THE SOUTHBOROUGH VIADUCT
Written By; Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario,Canada
Date; March 17,2014
I begin my coverage of this topic with the following quote from Kent Rail “The Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells branch has the distinction of opening within weeks of Royal Assent being granted for the line. The SER had commenced building the branch, initially 4 miles and 7 chains in length, in July 1844. Earthworks for cuttings and embankments were extensive, and a notable feat of engineering was a 270-yard-long 26-arch red-brick viaduct, which crossed ''Jackwood Spring Valley'' near the former site of a powder mill. Thus, it was known from the outset as ''Powder Mill Viaduct'', and its construction was not without incident.
The structure was the product of Peter Barlow, brother of St Pancras trainshed engineer William Barlow, who specialised in bridge and tunnel construction. The line was initially to be a single-track affair, but at an advanced stage of construction in April 1845, the decision was taken to make the route double-track throughout. By this time, the viaduct had already been completed, thus an extension of the piers and arches was made to one side, taking the structure to an absolute width of 28-foot, with 23-foot 2-inches between parapets. On the afternoon of 31st May 1845, during widening works, the six arches at the Tonbridge end of the viaduct collapsed. The piers which had been supporting them, however, remained standing, and avoided damage. It was noted that at the time of the collapse, the arches had already been secured in place by keystones. The construction of the arches had taken place in prolonged and heavy rain, and it was reported that these conditions were partly to blame for the mortar not setting properly. The lime mortar itself was a local product, made of grey chalk sourced from the cliffs between Dover and Folkestone. The other twenty arches were robust and remained standing; although built using the same mortar, these arches had been constructed in much better weather. The collapsed arches were subsequently rebuilt with brick and cement, and on 19th September 1845, the viaduct was declared fit for use by Major-General Pasley of the Board of Trade; the line opened to traffic the following day. The arches are of 24-foot span and the viaduct rises to a height of 40-foot.” The two photos above accompanied the Kent Rail article and were taken January 17,2010. Shown below is an early 19th etching showing a train crossing the viaduct.
This viaduct has been referred to by various names. As the above quotation indicates it has been known as the Powder Mill Viaduct,named after a mill that initially produced gunpowder, but when it exploded it was rebuilt as a mill to grind corn. More often it is known as the Southborough Viaduct, being in the parish of Southborough. It has also been referred to as the Colebrook Viaduct in reference to the Colebrooke (sp) family who owned thousands of acres of land in and around High Brooms, and presumably the land upon which the viaduct was constructed for it is referred to as spanning the Colebrook Valley.
Some mention of the viaduct is given in general terms in the publication “ South-Eastern Railway General Statement of The Position and Projects of the Company 1845-6 which was published in London. No details are provided about the viaduct that have not already been given.
Bragshaws 1847 directory had this to say “ A branch of the SER runs to Tunbridge Wells, and crosses a branch of the River Medway by a noble viaduct of 26 arches near the old powder mills.
Shown opposite is a map of the area from the English Heritage website which shows the location of the viaduct with Powder Mill Lane crossing beneath it. The viaduct was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage on October 27,1950. There description of it is “ Southborough Powder Mill Lane 1845-Red brick, 26 arches of varying height according to the slope of the ground. Stringcourse and parapet above the arches. Part of the original layout of the branch line from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells.The southeastern third is in the former Borough of Tunbridge Wells…” The location of the viaduct has been highlighted in red. The image above left is an old print on which the viaduct is referred to as the "Colebrook Viaduct".
Shown here are two postcards related to the viaduct. The black and white image is a postcard produced in the early 1900’s by Harold H. Camburn,a local photographer and postcard printer/publisher showing a quaint view of Powder Mill Lane on the way to the viaduct . The coloured image is from a postcard by unknown maker in the early 1900’s which shows Powder Mill Lane and the viaduct in the background.
The area in the vicinity of the viaduct became a small settlement consisting largely of agricultural workers. The 1881 census makes reference to the viaduct by the presence of two families, one being that of John Huntley at #1 Viaduct Cottage and the James Jeffery family at #2 Viaduct Cottage.
The following information is from the Southborough and Kaniv Association website “ When a branch line to connect Tonbridge with Tunbridge Wells was created by the South-Eastern Railway Company, it was necessary to build a viaduct over the Colebrook Valley, the major engineering feat of the five miles of track. The Colebrook viaduct is 254 yards (232.26 metres) long and consists of 26 arches. It was opened on September 21,1845. It was designed and built by Peter William Barlow (1809-1885), a specialist engineer in bridge and tunnel construction. Today the viaduct is a Grade II listed building. The railway forms the eastern boundary of Southborough and High Brooms with Tunbridge Wells”.
Peter William Barlow was born 1 February 1, 1809 at Woolwich, London and died May 19,1885. His wife was Bertha Crawford Caffin and with her had two daughters and one son.Peter was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers . Peter was particularly associated with railways, bridges (he designed the first Lambeth Bridge, a crossing of the River Thames in London), the design of tunnels and the development of tunnelling techniques. In 1864 he patented a design for a cylindrical tunnelling shield, later developed further by his pupil James Greathead in the construction of a tunnel under the Thames.
Peter was born at Woolwich, the son of an engineer and mathematician, professor Peter Barlow of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was privately educated, winning a Royal Society of Arts medal in 1824 for his drawing of a transit theodolite; he then became a pupil of civil engineer Henry Robinson Palmer, a founder member of the Institution of Civil Engineers - of which Barlow became an Associate Member in 1826.Under Palmer, Barlow worked on the Liverpool and Birmingham Canal and the new London Docks.Barlow contributed to the ICE journal, writing on The strain to which lock gates are subjected in 1836.He also contributed learned papers to the Royal Society.His brother William Henry Barlow was a noted 19th-century railway engineer. From 1836 Peter Barlow was the resident civil engineer under Sir William Cubitt on parts of the South Eastern Railway London to Dover line, before taking responsibility for the whole line in 1840,and later becoming Engineer-in-Chief. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November, 1845 as someone who was "Distinguished for his acquaintance with the science of Mathematics as applied to Engineering Subjects".From the 1850s to the 1870s, Barlow was engineer-in-chief to the Newtown and Oswestry,Londonderry and Enniskillen and Londonderry and Coleraine railways; in the mid-1860s he was also consultant engineer to the Finn Valley Railway. He investigated construction of long-span bridges, writing a paper on the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge,before becoming the engineer for the first Lambeth Bridge (1860–1862).
While designing the piers for this suspension bridge (since replaced by the current structure), Barlow experimented with driving iron cylinders into the clay upon which much of central and north London sits.This experience led him to look at use of cylindrical devices for tunnelling work and in September 1864 he patented a circular tunnelling shield which offered significant differences to the shield used by Marc Isambard Brunel in constructing the Thames Tunnel (1825-1843).This prepared him to work with his pupil James Greathead on the development of a rigid one-piece circular cross-section tunnelling shield used in the 11-month construction of the Tower Subway in 1869 and 1870. The Barlow-Greathead design was a major advance; the change from a rectangular to a circular shield, and "the reduction of the multiplicity of parts in the Brunel shield to a single rigid unit was of immense advantage and an advance perhaps equal to the shield concept of tunneling itself." From 1859 to 1867, Barlow lived at No 8 The Paragon, Blackheath, London. He died at 56 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, and is buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery, London.At the time of his death he was the oldest member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Shown above is a group of images of the viaduct taken by Gregory Beecroft in 2009/2010 .The black and white image appears to have been taken pre 1970 and produced as a postcard
THE HISTORY OF THE HIGH STREET BRIDGE
Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario, Canada
Date: October 6,2015
On September 20,1845 rail service from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells was officially opened but at that time the service ended at what became known variously as Jack Spring Woods (var) Station or the Goods Station in the north east part of town. Extension of the service to the centre of Tunbridge Wells required extensive tunnelling just west of the Goods Station to the proposed site of the SER Central Station on the north- west corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Vale Road. Rail service to the Central Station was established on November 25,1846. As the line was pushed southward that year further work was required to construct a bridge at the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road, High Street, and Vale Road, which took on the name of The High Street Bridge.Although the bridge is sometimes referred to as The Vale Bridge or even the Mount Pleasant Bridge, Network Rail refers to it as the High Street Bridge.
This article reports on matters pertaining to the construction of the original 1846 High Street Bridge, and its replacement in 1906/1907 and includes to some degree the history of the bridge up to the present time.Shown above is a early 19th century postcard view looking north up Mount Pleasant Road with an old omnibus and a horse and carriage on the road with the SER station beyond on the left.
Before the arrival of the railway what is now referred to as Mount Pleasant Road, the High Street ,and Grove Hill Road came together at an intersection in the central part of the town just south of what became known as Mount Pleasant Hill. Early maps such as Bowra’s of 1738 and Barrow of 1808, and in fact the map I have shown here of circa 1846 show that Vale Road did not extend westward from the intersection during that time but did so later and in fact there was some realignment of the roads at the intersection when the replacement bridge was constructed in 1906. Early maps also refer to Grove Hill Road as “Turnpike Road to Woodsgate” with High Street referred to as “ Foot of Mount Sion”.
The need for a bridge at this location did not arise until it was decided that rail service from the town of Tonbridge was to be extended southward to and through the town of Tunbridge Wells. The first phase of this work extended the SER from Tonbridge to a new station north east of the town called Jack Spring Woods or The Goods Station with passenger and freight service in place September 20,1845. Some writers have suggested that this was a temporary station but it is clear that it was always intended to be a permanent freight station and a temporary passenger station, temporary until the SER Central Station was built in 1846 and the line extended there.
Several buildings needed to be demolished on the north west corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Vale Road, including the Mount Pleasant Brewery, which is described in my article ‘The History of the Mount Pleasant Brewery’ dated February 1,2015. Shown here is a map dated circa 1846 showing the location and names of the shops then existing on the site which were partly demolished to make way for the railway tracks leading to the proposed SER Central Station .This group of shops was known as “Edger Terrace”, located on the south-east corner of the intersection.
Shown opposite (left)painting dated 1845 showing a view of Edgar Terrace and the Church to the south of it. This image was one of a group from a booklet on the local artist Charles Tattershall Dodd by Dr. Whilip Whitbourn and published by the Friends of Woodbury Park Cemetery in 2011. A second image of the same location by C.T. Dodd dated 1845 shows another view of the same site on High Street looking south from the intersection of High Street with Grove Hill Road. Remains of the southern end of Edgar Terrace are still standing today.
Shown here on the left is Mount Pleasant Road looking north from the bridge location in which can be seen the SER station on the left and Weeks department store which dominated the north east corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Vale Road, after Mr Weeks bought and demolished the old Railway Inn right on the corner.
Shown here is a 1909 os map which shows the intersection of the aforementioned roads; the SER station and the replacement bridge built in 1906. A comparison of this map with earlier ones shows that when the replacement bridge was built there was a realignment of the roads at this intersection.
Regardless of whether one refers to the 1846 bridge or the 1906 bridge the site of it was a difficult one given the intersection of the roads and the need to construct a bridge on an angle so that the track location could be transferred from the west side at the station to the east side beyond it to the south.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE 1846 BRIDGE
The original bridge was designed by the SER engineer Percy William Barlow(1809-1885), a specialist in bridge and tunnel design and construction. Details about him and his career are given in a separate section of this article.
The contractor in charge of building the line, including the bridge, was Hoof and Sons, headed up by company founder William Hoof(1788-1855). Joining him in the business was his sons James Hoof (1821-1849) and William Hoof. The Bragshaw Railway Gazette included an article dated September 30,1845 regarding the opening of the SER to Tunbridge Wells and in that article William Hoof was referred to as the “line contractor” and that James Loof, his son, of Kensington was working with him.
William Hoof (1788-1855) was a civic engineer and a detailed account of his career can be found in ‘A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers. From that source it is known that after an early career in connection with Daniel Pritchard, in the 1830’s tbe partnership ended and he continued as a railway contractor under the business name of Hoof and Sons, of which James and William junior were partners. William Hoof died at his home “Madeley House” in Kensington August 11,1855. When he died his only surviving children were four daughters. William Hoof had carried on his business as Hoof and Hill after the death of his sons James and William. Baptism records show that he was born July 25,1788 in Shropshire and Baptised at Madeley,Shropshire on May 14,1795, the son of James and Elizabeth Hoof.
The 1851 census, taken at Madeley House, Kensington, Middlesex gave William Hoof as born 1790 Andleu,Shropshire with the occupation of “builder”. With him was his wife Elizabeth, born 1799 at Kings Norton, Worcestershire, and three domestic servants. His will , which can be read in its entirely online goes on for some six pages and requests that he be given a “quite unpretentious funeral” and goes on to detail the disposition of his estate, the bulk of which was left to his wife.His address in the will was “Madeley House".
James Hoof (1821-1849) of Medeley House,Kensington, was the eldest son of Mr. William Hoof, and was born at Strood, in Kent, on the April 11, 1821, at which period his Father was engaged under W. T. Clarke (M.Inst.C.E.), in the construction of the tunnel on the Thames and Medway Canal. At an early age he was engaged, with his Father, in the execution of several large contract works, chiefly on railways, amongst which may be mentioned the Tonbridge Wells Branch, the Croydon and Epsom, and the Shrewsbury and Birmingham lines, of some of which he had the entire management. He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers , as an Associate, in 1842, and his death occurred suddenly at Wolverhampton, on December 4, 1849, regretted by all who knew him.
An obituary for James Hoof was published in 1851 in the ‘Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers which in part stated that “Few young men have lived so beloved and respected, whos death is regretted. An intimate friend said of him “ In all he was unreserved and confident intimacy. I never heard him express thought or utterances, that he would now recall”. He was elected an Associate of the Institution in the year 1842, and whilst he evinced his great attachment to the Society by his frequent attendance at the meetings he set a noble example in bequesting the results of his labours, for the use of his brother members. He died unexpectedly November 12,1849,admired by all who knew him,and beloved as few men ever had been”. His death was registered at Wolverhampton,Staffordshire December 4,1849.
Based on an announcement in The Argus, dated May 18,1891 is appears that John Hoof widow was Ann Hoof. The account reads “ On the 14th inst, at her residence,Sydney Road, Brunswick, after four years patient suffering through paralysis, Ann, relict of James Hoof, railway constractor, and much loved adopted mother of Florence,age 72” which makes her year of birth about 1819.
Before continuing I wish to thank John Arkell for his article entitled ‘Replacing the Vale Road Railway Bridge’ that appeared in the Autumn 2015 edition of the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society Newsletter and for several images pertaining to the 1846 and 1906 bridgem and for the following information related to the construction of the 1846 bridge from his review of newspaper accounts.
1) February 21,1846…the workmen are now actively engaged in pulling down the brewhouse (The Mount Pleasant Brewery), lately by Mr Bell, and also other buildings in front of Mount Pleasant Terrace.
2) March 28,1846…. There is a report of a compensation hearing in favour of Moses Wm Groves, shoemaker, of 9 Edgar Terrace. The upshot of which was that Moses Groves was awarded 300 pounds for the purchase of his lease and 550 pounds for loss of business, fixtures, improvement to the property making the total 850 pounds.
3) April 18,1846………. Report of an accident to a young man named Upton who was working on the Wells Tunnel at Jackswood. He fell off scaffolding in the tunnel and died of his injuries in hospital. Verdict was accidental death.
4) April 25,1846…… Works on the Railway are progressing rapidly but owing to difficulties of tunnelling it will be some months before the line will be opened to Mount Pleasant.
5) May 23,1846………. Report complaining that the last train to Tunbridge Wells from London left London Bridge at 5;30 pm. Businessmen wanting to travel back later had to catch the Dover Mail train leaving London at 8;30 pm and alight at Tonbridge hiring a post-chaise or having to walk from there. There was a suggestion that a memorial (petition) to the South Eastern would prompt the company to comply with the request for a later train.
6) August 29,1846……..The tunnel from Jack Wood’s (sic) spring to the Bath Yard was completed last week and this week the workmen have finished ballasting the road. The new station at Mount Pleasant is fast progressing. It is built in the pure Italian style but the roof is a little too sharp. The surveyors are now actively engaged in setting out the railway from the Wells to Hastings but the works on that line have not yet commenced.
7) September 19,1846……The NEW BRIDGE now in course of construction at the top of the High Street will consume upwards of 280 tons of iron.
8) September 26,1846……….. On Wednesday last one of the labourers fell from the scaffolding on the top of the station house at Mount Pleasant and was severely injured. He was engaged in hauling up stone when a rope broke and he fell with the stone. He was removed to the Infirmary. A report stated that the railway was open to the public on October 1st (this proved to be incorrect as 25th November 1846 is the date usually given for the opening ). Also on September 26th on Saturday evening after the men had left work Tyler one of the Police Constables on the South Eastern Railway, who was standing on the IRON BRIDGE at Mount Pleasant, on stepping off to drive away some boys who were on the premises, unfortunately fell into the excavation, whereby his head and hands were very much cut and his ankle put out. He was immediately taken to Mr. Sopwith’s surgery where his wounds were dressed and the ankle replaced.
9) October 10,1846………. Petty Sessions October 8th….JAMES HOOF, railway contractor, was charged with creating a disturbance and using abusive language to the police. He was not present having been called away on business. He forfeited 6 pounds bail. Case held over to next session.
10) December 13,1846………There is a report of an inquest into the death of one James Alsalom (21) in a rock fall in this edition of the Sussex Agricultural Express (the same source for the above notes) which refers to MR HOOF as the contractor.
11) April 3,1847……….. The bridge is specifically mentioned in this edition when a letter to the editor refers to gatherings of men and boys on the bridge ostensibly watching the trains coming and going but using foul language and fighting with dogs. The remedy suggested was to raise the parapet so that views of the platform were blocked.
John Arkell concluded his input by stating “ So we now have the date for the construction of the original bridge during September 1846 and so it would be in place by the time the station (Central Railway Station on Mount Pleasant Road) opened”.
The exact date of completion of the bridge is not known but the outside date would have to be sometime in November 1846 as service, to the station was in place by November 25th.
The images I have presented thus far show that the 1846 bridge was an iron bridge with sections riveted together. The bridge accommodated double tracks and the roadbed above was supported by a pair of central iron columns which extended at their base down about two feet onto substantial footings. The ends of the bridge were supported on brick abutments supported on footings. Shown above is another early view of the bridge sent to me by John Arkell, which also shows what the early railway carriages looked like at that time. This image is a sketch courtesy of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust who ascribe it to J.C. Bourne. The image given below is a photograph of the old bridge dated 1876 which came from the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library.
Further suggested reading on the history of the railway in Tunbridge Wells which in part makes reference to the 1846 bridge and its replacement in 1906, with details provided about the Central Station and other related matters, along with a series of images, including a map dated 1866 showing the location of the bridge can be found in two articles by John Arkell which were published in the Civic Society Newsletter. The first entitled ‘ History of the Central Station’ can be read online in the Winter 2014 edition, and the article ‘ Replacing the Vale Road Railway Bridge’ which I have borrowed from for the purposes of my article can be seen in the Autumn 2015 newsletter.
Shown opposite is a photograph of the old bridge circa 1905 from the book by Jean Mauldon entitled “Tunbridge Wells as it was. The caption with this image reads “ The High Street Bridge from the Central Station c. 1905. This is before the road in the foreground was widened and the bridge rebuilt in 1907. The Bedord Hotel on the corner was rebuilt about the same time…..”
I now continue in the next section with information about Percy William Barlow, the designer of the 1846 bridge.
THE BRIDGE (1846) DESIGNER-PERCY WILLIAM BARLOW
Percy William Barlow was the engineer put in charge of bridge and tunnel construction required to extend the SER service from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells in 1845. The Knell Bridge (105 ‘ long twin arch )in High Brooms and the Southborough Viaduct (270 yards long with 26 brick arches)were two of several structures built in conjunction with the establishment of this rail service .Work on this line commenced in July 1844 with the mainline from Tonbridge to the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells (Jack Spring Woods/ Goods Station) opening September 20,1845. When the SER station on Mount Pleasant Road in Tunbridge Wells , and the High Street Bridge were built, along with the associated tunnels and track, service to the centre of the town was established November 25,1846.
Details about Knell’s Bridge can be found in my article ‘The History of Knell’s Bridge’ dated August 27,2015. Details about the Southborough Viaduct can be found in my article ‘The Southborough Viaduct’ dated May 17,2014.
The bridge was designed by Peter William Barlow (1809-1885), a specialist engineer in bridge and tunnel construction. Peter William Barlow was born February 1, 1809 at Woolwich, London and died May 19,1885. His wife was Bertha Crawford Caffin and with her had two daughters and one son.Peter was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers . Peter was particularly associated with railways, bridges (he designed the first Lambeth Bridge, a crossing of the River Thames in London), the design of tunnels and the development of tunnelling techniques. In 1864 he patented a design for a cylindrical tunnelling shield, later developed further by his pupil James Greathead in the construction of a tunnel under the Thames. He was born at Woolwich, the son of an engineer and mathematician, professor Peter Barlow of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was privately educated, winning a Royal Society of Arts medal in 1824 for his drawing of a transit theodolite; he then became a pupil of civil engineer Henry Robinson Palmer, a founder member of the Institution of Civil Engineers - of which Barlow became an Associate Member in 1826.Under Palmer, Barlow worked on the Liverpool and Birmingham Canal and the new London Docks.Barlow contributed to the ICE journal, writing on The strain to which lock gates are subjected in 1836.He also contributed learned papers to the Royal Society.His brother William Henry Barlow was a noted 19th-century railway engineer. From 1836 Peter Barlow was the resident civil engineer under Sir William Cubitt on parts of the South Eastern Railway London to Dover line, before taking responsibility for the whole line in 1840,and later becoming Engineer-in-Chief. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November, 1845 as someone who was "Distinguished for his acquaintance with the science of Mathematics as applied to Engineering Subjects".From the 1850s to the 1870s, Barlow was engineer-in-chief to the Newtown and Oswestry,Londonderry and Enniskillen and Londonderry and Coleraine railways; in the mid-1860s he was also consultant engineer to the Finn Valley Railway. He investigated construction of long-span bridges, writing a paper on the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge,before becoming the engineer for the first Lambeth Bridge (1860–1862). While designing the piers for this suspension bridge (since replaced by the current structure), Barlow experimented with driving iron cylinders into the clay upon which much of central and north London sits.This experience led him to look at use of cylindrical devices for tunnelling work and in September 1864 he patented a circular tunnelling shield which offered significant differences to the shield used by Marc Isambard Brunel in constructing the Thames Tunnel (1825-1843).This prepared him to work with his pupil James Greathead on the development of a rigid one-piece circular cross-section tunnelling shield used in the 11-month construction of the Tower Subway in 1869 and 1870. The Barlow-Greathead design was a major advance; the change from a rectangular to a circular shield, and "the reduction of the multiplicity of parts in the Brunel shield to a single rigid unit was of immense advantage and an advance perhaps equal to the shield concept of tunneling itself." From 1859 to 1867, Barlow lived at No 8 The Paragon, Blackheath, London. He died at 56 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill, and is buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery, London.At the time of his death he was the oldest member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
THE NEW BRIDGE OF 1906
The need to replace the 1846 bridge arose as a result of its deterioration over time and the fact that it was in a part of the town in which the roads over and around it were heavily travelled by pedestrians, horse drawn wagons, and the towns early motor cars and lorries. As one would expect the Central Railway Station was a beehive of activity as the trains ran on a frequent and regular basis, and the service was heavily used. The site of the station also proved to be of great advantage to the many shops in the area as those leaving and arriving on the train patronized the businesses extensively. There was also an omnibus service in the town, which picked up and dropped off passengers at the station. With the all the traffic and the deteriorating condition of the bridge it was decided that it needed to be replaced, and while doing so a realignment of the roads was made. Shown opposite is an image of the old bridge looking north with the old Railway Bell tavern shown on the north-east corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Grove Hill Road. The department store of Weeks is shown to the beside the tavern to the left and later he expanded to and around the corner when he bought the tavern; demolished it, and extended his fine building. I have written before about the history of the both the Weeks Department Store (now Hoopers) and the Railway Bell tavern (demolished 1912).
The 1866 map shows Vale Road intersecting with High Street on the south-west end of the bridge with the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Grove Hill Road being on the north-east side of the bridge. A map of 1910 shows that the former somewhat abrupt transition between Mount Pleasant Road and the High Street was smoothed out on the west side over the railway tracks to assist in better traffic flow. As John Arkell states in his Autumn 2015 article “ By the early 1900’s congestion in the streets around the station was becoming acute and the condition of the 1846 bridge was giving cause for concern. In 1903 the speed of traffic over the old bridge had to be restricted to walking pace.The Borough Council produced plans and estimates for a replacement bridge” the cost of which was estimated to be some 15,000 pounds of which 1/3 was covered by the railway and the remainder by Council.
The new bridge was designed by Percy Crosland Tempest, an engineer with the SER railway, details of whom are given in the next section of this article. His work was done in consultation with the towns engineer William Henry Maxwell (1870-1955), for whom a full account is given in my article ‘William Henry Maxwell-Tunbridge Wells Waterworks Engineer’ dated January 29,2014.He had served as the towns engineer from 1900 until his retirement in 1924. The bridge was designed and built during the Mayoral term of Mayor Benjamin Minor Woolan(1857-1909) who held the office from 1906 to 1909.Details about Mayor Woolan, who for a time lived at the Sherwood mansion on Pembury road, is given in my article ‘The Sherwood Estate-Tunbridge Wells’ dated December 29,2011. Shown opposite are images of William Henry Maxwell and Mayor Benjamin Minor Woolan.
As noted by John Arkell in his Autumn 2015 article about the new bridge work on it began in early 1906 with the erection of a temporary bridge to maintain traffic flow while the permanent bridge was under construction. Work in the brick abutments for the bridge did not begin until June. The contract for the steelwork was let to the Widness Foudary Company with the steelwork begun on September 23rd. Pror to this a temporary platform had been built to the north of the old bridge which facilitated the fabrication of the bridge girders. The materials for the bridge were delivered by train and lifted into place by a rail-mounted crane. Riveting of the structure was well underway by January 1907 as the Courier reported on an accident related to rivet heads snapping off and injuring a workman. In March the local paper reported that asphalt, asbestos and wooden blocks to make the roadway were being laid over the bridge ready to make the roadway.
Finally the work was finished and on Thursday May 16,1907 there was a ceremonial opening of the bridge by Mayor Woollan accompanied by Mr Sheath, secretary to the SE&CR. The opening was followed by a luncheon and speeches.
The pillars at the ends of the bridge were built of Cornish granite and on each of them was installed bronze panel s by the Coalbrookdale Co. Two of the panels show the arms of Tunbridge Wells and a third one showed the arms of the SE &CR. A fourth panel gave the names of prominent persons from the Council and the railway who were instrumental in the project. The name of William Henry Maxwell is one of the names on the plaque. Shown here are images of the bronze panels referred to.
During the construction of the bridge a series of ten photographs were made by local photographer Percy Squire Lankester as a presentation souvenir album ,a copy of which he presented to Mayor Woollen. There are other copies of it in existence as one of them was recently offered for sale on eBay. The seller of it gave this description “In 1907 a photographic souvenir was produced for the Opening of the High Street Bridge Tunbridge Wells.This 5"x6.5" album contained 10 original photographs of Percy's,captioned in the negative and laid down on thick brown card,deckle edged,lettered in white on the front cover and held within a ribbon tie.Printed on the front cover is" Lankester Tunbridge Wells. Whilst perhaps not unique,it is certainly one of the very few still in existence and it is entirely possible that the photographs are unpublished elsewhere".
Percy Squire Lankester(1866-1930) had his studio in the Great Hall, which had formerly been the photographic studio of the celebrated H.P. Robinson . Another well-known local photographer Harold Hawtrey Camburn, known for his “real photo’ postcards in the “Wells Series” was at the beginning of his career a partner with Lankester, but later went on his own. Details about the life and career of Percy Squire Lankester can be found in my article entitled ‘Percy Squire Lankester- A Snapshot View’ dated July 20,2011.Shown below is the complete set of ten phtographs showing the various phases of the bridges construction.
Some newspaper accounts about the construction of the bridge are given below. Also in the section entitled ‘THE OPENING CEREMONY’ you will find very detailed information about the design and construction of the bridge (both old and new) from the Kent & Sussex Courier of May 17,1907.
1) February 9,1906……….The Town Clerk and Borough Surveyor were instructed to communicate with the London,Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company with reference to the proposal to widen the line near the Tunbridge Wells Station. A letter was received from the South Eastern and Chatham Railway Company as to the regulation of traffic over the High Street Bridge. The following Letters were also received from the SE&CR company on the subject of the High Street Bridge: Dear Sir-With reference to the above, the material for the new bridge will not be delivered for some considerable time, I have been considering what could be done, in view of the condition of the existing bridge, to assist as much as possible the working of traffic over the same, and I now send you a tracing showing a temporary bridge which I suggest erecting over half its width. By doing this the reconstruction of the bridge would be greatly facilitated, in addition to which I hope to modify the restriction as to vehicular traffic, and I shall be glad to hear that you have no objections to offer. I propose to debit the cost of this to the works account…your truly P.C. Tempest”. “Dear Sir…I reply to yours of the 18th inst.I hope to be able to let the contract for the steel work early next month,this will take probably seven or eight months to build in the yard, so we should not commence to erect the steelwork, I think, till about the end of August. I think it will be necessary to close the bridge for a couple of days for putting in the temporary bridge. I presume this could be done. The temporary bridge would carry the traffic till enough of the new bridge was in to do so. Yours faithfully…P.C. Tempest.”. “It was resolved that the railway be informed that the committee have no obection to offer to the construction of the proposed temporary bridge”.
2) January 18,1907……….”ACCIDENT ON THE BRIDGE-Whilst Walter Martin and William Fossett, both of Grecian Road, were engaged in riveting on the High Street Bridge yesterday afternoon, the head of one of the bolts flew off and struck Martin on the left temple, He was immediateluy taken to the General Hospital by P.C. Brooker, and was attended to by the House Surgeon, but was not detained”.
3) March 15,1907……….”HIGH STREET BRIDGE”-The work of laying asphalt and asbestos on the more recently constructed portion of the High Street Bridge is now practically complete, and it will shortly be possible to make the roadway over it. The whole of the work will probably be finished by the end of May.”
THE BRIDGE (1906) DESIGNER –SIR PERCY CROSLAND TEMPEST
Percy Tempest Crosland Tempest was born in Holbeck,Leeds,Yorkshire on 24 February 1861.He was one of four children born to Charles Tempest, a n attorney and solicitor, born 1819 in Holbeck,Yorkshire. Percy’s mother was Martha Crosland who had been born 1825 in Canada, the sister of Sophia Crosland, who had been born in Canada in 1827. Percy was baptised June 5,1860 at Holbeck at St Matthew and New Wortly St John the Baptist church in Yorkshire.
The 1861 census, taken at Holbeck,Yorkshire recorded Charles Tempest as an attorney and solicitor. Living with him was his wife Martha, two servants and four of their children, including Percy.Sometime before 1871 Percy’s mother passed away in Leeds,Yorkshire. The 1871 census, taken at Leeds gave Charles as a widow and working as an attorney and solicitor employing two clerks, With him was his sister in law Sophia Crosland, born 1827 in Canada, one servant, and his three sons, including Percy .The 1881 census, taken at 3 Clifton Place in Leeds just had Percy, a civil engineer, living with is father and one servant. The 1891 census, taken at Winchester Road in Basingtoke,Hampshire gave Percy as a civil engineer and living as a visitor with the Jacob family.
Percy was educated at Leeds Grammar School and the University of Leeds before commencing his railway career by working on an extension of the London & North-Western Railway into the city. Soon after he was enticed to London, joining the South Eastern Railway where his talents earned him a series of promotions. In 1893 he became Resident Engineer, and in 1899 he became the Chief Engineer of the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway, following the merger of the South-Eastern and London, Chatham and Dover Railway companies.
On May 5,1897 Percy married Evelyn Isabel Kate Willis at Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster,London . The 1901 census, taken at Bromley,Kent gave Percy as an civil engineer. Living with him was just his wife Evelyn, who had been born at Crouch end,Middlesex in 1872, and three domestic servants.
In 1902, Tempest was commissioned as a Major in the Engineer and Railway Volunteer Staff Corps, a unit consisting of Britain’s most prominent engineering and railway management figures, which acted as an unpaid cadre of technical consultants for the use of the British army.
The 1911 census, taken at Bromley,Kent recorded Percy as a civil engineer with the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. With him was his wife Evelyn and his two daughters Joyce, age 9 and Hilary, age 5. Also in the fourteen room residence were five servants.
At the outbreak of the war, therefore, Tempest was already familiar with the particular requirements of the British army. However, at the age of 53, Tempest was clearly too old to take up arms and fight. Instead, his war record would consist of the application of his engineering talents to the particular challenges of industrialised warfare. Almost immediately, Tempest was employed by the Nord Railway and the Belgian State Railway to act as a purchasing agent for the huge quantities of material required to help in the reconstruction of those transport systems devastated by the initial movements of the war. The failure of the allies to liberate much of the captured territory during the early months of the war meant that such work was, for the time being, in vain. However, in December 1914 Tempest was given the opportunity to have a much more direct impact on the course of the war, as the port of Boulogne was earmarked as a potential site for expansion a significant engineering project.As a result of Tempest’s construction work, Boulogne remained a key component of the BEF’s logistics chain for the entirety of the war, responsible for the throughput of many thousands of tons of the goods required to ensure the health, wellbeing, and fighting capacity of the troops at the front.On May 19,1917 he became Lt Colonel of Engineer and Railway Staff Corp. In recognition of his services, Tempest received the honour of a CBE in 1918, and was made an Officer of the Order of Leopold by King Albert of Belgium in 1919. He also received the Legion of Honour and highlighting his ‘international experience’ would be appointed as Engineer to the English Channel Tunnel Company.
After the war Percy became Chief Engineer of the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. On retirement of Sir Francis Dent in 1920 became General Manager and was initially joint General Manager of the Southern Railway with Sir Herbert Walker, but retired from 1 January 1924. Formerly Permanent Way Engineer of the South Eastern Railway. He was an advocate of Channel Tunnel (Engineer to Channel Tunnel Co. from 1916). At the King’s Birthday Honours of 1923 he was made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) when at that time he was the General Manager of the Southern Railway.
Recently a gentleman in Australia purchased Percy’s medal group which included the British War, Victory and 14 star medals as standard issue but here is a list of the other items in the group. (1) Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Group of Eight to Liet. Colonel Percy Tempest CBE Neck Badge,Britannia First Type;1914 Star, impressed Major P.C. Tempest,R.E. (2) War and Vicoctory Medals impressed Major P.C. Tempest,the trio plated; Territorial Decoration,George V (3) Belgium Croix d’Offficer de l’Orde Leopold (4) French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (5) Belgium Knight of Order of the Crown (6) Two Royal Engineers cap badges.
Probate records show that Percy was of 77 Carlisle Mansions,Carlisle Place in Westminster,Middlesex when he died November 3,1924. The executor of his 26,971 pound estate was his wife Dame Evelyn Kate Minna tempest. Shown here is a photo of his headstone and St Lukes Cemetery in Bromley, where he was buried. Percy did not get to enjoy much of his retirement for he only retired in January 1924.
THE OPENING CEREMONY FOR THE NEW BRIDGE
On Thursday May 16,1907 there was a ceremonial opening of the bridge by Mayor Woollan accompanied by Mr Sheath, secretary to the SE&CR. The opening was followed by a luncheon and speeches.
The Courier of May 17,1907 gave a multi- page detailed account of the bridge construction and the opening ceremony that followed it. Shown in this section are a series of images published with the article.
Because of the length of the May 17,1907 Courier article it was not practical to reprint it here in its entirety and so what follows are a few highlights. To see the full article I would recommend visiting the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library or ordering a copy of it from them (preferably the former option as the library has limited staff and will most likely charge for their time to provide the article).
The Courier began by stating that the construction of the bridge “was the most important public improvement which has been carried out in recent years” . It stated that the old bridge for half its existence “has been an object of hostile criticism,planned as it was when the High Street was little more than a country lane with cottages having gardens in front of them and when Mount Pleasant was even still more rural . The bridge which was designed to span the new railway line was no doubt adequate to the requirements of the neighbourhood at a period when the London Road was the main thoroughfare instead of the High Street and Mount Pleasant”. …as traffic grew on these roads…”the old bridge became more unequal to the increasing demands upon it.Its lack of width ,accentuat3ed by awkward curves,became a stock subject of complaint at the discussions of local associations ,and from time to time resolutions were adopted by the Tradesmen’s Association ,the defunct Improvement Association ,and other bodies, calling attention to something needing to be done about it”. Noting happened except discussions and proposed schemes that went nowehere. It continues by stating that the railway was concerned and responsible for the state of the bridge and that an agreement was reached to share the cost of replacting it. The technical difficulties in designing the bridge were mentioned due to the new alignment and increased span and concerns over gradients and levels. “The bold broad lines on which the new bridge has been designed must at once elicit the admiration of all those who have made an inspection of the wide span of the girders which have more than doubled the superficial area of the thoroughfare now available”. The awkward curves in the road were elimated. “The spaciousness of the bridge is its most salient feature and the well -conceived breadth of the design gives it ample destinction ,although rigid simplicity marks its construction. The architectural adornments are in due observance of economy…Two names that must be associated with the work are Mr William Maxwell, Town Engineer, and Mr P.C. Tempest of the railway.Under their supervision the contractors have brought a very difficult undertaking to a satisfactory conclusion.” The article continues with a detailed description of the career of Mr Maxwell and Mr Tempest and then states that work on the bridge project began under Mr Hick;s Mayoralty and finished during the term of Mayor Woollan who dedicated the bridge to the benefit of the town. Under the heading “Description of the Bridge” it was stated that the old bridge had to be strengthened and that limitations were placed on traffic over it; that in March 1906 a temporary bridge was erected while construction of the permanent bridge began; work on the new abutments began “June 6th last year”;that the new bridge was cost 15,000 pounds; “the erection of the ironwork was commenced Sept 23rd. “The new abutments,pierts etc were constructed by the railway company’s men, the ironwork erected by Windes Foundary Co Ltd. Both main girders are 10 feet in height ,that on the London side are 108 feet long, and weighing 52 tons, and that on the Hastings side 68 feet long and 26 tons in weight.The total weight of the steel work in the bridge is 461 tons. The curbing, paving and roadway surfaces have been carried out by the Corporation , the contractor for the wood paving being the Acme Flooring and Paving Co. Ltd and for the ‘in situ’ paving at the Vale Road end ,the Stuart’s Granolithic Co.The area of the old bridge was 290 sq yds which has been increased to 579 yards.The corner opposite Mr Weeks store was set back a distance of 26 feet and the other side where Manion’s tobacco shop formerly stood was carried back 17 feet.The corner adjoining Vale Road was set back 21 feet.The asphalt work covering the steel troughing was by Messrs Calender, and the bronze panels and standards on the piers by the Cole(?) Brookdale Co.Various diversions and renewals of the mains have been necessitated by the work and those have been carried out by the Tunbridge Wells Gas Company, the National Telephone Co.,the Corporation Electricity Department, and the Corporation Water Supply Department. The maximum depth of the street troughing is 18 inches,which has been reduced wherever possible to a minimum depth of eight inches in order to improve the surface levels of roadway and pavements. The bridge contains all the improvements of modern engineering and has been constructed on entirely different principles to its predecessor.The old bridge was supported by columns in the centre of the permanent way,but the new structure carries the road without support in the permanent way.The distance between the faces of the abutments is 50(?) feet as compared with 45 feet formerly. The pathway opposite the SER station has been widened about 18 inches,kerbed,paved and channelled and the projecting steps upon the footway removed .The raising of the footway about 10 to 11 inches at the maximum point necessitated alteration to shop fronts ,moorings etc. The piers are of Cornish gray granite,the ironwork of British manufacture,the kerbing of 12” by 8” Norwegian granite, and the paving of red indurated slab paving made by the Victoria Stone Co.The wood block paving to the roadway is of best “Acme” sectional Jarrah hard wood paving blocks grouted with patent mastic composition.The main girders, columns etc have been painted with four coats of ‘Farrodoe Paint’ manufactured by Messrs Griffiths Bros. of Macks Road,Bermondsey.” Under the heading “PANELS” the following was stated “ On each of the four pillars is a handsome bronze panel, two possess the Borough arms,a third the arms of the railway company, and the fourth, at the foot of Grove Hill Road has the following inscription “ This bridge was erected by the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway Company (the greater portion of the cost being contributed by the Corporation of Tunbridge Wells), and was opened to the public on the 16th day of May 1907 by the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells (Councilor B.M. Woollans,J.P.)” Given next is a list of members of the Works Committee followed by Vincent W Hill,General Manager; P.C. Tempest M.I.C.E. engineer ;W.C. Cripps, town clerk, and finally W,H. Maxwell A,M,I,C,I, Borough Engineer”. Under the heading THE OPENING CEREMONY –“The bridge, its sides shining with new paint and its imposing piers prominent with obtrusive cleanliness, was given the smartest appearance …A line of poles,bright with bunting ,was erected along the edge of each pavement,being connected with strings of streamers. The poles rose from beds of evergreens,and the number of flags strung across the adjourning thoroughfares ,as well as the wealth of colour apparent about the premises of R.W. Weeks, and up the Grove Hill Road to the Courier office made the whole scene a picture of levely colour. The flags representative of all nations ,and of all sizes, fluttered in the brisk breeze and danced in the intermittent sunlight.A platform was erected on the Hastings side pavement ,and an enclosure was provided for the accommodation of a number of privileged sightseers.A large crowd assembled at the appointed hour,including the members of the Town Council and other local bodies .The first item in the programme of proceedings was carried out when the flag bearing the Borough Arms was run up to the mast head, and the National Anthem played by the Ceyl;on Band, which was stationed at a convenient distance. The Mayor then mounted the platform accompanied by Mr Sheath, Secretary to the railway and others.The commanding voice of the mace bearer demanded silence”. Then the speeches began, details of which I have not provided here. At the conclusion of the opening ceremony a luncheaon was held at which some 150 people attended, at a Cha,pagne lunch at the Great Hall on Mount Pleasant Road, just up the road from the new bridge. This was catered by Messrs Parker and Hammick with orchestral music by Prince’s Band with the arrangements carried out by Mr. W. Bellamy “and everything passed off with the greatest success. During this phase of the ceremony more speeches were made including those by Councillor Celey who described the work;Mr Sheath from the railway;Mr Heges proposed the “Mayor’s Health” ; Councilor Hiocks proosed the health of “The Engineers” ; Alderman Mr Robb proposed “The Visitors” ; the Mayor made his speech; Mr Tempest spoke with a suggestion for a new station; and several others spoke at this grand even. From all accounts the event was enjoyed by everyone and it marked an important milestone in the towns history. Above the colour postcard of the SER station by the postcard publisher 'Valentine' are two views of the crowds assembled on the streets at the official opening of the bridge-quite a crowd and quite a celebration!
In recent times the shabby appearance of the bridge made the news. An article in the Kent & Sussex Courier of December 13,2013 gave an article entitled “Plans for a facelift for Mount Pleasant ‘eyesore’ bridge” from which the photo opposite was obtained. The article read “CLEAN-UP PLANS: MP Greg Clark, members of the Civic Society and Network Rail bosses discussing the state of the railway bridge in Tunbridge Wells .THE railway bridge at the bottom of Mount Pleasant in Tunbridge Wells – which has been described as a "major eyesore" – could be smartened up next year by Network Rail.Rail bosses were called to an on-site meeting last Friday by Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark along with borough council and Civic Society members.Those lobbying for the spruce-up of the now "very shabby" Edwardian railway bridge said it was a key link between parts of the town and was a "focal point".It has missing mouldings and is rusting, with the decor far from its original state in 1907.Mr Clark told the Courier at the meeting: "All of us want to make this town as attractive as it can possibly be for residents and visitors."The station and the railway approach are seen by virtually every visitor to the town. They are looking very shabby but if you look closer they have some very attractive features including the Tunbridge Wells coat of arms and, with a bit of TLC, rather than being something which detracts from the appearance of the town, it could be a real attraction."He said he, the council, the society and Network Rail would "put our heads together" to ensure progress.Mr Clark, who said his first campaign had been to successfully encourage rail bosses to revamp the clock and get it chiming, added that the bridge should be given a facelift and be lit to enhance its decorative features.He said: "Network Rail and the council were very positive. They are talking about being able to do it within a year and ideally to do some work during the summer when the weather is suitable for paintwork."Alastair Tod of the Civic Society said: "We are lucky to have such a fine, bold structure. I think everybody's eyes lit up when they heard it could be repaired and repainted."
A second article on the same topic appeared in ‘Your Tunbridge Wells’ June 4,2014 written by Jamie Weir, which stated “A Tunbridge Wells landmark has started its regeneration journey this week. The railway bridge which links the upper and lower ends of the town has been in a state of disrepair for many years. It had started to rust, and has lost many of its architectural features.National Rail has now begun refurbishing the historic bridge after a campaign which included Tunbridge Wells council members, the local MP Greg Clarke and the town’s civic society. The bridge will be repainted in its original colour scheme after historical research into it. Decorative architectural mouldings will also be restored. The structure will also be cleared of plants which have started growing on it. Buddleia and ivy will be removed from the granite abutments.Greg Clark said: “For many people the town centre railway bridge is the gateway to Tunbridge Wells and it has been looking grotty for a number of years. “I recently called a meeting with Network Rail, the Borough Council and Civic Society to see what could be done. I am pleased that Network Rail has now committed to restoring the bridge. I look forward to it being transformed back to its former glory but I will, as ever, take nothing for granted until the work is complete.”Network Rail route managing director for the south east, Dave Ward, said: “This is a great opportunity for us, not only to provide a much better-looking bridge for the town but also to maintain the structure itself.“It plays a key role in carrying traffic and services across the railway and by strip cleaning the bridge we will get a detailed view of its condition and also be able to tackle any work that needs doing.”Cllr Paul Barrington-King said: “I am delighted that the efforts the borough council made in bringing all parties together have had such a positive outcome and that the benefits of this hard work will be visible to all and will improve the town.”Network rail will complete the work during the summer period. They have apologised for any disruption which may be caused to pedestrians.”
Shown above is an aerial view of the bridge taken in 1959.
THE ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS AND DISTRICT BAND FEDERATION
Written by; Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario,Canada
Date: October 7,2015
Known in its earliest days as the “Band Contest Committee”, which was instituted soon after the end of WW 1, it later became known as the Royal Tunbridge Wells and District Band Federation. Its first band contest was held in 1921 on the Tunbridge Wells Rangers Football ground.
From this federation came the birth of the National Bands Federation which was amalgamated with the League of Bands Association. After 1921 , and until 1950 band contests took place in the Calverley Grounds. The band contests held there were very popular and drew large crowds. Performances were given at the Calverley Bandstand in the grounds which also had ample seating for spectators.
The contests at the Calverley Grounds were conducted annually, usually in the month of May. In 1934 Autumn contests were organized. During WW II the contests were suspended but reinstated after the war. In May 1951 and experi ment was made of holding the contests at the Assembly Hall and proved to be a great success and continued to be held there in May each year until 1965. In 1964 Winter contests at the White Rock Pavilion began and the traditional May contest began to be held there also in 1966.
As a result of successful negotiations with the Royal Tunbridge Wells Corporation the Federation returned to Tunbridge Wells in 1972 with their event held that year at the Assembly Hall.
This article reports on the history of this Federation,the Calverley Bandstand and the brass band contests.
A companion article to this one by me is entitled ‘History of Tunbridge Wells Brass Bands and Bandstands’ dated December 20,2012, from which article I have given in the next section a description of the Calverley Bandstand in the Calverley Grounds at which place the early brass band contests were held. Shown above is a photo of the Tunbridge Wells Salvation Army Band.
THE CALVERLEY BANDSTAND
The Calverley Grounds was originally part of the Mount Pleasant House estate built by Lord Egmont around 1762. In 1825 wealthy developer John Ward acquired the house and land as part of his Calverley Estate.The purchase of the property by Tunbridge Wells Council was completed in 1921 following which Council transformed the old informal landscape into a lovely park complete with formal gardens,sport facilities and the provision for public entertainment. A temporary bandstand was installed at an early date so concerts could be held in the summer.A map dated 1831 which is shown and referred to in a booklet entitled “ Tunbridge Wells 1951” shows the land in the area which includes a lake with a connecting stream at both ends.This reference states “An interesting feature is the lake with its stream. The stream is no longer to be seen, and the hollow of the lake forms the site of the present bandstand”. The same reference adds “ That part of the Calverley Estate now known as the Calverley grounds was acquired by the Corporation in 1920, and for 14 years contained a bandstand and pavilion which were always a subject of controversy between those who thought them a useful amenity and those who thought them a hideous eyesore. The buildings were opened in 1926, in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, and closed, even more spectacularly, by fire-bombing in September 1940.The site of the bandstand became an emergency water-supply tank, but is now again used as a bandstand-though with a temporary canvas roof”.
In the autumn of 1922 Council organized a competition to design an ambitious concert pavilion with an integral bandstand on one side which was intended to accommodate a seating of 1,000 people. This ambitious scheme,due to the unfavourable political climate at the time, was not implemented even though there had been forty entires to the competition and a winner selected. Council as a result opted to adopt a less costly plan.As an interim measure a bandstand ornamented with ironwork was erected in 1924 and work on a matching pavilion to provide covered accommodation for concert audiences began the following year. The new pavilion was opened by the Mayor in April 1926.The pavilion only lasted until 1940 when on the 26th of September it was stuck and destroyed by an incendiary
bomb during an air raid.The octagonal shaped bandstand was also damaged and its ironwork and copper roof were sold for scap metal to support the war effort metal drive.Some materials from the destroyed Pavilion were used to repair the bandstand.It was intended to replace the bandstand after the war but there were repeated delays and finally plans were dropped altogether in 1959.
Shown opposite is a lovely colour postcard view of the bandstand and surrounding area dated 1926.The view of the bandshell (see roof of it protruding behind the pavilion) is almost entirely obscured by the Pavilion.Also shown is the tea house to the left and the lovely landscaping.
A second view of the bandstand itself is taken from the opposite side of the first image and shows the octagonal shaped bandstand in its entirety with a band playing to a large crowd that had assembled for the event. This black and white photograph shows to some extent the raised deck on a stone plinth with posts supporting an ornate roof with iron railings between the posts.
Although it seemed for quite some time that the Calverley grounds would not get a replacement for its original bandstand it can be seen that a very modest and cheaply constructed bandstand was eventually erected upon the stone plinth of the origjnal one. Constructed in the 1960’s.although not much to look at, it did for many years provide a place where entertainment could be provided to residents and visitors.
The first image shown here of the new bandstand is a black and white photo (#17893) entitled ‘Calverley Grounds Tunbridge Wells’ and shows the bandstand to the left and the tea house amongst a lovely landscaped setting.
The tea house near the bandstand is quite quaint and I stopped in for a snack on my visit to the town in July 2015 and sat outdoors on one of the many benches on which many people were sitting on that nice sunny day.The tea house burned down in 1997 but was replaced in 1998 by a structure of almost identical appearance.
As time passed the new bandstand deteriorated and it was recommended that it be disposed of. When news of its proposed demolition spread a campaign was launched by the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society and the newspaper to save it and despite their best efforts, and the signatures of some 2,000 supporters, the bandstand was demolished on September 5,2010 and reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble in a matter of minutes. The application by Council to demolish the bandstand is described in detail in a Western Area Planning Committee report of March 31,2010 and said “The bandstand is mostly a modern structure built on the original plinth and is currently in need of major repairs..In its current state,fenced off and derelict, it is a considerable detractor in an otherwise attractive landscape”. To date no replacement for the bandstand has been arranged for despite calls from the public to provide one. Before the bandstand was demolished some 26,000 pounds had been set aside for its restoration but instead 20,000 pounds was spent to demolish it. Estimates for its restoration had however been in the order of 100,000 pounds, a sum Council was not prepared to spend.
THE ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS AND DISTRICT BAND FEDERATION
Tunbridge Wells has had a band, or several bands, dating back to at least the mid 19th century. Performances at the towns various bandstands were well attended. Shown opposite , from the Tunbridge Wells Museum collection, is a postcard view of the Pantiles dated circa 1905 of a band playing. They performed at the Pantiles five times a week from May to September except in bad weather when they relocated to the Pump House. Sadly no photos of the Tunbridge Wells Town Band from the 1920’s was located and nor were any photos of the Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band or the Tunbridge Wells British Legion Band.
Given here is a historical account of the Federation from the website www.ibew.org.uk a website dedicated to Brass Band History, which in addition to information about the Tunbridge Wells Federation, gives information and photographs about various brass bands, including those of Tunbridge Wells. This listing is given under the heading of “Extinct Brass Band Organizations”.
“Known in its earliest days as the Band Contest Committee, was instituted very soon after the end of the First World War. There is no doubt that the enthusiasm then displayed served to make the motto of the Federation, `EVER FORWARD', a truly justifiable one. From our Federation came the birth of the National Bands Federation, which was amalgamated with the League of Bands Association. Contesting Day was fixed, and the first contest was held on the Tunbridge Wells Rangers Football ground in 1921. After that, and until 1950, Contests took place in the Calverly Grounds. By 1934 the Federation had become so consolidated as to encourage the Executive Committee to arrange Autumn Contests, these being held each year until 1938 at Wadhurst in the Memorial Hall, sponsored by the then Wadhurst Town Band. To encourage interest in Banding in East Kent, a contest was arranged in July, 1939, at Margate. During the years of the Second World War, the activities of the Federation were very much curtailed, but in the years since 1946, enthusiasm started to mount again and hopes of regaining interest for Bands in the South were bright.
In May, 1951, the experiment was made of holding the Annual Contest in the Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells, this proved to be an outstanding success, and the Federation's Annual Contest continued to be held there in May of every year until 1965.A photo of the interior of the Assembly Hall,which opened in 1939, is shown opposite. One of the chief features of this Contest was the 'In Memoriam' march of the Massed Bands through the Town and laying a wreath at the War Memorial to the memory of the fallen comrades in two World Wars. In November, 1964, as a result of enthusiasm shown by the Executive Committee, the First Winter Contest was held in the White Rock Pavilion, Hastings, again this venture proved to be a success, which encouraged the Federation to continue the Winter Contests. From 1966, the Annual 'May' Contests were held at the White Rock Pavilion, Hastings. As a result of successful negotiations with the Royal Tunbridge Wells Corporation the Federation return to Tunbridge Wells in 1972, presenting their 'Golden Jubilee' Festival and Contest, in the Assembly Hall, on May 13th, 1972. Negotiations have been completed for the 8th Winter Festival and Contest, to be held in the Central Hall, Chatham, on the 11th November, 1972, in association with the Borough of Chatham Corporation. The Federation can be well proud of its record for the past fifty years, and it will always remember its motto, 'EVER FORWARD', and can look forward to the future with every confidence. “
How much longer, after 1972, this Federation continued has not been determined. The image above right shows a dance from the 1940's. The one on the left shows plenty of seating for spectators to sit and relax and enjoy the band music.
THE ANNUAL BAND CONTESTS
The annual band contests held in Tunbridge Wells at the Calverley Grounds began soon after the end of WW 1. Shown opposite is a photograph from the 1930’s of The Oxted and District Silver Prize Band taken in the Calverley Grounds. You can see the Calverley Hotel behind them at the top of the hill.
A very useful website (www.brassbandresults.co.uk) provides the results of the “Royal Tunbridge Wells Contest” by year. A review of their records shows that the first contest held at the Calverley Grounds was on July 12,1924, a year which coincided with the construction of the Calverley Bandstand.
It was noted from the aforementioned website that competitions were organized in five sections, namely an “Open Section” and “Sections 1 to 4”. The website also lists the bands that competed in each “Section”, their standing in the contest, the location of the even, and in some cases the conductor of the band. Within each Section competition a song was selected for each of the bands competing in the Section to perform with each bands performance judged and ranked with winners selected in each performance. The song played within each Section contest was different between Sections, no doubt selected based on its degree of difficulty. To see the results of these competitions go to their website. From a review of their website I noted the following results;
1) Aug 19,1922……The Tunbridge Wells Town Band came 4th in Section 2
2) May 7,1927………The Tunbridge Wells Town Band came second in Section 3. The conductor was Henry Barden.
3) May 4,1929……… The Tunbridge Wells Town Band which competed in Section 3 but the results of the contest were not given.
4) May 5,1928………..The Tunbridge Wells Town Band came 7th in Section 3. Mr A. Barden was the conductor.
5) July 12,1929……….The Tunbridge Wells Town Band came 4th in Section 2
6) April 26,1947………Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band competed in Section 4, conductor was V.E. Underwood
7) May 6,1950………..Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band competed in Section 1, results not given
8) July 15,1950………..Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band. No other information
9) May 5,1951…………. Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band came 4th in Section 1
10) April 5,1952………….Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band one win and one second place finish
The Tunbridge Wells British Legion Band competed from 1924 to 1939 and during that time had one win; one 2nd place, and two 3rd place finishes.
The National Brass Band Club, founded in 1923, is credited with publishing the “Contest Book” in 1933, which was to become the Bible for future Brass Band contests.
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