ALL ABOUT
TUNBRIDGE WELLS

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TUNBRIDGE WELLS RIFLE CLUBS

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

Date: June 8,2019

BACKGROUND

Although rifle clubs existed in England prior to the 20th century, it was the experience of the Boer War that reinforced the importance of marksmanship.

Rudyard  Kipling's experience in 1899 in South Africa, where Boer marksmanship was particularly lethal, had convinced him of the need to develop similar skills among the British, through village rifle clubs up and down the land. It is possible that Kipling had read the comment below by Winston Churchill from The Morning Post of December 29,1899

“The individual Boer, mounted and in a suitable country, is worth from three to five regular soldiers. The only way to deal with them is either to get men equal to them in character and intelligence as riflemen or failing that, huge masses of troops.... there is plenty of work here for a quarter of a million men. Are the gentlemen of England all fox-hunting?”.

Newspapers from the early 1900’s announced that the Government would provide funding towards the establishment of rife clubs throughout England and this appears to have been the catalyst that resulted in the formation of hundreds of rife clubs in the country, including the following clubs in Tunbridge Wells (1) The Pantiles Rifle Club (2) The St Peter’s Rifle Club (3) The  St Johns & District Rifle Club (4) Tunbridge Wells and District Rifle Club (5) The Tunbridge Wells Ladies Rifle Club (6) Tunbridge Wells Friendly Society Rifle Club. No doubt there were other rifle clubs formed such as the current Tunbridge Wells Target Shooting Club (also known as the Tunbridge Wells and St Peter’s Rifle Club), who state on their website that their history dates back to 1903.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 29,1900 reported “ The Secretary of State for War had instructed the National Rifle Club Association to form rules for shooting clubs in England. The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate, Cheriton, Hythe newspaper of April 14,1906 reported the Government was giving financial aid to all rifle clubs as announced by the Secretary of War.  

TUNBRIDGE WELLS TARGET SHOOTING CLUB

Today the Tunbridge Wells Target Shooting Club, also referred to at times as the Tunbridge Wells and St Peter’s Rifle Club, who have their shooting range at 116 Warwick Park, state on their website “We can trace our time in Tunbridge Wells back to 1903 and we are sure that the club was shooting in the late 1800s. We expect that one day the documents will come to light to confirm this. We have held the lease on our present site since 1952, prior to 1948 the ranges were privately owned by Abergavenny Estates and the club was originally based in the drill hall in Victoria Road (Image opposite). We have always been the sole residents here and this allows us the flexibility to fit in with the evolutionary changes that all sports go through from year to year. During the 2 world wars our ranges were used by the military for training and this hopefully will not need to be repeated!! We have always been able to accommodate most types of  small bore target shooting requirements. Having outdoor ranges as well as indoor gives us the opportunity to have mixed shooting on all days. Historically we have had membership numbers ranging from today’s around 70 to double that during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Our membership today has seen a welcome increase in juniors and we encourage this positively. The youngsters of today are our future for the sport. The club members have built all the facilities here today and are in the process of carrying out an extensive modernisation program for improving access and of all year round off road parking. We are currently adding another outdoor range which will accommodate standing rifle and black powder pistol. It will also be able to be used for field air gun shooting. The club has an area of woodland which we hope to utilise for holding HFT competitions. TWTSC is based at Warwick Park and is a few hundred yards away from Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club, 2nd  home of Kent County CC. Our club has been around as a shooting club since 1903 and still going strong. There are 2 indoor ranges and a 26 lane outdoor range as well as a new outdoor range in progress.”

Further information and photographs for this club can be found on their website.

THE PANTILES RIFLE CLUB 

From a review of local newspapers from 1890 to 1949 the earliest mention of this club, which operated in the Pantiles from the drill hall in the Corn Exchange building(image opposite), was the Kent & Sussex Courier of January 26,1906 when it was announced the first shooing competition of this club was being held on Tuesday at the Corn Exchange.

The Courier of October 23,1908 announced that the annual meeting of this club was to be held at the Corn Exchange in the Pantiles.

The Courier of May 14,1909 announced that a presentation of prizes for this club was to take place Wednesday evening at the Bull Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

The Courier of December 30,1910 reported on a shooting event by this club.

The Courier of September 18,1914 referred to Mr. F.J. Spencer who died age 38 at the Pantiles. He was employed in the Pantiles for several years by the firm of Messrs Siencer & Son and was a very popular gentleman in the town who had served as the Secretary of the Pantiles Rifle Club and was a prominent member of the Nevill Tennis Club.

As no references to this club were found after 1914 it appears that the club ended circa 1915. 
 
THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS LADIES RIFLE CLUB

The earliest reference to this club was found in the Courier of November 12,1909 when “Viscountess Hardinge fired the first shot”.

The Courier of August 5,1910 reported that “ the next ladies practice shoot will be held on Tuesday afternoon next at the St John’s Range (Mrs H. Jackson, superintendent)”.

It would appear that this club was short lived, however the current shooting club has both men and lady members.

THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS AND DISTRICT RIFLE CLUB

The earliest mention of this club ,sometimes given simply as “The Tunbridge Wells Rifle Club” appeared in the Courier of October 27,1905 when it was stated that “ a meeting of this club, which is the name given to the new organization, was held this week”. The Courier of July 7,1905  included a letter from the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells announcing the formation of a rifle club in the town.

Newspapers such as the courier of April 23,1920 still make reference to this club.

The Courier of October 28,1932 referred to the 13th annual meeting of this club that was held at the drill hall. Its president at that time (and since at least 1922) was W. Cripps, JP.

THE ST PETER’S RIFLE CLUB 

Shown opposite is a collection of bronze, silver and gold medals of this club dated 1984 recently offered for sale on ebay. Both the front and back of the medals are shown.

The earliest reference to the club was from the Courier of April 6,1906 when a shooting match was held between the St Peters and the St Johns clubs at the St Peters range.

The Courier of May 17,1907 when it was reported that “club members organized a most successful smoking concert at the Compasses on Monday”.

The Courier of January 17,1908 reported that Mr. Barclay Watson of the Woodlands in Camden Park was the president of the club.

The Courier of March 20,1908 reported that “a very successful smoking concert was put on by 30 members of the club at the Star Inn on Tuesday”.

The Courier of February 12,1909 reported “ Gift of Rife Range-Generosity of the late Mr Barclay Watson and his successors. St Peters Club looking for a site. General meeting of this club  held Friday evening at the St Peter’s Boys School”.

The Courier of October 15,1909 contained a financial report for the club by the president W.C. Cripps indicating that there was “an abverse balance”.

The Courier of December 26,1913 recorded that W.C. Cripps was still the president of the club.

Since W.C. Cripps is given as the president of the St Peters Rifle Club and the Tunbridge Wells and District Rifle club is appears that both clubs are one and the same with their correct name being “The Tunbridge Wells and St Peters Rife Club”.

THE ST JOHN’S & DISTRICT RIFLE CLUB

Sometimes referred to simply as the St John’s Rifle Club, the earliest reference to it was from the Sevenoaks Chronicle of July 15,1910 when it was announced “ Opening of new rifle range-St Johns and District Rifle Club”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of August 19,1910 reported that rife shooting took place at the St Johns Rifle Club range at the Bat and Ball (image opposite) Saturday for the miniature societies silver medal which was won by W. Norrington with S. Francis awarded the silver spoon”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of May 3,1912 reported that this club had a shooting match at the Bat and Ball range on Saturday.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of May 17,1912 reported that this club was to compete for the Judd Challenge Cup on Saturday the 18th.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of March 21,1913 reported on the annual meeting of this club held at the St John’s Parish Room where Rev. J.P. David presided.

It appears that this club ended circa 1915. 

 

 

CHILDRENS FASHIONS- THE SAILOR SUIT

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

Date: June 14,2019

A BRIEF HISTORY            

What is it about these nautical little suits that has kept them so popular for children and baby fashion in the UK?

The sailor suit adopted for Children was the very first trend for children that was adopted throughout the UK. Queen Victoria inspired the trend in 1846 when she dressed her little one, The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward on a family visit during a cruise off the Channel Islands that September, delighting his mother and the public. Albert was four years old at the time and the sailor outfit was frozen in time in an iconic portrait painted from the trip (Image opposite) by Winterhalter.

The features of Prince Edwards suit, which we will consider to be the first of it's kind for children, was inspired by the uniform worn by a regular sailor in the Royal Navy rather than the Navy Officers uniform. However, despite the debut of the suit worn by Albert, it's popularity did not begin to gain momentum until 15 years later. By the 1870s, the sailor suit had become normal dress for both boys and girls all over the world. A female version of the sailor suit, the sailor dress, was popularly known in early 20th century America as a Peter Thomson dress in the early 20th century after a naval tailor with outlets in New York and Philadelphia.

The following royal generation of boys were also dressed in sailor suits on occasion which helped to popularise the sailor suit. Eventually marketers began to push the sailor suit and mass production drove the cost down making it accessible across the classes. Better still, in the 1880s the Sailor suit was a popular fashion trend for girls as well as boys and most boys had worn a sailor suit at least a few times throughout their childhood, for some children, a sailor suit was almost all they wore! Photographs of children wearing a sailor suit suggest that children up to age 10 wore them as images of teenagers wearing them have not been found.

The trend did migrate across Europe and the designs were adapted to fit the Naval dress of the country, however almost all of them irrespective of country had a middy top, with either shorts, trousers or a skirt. They usually had patches sewn on showing birds, anchors and stars.

As the first popular trend in Children's fashion, it is believed to have stood the test of time for the simple fact that children and adults liked them. Children enjoyed the dress-up theme aspect and for parents they are extremely versatile, from formal occasions to the everyday as they evoke a sense of the past. In the beginning, the sailor suit outfit had an air of royalty about it whilst serving to break down the prominent class hierarchies. It's popularity infiltrated into the 2D world with famous cartoons such as Donald Duck and Popeye being testament to the popularity of the Sailor Suit.

Several websites provide additional information about this fashion trend. Shown above is a photograph taken in Tunbridge Wells at Agra House (a Dr Barnardos Home for children) in which a boy wearing a sailor’s suit can be seen.

SOME TUNBRIDGE WELLS IMAGES 

 


The first image shown to the left is from my family album and shows my grandfather Francis Reginald Gilbert (1882-1975) who was born in Tunbridge Wells where the photograph was taken. Beside this photograph is one of a pair of boys taken at the Tunbridge Wells studio of Samuel Payne Jenkins.







 




Shown here  are two CDV's by the noted Tunbridge Wells photographer H. P. Robinson taken at his Great Hall Studio on Mount Pleasant Road.

 

 

 

 

 

WILLIAM MOAT THE OPTICIAN

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

Date: June 12,2019

Wlliam John  Moat was born 1845 in Deal, Kent, one of several children born to William Moat (1821-1865)and Elizabeth Moat, nee Stedall (1819-1890).

In the years leading up to 1861 he lived with his parents and siblings in Deal and Walmer, Kent.

In 1861 he was living with his parents and five siblings in Sandwich,Kent where he was working as a boot lacer.

In the 1st qtr of 1869 William John Moat married Elizabeth Taylor (1846-1930).

By the time of the 1871 census he was living with his wife and one child and a cousin in Tunbridge Wells at Sion Cottage near Chapel Place where he worked as a watchmaker.

By the time of the 1881 census he and his wife and four children and one cousin were living at 32 Calverley Street, Tunbridge Wells where William was the proprietor of a watchmakers and jewellers shop.

By the time of the 1891 census William was living with his wife and five children and two boarders at 18 Monson Colonnade where William was a watchmaker employing others. Two of his children Arthur,age 19 and Herbert,age 15, both of whom had been born in Tunbridge Wells, were working for their father as watchmakers at the time of the 1891 census. By 1899 Arthur opened his own watchmakers shop at 109 Camden Road.

The 1901 census, taken at 18 Monson Colonnade (image above) gave William as an ophthalmic optician employing others. With him was his wife Elizabeth, his daughter Lillie and his son Frank James Moat who was working for his father as an opticians assistant. William was still at that location in 1903.

William John Moat died in Tunbridge Wells February 28,1908 but his business was continued by his son Frank James Moat (1883-1972) under his name. Frank had been born in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1883. Directories of 1913 to 1938 gave “William Moat, optician, 104 Calverley Road”. William’s wife Elizabeth died in Tunbridge Wells in 1930.

The 1911 census, taken at 104 Calverley Road gave Frank James Moat as an optician shopkeeper. Living with him was his wife Bess Moat, nee Cave (1885-1956) who he married in Tunbridge Wells in 1910 and with her had two children born in Tunbridge Wells, one in 1911 and the other in 1914. Shown opposite is an eyeglass case of W. Moat.

From at least 1939 to 1956 Frank James Moat lived at 166 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells. His occupation in 1939 was “optician and opthalmic dispensing”.

Later in his life Frank moved to Dartford,Kent where he died in 1972. He was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium January 14,1972.



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