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

Dated: December 26,2016


This article reports on the evolution of street lights in the town from the days of the gas light to today’s high efficiency LED lights. Lampposts and the lights on them form part of the historic streetscape of the town. Some of them, noted for their historical importance have been listed by English Heritage such as one on Broomhill Road, an early 19th century post constructed of cast iron in a circular form with decorative leaf motifs. Like most things from the Victorian era they were works of art, although not appreciated as important objects, apart from their practical use at the time, as much as they are today as things of amusement and beauty.

By the thousands, year by year these Victorian examples disappeared from the scene, as gas lit lamps from bygone days were replaced by their modern electric cousins when electricity became available in the town in the early 20th century. Although the early electric lampposts retained some of their predecessors ornateness they were much scaled back and simpler in design and less costly to have made. As we advance into the 20th century, particularly the WW II era, the plane lamppost predominated and later still the iron ,steel or aluminum lamppost gave way to unimpressive concrete ones.

Communities, wishing to retain or add some charm to their historical sites, such as the Pantiles dating back to the 17th century, appreciated the charm of having period or period looking lampposts in these important parts of town. Sadly, retaining historical features has not always been high on a councils list and as a result most of the ornate lampposts were taken away and scrapped and replaced with more modern versions, thus detracting from the rich character of the street scene. These items of street architecture can sometimes be found in scrapyards or metal recyclers and today are often resold to homeowners wishing to add some character to their gardens, as ornaments.


In a companion article entitled ‘Lamplighters of Tunbridge Wells’ dated May 17,2016 I reported on the occupation of lamplighters in general and in Tunbridge Wells, a profession that continued in the town up into the 1st qtr of the 20th century. A gas plant was established in the town in 1843 and replaced by a new plant in High Brooms in 1880 . These plants provided gas for all uses including street lights, fed by a network of gas pipes. 

In this section I provide a few generic examples of typical gas lights and the lampposts which supported them. Photographs of surviving examples of them in the town were not found, suggesting that they had been replaced many years ago with electric lamps.  Some early 20th century postcards of the town do show some street scenes in which streetlights can be seen but it is sometimes difficult to tell if they are gas or electric, as they play a minor role in the image captured by the photographer. What few examples there are have been given in the next section of this article. All the major foundaries in the country offered lampposts in a variety of sizes and styles , illustrated and described in their catalogues. Their names appear cast into the lamp post near its base.

The Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act of 1880 is an interesting document to read. With respect to lampposts it was stated , in the list of conservators powers, that they could make bylaws regarding “The protection of walls, railings, fences, lamp-posts,trees,” etc.


Shown in this section are some postcard views of different parts of Tunbridge Wells in which streetlights can be seen.They are presented more of less in order by age, with the oldest examples given first. Some of these lampposts had a plaque attached to them bearing the town crest and slogan “Do Well Doubt Not” (photo below). Shown below is also the top and bottom of one of the towns surviving old lampposts.

Electricity came to Tunbridge Wells in the early 20th century. Householders and businesses gradually converted from gas to electric and the electricians in the town did a good trade installing electric wiring and light fixtures. The first electric light was installed at the old Town Hall on Calverley Road just after electricity became available and the importance of making use of this new technology to light the streets of the town became apparent. And so little by little Council  undertake to convert from gas to electric until the process was completed in about the 1920’s . The lampposts used in the early part of this conversion process sometimes reused the posts that had supported the gas lights. Being well made, as most things Victorian were, the posts themselves were still good and could be adapted to the new use.

Lampposts were initially installed only at major intersections. In commercial districts such as Calverley Road, High Street, Camden Road,Monson Road,Grosvenor Road, etc shop proprietors either had single of multiple electric lights mounted on their shopfronts or had electric illuminated signs (later neon), such as those shown in the various early 20th century postcards of the town, some examples of which are given here and elsewhere in this article. With the passage of time streetlights began to be installed between intersections and also in residential areas.

With the passage of time even the old posts gave way to more modern and less ornate lampposts and over time a variety of materials have been used for their construction such as cast iron, steel, aluminum and most recently concrete. The lamps supported by the posts themselves have undergone an evolution in both shape, size and efficiency. Many of the early electic lamps were globes, sometimes grouped in multiples; others took on the carriage lamp look and either hung from an arm on a post or supported on the top of the post. Most early streetlights were much shorter than those used today and did not cast the light the distance they do today or as brightly, as most lampposts are much taller than their ancestors.

The use of lampposts has  been abused throughout time. Fly postings and signs have been illegally pasted or otherwise fastened to them. Bicycles have been chained to them. Pigeons and other birds have roosted on them, leaving their droppings behind. Many cases of drivers running into them can be found in local newspapers, sometimes with fatal results.

Awareness of the poor condition of lampposts and their importance in the street landscape is a topic often raised. The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society for example in a document dated  October 12,2006 reported on their “immediate concerns” about the lamp-posts in Chapel Place and stated that “replicas of the old ones were installed as some old ones could not be saved”.

An article dated March 8,2007 entitled ‘Heritage Protection for the 21st Century’ gave  a list of local items worthy of protecting and in part stated “ Some items like Victorian sewer posts, lampposts, red pillar boxes are listed for protection…”

In an article dated January 12,2007 Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, announced “ Historic lamppost gets new home”. Stating that  “The lamppost, moved from Chapel Place in the summer, has now been successfully restored to full working order and erected at its new location in Cumberland Walk, below the steps from Cumberland Gardens”.

A document dated August 21,2009 entitled ‘Seven Deadly Sins Ruining Town’ stated “ When you replace a lamp post finish the job and take the old one away”. Shown opposite is a photo of a lamppost without the lamp, this one being located on Church Road. Note the ornateness of this old post.

Some ornate lampposts used to line the walkway in The Grove but disappeared over time.  They were also to be found at one time in Calverley Gardens, and the Grosvenor and Hilbert Recreation area.

In 2016 a contract was awarded to replace 118,000 street lights in Kent to convert them to energy saving LED’s. In another attempt to reduce the rising cost of street lighting Council recently announced that the hours in which street lights would be on was being reduced in the early hours of the morning.

The Pantiles has always been a place in the town of Historical importance. A photograph opposite shows one of the lampposts in the Pantiles near  Peters Jenners shop. There have been lampposts in the Pantiles since the time they were fed by gas. How far back in time the one in the photo dates is not known by the researcher, but as an electric replacement it certainly adds some character to the Pantiles.




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

Date: July 2,2014


There are no shortage of interesting rock outcrops in Tunbridge Wells, such as Toad Rock in Rusthall  Commons, perhaps the most photographed of them all, and the subject of countless numbers of postcard views. While this natural feature lays in the Commons on the north side of Langton Road, on the south side, in the area between St Pauls’s Church and the Beacon Hotel, similar rock outcrops can be found, and it is there that the site of Sweep’s Cave is located. While the rocks there are a natural feature, Sweep’s cave is manmade, having been carved out of the sandstone ridge. Sometimes also referred to as “The Old Kitchen” or “The Hermits Cave”, the origins of this interesting feature has been a matter of much speculation, and somewhere amongst the folklore lies the real reason for its creation.

Shown opposite is a map of the area on which I have highlighted in red ‘Sweep’s Cave’ and in yellow a manmade feature referred to as ‘The 101 Steps’ which lead to Sweeps Cave.

Rusthall Beacon was a grand mansion built in 1895 to the design of the renouned London architect Sir Robert William Edis (1839-1927). While Happy Valley Rocks and the Northern edge of Happy Valley itself, form part of Rusthall Common, most of the valley, including the Cold Bath and three lakes, lie within the grounds of this mansion which today is a hotel/restaurant establishment known as the Beacon Hotel.

Dating back to the early 1700’s the land around what later became the Beacon Hotel ,was laid out with a Cold Bath,Tea Garden  and pleasure grounds as a tourist spot, and although once popular it went through a long period of evolution ,and  having fallen out of favour deteriorated with many of its original features obliterated from the scene. Sweep’s Cave is one of the surviving features in this plot of land and the subject of this article.

There are three related articles which can be consulted, which give information on buildings that are connected in one way or another to this site, namely ‘History of the Rusthall Beacon Mansion/Beacon Hotel’ dated March 31,2013, ‘Robert Blake Byass and the Nevill Court Mansion’ dated March 28,2013 and ‘The History of St Paul’s Church Rusthall’ dated April 8,2013. Although these articles pertain mainly to the buildings themselves their site and connection to Rusthall Commons is referred to.


I begin may coverage of this topic by referring extensively to a report entitled “Kent Compendium of Historical Parks and Gardens of Tunbridge Wells Borough” dated April 2009 which gives splendid detail about the history of the site,but surprisingly makes no specific mention of ‘Sweep’s Cave’. This report however establishes two key facts that relate to Sweep’s Cave, namely their likely creation commensurate with the establishment of the Cold Baths in 1708 and that Sweep’s Cave was most likely created as a rest stop or viewing spot in this landscape. Throughout this section I have presented various postcard views and photographs of  the site and at the end of the section is an index to the images that provides explanatory information about  what is shown

This report gives the following information about the ‘Beacon Hotel Cold Bath and Tea Gardens” and states “ An early C18 pleasure garden, including a spring –fed cold bath and a series of three descending ponds, set in a wooded valley.Its surviving features were incorporated into a tea garden in the early C19 and, subsequently, into the private garden of an 1894 house (Rushall Beacon). In 1708, a Mr James Long, who owned properties in Marylebone,London, and in the parish of Speldhurst,near Tunbridge Wells, who occupied the land, provided further diversions for visitors when they were not taking the water at the Wells by building a cold bath (or plung pool) and waterworks set in an ornamental garden on land leased from the Abergavenny estate.On Long’s death in 1715, his estate was inherited by his nephew Robert. It is not clear whether Robert Long or a subsequent occupier allowed the pleasure gardens to become ‘waste and wild’(Burr), but by 1780 the cold bath there was no longer in use (Pelton). A Miss Mary Berry visiting in 1807 wrote in her diary that ‘there are the remains of hewn stone steps and yew hedges…and the cold  bath beautifully clear’ (Lewis). In the same year, the garden,with woodland and farming land, were leased to a Mr Thomas Huntley”.

“In 1818 new tea gardens were separately laid out ‘by an industrious gardener’ on a ridge to the cold bath’s north-west, on land leased to a Thomas Hollamby (Cliford). Twenty years later, under a Mr W. Wix, the tea gardens had become an established part of the local visitor attractions (Rusthall Manor Map); Stidof Map). By 1882, a number of buildings (named Rock Cottage) are shown on the tea garden’s site, with orchards in the sloping fields to their south (1st edn map). The cold bath and its associated ponds are depicted in the wooded valley to their south-east with access from the east via a pathway from Tunbridge Wells. Two years later (1864), a Robert Blake Byass leased 36 ha of land from the Abergavenny estate, including the site of the cold bath pleasure gardens and tea gardens. He built a new house (Nevill Court) on the eastern section of the land, leaving the pleasure grounds untouched. The lease for the entire site was transferred to his sons on his death in 1873(Taylor)”.

“In 1888 the Nevill Court estate was sold and six years later Rock Cottage and the cold bath site (renamed Happy Valley) were leased to a Walter Harris, later Lord Mayor of London.He demolished Rock Cottage and built a new house (Rusthall Beacon) to the designs of architect Sir Robert Edis. In 1910 the house and grounds were sold to Colonel Sydney Sladen, Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, and his wife, who laid out private ornamental gardens, incorporating the woodland and pleasure gardens, and stocked the ponds with fish (TW Advertiser,3rd edn OS map). In 1921, the Colonel died, but his wife remained at Rusthall Beacon until her death in 1936,when the property was offered for sale with pleasure grounds of some 10ha. From 1938 and through World War Two the house was used as a residential home for Jewish refugee children”.

“In 1950, a Mrs Yeo and a Miss Bassetbought the property and converted it to a hotel (sales documents). Rushall Beacon had several changes of ownership during the subsequent forty years, but continued throughout as an hotel with ornamental gardens. In 1991, the current owners acquired the property (renamed Beacon Hotel), which included the site of the C18 pleasure garden. It remains in single, private,commercial, ownership, with the gardens available for the use of hotel visitors”.The sale of the property, according to documents in the archives, to Mrs Yeo and Miss” Bassett” took place on July 11,1950 and land to the south of it was sold to Mr and Mrs L.B.N. Robinson February 22,1951.

“The Beacon Hotel(photo opposite) stands on a sandstone ridge at the north-western tip of a steeply sloping and wooded site with fine views south to Friezland Wood and east to Tunbridge Wells Common.Sandstone outcrops characterize the landscape of both Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons. The hotel is situated approximately 1.5km west of Royal Tunbridge Wells, 2km east of Langton Green and 8km south of Tonbridge with the A26 running some 1.2km to its south-east.The c.8ha site is bordered to the north-east by Tea Garden Lane, which descends for c.3km in a southerly direction from Langton Road to High Rocks Lane, to the south-west by agricultural land and to the north by Rusthall Common.The south and east boundaries are formed by gardens of the adjoining private houses (formerly the lands of Nevill Court”).

“The north-east facing entrance front of Beacon Hotel is approached from the east side of Tea Garden Lane.A Tarmacadam-surfaced car park at this entrance is bounded on its north and east sides by the woodland of Rusthall Common.The car park was part of the former tea gardens site and a track from its north side leads through the Common’s woodland, winding c.200m north-eastwards along the top of a sandstone ridge to reach the top of a the flight of 105, C18,stone,steps down to the cold bath.A second car park is located some 10m further south along Tea Garden Lane, on the hotel’s south-west front.From here there are wide views south and east over the hotel’s valley gardens and, more distantly, to Tunbridge Wells. John Bowra’s map of 1738 shows the position of the steps on a sloping,wooded, valley site below Rusthall Common.”

Of the principal buildings the report states “ Beacon Hotel (formerly Rusthall Beacon) was built in 1894 as a private house and designed by architect Sir Robert Edis. It is an irregular, L-shaped, two-storey house constructed of brick with tile-hanging on the first floor and with a tiled roof and tall chimney stacks.A window forming three sides of an octagon, with a cupola above, projects from the first floor of the south-west front. As the ground sloped sharply on its south-east side, the south-west front has three storeys with a basement and a terrace above at ground level. A single-storey extension has been added on the south-west front”.

“The ornamental gardens lie on the south side of the hotel. The south-east garden front opens onto a terrace with a flight of ten brick steps on its south-west end descending towards three further, broad,grassed terraces retained by grass slopes. From the terrace there are fine views over the garden’s wooded valley and Tunbridge Wells Common. A second steep flight of concrete slab steps leads to a grassy slope which descends to the topmost of the three terraces (c.70mx40m). The second terrace (c.100mx70m), some 5m below, is possibly on the site of an early C20 lawn with specimen conifers and two tennis courts (sales particulars). Below again is the third terrace, which is semi-circular in shape (c70mx50m) and enclosed by woodland on the site boundary. The top two terraces are enclosed on the west side by a clipped conifer hedge and on the east by the garden’s wooden valley.A path from the east side of the second terrace descends through the woodland to the cold bath site. These terraces were planted as orchards by the 1860’s (1st edn OS map), but by 1907 had been laid out as lawns studded with trees (2rd edn map)”.

“Some 169m south-east of the hotel, within the wooded valley, is the site of the cold bath;only the foundations of its structure now survive(2009), along with the spring and remnants an avenue of mature yew trees (now in poor condition).Fifty metres south of the cold bath is the northernmost of three spring-fed ponds, which sit one below the other, with their water supply descending by means of pipes and cascades.The ponds, which are lined partly with puddled clay and partly with stone,are c.2m deep and cover a total area of c.0.56ha (Taylor). The ponds are enclosed on their west and south sides buy a path and mature rhododendrons.Grass walks cross the top of the second and third ponds to allow views across the water which is now encroached upon by self-seeded trees.In the third pond is also an island planted wth rhododendrons. From this pond’s south-east side, water flows into a stream which continues on into woodland on the southern site boundary”.

“In 1766, the spring-fed cold bath was described as ‘adorned with amusing waterworks, and a handsome house over it, in every room of which was something curious, calculated to surprise and divert the company’ (Burr). It is thought to predate the cold baths at Tunbridge Wells by about 50 years (Taylor). In 1911, when it was part of the new ornamental gardens at Rusthall Beacon, planting in the valley included evergreens,rhododendrons and herbaceous plants with roses and climbers (TW Advertiser). Particulars for the 1936 sale also mentions pleasure grounds of some 10 ha consisting of a chain of lakes planted with water lilies,stocked with trout and with an islet covered with rhododendrons. At that time, the cold bath was described as set among rock, herbaceous and shrubbery gardens and ornamental Woodlands”.

Having now completed my coverage of the Kent Compendium report of 2009 I now supplement the information above with the following. The name Rusthall is from the Anglo Saxon ‘Ruste uuelle’ meaning the well contains a high level of natural iron, a typical feature of the waters of Tunbridge Wells.The cold baths containing it were believed to provide curative powers .The cold baths in the grounds of the ‘Beacon’ were well known for their coldness and clearness which were observed to be ‘as excellent as any in the kingdom’. The baths were designed as a place of entertainment, the grounds being embellished with fountains and ornaments.Despite these attractions, the baths waned in popularity by the end of the 18th century and fell into a state of decay. The foundations of the old cold bath house are still present today.The stone lined spring which fed it is in much better condition, though a bit choked with debris.The old bath house structure became buried by the early 19th century and its foundations were not discovered until unearthed by road works in 1971.

The Friends of Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Common give the following information. “ Happy Valley-One of the town’s chief beauty sports in Victorian and Edwardian times. There are many pictures of that period showing what was said to be ‘as beautiful a view as England affords’ form the traditional viewpoint marked today by a clearing to the east of the ‘Hundred and One Steps’. Nowadays,due to  obscuring trees, the best view can be obtained from the footpath between the Steps and the Beacon Hotel. The name was invented around 1870 (after the earthly paradise in Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, 1759) for what are now the grounds of the Beacon Hotel, but were originally the pleasure grounds surrounding the Cold Bath of 1708”. Of the ‘Hundred and One Steps’ is written “ Constructed to provide a main access to the Cold Bath of 1708 and therefore presumed to be contemporary with it. They appear on Bowras map of 1738. By 1840 they had become covered by turf, and were apparently not revealed to view again until early in the twentieth century.Some postcards following their rediscovery erroneously describe them as ‘the Roman Steps’, creating a local legend that has endured to the present day.Missing and damaged steps were replaced with old kerbstones in 1959”

Here is what Paul Amsinch,esq. had to say about the baths in his 1810 guide to Tunbridge Wells and Its Neighbourhood. “There was indeed an excellent cold bath near Rust-Hall Common; which had formerly been an appendage on a place of public entertainment; but this was at too great a distance for invalids; difficult of access; and moreover, in a very dilapidated and uncomfortable condition. Warm baths there are none….”.

Peltons 1881 directory adds “Beyond the pretty church (St Pauls) is the Happy Valley, not immortalized as was the fancied scene of Rasselas, but remembered with pleasure by many a visitor…In this hollow now part of Mrs Byass’s estate (Nevill Court), may be noticed a pool of water which was anciently the Cold Bath of Rusthall. Traces of the former occupation of this spot still remain..”

Tunbridge Wells first historian, Thomas Benge Burr, tells us that he Cold Bath was built by James Lond in 1708 and that it was “ equal to any in the kingdom,being plentifully supplied with the finest rock water from the neighbouring hills”. Benge Burr goes on to say that “the Bath was first adorned with amusing water works and embellished with ornaments suitable to the place.In short,”he says “the whole work was most completely disposed for a scene of amusement”. Burr wrote in 1766 that “the gardens had become wild”.

The Friends of Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Common refer to this site as “The Lost Gardens of Rusthall” and in a May 30,2011 article by Hannah, which was based on an interview with Dr Ian Beavis, Curator of Tunbridge Wells Museum, she recounts the history of the place. As much of the information has already been given I will not repeat it but she offers some clarification of certain points which I have included here. She talks about the “three peaceful lakes,fringed by banks of rhododendrons , which were referred to above as ponds.She states ‘ These days, there’s nothing more than a brambled-fill pit to indicate where the old cellar once lay.The old pleasure gardens would have been spectacular in their day, with their ornamental pavilions and formal planting schemes. There were even cold baths on sit for paying visitors.If you access Happy Valley via the Steps, you’ll see the remains of a brick way curving away from you on the left. This natural spring was the original site of the baths.Similar in scale to the baths at Fonthill on the edge of the Common,these would have been fairly modest,but they would have been an added attraction to this peaceful area. At the top of the Steps, you’ll see the Sweep’s Cave,also known as the Old Kitchen or, intriguingly, the Hermit’s Cave. Again, local folklore has provided many theories for their origins, but it’s likely that the caves were sheltered seats for people to enjoy the view over the valley. The only logical period for work on this scale to be undertaken would have been when Happy Valley was in its heyday.What’s more, the bigger cave features two projections on either side where a wooden plank could have been laid across to form a seat.But why one big cave and one small one? One local wag has ventured that the large cave was for the courting couple and the smaller one for the chaperone!.Happy Valley has been the subject of more than one development in its times.In more recent history, Colonel Sladen, who owned The Beacon as a private residence, laid 23 acres of pleasure grounds on top of the original 1708 grounds”.


A number of theories have been put forward to explain why Sweep’s Cave was created. Below is a list of them.

(1)    The claim that the caves became known as Sweep’s Cave on the premise that chimney sweeps of the 19th century brought sacks of soot there for disposal but that it is unlikely that the chimney sweeps actually carved out the caves themselves.

(2)    The claim that the caves were carved out to provide dry storage for fuel for the nearby beacon (after which the Beacon Hotel is named), part of the chain of  beacons that ran between the coast and London to warn of the Spanish Armada and that this beacon linked with the one at Crowborough a few miles to the south, which sits on the highest ridge between the North and South Downs.It has been suggested that of the two caves (one large and one small) that the larger cave was for storing the fuel and the smaller one for a guard.

(3)    The claim that the large cave was a spot for courting couples to sit and the smaller one was for the chaperon.

(4)    The claim that the caves became known as ‘Hermit’s Cave’ because hermits used to live there

(5)    The claim that the caves were called ‘The Old Kitchen’ because it was a place where visitors stopped to seek shelter, start a fire, and cook their food there.

(6)    The claim that the caves were part of the manmade features of the Cold Baths circa 1708 and that the 101 steps leading up to them were created around the same time to provide access to them. As noted in the conservation report the steps are shown on Bowra’s 1738 map but the caves are not. Whether the omission of the caves on the map was an oversight or an indication that they did not exist in 1738 is not known.The caves were created to provide a sheltered spot to sit so visitors could enjoy the view over the valley.Those who have visited the site report that the bigger cave features two stone projections on either side where a wooden plank could have been laid across to form a seat.

Those who have visited the site report that the caves are very shallow, being less than five feet deep, a fact that negates any logical explanation for their use as a place to store chimney sweeps soot or wood for a signal beacon.One should also note, that with respect to the Spanish Armada theory, that this pertained to the period of 1588 when a network of beacons were established to warn of any invasion. The presence of any soot in the cave(s),as reported by some, has nothing to do with soot from the chimney sweeps but rather the remains of soot/ashes from fires that had been set in the caves. These fires would have been set by visitors to the site wanting to get out of the cold or rain where they could start a fire to keep warm or dry off. It is of course possible that some food may have been cooked over a fire which led to its reference as The Old Kitchen. The shape of the cave entrance resembles an open hearth kitchen fireplace and its shape therefore is also a likely reason for the name .Soot and ashes collect by chimney sweeps is a useful by product of combustion, being applied to the land as a fertilizer and also used to make lye which is used to make soap, and therefore it is unlikely that it would have been wasted by dumping it in caves.

No doubt visitors to the site included couples and chaperons, who would have stopped there to rest or take shelter.

The book ‘The Flora of Tunbridge Wells’  by Edward Jenner (A.L.S.) dated 1845 includes a list of plants collected and the location they were found. One entry on the list gives “Hematococcus arenarius,Hass.MS. on the Sweeps Rock on Tunbridge Wells Common.

Index to images (numbered from top to bottom)

1)A photograph supplied by Mark Collins of the Roughwood website showing two boys at Sweeps Caves . The two boys are relatives of Mark Collins. The eldest  boy is his uncle Roger Butler, born in 1939, and the younger boy is Franks cousin Frank Young. Based on the age of the boys it is expected that the photo was taken in the 1940’s. This photo became a postcard entitled ‘Old Kitchen Happy Valley Rusthall No. 202’.The book ‘The Iron Roads Directory of Tunbridge Wells, dated 1881 by Sir Richard Somers Vine stated “ In every direction around the Wells are agreeable walks and rides, furnishing most extensive views of rural and forest scenery. Perhaps the most favourite ramble for pedestrians is across the common, on which are some various rocks, known as the Sweep’s Rocks”.

2)This vertical postcard view is of Sweeps Rocks and is No. 92576 published by Valentine. The title on the card reads “ Old Kitchen, Happy Valley, Tunbridge Wells. This used postcard bears a 1924 postmark and was sent from Tunbridge Wells September 22,1924 to a person in Essex.

An old postcard entitled ‘Sweep Cave, Happy Valley,Rusthall, showing four boys in the large cave and one boy in the small cave. You can clearly see from this image how shallow the caves are and their overall dimensions can be judged by the size of the boys. Note the carving on the rock to the left of the small cave which appears to read “E.O. 1845” and also the carving of initials on the rock to the right of the large cave.

A modern photo of Sweeps Cave taken in 2008.


The New Guide of Tunbridge Wells by John Colbran of 1840 gives the following. “ A singular appearance of many of the rocks here cannot fail to interest the most casual observer expecially those near St Helena Cottage (postcard opposite), which a few years since were a principal object of attractrion to parties entering the town from the metropolis. They are called ‘the Sweep’s Rocks’ , as a large cavern, which had  been excavated for the purpose of obtaining sand, was used by the sweeps as a depot for their soot.There are two arched entrances into it of sufficient height to admit of a loaded wagon having ingress and egress.A short time previous to the alteration of the turnpike road from Sharp’s corner to the wells, it was thought necessary to block up these entrances, as from the repeated excavations the rock was considered dangerous, and the singularly romantic appearance of it was consequently lost”. Shown below are two  images from the book Royal Tunbridge Wells by Roger Farthing  pertaining to these caves. The first(left) is a sketch from a visitor’s guide of 1824.The image on the right is a sketch by art school principal E. Owen Jennings, showing the use of the cave as an air raid shelter.It is said that these caves link with the wine vaults on Mount Ephraim but there are many stories of tunnels under the common, who’s existence have not been fully explained.

St Helena cottage is to be found labelled on an 1839 map and it and the rocks referred to are located near the intersection of London Road and Mount Ephraim Road in Tunbridge Wells Common. This cottage was built between 1828 and 1838 as a replacement for an earlier cottage which can be seen on Bowra’s 1738 map.

Today a manhole cover marks the entrance to the caves referred to by Colbran.Origianlly open to the road the land had  been filled in to level the site by the local Turnpike Trust in 1833.Residents had complained that the loss of the caves spoiled the appearance of the area.The caves were reopened at the outbreak of WWII and used as an air raid shelter.



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

Date: June 29,2014


Chimney sweeps have been cleaning chimney in Tunbridge Wells since the 17th century when the town began to be settled and continue today to provide a much needed service. Their work was hard, dirty and dangerous and dispite the importance of their work ,anyone in the trade was looked down upon.

Children, because of their small size, were often used in early times but laws introduced in the mid 1800’s and afterwards  led to this practice being banned.

In researching chimney sweeps of Tunbridge Wells it was found that men of all ages worked in this trade and most of them lived in the poorer parts of town. During WW 1, when men were called to arms, it was not uncommon for women to work as sweeps.

The work of the chimney sweep evolved in step with changes  from burning wood to coal and as new methods of heating were introduced. Chimney sweeps, because they were considered lucky, are still sometimes present at weddings. Apart of cleaning chimneys many sweeps offer other services such as removing birds and repairing chimneys.

This article provides an overview of the history of this trade with a focus on those who worked in it in Tunbridge Wells.


Although most small homes (4 rooms or less) tended to have just one central fireplace as their source of heat.Larger homes, particularly those constructed during the Victorian Era, usually had one fireplace in each main room and anyone who has examined the roofs of homes built during that time will see several chimneys, all requiring cleaning. Chinmey sweeps climbing ladders and scrambling along roof tops was a common sight in the town, and as the population and the number of homes increased, so did the number of men engaged in this trade.

Due to a lack of local information about those engaged in the trade prior to the 1840’s, I present here an overview of records from 1858 to 1930. The 1858 Melville directory recorded only 3 sweeps in business, namely John Hubble who operated from Railway Road and also Warwick Road; Peter Hutchinson in Mount Sion and William Walter on Gas Street. Trade directories for the town of 1822 and 1840 do not give a listing of chimney sweeps, but obviously there must have been at least 2 or three in the town during that time.

Moving ahead to 1867, when the town’s population was  about 14,000 (13,807 in 1861), there were five men in this trade namely (1) John Elliott on Crescent Rd (2) John Hubble (who was also in the 1858 Melville) on Goods Station Rd (3) Joseph Parkham on North Street (who remained active as a sweep up to an beyond 1911) (4) George Saunders on Mount Sion  (5) Thomas Walter of Golding Street, who was still listed as a sweeper in trade directories up to the late 1880’s.

The 1874 Kelly directory listed 5 sweeps namely (1)  Joseph Baker & Son at 38 Camden Road (2) Abel Fielder at 61 Calverley Rd (3) John Hubble who was still at 23 Goods Station Rd (4) Joseph Parrkham, who had moved from North Street to 61 Varney St (5) Thomas Walter who was still on Golding Street.Dispite an increase in population to 19,420 in 1871, up some 5,000 residents in 10 years, there was no increase in the number of sweeps in the town.

In 1881 the population had risen to 24,806 and yet the 1882 Kelly directory only lists four sweeps in the town, down one from 1867 and 1874. Those in the trade in 1882 were (1) John Hubble, still at 23 Goods Station Road (2) William Morley,at 4 Basinghall St (3) Joseph Peckha, still at 61 Varney St (4) Thomas Walter, still at Golding St. Although not listed in the 1882 Kelly there was also from the 1881 census a Stephen A Pavey of 16 Hervey Town and William Baker at 21 Hervey Town who were both chimney sweeps.

By 1891 the town’s population reached 27,895 and by 1899 the number of sweeps had doubled from four in 1882 to eight in 1899. Those in the trade in 1899 were (1) William Baker of 48 Camden Rd (2) Baker & son, at Monckton’s Cottage on Park Street (3) William Bishop at 33 Crescent Road (4) Charles Hardy & Son at 11 Little Mount Sion (5) John Hubble junior, 23 Goods Station Rd. John was the son of John Hubble senior found as a sweep in Tunbridge Wells throughout the period of at least 1858 to 1882, one of a number of examples of fathers and sons being in the same trade. (6) William Morley of 5 Basinghhall St who in 1882 was on the same street but at No. 4 (7) Joseph Packham still at 61 Varney St (8) Samuel Ralph at 27 William Street.

In 1903, even after a significant increase in population since 1891, there were still only 8 sweeps in the town namely (1)William Abbott at 167 Queen’s Rd (2) Samuel Baker at 34 Crescent Rd  (3) William Baker at 70 Camden Rd (4) Henry Ballard at 17 Edward Street,Rusthall (5) Joseph Funnell of 32 Auckland Rd (6) Charles Hardy & son still at 11 Little Mount Sion  (7) John Hubble, formerly of 23 Goods Station Rd but now of 62 Goods Station Rd (8) Joseph Packham still at 61 Varney St. Although I made no attempt to investigate sweeps in Southborough I did note that in 1903 there were three namely (1) George Cavie of 80 High Brooms Rd (2) John Divall at 129 London Rd (3) William Funnell & Son of 16 Springfield Rd.William Funnell was related to Joseph Funnel, in Tunbridge Wells, a sweep of 32 Auckland Rd.

Between 1903 and 1911 there was a boom in the chimney sweep trade for in 1911 (census)there were sixteen sweeps operating in the town namely (1) Richard Thomas Baker of 9 Monckton Row, Park St (2) William James Baker of 34 Crescent Rd. Samuel baker, a sweep, was at that address in 1903 and appears there again in 1922 and so presumably was also there in 1911. (3) Henry Ballard still at 17 Edward St, Rusthall (4) Charles Hardy will at 11 Little Mount Sion (5) James henry Hubble of 4 Flats Golding Street who was related to chimney sweep John Hubble at 62 Goods Station Rd in 1903 (6) William Kemp (7) William Morley of 5 Bassinghall St, who was not listed in the 1903 Kelly but who was at No. 5 in 1899 and at No. 4in 1882 ,working as a sweep.  (8) Joseph Packham still at 61 Varney St (9) Samuel Horace Baker Perry of 3 Golding St (10) Charles Young of 26 Dale St (11) Charles Baker of 70 Camden Rd , the former premises of William Baker in 1903 (12) Frederick Hardy of 169 Little Mount Sion, who was the son in Charles hardy & son from the 1903 Kelly listing (13) John Hubble still of 62 Goods Station Rd (14) David Malprers of Hope Terrace on St John’s Rd (15) Stephen Alfred Pavery, a journeyman sweep of 20 Hervey Court  who in the 1881 census was a sweep at 16 Hervey Court (16) Arthur Stratford of 1 Culverden Square. There were plenty of chimneys to sweep by 1911 and these men were all kept busy, at least until 1914 when many of them (at least the younger ones) signed up for military service.Those that were not physically fit or too old for military service must have been quite busy for war or not chimneys needed attending to.  Of those working as sweeps in 1911,below is their age breakdown.

Under 20………Only one namely Arthur Stratford who was only age 14

21 to 30……….just 2

31 to 40………total of 5

41 to 50………just one

51-60………… of 4

61 to 70……….just 1

Over 70………. 2,ages 71 and 77

In 1921 the town’s population had reached  35,551 but the 1922 Kelly only listed four sweeps working in the town, providing an indication perhaps of how many had served in the war or perhaps the fact that most of the men working as sweeps in 1911 were getting on in years and had passed away with few younger men taking up the trade.Those listed as sweeps in 1922 were (1) Henry Horsfold of 11 Little Mount Sion , who was operating from the former premises of Charles Hardy & son (1903)and Charles Hardy (1911).  (2) Samuel Baker who was still at 34 Crescent Rd (3) William Baker & son who were still; at 70 Camden Rd (4) Samuel Pavey,at 17 Golding St, who was related to Stephen Alfred Pavey(1911 census), a chimney sweep .

Moving ahead in time to 1930 there were nine sweeps in the town namely (1) Isaac Baker at 9 Monckton’s  Row, Park St ,the same premises of 1899 occupied by chimney sweep Baker & Son (2) Samuel Baker still of 34 Crescent Rd (3) Charles Edward of 20 St Paul’s St,Rusthall (4) Joseph funnel of 74 Auckland Rd ,who was related to chimeney sweel Jospeh Funnell of 32 Audkland Rd in 1903 (5) William Haylor of 2 Wood Cottages, North St (6) William R. Horley of 17 Holmewood Rd (7) William Kemp of 2 and 4 Edward St, Rusthall , who was a sweep in the 1911 census (8) Samuel Pavey still of 17 Golding St (9) Henry Worsfold of 11 Little Mount Sion occupied by the Hardy family of sweeps 1911 and prior.

The Baker clan featured predominantly in the history of sweeps in the town from about 1870 up to and beyond 1930 with fathers, sons, brothers and uncles taking up the trade. Another long standing sweep was Jospeh Parkham who first appeared in the 1860’s up to at least 1911. Joseph Parkham had been born 1833 in Frant,Sussex  and was one of eleven children born to Samuel Parkham (1800-1965) and Amy Hugnsman (1803-1865). His wife was Eliza Baker, born 1834 Frant, the daughter of Robert Baker (1813-1889), a farm labourer,  and Sarah Blackman (1811-1885). Joseph had been christened November 24,1833 in Tunbridge Wells. In 1851 Joseph was living with his father Samuel, a shoemaker, and his mother Amy, a laundress in a cottage on London Road. Although just 18 Joseph was working as a chimney sweep. Also living in the home was five of Josephs siblings. At the time of the 1861 cenus, taken at Crown Terrace on North Street Joseph was a general labourer. Living with him was his wife Eliza and his brother Robert who was working as a tin plate and wire worker. In 1871 Joseph was a chimney sweel living with his wife Eliza and his niece at 33 North St.At the time of the 1881 census Joseph and his wife Eliza and his niece were living at 61 Varney St. This family unit were at the same address at the time of the 1891 census and Joseph was still working as a sweep.He and his wife and niece were still at 61 Varney street in 1901. In the 1911 census, taken at 61 Varney Street Joseph, although age 78 was still a “chimney sweep on own account”. Living with him in their four room residence was his cousin Mary Ann Ash, age 79, a widow. Josephs wife passed away sometime between 1901 and 1911 in Tunbridge Wels. Joseph passed away at age 91 in August 1924 in Tunbridge Wells and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on August 2nd.

Hervey Town, in which two sweeps lived, was a working class housing development in the Crescent Road/ Calverley Road part of town. It gained quite a reputation as being a rough, an some would say “slum” area. At times there were as many as eleven people living in the same 4 room home and the local health inspector told in his reports of the lack of working drains and other issues. In the 20th century the homes were all pulled down and the area redeveloped. Several young men for Hervey Town served in WW II and at least two of them were killed and their names recorded on the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial.

Bassinghall Road, now gone, was another lower class area in which sweeps lived. The homes, as well as the road itself, and others in that area were demolished to make way for the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre. Varney Street also disappeared, and many of the homes in Goods Station Road, another former lower class area, also made way for redevelopment.

Today there are about a dozen companies operating in the Tunbridge Wells area. On local sweep “Mr Jolly” has an excellent website providing a detailed history of chimney sweeping since the beginning of time. He stated that when he first moved to Tunbridge Wells to run his business he received a telephone call one day from one of his competitors who said “ I’ll come round and break every bone in your body, so you’ll never sweep another chimney again”-what a nice greeting to the town! Mr Jolly, like many if not all others joined the Guild of Master Sweeps when he started, paying around 1,500 pounds for a two week training course. He has a sign on his van that advertises “ Doesn’t Use Children”.

The organizations that currently regulate the industry are (1) The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (2)The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (3) The Institute Of Chimney Sweeps (4)Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps

Those in the business say Chimney sweeping today is a fantastic profession. Children are no longer used to climb up chimneys. They also know all about the different types of chimneys, how to clean flues without mess and give all sorts of advice.Chimney sweeps from around the country meet once a year at the Chimney Sweeps Festival. Some continue to wear the top hat and tails often associated with the trade but most professions prefer to wear  regular tradesmens clothes. Many chimney pots have removed from buildings and have found their way into salvage yards where there is a demand for them as ornamental garden features. Some samples are shown in the photo above.



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

Date: August 11,2014


The Tunbridge Wells business  known as Tunbridge Wells 7 Mid Kent Stores was a shop at 39 to 41 Pantiles run by Edward Thomas Hughes (1850-1921) in the late 19th and early 20th century. The shop, while mainly a grocers shop ,sold a wide variety of merchandice,including wine and spirits. The business  was established in 1880. Edward Thomas Hughes was the son of a successful farmer who had a large farm in Pluckey,Kent. The father of his future wife Elizabeth Strong Maylan (1851-1926) was the daughter of an equally successful farmer from the same community. Edward had decided not to be a farmer and began hisgrocers  business at Penge,Surrey by 1871  but by 1881 he and one of his brothers moved to Tunbridge Wells and operated a grocers shop under the name of Hughes Brothers, at 41 Parade, in a popular shopping area for local residents and tourists alike. In 1884 Edward married Elizabeth and from 1886 to 1888 the couple had two sons. By 1891 he had expanded his business to include 39 and 41 Pantiles and by 1899 expanded further to include 31,39 and 41 Pantiles, and remained at this location until he retired. By 1911 he and his wife moved to 50 Grove Hill Road where the couple operated a boarding house. Edward passed away in 1921 ,and his wife in 1926, both in Tunbridge Wells.

Shown above is an advertisment for the E.Hughes grocers shop at the former site of the Gloster Tavern (1706) at Nos. 39 & 41 The Pantiles, as shown in Peltons 1888 guide.


Pluckley and Pluckley Thorne are very close clustered neighbourhoods in the Pluckley civil parish in the Ashford Borough of Kent, England. References to Pluckley can be found in the Domesday Book, at which time it was a more significant settlement than the now considerably larger town of Ashford. The village, approximately 5 miles (8 km) from the nearest junction of the M20 motorway, is served by Pluckley railway station, about 1.25 miles (2 km) to the south. It lies on the Greensand Way long-distance walking route and is close to the Stour Valley Walk.

Edward Thomas Hughes was born in the 1st qtr of 1850 at Pluckley,Kent. He had been baptised there on May 19,1850 at the Parish Church of Pluckley (see postcard view). He was one of several children born to William Huges, a farmer born 1802 in Smarden,Kent, and Ann, born 1810 at Newton Harcourt, Leicestershire. William passed away sometime before 1871.

In his early years Edward attended school in Pluckley and helped his father on the family farm. The 1861 census, taken at Pluckley,Kent recorded William Hughes as a farmer of 250 acres employing 7 men. Living at the farm was also Williams wife Ann, his stepdaughter Sarah A. Appleby,age 21; his son Edward Thomas Hughes,age 11; one house servant and three farm servants. 


Sometime between 1861 and 1871 Edward Thomas Huges decided that farming was not for him and became a grocer instead. He is found in the 1871 census at Penge,Surrey at premises on Maple Road. With him at that time was his widowed mother Ann. Edward was a grocer and working for him was one assistant Henry Durtnall,age 21. Also present in the home was Susan A Wood, a sister of Edward’s who was a widow with two children. Edward continued to run his grocers shop in Penge for a few years but in 1880 he moved to Tunbridge Wells with one of his brothers and set up a grocers business at 41 Parade under the name of Hughes Brothers. Later his brother left the business and Edward carried it on,employing assistants to work with him in the shop.The 1882 Kelly directory gave the listing “Hughes Brothers, 41 Parade,grocers”. The 1881 census, taken at 41 Parade listed Edward Thomas Huges as a grocer. With him was one domestic servant and three shop assistants.

On September 3,1884 Edward married Elizabeth Strong Maylam (1851-1926) at Pluckley,Kent. Elizabeth was born in the 2nd qtr of 1851 at Pluckley,Kent and was baptised there on June 22,1851. She was one of four children born to farmer William Maylam (1826-1908) and Jane Bensted (1819-1925). In 1861 her father was a farmer of 420 acres employing 16 men and 8 boys,at Pluckley,Kent.Elizabeth lived with her parents on the family farm until the time of her marriage.

Shown opposite is a photograph from the booklet “Pictures of Tunbridge Wells and Neighbourhood’ published by the Lewis Hepworth Company on Vale Road. The photo itself was taken by local photographer G. Granville who had a studio in the town for many years. The text associated with the image reads “ Hughes Stores,Tunbridge Wells-The stores, 39 and 41 Ye Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, were established in 1880 for the supply of High-class Goods in daily consumption at the lowest possible price for cash. When preferred, orders amounting to 2 pounds are executed at any London or County list quotations. Price lists free on application”. What am impressive shop front and as can be seen the window is virtually filled with bottles of wine and spirits and an impressive array of grocery items. The name of “HUGHES” is proudly displayed above the door .There were fine living quarters above the shop.

The 1891 census was taken at 39 Ye Pantiles and present there was Edward, a grocer employer; his wife Elizabeth and his two sons William Maylam Hughes,born 1886 and Edward Frantk Huges,born 1888. Both boys were born in Tunbridge Wells and were the only children born to the couple. Also present in this census was two general servants, one grocers foreman and six shop assistants.

The 1899 Kelly directory gave four listings for Edward T. Hughes at 31,39,41 Pantiles. The first was under the heading of grocers; the second under tea dealers, and the third under “Italian Warehouses, and the fourth under wine and spirit merchants. The 1901 Kelly directory gave the same listings.

The 1901 census, taken at 39 Pantiles listed Edward T. Hughes as a grocer employer. With him was his wife Elizabeth; his two sons; a housekeeper domestic and one grocers assistant. The other assistants he employed in the business lived elsewhere.

Sometime between 1901 and 1911 Edward retired from the grocery business and there is no indication that his sons continued it. Edward and his wife decided to become boarding house keepers at 50 Grove Hill Road (photo opposite). The 1911 census records Edward and his wife at 50 Grove Hill Road. The census gave Edward as a boarding house keeper. Also present there in the 12 room establishment was three visitors and 3 boarders. The census recorded that the couple had been married 26 years and his two children. The 1913 Kelly gave the listing “Mrs Edward T. Hughes,50 Grove Hill Road” under the heading of “Boarding Houses”.

Edward Thomas Huges passed away in Tunbridge Wells in April 1921 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on April 9,1921. He was joined by his wife Elizabeth when she passed away in June  and was buried June 5th.



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

Date: January 9,2014


Leyswood was a grand home designed by the well -known architect Richard Norman Shaw(1831-1912) in 1868.Norman Shaw had persuaded his cousin James W. Temple, of the Shaw Saville shipping line to buy the2,300 acre site on Forge Road, Withyham,Sussex .  James Temple laid out a picturesque garden in on rocky sandstone outcrops surrounding his ‘Old English Style’country house

Many new plantings of exotic and rare trees and shrubs, together with a pinetum, bamboo dell, tropical fernery 'with its bold rockery' and an extensive range of twenty-six glasshouses, including orchid and camellia houses, were described in contemporary horticultural journals.

The estate had seen many owners over the years, details of which are given  later. Researching the history of this estate was made difficult by several factors and I do not claim to have written a complete history. The first difficulty was the size of the estate and the fact that over the years it was divided up into many smaller parcels of land. The second difficulty was the proliferation of places using the name Leyswood, even though they did not necessarily have anything to do with the original estate. The third difficulty was the large number of buildings constructed on the original estate grounds such as Leyswood House (the mansion), Leyswood Lodge, several cottages by the name Leyswood Cottages, and a large riding stable and related buildings often referred to as Leyswood Stables or the Old Riding Stabes, and then there was also Leyswood Farm which began as part of the estate holdings but divided off at a later date. The entire estate and the buildings constructed on it have undergone significant change over the years. It is a fascinating history but a complicated one, which I have attempted to clarify and record.

This article presents a description of the various buildings and grounds of the estate and includes information about its known occupants in the period leading up to and including WW II. Some brief information is provided for the estate and its residents after WW II but that time period has not been fully researched.

Shown above are two postcard views of Leyswood by the stationer, bookseller and postcard publisher Arthur Henry Homewood (1857-1922) who operated from premises at 1 & 2 Bank Buildings in Burgess Hill, Sussex. He is noted by researchers as "one of the best documented of Sussex postcard publishers" and during his career published over 2,000 postcards,mainly showing scenes in Sussex, but occasionally elsewhere. Although researchers are of the opinion he learned to be a photographer it is doubtful he took all of the photographs, instead hiring other photographers to take them, which he in turn had printed with himself credited as the publisher. The backs of the two postcards above identify him at the top of the card back as "A. H. Homewood, Burgess Hill, Sussex". He began publishing black and white postcards in 1905 but by 1907 was publishing hand tinted cards and later full colour printed postcards. The date on the back of one of the above cards shows a franking of 1907. The franking on the second card was lost when someone removed the postage stamp from it but most likely dates from the same time period and obviously both images were taken by the same photographer on the same day. Details about Mr Homewood and his career can be found on the website


English Heritage Listed Building Grade II Reference Leyswood House .The principal building is a house created 1868-1869.Leyswood House (listed grade II) now (2004) comprises the remains of an early Norman Shaw courtyard house built 1868-9, the east and north sides having been demolished around 1952. A gate tower with Gothic pointed arch on the south side forms the entrance to the courtyard.

In December 1865 the marine artist Edward William Cooke commissioned the architect Norman Shaw to build a house, Glen Andred, at Bulls Wood near Groombridge on the Hamsell Estate, an undeveloped rocky site with imposing views owned by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. Whilst Cooke's house was being built, Shaw persuaded his own cousin, James W. Temple, director of the Shaw Savill shipping company, to buy around 16 hectares of land some 15 metres above sea-level overlooking Glen Andred.

By December 1866 Shaw had produced designs for a large, imposing, country house there (with lodge, dairy and walled kitchen garden), to be called Leyswood. It sported a proliferation of gables and ranks of thickly ribbed chimneys, described in one contemporary journal as ‘excessively ugly' but later as ‘an exceptionally fine example of Norman Shaw architecture' (1919 Sales Particulars).

The approach to Leyswood was along a curving, ascending chestnut-lined drive that gave views of the house on a crag above, the ornamental and productive gardens lying to the south-west (1st edition Ordnance Survey map). As at Glen Andred, the natural rocky outcrops, ‘massive, rugged and sparsely clad', were cleared to provide ‘a perfect labyrinth' of picturesque walks through and over gorges.

By 1898 (2nd edition Ordnance Survey map), extensive stabling, a riding school and dower house had been built to the south-east of the house and a second walled garden and formal flower garden to the south-west. A ha-ha 100 metres from Leyswood House (1910 Ordnance Survey map) allowed views from the house to the south-east. Many new plantings of exotic and rare trees and shrubs, together with a pinetum, bamboo dell, tropical fernery ‘with its bold rockery' and an extensive range of twenty-six glasshouses, including orchid and camellia houses, were described in contemporary horticultural journals.

After Temple's death, his widow remained at Leyswood until 1919, subsequent to which the house had a succession of owners and land was gradually sold off. During World War 2 the site was occupied by the Canadian Army and from 1945 by a Cecilia Watkins, who lived there for six years. From 1951 Leyswood was briefly the property of a M.W. Higgs.

A year later the house was sold with around 10 hectares of land to Ian Simpson. He demolished most of the house apart from a gatehouse, gazebo and staff wing, which were then used as a family home and company offices until the 1980s. Leyswood House and three hectares (mainly remnants of early-20th-century lawns and shrubberies near the house) remain in single private ownership but the remaining garden and grounds are now (2004) in multiple private ownership. [For clarification about the  use and occupancy of Leyswood from 1939 onward see a more details coverage of the subject later

Site timetable;

1939 to 1945: During World War 2 the site was occupied by the Canadian Army.

1952: The house was sold with around 10 hectares of land to Ian Simpson. He demolished most of the house apart from a gatehouse, gazebo and staff wing, which were then used as a family home and company offices until the 1980s. [My research shows however that Leonard Ian Simpson was occupying ‘Old Farm’ in Groombridge from 1941 to 1957 and Leyswood from 1958 to 1982].

Features-GATE PIERS -Round stone and brick piers, which form the entrance to the grounds of Leyswood House.SUNMMERHOUSE-Red brick summerhouse with tiled roof.TERRACE-Terrace on the north side of Leyswood House.LAWN-Ten metres from the house there is a lawn within a bowl formed by sandstone outcrops topped by trees and shrubs and cut through with gulleys.ORNAMENTAL POND-Pond with a 20th-century water feature.GARDEN BUILDING-Feature created: 1800 to 1899. One hundred metres south-east of Leyswood House, there is a 19th-century dower house, coach house and stables, together with the adjoining `Old Riding School?, which have all been converted for residential use. Similarly, some 200 metres to the south-west of Leyswood House, private houses have been constructed around a 19th-century dairy, bothy and walled kitchen garden, including a late-20th-century Georgian-style house within the walled garden. A number of mid to late-20th century bungalows and houses have been built within the bounds of the 19th-century Leyswood estate (2001 Ordnance Survey map).GATEHOUSE-The adjoining two-storey Gothic-style gatehouse is red brick with stone dressings on the ground floor, tile-hung above, under a tiled roof. It has a castellated parapet and gable with metal finials. There is now, 2004, an extension (garden room and conservatory) on the north-west side of the courtyard. GATE-Feature created: 1950 to 1999.Leyswood is approached from the east off the Corseley Road through a double-leaf, six-bar, one metre high wooden gate (dating from the late-20th-century).GAZEBO-Feature created: 1800 to 1899.A 19th-century brick gazebo perched on a crag above the drive with views eastwards.KITCHEN GARDEN-Feature created: 1800 to 1899. Eight metres south-west of Leyswood House, a square, 19th-century (1st edition Ordnance Survey map), brick-walled kitchen garden (30 metres x 30 metres) has its main gate towards the eastern end of the north wall, on axis with the gate tower. The garden is now attached to a late-20th century house, but the quadripartite path structure, central circular brick walled tank (1898 Ordnance Survey map) and ruined greenhouses remain. The garden is now, 2004, cultivated as an ornamental, fruit and vegetable garden. Immediately outside the garden wall, on the north-west corner, are the foundations of a 19th-century camellia house, its paths and plants still intact.TREE AVENUE-Feature created: Before 1874 .Mature chestnut avenue, as shown on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map but now (2004) with a few replacement trees.


1)LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING -Leyswood is situated on a natural rocky crag on the top of a sandstone ridge with views north-east towards Harrison Rocks and the Weald of Kent, and to the surrounding Sussex countryside to the west. The garden, covering some three hectares, lies within the grounds of James Temple's original 16 hectare estate. The site is set back from the east side of Corseley Road which runs north from Withyham to Groombridge, approximately three and a half kilometres south of Groombridge and 10.5 kilometres south-west of Tunbridge Wells. The main Uckfield-Tunbridge Wells road (A26) is around two and a half kilometres to the east. The Leyswood estate is bordered on the west and north-west by the Corseley Road, on the north-east by Forge Road and on the south-west and south-east by the fields and woodland of adjoining properties.

2)ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES -Leyswood is approached from the east off the Corseley Road through a double-leaf, six-bar, one metre high wooden gate (dating from the late-20th-century). This is flanked by thick evergreen plantings (rhododendrons and laurels) on the west side and a two metre clipped conifer hedge on the east. Immediately through the gate, on the east side of a rolled gravel drive, is a 19thcentury Tudor-style lodge designed by Norman Shaw, now, 2004, surrounded by flower beds and a laurel hedge. From the entrance gates the drive (with speed ramps) curves gently south-east for 200 metres along a mature chestnut avenue, as shown on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map but now (2004) with a few replacement trees. To the south side of the drive a lawn is backed by mature shrub plantings (2004, largely rhododendron) and conifers. On the north side, across a ranch-style iron fence, there are views across the adjoining pasture land to Old Birchden Farm and surrounding wooded hills. At the end of the chestnut avenue, on the south of the drive is the entrance to Hunters Moon, a late-20th-century house. The drive continues south-east from this junction for approximately a further 120 metres. It runs between rocky outcrops and the remnants of exotic trees, including redwoods, Wellingtonias and cedars, to a further junction with a road leading east to a 20th-century house (Little Rock). From this second junction, the drive turns south for some 150 metres with views to Leyswood House on a ridge to the west and to a 19th-century brick gazebo perched on a crag above the drive with views eastwards. Fifty metres further on from the gazebo on the west side of the road there is a flight of six stone and brick steps leading up through a gap in a clipped yew hedge (with views to a lawn with mature trees). Opposite the steps is a fork in the road leading east to Wren Hill (a 20th-century house), the drive swinging north-west for 20 metres to double-leaf, wrought iron gates (now, 2004, automatic gates) hung on round stone and brick piers, which form the entrance to the grounds of Leyswood House. On the east side of the piers, stone steps (shown on the 1910 Ordnance Survey map) lead up to lawns on the south and north of the drive. Twenty metres on from the gates, the drive turns sharply north, continuing for 40 metres flanked by grass verges with tall trees and shrubs. It then passes under a 19th-century gatehouse tower and a broad stone archway and leads onto a gravelled turning and parking area in front of the house.

3)GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS -The north side of the Leyswood House courtyard is enclosed by a wooden trellis with a red brick central archway (dating from the late-20th-century), on axis with the arch of the gate tower and with a red brick summerhouse with tiled roof on its east side. The trellis has a mixed border on its south side and seating in a paved area on its north side, mature conifers framing views to the north-east. From a terrace on the north side of Leyswood House, steps lead west to an upper garden (not seen) and east down between rocky outcrops with shrubs, ericas and conifers. Ten metres from the house there is a lawn within a bowl formed by sandstone outcrops topped by trees and shrubs and cut through with gulleys. Below the rocks is a pond with a 20th-century water feature (not seen, 2004 Sales Particulars). On the south side of the house, from a terrace with a 20th-century rockery garden, steps lead west up to the front lawn. A gravel path leads between flower and shrub beds with mature trees and flanked by broad sweeping lawns, towards a hard tennis court with a timber chalet (not seen) situated 80 metres from Leyswood House. Beyond the tennis court, paths meander through informal woodlands with a wide variety of mature broadleaf and conifer trees and shrubs. On the south-east side of the house there is a lawn with mature conifers and a multi-stemmed cuppressus incorporates a putting green (not seen), enclosed by a clipped yew hedge and rose beds. Steps lead down from the east side of the lawn to the drive at its junction with the road to Wren Hill. One hundred metres south-west of Leyswood House lies a 19th-century, rectangular, formal garden (40 metres x 50 metres), now the property of 20th-century Garden Cottage. The garden is now, 2004, dilapidated, but the path structure and yew hedges remain.

4)PARKLAND -Sixty metres east of Leyswood House, on the east side of the drive, is an extensive area (60 metres x 120 metres) comprising lawns studded with mature trees (the site of a 19th-century pinetum). It is backed by a winding sandstone ridge and the remains of Temple's picturesque landscape of deep gorges and extensive boulder ranges (now, 2004, overgrown).


The following information about the lodge is from the records of English Heritage. “ Grade II listed April 18,1973. Built in 1868-9; Architect- Norman Shaw.One storey red brick.Tiled roof with ornate ridge and ribbed  brick stack.Stone mullioned windows.Timbered Gables.”

This lodge was designed by architect Richard Norman Shaw and initially was the gate lodge to the estate occupied by estate servants. In the 20th century it was divied off from the estate and became a private residence, a use it retains today. I have not made any attempt to determine the occupancy history of the lodge but some reference to it is given in other sections of this article.


On the Leyswood estate were constructed a number of cottages, which originally were occupied by servants of the estate. In the 20th century when the estate was divided up these cottages became private residences. One of them, described below, is today referred to as Leyswood End.

The following information comes from the Rightmove estate agents brochure. It is today a renovated character home in a private country estate with 4/5 bedrooms situated on about 2.72 acres of land bounded by farm and woodland on three sides. Many significant improvements have been made to the house over the years with energy efficiency and modern family requirements in mind.” It is believed by the current owners that Leyswood End was originally occupied by the estate gardener. After Temple's death, his widow remained at Leyswood until 1919, subsequent to which the land was gradually sold off. The English painter Sir Thomas Monnington also resided at this property for some time and some of his works include landscapes around Leyswood”. Some have mistakingly concluded that Mr Monnington occupied the main house ‘Leyswood House’ but my research shows that the estate agents claim that he lived in Leyswood Cottage is correct.

Continuing with the estate agents account is “Reception / dining hall with fireplace for a multi-fuel burner, travertine tiled floor, oak staircase ascending to the first floor with storage cupboard beneath, windows to the front and sides and solid oak front door with glass bulls eye.Sitting room with bay 'picture' window to the front, French doors to the rear and further windows to the front and side. There is also a fireplace with bressumer beam over to house a multi-fuel burning stove, box beams to the ceiling and wall light points.Kitchen / dining room featuring an oak fronted, granite topped Wentworth kitchen with Villeroy & Boch undermount sink, integrated Siemens dishwasher, space for a range oven and an American style fridge freezer with plumbing for water/ice dispenser. French doors lead out to the walled garden to the side and bi-fold doors lead out onto a paved terrace to the south. The floor features a continuation of the travertine tiling from the reception hall and there is a fireplace recess with lined flue ready for a multi-fuel burner if desired and a walk-in larder with matching units to those in the kitchen.Utility room with matching units to the kitchen including a butler sink, space for a washing machine, tumble dryer and freezer. The floor is laid with travertine tiles, a stable style solid oak door with bulls eye leads out to the rear and a window looks out to the side.Fully tiled wet room with contemporary WC and washbasin.Study / 6th bedroom with directional spotlights and window to the side with wooden shutters.Cloakroom with contemporary Villeroy & Boch white sanitary ware, travertine floor tiles and a window to the front.First floor landing with window to the rear, built-in linen storage cupboard, fitted bookshelves and fireplace recess.Triple aspect master bedroom with views over the garden and surrounding countryside, exposed beams to the vaulted ceiling and a fireplace recess. The en suite shower room has tiles to the walls and floor, a walk-in shower with glass screen, drench head and separate hand-held shower, Villeroy & Boch WC and stone washbasin mounted on a stone topped oak fronted cabinet.There are three further bedrooms, two with built-in wardrobes (one of which has been designed for conversion to an en suite shower room). One of the bedrooms has wooden shutters fitted to the windows. The fourth bedroom has wooden floorboards and access to an eaves storage area. The vendors have been advised by an architect that planning permission and building regulation sign off would not be required to create a 5th bedroom by dividing one of the larger bedrooms - see the floor plans.The family bathroom comprises a stand-alone, roll top bath with claw and ball feet and telephone style shower attachment, high-level 'Charlotte' WC, 'Charlotte' pedestal washbasin and corner shower cubicle. There is also a deep storage cupboard, heated towel rail, panelling to dado height, period style radiator, polished wood floorboards and windows to the side and rear.Outside-There is a private gravel driveway with parking and turning areas. Planning permission *error* was granted in 2009 to build a new gated entrance to the property.To the north-east of the house is a walled garden, believed to have formed part of the original Victorian walled garden. There are espaliered pear trees around the inside perimeter of the walled garden, again believed to have been planted in the original Victorian garden, and espaliered apple trees in the centre. There is also a kitchen garden to one corner with a greenhouse. The remainder of this garden is laid to lawn with planted beds, a topiary yew hedge and a mature conifer tree. There is also a paved patio accessible from the sitting room and kitchen.There is a further lawn to the front of the house, which wraps around to the southern side of the house as well. The current owners have allowed half of the front garden to grow into a wild meadow. Mature trees including a number of English oaks are growing around the perimeter.There is a triple bay open barn to the side of the house, currently used as a garden implements store with a log store to the side. The garden to the south-west of the house features a number of fruit trees and there is an area of woodland, which currently has a chicken coup and children's tree house in it.Attached to the house and linked to the utility room via a loggia is a further utility room which houses the boiler, ground source heat pump as well as some fitted base units. There is also a further outhouse used as a garden store with a former kennel attached to one end.Bi-fold doors open from the kitchen / dining room to a paved terrace to the side of the house.The entire plot is ring fenced with stock-proof fencing.


This residence was originally part of the Leyswood Estate. The following information about it is given in a recent Richtmove estate agents brochure. “The Dower House is a beautiful, unlisted, 19th Century building forming part of the Leyswood estate on the south side of Groombridge. The house, together with attached unconverted stable buildings, has scope for restoration, refurbishment and/or conversion. The buildings are arranged in a horse-shoe around a central enclosed garden with the majority of the grounds laying to the north-west of the property. It is believed by the current owners that the Dower House, together with extensive stabling and a riding school were built in 1869 to the south-east of the main house. After Temple's death, his widow remained at Leyswood until 1919, subsequent to which the land was gradually sold off. The Canadian army resided at the site during World War 2.

The house is arranged over two floors with split levels between them. The original lead light windows (some of which have secondary glazing) and fireplaces are a particular feature of the property. On the ground floor there are 3 generous reception rooms, a kitchen with scullery and a cloakroom. The kitchen features an oil fired Aga, built-in dresser-style cabinets and wooden floorboards. The scullery has a sink, space for a washing machine, fridge and freezer and also has wooden flooring and a fireplace recess. The double aspect drawing room has sealed unit double glazed windows and a substantial open fireplace. The study/family room also features a fireplace with wooden surround and mantle, has French doors to the rear gardens and wooden flooring. The dining room provides an aspect over the south-facing garden.Two staircases rise from the kitchen and entrance hall respectively. There are 4 bedrooms on the first floor. The first and largest room has a double aspect to the front and over the south-facing garden. It has wooden panelling to the walls with a concealed door opening to reveal a small walk-in wardrobe. A stained glass window looks through and a set of glazed double doors lead in to the en suite bathroom. This bathroom has a spa bath with shower attachment, separate shower cubicle, washbasin and w.c.. The second largest bedroom is at the other end of the house and also has a double aspect over the gardens to the south and east. This bedroom has a feature fireplace, built-in wardrobe and airing cupboard. Adjacent to this bedroom is another bedroom with a feature fireplace and built-in wardrobe/cupboards. The last bedroom has its own washbasin. The family bathroom comprises a panelled bath with shower over, washbasin, w.c. and airing cupboard.West stable block-The old stables to the west of the house comprise two store rooms (one which has previously been converted to provide a guest bedroom with washbasin) and a 56'8'' open plan building with four sets of stable doors leading out to the enclosed garden and garage doors opening onto the drive to the front of the house. This building is attached to one of the neighbouring properties at the south end and features the original stable paving bricks.East stable block-The former stables attached to the east end of the house is now an open plan 46' building with pedestrian access to the central enclosed garden and gardens to the north. The floor displays the original stable paving bricks. Behind this building are two further attached stores currently used for log storage.Gardens & Grounds-A gravel driveway to the front of the house provides parking for several cars and has access to the west stable block via garage doors. An arched alleyway leads to the front door of the house and through to the central enclosed garden, which is predominantly laid to lawn. The majority of the grounds lay to the north-east of the house and have a park-like nature, studded with mature trees.


The following information comes from the Lampons estate agents brochure. “A well- proportioned and maintained substantial family home of some 3,682 sq ft, superbly situated in a highly desirable location away from traffic and with views over the surrounding countryside, yet only 5 miles from Tunbridge Wells.A fascinating combination of a period exterior with a tasteful modern interior, this excellent conversion has accommodation over three floors with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms (1 en suite), games room, 4 receptions, double garage plus parking and circa 0.25 acre private garden. There is shared ownership of an all- weather tennis court and 5 acre paddocks.LEYSWOOD COUNTRY ESTATE- In 1866 William Temple purchased 2300 acres of land near Groombridge and engaged the prominent architect Norman Shaw to create a country house, to be situated on a dramatic outcrop of the local Tunbridge Sandstone. As the name suggests, The Old Riding School was built as the indoor riding school for the estate, around the late 1860's. The building is Grade II listed and was converted in to four residential dwellings around 1990. The County Conservation Architect described the building at the time as " The most spectacular farm building he knows in East Sussex of the 19th and early 20th century". There are some interesting and notable features characteristic of buildings of that era, including lofty iron trusses, clerestory dormers and splayed walls. The current owners of No 2 have carried out further refurbishments to create a tasteful modern interior. The accommodation is arranged over three floors and offers great flexibility for possible annex/home office use. All the principal rooms face south-east with lovely views over the garden, adjoining paddocks and countryside beyond.

The Accommodation -Part glazed front door to Entrance Lobby- Tiled floor, glazed panelled door to Entrance Hall-Double radiator, understairs cupboard.Cloakroom -level WC, pedestal wash hand basin, tiled floor, double opening cloaks cupboard, extractor.Inner Hall- Useful study area to one end, door to Shared Atrium 25'0" x 17'9" (7.63m x 5.42m) A unique shared courtyard with raised stone central area stocked with Mediteranean plants, paved surround. Vaulted to the roof.Utility Room -Single bowl, double drainer, stainless steel sink with mixer taps, work surface with space and plumbing for washing machine and tumble dryer. Range of wall cupboards, extractor.Drawing Room 26' 10" x 18' 3" (8.18m x 5.56m) Feature wooden fireplace surround with marble inset and hearth, two radiators, four wall light points, double glazed window, double glazed door to paved terrace and garden, lovely views, double opening glazed panelled doors to Sitting Room 14' 7" x 12' 9" (4.45m x 3.89m) Radiator, glazed panelled door to hallway, wide archway through to Dining Room 14' 8" x 11' 3" (4.47m x 3.43m) Radiator, Velux window, four wall light points, double glazed window, double glazed double doors to paved terrace and garden, lovely views.Family Room 12' 9" x 11' 9" (3.89m x 3.58m) Three cupboards with bi-fold doors, radiator, double glazed side window.Kitchen/Breakfast Room 15' 8" x 11' 4" (4.78m x 3.45m) Inset white sink in extensive granite work top with cupboards and drawers under, space and plumbing for dishwasher, inset ceramic hob with extractor over, built-under oven, range of wall cupboards including glass fronted, double aspect, double glazed, tiled floor, space for table and chairs, double radiator, down lights, part panelled splashback, double glazed double doors out to the paved terrace and garden, lovely views.First Floor Landing -Cupboard, radiator, airing cupboard with hot tank.Master Bedroom 22' 2" x 18' 11" (6.76m x 5.77m) Two radiators, two windows, lovely views over the garden to countryside beyond, double recessed wardrobe, further walk-in wardrobe, door to En-Suite Bathroom White suite of panelled bath with mixer taps, low level WC, radiator, wash hand basin and tiled top with cupboards under, decorative tiling, bidet, down lights, shaver point.Bedroom Two 12' 9" x 12' 3" (3.89m x 3.73m) Radiator, double glazed window with views over the garden.Bedroom Three 12' 9" x 11' 7" (3.89m x 3.53m) Radiator, double glazed window with views over the garden.Family Bathroom White suite of panelled bath with side mixer taps, half tiled walls, low level WC with push button flush, wash hand basin, down lights, heated chrome towel rail, walk-in shower cubicle with Aqualisa mixer unit.Second Floor Landing Useful study area to one side, double glazed window, walk-in loft storage area.Bedroom Four 15' 5" into dormer x 12'2" (4.72m x 3.72m) Double glazed window with views over the garden, single built-in wardrobe, radiator.Games Room 24' 1" into dormer x 11' 0 max. (7.34m x 3.35m) Vaulted ceiling, two double radiators, double glazed window with views over the garden, television point, door to Bedroom Five 14' 11" into dormer x 11' 11" (4.55m x 3.63m) Single wardrobe, double glazed window with views over the garden, radiator.Bathroom Three Very wide walk-in shower cubicle with Aqualisa mixer unit, pedestal wash hand basin, low level WC, half tiled walls, radiator, shaver point, loft access, mirror, extractor.Outside -The property is approached from the lane via a long tree-lined driveway that leads through the Estate, then separating and becoming a gravelled driveway signposted to The Old Riding School.Double Garage 17' 4" x 14' 9" (5.28m x 4.50m) Up-and-over door, light and power, boiler house at rear.Parking Area -Directly adjacent to the garage there is a private gravelled parking area for 1/2 vehicles. There is an additional communal parking area.Private Garden- To the side and rear of the property, extending to approximately 0.25 acre overall with an extensive lawned area, trees, bushes, large brick paved terrace along the length of the property, further sitting out area with gazebo, wooden shed, outside tap, side hedging, fir trees, oil storage tank, fence and hedge enclosed and enjoying a wonderful rural outlook. To the side of the garage there is a pathway and gate leading to Jointly Owned Paddocks- Extending to approximately five acres and divided into five sections. This area is owned jointly by the four properties within The Old Riding School and managed under The Riding Trust. At the far side of the paddocks there is a block of two stables, and the one on the left is specifically owned by this property.Jointly Owned All Weather Tennis Court -In the first paddock and to one side is a full size enclosed all-weather tennis court, also in the joint ownership of the owners of The Old Riding School only.


The following comes from Wikepedia. “Richard Norman Shaw RA (7 May 1831 – 17 November 1912), was a British architect who worked from the 1870s to the 1900s, known for his country houses and for commercial buildings.

Shaw was born in Edinburgh, and trained in the London office of William Burn with George Edmund Street and attended the Royal Academy classes, receiving a thorough grounding in classicism, and met William Eden Nesfield, with whom he was briefly in partnership. In 1854 – 1856 he travelled with a Royal Academy scholarship, collecting sketches that were published as Architectural Sketches from the Continent, 1858.

In 1863, after sixteen years of training, he opened a practice for a short time with Nesfield. In 1872, Shaw was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. He worked, among others, for the artists John Callcott Horsley and George Henry Boughton, and the industrialist Lord Armstrong. He designed large houses such as Cragside and Grim's Dyke, as well as a series of commercial buildings in a wide range of styles.

Shaw was elected to the Royal Academy in 1877,and co-edited (with Sir Thomas Jackson RA) the 1892 collection of essays, Architecture, a profession or an Art?. He firmly believed it was an art. In later years, Shaw moved to a heavier classical style which influenced the emerging Edwardian Classicism of the early 20th century. Shaw died in London, where he had designed residential buildings in areas such as Pont Street, and public buildings such as New Scotland Yard.

His picturesque early country houses avoided the current Neo-Gothic and the academic styles, reviving vernacular materials like half- timber and hanging tiles, with projecting gables and tall massive chimneys with "inglenooks" for warm seating. The result was free and fresh, not slavishly imitating his Jacobean and vernacular models, yet warmly familiar, a parallel to the Arts and Crafts movement. Richard Norman Shaw's houses soon attracted the misnomer the "Queen Anne style". As his powers developed, he dropped some of the mannered detailing, his buildings gained in dignity, and acquired an air of serenity and a quiet homely charm which were less conspicuous in his earlier works; -half timber construction was more sparingly used, and finally disappeared entirely.

His work is characterised by ingenious open planning, the Great Hall or "sitting hall" with a staircase running up the side that became familiar in mass-produced housing of the 1890s.

He was also involved in ecclesiastical architecture. He restored St. John's Church, Leeds and designed new churches such as St. Margaret's, Ilkley, All Saints', Leek and All Saints', Richards Castle.Shaw died in London on 17 November 1912. Shown above is a photo of Norman Shaw and below that his architectural drawing showing an elevation of Glen Andred.

Shown opposite is one view of the mansion house , which forms part of a series of images from a computer generated walking tour around the premises. This is a very clever production, no doubt requiring a great deal of research and work to create and gives a fascinating tour of the place offering views of the building from different perspectives. It  is well worth taking a look at it on the internet.

The Groombridge Conservation Area Appraisal report of June 2006 refers to Leyswood but of interest here is that they state Norman Shaw was also the architect who designed two other residences in Groombrige namely Glen Aldred in 1866 and Hillside in 1874. Leyswood had been designed by Shaw for his cousin James W. Temple who was prospering as a director of the Shaw Savill Line of cargo and passenger ships.

JAMES WILLIAM TEMPLE (1830-1890)       

Shown in this section are two maps, the first shown opposite is from about 1875 and shows the location of Leyswood and also Glen Andred. The map below is from 1899.

James had been born 1830 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, one of three children born to William Wheldon Temple (1787-1861) and Susan Brown(1795-1866). He was baptised September 3,1830 at the same place. The 1851 census, taken at 32 Finchley Road in St Marylebone, Middlesex records James living with his parents an two servants. His father was at that time a ‘proprietor of houses’ and James was working as a bankers clerk.

On July 12,1859, at St John’s Wood All Saints Church,James married Ann  Hewlett Huckvale.James was at that time still living at Finchely Road but was working as a ship broker. Ann was a spinster, born 1836 in Northamptonshire, the daughter of Robert Huckvale, a gentleman and his wife Ann. Ann had been baptised in 1836 at St Sepukhre,Northamptonshire.It is about this time that James fortunes took a significant turn for the better when he became involved with shipping on a larger scale.

As noted in the above sections of this article James became associated with the Shaw Savill shipping line. This company had been founded by Robert Shaw and Walter Savill in 1858. These two men had formerly employees of Willis, Gann & Co. the leading shipbrokers ion the New Zealand trade. Shaw an Savill left that firm and set up their own business in London which over time led to Shaw Savill becoming one of the most well- known and respected British Shippng Companies in the world. Initially they began with cargo ships but these were soon joined by a fleet of passenger vessels.

Robert Shaw, one of the founders, died of a heart attack at the age of 41 on November 24,1860 who was replaced by James W. Temple who insisted that the name of Shaw be retained in the company title. In 1882 Shaw,Savill & Company were  amalgamated with the Albion Line becoming known thereafter as  Shaw,Saviulle & Albion Line. In 1933 Furness, Withy Co. Ltd acquired control of Shaw, Savill & Albion and after various business amalgamations etc the firm continues in business today. May postcard views of their ships can be found on the internet.

The 1861 census, taken at St Marylebone, London , records James and his wife Ann and their son William Robert Huckvale Temple, born 1860 and four servants. The couple appears to have had only the one child.

I have already noted that James William Temple acquired 2,300 acres of land in Groombridge and that his cousin , the architect Richard Norman Shaw designed a grand mansion for him which was built in 1868. This residence became the ‘country home’ of James William Temple who at the same time maintained a residence in London.

The 1871 census, taken at 62 Park Gardens, London records the presence of of James and his wife and five servants. James is recorded as a shipbroker. The 1881 census, taken at 74 Portland Place, Marylebone, records James as a shipbroker and living with him was his wife Ann; their son William; one visitor and six servants. The Temple family took a great interest in horses and had a large stable of them at Leyswood. The Hackney Stud Book of 1892 for example lists two horses owned by “James W. Temple, Leyswood, Groombridge, one of which was called ‘Lady Gordon’ and the other ‘Lady Groombridge’ both of which were foaled in 1889. The Times of May 24,1895 reported that James had shown a horse at an Agricultural Society Show and that his horse had won 1st prize. He is noted in other publications of the 1890 as having shown horses and won prizes for them. I have referred earlier to the grand stable block/arena  he had built at his Groombridge estate.

The 1881 census, taken in Groombriidge recorded at Leyswood the estates coachman William Street and his wife and four servants. At Leyswood Mansion Stable was the coachman Alfred Frenet and his wife; two nurses and a farm servant. At Leyswood Gardeners Cottage  was Thomas Moorhouse, a gardener, along with his wife and five children. At Leyswood Cottage was Maria Grimes, a dairy maid along with her two children(one of whom was a groom) and her nephew who was a groom. Also at Leyswood Cottage were three yardmen.

Records of 1882 also record that James W. Temple was not only managing director of Shaw,Savill and Co. of London but also a director of The British and New Zealand Mortage and Agency Company.

The 1891 census gave the following. At Leyswood Stables were two stablemen, a coachman and a groom /stableman. At Leyswood Lodge was James R Rogers, poultryman, along with his wife and two children. At Leywood House was Ann H. Temple, age 54 the head of the home. Living with her was her son William R.H. Temple, a barrister; three visitors and 13 servants. At Leyswood Stables was John Benton Reeve,coachman , along with his wife  and three children. Also there were two lodgers who were grooms. At Leyswood was Thomas C. Moorhouse, the head gardener along with his wife and daughter. At Leyswood Gardens was three undergardeners. At Leyswood Farm was John Allamby, the farm bailiff along with his wife, three children and one servant.

On September 12,1898 James passed away. Probate records give that he was of 74 Portland Place,Middlesex and of Leyswood, Sussex, shipowner. He had died at the Lord Warden Hotel in Dover. Probate was to his wife Ann and Francis Ince his solicitor. James left an estate valued at about 200,000 pounds.The Otago Daily Times of 1889 reported on the business affairs of the Shaw ,Savill  and Albion shipping company and reported  “ The directors recorded with very deep regret the death which occurred last autumn of their much esteemed colleague, Mr James W. Temple, the managing director of the company. They felt sure that the shareholders appreciated with them Mr Temple’s active service and loving interest in the welfare of the company, and were equally sensible of the loss sustained through his death”.

After his death  his wife Ann continued to live at Leyswood. At the time of the 1911 census, Ann was not present at Leyswood and the estate was left in the care of her servants. At Leyswood Cottage was Ernest Bristow, the head gardener, and his daughter. At The Gardens Leyswood , of four rooms, were four gardeners. This building was described as “rooms in gardens”. At Leyswood was Joseph Phillips and his wife and son. He was the estates herdsman and his son was a cowman.At The Dairy Leyswood was Percy Rich, the undergardener, in one room. At Carpenters Cottage Leyswood, was a Mr Hillier and his wife in five rooms. In Rooms over Stables was Mr Reeve in four rooms with his family. At the Leyswood mansion House of 33 rooms was John Brodgen, the butler, and five other domestic servants. At Leyswood Lodge in three rooms was a coachman, an undergardener and his family.

Probate records for her show she was of Leyswood,Groombridge, Sussex and of 29 Queen’s Gate gardens Middlesex, widow and that she died March 2,1919 at Leyswood. Probate was to the public trustee and she left an estate valued at about 31,000 pounds.

Upon Ann’s death Leyswood was put up for sale in 1919. Particulars of the sale can be found in the records of the National Archives. Shown above is a sale advertisement in 1920 that appeared in the Times and below it another from The Times of 1922.

JOHN CHRISTOFORIDES (1885-1955)         

After Mrs Temple the next  known occupant of Leyswood House was John Christoforides (photo opposite)and his family. John was born in 1885 in Macedonia and was a wealthy Cypriot tobacco merchant, who married well to Mildred Boys (1881-1924). Mildred was the daughter of John Nightingale Boyes (1829-1882) and Ellen Seath, born 1857. Mildred hadthree siblings.

Like many others who lived at Leyswood, John also maintained a home in London, as local directories record.Details about John’s parents are unknown but it is known that he had at least three siblings.John and his wife Mildred had a total of seven children, the youngest born in 1906 and the eldest in 1919. His best known child was perhaps  his daughter Marcia Anastasia (1910-1994) who was born in Sutton, Surrey on July 27,1910 and who died October 28,1994.

Marcia Anastasia also married well for records show she was married on June 7,1963 to Sir William Maxwell Aitken (1879-1964), the 1st bt. And 1st Baron Beaverbrook.This was Sir Williams third marriage and Marcia’s second marriage, her first being to Sir James Hamet Dunn 1st bt. (1874-1956) and with whom she had several children.  When Aitken died Marcia inherited a huge estate and when she died her estate was valued at almost one  million pounds.

The occupancy of Leyswood by this family is noted in the London Gazette of September 5,1924 when it reported on the death of Mildred Christoforides (wife of John Christoforides) late of Leyswood, Groombridge, Sussex, who died there on July 7,1924. This account refers also to Ellen Spenceley, a widow of Leyswood and John Chiristoforides, both of whom were testamentary guardians named in Mildred’s will with reference to any of her children under the age of 21. The Public Trustee was made the sole executor.

In January 1925 two men were injured in a car accident when driving to Leyswood. Mr Christoforides, their host, was telephoned to explain the situation. In April 1925 John Christoforides address, when applying for discharge from bandruptcy was given as ‘High Bolborn’ but as you will note below his address in 1927 was Leyswood. The Evening Telegram of April 6,1928 gave a brief announcement under the heading of ‘Thrice Bankrupt’ that Mr Christoforides was described as a tobacco merchant and that there was opposition to him being discharged. It said in part “The Debtor was altogether a useless person”.

It is not known precisely when John left Leyswood. The London Gazette of May 24,1927 recorded him at Leyswood.He died at Paddignton  London in 1955.


During WW II Leyswood came into use for the war effort. In the above sections of the article it was stated that “ During World War 2 the site was occupied by the Canadian Army” and that in 1945 it became the residence of Cecilia Watkins

The following first- hand account about Leyswood is by Pamel Gormley. “I joined the T.A. when women were first allowed to join on 26/4/39, joining the 2nd Surrey Coy ATS at the Drill Hall, Farnham,Surrey. This was only 5 months before the Second World War, so I received little training before being called up on 5/9/39.I was issued with very basic uniform, a skirt and tunic, cap, one shirt and tie, one pair of shoes, tin hat and gas mask. I had to provide myself with all other clothing and it was sometime before we were issued with underclothes etc.On 2nd October 1939 I was posted to the 12 Division School of Instruction being opened in a large empty country house — Leyswood, GROOMBRIDGE Kent with my company, almost 20 strong. We led the task of equipping this house with furniture etc and set it running to receive the men being posted there for training, in a few days. I was promoted to corporal and put in charge of the very basic kitchen to produce meals.We were not on rations so I was given an allowance to purchase food locally, arrange menus and help equally untrained ATS to produce meals! The only transport we had was my Austin Seven 2 seater and the Adjutant’s Standard saloon car! It was sometime before we were provided with rations, which must have made my life a little easier!The army was still using peacetime accounting; this was a nightmare for me, as I had not had any training, only school!I wanted to become an army driver and must have put in an application to do so and had to go for a driving test on an ambulance in Tunbridge with a FANY company, needless to say I had never driven an ambulance before but must have passed the test. The school continued till after the evacuation of Dunkirk until July 1940, when it closed down.” Pamela continues her storey describing what she did during the rest of the war. A full account of her experiences can be found on the internet.


Sir Walter is found in directories at Leyswood in the 1940’s but was living at Leywood Cottage and not Leywood House. He was a well- known painter,especially of murals. In this section I show the following three paintings he produced. The first is one dated 1940’s entitled ‘Landscape near Leyswood’. The one below it is late 1940’s entitled ‘Landscape around Leyswood’, and the last one is circa 1948 entitled ‘ View from ante-room window, Leyswood’.Another painting he did that relates directly to Leyswood was an oil on canvas recently sold at auction entitled ‘ The Garden at Leyswood, Groombrige” measuring about 21” x 17”. Unfortunatley the researcher was unable to find an image of this painting to include here.

The 1911 census, taken at Enborne Cottage in Seaford.Sussex records Walter and his brother Meredith (1901-1988) living with their parents. They had been living there, according to directories from at least 1909.

Born in London, he studied at the Slade School in 1918-23 and was Rome Scholar in 1923-26. He married fellow Rome Scholar Winifred Knights(1897-1947) in 1924.Winifred had been born November 20,1897 at Deptford, Kent, one of two children born to Walter victor Knights(1864-1944) and Edith Rose High(1870-1952).

When Winifred died  in 1947 he married Evelyn Janet Hunt (1914-2001) in December 1947 at Chanctonbury,Sussex.Evelyn had been born May 12,1914 and died January 2001 in Tunbridge Wells.

Among his public works are a decoration for St Stephen's Hall, Westminster, 1928, and the new Council House in Bristol, 1956. Monnington taught drawing at the Royal Academy Schools, 1931-39, and in 1949 joined the staff of the Slade, whose strong linear tradition marked his own work. Monnington is represented in a number of public galleries, including the Tate, British Museum and Imperial War Museum. He was elected RA in 1938, became its President in 1966 and was knighted in 1967. There was a memorial exhibition at the RA in 1977. Another traveled from the British School at Rome to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Fine Art Society in 1997. From the 1940s Monnington lived in Groombridge, Kent; the local landscape inspired much of his post-war work. Monnington was one of the outstanding draughtsmen of his generation. He had a considerable influence as a teacher (Euan Uglow was among his pupils), and was one of the most effective of the twentieth-century presidents of the RA, turning around the Academy's ailing fortunes. Remarkably he was the first president of the Academy to produce abstract paintings and indeed made no distinction between abstract and figurative art.

Wikepedia gives the following “Sir Walter Thomas Monnington PRA (2 October 1902 – 7 January 1976) was an English painter, notable for several large murals, his work as a war artist and for his Presidency of the Royal Academy.

Monnington was the son of a barrister and although he was born in Westminster,London, he grew up in Sussex before spending time on a farm school at Ross-on-Wye. From 1918 to 1922, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and in 1922 won a three year scholarship to the British School in Rome. In April 1924 Monnington married his fellow art student Winifred Knights. Whilst in Italy, he produced his first large work, Allegory which was purchased by the Contemporary Art Society and is now in the Tate collection.From 1925 to 1937 Monnington lived in London where he taught part-time at the Royal College of Art and, until 1939, at the Royal Academy Schools. Throughout this time he was also working with a group of other artists, including George Clausen and William Rothenstein, on two major decorative schemes, one for the Bank of England and the other, between 1925 and 1927, for St.Stephen's Hall in the Palace of Westminster.In 1931 he completed Supper at Emmaus for a church in Bolton. Monnington also began to receive commissions for portraits including those of Stanley Baldwin and Earl Jellicoe amongst others.However, Monnington's finished portrait of Jellcoe was returned to him following objections from Countess Jellicoe, who took exception to the portrayal of her husband.

In May 1939, Monnington joined the Directorate of Camouflage at Leamington Spa where he worked on camouflage designs for airfields and factories. In 1943 Monnington, who had taken flying lessons before the war, wrote to the War Artists' Advisory Committee, WAAC, complaining of the lack of an aerial perspective among the works WAAC had so far commissioned.In November 1943, WAAC issued Monnington with the first of a series of full-time commissions that saw him flying with a training squadron in Yorkshire and with Mitchell bombers to Germany. The winter of 1944-1945 was spent in Holland amongst the Second Tactical Air Force drawing mobile radar and radio units.The paintings Monnington produced of aerial warfare, and especially those such as Fighter Affiliation from a perspective inside the aircraft, were to be among the most important such images in the WAAC collection

When the war ended, Monnington taught at the Camberwell School of Art for four years and then at the Slade School of Art until 1967. His wife Wilfred died in 1947 and he married Evelyn Janet later the same year. He produced little new work until 1953 when he began a three year commission to paint a fresco in Bristol. Monnington completed the ceiling of the conference hall in the new Council House, Bristol in 1956, with a design symbolizing modern science. Other notable works, including a 'Stations of the Cross' for Brede parish church, followed. Throughout the 1960s Monningtons work became more absract and often based on geometric designs. Following his appointment as President of the Royal Academy in 1966, he was knighted in 1967.Monnington was the first President of the Academy to produce abstract art and was highly effective in the role doing much to restore the Academy's ailing fortunes. He served as President until his death in London on 7 January 1976.Honours bestowed upon him were 1947 – Associate of the Royal Academy;1939 – Member of the Royal Academy;1957 – Fellow of University College London;1966– President of the Royal Academy;1967 – Knighthood.”

Shown above is a memorial plaque for Monnington, which is located at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The plaque was installed in 1976. Walter had passed away Janaury 7,1976 at Uckfied, Sussex.When exactly he left Leyswood  has not been determined by the researcher but he was still there in the late 1940’s.He is also found in directories  of 1950 to 1957 at Leywood Cottage.


Ceclila is recorded as having occupied Leyswood House from 1945 until 1951.


Mr Higgs is recorded as having acquired Leyswood House from Cecila Watkins in 1851 but only lived there for one year(according to some accounts) and sold it to Leonard Ian Simpson. My research howevershows that Leonard Ian Simpson was still residing at the Old Farm in Groombridge in 1957 and the first record of him at Leyswood House was not until 1958. It is the researchers opinion is that the historical record of occupany for Leyswood should refect  that Mr Simpson did not begin residing at Leyswood until 1958


As noted above there appears to be some confusion as to when Leonard began his occupancy of Leyswood House. Directories for the period of 1941 to 1957 record Leonard at ‘Old Farm, Groombridge’. Directories for 1958 to 1982 records Leonard at Leyswood House, Groombidge.A family letter from Leonard to Linda McCallum dated April 1987 sent from Leyswood House is proof that he was still a resident there in 1987. Records of the companies that he was a director of still record him a Leyswood House in 1991/1992.

At noted earlier “the house was sold with around 10 hectares of land to Ian Simpson. He demolished most of the house apart from a gatehouse, gazebo and staff wing, which were then used as a family home and company offices until the 1980s”. Why Mr Simpson thought it necessary or desirable to demolish so much of the original mansion is unknown to the researcher and my attempts to find the answer by contacting his decendents did not provide an answer. Either the house had falled into such a state of disrepair that it could not all be saved or the parts demolished could not in his opinion be altered to suit his living needs.

Leonard had been  born December 16,1904 in London. His parents were Walter Septimus Simpson born in 1864 at Islignton,London. Walter was a sharedealer in 1901; a stock jobber in 1904 and a stock exchange jobber in 1911. Leonard’s mother was Emily Duncan Mitchell (1872-1956).She had been born in Birmingham and died March 2,1956 at 77 London Road, Tunbridge Wells. Walter had been married twice and it is recorded that Leonard had two half siblings namely Enid Synthia Paine (1895-1983) and Ellen J. Paine, born in 1896.The name of Leonard’s stepmother is not known by the researcher.

The 1911 census, taken at 11 Cheyne Place, Chelsea,London records Leonard living, without any siblings, with his parents and nine servants.

On July 27,1933 Leonard was on holiday and is recorded as having arrived at Niagara Falls, New York. In the travel records his mother was listed as ‘Elmer Simpson’ and a contact in the USA as being a cousin by the name of Dorothy B. Simpson.

Passenger records for 1954 record him on holiday having travelled to Buenos Aires. On his return to England he arrived at London on April 9,1954. The passenger lists records him of ‘Old Farm, Groombridge’ and working as a director of public companies. Travelling with him was his wife Ursula Archiband, born 1916. A decendent of the family reported that Leonard and Ursula had three sons and one daughter.

Leonard was employed as a Director of Comtec Worldwide Limited from April 12,1991 to December 1992. This company had premises at The Meeting House, Little Mount Sion Road, Tunbridge Wells. Leonard was employed as a director of Alginure Products Limited (now dissolved) from April 12,1991 to December 19,1992. This company had premises at 93 Queen Street, Cheffield and at that time he was living at Leywood House, Groombridge .

There is also a record of a Nicolas Ian Archibald Simpson, born 1942 living at Leywood House and also working in some capacity with several companies and as a director of Alginure Products Limited. There is also a record of a Patricia Brenda Simpson and a Benjamin Lee Simpson of Stonecroft Farm on Gillridge Lane who were also associated with Alginure Products Limited.

Leonard Ian Simpson died August 24,1997 in Tunbridge Wells and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex crematorium on August 29,1997. His wife Ursula Elizabeth Simpson died November 10,2000 in Tunbridge Wells and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex crematorium on November 16,2000.


During my research I came across the following directory listings. As noted in the overview I have made no attempt to research all of the residents of all of the lodges, cottages etc on the Leywood estate.

For 1957-1958 is “ Coleman Instr. Lt-Cdr. W.G.A.N. Leywood Lodge, Groombridge”. For 1959 was “D.H. Strevens Lt 1 Leyswood, Groombridge”. For 1957 was Ernest Schicht-The Dower House, Leyswood, Groombridge”. For 1856 was Garry Hogg, the Dower House Cottage, Leyswood”. For 1953 to 1959 was A. H.(Alfred Horace) Gerrard, Leyswood,Groombridge”. For 1960 was George G. Beamish, Leyswood”.


Shown opposite  is a photograph of Leywood House from the Move Revolution estate agents brochure of 2013. The  brochure reports that this residence was sold for 2.4 million pounds and that it was built in 1869 and was at the time of the sale some 10,238 sf in size and sited on grounds of about seven acres. The house was described as having seven bedrooms and garaging for five vehicles. It had a tennis court, dining room, drawing room, sitting room, library, garden room, kitchen/family room, playroom, tower room, games room and five bathrooms. It was described as Grade II listed designed by architect Norman Shaw with magnificent views and a lovely garden.


Rosmarie who replied to my inquiry about Leyswood on the Rootschat website offered the following information.

“Well, as I said previously, my grandparents lived at Leyswood for a period sometime in the 1920's and my late mother and her siblings spent their early years at the house.  Unfortunately, I know very little as my mother's memories were quite limited, being so young.  My grandfather, Thomas Bradfield was a well-known local figure in the equestrian world and would have managed the riding stables.  My mother remembers seeing the hunt riding up the rhododendron-lined drive and also being transported around by their pony, Sammy and trap.  I have some photos of my aunt on a horse possibly taken at Leyswood.  One amusing anecdote I can tell you is that in one of the rooms there is/was a bullet hole in the ceiling which occurred as my grandfather was cleaning his gun one day with the safety catch off which resulted in a shot being fired!  As my grandmother was in the room above at that moment, she thought he was trying to kill her!

How my grandparents came to live there I do not know as they were not the owners.  Sadly, my grandparents later separated, my grandmother taking the children back to Bristol and my grandfather returned to Lewes where he ran the Nevill Riding School and eventually died in a Lewes nursing home in 1947 before I was born, so I never knew him.

I realise this is not very helpful in furthering your research but it gives a small snapshot of time spent there.I did take my mother back to visit a few years ago and someone did allow us entry to the house, possibly Mr. Simpson.I remember trying to locate a copy of Kelley's Directory covering the mid-twenties but the precise volume I wanted was in Brighton library and I did not have the time to visit.  It would have indicated the occupants/owners at that time.I have drawn a blank in my research but should you discover anything relating to that period I would be most grateful to hear from you…...Regards,Rosemarie.”

In subsequent correspondence Roasnarie stated that Thomas and his wife Minnie never had any children together . The marriage appears to have gone badly for at some point Thomas and Minnie went their separate ways and Rosemaries grandmother (name not disclosed) had three children with Thomas while he was still married to Minnie.Rosemarie stated that Minnie outlived Thomas by two years.



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

Date; January 22,2017

William Rowland Thomas’s birth was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1868 at Brighton, Sussex. He was one of three children born to John William Thomas (1840-1917), a blacksmith, and Ellen Freath, born 1836. Both John William Thomas and his wife had been born in Wiltshire and married in 1867.

At the time of the 1871 census, taken on Tidy Street in Brighton, Sussex. William Rowland Thomas and his sister Fanny were living with their parents. His father at that time was a blacksmith.

The 1881 census, taken at 20 Western Road in Swindon, Wiltshire gave William Rowland Thomas and his two siblings living with their parents when John William Thomas was working as a blacksmith. Also at these premises were two lodgers employed as labourers in an iron works.

The 1891 census, taken at 12 Harley Road in Hanley, Staffordshire gave William Rowland Thomas living as a boarder with schoolteacher Sarah J. Richardson. At that time William was working as an ironmongers assistant.

On the 4th qtr of 1897 William married Alice Mary Tomlinson (1872-1953)at Stoke Upon Trent ,Staffordshire. Alice had been born at Longton, Staffordshire and was one of two children born to William Tomlinson born 1840 and Hanah Tomlinson, born 1843.

After the marriage William and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells, where William opened an ironmongers shop at 43 Monson Road in the Monson Colonnade (image opposite). The 1899 Kelly directory listed his business at that location as an ironmonger and tool dealer.

An ironmongers business was an interesting one and those who visited shops of this type often describe them as “kind of an Aladdan’s cave” where all manner of iron related items could be found. They carried of course a large range of showels, spades, forks and other tools, as well as grates, nails, hinges, pails and essentially just about anything made of metal. There were many ironmonger’s shops in the town and although demand for their wares was strong, competition was tough. This may account for why William moved his shop premises so frequently.

The 1901 census, taken at 115 St John’s Road gave William as an ironmonger shopkeeper employing others. With him was his wife Alice and their daughter Edith E. Thomas, age 3 months, who was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1901. She was the only child born to the couple for her father died from unknown causes at a very early age.

The 1903 Kelly gave the listing “ William Rowland Thomas, tool dealer, 18 Camden Road”. A photo of his shop is shown at the top of this article.

Probate records gave William Rowland Thomas of 56 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, when he died September 22,1905 at only age 37. The executor of his 222 pound estate was his widow Alice Mary Thomas.

When William vacated his shop at 18 Camden Road it became occupied, according to the 1913 Kelly directory, by James William Willcocks who had a boot and shoe shop there.

After her husband’s death Alice moved to Hanley, Stoke on Trent, with her daughter Edith. They are found there at 122 Ashford Road at the time of the 1911 census where Edith was attending school. Also living there was Alice’s sister Edith Anne Tomlinson, age 36, single who was working as an assistant teacher. The census showed that Alice and her husband had just the one child and she was living in modest premises of just a few rooms. No occupation for Alice was not given however and one has to wonder how she managed financially. Alice never remarried and outlived her husband by 48 years, passing away in 1953 at Stoke On Trent, Staffordshire.

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