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

Date: December 5,2018


The Millennium Clock, designed by noted metal artist Jon Mills, has perhaps been one of the most controversial art installations in Tunbridge Wells. The clock, perched, according to the artist 8 m(25 feet)up in the air, despite your opinion of it, certainly gets your attention, reaching up into the sky at the Town Centre, one of the prime commercial districts in the town, opposite the Royal Victoria Place shopping mall opened by Princess Diana in 1992.

Some have likened it’s form to the alien creature written about in 1898 in a novel by H.G. Wells entitled ‘ War of the Worlds’  and depicted in the movie of the same name from 2005 starring Tom Cruise, a movie I have watched a number of times. It is easy to draw this comparison from the two images below. The one on the left was taken February 4,2015 with a wide angle lens. The photographer who took this image stated “ I took this shot about 3pm. The clock does not even keep good time and often shows different times on each of its four faces”. Shown to the right of this photograph is a clip from the 2005 movie showing the alien creature. Shown opposite is a close-up view of the clock faces taken in 2013.


The installation of the clock came about as a result of the desire by town officials to mark the Millennium. A competition was announced of which there were 97 entries. This was slashed to four options and put to a public vote. The clock submission by artist Jon Mills won out and he was commissioned to produce and install the clock at a cost to ratepayers of 25,000 pounds.  The selection had the backing of other artists, various groups and the Borough Council but although the winner of the competition it has suffered from a love-hate relationship by local residents and visitors alike. No matter what your opinion of it is one cannot deny that it is a striking feature at Fourways.

It has been criticized as being “too spindly, not a statue, out of keeping etc etc” since erected in 2000. Comments about it even made their way into national newspapers.

Since the time it was erected it has been both a conversation piece and a place where people meet. If the purpose of art is to draw your attention to it and get you thinking about it then perhaps the Millennium Clock, apart from its practical role as a timepiece, has accomplished these objectives.

When interviewed by a Kent Live Reporter in October 2017 Jon Mills had this to say. “ It’s an elegant spire made up of tracery fretwork with forged braces bearing numbers-a jewel to spark off intrigue and imagination by passers-by”.  Shown opposite is a close-up view of the branches and numbers Jon spoke of.  The interview continued with Jon stating “ I have always striven to make unusual metal objects and place them in situations where they stand on their own two legs- or four in this case-and clash with the ubiquitous shopping malls and urban architecture in our town centres, although I have to say, it was a bit of a shock all those years ago to get so much anger directed at me. The Council’s pubic consultation had thrown up support for a clock so as I’d never made one, I pounced on that. I remember the day I installed it, in the pouring rain, 8m up in the air on the cherry picker putting the bolts in, looking down on a little old lady shaking her umbrella at me and shouting “ isn’t it awful”.

Perhaps Fiveways was the best place to install the clock, being in the centre of town. Shown below left is an early 20th century postcard view of Fiveways and a modern view after the clock was installed. A lot has changed over the years at this busy spot. When my friend Susan Prince and I visited Tunbridge Wells in 2015 we stopped to see the clock up close and on our daily trips about the town to such places as Royal Victoria Place and the shops nearby, the clock certainly stood out.


The Millennium clock is but one of several interesting, and some historical , clocks in the town. The oldest in existence, although perhaps not the original one, is in the Pantiles, which was recently the topic of a book.  Both of the train stations had fine clocks installed in their clock towers. Most of the churches in the town had decorative clocks and who is not aware of the clock handing over the sidewalk at 37 High Street, the premises of Paynes  Jewellers. Other examples of interesting clocks and even sundials (like the one on the wall of King Charles the Martyr Church) can be found in the town.


Jon Mills in 2006 was living in Brighton Sussex and wrote the following about himself.  Shown opposite is a photo of Jon. On his website you can read more about  this skilled artist in metal and his various, and quite wonderful,  works of art.

[1] Biography

I have been fabricating works in steel since leaving Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1982. Early years were spent producing sculpture and automata for speculative exhibitions and galleries, and by the mid 90's more and more public commissions were being undertaken. My work is illustrative in nature and, if a public commission, often draws on site-specific influences, be they contemporary, historical or environmental. I sometimes incorporate functional elements within sculptural work, and vice versa, blurring the boundaries between decoration and function - my work has included bridges, clock-towers and way-markers as well as many decorative gates & railings for civic buildings and schools. Very often the local community (normally a school group) is involved in the process. If practical, schoolchildren have been bussed to my workshop and had hands-on experience of metalworking, including plasma-cutting, forging and (the favourite), quenching the hot work in a bucket of water. I have undertaken many residencies in schools, where I set up a temporary workshop with plasma cutter and anvils. Made from forged and welded steel, the work plays with, and often combines, man-made structure and natural forms, The making process dictates the outcome. All work, be it commissioned or speculative, is carried out in my own workshop, although I will often sub-contract out designs for multiple laser cuts, which are then manipulated and forged/welded together by me, as part of the artwork. All exterior work is shot-blasted, zinc-sprayed and powder coated, whilst interior work is preferably waxed only. I tend to install all works where possible, or will oversee sub-contractors if required.

[2] CV & Education 

Solo exhibitions 2011 - “Mr Watt Grumpy man of metal” , Solo exhibition at Hove Museum & Art Gallery with ACE lottery funding, Solo exhibition at Hove Museum & Art Gallery with ACE lottery funding 2004 - “Beaten & Blocked” , Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery 2001 - “Jon Mills Does Metalwork” , Hartlepool Art Gallery, Kings Lynn Arts Centre, and Trinity Arts Gallery Tunbridge Wells, Hartlepool Art Gallery, Kings Lynn Arts Centre, and Trinity Arts Gallery Tunbridge Wells 1996 - Cabinets and Curiosities, Wolverhampton Art Gallery 1989 - “Back to the Dragon Couch” Solo touring show (Southern Arts), Solo touring show (Southern Arts), 5 venues in south east Group exhibitions 1998 - “Terry Gilliams Devious Devices” , Croydon Clocktower Museum and National Tour., Croydon Clocktower Museum and National Tour. 1991 - “City Steel” , Crafts Council, London, London 1990 - “Londres:Images et Objets du Nouveau Design, , Pompidou Centre, Paris and Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Pompidou Centre, Paris and Museum of Modern Art Tokyo 1990 - Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York, (Sponsored by D.T.I.), New York 1989 - Museum Boymans-van Beuningham, Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningham, Rotterdam 1988 - “Navy Pier Arts Expo” , (Crafts Council Sponsored), Chicago 1987 - “The New Spirit” Crafts Council, London, Crafts Council, London and Los Angeles Museum of Art and Folk Art Private commissions 2001 - Museum entrance sign, for the MCC, Lords Cricket Ground 1988 - “Music Machine” for “Erik the Viking” , Director:, Terry Jones Public commissions 2011 - Many Local authority commissions over the years for sculptural, decorative and functional works in, England and Wales - please see web-site. 2011 - Many school entrance features, in many schools, over many years - see website 2000 - Dyfi Bridge. Collaboration with engineers and part manufacture of 65metre foot/cycle bridge,, Powys County Council, Machynlleth, Wales 1996 - Sustrans Mileposts, Original prototype for 500 mileposts,, National Cycle Network (Sustrans) Corporate commissions 1991 - 14 Awards for ABSA. Sponsored by The Daily Telegraph and Elf, Sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, and Elf Aquitane



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

Date: October 23,2018


The Woodsgate Swimming Pool opened in Pembury in 1934 . It was constructed on a large site located to the rear of the Woodsgate Hotel (now gone) just off what is now Woodhill Park with an address of 62 High Street.

Since the time of its opening it was described in the Courier in such glowing terms  as “a wonderful facility”, “ the finest pool in the district”.

Opening annually in May and closing for the season in the fall it was visited by thousands of adults and children looking for entertainment and relaxation in the pools chlorinated and heated waters, and was packed in the summer. In the evening one could swim by floodlight.

The facility came complete with a large fountain, grassed area, a spring board and diving boards with a café run by a woman where refreshments could be obtained and upstairs there was a sunbathing area. Regular bus service passing the pool entrance was available and many from the area, including those living in Tunbridge Wells ,took advantage of the service. There was also a free car park on the site.

Swimming lessons were given there by a qualified instructor. Tickets to use the facility varied in price for adults, children and spectators with reduced rates if you bought a season ticket. In 1936 unemployed persons could swim there, upon presentation of the unemployment card for 2d.

Many special events were held there such as musical entertainments, bathing beauty pagents and Grand Swimming Galas.

In 1948 concern was expressed by a report stating from tests of the water that it was unsafe, but this was rectified by remedial action on the part of the pools operators.

Part of the facility became a nightclub for several years before the pool complex closed in 1973 and the site was redeveloped into residential use. Shown above is a postcard view of the pool from the 1930’s and below it is a photo from the Tunbridge Wells Museum.


The open air swimming pool and related buildings were located at 62 High Street to the rear of the rear of the old Woodsgate Hotel (now gone) and just off of what later became Woodhill Park, a road and residential development constructed on the site of the pool after it closed in 1973. Shown below is an aerial photograph dated 1940 showing the pool and beside is an enlargement.


Shown here from the Pembury History website is a map labelled 1892-1905 showing Woodsgate Corner and the Woodsgate Hotel. The site of the future swimming pool is shown beside plot 235 as an enclosure or a field. From that time until the pool facility was built in 1934 some new developments took place in the vicinity of the hotel. Shown below right is a second map providing more detail about the parts of the facility over the period of the 1930’s to 1950’s. The 1936 map was modified to show greater detail of the swimming pool, cafe & nightclub.This reflects the assumed condition between the 1930s and the 1950s. Picture Postcards show tea gardens at the side of the main house.This is assumed to be the large blank area to the left of the pool and its car park. Given here is the index to the map.

A      Boys changing huts.

B      Girls changing huts.

C      Fountain.

D      Power and Pump House.

E       Entrance & Exit turnstiles to and from the pool area.

F       Cafe and social area.  Entrance door at footpath.  No entrance from pool area.

G      Bar for night-club use.

E, F, G  –  roof terrace above ground floor rooms.  Used for sunbathing.

H      Grassed area for sunbathing.

I        Pathway from steps to pool entrance.

J       Steps leading down from car park to path,  pool entrance & cafe/nightclub entrance.

K      Car park for swimming pool.

L      (removed)

M      Arched portico with “Woodsgate Lido” above arch.    Iron gates within arch.    Toilets.

Fenced perimeter marked in red. Woodsgate Way did not exist at this time –  shown for reference purpose only. Woodsgate House  was demolished in 1960 and is shown here for reference only. Diving boards at the left side of the pool – the boys changing huts end.

The pool facility opened in 1934 as noted in the Courier of January 29,1934 which gave “ Swimming joys at Woodsgatge Pool. The “New” open air pool is proving the most popular spot in the district. Swimmers of all ages are taking advantage of the splendid facilities offered in this unique sylvan setting…”  It is expected that the construction of the pool facility was commenced in the fall of 1933.

Shown here is a map referencing the before and after redevelopment details of the site. Other maps, all of which were made by Tony Nicholls ,can be seen on  the Pembury History website. In a recent email from Tony he states in part " Apparently it (the pool) was not destroyed (when the site was cleared for new homes) but just filled in with rubble and landscape as one of the houses has the buried pool in its garden".


Definitive information about the owner(s) of the pool is lacking and requires further research. Keith Isacc who was raised in Pembury and recalls in his recollections, posted to the Pembury History Website that he was born in 1947 and that his grandfather was William Hills who for many years operated a butchers shop at 23 High Street from about 1920 to 1953. He states that “Mother worked for Frank Holden? for a while, who owned the Woodsgate swimming pool and I enjoyed many, many days there, and in the Night Club which was still going in 1964/5 probably later, and encompassed all of the area under the sun terrace of the pool. Wasn’t that terrace a fabulous venue for girl watching! But the tarred surface could get a but hot! I seem to remember that after the Square Deal Transport Café closed that Woodsgate pool opened their cafeteria to attract this trade and extended their car park. Could this have been the time that they opened the Night Club as that was definitely open all year and it would have made sense to have the café open for transport all year”. Regarding the ownership of the pool Keith gave the following “ Frank Holden in the 1960s; Mr Hemsley and then Mr Gervadi”.

In another section of the Pembury History website, from a review of local directories and other sources the ownership was given as Frank Holden then Frank Hemsley then from 1959-1965 Finch & Hemsley(or Hamsley).

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 22,1941 referred to a Mr West as the proprietor of the pool.


The pool was listed in local directories from 1934 to 1973 as the “Woodsgate Lido & Swimming Pool” 62 High Street. Shown opposite is a photograph dated 1935. Below in order of appearance is a photo taken of children at the pool in the 1950’s. This is followed by view of the pool complex during demolition.

I begin my description of the pool facility with the article below (by Hugh Boorman) from the Pembury News Spring 2013 and in this section I provide some interesting photographs of the pool.

“Unfortunately, there are not many people left in the village now who will remember and who will have enjoyed the facility of the open air swimming pool which used to be situated to the rear of the Old Woodsgate Hotel and just off what is now Woodhill Park. It was a wonderful facility with a large fountain, grassed areas, spring board and diving boards, a refreshment area for ice creams and pop etc., and an upstairs sunbathing area. This pool used to get packed in the summer and I can only think of one other such like facility which was at Hilden Manor, which I think eventually was sold like Woodsgate for housing development. Many people learnt to swim there and there was nothing better on a hot sunny afternoon than to just walk up the road and enjoy the pool. The facility I think was owned by a gentleman who also owned a shop in Tunbridge Wells. The local boys and girls used to go back up there after it had closed in the evenings, climb over the turnstiles and enjoy a free swim. I remember on one occasion the lights around the pool coming on and the owner appeared with the local policeman Mr Harry Edmondson. Part of the facility became a night club for several years before it was sold for development back in the fifties or sixties, not quite certain when. There was quite an uproar in the village when people realised this facility was going. I shall never forget that this was where I first saw a girl in a bikini, I was only about twelve at the time and WOW….! Does anyone recognise the people in the picture and have they any pictures that really show the features of the pool area and any detail of when it was built?”

A review of the Kent & Sussex Courier from 1900 to 1948 showed that the first articles about the pool began in 1934. A sample of a few of many articles during that period is given below.

June 8,1934……….Woodgates Pool Pembury opening on Saturday

July 13 and August 10 1934……….Have you visited the Woodsgate Swimming Pool? The electrical work was installed by A.t. Spurrell of Pembury who will be pleased to give his advise on your electrical needs”

September 12,1934……….. “ Bathe by floodlight courtesy of purified and heated water. New sunroof café now open. Free car park”.

April 12.1935……..”Woodsgate Pool in Pembury is to be re-opened on Good Friday and for regular patrons special terms have been arranged. Through the season an expert instructor will be available for diving lessons…”

August 9,1935……….Article refers to open-air and indoor baths

May 1,1936………”Swim your way to health at the Woodsgate Pool, Pembury. Re-opening Saturday May 2nd. Every facility to enjoy a swim, sunbathe or late hour under perfect conditions. Ideally situated in pleasant surroundings, purified and heated water, spacious sunbathing terraces”.

May 15,1936………”Buy your tickets for the finest pool in the district for 1 pound a week with a special reduced rate of 20 pounds for the whole season”.

July 3,1936…………”For the present season unemployed persons resident in the Borough to be admitted to the pool at all hours of bathing for 2d per person under presentation of the unemployment cards”.

July 7,1937……..The Tunbridge Wells Acordian Band to play at the Woodsgate pool.

August 22,1941……….Pembury Swimming Gala in connection with Pembury’s Summer National Savings Camaign, a swimming gala proved a big success and attracted entries from a wide area on Wednesday. It was held at the Woodsgate Swimming Pool, kind permission of the proprietor Mr West.

May 22,1942…….” A capable women required to run the café at the pool. Apply to F. Drury, High Street”.

May 23,1947……….” Woodsgate Swimming Pool fully filtered and chlorinated water now open to the public seven days a week. Refreshments available…”

July 11,1947……….” Swimming pool ballet-A special attraction at the Woodsgate pool Pembury on July 16-19 will be an open air ballet by the Russian Ballet League”. October 8,1948……….” Public swim baths water was unsafe” the headline read. “alarming report to Council……wonderful facilities provided.

April 27,1949………..” Woodsgate pool now open for the public. Season tickets available at the office. Snacks, teas etc will be obtained in the restaurant. The County Club adjoins the swimming pool…”


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

Date: October 27,2018


Jean Mary Checksfield was born in 1927 at Romney Marsh, the daughter of Cyril Albert Checksfield (1895-1977) and Rose Ovenden (1896-1999).  Jean spent her childhood and received her early education in Romney Marsh. Her parents were still living in Romney Marsh in 1939 but Jean was not living with them at the time.

Jean decided that a career as nurse what she wanted to do the rest of her working life and when her elementary schooling was done she received her training at St Bartholome’s in London.

The Nursing Register of 1949 recorded “ Jean Mary Checksfield residing at 8 Council House, Burmarsh, Dynchurch, Kent. Registration date: November 26,1948. At the County Hospital, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells 1945-1948. Certified by examination.”

An interesting account by Jean’s second husband Philip Handsaker, that appeared in the Pembury News of Summer 2000 ,provides a romantic account of him meeting Jean at the Pembury Hospital in 1945 when he arrived there and remained a patient for 8 months, having been wounded while serving with the army in WW2. Although nothing came of his meeting Jean at the time he remembered her well and after his first wife (Margaret Joan Handsaker) passed away in 1998 he sought her out and managed to find her but by that time she was a widow, her first husband Bert Morphett( 1904-1975) who had been married before, having passed away in Tunbridge Wells in 1975. Jean had married Bert late in life at Folkestone in 1966.

Philip made contact with Jean in April 1998 and quickly resumed their friendship, a friendship that developed into them getting married in the 4th qtr of 1999 at the Jarvis International Hotel in Pembury. Jean’s mother passed away August 15,1999 in Tunbridge Wells.

Philip stated that when he met up again with Jean in 1998 that she was living within a half mile of the Pembury Hospital where she had spent most of her nursing career. She later moved to Tunbridge Wells and worked up to the time of her retirement at the Kent & Sussex Hospital.

Philip Handsaker passed away In October 2004 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium. He was survived by his wife Jean who was reported to still be alive and living in Tunbridge Wells October 2018.

In this article I present information about Jean’s life and career. Also given at the end of the article is some brief information about the Pembury and the Kent & Sussex Hospitals where she worked.


The following information is reproduced from an article by Philip Handsaker that appeared in the Pembury News Summer 2000. In the following sections I fill in the story with genealogical information and some information about Jean’s nursing career.

“My introduction to Pembury was sudden and unexpected. In 1945 I was a soldier stationed at Staplehurst but on 28 July of that year I found myself in Pembury Hospital where I remained a patient for eight months. I have happy memories of that period. One vivid memory is of nurses walking in procession through the wards on Christmas Eve, carrying lanterns and singing carols. A more important memory is of the nurse who was specially assigned to care for me, Jean Checksfield. After I was discharged from hospital and invalided out of the army I travelled several times from my home in Essex to meet Jean, staying overnight at the Camden Arms. But in 1947 we agreed to go our separate ways. I eventually married someone else. I heard no more from Jean and did not visit Pembury again.n At the beginning of 1998 my wife died. After a few months I resolved to try to trace Jean. Having had no contact whatsoever for 51 years I realised that this was a forlorn hope. Jean might well have married, thus changing her name and making my task far harder and probably pointless. She might have emigrated to the ends of the earth. She might even be no longer alive. Most frustrating of all my search might, after several months, come to a dead end. But most of my misgivings were unfounded. In less than a week I made contact. To my astonishment she was living within half a mile of Pembury Hospital where she had worked for most of her career (the remainder being spent at the Kent & Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells). She had married and metamorphosed into Jean Morphett but had been a widow for many years. She had cared at home for her aged mother for nine years. We met again in April 1998 and quickly resumed our old friendship and, after the death of Jean’s mother last year at the age of 103, this culminated in our wedding on 30 October 1999 at the Jarvis International Hotel, Pembury. I trust that I may end this story with the traditional words “. . . and they both lived happily ever after.”


The birth of Jean Mary Checksfied was recorded in 1927 at Romney Marsh with her mother’s maiden name given as ‘Ovenden’.

Her mother was in fact Rose (sometimes given as Rosa) Ovenden (1896-1999) and Jean’s father was Cyril Albert Checksfield (1895-1977). An image of Rose is given opposite.

Cyril had been born August 7,1895 at Romney Marsh. The 1901 census, taken at Grand Gate Farm in Burmarsh listed Cyril. He was living with his grandfather Alfred Checksfiled, a farmer,age 60,and his grandmother Mary,age 61 along with five of Alfred’s children.

The 1911 census, taken at Eaton Farm in Burmarsh gave Cyril living with his grandparents Alfred and Mary Jane along with two children of Alfred. Alfred was given as a farmer/grazier employer and his two children Edith and Percy were both working on the farm.

Cyril served in WW1 (68233) with the machine gun corps. His was given as single with the occupation of cordite worker and living at Station Cottages at Cliffe, Kent. He had enlisted for service at Maidstone August 16,1915. His next of kin was given as Arthur Checksfield (father) although he was actually Cyril’s grandfather. It appears that Cyril’s parents were deceased sometime before 1901.

In the 4th qtr of 1922 Cyril married Rose at Romney Marsh.

Rose Ovenden was born April 17,1896 at Elham, Kent and was baptised October 4,1896 at Lympe, Kent and given as the daughter of Walter Ovenden (1858-1944) and Annie Ovenden, nee Sparks (born 1879). Rose was one of six sibings and nine half siblings in the family. Shown above is a photograph of Rose (on the right) with her half -sister Esther.

At the time of the 1901 census Rose was living at Romney Marsh with her parents and nine siblings. Her father at that time was a shepherd. At the time of the 1911 census Rose was living with her parents and four siblings at Burmarsh on Rothchild Farm in 9 rooms where her father worked as a farm bailiff.

Jean grew up at Romney Marsh and received her basic education there. Later she trained as a nurse at St Bartolomew’s Hospital in London. Shown below left is a postcard view of Romney Marsh and to the right is a view of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 square miles.


A directory of 1939 gave Cyril Albert Cheksfield as a roadman heavy workers for the County. With him was just his wife Rose doing unpaid domestic duties.

For some nine years when Jean was a widow she was living about a ½ mile from the Pembury Hospital and had been caring for her widowed mother.

Cyril Albert Checksfield died December 8,1977 at Burmarsh Romney Marsh, Kent. Probate records gave Cyril of 5 The Green Burmarsh Romney Marsh who left and estate valued at 4,806 pounds.

His widow Rose died August 15,1999 in Tunbridge Wells and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium August 23rd.


Marriage records report that Jean Checksfield married Bert Morphett in the 1st qtr of 1966 at Folkestone, Kent. At the time of the marriage Jean was already age 49 and it appears there were no children from the marriage.

Bert Morhett (1904-1975) had been born in Pembury October 7,1904 and had nine siblings born between 1894 and 1914. Bert was the son of Walter Morphett (born 1870) and Edith Morphett (1870-1940). Bert was living with his parents and siblings in Pembury at the time of the 1901 census and was still there at the time of the 1911 census.

His brother Walter Morphett (1895-1918) served in WW1 (G.5006) with the 2nd Btn (92nd Foot) Queens Own RWK and was the eldest son of Walter Morphett of Stone Court Farm in Pembury. He had been born in Pembury and attended the village school. He enlisted for service in Tunbridge Wells December 16,1914 and served with the Expeditionary Force in France from April 14,1915 and was wounded by shrapnel under his shoulder and gassed at Hill 60. He was invalided home where he spent time in hospital at Cheshire. He then proceeded to Mesopotania December 1915 and died of Malaria October 22,1918. He was buried at the Bagdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq. His name is recorded on the wooden plaque at the Baptist Church.

Bert’s first wife was Hilda Mary Powell (1902-1984) and with her had three children, the eldest being his son Keth I Morphett(1942-1958). Hilda Mary Powells was born December 18,1902 and was the daughter of Arthur Ernest James Powell (1880-1904) and Florence Powell, nee Fullman (1877-1952). Hilda’s father died in Tunbridge Wells March 22,1904. Hilda died in the 2nd qtr of 1984 in Tunbridge Wells.

The death of Bert’s mother was registered at Tonbridge in the 2nd qtr of 1940. Bert’s death was recorded at Tonbridge in the 4th qtr of 1975.


Marriage records report that Jean Morphett, nee Checksfield, married Philip Handsaker (1921-2004) at Pembury in the 4th qtr of 1999. Philip reported from his article that the marriage took place October 30,1999 at the Jarvis International Hotel, Pembury (image opposite).

When Jean and Philip met after many years in 1999 Jean was age 82 and retired from nursing. With her was her widowed mother who she was caring for and by this time Jean had already retired from nursing at the Kent & Sussex Hospital where she had competed her nursing career.

Philip had been born August 30,1921 in Bromley. He was the son of John Thomas Handsaker (born February 27,1877) and John’s second wife Adelaide Amelia Handsaker, nee Ray (March 31,1884-1955). John’s first wife was Emily Bolingbroke Martin Handsaker (1878-1915) with whom he had two children between 1908 and 1910.  John had married Emily April 17,1907 at Holy Trinity Church,Chelsea.  His father James was given as a farm bailiff. Emily’s father was not recorded. The marriage was witnesses by William Henry Handsaker. At the time of the 1911 census John was living with his family in 3 rooms at Beckenham, Kent, where John ran a grocers shop. John’s marriage to Adelaide took place June 15,1919 in Kent. John died June 30,1961 at Maldon, Essex.  Before WWII Philip was living in Essex with his parents.

Adelaide Amelia Ray was born March 31,1884 in London. Adelaide passed away April 25,1954 in Colchester Essex. Her probate records gave her of Tudwich Road Little Totham, Maldon Essex (the wife of John Thomas Hansaker) and that she died at Severalls Hospital in Colechester. Her husband was the executor of her 491 pound estate.

A directory of 1939 gave Philip at school and living with his parents John and Adelaide at Tudwick road in Maldon, Essex, John was given as a small holder of a farm and a heavy work gardener/labourer. His wife Adelaide was given as born March 31,1884.

Probate records note that John Thomas Handsaker was of Rovers View Beeleigh Road in Maldon, Essex when he died June 30,1961. His executor was his solicitor and his estate was valued at 4,002 pounds.

In the 4th qtr of 1952 at Willesden Philip married Margaret Joan Bulluck. Margaret was born September 28, 1919 at Chippenham. Wiltshire. Her mother’s maiden name was given as ‘ Muzzell’. In 1930 Margaret was living at 2 Holtwhites Hill in Enfield, Essex with her parents Cecil William Bulluck and Daisy Eva Bulluck and her brother William.  Margaret Joan Handsaker, nee Bulluck, died in the 1st qtr of 1998 at Bromley.

Philip’s marriage to Jean in 1999 sadly did not last long for he passed away in the 3rd qtr of 2004 in Pembury. He was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium October 5th having died on September 25th. Philip was survived by Jean who is stated to still be alive in October 2018 and living in Tunbridge Wells.


-She trained as a nurse at St Bartholomews Hospital

-Although not confirmed she may have been working before WW 2 at Guys Hospital and if so would have been one of the nurses moved to the Pembury Hospital.

-The Nursing Register of 1949 gave ““ Jean Mary Checksfield residing at 8 Council House, Burmarsh, Dynchurch, Kent. Registration date: November 26,1948. At the County Hospital, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells 1945-1948. Certified by examination.”

-The article by Jeans second husband in 2000 stated that Jean was a nurse at the Pembury Hospital when he arrived there with his injuries in 1945.

-According to her husband Philip she worked all of her career or at least most of initially at the Pembury Hospital and later at the Kent & Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge.

-She retired from nursing at the Kent & Sussex Hospital sometime before 1977 based on her age in that year of 60.


The following article by nurse Susan Taylor (nee Goldschmitt) dated July 13,2005 appeared on a website about WW2. In part she stated “Guy’s Hospital and all other major hospitals also evacuated their patients and staff to safer hospitals in the country, away from London. Our hospitals were in Kent and they all, had to start building prefabricated huts to be used as wards and as housing for staff, operating theatres, x-ray units etc. We nurses were put up in Bell Tents in a place called Pembury not far from Tunbridge Wells. This was fine during the remaining summer months but when the cold weather started they put in stoves so give us some heat. But they smoked us out and so we had to be moved again. This time it was to an old Workhouse which had only just been evacuated by the “down and outs”. Not very pleasant. But eventually we were able to move to the newly built huts. When in June 1940 the evacuation of Dunkirk started, we were one of the front line hospitals who took in the wounded soldiers and the doctors and nurses were working round the clock to help as many people as possible and relieve their suffering. We all were kept so busy and working overtime was part of our daily life in London. People continued to live as normally as possible. Many of course were called up to the Army, Air Force, Navy and those in reserved occupations e.g. doctors, dentists, nurses, coal miners, farmers and key workers in industry continued in their current jobs. Others were directed to Munitions Factories, arms factories, Land Army and other jobs of national importance. And we lived in this sort of atmosphere, never knowing what each day would bring, continuing our daily work, saying hallo or good bye to friends new and old as we were being sent from place to place, from Pembury to Orpington and Farnborough for my 2nd and 3rd year of training.”


Shown above is a photograph of nurses standing outside the Pembury Hospital in the 1940’s but whether Jean is among them in this image is not known. Also shown is a photograph of the bell tents referred to by Jean

Pembury Hospital was heavily used during WWII, although not many remain who remember it as it was then. In fact, when it was advertised to find people with stories from Pembury Hospital's WWII days, only one person came forward: Frank Stanford.  His book entitled ‘In Pembury Hospital WWII Through the Eyes of Frank Stanford’ (image opposite), Frank openly shares his entertaining and informative memories of working at Pembury Hospital during the war years. Also included are a brief look at Pembury Hospital's history and the new Tunbridge Wells Hospital, which replaced it.

The following account is by Dr Roy Webb who began his medical training at Guy’s Hospital in London but ended up at the Pembury Hospital during WW2. Dr Roy Webb served as a surgeon-lieutenant on HMS Kelvin, a destroyer that took part in D-Day, at Sword Beach. In part he stated “I took my bicycle and cycled to Pembury and had all my gear put in an ambulance, which took everyone’s gear to Pembury. That’s how we got to Pembury, to a hutted hospital from the First World War. It was a hutted hospital which was put on hold for the future, in case it might be necessary to use it.  There were quite a lot of them littered about the countryside. We landed in Pembury, and I had some lovely digs. Next door, a very nice couple had a horse. Well, riding had always been one of my hobbies, so I was in clover. I had a marvellous time. I could ride first thing in the morning, and then go into hospital at Pembury. We worked hard and got down to it. I passed all my exams on time. Despite the fact that Guy’s was pretty badly hurt, we went back and did periods of three or four months at a time in various specialties, like general medicine, ear, nose and throat and obstetrics. You got much more experience in Pembury because the hutted hospital contained about a thousand patients. One had the pick of the patients. I used to spend two mornings or two days a week making friends with the ward sister, which was always a good thing to do. She let me examine these patients. To a large extent I was experience-taught. I took my experience whenever I saw an opportunity. That’s been my life the whole way through.” Shown above is a photograph of the huts at the Pembury Hospital utilized for patients during the war. The wooden huts at the Pembury Site were built by the Government in 1939 as an emergency wartime measure and were first used for the Dunkirk emergency. They were still in use in 2007 and some were turned into nurse education & accommodation functions.

On September 3,1939 London buses arrived in Pembury with staff evacuated from Guy’s Hospital in London with the nurses being  accommodated in tents on the lawn! Shown opposite was a report on this event.

Soldiers injured and taken to the Pembury Hospital benefitted from a new occupational therapy unit opened in the old workhouse casuals hut in 1943. An interior view of one of these huts is shown with an exterior view above.


The hospital , located on St John’s Road, had been built as a replacement for the old General Hospital on Grosvenor Road built in 1842. The Dutchess of York laid the foundation stone for the new hospital in July 19,1932. The hospital had been designed by architect Cecil Burns and on July 25,1934 it was officially opened. Andre Page, a local photographer took many fine photographs of it, one of which is shown above.

From the time of its opening it met the medical needs of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area and over the years underwent a number of alterations. The complete history of this hospital is beyond the scope of this article and information about it can be obtained from a number of sources.

During WW2 hundreds, if not thousands, of wounded military personnel were treated at the hospital in addition to the normal load of medical treatments required by residents.

In August 1940 the hospital Road was bombed and sustained substantial damage as shown in the photograph opposite. The Courier article reporting on the events was published under the headline “ Hospital badly damaged but nurses remained calm”.

The hospital remained in use until it was time that a modern and larger facility was required and as a result the new Pembury Hospital ( image opposite) was built on the Tonbridge Road, about  0.5 kilometres to the north-west of Pembury. The new hospital was designed by Anshen & Allen and built by Laing O'Rourke at a cost of £230 million. The first phase of the new hospital, on which construction started in 2008, opened in January 2011; the rest of the hospital opened on September 21,2011 at which time all services were transferred from the Kent and Sussex Hospital. It also replaced the old Pembury Hospital.










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