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

Date: December 21,2017


The firm of Stanhay (Tunbridge Wells) Ltd was a subsidiary of Stanhay or Stan-Hay Limited of Ashford, Kent.

The Stanhay company was founded,according to Grace’s Guide, in Ashford in 1854 and became a public company in 1948. The firm specialized in the manufacture and sale of agricultural equipment but in the 20th century expanded to be the distributors of motor cars.

A review of Tunbridge Wells directories show no entry for the business in 1930 but appears in directories of 1934 and 1938 as “Stanhay (Tunbridge Wells) Ltd, automobile distributors, 15 Mount Ephraim.

The premises of 15 Mount Ephraim had a long history in the manufacture of carriages and motor car bodies dating back to the 19th century when in the 1800’s it was the premises of Oliver (later Oliver & North). In 1905 they vacated these premises and moved to a new location in the town with their premises at 15 Mount Ephraim being taken over by G.A. & H. Hillary who manufactured motor car bodies and bus bodies for the Victor bus company.

Stanhay were also distributors for Ford tractors and every year the company had a stand at the Tunbridge Wells Agricultural Fair where they displayed tractors and motor cars. Shown above is a photo of their stand in 1934 . In recent times 15 Mount Ephraim was the site of the Lifestyle motor dealers.


Founded in Ashford, Kent in 1854 Stanhay (sometimes given as Stan-Hay) Limited was one of a number of companies that set up in Ashford to manufacture and sell agricultural equipment.

The company was a success and exhibited its products at various agricultural shows. The company held a number of patents and employed a large staff to manufacture their machinery and engineers to design their products.

Grace’s Guide noted that advertisments and articles about their machinery appeared in ‘The Engineer’ from 1937 to 1964. The 1961 publication ‘Motor’ announced “Stanhay-agricultural and electrical engineers, manufacturing agricultural equipment, including ‘Stanhay’ precision seed drill, hoists and tractor toolbars for home and export market- 340 employees”.

Since the promotion of agriculture was important in the England in both WW 1 and WW 2 Stanhay’s manufacturing facilities continued to be used for the production of agricultural machinery.

Stanhay had three works premises in Ashford. One of them appears in a 1938 directory as “Stanhay Limited-agricultural implement manufacturers, Elwick Works, Ashford, Kent. Their works on Elwick road were demolished in 1973 and the site redeveloped.

Several articles were found regarding the companies works on Godinton Road in Ashford, premises that were located between Godinton Road and the railway station. One of them reported that on the morning of March 23,1942 Stanhay’s works on Godinton Road was riddled with machine gun fire from fifteen low flying German planes. A number of workers were killed in the incident. A second article entitled ‘Terror Raid on Ashford 1943’  reported on the raid of German planes that day which bombed and strafed the town. Don Fisher in 2013 reported that this incident occurred when he was age 14 and that he “on this day the FW190’s came in very low without warning and began firing and in all the 100 or so employees at Stanhay’s on Godinton Road, where I had found myself a job in their small agricultural repair works, were running through the works, heading for shelter.” Several employees were injured or killed. 

Shown above is a photograph of a German plane on display at the Stanhay works, a plane which had been recovered and included in a travelling display of downed aircraft before it was scrapped. Also shown is a German plane being transported to the Stanhay works.

The third site of the Stanhay’s works was on Victoria Road (photo opposite taken 2009). This building still exists but a plan is in place to demolish it and redevelope the site.

In 1975 Stanhay (Ashford) Limited was given an award, one of several it received, for its export achievements.

Today exists the firm of Stanhay Webb Limited located at Godinton Way in Ashford which manufactures and sells agricultural equipment. This companies website states that “this business was founded by two successful British manufacturers who can trace their history back over 125 years. In the 1970’s Stanhay and Webb merged to form Stanhay Webb Ltd, the world’s leading specialists in the design and manufacture of precision seed drills. In 2000 they moved to Grantham, Lincolnshire and in 2010 they purchased a new factory in Bourne, Lincolnshire. The ‘Farmers Weekly’ of February 15,2002 announced that this company was  “the latest victim of the downturn in machinery sales and that the company had called in the receiver. It had built up a successful export market in more than 60 countries. A new buyer for the business was found and continues to operate today.

Although the company’s business was largely centered around agricultural equipment they also expanded business operations as distributors of motor cars,one of them being established in Tunbridge Wells by 1934.


The earliest directory listing for Stanhay in Tunbridge Wells was that of 1934 when it was listed as ‘Stanhay (Tunbridge Wells) Ltd, automobile dealers, 15 Mount Ephraim. It was also listed as above in the 1938 directory. When the business ended was not established. Shown opposite is an enamel  car dash badge for Stanhay made in Birmingham by William Mills from the 1930’s era. This item was recently sold on ebay for 24 pounds. The seller stated that Stanway was a Tunbridge Wells company that”distributed cars/ commercial vans/lorries and agricultural vehicles”.

Stanhay in Tunbridge Wells were distributors for Ford motor cars and tractors. They exhibited their cars and tractors at the annual Agricultural Fair in the town held at the Showgrounds. The history of the Showgrounds on Eridge Road was given in my article ‘ A Photographic History of the Agricultural Show’ dated February 1,2014. A photograph of their 1934 stand at this show was presented earlier in this article. Tractors were also shown as can be seen in the photo opposite.

No. 15 Mount Ephraim, located on the east side of Mount Ephraim just south of the intersection of St John’s Road/Grosvenor Road/ and Mount Ephraim had been the site of carriage and motor body manufacture dating back to the 19th century. The firm of Oliver, later Oliver & North operated there until they vacated the premises in 1905 and moved to a new location in the town. When Oliver moved out it became the motor body works of G.A. &H. Hillary. An advertisement for this company is shown opposite from 1927. Details about the history of these two companies can be found in my articles ‘ The History of Hillary’s Carriage and Coachworks’ dated February 17,2014 and ‘Carriages and Motor Cars by Oliver’ dated August 28,2012.

Shown below are two postcard views of the intersection of St John’s Road/Grosvenor Road/Mount Ephraim Road looking south.  No photograph of the Stanhay building was found during their time of occupancy. The old building was later demolished and in recent times was the premises of Lifestyle Motor Dealers.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 24,1934 reported on a visit “to the Ford works on Wednesday buy the kind invitation of Messrs Stanhay, the local Ford distributors”. This visit to the works at Dagenham, Essex was by members of the Tunbridge Wells Rotary Club.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 5,1935 gave an article ‘ Garage sued by Undergraduate’ which in part stated ‘A case was one in which Kenneth Alfred G. Wheeler of Rockmount Tunbridge Wells sued Stanhay Ltd, motor engineers, for the return of 35 pounds”.



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

Date: January 4,2018


The noted composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was a frequent visitor to Tunbridge Wells from about 1835 onwards. Handel had a number of medical problems and sought out relief in the spa towns of Bath, Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere. His first visit to Tunbridge Wells coincided with the arrival of Beau Nash who after being the Master of Ceremonies in Bath took that position in the Tunbridge Wells Pantiles in 1835 and Handel followed him to the town, being a friend of Nash, and took in the entertainments in the Pantiles. Handel would spent the summer in Tunbridge Wells getting relief and enjoyment from the towns favourable air and climate ; the claimed medical benefits of “taking the waters”; to engage in the town’s social activities; and to visit friends and relatives who lived in and around the area.

As Handel’s age advanced he developed cataracts and started to lose his eyesight. While in Tunbridge Wells in 1758 he sought a remedy to his vision problems by having eye surgery performed by a charlatan eye doctor(oculist)by the name of “Chevalier” John (Johannas) Taylor (1703-1772) who like Handel was visiting the town. Taylor travelled extensively and practiced in a most flamboyant way, drawing crowds to watch his medical procedures, and getting out of town before his patients took their bandages off and found they had been duped. Handel was not his last victim but the unsuccessful surgery on his eyes and the resulting side effects resulted in the demise of Handel in 1759.

This article reports on Handel’s visits to Tunbridge Wells and provides some brief information about Handel and Taylors life and career. The central focus of this article pertains to the time that Handel and Taylor were together in the town and the events which led up to the death of Handel from Taylors surgery.


George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel born Georg Friedrich Händel in  Germany February 23,1685. He was a German, later British, baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712; he became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.

Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. Musicologist Winton Dean writes that his operas show that "Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order." As Alexander's Feast (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never composed an Italian opera again. Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah remaining steadfastly popular. One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign's anointing. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon (1748), has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 (known more commonly as "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba") featuring at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and historically informed musical performance, interest in Handel's operas has grown.


John (Jonannes) Taylor, kwown as “Chevalier John Taylor (1703-1772) was an early British eye surgeon, self-promoter, and medical charlatan of 18th century Europe, noted by Samuel Johnson, and associated with the surgical mistreatment of John Sebastian Back and George Frideric Handel, and others.

Taylor was born in Norwich, studied in London under the pioneering British surgeon William Cheselden at St Thomas' Hospital, and by 1727 had produced a book, An Account of the Mechanism of the Eye, dedicated to Cheselden. Taylor had qualifications from several continental universities including Basle, Cologne, and Liege.

While his practice grew, operating on celebrities of the time such as Edward Gibbon, making the acquaintance of Viennese courtier and patron of composers Gottfried van Swieten, and being appointed royal eye surgeon to King George II, his flair for self-promotion grew with it, then beyond it. He dubbed himself "Chevalier". He toured Europe in a coach painted with images of eyes, performing the ancient technique of couching cataracts and other techniques in something like an eye surgery travelling medicine show, with claims, treatments, and payments coordinated for an easy exit out of town. In his expansive 1761 autobiography in two volumes, The Life and Extraordinary History of the Chevalier John Taylor, Taylor styled himself "Ophthalmiater (sic) Pontifical, Imperial, Royal."

Taylor's career was destructive. Sometime in late March 1750, during one of his European tours, Taylor operated on Bach's cataracts in Leipzig and reportedly blinded him. Evidence shows that Taylor operated on Handel in August 1758, in Tunbridge Wells, after which Handel's health deteriorated until his death in April 1759. In both cases Taylor claimed complete success. Prior to performing each surgical procedure, he would deliver a long, self-promoting speech in an unusual oratorial style. (John Barrell, London Review of Books, 2004) Dutch ophthalmologist R. Zegers mentions that "after his training, Taylor started practicing in Switzerland, where he blinded hundreds of patients, he once confessed". Writer Samuel Johnson said of Taylor that his life showed "an instance of how far impudence may carry ignorance."

Taylor died in obscurity in 1772, after spending the last years of his life completely blind. However, the musicologist Charles Burney claims that he died on the morning of Friday 16 November 1770 in Rome, also claiming to have "dined with him at my table d'hote a few days before his death". John Taylor had a son by the same name who followed his father in the same line of work.


As would be expected many books have been written about or making reference to both Handel and Taylor and it is from these sources that the information below was largely gathered.

Since the “discovery” of the claimed health benefits of “taking the water” at the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells in the 17th century the Pantiles became the place where the social elite, by subscription, gathered to take in the entertaiments held in the Assembly Room, the Commons, and elsewhere. Gambling, musical entertainment, dancing, donkey riding and all manner of amusements kept visitors to the town entertained.

In the years before 1735 Handel often visited the spa town of Bath for social and medical reasons and while there met and befriended Richard Beau Nash(1674-1761) (who was the Master of Ceremonies there, until Nash took that position, in 1735, in Tunbridge Wells. Coincident with the move of Nash to Tunbridge Wells, Handel followed him. Handel would come to Tunbridge Wells during the summer season and take lodgings, either in one of the lodging houses in Mount Sion, or Mount Ephraim and even possibly on London Road, all near the Pantiles. Where exactly Handel stayed in the town was not established and no correspondence by Handel or any of his associates was found to provide and answer to this question.

The book ‘George Frideric Handel’ (2012) by Paul Henry Long stated in part “Handel left London but only for a month’s rest at Tunbridge Wells whence he returned to London at the end of August 1735…After another cure at Tunbridge Wells Handel returned to London July 1736. In 1737 Handel was struck by saturnine gout and used the spas at Tunbridge Wells and Aix-La-Chapelle.”

An article entitled  ‘A Handel Relative in Britain?’ that was published in The Musical Times, spring 2007 stated posted a death notice that had appeared in five British newspapers that read “ A few days ago at Brenchley, Kent Charles Handel esq., a relative of the gent musician Handel died”. These notices were published March 1776.  The article goes on to state that no confirmation as to who this relative was had been found but that Brenchley was only about 6 miles from Tunbridge Wells, and if in fact a relative then perhaps Handel visited him while in the area. “An examination of Handel’s visits to Tunbridge Wells indicates a strong social component in these visitiations. His visit to Tunbridge Wells in 1735 predates his health crisis of April 1737 that caused temporal paralysis of his right hand. Handel’s earliest reference to Tunbridge Wells in 1735 appears in a letter to Charles Jennens, a fellow student of Knathbull at Balliol, Oxford. Among the visitors to Tunbridge Wells in the summer of 1734 was Bernard Granville, who had met Handel at his sister’s music party a few months ago and would have become one of Handel’s closest friends. John Upton, who first became acquainted with Handel in Tunbridge Wells had ecclesiastical appointments in Rochester, Wateringbury and Aylesford , the last being 12 and 18 miles away from Tunbridge Wells. The barrister John Baker visited Handel in Tunbridge Wells in August –September 1758 and stated in his diary “ I walked up by Handel’s lodging about two miles”. Sir George Amyand, a beneficiary and co-executor of Handel’s will died August 6,1766 in Tunbridge Wells. During the last years of Handel’s life he constantly attended public prayers twice a day winter and summer in both London and Tunbridge Wells. The Wells (Tunbridge Wells) had a sizeable chapel used since 1687 (a reference to King Charles the Martyr Church or also referred to as the Chapel of Ease) (photo opposite) that offere daily servicers and Handel’s name appears in its subscription list for 1755. Handel’s visits to Tunbridge Wells were presumably much more than medical imperatives. A network of friends and acquaintances in the area promised companionship, moral support and probably musical activity”.

An article by David M. Jackson entitled ‘Bach,Handel, And The Chevalier Taylor’  in eight pages provides a detailed account about the connection of all three men with regards to operations performed by Taylor and both composers. In part he gave the following quotation from the autobiography of Taylor “ But to proceed, I have seen a vast variety of singular animals, such as dromedaries, camels etc and particularly at Leipsick, where a celebrated master of music, who had already arrived to his 88th year, received his sight by my hands; it is with this very man that the famous Handel was first educated, and with whom I once thought to have had the same success, having all circumstances in his favour, motions of the pupil, light, etc but upon drawing the curtain, we found the bottom defective, from a paralytic disorder” (from Taylor, J. The History of the Travels and Adventures of the Chevalier John Taylor, Ophthamiater, written by himself, London 1761 p.25).

In 1751 Handel lost the vision in his left eye. In 1752 he had a couching operation in one, one of three operations on his eyes that were each performed by a different surgeon. Although some temporary improvement was gained he had lost most of his vision in both eyes by 1753 and no new music flowed from his pen after 1752.

An article entitled ‘The Eyes of Handel’ from 2006 stated in part “ In 1758, we know that both Handel and Chevalier John Taylor were in Tunbridge Wells and that Taylor claimed to have operated on and cured Handel. The procedure however, was unsuccessful. Handel continued his musical activities, but his health failed later that year and he died in April 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey”.

The Jackson article referred to above goes on to state “ In 1758 Handel and Taylor were both in Tunbridge Wells in August (Baker,J.,Diary, London 1931). “On the Recovery of the Sight of the Celebrated Mr Handel, by the Chevalier Taylor” (image opposite) was an anonymous poem dated Tunbridge Wells August 15,1758 and published in the London Chronicle on August 24,1758. This poem along with Taylors autobiography serve as proof that Taylor had operated on Handel in Tunbridge Wells while Handle was on his summer break in the town that year. This poem was initially printed in Tunbridge Wells by Jasper Sprange (1711-1797) who was a well –known printer etc with premises in the Pantiles. The J. Baker referred to in the above quotation was a barrister and from the same source it was noted that Handel’s trip to Tunbridge Wells in 1758 was corroborated by one Mr Morell who travelled with him and said “ left horse and took post chaise-to River Head 12 miles –thence fresh chaise 14 miles to Tunbridge Wells-at Wells then and after Handel and his Dr Morrell, Taylor the oculist”.

Whether Taylor was a regular visitor to Tunbridge Wells was not established but given his reputation as a charlatan it is doubtful he would have returned after the death of Handel.



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

Date: January 4,2018


Street performance or busking is the act of performing in public places for gratuities. In many countries rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. Street performance is practiced all over the word and dates back to antiquity. The term busking began to appear in the English language around the middle of the 1860’s and was used for many types of street acts such as music, magic, dancing bears, juggling etc., just about anything imaginable that would amuse the audience and reward the performer with a few coins.

In Tunbridge Wells there is no reason to believe that street performers were not amusing residents and visitors alike as far back as the 18th century. Tunbridge Wells has always been a place where those from high society met, particularly in the Pantiles where they subscribed for entertainments in the Assembly Rooms and elsewhere in the town, among which were formal music events and dancing.   These entertainments were beyond the means, both socially and economically, to partake in by the common man and so street performers, many of them Italian or other imigrants, entertained the masses wherever people congregated, particularly or exclusively in the town’s main shopping districts.

On a more formal level, from at least the 19th century, local bands and visiting bands provided entertainment in the bandstands that had been established in the Pantiles, the Grosvenor Recreation Grounds, the Commons, Mount Sion Grove and elsewhere. These entertainments were very popular with people of all ages and drew large crowds.

It is sad to note that many street performers have had a tough life, some of whom suffer from physical and or mental problems, but they make up only a small proportion of the men and women who have taken to the street to earn some money performing for others. Some have had formal training in music, some have not. Some are excellent musicians and some just get by. No matter what part of society they come from or the challenges that life has presented them with, buskers serve a useful and valuable role in livening up the community and, unless they cause a nuisance, are much appreciated by those strolling the streets of the town. I know for example, that my travelling companion Mrs Susan Price  and I , during our visit to the town in the summer of 2015 enjoyed stopping and listening to a young woman playing the guitar on Calverley Road near the Royal Victoria Place and parting with a few coins for the pleasure was a small price to pay for some fine music.

In this article I present a brief coverage of the topic of busking and since I have written before about dancing bears and other odd entertainments in the town, this article concentrates on musical entertainments with particular emphasis on Tunbridge Wells. Shown above is the oldest image found of a busker in the town. This image dates to the early 1900’s and captures a gentleman playing a most interesting instrument while sitting on the approach to the Molyneux drinking fountain that once sat in the middle of intersection of St John’s Road/Grosvenor Rd/ and Mount Ephraim Road. Shown below are two postcards showing the same fountain by local photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn. The fountain was later removed during roadwork and placed in the Woodbury Park Cemetery where it can still be seen today.


For many musicians street performance was the most common means of employment before the advent of recording and personal electronics. Buskers have been portrayed in art , such as the marquetry image shown below left by the artist Miss J. Meadows.

An article  entitled ‘ Music in the 18th Century’ stated in part “ For those who couldn’t afford the expense of the concert hall or the opera, there was still music to be had on every street in Britain. The milkmaid, lavender-seller and the knife-grinder heralded their arrival with a well-known tune; local waits, or pipers, played for every christening, festival and funeral in town. The streets of Covent Garden in London teemed with ballad-sellers and dingy print shops, producing thousands of new songsheets every day. The sellers, mostly impoverished women, would cry out their wares in song, and everyone from a lord to a country lass knew the tunes by heart. Freshly minted lyrics would tell the latest news or royal affairs, domestic scandals, ships lost at sea. A song cost a penny and once the words were out of date, you could use the rough sheets as draught excluders or toilet roll”.

The sight and sound of the organ grinder and his monkey scurrying about picking up the coins was a common sight in many towns in England. People playing violins, guitars, drums, wind instruments, and everything else in between were and still are commonly found throughout Tunbridge Wells. They tend to perform at “Pitches”, places where, if a good one, performers come in contact with large volumes of pedestrians providing them with high visibility and an opportunity to maximize the money they hope to make. Shown below is a 19th century photo of a performer with his monkey at an unidentified location in England.

Busking is common among Romani people, and Tunbridge Wells has a large concentration of them, having come to the area for generations to harvest hops.

Some buskers perform on their own, while others perform in pairs or even in bands. Some rules buskers tent to follow are (1) stand somewhere prominent (2) be confident (3) dress well (4) be courteous (5) smile a lot (6) if kids put money in stop playing and thank them (7) treat a bad session as  practice for the next time (8) avoid market days, festivals, special events and other buskers (9) give popular busking towns a miss as there is too much competition (10) never give up even if nothing seems to be coming in.

While there is no universal code of conduct for buskers, there are common law practices which buskers must conform to. Most jurisdictions have corresponding statutory law. In the Uk busking regulation is not universal with most laws, if any, being governed by local councils. Such is the case in Tunbridge Wells where buskers require a license and are subject to local noise or disturbance regulations etc. Some towns prohibit busking altogether.  Like all things, if busking is handled well there is generally no problem. There can be no doubt, at least in my mind, that the sound of music playing on the street adds much to the atmosphere of the place and others must feel the same for there are agencies that can be contacted to provide buskers.

Buskers may find themselves targeted by thieves due to the open and public nature of their craft. Not only can they have their money stolen but their instruments as well and there have been cases where buskers have been physically assaulted. At times it can be a sad and dangerous world we live in.

An article in Kent News dated November 12,2017 , entitled ‘ The Bizarre reason why a travelling musician with a sitar brought a falcon to Tunbridge Wells’ reported on the gentleman shown opposite by the name of Paul Jackson who said he just started working as a travelling musician last year, but had been a professional falconer for around 20 years. He had found himself in Tunbridge Wells after performing at the joy Festival in Groombridge last weekend. Despite being a rock guitarist he has developed his own style on the sitar, which makes him stand out. He said he had not been to Tunbridge Wells before and that he was soon off to play another festival in Leigh-on-Sea on the weekend.

In researching this top I found plenty of modern photographs of street performers in Tunbridge Wells and sever articles about them but sadly very little was found for the early history of the town up to about the year 1960. I consulted old postcards of the town, of which there are thousand, but apart from the one shown at the top of this article and several of bandstands, bands and band performances, none were found of street performers. A review of online newspapers, and old town directories and guides offered nothing apart from mention of the entertainments in the Pantiles.  Jasper Sprange, who produced guides of the town noted in 1797 ‘The band of music plays 3 times a day in the orchestra on the public walks, and at the balls, is supported by subscription for which a book is open in the great rooms” and they listen to the music in the Pantiles under the trees. Shown opposite are some Tunbridge Wells buskers from the 1960s at a time when buskers of the town were described as "the best dressed".

A review of the 1911 census, the only one that can be searched by occupation, turned up dozens of people who were musicians in the town, but only one who identified himself as a “street musician”. Of course there was more than one  living in the town and many others who were transient. The one found was Alfred George Hollands, who had been born 1869 in Tunbridge Wells and was living at the time of the 1911 census with his wife Sarah and this three children at 23 Dale Street. It seems that Alfred had taken to the streets to perform in the early 1900s’ for he was found in the 1901 census at 100 Station Road where he was a hackney carriage driver on own account. At the time of the 1871 census he was living with his widowed mother Charlotte and three siblings in Tunbridge Wells where his widowed mother was working as a housekeeper for Joseph Barnell, age 36, born in Tunbridge Wells. At the time of the 1891 census Alfred as a pony carriage driver/groom  employed by others and living with his widowed grandmother who was a cook at 31 Ely Lane. Alfred had married Sarah Jarvis in the 3rd qtr of 1900 in Tunbridge Wells. He died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1934.

National Busking Day, the first one in the country, was held July 18,2015 in London and elsewhere but apparently was not celebrated in Tunbridge Wells, at least formally.

I close off this article with a reference to an article on the internet entitled “ Buskers, Street Entertainers in Tunbridge Wells, Kent’ on the website It is a long article but an interesting one for it lists various buskers in the town including “Duncan Disorderly or Drunken Duncan” ; “The Naughty Boy”; “ Duvet Dave” who wears nothing but a duvet; “Slim Lightfoot who plays the blues guitar; “Dave the Rave” who stands at the clock beatboxing, and a host of other colourful characters. If you come across a street performer have a listen and please give them some money, as for some it is their only source of income.



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

Date: October 21,2017


The subject hotel and restaurant was located at 18 High Street on the west side of the road just a few shops south of the intersection of the High Street and Vale Road in one of the busiest commercial districts of Tunbridge Wells.

John Yeames Hunter, born in the 4th qtr of 1845 in Ramsgate was one of at least eight children born to tobacconist William Danby Hunter and Sarah Hunter. James was living with his parents and siblings in Ramsgate at the time of the 1851 census. By the time of the 1861 census the family was living in Brighton, Sussex where John was working as a cabinet maker and his father was a lodging house keeper.

On June 24,1869 John married Emma Ellen Bryan at St Nicholas Church in Brighton and with her went on to have two children( both daughters). Emma was christened June 4,1843 at Brighton, Sussex and given as the daughter of George and Mary Ann Bryan.

At the time of the 1871 census John and  his wife and daughter Edith were living at 20 London Road in Brighton where John was a furniture dealer. At the time of the 1881 census John and his wife and two daughters and three siblings along with servants and lodgers were at 3-4 West Street in Brighton where John and his wife worked at dining room assistants. His daughters Edith,age 10 and Kate,age 9, were both attending school.

By the time of the 1891 census John and his wife and daughter had moved to Tunbridge Wells. The family lived above their restaurant at 18 High Street with John being listed as a restaurant proprietor. With the family in 1891 was a housemaid, a kitchen maid and two boarders. The 1901 census taken at 18 High Street gave John as a “hotel and restaurant proprietor on own account”. With him was his wife Emma; three servants; one waitress and three visitors. Local directories of 1891,1899 and 1903 gave “ J. Hunter, 18 High Street, Temperance Hotel”.

Sometime after 1903 and before 1911 John and his wife left Tunbridge Wells with their restaurant and hotel being taken over by Mr Santer.

John and his wife and sister in law Mary Ann Bryan,age 77 were found at 75 Shaftesbury Road in Preston, Brighton in the 1911 census, with John’s occupation given as “collector of house rent”. The census noted that the premises consisted of 7 rooms and that the couple had just the two daughters. Living with John and his wife was John’s 77 year old widowed mother-in-law Mary Ann Bryan, born 1834 in Brighton. Also there was one boarder.  

John Yeames Hunter died in the 4th qtr of 1936 at Worthing, Sussex. Probate records noted that he was of New Street Petworth, Sussex when he died on September 13,1936 at Southlands Hospitgal at Shoreham, Sussex. The executor of his 2,308 pound estate was Thomas Charles Hunter of no occupation. The Thomas Charles Hunter referred to was John’s brother who had been born in Brighton in 1859. Johns wife had died in the 2nd qtr of 1926 at Steyning,Sussex.


Shown above right is a photograph taken in the early 1900’s after the hotel/restaurant was vacated by John Yeames Hunter sometime after 1903 and before 1911. Standing in the doorway are two young ladies wearing white aprons who worked in the shop and who posed for the photographer. Who took the photo was not established. On the wall of this three sty building can be seen painted on it a reference to “Santer late Hunter Commercial Hotel and Restaurant” and yet the sign above the windows still reads “ 18-J.Hunter-18” denoting that the building was at 18 High Street. On the windows of the shop can be seen signs relating to “Santer late Hunter’s Commercial dining rooms; beds, chops and steaks, tea and coffee”. A portable sign on the sidewalk in front of the shop announced “Hot Joints Daily” as does a small sign mounted on the wall at the shop entrance.

Mr Santer is not found listed in any local directories of 1913 and beyond which suggests that his running of the hotel/restaurant was a brief one being after 1903 and before 1911 There were a number of families by the name of Santer living in Tunbridge Wells such as Charles Santer who was found in a 1874 directory as the proprietor of the Castle Commercial Family Hotel and billiard rooms at the corner of Castle Road and London Road, a hotel which I have reported the history of a few years ago. Shown above is a photograph of Frederick John Santer the proprietor of 18 High Street.


Local directories recorded that in 1913 No. 18 High Street was known as the Temperance Hotel, run by Thomas Hooker, who was found there at the time of the 1911 census in premises described as being 15 rooms. From this census it was noted that Thomas Hooker was born 1874 at Hythe, Kent and was a ‘restaurant proprietor”. With him was his wife Elizabeth Louisa Hooker born 1874 in London who was “assisting in the business”. Also there was two waitresses; one housemaid; one kitchmaid and one porter. Also there were three boarders ( two commercial travellers and one retired tea importer). The census recorded that Thomas had been married five years and that they had no children.

Birth records gave Thomas’s birth being registered in the 1st qtr of 1874 at Elham, Kent. Marriage records noted that Thomas married Elizabeth Louisa Shingles in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1907.  

The Kelly directories of 1918 to 1922 gave Thomas Hooker as the proprietor of the Nebon Hotel at 85 New Road and 185 Windmill Street in Gravesend.

Probate records gave Thomas Hooker of The Lodge, 57 Sutton Drive in Seaford, Sussex when he died November 4,1957 at St Mary’s Hospital in Eastbourne, Sussex . The executor of his 5,971 pound estate was Lloyds Bank Limited. Probate records for his wife Elizabeth Louisa Hooker gave her of 57 Sutton Drive in Seaford,Sussex (wife of Thomas Hooker) who died September 10,1947 at Stoneleigh, Cornfield Road in Seaford. The executor of her estate was her husband Thomas Hooker who was given as a “retired hotel keeper”.


The earliest references to Reuban Leach in connection with the hotel/restaurant at 18 High Street were those of 1922, 1930,1934 and 1938 which gave “ Reuban Leach, Temperance Hotel, 18 High Street, Tunbridge Wells”.

Reuban had been born, according to the 1911 census, in 1879 at Ridge,Cambridge. At the time of the 1911 census Reuban was working as a “butler private houses” for the Arthur Richard Lelliott family at St Margaret and St John, London at One Hill Street, Knightsbridge.

In the 4th qtr of 1923 Reuban married Julia May Kitchenham(1899-1977). A wedding photo with related article showing both Reuban and Julia is shown above. The wedding took place at All Saints Church in Brenchley.

Julia had been born January 13,1899 at Brenchley, Kent, the daughter of Herbert Walter Rowland Kitchenham (1873-1945) and Mabel Gertrudge Pellatt Kitchenham, nee Moore (1873-1961). A photo of Herbert and his wife Mabel are shown below.

Julia had a brother Fredericvk Vernon Kitchenham (1901-1955) born in Brenchley and a  sister Bessie Iris P Kitchenham (1902-1979) who was born in Brenchley. She also had a sister Mabel Brenda Kitchenham (1906-1922) born in Tunbridge Wells; a sister Florence Clara Kitchenham (1909-2001) also born in Tunbridge Wells; a brother Walter Roland Kitchenham (1912-1953) born in Brenchley and a brother Percival Gordon Kitchensham (1912-1979) born in Tunbridge Wells. A family tree suggested that Julia had 10 siblings born between 1892 and 1912.

Reuban and Julia had two children namely Joan Kitchenham Leach (1919-2015 and Derek Leach (1924-1996) both of whom were born in Tunbridge Wells ; Joan on December 29,1912 and Derek on August 6,1924. Derek remained in Tunbridge Wells and died in the town in September 1996. Joan married and left the town in the 1930’s.

Probate records gave Reuban Leach of 12 Kings Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died February 24,1957 at Victoria Cottage Hospital in Tonbridge. The executor of his  6,490 pound estate was his widow Julia Leach.  Julia died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1977. Her father had died in Brenchley May 14,1945 but her mother came to live in Tonbridge after the death of her husband and died Mary 14,1961 in Tonbridge.


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