Page 3



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

Date: May 4,2017


Tunbridge Wells has had more than its fair share of extreme weather and freak climatic events since the beginning of time. Most recently people will well remember the heavy rain that swamped and flooded the low parts of the town, leaving the Pantiles knee deep in water.

People love to talk about , and complain about the weather. It’s either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry,  too something- never “just right”. Severe weather events seem to be something we all remember . Residents of Tunbridge Wells will recall the hurricane on the night of October 15,1987,which some said “felt like the world was coming to an end” that ,among other things, destroyed fifteen million trees in the SE of the country knocked out electricity for up to 3 days and which prompted the creation of the Friends of the Commons in 1991, the same year that the hanger at the Penshurst Aerdrome blew down in a storm. It’s not often one can say that something good resulted from a severe storm, but in this case there was, for the “Friends” have done great things. Despite the streets being littered with fallen trees, it did not stop the delivery of the mail.

But how many remember the three worse hail storms in the town’s history, namely those of 1763, 1922 and 1956, with their hurricane force winds, torrential rains, and tons of large hail stones,which devastated the area?  Although not as severe as these three storms Tunbridge Wells was hit in 1908 by another hail storm that left piles of hail stones on the town.

The year 1995 was been described as “the year with no summer”. In 2012 devestating weather swept across the country. Winds so strong that 15 ft blades on wind turbines were torn off in winds up to 112 mph. Thousands  of pounds of damage was done and there were two deaths, including  Christopher Hayes, 51, a father of three, who was killed when a tree crushed his parked van in Tunbridge Wells. More than 100,000 homes lost the electricity,with the storm uprooting trees which broke down transmission lines and flying debris damaged electricity infrastructure. Details of this event were widely publicized , one being the Daily Mail of January 6,2012.

This storm was followed by another freak weather event in 2014 in Tunbridge Wells when sand from the Sarah was picked up and came down in a smog over the town, leaving a cover of reddish-brown dust everywhere. In the same year the spring ,which laid down the foundation of the development of Royal Tunbridge Wells, dried up for what was believed to be the first time in more than 400 years. Why it stopped flowing was described as a mystery, but some blamed it on a very dry spell in which there was hardly any rain.In 2010 tourists were banned from drinking the water from the spring because harmful bacteria was found in it. In earlier times the water was collected and sold by those who declared it to have healing properties.

This article reports on the hail storm of 1922 and the resulting flood and  provides some very interesting images of the destruction left in its wake.  What makes this storm so amazing is that it occurred in MAY !!! and not in the winter. Shown at the top of this section is a photo showing the flooding caused by this storm on Mount Pleasant Road near the SER station. Below it is a photo of the flooding on Camden Road and the last photo in this section is a view of the flooding on Silverdale Road in High Brooms with a motor car trying to get through.

THE 1922 STORM       

The Great Hail Storm of 1922 struck Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area on May 25,1922. Registering T6 on the TORRO scale it cut a swath of 10 km with wind speeds of 161 to 186 mph. Described by TORRO as “moderately devastating” those caught up in it might well describe it in more damaging terms. With a storm so rated one could expect strongly built houses would lose entire roofs and perhaps also a wall. Windows would be broken, chimneys collapsed, tree damage, with expected power outages. Shown below right is a photo of the hailstones after the storm in Southbrough May 25th on High Street. Shown to the left is another Southborough view of men shoveling the hailstones on High Street. Both of these photos are from the website of the High Brooms Historical Society. The text associated with the images reads “ On May 25,1922 the whole area experienced heavy hailstones during a freak storm. Community spirit was still very much alive back then and the men came out in force to clear the streets afterwards”.

Shown opposite (right) is a newspaper article dated August 19,1988 from the Courier about the 1922 storm showing flooding on Silverdale Road. In part the text reads " The town was his by a storm of exceptional ferocity, half and inch rain fell in five minutes. May buildings were flooded and others were damaged, including the Opera House,which lost the winged figure of Mercury from the top of the dome". As an aside the figure of Mercury was put in storage but at some point of time it disappeared, never to be seen again, apparently stolen.

Shown opposite (right) is a  Sweetman & Son postcard  entitled “Hailstones from the Great Storm Tunbridge Wells 25th May 1922”. Students of the Beechwood Sacred heart School, on Pembury Road, reported “ hailstones the size of walnuts, smashing hundreds of windows during the great storm of 1922”.  The firm of E.A. Sweetman and son produced many postcard views of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area and were a local business.

Shown below is the front and back of a postcard by Harold Hawtrey Camburn showing a view of the flood on Mount Pleasant Road.The card was mailed on June 3,1922 and the writer, of 14 Mount Sion, refers to the storm stating June 3,1922 in part "This is the result of a terrific storm we had last week.You will know the place exactly opposite the SER station at the bottom of Mount Pleasant" .The ‘Astrometeorology UK’ website reported “Hailstones the size of tangerines fell on Tunbridge Wells at 11;30 am.

Shown below are two more photos of the 1922 storm. One shows men gathering/shoveling hailstones and another view of flooding on Mount Pleasant. The last mentioned card was also a postcard by photographer Harold Hawtrey Camburn. On the back of the postcard is in part written “ Hailstones Tunbridge Wells in circumstance of May 25,1922.Phenominal hailstones at Tunbridge Wells”.

The storm left piles of hailstones and ice throughout the town . A large complement of council workers came out in force to clear it away . The flood waters on Mount Pleasant Road, as shown at the base of the Mount Pleasant Hill near the railway station, prompted council workers to clear blocked drains.Weather conditions that year were rather strange, with 1922 being 2.6 degrees C colder than normal and it was a very cold summer.

The last account I offer about the 1922 storm is from the Kent & Sussex Courier, written by D.W. Horner F.R.A.S., F.R. Met. Society.  “Since the recent destructive hailstorm,which occurred in Tunbridge Wells last Thursday (May 15th) I have been asked numerous questions as to the origin of such storms, and I have also been  (illegible) of not predicting it. To take the second point first, let me say at once that the forecast published in the Courier last Friday was made on Wednesday morning for local thunder storms, the paragraph about the storm on the Courier went to press Wednesday instead of Thursday evening.I should have been acclaimed a great “prophet”!. This is but one of the difficulties of making weekly forecasts on fixed dates. To forecast the exact locality where such thunderstorms will expend their greatest energy, and as to whether that energy will be inclined to take the form of electrical manifestations as in the morning storm of Thursday last, or in rain and hail, as in the afternoon visitation is quite impossible. It will be remembered by my readers that a thunderstorm occurred (duly forecasted by me ) last August (the 17th to be exact),which gave its extreme violence to Wadhurst and Lamberhurst districts, which in the recent disturbances escaped unscathed. Therefore to forecast thunderstorms is a most unsatisfactory business, as although you may please the individual “on the spot” with a correct prediction,his neighbour a few miles away has entirely different weather and therefore says you are quite wrong!. Now for the other question-the cause of these local phenomena. In this particular district thunderstorms are influenced by the River Medway to the Northward, and by the Forest Ridges on the South. Should they follow either of these lines Tunbridge Wells is particularly immune, but there are occasions, as the recent one, and also in June 1839 and June 1908, when the storm branches out so to speak, from the Medway, and comes up the valley of the Weald of Kent.Coming over the elevated ground of Southborough it flows down into The Wells, impinges against the South-Eastern ridge of hills at Hawkenbury, and thus vents the whole of its wrath on the town, not even passing beyond as far as half-way to Frant!. The cause of the enormous hailstones some two inches in diameter, though most were ¾” to one inch, and shaped like small tangerine oranges was convection currents. This does not possibly convey much to the lay mind, so let me explain that on all very hot afternoons (in fact during hot weather generally) there are violent uprushes of air into the upper regions of the atmosphere ,as they pass into the cold upper strain they are rapidly cooled and we see those heavy clouds that we call “thunderclouds”. When the convection currents are very strong, a soft hailstone, or in some cases a raindrop, starts its journey from a cloud at a great height from the ground, Before having transersed very much of the distance towards the earth’s surface, it is caught by a powerful ascending current and sent back into a cold region again, getting a further coating of ice many times as the convection current is strong enough to nullify the effect of gravitation-then the stone falls, and it and its companions break out glass and destroy our crops. In the recent storm the amount of water which descended on Tunbridge Wells in a quarter of an hour was about 100 tons per acre at Hawkenbury,truly phenominal!”


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

Date: March 12,2017


Until the passing of the Enclosures Act in Britain centuries ago, that required livestock owners to fence or wall in the boundaries of their property to prevent the straying of animals into towns and villages, it was a common sight to find sheep, cattle, goats and other animals freely roaming about.  Before and even after this act it was common to have a small enclosure or ‘Pound’ to keep stay animals, looked after by a poundkeeper. Owners of the animals had to pay a fee to the poundkeeper to get them back and if the animal had strayed onto someones land and done damage then damages had to be payed to the landowner. Shown opposite is a postcard view of some goats on the loose at 5 Ways Tunbridge Wells, much to the amusement of those passing by.

A number of Statutes were put in place describing in detail the role and obligations of the poundkeeper; the rights and responsibilities of the animals owner and the remedies for damages and other costs in dealing with stray animals.

The Rusthall Manor Act of 1739 , in dealing with the Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells Commons in part dealt with the rights of individuals to graze their animals on the Commons. In 1827 the Freeholders began to employ a Common Driver and Pound Keeper to oversee the Commons on a day to day basis. The Commons were never fenced and many postcard views of the Commons show sheep and cattle grazing, some of whom wandered off the Commons and became a nuisance, particularly as the town expanded and progressed from the age of the horse to that of the motor car at the beginning of the 19th century.

Bowras map of 1738 shows a Pound marked at Carr’s Corner, a busy intersection where at that point is a convergence of Crescent Road, Calverley Road, Caverly Park Gardens, and Bayham Road and a map of 1808 suggests the possibility that a second pound was established on Grove Hill Road, just west of what today is the location of the fire hall and near the site of the Grove Hill Mews and the current English Heritage listed 19th century Pound at 37a Grove Hill Road.  The fields to the north-east of Carr’s Corner were also labelled on this early map as “Upper and Lower Pound Field, and according to Chris Jones of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society, what was later Calverley Farm at the top of Ferndale “might have been called Pound Farm” suggesting that a pound had been established in that locality.

This article provides some background to the Acts and Statutes that governed stray livestock ; Pounds and Poundkeepers; and then concentrates on the Pounds established in Tunbridge Wells.  Few details are known about the Pounds in the town but what little is known has been presented in this article. This topic is one that perhaps warrants further research by a resident of Tunbridge Wells with better access than I to local records not available on the internet or otherwise not obtainable to me.

For anyone interested in reading more about animal grazing on the Common in Tunbridge Wells see may article with a large selection of postcard views entitled “ Grazing On the Common-A Pictorial Study’ date July 8,2013.   Throughout this article I present a small sample of sheep and cattle grazing on the commons. Although some would have strayed off the commons I would expect that they would have been inclined to stay where they were so they could enjoy eating the abundant greenery there for greenery elsewhere may have been more difficult to find. Below the goat photo above in order and three other images of sheep on the roads. The first is a view circa 1900 of a flock of sheep at the intersection of Grosvenor Road, St John's Road where the William Molyneux drinking fountain can be seen. Below it is another flock of sheep on London Road at the junction of Sheffield in Southborough. The last image is a winter view of some sheep circa 1909 on London Road heading up towards its intersection with Mount Ephraim.


When the first acts or statutes came about in England was not established but certainly date to or even predate the 18th century.  Examples of them were found back to the time of the reign of King George III who ruled from 1760 to 1820.

George III was succeeded by George IV and a statute during his time was found. Under “Distresses” reference is made to an act passed by parliament in  the 10th year of the reign of King Charles the first entitled ‘An Act for the impounding of Distresses. This act states in part “ Every person who at the time of the passing of thus Act, or at any time before the date of January 1,1826, shall be, or shall be duly appointed a keeper, or shall act as a keeper of any pound…” The keeper had to be sworn in by a Magistrate and had to offer ten pounds sureties which was forfeited if the poundkeeper did not comply with the Act. The Poundkeeper was given the authority to impound stray animals and had to post a written notice on the gate of his pound, and also upon the nearest church and chapel, setting forth a description of such animal impounded or in his possession, which notice had to continue to be posted until the animal(s) were claimed or otherwise disposed of. Failure on his part cost him a fine not exceeding five pounds.  The Act also made it lawful for the magistrates to appoint and affix the rate or price which it was lawful for poundkeepers to charge for the sustenance of the livestock “in case the owner of such animals should not feed them himself”. The fees charges were required to be posted at the pound. If the poundkeeper did not post such fees or charged more than the fee posted then he was liable to a fine of five pounds. The fee set at that time in the Act was five pence for the first beast and the sum of two pence for each additional beast. The fee for animals other than cattle was four pence and a further one penny for each additional animal. These fees pertained to the animal being kept for a period not exceeding three days (72 hours) after which time if the animal(s) were still in his possession the fee was altered and the maximum fee allowed to be charged was set at twenty pence. The poundkeeper was subject to a fine “if he walls of the pound are not well and substantially built of stone or brick,and of a height of seven feet at the least; or if three-fourths at least of the area of any such pound not be scraped or swept once in every twenty four hours at the least or otherwise kept clean and in good order and with a sufficiency of wholesome water”. Some other rules also applied certainly indicating that the role of poundkeeper was closely regulated.

Since straying animals can cause damage there was an Act(s) in place that provided a claim of damages by a landowner who had been adversely affected by another’s animal(s) wandering upon his/her property.

An ‘estray’ was a stray animal kept in a Pound for which no owner could be found. Manorial court rolls recorded the finding of estrays. In the 16th century the finding of an animal often would be recorded in Latin but its description given in English and the animal proclaimed as an estray. If after three consecutive proclamations in church no one came to claim it, it became the property of the lord of the manor or later the parish. The poundkeeper or pinder was a manorial or parish officer in charge of the pound. He was required to care for the animals in his charge and to recover the monies due when they were reclaimed. It was a responsible job and incumbents had to be sworn in by the magistrate. They were often provided with accommodation.

All Acts and Statutes are of course subject to change and since the earliest ones were enacted subsequent ammendments came into law , such as the Cattle Trespass Act of 1871 and the Stray Animals Act.

Closer to home, as mentioned in the ‘Overview’ the Rusthall Manor Act of 1739 governed many things including the commons. With some restrictions animals were allowed to be grazed on the Common of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells, but in 1837 the Freeholders began to employ a Common Driver and Pound Keeper to oversee the Commons on a day to day basis. Any animals found on the Common which were not allowed were taken to the Pound. The Lord of the manor delegated to the Freehold Tenants the responsibility to manage all the work on the Commons and to “police” any infringement or encroachment. The income received by the Freehold Tenants in the 19th century was invested in the names of the two Stewards. It was in part remitted to the Lord of the Manor and was also used to pay the Poundkeeper, commons ranger and for works of improvement.

The Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act of 1890 stipulated in part that “only Commoners to turn out cattle to graze on the Common. The Commoners shall be entitled to impound omitte4d stray horses, cattle, sheep and other animals unlawfully straying on the Commons …”

This section, although not an indepth coverage of the topic at least gives a feel for how stray animals were dealt with and the role and responsibilities of the Poundkeeper.


A Poundmaster or Poundkeeper  was a local government official responsible for the collecting, feeding and care of stray livestock. He was tasked with inpounding livestock that were loose in a city, town or village. Wayward animals were brought to the Pound by the Poundmaster, constables or private citizens and the Poundmaster would attempt to notify the owner of the animal(s) who had to pay a fine and any associated fees and claim the animal(s0). If unclaimed the animals were turned over to the lord of the manor  who after a stipulated period of time could sell the animal(s) at auction. Fees charges included a fee for the Poundmaster plus daily feeding costs. In some areas, the Poundmaster was allowed to slaughter the animal and sell the meat.


In the 18th century , the Pound was typically a centrally located stone fenced enclosure. It was a place where stray livestock were inpounded in a dedicated enclosure until claimed by their owners or otherwise disposed of.

The term ‘pinfold’ and ‘pound’ are Saxon in origin with ‘Pundfald’ and ‘Pund’ meaning an enclosure. The term ‘Pinfold’ was more popular in the north east of England with ‘Pound’ more commonly used in the south and western part of the country.

The Village Pound’ was a feature of most English medieval villages. A high walled (7 ft minimum) and lockable structure served serveral purposes. The most common was to hold stray animals. The Pound could be as small as 225 sf or as big as half an acre and was built of stone or brick being either circular or square, as shown by the examples in this section. The earliest ones had not roof and it was not until perhaps the 19th century that roofs were installed to keep the animals ,the  straw and feed dry and perhaps to also control odour.

The Sussex County Magazine of 1930 stated “ Nearly every village once had its pound for stray cattle, pigs, sheep, geese, etc to be driven into and there kept at the expense of the owner, till such time as he should pay the fine and a fee to the pound keeper, man or sometimes woman, for feeding and watering the same. If not claimed in three weeks, the animals were driven to the nearest market town and sold, the proceeds going to the impounder and pound-keeper. An ingenious form of receipt was sometimes used. The person who found the animals on his land cut a stick and made notches, one for every beast, and then split the stick down the centre of the notches so that half each notch appeared on each stick; one half he kept, the other he gave to the pound-keeper. When the owner came to redeem his property and had paid for the damage done, the impounder gave him his half stick. He took this to the pound-keeper, and if the two pieces tallied, it proved he had paid and his beast was freed. Hence the word tally-stick and the pound-keeper being referred to as the ‘tallyman’. “


In this section I provide the sparse information found about Pounds in the town. Since they were not glamorous or particularly noteworthy structures their existence has not been well documented or written about. A search though the online editions of the Kent & Sussex Courier turned up little in the way of useful information but a review of maps for example proved useful.

The earliest map consulted was Bowras map of 1738 which showed the existence of a Pound at Carr’s Corner located where Calverley Road, Calverley Park Gardens and Crescent Road etc converge. It is to be expected that this pound was nothing more than an enclosure of brick or stone with walls of 7 feet and a lockable gate. An inquiry made to Chris Jones determined that the fields to the north-east were called Upper and Lower Pound Field, and what was later Calverley Farm (top of Ferndale) “might well have been called Pound Farm”.  A review of later maps (1808 etc) did not note the existence of the Pound at Carr’s Corner and no other information was found out about it.

A more notable Pound on Grove Hill Road still exists today. A map from 1808 indicates the presence of what may have been a Pound enclosure on the north side of Grove Hill Road just west of where the Fire Hall is today but this is based more on speculation than fact as the structure shown on the map, although about the right size to be a Pound, is not labelled as such.

The best source of information about a Pound on Grove Hill Road is found in the proceedings of the local RSPCA which had been founded in 1874. Their proceedings of 1886 for the year 1885 state “ The present pound,being a covered shed, is a great improvement on the old damp, open enclosure, but the accommodation is very limited for cattle, and there is none whatever for dogs”. The RSPCA had been trying for many years to raise funds for what they referred to as a “Dog and Cat Home” for strays but had not the funds by 1886. It is clear from this source that before the present roofed Pound at 37a Grosvenor Road was built, it replaced a  pound enclosure with no roof. This source does not state where the old Pound was located but presumably on or near the same site as the new one. A review of the RSPCA proceedings for the years 1884 and 1885 did not reveal any mention of the pound and so one can conclude that the present one was built in 1885. It appears on maps of 1899 and later maps and fortunately still exists today , although it has not been used as a pound for many years. Now just a relic of the past.  Shown below is a drawing of The Pound from 2004 found in the Planning Authority files.

The Grove Hill Road Pound was given a Grade Iisting by English Heritage on November 24,1966. The give the following description “ The Pound Grove Hill Road……A Grade II listed pre 20th century manorial pound, where cattle and sheep which had been grazing and strayed off the Tunbridge Wells Commons were kept until reclaimed on payment of a suitable fee by their owners. Located on the north side of Grove Hill Road. Walls of red brick remaining with new wall on south side. Now roofed with hipped slate roof. Original wooden manger inside. No.s 35 and 37 and The Pound form a group”.

Heritage Open Days,an annual event, has included among the buildings open for viewing the Pound on Grove Hill Road. The Pound, stated to be the “the only one of its kind in Kent” has been restored from a joint effort between Council and the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society. After restoration it was re-opened for public viewing in 2002.  During Heritage Days in 2012 a display of the Civic Society awards for 2012 was set up in this building and it was stated of the building that “ it is a relic of everday life in the 18th and 19th centuries” . Shown above are two recent photos of The Pound.

In terms of its location shown opposite is a 1907 os ,map on which I have highlighted its location in red. Shown below it is a second map, this one from the Planning Authority files in connection with an application of 2004 made by the Civic Society  who sought and obtained approval for changes to the tracking and hinging of the front doors. Given below from the same application is a sketch that was submitted of the doors on the front of the building. As you can see in one of the photographs a modern skylight was installed on the roof to provide some natural lighting in the building.  This is a small building and although I have no precise measurements for it, it appears to be no larger than 20’x 20’.  An application dated 1979 was also made and approved that read “ latter day brick wall in front to be replaced by removable shutters”.

Before ending my coverage of this topic Chris Jones reported to me that there was a reference in 1850 to the Pound in Grove Hill Road and that there was a reference in the Improvement Commission minutes to a ‘street driver/ pound keeper’ called Samuel Quinnell being approached in the 1930’s and that “ He didn’t get paid but presumably charged fines on any animals he caught straying”. I found an 1841 census for Mr Samuel Quinnell in Tunbridge Wells. He was born 1796 in Kent and was a labourer living at Windmill Fields with his wife Mary, age 45 and five children aged 4 to 15. He died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1847. The Pound was also found in the 1911 census beside 37 Grove Hill Road , a home occupied by two families, and recorded simply as “The Pound” and listed as “a building not used as a dwelling”.

There is not now, nor has there been for many years an operating Pound for livestock in the town and with that any Pounds in existence were closed down or demolished apart from the one on Grove Hill Road which was spared demolition and is an example of times long gone in the history of the town.



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

Date: March 17,2015


General George Middlemore (1770-1850) had a distinguished military career. He had entered the army in 1798 and served at the Cape and in India, Egypt and Portugal and by 1815 had achieved the rank of Lieut. Colonel and in 1830 the rank of Major General. He had commanded in the West Indies 1830-1835 and became Governor of the Island of St Helena in 1836, and it was during the time of his governorship that the remains of Napoleon were removed.

After his retirement from the army he took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and for the last four years of his life lived at Clarence Villa, on Clarence Road,Tunbridge Wells. He died there on November 18,1850 and was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery. During his time in Tunbridge Wells, his wife Phillis Sophia Middlemore, nee Lobb (1790-1854) and several of his spinster daughters  lived with him and when he died Phillis and her children took up residence at  Rosary House on London Road, and then Rose Hill, Tunbridge Wells.  At the time of her death on July 15,1854 she and her daughters were living In Southborough on London Road. Like her husband, she too was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery. After her death the daughters went to live with their brother Robert , a major in the army,in Worcestershire, and most of them remained as spinsters for the rest of their lives.

This article reports on the history of the Middlemore and Lobb families with a particular emphasis on the time they lived in Tunbridge Wells.


The patriarch of the family for the purposes of this article was  William Richard Middlemore (1731-1772), the father of General George Middlemore. William Richard Middlemore  was the son of Richard Middlemore (1699-1768)and Elizabeth Middlemore (she died 1736), nee Brydges, who was the daughter of William Bridges (1663-1736) and Susan Noel. In 1758 William married Mary Douglas (1731-1803), the daughter and co-heir of James Douglas of Carlisle, a decendent of the Douglas of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Her mother was Mary Maxwell. William and his wife had eight children, being five daughters and three sons,

William had been born 1731 at Grantham,Lincolnshire .Shown opposite is an image of William from an oil painting by an unidentified artist, below which is a hatchment for him. The notation with the hatchment states he was of Somerby Hall  and Grantham ,and was the last of his line. The family motto was “Medio tutissimus ibis” (The middle way is the best). There is a permanent memorial to him on the north wall of the Corpus Christi Church.

William had persued a military career and was appointed Barrack Master in the Isle of Mann on January 1,1776. He was at Carlisle at the time of his uncles will in 1768. He died March 7,1772 at Grantham and was buried in Grantham Church. His grave inscription reads “ Here lies interred the body of William Richard Middlemore, late of Somerby Hall in the county.  Esq. who departed this life the 7th of March 1777 in the 42nd year of his age. In memory of whom this monument was erected by his disconsolate widow. He was nephew and heir at law of John Middlemore, esq., late of Somerby Hall, aforesaid, who died abroad”.  William’s will gave him of Grantham, esq., dated April 18,1771 and was proved March 3,1772 by the two executors, his widow, Mary Middlemore, and David Webb, of Budge Row, London. To his wife he left an annuity of 400 pounds and his dwelling house at Grantham.After her death all of his real estate was to descend to his eldest son John, subject to legacies. To his son William he left 1,500 pounds and to his son GEORGE MIDDLEMORE he left 1,500 pounds. To his daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Helen,Jane and Catherine he left 1,000 pounds each and left 100 pounds to David Webb.


William and his wife had eight children in total and some brief information is given for each of them except of his son GEORGE MIDDLEMORE who is reported on later in more detail since he is the central focus of this article.

1)      JOHN MIDDLEMORE (1763-1798)…..John was the eldest son in the family having been born in 1763 in Grantham,Lincolnshire. John had a rather checkered life and got into family and financial problems. Court records, produced upon his death said that John had died and his affairs were “exceedingly embarrassed”. His brother William Richard Middlemore, an attorney, had refused to handle his affairs but he was appointed by the court to do so. John’s creditors were threatening to proceed to adjudgment against his estate. It was ruled that William should sell his brothers estate to pay off the creditors. The court documents state he was of Donavourd in the county of Perthshire, esq. and had inherited property in England, at which time he entered the British navy. At the close of the American war in 1783 he went to France where he remainded for several years. While there he co-habitated with a French lady and with her fathered a child Victoire Middlemore. When this union broke up John granted her an annuity. John then formed a relationship with a second French lady who lived with him in France and then in 1790 the two of them went to England. John sold his property in England and then purchased the estate of Donavourd in Perthshire, where John and his lady lived until 1798, when in that year he died. During the latter part of his years the lady assumed his name and in her favour a liferent settlement of the mansion house of Donavourd and adjacent lands, together with 30 pounds a year was made. In the settlement John designated the lady as his wife. The court put his brother William as the guardian of his illegitimate daughter until she came of age.

2)      WILLIAM RICHARD MIDDLEMORE (1766-1815)……….William was the second eldest son and was born 1766 in Grantham,Lincolnshire. William was well educated and had a successful career as a banker and as an attorney.He was admitted a solicitor and attorney in November 1787. His firm was first Evans and Middlemore, and later Evans, Middlemore and Piercy. The legal business afterwards became Percy, Goodell and Brown and it appears that today the business is still carried on by a Mr. J.t. Brown, the surviving partner. The banking business is represented by Moore and Robinson’s Bank . William had married Susanna Mathews, the daughter of John Mathews, of Tynemouth,Northumberland, esq., but left no issue. After her  husband’s sudden death on October 6,1815, Susannah resided at Grantham Hall, about 14 miles from Nottingham.She died at Grantham August 28,1849 at the age of 74 and was buried there . A memorial to her is in the chancel . Her benevolence still remains a tradition in the village of Orsten. The organ in the chancel there bears an inscription stating that it was given by her.From her will it appears she was possessed of real  estate in Orston,Thoroton,Hawkesworth and Mansfield, the proceeds of which, after payment of legacies, were distributed amongst the five children of William’s brother GEORGE MIDDLEMORE. Williams wife Susannah Mathews (1776-1849) died August 28,1849. As noted above her father was John Mathews (1745-1833) and her mother was Hannah Wilkinson. Susannah was one of eighteen children born to her parents. Shown above are two  paintings showing William and his wife, both by an unknown artist, and both dated circa 1800. A tablet in the chancel at Orston reads “In a vault near the place is deposited the body of William Richard Middlemore, esq., 2nd son of Mr Middlemore, esq., late of Frantham in the County of Lincoln. After a short illness of 30 hours, pregvious to which he appeared in perfect health, he died in the 6th day of October 1815 aged 48. Behold the instance of the instabilities of Human Enjoyments, learn hence an important lesson, seek your Saviour while it is called to-day, tomorrow may not be yours.This monument was erected by his widow, Susannah, daughter of John Mathews, esq., of Tynemouth,Northumberland, by whom he had no issue”.

3)      MARY MIDDLEMORE………Mary was born about 1770. She married Rev. Richard Wolseley of Milmont, County Down, Ireland on January 4,1798.

4)      ELIZABETH MIDDLEMORE…..Little is known about her except that she remained a spinster and is believed to be the Miss Middlemore who died at Nottingham after a long and painfull illness in January 1806.

5)      HELEN MIDDLEMORE……….Helen was born in 1763…No other information.

6)      CATHERINE MIDDLEMORE…….No other information


Given here is his biobraphy  as presented in the Dictionary of National Biography and as expanded on in the Wikipedia website. Details about his immediate family and life in Tunbridge Wells are given in the next section. An image of him is shown opposite.

MIDDLEMORE, GEORGE (d. 1850), lieutenant-general, received a commission in the 86th foot (now 2nd royal Irish rifles) when that corps was raised as ‘General Cuyler's Shropshire Volunteers’ in 1793. He was a lieutenant in the regiment in February 1794, and became captain 15 Oct. the same year. He commanded a company in the 86th, and embarked as marines in the Brunswick, 74 guns, Captain Lord Charles Fitzgerald, which served in the Channel with Admiral Cornwallis in 1795, and afterwards with Lord Duncan in the North Sea. He subsequently served with his regiment at the Cape, Madras (it was not at the capture of Seringapatam as sometimes stated), Ceylon, and Bombay, and he accompanied the expedition up the Red Sea to Egypt, where he commanded the grenadier company. With Colonel Ramsay he went on a mission to the Turkish capitan pacha relative to the plots against the Mamelukes. After the return of his regiment to India he served at Madras as aide-de-camp to Sir David Baird [q. v.], with whom he came home. On 14 Sept. 1804 he was promoted to a majority in the 48th foot (now 1st Northampton regiment) at Gibraltar. He served with it in Portugal in 1809, and at the battle of Talavera, when Colonel Donellan was mortally wounded, he commanded it during the greater part of its famous advance to the rescue of the guards (see Napier, rev. ed. ii. 176–7), which ‘tended so much to the success of the action’ (Gurwood, iii. 370). On that occasion the regiment won its badge of the Star of Brunswick, or ‘Coldstream Star.’ Wellington recommended him for promotion in the strongest terms: ‘He is an excellent officer, and if his conduct then did not, I may say, demand promotion, his good conduct and attention to his duty would warrant it’ (ib.) Middlemore received the brevet of lieutenant-colonel and a gold medal, and was created C.B., 4 June 1815. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel 12th garrison battalion, and was subsequently on half-pay thereof through ill-health. He was appointed assistant-quartermaster-general in the Severn district in 1813, and in 1814 inspecting field-officer at Nottingham. He afterwards held a like post at Cork. He became a major-general in 1830, and for five years commanded the troops in the West Indies. In 1836 he was made governor of the island of St. Helena, and held that post at the time of the removal of the remains of Napoleon I in 1840. He was made a lieutenant-general in 1841 and was colonel in succession of the 76th and 48th foot. He died at Tunbridge Wells, 18 Nov. 1850. His son, Lieutenant-colonel R. F. Middlemore (captain, half-pay, 91st foot), was his aide-de-camp at St. Helena.


George Middlemore was the 3rd eldest son or William Richard Middlemore (1731-1772) and Mary Middlemore, nee Douglas. George had been born 1831 at Grantham. Lincolnshire.

In 1812 George married Phillis Sophia Lobb (1790-1854) details about her are given in the section entitled “THE LOBB FAMILY”.  George and Pyllis had  the following children (1) Grace Phillis Middlemore (1813-1892) (2) Robert Frederick Middlemore (1816-1896) (3) Jemima Honor Middlemore (1818-1887) (4) Mary Middlemore (born 1826) (5) Louisa Bell Middlemore (born 1818) (6) Catherine Sophia Middlemore (1833-1867). More details about these children are given later.

Clarence Villa on Clarence Road was the home of Elias Walker Durnford . For more information about Elias Walker Durnford see my article ‘ Elias Walker Durnford-A Tunbridge Wells Perspective’ dated March 15,2015. In this article I refer to a book by Elia’s daughter Mary Durnford that was published in 1863. From that book it is known that in the 1840’s Clarence Villa was the residence of Elia Walker Durnford, a Liet. Colonel in the Royal Engineers, who  was in the West Indies and the Canadas. His family  travelled extensively and while away from Tunbridge Wells, it was their custom to let the house out. Mary records on page 233 of the book for the year 1846 “Mrs Kirwin’s lease of the Grove House, at Northfleet, on the banks of the river Thames, being unexpired, papa determined to take it for the remainder of the term, having meantime let Clarence Villa, his own residence in Tunbridge Wells, to  GENERAL MIDDLEMORE; and accordingly his family occupied it until late in the autumn of the following year”. This would make George’s departure from Clarence Villa in the fall of 1847. Where in Tunbridge Wells he resided after that is not known to the researcher. This information is in conflict with Colbrans 1850 guide which gave the listing “ Lt. General George Middlemore, Clarence Villa, Clarence Road”. By 1857 Clarence Villa became the residence of Henry Wood. He is found here in a 1857 poll. The army list of 1841and 1844 records both George Middlemore and Elias Walker Durnford as Major Generals in the Army and it is likely that the two gentlemen knew one another , which led to Durnford letting the house to Middlemore.

Colbrans 1850 guide also listed Mr and Mrs Beeching , who Mary Durnford referred to in her account,at Bank House (also known as Clarence House), which was located on the south west corner of Clarence Road and Church Road. Shown opposite is a photo of the Clarence Villa on Clarence Road. Chris Jones of the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society reported to me, that from the tithe records , Clarence Villa was on Clarence Road, being the first house south of Bank House. For more information about Clarence Villa, see my article ‘The History of Clarence Villa’ dated March 17,2015.

On November 18,1850 General George Middlemore died in Tunbridge Wells. His will was probated December 6,1850. The will , which is quite long, can be seen in its entirely on the internet. The will was dated March 28,1843, while he was the Governor and Commander in the Leeward Islands and Lieut General in H.M’s service. The will stated he left to “my dear wife Phillis Sophia Middlemore all of my real and personal estate and effects of any nature of kind”. He had appointed his wife as sole executrix. George was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery November 23,1850 (based on the records of Woodbury Park Cemetery, given as age 80 yrs, service performed by Daniel Winham). A photo of his grave is shown opposite.Given below, thanks to Jan Holly of the Friends of Woodbury Park is the grave and monument inscriptions.TOMB-"Sacred to the memory of Lieut. General MIDDLEMORE C.B.Colonel of H.M 18 Regt. Of Foot who departed this life 18. November 1850 in the 81. year of his age. Also of Phillis Sophia Relict of Lieut. Genl. Middlemore C.B. who departed this life July 15th 1854 Aged 63.

HEADSTONE......Battle of Talavera-It was on this advance of the the rescue of the Guards that Col. DONNELLAN was struck, and painful as must have been the wound, his countenance not only did not betray his suffering but he preserved his usual expression. Calling Maj. Middlemore the next senior officer, Col. Donnellan, seated erect in his saddle took off his hat, bowed and said, Major Middlemore you will have the honour of leading The 48th to the charge. The Battalion charged and rescued the Guards whilst Col. Donnellan was conducted to the rear and died at Talavera.(Grave  restored and this tablet erected by the Officers of the 1st Northampton Regiment in 1907 )."

After George’s death it is expected that the Middlemore family left Clarence Villa. The 1851 Kelly directory gave “Mrs Middlemore, Rose Hill, Tunbridge Wells”. The 1851 census, taken at “Rosary House”, which might be a reference to Rose Hill on London Road, gave Phillis Middlemore as a 61 year old widow and an annuitant. It is interested that her birth was given as “1790 Tunbridge Wells” when in fact she had been born in Greenwich. Living with her was her daughter Grace, given as age 36, born 1815 in Clifton,Gloucestershire, a spinster; also her spinster daughter Mary, age 25, born 1826 in Ireland, and daughter Catherine, age 18, born 1833 in Bury,Hampshire, Also in the home were three domestic servants. From the census records her place of residence was near such places as Bank House, the White Bear Inn, Vale Royal, Vale Place,Clarence Lodge, Garden Terrace and High Street.

Phillis Sophia Middlemore died July 15,1854.Her probate record gave her formerly of Rose Hill, Tunbridge Wells but late of Southborough where she died. The executors of her under 6,000 pound estate was  her son Robert Frederick Middlemore of Thorngrove near Worcester, a Lieut Colonel in the army.Her will, which was dated March 20,1851 gave her as a widow in the County of Kent and that she left all of her estate to her daughters, Louisa, Grace Phillis, Mary Douglas, and Isabel Catherine Middlemore. Her will is quite long and in it she lefts in great detail who is to get every individual piece of cutlery,plates etc. Her son Robert was given as the executor. Phillis was buried with her husband in the Woodbury Park Cemetery. The cemetery records record she was of Southborough and died age 65;was buried July 22,1854, with the service performed by Daniel Winham.


I begin this section with the 1861 census, taken at 29 Lytheny Street in Whiston Worcester, Worcestershire in which John Middlemore was the head of the home and given as a major in the army. With him was his sisters Grace, age 45; Jemima,age 40; Catherine,age 25 and three servants. All of them are single.

(1)    GRACE PHILLIS MIDDLEMORE (1813-1892)……Grace was born April 4,1813 .She was baptised April 23,1813 at Clifton,Gloucestershire at St Andres Church.As noted above she was living with her widowed mother and sisters in Tunbridge Wells in 1851 and was referred to in her mothers will. She was living with her siblings in Worcester in 1861.She died in the 1st qtr of 1892 at Worcester,Worcestershire. She was buried at Worcester, age 78, on March 4,1897.

(2)    ROBERT FREDERICK MIDDLEMORE (1816-1896)……Robert was born 1816 in Beeston, Nottinghamshire and was christened at Hambledon,Hampshire on Novermber 26,1818, at the age of 2. In 1861 he was living in Worceter as a single man and a major in the army. With him was three of his sisters and three domestic servants. In 1864 he married Fanny Hundley (1845-1876) and with her had a daughter Maud Mary Douglas Hundley (1864-1948). Robert persued a military career. Throughout the period of 1871 until his death on October 18,1896 at Grimley,Worcestershire, he was a resident of Grimley. In 1883 his occupation was given as “retired Colonel” and in 1891 as “Lieutenant Colonel in the Army”. Probate records show he was not well off for he left an estate valued at only 465 pounds. The probate record gave him of Thorngrove, Worcestershire. No family members were mentioned in the probate documents. His wife Fanny Hundley had been born 1845 in Worcester,Worcestershire, one of 10 children born to William Price and Ann Hundley. She died March 5,1876 at Henley Hall, near Ludlow,Shropshire. It appears the her marriage of Robert did not go well for there is a record of her marrying Frederick Arthur Chaopman  on November 22,1865 at Malvern,Worcestershire and that in 1871 she was living with him at Tettenhall,Shropshire.

(3)    JEMIMA HONOR MIDDLEMORE (1818-1887)…Jemina was born 1818. She was baptised November 26,1818 at Hamblefdon,Hampshire, the same day as her sister Louisa. She died 1887 at Cheltrenham,Gloucestershire. She was not living with her mother and sisters in Tunbridge Wells in 1851. She is found in the 1861 census in Worcester living with her siblings. She is found in the 1871 census at Great Malvern and in the 1881 census as a spinster at Littleham,Devon. Jemima was buried February 24,1882 at Cheltenham, St Mary.

(4)    MARY ANN MIDDLEMORE(1826-1869)……………..Mary was born in 1826 in Ireland.She is referred to in her fathers will of 1843 as Mary Ann Morgan the wife of William Morgan, and George’s daughter.  She died in the 3rd qtr of 1869 at Whitechapel,London.

(5)    LOUISA BELL MIDDLEMORE (1818-1892) ……….Louisa was born 1818 and was baptised November 26,1818 at Hambledon,Hampshire. She was not living with her mother and sisters in Tunbridge Wells at the time of the 1851 census, but was mentioned in her mothers will. She died in Worcestershire in 1892.

(6)    CATHERINE SOPHIA MIDDLEMORE (1833-1867). She was born in Hampshire in 1833 and was baptised March 7,1833 at Alverstoke,Hampshire.She was living in 1871 with her brother jJohn and two other sisters in Worcester and was single at that time. She married Captain Robert Henry Crampton (who died in 1891) at Worcester Saint George on June 11,1863.. Catherine died May 20,1867 at Perth,Australia. Cecil Crampton was the father of her spouse.What became of her is unknown as no mention of the family appears in census or death records.

(7)    GEORGE PANUWELL BAIRD MIDDLEMORE…….George was born 1811 and baptised 1813 at Saint Andrews, Clifton,Gloucestershire and was age 2 at the time of his baptism. His name does not appear in any wills of his parents or other records .  He married Louise Eugnie Furteaux July 16,1834 at Port Louis, Mauritius. His wife was the sister of Gully’s wife Marie Josephine Furteaux. The couple seem to disappear after the marriage. The Furteaux sister’s uncle (mothers brother) Colonel Julien-Dsi Schmaltz was Governor of Senegal for the peridos of 1816-1817 and 1819-1820.


The connection between the Lobb family and the Middlemore family is by way the of the marriage of George Middlemore (1770-1850) to Phillis Sophia Lobb (1790-1854) in 1812.

Phyllis had been born 1790 in Greenswich,Kent and was one of two known children born to William Granville Lobb (1760-1814) and Grace Lobb, nee Smith (1757-1843).Phillis had been baptised February 12,1790 at Greenwich,Kent and her brother Frederick William Lobb was baptised at the Royal Greenwich Hospital on December 25,1788.

William Granville Lobb had been been born 1760 at Penzance,Corwall , and was the youngest son of Jacob  Lobb. William died July 30,1814 while a Commissioner of the Sheeness Dockyard. He was the son of Captain Jacob Lobb born in Penzance,Conrwall  in 1719 and who died in 1773. Williams mother was Phillis Grenfell (1730-1779), who had died at the Greenwich Hospital in 1779.William Granville Lobb’s grandfather was also a Jacob Lobb. All three of them served in the Royal Navy, and had distinguished career.

The naval career of William Granville Lobb is perhaps best given by the following list of assignments;

1)      Served as a Lieut on the ship SIBYL Oct. 10,1780 to April 8,1781

2)      Commander on the FALCON from Oct. 24,1794 to March 1795

3)      Commander on the MARTIN from April 4,1795 to Sept. 1,1795

4)      Captain of the BITBET from Dec. 1795 to June 1797

5)      Captain of the AIMABLE from April 1797 to Oct. 1798

6)      Captain of the CRESCENT  from April 1799 to July 1802

7)      Captain of the SAINT GEORGE from April 1802 to July 1803

8)      Captain of the ISIS from Feb. 1803 to May 1805

9)      Captain of the POMONE from Feb 1805 to May 1806

10)   Captain of the CAPTAIN from May 1806 tp July 1807

The POMONE was launched June 17,1805 and wrecked October 14,1811.It was a frigate of 38 guns being 150 ft in length with a beam of 39 feet and depth of hold 12’-9”.

Captain William Lobb lived in London from about 1786 to 1814 and during his career he served in the Americas. He is referred to in the book “Wars of the America” He served as a Commissioner at H.M’s dockyards. The records show that he was assigned to the Sheerness Dockyard August 9,1811 and at the dockyard in Gibraltar November 18,1808 and at the Malta dockyard July 22,1806. Shown opposite is a 1901 view of “The House of the Captain of Sheerness Dockyard”.

William had become a Liet in the Royal Navy in 1777 and was made captain in 1795.In the May 1773 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine is reported the death of Captain Jacob Lobb of His Majesty’s sloop KING FISHER, near the Carolinas. Mrs Phillis Lobb , wife of Jacob Lobb was living 1784 in Kentish Town,London. Jacob can be found recorded in the book ‘the History of North Carolina”.

The will of William Granville Lobb can be found at the Natioanal Archives , which will is dated October 14,1814.

William Granville Lobb had a sister Phillis Lobb who married William Peyton, esq., a naval officer. They had a son John Strutt Peyton,esq, and was the couples third son.

For further information about the naval career of the Lobb family as well as other information, you will find several references to them on the internet.



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

Date: April 26,2017


The need for ice as a means of refrigeration dates back many centuries and its earliest means of local production was by cutting blocks of it from frozen lakes and ponds, which ice was stored in below or above ground ice houses (photo opposite)

The reliance on natural ice continued well up to the 20th century, with much of it supplied to Britain from Scandanavia and to a lesser degree from America by sailing ship, where it was offloaded and placed in large ice storage buildings until it could be carried by a horse drawn wagon or lorry or even train to more distant places for local use.

Ice began to be manufactured in the late 19th century in Britain in facilities called Ice Factories. At these ice factories blocks of ice ,in various sizes ,were produced in metal moulds. Shaved ice was also produced and sold in bags, largely for the convenience of shops selling fish, meat, poultry and other products that needed to be kept cool. Some fishmongers also acted as agents for the Ice Factory and sold small blocks of ice for placement in the homes icebox. Some of these shop owners also bought blocks of ice from the ice factory and produced their own shaved ice. 

When the age of electric refrigeration arrived the production and sale of ice from ice factories dropped off significantly and few companies are still in business making ice, although the demand for bags of ice cubes is still strong.

In 1909 the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd was formed with the intention of constructing an ice factory on Lime Hill Road, but objections from residents in the area and a lack of support from Council prevented them from going ahead, despite the fact that they had already purchased the property. After being approached by the company again in 1912 Council gave approval for the business to proceed with their plans for a new facility in the town.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 25,1924 announced “ Latest Tunbridge Wells Business Enterprise-Opening of Ice and Cold Storage Facility” in which it was stated that the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd had just completed the construction of their building on the south east corner of Goods Station Road and Beech Street, opposite the Baltic Sawmills headquarters. This business continued in operation until the 1960’s when they sold the building to the wholesale meat supply company W. Norwood & Sons (Kent) Ltd who used the building as a meat storage depot.

Planning Authority records and maps  show that the meat storage depot was still in operation in the 1980’s but in 1988 approval was given to demolish this building and undertake other work in the area to create a residential development named “Elizabeth Garlick Court”.

This article provides background information on the production, delivery and storage of natural and manmade ice with a concentration on matters pertaining to this industry in Tunbridge Wells.


Ice has become a commonplace item today but in times past it was highly valued. Ice was a luxury item and country houses used to have an ice-house, a domed structure built underground or above ground where it was possible to store ice gathered from frozen lakes and ponds in winter to last all though summer.

Ice needed to be at least 18 inches (0.46 m) thick to be harvested, as it needed to support the weight of the workers and horses and be suitable for cutting into large blocks.

Natural ice could occur with different qualities; most prized was hard, clear crystal ice, typically consumed at the table; more porous, white coloured ice was less valuable and used by industry With a good thickness of ice, around 1,000 tons (900,000 kg) could be harvested from an acre (0.4 hectares) of surface water.

The ice-cutting involved several stages and was typically carried out at night, when the ice was thickest. First the surface would be cleaned of snow with scrapers, the depth of the ice tested for suitability, then the surface would be marked out with cutters to produce the lines of the future ice blocks.The size of the blocks varied according to the destination, the largest being for the furthest locations.The blocks could finally be cut out of the ice and floated to the shore.

The process required a range of equipment. Some of this was protective equipment to allow the workforce and horses to operate safely on ice, including cork shoes for the men and spiked horse shoes.Early in the 19th century only ad hoc, improvised tools such as pickaxes,chisels qand handsaws were used to harvest the ice but later a horse drawn cutter was employed.There were discussions over the desirability of a circular cutting saw for much of the 19th century, but it proved impractical to power them with horses and they were not introduced to ice harvesting until the start of the 20th century, when gasoline engines became available.

Ice was also imported from Scandinavia (most notably Norway), and to a lesser degree from America, by sailing ship. The first shipments from Norway to England had occurred in 1822, but larger scale exports did not occur until the 1850s. The Norwegian trade peaked during the 1890s, with a million tons (900 million kg) of ice was being exported from Norway by 1900; the major Leftwich company in Britain, importing much of this, kept a thousand tons (900,000 kg) of ice in store at all times to meet demand. The British public health authorities believed Norwegian ice was generally much purer and safer than American sourced ice, but reports in 1904 noted the risk of contamination in transit and recommended moving to the use of plant ice.

The ice was unloaded at various ports and stored in ice-wells or  large ice storage depots, some of which were still in use during WW 1. From these depots the ice was transported to local markets by train and horse drawn wagons, and later by lorries. Similar, yet smaller, ice storage depots were often constructed in towns located inland.

Throughout these processes, traders faced the problem of keeping the ice from melting; melted ice represented waste and lost profits. In the 1820s and 1830s only 10 percent of ice harvested was eventually sold to the end user due to wastage en route. By the end of the 19th century, however, the wastage in the ice trade was reduced to between 20 and 50 percent, depending on the efficiency of the company.

The natural ice trade was rapidly supplanted by refrigeration cooling systems and plant ice during the early years of the 20th century.


Ice began to be manufactured in the late 19th century. Although the manufacture of artificial plant ice was still negligible in 1880, it began to grow in volume towards the end of the century as technological improvements finally allowed the production of plant ice at a competitive price.

The trend toward artificial ice was hastened by the regular ice famines during the period, such as the 1898 British famine, which typically caused rapid price increases, fuelled demand for plant ice and encouraged investment in the new technologies. In the years after WW 1 the natural ice industry collapsed into insignificance. Industry turned entirely to plant ice and mechanical cooling systems and the introduction of cheap electric motors resulted in domestic, modern refrigerators becoming common in U.S. homes by the 1930s and more widely across Europe in the 1950s, allowing ice to be made in the home. The natural ice harvests shrunk dramatically and ice warehouses were abandoned or converted for other uses. The use of natural ice on a small scale lingered on in more remote areas for some years, and ice continued to be occasionally harvested for carving at artistic competitions and festivals, but by the end of the 20th century there were very few physical reminders of the natural ice trade.

In the 1890s the Kent & Sussex Ice Works was situated in the Portland Road area in Hove, Sussex and there was another ice factory at Holland Road, in Hove established in around 1909 and later operated by the Lightfoot Refrigeration Company. Similar Ice Works sprang up in most large towns in Britain and as you will read later the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Storage Co. Ltd was established in 1909 to produce ice for the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area.

It was a common sight before the age of motorized transport to see blocks of ice being loaded onto horse drawn wagons at the Ice Factory and some may still remember the ice man bringing a block of ice to the home for placement in the kitchen ice box. When motor transport was available motor vans of various sizes were used to transport the ice.  In the 1920’s and 1930’s ice would commonly be loaded onto a lorry in 1 cwt blocks and sold for 2/- a block. A piece of sacking was placed over the shoulders and the ice block was heaved on top and carried to the customer. The ice man used large ice tongs to grab onto the blocks of ice.

When the ice man wasn’t looking, children were always  ready to take advantage of any ice chips available and they sucked them like an ice-lolly . They scampered away before the ice man returned.

The ice-box (image opposite) was simply a large wooden box with compartments lined with zinc. The ice was placed in the top compartment– the perishable food was kept in the compartments underneath with butter and lard wrapped up in muslin. Ice boxes and domestic refrigerators were a critical final stage in the storage process: without them, most households could not use and consume ice.

Refrigeration, a necessity for keeping many types of foods fresh and edible, is easily taken for granted, but in Stuart's pioneer days, before the turn of the century, there was no means of refrigeration, nor ice plants; there wasn't even electricity in town before 1917, other than by use of a private generator.

Usually a large meal was cooked once a day with freshly prepared meat or fish and leftovers weren't generally kept; there were, however, canned meats and goods available, some purchased from traveling merchant boats.

Non-electrical 'ice boxes' were used in the early 1900s, but blocks of ice, obtained from an ice house or manufacturing plant and stored inside the unit, were necessary to keep the contents cold. These containers were usually made of wood with hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed.

A large block of ice was held in a tray or compartment near the top of the box. Cold air circulated down and around storage compartments in the lower section. An expensive model featured a spigot for draining melted ice water from a holding tank while the economy models utilized a drip pan which was placed under the unit and had to be emptied frequently. Constant supplies of ice were required to maintain refrigeration. An ice manufacturing plant or factory in a community for the production of ice would eventually be a necessity, especially with increasing population. Visitors and potential residents from the north were accustomed to more modern conveniences and amenities.

The ice trade revolutionised the way that food was preserved and transported. Before the 19th century, preservation had depended upon techniques such as curing or smoking, but large supplies of natural or man- made ice allowed foods to be refrigerated or frozen instead.

Homemade ice-cream was popular. The ice was packed into a wooden bucket around a central metal container that held the ice cream ingredients. By turning a handle the ice revolved around the cylinder – it was somewhat similar to the laborious churning of butter. Sometimes it took a good half-hour before the ice-cream was set properly. Confectioners shops often sold ice cream, either ready-made or made on the premises and relied on a good supply of ice. In the streets men sold ice-creams from large boxes placed on bicycles or tricycles.


The relatively mild winter climate of Tunbridge Wells and the lack of large bodies of fresh water precluded the production of natural ice for refrigeration purposes. However a number of small ponds dotted the landscape where ice could be harvested on a limited scale and no doubt lakes like Brighton Lake and Dunorlan Lake were used on a small scale for this purpose. As a result, most of the ice used in the town was imported and stored in ice houses or ice depots. As I noted in my article about the Great Culverden Park it is known that local spring fed ponds were used for the supply of water and ice and that in the unbuilt up parts of town, or at homes situated on large grounds, that some residents had ice houses. Shown below are two views of Brighton Lake  (by Harold H. Camburn)in the summer  and winter. Below them is a view of Dunorlan Lake in he winter. Dunorlan (6 acres in area) is the largest of the two and as the photo shows the ice is very thin at the time this photo was taken.

The first known company to establish an Ice Factory in the town was the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Company Ltd, which business was founded in 1909.The earliest known record of this business appeared in the Courier of June 7,1912 under the heading “ The Proposed Cold Storage Building”. In this article the Works Committee reported to Council that a letter had been received from the Local Government Board acknowledging the application of the Town Council under the Housing, Town Planning, etc Act of 1909, with respect to a scheme with reference to the land in Lime Hill Road upon which the cold storage and ice making factory was proposed to be erected. The letter was received from the Managing Director of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Co. on the subject of a resolution passed by the Town Council at their last meeting disapproving the plans for cold storage and ice making factory, Lime Hill Road, and stating that the directors desire him to say that there will be no need for the Corporation to go to any trouble to obtain special powers from the Local Government Board, as the Company would not thot thing doing anything that would be objectionable to the neighbourhood.” Also reviewed at the meeting was a letter sent to Mr John Burns by “The Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Co. Ltd (M. Ainsley, Secretary and Managing Director) which stated “ Dear Sir,- I am sorry to feel obliged to acquaint you of the unfair action taken by the Tunbridge Wells Council against myself and others forming a Company to erect a cold storage and ice making plant in this town. After we had secured a suitable site, prepared plans and elevations, which the Works Committee had approved and recommended to the Council for their confirmation at the meeting held on the 1st of May, one member of that Council seems on this occasion to have taken some objection to our scheme and lodged a petition which he had previously got signed by some of the neighbours surrounding the site, consequently the Council disapproved of our plans on the grounds that they were about to apply to your Board to grant them the powers of the new Towns Planning Act for the purpose of preventing us from erecting our building, to which we strongly protest, as the small piece of land in question is too shallow for the erection of private dwelling houses and is only fit for business places similar to what we propose, and after visiting several similar buildings, and our contractors having guaranteed that that there should be no nuisance whatever, we feel confident that we are doing no harm whatever to the adjoining property. We have seen similar plants installed in the basement of large hotels of London, and there is also one in erection immediately under the principal ward of the Middlesex Hospital”. The letter goes on to as the Board to order the Tunbridge Wells Council to remove their objections to the proposed plant, and a resolution was passed stating “That the Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Company Ltd., be informed that if they will again submit the plans previously submitted, such plans will be approved”.

Despite being given the go ahead by Council no evidence was found that the Ice Factory and Cold Storage building was ever constructed on the Lime Hill Road site. Where the property on Lime Hill Road was located that the Company had purchased was not determined for no records are available online and trip to their archives would be necessary to see the plans that had been submitted.

No listings for the company were found in local directories until 1924 and it appears that a decision was taken by the company, due to the outbreak of war, not to proceede with the Ice Factory until after the war.  It is known that the company still existed , but appears to have been dormant. Proof of this is a series of notices published in the London Gazette on September 20,1918 and January 3,1919 in which the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd appeared on a list of companies given notice “that this company will be struck off the register and dissolved unless cause is otherwise given”. Obviously “cause” was given and the Company remained on the register.

The first confirmed report on the construction of the Ice Factory and Cold Storage building by this company is that given in the Kent & Sussex Courier of July 25,1924 in an article entitled “ Latest Tunbridge Wells Business Enterprise-Opening of Ice and Cold Storage Factory”. The article read “ To step out of the broiling hot sun into a building where the thermometer stood at many degrees below freezing point and where the pipes which surrounded the ceiling were thickly coated with ice, was an experience which  (illegible) a representative of the Courier on Tuesday morning. An in Tunbridge Wells too! Many of our readers may not be aware of the existence of this arctic spot in the Royal Borough, where fur coats would not keep out the cold for long. It is situated some little distance down Goods Station Road, and no one can help seeing it. The gold, block letters erected at the entrance to this latest building enterprise reads: “Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Company”, and the up-to-date factory, where some of the finest ice ever manufactured is turned out, was opened on Monday. Here we have another example of the pureness and high qualities of Tunbridge Wells water which makes ice of such clearness that small print can be read without difficulty through a block twelve inches thick. In future, there will always be a plentiful supply of ice Tunbridge Wells, sufficient to meet any and every demand at a moderate figure. What is of equal interest to tradesmen and others is the fact that there is ample cold storage accommodation for the preservation of food supplies. The cold stores have a capacity of about 25,000 cubic feet, being beautifully fitted, white enamelled and scrupulously clean throughout. In one of the stores into which our representative was shown a block of ice was placed a few days ago, and the floor on which it stood was perfectly dry-an eloquent testimony to the bitterly cold temperature. The door, which was of the thickness of the door of a huge iron safe, does not open with a slight push, so that there is no chance of any warm air entering. The ice store affords reserve accommodation for 300 tons of ice, thus assuring full supplies during exceptionally hot weather. We venture to predict that the ice produced here will soon become famous. Deliveries are made daily in the district and special arrangements have been made by the Company for the speedy delivery of country customer’s orders. The factory is fitted with duplicate machinery, with all modern labour-saving devices, and tradesmen and others interested who accept the Company’s invitation to visit and inspect the works will be astonished at the sight which will meet their gaze in the machine room, where a portion of the principal plant is covered with ice, and the other part quite hot. It is interesting to record that the Company was the first to use the new electricity current, while employment has been found for local workmen”. Shown below left is a sketch showing the typical interior of an ice factory and a view of the compressors used in the process of making ice.

One person in Tunbridge Wells with first-hand knowledge of this business is 76 year old Brian Woodgate who wrote an article entitled “ The Sights and Sounds and Smells of Tunbridge Wells” that appeared in the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society newsletter of Autumn 2016 and who provided some interesting information directly to me by email in April/May of this year. From the aforementioned article Brian reported his observations dating back to the time he was a boy growing up in the town in the 1940/1950 era while living with his parents at 60 Tunnel Road.  Brian begins the article by referring to the “shriek of circular saws and the smell of sawdust from freshly cut timber” and the “sound of cutters being shaped for tongue and groove flooring and acchitrave work” at the premises of the Baltic Saw Mills at 103 Goods Station Road, located, as the 1909 os map shows opposite, at the south west corner of Goods Station Road and Mercer Street. This company had buildings and yards in other parts of the town too. Details about this company and photographs can be found in my article “ The History of 103 Goods Station Road” which was posted to my website May 2017 and also in an article I wrote about the Baltic Sawmills a few years ago. At Goods Station Road, in addition to their main building at No. 103 the company also occupied the blocks of land on the north east and south east corner of Goods Station Road and Beech Street, and it was on this south east corner that the Ice Factory and Cold Storage building was constructed. Shown below is a photo of the Baltic Saw Mill building at 103 Goods Station Road. The front of the building, on which can be seen their sign, faced onto Goods Station Road although most of their building faced onto Mercer Street. This would have been a noisy and busy intersection with horse drawn wagons coming and going with loads of wood products and when combined with the horse drawn wagons and motorized lorries of the Ice Factory would have been quite a site to see. Unfortunately no photograph of the Ice Factory building has been located. Shown below left is a photo of ice blocks in an Ice Factory and to the right is a view of an ice block machine.

Brian continues in his article stating “Then there was the Ice Factory opposite Baltic Saw Mills. I used to watch the men pulling out huge blocks of ice for transportation to local fish shops and beyond. From time to time they would de-ice the refrigeration units and tip the fragments of ice into the yard outside. In the heat of summer these became ‘ice lollies’ for free !”

From my correspondence with Brian Woodgate, further first -hand information was obtained about the Ice Factory and related matters, information which is given below.

On April 30,2017 Brian reported to me “ The location of the Ice Factory was immediately opposite the Baltic Saw Mills on Goods Station Road. I have never seen a photograph of it. The part of the factory that fronted on to Goods Station Road was basically the loading platform from which the men dragged the blocks of ice (about the size of a normal suitcase) and loaded them onto the lorries for distribution. Some local customers collected the ice on their own lorries/trucks. Large callipers were used to drag the ice”. Brian also stated that the main part of the building, on which its sign could be seen, was on Beech Street.

On May 2.2017 Brian reported to me “ I’ve just spoken to my 90 year old friend (born 1927) who had a fish shop, and recalls that before refrigeration was common, his fish shop relied on ice from the factory. They picked up ice in 1 Hundred Weight blocks i.e. 112 pounds weight (50.8 Kilos). Once the ice was in their shop it would be split up using an ice axe and then fed into an ice grinder, a very solid machine that was cranked by hand this reducing the ice into small pieces which were used to pack around the fish for sale to keep them fresh. A photo of this type of manual grinder is shown above and below it is its electric equivalent. After the war (WW II) this was replaced with an electric grinder, which was a great relief! They had some customers who would request ground ice to use in their homes to keep food fresh. This was delivered to the customer in boxes containing 14 pounds weight (6.3 Kilos) of ice. I guess it was the more wealthy people of Tunbridge Wells who could afford this. My friend believes there may well have been a meat storage facility at the factory”.

On May 2,2017 Brian reported to me “ My friend has spoken to his brother who says that there was a meat supplier who took over the Ice Factory: W. Norwood & Sons (Kent) Ltd who were meat wholesalers. He recalls that they used to buy 30 boxes of frozen rabbits from them. Kelly’s directory shows them to be there from 1965 until 1972 based on the two copies I have for those years but they may have been in business before 1965 and 1972 as well as could be determined from a review of directories for other years.”  Later in this article I return to the subject of  the meat wholesalers who took over the premises of the former Ice Factory, but I not continue with my account of the Ice Factory during its time of operation.

I begin with the reference from 1912 to Mr M. Ainsley who signed himself in a letter as the Secretary and Managing Director of the Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Company. A search for him in the 1911 census and directories of Tunbridge Wells did not turn up any results and so it appears he was not a local resident.

Tunbridge Wells directories of 1930 to the 1960’s gave the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd of 98 Goods Station Road and the London Gazette of June 13,1969 gave a listing of this company with a notice that the company would be struck off the register and dissolved if notice of continuation was not received.  A listing for the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Company Limited ( 00192649) gave the company as incorporated January 1,1970 but later (date not given) as dissolved. The date of incorporation in this record is somewhat mystifying for it was already a limited company when established in 1909.

Advertisments for the company regularly appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Some samples are given below.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of July 15,1924 and August 8,1924 ran the advertisement “ Tunbridge Wells Ice and Cold Storage Company (about 25,000 cubic feet capacity) reliable service, moderate charges. Made from Tunbridge Wells water the highest degree of purity.Any quantity supplied”. In addition to blocks of ice the company also produced and sold bags of chipped or ground ice. Shown opposite is a photo of an ice factory ice grinder in which blocks of ice are place in the top and ground up to produce bags of ice like those shown on the photo below

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 8,1928 gave “ Ice supplied 8 lbs for 6d Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Company Ltd Goods Station Road, Tunbridge Wells Phone Tunbridge Wells 1324. Local agent fishmongere 58 Grosvenor Road phone 861 fishmonger, Calverley Road.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 30,1930 gave “ Save with ice. Ice refrigeration is the safest, surest and most economical means of preserving food. Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd tel 1324”

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of August 1,1930 gave “ Save with ice. Ice costs so little.What joy and comfort it brings to the kiddies. Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd  tel 1324”

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of August 8,1930 gave “ Save with ice. Food is much more expensive than ice. Buy pure ice and keep food deliciously fresh. Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd Tel 1324”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 15,1930 gave “ Save with ice made from Tunbridge Wells water safe for all purposes.Buy it and keep yourself cool and your food fresh and sweet. Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd. tel 1324”.

From the information given by Brian Woodgate’s friend who had a fish shop and who described selling ice from his premises it was noted that several newspaper reports were found in which local fishmongers offered ice for sale. One early reference to this was the Kent & Sussex Courier of May 31,1876 and also June 14,1876 which stated “ Arden the fishmonger and poulterer of Tunbridge Wells, licensed dealer in game as well as rough and block ice”.

Another example (of many found) of a fishmonger selling ice was a listing in the 1903 Kelly directory of “ H.J. Griffiths, ice merchant, 7 Grosvenor Road who in the 1914 was given as “ H.J. Griffiths. Fishmonger, 7 Grosvenor Road. This gentleman was Henry Thomas Griffiths born 1868 in Tunbridge Wells, one of six children born to James Griffiths and Louisa Griffiths, nee Offin. His father was a fishmonger and poulterer who at the time of the 1871 census was living at 65 Grosvenor Road with his wife Louisa; six of his children including his son Henry and two servants. By the time of the 1881 census the family was at 13 Upper Grosvenor Road and still in the fishmonger poulterer business. Henry’s father James was found as a widow in the 1891 census taken at 4 Grosvenor Road and still working as a fishmonger employing others. Living with him was one daughter and his son Henry who was working for his father as a fishmongers assistant. In 1893 James son Henry married Eliza Jane, born 1868 in Wadhurst and with her had a daughter Doris May born 1896 in Tunbridge Wells and a son Henry James Griffiths born 1894 in Tunbridge Wells. The 1901 census, taken at 14 Calverley Road gave Henry as a fishmonger and poulterer employing others. Living with him was his wife Eliza Jane; his two children; a sister in law and one general servant. Henry was admitted to the Holmesdale Lodge of the Freemasons on December 30,1919. The 1911 census, taken at 7 Grosvenor Road gave Henry as a fish, poultry and game salesman. With him was his wife Eliza Jane and his daughter Doris May Griffiths. They were living in premises of 7 rooms and had just the two children. Probate records gave Henry Thomas Griffiths of 120 High Street, Tenterden, Kent when he died September 30,1940 and was also of 154 b Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells. The executor of his 771 pound estate was his widow Eliza Jane Griffiths.

In terms of the location of the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd shown opposite is a map from the Planning Authority files of 1988. This business had ended circa 1969 and their premises at 98 Goods Station Road had become the wholesale meat premises of W. Norwood & Sons. The map shows on the south east corner of Goods Station Road and Beech Street a building labelled as “Meat Storage Depot. The building at that time has all the appearance of one that had been added to over the years but such work was undertaken in the years leading up to 1974.

From the Planning Authority files there was an application in 1977 for “Retention of storage building and covered way for the wholesale distribution of cut meat joints fronting on Beech Street rear of cold storage building 96 Goods Station Road. The application was made by W. Norwood & Sons Ltd, wholesale meat distributors and it was approved.  The same company made an application in 1980 for “Retention of storage building and covered way for wholesale meat distribution” with a reference to Elizabeth Garlick Court.

In 1988 an application was made by Elizabeth Garlick Court to demolish the former Ice Factory and Meat cold store building and to close up and build on part of Beech Street and other lands a 65 unit home for the young and elderly. This application was approved and a subsequent one for the same purpose was approved in 1990. As a result no trace of the premises of the Tunbridge Wells Ice & Cold Storage Co. Ltd can be found today.

                                                                 GO TO PAGE 4







Web Hosting Companies