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

Date: June 9,2017


Harold Hawtrey Camburn (1876-1956) was a photographer and postcard printer and publisher based in Tunbridge Wells,Kent who travelled about the Southern part of England taking thousands of photographs of the countryside and the towns and villages throughout the area  in the last quarter of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. A scenic view by Camburn, taken with a timer, is show opposite and is one of the few photographs where an image of Camburn himself is shown wearing the typical long leather coat he wore to keep him warm and dry on his travels.

The bulk of his photographic/postcard output featured street scenes and scenic views of the places he visited, travelling there on his motorcycle with a sidecar packed with his camera and other photographic equipment and supplies. However, he sometimes strayed from his traditional field of work to capitalize on commercial or other opportunities in his life that he either pursued or came his way. One example of this falls into the category of Nautical Photographs, a field of his work seldom reported on, no doubt because it was a minor aspect of his work and because examples of his nautical photographs are hard to find, suggesting a limited output.

In this article I report on three examples of his nautical photographs namely (1) A postcard view of the paddle steamer WORTHING BELLE taken pre WW 1  as part of a large series of postcard views he produced of Worthing (2) A postcard view of the passenger steamship LANDASTRIA ,which he printed ,that was published by the Journal of Commerce Liverpool for the Nautical Photo Agency of London taken in the 1920’s (3) A series of 800 photographs Camburn took while serving as an air mechanic during WW 1 with the RNAS in the Mediterranean, which Camburn donated to the Air Fleet Museum after the war. This collection contains images of a wide range of subjects but several of them were of ships such as the HMS EMPRESS, a seaplane carrier.


Camburn’s largest output of photographs and postcards was of course those of his home town, Tunbridge Wells, but he obviously had a fascination with Worthing for he produced a series of views of the town numbered from 1-199 as well as some views not numbered. Those who have studied his images of Worthing note, based largely on postmarks on the back of the postcards, that Camburn began taking photographs in Worthing in 1910 with very few examples produced after WW 1, although many of his views were still being sold in local shops in the 1920’s .

Among this body of work was one nautical postcard, namely a view of the WORTHING BELL (shown above). The caption on the front bears the title and card number 28 in Camburn’s easily recognizable handwriting. The back shows it as a divided back postcard bearing the name of the photographer and printer/publisher “ Harold H. Camburn, Tunbridge Wells “ and his typical “Wells Series” logo of a wishing well with rope and bucket. The example of this postcard I viewed shows it was sent to a Miss Vinnie Christie, Glenore, Norwich Road, Ipswich and the sender wrote “Dear Vinnie…I am busy weighting up sweets in Auntie’s shop, and Robert is smoking a swigerette (chocolate). Love from Marjorie. The message paints a delightful little picture of two children lucky enough to be spending the holiday with an aunt who ran a sweet shop in Worthing.

The Shoreham Herald has reported on the work of Camburn in Worthing in which many other examples of his views of the town are shown, which information and images can be found on their website. The author stated that “Camburn published more postcard views of the Worthing area than any other postcard publisher and that the people of Worthing owe a particular debt to this Tunbridge Wells photographer” for without his body of work few fine photographic views of the town would exist from those early years.

So what is known about the WORTHING BELLE itself. Well it was a paddle steamer built in 1885 by Barclay,Curle and Co of Clydeholm,Glasgow (No. 292)with a coal fired Simple Diagonal engine 43” x 60” measuring 180.5 ft by 18.1 ft. Initially it was 153 gross registered tonnes but later 193 tonnes. The ship had been ordered by the North British Steam Packet Company for the Holy Loch and Gareloch routes and launched under the name of DIANA VERNON. The ship was an up-to-date saloon steamer with a full-width saloon aft and a narrow saloon forward and provided comfortable accommodation on the Dunoon and Holy Loch service. She served in the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde, sailing from Craigendoran into Bare Loch and Holy Loch. The ship was reboilered in 1890 .

In 1899 she was replaced by the newly-built WAVERLEY, and in 1901 the ship was old to Lee Ltd (Mr J. Lee)of Shoreham-by-Sea for service out of Brighton, being renamed the WORTHING BELLE. The ship’s home port was Brighton’s West Pier, from where she was employed on trips west to Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor, and east to Eastbourne and Hastings, as well as on short excursions in the English Channel.

In 1909 the ship was acquired by William Reid of Hove, who’s grandson, Phil Hayden, still lives in Worthing. Reid continued with the same schedules and added occasional trips to Boulogue. On the internet one can read an interview by the Youth Council of Ryan Watson and his mother Margaret about William Reid, a past family relation “ who operated the WORTHING BELLE before the outbreak of WW 1”, which ship “ operated a daily service from Brighton Pier to Worthing, Littlehampton and Bonger and also transported passengers across the channel to France” . Margaret said “ The paddle steamer that used to stop at Worthing pier to pick passengers up was owned by William Reid who was related on my nan’s side of the family. The Reid family were Scottish and were farmers. I don’t know how he went from farming to owning a paddle steamer. The WORTHINB BELLE was built in 1885. In 1901 she was purchased in Shoreham and used to carry day trippers on short trips from Brighton West Pier, Westwards to Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor, In 1909 she passed into the hands of Mr. William Reid. He continued to operate the schedule, but with the addition of occasional cross-Channel trips to France weather permitting. In those days there were no restrictions on open floor deck vessel Channel crossings. In 1913 due to competition from other companies on the south coast he (William Reid) sold the ship to a Turkish company to run a ferry service across the Bosphorus Sea. During the 1914-1918 war the ship was hit on the 13th August 1915 by gunfire from ships of the combined allied fleets off the Dardanelles. However, she could not have been badly damaged, as she was beached and salvaged to resume ferrying after the war. The boat was withdrawn from service and scrapped in 1926”. Another account referring to William Reid by Phil Haiden in an article entitled ‘The Paddle Steamer, Worthing Belle’ stated in part “ In March 1923 when Campbell reopened the Sussex station Captain Alec Campbell, the then Managing Director, appointed William Reid, a fellow Scot, as their managing agent in Brighton-a position he held until his retirement in 1936 at the age of 78”.

During the whole period of her service on the South Coast, the ship was commanded by Captain Trenance, who was still the captain in 1913.

The WORTHING BELLE was the last privately-owned steamer to remain in competition with paddlers operated by the large Bristol firm of P & A Campbell, whose fleet before the WW1 consisted of about 20 steamers.

In March 1914 she was sold to Turkish owners (the Turkish administration de Navires a Vapeur Ottomane) where it entered at that time into the Bosphorus Ferry Service under the name of TUZLA.  Tuzla is the name of a city in Bosnia, at that time part of the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey was the country. The name meant ‘place of salt’ in Ottoman Turkish. It seems odd for TUZLA to be named after a land-locked city 900 miles north-west of her base in Dardenelles, so perhaps the choice of name was a reflection of the fact she plied her trade over salty water as a passenger ferry.

The TUZLA was sunk by a British warship on August 30,1915, during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, while she was laying empty at Albas Liman, a tiny harbour on the Eurpopean side of the Dardanelles. The ship was in due course refloated and repaired, and then resumed service as a ferry before finally being scrapped in 1926.

As a final note, a postcard view of the WORTHING BELLE at Littlehampton dated September 1917 was produced by the Photochrom Co. of Tunbridge Wells and London. Several other images of the ship by other photographers can also be found on the internet.


Shown in this section is the front and back of a postcard printed by Harold H. Camburn of the passenger steamship LANDASTRIA. This sepia tone postcard bears on the front the name of the ship and its card number (94) suggesting that it was one of a series of ship photos by Camburn, although no other examples have been located to confirm this.

Unlike Camburns typical “Wells Series “ postcards this postcard was not printed on Camburns usual cardstock. Although it is a divided back postcard it shows at the top a logo of a ships anchor suggesting that the cardstock was supplied to Camburn for the printing of the image. The back of the postcard is most revealing for it states up the left hand side “ Printed by H. Camburn, Tunbridge Wells and published by the Journal of Commerce Liverpool for the Nautical Photo Agency “ of London. Unfortunately definitive dating of this image was not possible for no posted examples of it were found but based on information about the ship itself the image has to date to the early 1920’s.

The National Archives has records for the Liverpool Journal of Commerce dating from 1962 to 1968 and described this company as being engaged in “paper, printing and packaging and publishing”. The is also a record of The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph 1911-1968 which was an English periodical newspaper of Liverpool which was later called the Journal of Commerce (Liverpool), which company published advertisments and reports on the topics of shipping, shipbuilding, ocean liners, and all matters pertaining to the shipping industry. No doubt it included many images of steamships and it is possible that Camburn’s postcard view of the LANDASTRIA was presented in one of their publications.

The existence of this postcard by Camburn is an example of his diversification in business and clearly indicates the promotion of his business as a “Printer” of postcards, an integral part of his business operations but one outside of his typical self- initiated production of views of Kent and Sussex. The circumstances surrounding how Camburn was contracted with to produce this postcard is not known but a review of ship images relating to the Nautical Photo Agency shows that postcards and photographs attributed to it were images produced by a number of photographers. It appears that the Nautical Photo Agency specialized in selling nautical postcards, but very little information is known, or at least was found by me, about the nature ,and operation of their business.

So what is known about the LANDASTRIA?. Well an interesting and lengthy account about the ship can be found on the Wikepedia website and elsewhere, from which I offer a brief account below.

The ship was launched as the TYRRHENIA in 1920 by William Beardmore and Company of Glasgow, on the River Clyde for the Anchor Line, a subsidiary of Cunard. The ship was 16,243 gross reg. tones; 578 feet long and could carry 2,200 passengers in three classes. She made her maiden voyage, Glasgow to Quebec, Canada June 19,1922.

As people could not figure out the proper pronunciation of the ships name it was renamed the LANDASTRIA in 1924 in which year she was refitted for two classes.She sailed scheduled routes between Liverpool and New York until 1932 and was then used as a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. With the outbreak of WW II the ship was requisitioned April 1940 by the Uk Government as a troop ship, becoming HMT LANCASTRIA, and was first used to evacuate troops from Norway. The ship was sunk June 17, 1940 during Operation Ariel during an evacuation of British nationals and troops. Estimates of those lost in the sinking range from 3,000 to 5,800 and it is stated that this was the largest single -ship loss of life in British marine history, more than the combined loss of life from the TITANIC and the LUSITANIA. The ship went down off the French port of St. Nazaire after being bomber by German aircraft.


During WW 1 Harold H. Camburn served as an air mechanic with the Royal Naval Air Service and after a time at the Chingford Royal Naval Air Station he was sent to serve in the Greek islands. Throughout his service he took hundreds of photographs, many of which were images of British war ships.

Details about Camburn ; his life and career can be found in my previously published article entitled’ The Life and Times of Harold Camburn’ dated August 2,2011 which was updated August 26,2015. From that article is the following information pertaining to his war time photographs.

“Harold Camburn donated to the Fleet Air Arm Museum a collection of over 800 photographs he took during the war. All of the photographs, contained in two albums, and catalogued on a list available from the museum,are of the RNAS on the Greek Islands and Aegean Sea during the 1914-1918 Dardenelles Campaign(about 80%) with the remaining 20% being taken by Camburn while at Chingford. Barbara Gilbert(no relation),an archivist at the museum, said in a letter to me that "Camburn was an air mechanic...however he did take a great number of photographs during his service...the photographs are beautiful...I wish you could see them."

“The list of photographs he took however tells quite a story in itself. Included in the list are photographs of almost every type of aircraft in use; several Royal Navy ships including the HMS EMPRESS  a seaplane carrier which served in the mediterranean;various views of coastlines,harbours,towns,aerodromes,plane crash sites,photos of individual officers and men as well as group photos,scenic views,graves,wildlife and a whole menagerie of other subject matter.Unfortunatley no information is available as to who's photographic equipment was used to take the pictures (Camburn's or the Navies) or when, where or how the pictures were developed or when the photographs were donated to the museum. It is most probable however that Camburn donated the photographs after the war perhaps sometime after he retired from business.I have not seen any of these photographs reproduced as postcards so for those interested in Camburn's work I would suggest a trip to the museum. Copies of his photos can be ordered for a fee, a charge I found too cost prohibitive for such a large collection of photographs.  

HMS Empress was a seaplane carrier of the Royal Navy (RN) that served during World War I. Converted from the Cross-Channel packet ship Empress, the ship's aircraft conducted aerial reconnaissance, observation and bombing missions in the North Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. During the last year of the war, she conducted anti-submarine patrols in the Mediterranean. Empress was returned to her owners in 1919 and was then sold to a French company in 1923. She was scrapped in 1933. A photo of the ship believed to be by Camburn is shown above.



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

Date: June 10,2017


Like many of the red brick buildings in High Brooms, the building at 67-69 Silverdale Road, a two sty semi-detached building, was built during the expansion of High Brooms in the 1860’s with bricks produced by the High Brooms Brick & Tile Company.

The building began as a private residence but as the population of the community grew there was an increasing need for small shops to open and in the late 19th century No. 67 Silverdale Road was converted from residential use into a butchers and greengrocers shop.

In the early 1900’s (before 1911) Joseph Jeffery (1852-1947) opened a greengrocers shop at No. 67. Before that time he worked at the High Brooms Brick & Tile Company as a brickyard labourer. He and his wife Louisa and their six children lived in High Brooms for many years and Joseph expanded his business to become a butcher and greengrocer with his son Charles Joseph Jeffery joining him in the business which was listed in local directories up to at least 1922 as Joseph Jeffery & Son. When they sold their business Joseph moved to Sussex where he died in 1947 and his son Charles went on to operate a greengrocers shop throughout the 1930’s at 167 Silverdale Road.

Throughout the period of 1930 to 1936 James Kenneth Franks operated his butchers shop at No. 67 and from 1937 to at least 1957 Frederick Waring and his son Henry ran a butchers and greengrocers shop there under the name of F& H Waring. Frederick’s wife also worked in the business being noted for making the meat and fruit pies sold in the shop.

During the period of 1961 to 1970 Miss Dorothy Constantine occupied No. 67 where she ran a dog grooming business called ‘The Canine Parlour.  By 1972 this shop became the premises of the Tunbridge Wells Model Shop where they sold model railway merchandise.

A review of Planning Authority records shows that in April 1975 approval was given to convert the “disused shop at 67 Silverdale Road” into residential use and since that time the building has remained as a private residence occupied over the years by the likes of A.G. Skilton 1976-1977 and I.D. Maclean 1979-1981.  When the model shop closed the owners of the building in 1975 completely renovated the building and although the ground floor front elevation was rendered and the brick sides painted white, the front elevation on the second floor still retains its original ornate red brickwork.


No. 67 Silverdale Road was the left half of a residential building, the right half of which was No. 69. The building was constructed of red brick in the 1860’s produced by the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company (photo opposite). This business was a large employer in High Brooms and one of its employees (Mr Joseph Jefferies )worked there as a brickyard labourer before setting up his own greengrocers business at No. 67 Silverdale Road in the early 1900’s.

The building was constructed on the west side of Silverdale Road, in a location shown on the map opposite.  As can be seen in the modern photo of the building below it was a 2 sty building, described in the 1911 census ,when the main floor was a shop, as a building of five rooms. Originally the main floor would have been the kitchen and sitting room and dining room and most likely the kitchen remained in use on the main floor during the time it came into use as a shop, for reasons that are given later.

As can be seen in the photograph the front elevation of the building was nicely finished in a field of red brick with contrasting cream coloured brick used on the corners and  decorative features within the main field. Originally the entire building had this appearance but when converted into a shop the original front façade was altered to provide a shop window and entrance door. When the shop was converted back into residential use, as a result of a Planning Authority application dated April 1975, the old shop window and door were removed and the ground floor elevation changed, much as it appears today, where the main floor was rendered and painted white with the side , and perhaps the rear elevation, painted white also. Today the only part of the original unpainted/unrendered brickwork that exits, as it once looked, is on the second floor front elevation.


From a review of census records, directory records and other sources, the following list was compiled listing the known occupants of the building. This list is by no means complete as records for every year were not available to the researcher and unfortunately directories for the 19th century did not provide a full street address for those occupying buildings on Silverdale Road. Information about the Jefferies and Waring families are given below the list.

1911-1922…………..Joseph Jeffery & Son,  greengrocers

1937-1957………….. F & H. Waring, butchers & greengrocers

1961-1970…………..Miss Dorothy Constantine, The Canine Parlour

1972……………………Tunbridge Wells Model Shop (railway)

1975-1977…………..A.G. Skilton (private residence)

1979-1981…………. I. D. Mackean (private residence)


Joseph Jeffery is first found as the occupant of No. 67 Silverdale Road in the 1911 census but as noted below he had been a resident of High Brooms since the end of the 19th century.

Joseph was born March 19,1852 at Charlwood, Surrey and baptised April 18,1852 at Charlwood, one of several children born to John and Elizabeth Jeffery.

Joseph lived his early life in Charlwood where he attended school. On September 10,1874 he married Louisa Schnorr (1849-1926) in Sussex. She was born in Battle,Sussex, one of five children born to John George Schnorr (1804-1874) and Mary Schnorr, nee Waghorn (born 1815).

Joseph and his wife had six children namely (1) William (1876-1933) (2) Susanna (1878-1952) (3) Annie Louisa (born 1883) (4) Elizabeth Ellen (born 1885) (5) Mary (born 1888) (6) Charles Joseph (1890-1986).  William and his sister Susanna were born in Keymer,Sussex with the other four children born in Battle, Sussex.

At the time of the 1881 census, Joseph and his wife and children William and Susanna were living in Battle Sussex, where Joseph worked as a gardener.

The 1891 census, taken at 5 Kensords(?) Road in Battle, Sussex, gave Joseph as a gardener worker. With him was his wife louisa; his son William (a houseboy servant); his daughter Susanna of no occupation; his daughter Annie, a general domestic servant and his children Elizabeth, Mary and Charles.

Sometime after 1891 and before 1901 Joseph and his family moved to High Brooms where Joseph took a job as a brickyard labourer with the High Brooms Brick & Tile Company.

The 1901 census, taken in a red brick semi-detached residence at 22 Cambrian Road, High Brooms, gave Joseph as a brickyard labourer. With him was his wife Louise ; his children William (a railway porter), Annie, Mary and Charles. Also there was a 38 year old nephew by the name of George Creary born in Battle, Sussex, who was working as a gardener domestic.

The 1911 census, taken at 67 Silverdale Road, gave Joseph as the proprietor of a greengrocers shop. With him was his wife Louisa, his daughter Mary who was working on her own account as a dressmaker at home, and his son Charles who’s occupation was given as “ greengrocer partner” indicating that he and his father were partners in the family greengrocers business. The census recorded that the family were residing in premises of 5 rooms; that the couple had been married 36 years and that all six of their children were still living.

Shown at the top of this section is a group photograph of the Jeffery family. The elderly couple seated in this photo are Joseph and his wife Louisa. His son Charles is shown standing in the back row to the immediate left and to the immediate right is Joseph's son William. Susanna is the lovely lady in the back row standing behind her mother. The other daughters in this photograph can be identified by name by referring to the birth records given above. William Jeffery married Flora Louisa Smithers (1882-1968) in Tunbridge Wells and with her had seven children in the period of 1906 to 1921. At the time of the 1911 census William was living with his family at 33 Tunnel Road, Tunbridge Wells, where William worked as a “railway shunter”. His wife Flora had been born May 14,1882 in Southborough and was one of two children born to James Smithers (born 1859) and Celia Eliza Smithers, nee Fletcher (1860-1994). William died in Tunbridge Wells in 1933 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery January 13,1933. Joseph’s wife Louisa , who had been born April 27,1849 in Battle, Sussex, died in Tunbridge Wells on February 21,1926.

Local directories for the family business from 1911 to 1922 gave “ Joseph Jeffery & Son, greengrocers, 67 Silverdale Road”.

When Joseph retired from the business was not determined. It is known that he moved to Sussex as death records recorded his death at Groombridge on September 14,1947. Joseph was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery near his wife on September 18th (grave B8, 238 consecrated).

Joseph’s son Charles Joseph Jeffery, who was recorded as his father’s business partner in the 1911 census at 67 Silverdale Road carried on the family business as a greengrocer. Charles was found in local directories as having a greengrocers shop at 167 Silverdale Road from 1930 to 1938, the shop at 67 Silverdale Road having been taken over by new owners.


Who occupied 67 Silverdale Road after 1922 and before 1937 was not determined but it is known, as reported above, that Charles Joseph Jeffery had vacated No. 67 by 1930 and a 1930 directory listing for No. 67 Silverdale Road was not found.

The presence of the Waring family at No. 67 was given as F& H. Waring, butchers and greengrocers, 67 Silverdale Road” in directories of 1937 up to and including 1957.

The “F. Waring” in the business was Frederick Waring and the “H. Waring” in the business was his son Henry. No definitive information about the family was found and there was not listing for them in census records of Tunbridge Wells for 1911 or any years previous, suggesting that the family moved to High Brooms circa 1936.

Shown above is a photograph of the shop at 67 Silverdale Road in which can be seen Frederick Waring standing in the doorway of his shop. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century is was not unusual for butchers, poulterers and fishmongers to display their goods in clear view outside the front of their shop and such was the case of Frederick who has a fine looking assortment of chickens suspended on hooks and rods across the front of the building. Today one can hardly imagine purchasing unrefrigerated meat products in this way where the merchandise was out in the sun with flies buzzing around it.
(‘F. Waring interior photo’)

Show opposite is a second photo from the Waring era sent to me by Daniel Marsh of the High Brooms Society, which shows Frederick Waring inside the shop. The text associated with this image states that “All poultry killed and prepared by Mr Waring and Mrs Waring made meat and fruit pies and sausage rolls which were sold in the shop during and after the war was over”. No doubt the original ground floor kitchen of the former residence was used by Mrs Waring to make the pies and rolls.



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

Date: June 10,2017


Park House began as a large private residence built in the Edwardian Style of brick with gables finished in board and white stucco. It was located on the north west corner of Kingswood Road and Bayhall Road and was one of the earliest buildings constructed on the road. Shown opposite is a 1909 os map on which the location of Park House is highlighted in red. When exactly the home was built and who designed and built it was not established but it is the researchers opinion that it was built in 1903 by the well-known local builder L.Beale & Sons who had built many homes on Pembury Road and elsewhere in the first half of the 20th century of the same or similar style. From Beale’s homes in the Warwick Park development he is recorded as both the architect and builder.

The first occupant of the home was most likely Digby Johnson (1844-1908) born at St George Bloombury who in 1877 married Ada Hirst (1857-1927) with whom he had five children. At the time of the 1901 census he and his family were living in Derby where he worked as the manager of the Royal Insurance Company. Soon after this census was taken he and his family took up residence in Tunbridge Wells at Park House. He is found at Park House in the 1903 Kelly directory. His probate record notes that Digby died May 17,1908 at Woodsome Ridge, Kingswood Park, Tunbridge Wells. His wife Ada died in Tunbridge Wells in 1927.

After the death of Digby Johnson, Park House became the residence of Andrew Duncan Macneill. Andrew also had a residence at New Chapel near Felbridge, Surrey in 1913. Cambridge University records note that he was the son of Duncan Macneill (1837-1892)of Meldford House in Margate and Louisa Lucia Macneill, nee Agnew (1852-1912. Andrew had graduated with a BA from Eton. At the time of the 1901 census Andrew, who was born in 1882, was living with his mother Louisa L. Macneill (born 1854 in Scotland) at 81 London Road, Tunbridge Wells and with two of his siblings; two servants and four visitors of this lodging house, which was run by George W. Duford. Andrew’s mother died in Tunbridge Wells October 13,1912.  In 1913, at Cuckerfield, Sussex, Andrew married Eleanor Jean Beatson. When WW I broke out Andrew enlisted for service. He served as a Captain with the R.G.A but was killed in action July 29,1917 and buried in France. In the period of about 1922 to 1930 Park House was the residence of Miss Macneill, one of Andrew’s sisters.

By 1934 a Miss Earl took occupancy of Park House but was gone by 1938.

After WW II Park House ceased to be a private residence and became a Church Army Home for motherless and orphan children. It was still in use by them for this purpose in 1952 when in that year Matron Quigley was in charge. By the 1970’s Park House became a Church Army seniors care home.

A review of Planning Authority records shows that the large grounds of Park House were redeveloped with a number of buildings constructed on the property. One of those built as a Warden house associated with the seniors home that later became a private residence known as Park Lodge.  The site was carved up until only a relatively small plot of land with Park House on it remained.

In 1998 approval was granted for a change in use from a Church Army old peoples home into twelve flats. At that time Park House was described as being directly opposite the main entrance to Nuffield Hospital and that it was comprised of a large detached three sty building owned by the Church Army and run as an old peoples nursing home registered for 27 residents. The Church Army also at that time owned Park Lodge to the south of Park House which in 1998 was being used as a clinic for Alzheimer’s patients but approval had been granted for a change in use back to a single dwelling. At that time there were three other dwellings located to the south of Park House on its former grounds namely Park Cottage, Timbers and Highbank.

In 2007 Fairview New Homes Ltd applied for and received permission to demolish Park House and construct in its place a large building consisting of 39 sheltered units. The old Park House was torn down about March-April 2008 and by the end of the year the new building was finished and still occupies the site. A photo of the new building is shown above.


Park House was located on the north west corner of Kingswood Road and Bayhall Road. It was a large home, of the Edwardian style, being 3 stys and constructed of red brick with board and stucco finishes on the gables. Shown below are two photographs of the house taken in the winter of 2007 just prior to the homes demolition. The photo on the left is a view of the home from Kingswood Road towards the home. The view on the right was taken at the same time and shows Park House from the garden of ‘Acorns’ 7 Kingswood Road.

As can be seen from the 1909 os map presented in the ‘Overview’ park House originally sat on large landscaped grounds and continued to do so while in use as a private residence.

Although many large homes in Tunbridge Wells were requisitioned by the government for use in the WW II war effort there is no mention of Park House being one of them in Ann Bates book ‘Tunbridge Wells in The Second World War’.

After WW II Park House was purchased by the Church Army and became a home for motherless and orphan children. Although the interior of Park House was altered to accommodate this new use, the exterior of the home looked much as it did when constructed.

A review of Planning Authority records shows that in 1974 approval was given to an application by the Church Army for the construction of one detached dwelling for use as a residence for the Warden. In 1977 approval was given to the Church Army for the construction of an external fire escape on Park House. In 1977 they also received approval for a first floor extension to be used as staff quarters. In 1981 they received approval for the construction of a conservatory/ sunroom and a signboard.

In 1982 an application and was made by the Church Army for the construction of two dwellings and Wardens House on the site. Although the application was refused at that time, approval was granted in 1984. A report pertaining to this application stated that Park House was “a large detached dwelling currently used for institutional purposes as an Old Peoples Home. The property enjoys substantial gardens largely screened from the highway by mature trees and mixed shrubbery. A small 2 sty cottage lies in the S.E corner of the site. The existing staff building is inappropriate because of its limited size and is located too far from the home itself”. Shown above is a site map from the 1982 application.

Shown opposite is a site map from a 1986 application by the Church Army for the construction of an enclosed fire escape on Park House. As one can see from this map several buildings had been constructed on the eastern half of the site with an access drive constructed to them of Kingswood Road.

In 1998 a major change in use for Park House by the Church Army was approved. The proposal was for a change in use from an old peoples nursing home into flats. The initial application was for 16 flats but this was reduced to twelve. The work went ahead despite many objections and concerns expressed by the neighbours, including Mrs H.C. Pedrick who occupied Highbank (shown on map above). It was noted in the files that Park House was occupied by 22 seniors. The Wardens Home built previously is shown on the map as Park Lodge. Park house was described in the files as an Edwardian era home on a site of 0.26 hectares; that there are 15 full time staff and 4 parttime staff with an additional 7 staff on an as and when basis. The firm of Madgwick & Dottridge of 16-18 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells were hired to undertake the necessary design work. A file report stated “ Park House is located on the south side of Kingswood Road directly opposite the main entrance to the Nuffield Hospital. It comprises a large detached three storey property owned by the Church Army and run as an old peoples nursing home registered for 27 residents but at present occupied by 22 residents. The property is set within pleasant grounds with mature trees and planting skirting the north, west and east boundaries of the site and formal terraced gardens at the rear. The Church Army also own the property known as Park Lodge to the south which is accessed through the application site from Kingswood Road. This property is used as a clinic for Alzheimer’s patients but has recently gained approval for a change of use back to a single dwelling. In addition to this property there are a further 3 dwellings located to the south of the site, Park Cottage, Timbers and Highbank which is a single sty chalet type dwelling located close the boundary with Park House . The proposal seeks the conversion of the nursing home into 12 self-contained units incorporating a mix of 1 bedsit, five 1-bed flats and six 2-bed flats with associated parking.”Shown above is a site map from the 1998 file, which shows that the original site of Park House by this time had been reduced to about 1/2 and now only occupied the northern part of the property. Shown below is a set of three plans dated 1998 and opposite is a site plan from the same year.

The next major event in the history of Park House took place in 2007 when approval was sought for the demolition of Park House and the construction in its place with  39 Category II sheltered units with house managers accommodation. The applicant was Fairview New Homes Ltd. Many objections were raised by nearby residents about traffic, privacy and noise but in 2008 approval was given to the redevelopment and the building work went ahead. Show below is an elevation plan and site plan from 2007.


Given below is a list of known occupants of Park House. The list may not be complete as records for each year were not available for review.

The first occupant of the home was most likely Digby Johnson (1844-1908) in 1903 and was followed by a few others before the home was bought by the Church Army and came into institution use as a home for motherless and orphan children after the end of WW II and later converted by the Church Army into a seniors home and later into 12 flats. In 2008 Park House was demolished to make way for a new residential development. All dates of occupancy are approximate unless specifically referred to in the text.

1903-1905………….Digby Johnson

1906-1917………… Andrew Duncan Macneill (died 1917)

1917-1930…………. Miss Macneill (Andrews sister)

1934……………………Miss Earle

1946-2007…………..The Church Army


Digby was born at St George Bloombury June 25,1844. He was one of six children born to John Digby Johnson (1819-1857) and Anne Johnson, nee Kelso (died 1873), Digby was baptised July 3,1833 at St George Bloomsbury.

In the 2nd qtr of 1877 Digby married Ada Hirst (1857-1927) at Ormskirk, Lancashire with whom he had five children. Ada had been born at Huddersfield, Yorkshire and was one of seven children born to John Hirst (1817-1882) And Eliza Anne Hirst (1832-1894).

At the time of the 1881 census he was living with his family at 19 Abbey Road in Birkdale, Lancashire; in 1891 at 6 Weld Road in Birkdale. At the time of the 1901 census he and his family were living at ‘The Park’in Derby where he worked as the manager of the Royal Insurance Company.

Soon after the 1901 census was taken he and his family took up residence in Tunbridge Wells at Park House. He is found at Park House in the 1903 Kelly directory.

Probate records noted that Digby died May 17,1908 at Woodsome Ridge, Kingswood Park, Tunbridge Wells. His wife Ada died in Tunbridge Wells March 13,1927.

Digby had a son Eric Digby Johnson (1891-1971) who was baptised February 12,1893 at St James, Birkdale, Lancashire. At the time of the 1911 census he was living at 24 St Georges Square. On July 16,1921 he married Marjorie Alice Maud Beeching and with her had two sons. Marjorie had been born in Tunbridge Wells and was part of the Beeching Bank clan , being the eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs Harold Beeching of Tunbridge Wells. His marriage was announced in the Flight International Magazine of August 4,1921, which was a publication serving as the official organ of the Royal Aero Club. Eric was referred to in this announcement as “Flight Lieut Eric Digby Johnson A.F.C, RAF, the youngest son of the late Digby Johnson and Mrs Ada Johnson of Tunbridge Wells. The London Evening News of January 17,1914 referred to Eric living at Westmoreland House in Tunbridge Wells. He died in 1971 at New Forest, Hampshire.

Another son of Digby Johnson with a connection to Tunbridge Wells was Noel Digby Johnson who was referred to in the New York Tribune of April 13,1920 in connection with his upcoming  marriage to Miss Louise Oittemore, the daughter of Mrs John V. Oittemore of Boston, in which account Noel was given as “Captain Noel Digby Johnson of Tunbridge Wells.


After the death of Digby Johnson, Park House became the residence of Andrew Duncan Macneill. Andrew also had a residence at New Chapel near Felbridge, Surrey in 1913. Cambridge University records note that he was the son of Duncan Macneill (1837-1892)of Meldford House in Margate and Louisa Lucia Macneill, nee Agnew (1852-1912. Andrew had graduated with a BA from Eton. Andrew was one of eight children in the family

At the time of the 1901 census Andrew, who was born in the first qtr of 1882 at Wandsworth, was living with his mother Louisa L. Macneill (born 1854 in Scotland) at 81 London Road, Tunbridge Wells and with two of his siblings; two servants and four visitors of this lodging house, which was run by George W. Duford. Andrew’s mother died in Tunbridge Wells October 13,1912.  In 1912 Andrew made a trip to Buffalo,New York, arriving there in May 24th.

Directories record that Andrew was living at Park House in Tunbridge Wells from 1906 to 1917. There are also records of a Andrew Duncan Macneill in 1913and 1915  at New Chapel, near Felbridge Surrey.

In 1913, at Cuckerfield, Sussex, Andrew married Eleanor Jean Beatson. She was born March 4,1893 in India and was the daughter of Stuart Brownlow Beatson (1854-1914) and Edith Cecil Kidston-Elles (1868-1940).

When WW I broke out Andrew enlisted for service. He served as a Captain with the Royal Garrison Artillery (R.G.A )but was killed in action July 29,1917 . Probate records gave him of Broadfield Road, Folkestone, Captain RGA died July 29,1917 in France. The executors of his 23,847 pound estate were Charles Ruthven Jones, captain H.M. army and also his solicitor. Andrew was buried at the Hospital Farm Cemetery, Ypres and given as the husband of Jean Macneill of 37a Great Cumberland Place, London.

The 1922 directory gave the listing “ Miss Nacneill, Park House, Kingswood Road. Miss Macneill, one of Andrew’s sisters and lived at Park House after the death of her brother in 1917 and most likely was still there up to and including 1930.

[3] THE CHURCH ARMY  (insert ‘Church Army Home for motherless children’ and ‘Motherless children 1 and 2’)

The Church Army was an organization that ran a number of homes in England for motherless and orphan children and for seniors. As one would expect from the name, they promoted religion while caring for the people in their charge and from all accounts did a good job of it. In 1917 there was a Church Army Home at 63 Grosvenor Park on Upper Grosvenor Road.

Shown in this section are two photographs taken at Park House when it was in use as a home for children. The first photo is dated 1952 and shows Matron Quigley at the clothes line with some of the children. The other two photos were taken in 1951 at Park House.

The London Gazette of November 13,1979 recorded the death of “Ruth Bolton, Church Army Park House, Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells”. She was a spinster who died October 9,1979.

The London Gazette of July 28,1993 recorded the death of “ Naomi Ruth Theobals, Church Army Home for the Elderly, Park House, Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells”. She was formerly of 212 Greggs Wood Road, Tunbridge Wells and was a retired civil servant who died on January 15,1993.

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