‘The New Botonist Guide’ of 1835, and ‘The Botany of the County of Sussex’ in 1834. The publication ‘A Handbook for Travellers’ date 1858 referred to Harrison’s Rocks as a place to see.

Local guides such as Colbrans up to an including 1860 referred to the scenic Harrison’s Rocks. An earlier guide of 1830 refers to Harrison’s Rocks being “ named after the proprietors of adjacent lands”.

The London Gazette of 1845 gave details about the sale of land in Sussex, near Tunbridge Wells known as the Birchden and Hamsel Estate , of some 1,700 acres, pursuant to a Decree of the High Court of Chancery made in a cause of Osborn vs Forence dated June 6,1845 at “
Grays’s Inn, London. The Jurist reported that there was not bidding on the property offered and that the Times of January 9,1856 listed the property for sale by tender, which property sold for 36,500 pounds to Edward Baslow of Stafford.

Peltons 1896 guide reported “ Harrison Rocks, a delightful spot for a picnic, are open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and any other day by order to be obtained by Mr. G. Davidson, Eridge. They are to be reached by a road from Groombridge Station to Park Corner. About a mile from the former turn into a path over a stile or gate close to a cottage on the right, and follow the path through Birchden Woods to the Rocks. The patch, although a little difficult to trace, is considered by many to be a right of way”.  Shown above are two photographs from a family album that recently came up for sale on eBay showing a group picnicking at Harrison’s Rocks in 1907. Unfortunately the album did not give enough information to trace the people shown in the photos.

When I visited Tunbridge Wells in 2015 John Cunningham of the Civic Society took me out in his car to see some the local sights, among which was a trip to Harrison's Rocks. After a long treck on a narrow winding path through the woods we found the hike a bit too tiring and although we saw a few rocks along the way we never quite made it to Harrison's Rocks.


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