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

Date: May 10,2018


George Parmenter King (1910-1967) was born in Croydon, Surrey, the son of photographer and frame maker Howard Marmaduke King (1880-1955) and May Sophia King, nee Double (1880-1935). George was the eldest of five children born to the couple.

George lived with his parents and siblings in Croydon up until about 1914 and then moved with his family by 1916 to Sanderstead, Surrey when he attended school.

At an early age George began working with his father in his father’s phototography business and decided to make photography his career. When his father retired from business George took it over and continued it under the name of “Geo. P. King Ltd”.

In 1936, at Sanderstead, Surrey George married Ena Mary Adkins (1909-1979). She had been born in Loughborough, Leicestershire and was one of two children born to mechanical engineer and draughtsman Benjamin Ratcliffe Adkins (1872-1957) and Edith Emily Adkins, nee Paramore who was born in 1874. At the time of the 1911 census Edna was living with her parents and sister in Croydon, Surrey. How Ena and George met was not established but they were married at All Saints Church in Sanderstead, a church they are believed to have both attended before the marriage. The couple had two children, both daughters , at Battersea, between 1937 and 1940.

Directories of 1922 to 1960  give the listing “ Howard M. King, portrait photographer, 85 George Street, Croydon. Directories of the 1930’s also list Howard as a photographer on London Road in Sevenoaks, where his had his second studio. His son George was also living and working as a photographer in Sevenoaks in the years leading up to the end of WW II.

By 1950 George had expanded his business to include photographic studios in Sevenoaks at 43 London Road and 151A High Street and one at 6 Upper Grosvenor Road in Tunbridge Wells. A Pictorial Record of Tunbridge Wells dated 1951 to mark the Festival of Britain contains an advertisement for George P. King offering portrait photos from his studio at 6 Upper Grosvenor Road. George still had his Tunbridge Wells studio in 1953 but appears to have closed it down later in the 1950’s, concentrating instead on his business in Sevenoaks, Kent. Advertisments and directory listings show that he did portrait and landscape photography, industrial photography and Cinematography. Several examples of his commercial photography work take the form of a model demonstrating different styles of eyeglasses, where a collection of these images are in the collection of the College of Optometrists. Many of his postcards, most notably a long series of images of Knole Castle, can be found on the internet, produced from his premises in Sevenoaks. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of September 8,1933 announced “ Congratulations to Rotarian George P. King of Howard M King Ltd on having three pictures accepted by the judges for the Professional Photographers Associations Exhibition of Modern Industrial Photography”.

George passed away in Tunbridge Wells June 23,1967 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on June 28th. George’s wife died in Chatham, Kent in 1979.

In this article I present information about George Parmenter King and his family as well as examples of his photographic work with a particular emphasis on his career in Tunbridge Wells. Also provided are some examples of photographs by his father. Shown above is the front cover of Tunbridge Wells 1951 along with his advertisement in it.


Howard was born June 27,1880 at Croydon, Surrey, one of three known children of former draper and later coal merchant George King (1841-1919), born in Buxted, Essex,  and Anne King, nee Aldridge, born 1845 in Holloway, Middlesex.

The 1871 census, taken at 81 West Street, Sheffield, Yorkshire, gave George King as a draper. With him was his wife Anne and their son George Percival King. Also there was George’s partner John Atkinson ( a draper) and one domestic servant.

The 1881 census, taken at 66 Landsdown Road in Croydon gave George King as born in Islington and operating a coal merchants business. With him was his wife Annie; his children George Percival King. Born 1871 in Sheffield; Elsie B. King, born 1873 in Sheffield and Howard Marmaduke king, born 1880 in Croydon. Also there was one boarder and two servants.

The 1891 census, taken at 66 Lansdown Road, Croydon gave George King as a the proprietor of the coal merchants business. With him was his wife Anne and their three children George, Elsie and Howard. One domestic servant was also there.

By 1901 George Percival King had married Florence (born 1875) and the couple had a daughter Florence M. King, born 1900 in Islington. At the time of this census George had followed his father into the coal business and was working as a coal merchant on own account.

The 1901 census, taken at 12 Cameron Road in Croydon gave George King as a millers traveller worker. He was a widower at that time and living with him was his daughter Elsie; his son Howard, a wholesale hosiers assistant; and one domestic servant.

On January 30,1909 Howard married May Sophia Double (1880-1935) at Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey. Howard and his wife went on to have five children (four boys and one girl). Four  of these children were (1) George Parmenter King (1910-1967) who was born in Croydon on November 30,1910. (2) Howard Brooke King (1914-2002) born in Croydon March 24,1914 (3) Walter Hargreaves King (1916-1941) who was born in Sanderstead, Surrey May 20,1916 and who was killed in action in Sicily July 17,1941 . He was buried July 24,1941 at All Saints Sanderstead, Surrey and does not appear to have married. (4) Barbara May King (1919-1997) who was born June 24,1919 at Sanderstead, Surrey.  She was married in 1948 at Surrey to John R, Culligan, She died at Sanderstead, Surrey September 26,1997.

May Sophia King, nee Double had been born May 11,1880 at Walton, Essex, the daughter of John Parmenter Double (1853-1926) and Jane Ellen Double, nee Scopes (1852-1822). Up until the time of the 1891 census she lived with her parents and siblings in Walton, Essex but by 1901 the family had moved to Kingston-On-Thames, Surrey. May was still living with her parents up to the time of her marriage in 1909.

The 1911 census, taken at 8A Aberdeen Road in South Croydon gave Howard Marmaduke King as a photographer and frame maker on own account. With him was his wife Mary who was working with her husband as a miniature painter. Also there in their premises of 8 rooms was their son George Parmenter King and one domestic servant.

Directories of 1922-1925 gave the listing “ Howard M. King, photographer, 85 George Street, Croydon”. Directories of 1930-1933 gave “ Howard M. King, photographer, London Road, Sevenoaks”. During this time his son George Parmenter King had joined his father in the photography business.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of September 8,1933 gave ““ Congratulations to Rotarian George P. King of Howard M. King Ltd on having three pictures accepted by the judges for the Professional Photographers Associations Exhibition of Modern Industrial Photography”.

The photographic work of Howard M. King was primarily portrait studio work, of which some examples can be found on the internet, and also postcards, primarily of Sevenoaks. Two examples of his postcards are shown below and one example of his portrait work is shown above.


Directories of 1954 to 1960 gave the listing “ Howard M. King, photographer 85 George Street, Croydon and 43 London Road, Sevenoaks.

Howard Marmaduke had retired from business in the late 1940’s  and his business was taken over by his son George Parmenter King. Howard died July 10,1955 in Jersey, Channel Islands. His wife Mary Sophia King died July 19,1935 in Kingston, Surrey.


George was born November 30,1910 in Croydon, the son of Howard Marmaduke King (1880-1955) and May Sophia King, nee Double (1880-1935). George was baptised February 27,1910 at Holy Saviour Church in Croydon.

From the previous section it was noted that George was living with his parents in Croydon at the time of the 1911 census. He lived his early life in Croydon where he attended school.  By 1916 he and his family took up residence in Sanderstead, Surrey. At an early age he was introduced to photography by his father and decided to join his father’s business and make photography his lifes career.

On Mary 23,1936 George married Ena Mary Adkins, age 27, of 5 Downs Court Road, Purley, the daughter of Benjamin Ratcliffe Adkins, a draughtsman. George was given as a bachelor and photographer of Rydal Water Rectory Park, Sanderstead, Surrey, the son of Howard Marmaduke Kinge, photographer. The couple were married at All Saints Church in Sanderstead (photo opposite).

George and his wife went on to have two children namely Patricia V. King 1937 in Battersea, and Sheila E. King 1940 in Battersea.

Ena had been born March 11,1909 at Loughborough, Leicestershire. She was one of two children born to Benjamin Ratcliffe Adkins (1872-1957) and Edith Emily Adkins, nee Paramore born 1874. Ena had lived with her parents and siblings in Croydon up to the time of her marriage. Her farther, later listed as a mechanical engineer (1911 census)died December 12,1957 in Tonbridge. Ena died in the 2nd qtr of 1979 in Chatham, Kent. Ena’s parents, who were married in 1900 just had the two daughters.

Directories of 1934 to 1946 gave “ George P. King, photographer 43 London Road, Sevenoaks. Directories of 1957 to 1961 gave “ George P. King, 12 Knole Road, Sevenoaks. Directories of 1957 to 1981 gave ‘ George P. King, portrait and industrial photographer, 43 London Road, Sevenoaks.

With respect to Tunbridge Wells an advertisement for his photographic studio appeared in the Tunbridge Wells 1951 publication given in the ‘Overview’ Local directories of 1950 to 1953 gave “ George P. King, photographer, 6 Upper Grosvenor Road. His studio at 6 Upper Grosvenor Road was located in a block of shops located on the south side of Upper Grosvenor Road at its intersection with Grosvenor Road. His studio in Tunbridge Wells was a branch studio to his main studio in Sevenoaks.

Shown below is a selection of a series of postcard views George made of Knole. The series contained at least 20 interior and exterior views of Knole. Also shown is a postcard by him of Winston Churchill’s former residence ‘Chartwell’.Another of Donnington Manor is also shown.


George also produced postcard views of Sevenoaks and the Farningham & Eynsford Local History Society list in their collection three photographs by George of Farningham.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of November 29,1940 ran the advertisement “ Christmas 1940 is coming. The geese are getting fat. If you want your photograph its time you come and sit-George P. King Ltd., photographer 43 London Road, Sevenoaks”.

In the 1950’s George produced a series of photographs of a model wearing different styles of glasses. A selection of these image are shown below. The photographs form part of the collection of The College of Optomotrists and were donate to them by Mrs Janet Birch who most likely was the model in the photographs. In this series George used the same model to display different styles of glasses for the company that manufactured them, which images appeared in a catalogue.


The death of George Parmenter King was dated June 24,1967 Tonbridge but he actually died in Tunbridge Wells and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery June 28,1967. It was interesting to note that the Christian Science Monitor of 1975 included the advertisement “ Geo. P. King Ltd-Your garden in colour photographed by Geo. P. King Ltd, which clearly indicates that after his death the business continued under his name under new management.




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

Date: April 17,2018


Adelaide Louisa Haslegrave’s claim to fame are the lovely oil and watercolour paintings she did in the 19th century, some of which were executed in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s while staying in Tunbridge Wells. She travelled extensively and several examples of her “Dutch” paintings can be found. Many examples of her work have been sold at such auction houses as Bonhams and Sotherby’s and the internet is a good place to see images of her work.

Adelaide was born 1857 at Islington, Middlesex and was one of several children born to Rev, Joseph Haslegrave (born 1805 at Wakefield, Yorkshire),  the incumbent of St Peters Church in Islington, and Louisa Haslegrave, born 1822  at St Lukes, Middlesex.

Adelaide’s early paintings were executed while working as a Governess but later became a professional artist working from an artist’s studio in Chelsea. Her sister Josephine worked most of her life as a governess, At the time of the 1881 Tunbridge Wells census, when she was lodging with the Robert Hunt family at 21 Princess Street, Adelaide was a Governess.

Adelaide was one of several artists who worked from artist’s studios  called the Trafalgar Studios in Chelsea .She is listed as exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the Society of Women Artists between 1890 and 1916, and appears in the Dictionary of British Artists. Shown above is one example of a painting by her.

In this article I present images of three paintings Adelaide did of flowers while living in Tunbridge Wells, along with information about her and her family and career as an artist/governess.


The patriarch of the family was Rev. Joseph Haslegrave (1805-1875), a photograph of whom is shown opposite. He worked most of his life as the incumbent of St Peters Church in Islington. Joseph had been born 1806 at Wakefield, Yorkshire. Joseph was married twice and with his first wife had 9 children between 1831 and 1849.

Joseph’s 2nd wife was Louisa Haslegrave, nee Langham (1822-1886). A photograph of her is shown below. She was born at St Lukes, Middlesex. Joseph and his wife had the following children (1) Josephine Alberta Haslegrave (1864-1932) (2) Edward Joseph Haslegrave (1862-1951) (3) Constance Josephine Haslegrave (1864-1936). In addition they had a daughter Adelaide Louisa Haslebrave (1857-1939) who is the central figure in this article.

Adelaide Louisa Haslegrave was born June 3,1857 at 18 Colebrooke Row, Islington, London, Middlesex and was baptised September 11,1857 by her father at St Peter’s Church in Islington. Shown below left is a modern photograph of Colebrooke Row and to the right of it is an image of St Peter’s Church which was constructed in 1845-6 at the junction of St Peter’s Street and Devonia Road. .  It is no longer used for worship and has been converted to living accommodation.


Adelaide grew up and attended school in London and being from a financially secure family she lived a life of some privilege. She and her two sisters never married but her brother Edward Joseph Haslegrave (photo opposite) who was born March 10,1862 in London and died in the 2nd qtr of 1951 married Martha Ann Keye (1862-1933) in 1883 and with her had 6 children. In 1911 he was working as an insurance agent.

The 1861 census, taken at 12 Colebrooke Road, Islington gave Joseph Haslegrave as the incumbent of St Peter’s Church. Living with him was his wife Louisa and Joseph, born 1842 to his first wife, and Adelaide and her sister Josephine. Also there were two domestic servants.

At the time of the 1871 census, Adelaide was not living with her parents and siblings at 48 Colebrooke Row and was perhaps away at school or visiting relatives. No census record for her in 1871 was found. The 1871 census at the above address gave only Joseph, the vicar of St Peters; his wife Louisa and his children Hannah,age 21; Edward,age 9 and Constance,age 6. Also there were two servants. Adelaide’s father died at that address December 9,1875. Adelaide’s mother Louisa died January 19,1886 at Lewisham, London.

From a dated painting of flowers by Adelaide  given later in this article it is  known that she was living in Tunbridge Wells in 1879 no doubt working as a Governess.

The 1881 census, taken at 21 Princess Street, Tunbridge Wells, gave Adelaide as a “governess prof” and living as a lodger with the family of Robert Hunt, a “postal stamper” and his wife and three children. One of the children Jessie,age 18, born in Tunbridge Wells was working as a seamstress, and another (Walter Lloyd Hunt), age 24, was working as a lithographer. Shown below left is a 1907 os map on which is highlighted the location of Princess Street and below right is a photograph of Princess Street taken in 2016. As can be seen from the photograph and the map most of the homes are 2 sty semi-detached residences finished in rendered brick.


It is known from Adelaide’s dated paintings that she living in Tunbridge Wells in 1881 and 1882. No examples of her paintings in Tunbridge Wells after 1882 were found.

No other census record for Adelaide after 1881 were found but it is known that she travelled in Europe and that she had a studio in London where she worked.

Adelaide’s sister Constance was found in the 1891 census at South Harbour Worcestershire where she was working as a “Governess domestic” for Mr Cherry a retired barrister and his family. As noted from later directories Josephine lived with her sister Adelaide in Chelsea. Like her sister Adelaide, Josephine never married. The publication ‘The Wheelman, Worcestershire County’ reported at “Miss Constance Josephine Haslegrave is recognized as an expert rider and member of the Cyclists Touring Club.

Directories of 1913,1918  and 1920 gave Adelaide living at 2 Garden Studios on Manresa Road, which was one of a block of artist’s studios known as the Trafalgar Studios in Chelsea. At that time she was living alone there and working as an artist in oil and watercolour.

Directories of 1931 to 1935 gave Adelaide and her sister Constance living at 2 Garden Studios

Probate records gave Constance Josephine Haslegrave of 2 Garden Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea, Middlesex, a spinster, when she died February 8,1936 at South London Hospital for Women, South Side Clapham Common Surrey. The executor of her 664 pound estate was Arthur Schuyler Carden, solicitor.

Probate records for Adelaide Louisa Haslegrave gave her of 103 Lower Park Road, Hastings, Sussex , spinster, when she died August 12,1939. The executors of her 989 pound estate was her second cousin Edward Hannah Laugham, solicitor.


Adelaide began painting at an early age as an amateur. Information about her training as an artist is lacking.

Adelaide became  a professional artist known for painting pastoral scenes in oil and watercolour and also produced portrait paintings and still lifes.

She worked from a studio at Trafalgar Studios, Chelsea - a block of studios purpose just off the King's Road, built in 1878, where a number or notable artists worked, including Edward Onslow Ford and Frank Brangwyn.  Shown opposite is an image of Manresa Road dated 1882, as seen from King’s Road, Chelsea looking north towards the Brompton Hospital. These buildings were demolished in the 1920’s which were home to the Manresa Road artist’s colony from 1878. John Bass, who’s name appears on a signboard, was the local builder who developed Chelsea’s first speculative studio complexes ion Manresa Road in 1878 when in that year he erected Trafalgar Studios which provided accommodation for 15 artists in the 2 storey factory like structure seen in the background of this image.The venture was so successful that in 1886, that Bass gave up his own neighbouring villa to build Wentworth Studios which offered a further 8 studio units.

From an artist’s website for Chelsea was given “The presence in Chelsea of many leading artists during much of the 19th and 20th centuries made up a large part of Chelsea's renown beyond its borders and its reputation as an artistic and bohemian colony. While artists in previous centuries were attracted to Chelsea to paint its riverside and houses, its artistic reputation was created through its position as one of a handful of places which saw a concentration of artists' studios when, in the 60 years prior to the First World War, over 1,300 domestic artists' studios were erected in London as a whole. Chelsea was favoured because at the time when the fashion for large and luxuriously fitted studios flourished, prompted by the rise of professionalism among artists, it had sites available for building at reasonable cost, while still being close to the West End and the picture-buying public. More interesting socially than individual studio-houses were the mass produced studios, usually multiple units, often of several storeys and built to let. They occurred in London where the building of individual studio-houses drew newer or less successful artists to live nearby, so demand was strong in Chelsea, and by making studios available to artists of a wider income range it gave Chelsea the mass of artists that created its artistic profile. A three-tier, 15-unit block called Trafalgar Studios was the first of such multiple studios, built in 1878 in Manresa Road.”

During WW II London sustained significant bomb damage. Trafalgar Studios and a nearby timber yard to the south had minor bomb blast damage. The studios were still there in 1962 and in the 1970-1973 period the site was redeveloped and the old studios demolished.

In the previous section I reported from directories of 1913 to 1935 that Adelaide worked from the aforementioned studios at 2 Garden Studios on Manresa Road. Manresa Road was called “the third most expensive street in England” in December 2015. For further information about the Trafalgar Studios and the artists who worked there see the Wikipedia website under the heading “ Trafalgar Studios Chelsea”.  The probate record for Adelaide shows that she left London sometime after 1935 and retired in Hastings, Sussex.

Adelaide is listed as exhibiting at the Royal Academy  and the Society of Women Artists between 1890 and 1916, and appears in the Dictionary of British Artists.

Her paintings have been sold at prices up to about 1,400 pounds at such auction houses as Bonhams, Christies, Sotherbys. One example of a watercolour portrait by her is that of John Elliott signed bottom left as “A.L. Haslegrave”. Sometimes her work is signed as “A. Haslegrave” causing some confusion in the art world among those who mistakingly took the “A” to mean Arthur Haslegrave. But despite this the consensus now is that A.L. and A. Haslegrave are one and the same person and that these paintings are all Adelaide’s work. A sample of her signature is shown above.

With respect to the paintings she executed in Tunbridge Wells, below is the description given by a seller on eBay in April 2018.

The painting shown opposite by Adelaide was described as “An original 1881 watercolour painting, Adelaide L. Haslegrave Clematis Flower, Tunbridge Wells. This delicate botanical watercolour by listed artist Adelaide L. Haslegrave (1857-1937) forms part of a collection we have for sale dating from between 1879 and 1882. The paintings record flower species  in Tunbridge Wells but mainly in the artist’s home city of London and abroad at Cannes on the French Riviera.

An original 1880 watercolour painting, Adelaide L. Haslegrave Primrose Flower, Tunbridge Wells.This delicate botanical watercolour by listed artist Adelaide L. Haslegrave (1857-1937) forms part of a collection we have for sale dating from between 1879 and 1882.” (photo right)

An original watercolour painting, Adelaide L. Haslegrave Apple Blossom, Tunbridge Wells.This delicate botanical watercolour by listed artist Adelaide L. Haslegrave (1857-1937) forms part of a collection we have for sale dating from between 1879 and 1882. The paintings record flower species mainly in the artist’s home city of London and abroad at Cannes on the French Riviera. This painting has written on the back “Sept 1879 Tunbridge Wells”. (photo above left)




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

Date: April 12,2018


In Victorian England housing for workers was in a sad state with workers living in cramped, filthy and unsanitary premises. In the 1840’s people like Engles wrote about parts of Manchester where “the creatures who inhabit these dwellings…who live in confined spaces amidst all this filth and foul air…must surely have sunk to the lowest level of humanity”. The worst place for workers was London but those who lived and worked elsewhere did not fare much better.

Although Tunbridge Wells was noted as a town of affluence it had its share of workers living in unsatisfactory conditions. A report by E.C. Tutnell in 1842 stated in part “Yet it was in Tunbridge Wells, that the poor seem to be worse off for cottages than in most other places, with high rents as well as poor conditions”. More about his comments are given later.

To address ,in part ,the plight of workers in Tunbridge Wells, the ‘Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes’, was formed in 1844 and set an objective of not to provided houses for workers themselves, but instead to demonstrate , by building Model Homes, that affordable decent accommodation for poorer people, could be built at a cost that would generate an acceptable return to landlords. Some of these were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and re-erected later at Kennington.

A branch of the aforementioned Society was established in Tunbridge Wells in 1847 and through their efforts a row of fourteen workers cottages (No. 2-28) were constructed between 1848 and 1852 on the south side of Newcomen Road, just east of St John’s Road, to the designs of architect Henry Roberts (1803-1876), who at that time was the Honorary Architect of the aforementioned parent Society. Details about the Society and Henry Roberts form part of the story layed out in this article.

The homes on Newcomen Road were modest semi-detached homes, constructed of red brick. The homes were 2 sty in design with the upper floor occupying what would normally be the attic where the bedrooms were provided. On the main floor was the living room, scullery, pantry and small bathroom.  The homes were constructed by local  builders and still exist today. They were all given a Grade II listing by English Heritage not so much for their architectural merit but as one of the last remaining examples of this initiative in providing workers accommodation. Examples of building plans, maps and photographs are provided in this article.


Although Tunbridge Wells was a generally a town of affluent people who lived  in it for all or most of the year and others visited it in the summer season it was of course a place where the working class lived and worked. Like elsewhere in England they congregated in working class areas of the town and in many cases lived in cramped quarters of 2-3 rooms with no sanitation. The landlords who owned the properties charged high rents for what meager accommodation was provided.

A report by E.C. Tufnell, referred to in the Spring 2018 newsletter of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society, stated that in Tunbridge Wells “ The poor seem to be worse off for cottages than in most other places, with high rents as well as poor conditions. So the tenant of a four-room cottage would occupy only two of these rooms and let out the rest; and old lodging houses, originally built for visitors, were let out in single rooms, each occupied by a whole family. Tufnell described a family of eight who occupied a very old building of wood, quite out of repair, not weather-proof in any part. There were two rooms on each floor. The upstairs rooms were in the roof-space, one no bigger than a chest, with a bed in each.” It was perhaps and older property, but in 1842 cottages were still being built without any form of drainage.

There was a growing feeling though that urban housing might be better organised, and Newcomen road was one manifestation of this. It was motivated by a hard-headed utilitarianism and partly a concern for social justice that grew out of the Evangelical Revival.

Many Societies were established in the 1830’s and 1840’s with the objective of making improvements in working class conditions. The one behind the construction of homes on Newcomen Road was the ‘Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, that was established in 1844 having been formerly known as the Labourer’s Friend Society that was founded by Lord Shaftesbury in 1830. The Local branch of the Society was founded in Tunbridge Wells in 1847 with C.E. Newcomen being the Director of the Society in London. More information about Mr Newcomen, the namesake of Newcomen Road is given in the next section of this article.


In this section some brief information and maps are presented regarding the location and naming of Newcomen Road.

A map of 1838 shows that Newcomen Road did not exist at that time but the future site of it was shown as being part of Brick Kiln Farm, so named after the local brickmaking industry, which farm was located on the east side of St Johns Road just north of the Grosvenor Estate which later became the site of the Woodbury Park development.

The earliest map showing the existence of Newcomen Road was Gisborne’s map of 1849 (opposite). The map shows that by that time three semi-detached workers cottages had been built on the south side of Newcomen Road and also a “Model Lodging House” at the east end of the road.

These homes ,like all the rest, were built of red brick. The architect Henry Robert’s produced a series of house plans for the development and as one can see today the exterior views of the homes demonstrate that a variety of styles were adopted.

Shown below ,highlighted in red, is a 1907 os map showing the location of Newcomen Road and by that time the row of workers cottages (2-28) constructed on the south side of the road.

Before continuing with further information about the homes a few words are in order regarding C.E. Newcomen after whom the road was named.

C.E. Newcomen was Charles Edward Newcomen (1816-1881) who was born in Ireland, the son of Viscount Thomas Newcomen, a politician. He had been a partner in the 1830’s and 1840’s in the firm of Cockerell & Co. , merchants in India. His first marriage was to Mary Rebecca Bracken, July 6,1853. She was  a widow, the daughter of Thomas Doran, esq.. and had been born December 15,1819 in India. The couple were married in the Parish Church at St George Hanover Square. With her he had  two sons (1) Charles Edward Newcomen (1854-1892)  (2) Arthur Newcomen. Mary died at the beginning of 1857.

Charles second marriage was to Olivia Stapylton Sutton (1830-1872) June 23,1859 at St George Bloomsbury, as announced in the Gentlemen’s Magazine. Charles was given as a widower of 4 Bernard Street, the son of Viscount Thomas Newcomen. Olivia was given as a spinster but was actually divorced and given as the youngest daughter of the late George William Sutton(1801-1852) ,esq., of Elton Hall, Durham and Olivia Stapylton (1793-1883) A court case was reported on regarding the divorce case of Olivia. A petition for divorce was brought by her husband Robinson Fowler who had married Olivia June 18,1849 but since he was her first cousin and their parents objected to the marriage they ran off and got married at St Andrew’s Holborn. The couple had three children. In 1854 Mr Sutton, a barrister was away on business and when he returned he found that his wife had changed and that in 1858 she had taken up residence in apartments at Somers Place  and later at 25 Montague Place, which premises had been provided by Charles Edward Newcomen, who fell in love with her. Charles Edward Newcomen had been friends of Mr Fowler’s family and was considerably older than Olivia. Olivia lived with Mr Newcomen under an assumed name. The court gave consent to the dissolution of the marriage.

Olivia had been born 1831 in Durham and with Charles had a son Gilbert Arthur Newcomen(1863-1952)  born in London and a daughter Beverley Newcomen in 1858. The 1871 census, taken at 34 Ovington Square in Kensington gave Charles as living on interest and other investments. With him was his wife Olivia , their son Gilbert and two servants.  A directory of 1873 gave Charles and his family at 24 Ovington Square . In 1875 Charles was declared bankrupt. His son Charles went on to attend Cheltenham College, as noted in the register as the son of Charles Edward Newcomen of 34 Ovington Square. By 1880 he was living at 34 Ovington Square.

Shown opposite is a listing for C.E. Newcomen, esq. on the executive committee of The Conservative Land Society  (CLC). This Society is most noted in Tunbridge Wells in connection of its Woodbury Park Development, which Society was interested in providing housing for the middle class. Since the homes built on the south side of Newcomen Road was an initiative to construct workers cottages it is somewhat strange that the road would be named after him , but it was.

Probate records gave Charles Edward Newcomen, esq., late of Finborough Road, Brompton, Middlesex, who died April 8,1881 at 4 Hermitage Villa, Brompton. The executor of his under 100 pound estate was Thomas Edward Watkin, gentleman, of 11 Gray’s Inn Square, London.


Model Dwellings were buildings or estates constructed, mostly during the Victorian era, along philanthropic lines to provide decent living accommodation for the working class. They were typically erected by private model dwellings companies and usually with the aim of making a return on investment hence the description of the movement as "five per cent philanthropy." As such they were forerunners of modern-day municipal housing. A list of these dwellings by Society, of which there were many , can be found on the Wikipedia website under the heading of ‘List if Existing Model Dwellings’.

Model dwellings companies (MDCs) were a group of private companies in Victorian Britain that sought to improve the housing conditions of the working classes by building new homes for them, at the same time receiving a competitive rate of return on any investment. The principle of philanthropic intention with capitalist return was given the label "five per cent philanthropy".

The precursor to the aims of MDCs was the work of Edwin Chadwick and others in exposing the sanitary conditions of slums in large metropolitan areas. Once Chadwick's reforms had been implemented poverty remained rife in the overcrowded inner cities, and reformers had to look elsewhere for the solution to the problems of the working class. The publication of Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 and The Communist Manifesto, as well as fear of further uprisings such as that of the Chartists in 1848, increased concern for the welfare of the working class amongst the middle and upper classes.

Out of this environment, various societies and companies were formed to meet the housing needs of the working classes. Improved accommodation was seen as a way of ameliorating overcrowding, as well as the moral and sanitary problems resulting from that. The movement started in a small way in London, with the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes and Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes finding difficulty in raising sufficient capital to build commercially viable projects. Support from public figures and demonstrations at the Great Exhibition all improved public awareness, if not raising investment.

The middle of the century saw the peak in MDC building, with around twenty-eight separate companies operating in London prior to the 1875 Cross Act. The movement picked up pace again after the Act, which granted local authorities the right to clear slum dwellings, however the entrepreneurial focus of the companies was restricted by an inability to make a competitive return and the intervention of large-scale municipal housing. The most successful builders post-1875 were those making a smaller return, such as the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company, and the East End Dwellings Company, often founded on religious principles as much as commercial.

The first of these companies was formed out of the ‘Labourer's Friend Society’. It was founded by Lord Shaftesbury in the United Kingdom in 1830 for the improvement of working class conditions. This included the promotion of allotment of land to labourers for "cottage husbandry" that later became the allotment movement, which the Society campaigned for after the Swing riots of 1830 as "the most plausible remedy for the social problems of the countryside". It published the Labourer's Friend Magazine, and in 1844 changed its title to the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes (SICLC), becoming the first Model Dwellings Company in 1844. Its goal was to have houses built for workers that might be adopted by others as a template. Their first urban building project was completed in 1846 at Bagnigge Wells, Pentonville, designed by Henry Roberts.

Although the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes (SICLC) had the Prince Consort as its first president and contributed to the Great Exhibition of 1851, their block dwellings, in particular, were subject to criticism. The design of SICLC dwellings paid particular attention to sanitation and ventilation but was otherwise functional and utilitarian, and the resulting estate was seen as grim and unpleasant.

The Society received support from many influential figures of the time, including Montagu Burgoyne, Sir William Miles, Mary Ann Gilbert and Lord Ashley, who was the primary influence behind the transition of the Society into a more powerful body. The new Society had the patronage of Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort as president and Ashley as chairman. The company's architect was Henry Roberts, best known for Fishmongers' Hall in London. Charles Edward Newcomen was at one time the Director of the Society in London.

Henry Roberts's buildings made the SICLC a high-profile company with royal patronage and a display at the Great Exhibition; however, functional, utilitarian design of Roberts's buildings led to criticism that they were grim and unpleasant.The buildings included, in addition to those of Tunbridge Wells the following;

[1] Model Buildings, Bagnigge Wells, Pentonville for 23 families, and 30 aged women completed in 1846

[2] George Street, Bloomsbury, for 104 single men

[3] Streatham Street, Bloomsbury, for 48 families (1849)

[4] 76 Hatton Garden, for 57 single women

[5] 2 Charles Street, Drury Lane, for 82 single men

[6] A small lodging-house also for men, in King Street, Drury Lane

[7] Turner Court, Hull (1862)

In 1959, the company became the 1830 Housing Society, which was taken over in 1965 by the Peabody Trust.


Henry Roberts (image opposite) was a successful Victorian architect and reformer whose work influenced the design of housing for the poor for generations, internationally, and whose life sheds fascinating light on both the Evangelical Movement and the inter-linked philanthropic groups in Europe. It is surprising that the importance of his career had been relatively under-estimated until the appearance of  a book by James Stevens Curl in 1983 entitled ‘ The Life and Work of Henry Roberts (1803-1876), the cover of which is shown below.

Henry Roberts was born April 16,1803 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. His family returned to England shortly thereafter. In 1817 he began an apprenticeship with Charles Fowler (1792-1867), where he stayed until 1825. He then entered the Royal Academy Schools and worked for Robert Smirke. While with Smirth he worked on the drawings for the British Museum.

Henry took part in competitions and travelled in Italy before returning to London to set up his architectural practice there in 1830.

In 1832 he won the competition for the Fishmongers’ Hall at London Bridge, which was to be his most well-known large-scale work. George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878)was his pupil during this period. Henry established a prosperous practice with many and varied commissions.

From 1835 Roberts became involved in the design of model housing for the poor. He also designed a number of country houses, including Escot House , Devon (1838) and Norton Manor, Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset (1843) and Camberwell Collegiate School (1843).

In 1844 he was appointed architect to the joint companies building the Brighton, Croydon, Dover and Greenwich Railway, and was jointly responsible for designing the rebuilt London Bridge railway station. The same year he became Honorary Architect to the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes. For that Society, and later for the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes. Roberts designed a number of buildings that represented innovations in worker’s housing, including the houses in Lower Road, Pentonville, London (1844) and the famous model dwellings in Stretham Street, Bloomsbury (1849-1851). Another estate of model dwellings built by Roberts in 1852 survives today in Windsor, Berkshire, and the only other example of 2 sty Model dwellings that exist are those in Tunbridge Wells on Newcomen Road.

Roberts was very influential on subsequent efforts in the area of worker’s housing throughout Europe and the USA, both through his built work and his writings.

His Model Housing for the Great Exhibition (image opposite) that was paid for by Prince Albert, became world –famous, and his designs were exemplars for decades to come throughout Europe and America.

Roberts was a prolific writer and a tireless advocate of housing reform, whose publications were translated into various languages. His links with philanthropists in France, Germany, and Italy, his network of influential clients, and his associations with the Evangelical Movement in the Church of England and similar Protestant Evangelical groups in Europe (especially in France and Germany) furthered the spread of his ideas and designs both during his working career and, after the scandal that led to his departure to Italy in 1853, for the 23 years of his very active retirement there.


In total 14 semi-detached workers cottages (No. 2-28) were built on the south side of Newcomen Road between 1848 and 1852.

The map of 1849 given earlier in this article shows the existence of three pairs of houses in Newcomen Road (No. 10-20), and also there there was a model lodging house at the far end (since demolished, it would have stood in Currie Road). These homes vary in style to the designs of architect Henry Roberts. Roberts produced a series of building plans and it is good to see today the variety in styles built as far too many homes, particularly terraces, were basically all the same. The map of 1907 given earlier shows the existence of all the homes (No. 2-28).

In 1850 Henry Roberts published an extended essay ‘The Dwellings of the Labouring Classes’, including a series of plans, some of which are shown here.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society article (by Chris Jones) in the Spring 2018 newsletter had the following to say about these homes. “The Newcomen Road houses have been adapted over the years, but their origin in those plans is clear. They vary, some balanced, some asymetrical, but all follow the same basic principles and have the same Tudor-rustic detailing. There is a contemporary report of the houses, from the Morning Chronicle in 1851. It is from a series similar to Henry Mayhew’s articles on ‘London Labour’, but these reports from country districts were probably by Charles Shirley Brooks. The article describes the houses, and outlines the life of the residents, but also betrays the writer’s view of the poor in general. Newcomen Road was approached ‘through a handsome iron gateway’, the houses small but ‘exceedingly neat in their design’. In the first he met a mother, her young daughter and infant of 2 weeks. It was the mother’s first day up since the birth, but he was nevertheless impressed by both the house and her management of it. He commented on the lobby – a deliberate feature to keep draughts out of the living room. The floor of the main room was boarded and the walls and ceiling plastered. It was dry and light, and the fire was combined with both a copper for hot water, and an oven.

There was also a ‘tolerable-sized’ pantry, a ‘commodious’ wash-house – supplied with water from an elevated tank, and a WC. Upstairs were three bedrooms, small but with separate entrances. Separate bedrooms for male and female children was one of the Society’s priorities.

The rent was 3s per week which Brooks could ‘scarcely credit … seeing that I had ... just come from visiting the most wretched and squalid dens in the town, for which 3s, 3s6d, and 4s were paid’. Even at 3s though the family’s finances were precarious. The husband was a farm labourer earning 13s a week. There were eight children in all, though the eldest girl was out at service, and one of the boys worked. After paying the rent, the mother put aside 3d for schooling and paid a small amount into coal and clothing clubs. The bulk of their income went on food, and the bulk of that on bread (6s to 7s out of 9s6d). The remainder was spent on butter, cheese and vegetables – they seldom ate meat. ‘It’s one struggle from morning to night, and from one week’s end to another. I hope I’m prepared for a better, but there’s nothing now in this world that I care living for, except to see my poor children doing for themselves.’

Though sympathetic to the position of this careful housekeeper, Brooks then presented a more general analysis which largely blamed the poor for their own situation. ‘About Tunbridge Wells the labouring classes seem to be peculiarly destitute of anything approaching even to the idea of good management’. He blamed this on excessive charity and a lax application of the Poor Laws. He was critical of their domestic skills ‘the women are still deplorably deficient in knowledge of cookery’. He pointed to their staple diet, essentially bread, butter and cheese, all of which were bought. (He claimed that the family bought bread, but in the more detailed dietaries provided by Tufnell, his Tunbridge Wells families bought flour). It was also because the women spent so long working in the fields so that ‘it is next to impossible for them to give any due attention to their household duties’. So, if a man needed a shirt, instead of making one, his wife bought it from a slop-shop. He was concerned too that high rents encouraged sub-letting, especially to single lodgers ‘which is almost sure to lead to disastrous consequences’ (especially during the hoppicking season, which he blamed for the high rate of illegitimate births in the Spring.).

And while he praised the Rev Pope  for his school, he feared that ‘Little has really been done … to rend the thick pall of ignorance which obscures the Kentish mind’.

Developments after 1851 are not clear. Cottages planned for the other side of Newcomen Road were never built. In 1856 the Conservative Land Society acquired land to the south that was developed as Queens Road, Woodbury Park Road, etc. It may be that they bought out the Society. That might explain the name Newcomen – not in memory of the famous engineer – but after CE Newcomen one of the directors of the Land Society. HW Currie was another.

The Historic England listing text explains why the cottages are significant: ‘with four heated rooms and internal WCs, [they] were very advanced for their date and the attention to ventilation, sound construction and sanitation had a strong influence on later public housing’. A contrast might be made with Albion Square on the other side of St Johns Road sixty years later (1909). The houses had 2 or 4 rooms. Most were damp, they had no running water or WCs, and no through ventilation. Only 5, out of 14, had sinks, but then WC Cripps, the Tunbridge Wells Town Clerk, questioned whether sinks were desirable in small cottages. Two nations - dwellers in different zones. CJ”  A very interesting article by Chirs, one which was the impetus for my investigation of this topic.

A review of the English Heritage listings for the homes adds the following. Regarding 6 & 8 Newcomen Road was “ The row of 7 asymmetrical “Prince Consort” New Model Cottages on the south side of Newcomen Road. A pair of model cottages, built 1850-2. Designed by the architect and social reformer Henry Roberts in Tudor style for the Tunbridge Wells Branch of the SICLC with some late C20 additions and alterations.  Nos 6-8 are a pair of Tudor style model cottages built between 1847-1852. The residences were listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons. Architectural interest; two storey, semi-detached, Tudor style cottages for agricultural labourers in Robert’s Design no. 5, which became prototypes for later working class housing elsewhere. Date: the scheme commenced in 1847 and is now the earliest of Robert’s projects for SICLC to survive. Rarity of type: only five other commissions by Roberts’ projects for SICLC survive, including both flats and houses, and all have been statuatory listed. Innovation; some cottages were constructed using Roberts’ hollow bricks, patented in 1849. The three bedroom agricultural workers’ cottages, with four heated rooms and internal WCs. Were very advanced for their date and the attention to ventilation, sound construction and sanitation had a strong influence on later public housing. Group value; a group of semi-detached cottages which between them include 3 of Roberts’ designs for the SICLC. The seven pairs of model cottages were built to three designs. No. 6 and 8 are an asymmetrical pair, Nos 22 and 24 were built to the identical design and Nos 2 and 4 are a mirror image of this design, all thought to have been built in 1850-2. This was Roberts’ design No. 5 “for a pair of labourers cottages adapted to agricultural districts”. Additions were made at the rear in later C20. The homes were constructed with slate roofs and a central clustered brick chimneystack”.  It was noted that the homes were built from the architects designs numbered 4,5 and 6 but that Historic England listed the designs as being 3,4 and 7. How many designs the architect produced is not known but perhaps Historic England got the numbers wrong.

Given above is a map from English Heritage showing the homes. Also shown is a view from Google maps looking east along Newcomen Road with No 6 in the foreground on the right. As can be seen from this image No. 6 and 8 have had the exterior red brick painted white while the other homes along the road remain in the original exterior finish of red brick.

Shown below left is a photograph of the home at No. 26 and 28 and to the right of it is a view of another pair (address not given).



No attempt was made to investigate all of the residents of these homes, but instead a sample was taken based on census records for 1881 and 1911.  During the course of research I noted that the Sanitary World dated March 24,1884 reported “ Medical officer-The Tunbridge Wells Benefit Societies Medical Asspciation require a qualified Resident Medical Officer. Apply to the Secretary Mr. J. Wallis, 26 Newcomen Road Tunbridge Wells for particulars”.

The following information was obtained from the 1881 census.

[1] No. 4- Thos. W.Macvoy,married, age 30 master tailor

[2] No. 4-Edwin Neal, married,age 29 gardener

 [3] No. 6-G.W.Burrows, married,age 33, Tunbridgeware wood carver

[4] No. 8-William Card, married,age 72, labourer

[5] No. 10-John Saxby, married, age 42, picture frame maker

[6] No. 12- Edward D. Martin, married, age 36, bricklayer

[7] No. 16-James Bashford, married,age 237, coach painter

[8] No. 18-Ebenezer Brown, married,age 52, groom

[9] No. 20- Charles Hewitt, married,age 51, baker

10] No. 22- John Charles Garrard, age 77, parish clerk of St Johns Church

[11] No. 24-John Constable, married,age 54. Bricklayer

[12] No. 26-James Wallis, married,age 34, grocer with one assistant

[13] No. 28-James Waghorn, married,age 74, former flyman

Moving ahead in time to the 1911 census is the following;

[1] No. 2-William Thomas,age 27 plus wife, packer, 3 rooms

[2] No. 4-John Peckham, 46, plus wife and 4 children, jobbing gardener, 4 rooms

[3] No. 6-William Pegram, 53, plus wife, one child,one visitor, furniture packer, 3 rooms

[4] No. 8-Henry Poore, 54, plus wife and 2 children, cabman, 3 rooms

[5] No. 10- John Saxby, 72 plus wife, picture frame maker, 4 rooms

[6] No. 12- William Fry, 41, plus wife and one child, horse driver, 5 rooms

[7] No. 14- Ernest Bartonshaw, 72 plus wife, two children, one assistant, and an aunt, builders labourer, 4 rooms

[8] No. 16- Ernest Denton, 50 plus wife and 2 children, plumber,5 rooms

[9] No. 18- Henry Tucknutt, 69 plus wife, labourer, 4 rooms

[10] No. 20-Mary Hewitt, single, 44, laundress, 4 rooms

[11] No. 22-W. Meads, 44 plus wife, plumber, 4 rooms

[12] No. 24- James Leaney, 61 plus wife and one child, jobbing gardener, 4 rooms

[13] No. 26-William Romary, 44, living on own, motor engineer clerk, 5 rooms

[14] No. 28- Horace Edward Sales, 47, plus wife and 2 children, builder, 5 rooms.




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

Date: April 18,2016


The central figures in this article are Mary Philadelphia Shipwith,nee Adams (1812-1895), the daughter of Rev. Thomas Coker Adams, and her husband Fulwar Shipworth (1810-1883), the son of Sir Grey Skipworth,8th Bt. Both Mary and Fulwar came from prestigious and wealthy families.

Fulwar Skipwith had been born Warwickshire and in 1835 he married Mary as Anstry, Warwickshire. The couple moved to Bengal India where they had four children between 1837 and 1844, and while there Fulmar served as a judge with the Bengal Civil Service.

In the 1860’s Fulwar and his wife and two daughters Mary Wilhelmina Skipwith (1840-1881) and Frances Annabella Skipwith (1844-1915) moved to Tunbridge Wells taking up occupancy at a fine home called Avon House at 2 Garden Road, a home they occupied up to the time of Mary’s death there in 1895.  Both Mary and Fulwar were buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery.

The Skipwith family travelled extensively and during those travels Mary, as an amateur botanist, collected plants which she mounted in albums. Shown above is a page from an album of hers entitled ‘Rememberances of a Tour in Belgium, Holland and Germany in 1869’, which recently sold at auction for 475 pounds. Mary, of Avon House ,Tunbridge Wells notes in this album that she left with three others and her maid for a four month tour and carefully mounted and labelled the plants in the album with their vernacular and latin names, and added a few tourist labels from various hotels along the route. Some of the pages contain watercolour drawings of animals and it is known that she liked to do watercolour paintings as a hobby and no doubt did some while living in Tunbridge Wells, although examples of them were not found during my research.

Frances Annabella Skipwith remained in Tunbridge Wells after her mother’s death. She never married and died in 1915 while a resident of 11 Lansdowne Road, Tunbridge Wells. She was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery.

Mary Wilhelmina Skipwith married Sir Henry Yule (1820-1889) in Tunbridge Wells in 1877 but the couple had no children. Henry had been a Royal Engineer and Member of the Council of India and was awarded the Star of India. Mary died in Tunbridge Wells as did her husband, both of whom were buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery.

The Skipwith and Adams family have a long and fascinating history in both England and America ,and although I provide some background in this regard, the emphasis in this article pertains to the time they lived in Tunbridge Wells.


The central figure in this family for the purposes of this article is Mary Philadelphia Adams who was born in Ansty, Warwickshire in June 1812 and was baptised there at St James Church on June 21,1812 and given as the daughter of Rev. Thomas Cocker Adams (1782-1851) and Mary Adams, nee Pistor (1780-1869). St James Church ,a medieval church, is located behind the gardens of Ansty Hall, the ancestral home of the Adams family.

Ansty is a village and civil parish just outside the outskirts of Coventry, about 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of the city centre. Ansty was part of the County of the City of Coventry until that county was dissolved in 1842.Ansty is on the Oxford Canal and the B4065 road, which used to be the main road between Coventry and Hinckley. Ansty Hall(photo opposite) is  just outside the village, and was built in 1678 for Richard Taylor, who had been on the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War. The house is arranged in seven bays and built of brick with stone quoins and pediment. It is now the Ansty Hall Hotel.

An article entitled ‘Landed Families of Britain and Ireland’ that can be seen on the internet provides a detailed account of the history of Ansty Hall and the Adams family. Simon Adams, a lawyer, and grandfather of Mary Philadelphia Adams, who died in 1801 came into possession of Anstry Hall upon the death of Rev. William Taylor who resided there.

Simon Adams had married Sarah Coker (1753-1833) and with her had  three children including a son Rev Thomas Coker Adams (1782-1851) who was the father of Mary Philadelphia Adams. The eldest son Henry Cadwallader Adams (1779-1843) inherited Anstry Hall upon the death of his father in 1801).

Rev. Thomas Coker Adams(1782-1851)had been born at Ansty, Warwickshire and was baptised there December 14,1782. On September16,1806 he married Mary Pister (1780-1869) at Clifton,Gloucestershire and with her had seven children (four sons and three daughters) including the central figure in this article Mary Philadelphia Adams (1812-1895). His wife Mary had been born in Walthamstow,Essex. At the time of the 1841 and 1851 census Thomas was the vicar of Ansty. At the time of the 1851 census his wife Mary was living with him along with his son Cadwallades born 1818 in Ansty who was curate of Ansty and his son Caniel Adams,born 1813 at Anstry who was curate of Taleshill. Also there were three servants.

The obituary of Rev. Thomas Coker Adams noted “he died October 26,1851 at Ansty, Warwickshire, age 68 and that he was the vicar of Ansty and Folehill, and perpetual curate of Shelton, Warwickshire; rector of Sxelby; late chaplain to the Earl of Aylesford, and a Rural Dean. He was the 2nd son of Simon Adams, esq., of East Haddon,Recorder of Daventry, and Dept. Recorder of Northampton,by Sarah, daughter of Cadwallader Coker esq of Bicester, and was the elder brother of Mr Serjeant Adams. He was of Merton College, Oxford; BA 1804, NA 1809; was resented to Ansty in 1809 by the Lord Chancellor; to Sexelby in the same year by the Earl of Aylesford; and to Folehill in 1822 by the Lord Chancellor. He was indefatigable in the discharge of his clerical duties, and particularly kind and affectionate to his parishioners. He had for many year been an active Magistrate of the county, and Deputy Chairman of the quarter sessions, and also actively engaged as President of the Divisional Petty Sessions at Ansty for more than 40 years. He was founder of the Asylum for Juvenile Offenders at Stretton-upon-Dinsmore. He also promoted the formation of the first National Schools at Coventry, which have now been the means of educating thousands of poor children. He married in 19=806 Mary, daughter of Johnson Pister, esq. of Bath, and had issue of 6 sons and 4 daughters”.

Mary lived with her parents and siblings in Ansty up to the time of her marriage to Fulwar Charles Skipwith July 2,1835 at St James Church, Ansty.Warwickshire. After the marriage she and her husband moved Bengal India where they raised a family.

In the next section I provide some background information about the Skipwith family after which I pick up the story of Fulmer Skipwith and his wife Mary Philadelphia Skipwith, nee Adams in a later section.


In this section the central figure is Fulwar Charles Skipwith (1810-1883). He had been born February 18,1810 in Barford,Warwickshire and was the son of Sir Grey Skipwith (1771-1852), 8th Bt and Harriet Skipwith, nee Townsend (1778-1830). 

Sir Grey Skipwith had been born September 17,1771 in Virginia, USA and was the son of Peyton Skipwith 7th Bart. and Anne (Miller) Skipwith. He was one of six children in the family. He married Harriet Townsend April 26,1801  in Honington, Warwichsire and had twenty children including a son Fulmar Charles Skipwith . Sir Grey Skipwith died in Hampton Lucy May 13,1852. He was a noted English politician and became the 8th Baronet of Prestwould and was of Allveston House/Villa (photo opposite) near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and 6 Pall Mall East, London .

Alveston House/Villa is located two miles from Stratford-on-Avon and Sir Grey Shipwith is found there in directories from at least  1828 to 1847.Alveston is a small village in south Warwickshire and is surrounded by fields and partureland and to the north is the River Avon. Today this grand home is now a hotel.

He was the eldest son of Sir Peyton Skipwith, 7th Baronet (died 1805), of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. His mother Anne, was the daughter of Hugh Miller of Green Crofts, Blandford, Virginia; through her he was descended from the native American Princess Pocahontas. A photo of Sir Peyton Skipwith  is shown opposite.

Grey Skipwith was the only one of his family to return to England. Grey Skipwith was sent back to England from his family home in Virginia at thirteen years of age; he was adopted as heir by a relative, Sir Thomas George Skipwith of Newbold Hall, Warwickshire, England, who was childless. Grey Skipwith was educated at Eton College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, England. In 1801 he married Harriet, the daughter of Gore Townsend of Honington Hall, Warwickshire and granddaughter of the 4th Earl of Plymouth; they had 12 sons and 8 daughters. Grey Skipwith's younger brothers inherited their father's estates in Virginia, and Grey eventually inherited the estates of Sir Thomas Skipwith including Newbold Pacey Hall, near Warwick, when he was 62 years old.

At the 1831 general election he was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Warwickshire. When the county was divided in 1832 he moved to Newbold Pacey Hall in the summer of 1832 where he was elected for the new Southern division of Warwickshire. He stood down in 1835 to avoid a contest, and then unsuccessfully contested two by-elections: South Warwickshire in 1836 and North Warwickshire in 1837. He was a Liberal and staunch churchman, but ‘no radical’.

When he died in 1852 he was  survived by at least 15 of his 20 children. He was succeeded in the baronetcy and estates by his eldest son Thomas George Skipwith (1803-63), the defeated Liberal candidate for Warwickshire North in 1852.

The estate home of the Skipwith family was the Preswould Plantation near Clarksville, Virginia. Prestwould (photo opposite) was home to four generations of the Skipwith family.  The builders were Lady Jean Skipwith (1748-1826) and her husband Sir Peyton Skipwith (1740-1805).  As noted in the National Historic Landmark application for the property, “The domestic core of Prestwould was one of the most substantial home plantation complexes constructed in post-Revolutionary Virginia, and it survives remarkably intact.”  The surviving buildings include the main house, summerhouse, office, loom house, store, smoke houses and slave houses.  All of the dependencies are down slope of the main house.  The arrangement of the buildings evoke life of the planter gentry in the early 19th century, and they are a significant and unique survivors.

Fulwar Charles Skipwith lived with his parents and siblings at Alveston House in Warwickshire up to the time of his marriage to Mary Philadelphia Adams (1812-1895) on July 2,1835 at St James Church in Anstry, Warwickshire. In the next section I continue the story of his life with his family in India.


After the marriage of Fulwar Charles Skipwith to May Philadelphia Adams in 1835 he took up a position with the Bengal Civil Service where he served as a judge, having obtained a law degree in England.

While in India Fulmar and Mary had the following children:

[1] GREY TOWNSEND SKIPWITH (1838-1900). He had been born November 2,1838 at Patna, West Bengal, India  and became a Colonel. He married Elizabeth Helen Wemyss, daughter of Major James Wemyss and Helan Reilly on December 3,1867 and with her had four children. He then married Sophia Flora Cooke-Yarborough, the daughter of Colonel Charles Cooke-Yarborough and Flora Emily Sophia Grant in September 1887 and with her had four children. He died August 12,1900 in Doncaster. He had been a JP in Kent and gained the rank of Colonel in the service of the Royal Engineers. He lived at Loversal Hall.

[2] MARY WILHELMINA SHIPWITH (1840-1886). She was born December 6,1840 at Chittagony,Bengal India. When her parents returned to England she came with them. As you will see later from the census records she was living with her parents and sister at Avon House, 2 Garden Road, Tunbridge Wells in 1871. On June 2,1877 she married Sir Henry Yule in Tunbridge Wells but the couple appear not to have had children. Sir Henry Yule (1820-1889) was born May 1,1820 at Inveresk, Midlothian, Scotland, one of six children born to Major William Yule(1764-1839) and Elizabeth Yule, nee Paterson, born 1775. Henry had first married Anna Marie White (1818-187% who was born in India and died in Italy, with whom Henry had a daughter Amy Frances Yule (1845-1916). His second marriage was to Mary Whilhelmina Skipwith  June 2,1877 .

Sir Henry Yule was an Orientalist and  Author. He was a noted historian of the East Asian region. He was educated at Edinburgh, Addiscombe and Chatham, before joining the Bengal Engineers in 1840. He saw active service in the Sikh wars and took part in Colonel Arthur Phayre's Burmese mission in 1855, which he later wrote about in his "Narrative of the Mission to the Court of Ava" (1858). During his time in India he was also involved with irrigation works and the improvement of the roads and railroads. He attained the rank of colonel, before retiring from the army in 1862 to study the history and geography of Central Asia. He published several books on the subject, including, "Cathay and the Way Thither" (1866) and the "Book of Marco Polo" (1875), which won the Royal Geographical Society's Gold Medal. In 1866 he collaborated with Dr Arthur C. Burnell on a book of Anglo-Indian phrases entitled "Hobson-Jobson". He was elected president of the Hakluyt Society, for which he edited the "Mirabilia" (1863) and "The Diary of William Hedges" (1887 to 1889). He was also the advising orientalist for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. He was appointed a member of the Council of India in 1875, and made Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India on his retirement from the post in 1889.

At the time of the 1881 census Mary  and her husband Henry were living with her parents  at Avon House. At that time her husband was given as a retired Colonel of the Royal Engineer and former Member of Council of India.

Mary died April 26,1881. Her probate records gave her of 3 Pen-y-wern Road, South Kensington but that she had died at Avon House in Tunbridge Wells. The executor of her 52 pound estate was her husband Henry of 3 Pen-y-wern Road, CB Colonel H.M,. Bengal Engineers.

Sir Henry Yule  C.B; K,C,S,I (Knights Commander of India) died December 30,1889 at 3 Pen-y-wern Road, Kensington. The executor of his 29,384 pound estate was his daughter Amy Frances Yule of Pen-y-wern, spinster; Francis Cadwallader Adams of 61 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, gentleman, David Scott Monchrieff of 17 Duke Streetm Edinburgh, Wrtier to the Signet. Both Henry and his wife Mary Wilhelmina were buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery, Tunbridge Wells. A photo of their grave, which is located near the entrance to the cemetary is shown above.

[3] FRANCES ANNABELLA SKIPWITH. She was born April 14,1844 at Trpperah, India and died in Tunbridge Wells as a spinster August 15,1915. She took up residence with her parents at Avon House, 2 Garden Road when the family left India and settled in Tunbridge Wells. She is found in the census records of 1871,1881 and 1891 at this residence living with her parents. She was still living with her widowed mother Mary Philadelphia Skipwith when her mother died in 1895 and appears to left the home soon after. Probate records gave her of 11 Lansdowne Road when she died August 1,1915. The executors of her 8,458  pound estate was Francis Cadwallade Adams, solicitor. A further grant of 7,732 pounds was made in July 1916 w.r.t. Gilbert Marshall Prior, solicitor, attorney of Fulwar Estateville Skipwith. She was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery, Tunbridge Wells.

[4] BLANCHE SKIPWITH. Blanche was born May 18,1845 at Bengal, India. She did not take up residence in Tunbridge Wells, She died in Hastings as a spinster in the 4th qtr of 1862

5] LIONEL GRANVILLE SKIPWITH. Lionel was born July 11,1852 in Bengal, India and died in the 2nd qtr of 1886 in Beford,Bedfordshire. He did not take up residence in Tunbridge Wells.


Returning now to the census records and directories for Tunbridge Wells I noted that Fulwar Skipwith was given in the Kelly directories of 1874 and 1882 at 2 Garden Road. I also noted that directories of 1899 to 1918 gave the occupant of this home as Miss Nix who in 1882 was living with her spinster sister at 37 Ferndale Road.

It is known from the album of plants belonging to Mary Philadelphia Skipwith dated 1869 that she was of Avon House, 2 Garden Road, Tunbridge Wells. When exactly the family took up residence in the home was not established but they are not found in Tunbridge Wells at the time of the 1861 census. It appears that the home (photo opposite) was built sometime after 1861 and it’s possible that the Skipwith family were its first occupants.

The 1871 census, taken at 2 Garden Road gave Fulwar Skipwith as s retired judge Bengal Civil Service. With him was his wife Mary and their daughters Mary Wilhemina , age 30 , single; and Frances Annabella, age 26, single. Also there was one visitor (Katherine Lady Adams, age 57) and her ladies maid and five domestic servants. While living in the town they attended St James Church (photo opposite),a church my father Douglas Edward Gilbert (1916-2009) was baptised in. This church is located on the north east corner of St James Road and Ferndale Road, a stone’s throw from where the Skipwith family lived.

(insert scan of 1909 os map )

Shown opposite is a 1909 os map showing the location of St James Church and marked in red is the location of Avon House.

The 1881 census, taken at 2 Garden Road gave Fulwar as late Bengal  civil serice. With him was his wife Mary and their single daughter Frances Annabella, age 36. Also there were two grandchildren Mary E, born 1872 in India and Fulwar E born 1875 in India. Also there were was Henry Yule and his wife Mary Wilhelmina Yule, nee Skipwith, as visitors, and six servants. The records of the Kent Archaelogical Society for 1883 gave Fulwar Shipwith as a member of the Society.

Probate records gave Fulwar Skipwith esq late of Avon House, Tunbridge Wells and that he died at that house on June 22,1883. The executors of his 9,807 pound estate was his widow Mary Philadelphia Skipwith and Grey Townsend Skipwith of Thrybery Park Rotherham, York, Major in the Royal Enginees, the son.

Probate records gave Mary Philadelphia Skipwith of Avon House, Tunbridge Wells when she died June 23,1895. The executors of her 12,688 pound estate was her son Grey Townsend Skipwith, Colonel H.M. Royal Regiment of Engineers; Frances Annabella Skipwith, spinster, and Francis Cadwallader Adams, esq., Both Mary and her husband were buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery (photo above).

As I noted in the ‘Overview’ the Skipwith family travelled extensively and that in 1869 she produced an album containing plant specimens. In this article I have provided images of some of the pages in this album. As you can see Mary included in this album some watercolour images she made of animals and it is known that she enjoyed as a hobby doing watercolour paintings. Sadly no examples of her paintings were available to see on the internet at the time this topic was researched. Thus album was recently sold for 475 pounds and the seller of it stated that the album bore the name of Mary Philadelphia Skipwith of Avon House and that it was entitled “ Rememberances of a Tour of Belgium, Holland and Germany in 1869. It was described as a “Fine Herbarium” in a leather binding containing 42 stiff card album pages each decorated with several dried leaves, flowers or plants from specific locations named neatly beneath, retailed on the sheet with tiny coloured paper clips (one additional leaf of wood-pecker feathers). A couple of pages are tall grasses or single very large leaves. Described to be in excellent condition is states that Mary left Tunbridge Wells on this tour with three named people (the seller did not give their names) and her maid for a fourth month tour “and seems to have been a careful botanist, identifying plants with their vernacular and latin names, and adding a few tourist labels from various hotels along the route.


A detailed investigation into the history of this house and its occupants was not undertaken but as can be seen from the photograph is was a large home finished in grey stone. The 1911 census described it as a home of 19 rooms.

A review of Planning Authority applications from 1974 onward only noted an application in 1982 for conversion of the ground flat into three self -contained flats, which application was approved. The earliest application found was for 1978 when  a Use Certificate for 5 flats was approved and that the application was for the trustees of Mrs G. R. Sharpe.

It was noted that a Mary Parker Ness (spinster) was of Avon House, Garden Road when she died December 11,1958.

Today Avon House is run by Avon Property Management (02876580) that was founded November 30,1993 and which has its registered office in Mayfield, Sussex. Some of the part directors of this company lived in Avon House.

It is clear from the information given earlier that the Skipwith family lived at Avon house form at least 1869 up to 1895.

The 1911 census, taken at Avon House gave Catherine Anne Nix, single, age 69, born 1841 Sydenham, Kent as the occupant along with six servants. She was a lady of independent means. She had been baptised July 26,1842 at Dulwich and was the daughter of John Nix a landowner, born 1791 in London, and Catherine Nix, born 1799 in London. The Nix family were well off for at the time of the 1861 census Catherine and four siblings were living at Worth Hall in Worth,Sussex with an amazing 10 servants. Catherine and the rest of her family were still living there at the time of the 1871 census. The 1881 census gave Catherine living with her sister Laura at 33 Ferndale Park. It appears that she moved in Avon House right after the departure of the Skipwith family for she is found at Avon House in the 1899 Kelly directory.  Catherine Anne Nix died in Tunbridge Wells while a resident of Avon House on April 13,1920 leaving an estate to relatives of some 31,000 pounds. The

It is not known when Avon House was converted into flats but it is believed it was in the 1930’s.

When I visited Tunbridge Wells in 2015 my friend and I were staying at the Victorian B & B at 22 Lansdowne Road, just a short distance from Avon House and we would often walk past it on our way to Dunorlan Park and to Camden Road, and also when we walked over to see St James Church.

A more complete history of this home and its occupants will be the subject of a future article.


As noted earlier Frances Annabella Skipwith, one of the daughters of Fulwar and Mary Philadelphia Skipwith, lived at Avon House until at least 1895 when her mother died and that probate records gave Frances of 11 Lansdowne Road , spinster, when she died August 1,1915.

This home was a semi-detached large home finished in white render located on the west side of the road and today is a number of flats. Its location is highlighted in red on the 1909 os map opposite.


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