ALL ABOUT
TUNBRIDGE WELLS

Page 4

 

J. MARTIN & SONS FURNISHERS AND REMOVERS

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

Date: October 8,2018

OVERVIEW 

The firm of J. Martin & Sons  was founded in Southborough at 22 London Road by James Martin (1840-1905). He had been born in Wrotham, Kent and was one of several children born to agricultural worker Thomas Martin (1801-1879) and Harriet Martin, nee Larby (1808-1859).

In his early life he worked on the family farm in Wortham as an agricultural labourer. He was found there in this line of work at the time of the 1851 census. At the time of the 1861 census he was living with his widower father and three of his siblings in Wrotham.

In 1864 James left the family home and married Emma Merralls (1842-1927) and then moved to Southborough where between 1865 and 1883 he and his wife had twelve children who were all born in Southborough. James was living with his wife and children at the time of the 1871 census at 22 London Road.

James remained at 22 London Road, as reflected in the census records of 1881 to 1901, up to the time of his death there in the first qtr of 1905.  He was survived by his wife and children.

At the time of the 1881 and 1891 census James occupation was given as “ corn dealer” or “corn carrier” and in the 1901 census as ‘contractor employer at home” suggesting that he had moved from being a corn dealer to a furniture removals contractor by 1901.

Sometime before 1905 James registered his business as J.  Martin & Sons but was listed in a 1913 directory as “James Martin & Sons, 22 London Road”.  All other newspaper and directory listings for the business gave it as “ J. Martin & Sons” engaged in the business of furnishings and removals.

After WW 1 the business was incorporated by James sons as “J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd still operating from premises at 22 London Road.

Of his twelve children he had eight sons and it was his three youngest sons who joined and carried on the family business.

As time passed the business grew and by 1915 advertised that they were furnishers and removers and  were high class cabinet makers, upholsterers, French polishers, blind and mattress makers and carpet cleaners and that they operated removal vans continually to and from London for the conveyance of furniture.

The London Gazette of April 12,1979 gave a notice that liquidators had been appointed for J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd who had their registered office at 3 Boyne Park, Tunbridge Wells. It was interesting to note that the liquidators were Merralls ( the maiden name of James wife) and Ernest Martin  who was either James son Ernest Joseph Martin (born 1879) or one of James grandsons.

The website of Bournes, a company that has been providing local removals and storage services in Kent and Sussex since 1875  reported that the Bourne family bought out J. Martin & Sons of London Road and Draper Street Southborough from the liquidators in 1979. Bournes is still in business today and a major player in this line of business.

In this article I present some images pertaining to Martins as well as genealogical and business information. Shown above is a photograph of one of Martins removal vans.

THE MARTIN FAMILY

James Martin was born 1840 in Wrotham, Kent. He was baptised at Wrotham April 18,1841 and given as the son of Thomas and Harriet Marin.

Thomas Martin was a farmer who was born 1801 in Offham,Kent and died in 1879 at Malling, Kent. Harriett Martin, nee Larby was born 1808 in Oxford, Suffolk and died 1859 in Malling, Kent. James was one of eight children in the family, children that were born between 1833 and 1849.

The 1851 census, taken at Offham village, Kent (image opposite) gave Thomas Martin as an agricultural labourer. With him was his wife Harriett and seven of his children, including James who along with two of his older brothers were also working as agricultural labourers.

The 1861 census, taken at Offham Lower Hill, Wrotham district, gave Thomas Martin as a widower and working as an agricultural labourer. With him were his sons Thomas, James, and John, who were all agricultural labours, and his daughter Jane who was in charge of domestic duties in the home.

In 1864 James left the family home and married Emma Merralls (1842-1927) in Chatham, Kent. Emma had been born in Chatham and died in Southborough. She was the daughter of shipwright Thomas Merralls (born 1801) and Elizabeth Merrals (born 1806). Emma had four siblings and four half siblings. At the time of the 1851 census Emma was living with her parents and seven siblings on the High Street in Chatham (image opposite).

After the marriage James and his wife moved to Southborough and took up residence at 22 London Road. A modern view of this building is shown below left. No. 22 London Road is  located on the east side of London Road  north of Pennington Lane and across the road from the Pennington Grounds. The building today presents itself as a white rendered 2 sty residence with a large back yard where James stored his removal vans. Shown below right is an old postcard view of London Road at the Pennington Grounds looking north towards the Imperial Hotel on the left. In this image a partial view of 22 London Road can be seen on the right. The small lake in the image as well as the Wesleyan Church are gone now.









James and Emma had twelve children, all born in Southborough between 1865 and 1883. Among those children his  youngest sons  Arthur Stephen Martin (1883-1967); Osborne Watson Martin (1880-1966) and Edmund Reynolds Martin (1878-1961) went on to join their father in the furnishing and removals business and after their father’s death carried on the business. More information about the sons is given later.

The 1871 census, taken at 22 London Road, Southborough gave James Martin as a corn dealer. With him was his wife Emma and five of their children.

The 1881 census, taken at 22 London Road gave James as a corn dealer. With him was his wife Emma , seven of their children and one domestic servant.

The 1891 census, taken at 22 London Road gave James as a carrier of corn employing others. With him was his wife Emma and seven of their children. Their son Henry, born 1873, was working as a harnessmaker; Their daughter Charlotte, born 1875, was working as a milliner. Their son Edmund, born 1878 was working as a drapers apprentice and the rest of the younger children were attending school.

The 1901 census, taken at 22 London Road gave James as contractor employer at home and the business he was engaged in at that time was that of a furniture removals contractor. With him was his wife Emma, his son Ernest Joseph,age 22, a grocers assistant; his daughter Lotty,age 16 and his son Osborn Watson, age 21, a carman worker.

In the 1st qtr of 1905 James Martin passed away in Southborough at his residence at 22 London Road. The executors of his estate were his wife Emma and two of his sons. James was buried in the Southborough Cemetery.

Before his death James operated his business under the name of J. Martin & Sons and upon his death the company was run by the following sons of James under the same company name. Later in the 20th century the company became incorporated as J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd.

The sons who continued the business were as follows;

[1] Arthur Stephen Martin (1883-1967). Arthur was born in Southborough and baptised there. He was living with his parents and siblings in Southborough at the time of the 1891 census but was away at school when the 1901 census was taken. He later married Emily Harris (1888-1980) who was born in Broadclyst, Devon and died in the 4th qtr of 1980 at Hatfield Heath, Essex. Arthur returned to Southborough in the 1950s to work in the families removal business and died in Southborough in the 4th qtr of 1967.

[2] Osborne Watson Martin (1880-1966). Osborn was born in Southborough in 1880. He was living with his parents and siblings in Southborough at the time of the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census. In 1891 he was in school but by 1901 was working as a carman.  In 1902 he married Amy Porter (1879-1954) and with her had two daughters and a son Frederick Martin (1909-1987). Osborne died February 15,1966 in Southborough.

[3] Edmund Reynolds Martin (1877-1961). Edmund was born in Southborough and baptised there on October 14,1877. He was living at 8 Sheffield Place in Tonbridge at the time of the 1881 census but when the 1891 census was taken he was living with his parents and siblings at 22 London Road, Southborough where he was working as a drapers apprentice. When the 1901 census was taken Edmund was living in Camberwell, London as a boarder and working as a drapers assistant. When the 1911 census was taken Edmund was living at 37 Vale Road in premises of 6 rooms in Southborough. With him was his wife Clare, born 1883 in Wigginton, Hertfordshire and their son Norman who had been born in Southborough in 1908. The census recorded that the couple had been married four years and had just the one child. Edmund at the time of the census was working in the family business as a furniture remover. Edmund’s death was registered in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1961.

THE BUSINESS 

James Martin moved to 22 London Road, Southborough after his wedding in 1864 and initially worked as a corn dealer, an occupation he was listed as in the 1871 and 1881 census. By the time the 1891 census was taken he was a carrier of corn. Sometime after 1891 and before 1901 he went into the furniture removals business, operating under the name of J. Martin & Sons. The 1901 census, taken at 22 London Road gave his occupation as contractor employer at home, referring to him as a removals contractor.

Some of James youngest sons later joined their father in the removals business after they had finished their schooling and when James died in 1905 they continued the business initially as J. Martin & Sons and later at J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd.

When the business first began the use of horse drawn vans were still in use, such as the one shown below left for the business of W.G. Harris of Grosvenor Road. It is expected that the use of a steam powered lorry like the one below right did not begin until the pre WW 1 years, which conveyance would have been replaced by a petrol lorry after WW 1. Unfortunately only the one image of a J. Martin & Sons lorry was found, which was given in the Introduction.

 











The 1913 directory for Southborough gave the listing “ James Martin & Sons, 22 London Road”. The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser at various dates in 1914 gave “ J. Martin & Sons, furnishers and removers, 22 London Road”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of November 12,1915 gave “ J. Martin & Sons, furnishers and removers. High Class cabinet makers, upholsterers, French polishers, blind and mattress makers. Experienced workmen always available. Our vans are continually to and from London for the conveyance of furniture. Similar advertisments for the business appeared in the pre WW1 years.

After WW1 the company became J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd. the Kent & Sussex Courier of March 18,1921 for example gave “ J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd , established over 60 years, 22 London Road. This advertisement suggests that the business had begun by 1861 but this refers to a former business taken over by James Martin, for James was not in Southborough until 1864.

Similar advertisments appeared in the local newspaper and directories throughout the 20th century. There was also a company by the name of J. Martin & Sons in Tubs Hill, 133 High Street Sevenoaks where they had an antique furniture gallery. It is believed by the researcher that this was a subsidiary company of the one in Southborough. Advertisments for the antique furniture gallery began to appear in newspapers from 1928 and they were still there in 1948.

The London Gazette of April 12,1979 gave a notice that liquidators had been appointed for J. Martin & Sons (Southborough) Ltd who had their registered office at 3 Boyne Park, Tunbridge Wells. It was interesting to note that the liquidators were Merralls ( the maiden name of James wife) and Ernest Martin  who was either James son Ernest Joseph Martin (born 1879) or perhaps one of James grandsons

The website of Bournes, a company that has been providing local removals and storage services in Kent and Sussex since 1875  reported that the Bourne family bought out J. Martin & Sons of London Road and Draper Street Southborough from the liquidators in 1979. Bournes is still in business today and a major player in this line of business, with premises at North Farm in Tunbridge Wells.

 

THE SOUTHBOROUGH ISOLATION HOSPITAL

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

Date: September 25,2018

      

In the middle of the 19th century, the Government was becoming aware that the huge number of deaths from typhoid, diphtheria, measles and TB could be to some extent controlled. Under Government pressure a number of Isolation Hospitals were established, among them was one in Southborough, erected in 1895. Two images of this building are shown opposite and below. As can be seen from the image opposite it was a relatively small hospital with only 14 beds. Over the years the hospital was enlarged as shown in the image given later in this article.

It seems that normally parents did take infectious children to hospital, and after 1890, they were required to do so under the Notification of Infectious Diseases Acts, with the threat of a fine if they failed to do so. The usual practice was to have children transported to the hospital in   a horse drawn ambulance.

Southborough was governed by a Local Board of Health (formed in 1871) until under the Local Government Act 1894 an Urban District Council of 15 members was constituted.

The Tonbridge Council borrowed £1,400 and the D’Avigdor Goldsmith family provided the land where in 1879/ 1880 a new hospital was opened on what was called the Vauxhall site – where the present Cottage Hospital stands today. It was large by the standards of the day with twenty four beds. No paupers or people from Southborough were to be admitted! This hospital closed in 1933 and a new hospital was built to replace it.

Potential customers of the hospital were dubious, so GP’s were offered 2/6d for each case of contagious disease they notified to the hospital. Initially, there was no nursing care but it came later after a sliding scale of charges was introduced, starting with £1 a week for the rich, who the records show were the worst payers. In spite of the fact that all the clothes as well as the bed linen had to be washed, there was no running water. In the worst diphtheria and scarlet fever epidemics – in 1888 and 1893 – a marquee had to be hired for the patients; and children were put in beds “top to toe”. In the last four years of the century, there were also very bad outbreaks of typhoid and scarlet fever, the latter usually involving seven weeks in the isolation hospital with many not recovering; measles was on one occasion so bad that all schools closed for many weeks; and there was at least one serious smallpox epidemic.

After the First World War, a local hospital insurance scheme was started with the larger local employers which took a penny a week from the wages and a penny from the employer.

The major hospital advances came at the end of the 1920s and in the mid-1930s. The Kent & Sussex Hospital was opened in Tunbridge Wells and the Tonbridge Cottage Hospital at the Vauxhall site was built. When the Cottage Hospital opened in 1935, it at last contained the kind of equipment and staffing that one associates with a hospital today. Each bed had its own electric light and alarm bell; there was running water throughout the building; nurses had their own rooms with a wash basin, mirror and a Lloyd Loom chair; Matron had her own sitting room ; maternity care was starting. And to help the nation’s health, there was a National Rat Week (in which the Tonbridge rat catcher was top in the whole county with 467 killed!). My article entitled ‘ Rat Catchers of Tunbridge Wells’ dated June 23,2016 provides information about concerns regarding the spreading of disease by rats etc. and the establishment of Rat Catching Clubs to control rats.

To give some idea of progress in the nation’s health over the last hundred years, it is only necessary to look at the infant mortality rate. In Leigh and Tonbridge a hundred years ago, 98 babies out of every 1,000 died before they were one year old. This was comparatively good – the national average was 154. Nowadays it is 6½.

Shown above from a recent report on land use in Southborough is a map for ‘ site 181 Moatenden, Vauxhall Lane, Southborough, a land area of some 1.21 hectares. The current use of the site “comprises a collection of disused buildings associated with a prior use as an isolation hospital. There is an associated dwelling house. The site is adjoined buy an equestrian centre and fields. The site is located to the north of Southborough in a rural location and south of Tonbridge.” It was on this site that the original 14 bed isolation hospital was built in 1895 at a cost of 4,500 pounds. Also shown above  is a second image identified as the Isolation Hospital at Southborough.

 

THE SOUTHBOROUGH WATERWORKS

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

Date; September 24,2018

INTRODUCTION   

The small hamlet of Modest Corner (image opposite) has its origins in the 16th century, when two pump houses were built on local rivers, and in 1857 a small brewery , requiring this water, was established in a building on the corner of Victoria Road and Modest Corner by R.J. Phipps.

The need for safe drinking water has always been paramount and although the supply of water from local wells was commonplace it often became contaminated causing sickness and disease. Before 1880 the supply of water was most unsatisfactory, being drawn from springs, the public pump near Holden House, or from individual wells which were , in most cases, highly polluted by their close proximity to non-watertight cess-pits in the gravelly subsoil.

In 1880 leading citizens of Southborough signed a petition calling for a piped water supply but no immediate action was taken in this regard. A leading campaigner in this cause was Dr. William Fairlie Clarke (1833-1884), a noted Southborough medical practitioner who had established his practice in the town in 1875, A drinking fountain (image opposite) in his honour ,and paid for by subscription, was erected in Southborough.

In 1882 a survey of houses was conducted to establish the status of water supply with many found to have no water or poor water. An outbreak of typhus in August 1882 brought matters to a head and a decision was made to procure a good supply of pure water from domestic and public purposes. As an interim measure, many houses were provided with carted water.

A consulting engineer was engaged and trial boreholes were sunk on the Southborough Common. Although a good yield was obtained there were fears that the supply would become contaminated, and so another source of water was looked for. After various options were investigated it was decided to raise money for the installation of a pumping station and reservoir with water obtained from springs at Bentham. Herbert George Shreeve(1859-1924) was engaged as the first water engineer who lived in a cottage at the pumping station. Shown below are two postcard views of the Waterworks. The one on the left is a view by Tunbridge Wells photographer James Richards who had premises at 85 Camden Road. The image on the right was taken by Harold H. Camburn a photographer and postcard printer/publisher of Tunbridge Wells.















The opening ceremony for the new Waterworks took  place June 3,1885, details of which were reported in ‘ The Sanitary Record’ of June 15,1885. Following this houses were connected by mains to the supply without delay.

By 1895 the capacity of the system to meet rising demand was found to be inadequate and by 1898 an artesian well was sunk at the pumping station. Water to the community then began being supplied by the local Town Council, Tunbridge Wells and the Tonbridge Waterworks and as consumption rose it was decided to bore trial holes at Hayesden. These bore holes proved successful and main shafts were sunk, a pumping station installed and new mains provided.

In 1903 the new works were opened and an adequate supply of water was provided for many years.

As the years passed the waterworks system was improved and enlarged and now the citizens of Southborough have a reliable and safe supply of water, although at times there have been water shortages.

In this article I present a brief overview of the Southborough Waterworks beginning in the next section with an article from the Southborough Society. In the following sections I expand upon the societies article from my own research and provide some interesting photographs.

THE SOUTHBOROUGH SOCIETY ARTICLE

The following article, entitled ‘Water, Water, But Not Everywhere’,  used in part for the ‘Introduction’ was published in the Winter Newsletter of the Southborough Society and written by D.H. Bennett. This article was originally published in ‘Southborough Spotlight’ No, 54 in January 1973.  This article sets the stage for a more indepth treatment by me of some parts of the Societies article.

“Water shortages are an ever-present threat, even though it seems to rain more often than not these days. What was the position in Southborough in the 19th Century?

Before 1880 the supply was most unsatisfactory, being drawn from springs, the public pump near Holden House or from individual wells which were, in most cases, highly polluted buy their closer proximity to non-watertight cess-pits in a gravelly subsoil. Ugh!

On 25 June 1880 a petition signed by leading citizens of Southborough, calling for a piped water supply, was presented to the Local Board. Nothing much happened until 1882., when a survey of all the houses and cottages in the district resulted in 488 homes being declared as having a good supply of water but the other 293 varying from insufficient supply to no supply at all.

An outbreak of typhus in August that year brought matters to a head and it was decided to procure a good supply of pure water for domestic and public purposes. As an interim measure, many houses were to be provided with carted water at a weekly cost to the Board of 34 pounds.

Mr Mansergh, of Victoria Chambers, Westminster, was engaged as the consulting engineer and , following his instructions, the Surveyor had eight site trial boreholes sunk on the Common. These yielded a total of about 60,000 gallons a day, but it was pointed out that, if the water table was lowered beneath the level of Holden sewer, the water would become contaminated, so another source was looked for, in Bentham and Broakes Woods.

Although the yield from Broakes was 64,000 gallons per day against 56,000 at Bentham, it was decided to use the latter site. Permission was sought to acquire land for a pumping station to raise the water from the springs at Bentham, and also to acquire Barden Mill (in Speldhurst), as the loss of water would affect the mill. Mr. Pott, who owned Bentham Wood, accepted 500 pounds compensation for the use of the water.

Permission to raise a loan of 11,280 pounds was obtained to cover the overall cost of the works, of which 4,564 pounds /8/6d was for the pumping station and the rest for pipes etc, and a reservoir at the back of the Endowed School (now Windy Edge).

A scale of charges for water supply was laid down, ranging from 2d weekly for properties of 8 pounds rateable value per annum to 3 pounds/10/ per cent for properties of 300 pounds rateable value or more.

Mr. Shreeve, the first water engineer, had a weekly wage of 1 pound/4/, plus the use of the cottage at the pumping station; his duties included the care and maintenance of the gas engines etc.

The waterworks were opened on June 3,1885 at 2;30 pm by John Deacon Esq., of Mabledon, after which a luncheon was partaken at the Hand and Sciptre Hotel (image opposite). For his part in overseeing the works and making all the plans, Mr William Harmer, the Surveyor, was given an honorarium of 75 pounds.

During the year that followed, houses were connected to the supply without delay. Any house having a supply which, on analysis, was found to be unsatisfactory was ordered to be connected to the main and, by 1890, 539 houses had piped water.

By 1895, the capacity of the reservoir was inadequate, and the committee sought authority to sink an artesian well at the pumping station and obtain a new gas engine. By 1898 the borehole had been sunk, but demand was still so great that the daily consumption reached 59,000 gallons.

Of this, the Town Council supplied 28,000 gallons, Tunbridge Wells 6,000 gallons and Tonbridge Waterworks 25,000 gallons at 1/2d per 1,000.

Faced with the increased consumption, it was decided to bore trial holes at Hayesden ( although Mr Nunn offered to supply a million gallons a day from his well at Goudhurst!). These trial borings having proved successful, main shafts were sunk, a pumping station erected at a cost of 11,359 pounds, mains laid between the pumping station and the reservoir5, together with a telephone and an electrical water level indicator, connected by two galvanised cables laid in a ¾ galvanized conduit between Hayesden and the reservoir, the latter costing 278 pounds.

Finally in November 1903, the new works were opened and an adequate water supply ensured for some years to come”.  

The Kelly directory of 1913 recorded that “ the water supplied to the District Council is principally obtained from the new works at Upper Haysden in Bidborough completed in 1903. A supplementary supply is obtained from Bentham Hill at the lower end of the Commons”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of October 12,1923 reported that a waterworks inquiry was held at the Southborough council offices for improvements of the water supply.

A valuation book of 1925 shows that the Southborough Urban District Council owned the waterworks and related reservoir.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of February 3,1928 reported that Mr F.W. Hudson, consulting engineer, had submitted a further report as to the most suitable method of treating the water at Modest Corner. This report was considered by the Burial Board, Health and Water Committee.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 29,1928 reported on the analysis of water samples from Modest Corner and stated that it was agreed that if the results were satisfactory that pumping from Modest Corner should recommence at once. A follow up article noted that the water from this source was found to be fit for drinking and domestic use.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of January 29,1937 reported “Southborough Water Supply-Council hears a reassuring report on the Modest Corner waterworks and spring. The report was read at a meeting of the
Southborough Urban District Council on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Councillor W.H. Fleming”.

A directory of 1938 reported “The town of Southborough is lighted with gas and electric light from Tunbridge Wells, and supplied with water from works of the District Council, the supply being practically obtained from the new works at Upper Haysden in the adjoining parish of Bidborough completed in 1903. A supplementary supply is obtained from Bentham Hill at the lower end of the Common”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 25,1938 reported concerns about Typhoid and that samples of water from Modest Corner and Haysden be submitted to bacteriological analysis ever month and to chemical analysis every quarter. The results were to be submitted to the Ministry of Health”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 30,1938 reported that bacteriological examination of certain samples of raw water from Haysden and Modest Corner pumping stations led the medical officer to again recommend that the Modest Corner supply be discontinued as a contributory water supply.”

The Courier of May 5,1939 called for tenders to supply coal for the waterworks at Modest Corner and at Haysden.

The above articles are just a sample of several that refer to the waterworks system in Southborough.

WATERWORKS OPENING 1885

The following article entitled ‘ The Opening of The Southborough Waterworks’ appeared in The Sanitary Record of June 15,1885. Shown opposite is a postcard view of the waterworks on the right side of this image with the fence around it.

“ On the 27th ult. the ceremony of declaring the new waterworks at Southborough open was performed by Mr Deacon, of Mabledon. Southborough had grown in a few years from a village to a town, and, as usual in rapidly growing places, it has been a matter of some difficulty for the sanitary authorities to keep abreast of their work. By the completion of the present works, a village most without paving, lighting, drainage, or proper water supply has been finally converted into a town with a good water supply, well paved, lighted and drained. The late Dr. Fairlie Clarke, who was for some years on the Local Board, did yeoman’s service in making the water supply a burning question”.

“Owing to its position on the crest of a hill between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, the supply of water in the neighbourhood was limited, and pumping was a necessity. Many of the springs in the neighbourhood are similar in analysis to the famous chaybeate spring at Tunbridge Wells, useful medicinally, but unfit for dietetic purposes. In Benham Wood was a spring of which Dr Frankland reported –‘ It is of excellent quality for drinking, and being also very soft it is well adapted for washing and steam purposes’. This spring, after many difficulties, the Local Board has secured. At the foot of the common a pumping-engine has been erected, worked by two gas engines. At the summit of the hill a reservoir has been made, from which all but a very few houses can be supplied by the pressure of gravity alone. “

“Into this reservoir, Mr Deacon turned the water on May 27, after which some demonstrations were made to show the pressure of the water and the height to which a jet could be thrown in case of fire, and finally there was a public luncheon in a marquee beside the reservoir”.

In this article mention is made of “Mr Deacon of Mabledon” and the late “ Dr. Fairlie Clarke”. In the following sections I present information about both of them.

GEORGE FREDERICK DEACON-CIVIL ENGINEER

Of note regarding the career of George Deacon is his involvement in the Southborough Waterworks installation of 1895.

George Frederick Deacon (1843-1909) was born in Bridgewater, Somersetshire July 1843 and had nearly reached the age of 66 at the time of his death June 17,1909 whilst he was at work in his office at Westminster.

He was the eldest son of the late Frederick Deacon who practised as a Solicitor in Bridgewater and afterwards in Preston and was at one time Sheriff of the County Palatine and grandson of William Charlion, the artist-poet, whose talents he inherited.

George was educated at Haversham Grammar School and in 1860 entered the works of Messrs Robert Napier and Sons, Glasgow, as an apprentice.

Five years later he was appointed Assistant Engineer to Mr Varley6, the engineer to the Atlantic Telegraph Company and was engaged on the Great Eastern steamship during the laying of the second Atlantic cable. George was occupied for this Company for some months in London.

Towards the end of 1865 he commenced practice in Liverpool as a Consulting Engineer and later (1871)was appointed as Borough and Water Engineer of Liverpool, a position he held for eight years.

In 1870 he was appointed lecturer on Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Queen’s College.

George has a long and distinguished career as a Civil Engineer and was engaged in a number of important waterworks projects, with the Vymwy undertaken perhaps his most noteworthy, occupying him for some five years.

In 1890 he commenced practice in Westminster as a Consulting Engineer. In 1904 he reported to the Birkenhead Corporation upon a new supply of water. At the time of his death he was engaged in the preparation of plans and estimates for these works and others.

Further details about him can be found on such websites as ‘Graces Guide’

DR WILLIAM FAIRLIE CLARKE (1833-1884)

Dr Clarke (image opposite)was referred to in The Sanitary Record article as having been actively engaged in Southborough in the cause of providing the community with a clean and reliable source of water.

William was born 1833 in Calcutta, India. He was the third son of William Fairlie Clarke, an officer in the Bengal Civil Service. William had two brothers who also entered the medical profession.

He was educated first High School, Edinburgh then Rugby (1850); then Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1852); then King’s College London (1858).

His qualifications were BA(1856) MB(1862) MA(1862) and MD(1876). He had served as Assistant Surgeon in Charing Cross Hospital (1871-1877); General Practitioner in Southborough Kent 1877 until he retired.

In March 1875 he purchased a practice in Southborough and after going to Oxford to take his MD degree he left London and settled in Southborough with his family carrying with him the satisfaction of knowing that his stay in Southborough had been helpful to may good works and gladdening to many of the sick and surrounded amongst both the rich and poor.  

He married in 1870 and was the father to four sons. He died May 8,1884 at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight.

The British Medical Journal of April 4,1885 gave the following ‘ Memorial to Dr Fairlie Clarke…………Sir; Some of the friends of the late Dr Fairlie Clarke, desirous of evincing their esteem for him, and wishing to perpetuate his memory in some practical manner, have undertaken to erect a drinking fountain in Southborough, where he spent the last eight years of his life. They have come to this decision because among his papers were found plans for a drinking fountain, with the view to the erection of one in this town, and because they feel sure that it will , to all who knew him, command itself as a suitable memorial. To the present date, donations amounting to 80 pounds have been promised; and if any of your readers would like to subscribe to this fund, subscriptions will be gladly received by the Rev. H.J. Bigsley, Rev. T.A. E. Williamson, General Rowlatt (all of Southborough, Tunbridge Wells), or, yours faithfully, Hy Vere Pearson, Treasurer, Park Road, Southborough”. Shown above is photograph of the fountain that was installed and a closeup of the inscription on it. This fountain appears in many postcard views of Southborough.  The Southborough Conservation Area Appraisal (2003) in section 3.27 refers to the William Fairlie Clarke fountain being located at the corner of Victoria Road and London Road that was erected in 1886 and that it records the campaign for safer water by Dr. Clarke. In the same 2003 report is the following; “ Modest Corner-On the right at the bottom is Spring Cottage, a compact red brick, late Victorian/Edwardian house with a slate roof, some nice brick details and label moulds over windows. The plot is bounded on the road by short panel railings. Adjoining Spring Cottage is the Old Pump House, now converted.. On the left opposite the Pump House is the entrance to Bentham Farm and Bentham Oast”.

Further information can be found about William on such websites as ‘Wikisource’.

HERBERT GEORGE SHREEVE (1859-1924)

Herbert George Shreeve is referred to in the article by the Southborough Society of 1998 as the first water engineer of Southborough when the waterworks were built in 1885. As stated earlier “he was paid a weekly wage of 1 pound/4 plus the use of the cottage at the pumping station; his duties included the care and maintenance of the gas engines etc”.  I have given in this article two images of the pump house and the cottage he lived in. Others who took over his position also lived in this cottage which became known as “Waterworks House”.

Herbert had been born in the 3rd qtr of 1859 at North Walsham, Norfolk, one of two children born to Isaac Shreeve (1827-1891) and Elizabeth Hare Shreeve, nee Hewitt (1835-1915).

At the time of the 1861 census he was living at North Walsham on Antingham Road. At the time of the 1871 census he was living on Lower Street, North Walsham.

In the 1st qtr of 1883 he married Enna Jane Young (1861-1944) and with her, between 1885 and 1900 had eight children, the eldest of which Ethel was born 1885 in Lewes, Sussex, with all of the remaining children born in Southborough from 1887 onwards.

The 1891 census, taken at Modest Corner in Southborough gave Herbert as a waterworks manager. With him was his wife Emma and four of his children.

The 1901 census, taken at “pumping station Modest Corner” gave Herbert as a waterworks inspector. With him was his wife Emma and seven children.

The 1911 census, taken in a 5 room residence at Modest Corner gave Herbert as a waterworks inspector for the Urban Council.
With him was his wife Emma and six of his children. The census recorded that he and his wife had been married 28 years and had 10 children, although just seven of them were still living.

Probate records gave Herbert George Shreeve of The Waterworks Southborough when he died September 18,1924. The executors of his 818 pound estate were his sons George William Shreeve (1887-1958), surveyor and Herbert Ernest Shreeve (1890-1965) company sales manager. He was buried in the Southborough Cemetery.

WILLIAM HARMER (1840-1919)

William Harmer was referred to in the Southborough Society newsletter of 1998 as the Surveyor of Southborough who received an honorarium of 75 pounds for his part in overseeing the works of 1885 and making all the plans. I doubt given the presence of Civil Engineer George Frederick Deacon at the opening ceremony that Mr Harmer designed the waterworks for it is more likely that was the work of Mr Deacon.  However no doubt Mr Harmer played an active role in the project.

William was born 1840 at Hamsey, Sussex, one of at least four children born to George Harmer, a farmer and Fanny Harmer who was born in Hamsey in 1809. William was baptised October 4,1840 at Hamsey.

At the time of the 1841 census William was living with his parents and siblings on a farm in Hamsey. He was still living with his parents and siblings in Hamsey at the time of the 1851 census.

The 1861 census, takan at Southwark St Saviour gave William as a carpenter living with the family of George Wood.

On May 10,1864 at Holy Trinity Chelsea, Kensington William married Fanny Edwards, the daughter of John Edwards, a butcher. William’s father was given as George Harmer, a farmer. Both William and his wife were living at that time at Upper Chelsea and William’s occupation was given as ‘joiner’.

Sometime after the marriage William and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1871 census, taken at 27 Calverley Street gave William as a builders clerk. With him was his wife Fanny and two of their children Fanny and William both born in Tunbridge Wells. Also in the home was Williams 62 year old widowed mother Fanny.

The 1881 census, taken at 38 Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave William as a surveyor. With him was his wife Fanny and four of their children (all born in Tunbridge Wells).

The 1891 census, taken at 32 Park Road in Southborough gave William as a surveyor and collector and inspector to the local board. With him was his wife Fanny and three of his children.

The 1901 census, taken at Nightingale Cottage near St Peter’s Vicarage, gave William as a surveyor with the local board. With him was his wife Fanny and two of their children.

The 1911 census, taken at Nightingales, a residence of 8 rooms, gave William as a survey with the local board. With him was his wife Fanny, born 1840 in Tunbridge Wells and two of their children including their son Gordon Arthur Harmer, age 35, a mechanic, who in 1901 was working as an engine fitter.  The census recorded that the couple had been married 48 years and that of their five children four were still living.

William Harmer died in Southborough in the 3rd qtr of 1919 and was buried in the Southborough Cemetery.

MR KELLER AND MR BUDGEN

Directories of 1930 -1934 under the heading of Waterworks Companies gave “ Southborough Urban District Council Waterworks (Thomas Keller, engineer), Modest Corner, the Common Southborough and (Edwin John Budgan, engineer in charge) Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells.

[1] THOMAS KELLER

Only two definitive records for Thomas Keller were found namely the directory listings of 1930-1934 given above and a notice of death for a Thomas Keller in the late 1930’s “at Waterworks House, Victoria Road, Southborough.

[2] EDWIN JOHN BUDGAN

A directory of 1922 for the Southborough Urban District Council Waterworks listed “Edwin John Budgan, engineer in charge”.

Edwin John Budgan was born 1876 in Southborough. He was one of several children born to Robert C. Budgen and Harriett Budgen. At the time of the 1881 census Edwin was living with his parents and three siblings on Meadow Road, Southborough. He was still living with his parents and siblings there at the time of the 1891 census.

In the 1st qtr of 1900 Edwin John Budgen married May Elizabeth Jenkins. The marriage was registered in Tonbridge.

The 1901 census, taken at 13 Meadow Road, Southborough gave Edwin J. Budgan as a plumbers labourer. With him was his wife May, who was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1877. Also there was his daughter Emily, born 1901 in Southborough and one domestic servant.

The 1911 census, taken at the Pumping Station, Upper Haysden Tonbridge gave Edwin with the occupation of stoker stationary waterworks. With him was his wife May and three of their children. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 5 rooms; that they had been married 11 years and had just the three children.

No other definitive information was found for Edwin and his family.

CLIFFORD KIRBY (1904-1967) 

Clifford Kirby was a water engineer in Southborough. The Beccles Newspaper in 1944 reported “Mr Clifford Kirby of Denmark Road has been appointed water engineer to Southborough, Kent. For the past 21 years he has been Assistant Engineer to his father Mr. George Kirby of Puddingmoor in the Beccles Waterworks Company. His wife has been a voluntary worker at the library”.

Clifford Kirby was born July 7,1904 at Beccles, Suffolk and was one of ten children born to George Herbert Kirby and Eliza Kirby. George Herbert Kirby was born 1873 in Beccles, Suffolk and his wife Eliza in 1873 at Wantisden,Suffolk.

The 1911 census, taken at the Waterworks, Rinsfield Road, Beccles, Suffolk gave George Herbert Kirby as a waterworks foreman. With him was his wife Eliza and ten of their children including Clifford Kirby who was in school. The census recorded that the family were living in premises of 6 rooms; that the couple had been married thirteen years and had ten children, all of whom were still living.

In the 3rd qtr of 1927 Clifford Kirby married Hilda Pearson. The marriage was registered at Wangford, Suffolk.

A 1939 directory listed Clifford Kirby at 104 Denmark Road in Beccles, Suffolk. With him was his wife Hilda born January 15,1903. The couple had no children. Clifford’s occupation at that time was “waterworks engineer and maintenance of mains/pumps etc”.  As noted above Clifford and his wife were still living at 104 Denmark Road in 1944 but moved to Southborough that year when Clifford took over the role as Southborough’s waterworks engineer.

The London Gazette of June 20,1967 recorded the death of Clifford Kirby at Waterworks House, Victoria Road, Southborough on April 10,1967 and was given as “The Waterworks Distribution Superintendent”. Lloyds bank were the executors of his estate. Clifford was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on April 14,1967.

THE OLD PUMP HOUSE AT MODEST CORNER

Shown opposite from a listing by estate agents Flying Fish Properties is a modern view of the old pump house at modest corner, which sold for 745,000 pounds. Below is the information from the listing.

“A thoughtfully converted Victorian Pump House located in a woodland setting with grounds extending to two thirds of an acre (approx), situated in a semi-rural area whilst still only a short distance from local shops, sought after schools and excellent transport links into London. With a rich local history, The Pump House began its life in 1885 as a fresh water pumping station, its opening so special that the day was declared a public holiday in Southborough.”

“Today as a private residence its past is still beautifully evoked by its impressive spring fed reservoir, handsome arched windows, exposed beams and red brick exterior.”

“This is a home that has been sympathetically extended and modernised by the current owners over the last 16 years and whose attention to detail has ensured stunning décor and fittings of a high standard throughout.”

A detailed description of the building’s interior and grounds can be found online.

 

 

WILLIAM ARCHIE CONSTABLE -THE LILY SPECIALIST

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

Date: September 29,2018

OVERVIEW 

William Archie Constable (1887-1954) was born in Colchester, Essex the son of William Arthur Constable,a gardener, born 1858 in Colchester, and Emily Serina Constable, born 1858 in Langham, Essex.

The census records of 1891 to 1911 record the Constable family living in a brick terrace house at 38 Manor Road, where William’s father worked initially as a gardener domestic and later as a gardener jobber on his own account.  William Archie Constable received his education in Colchester but ended school at age 13. At the time of the 1911 census he was working as a nurseryman clerk. The combination of this position and that of his father as a gardener gave William an appreciation for and love of horticulture and it was in this field that he worked for the remainder of his life.

William left the family home after his marriage to Violet Marie Gibling (1889-1938) in Colchester in 1913 and in 1923 the couple had a son Bernard John Constable, who’s birth was registered in Tonbridge. Bernard John Constable went on to become a nurseryman, having initially worked for his father, who operated a small nursery in Paddock Wood, Kent in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Later Bernard would work at his father’s nursery in Southborough before going off on his own.

In 1933 William Archie Constable left Paddock Wood and moved to Kibbles Lane in Southborough where he established a nursery and specialized in the production of lilies, a nursery referred to in records as “The Lily Gardens”. What began on a modest scale grew into a large operation and established William as one of the largest producers of lilies in the country, with agents in the USA and elsewhere.

In 1934 William amalgamated his business in Southborough with the Burnham Lily Nursery in Burham,Buckinghamshire. This nursery was managed on William’s behalf by the noted horticulturalist Harold Frederick Comber (1897-1969).

In 1938 Williams wife Violet Marie Gibling and son Bernard were living at their residence on Kibbles Lane, Southborough. On May 23,1938 Violet passed away at the Southborough Nursing Home.

A directory of 1939 recorded William Archie Constable as a widower living at The Lily Gardens on Kibbles Lane,Southborough with the occupation of lily bulb specialist. His son Bernard was living with him and working in his father’s business. Also there was Louise Marquerite Jacottett (1902-1986), a single lady working for William as a housekeeper.

In the 2nd qtr of 1940 William married Louise Marquerite Jacottett in Southborough. Louise was the daughter of Peter Harry Jacottette (1868-1959) who was a schoolmaster of the Brentwood Grammar School.  

William continued to operate his lily nursery in Southborough up to the time of his death there on July 1,1954. The executors of his 5,963 pound estate was his widow Louise and his son Bernard, a nurseryman. Louise left Tunbridge Wells after the death of her husband. At the time of her death in 1986 she was living in Cambridgeshire.

William was the author of many articles on the topic of propagating lilies and was a member of a number of horticultural societies. He had won many gold medals for his lilies at the Chelsea Flower Show. He was the author of an authoritative book entitled ‘The Modern Flower Garden’ volume six on the topic of lilies. He is referenced in many horticultural books when the subject of lilies is raised.

The gardens of Tunbridge Wells , Southborough and further afield, where lilies can be found, owe much of their existence to lilies supplied by William Archie Constable. Even the archives of Winston Churchill include an account for the supply of lilies to his estate at Chartwell by William A. Constable.

Several young men worked at William A. Constable’s nursery in Southborough, including Frank Sutcliffe (1919-1940) who worked at the nursery before WWII. Frank died on the beach May 28,1940 during the  evacuation from Dunkirk.

Despite his notoriety very little has been written about William, and this article pieces together any references to him and builds on his life and career from my own original research. Although I was unable to read it, there was a tribute to William Archie Constable written by Harold Frederick Comber, his former manager of the Burnham Lily Nursery, that appeared in the 1956 edition of the North American Lily Society yearbook. There is a lily called “Constable” named after William ,which is shown above and many others are credited to him.

THE CONSTABLE FAMILY IN COLCHESTER ESSEX

William Archie Constable (1887-1954) was born in Colchester, Essex on November 25,1887. His birth was registered in Colchester in the 4th qtr of 1887. He was one of several children born to William Arthur Constable, a gardener, born 1858 in Colchester, and Emily Serina Constable, born 1858 in Langham, Essex. Colchester is an historic market town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in the county of Essex, located about 50 miles northeast of London. 

The 1891 census, taken at 38 Manor Road in Colchester, Essex gave William Arthur Constable as a gardener. With him was his wife Emily, one lodger and two of their children, namely, Florence Elizabeth, age 5 and William Archie, age 4. The home at 38 Manor Road (Image opposite)was a brick terrace located on the north side of Manor Road, one of a block of terraces located on the north east corner of Manor Road and Crowhurst Road. 

The 1901 census, also taken at 38 Manor Road, gave William Arthur Constable as a gardener domestic. With him was his wife Emily and their children Florence Emily,age 15, who was working at a bootshop; William Archie,age 14, of no occupation and Violet Ethel,age 6. Also there was one boarder.

The 1911 census, also taken at 38 Manor Road, gave William Arthur Constable as a gardener jobber on own account. With him in these premises of 6 rooms was his wife Emily  and their children William Archie, who was working as a nurseryman clerk and Violet Ethel of no occupation. The census recorded that the couple had four children and that of them three were still living.

William Archie Constable continued to work in the nursery business in Colchester and lived with his parents in Colchester up to the time of his marriage to Violet Marie Gibling (1889-1938) in Colchester in 1913. The marriage was registered in Coldhester in the 2nd qtr of 1913.

Violet Marie Gibling’s birth was registered in Colchester, Essex in the 4th qtr of 1889. The 1891 census, taken at 23 Chapel Street in St Giles, Essex gave Willie Gibling as a bricklayer born 1860 in Lexden, Essex. With him was his wife Elizabeth Ann, born 1859 in Heybridge, Essex and their children Edith Emma,age 6 and Violet Marie,age 2. Also there was one niece. The family continued to live in Colchester and were found there in the 1901 census, with Violet given as a scholar. The 1911 census, taken at 41 Errington Road in Colchester( a residence of 6 rooms) gave Willie Gibling as a bricklayer. With him was his wife Elizabeth Ann and their children (1) Edith Emma,age 27, a dressmaker (2) Violet Marie,age 22, an assistant draper (3) Stanley William,age 19, an engineer’s fitter (4) Herbert Charles, age 16, an engineer’s turner. The census recorded that the couple had been married 19 years and that of their six children just four were still living.

William Archie Constable and his wife Violet had a son Bernard John Constable who’s birth was registered in Tonbridge in 1923. It was not established where the family was living in 1923 but it is known that by 1929 William was a nurseryman operating a nursery in Paddock Wood, Kent.

WILLIAM ARCHIE CONSTABLE IN PADDOCK WOOD 

As noted above William and his wife were living in Kent when their son Bernard John Constable was born in 1923, but where they were living was not established.

The Dictionary of British and Irish Botonists and Horticulturalists gave a listing for W.A. Constable and recorded that he was a nurseryman in Paddock Wood in 1929.  The directories of 1922 and 1930 for Paddock Wood were examined but no listing for William was found there. Based on this it appears that he and his family left Paddock Wood by 1930 although no listing for him was found in Southborough for that year which place he moved to.

It is expected that William’s nursery sold a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, although he no doubt began to propagate lilies on a small scale. Paddock wood at that time was largely agricultural with the growing of hops and fruit forming much of the agricultural activity. The sandy clay soil found there was ideal for agriculture and horticulture.

Paddock Wood is a large town and civil parish in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells and county of Kent in England, about 8 miles southwest of Maidstone and about 8 miles north east of the town of Tunbridge Wells.  No information was found about William’s nursery or any nursery in Paddock Wood and no photographs of it were found. Shown above is a postcard view of the train station at Paddock Wood where William and his family arrived at when they took up residence there. Why the family decided to leave Paddock Wood and move to Southborough was not established.

WILLIAM ARCHIE CONSTABLE IN SOUTHBOROUGH

The Dictionary of British and Irish Botonists and Horticulturists listed W.A. Constable having transferred from Paddock Wood to Southborough in 1933 and that he established the  ‘The Lily Gardens’ nursery on Kibbles, Lane, Southborough. This source also records that William amalgamated with the Burnham Lily Nursery in 1934 and was in the business of producing hybridised lilies.  Shown opposite is a photograph of William Archie Constable taken while a resident of Southborough. Shown below is an advertisement for the business dated 1936.

A review of directories for Southborough gave the following (1) 1934…William A. Constable, nurseryman Kibbles Lane, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells (2) 1938….W.A. Constable Ltd, The Lily Gardens, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells (3) 1939….W.A. Constable Ltd, The Lily Gardens, Southborough.

Probate records for William’s wife Violet Marie Constable, gave her of the Lily Gardens Southborough, Kent when she died March 23,1938 at the Southborough Nursing Home in Southborough. The executor of her 362 pound estate was her husband William Archie Constable, bulb grower. She was buried March 28,1938, most likely in the Southborough Cemetery, but the place of her burial was not definitively established.

A directory of 1939 for Southborough gave William Archie Constable at The Lily Gardens, Kibbles Road with the occupation of “bulb specialist”. Living with him was his son Bernard, who was working for his father. Also there was Louise Marguerite Jacottet who was born August 31,1902, and was working for William as a housekeeper.

In the 2nd qtr of 1940 the marriage was registered at Tonbridge between William Archie Constable and his former housemaid Louise Marquerite Jacottet. The marriage took place in Southborough.

Louise Marquerite Jacottet’s birth records were not found in England and it is believed by the researcher that she was born in Durban, South Africa. It is known from a passenger list that she sailed with her father Peter H. Jacottet, a 33 year old schoolmaster, on the ARMANDALE CASTLE of the Union Castle Mailship Line departing from Durban South Africa and arriving at Southhampton August 1,1921. The passenger list recorded that their intended address was Willowgarth, Rose Valley, Brentwood, Essex.

Peter Henry Jocottet was born 1888 and died in the 4th qtr of 1959 at Brentwood, Essex. His first wife had passed away and in the 3rd qtr of 1931 he married Bridget Flynn in Essex.  Peter lived in Brentwood, Essex from 1922 to 1937.  In 1922 Peter, who had a B.A degree, was a schoolmaster at the Brentwood Grammar School on Ingrave Road. A postcard view of the school from the 1960’s is shown opposite.

Probate records gave William Archie Constable of The Lily Gardens, Kibbles Lane, Southborough, Kent who died July 1,1954. The executors of his 5,963 pound estate were his widow Louise Marguerite Constable and his son Bernard John Constable, a horticulturalist. William was buried July 5,1954, most likely in the Southborough Cemetery.

When William died records show that his nursery in Southborough came to an end. His son and wife left Southborough soon after his death.

A passenger list recorded that Louise Marguerite Constable, widow, born August 31,1902 departed from Wellington,New Zealand on the ship TAMOROA of the Shaw Savill and Albion Line and arrived at Southampton on February 15,1957. Travelling with her was Ann Constable born February 7,1944 (a schoolgirl, single). It was not established by the researcher how Ann was related to Louise but it is possible she was Louise’s and William’s daughter.

A death notice recorded that Louise Marquerite Constable, born August 31,1902 died in the 3rd qtr of 1986 at Cambridge, Cambridgeshire and was cremated September 2,1986 at Cambridge.

 WILLIAMS NURSERY BUSINESS IN SOUTHBOROUGH

As noted above William arrived in Southborough and established his nursery, called ‘The Lily Gardens’ on Kibbles Lane. An advertisement for the business from 1936 was given in the previous section.

Kibbles Lane in the 1930’s consisted mainly of open land, with few buildings on it. Where exactly his nursery was located was not established but the map opposite from 1938 shows what the area looked like at that time. Kibbles Lane ran north from Speldhurst Road up to Victoria Road  and was located just a short distance south east of the Southborough Commons. No photographs of the nursery were found but it is known that his property consisted of a modest brick home; at least one greenhouse, and a large tract of land under cultivation in which he grew Lilies, Lilies which he harvested at the end of the season to obtain the bulbs which he sold. Shown below is a photograph showing Kibbles Lane at Holden Corner circa 1955.

In the 1930’s to 1950’s a number of catalogues of lilies were produced under the name of W. A. Constable Ltd and are often referenced in articles and various publications.  The book ‘ Lilies and Related Plants by the Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group makes reference to comments about lilies by W.A. Constable. The Lily Yearbook of 1938 refers to planting instructions for lilies “in  W. A. Constables most excellent catalogue”. These are but a few examples of the notoriety of William and his expertise on all matters pertaining to lilies.

One often referenced source of information about lilies is a book by W.A. Constable entitled ‘The Modern Flower Garden’. Although this book deals with various plants the section on lilies was by William. This book contains a number of black and white images of lilies  and deals with all aspects of growing lilies. The book came out in the 1940’s and at least three editions of the book can be found, the last one published in 2010. An image of the front cover of this book is shown opposite.

William supplied lily bulbs to all manner of customers throughout England and elsewhere. His lilies could be found in the gardens of Southborough, Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere.  A lily named ‘Clarity’, an orange hybrid, is credited to W.A. Constable, and is one of many hybrids he produced. His lilies became so much in demand that even Winston Churchill bought some of them. The archives of Churchill’s residence at Chartwell, includes and account from “W.A. Constable Limited nurseryman (Lily specialist) Southborough in the sum of 5 pounds 1s 9d for plants supplied to Chartwell from October 1936 to February 1937”. Show above left is an envelope franked 1952 that was sent by a lily customer in Rhodesia to W.A. Constable Ltd.

Lovely displays of lilies can be found today in Tunbridge Wells such as those shown below left in Calverley Gardens and show right at Groombridge Place.  

William entered his lilies in the annual Chelsea Flower Show.  The Lily Yearbook of 1938 recorded that W. A. Constable had been awarded 8 gold medals for his lilies. The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 25,1938 also reported on Constable’s success at this show.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 20,1947 gave in part “ Following the success at the Chelsea Flower Show Messrs W.A. Constable were on Tuesday awarded a gold medal for an outstanding exhibit of lilies. They were the only exhibit to receive a gold medal”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 26,1950 announced that “Prize awarded at the Chelsea Flower Show to Messrs W.A. Constable Ltd of Southborough for lilies and to Messrs R. Wallace and Co. Tunbridge Wells for an informal garden. The latter also received a gold medal for lilies and flowering shrubs. Shown opposite is a 1936 advertisment for Wallace And Co. and my article ‘ The Cripps Nursery’ dated October 27,2012. This nursery was begun by Thomas Cripps and when he died his daughter ran it. Eventually it was taken over by Wallace.

An article by Judith Johnson entitled ‘ The Boys who Died on the Beach-May 18,1940  reported on the life and death of Frank Sutcliffe (photo opposite). Frank had been born in 1919 and when he was five his father died of cancer. The family lived in Southborough and his mother, having five children, took in boarders. She later married Bert Andrews, a carpenter on the Bentham Hill Estate, who had five children of his own. They all lived together at its South Lodge. Before WWII Frank Sutcliffe worked at Constables, lilu growing specialists in Kibbles Lane. Dorothy recalled they used to exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show and that Frank met a number of notable people on the stand. Frank used to say that after the war, he hoped to have a piece of land in Jersey, to grow tomatoes, and eventually lilies. Frank was already married and as member of the Territorial Army he was called up as soon as war broke out in 1930 as a Lance Serjeant in the 4th Btn Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment. He and his brother Bill were among the soldiers on the beaches on May 28,1940. His brother Bill was injured and returned to England but Frank died on the beach , with his body buried at Le Grand Hasard Military Cemetery Morbecque Nord.

Colonel Dr. Alexander Cameron McKillop (1885-1958) who lived in New Zealand late in life wrote ‘Lily Growing in New Zealand’  that appeared in The Lily Year Book of 1956. In that book he reports on the status of growing lilies in that country and in part gave “ Several years ago the late Mr W.A. Constable wrote “ New Zealand is a very wonderful lily country and I wish that I had realized that years ago”.

William however recognized that there was a good market for his lilies in America and established an agent there to sell his bulbs. The Lima, Ohio USA newspaper of February 1.1948 reported that Alari and Esther MacNeil moved to Vermont in 1937 and set up a small nursery. “After two years W.A. Constable, one of the world’s leading lily growers asked them to act as his agents. Now they are in business on a national and international scale. As specialists their advice is sought by gardeners and growers alike.”

In an article by Amanda Banfield dated 2014 entitled ‘ Oliver E.P. Wyatt-Horticulturalist’ she states that Wyatt spent his life in Maidwell Hall, Northamptonshire and was a breeder of hybrid lilies. He was born in 1898 and died suddenly at his home in Suffolk in 1973. He had established a prep school at Maidwell Hall in 1932 and was the headmaster. He took great pleasure in growing lilies and bought many bulbs from W.A. Constable. He also marketed many of his bulb introductions through W.A. Constable’s nursery.

THE BURNHAM NURSERY AND HAROLD FREDERICK COMBER   

As noted earlier in this article William Archie Constable operating as W.A. Constable Limited amalgamated with the Burnham Lily Nursery in 1934.  This nursery was located in Burnham, Buckinghamshire. Burnham is a large village and civil parish that lies north of the River Thames in the South Bucks District of Buckinghamshire, on the boundary with Berkshire, between the towns of Maidenhead and Slough, about 23 miles west of Charing Cross, London. An image of Burnham is shown opposite but unfortunately no photographs of the nursery itself were located.

A trade catalogue for Burnham Nurseries Ltd for the year1940-1941 listed a selection of fruit trees, roses, lilies and general nursery stock. Although W.A. Constable’s specialty was lilies he also sold other nursery stock from his nursery in Southborough.

 The book ‘Visions of Loveliness –Great Flower Breeders of the Past’  reported on the life and career of Harold Frederick Comber (1897-1969) and in part stated that he had been hired by William A. Constable to manage the Burhham Nursery. A photograph of Mr Comber is shown below.

A more detailed account of the man from another website gave the following;

“Harold Frederick Comber ALS (31 December 1897 – 23 April 1969) was an English horticulturist and plant collector who was to specialize in the study of lilies Lilium sp. The eldest child of three, and only son of James and Ethel Comber, he was born at Nymans, Staplefield, Sussex, where his father was Head Gardener. He was educated at Handcross Council School until aged 12, when he entered Ardingly College for two years.[1] He did not excel academically, failing his Oxford Local examinations, but was noted for his keen powers of observation and a retentive memory.”

“On leaving Ardingly College, Comber worked with his father at Nymans for two years, during which time he visited other famous gardens, notably Leonardslee, whose owner, Sir Edmund Loder, recommended him to Henry Elwes, who engaged him at his home, Colesbourne Park, Gloucestershire. Elwes admired his skills, and encouraged him to write an article for the Gardeners' Chronicle which was accepted for publication; Comber was just 17. Such was his precocity that at this same age he was entrusted with the management of the glasshouses and botanical collections when the older staff duly left for service in World War I. A knee injury prevented Comber himself seeing active service in the war, and he was eventually directed to 'work of national importance', namely hardening and tempering parts of Lewis guns at Earlswood.”

“After the cessation of hostilities, Comber joined Bletchingley Castle Gardens, before being sponsored by Elwes and Loder to study for the Diploma Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where he also wrote a paper on the sterility of Rhododendrons. He obtained very good marks: 100% in Cryptogam Botany, 96% in each of Botanical Nomenclature and Classification of Plants, making him the ideal candidate for two plant-hunting expeditions in the Andes sponsored by the Andes Syndicate (a group of aristocratic gardening enthusiasts, including Lord Aberconway) in 1925-26 and 1926-27. Despite the occasionally extreme privations, and accompanied only by a boy guide, Comber sent back seeds and herbarium specimens of over 1200 species, including the Chilean Fire Bush, Nothofagus antarctica, and several species of Berberis and Eucryphia.”

“On completion of his studies and expeditions, Comber left Edinburgh to become head gardener for the McEacharn family at Galloway House until its sale in 1930. Later that year he made a plant-hunting expedition to Tasmania where, occasionally joined by Leonard Rodway, he collected seeds of 147 plants. On his return, he took up the post of manager of the Burnham Lily Nursery in Buckinghamshire which, owned by W. A. Constable Ltd., Tunbridge Wells, turned to vegetable production during the Second World War. After the war, Comber moved briefly to Exbury Gardens for Edmund de Rothschild, followed by another short stint with R. H. Bath Ltd. at Wisbech. In 1952, he addressed a Royal Horticultural Society lily meeting, attended by Jan de Graaff, proprietor of the Oregon Bulb Farm in the USA. De Graaff offered Comber the job of lily hybridizer, which he accepted, and he duly emigrated to Gresham, Oregon. Comber excelled at his work, rearing new strains of lily such as the Green Magic Group, reorganizing record systems and streamlining production methods, until retirement beckoned in 1962. He remained very active during his retirement, writing prodigiously and listing the native plants of specific areas for the Native Plant Society of Oregon. In 1965, he travelled to Sabah, British North Borneo, to join his son James for three months collecting specimens for the Kew Herbarium, incidentally enjoying fishing and hunting trips with the natives.”

“Comber married Lilian Bertha Boughtwood (1894-1962) in March 1928; their first son James (1929-2005), was an orchidologist affiliated to Kew, and their second son Richard was born in 1931; he obtained a PhD from Southampton University in 1955. Their daughter, Mary Comber-Miles, became resident botanical artist at the University of British Columbia.”

“Harold Comber died on 23 April 1969 aged 72 in Gresham, Oregon. He was interred at the Cliffside Cemetery, Sandy”.

 

 

 

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