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

Date: December 22,2018


In 1920 the town came into possession of about 4.5 hectares of land off Mount Pleasant Road  previously forming part of the pleasure grounds of the Calverley Hotel, which property became known as the Calverley Grounds, with the intention of developing the site into a public park. Shown opposite is a modern aerial view of the Calverley Grounds in which the entrance off Mount Pleasant Road is shown on the left hand side.

A development  scheme was created which including the laying out of landscaping including the construction of a bandstand and pavilion, two sports pavilions, a tea house and lastly a gated park entrance off Mount Pleasant Road adjacent to (north of) the Great Hall and a park keepers entrance lodge.

The entrance to the grounds was set back about 60m east of Mount Pleasant Road at which point a pair of brick gate posts and decorative black wrought iron gates were installed. Just past the gates was erected a park keepers cottage, occupied by a park keeper as his residence, who had the responsibility of overseeing and grounds and controlling access to it. Local newspaper reports record that the decision to provide the gates and entrance lodge was made in 1924.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 8,1924 reported “ The tender of Mr. W.B. Elliott of 96 pounds was accepted for the provision of stone for the stonework to be used in connection with the entrance gates to the grounds”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 11,1924 reported “ The handsome iron gates with ornamental railings, a low stone parapet are in course of erection, and when completed will be a great improvement”…”The entrance to the grounds is nearing completion”. Who designed, made and installed the gates was not reported on in the media.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of August 8,1924 reported that a vote was taken on whether or not to provide the entrance lodge and public conveniences. The vote went 16 to 8 in favour of proceeding with their construction on the recommendation of the Public Gardens Committee.  In the same article is was also reported that “excavation of the banks, felling of trees, building retaining walls etc and making up the main entrance” was to be undertaken.

A Heritage Report of 2016 stated in part “ In 1924 a bowls pavilion and tea house were built and ornamental iron work including gates was installed at the main entrance from Mount Pleasant”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 6,1925 reported that the sum of 4,500 pounds had been spent for various works and improvements in the Calverley Grounds “including the provision of an entrance lodge and public conveniences”.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 13,1925 reported that “The quotation of Messrs A. Charlton and Sons for providing and planting the necessary shrubs around the entrance lodge and public conveniences in the grounds amounting to 39 pounds 6 s 9d was accepted.
Mr Charlton was a well- known nurseryman, landscaper and florist in the town, details of whom were given in my article ‘ Charlton Nurseries’ dated November 1.2011 but updated November 4,2014. From that article I gave in part  “For the period 1918 to 1930 the only listing in Kellys for the business is "Arthur Charlton & Sons, Summervale nursery, Eridge Road,Tunbridge Wells" given under the headings of nurserymen and seedmen  and a seperate listing which read" Arthur Charlton & Sons, nurserymen & florists, seed and bulb merchants, landscape gardners & horticultural sundriesmen, Summervale Nursery Eridge Road and also 35 & 37 The Pantiles. The last directory listing for the company is found in the 1938 directory for Tunbridge Wells which gives the same advertisment as above for Arthur Charlton & Sons but also one for John Charlton Ltd,nurseryman,Eridge Road. During this time Arthur Charlton passed away in Tunbridge Wells in 1928.Probate records give the following" Arthur Charlton of 18 Eridge Road,Tunbridge Wells,nurseryman, died May 26,1928 in Tunbridge Wells".His estate of 4547 pounds and change went to his sons Arthur Charlton(1877-1944) and John Charlton(1884-?)both identified in the probate records as nurserymen and they continued the family business under the name of Arthur Charlton & Sons.

Various articles in the Courier during 1925 reported on complaints by the public that “on several occasions the grounds were closed for functions and admission was charged. People who did not want to pay admission to the grounds could not use the public conveniences…” Shown above is a postcard view of the entrance to the Calverley Grounds by Sweetman taken at the time of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Just past the entrance can be seen a lovely floral display provided for the Coronation. In the foreground on the left can be seen the entrance lodge.


Like all of the other buildings constructed in the Calverley Grounds, the entrance lodge was constructed in accordance with the design plans of the then –Borough Engineer and Surveyor . W.H. Maxwell. The Heritage Report of 2016 stated “ In 1925 an entrance lodge, public toilets and a series of ornamental lamp standards were introduced and a new concert pavilion was opened by the Mayor in April 1926. The same report provided information about the other work and buildings constructed in the grounds, which report can be read online.  Information about  Mr Maxwell can be found in my article ‘ William Henry Maxwell-Tunbridge Wells Waterworks Engineer’ dated January 29,2014.  Mr Maxwell had taken over the position in the town from William Brentnall (1803-1894). William was born in 1870 and died at Ferndale Point, Ferndale, Tunbridge Wells on April 18,1935. An article in the Courier of 1931 thanked him for is over 30 year’s service to the town.  Shown in this section are some photographs taken of the entrance lodge and public toilets in 2018 including below a site and elevation plan of the lodge and toilets from a 2018 report from the Planning Authority files.  The entrance lodge today looks much as it did when my friend Mrs Susan Prince and I visited the grounds in 2015.

A comparision of site maps shows that the footprint of the entrance lodge has remained unchanged but obviously the interior was altered and modernized. The public toilet building finished in white is not the original building but a more modern mid 20th century replacement and several years ago is was made handicap accessible. Shown below is a recent architects plan of the entrance lodge which at the time was a dental surgery. Shown to the right rear of it are the public toilets.

The entrance lodge and other buildings in the Calverley Grounds were given a Grade II listing by English Heritage May 1,1986 and refers to the entrance lodge “ as a mid 20th century lodge with gate entrance on the south-west corner of the site; a single sty cottage ornee of the 1920’s now in use as a dental surgery. This building is rectangular in plan form with a slightly projecting central entrance vestibule on its southern elevation. The building is constructed with fine joined stone masonry plinth, wood timber framing and pebbledash infill under a half-hipped clay tile roof with wide eaves and splayed bargeboards. There are two moulded chimney stacks with clay pots. The building is surrounded by an iron hoop fence and box hedge. Adjacent to the lodge is a single sty pubic toilet designed in a very plain style, constructed of masonry with centrqal painted windows separated by a chamfered mullion under a pedimented parapet. Both the dental survery and the public toilet are within the Calverley Grounds. The lodge constructed of masonry has a fireplace and may originally have been a residence for a park keeper”.


The original black wrought iron entrance gates with associated stone pillars and walls were constructed in 1924.

In 1940 as part of the national scrap metal drive these gates and other iron railings in the grounds were cut up by a crew with metal cutting torches, hauled away and melted down for the war effort. Shown here are three photographs taken in 1940 showing the cutting up of the gates in the Calverley Grounds.

The ‘WW2 People’s War’ website has an account by Michael Gardner who was living with his parents and brother in Tunbridge Wells at the start of the war when he was age 5. He said in part “ We lived very near to the Calverley Grounds and one of the first impressions that things were going to change was when men arrived with cutting equipment, and cut down the large ornate iron gates which led into the park. This was quickly followed by iron gates and railings in front of houses near to where we lived…”

In the post war period a decision was taken by Council to install new black wrought iron gates and these are the same gates seen today. Although no specific mention was found regarding the date in which the new gates were installed, they are present in a postcard view of the entrance dated 1953. Shown above are the current entrance gates from that time period.  

The redevelopment scheme, described in the last section of this article, calls in part for the removal of these gates. No specific plan for them has been given and so it is not known if they are to be saved and reused or scrapped.


Little information was found regarding the parks keeper (s) of the Calverley Grounds but the Kent & Sussex Courier referred to a Mr Jennings, the gardener, escorting Mr Siggers through the grounds with chairs and tables for an event provided by Mr E.B. Weekes (Weekes department store).  Whether or not Mr Jenning was the park keeper or not was not established but presumably he was in charge of the grounds.

So what does a park keeper do? A park keeper is an important position and was employed by the town as an overseer of  everything going on in the grounds. His role was so important that the entrance lodge was constructed for him to live in and administer the grounds. Stationed at the entrance gates to the grounds he was in charge of locking and unlocking the gates, for initially the grounds were closed on Sundays and only open at certain times from Monday to Saturday.  For certain events admission fees to the grounds were charged and perhaps he was in charge of collecting these fees and turning the money over to town officials.  

From Wikipedia is “ Groundskeeping is the activity of tending an area of land for aesthetic or functional purposes. It includes mowing grass, trimming hedges, pulling weeds, planting flowers etc. A Groundskeeper is the person who carries out this work. In Britain the word groundsman or groundswoman  or park-keeper is used is used more commonly.

The work of maintaining the grounds obviously requires more than one person and so the town hired  several men to undertake the work with the park keeper’s role largely administrative or as the head of the work crew.

The interior of the entrance lodge was designed as  living quarters for the park-keeper and his family (if any).  No early views of the interior of this building were found but several views of the building’s exterior are presented in this article.  One view of the interior, given above , is a modern view taken during the time the building was in use as a dental surgery with the address of “ 1 The Lodge Mount Pleasant Road”.

An interesting report entitled ‘ The Park Keeper’ by English Heritage can be read in its entirety online. A few excerpts from it are given below.

‘Most of us remember the park keeper of the past.More often than not a man,uniformed,close to retirement age,and – in the mind’s eye at least – carrying a pointed stick for collecting litter.It is almost impossible to find such an individual ...over the last twenty years or so,these individuals have disappeared from ourparks and in many circumstances their role has not been replaced.’

‘With the development of public parks in the mid-19thcentury the term was adopted to new use. By 1855 ‘parkkeeper’could be used merely to signify someone who manned the gates. During the initial period of public park development, the term was used alongside others with various nuances of seniority and responsibility’

‘An account from 1846 read “A park keeper,to reside at one of the lodges,and act as lodge-keeper,who shall also possess a competent knowledge of gardening,and who shall have the entire control of other men employed in the park,and generally be responsible for all tools and other property in the park, at a salary of 25s per week, together with the lodge or cottage,free of rent.”

‘In the late 19th century and early 20th century we can see the gradual separation of working and watching duties, from the early days when they were combined more or less effectively, to the professionalism of the early 20th century and beyond.’

‘During WW II  and the subsequent period of austerity, budgetary cutbacks within local authorities many councils dispensed with the use of Park-Keepers at a time when many park gates were removed to support the war effort’


In 2018 Council approved a plan to redevelop a portion of the west end of Calverley Grounds to provide for the construction of buildings and a new entrance to the Grounds. This project was named the ‘Civic Centre and Theatre Project’ which was to serve as a replacement for the current Town Hall and Assembly Hall and would provide underground parking. This development called for the demolition of the Great Hall car park, as well as the dental surgery building ( the former entrance lodge) and the public facilities (toilets) adjacent to the dental surgery building. The stone posts and iron gates and railings at the entrance to the grounds were also to be removed. An archaeological study of the site was undertaken September 2018 before work began. It was reported that this new development would take place over the next three years and cost some 90 million pounds.  Shown opposite is an architect’s image of what the new development will look like.

The decision to go ahead with this project was a controversial one end divided the town. There were many objections to the project . Town officials hope to recover 9 million from the sale of the Town Hall and the Assembly Room buildings.



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

Date: December 24,2018

In 1920 the town of Tunbridge Wells came into possession of about 4.5 ha of land south of the Calverley Hotel, which had formerly been the pleasure grounds of the hotel. On this site , in the early 1920’s was built a bandstand and pavilion, a tea house, and two sports pavilions, one of which was a bowls pavilion for the newly formed Calverley Grounds Bowls Club. Shown opposite is a modern aerial view of the Calverley Grounds in which the bowling green and the pavilion can be seen on the bottom right side of this image, being located in the SE corner of the Grounds.

The construction drawings for the Bowls Pavilion were prepared by Borough Engineer and Surveyor Henry William Maxwell. Details about him and his career can be found in my article ‘ William Henry Maxwell-Tunbridge Wells Waterworks Engineer’ dated January 29,2014.  The plan he made for this building can be found online in the 2016 Heritage Report of the Calverley Grounds.  The building was a timber framed structure with thatched gabled roof and over the central front entrance was a small clock. The exterior of the building was finished in white stucco with black timber accents. The interior provided toilet and refreshment facilities where club members could get a cup of tea as well as a meeting/rest area. Benches were provided along the front of the pavilion for members to rest on. Small clock was mounted above the front entrance. Constructed rectangular in shape is provided about 530 sf of space. Over the years interior and exterior renovations were carried out to maintain/improve the facility. Shown above is an undated view of the Calverley Grounds looking east where in the background one can see the Bowls Pavilion .

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 8,1925 reported “ New Green Opened by Mayor- An excellent bowling green has now been provided. The Mayor thought that it would prove of great user and undoubtedly there was room for it in the town. It is understood that the Grove Bowling Club are already full of members…”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of May 15,1925 reported “ local bowlers who have had a preliminary roll up on the new Bowling Green recently opened in the Calverley Grounds have said the turf is much to their liking”. Shown above is a 1930's postcard by Sweetman showing the bowl pavilion in the background.

A Heritage Report of August 2016 stated incorrectly that the Bowling Green was built in 1923 and should have given the date as 1925. It stated “In 1924 the bowls pavilion and the tea house were built” but it appears based on the Courier that the actual date was 1925 and not 1924.  

The Courier reported that the bowling green had been constructed by unemployed workers, who were also utilized to undertake other earthworks in the Grounds. The Bowls Pavilion itself was constructed by an unidentified local builder.

The website of the Calverley Grounds Bowls Club states that the club was founded in 1925 but as can be seen by the centenary image opposite the dates of 1926-2016 are given. The Courier reported that 1926 was the first season of the club. The clubs website gave the following “ The club had its first annual dinner in 1926. Attended by about 100 people the event was presided over by Councillor Hempson, the Mayor and various other councillors and the Chief Constable. After a toast to the King the first years awards were presented. During the speeches that night it was remarked that the club had attracted 66 members”.

The Heritage Report of August 2016 incorrectly reported that “ In 1947 the pavilions thatched roof was destroyed by fire and replaced by shingles owing to difficulties in obtaining a skilled thatcher. The roof was in fact destroyed by fire but the Kent & Sussex Courier of July 26,1946 reported that “ just before 11 o’clock Monday night the thatched roof of the Calverley Bowling Club’s pavilion in the Calverley Grounds was destroyed by fire. It is true that the thatched roof was replaced with shingles.

The Calverley Bowls Club website reported that 2005 was the last year in which the club played in the Calverley Grounds and relocated to join the Grove Bowling Club at their facility that year. Council had decided that it did not want to spend the money to replace the bowling green and undertake the necessary repairs to the pavilion. Since that time it has sat virtually empty.

On September 17,2018 it was announced that Council was to spent 45,000 pounds to refurbish the former Bowls Pavilion. The work was to include publically accessible toilets as well as repairs and fit out the building with their intention to rent the building out to anyone making a proposal to use it. The presence of bats in it, which are a protected species, meant that work would not start until the breading season had ended. The work was expected to take about seven weeks to complete.

A newspaper report dated November 5,2018 entitled ‘ The Former Bowls Pavilion-Calverley Grounds’ stated “Tunbridge Wells Council is in the process of refurbishing the former Bowls Pavilion in the Calverley Grounds…It is being offered for rent.

Further information about the history if this club can be found in my article ' The Calverley Grounds Bowls Club' dated October 28,2016.



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

Date: January 7,2019


The Grosvenor Recreation Ground was Tunbridge Wells’ first public park. It was opened June  1889 on the site of the former Calverley Water Works, engineered by William Hilbert. Peltons 1896 guide reported “The greater part of the recreation ground was purchased and generously presented to the town by J. Stone Wigg, esq., J.P., the towns first Mayor.

Robert Marnock, one of the outstanding landscape gardeners of the 19th century, is well known to many people in Tunbridge Wells as the designer of Dunorlan for then owner Henry Reed. Less well known, but just as significant in its way, was his plan for the Grosvenor Recreation Ground.

Philip Whitbourne wrote the following brief history of the park. “At the narrow southern end, nearest to Grosvenor Bridge, Marnock formed a picturesque lake out of former reservoirs of the old Calverley Water Works. This survives intact, with its central island and the “dripping wells” or grottoes at its southern tip.To the north of the lake was an open air swimming pool, also formed out of an old reservoir, but this has long since been filled in. Then, moving further north, comes a level play area, where swings were provided for the children of the area. The open ground was originally intended for cricket but, in 1912, a bowling green was opened here, Sir Robert Vaughan Gower formally throwing the first Jack. At its northern end the recreation ground widens out, and the land gradually slopes down into a hollow, where two lower lakes were formed. These were separated by a bridge and a weir and they were a popular feature of a very beautiful parkland scene. Connecting the lower lakes with the periphery of the ground were a series of undulating winding paths On the higher ground above the lakes an octagonal bandstand was provided, to the designs of Henry Elwig. Sadly, both the lower lakes and the bandstand were lost to the town in the 1930s ( the bandstand being demolished in 1935). Nevertheless, some of the serpentine paths survive.”

In 1931 William Hilbert’s grandson, Cllr E.J. Strange, bought the “Charity Farm” lands to the north east, and presented them to the council. He requested they be named Hilbert Recreation Grounds after his mother, Lydia. This land also includes the Hilbert Recreation Ground Allotments. From 1931 onwards the park became known as the Grosvenor and Hilbert Recreation Grounds.

One feature, which is the subject of this article, is a fabulous drinking fountain constructed of cast iron, which was provided in the early stages of the parks development to provide a refreshing drink of water for visitors to the park. A postcard view of this fountain, by local photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn is shown here. The fountain itself was quite ornate, featuring lions heads around the base. The little girls shown in this image certainly appreciated having a drink after a tiring walk through this lovely park. Unfortunately this lovely drinking fountain fell victim to the WW2 metal drive and was cut up with a torch and hauled away.




From a review of local newspapers, the earliest specific mention of the fountain was in March 1889 but only in passing when William Hollamby was charged with stealing wallflowers from the recreation ground, and claimed that he’d only come in to look at the fountain. It appears that although the fountain had been installed at that time that it was not connected up and working for the official dedication ceremony of the fountain came later as noted below.

 The Maidstone Journal of May 13,1890 stated “ Tunbridge Wells- The Mayoress was thanked for presenting the fountain to the recreation ground”. The Mayoress at that time was the wife of Mayor John Stone Wigg (image opposite) who served as Mayor from 1889 to 1891 when in 1891 the new Mayor became Hori Pink.

The Maidstone Journal of May 13,1890 which stated “ Tunbridge Wells- The Mayoress was thanked for presenting the fountain to the recreation ground”. The Mayoress at that time was the wife of Mayor John Stone Wigg (image opposite) who served as Mayor from 1889 to 1891 when in 1891 the new Mayor became Hori Pink.

At the time of the 1891 census, taken at ‘Estcourt’ in Nevill Park, John was a Justice of the Peace and living on own means. He had been born 1828 at St Pancras, London and living with him was his wife Isabella E. Wigg (born 1847 in Leeds, Yorkshire); his daughter, one granddaughter and seven servants.

At a meeting of Tunbridge Wells Town Council on April 3,1891 it was recorded “ Alderman Clifford asked when the fountain in the Recreation Ground was to be opened. The Surveyor replied that afternoon if desired”.

The Courier of April 10,1891 reported “ The Recreation Ground-The fountain generously presented by the Mayoress has been informally opened this week. It is an elegant iron structure, painted dark green, with gilt ornamentation, and has four basins. It stands on a flight of circular granite steps, the top step having a layer of tessellated pavement. In front of the fountain is the inscription, in gold letters, “Borough of Tunbridge Wells. Presented to the Corporation by Mrs J. Stone-Wigg, first Mayoress, April 1891. The family arms of the Mayor and the Mayoress and the arms of the borough are placed on either side of the inscription. It is needless to say that the Fountain has been extensively patronized by the juvenile population”.

As can be seen by the enlarged photograph of the fountain it was quite large, compared to others in the town. Although no exact dimensions of the fountain are known it can be estimated from images of it that it stood about eight feet tall from ground level to the top of the finial. It stood on an octagonal stone base joined in sections, the top of which was two steps above the ground (some 16”) with a diameter of about 12-14 feet. The bowl itself was not completely round, being instead in the shape of a four pedal flower with decorative work around the perimeter just below the top edge of the bowl.  Extending upwards from the bottom of the bowl to the finial was a square cast iron base on which was an inscription and crests as referred to in the Courier article given above.  Above this was a decorative finial which was attached to the square base but was cast separately from the square base and it from the bowl. In fact the entire cast iron fountain was cast in sections and joined onsite when installed. Supporting the bowl were four lions standing on their back legs.  Piped water to the fountain was provided by an underground water pipe connected to the town’s watermain system.

Although many postcard views of the recreation grounds exist none of them, apart from the one shown here by local photographer and postcard printer/published Harold H. Camburn, show the fountain. The only other known images of it are the three shown below taken during WW2 when the fountain was cut with torches in aid of the metal drive.


A review of local newspaper articles from 1939 to 1949 did not provide any mention about when exactly the fountain was cut up and removed, although the Sevenoaks Chronicle of March 30,1942 referred to “the removal of railings round the recreation ground,  at the bandstand and the fountain for the scrap metal drive”.  Liz Edwards of the Friends of the Grosvenor & Hilbert Park confirmed the loss of the fountain during WW2 and I thank her for providing the three photos presented here showing its removal.

Regarding the location in the grounds where the fountain was installed images of its removal show that it was located near the edge of the grounds in close proximity to houses beside the grounds at the entrance to the grounds off Auckland Road. In fact the 1907 os map given opposite shows the fountain at a spot highlighted by the red arrow on the edge of the grounds near the homes facing the grounds at the top end of Auckland and Dorking Road, just a short distance from the bandstand which is also shown on the map, and at the intersection of two walkways, which walkways can be seen the Camburn postcard which clearly shows that the photograph was taken looking north east. Also shown here is a map sent to me by Mary Hughes showing and labelling the location of the fountain. Mary also sent an aerial map dated 1947 which shows the base of the fountain which remained in the grounds for a number of years after the fountain itself was removed.

Who installed the fountain was not specifically established but the Courier of May 11,1888 stated that the local nurserymen company of T. Cripps & Son had been awarded the contract to undertake the landscaping in the grounds. This company was still working in the grounds when the fountain was installed and so it is possible, if not quite likely, that it was Cripps who installed the fountain.

Who manufactured the fountain was not established as a number of companies produced founds similar to it in the late 19th century. Up until the end of the 19th century most drinking fountains had a cup which everyone drank from but around that time “sanitary fountains” (which required no drinking cup) were in vogue, as people began to fear the spread of germs from a communal cup. Sanitary drinking fountains came in various shapes and sizes, but most early ones featured a spigot that shot a jet of water straight into the air, like a miniature geyser. As can be seen from the Camburn postcard the fountain had four spouts in the shape of a lions head (image opposite) and at the time this photograph was taken three of these spouts are being drunk from by three girls. There were no buttons to press at that time to start the water flowing as the flow of water from the spouts was continuous. In today’s world a rather wasteful use of precious clean drinking water.



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

Date: December 17,2018


Alfred William Strutt (1856-1924) is perhaps one of the most notable  painters of the early 20th century for his exquisite oil and water-colour paintings and sketches of animals. He had been born in Tanaraki, New Zealand and came from a long line of noted artists. A CDV showing him is given opposite.

His father William Strutt (1825-1915) a noted artist had married Sarah Agnes Hague (1827-1904) June 2,1852 at the Congregational Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne and with his wife and small daughter went to New Zealand in February 1855 where he bought 105 acres at Mangorei, New Plymouth and began painting landscapes. He left New Zealand for Sydney in July 1856 and returned to Melbourne for a time until on January 29,1862 the family moved to London, England where William continued with his artistic career. He died at his home at Wadhurst, Sussex January 3,1915.

William Strutt and his wife Sarah had five children between 1854 and 1862 with Alfred William Strutt being the second eldest in the family and the eldest son.  Alfred ,apart from the time he was away painting lived most of  his life in Wadhurst, Sussex.

Although Alfred never took up residence in Tunbridge Wells for any extended period of time he developed a 30 year friendship with Tunbridge Wells artist Arthur Baker ( 1845-1912) details of whom were given in my article ‘ Arthur Baker-A Tunbridge Wells Artist’ dated December 11,2018.  He also knew local artist Charles Tattershall Dodd. Alfred along with local artist Charles Tattershall Dodd attended Arthur Baker’s funeral in 1912 and an account about his friendship with Mr Baker and details about Mr Baker’s career, as written by Alfred William Strutt ,appeared in the Courier in 1912.

Throughout  the years the Courier reported on the presence of Alfred in Tunbridge Wells at various exhibitions where his artwork was shown and offered for sale, as well as exhibitions when he was not present.  A three page letter written by William to a Miss Lee of Tunbridge Wells, which is presented in this article, noted that he was at the Castle Hotel in 1899 when he took note of her horse in the livery stable and asked for permission to come back to Tunbridge Wells to paint her white horse. Permission was no doubt granted and one can find paintings of 1900 and later in which a white horse can be seen, perhaps  the same one as that of Miss Lee or modelled after it.

Alfred was the president of the East Sussex Arts Club for some ten years in the pre-WW1 years, and he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy. His wife Nellie Maria Ketchlee (1867-1940), who he married in Strand, London in 1891 ,was also an accomplished painter who’s work was also exhibited  alongside that of her husband. William and his wife Nellie had four known children, two sons and three daughters.

Alfred William Strutt died March 8,1924 at Hammersmith, London at the West London Hospital but had been a resident before his illness and operations of ‘Afterglow’ Best Beech Hill, Wadhurst, Sussex. His widow Nellie died March 25,1940 in Reigate, Surrey.

In this article I report on the life and career of Alfred William Strutt, including that of his relatives, although the central focus of the article is centered around events related to Tunbridge Wells.


Information about William is largely from the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ but supplemented with information from other sources and my own research. Shown opposite is a self- portrait of William. Many examples of his artwork can be found on the internet, one of which is given below.

William Strutt (1825-1915), artist, was born on 3 July 1825 at Teignmouth, Devon, England, son of William Thomas Strutt (1777-1850), a noted miniaturist, and his second wife Mary Ann Price. His grandfather was Joseph Strutt (1742-1802), social historian and artist. The family lived for a short time in Boulogne, France, when William was small and he was educated by a French tutor. Returning to France in the late 1830s, he studied in Paris in the atelier of Michel-Martin Drölling and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He spent much time at the Louvre, and Raphael remained a lifelong influence. An excellent draftsman, he received many commissions for illustrating books: but, near breakdown and fearful of losing his sight, he decided to leave Europe and on 5 July 1850 arrived in Melbourne in the Culloden, much restored.

Employed by the Ham brothers, Strutt that month published engravings in the first issue of the Illustrated Australian Magazine. He designed, engraved or lithographed postage stamps, posters, maps, transparencies and seals and began to learn all he could about the history of the colony. His friend and patron J. P. Fawkner encouraged him to record important events of the ensuing years. In between sketching and painting important historical occasions, he received commissions for portraits in oil, of which his best known are of Fawkner, Sir John O'Shanassy and a fine equestrian portrait of Sir Edward Macarthur. He also painted many miniature water-colour portraits of Aboriginal troopers as well as members of the Victorian mounted police. When bushrangers held up a number of people in St Kilda Road, he produced lively sketches of the event and later a fine oil painting. But his most dramatic work, not finished until after his return to England, was 'Black Thursday' commemorating the tragic bush fires in Victoria in February 1851; it was acquired by the State Library of Victoria. In 1853 he had been a founder of the short-lived Fine Arts Society. He exhibited at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1854. One of his paintings is shown below.

On 2 June 1852 at the Congregational church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Strutt had married Sarah Agnes Hague. With her and their small daughter he went to New Zealand in February 1855 where he bought 105 acres (42 ha) at Mangorei, New Plymouth, and painted mountain landscapes and Maori groups. He left New Zealand for Sydney in July 1856, and returned to Melbourne to renew friendships with the artists Eugen von Guerard, Ludwig Becker, Nicholas Chevalier and the art critic James Smith. Together they revived the defunct Fine Arts Society, renaming it the Victorian Society of Fine Arts and holding several conversaziones and an exhibition in December 1857 before disbanding once again for lack of support. His final major works in Victoria were the on-the-spot sketches of the preparations for the Burke and Wills expedition. He carefully prepared from eye-witness description many sketches of the explorers' tragic deaths, later reproducing the sketches in oils. His full-length painting of Burke commissioned by the Melbourne Club shows a man of flesh and blood and casual air that is unique among the portraits of distinguished Australians at that time; soon after completing it he left Melbourne for London on 29 January 1862 in the Great Britain.

Strutt excelled as an animal painter. In England, heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, he came to regard the lion as the greatest symbol of nobility and strength. Restless again, he visited North Africa to see wild animals in their native habitat. From 1865 to 1893 he exhibited twenty-three times at the Royal Academy and twenty-seven times at Suffolk Street, London. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.

Aged 89, Strutt died at his home at Wadhurst, Sussex, on 3 January 1915, survived by his son Alfred William, an artist, and by three daughters. Frequently described as a melancholy artist, Strutt suggests conflict in many of his works, but his sketches and water-colours indicate that he had a very good sense of humour: some are quite amusing. The journal that he kept for a greater part of his life also shows that he had considerable literary ability, if not complete historical accuracy. Although he acknowledged his indebtedness to France for his early art training, undoubtedly Australia provided the inspiration for his best paintings. His works are represented in galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Ballarat, Adelaide and Hobart. Among European collections, le Musée de Lucerne and the Peace Palace at The Hague hold important paintings. The Dixson and Mitchell libraries, Sydney, the National Library of Australia, State Library and the Parliamentary Library, Victoria, and the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, all hold extensive collections of his sketches, paintings or manuscript material.

William’s wife Sarah Agnes Hague (1827-1904) bore him the following children (1) Emily Agnes Strutt, born 1854 in Cheltenham, Victoria (2)Alfred William Strutt born 1856 at Taranaki, New Zealand (3) Laura Strutt, born 1858 at Collingwood,Victoria (4) Rosa Jameson Strutt born 1860 at Collingwood, Victoria and who died in 1938 (5) Augustus Ebenezer Strutt (1862-1924). Both Laura and Rosa became artists but never gained the notoriety of their brother Alfred.


Alfred was born 1856 in Taranaki, New Zealand and was the eldest son William Strutt (1825-1915) and Sarah Agnes Strutt, nee Hague (1827-1904). Sarah Agnes Hague died in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1904. Another CDV of Alfred is shown opposite.

He was educated in Australia  and in England and like his father made painting his life long career. He emigrated to England with his parents and siblings on January 29,1862 and in the latter part of his career settled in Wadhurst, Sussex.  His brother Augustus Ebenezer Strutt was born in the 3rd qtr of 1862 at Sutton Valence, Kent.

At the time of the 1871 census Alfred was living with his parents and siblings at Writtle, Essex where his occupation was given as “artist painting”.

The 1881 census, taken at Croydon, Surrey gave Alfred as an artist living with his parents and siblings.

In the 3rd qtr of 1891 at Strand, London Alfred married Nellie Maria Ketchlee (1867-1940). Nellie had been born March 18,1867 at Peckham, London and was one of nine children born to Benjamin Rehobots Ketchlee (1832-1915) and Mary Ketchlee,nee Pike (1831-1885). She was baptised May 6,1867 at Camberwell St Giles and was living in Peckham up to 1869. She was living with her parents in Camberwell up to 1879 and in 1881 she was living with her parents and siblings at St Clement Danes, London.  The 1881 census recorded her father as a bank manager. Before her marriage she was living with her parents and siblings in early 1891 in London.

Alfred and Nellie had the following children (1) Donnie Agnes Beatrice Strutt (1900-1979) who was born in the 4th qtr of 1900 at Ticehurst, Sussex (2) Cecil William Strutt (1902-1980) who was born November 14,1902 at Wadhurst,Sussex (3) Margaret Isobel Strutt (1904-2003) who was born July 14,1904 in Kent (4) Rayleigh Gordon Strutt (1893-1969) who was born June 13,1893 in Wadhurst and died in the 2nd qtr of 1969 in Northamptonshire.  Some additional information about these children is given later.

The 1901 census, taken at ‘Rhosill’ in Wadhurst, Sussex, gave Alfred William Strutt as an “artist animal painter”. With him was his wife Nellie and their children Rayleigh and Donne and one servant.  It has been recorded that “the Strutt family resided at Rhosill from 1900 to 1910; then at ‘Afterflow’ and then Best Beech in 1916”. Shown here is a postcard view of Best Beech,Beech Hill,Sussex by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.

The 1911 census, taken at ‘Afterglow’ in Wadhurst, Sussex, gave Alfred as a ‘animal and figure painter’. With him was his wife Nellie, given as ‘artist’ and their children Donnie, Cecil and Margaret. Also there in premises of 10 rooms were three domestic servants. The census recorded that the couple had been married 19 years and that all of their four children were still living.  His residence ‘Afterglow’ was named after the remarkable views of the sky at sundown.

Probate records for Alfred William Strutt gave him of ‘Afterglow’ Best Beech Hill Wadhurst, Sussex when he died March 8,1924 at the West London Hospital, Hammersmith, Middlesex. The executor of his 5,934 pound estate was his widow Nellie. His death was announced in a number of newspapers including the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sydney Morning Herald of March 12,1924.  The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 22,1922 reported that “Alfred William Strutt , the well-known artist, underwent a severe operation successfully Tuesday last. Mrs Strutt tenders her best thanks to all for kind inquiries and sympathy”.  The Kent & Sussex Courier of March 14,1924 reported in part “ It is with deep regret that we record the death which occurred at the West London Hospital on Saturday of Mr Alfred William Strutt A.R.E., R.C.A., F.R.G.S. of ‘Afterglow’ Wadhurst, Sussex, the famous painter who’s works are known all over the world and have been shown in Tunbridge Wells and purchased by many residents of the town…..”

A listing for 1939 gave Cecil William Strutt as born April rather than November 14,1902 with the occupation of sales “superintendent  feeding store”. With him was his wife Catherine A. Strutt, born December 3,1905 and Cecil’s widowed mother Nellie who was living on private means. Their residence at that time was 28 Furzefield Road in Reigate,Surrey.

Probate records for Nellie Maria Strutt gave her of 28 Furzefield Road ahen she died March 25,1940. The executors of her 3,147 pound estate were her children Rayleigh Gordon Strutt, schoolmaster, and Donnie Agnes Beatrice Thompson (wife of John Thompson).

Of his son Cecil William (Bill) Strutt (1902-1980) the Australian Dictionary of Biography gives a detailed account of his life and career; that he was born November 12,1902 at Wadhurst and that he became a noted agricultural scientist and public servant. He had wanted to be an artist “but was dissuaded by his father. He had attended Taunton School, Somerset where he developed a love of cricket and was later employed as a sportmaster. He won a scholarship in 1925 to the University of London and obtained a B.Scf. Agriculture in 1928. He studied at the South-Eastern Agricultural College, Wye, Kent and after graduating he joined the college’s staff for a year. In 1932 he married Catherine Alice Burke. After many appointments and serving on an agricultural advisory board during WWII  and joining the Commonwealth Public Service in1954 he eventually found himself in Australia  where he died May 1,1880 and was buried with Anglican rites in Gungahlin Cemetery. His wife and two daughters survived him. For further details about his life see the  account referred to above online.

Alfred’s son Rayleigh Gordon Strutt was born June 13,1893 in Wadhurst, Sussex and  at the time of the 1911 census he was living and working in Hythe St Leonard, Kent.   His engagement to Margaret Bathurst, the second daughter of Rev. William E. Bathurst was announced in the Kent & Sussex Courier April 13,1923 but it appears the marriage did not take place.  He married Veronica Helen Ridley Evans (1900-1980) at Ross, Herefordshire in the 3rd qtr of 1925. He travelled extensively out of the country in the 1950’s and 1960’s and died in the 2nd qtr of 1969 in Northumberland.  Rayleigh had military service during WW 1. The Kent & Sussex Courier of September 11,1914 reported that he had joined the Imperial Forces :” and was thus carrying on the military traditions of his family. General Strutt fought under Wolf in the Seige of Quebec (Canada)…..”  One can also find references to his military career in the London Gazette such as that of January 17,1916 when he was a 2nd Lieut “ to be temporary Lieut January 18,1916”.  The 1911 census, taken at Loch Lomond, Park Road, Hythe gave him as single and an officer in the London Company . A directory of 1939 gave him as a principal of the preparatory school (the Westbourne Preparatory School) where he was head of cricket games at the school. As noted in the probate record of his mother in 1940 he was at that time a schoolmaster.  Rayleigh is also listed in the Biographical Dictionary of the Organ . He was the author of a book on cricket named ‘Schoolboy Cricket-The Boy’s and Master’s Guide’ , a 100 page book published in 1952.


Alfred was an animal, genre and portrait painter who had studied with his father, the artist William Strutt (1825-1915) and at the government schools at South Kensington. His sisters Rosa and Laura Strutt were also artists but never reached the status of their brother.

From 1877 Alfred exhibited at the Royal Gallery, the New Watercolour Society and other London venues. He executed his work in both oil and water-colour and also did sketches. Shown above is a CDV showing Alfred from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery taken in the 1880’s and below is another photo taken of him during the same timeframe. In 1889 he was elected to the Royal Academy and many of his paintings are recorded. One of his paintings entitled ‘ A watching pot never boils’ sold at Christies auction in London for $56,885 and his work typically commands high prices.  In 1888 he became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and was also a member of the Royal Society of Painters and Etchers, the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists, and of the Royal Cambrian Academy. The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 7,1919 reported in part that Alfred William Strutt was elected President of the East Sussex Art Club for the 10th year”.

On April 9,1912 his friend Albert Baker (1845-1912) a well-known artist of Tunbridge Wells passed away. The Courier of April 19,1912 published an article about his death and funeral, within which it was noted that his funeral was attended by Charles Tattershall Dodd and “Mr Alfred Strutt, R.B.A. (an artist from Tunbridge Wells)’. Although it is true that Alfred had visited Tunbridge Wells and painted there on a number of occasions he was actually at that time a resident of Wadhurst, Sussex.  The same edition of the Courier also gave a separate article written by Alfred Strutt in which he stated he had been friends with Albert Baker “ for over thirty years” and that during that time “ it has been my privilege to see most of his artistic efforts. ” In that article Arthur was given as F.R.G.S. of Wadhurst, Sussex. The complete obituary and Arthur’s  letter to the newspaper can be found in my article ‘ Arthur Baker-A Tunbridge Wells Artist’ dated December 11,2018. Arthur Baker lived in a fine home at 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, and it was there that Albert visited him and stayed at his home as a guest. While there he got to discuss their mutual love of animals and painting them and of course he got to see completed works and those in progress by Albert Baker.

On other trips to Tunbridge Wells Alfred stayed at a local hotel. He was commissioned by local residents to execute paintings (portraits and animals) which works were proudly displayed on the walls of their home. His works of art were also regularly exhibited at art galleries in the town and on occasion he would be present when his works were being featured. Several articles in the Courier refer to him and these events in the town throughout the late 19th century and pre WW1 years.  The Swan Gallery, on their website reported “ Alfred William Strutt R.B.A.; A.R.E (1856-1924) accompanied King Edward VII on a hunting  trip to Scandanavia”.

On a trip Alfred made to Tunbridge Wells in 1899 he stayed at the Castle Hotel (image above). While there he took notice of a white horse at the hotels livery stable and after finding out who the horse belonged to  (a Miss Lee of Tunbridge Wells) he wrote to her January 6,1900 asking if she would allow him to come back to Tunbridge Wells to paint the horse. This three page letter is shown below. One can speculate some degree of certainty that Miss Lee was thrilled with the offer to have her horse painted by such a well-known artist and agreed to have Alfred paint it. Perhaps  Miss Lee bought the painting from Alfred and proudly displayed it on the wall of her home. It is also to be expected that Alfred used the image of Miss Lee’s horse in other paintings and a number of paintings from 1900 onwards, like the one shown opposite.

 From a review of newspaper articles covering the period 1900 to 1924 over 100 references were made to Alfred William Strutt in the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sevenoaks Chronicle, not to mention countless articles in publications from other counties. Several articles from the 1920’s reported that painting lessons were given by Nellie Strutt (Alfred’s wife) at her home in Wadhurst.  A sample of some relating more closely to Tunbridge Wells are given below.

[1] Kent & Sussex Courier March 5,1920-reference to the East Sussex Arts Club exhibition at Hastings in which Mrs Alfred W. Strutt of Wadhurst won first prize for water-colour landscape and also the Challenge Palette for the best competing picture in the exhibition.

[2] Kent & Sussex Courier of June 6,1913 referred to an exhibition of water-colour paintings by Mrs Alfred W.Strutt of Wadhurst

[3] Kent & Sussex Courier of April 5,1919 under the heading of ‘War Notes’ reported on the upcoming fruit picking season and Mr Alfred w. Strutt F.R.G.A of Alferglow, Wadhurst and his lyrical inspiration ‘Dig-Dig-Dig’ Spades are Trumps and said ‘We’re all going to dig’.

[4] Kent & Sussex Courier of March 30,1906 reported under ‘Local News’ “Jones and Sons of 53 Grosvenor Road Tunbridge Wells have now on view some choice artist proofs and engravings from original paintings by Alfred W. Strutt of Wadhurst”.

[5] Kent & Sussex Courier of December 5,1913 reported that “Mrs A. Strutt shows four of her original figures in a style quite her own. Mr Alfred W. Strutt, president of the East Sussex Art Club awarded the prizes…”

[6] Kent & Sussex Courier of November 1,1907 reported that “ The chairman was Mr Alfred W. Strutt, the well-known artist who is a strong advocate for total abstinence from alcoholic drinks….”

[7] Kent & Sussex Courier of February 18,1921 gave ‘Tunbridge Wells War Memorial-On December 10th Council had considered questions relating to the provision of a memorial and by the kind offices of Mr Alfred W. Strutt A.R.E, had had the benefit of the advice and suggestions by Mr. T. Nicholson Babb, an eminent member of the …………”

[8] Kent &Sussex Courier of March 1,1907-“View at the Tunbridge Wells Fine Art Gallery the famous lion picture buy Mr Alfred W. Strutt, and ‘Good Sport’ and ‘The Philanthropist’ by Mr A.W. Strutt. Also a collection of a truly new picture by him which art lovers should not fail to see”.

[9] Kent & Sussex Courier of October 18,1918 reported on a wedding with a list of those who gave gifts, among which was a water-colour given by Alfred W. Strutt and a sketch by his wife. Several other articles refer to paintings and sketches given by Mr and Mrs Strutt at weddings and as presentation gifts at other events.  See also Kent & Sussex Courier of May 1,1908 for another example of their wedding gifts

[10] Kent & Sussex Courier of January 11,1907 gave “ Fine Art Gallery on Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells –Another successful picture by Mr Alfred W. Strutt was on exhibition. Many of the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area have taken advantage of an opportunity of visiting the art gallery to see the artist and his works.” This is the same gallery which sustained considerable damage in a fire and apart from the building many fine works of art were destroyed, quite possibly some by Alfred W. Strutt. A view of the gallery after the fire is shown opposite, which photograph was taken by local photographer James Richards.

The obituary of Alfred was given in The Sydney Morning Herald on March 12,1924 and stated “ The death is announced of Mr Alfred William Strutt, artist . He was an artist of animal figures and a landscape painter ; also a painter of many portraits; an etcher and painter in oil, water-colour, and pastel. He was born in Taranaki, New Zealand. He spent his early days in Australia, and was the fourth generation of artists of the same name. He was a pupil of William Strutt (his father), and at the Kensington school, where he was a medallist and prize-winner. He exhibited 51 pictures at the Royal Academy since 1877, and was an exhibitor at all principal galleries of Britain, and at the Paris Salon and in the colonies”.  One website reporting on the works of Alfred stated a collection of 82 drawings and water-colours; 59 paintings in oil and 5 print multiples. He was without question, according to art experts, an very accomplished  and very prolific artist and many examples of his work can be found on the internet.

Alfred’s paintings over the years have been reproduced as frame prints, posters and also as greeting cards.



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