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

Date: January 6,2019


Although a local police force was established in 1835 the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club was not formed until 1923.

It was recognized from the earliest time, but more so in the post WW1 era ,that physical fitness was an important part of working in the constabulary. As a result Police Athletic Clubs were formed throughout the UK in great abundance. Physical fitness within the force, which played such a great part not only in assisting police officers in their arduous street duties but also in boosting the morale of the Force was both encouraged and promoted and to this end members of the Force formed Athletic Clubs, which clubs engaged in local sporting activities. These Police Athletic Clubs were formed into leagues by county. County competitions were held as well as inter-county sporting events where prizes, cups and medals were awarded.

The Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club, like many others, was divided into sections, namely the Golf Section, Football Section, Shooting Section, Swimming Section; Cricket Section all of which were referred to in the Kent & Sussex Courier between March 22,1923 and January 32.1947 ,based on a review of newspaper reports covering the period of 1914 to 1949.

The local Police Athletic Club did not however confine itself to sporting events as noted by reports of an annual dance held at the Pump Room in support of the Police Athletic Club at which event music was provided by the Eastbourne Police Band in the middle to late 1920’s. These dances were very popular and helped to raise funds for the Police Athletic Club. Members of the local Police Force participated in many other local events and can be found in postcard views of the town during the Hospital Sunday Parade, Shopping Week Parade, and various other parades.

In this article I present a brief overview of the local Police Athletic Club and some information on the national scene as it pertains to “Police Sport” and other police clubs with whom the Tunbridge Wells club competed.


An excellent, and long, article by Brian Rollings can be found on the internet entitled “ The History of Police Sport” which is worth reading . The history was first published in printed form for the Annual General Meeting on 12 May 2003 in celebration of 75 years of Sporting activity within the Police Athletic Association.

The article concentrates on the National Police Athletic Association (now Police Sport UK) which Brian was a member of until retiring in 2003. He notes that this Association , was formed in 1928 but that Police Athletic Associations in the Uk date back to at least the late 19th century.  As noted in my introduction sport played an import role in physical fitness, important in the performance of work but also served to bond members of the Force in a sporting/social atmosphere.

The prime mover in the Associations formation was Mr Joseph Farndale, who, as Chief Constable of Bradford and President of the Bradford City Police Athletic Club, first approached the Home Office on January 14,1925. In his letter he referred to a speech given at Halifax by Major-General Atcherley CMG CVC, calling for an Annual Athletic Meeting for all British Police Forces. This speech had been enthusiastically discussed at a meeting of the Bradford City Police Athletic Association and on their behalf the suggestion was put forward to the Home Office by Mr Farndale, with the hopeful thought that the first Athletic Championships could be held that year. In fact, over three years were to go by before the first National Police Athletic Championships were held on  August 11,1928 at the Police Athletic Ground, Fairfield, Liverpool. There were over 300 entries for 18 sporting events, open to competitors from all of the Police Forces of England, Scotland and Wales. About 20 Forces were represented.


A building called the Calverley Market, next door to the Camden Inn on Calverley Road was leased by the Commissioners in 1846 and then completely taken over by the Town Commissioners and called the Town Hall in 1858-and remained the Town Hall after the town became a borough in 1889 and until the completion of the new Civic Centre in 1941.  The first of the new buildings to be constructed were the police station and assembly hall which were both opened in 1939, followed by the town hall in 1941.

The old police station was located at the rear of the old Town Hall and when the Civic Centre was constructed they had their own building. Shown below left is a postcard view of the Old Town Hall in which members of the local police can be seen and below right is a modern view of the Police Station and Court behind the Civic Centre.


In 1903 Charles Prior was the chief constable of the Police and at that time he had two inspectors, four sergeants and 49 constables. Charles Prior was still the chief constable in 1918.

By 1922 Captain Stanley Albert Hector was the Chief Constable, Capt. of the Fire Brigade etc. At that time of men of the Force included one Inspector;6 serjents;47 constables and one police woman (reserve).

In 1927 Guy Carlton became the Chief Constable, Captain of the Borough Fire Brigade and the Inspector of Hackney Carriages. He continued in this capacity until 1943. By 1939 the Force had about 100 constables. Shown above left is a photograph taken outside the Town Hall in 1941 in which Guy Carlton is shown and beside it is another photograph dated 1943 of The Auxiliaries.

Among the local Police Force were a number of men with notable athletic abilities, most notably in the areas of shooting, swimming, golf, cricket and football and for that reason the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club was formed in sections by the type of sport. Those in the local Force were encouraged, if not expected, to become members of  this athletic club.


From a review of local newspaper articles covering the period of 1914 to 1949 it was noted that the first reference to the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club was in the Courier of March 22,1923 in which the results of the “Shooting Section” of the club were announced. Among the names in the competition, which was held at the Drill Hall in Tonbridge were the PC’s Yeoman, Colling,Morgan,Robinson, Greer and others. The competition was between the Tonbridge Police Athletic Club and the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club.

It was noted that during WWII this club suspended activities as noted by the absence of references to it during the war years. No doubt many members of the Force signed up for military service.

Newspaper reports also noted from 1923 to 1947 that there other “Sections” in the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club, including those of Swimming, Golf, Cricket and Football.  It appears that the local force was blessed with many competent athletes in various forms of sport and as can be seen by the swimming medals presented below , they were quite successful. The first swimming medal is dated 1938 of which the front and back are shown. Below it is the front of a 1940 swimming medal. The hallmarks on the back are for Birmingham.  The Police swimming events held in Tunbridge Wells took place at the Monson Baths on Monson Road (image above). The foundation stone for this building was layed January 22,1897 and was completed in 1898. The Monson Baths continued in use until 1974.

Below are some sample articles from the Courier making reference to the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club.

The Courier of February 18,1927 reported that Captain Stanley Albert Hector was the President of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Athletic Club.

The Courier of February 25,1927 reported on a dance at the Pump Room (image opposite) “ organized by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Athletic Club with the music provided by the Eastbourne Borough Police Orchestra. The event was held as a fund raiser for the Police club. A similar article appeared in the Courier of November 25,1932 about “the annual dance at the Pump Room” organized by the same club “of which club Mr Guy Carlton is the president. Another article about this dance appeared in the Courier of February 27,1925 where the Eastbourne Police Band provided the music and Captain S.A. Hector was the President of the club. The public were encouraged to attend the dance to support the Police club. Another report on these dances was given in the Courier of January 26,1934.

The Courier of October 18,1929 reported on a cricket match played by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Athletic Club.

The Courier of November 22,1929 reported on match results at the Drill Hall on Wednesday of the Shooting Section of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club.

The Courier of February 21,1930 reported on the shooting section of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club competing against the Kent County Constabulary (Tonbridge Division) at the Drill Hall in Tonbridge.

The Courier of June 23,1931 reported on the “Football Section” of the club playing a match against the Tonbridge Police at Southborough.

The Courier of January 1,1932 reported on a fatal Staplehurst collision in which Mr Barnard, vice president of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club was killed. He had a medal for long service with the Force and also held a South Africa War Medal. He left a widow but no children. His funeral took place at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.

The Courier of February 3,1933 reported that “Inspector Hilton presided at the annual meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Athletic Club on Friday where reports were presented from the various sections”.

The Courier of January 13,1933 reported on the results of the shooting section match

The Courier of January 1,1934 reported on a match held at the Spa Golf Course by the Golf Section of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club on May 29th against the Hove Police who were in the Sussex League.

The Courier of February 23,1934 reported on the annual meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Athletic Club at the police station on Friday, at which meeting it was decided to “reform the Police Football Team”.

The Courier of January 11,1935 reported in the shooting section of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club who competed against the Tunbridge Wells Rife Club at the Drill Hall in Tunbridge Wells. A competition between them was also reported in the Courier January 30,1931.

The Courier of September 2,1938 reported on a family with five sons, all of whom are policemen and all of them are expert swimmers.

The Courier of August 18,1939 reported on the “Inter-County Swimming Championship Gala to be held September 9th. This Police Swimming Gala was held between members of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Force and the Hastings Police Force.

The Courier of December 8,1939 reported “A swimming gala for the services- A  successful afternoon swimming gala organized by the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Clug was held at the Monson Baths on Wednesday. Races-diving competitions and novelty events…”

In 1939 a new league was formed called the ‘Swimming League Business Houses” in which various businesses in Tunbridge Wells organized swimming teams. Some of the teams were the Courier . the post office and telephone employees; Raiswells. The Courier of June 16,1939 reported on the various competitions between the teams and noted that the Police team competed against Raiswells and also the Courier. The formation of this new league was referred to in the Courier of June 9,1939 which in part stated “ Swimming League inaugurated at a meeting at the Tunbridge Wells Monson Baths on Friday evening” which was named the Tunbridge Wells and District Business Houses Swimming League. The meeting was presided over by Mr. Roy Fountain.

The Courier of March 8,1946 reported on the death of Mr. G.F. Springate who for over 15 years was secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Police Athletic Club and also a first class swimmer. He represented Tunbridge Wells in the Sussex Police League. He left a widow and a family of six. Rev. E.G. Wells officiated at the funeral.

In 1947 reference began to appear in the Courier of “ The Police Sports and Social Club. The Courier of January 31,1947 reported that this club held its first dinner at the Police Station on Friday where the Mayor made a presentation. Shown above is a photograph from 1950 of a Children’s Christmas Party put on by the Police Athletic Club.

Shown above is a newspaper article regarding a Police swimming race in which PC Lloyd of Tunbridge Wells came first. The police dressed in their uniforms while swimming, a rather interesting idea and which no doubt made swimming difficult. The event was held in Ramsgate.



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

Date: December 15,2018


Tunbridge Wells has never been a town where statues appeared in abundance in public spaces.  Some of the grandest statuary is found as monuments in local cemeteries and in the grounds of private residences. Most of the oldest statues to be found were carved out of marble and other types of stone but later ones were cast in moulds as a cheaper alternative. The craft of stonemasonry is an ancient one ,but with the passage of time and changes in architectural and gardening tastes and styles, less and less statuary found its way into public spaces and private gardens.

Statuary is an important part of the street and park/garden landscape and it’s good to see that there is still and interest in it as evidenced by the recent installation of the Polar Bear statue in the Pantiles and some travelling sculptural installations of horses etc.

The statuary that is the central focus of this article are those which have been lost in the town,lost either by decay, vandalism, destruction  or outright theft.  The first of these is the bronze figure of Mercury (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Hermes) which was installed on the dome of the Opera House that opened in 1902 but went “missing”. It reportedly had suffered from weathering and removed for safety reasons in or before 1926. It was put into storage and any plans to restore it and reinstall it never reached fruition and after many years in storage “went missing”.

The second, and to me the saddest loss, is the bronze statue of children  that was installed in the Children’s Memorial Garden in the grounds of the Kent & Sussex Crematorium. This statue was installed in 2006 and removed by thieves in 2014 never to be seen again, much to the dismay of mothers who had lost a child.

The next group of twelve statues/stone figures lost and never to be seen again were all located at the former grand mansion ‘Dunorlan’ of Henry Reed who erected this fine home in 1862 on several acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Part of the elaborate landscape scheme,by noted landscape designer Robert Marnock for Henry Reed, included a Grecian Temple  with a statue of the ‘Lady of the Lake’ inside,which statue went “missing” circa 1951 and was replaced by a statue called ‘The Dancing Girl’ which had been donated to the town by Alderman Robert Burslem (of the well- known local Burslem stonemason company) in 1951 and was in turn stolen by thieves in 2006,never to be seen again. 

Another element of Marnock’s  landscape scheme was a fine water fountain around the edge of which were four figures spraying water into the base of the fountain through a trumpet. The fountain over the years had decayed and recently was restored. Some of the original figures on the fountain that had broken off were saved and now form part of the collection of the local museum. During WWII Dunorlan was requisitioned by the army for the war effort who’s men had no regard for the fine statuary and figures in the grounds and some of the damage to the fountain can be attributed to them. The four trumpet figures spouting water into the fountain base were destroyed when they were used for target practice during the war. Their remains were “removed” at some point in time after the war and were never replaced with replicas when the fountain was restored.

The last group of lost statues at Dunorlan (which can be seen in early photographs) was a group of six statues installed at intervals in the avenue of trees extending from the Grecian Temple down to the fountain.  These were reported to have been used during WWII for target practice and damaged (presumably beyond repair) and removed. English Heritage reported that today all that remains of them are five of the six plinths they stood on. These would have been Impressive statues, perhaps of marble, and most likely of Greek influence in design.

No doubt there are some residents in the town who have reported the theft of statuary from their gardens . The fine statues installed in local cemeteries, like all stonework, has deteriorated with the passage of time and in most cases relatives of the deceased have not had then restored. Also, vandalism in cemeteries has always been a problem and some of these fine figures have been knocked over and or destroyed by vandals, never to be restored/replaced.


The foundation stone for the towns Opera House was laid at a ceremony in 1901. The building designed by architect John Priestly Biggs and constructed by local builder John Jarvis opened in October 1902.

The architects early design drawings had called for a perpetual flame for the top of  the main dome but this was not persued and instead a fine bronze statue of Mercury was agreed upon.  It is claimed by some that “many residents however were not happy with this change in design (they were claimed to think its nude figure was sinful) and in 1920’s the Mercury figure was removed”. A search of newspaper reports  from 1901 to 1940 about any complaints by the public of the statue or for that matter its removal from the top of the dome did not produce any results. If there had been a public outroar about it such concerns would most likely have been reported on in the media. A more likely scenario is that sometime in the 1920’s the figure of Mercury (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Hermes) was removed due it decay by weathering and concerns about it falling from its lofty perch.

Mercury was selected as the preferred figure since Mercury is a winged messenger and regarded as one of the most popular gods in Britain and regarded as the inventor of the arts.

Ian Beavis of the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery does not know what happened to the statue after its removal except to say that it was “removed during the 1920’s for reasons that remain obscure”. It was stored until 1968 in the basement of the Opera House. What happened to it after that date is unknown and a search for it in the 1980's failed to find it. Rumours were that it ended up decorating someone’s garden and to date it has not been located, if in fact it still exists.

Who made the statue was not determined and newspaper accounts from the early 1900’s, which gave details about the buildings design, made no mention of its maker, but referred to it as having been part of the buildings construction 1901/1902. A search of any references to the statue up to 1948 did not solve the mystery about what happened to it. Shown in this section are some postcard views of the Opera House showing the statue of Mercury.  Shown above is a view of the Opera House in a postcard franked in the fall of 1924 showing the statue in place and below it is a postcard by Harold H. Camburn showing the Opera House without the statue that was franked August 1,1926.

No examples of postcard views  (with franking) showing the statue after 1924 were found, but that does not mean that none exist. It was surprising that no report of the removal of the statue appeared in the newspaper, given its significance, but perhaps this strengthens the argument that it was removed during regular maintenance and repair of the building .

Further details about the history of the Opera House was given in my article ‘ The Opera House-88 Mount Pleasant Road’ dated February 7,2012.


The website of ‘Tunbridge Wells Sands’ reported in 2006 “ Tunbridge Wells Sands members are proud to have facilitated the construction of the beautiful Babies’ and Children’s Memorial Garden  in the grounds of the Kent and Sussex Crematorium in Tunbridge Wells. It is our hope that the Garden will provide a place of peace, comfort and hope to all those affected by the loss of a much-loved baby of child. The Garden was designed by Sands member, Panetta Horn, and was built cooperatively with the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and the Kent and Sussex Crematorium. Three years of intense fundraising by Tunbridge Wells Sands culminated in the 2006 official opening by Gloria Hunniford.” The article continues with further information about the garden and continues with “ The centerpiece of the Garden is the bespoke sculpture of two children playing together created by local artist , Mr. Ev Meynell. The words of the poem ‘The Mention of My Child’s Name’ are inscribed around the walls…..”

An article dated May 18,2014 entitled ‘ Mother’s sadness over stolen Tunbridge Wells statue’ stated in part that the 10,000 pound bronze artwork was taken from the memorial garden at the Kent and Sussex Crematorium and that it had been donated by the Stillbirth and Neo-Natal Death Society which supports bereaved parents and families. Louise Ellis, who visits the garden to remember her daughter Joanna stated “ the garden felt empty without the statue”…It’s hearbreaking to see it gone-we’re all extremely upset”.  No doubt other mothers were also disgusted and sad about the loss of this important feature in the garden.  Louise added “ It’s such a special place and the thieves that stole it must know that”.  So much for the morals of some people!

Newspaper reports stated that the statue was stolen sometime between May 1 and May 4,2014 and has never been seen again.

Ev Meynell the artist who created the statue revels in interpreting the human form  and wildlife in such a way that he is without doubt the most sought after sculpture in Guernsey Island. He was born 1950 in Sussex  into a family with a deep affinity for literature and the Arts. Further details about him and his career can be found on the internet.


As noted in the introduction there were three related locations in which statuary has gone missing. The first is at the fountain; the second is the Grecian Temple and the third is a group of six statues located in the avenue of trees running from the Grecian Temple down to the fountain. Whether there were ever any other statues on this site was not established and if there were any then no information about them was found.  All of these features formed part of an elaborate landscape plan by Robert Marnock, one of the leading designers of his day.  This work he did for the properties owner Henry Reed who built his mansion ‘Dunorlan in 1862 but who left it in 1870. The history of Dunorlan can be found in my article ‘ A Retrospective View of Dunorlan Park’ dated December 28,2011. Information about Robert Marnock  can be found in my article ‘ Robert Marnock (1800-1889) Horticulturalist and Garden Designer’ dated Mary 18,2011. His last public commission was the Grosvenor Recreation Ground, Tunbridge Wells which was  opened in 1889 by Mayor John Stone-Wigg.


The  fountain dates back to 1862 and still exists although it had deteriorated over the years and was shot at for target practice during WWII. When constructed, as can be seen by the image opposite, it had upon the perimeter of the basin four figures blowing trumpets from which water sprayed into the fountain basin.  In 2004 the Grade II listed fountain was restored although some of the original pieces of it were too damaged to be saved and restored and are now squirrelled away at the Museum. An English Heritage report of 1999 refers to them as “four charubs or tritons blowing shell trumpets” and that they were made by James Pulham (1820-1898) as part of the entire fountain. Shown below left  is a photo circa 1905 showing these figures and below right is a postcard view of the fountain missing the figures taken post WW2.  The Gardener’s Journal of October 22,1881 refers to “four figures with trumpets”.

These four figures are believed to have been damaged or destroyed during WWII when Dunorlan was taken over by the military and used for target practice. Images the fountain after WWII do not show the presence of these four figures and nobody knows what happened to them. No doubt  they were removed during the 20th century and discarded. 


From the previously reference article of mine about Dunorlan Park I wrote “ The Dancing Girl is a statue that stood in the temple.It was gifted to the town by Alderman R.D. Burslem in 1951 for the enjoyment of the park. Designed by William Theed,a renouned Victorian Sculptor,it has always been a favourite feature among visitors and is reportedly worth 50,000 pounds. Its no wonder it was stolen from the park October 23,2006.A reward of 1,500 pounds was offered for its safe return. As of December 2018 it has not been returned and its whereabouts was a mystery. Diana Lamb of the Friends of Dunorlan has speculated that it was probably shipped out of the country. Diana also mentioned that the original statue ,which she believed was a figure of a lady with a dog,was put into storage during the war but was never found again.” An image of the Dancing Girl statue stolen in 2006 is shown above.

Diana Lamb’s statement about the ‘Dancing Girl’ not being the original statue in the Greek Temple is supported from an account by Claude Hitching (Aug. 20,2015) about Halton House ,which was built between 1880 and 1883 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.  Pulham (James Pulham 1820-1898) who was also the creator of the original fountain in Dunorlan, was also responsible  for work in the grounds of Halton House. The author stated “ The statue in the centre of the Winter Gardens is a copy of the ‘Dancing Girl’ after a statue by Antonio Canova, reference  to which has already been made in the notes about the summerhouse (Grecian Temple) at Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells and discussed in ‘ Rock Landscapes Chapter 5’. According to my references, that copy of the statue was erected by William Tweed in 1885, although it did not arrive in Dunorlan Park until 1951, when it replaced the original statue of the ‘Lady of the Lake’. Could this be the same statue? The dater of 1885 would be just right, so maybe it was removed from Halton House when the winter gardens were demolished in 19346, and held in store somewhere until Alferman Burslem came into possession of it in 1951 and donated it to the town. If one looks on the internet you can see several versions of the statues called the “Dancing Girl’ including the one shown opposite left by Calder Marshall which image, like the Dunorlan statue, is holding a tamboureen. Also several versions of the ‘Lady of the Lake’ can be found and shown opposite right is one version.

Councillor/Alderman R.D. Burslem is from the family of well- known local stonemasons etc ‘ A. Burslem & Son’. When the Dancing Girl statue was stolen in 2016 the director Mr A. Burslem stated that in his opinion ‘ the statue may have been stolen to order”.  A reward of 1,500 pounds was offered for information about the theft but to date the reward has not been claimed. The site was of course examined by police and they noticed that tire marks up to the temple had been left by the bold thieves and that they had removed a window in the temple to gain access to it. The statue was about five feet tall and weighted several hundred pounds and its removal would certainly require a truck and several men to take it.


When the grounds of Dunorlan were laid out an avenue of trees was planted which stretched from the Grecian Temple down to the location of a fabulous fountain. Although the Temple and fountain still exist the statuary among the avenue of trees do not and in fact the original trees  of cedars and Douglas Fir were replaced in 2004 with an avenue of 48 cedars.  An image showing the avenue of original trees and the statues within it is shown above in the section about the fountain as well in the postcard view opposite by James Richards, which is the only image found to date showing a closeup view of two of the statues. The image to the left was taken Pre WW2 and shows the fountain and the avenue of trees.

English heritage records in their listings that all that exists of these statues are five of the six plinths they once stood on. It is known , or speculated ,that they were damaged or destroyed by the military when used for target practice during WWII. No definitive information was found about them in any accounts or newspaper reports. From the image one can see that the figures of the statues were draped in garments and fashioned in the Greek style. Who they portrayed is not known, nor is the name of the sculptor who made them.


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

Date: December 12,2018


Railway station clocks are used to provide a standard indication of time to both passengers and railway staff and each railway station often had several clocks which were located in a clock tower, in the booking hall or office, on the concourse, inside a train shed, on or facing the station platforms, or elsewhere. Accurate time was of course essential to the safe and efficient operation of any railway.

The clocks themselves were produced by a number of manufacturers and varied in both style and size with those mounted on a clock tower being the largest, as they were intended to be visible to the public from some distance from the station. The clock towers , because of their height and size, often dominated the street scene and even if the time could not be read the tower itself was often visible for a few miles depending on the topography of the area, much the same way as church towers reached up to the heavens.

Railway time was the standardised time arrangement first applied by the Great Western Railway in England in November 1840, the first recorded occasion when different local times were synchronised and a single standard time applied. Railway time was progressively taken up by all railway companies in Great Britain over the following two to three years. The schedules by which trains were organised and the times station clocks displayed was brought in line with the local time for London or "London Time", the time set at Greenwich by the Royal Observatory, which was already widely known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The development of railway networks in North America in Europe prompted the introduction of standard time influenced by geography, industrial development and political governance.

The key purpose behind introducing railway time was twofold: to overcome the confusion caused by having non-uniform local times in each town and station stop along the expanding railway network and to reduce the incidence of accidents and near misses, which were becoming more frequent as the number of train journeys increased.

The railway companies sometimes faced concerted resistance from local people who refused to adjust their public clocks to bring them into line with London Time. As a consequence two different times would be displayed in the town and in use, with the station clocks and the times published in train timetables differing by several minutes from that on other clocks. Despite this early reluctance, railway time rapidly became adopted as the default time across the whole of Great Britain, although it took until 1880 for the government to legislate on the establishment of a single Standard Time and a single time zone for the country.

In the 1840’s, when the Central Station in Tunbridge Wells was built, not everyone had a clock in their home. Long case clocks, mantle clocks, wall clocks etc for the home were expensive and not everyone could afford one.  If out and about travellers relied on telling the time with a carriage clock. The wrist watch did not become available or popular until WW1, and so with these limitations on telling the time public clocks like those on the exterior of railway stations, churches and other public buildings served a very useful purpose. With the passage of time, and certainly in the modern era, public clocks have become less important  but their retention has added to the historic character of the buildings they were installed on and the general historic look of the community.

The central focus of this article is the clock and clock tower of the Central Station located on the west side of Mount Pleasant Road  just north of Grove Hill Road, which station was erected by the South Eastern Railway (SER)in 1846. Two images above show what this clock tower looked like in the years leading up to its replacement in 1912.


In 1845 the SER received Parliamentary approval for the construction of a line to Hastings via Tunbridge Wells. Construction began in 1845 of a double-track line to Tunbridge Wells. The line initially terminated at a temporary station known variously as “The Jackwood Springs Station” or “The Goods Station”, the namesake of Goods Station Road in the town. Service from the north to the Goods Station opened on September 10,1845. The next half a mile of track from the Goods Station to the proposed location of the Central Station on Mount Pleasant Road took over a year to complete as a tunnel beneath the town of some 823 yards in length had to be constructed. Completion of this work was achieved in November 1846 with services to the Central Station commencing November 25,1846. The remaining 27-1/4 miles of track to Hastings was completed in a period of just over five years with service finally commencing on February 1,1852.

The track bed emerged from the tunnel below street level on Mount Pleasant Road and just past the tunnel entrance was constructed the up and down platforms. The train station itself was two structures, on located at street level on Mount Pleasant Road and the other at track level on Vale Road with a connection between them by an elevated walkway.  The station was constructed on a site formerly occupied by a brewery (Bell’s Brewery) and other buildings which were demolished to permit the stations construction. Not far from the station heading south , after passing under the High Street bridge,the track once again entered a tunnel before finally emerging at ground level or in a cutting once past the built up part of the town.

The station on the “up” side was provided with an impressive two-storey station building of stone and red brick construction. Initially there was no “down” platform side for passengers, but the SER later corrected this situation by building an additional platform and more imposing buildings there, which most probably came into use with the extension of the line to Hastings in 1852. An integral part of the construction of train station was a clock tower on the station building at street level on Mount Pleasant Road, a tower that initially was about 28 feet in height. Shown above is the original clock tower of the station, taken sometime before 1912 by the local photographer Percy Squire Lankester who at the time had his studio just up Mount Pleasant Road  from the train station in the north wing of the Great Hall. The postcard view below is by the local firm of Photochrom and  franked 1907.

The South Eastern Railway ran this line and station from 1846 to 1898 and then by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SECR)from 1899 to 1922. In 1923 amalgamation of railway lines saw the line run by the Southern Railway from 1923 to 1947 and went by various names after that time.  In 1923 the station on Mount Pleasant Road became known as the”Central Station” to differentiate it from the “West” station of the former London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) station that had opened in Tunbridge Wells on October 1.1866 (closed July 6,1985).

In 1911 major structural changes were made to the Central Station with the ‘down’ buildings  installed by the SER being demolished and replaced by equally imposing and impressive red brick designs by architect A.H. Blomfield. The original SER canopy on the ‘down’side was retained but the footbridge linking the two buildings was modernized when this roofed lattice structure received further protection when it received glazing and the lattice pattern covered over. Of most importance, in connection with this work was the rebuilding of the clock tower, which work was reported  in the Courier of November 15,1912  by way of the image shown by local photographer Percy Squire Lankester. Strangely no detailed account of the construction of the tower was given in the Courier on that date with just the photograph with caption published . A Heritage report dated August 2016 reported “ In 1911-1912 the station buildings on the down platform were replaced with a new ticket office and clock tower designed by Alfred W. Blomfield, the South Eastern and Chatham Railway’s in house architect”.

Shown below left  is a LL postcard showing a view of the Central Station building accessed off Vale Road taken after 1912 in which can be seen a partial view of the new clock tower in the background, extending above street level on Mount Pleasant Road some 38 feet having been extended some 10 feet higher that originally built.   Shown below right is a postcard view of the new tower looking north up Mount Pleasant Road by local photographer Harold H. Camburn.

Apart from regular maintenance the clock tower remains today much as it did when built and is an iconic feature in the street scene.


Shown in this section are some close up views of the clock as it appears today and one view taken from a distance of the station building with the clock tower.

Who made the clock of 1846 was not established but it was most likely by a clock maker in London, of which there were many at that time.

An examination and comparison of images of the clock from the pre 1912 and post 1912 period do not show any evidence of a makers name on the clock face and the since the size, style, dials, numbering etc of the clock from these images appears to be the same, it suggests that the clock in the tower today is the same one installed in 1846. The clock of course will have undergone cleaning, maintenance and repair over the years.

In 1846 Tunbridge Wells was not served by electricity and the only lighting of the station and the streets was by gas light. As a consequence the clock face itself was not illuminated  with the only lighting to read the time being afforded by street lighting, shop lighting and the later installation of electric lights on the exterior of the building facing up to the clock face.

Details of the operation of this clock are beyond the scope of this article but a number of websites can be found providing information in this regard as well as a number of sketches and photographs of the mechanism contained within the clock tower to run and regulate the clock.



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

Date: December 16,2018


John Thomas Betts (1809-1894) was the eldest son of wealthy London  solicitor/distiller John Thomas Betts (1784-1847) and his wife Sarah Betts, nee Smith (1784-1855). He was one of eight children in the family ( four sons and three daughters born between 1809 and 1821).

The Betts family were Quakers and were originally from Frenze,Norfolk and it was there on October 28,1806 that John Thomas Betts senior married Sarah Smith. All of their children were baptised there but most if not all of them were baptised again in London, including John Thomas Betts junior who ,from the records of the Quakers, was baptised at the City Road Independent Tabernacle at St Luke, London October 4,1814. John Thomas Betts senior was one of several children born to John Betts (1759-1784) and Arabella Betts, nee Kemp (1764-1849) and was trained as a solicitor although he spent most of his life working in the distillery business.

John Thomas Betts senior and his family moved to London in the first quarter of the 1800’s and it was there that John Thomas Betts started up a distillery business, under the name of John T. Betts and Company,  a business that his eldest son John Thomas Betts took over and ran for a time until his brothers took over and then subsequently devoted his life to that of a translator of publications in foreign languages.  

The distillery of John Thomas Betts had changed locations over the years but is mostly recorded in directories of the 1830’s and 1840’s at Smithfield Bars  7 St John Street in Clapham, London but also had premises on Warf  Road. He was listing in directories as a rectifying distiller, and a wine and brandy merchant.  The business was very successful and was passed along to his sons to run after his death in late May 1847although in 1824 he had gone bankrupt.  John Thomas Betts and his family lived in a grand residence called ‘ Broomfield’ which he had bought a freehold interest in from John Deacon in 1834. His widow continued to live there after his death until 1851 when in that year she sold the home to Charles Forbes who renamed it ‘Broomwood’.

Turning now to the central figure in this article namely John Thomas Betts (1809-1894) he was born July 7,1809  and lived with his parents in Frenze, Norfolk and later in London. He received his early education in both places and like his father decided to become a barrister. He was an undergraduate at Corpus Christi College,Oxford. On October 25,1827 in London he was articled as an attorney at law and solicitor in Chancery with James Robinson for a period of five years. He was a student of Lincoln’s Inn in 1832 and was called to the bar in May 1843. He is found listed in the records of the Old Bailey in a number of cases.

In the 4th qtr of 1843,at Wandsworth, London, John married Maria Sturt (1822-1916) who had been born in Clapham,Surrey. She was one of nine children born to Henry Sturt (1793-1872) and Ann Sturt, nee Barnard born 1794. She lived with her parents and siblings in Clapham up to the time of her marriage. Her father at the time of the 1841 census, taken at Wandsworth, London, was a Lieutenant in the army.  John and Maria never had any children.  Maria died in Pembury in 1916 while living at their residence ‘Sunnyside’ on the Green, known today as 5 Gates House on Lower Green Road.

At the time of the 1851 census John was living at Spring Well Cottage in Surrey where his occupation was given as “barrister at law not in practice and distiller”. He was listed as married but his wife was not with him and the only other people residing there were three domestic servants.

At the time of the 1861 census John and Maria  along with four visitors and three servants were living at Welwyn, Hertfordshire where John was a barrister not in practice. Sometime before 1871 the John and his wife moved to Pembury Kent.

The 1871 census, taken at Upper Green, Pembury gave John as a barrister not in practice. With him was his wife Maria, one visitor and four servants.

The 1881 census taken on Maidstone Road, Upper Green, Pembury gave John as a barrister not in practice. With him was his wife Maria and four domestic servants. The same information was given in the 1891 census.

Probate records gave John Thomas Betts of ‘Sunnyside’ Pembury when he died June 15,1894. His headstone which bears his name and that of his wife Maria is located in the grounds of the Pembury Baptist Church at 1 Romford Road.  There is a plaque to him in this church, having  been a great supporter of it.

As a translater John Thomas Betts is found as the author of various books and is mentioned in several books by other authors. A dedication to John as well as his wife Maria is found on occasion in other books.  John  was mentioned in connection with  Samuel Morton Petro and the Baptist Church in the Pembury Village News of Summer 2013. A photograph of John Thomas Betts (1809-1894) is shown above from the book ‘A Memoir of John T. Betts of Pembury’ by Letitia Jennings published in 1895, which book in part describes information  from John’s diary covering the period of 1838-1841 when he travelled in Germany and Italy.


I begin the information about the life and times of John Thomas Betts (1809-1894) with information about his parents and siblings and in the next section further details about  him are given.  The Betts family were Quakers.

John Thomas Betts was born 1784 in Frenze,Norfolk and was one of at least two children born to John Betts(1759-1784) a solicitor and Arabella Betts, nee Kemp (1764-1849). John also had eleven half siblings with the surname of Doggett who were born between 1789 and 1806. His sister Harriett Jane Betts, born in 1784 died at age 3 in 1787 in Norfolk. In the 1790’s and early 1800’s John and his family lived in Winfarthing, Norfolk.

On October 28,1806 at Frenze. Norfolk John Thomas Betts married Sarah Smith (1784-1855) and with her had the following children (1) John Thomas Betts (1808-1894) (2) William Betts (1810-1889) (3) James Betts (1812-1847) (4) David Betts (1814-1858) (5) Sarah Betts (1818-1821) (6) Esther Betts (1819-1873) (7) Sarah Ann Betts (1821-1893). All of the children were born in Frenze Norfolk  and were baptised there and some were also baptised in London for a second time. The marriage record noted that John was a bachelor of the parish of Winfarthing, Norfolk and that Sarah was a spinster of the same parish and that she was the daughter of Hammond Smith (1753-1816) and Sarah Smith, nee Green (1759-1832). Her marriage was witnessed by her brother John Smith.

The records of the Freemasons noted that John Thomas Betts was a distiller when he was admitted into The Strong Man Lodge in 1814 and that he was born 1783 rather than 1784 which is was given in his death record and other references.

John Thomas Betts was educated and trained as a solicitor and apart from a brief time in his life as a solicitor he went into the distillery business in London operating under the name of John T. Betts and Company. Freedom of the City records note that John Thomas Betts was admitted July 1,1817 into the Company of Distillers. 

The London Gazette of 1817 announced that  a “commission of bankrupts awarded and issued forth against John Thomas Betts of Honduras Street Old Street County of Middlesex, rectifying distiller, dealer and chapman”. The National Archives has a document  listed as “ In the matter of John Thomas Betts late of Upper East Smithfield Middlesex but now of Temple Place, Blackfriars Road, Surrey, rectifying distiller, wine and brandy merchant (dealer and chapman), bankrupt. Date of commission of discharge April 17,1824”.

John Thomas Betts and his family lived in a grand residence called ‘ Broomfield’ which he had bought a freehold interest in from John Deacon (a retired Scots soldier)in 1834. His widow continued to live there after his death in 1847 until 1851 when in that year she sold the home to Charles Forbes who renamed it ‘Broomwood’. Shown above and below are images of this home. The one below refers to a date of the home of 1797 which may be the date it was constructed. Further details about the history of this residence can be found on the internet.  John is listed at this residence under the name of “Broomfield House, Battersea, London” a barrister in directories of 1835 and 1837. This fine home was demolished in 1904.

Directories of London record the premises of the distillery at 7 St John Road, Smithfield Bars.  Advertisments for the business were found during the 1830’s in a number of publications such as The True Sun of January 6,1836 and September 26,1831. The Westminster Review of 1844 contains two advertisments for Betts Nassau Seltzers and Betts Patent Brandy with his business premises given as 7 Smithfield Bars. Other advertisments note that he was also a distiller of gin.

Patent records show that John Thomas Betts and his sons held a number of patents pertaining to distilling and bottling. The Mechanics Magazine of 1836 for example reported on a patent to John Thomas Betts “for improvements in the process of preparing spirituous liquors in the making of brandy”. Newton’s London Journal of Arts and Science of 1845 reported on “a patent to William Betts of Smithfield Bars, London, distiller and Alexander Southward, Stocker, of the same place, for improvements in bottles, jars,pots and other similar vessels and in the mode of manufacturing, stoppering and the covering of the same” which patent was sealed January 22,1845.

The Spectator of 1846 reported on “the late firm of J.T. Betts and Company and that John Thomas Betts was succeeded in the business by his sons and that the company name is now J.T. Betts jun and Co.” which refers to his son John Thomas Betts (1809-1894). An indication that the company continued for some years  is given in the Mechanics Magazine of 1856 where “an application for prolongation of patents by John Thomas Betts, William Betts, James Betts and David Betts of Smithfield Bars and Wharf Road, distillers etc” which continues by listing three patents of 1842.  The name of the company is still found in directories up to at least 1863. When the business ended was not established.

John Thomas Betts senior died in London in late May 1847 at Wandsworth, London and was buried at Islington, London May 29,1847. The Non -Conformist Register listed John Thomas Betts born 1784 ; buried May 29,1847 at Bunhill Fields burial ground, City Road age 63 of Broomfield House, Clapham, Battersea Parish”. Probate records for him dated July 16,1847 can be found online and refers to him as being of Broomfield House and of Smithfield Bars,London, a distiller.


John Thomas Betts was the eldest son of John Thomas Betts (1784-1847) and was born July 9,1809.  Census records all give his place of birth as “London”. A photograph of him from a book was given in the ‘Overview’ above.

John had been baptised twice, the first on October 4,1814 at the City Road Tabernacle Independent  St Luke at Finsby,London (image opposite) and for a second time on October 19,1830 at Frenze,Norfolk. Several of his siblings were also baptised twice at the same churches .

John received his early education in Frenze,Norfolk but by 1814 the family had moved to London where he completed his education.

University records show that John was “an undergraduate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; a student of Lincoln’s Inn November 5,1832 (then aged 22); called to the bar May 4,1843; the eldest son of John Thomas Betts, a distiller of London”.

From his Articles of Clerkship it was recorded that “ John Thomas Betts,the son of John Thomas Betts, a distiller of Smithfields, London,” was to serve as an attorney of law and solicitor in Chancery for a period of five years from October 25,1827 with James Robinson, attorney.

The records of court cases of the Old Bailey make reference to John acting as a barrister in various cases in the early 1800’s but as the eldest son he also became actively involved in his father’s distillery business and at times he is given in records as both a barrister and  distiller. It is known from census records and patent records that by 1851 John’s brothers were running the distillery and John’s occupation was given as “ barrister not in practice” having devoted much of his life as a translater and author of various books.

From the records of the Quakers the marriage between John Thomas Betts and Maria Sturt took place in Wandsworth, London in 1843. Maria Sturt (1822-1916) had been born in Clapham, Surrey and died in Pembury Kent on May 17,1916. She was one of nine children born to Henry Sturt (1793-1872) and Ann Sturt, nee Barnard, born 1794. She was living with her parents and siblings in Clapham up to the time of her marriage to John.  Quaker birth records gave Maria Sturt born July 30,1822 at Westminster with parents of Henry and Ann Sturt.

At the time of the 1851 census John was living at Spring Well Cottage in Surrey where his occupation was given as “barrister at law not in practice and distiller”. He was listed as married but his wife was not with him and the only other people residing there were three domestic servants.

At the time of the 1861 census John and Maria  along with four visitors and three servants were living at Welwyn, Hertfordshire where John was a barrister not in practice. Sometime before 1871 the John and his wife moved to Pembury Kent.

The 1871 census, taken at Upper Green, Pembury gave John as a barrister not in practice. With him was his wife Maria, one visitor and four servants.

The 1881 census taken on Maidstone Road, Upper Green, Pembury gave John as a barrister not in practice. With him was his wife Maria and four domestic servants. The same information was given in the 1891 census. The 1901 census gave Maria at ‘Sunnyside’, Pembury, as a lady of independent means. With her were three domestic servants.

Probate records gave John Thomas Betts of ‘Sunnyside’ Pembury when he died June 15,1894. His headstone which bears his name and that of his wife Maria is located in the grounds of the Pembury Baptist Church at 1 Romford Road.  There is a plaque to him in this church, having  been a great supporter of it. His estate was valued at 9,399 pounds with his widow named as his executor.

A book entitled ‘Spanish Reformers of Two Centuries from 1578’ published in 1874 stated that John Thomas Betts was a translater of Valdes Hundred and Ten Considerations and of Constantine’s Confessions of a Sinner”. This book was dedicated to John and to his wife Maria Betts “who both caused this work to be undertaken, and zealously promoted its execution and publication. This dedication was by Dr. Boeamer, professor of Roman Languages with the University of Strassbury.  John was found referred to in a number books as a translater. The book ‘ A Memoir of John T. Betts (1809-1894) of Pembury’ of 145 pages was by Letitia Jennings and dated 1895. An image of the title page from this book is given opposite and the photo of him given in the ‘Overview’ was from this book.  This book provides extracts from the diary of John Thomas Betts for the period of July 1838 to August 1841 when he travelled in Germany and Italy and notes the places and people he saw; his reading and his literary and musical interests.

The 1911 census, taken at Sunnyside, Upper Green, Pembury gave Maria Betts as a widow . With her in this residence of 12 rooms was her niece Ada Meyer,a single lady aged 60 born in Clapham, and two domestic servants. The census recorded that Maria and her husband never had any children.

Shown below left is a photograph of the headstone of John Thomas Betts and his wife Maria, which is located at the Pembury Baptist Church ,1 Romford Road. Shown below right is a photograph of the church.

Probate records for Maria Betts gave her of Sunnyside, Pembury, a widow,who died May 17,1916. The executors of her 4,924 pound estate were her niece Ada Meyer, spinster, and Howard Hawkins,gentleman. She was buried in the same cemetery as her husband and her name appears on the headstone of her husband. Her age on the headstone at the time of her death was given as “ in the 94th year of her age”.

The Pembury Village News of Summer 2013 gave an article entitled ‘ Baptist, Philanthropist And Entrepreneur’ about  Samuel Morton Peto who was born August 4,1809 in Woking and was buried at Pembury Old Church.  In part the article reports that Samuel and his second wife Sarah Kelsall (who he married in July 1843) retired to Blackhurst, Halls Hole Road, Tunbridge Wells and “ Desite being a Baptist, for person reasons he chose to attend Mount Pleasant Congregational Church. He was a friend of John Thomas Betts, a wealthy translator who lived at ‘Sunnyside’ on the Green in Pembury. The house is now known as No. 5 Gates House. Betts was a member of the Pembury Free Church and he invited Peto to become a Trustee in 1885. A new Church was needed as the old one showed signs of decay, and the roof eventually collapsed. Peto gave 50 pounds to the building fund and secured many donations. G& F Penn, local builders were appointed constructors and the new Church opened on 19th July 1887”…….”There are brass plaques to Peto and John T. Betts in the Baptist Church, where the latter is buried in the small graveyard”.

Shown above is a  photograph of the Betts home as 5 Gates House, a name which appears on the gated entrance. I wish to thank Tony Nicholls for taking and sending me this and other photographs of the house.

On the Pembury History website one can find mention of the name Betts in connection with businesses from the 1960s’ onwards at 1323 Henwood Green,Church Road and 2 High Street but it was not established by the researcher if any of the proprietors of these shops are related in any way with the Betts family that is the subject of this article.



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