BAILEY’S OUTFITTERS OF MOUNT PLEASANT ROAD
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario,Canada
Date: June 24,2016
Today at 38 Mount Pleasant Road is men’s outfitters shop called “Baileys”, a business run by William Bailey. The business was begun in Tunbridge Wells in 1920 at 18a Mount Pleasant Road by William’s grandfather Sidney Hastings Bailey (1881-1935) who was born in Hastings,Sussex, one of three known children of John Bailey (1850-1883)and Rachel Ann Bailey (1845-1927).
John Bailey by 1881 was the proprietor of a hatters business in Hastings where he employed one man and three boys. After John’s death his wife Rachel, at the time of the 1891 census, was a lodging house proprietor in Hastings. By 1901 Rachel Bailey and her three children John, Rose and Sidney were living in Tonbridge, where Rachel took in boarders and her three children worked as drapers assistants. By 1911 all of Rachel’s children had left home and Rachel had moved back to Sussex where she continued as a lodging house proprietor.
Sidney Hastings Bailey married Ellen Alice Brice (1882-1949) in 1911 in Bromley, Kent. Ellen had been born in Elham,Kent and was one of five known children born to William Brice, and his wife Harriett. The Brice family were living at Boughton Corner Farm in Naccolt, Kent in 1891 where William Brice was a farmer ,but by 1901 the family had moved to Tunbridge Wells, where Ellen’s father was the licensed victualler of the Hand & Sceptre pub in the Pantiles.
After the marriage Sidney and his wife left England and took up residence in Secunderbad, India, where there was, and still is, a large presence of military personnel . This thriving city, in the state of Telangana, is today one of the largest metropolitan areas of India, located about 973 miles south of Delhi. When Sidney arrived there he began employment with the large outfitters firm of Badham, Pile & Co. Ltd which also had shops in Bombay and Poona. This company had been in existence since the first half of the 19th century and had grown to become one of the leading merchantile firms in India who apart from being ladies and gent’s outfitters, were also Civil, Naval and Military outfitters, saddle, harness, boot and shoe makers, with the shop in Secunderbad also selling pharmaceuticals. Sidney became the manager of the shop in Secunderbad.
While living and working in India Sidney and his wife had two children, namely Reginald Hastings Bailey (1912-1995) and Joyce Hastings Bailey (1918-1990) .In May 1921 Sidney and his wife Ellen and children Reginald and Joyce arrived in London from India and lived the rest of their lives in Tunbridge Wells. In 1945 Joyce married David Luke V. Hanson (1905-1980) in Tunbridge Wells and had issue.
Sidney and his family lived initially at 18 Sunderland Road in Tunbridge Wells and in 1922 he opened his outfitters shop at 18a Mount Pleasant Road in one of the shops on the way up Mount Pleasant Hill, just north of the SER station. His son Reginald joined him in the business soon after leaving Skinners’ School in 1928 and when his father died in 1935 Reginald and his mother ran the business. During WW II Reginald served with the RAF and during that time his mother Ellen , who’s nickname was “Nellie”, ran the shop in his absence. When Ellen retired from business Reginald ran the shop on his own. Just before the war (in 1938) the shop was moved to 38 Mount Ephraim Road where is can be found today. In 1948 Reginald married Gladys May Green in Bromley, Kent and had issue, including a son William who was born 1964 in Tunbridge Wells. William grew up in Langton Road and came into the business in 1984 after leaving Huntley’s School, and when his father retired from business he took over the shop ,and continues to run the business today.
This article reports on the life and times of the Bailey family with a particular emphasis on their lives and careers during their time in Tunbridge Wells. It is based in part on an article in the Courier by Jane Bakowski (who interviewed me for an article she wrote about my visit to Tunbridge Wells in the summer of 2015) but expanded upon from my own research.
THE YEARS IN HASTINGS
Sidney Hastings Bailey (1881-1935) was born in Hastings,Sussex. His birth was registered in Hastings in the 2nd qtr of 1881. Sidney was one of three known children born to John Bailey (1850-1883) and Rachel Ann Bailey (1845-1927).The origin of his middle name was the place of his birth.
The 1881 census, taken at 46 George Street in Hastings gave John Bailey as born in Old Beadforfd,Middlesex and the proprietor of a hatters shop where he employed one man and three boys. Living with John was his wife Rachel Ann Bailey, born 1845 in Hollington,Sussex and his two children John F.S. Bailey, born 1875 in Hastings, and Rose Alice Bailey born 1877 in Hastings. Also present was one visitor and one domestic servant. Both children at that time were attending school.
George Street (photo above) is located in the “old town”(postcard below) part of Hastings, a place I ad the pleasure of visiting during my trip to Tunbridge Wells in the summer of 2015. I have fond memories of Hastings and in particular strolling along George Street and shopping with my friend and travelling companion Mrs Susan Prince and my second cousin Christine Harrison (who drove us there) and her husband Allan, who has family connections to Hastings. Like many coastal towns, the population of Hastings grew significantly as a result of the construction of railway links and the fashionable growth of seaside holidays during the Victorian era. In 1801, its population was a mere 3,175; by 1831, it had reached over ten thousand; by 1891, it was almost sixty thousand.
Sidney’s father John had a short life as he passed away in Hastings in the 1st qtr of 1883 at only age 33, when Sidney was just age 2. Probate records gave John Bailey late of 46 George Street, Hastings, Sussex, a hatter, who died January 15,1883 at 46 George Street. The executors of his 1,391 pound estate were Rachel Annie Bailey ,widow, of 46 George Street and Thomas Bailey of 17 Talfourd Road in Peckham,Surrey, the brother, and stationers clerk.
Sidney and his siblings were raised by their widowed mother Rachel who became a lodging house keeper. The 1891 census, taken at 21 Cambria Place Gardens in Hastings gave Rachel Alice Bailey as a lodging house keeper. With her was her son John F.S. Bailey, a drapers apprentice; her daughter Rose Alice Bailey and Sidney Hastings Bailey, both of whom were attending school.
By the time of the 1901 census the Bailey family had taken up residence in Tonbridge,Kent. The 1901 census, taken at 85 Barden Road ,in the St Stephens Parish, gave Rachel Alice Bailey with her children John F. S. Bailey, a drapers assistant; Rose Alice Bailey, a drapers assistant, and Sidney Hastings Bailey, also a drapers assistant. Also present were two boarders who Rachel took in to supplement the family income. The three Bailey children worked in a drapers shop on the High Street in Tonbridge (postcard view opposite), the town’s main commercial district. A modern photo of 85 Barden Road is also shown, the home being a two sty red brick semi-detached residence. No. 85 is the home on the right half of the building in the centre of this photograph.
In the early 1900’s, before the taking of the 1911 census all of Rachel’s children had left the family home. No further information is given in this article about the lives and careers of Sidney’s siblings. Rachel Alice Bailey is found in the 1911 census living alone, as a lodging house keeper, at 17 York Road in Littlehampton, Sussex. She is living in premises of 6 rooms and the census noted that she had just three children, all of whom were still living. Rachel’s death was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1927 at East Preston, Sussex.
The last record for Sidney Hastings Bailey in England was his marriage to Ellen Alice Brice in the 3rd qtr of 1911 at Bromley, Kent. Ellen’s birth was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1882 at Elham, Kent. She was baptised June 18,1882 at Elham, Kent, the daughter of William and Harriet Brice.
The 1891 census, taken at Boughton Corner Farm in Naccolt, Kent gave William Brice as a farmer, born 1863 in Waltham, Kent. Living with him was his wife Harriet, born 1856 in Northamptonshire and their children (1) Mary Sivert, born 1977 Guston,Kent (2) Harriet E., born 1879 in Guston (3) Emma A, born 1881 in Guston (4) ELLEN ALICE, born 1882 in Elham,Kent (5) Nuriel M.E., born 1890 in Waltham,Kent.
Sometime after 1891 and before 1901 the Brice family moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1901 census, taken at the Hand & Sceptre pub in the Pantiles gave William Brice as a licensed victualler on own account. With him was his wife Harriet and their children Mary, Harriet, Emma Alice and ELLEN ALICE.
The Hand & Sceptre pub in the Pantiles has a long and interesting history. It was located at 45 Ye Pantiles and in the 1874 directory at Back Parade(Eridge Road). The proprietors of the pub from available directory listings were (1) Stephen Eastwood from 1824-1829 (2) William Claringbold from 1832 to 1834 (3) Henry Baldock from 1840 to 1851 (4) Isaac Verrall from 1858 to 1862 (5) R. Langley in 1867 (6) Mrs Hannah Maria Langley in 1874 (7) W.J. Wilson in 1891 (8) William Brice in 1901 (9) Arthur Pryke in 1903 (10) Joseph Edwards in 1913 (11) William Eldon from 1918 to 1922. Details after 1922 were not obtained. No. 45 Pantiles was located on the Lower Walk of the Pantiles. A old postcard view of this part of the Pantiles is shown opposite.
After Sidney Hastings Bailey married in 1911 he and his wife left England and moved to India, details of which are given in the next section.
THE BAILEY FAMILY IN INDIA
Sidney and his wife boarded a steamship at London and disembarked at Bombay, India where they made their way to the city of Secunderbad. Shown below is a postcard view of Secunderbad and below it is a photo of Poona,India.
Secunderabad ,popularly known as the twin city of Hyderabad is located in the Indian state of Telangana. Named after Sikandar Jah, the third Nizam of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, Secunderabad was founded in 1806 as a British cantonment. Although Hyderabad and Secunderabad are together referred to as the twin cities, they have both different histories and cultures, with Secunderabad having developed directly under British rule until 1948 and Hyderabad as the capital of the Nizams' princely state.Geographically divided from Hyderabad by the Hussain Sagar lake, Secunderabad is no longer a separate municipal unit and has become part of Hyderabad. Both cities are collectively known as Hyderabad and together form the sixth largest metropolis in India. Being one of the largest cantonments in India, Secunderabad has a large presence of army and air force personnel
Secunderabad is one of the largest metropolitan areas in India, located 1,566 kilometres (973 mi) south of Delhi, 699 kilometres (434 mi) southeast of Mumbai, and 570 kilometres (350 mi) north of Bangalore by road. It lies on the northern part of the Deccan Plateau. Shown above is a photo dated 1880 of James Street which is an important shopping area of Secunderbad and the street upon which Sidney worked in the shop of Badham, Pile & Co Ltd.
It is not known in what capacity Sidney worked in this shop but a passenger list for him from 1921 gave his position as “Company manager of Indian business” and so from this it is known that he had become the manager of the shop at Secunderabad.
The firm of Badham, Pile & Co. Ltd was an old firm that had operated in India from at least the 1840’s. Their headquarters was located on Esplanade Road in Bombay but also had shops at Poona and Secunderabad. The Guide to Bombay by James Mackenzie Maclean of January 11,1889 , under the heading of “leading mercantile firms in Bombay” Badham, Pile & Co Ltd as Civil,Naval and Military outfitters; ladies and gents general outfitters; saddlers and harness makers; boot and shoe makers at Ramport Row, with R. Pile as the Managing Director in Bombay. Listed under the heading of “corresponding firms” was Badham & Pile Co. Ltd of Poona and Secunderabad.
A number of auction sites have recently offered for sale items sold by this company including such items as pith helmets and swords. One of the companies pith helmets complete with travelling hat box is shown opposite. One of the companies swords was described as a “pattern 1857 Indian Officers sword”.
The publication ‘Saddlery and Harnesses’ of August 1892 listed Badham & Pile Co as saddle makers in Bombay.
The ‘Chemist & Druggist’ of January 30,1862 reported “ Messrs Batham, Pile & Co Ltd of Bombay do a large miscellaneous business in their headquarters shop in Bombay and in Poona. They are chiefly known as outfitters, and milliners, and their general trade is an excellent specimen of intelligent business enterprise, and would do credit to any large London house. But in the town of Secunderabad, the army headquarters for Hydenabad, they have magnificent premises, from which a considerable druggist business is done which druggist department was established about three years ago and has been very successful. They also have an important apparatus branch of their business.”
A review of business records gave the company as being registered May 11,1919 (year of incorporation), which business was liquidated 97 years (2016) from the year of registration.
While living and working in India Sidney and his wife had two children. Their first child was Reginald Hastings Bailey who was born October 17,1912 in Secunderabad and baptised there on December 15,1912. Their second and apparently last child was Joyce Hastings Bailey who was born December 20,1918 and who’s birth was registered in Bombay, India. She was baptised at All Saints, Malabar Hills, Bombay. The birth details for Reginald gave his father’s occupation as “ Manager Badham, Pile & Co.”. Shown opposite is a photo of Sidney in his motor car taken in India around 1912.
A review of passenger lists showed that Sidney Hastings Bailey along with his wife Ellen and children Reginald and Joyce departed from Bombay, India on the Pacific & Orient Steamship Co. vessel KAISER-I-HIND(official number 128653) and arrived at London on May 9,1921. The intended address of the family was given as 18 Sunderland Road, Tunbridge Wells and that Sidney’s occupation was given as “Company manager India”. Upon the arrival of the family in London they took the train to Tunbridge Wells where they took up residence and Sidney Hastings Bailey opened his outfitters shop, details of which are given in the next section of this article.
THE BAILEY FAMILY IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS.
Upon arriving in Tunbridge Wells in 1921 Sidney Hastings Bailey and his wife the two children took up residence initially at 18 Sunderland Road and Sidney opened his men’s outfitters shop at 18a Mount Pleasant Road on Mount Pleasant Hill just north of the SER station. Some postcard views of this part of Mount Pleasant Road are given opposite and below.
A review of local directories show that the shop was still located at 18a Mount Pleasant Road in 1935 but from at least 1938 up to 2016 it operated from premises at 38 Mount Pleasant.
Sidney’s daughter Joyce Hastings Bailey was married in Tunbridge Wells in 1945 to David Luke Vernon Hanson. David had been born 1905 at Rathminer, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Richard Edward Vernon, chaplain to H.M. forces. David’s first marriage was to Kitty Pera Maclean 1932 in Surrey, and his occupation was given as “solicitor”. They appear to have divorced after having one child. Kitty died 1981 in Hastings,Sussex. David and Joyce had at least one child. Joyce died in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1990. David died in the 3rd qtr of 1980 in Kensington, London. Joyce must have been buried in London for there is no record for her at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.
Sidney’s son Reginald Hastings Baily attended Skinner’s School (image opposite) and began work at his father’s shop soon after leaving Skinner School in 1928. This postcard view of Skinners School is by the well-known Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.
Probate records for Sidney Hastings Bailey gave him of 18a Mount Pleasant Road when he died June 9,1935 at the Kent & Sussex Hospital. The executors of his 2,266 pound estate was his widow Ellen Alice Bailey and his son Reginald Hastings Bailey, a hosier. Sidney was buried at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on June 13,1935.
It appears that the death of Sidney coincided with the relocation of the shop to 38 Mount Pleasant Road. The business after the death of Sidney was run by Reginald Hastings Bailey and his mother from 1935 up to the beginning of WW II. Reginald enlisted for service in the war and served with the RAF. During his time with the RAF his mother ran the shop. He returned to the shop when his service in the war ended and took over its operation and his mother soon after retired from business.
In the 1st qtr of 1948 Reginald Hastings Bailey married Gladys May Green in Bromley, Kent. After the marriage he and his wife returned to Tunbridge Wells. Reginald and his wife raised a family in the town. Their son William Bailey, born in Tunbridge Wells in 1964 had this to say about his father and the business, as reported in an article that appeared in the Courier on June 22,2016. “ He (his father) used to joke that he (William) was cheap labour, but I think he was happy to be there. My grandfather died quite young, but my grandmother, Nellie (Ellen) ran the shop during the Second World War, when my father served in the RAF”.
Probate records gave Ellen Alice Bailey of Flat 1, Bishops Down, Tunbridge Wells, widow, when she died December 18,1949 at Green Acres Print Stile Bidborough,Kent. The exectutors of her 3,285 pound estate were her son Reginald Hastings Bailey, gentleman’s outfitter, and Joyce Hastings Hanson (wife of David Luke Vernon Hanson). Ellen was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on December 21,1949.
Reginald Hastings Bailey died in Tunbridge Wells on November 22,1995 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on December 1,1995. His wife Gladys May Bailey died April 16,1997 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on April 24,1997.
From the Courier article of June 22,2016 is the following. “ Squeezed in between Newns’ Art and antique gallery and Marriott’s camera shop, Bailey’s looked much as it does today. Alongside the soft checked Viyella shirts and heathery tweed jackets in the window. Accessories are pinned to a piece of wooden trellis which, said Mr William Bailey,”was probably put there by my grandfather. Discreetly guiding a customer looking for a claret-coloured silk cravat, Mr Bailey, 52, who grew up in Langton Road, said “ I came into the business in 1984 after leaving Huntley’s School. I trained at Ward’s in Hastings for a couple opf years first, because it’s good to get experience elsewhere, but I’ve always liked working here and meeting different people”. At ease in his own checked shirts and summer chinos, it is a very long time since Mr Bailey cast his eye over the rails in other menswear shops. “ No, I don’t really buy clothes anywhere else”, he admitted for, like many of his customers, he is more likely to be looking for replacements than new styles. Although, as he pointed out. “something like a tweed jacket may well be handed down from father to son, it’s so hardwearing”. In row after neat row, stored away just as they have been for almost a century, striped cotton nightshirts and knitted wool ties, leather-palmed driving gloves and fur-felt tribies made of real rabbit fur are a hymn to a mode of dressing far removed from today’s throwaway styles. “Its funny, sometimes something will suddenly become fashionable with young people”, said Mr Bailey. “They came in looking for flat wool caps a couple of years ago, and some younger customers like the knitted woolen ties”….Looking to the future, Mr Bailey is quite confident that the family business will continue to tick on steadily, just as it has for the past century or so. “Why not, Our clothes are different from those on sale in the chain stores, and people seem to like them. Hopefully they always will” said Mr Bailey.
Shown above is a photo of William Bailey standing in front of his shop as well as one of him inside the shop and a pile of his fine hats on display. Also shown is a recent street scene of his shop, taken at a time when one of his neighbours was the Daniel footwear shop.
THE METAL DRIVE DURING WW2
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario,Canada
Date: June 20,2016
In support of WW2, scrap metal drives were organized across the country to collect iron, steel, aluminum,copper,brass and other metals needed for the manufacture of tanks, guns, aircraft, and other items required for the war effort. Similar drives were also held during WW I and information about activities in the town during that war can be found in the recent book by the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society 'The Shock of War'.
These campaigns were undertaken in two parts, firstly a plea to the public to collect and donate metal, and secondly a compulsory collection scheme by the Ministry of Supply.
Ann Bates in the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society book ‘Tunbridge Wells in the Second World War And The Years of Austerity 1939-1953’ summed it up this way. “ Salvage drives for metal, paper and glass were a regular feature in the Town’s life throughout the War. In April 1941, at the instigation of Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Air Production, iron railings were compulsorily collected throughout the country. Exemption was given to historic examples and those where the removal would cause a danger to the public. In Tunbridge Wells, the Emergency Committee dealt with many appeals against removal, and in the minutes if the Committee, names and addresses were listed”…..”Applications could be made to the Ministry of Supply, via the Town Clerk, for compensation which was 25/-per ton (1 pound 25p, or 37 pounds at 2009 values). Not only railings were salvaged, but metal of all kinds, including tin cans and saucepans, was collected. The irony was that much of the metal collected was unsuitable for reprocessing, but it certainly helped people to think that they were making a sacrifice for the War Effort”. Taking this to the extreme Ann noted that ”Customers were asked in 1942 to return empty tooth paste tubes to the shops when buying a new one for in those days these tubes were mainly made of soft metal”.
The residents of Tunbridge Wells in large were enthusiastic supporters of the metal drive and tons of metal were as a result collected. Throughout Britain it is estimated that scrap metal was saved at a rate of 110,000 tonnes per week, and during the war the manufacture of domestic goods, such as automobiles, appliances etc was drastically reduced to save metal for the war which caused shortages of items that were plentiful before the war. Another report stated that “The British public donated nearly 1.5 million tons of metal, enough to build 50,000 tanks”.
The greatest support to the metal drive from the public was the voluntary collection and donation of metal. Local organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, scoured the town for metal and families in general gave up pots and pans, bicycles, old automobiles and any other surplus items made of metal. Less support, understandably, was given to the mandatory drive, which resulted in the loss of metal curbs and railings in the cemeteries; the loss of many fine and historically significant iron railings and gates that graced the grounds of cemeteries, parks, public buildings and private residences; the loss of some magnificent fountains and items of garden architecture, most of which was not replaced after the war; and the scrapping of the towns gun and tank given to the town in recognition of the towns support during WW1.
In the 1970’s confirmed reports began to circulate that cast some doubt on the effectiveness and legitimacy of the metal drive and many suggested that its importance layed more in propaganda to increase support for the war effort among the public than its stated objective of collecting metal that would put to use. Reports of large stockpiles of rusting metal present after the war and the dumping of metal in the Thames and other bodies of water angered those who felt their efforts had been wasted and that important features of metal in their town had been cut up and hauled away unnecessarily and lost from the landscape forever.
This article provides some general information about the metal drive but the main thrust of it is to report on it as it affected Tunbridge Wells. A selection of photographs is presented, including a small series taken in Tunbridge Wells during the war and a selection of “before and after” images in the form of postcard views and photos to demonstrate what important metal objects the town lost.
THE BRITISH METALS RECYCLING ASSOCIATION
This trade association represents today over 300 organisations working across UK’s metal recycling sector. Its website gave the following information about metal recycling during WW 2. “During WW 2 such was the demand placed on scrap supply that merchants were put on the reserved occupation list exempting them from conscription. Then, when the British Iron and Steel Corporation sent buyers to the USA to purchase large quantities of scrap subsequent imports saw stocks rise to ‘alarming levels’ and forced dealers to accept lower prices. After the war, members of the National Federation of Scrap Iron and Steel Merchants recovered uneconomic dumps of scrap. The austerity years preserved the status of scrap recovery as a matter of national priority and a ‘scrap drive’ campaign was launched to persuade the public to salvage every pound of reclaimable metal”.
There must have been a few scrap metal yards in Tunbridge Wells, including one in the Mount Sion area at Cumberland Yard. A search for metal dealers in Tunbridge Wells in 1938 resulted in finding just one person in the trades directory who identified himself as a “metal merchant” namely Stanley Benson of 48 Victoria Road. Stanley had been born 1907 in Forest Row, Sussex, and was one of eleven children born to John Benson, born in Dorking in 1869, and Rebecca Benson, born 1875 in Uckfield,Sussex. The family is found in the 1901 and 1911 census residing in Forest Row, when John Benson was given with the occupation of ‘general dealer in old iron, brass etc. on own account”. The fact that Stanley’s father was in the metal salvage business obviously led to Stanley taking up the same occupation. Sometime after 1934 Stanley took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and went into the metal merchants business. In the 4th qtr of 1936 he married Evelyn Ellis in Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately his life with Evelyn was cut short by unknown circumstances when Stanley died in Tunbridge Wells in 1947 at only age 40. Probate records gave Stanley of 48 Victoria Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died at the Kent & Sussex Hospital on September 19,1947. The executors of his 6,808 pound estate were Nancy Evelyn Benson and Irene Grace Driscoll, widows. Stanley’s body was returned to Forest Row where he was buried at the Holy Trinity Church burial ground. With the need for metal during the war Stanley must have done a good business. His premises were located on the north side of Victoria Road on a site that was redeveloped and on it is a group of 20th century row houses. On this spot it is speculated that he would have had a small office and yard where he stockpiled metal and no doubt, being close to the Goods Station, hauled his scrap to the yard there for loading onto rail cars. It was at this same Goods Station that all metal collected for the war effort was taken for transportation to a central yard elsewhere for stockpiling and sorting and then to a smelter for processing.
Shown above is a view of the Goods Station yard and rail cars and below that one of the rail cars used to transport the metal. As you will read later local metal from the metal drive ended up at the Medway Coal Depot site at the Goods Station for dumping, and crushing before loaded onto rail cars. Scrap metal was also taken to the Medway Coal Depot at 160 St James Road for crushing before being loaded onto rail cars at the Goods Station.
THE NATIONAL METAL DRIVE CAMPAIGN
In WW2 the British government saw that boosting morale on the Home Front would be a key part of supporting the armed services overseas. People on the Home Front played a big role in the production of military equipment, so it was vital to maintain both their morale and their faith that the war would be won. One method of increasing public morale was the organisation of local war effort campaigns. These gave people the opportunity to play a part in the war effort by contributing, even in just a small way.
In June 1940 Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, made his appeal for scrap metal. After this ‘Scrap Metal Week’s” were organized for different months around the country. It was during these months that ornamental railings and gates around parks, public buildings and ordinary dwellings were taken and in a lot of cases after the war were never replaced. Household utensils were also freely given, only later was this generosity regretted when they became virtually impossible to get.
Apart from “Scrap Metal Week” the donation and collection of metal in Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere took place on a daily basis although “Scrap Week” events were specially advertised in the local newspaper to gain support and boost donations. These special events not only gave citizens a cause to rally around but also resulted in the collection of huge amounts of metal. Shown in this section are two metal drive posters used to gain support for the cause.
The book ‘Kent at War 1939-1945’ by Mark Khan reported in part “ In July 1940 an appeal to the public was made which led to donations of thousands of tons of aluminum to help the war effort. The appeal for pots and pans and other aluminum household articles in July 1940, the collection of aluminum from fallen German aircraft, and the careful sorting and melting of manufacturer’s scrap yielded a substantial amount. Virtually all of the output of aluminum was absorbed for aircraft and naval construction. A second major scrap drive was launched in 1942, this time for iron and steel. A plan to collect 43,000 tons a week was issued by the Minister of Supply. People everywhere responded to this initiative by looking for scrap metal. In Tunbridge Wells at Woodbury Park Cemetery, many of the handsome wrought iron railings and chains marking out family graves were removed. An indignant letter from W.C. Cripps, the younger, dated July 1942 demanded compensation from the Council for damage done by clumsy workmen to the kerbstones of his family’s grave-these had just been restored-when the railings were removed as scrap to make munitions. It is understood that Mr. Cripps, being both a lawyer and former town clerk, got his compensation”.
The Mr Cripps referred to was William Charles Cripps (1855-1952) (photo opposite) one of the children of William Charles Cripps(1831-1882) who became a well-known local solicitor,and was active in local government affairs, becoming the first Town Clerk. Details about the Cripps family can be found in my article ‘Charles Cripps-A Tunbridge Wells Builder and Developer’ dated March 28,2015.
A National Drive for Metal Salvage rally was held in Trafalgar Square on behalf of the drive in November 1942 at which event thousands of people attended.
THE METAL DRIVE CONTROVERSY
As noted earlier, although there was great support for the metal drive, there was an element of concern about both the removal of ornamental ironwork in the town and whether or not this metal would be put to good use. There was certainly room for concern as eyewitness reports both during and after the war suggested that although mountains of scrap was being collected quite a bit of it either sat rusting away being unutilized or dumped altogether. For some unknown reason these concerns escalated in the 1970’s, perhaps as the shroud of secrecy about wartime activities was lifted ,and certain facts came to light which tended to confirm peoples initial scepticism and concerns.
An article in the London Parks & Gardens Trust website entitled ‘So What Really Happened to our Railings? ‘ had this to say. “ When iron gates and railings were cut down to help the war effort in the 1940’s, what happened next is a mystery and has been a matter of conjecture for many decades. Steelworks at places like Port Talbot, Shotton, Sheffield and Motherwell had been in business since the start of the twentieth century and their histories are well documented. Yet, while the removal of iron is recounted by hundreds of eye witnesses, there are not similar reports of the lorries arriving at the steel works with large quantities of railings and gates to be loaded into the blast furnaces. Lord Beaverbrook was nothing if not thorough and his logistics operations would have been geared to deliver iron to the steel works. So what did happen? Once school says the iron collected was unsuitable and could not be used. This seems unlikely as recycled iron is a key component in the steel industry. Another more likely explanation is that far more iron was collected-over one million tons by September 1944-than was needed or could be processed. Certainly the huge underground munitions factory Beaverbrook set up at Corsham in Wiltshire ran far below capacity for its short life. Faced with an oversupply, rather than halt the collection, which had turned out to be a unifying effort for the country and of great propaganda value, the government allowed it to continue. The ironwork collected was stockpiled away from public view in depots, quarries, railway sidings. After the war, even when raw materials were still in short supply, the widely held view is that the government did not want to reveal that the sacrifice of so much highly valued ironwork had been in vain, and so it was quietly disposed of, or even buried in landfill or at sea. This is the view of John Farr, author of a recent article in Picture Postcard Monthly (‘Who Stole our Gates’, PPM No. 371, March 2010). In it he says that only 26% of the iron work collected was used for munitions and by 1944 much of it was rusting in council depots or railway sidings, with some filtered through to the post-war metal industry. Yet the public was never told this. Was there an official cover-up? Farr states that “most of the pertinent records at the public Records Office had been shredded” and that hints remain that a cover-up took place to prevent names of other than Beaverbrook’s being linked to this sad pillage “. In London the persisting explanation is that it was loaded onto barges and dumped in the Thames Estuary, an account which seems to have originated in a letter to the Evening Standard by journalist Christopher Lond in 1984. Long wrote “ I believe that many hundreds of tons of scrap iron and ornamental railings were sent to the bottom in the Thames Estuary because Britain was unable to process this ironwork into weapons of war”. He said this information came from dockers in Canning Town in 1978 who worked during the war on lighters that were towed down the Thames estuary to dump vast quantities of scap metal and decorative ironwork. They claimed that so much was dumped at certain spots in the estuary that ships passing the area needed pilots to guide them because their compasses were so strongly affected by the quantity of iron on the sea-bed. However, there are no first hand records of this and the trail remains elusive3. Other more fanciful explanations have also surfaced: one WW2 aircraft website has an account from a member saying that, running out of munitions towards the end of the war, the bombers flying over France were simply loaded up with pieces of cut-down railings, which they dropped on the enemy. Another has the ironwork used as ballast in ships to Africa with unverified reports that houses can be found in ports on the West African coast, surrounded by decorative Victorian cast-iron railings. Meanwhile the country remains littered with the stumps of removed railings. Recent years have seen a determined effort by many communities, led by residents who recall the removal of the original ironwork, to restore the gates and railings lost over 60 years ago”. Shown above are some images of railings and gates being removed from communities other than Tunbridge Wells.
A British website about the events of WW 2 has within it an exchange of comments by members of the forum on the topic of Scrap Metal and makes for interesting reading. It can be found at ww2talk.com. A few of the comments from this website are given here. “ A letter to London’s Evening Standard stated in part “ The original railings in Ennismore Gardens were among thousands of tons of decorative ironwork and railings removed from London’s streets, supposedly for re-cycling into munitions and the war effort. It now seems certain that the collection of aluminum pots, pans,railings and other metals during the war was largely a propaganda exercise intended to give blitzed civilians a feeling of having contributed to the war effort. Metals such as aluminum and copper were indeed scarce and were presumably recycled. Metals such as cast iron were of little value and were frequently-and secretely-dumped”………”Many hundreds of tons of scrap iron and ornamental railings were sent to the bottom in the Thames Estuary because Britain was unable to process this ironwork into weapons of war” (according to dockers in Canning Town in 1978 who worked on lighters carrying the scrap).
An article from the USA entitled ‘Were WW II scrap drives just a ploy to boost morale? Dated May 31,2002 reports on the scrap metal drives in America and raised the same concerns as the British article above and in part stated “ Many of the materials collected couldn’t readily be recycled………”A 1941 aluminum-scrap drive to help the plucky Brits pulled in 70,000 tons of aluminum pots and pans, but only virgin aluminum could be used to manufacture aircraft”…”Those in charge of the war effort asked themselves “What are we going to do with all this scrap?”…”Iron and steel were a different story as they could be easily melted down and used for munitions but as useful though recycled steel and iron were, some scrap drives went overboard. In addition to old streetcar tracks, wrought iron fences, church bells and the like, people carte3d off relics of previous wars, including cannons, part statues, and other memorials. When the memorials were being rebuilt after the war, many wished they hadn’t been so hasty”. There is no doubt scrap drives were meant in part as morale builders but one has to wonder about the need for metal taken from every conceivable source when so much of it was not put to good use”.
EVENTS IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS
As noted by Ann Bates in her book about WW II , the metal salvage items she noted that had been removed included the Victorian drinking fountain in the Grosvenor Recreation Grounds; the remains of the grandstand in Calverley Grounds that had been damage earlier in the war; the railings from Holy Trinity Church and those of the Church of King Charles the Martyr; and many removed from houses throughout the town. Shown opposite are old postcard views of the two churches referred to. The one of Trinity Church on the left is a postcard by Boots Chemists postmarked in 1917 and shows the iron railings. The one on the right is King Charles the Martyr Church.
Shown opposite is a postcard view of the Grosvenor Recreation Ground, which was the town’s first public park. It opened June 1889 on the site of the former Calverley Waterworks. It consisted of a pond, walkways, a bandstand set in lovely landscaped grounds. Although there are many views of this lovely park none unfortunately were located showing the fountain itself.
Shown opposite is a photograph of the former bandstand in Calverley Gardens . The Courier of August 30,1940 gave a photo of this bandstand and a caption which reported on the crater beside the bandstand that had been left by a high explosive bomb and that this bomb had damaged both the bandstand and the tea house nearby. My article ‘The History of Tunbridge Wells Brass Bands and Bandstands’ dated December 26,2012 reported on the history of this bandstand and stated in part “ A bandstand ornamented with ironwork was erected in 1924 and work on a matching pavilion to provide covered accommodation for concert audiences began the following year. The new pavilion was opened by the Mayor in April 1926.The pavilion only lasted until 1940 when on the 26th of September it was stuck and destroyed by an incendiary bomb during an air raid.The octagonal shaped bandstand was also damaged and its ironwork and copper roof were sold for scap metal to support the war effort metal drive. Some materials from the destroyed Pavilion were used to repair the bandstand. It was intended to replace the bandstand after the war but there were repeated delays and finally plans were dropped altogether in 1959. “
Many scholars of Tunbridge Wells had attended Tonbridge School and it is recorded in the history of that town that the iron railings of that school were removed as scrap. No doubt several other examples can be found in that town including the WW tank they were presented with. Shown opposite is an old image of the school with its original railings.
As a result of fundraising and other support for WW 1 the town received as a token of appreciation two items. One a large artillery gun, and the second a WW1 tank (No. 131) which was put on display on a patch of ground opposite the Vale Road Post Office where it remained until it and the gun were cut up for scrap in WW II. Similar tanks in other towns suffered the same fate. Details about the gun and tank were given in my article ‘The Tunbridge Wells Presentation Tank WW1’ dated May 28,2012. Several images of the tank exist but none of the gun were found.
The gates and iron railings and even the railings and chain surrounding the graves in the Woodbury Park cemetery was a casualty of the scrap metal drive. Shown opposite left is a postcard view of the cemetery. This cemetery was opened in 1849 and is the oldest one in the town. The same fate befell the metal work at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery(photo opposite right ).
The Mount Sion Grove located in the historic area of Mount Sion provided a refuge for residents and visitors to the town since the 18th century. Apart from the trees, gardens, bandstand, walkways and lawns that at times graced the place it was bordered by wrought iron railings and gates.In 1889 Tunbridge Ware maker Thomas Barton took over the management of The Grove and established it with ornamental gates, iron railings, seats and lamp standards. During WW 2 much of The Grove, including the bandstand, was requisitioned by the military, and the ornamental iron railings and gates were dismantled for the war effort. A postcard view of the Mount Sion Grove is shown opposite. Details about the history of it are given in my article ‘The History of the Queens Grove’ dated March 9,2015. The Friends of The Grove reported on the removal of the railings and gates in their newsletter of Autumn 2014.
The site, which today is a public park known as Dunorlan Park, began as a private estate, details of which are given in my article ‘A Retrospective View of Dunorlan Park’ dated December 28,2011. In part the article stated “The history of Dunorlan Park makes for fascinating reading as it spans 4 centuries and during that time the property has undergone several changes in ownership and use.Today,thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Dunorlan Park, and others,the park is a wonderful sight to see and is open to the public for their enjoyment.Before being acquired by the Tunbridge Wells Town Council after WW II the property was under private ownership and used as a county residence by wealthy owners Henry Reed and several members of the Collins family.The family who lived there the longest was that of Brenton Halliburton Collins and his descendents,who other authors claimed occupied Dunorlan for seventy years in the period of 1874 to 1944”. While owned by the Collins family during WW 2 their grand mansion on extensive and lovely landscaped grounds was requisitioned for the war effort and during that time the extensive and grand gates and railings at its entrance off Pembury Road were removed during the scrap drive. A “Memorandum by the Friends of Dunorlan Park’ reported on a resolution from their meeting of March 24,1996 which in part stated “ The restoration of iron railings and magnificent park entrances, removed during the last war for the supposed manufacture of munitions, is mentioned as an incidental opportunity for Central Government initiative that could attract general approbation, be timely for the Millenium, help to focus civic pride in parks and possibly bolster a declining iron work industry”.
The publication ‘Kent at War’ by Mark Khan,which I referred to earlier included the following photographs taken in Tunbridge Wells during the WW 2 scrap drive. Unfortunaley, with one exception, the location of the work was not identified. The first image (above)in the set shows a work crew taking apart what appears to be a very ornate fountain or garden ornament with cutting torches. It’s a shame that the location is not identified, and what a grand architectural feature to loose in the town.
The second image (opposite)shows a work crew taking railings apart at an unidentified location in the town. Note the tank and cutting tools and hose in the cart of the Tunbridge Wells Fire Department (T.W.F.D. on the side of the cart).
Other photos in the set were taken at the Medway Coal Depot at 160 St James Road circa 1941.The images show the dumping and crushing of metal. The steam roller doing the crushing is number 8097 and was built in Kent by Aveling & Porter in 1913. This 10 ton piece of equipment still exists today and bears the name of ‘Mobey Dick’. A modern view of it is shown opposite in 2013 and has been shown and participated in several steam shows. Note the name ‘Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’ proudly displayed on the roof edge.
A complete list of specific sites in the town that gave up their railings and gates to the town has not been compiled and government records in this regard were not located and are not known to exist (reported as having been shredded). A review of local newspaper articles on this topic might reveal further details about these sites and would require further research to expand on the sites referred to in this article.
A number of gates, railings etc from private homes in the town were also given up for the war effort such as the ones shown in the photo opposite supposedly taken apart by these Tunbridge Wells ladies with the cutting torch one of them is holding but more likely being cut up by men with the ladies just posing for the photo. Details about these sites are also lacking.
THE SPITFIRE NAMED ‘ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS’
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario, Canada
Date: July 24,2016
Shown opposite is a photo of a spitfire of local interest for it was named “Royal Tunbridge Wells”. This Spitfire was presented to No. 121 Eagle Squadron at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey on November 2,1941, to run offensive operations over the channel and provide bomber escorts. However, sadly, just six weeks later Pilot Officer Kenneth Le Roy Holder 745890, a young 23 year old pilot, failed to return from a regular patrol off the Lincolnshire coast. His body was recovered though and was buried in a cemetery in Ipswich,Suffolk. The Spitfire was lost. Another Spitfire of the same classification was flying for another squadron at Brize Norton until they moved overseas, the aircraft was then transferred to No. 131 County of Kent Squadron in Merston,Sussex. Upon arrival at the new squadron in 1942 the aircraft was renamed as “Royal Tunbridge Wells” and ordered to fly routine sweep patrols. Just after four months later the plane was involved in a mid-air-collision with another Spitfire and had to make an emergency landing. The pilot survived but the damage to the airplane was so extensive that it was converted into another classification of Spirfire, reserialed and renamed, ending the town’s proud association with the Spitfire.
The people of Tunbridge Wells gave generously toward the Mayors “Spitfire Fund” which was launched on August 9,1940. When it closed on September 29,1940 in 1940 sufficient money had been collected to pay for a Spitfire. The mayor, Alderman Westbrook, was able to send 5,723 pounds to Lord Beaverbrook. In February of the following year a plaque was presented to the Mayor, which is now in the Borough Archives. The Spitfire Fund was part of the first National War Savings Campaign. A second campaign was War Savings Week held from December 13 to 20,1940. There was an opening ceremony and an exhibition, which included a German Messerschmidt 109 which had been shot down near Brighton. It was put on show in the new Library and Museum building, which at the time was not yet in use for its intended purpose. Enough money was raised to pay for two bomber squadrons. These fundraising drives were followed by Warship Week and others.
The role that Spitfires played in the role was commemorated by the set of stamps issued by the BPO. The set of four stamps is shown opposite.
An Aviation History website gave the following information “Supermarine Spitfire AA871 Mk Vb Const #2214,named “Royal Tunbridge Wells” Built at Eastleigh. FF 22-10-41, Delivered to No 9 MU 25-10-41, assigned to 121S 5-11-41.Belly landed at North Weald 27-11-41, failed to return from patrol off Lincolnshire coast. P/O Kenneth Le Roy Holder MIA 12-12-41, SOC.”. From the same source is the following about the Eagle Squadron 121 “'On 14 May 1941, No. 121 was reformed at Kirton-in-Lindsey as the second 'Eagle' Squadron to be manned by American volunteers. Equipped with Hurricanes, it began defensive patrols in October but in November it converted to Spitfires. It moved to North Weald in December 1941 and in February 1942 began to take part in fighter sweeps over northern France. These continued until the Squadron was transferred to the US Army Air Force on 29 September 1942, becoming the 335th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group at Debden. From the same source is the following “ Kenneth LeRoy Holder (service number 118173)joined RAFVR, assigned to 121 [Eagle] Sqn RAF, failed to return from patrol off Lincolnshire coast in Spitfire AA871. Killed in Action (KIA) 12-12-41. Body recovered from sea two weeks later, being positively identified by a laundry label on his clothing.
Shown opposite right is a photo of Kenneth LeRoy Holder with the text “Pilot Officer Kenneth Le Roy Holder of No. 121 Eagle Squadron, RAF sits on the shoulders of Pilot Officer Donald Wilson MacLeod in order to reach the Stars and Stripes , 27 November 1941”. A second close up view of him (opposite left) is also given. He was an American from Buena Park, California and had arrived in England on August 14,1941.
The website ‘Spitfire History’ gave the following “AA871 Works No 2214 Eastleigh . Dedication 'Royal Tunbridge Wells'; 22Oct41 First Flight by George Pickering; 25Oct41 9MU; 05Nov41 121 Sqn;27Dec41 Struck Off Charge”
A website on WW II aircraft gave “TOC 9 MU Cosford 25/10/41 and allocated to 121 (Eagle) Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey 5/11/41. Coded AV*D. Lost 12/12/41, failed to return from patrol off Lincolnshire coast. PO Kenneth Le Roy Holder aged 23 from Streatham buried in Section 8, Grave 2793, Ipswich General Cemetery, Suffolk. Another Spitfire, AD552, was named Royal Tunbridge Wells May 1942. The AA871 is the only Spitfire listed as purchased by the Tunbridge Wells Spitfire Fund - £5,716 11s 9d”
In 2015 a Memorial Flypast (photo opposite)and ceremony was held in Tunbridge Wells, details of which are given below and a photo of the event opposite. “ A Hurricane and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over a Kent town in tribute to one of the masterminds of the battle. Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, head of Fighter Command during the 1940 battle, lived in Tunbridge Wells for many years until his death in 1970.To mark 75 years since Britain's defeat of the Luftwaffe, a wreath was laid at his memorial in Calverley Grounds.It was organised by Peter Vincent, of the Friends of Calverley Grounds.The wreath was laid at the foot of the memorial in Calverley Grounds .Mr Vincent arranged for the historic planes to fly over the memorial after realising they would be heading down to the Eastbourne airshow and would be able to make a point of going over the town. The wreath was laid by the mayor of Tunbridge Wells, David Elliott, in the presence of representatives from the Royal British Legion.Guest of honour was Lady Odette Dowding, daughter-in-law of the commander-in-chief, who later became Lord Dowding. A minute's silence was also held.”
The role of Tunbridge Wells in raising funds for the war effort in WW II cannot be understated, and the raising of funds in support of the production of Spitfires was but one example of this. It is interesting to note that with their support the County of Kent was the only county able to raise enough money to equip an entire squadron of Spitfires. Many dogfights took place in the skies over Tunbridge Wells and several planes on both sides of the conflict came down during the conflict in or near the town.
THE MILITARY CAMPS IN WATERDOWN AND ASHDOWN FOREST
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario
Date: August 20,2015
The year 2015 marks the bicentennial of the end of the Napoleonic Wars after Napoleon was defeated by Admiral Nelson at Waterloo June 18,1815, an event which was greatly celebrated throughout Britain, and which marked the end to almost two decades of continuous warfare from 1793 to 1815. The French Revolution, followed by the Napoleonic Wars posed a great threat to England and the country’s military responded accordingly.
The British Army during the Napoleonic Wars experienced a time of rapid change. At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, the army was a small, awkwardly administered force of barely 40,000 men. By the end of the period, the numbers had vastly increased. At its peak, in 1813, the regular army contained over 250,000 men.
The Militia of Great Britain were the principal military reserve forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain during the 18th century. The Militia Act 1757 had effect only in England and Wales and aimed to create a professional national military reserve. Following the merger of Scotland into the new Kingdom of Great Britain, the British Militia Act of 1757 did not apply in Scotland. There, the old traditional system continued, so that militia regiments existed in some places and not in others. The Militia Act of 1797 empowered the Lord Lieutenants of Scotland to raise and command militia regiments in each of the "Counties, Stewartries, Cities, and Places" under their jurisdiction.
Records were kept, and the men were selected by ballot to serve for longer periods in the Miltia. Uniforms and weapons were provided, and the force was 'embodied' from time to time for training and during the French and Napoleonic Wars. It served at several strategic locations and was particularly stationed on the South Coast and in Ireland. A number of camps were held at Brighton, where the militia regiments were reviewed by the Prince Regent, the origin of the song "Brighton Camp". The militia could not be compelled to serve overseas, but it was seen as a training reserve for the army, as bounties were offered to men who opted to 'exchange' from the militia to the regular army. Militia regiments were infantry regiments; there were no militia artillery units until 1854.
The Honorable Lieutenant General Simon Fraser (1726-1782),who was a wealthy gentleman and the eldest son of Lord Lovat raised two regiments, including the 71st Regiment of Foot in 1775, consisting of two battalions totalling 2,300 officers and men. A map of Waterdown Forest dated 1780 shows him under command of the military camp there,one of several military camps forming a network across the landscape in the southern parts of England, that were established largely in reaction to the threat of invasion. Several camps were ,for example ,established in Kent and Sussex and the two which are the subject of this article are those that were established in Waterdown Forest to the south of the town of Tunbridge Wells, and Ashdown Forest, between Tunbridge Wells and Groombridge.
This article provides a historical account of these two camps,assembled from a review of a variety of articles, archaeological studies, first- hand accounts ,images and other related and reliable sources.Shown above is a 1793 map showing a military camp pn Broadwater Common by Thomas Gream as recently found in the British Library,who’s records show that there were actually two military campsites south of Tunbridge Wells-one on what is now the Nevill Golf Club course, the other a larger camp on the west side of the road to Eridge in Broadwater Forest, to the west of Bunny Lane, given on the map as the New Road to Frant.
LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION OF THE FORESTS
A report by Chris Butler MIFA of the Archaeological Services, dated March 2008, and entitled “an Archaeological survey of Broadwater Warren, East Sussex for the RSPB, which can be seen in its entirety online, gives a detailed account of this area. In part it states the Broadwater Warren is a 180 ha site located 2km to the SW of Tunbridge Wells. Historically the area known as the Broadwater Forest and The Warren was referred to as Waterdown Forest. A map of 1825 refers to Waterdown Forest but the 1875 os map refers to it at Broadwater Forest and The Warren. The south east part of The Warren was part of the Eridge Park Estate which the Nevill family inherited in 1448. During the later 18th and 19th centuries and then again during the first and second World Wars, the Broadwater Warren was used for military training.
Shown opposite is a portion of a map dated 1774 by Sprange, on which can be seen labelled “Waterdown Forest” and “Eridge Green”, which is referred to in the next section of this article w.r.t a 1793 map held by the National Archives. Waterdown Forest is shown at that time as a large forest south of Tunbridge Wells stretching in an east-west orientation towards Groombridge.A larger version of this map can be seen in “An Historical Atlas of Tunbridge Wells” by the Civic Society, which can be purchased from them , details of which are given on the Civic Society website. A similar map in this Atlas by Richard Budgen, dated 1723 shows much the same information.
Ashdown Forest, at 2,500 hectares, is the largest open access space in the Siuth East with nearty two thirds of it being heathland. It was a former medieval hunting forest, the largest of four spread between Harsham and Tunbridge Wells in an area known as the Weald Forest Ridge. This is the highest ridge of the High Weald. The trenches and mounds at certain spots in this forest show that it had been used for military purposes in the 18th century,and in both World Wars.
THE MILITARY CAMPS
The2008 report by Chris Butler,refers to a watercolour dated 1780 that depicts a military camp on Waterdown Forest, entitled “A View of the camp on Waterdown Forest taken from a hill above Benhale Mill 1780”. Shown opposite is the image he refers to. Research into this image shows that it was a watercolour on paper by James Lambert the Younger (1760-1830). This image has become commercially popular and reproductions of it can be purchased online in the form of prints, mouse pads, fridge magnets, and all sorts of other products. The camp is portrayed on high ground overlooking the countryside. The camp is on open land which has been cleared of all trees and vegetation for some distance beyond the camp, with the only evidence of a “forest” shown on the left side of the image,with heathland portrayed in the foreground . Along the left edge of the camp appears to be a few larger tents or buildings while within the central part of the camp can be seen in typical military fashion row after row of canvas tents. Beyond the camp in the background on a high tract of land also can be seen a row of buildings of unknown use which do not appear to be connected with the camp itself.
A publication entitled “Catalogue of the Collection of Fans…” presented to the trustees of the British Museum by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, which was compiled by Lionel Cust M.A. F.S.A.., an assistant in the department of prints and drawings, London 1893, lists “Item 52 [SE 135} Camp fan dated 1794 being a plan of three camps in Waterdown Forest, Ashdown Forest, and on the Downs, marked above ‘The New Camp Fan’ published as the Act directs , May 1,1794, by the proprietor, and sold at all the fan shops in London. Etching coloured by hand, mounted on ivory Stick”. Unfortunately no image of this fan was given in the referenced document, but it is clear that it relates to three camps in the Tunbridge Wells area.
The National Archives have in their collection a plan relating to military camps under the title of “Frant: Plan of the Camp on Water Down Forest near Tunbridge Wells 1793”. The catalogue listing for this item gave the following description. “ Shows an area NE of Eridge Green and the Crowborough to Tunbridge Wells turnpike road, and the positions of the East Norfolk,Berkshire,West Essex, Oxford,South Devon,Westminster Middlesex, West Suffolk, Dorset,Sussex,North Nants, South Devon and East Middlesex regiments encamped there.This map, finely drawn and coloured. May be the work of Thomasw Yeakell”. A trip to the archives would be necessary to inspect and report on the details of this map, which is held by the West Sussex Record Office and measures 28” x 33”.
The next image I present (above)is one also shown in the aforementioned Atlas dated 1780 by Jasper Sprange entitled “Plan of the Emcampment on Waterdown Forest”. Note on the bottom of this map the location of the Pantiles with the north arrow on the map pointing towards the Pantiles. The main road to the camp was the Frant Road heading south from the area of the Pantiles towards Frant, with the camp itself located on a large tract of land to the east of Frant Road.The text associated with this map states “ that this map was from a survey by Ensign T.P. Christian of the 65th Regiment of Foot.It shows the disposition of a military encampment on Waterdown Forest, about two miles south of Tunbridge Wells from June 8 to October 23,1780.From the map, the camp would seem to be about 400 yards across and would seem to have contained up to five regiments, or at least elements of five regiments, namely the Middlesex,Devon,Bucks,Stafford and the 13th Foot. The site is now part of the Nevill Golf Course.” The text continues to identify that “ 1780 was a turbulent year of England” because of the War of American Independence and by the Gordon Riots. It is possible that the camp was one of the many which were set up around London to house troops who might be called in,if the troubles continued but this never happened. However, the fact that the reconnaissance fir this camp was carried out in April ,argues against this. The reconnaissance also considered whether to put the troops on the Tunbridge Wells Commoan. The British Library also has some eight hand drawn maps of the camps.,prepared by the Quarter-Master-General’s Department.Most relate to the 1780 camps,b ut three show the larger camp in 1793,housing 12 regiments together with Horse artillery and an Artillery Park,on the west side of the road from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge”. As noted on this map it bears the dedication “To The Honarable Simon Fraser, esq, Lieutenant General of His Majestry’s Forces, and Colonel of the 71st Regiment of Foot” and that the camp shown was “Under the command of Lieut General Fraser”. The inset on this map gives details of how the five regiments stationed there were organized and commanded, and since the reproduced image I have provided may not be fully legible I have given the information below. Arranged at the top are the names of the colonels, Liet Colonels and Majors.In the box below is given the Quarter Guard. Below that the Parade. Below the Parade is the Bells of Arms Sergeants followed by the Battalion Tents. Next are the Subalters and decenting in order below this is Captains, Col * Field Officers Staff, Pickets, Bat Men,Grand Sutlers,Kitchens,Petit Sutlers and lastly the Rear Guard.
1) Middlesex East- Colonel Tufnell; Liet Colonel Hubbard; Major Torrenne;
2) Devon M-Colonel Orchard; Liet Colinel Bafsett; Major Hedges
3) Bucks-Colonel Slottow;Liet Colonel Babcock; Major Hampden
4) Stafford-Colonel L. Paget; Liet Col L. Lewitham; Major Curson
5) XIII. RF-Colonel Lt General Murray; Liet Colonel Col Ogilvie; Major Lt Col. Edhouse
This map, like the view of the camp by Lambert has been reproduced and turned to a number of items, including rubber mouse pads, for sale to the public.
The next image of the camp is shown above and is also dated 1780 but differs in some respects to the map described above. The name of the originator of this map is given at the bottom right and there is mention of Sprange and his dedication to Fraser and there is no inset giving details of the regiments there, but the main part of the map shows the same regiments as the other map. This map also shows the Pantiles with some buildings highlighted in red and shows more of the area around the Pantiles. The map heading is “ Plan of encampment Waterdown Forest near Tunbridge Wells under the command of the Hon Lieut. Gen. Fraser from the 8th June to 23 Oct 1780”, the same period covered by the previous map according to the Civic Society Atlas.
The book English Spas 1560-1815 entitled “A Social History “ by Phyllis Mayhembry sates “By 1793 Britain’s involvement in war against France reuivrfied Tunbridge Wells.Whiel some sought asylum in the western spas away from probable attack, Tunbridge Wells was invaded by refugees and the military; 23 French émigré priests were lodged in cottages on Mount Ephraim, and a military camp for 7,000-8,000 men was pitched in Waterdown Forest in July”. So this gives some idea of how many troops are reflected on the above maps.
From “The History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners by Janes William John Connolly 1855 pg 79 is given in part the following “ General Dundas, about this period ,introduced the system of drill so long distinguished by his name, and to test its efficiency a camp was formed on the 1st of July 1793 at Waterdown under the command of the Duke of Richmond. The troops, both horse and foot, numbered 7,000. To this camp was attached, by the Duke’s order, four non-commissioned officers, thirty-six privates, and one drummer of the military artificers under Lieut. George Bridges R.E, who took them a proportion of field implements and artificer’s tools. For three weeks, the season being exceedingly fine, the drill was briskly carried on but was succeeded by an interval of idleness and discomforts accompanied by heavy and continuous rain. On the 4th of August the troops moved to Ashdown Forest where the manoeuvered for a week and finally marched to Brighton where they drilled for a fortnight producing some good military displays in the presence of the Prince of Wales and returned to their stations on the 22nd of August”. The author goes on to report about making of temporary bridges on the route by felling trees.
From the Archaelogical report by Chris Butler in 2008, which I have referred to earlier he referred to the existence of the military camp in Waterdown Forest as shown on the 1780 map and stated “ Although the camp is not in the immediate area of Broadwater Warren, it demonstrates that this area was frequently used for military training. In July 1793 a force of 7,000 militia under the command of the Duke of Richmond established a camp at Waterdown Forest. After a month they moved to Ashdown Forest, and then subsequently to Brighton. During the 19th century a firing range was constructed on the centre of the forest and was used by volunteer units for firing practice.”. In the section of this report that deals with “Military earthworks,structures and vehicle remains” is reference to numerous military earthworks dating from the 18th century up to the Second World War…and that the earliest military earthworks found are a group of probable field kitchens located in Compartments 13 and 15.There are eight surviving circular mounds each approximately 3m in diameter and 0.6m high and spaced in a line at 15-20m intervals. Although they do not seem to have a surrounding ditch, they resemble the field kitchens belonging to the 1793 camp found a little further north in Broadwater Forest and those on Ashdown Forest.Although these mounds do not relate to the camp further north, it is likely that there were many other camps on Waterdown Forest in the 18th and early 19th century to which these might belong”. The report goes on to identify other archaeological evidence of military significance from both WW 1 and WW2, which are topics beyond the scope of my article.
From an inquiry about the military camp in Waterdown Forest posted on the internet it was recorded that “there are pictures shown in J.H. Farrant’s Sussex Depicted (Sussex record Society 85 in 2001) pages 225-226 together with a plan of the camp and some explanatory text. Also from the same source is an observation ,regarding the watercolour painting of the camp from the hill above Benjale Mill, the “I think the houses on the skyline to the right might be Bell’s Yew Green. Also given was “According to an abstract from ‘History: The Journal of the Historical Association’ Vol 82, issue 268, p 547-562, Oct. 1997 by Stephen Conway, “ The military camps established in England during the War of American Independence have been examined by historians as manifestations of anxiety about invasion, or as centres of intensive training, but no attempt has been made to consider them more fully. This article looks at the impact of the camps-economically, socially and culturally-on their immediate host localities, on London and on the nation as a while. It is argued that, particularly in the years 1778-9, when fears of invasion were at their height, a veritable camp mania gripped the country…”
The Civic Society Newsletter of Spring 2007 carried the following article by Ann Bates, entitled “The Military Camp on Waterdown Forest” which gave “ In the last Newsletter we mentioned that a map from 1780 had been found showing a military encampment just to the south of Tunbridge Wells. We wondered what ‘interactions’ there may have been between the soldiers and the locals. Ann Bates has been checking the Frant Parish registers. In 1798 four ‘base born’ children were baptised, and three from marriages where the father belonged to the Sussex Malitia. The registers of Banns and Marriages show a number of marriages taking place. The entries over the years identify the units stationed there: the Middlesex militia in 1780; the Berkshire militia in 1782; the Sussex and Dorset militias in 1793 together with the Royal Regiment of Artillery. September 1793 saw the marriage of Margaret and Mercy Groombridge ‘of this parish’ to gunners from the camp. Were they sisters perhaps? Sometimes both partners were linked to the camp, as in the record of Banns between Thomas Judd and Sarah Cloutt, both servants to Officers of the Hampshire Militia. But perhaps the most interesting is the Burial register of 1793. Between 24th and 29th July no fewer than eight soldiers of various militia were buried, plus three infants linked to the camp. On 13th August an unknown pauper was buried, described as ‘a follower of the Camp on Water Down’. In this case the cause of death was given-Small Pox. The camp was used over a period of years. There is an entry in 1803 recording the death of Catherine O’Connor, infant daughter of a private in the 69th Regiment. John Cunningham, who found the map, believes that there may be a series of them, published each year by Jasper sprange of the Pantiles.
The map of 1780 referred above may well be one of the maps held by the British Museum Archives which has plans of encampments in the South of Britain from 1757 t0 1793 “showing in outline, and apparently, the original sketches ……including Ashdown Forest and Waterdown Forest “.
The Gentlemens Magazine of 1793 gave the following first- hand account of military activity in Waterdown and Ashdown Forest by a gentleman who identified himself as “A Rambler” , no doubt an nom-de-plume, used by the writer . What is clear from the account is that “A Rambler” was a soldier, no doubt in the militia, who had a way with words with obvious education and breeding. The full account is given below and was addressed like other articles in this publication to a Mr Urban, who no doubt was the editor of this publication.
Mr Urban…….Brighton Camp, August 22. If I had been progressive, I should have mentioned in my last p685, that on the 4th a firing of orders came out relative to the next day’s march to Ashdown Forest. The general way to beat at morning –gun fire, instead of the reveillie. So brisk were the men at the thoughts of quitting Waterdown, they were up before morn, and welcomed the gun was noisy approbation; the tents were struck in an instant, the tent poles tied to their musquets, and the cooking kettles fastened behind them. This newly accountred, in addition to knapsacks and canteens, they remained under arms until 10 o’clock (the hour of the march).During this languid period,a volume of orders were read; and in proportion as the first efforts of the morning had been active, every other part was slow; but to those who know now to make allowance for the progress of artillery and of baggage over irregular roads, and the order with which the whole was conducted, such may not be surprised that the troops woke not upon their ground before not at post one o’clock. It was the length of time they had been under arms which had sagged the men so much; and yet, as they were pitching their tents, there was a cheerfulness upon their countenances, that could only be attributed to their having left Waterdown when that encampments were formed, it helped to fill up some fine prospect, perhaps more beautiful by the ground not allowing the whole in one line; the right wing was upon the side of a hill to the West; and the left upon another hill in the direction East and by South. The Commander in Chief and the horse artillery were in a valley extending to the separation of wings, with some straggling trees in their rear, which were very useful to the horses picqueted under them. When the weather was clear, we had a sight of the sea, and over the Weald of Sussex could plainly observe Lewes Castle, partly encompassed by the South Downs; East Grinstead was a good object on the right; Morefield Church , and several spires were before us; and the contrast of the different forest-down, with the plentiful crops of corn and meadow land, was a proud sight to the land owners, and to every man that is delighted to see plenty scattered over the earth; and though last, not least, in love, the infantry forming in their streets progressive to a field-day, and the artillery yoking their horses, was as animated a sight as could be, and much the varied scene worthy the pencil of the first painter extant. Among the orders given out at Ashdown Forest, there was one in case of hearing three guns fired rapidly; the men were to put on their knapsack, and prepare to march; this was not put in execution, and, it is since thought, it was only given out to keep up the usual custom of obliging the officers to remain constantly in quarters, and as well as the men, to be always ready. This order was near throwing every corps into confusion, for one evening a man fired several musquets in defence of his potatoe property; part of the camp thought it was the knapsack signal, and turned out. The reason given was, that the connob had so small an allowance of gunpowder on the field-day, they could not (probably when aroused from sleep) tell the distinction of sound between them and musquets. Our week’s duty on the Forest was pleasant, comparative to our goings on at Waterdown, we had only one day that approached to fatique. On Saturday the line was ordered out at seven; but our good friend General Rain countermanded it. As symptoms of fair weather approached, symptoms of the field-day kept pace with it. The men were ordered to cook their dinners, and at one the trip fell in. We pursued our route towards Uckfield, passing over some temporary bridges thrown over small steep banked brooks.The hills we went over most, at some time, have composed part of the forest, as we observed the roots of many noble sized trees. Though I was in the character of a soldier, I could not help thinking as a man, the land we were upon would have continued to deserve the name of forest, if the owner had replanted some fresh oaks. And when it is known that ground contributes the best to its growth, the public spirited should never, for the sake of a few annual guineas, deny themselves the fascination of seeing the favoured timber of their country growing on their natal soil for the advantage of prosperity. But to return to the soldier, we rested on our arms in a rabbit warren. At this period several of the inhabitants, in attempting to avoid danger, ran into it, and were either received by a sturdy foot, or the butt-end of a flintlock. The soldiers could neither be charged with cruelty or theft, as it was understood, if the enemy came under their feet, they were lawful ,”belly-tinker”, but they were on no account to guit their ranks in persuit of so ignoble a foe. After remaining for a considerable time under arms, whilst the successful soldiers were glorifying in their spoil, and telling how it became a victim to a kick, we were ordered to change position, and either advanced or retreated (I do not know which) from hill to hill, every now and then taking a peep at our more distant encampment. The sun was declining very fast, and we were beginning to think we were to perform vespers-far from our canvas home, but, on gaining a bleaky summit, they were luckily no more eminences in front. After resting long enough to be sufficiently chilled, we were rejoiced to hear the sound of the ‘merry merry drum’, and the cheerful bands, a signal that has the same meaning in modern tactics with that formerly made use of by the Israrelites, viz. ‘to your tents’ etc. Between eight and nine we reached camp, and conducted our duty by eating double dinner allowance and good humour. Whatever mistakes (if commanders can make any) had prolonged the order of march from Waterdown, they were removed, and the line reached Chailey in good time. With equal glee and regularity they set off the next morning for Brighton; about 4 miles before they arrived on their ground,their regiments were formed in battalions, in which order they moved, keeping good wheeling fdistance. Thje irregularity of the Downs frequently gave an opportunity of seeing every regiment with a coup-d’viel. Numbers of people came out to meet us. The town, with the sea, and the music, and the universal animation around, somewhat dissipated the fatique of a long march.Conspicious among the spectators was the Prince of Wales, in the honorable garb of his regiment, looking both the soldier and the Prince. We marched by his Royal Highness by division, officers saluting, and then wheeled round the town to our new ground, which appeared a little paradise in comparison. The water at our former stations has too much chalybeate in it to be pleasant, on Chailey Common it was good, and on our arrival here we had the luxury of finding it could not be better. The necessary part of the comforts of life, with the delightful ground we were encamped upon, a full advantage of the sea-breeze, and the lovely scene continually passing and repassing in our front, make us hope we shall have more opportunities of frequenting the Steine parade than we had of visiting Tunbridge Wells. Besides, the Commander in Chief wonderfully gave us an overslaugh from Wednesday until Monday, in which day we were out six hours and a half, five of the hours dragged on with the usual having nothing to do. We then began to form columns and lines. This intention was by way of drilling in the new system. General Dundas, the modeller of it, gave his personal assistance, and I could not help remarking how gracefully and expeditiously he moved his sun-burnt hand, explanatory of his formation of the divisions into battalions……..The writer continues his story detailing his experience in Brighton and makes no further mention of Waterdown or Ashdown Forest. The fill article can be seen on the internet
The same writer also had two articles published in “the Scotts Magazine” Vol 55 dated 1793 under the heading of “Important Advices from the camp at Waterdown”. To save space and concentrate on pertinent facts I have paraphrazed the articles.
In Letter 1 is given a long preamble of no particular relevance and then states that what he has written was made “in the first idle hour I have had for some time and will not prove unacceptable from the fertile plain of Waterdown, a plain that was never yet cleared by a blade of verdure, or a shrub, except the purple heath, emblem of its barrenness. I feel so grateful on hearing the rain patter on my tent…for until this day my throat has never been clear of it (dust). I now find I am rid of a dry cough. He goes on to comment on the downpour of rain and the sound of thunder as he sought shelter in his tent. “The day after our arrival I walked to Tunbridge Wells,and went to the rooms, thinking it would be a good occasional lounge, as I had heard much about the Pantiles and the Beauties that grace them.But what sir were wells to us? Except those which spring from ourselves, and those in front and to the rear of the encampment, we are obliged to visit whenever the soldier needs to fill his canteen.I have never been to Tunbridge Wells since,nor felt the inclination to go there, for at every spare hour I am glad to throw myself on my bed till I am awakened by the drum’s discordant sound, or by a sergeant thrusting the orderly book over my face with “orders, your honour”, a petty complaint against a vagrant soldier, or something to do.Thus we soldiers live. The different guards mount at once o’clock in the afternoon, from the very military reason of keeping us always ready.Orders are afterward given, and we are lucky if we know what we are to do by 3 o’clock.The plains of the Waterdown can boast of an encampment of 7,000 as fine fellows as ever served;men actuated by the spirit of regard for their King and country, and the improvement they have made since they came upon the ground proves they have done obedience to orders, a just emulkation for the general good of England…” A note after this article stated “ It is reputed in camp, we are to made a sudden attack upon the Lillipution army on Ashdown Forest, an eminence in view, about 8 miles off. If I do not fall in the charge-and many a soldier has fallen since we are here, even the Commander in Chief-if I do not fall, I trust I shall be able to give you as good an account of our bravery as I have done of our alertness”.
The next letter by the same author was written from Brighton Camp August 21st and in part stated “This was a final day of rest and took possession of a range of hills to the South East of Ashdown Forest. The cay was more comfortably warm.The men were ordered to stand at ease, and from standing a while at ease, the stole to sitting down…2/3 of them falling asleep. The morning manoeuvers lasted about three hours, without any other discharge than from naval ordnance. After a noisy signal was made, which aroused them from their peaceful deaths, our banners were waved in the wind, the arms glittered in the sun, and we marched home again”.
Turning now to Ashdown Forest, archaeological investigations have found trenches and mounds that relate to military activities from both World Wars but also evidence that from the end of the 18th century that there is a lot of evidence for this forest being used for military training. In July 1793 a force of 7,0000 militia under the command of the Duke of Richmond established a camp at Ashdown forest.They left behind lines of field kitchens, showing today as circular mounds. In the latter 19th century the open areas of the Forest were used again for training and firing and firing ranges were built.The area of the forest used by the military in the 18th century is known locally as Camp Hill (photo opposite).
An account entitled “Brighton Camps” stated “ There were several camps. The first formed August 13,1793. At three o’clock on the morning previous, the troops composing this camp struck their tents on Ashdown Forest, and from thence, at five o’clock, marched forwards, reaching Chailey Common at halp past eleven,and tents were pitched for the night.The following morning at four they were again on the march, and at noon arrived on the hills around Brighton.The artificers and the heavy baggage came by way of Lewes;but the route of the army in general, consisting of 7,000 men, was over the South Downs, the Prince of Wales meeting them as they came over the hill.By two o’clock the camp was formed, close to the town, in Belle Vue Field, now known as Regency Square, and it stretched in a direct line along the coast.This encampment, which was increased to 10,000 troops, was composed of regulars and militia, and continued till the 28th of October, on account of some apprehension of an invasion by the new Republic of France”.
Another account about Camp Hill in Ashdown Forest states that it derives its name from a huge army encampment that was set up there during the Napoleonic wars in 1793 when a detachment of twelve regiments were stationed there. A series of mounds, north of Camp Hill is all that is left of this camp. There is a map of 1793 showing twelve regiments lined up in camp on the heathland”.
From the’History of the Berkshire Militia’ it is recorded that on July 8,1793 The Berkshire Militia were encamped at Waterdown Forest near Tunbridge Wells and that they marched on to Ashdown Forest at 2 o’clock and marched again on another day from Ashdowmn at 9 o’clock am.
From all of the above I have made a few observations, given below;
1) The painting of the Waterdown emcamp, clearly shows ,by the absence of trees, brush etc .at or in the vicinity of the camp that the camp was in regular use. This is supported by the soldiers 1793 letters which make no mention of any site clearing being undertaken upon their arrival at any of the camps referred to.
2) The archives suggest that camps had been in existence in the area from about 1757 onwards. How long the camps at Waterdown and Ashdown Forest were is use is not known but since hostilities ended in 1815 that date might suggest when the use of the two encampments ended. There is a plan of an encampment at Ashdown Forest in 1793 and 1799 in an area known locally as “Camp Hill”.
3) The encampments at Waterdown and Ashdown were but two in a large network of camps and the soldiers account and others show that the men were moved from camp to camp on a regular basis. The soldiers account of 1793 makes no mention of what military units they replaced upon their arrival at the encampment nor what military units replaced them, which suggests that the encampments were not in uninterrupted usage. It would be expected however that as each military unit left their encampment that sometime soon after a new military unit arrived there.
4) The article by Ann Bates shows that the men of the camp had personal relations with non- camp residents and the soldiers 1793 letters show that he and obviously other men of the camp did visit the town of Tunbridge Wells for non- military purposes.
5) That the two camps were of about the same size, accommodating something in the order of 7,000 troops.
6) That the two camps of Waterdown and Ashdown were within a day’s march from one another.
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