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

Date: February 14,2019


Described as ‘man’s best friend’ dogs have played an important part in our lives as pets, protectors and working dogs. They were bred for specific roles by breeders throughout England who tended to specialize in specific breeds. Dog fanciers bought or bred their own dogs to show at dog shows hoping for notoriety and recognition bestowed upon them for their prize winning entries.

The first modern dog show was held June 28-29,1859  in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and was an added attraction to the annual cattle show. The first show to include non-sporting breeds was held in Birmingham later in 1859 and was such a success that a year later, the Birmingham Dog Show Society ran the first National Dog Show, for which there were 267 entries, with 30 breeds, judged in 42 classes.

In Tunbridge Wells ,and the surrounding area, there were a number of dog breeders in the 19th and early 20th century and during that time various Canine Societies were formed, among which was the Tunbridge Wells District Canine Society which boasts that it was founded in 1884 and that it is the oldest Canine Society in Britain and which Society  holds various events throughout the year. A photo of a 1929 Tunbridge Wells Canine Society medal is shown above.

The earliest mention in the Courier of a dog show being held in Tunbridge Wells was on April 23,1875, which announced an effort to hold a dog show in the town in August of that year. However, the Courier of August 20,1886 announced “The Second Grand Dog Show” that ran for two days starting on August 19th, which show was held at the Agricultural Grounds, in connection with the annual Agricultural show.  The first day of the show suffered from dismal weather but it did not dampen the spirits of the entrants and spectators. This show was preceded by a dog show held at Calverley Park August 21-22,1884 which was the first show put on by the Tunbridge Wells Canine Society. The Courier of July 11,1884 announced that schedules and entry forms were “ now available” for the upcoming show.

Although dog shows were not an annual event they took place often. During WW1, like many events in the town, dog shows were suspended for the duration of the war.  The Courier of May 16,1913 announced an “Open Dog Show at Tunbridge Wells’ in which there was a large local entry and which show was held at Barn Meadow on Claremont Road. The show was reported to have “ completely exceeded expectations” and that it was organized by the Southern Counties Canine Association. Arrangements for this show were reported in the Courier of April 11,1913 at a meeting of the Southern Counties Canine Association.

The last prewar dog show was held in Tunbridge Wells at Calverley Park in  May 1914 which event was put on by the Southern Counties Canine Association. This show was the largest one held up to that date attracting 1,436 entries from all over the country. The earliest local dog show found after the war appears to be that of June 1924 held by the RSPCA in the Calverley Grounds (two images below).

In 1925 a dog show was held at the Agricultural Show grounds by the Tunbridge Wells Canine Society and other shows followed throughout the 20th century and are just as popular today as they have ever been. Shown below left is a photograph taken May 13,1925 at the Tunbridge Wells Dog Shown in which can be seen Miss P. Selkirk Wells with her winning Irish Wolfhounds ‘Cocholainn Lucifer’ and ‘Culverden Doreen’. Shown below right is a photo taken at the Tunbridge Wells Dog Show of 1929 in which can be seen Miss M. Tucker on her way to the show with her sheepdogs ‘Watchers Jim’ and ‘Tenet Peter’.

Shown below   from the 1935 show is Mrs Edna Carlton with her prize winning Afghan hound.



In this article I present information about two of these dog shows, as typical examples, namely that of 1884 and 1914. For anyone interested in dogs in general see my article ‘ All About Dogs’ dated May 5,2015.


The first Tunbridge Wells Dog Show was held in the “Calverley Park Gardens” on Thursday and Friday 21st and 22nd August 1884.  Although a dog show was held in the town in 1875 the 1884 show was given the distinction of being the “first dog show” for it was arranged by the Tunbridge Wells Canine Society which had been founded that year.  

The reference to “Calverley Park Gardens” actually referred to the open greenspace adjacent to Calverley Park at the rear of the Calverley Hotel, before part of these grounds were purchased by Council in the early 1920’s which grounds became known as the “Calverley Grounds”. Shown above is a view of the land below the Calverley Hotel with the hotel shown in the background.

There were 50 classes of Sporting and Non-Sporting dogs - open to all England, and 6 local classes - for residents within a 10 mile radius of Tunbridge Wells. The catalogue  showed an entry of over 500 dogs.  The main breeds represented were Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Great Danes or Boarhounds, Collies and Sheepdogs, Greyhounds, Pointers, Beagles, Fox Terriers, Spaniels, Setters, Hunt Terriers, Rough Terriers, Black and Tan Terriers, Bulldogs and Pugs.  In addition to the breed classes there were also some fun classes.

The show was held over two days.  There were promenade concerts and the gardens were decorated with floral displays and arches together with 2500 Chinese lanterns and ornamental lights - all gas of course, as well as balloons and magnesium and coloured lights all donated and supported by local tradesmen.  This enabled the displays to be kept open in the evening.  There was a grand firework display in the evening on Thursday and the Tunbridge Wells Military Band and Ceylon Band attended on the Friday. Rosettes, medals and cups were presented in various classes by tradesmen and societies in the Kent area and also the Society’s president, the Marquess of Abergavenny who, followed by his nephew and this son, remained Patron until 2000.


The first announcement about this dog show appeared in the Courier of April 24,1914 as “ Great Dog Show open to all  May 13th at Tunbridge Wells”.  This show was not confined to residents of the town and some 5,000 schedules for the event were sent to exhibitors all over the country. It was hoped that the event would be supported by a large number of local entries.

The Courier of May 8,1914 announced “Great Dog Show-on Wednesday next May 13th at Tunbridge Wells…1,436 entries.  Some 400 pounds in prizes were up for grabs. This event was organized ,as it was in 1913, by the Southern Counties Canine Association of which in 1914 Mr F. Wheatley was the secretary and Sir L. Lindsay-Hogg was President  with Mr. R. B. Calderwood as the Hon Secretary of the show.

The Courier of May 15,1914 provided a detailed account of the results of the show along with the six photographs. Unfortunately the clarity of the photographs were too poor to shown here.  Due to the length and level of detail in this article I have given only part of it and deleted entirely the show results given by dog breed. The headline of the article read “ Tunbridge Wells Dog Show-A Record Success-Local Classes Well Filled” and described it as “the annual Tunbridge Wells Show held on Wednesday in Calverley Park. The weather was dull but thousands of people visited the grounds. There were 1,436 entries being 300 more than last year. All possible classes were included in the schedule. The magnitude of the show is evidenced  by the fact that the judging ,which was carried on in eleven rings, lasted from 11 0’clock in the morning until nearly 5 p.m. The quality of the exhibits were on the whole far above the average, an unusually large number of champions being included. A large percentage of the dogs shown were champions famed at shows all over the country.”

“ Great interest was taken in the Tiny Dog Classes. The exhibitors were mainly ladies , and the competition was very keen. One of the most amusing features of the day’s proceedings was the toilet preparations  of these tiny doggies by the ringside. Some of them were animated bundles of fluff no bigger than a small football.”

“Keen interest was also taken in the judging of the Children’s Classes, which, although unfortunately not so well patronized as last year, was very entertaining. The exhibitors with one exception were little girls ,who had all their work cut out to manage the dogs. One little girl, Miss Mary Taylor Marsh, stood only a few inches higher than the Great Dane she was showing but nevertheless managed him capably”.

“The classes of members of the S.C.C.A, and exhibitors residing within 10-20 miles of the show ground were well filled. Two classes were confined to the Borough itself, and in each of these there were six entries. The classes for this district were particularly well supported by Mr B. Newgass of Frant ,who gave three specials in the classes for the Borough, five for the 10 mile radius class, and two for the 20 mile radius class. Mr W.H. Reeves judged all the members and local classes”.

“Tunbridge Wells is unquestionably the finest centre in the South East of England  for a dog show, and the success of the open shows in the Borough last year and this has led to a number of the most influential residents in the district to band themselves together into a sort auxiliary of the S.C.C.A. According to Mr Wheatley, the secretary, they realize that the Tunbridge Wells show could be made one of the most important  in the country, but it must have more local support”. Residents of this district ,said Mr Wheatley, do not taker nearly enough interest in the show. At Bexhill, our show there is publically patronized by the Mayor and Town Council, and that ought to be the case with the Tunbridge Wells Show. These exhibitions bring hundreds of wealthy people to the town and inevitably popularize the neighbourhoods wherein they are held, provided of course that the centres are possessed of natural attractions the same as Tunbridge Wells undoubtable is. We hope that the little auxiliary of well-known local residents who have banded themselves together for the purpose of working for the show will have the effect of arousing far keener interest in it locally”.

“The show on Wednesday was in every way a record for the district. The gate and the entries were larger than ever before , a higher standard was generally reached, and competition was far keener.”


Among the entries at the 1914 dog show in Tunbridge Wells was a champion Old British Sheepdog called ‘Falcon Joe’that won two first prizes and a special  which was the pet of Miss Mavis Sarkies, who’s maiden name was given incorrectly in one account as “Markies”. I have shown in this section a photo of her and her sheepdog from a sporting publication of 1914 as well as the front of a press photo showing the same image. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of London dated May 23,1914 showed the image of her and her sheepdog presented here stating that the dog was that of Mr Burgoyne.

Mr William Burgoyne was a dog judge and breeder of Old English Sheepdogs and was often mentioned in newspaper accounts of various dog shows held throughout the country.  The London Standard of June 5,1910 referred to “Mr. Burgoyne’s sheepdog ‘Falcon Joe” and the Bedfordshire Mercury of August 30,1912 gave “Mr. Burgoyne’s Falcon Joe’ which won a first prize. It appears therefore that Miss Sarkies bought the dog ‘Falcon Joe’ from Mr Burgoyne sometime after 1912 and before the show in Tunbridge Wells in 1914.

Two of Mr Burgoyne’s sheepdogs were found in the champion of champions list of the Old English Sheepdog Club namely ‘Falcon Laddie (1911/1913) and ‘Falcon Bessie’ (1915). Other sheepdogs found in newspaper reports on dog shows owned by Mr William Burgoyne were ‘Falcon Prince’ (1912); ‘Falcon Grove King’ (1916); ‘Falcon Gay Boy’(1916); ‘Calm Weather’ (1908); ‘Falcon Valentin’ (1909); ‘Falcon Blue Boy’ (1917); ‘Falcon Bob’ (1909/1910); ‘Falcon Bessie’ (1916) and others.  In 1908-1911 he was living at Clapham Junction and Battersea. In Greater London. Surprisingly, in response to my inquiry, the Old English Sheepdog Club, had no information about the man himself and nothing definitive could be found out about him from any other available sources.

There was a time when Old English Sheepdogs dominated television screens and newspaper comic strips and now its hard to find one beyond a dog show. These dogs which can weigh close to 100 pounds are dropping in numbers as owners have moved towards smaller breeds of dogs. At the height of the breed’s popularity in 1975, when the sheepdog was named best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, nearly 16,000 puppies were registered but 10 years later there were fewer than 5,600 dogs and three years ago just 1,000. London’s Kennel Club, which put the breed on the club’s watch list, registered just 401 sheepdog puppies in 2011.

Returning now to Miss Mavis Sarkies, she was born as Mavis Bladys Christabella Sarklies August 1,1891 and baptised September 16,1898 at Allahabad, Bengal, India, one of several children born to John Carrapiet Sarkies(1856-1937) and Frances Maguritta Adelaide Smelt (1865- 1948), which couple were married at Allahabad December 29,1888. John served with the Indian Medical Service from 1879 to 1910 as a surgeon and the family was well off financially. The Sarkies family were Armenian in origin and John’s father and other relatives lived and worked in India for many years in the 19th and 20th century. In about 1912 Mavis and her parents and some of her siblings left India and settled in London and it was from there that she travelled with her sheepdog ‘Falcon Joe’ to attend the Tunbridge Wells Dog Show.

In the 2nd qtr of 1921 Mavis G.C. Sarkies married Myles Denton Cairn(1884-1963) at Paddington. Myles was a well educated gentleman and was trained and worked as a physician and surgeon. In 1938 Mavis was living with her husband and two servants at Northbank Lodge in Bognor Regis, Sussex. Probate records for Mavis G.C. Cairn gave her of Nortghbank in Bognor Regis, Sussex when she died January 16,1960. The executor of her 519 pound estate was her husband Myles Denton Cairn.

The National Archives has a record for Mavis G.C. Sarkies who served with the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF)during WW1 (service No. 10495) and that she enrolled May 30,1918, the same year that the WRAF was founded. Quite an interesting women indeed!


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

Date: March 6,2019


John William Harmer was one of four children born to Stephen (a gardener) and Mary Harmer, nee Holman. John was born in Reigate Surrey in 1866 and lived with his parents and siblings until about 1880. His first job was as a grocer’s errand boy in Reigate and decided that being a grocer was the career for him.

While living and working in Reigate he married Mary Upfold in Reigate in January 1890 and with her had five children between 1891 and 1907 but two of them died at birth.

After the marriage John worked as a grocer in Sussex in the early 1890’s and by the late 1890’s was a grocer in Crowborough. In 1900 John and his family moved to Tunbridge Wells where he ran a grocers shop and sub post office at 72 St James Road until the mid 1920’s when he retired from business, which business was taken over by Charles F. Williams who was still there in 1942.

As no directory listings for John were found in Tunbridge Wells after 1922 it appears that he left Tunbridge Wells. His son Ebenezer John Harmer (1903-1963) who was born in Tunbridge Wells, remained in the town; got married; raised a family and was found listed in local directories of 1930-1938 at 47 Albion Road with the occupation of basket and sieve maker. Ebenezer died in Tunbridge Wells in 1963 . John William Harmer, late in life, moved back to Tunbridge Wells and lived with his son Ebenezer. On January 10,1945 John passed away while living at his son’s home at 47 Albion Road. John’s wife died in Tunbridge Wells in 1959. Shown above is a photograph of John’s shop at 72 St James Road taken circa 1914.


John William Harmer was born in Reigate, Surrey in the 2nd qtr of 1866. He was one of four children born to Stephen Harmer (1837-1895) and Mary Harmer, nee Holman (1835-1874).

The 1871 census, taken at Nix Lane Cottage in Reigate gave Stephen Harmer as a gardener. With him was his wife Mary and their children Charles, Sarah, John and Arthur, who were all attending school.

The 1881 census, taken at Bell Street in Reigate Surrey gave John William Harmer as a lodger living with the Edmund Dickson (a master boot maker) and Edmund’s family. John at that time was working as a grocer’s errant boy. From that time on John decided to make the grocery trade his occupation.

In the 1st qtr of 1890 John married Mary Upfold (1866-1959) at Riegate, where Mary was born and lived with her parents and siblings. John and his wife had the following children (1) Hannah Mary Marmer who was born 1891 in Earlswood, Sussex. She later married and had children and died in Uckfield, Sussex in 1963 (2) Esther Caroline Harmer who was born December 19,1893 at Hardcross, Sussex. she alter married and had a family and died 1963 in Crowborough (3) Arthur Charles Harmer who was born and died 1897 in Cuckfield, Sussex (4) Ebenexer John Harmer who was born in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1903 . He married and had children. He was found in Tunbridge Wells directories from 1930 to 1938 at 47 Albion Road with the occupation of basket and sieve maker. Ebenezer died in Tunbridge Wells in 1963 (5) Edith Emily Harmer who was born and died in 1907 at Sculcoates, Yorkshire while the family were on vacation.

As can be seen from the birth records of John’s children,the family lived in Sussex from at least 1893 to 1897 but had moved to Tunbridge Wells sometime before the 1901 census. While in Sussex John ran a grocers shop.


John and his wife and his two eldest children moved to Tunbridge Wells in about 1900. The 1901 census, taken at 72 St James Road gave John as the proprietor of a grocers shop and sub post office. With him was his wife Mary and their children Hannah and Esther. Also there was Stephen Alfred Harmer, age 15 who was living as a boarder and working for John as a grocers assistant. Also there were two other lodgers.

The 1911 census, taken at 72 St James Road gave John as a grocer and provisioner. With him was his wife Mary ; his daughter Hannah; his daughter Esther who was working as a uncertified teacher; his son Ebenezer who was working for his father as a “clerk to sub-postmaster”. The family were living in premises of 6 rooms and the census recorded that the couple had been married 21 years and of their five children only three were still living.

Local directories of up to and including 1922 list John as a grocer and sub post master at 72 St James Road. As no directories for him after 1922 were found it appears that he retired from business and left Tunbridge Wells. It was noted from a 1930 directory that 72 St James Road was the premises of Charles F. Williams who was a grocer and sub postmaster and that he was still there in 1942.

Late in life John returned to Tunbridge Wells and lived with his son Ebenezer. Probate records show that John William Harmer was of 47 Albion Road when he died January 10,1945. The executor of his 906 pound estate was George White, a farmer.  John was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. John’s wife died in Tunbridge Wells in 1959 and was buried near her husband.



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

Date: March 8,2019


Edward Joy senior was born 1834 in Brenchley, Kent and was one of nine children born to agricultural worker Alexander Joy (1801-1889) and Sophia Joy, nee Manwaring (1804-1874).

Edward remained in Brenchley throughout the 1850’s but by the time of the 1851 census he was living as a visitor in Wadhurst, Sussex where he was working as agricultural labourer.

In 1858 Edward married Sylvia Baker (1836-1911) and with her had seven children including Edward Joy junior (1869-1949) who is the central figure in this article. All seven or the children were born in Tunbridge Wells between 1859 and 1873. Sylvia Baker had been born in Ticehurst, Sussex on February 25,1836 and was one of ten children born to Richard Baker (born 1812) and Caroline Baker, nee Chantler (1813-1873). Her father was a farm labourer and up to the time of her marriage she was living with her parents and siblings at Rose Cottage in Ticehurst.

Edward Joy senior was a bootmaker and at the time of the 1861 census he and his wife Sylvia and two children were living at Culverden Cottage No. 2 in Tunbridge Wells.

By the time of the 1871 census Edward Joy senior and his wife Sylvia and six of their children were living in Tunbridge Wells at 33 Goods Station Road, where Edward senior was a bootmaker master employing two men. Edward junior at that time was attending school. The family were still living at this address at the time of the 1881 where Edward senior was a bootmaker master employing his son Alexander and one boy. Edward Junior was attending school. Shown opposite is an old postcard view of Goods Station Road.

The 1891 census, taken at 33 Goods Station Road gave Edward senior as a boot and shoe maker. With him was his wife Sylvia; their son Edward who was a stationers assistant; their daughter Harriet who was a pupil teacher and their daughter Kate who was a stationers assistant.

Shown opposite is the front and back a CDV of Edward Joy junior taken at the Grosvenor Studio in Tunbridge Wells, a studio that was the photographic premises of Percy Squire Lancaster. Lancaster had moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1891 and in that year took over this studio from Henry Peach Robinson.

On May 14,1900 Edward Joy senior died in Tunbridge Wells. He was given in probate records as being of 39 Goods Station Road. The executors of his 442 pound estate were his widow Sylvia and son Edward Joy junior who was a stationers manager. Edward was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on May 19th. His wife Sylvia died in Tunbridge Wells in the first qtr of1911 and buried near her husband.


Edward Joy was born in Tunbridge Wells on March 16,1869. He lived with his parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells and by 1891 he was working as a stationers assistant.

On September 2,1894 he married Ellen Kate Jupp (1874-1946) at St Mary’s Church , Rumboldswyke, Chichester, Sussex (image opposite).  Ellen had been born February 16,1874 at North Mundham, Sussex and was one of six children born to Henry Jupp junior (1832-1903) and Emily Jupp, nee Parsons (1837-1923).

Edward and Ellen had the following children (1) Lennox Edward Wilson Joy (1895-1967) (2) Phyllis Adelaide Joy (1903-1978) (3) Raymond Hamilton Kimbrey Joy (1905-1971). All of the children were born in Tunbridge Wells, Lennox on June 19,1895; Phyllis on October 23,1903 and Raymond on January 4,1905.

The 1901 census, taken at 49 Stone Street in Tunbridge Wells gave Edward as a stationers accountant. With him was his wife Ellen who was a dressmaker working on own account, and their son Lennox who was in school.

The 1911 census, taken at 22 Mereworth Road in Tunbridge Wells gave Edward Joy (wholesale stationers assistant) with his wife Ellen (a costumer on own account) and their children Phyllis, Raymond and Lennox. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 7 rooms; that they had been married 16 years and that all three of their children were still living. Also living with them at the time was Fanny Fartha Joy, age 52 and listed as “sister” and working for the family as a house servant.


As was the case with Canada and Australia, New Zealand had a need for boys and young men to work on farms. A program was in place run by the Department of Labour in Auckland, New Zealand where passage for the boys was paid by the government and once the boys arrived in Auckland they were assigned to a farm and paid a weekly salary.

Enticed by this program Edward Joy’s son Lennox decided to take advantage of the program and along with 56 other young men (all between the ages of 16 and 20) boarded the steamship AYRSHIRE (image opposite) at Liverpool on November 22,1913. The passenger records note his intended occupation to be farming. Lennox went on to wed Nellie Mary Collier (born 1900) in New Zealand in 1922 and with her had a son Roger Lennox Joy (1928-2013). Lennox died in Auckland New Zealand on May 14,1967.

The next members of the Joy family to emigrate to Auckland was Edward Joy’s wife Ellen and her daughter Phyllis who departed from Southampton on the steamship OLYMPIC (image opposite) arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada July6 4,1918. The passenger list recorded that their intended destination was Auckland. Records for St Albans Vermont USA show that Ellen and her daughter crossed the Canada/USA border where in the USA they boarded a ship to complete their journey. Ellen Kate Joy died in Auckland March 29,1949 . Her daughter Phyllis died in Auckland November 18,1978 as a spinster.

The next members of the Joy family to emigrate to Auckland was Edward Joy junior and his son Raymond. They boarded the SS RUAHINE (image opposite) November 3,1919 and departed from Southampton. The address given for Raymond and his father was 16 Culverden Park Road, Tunbridge Wells and their indented destination  was Auckland, New Zealand. Edward Joy junior was given as a manager wholesale stationer and his son was given as a schoolboy.

The joy family remained in Auckland for the rest of their lives. Shown above left is a photograph of Edward Joy junior and his wife Ellen, taken in New Zealand.

Shown opposite left is a photograph of Raymond Hamilton Kimbrey Joy and opposite right is a photo of Raymond and his wife Margaret on the right with Robert and Elsie Blacklock on the left.  

On June 4,1927 Raymond married Margaret McIntyre Morrison (1908-2013) in Auckland and with her had two children namely Margaret Phyllis Joy (1934-2001) and Donald Henry Joy (1936-1996). Raymond died in Auckland November 27,1971.





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

Date: February 19,2019


On  March 24,1902, Arthur Balfour presented to the House of Commons an Education Bill that attempted to overturn the 1870 Education Act that had been brought in by William Gladstone. It had been popular with radicals as they were elected by ratepayers in each district. This enabled nonconformists and socialists to obtain control over local schools.

The new legislation abolished all 2,568 school boards and handed over their duties to local borough or county councils. These new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were given powers to establish new secondary and technical schools as well as developing the existing system of elementary schools. At the time more than half the elementary pupils in England and Wales. For the first time, as a result of this legislation, church schools were to receive public funds.

Nonconformists and supporters of the Liberal and Labour parties campaigned against the proposed act. David Lloyd George led the campaign in the House of Commons as he resented the idea that Nonconformists contributing to the upkeep of Anglican schools. It was also argued that school boards had introduced more progressive methods of education. "The school boards are to be destroyed because they stand for enlightenment and progress."

John Clifford (image above) became the leader of the campaign against the legislation. Clifford was opposed to Balfour's bill for three main reasons: (1) the rate aid was being used to support the teaching of religious views to which some rate-payers were opposed; (2) sectarian schools, supported by public funds, were not under public control; (3) teachers in sectarian schools were subject to religious tests.

John Clifford prepared a plan of "Passive Resistance". It was based on the strategy used by John Hampden against Ship Money in 1637 and one of the causes of the English Civil War. "Its tactics were to be those of the old Tithe War: refuse to pay the abhorrent education rate, submit rather to the forced sale of your goods and even of your house; if need be, go to jail!

Clifford argued that people who disagreed with the proposed Education Act should refuse to pay at least that portion of the rate which was to be spent in or on church schools. The National Passive Resistance Committee was set-up with the motto "No Say. No Pay". However, within weeks the Anti-Martyrdom League was formed to pay the rates that the passive resisters withheld.

In July, 1902, a by-election at Leeds demonstrated what the education controversy was doing to party fortunes, when a Conservative Party majority of over 2,500 was turned into a Liberal majority of over 750. The following month a Baptist came near to capturing Sevenoaks from the Tories and in November, 1902, Orkney and Shetland fell to the Liberals. That month also saw a huge anti-Bill rally held in London, at Alexandra Palace.

Despite the opposition to the new Education Act, it was passed in December, 1902. John Clifford, wrote several pamphlets about the legislation that had a readership that ran into hundreds of thousands. Balfour accused him of being a victim of his own rhetoric: "Distortion and exaggeration are of its very essence. If he has to speak of our pending differences, acute no doubt, but not unprecedented, he must needs compare them to the great Civil War. If he has to describe a deputation of Nonconformist ministers presenting their case to the leader of the House of Commons, nothing less will serve him as a parallel than Luther's appearance before the Diet of Worms."

Rate refusals began in the spring of 1903. "What normally happened was that sufficient of their goods should be distrained and auctioned to defray the rate. It was usually arranged for a friend of the refuser should be on hand to buy back the goods." Over the next four years 170 men went to prison for refusing to pay their school taxes. This included 60 Primitive Methodists, 48 Baptists, 40 Congregationalists and 15 Wesleyan Methodists. John Clifford never went to prison but he appeared in court on 41 different occasions over the next ten years.

In August 1903 the tax resistance campaign against the provisions of the Education Act that had allowed for taxpayer funding of sectarian religious education was still ramping up. Nobody knew at the time that the struggle would go on for years.

It was a campaign that would inspire the later tax resistance struggles of the women’s suffragists and of Mahatma Gandhi, and which would associate the term ‘passive resistance’ with nonviolent civil disobedience and with tax resistance in particular.

The tax resistance campaign was reported on widely in newspapers throughout Britain citing hundreds if not thousands of cases where citizens objecting to the provisions of the Education Act refused to pay the complete taxes levied and who withheld a portion of the payment due because of their “conscientious objection to pay for the maintenance of Church Schools”.  Rev. J.E. Simon for example, who was the pastor of the Congregational Chapel in Brampton said that “ I am unable to pay that part of the rate which is levied for the support of sectarian schools for by this rate I am required to pay directly for the teaching of Romanism and doctrines of the Established Church which I believe to be untrue. This I, as a Protestant and Non conformist, I refuse to do voluntarily”.

Those not paying the full rates demanded were brought before the magistrates and Distraint Warrants were issued. The issuing of these warrants led to a dispute for since the authorities would not accept partial payment bailiffs were instructed to seize personal property to satisfy the amount of the full payment due and not just the much smaller unpaid portion. The National Passive Resistance Committee on the question of excessive distraint raised the issue and awaited a decision by legal authorities. At Sheffield a K.C. was quoted as saying “ It is beyond question illegal to make an excessive distraint. The bailiffs have no right to remove more goods than are estimated in reason to meet the account of the rate and the cost of distraint. If people are taking part in the passive resistance movement feel that the bailiffs have been unreasonable, they can claim damages in court, and it is for the jury to decide. A vindictive distraint is also illegal. A distraint has been held to be vindictive where valuable goods have been removed against the wishes of the occupier, who has tendered other goods. A bailiff is not necessarily to take what is offered him, but if he takes things that he is requested to leave, he may be convicted of vindictive distraint, and the owner may  be awarded damages”.  Others stated “ It seems nothing short of monstrous that warrants should be issued and costs imposed for the full amount of the rate, when in reality the defendants have only declined to pay a very small portion thereof. The local authorities who are apparently bent on making matters as unpleasant as possible for the Passive Resisters are unquestionably arousing deep and wide-spread sympathy for those sturdy protestants, even amongst those who do not see eye to eye with them in the course they have taken”.

Liberal politician David Lloyd George capitalized on the opposition to the Education Act to bolster his political standing and to attract new voters to the Liberal party.

Much has been written on this topic and for that reason I do not go into further detail except to report in the following section on the events in Tunbridge Wells about this issue.


The London Daily Mail of April 7,1903 reported “ The Tunbridge Wells Police have distrained upon the goods of the Rev. J. Mountain, Rev W.H. Palmer, Mr Henry Edmunds and Mr J.G. Alexander…”

The following article comes from the August 14,1903 Kent & Sussex Courier: “Passive Resistance at Tunbridge Wells-Auction Sale Under Distraint Warrants-Yesterday-Scene in the Police Yard-“Boohing” the Auctioneer-Prayer Meeting Precedes Sale.Yesterday (Thursday) the sale by auction of the goods and chattels of the four defendants who were recently summoned for non-payment of the Education Rate took place in the police yard, adjoining the Town Hall, in the presence of some hundreds of sympathisers and other spectators. The local Passive Resistance Committee had organised a demonstration for the occasion of the sale, on the morning of which the Town Crier was sent round to remind the public of the fact contained in the auctioneer’s announcement placarded about the town, as follows:–“

In 1903 the police operated from premises at the rear of the Old Town Hall (image opposite) on Calverley Road and remained there until the Civic Centre was built in the late 1930’s on Mount Pleasant Road, following the demolition of John Ward’s Calverley Parade that ran between Crescent Road and Monson Road. The Town Crier in 1903 was Henry Chambers who served in this position for the Borough from the early days of incorporation (1899) until 1927 and who was a familiar figure in civic photographs of this period.

In the County of Kent. Borough of Tunbridge Wells. Sale by Public Auction, under distress warrants, in the yard adjoining the Police Station, Calverley-street, Tunbridge Wells, on THURSDAY, August 13th, 1903, at 4 p.m. prompt. MR. W. LAING, Auctioneer, will OFFER for SALE, at the time and place above-mentioned, by PUBLIC AUCTION, the undermentioned goods, which have been seized under warrants of distress, issued by the Court of Summary Jurisdiction acting in and for the Borough of Tunbridge Wells:–

Lot 1.—Silver Cake Basket and Silver Salver.

Lot 2.—Thirteen Silver Spoons.

Lot 3.—Five Mahogany Chairs.

Lot 4.—Copper Coal Scuttle and Scoop, and Silver Fish Servers, in case.

Each Lot to be paid for and cleared immediately after the Sale.

Chas. Prior, Chief Constable. 10th August, 1903. “

“A big crowd had consequently assembled and awaited the unlocking of the gates of the station yard, and a good many people had evidently come in from the surrounding districts to witness the proceedings. About half an hour before the advertised time of the sale, the Chief Constable escorted the Rev J. Mountain and the Rev H.C. Palmer, with several ladies, to the gates, and the crowd, recognising the ministers, gave them a very cordial reception, to which they bowed their acknowledgments. As soon as the gates were open there was an excited rush to enter the yard, in which a considerable proportion the fair sex came in for some derangement of their toilette, and in a very few seconds the crowd in the street had transferred itself en masse into the yard, where a posse of stalwart constables was drawn up on either side of a temporary rostrum erected for the auctioneer, and directly communicating with the door leading into the police officer — a strategic arrangement in view of possible contingencies. The Chief Constable had very diplomatically discounted any likelihood of a disturbance of the peace by affording the demonstrators the greatest possible latitude. The platform erected for the sale was placed at their disposal for a protest meeting both before and after the sale. It was eminently judicious of Mr Prior not to confine himself to the strict letter of the law, but to permit the demonstrators to demonstrate as much as they pleased within orderly limits. The station yard being full and a further crowd in the street beyond, the preliminary protest meeting was at once proceeded with. The Chief Constable smilingly escorted the Rev. Dr. Usher, the Rev. J. Mountain, the Rev. W.H.C. Palmer, and the Rev. Dennis Cooper to the rostrum, and an outburst of cheering greeted their appearance, which was renewed when the word went round that the redoubtable Dr. Clifford was also present. Placards of protest were affixed to the rostrum to give place later to a bill of the auction, and then Dr. Usher gave out the hymn “O God our help in ages past,” after which the Rev. Dennis Cooper engaged in prayer.”

“The Rev. Dr. Usher then explained that they were allowed to meet by the courtesy of the Chief Constable, a gentleman whose acquaintance they had been proud to make. He had met them in the kindest and most conciliatory manner (hear, hear). They had met as citizens to protest against a law which went against the religious beliefs of millions of his Majesty's subjects. The grievance was as real as those under the Uniformity Act, the Conventicle Act, and the Five Mile Act, or as the progress of Ritualism in the eyes of their evangelical brethren. It had been said they did this for political purposes, but Free Churchmen had been in advance of political leaders in this matter. They were called law breakers, but he denied that they were. They submitted passively. Their doors were open and their furniture could be seized for that which they could not as matter of conscience pay voluntarily. But if they were law breakers, they were proud to bear the shame in such company as Latimer and Ridley, who went to the stake when the Law said do one thing and God said do another. They heartily sympathised with their four friends in what they had had submit to. They protested not against the auctioneer or the Chief Constable, but against the political power of the land and particularly the Bishops, for the way in which they had misused political power. If those present wished to show true sympathy with their cause, they would allow the proceedings which were to follow to be conducted in an orderly manner. Those proceedings would be repeated if need be a dozen times. There were plenty more defaulters waiting to have their goods seized for conscience sake, and he asked them never to forget that in this year 1903, in a town like Tunbridge Wells, they had seen the goods of true citizens sold for religious purposes.”

 “The protesters then proceeded to vacate the platform, but the Chief Constable informed them that they had another five minutes yet in which to demonstrate, as the sale would not commence before four o’clock. Accordingly the hymn, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus,” was given out, and was immediately succeeded by a decided contrast. The hymn-singing changed to a different sound as the crowd proceeded to booh at the top of their voices when the auctioneer made his appearance and hung his card over the rostrum. This bore the inscription, “Wm. B. Laing (late Savage and Son), Auctioneer, 127, New Road, and Whitechapel Road.” Above the groaning and hooting could be heard various insulting expressions hurled at the auctioneer, who smilingly informed the crowd that he was not in a hurry and could wait. The address appeared to take the fancy of the crowd, who shouted “Whitechappeler,” “Coster,” “Hooligan,” “German-Jew” until they were hoarse. Dr. Usher appealed in pantomime for silence, and Mr Fryer, who was standing conveniently near the rostrum to buy in some of the effects, was heard by those near to shout to the crowd that the auctioneer was not a German, but a Scotchman. “More shame to him” roared the crowd, and the boohing was renewed with redoubled vigour, in which even the shriller voices of the ladies present could be heard above the hubbub. The auctioneer lost no time in announcing the sale and putting up the first lot. “You have not read out the conditions of sale,” bellowed a gentleman, who had been doing his best to drown the auctioneer’s voice. “I have just done so,” retorted the auctioneer. “I never heard you,” retorted the gentleman, with unconscious humour, as he proceeded to booh louder than ever as the auctioneer attempted to make himself heard. Had the devotional exercises failed to soothe the passions of the crowd? The auctioneer, amid laughter, removed his silk hat to a place of greater security, and pointed to the auction bill as he stentoriously called for Lot one. Several gentlemen who had arranged to buy in goods stood on the alert, and Mr Mountain and Mr Palmer supported each other in the absence of the other two defaulters — Mr Alexander and Mr Edmonds — who are enjoying themselves on the Continent. The Chief Constable, notwithstanding the eulogy just passed on him, found it quite as difficult to obtain a hearing as he stated, amidst renewed hooting, that he was there to do his duty by carrying of the magistrates’ orders under the distress warrant, and that the auctioneer, who was doing his duty, had come down at a very moderate charge to carry the law into effect. Amidst considerable hubbub, the articles in the first lot were then handed out from the police office window under the guardianship of the constables. This lot consisted of a silver cake basket and silver salver, the property Mr Edmonds. “Who bids £1”? shouted the auctioneer. Mr Elwig promptly bid £2 15s on behalf of the owner, and the auctioneer knocked down the bid, and before the crowd realised it, the goods were handed back into the police office. Lot 2, a dozen silver spoons, the property of Mr Alexander, were next handed up in the same way, and at once knocked down to Mr Drake, acting for Mr Alexander, for £2. Lot 3, five mahogany hair stuffed chairs, the property of the Rev J. Mountain, were promptly bought in by the Rev Dennis Cooper, for £2, and the concluding lot, a copper coal scuttle and silver fish servers, the property of Rev. W. Palmer, were similarly knocked down to Mr Fryer, on Mr Palmer’s behalf, for 30s. The auction, which concluded in dumb shew had not lasted five minutes, was over before the crowd had finished hooting the auctioneer, and then some missile was heard to strike the window behind the auctioneer. It turned out to be only a match box, and the police, who were interspersed in the crowd, at once seized the offender, bat as he appeared to have only jocularly thrown the missile, which was first thought to be a stone, he was not arrested, and no proceedings will taken against him. The auctioneer and his clerk, Mr E. Smith, promptly vanished within the police office, where the bidders followed them to write out their cheques, and claim the furniture, after which the protest meeting was resumed, and proceeding without incident, except that an elderly man, named Sewell, living in Kirkdale road, was overcome by the heat, and had to be removed to the Hospital (image above) on the police ambulance.”

“Dr. Clifford then mounted the rostrum, and had an enthusiastic reception. His remarks were somewhat inauspicious, as they related instances of other sales, where the auctioneers had “not dared show themselves,” but the doctor as he went on cleared himself from any suspicion of arriere pensee by congratulating the crowd on their orderly behaviour. He went on to add that their protest was not against magistrates or chief constables, but against the bishops. He congratulated Tunbridge Wells on having a Chief Constable of such fairness and moderation — a remark which the crowd, who had just hooted Mr Prior, now responded to by cheering in the utmost good humour. He was glad that the vindictiveness of magistrates at other places was passing away, and they were being treated with consideration. They were being forced to pay for religious teaching they did not believe in, and to submit to their children being proselytized. A Voice: That is Christianity. Dr. Usher: No, Churchianity.”

“Dr. Clifford: It illustrates the tyranny of the Established Church. It was one of the most atrocious spectacles that the opening of the 20th Century could witness — a pampered, favoured, law-established sect forcing itself by political means upon those who conscientiously differed from them. This Act could not last. It would have to be repealed, because it would injure the Established Church more than it would injure these who resisted it. These scenes would have to go on until the Act was repealed. His father took him as a boy to witness a distraint sale for refusing to pay a Church rate, but the Education Act was more iniquitous than that. The Church rate was to maintain church buildings, but the education rate was to proselytise their children. This Act would be swept away, and they would not rest till they had a free system fair to the children, fair to the parents and teachers, and fair to the ratepayers.”

“J. Mountain spoke next, saying nothing particularly unexpected, unless it was to call Clifford “the Oliver Cromwell of this century.” Then W.H. Palmer spoke: Rev. W.H. Palmer said they had been taunted that this was a matter of pocket, but it was not so. His education rate was 4s 9d but the recovery of it would cost him 30s. They had the expense of an auctioneer from London, because no local auctioneer would lower himself to perform the task of selling goods which were suffered to be seized for conscience sake, or, rather, the Chief Constable had not asked any local auctioneer to so degrade himself. At a local auction the goods could have been sold more cheaply, viz, for 2s in the £, but they were glad no local auctioneer could be found, even though to obtain 4s 9d from him 30s had been spent. This would show it was not a question of pocket, and they did not keep their conscience in their pocket. He was proud to be one of the first to be summoned, but there were plenty more waiting to stand in the same position. Some 40 persons had already intimated their readiness to be summoned.”

“The Rev. Dr. Usher expressed the sympathy of those present with the four martyrs, and added that he himself expected to be in the next batch, and they should go on till the victory was won. In conclusion, he asked those present, for the sake of the ladies, to leave the yard with less of a rush than they came in. “

“The Doxology and a verse of “All hail the power of Jesu’s name,” and a verse of the National Anthem concluded the proceedings; while outside the cheering was renewed as the furniture was displayed on a cart decorated with flags and evergreens, and bearing an inscription. “This the furniture of gentlemen who refused for conscience sake to pay the Priest’s rate.” The cart was drawn in triumph to the owner’s residences, and a sale of memorial cards adorned with coffins, to represent the burial of the Education Act was proceeded with among the crowd. The proceedings, though noisy, were orderly; and the Chief Constable is to be congratulated on his excellent arrangements.”

Immediately following this article was another, featuring many of the same cast of characters, describing a meeting “on the Common in the evening,” and then another, describing an “evening meeting at the Great Hall” that followed. These were rallies that were meant to remind attendees of what was at stake and to encourage them to keep up the struggle to the bitter end, but the reports do not otherwise shed much light on how the campaign was progressing. Shown below is a   postcard view of the Commons and of the Great Hall.

One thing I thought was noteworthy was a slideshow that included scenes from that afternoon’s distraint auction. Unfortunately the views in this slide show have not been located to date by the researcher.

“The room was then darkened for local views of passive resistance taken by Mr Lankester (Percy Squire Lankester)and Mr Jenkins ( Henry Jenkins) to be exhibited and explained by Dr. Usher. The views commenced with portraits of passive resisters, commencing with Alderman Finch, who was introduced as the first Nonconformist Mayor. Then came portraits of the Chief Constable, the Town Clerk, and Alderman Stone, the latter two being loudly boohed. A series of views were next shown taken outside the rate collector’s office (a group of resisters refusing to pay rates), outside the Town Hall (after the hearing of the summonses), outside the residences of the several defendants (at the distraining of the goods), and lastly, a series of snapshots taken of the sale that afternoon, and of the meeting on the Common. A portrait of Mr Hedges, with an injunction to vote for him at the next election concluded the series.” (Both Mr Lankester and Mr Jenkins were well known photographers in Tunbridge Wells and many examples of their photographic work can be found. Details about them and their careers can be found in the articles I have written about them before. Percy Squire Lankester had his studio at this time in the north wing of the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road and Henry Jenkins had his studio on The Broadway opposite the SER station on Mount Pleasant Road.)

“Clifford then spoke, saying among other things: He asked them to regard this as one of the services a town could render an Empire. They were assisting a national work. Nothing was so characteristic of the movement as its spontaneity. It was springing up not only in large towns, but in little hamlets. He quoted cases of resisters upwards of 70 and 80 years of age, of resisters in poor as well as affluent circumstances. A nation was judged by its ideals, and we were at a turning point in national history.…”

A review of newspapers for Kent covering the period of 1903 to 1913 resulted in finding 800 articles about the passive resistance campaign, about 15% of which pertained to Tunbridge Wells. From the Tunbridge Wells articles given in the Courier it was noted that throughout the period of 1903 to 1913 a large number of people joined the passive resistance movement who appeared before the magistrates and who had their property seized and sold. The Courier of March 14,1913 however noted that “the number of passive resisters in Tunbridge Wells has become reduced in scale” but went on to list the names of those who’s property had been seized. The Courier of August 19,1913 reported on further seizures including that of E.J. Strange of the well- known Strange family of Tunbridge Wells.  Later editions of the Courier for 1913 noted that the resistance movement had failed for the Education Act they protested against was not changed and that many of those who had protested against it in the town had either given up their protest or moved away.

[1]REV. JAMES MOUNTAIN (1844-1933) 

James Mountain (image opposite) was born July  16, 1844 at Leeds, Yorkshire. He attended Gainford Academy near Darlington, Rotherham College, Nottingham Institute, and Cheshunt College.

He then became pastor at Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Leaving the clerical field due to ill health. After his health improved he conducted evangelism campaigns in Britain (1874-82) and world­wide (1882-9).

He is credited as having written some 15 hymns among which were Hymns of Consecration and Faith, and Sacred Songs for Missions, Prayer and Praise Meetings. He also authored the books ‘ My Baptism and What led to it’ and ‘The Triumph of British-Israel’.

At the time of the 1881 census he was living at St Mary, Islington but by 1882 he moved to Tunbridge Wells. In 1882 he was listed as a Congregational Minister at 267 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells

In the 2nd qtr of 1891 he married Frances Elizabeth Grogan at Paddington but had not children with her.

Peltons 1891 guide recorded that he was one of several subscribers to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital and Dispensary on Mount Pleasant Road.

Peltons 1896 guide listed him as the minster of the Emmanuel Church (Lady Huntingdon’s) facing London Road on Mount Ephraim.

The 1901 census, taken at 18 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells gave him as a Baptist minister. With him was his wife Frances, a sister in law and one domestic servant.

James died June 27, 1933 in Tunbridge Wells and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.

[2]REV. W.H.C. PALMER (1864-1910)

William Henry Charles Palmer was born at 1864 at Hoxon,London and was one of seven children born to William Palmer (1843-1912) and Sarah Ann Palmer, nee Paterman (1844-1917).

At the time of the 1871 and 1881 census he was living with his parents and siblings in London.

On February 7,1886 he married Isabella Sarah Hunt and with her had four children between 1886 and 1890 who were born in Islington.

In 1886 Rev. W.H. C. Palmer became the first minister of the Spa Fields Church and promoted concerts and lectures at the chapel in addition to services.

The 1901 census, taken at the Emmanual Church on Mount Ephraim gave William as  minister of this church. Living with him was his wife and four children and one servant.

From 1904 to 1910 Rev. W.H.C. Palmer was the minister of the Warwick Road United Reformed Church.

In 1908 Rev. W.H.C. Palmer attended a meeting of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. The ‘Hospital World’ dated May 14,1910 reported “ The death of the Rev. W. H. C. Palmer on April 5,1910, who had been a member of the Committee of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, was regretfully alluded to at the April meeting, and the secretary, Mr. J. A. Rudd, has forwarded to Mrs. Palmer and her family an expression of the sympathy of the Committee. The vacancy on the General Committee has been filled by Admiral Bacon”.


William Usher was born April 1848 in Manchester and baptised April 19,1848 at St Simon and St Jude in Landshashire, the son of Henry and Mary Usher.

By 1901 he had moved to Tunbridge Wells and was found in the 1901 census as a Baptist minister and medical doctor living with his wife Emma Mary Usher , one daughter and three domestic servants, at 209 Upper Grosvenor Road. William had married Emma in 1875 and with her had five children who at the time of the 1911 census were all living.

The 1911 census, taken at 38 Woodbury Park Road, Tunbridge Wells gave William as a Baptist minister. Living with him in premises of 6 rooms was his wife Emma and one domestic servant.

Probate records gave William Usher of 62 Upper Grosvenor Road,Tunbridge Wells when he died August 23,1928 at 297 Ditching Road . The executor of his 349 pound estate was his widow Emma. William was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.



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