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

Date; February 16,2014         

Richard Bull spent most of his life as a clerk in holy orders but took an active interest in the collection and study of fossils. Most of the fossils he collected were from Harwich, which he organized and labelled in cabinets. When he moved to Tunbridge Wells sometime after 1881 and before 1891 he brought his collection with him and joined he local Natural History Society. When he died in 1906 his fossil collection was inherited by his wife and when she passed away in 1917 the collection was donated to the local museum. What happened to it is described later in this article.

Richard Bull (1815-1906)was born October 3,1815 at Foxearth, Essex. He died on 10th January 1906, aged 90, at 15 Mount Ephraim Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent and was buried in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on 13th January 1906 (Grave B7/CON/26). Bull comes across as being rather pious, but a little pedantic, in his New Year address delivered to his parishioners at Harwich on 1st January 1866. After preaching on the need for Sunday observance and taking regular communion he took his flock to task on how they unnecessarily caused an “unpleasant and unseemly noise” by the clicking of the spring lock on the pew doors as they temporarily left their seats to knell at the communion rail. Richard Bull spent his life in south east England. He was born in Suffolk, educated in Cambridge, preached in Essex, later moved to Tottenham and finally retired to Kent.

He was the son of Rev. Samuel Neville Bull (1775-1855), Curate of Foxearth and later Vicar of Ramsey, Essex 1817-1852 and of Dovercourt with Harwich 1827-1852. His father, “the good and benevolent Vicar of Dovercourt”, died on 6th December 1855, aged 80 at Harwich. His mother was Frances Comber (1775-1859), who was born in Lewes, Sussex and died on 28th April 1859, aged 84, at Harwich. Both his parents are buried at Ramsey, Essex. Richard had four older siblings, two sisters Frances and Jane, and two brothers William and John.

Richard aged about 40, married Maria Wilson(1821-1917), aged about 36, who was born in Clapham in 1820/1821. Maria was baptised may 2,1821 at Lambeth St Mary, Surrey. She was one of six children born to James Wilson, gentleman (1776-1866) and Jane Comber (1780-1869). Maria had been living in 1851 at Islington,Middlesex. James and Maria were marred December 17,1856 at Islington,Middlesex.

James and Maria had a daughter, Frances Jane Bull who was baptised at Harwich on 17th January but sadly died in infancy on 27th January 1859 and was buried in the family vault at Ramsey on 1st February..

Bull was a clergyman.  A photo of him is shown opposite from a family tree. He was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge where he was admitted on 7th April 1835; graduating with a BA in 1839 and MA in 1842. He studied for the priesthood and was ordained a deacon on 20th December 1840 and became a priest on 19th December 1842. His priestly career started in 1840 when he became curate of Dovercourt with Harwich, where his father was Vicar. His elder brother William was Vicar of Ramsey, serving 657 souls, with a gross income of £310 and a house. Richard held this appointment until 1852. He then succeeded his father as Vicar of Harwich, serving 4,451 souls, from 1852-1871, living in Kings Quay Street. Richard’s stipend was £290. Simultaneously he was Master of the Corporation School from 1840-1871. Richard Bull took an interest in natural history and collected fossils. In 1851 he was thanked by W.H. Lindsey for the use of his sketch of Ramsey Church and “permission to inspect his valuable and rare specimens of fossils”. Richard also had access to the fossil collection housed in the spa at Dovercourt. In 1857 a subspherical London Clay cement stone nodule, about 1 foot in diameter, containing the entire skull and some limb bones of a primitive mammal – an ancestral horse, was discovered by workmen at the government cement works at Harwich. The cement stone nodule, which had probably been dredged from the seabed offshore from Harwich, was originally destined to be smashed up, heated until calcined and then ground into a fine powder before being put into a barrel and dispatched as Roman Cement. Luckily, it was realised that the nodule was of some special interest and importance and accordingly taken to the Reverend Richard Bull, Vicar of Harwich, who had a general interest in natural history, particularly fossils. Realising the significance of this magnificent find Richard Bull arranged for his friend William Colchester (1813-1898) to take the specimen to Richard Owen (1804-1892) at the British Museum in London. Owen, who was the foremost vertebrate anatomist at the time, arranged to have the fox sized specimen partially chiselled out of the matrix by Mr. Dew. He also arranged to have part of the left jaw sawn off to better expose the teeth. Owen described the specimen as Pliolophus vulpiceps (Owen 1858). Shortly after he had resigned his Harwich living Richard Bull presented a cast of the complete cranium, before the upper and lower left jaws had been sawn off, together with the actual fragments which had been removed, to the Natural History Museum in 1872, (Lydekker 1886 page 11 specimen 44115). This specimen is still one of the most complete and best preserved early horses ever found. The rest of the butchered specimen was returned to Richard Bull. It resurfaced in about 1914 when his widow, Mrs. Maria Bull, wrote to the Natural History Museum from her home in Tunbridge Wells, stating that she still had some of her late husband’s fossils, which she would be glad to present to the nation. Among these were the missing skull and bones of the fossil horse still bearing Owen’s original labels. The specimen was gracefully accepted and the jaw pieces sawn off 57 years earlier were at last finally reunited with the rest of the skull. Mrs. Bull also presented to the Museum a large, well preserved skull of the sea turtle Lytoloma and three carapaces of the same genus, all from the London Clay of Harwich. Interestingly she also donated the finely preserved and almost complete shell of Chrysemys testudinformis which was subsequently displayed in the Museum. This spectacular specimen was far superior to the type specimen described by Owen in 1841. Evidently the Reverend Bull had purchased the specimen from a dealer and the exact provenance of the find was not known. However it probably came from the London Clay of the Isle of Sheppey.

Richard Bull and his wife were living at Tottenham in 1881. The census for that year recorded the couple there and living with them was Richard’s sister in law Esther Friend, age 70 and his niece Francis P. Bull, age 29. Sometime between 1881 and 1891 Richard and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells and took up residence at 15 Mount Ephraim Road.  Shown above is a postcard view of Mount Ephraim. No. 15 was located about mid way between Royal Chase and Boyne Park Road as shown on the image opposite. Behind No. 15, accessed by a late was the business premises of G.A. & H. Hillary,carriage and motor body builders. They had taken over , at that address, the former works of carriage and motor body manufacturer Oliver & Morris who were recorded in the 1899 Kelly directory at 15 Mount Ephraim Road.

The 1891 census, taken at 15 Mount Ephraim Road recorded Richard Bull, a clerk in holy orders, age 75. Living with him was his wife Maria, his sister in  law Esther Bull, and three domestic servants. While taking care of his religious work Richard became a member of the local Natural History Society. The first public meeting of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society was held in 1885. This society was renamed as the Natural History and Philosophical Society in 1888. The local society always had a problem of not having enough space to display or at least store their collection of specimens and in 1889 they had their collection housed in the rooms of the local Literary Society and by 1893 they had a good collection of geological specimens. Members of the society would go off together to see what they could find and of course members undertook their own investigations. Richard  Bull, now quite advanced in age, continued to take an interest in fossils and travelled about by horse and carriage in the Tunbridge Wells area looking for new fossil specimens to add to his collection. Shown above is a photograph of the local Natural History Society taken  on one of their outings in 1899 and below that another one in 1920 followed by a photo of  the societies then curator Dr George Abbott(1844-1925). The history of this society, the forerunner to the present Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, is a fascinating one, and one which I wrote about in a separate article last year, which should be consulted by those interested in that topic. There is also available to view online a good history of the museum and reference to the Rev Bull collection in ‘The Geological Curator’ Vol 5 No. 1,Issue 1 dated 1987.

The 1901 census, taken at 15 Mount Ephraim Road recorded the presence of Richard Bull, his wife Maria, his sister in law Esther and three domestic servants. Richard was still listed, at the age of 75 as a clerk in holy orders. Whether he was still working or not is unknown but the census did not record him as retired.

Probate records give that Rev. Richard Bull died at 15 Mount Ephraim Road on January 19,1906. The executors of his 1,884 pound estate were Bernard Alexander Wilson and Leslie Wilson, stockbrokers. Richard was buried in the Tunbridge Wells cemetery on January 13,1906. Upon his death his wife Maria inherited her husband’s fossil collection and she continued to live at 15 Mount Ephraim Road.

Probate records give that Maria Bull was of 15 Mount Ephraim Road when she died on February 3,1917. Her estate, valued at 4,700 pounds was left in the hands of her executors William James Wilson, esq., and Leslie Wilson, stockbroker. Maria joined her husband in the Tunbridge Wells cemetery, being buried there on February 7th.

In 1917 Tunbridge Wells Museum was presented with the largest and most valuable gift of any they had yet received, when the executors of Mrs Bull’s estate donated the fossil collection of Rev. Richard Bull to the Tunbridge Wells Museum. This collection included two cabinets of shells and fossils, the latter being from the neighbourhood of Harwich as well as smaller cabinets and other larger specimens. These specimens had earlier been declined by the Natural History Museum (Gill & Knell 1988 p.7). Sir Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944) gave an illuminating Presidential Address to the Essex Field Club in 1925 on the subject of primitive mammals in the London Clay of Harwich. He spoke at length about John Brown’s spectacular Coryphodon jaw fragment and Richard Bull’s magnificent fossil horse. Woodward briefly considered the evolution of the horse and carefully put the Harwich specimen into context (Woodward 1925). In the early 1930s Dr. Lang, Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum, allowed Mr. L. E. Parsons to further develop the horse skull, which resulted in an almost perfect palate and lower jaw for C. Forster Cooper to examine (Cooper 1932). Simpson further described and figured the specimen in 1952 (Simpson 1952 pp.195-196). This fine Essex specimen of a fossil horse is still safely housed in the national collection at South Kensington.

C.W. Andrews had seen the Rev. Bull collection in September 1914 and noted that the specimens were stuck on glass and were without labels (Sherborn 1940). The British Museum had previously acquired some fine Eocene turtles and type mammal material from the collection, but as noted above had declined to take the rest of the collection. Their acceptance of the residue compelled the local Museum Committee to renew attempts to secure additional premises to store the collection, as available space was lacking . By June 1917 the museum collection was transferred to 18 Crescent Road and in July 1918 the Municipal Educational Museum opened with Dr. Abbott as its Honorary Curator. Shown opposite is a photo of No. 18 Crescent Road taken before the museum moved in and the building was occupied by the Women's Suffrage group.

Like most museums, they never had enough space to properly store or display the various items in their collection. As a result the Rev Bull collection, and others, were mostly relegated to the basement where they remained mostly ignored and uncared for and left in a poor state. In 1968 Dr. Raymond Casey of the Institute of Geological Sciences contacted the Tunbridge Wells Museum to see if he could examine the collection. Permission was granted but was told that the collection was stored in decrepid cabinets under poor light and access to it was difficult. Casey inspected the collection and reported to the curator that the fossil collection was not in good condition but might have some educational interest. As a result the lorry arrived at the museum one day and hauled away a load of material and was taken to the Geological Museum for sorting, identification and remedial work. Although it had been intended that all of this material would be returned to the Tunbridge Wells Museum it never found its way back to town. The best specimens were added to the Geological Museum collection with the rest going to the Museums Educational department. Some part of the collection was taken by Professor Kirkaldy of Queen Mary College , who used the fossils for teaching purposes and what was left was put in trays for distribution to schools.

The Tunbridge Wells Museum still has today a good collection of fossils that were overlooked in the 1968 removal expedition as well as others gathered before and since. No details about what was removed was made by Casey but since that time the Geological Museum has got things better organized and has recorded the specimens from Tunbridge Wells by making a list and labelling them as ‘ex-Tunbridge Wells Municipal Museum’. A copy of the list, but not the specimens, is today in the hands of the local museum. It is a sad fact that many museum collections throughout Britain have been neglected and in some cases disposed of due to a lack of space, lack of interest, lack of money to store or display the items or the material was found to have no particular local relevance. Today museums do a much better job but of course never have enough space or money to operate as they wish they could. In any event, the fossil collection of Rev Richard Bull lives on but is widely dispersed.  For anyone interested in the history of the Tunbridge Wells Museum or the items in its large collection, I would recommend a day at the museum. You will not be disappointed!



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

Date: February 17,2014 but updated December 20,2015


Tunbridge Wells has long and rich history in the field of carriage and motor coach building. There were several businesses in this trade in the town in the 19th and early 20th century, one of which was the company of G.A. & H. Hillary who had premises at 15 Mount Ephraim who operated from that location from 1905 until the 1970's having taken over the premises of carriage and coach builder Oliver & Morris.

As you will read later, the Hillary family who founded the business in Tunbridge Wells had prior experience as coach builders in Hampshire, Warwickshire and Shepherds Bush. The current owners of the business in Tunbridge Wells, who operate under the name of Hillary’s Coachworks state “The Hillary’s family set up the coachworks in the early 1800’s to build high quality carriages for the local nobility and gentry and that the business continued to run successfully and eventually transferred its skills to body building for the modern motorcar." During the early 1900’s they obtained a Royal Warrant to build vehicle bodies(Rolls Royce and Bentley) for the Royal Family. In the late 1970’s the business was purchased by the current Managing Director and these days the business specialises in restoring classic cars, renovation of older vehicles and insurance work.

Since at least the early 1800’s Mount Ephraim has also been the site of some commercial enterprises such as fly proprietors and wheelwrights. In 1840,for example John Tarbutt was a fly proprietor with William Constable and John Till being wheelwrights. An 1874 directory listed fly proprietor William Waghorn at 15 Mount Ephraim and he was still there in 1881 and was living on the premises with his wife Ann and his two children. By 1891 #15 Mount Ephraim was occupied by Wyatt & Co. who were job masters and who also had premises at 4 St John’s Road. In the late 1890’s #15 became the premises of Oliver & Morris.

In 1826 there were only two companies manufacturing carriages in Tunbridge Wells namely John and James Terry on London Road and Elliot & Sons  on London Road. As the years passed the number of companies in the trade increased.One of these companies was A. Oliver & Son who in 1903 advertised themselves  as being "Established 100 Years".They advertised themselves as "Grosvenor Carriage Works" with premises at 15 Mount Ephraim,Tunbridge Wells and offered"carriages of every description built to order" as well as undertaking repairs to carriages and being agents for solid rubber tires with their "Works" located at the rear of Belgrave Road. The Belgrave Road site was the former works building of F.J. Ascough.Their occupation of the Belgrave Road site was likely the result of a merger with Ascough who in addition to premises there had a showroom at Goods Station Road.Chris Jones of the Civic Society said in the Spring 2009 newsletter that "Mount Ephraim was also the starting place in 1908 of Rawsons who specialized in motor cars from the start".

Although the age of the carriage continued well into the early 20th century the motor car became a competitor at the start of the 20th century and many companies, including "Oliver" made the transition from building carriages to manufacturing motor cars. The history of the Oliver company is an interesting one for it involves a number of business locations, operated by various members of the Oliver family as well as various partnerships or mergers with other companies but despite all of this, the name of Oliver existed well into the middle of the 20th century in Tunbridge Wells and perhaps in one form or another was one of the longest surviving ventures in the carriage/motor car business in the town. Details about the Oliver company can be found in my article entitled ‘Carriages and Motor Cars by Oliver’ dated August 28,2012

The principles of this company were the brothers Gerald Ashfold Hillary (1876-1950), Anthony Russell Hillary (1868-1909) and Harold Hillary (1871-1955).

Upon the death of business founder Henry Hillary in 1950 the business continued under the management of his son Alfred Harold Hillary (1905-1968). The business was passed down through the Hillary family and in 2015 this business is still in operation in the town as Hillary’s Coachworks, from premises off Mount Ephraim between Boyne Park and Royal Chase at their “Marlborough Garage”. This article reports on the history of the business and the Hillary family who ran it.

The original building is no longer there and the site has been redeveloped and now a building called The Forum.  Mount Ephraim, sited on a high ridge of land overlooking ,for the most part, a commanding and picturesque view of the Commons, has throughout its history been a road dominated by the presence of grand buildings serving for the most part as rooming houses, frequented by visitors to the spa town.


As mentioned in the overview the last company to operate from 15 Mount Ephraim , before it became the site of G.A. & H Hillary, was that of Oliver & Morris. In the 1889 Kelly directory is found three listings pertaining to Oliver namely (1) Oliver & Morris,fly proprietors, riding and job masters, livery stables & coach builders 15 Mount Ephram,Tunbridge Wells (2)Oliver & Co, carriage builders, Elliot's carriage works, London Road (3)Oliver & Co. ,Winchester Rd, Hawkhurst,Kent, carriage coach builders. The Oliver and Morris business was a success and they employed a number of men at the business premised on Mount Ephraim Road.The 1895 Kelly gives a listing for Oliver & Morris 15 Mount Ephraim job masters and fly proprietors and in 1899 are advertised (1) Oliver & Morris 15 Mount Ephraim coach and carriage builders and (2) Oliver & Co, Elliots carriage works, London Road.

George Morris had been the founder of the business and with the arrival of the motor car Mr Oliver, who was a carriage builder formed a partnership and operated their manufactory at 15 Mount Ephraim Road making motor car bodies. In 1905 they sold their premises at 15 Mount Ephraim and moved along the road to #27 Mount Ephraim and continued to have premises also on Dudley Road.

When Oliver & Morris moved out  #15 Mount Ephraim Road became the premises of carriage and motor body builders G.A. & H. Hillary.


The firm of G.A. & H. Hillary was established in 1905 and set up business in the former premises of Oliver & Morris at 15 Mount Ephraim.  Keith Hetherington makes mention of this company in his article entitled ‘Tunbridge Wells and The Early Motor Car Trade’ when he says ‘ Hillary took over the carriage builder’s business at 15 Mount Ephraim from Oliver & Morris in 1905.The former job master’s establishment had been founded in 1832”. An advertisement of the Hillary company , from this article is shown below.

To set the stage for my coverage of the Hillary business I begin with the following article from the Courier Centenary Edition of October 1972 which gives the following. “ Tunbridge Wells was one of the first towns in the country to come to regard the motor car as an accepted and familiar part of life. The first Motor Show was held in the town in 1895, but long before this day came, the town was notable for the magnificent coaches to be seen transporting the fashionable between this and that vital engagement. There was considerable rivalry between the gentry of their coaches, and the livery of their coachmen. Coachbuilding was a major craft, one which continued well into this century and is part of the attraction of veteran and vintage motor cars. Grosvenor Carriage Works, of 15 Mount Ephraim Road was one of a number of businesses in Tunbridge Wells specializing in this field. The business was owned and run by Mr. H. Hillary who with his mother, Mrs. G.A. Hillary took over the existing business in the early 1900’s. However, it had been a coachworks before then and may well have been in this line of work since the early 1800’s. During the 1914-1918 War the business contributed to the war effort by, among other things, making aircraft parts. The carriage works continued through the twenties and thirties, working on motor vehicle bodies but also on many horse-drawn vehicles which were still in use for deliveries. Mr Ian Hillary, who has a coachworks of his own in Tunbridge Wells, recalls the care his father would take in the selection of timber for coachbuilding. His father would be told when trees were coming down on an estate and would select his timber before felling began. Oak and ash were most sought after and would be stored for about eight years before being used. This seasoned timber used in coach and car bodies was almost as hard as iron as the number of these historic vehicles still in existence testifies”.

One major defect with the above article is the statement that G.A. & H. Hillary  refers to Henry Hillary and his mother “Mrs G.A. Hillary”. The truth of the matter is that Henry Hillary’s mother was not G.A. Hillary but rather Fanny H.P. Hillary. The initials “G.A.” actually stood for Henry Hillary’s brothers, Gerald Ashfold Hillary (1876-1950), Anthony Russell Hillary (1868-1909). Shown opposite is an early 20th century advertisement for the business where they advertised from their premises at 15 Mount Ephraim where they advertised “ High-Class Carriage Builders, Motor Body Experts” and that they did repairs, repainting ,upholstery etc . The company name they used at that time was the “Grosvenor Carriage and Motor Works”. This advertisement appeared as part of an article by Keith Hetherington entitled ‘Tunbridge Wells And The Early Motor Car Trade. Regarding Hillary Keith stated “Oliver & Morris was another firm which saw the trasformation from horse to motor car. They ran their job master and fly proprietors business from 15 Mount Ephaim and Culverdon Street and that in 1905 Oliver, under the name of Oliver and Morris moved along the road to 27 Mount Ephraim and at No. 15 Hillary moved in.

Harold Hillary was born 1870 at Chilbolton,Hampshire, one of six children born to Anthony Hillary(1835-1914) and Fanny Hannah P. Russell (1843-1906). Anthony and his wife never lived in Tunbridge Wells, remaining their entire lives in Hampshire. Harold was baptised January 12,1871 at Chilbolton,Hampshire.  Harolds siblings were Anthony Russel Hillary born 1867; Mary Elizabeth Hillary, born 1870; Algeron Alfred Hillary who was baptised October 18,1874 but died soon after as an infant; Gerald Ashford Hillary, born 1877; George Hillary baptised August 4,1879 but died in 1879; and Bessie D. Hillary, born in 1882. It was the brothers Harold,Gerald and Anthony who later formed a partnership and opened the business in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1871 census, taken at Chilbolton recorded Anthony Hillary born at Longparish, Hampshire, a farmer of some 600 acres and employing ten men and three boys on the farm. Living with him was his wife Fanny and his two children Mary,age 1, and Harold, age 4 mths.

The 1881 census, taken at Stockbridge,Hampshire recorded Anthony Hillary as a municipal inspector of nuisances and a school attendance officer. Living with him was his wife Fanny and his children Anthony, age 14; Mary,age 11; Harold, age 11 and Gerald age 4. All four children at this time were attending school.

The 1891 census, taken at West End Terrace, Winchester, Hampshire , recorded Harold Hillary as a coach builder’s apprentice. He was living with his aunt Elizabeth P. Day born 1834 in Stockbridge,Hampshire and his sister Mary. This was the last census record for Harold Hillary found by the researcher but he moved to Tunbridge Wells by 1905 and remained in the town the rest of his life. Probate records give him of 42 Culverden Park Road Tunbridge Wells when he died on August 29,1955 at 12 Molyneux Park Road. He left an estate valued at 8,985 pounds with his executors being Alfred Harold Hillary, a motor body builder, and Anthony George Hungerford Hillary, an insurance official. Details about who the executors were and their involvement in the business of Harold Hillary are given later. Harold was buried in the Tunbridge Wells cemetery on September 1,1955.

Harold’s brother Anthony Russell Hillary, born 1867 at Chilbolton,Hampshire was living in 1881 at Stockbridge Hampshire with his parents and siblings. In 1891 he was out on his own and living at Weeke,Hampshire and in 1901 he was living  with his aunt Annie P. Hillary, age 32, widow, at 16 Weyhill Road in Andover,Hampshire. He was listed as married but his wife was not present and no occupation was given for him. Anthony married Louisa Butler Needle in July 1893 at Winchester,Hampshire.At some point in time he moved to Ireland with his wife and while there had a son Alfred Harold Hillary who was born at Kinsale,Ireland in the 1st qtr of 1906. Alfred Harold Hillary marred Gertrude Russall in the 2nd qtr of 1939 at Uckfield,Sussex. As noted above he was one of the executors of the estate of Harold Hillary in 1955 and became involved in the business in Tunbridge Wells. Alfred Harold Hillary was buried in the Tunbridge Wells cemetery on December 19,1968.

Harold’s brother Gerald Ashfold Hillary, born 3rd qtr 1876 at Chilbolton,Hampshire was living with his parents and siblings at Stockbridge, Hampshire in 1881 but left the family home by 1891. He had been baptised on August 6,1876,In 1900 he married Manda Elizabeth who had been born in 1878 at Ridge, Cambridgeshire.In 1901 he and his wife  and daughter Florence were living at Ashton,Warwickshire and he was recorded as a coachwork body maker, employed by others. Also present was his sister and a gentleman working as a coachwork maker worker, The 1911 census, taken at 46 Arminger Road, Shepherds Bush, Hampshire, recorded Gerald Ashford Hillary, age 34, working for someone else as a motor body builder. Living with him was his wife Manda and their three daughters,Florence, age 10; Ethel,age 8 and Fanny, age 3. Also in the home was his sister Mary Elizabeth Hillary, a spinster. They were living in premises of 4 rooms and it was recorded that they had been married 11 years. Gerald Ashford Hillary died in the 2nd qtr of 1950 at Cambridge,Cambridgeshire.At some point in time he had moved to Tunbridge Wells to take part in the local business with his two brothers but it was primarily his brother Harold that took charge of the company’s operations.

Anthony George Hungerford Hillary, who was mentioned as one of the executors of the estate of Harold Hillary in 1955 as an insurance official was born November 16,1903. He had married Winnifred M. Russell in the 2nd qtr of 1950 at Kensington. He is found in directories of Tunbridge Wells throughout the period of 1957 to 1980. He died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1980 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells cemetery on January 2,1981.

The following information from local directories adds some clarity to the operation of the business in Tunbridge Wells and the names of some of the individuals connected to the family and in some cases the business from 1905 onwards.

The 1903 Kelly directory gave the listing “ A. Oliver & Son, Grosvenor Carriage Works, 15 Mount Ephraim. The 1899 Kelly gave Oliver & Morris 15 Mount Ephraim, coach and carriage works. Going back even further the 1882 Kelly gave William Waghorn, fly proprietor, 15 Mount Ephraim. The 1913 Kelly gave “G.A. and H. Hillary, 15 Mount Ephraim. In 1913 there were nine carriage and motor body builders in the town.

The 1913 Kelly listed the business as “J. A. & H. Hillary, 15 Mount Ephraim,Tunbridge Wells, under the heading of carriage manufacturers and coach body builders. The reference to “J” at the beginning of the name is an error and should have read “G”.

The directories of 1918 to 1938 give under the heading of carriage manufacturers and motor body builders “ G.A. & H. Hillary, 15 Mount Ephraim Rd, Tunbridge Wells”.

Hillary’s on Mount Ephraim began to be referred to as Hillary’s Coach Works, Marlborough Garage, Mount Emphraim in the 1940’s. Directories of 1957 to 1962 give the following listings for the name Hillary (1) Hillary’s Coach Works, Marlborough Garage, Mount Ephraim (2) Anthony G.H. Hillary, 7 Wilmon Road (3) Hillary’s Antiques 19 Vale Road. The gentleman in item (2) I have given details of previously and the researcher believes, but has not investigated, that the antique business was carried out by someone from the same family line.

The directories of 1963 to 1972 give the following (1) Hillary’s Coachworks, Mount Ephraim Road (2) I.P. Hillary 61 Wilmon Rd (3) G. Hillary, 48 London Road, Hillary’s Antique Furniture, 66 the Pantiles (4) Anthony G.H. Hillary 7 Wilmon Rd. The I.P. Hillary is believed by the researcher to be the same Ian Hillary mentioned in the 1972 article I quoted from earlier as “ having a coachworks of his own in Tunbridge Wells” and makes reference to his father being in the Hillary coachwork business. Who his father was has not been determined by the researcher.

Shown opposite is the map and view of the current premises of Hillary’s Coachworks Limited. The premises are located at the rear of other buildings on the north side of Mount Epharim between Boyne Park to the south and Royal Chase to the north and is reached by a long drive between two lodging houses.

The company has its registered office at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough with its Marlborough Garage off Mount Ephraim in Tunbridge Wells. They specialize in the restoration of historic vehicles such as the one shown below that they restored a few years ago. Also shown here is a partial view of the their current premises.

Although members of the Hillary family continue to appear in Tunbridge Wells directories the last listing found by the researcher for Hillay’s Coachworks was for 1972. The site of the former premises of the coachworks has been redeveloped but that has not ended the name of Hillary’s in the town as it relates to motor cars as I have detailed below.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society newletter of Spring 2009 carried an article by Chris Jones entitled ‘The Tunbridge Wells Motor Industry” which can be viewed in its entirely on their website. Regarding Hillary’s it was said “There were already carriage-makers in Tunbridge Wells; the ‘Elliott’s Coach Work’s for example, where the Forum is now, was occupied variously by WT Noakes, Norman and Goward, and Oliver & Co about this time”. This is in reference to the premises at 15 Mount Ephraim.

Today one can find a website for “Hillarys Coachworks” with premises on Mount Ephraim. They are not however located  in the former premises of the original company. As shown on the 1907 OS map  the original business was located on the “island” between what is shown on the map as the George Hotel at one end and the church on the other. Shown opposite is another map of the same area which was taken from a report entitled “Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Development Framework”. This map labels #15 at the left end of the large block of land highlighted in black located between Culverden Street on one side and Mount Ephraim on the other. This block of land is referred to in the report as follows “ This site contains a series of workshops and utilitarian buildings with little character, or are much altered originals. No. 15 Mount Ephraim is one building that has some character and architectural integrity…No 15 should be retained for conversion to residential (or mixed use)…the site consists of a series of buildings related to car sales and vehicle servicing”.

A search on Google maps for Hillary’s shows that today this company in located on the opposite side of  Mount Ephraim Road than the original business but in the same general area. The business is not visible from the road however and is accessed by way of a drive between the rows of buildings along Mount Ephraim. A walking tour of Mount Ephraim during Heritage Days in 2013 was reported on in the website of Anke and stated “ This little hidden nook is home to Hillary’s Coachworks. Hillary’s have thrived here since the 1800’s and are renouned as one of the great car restoration companies.I think this place deserves deeper investigation”. I could not agree more for many will believe that the premises referred to are a continuation of the original Hillary’s when in fact it is not. How old the building was that they investigated on the tour was or what is was used for is certainly something that “deserves deeper investigation”.

The business visited in the 2013 tour is known today as Hillary’s The Coachworks Ltd, Marlborugh Garage, Mount Ephraim.  Note the same reference to Marlborugh Garage used by the original company. In 2010 a number of articles appeared in local publications about this company. One article from the Kent News dated June 17,2010 referred to the spiralling costs of classic car repairs and the experiences to two customers of the business who had left their vehilces for restoration. In this article the owner of the business was identified as Richard Brinklow, who in ‘This is Kent’ on June 11,2010 said “ I have been the owner if Hillary’s for 31 years” which would make his aquisiton of the business/ premises 1979. When looking for information about him I found him listed as Richard Brinklow MD and owners or Hillary’s Coachworks. He is also found in corporation records as Richard Laurence Bricklow who “has been employed by Hillary’s Coachworks Limited since July 1,2005 and is currently a director”. Also he “ has been employed at Richard Brinklow Aviation Limited since January 7,1995 and as a director of the company located at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough,Sussex”.Also “ he has been employed at The Tiger Club 1990 Limited since August 23,1993 and is currently a director”. This company was located at 09 Pembroke Road in Sevenoaks, Kent. “ He was also employed as a director of Funeral Coachworks Limiited from January 4,1993 to August 24,2010. The company now dissolved, was located at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough. He was employed by A.R. Aviation Services Limited (dissolved) from March 2,1994 which was located at 25 Hartley Street, London. He was employed by Maxlim Limited as director from January 9,1997. It was located at The Pines, Boars Head, Crowborough but he is not connected with this company any more”. Another article from 2010 reported “ Hillary’s Coachworks is run by Richard Brinklow, age 62, whose Funeral Coachworks company was put into compulsory liquidation in 2008 over unpaid tax”. The corporate records note that Hillay’s Coachworks is # 0541772143, a private limited company registered June 10,2005 and was previously called Smart TV Edits Limited.

The London Gazette of December 19,2005 reported on a petitition to wind up “ Hillary’s Coachworks Limited with its registered office at The Pines, Boars Head,Crowborough,Sussex, but obviously a business by that name is still was still in operation in 2013. The current website for this company gives the Crowborough address as that of their ‘registered office’. Quoting from their website “ Hillary’s is a long established coachworks, we repair all models  & makes of vehicles”. The list, apart from normal vehicle repair work their specialty in the restoration of classic vehicles and from time to time offer vehicles for sale. They continue by saying “ The Hillary’s family set up the coachworks in the early 1800’s to build high quality carriages for the local nobility and gentry. The business continued and eventually transferred its skills to body building for the modern motorcar. During the 1900’s they even obtained a royal warrant for the Royal Family. In the late 70’s the business was purchased by the current Managing Director and these days the business specializes in restoring classic cars, renovation of older vehicles & insurance work”.



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

Date: February 21,2014


One of the first men to get into the motor car business was Edwin Powell who established a cycle and electrical shop at 12  Grove Hill Road in 1872,eventually occupying 10 and 12 Grove Hill Road. At the turn of the century he became interested in the motor car and employed Bernard Frederick Winser(1878-1930) as his mechanic. They were thought to be the pioneer motor traders in the town. When Mr Winser left to start his own business in Prospect Road ,Mr Powell decided to sell off the motor car side of his trade and concentrate on his other interests.By 1907 Powell was claiming 25 years experience in electric lighting . He moved to 41 High Street in 1909 and under various names the business survived until 1976/7.  For more information about the life and career of Mr Powell see my article entitled “ From Cycles to Motor Cars’ dated August 18,2013.

Bernard Frederick Winser and a partner , St John  Martin, bought Mr Powell’s motor car business and moved it to Vale Road  where they traded as Martin Winser & Co. Ltd. The  business of Martin Winser & Co Ltd had other premises in Folkestone, Kent. Little is known about Mr Martin except that he was born in Sydney,Australia in 1873 and emigrated to Britain; took up residence in Folkestone, and began a motor car sales business. He is found in the 1911 census, taken at 2 Radnor Cliff, Sandgate, Folkestone as being in the motor trade. He was listed as married, having been married in 1897,presumably in Australia. The census records that he and his wife had three children. Living with im in the 7 room residence was a housekeeper, a private secretary and one other domestic servant.

Bernard Frederick Winser was one of five children born to Albert Winser( 1852-1903), a grocer, and Elizabeth Winser, nee Pethurst. Albert had been born in Hastings, Sussex and his wife in Cranbrook, Kent in 1850. In 1881 Bernard was living with his parents and two siblings at 24 Wololey Road in Ashford Kent. In 1891 Bernard was attending school but living with his parents and four siblings at 53 Upper Stone Street in Maidstone. In 1901 Bernard was living with his parents and three siblings at 3 Baver Street in Maidstone and working as a cycle fitter. Sometime after the 1901 census Bernard moved to Tunbridge Wells.

In 1904, at Maidstone,  he married Elizabeth Matilda Tucker(1878-1963), shown opposite, who had been born 1878 in Maidstone.Elizabeth was one of 8 children born to Charles Batchelor tucker (1852-1931) and Matilda Gibbs (1852-1922) .She lived with her parents and siblings in Maidstone up to the time of her marriage to Bernard. After the marriage the couple took up residence in Tunbridge Wells .In 1905 their son Bernard was born in Tunbridge Wells. The 1911 census, taken at 62 Grove Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells records Bernard working as a motor mechanic and living with him in their 9 room premises was his wife Elizabeth and their son Bernard. It is likely that Bernard and his wife had other children after 1911.

Mr Winser later took over the company of Martin Winser & Co Ltd and operated from that time forward as Winser’s Garage but sold the business in 1925 to G. Stevenson of the Kent & Sussex Garage Ltd. A November 17,1910 edition of the Commercial Motor News reported that Martin Winser and Co. Ltd with its offices at 10 Grove Hill Rd, Tunbridge Wells was to take over the business carried on by Martin Winser & Co at Tunbridge Wells, Folkestone and elsewhere and intended to carry on the business as manufacturers and of dealers in motors and motor cars. The directors of this company are B.F. Winser and S. St John Martin”. This announcement was essentially one where the company of Martin Winser & Co was to be incorporated as Martin Winser  & Co. Ltd.

Folkestone directories of 1913 to 1930 give two listings namely (1) Martin,Winser & Co. Limited, motor engineers, Christ Church Road, Folkestone (2) Martin Winser Limited, automobile engineers 62 Sandgate Road, Folkestone; sports outfitters at 90 Sandgate Road; motor coach builders at 88 Tontine Street with motor garages at Bouverie Place and 86 Tontine Street. A 1938 directory gave “ Martin Winser Ltd, Christ Church Road and Bouverie Rd, Folkestone”.  A book entitled’ Rambles and Folkestone 1891-1913’  listed in the advertisments “ Martin Winser & Co, West Cliff Garage, Folkestone and at Tunbridge Wells. Listings for Tunbridge Wells finds  “Martin Winser & Co Ltd at London Road and at 10 Grove Hill Road. You will note that 10 Grove Hill Road  had been the business premises of Edwin Powell referred to at the top of this article. 

Martin Winser  in an advertisement in Folkestone dated 1928 proclaimed that parking for 150 cars was available and the option of hiring one of 24 private lock-ups was offered. A 1928 RAC handbook noted that Martin Winser Ltd’s garage on Christ Church Road was called the Clifton Garage.A post war RAC handbook (1949-1950) also refers to the company being only at the Clifton Garage. It is not clear whether any members of the Winser or Martin family had anything to do with the business in Folkestone in the mid- 20th century.

Bernard passed away in Tunbridge Wells in January 1930 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on January 11th. Mr Winser was considered to be a master of his trade and was working on a motor car for Mr Lloyd in Southborough when he collapsed and died ..Elizabeth died June 1963 at Worthing,Sussex.  Although all of the records  give his name as Bernard Frederick Winser the Courier, when they announced his death, gave his name as Frederick Bernard Winser. The article read as follows “ Tragic Death of Mr. F.B. Winser- A Former Tunbridge Wells Tradesman- Many residents of the locality, who are interested in the motor engineering trade, will be shocked to hear of the sudden death yesterday  (Thursday) of Mr Frederick Bernard Winser, formerly of Winser’s Garage Ltd, London Road,Tunbridge Wells. Mr Winser it appears was in the course of his employment as a mechanic at Mr. H. Lloyd’s Garage, London Road, Southborough, a few minutes before noon, when he collapsed, being afterwards picked up by his workmates in a dying condition. Efforts were made to revive him, and a doctor was called, but before the latter arrived, we regret to record, Mr Winser had breathed his last. It is probable that he died from a severe heart attack. The late Mr Winser was a native of Maidstone, and came to Tunbridge Wells about 30 years ago as an employee of Mr. E. Powell, then of Grove Hill road, who was an electrician and cycle agent. Mr Powell, on becoming interested in motor engineering- he is stated to have been the pioneer of the trade in Tunbridge Wells-the late Mr Winser became his mechanic. Subsequently, Mr Winser started on his own in Prospect Road, after which, when Mr Powell sold his business to Martin, Winser and Co., he was a member of the new firm. Afterwards this business was transferred to Vale Road, and then became known as Winser’s Garage Ltd. Some five years ago this business was acquired by Messrs G Stevenson (Kent and Sussex Garage Ltd). An excellent workman and absolute master of his trade, the late Mr Winser had established a reputation in the town which thus comes to an abrupt close, and his services as a competent motor expert will, no doubt, be missed in many quarters. He was 51 years of age and leaves a widow and one son. The police at Southborough have been informed of the tragedy and an inquest will in all probability be held today (Friday).”

The former business premises of the company in Folkestone on Bouverie Road and Christ Church Road were demolished many years ago and the site redeveloped.


In 1925 Godfrey Stevenson took over the business of Bernard Frederick Winser and operated it under the name of the Kent & Sussex Garage Ltd. Stevenson’s Garage used Mr Winser’s premises as a showroom as they already had another garage nearby on London Road ,which they had bought from Mr H.E. Hall & Co. several years earlier. Shown opposite is a 1916 advertisment for the business on London Road.

The Times of August 21,1907  and the London Gazette of August 21,1907 announced that the partnership between “H. Soper & G. Stevenson, motor agents and engineers of Tunbridge Wells, Kent,at 21 London road, trading as Godfrey Stevenson has been dissolved”. The “H. Soper” referred to was Harold Soper (1880-1933) who was one several children born Samuel Henry Soper, a draper, (1837-1892) and  Louisa D  Soper(1843-1934). Harold had  been born in the 1st qtr of 1880 at Haywards Heath,Sussex. In 1881 he was living at Cuckfield, Sussex with is parents; three siblings and four servants. In 1891 Harold was living at 32 Vernon Terrace in Brighton, Sussex with his parents ; four siblings, and several servants. His brother William was an auctioneers clerk and his father was running a drapers business and was also the Mayor of Brighton. In 1901, after the death of his father in 1892, Harold was living with his mother Louisa and his sister Louisa, Harold was working at that time as an auctioneers clerk.

In the early 1900’s Harold Soper moved to Tunbridge Wells and went into the motor car business with Godfrey Stevenson. In 1911 Harold married Adelaide Mary Kent (1886-1985)at Sevenoaks, Kent .Adelaide was one of seven children born to James Kent (1847-1922) and Mary Ann Pratt, born in 1862. Adelaide had been baptised at Hackney,London on December 5,1886. She had lived in Hever Kent in 1891 an at Edenbridge, Kent in 1901. She died in Tunbridge Wells on July 7,1985. It is not known if Harold and Adelaide had any children but one would expect so. The 1911 census, taken at 68 Warwick Park recorded Harold Soper as a motor car dealer and garage owner. Living with him was his wife; one servant, and his sister in law Doris Violet Kent, born 1890 in London. The home they were living in had 10 rooms and if you are familiar with Warwick Park you will know that it was an area of fine homes. The book ‘ The Orgins of Warwick Park’ by John Cunningham/Tunbridge Wells Civic Society, published in 2007 records that No.s 64-70 Warwick Park were designed by architect James G.D. Armstrong.The book also gives “ W.S. Putland was the son of Alderman Putland who was a founding father of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. He lived initially at 34 High Street and subsequently at 42 Grove Hill Road. He used his neighbour  at 34 High Street, James G.D. Armstrong, as his architect in 1899 for his first six houses- the semi-detached hosues, Nos. 64-70 and 76-78 Warwick Park and Strange & Sons as his builders. A photo of #68 Warwick Park is shown opposite.

Directories of 1913 to 1922 record Harold living at 68 Warwick Park. A directory of 1930 gave two listings for him namely 48 Claremont Road and ‘Wychmont’ Frant Road.

Harold Soper(photo opposite) died in Tunbridge Wells on October 25,1933 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on October 28th. Probate records show he was of Wychmont on Frant Road when he died. His wife Adelaide and William Jenner, district valuer were the executors of his 3,148 pound estate. The Courier gave the following account  of Harold’s death. “ Sudden Death of Mr Harold Soper- Fine Sportsman who is Mourned by Host of Friends- We deeply regret to record the sudden death on Wednesday of Mr Harold Soper of Wychmont,Frant road,Tunbridge Wells, who was for 27 years a director of Messrs. G. Stevenson (Kent and Sussex Garage Ltd). He was 53 years of age. The news of Mr Soper’s death came as a great shock to his host of friends in the town and district. He had a heart attack on rising and died soon after a doctor arrived. He was held in the highest esteem by all who enjoyed his acquaintance, being one of the kindest of men and a asportsman of the best type. He was the soul of courtesy, and his first thought was always for the well- being of others.Few men have so won the affection and esteem of their business and sporting acquaintenances, and his untimely passing leaves a gap that only time came fill. The son of the late Mr Samuel Henry Soper and of Mrs Soper of Coles Hall, Five Ashes, Mr Soper was an auctioneer with Messrs Fox and Co. at Edenbridge before coming to Tunbridge Wells some 27 years ago. He then joined Messrs Stevenson, and was a founder of the present company, of which he was a director. He was a fine golfer, and an extremely popular member of the Nevill Club,of being a director and a former captain. In tribute to his memory the club has cancelled the match arranged for tomorrow (Saturday). He will also be greatly misses at the Kent & Sussex Club, having been a member for many years, and one of its foremost billiards players. Widspread sympathy is felt with Mrs Soper and their two daughters in their sudden bereavement. There will be a funeral service at St Mark’s Church tomorrow (Saturday) at 121 a.m. conducted by Canon H. Sinclair Brooke”.

Where Godfrey Stevenson lived was not determined. No listing for him in Tunbridge Wells was found but there is a listing for a Godfrey Stevenson in 1922 at Paddington, London. A 1918 Kelly directory for Tunbridge Wells gives “ G. Stevenson (Kent & Sussex Garage) Ltd, automobile engineers, 21 and 14,15 and 16 London Road. A 1922 directory gave “ G. Stevenson (Kent and Sussex Garage) Ltd 14 London road. A 1932 directory listed “ G. Stevenson (Kent and Sussex Garage) Ltd offices and workshops, 14 London Road and 43 Vale Road”. The 1938 directory, the last one consulted by the researcher, listed the same business name but only at 14 London Road. The history of this business beyond 1938 was not investigated.

One man who had a lot to do with the running of G. Stevensons garage was John Frank Kenneth Clarke. He was born in Herne Bay in 1895 and was one of eight children born to John Thomas Clark, born 1861 in Harringworth, Nothamptonshire, and Ellen Clarke, born 1861 at Brightlingsea, Essex. John F.K. Clarke had been baptised October 28,1894 at Herne Bay.  John Thomas Clarke was a mechanical engineer, one of five children born to George Thomas Clarke and Sarah Clarke. He died in Tunbridge Wells October 31,1932 while a resident of Engadine 30 Prospect Road,Tunbridge Wells. Probate records show his wife Ellen Clarke as the executor of his 3,010 pound estate. His wife Ellen Clarke died March 1945 at Rochford, Essex.

The 1901 census, taken at Herne Bay records John F.K. Clarke living with his parents and five siblings. The 1911 census, taken at 4 Grove Ave. High Street in Tunbridge Wells lists John Thomas Clarke as a retired motor engineer employer. Living with him was his wife Ellen , his son John F.K. Clarke, age 16, an apprentice engineer, and six other children and his 22 year old nephew John William Clarke, a butchers assistant. The census records that John and Ellen had been married 24 years; had six children and that their home had 9 rooms.

The Clarke family had taken up residence in Tunbridge Wells in 1906. John F.K. Clarke then attended Skinners School .On leaving school he joined G. Stevenson (Kent *& Sussex Garages Ltd) where his father was chairman of the company. Trained in engineering, Mr F.K. Clarke joined the RNAS in August 1914 and served overseas throughout the war in Gibraltar, Malta and Italy. He attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer .Demobbed in 1919 he returned to Messrs Stevenson’s and  became a director in 1928,assuming the chairmanship in 1933 .As a member of the Institute of the Motor Trade he played a prominent part in the local motor trade .Mr Clarke died in 1938 but the company continued operations from their Mount Sion garage for many years after .

John F.K. Clarke was married in the 2nd qtr of 1923 at Ticehurst,Sussex to Margaret S. Edwardes, who appears to have passed away based on Probate records on September 29,1962 at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, leaving an estate valued at about 25,000 pounds. She had been a resident of Redcot 15 Norman Road in Faversham,Kent and was listed as a widow.

Probate records gave John Frank Kenneth Clarke of 5 Beulah Road, Tunbridge Wells  when he died May 1,1938. The executors of his almost 1,000 pound estate was his brother Holland Thomas Clark(born 1899 at Herne Bay), an automobile engineer and David Luke Vernon Hanson ,solicitor. The Courier published a very long article about his death and subsequent funeral. Part of the article read as follows “ Death of Mr. J.F.K. Clarke- We deeply regret to record the death, which occurred on Sunday, of Mr John Frank Kenneth Clarke, the well-known chairman of Messrs G. Stevenson (Kent and Sussex Garage Ltd), Tunbridge Wells. Mr Clarke, who was 43 years of age, was born in Herne Bay, and came to Tunbridge Wells in 1906. Educated at Skinner’s School, Mr Clarke joined Messrs G. Stevenson in 1911 when his father, the late Mr J.T. Clarke, was chairman of the company. He was trained in motor engineering, but in August 1914 he joined the R.N.A.S. and served overseas at Gibraltar, Malta and Italy throughout the war, obtaining the rank of Chief Petty Officer before he was demobolised in 1919. Returning to Messrs Stevenson, he became a director of the company in 1928, and assumed the chairmanship in 1933. Mr Clarke was a prominent figure in the motor trade being a member of the Institute of the Motor Trade. He was also a member of the Tunbridge Wells Chamber of Trade and Nevill Golf Club. The funeral took place at Frant on Wednesday, the service at the Parish Church being conducted by the Rev. E. Maitland Bald. Mr R. Woods was at the organ”. The article continues with a complete list of those who attended his funeral as well as a list of those who presented floral tributes. For those interested in that information I would suggest looking at the article at the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library. While I mention the library I wish to express my gratitude to members of their staff who assisted me with my inquiries.

In the early 1900’s the motor car was something new and something to be marvelled at. The early motoring history of Tunbridge Wells is a fascinating topic , one that I have written about extensively. I hope you will look at the other articles I have written about the various carriage and motor car businesses that I have reported on.



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

Date: February 27,2014


William Law Pope is perhaps best known locally for his tenure as the incumbent of the Chapel of Ease/King Charles the Martyr Church; the construction of Brighton Lake; the extensive planting of trees and shrubs in The Grove  and his involvement with local schools. Lesser known is his connection,  by way of marriage, and the lifelong friendship, between the Pope and Baden Powell family, of whom the best known perhaps is Lord Robert Bayden Powell , the founder of the Boy Scouts.

This article explores the ancestry and lives of the Pope family with an emphasis on historical accounts that pertain to Tunbridge Wells with a particular emphasis on the life and times of William Law Pope.


William Law Pope  was born October 22,1798 in what at the time was the village of Hillingdon, Middlesex.Shown opposite is an early 20th century postcard view of Hillingdon. Hillingdon today is an area in the London Borough of Hillingdon on the northern perimeter of London Heathrow Airport, situated 13.5 miles west of Charing Cross. In 1723 the population of this sleepy little village was just 50 souls but by 1801 had grown to 363 residents. Most of the land around the village, when William was born there, was in agricultural use but of course with the expansion of London in all directions the village has been absorbed. William Law Pope  was baptised at St John the Baptist Church on October 23,1798. His place of birth is sometimes given as “Hellington” “Hillington” or “Hallington” but they all refer more correctly to the village of Hillington or the borough of Hillingdon.

William Law Pope  was one of four known children born to William Pope(1755-1809) and his wife Mary Heaton Willis(1764-1823). William senior was christened October 27,1855 at Hallington at St John the Baptist Church. He was the son of William and Mary Pope. Of their four children William Law Pope was the only confirmed son. Of his three sisters, the names and details of two of them are known but further research is required to establish who the other sister was.Details about William Law Pope and his siblings are given later in separate sections.

William Pope and his wife Mary Heaton Willis were married May 20,1790 at Marylebone, London where the service was performed by his brother Rev. James Pope, minister. The marriage notice published in ‘The Political Magazine’ for June 1790 read “ William Pope, esq., of Gray’s Inn, to Mary Willis of Wormley,Hertforshire. The reference to Gray’s Inn is proof that William Pope was a solicitor or barrister.The marriage record gave William Pope of Hillingdon,Middlesex, bachelor and his wife Mary a spinster “of this parish”. The origin of William’s middle name “Law” is revealed to some degree by the name of John Law Willis (1765-1841) who was a witness to the marriage, and who was the brother of Mary Heaton Willis. The name of “Law” decends through the Willis family line and was carried on through its use in the naming of William Law Pope.

The Will of William Pope (1755-1809), forwarded to me by the Hillingdon History Society, is dated 1793 and states that William was of Hillingdon,Middlesex and that he bequeathed to his brother Rev James Pope of St John’s College, Oxford 200 pounds and to his sisters Mary and Catherine he left 50 pounds each. The rest of his estate was left to his wife . A Mr Thomas Watson was appointed the executor of his estate.

Shown opposite is a photograph of Gray’s Inn Square. The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, commonly known as Gray's Inn, is one of the four Inns of Court (professional associations for barristers and judges) in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns. Located at the intersection of High Holborn and Gray's Inn Road in Central London, the Inn is both a professional body and a provider of office accommodation (chambers) for many barristers. It is ruled by a governing council called "Pension", made up of the Masters of the Bench (or "Benchers"), and led by the Treasurer, who is elected to serve a one-year term. The Inn is known for its gardens, or Walks, which have existed since at least 1597.

William Pope (1755-1809) was born 1755 at Hillingdon  .His wife Mary had been born 1764 at Wormley,Hertsfordshire and died June 6,1823 at Chelthenham. Mary Heaton Willis had been christened January 29,1765 at Wormley and was one of four children born to Sherlock Willis(1722-1783) and Sarah Seller(1731-1784). William is often described in records as being “of Hillingdon Hall”. From the Powell Pedigree by Robin Baden Clay, William Pope is given as “ from Hillindene,Middesex. William Pope died April 1809 and was buried April 22,1809 at Hillingdon,Middlesex at St John the Baptist Church.His death record gave him as the son of William Pope,who died in 1789, and Mary Pope, who died in 1758.

Shown opposite is an old artists drawing of St John the Baptist Church in the village of Hillingdon. The church, like all churches has undergone significant rebuilding and alteration over its long history . The first records of this church date back to 1100 but the church that stand on the site today is not the original one for it was demolished and replaced with a new structure in the 13th century and extensively added on to etc since then. Major work on the church was undertaken in 1849 with the work done by Messrs. James Feasnidge of Uxbridge and further extensive work done in 1902. The church stands on a site at the top of Hillingdon Hill at its junction with Royal Lane. This church was where all of the children of William and Mary Heaton Pope were baptised. The Pope family were regular supporters and attendees of the church. The Pope’s were very religious with some members of the family being clergymen. The family took an active part in local church and village life.As noted above it was James Pope who was the minister who conducted the marriage service of William and Mary Heaton Pope in 1790.

The family residence in the village was a mansion by the name of Hillingdon Hall. A book , that can be read online, by the title of ’ Hillingdon Hall or the Cockney Squire’ by Robert Smith Surtees, published in 1844 gives,in this 472 page volume, an interesting and factual story about Hillindon village and Hillindon Hall and one Mr Jarracks who lived in the mansion. What became of Hillingdon Hall is unknown to the researcher and no images of it could be found for inclusion here. However, the author of the aforementioned book gave the following description of the mansion. “ Hillingdon Hall was quite a specimen of the old-fashioned manor house.Driving through the neat little village, with its pretty white-washed,rose covered cottages, a single portico projecting a little into the street, was all that denoted a mansion of pretension, but the door was opened,into a fair-sized hall, with a billiard table in the centre, the numerous carved clock oak doors, and passages branching off, increased its importance as he proceeded. The old rooms consisting of two dining and drawing rooms on either side of the entrance, were of fair dimensions, oak wainscoted, with deep recesses at either end, closed by sliding shutters, but they had long been converted into a housekeeper’s and masters room, and first one and then another had been added, until a handsome dining, drawing room, and library ranges along a new front. Still there was no attempt at archeological symmetry or display. Each room had been added separately and stuck in, as it were, so as not to interfere with its neighbours, and a verandah accommodating itself to the various angles of the house, and encompassing three sides of it, was the only piece of uniformity about the place, all the lower windows opened into this , and under its fragrant shade a tolerable share of exercise might be obtained on a wet day. The view from it was beautiful. Beyond on undulating lawn profusely studded with gigantic oaks and ground-sweeping pines, the land stretched away to a high promontory, whose rocky peak was washed by the clear waters of the rapid Dart,which girded the two sides of the angular estate.The fields were large and well divided”.  The old mansion was probably demolished but there was still a record of its existence in 1881.

It was in this grand and much altered and no doubt very old mansion that the Pope family lived and during the early years of the children’s lives, they played upon the large estate where there father, when not working in the legal profession, used part of the grounds as a farm of which he was a gentleman farmer. The Pope children of course attended the local school and since their father was a wealthy man they were all given a good education, with William Law Pope eventually attending university.

An interesting reference to William Pope appeared in the records of the Central Criminal Court regarding a trial held on April 6,1808. Two men, Johnathon Neale, age 32, and Samuel Norris, age 30 had been brought before the judge on two counts of stealing pigeons that were the property of William Pope of Hillingdon Hall. In total, in the dead of night, they made off with 80 tame and wild pigeons from the “ dove cote” of William Pope. William Pope testified at the trial and said that “my dove cote was in my yard under which is my coach house”. He testified that when he awoke he found that his birds had been stolen and summoned the police. The police determined and testified at the trial that the accused had sold the birds to Joseph Fox who testified that he had bought the birds not knowing they had been stolen.  A Mr Labon also testified at the trial, and said that he was a servant of William Pop,e and that he had also observed that the pigeons were gone. After the questioning had ended the accused were found guilty and their sentence was “transported for 7 years”.


Charlotte Pope was born sometime after 1790 but before 1795 at Hillingdon village. She lived during her early live at Hillingdon Hall and attended the local school. It is not known to what extent she was educated but taking into account her father’s wealth and position she probably attended a good girls boarding school.  On September 27,1837 she married Rev Baden Powell (1796-1860) who had attended  Oxford University with her brother William Law Pope and it was no doubt as a resul t of the friendship between Baden Powell and her brother that Charlotte was introduced to Baden Powell. The marriage to Baden took place at St Mary’s Church in Speldhurst and after the marriage they took up residence in the Powell  home in Speldhurst. Charlotte and Baden had the following children (1) Charlotte Elizabeth (1838-1917) (2) Baden Henry (1841-1901) (3) Louise Ann (1843-1896) and Laetutia Mary Powell (1844-1965). Charlotte had difficulties during the birth of her daughter Laetitia and because of the complication Charlotte died at the family home in Speldhurst on October 14,1844 and was buried in Speldhurst. Her husband remarried  March 10,1846 to Henrietta Grace Smyth (1824-1914) with whom he had 11 more children including Lord Robert Baden Powell (1857-1941) who founded the Boy Scouts. Rev Baden Powell had an illustrious career and became a professor at Oxford University. He died June 11,1860 in London. For anyone interested in the history of the Baden Powell family I would suggest reading my article ‘The Baden Powell Family of Speldhurst written February 25,2014.

The following information was given in the book ‘A Guide to Irish Fiction’…”WHATELY, Mrs Elizabeth Pope (also known as Mrs Whately), d. 1860. Religious and miscellaneous writer, EPW was the third daughter of William Pope of Hillingdon Hall, Uxbridge (Middx). She married in 1821  Revd Richard Whately  , who later became Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin. She was the author of   Conversations on the life of Christ   (London, 1833);   English life, social and domestic in the middle of the nineteenth century   (London, 1847), and she contributed a short story to   Friendly contributions for the benefit of three infant schools in the parish of Kensington   (privately printed for Lady Mary Fox, 1834). Her book of geography and travel,   Quicksands on foreign shores   (London, 1854), was published anonymously. She came under the influence of Revd Alexander Dallas of the Irish Church Missions, but her husband was much against the Irish missions, which he thought were ineffective. During the Famine she was a member of a ladies? relief committee. She was the mother of two sons and four daughters, of whom  Elizabeth Jane Whately*  and  Mary Louisa Whately*  became writers, while Blanche (later Mrs B. Wale) became a poet and published   Songs of the night   (Dublin, 1858). The author  Joseph Blanco White*  lived in her home for some time, where he tutored her children. There is an unexplained gap of more than twenty years in the publication of EPW’s works”. With respect to her writing there is a book entitled ‘Introductory Lectures on Political Economy ‘ dated 1831 by Richard Whately  which on the inside is signed and inscribed by Elizabeth Whately “wife of the author to her brother William Law Pope”, so there is no doubting that she and William Law Pope were siblings.

Elizabeth Pope had been born October 7,1795 at Hillingdon village and was baptised at St John the Baptist Church on December 22,1795. Marriage records to her husband Richard Whately (1787-1863)dated July 18,1821  and other accounts always refer to her as the third daughter of William Pope of Hillingdon Hall and records also state that Elizabeth was a cousin of Richard Whately’s Oriel friend Sherlock Willis which obviously establishes a connection between the Pope and Willis families.Elizabeth and her husband had a daughter Mary Louise Whatley (1824-1889) and two sons of which Rev. Edward William Whately was one of the two.One other daughters were Elizabeth Jane Whately ,Blanch Whately and Jane Whately who was mentioned as a spinster in her father’s probate records. Elizabeth Whately, the mother of the aforementioned children,  died April 25,1860 at Dublin, Ireland. Her husband Richard died at Dublin, Ireland October 8,1863 and was buried at St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin. He was the son of Joseph Whately (1730-1787) and Jane Plumer (1741-1821) and was one of five children born to the couple. Probate records for Richard refer to him as “the Right Honourable and Most Reverend Richard Whately Dd. Lord Bishop of Dublin. Among the executors of his under 40,000 pound estate was William Law Pope. An image of Richard Whatley is shown above.

Mary Louise Whately (1824-1889) was the daughter of Elizabeth and Richard Whatley. She was an educationist and missionary born August 31,1824 at Haleworth,Suffolk where her father was Rector. She was the 3rd child and the second daughter of the five children born to Elizabeth and  the scholar Dr. Richard Whately (1787-1863). Her biography refered to Elizabeth as “a charity worker who wrote on religious matters”.


William Law Pope was born October 22,1798 in the village of Hillingdon, Middlesex and was baptised the following day at St John the Baptist Church. He was born into a wealthy family, his father being well established in the legal profession. As such William grew up in comfortable surroundings in a fine mansion and received the best education. After attending local schools and perhaps later a boarding school he was enrolled at Oxford University and pursued a career in the religious field.

Crockfords Clerical Directory of 1868 gives the following for William. “William Law Pope, Tunbridge Wells, Worcester College,Oxford BA 1818, MA 1820. Deacon 1820 and Priest 1821 by the Bishop of Oxford. Minister of the Chapel of Ease, Tunbridge Wells, Diocese of Canterbury 1827. Sen. Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford”. The ‘Literary Gazette of 1818 reported that William Law Pose had been made a Fellow of Worcester college on May 9,1818. Shown opposite is a photograph of Worcester College.

With respect to his attendance at Worcester College, Oxford University, the following information is given from my article entitled ‘ The Baden Powell Family of Tunbridge Wells’ dated February 25,2014. This referenced article gives a history of the Powell family particularly as it relates to Tunbridge Wells.Baden Powell (1767-1844) had an estate in Speldhurst dating back to the 1820’s and in 1831 was the High Sheriff of Kent. He died at Speldhurst July 24,1844. He and his wife Hester Powell(1776-1848) whom Baden married November 21,1795  at Hackney,Middlesex, had five children ,among whom was a son Charles Powell (1807-1885). Charles Powell , later to become, Rev. Baden Powell, a professor at Oxford, received his education at Worcester College at the same time that William Law Pope was a student there. Rev Charles Baden Powell became connected to the Pope family by way of his marriage to William Law Pope’s sister Charlotte Pope on September 27,1837 at Speldhurst. From my article about Baden Powell is the following quotation as it refers to  William Law Pope. “One connection of this branch of the family to Tunbridge Wells is by way of Rev Powell’s first marriage to Charlotte Pope. Accounts about the time Rev Powell attended Oxford make mention of the Pope family when it is stated “ Baden enjoyed the friendship of William Law Pope and Henry Bishop, two fellow students closely linked with the Oriel leaders. Pope was the brother of Elizabeth Pope, Whatley’s fiancée. Popes father was living at Tunbridge Wells, where Baden Powell senior had a house and where he lived part of the year. Baden Powell’s father was very active in supporting local schemes for expanding church facilities.It is safe to assume that a common background  of church activities made Baden Powell’s family well acquainted with the Popes.The friendship between Pope and Baden Powell was fostered by college life and periods of vacation spent at Tunbridge Wells. Historical accounts about Tunbridge Wells make frequent reference to the work of Reverend Pope in the town.  The book ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells’ by Roger Farthing for example states “ Rev William Law Pope was minister at King Charles Church from 1829 to 1879. An Irishman and a bachelor, he lived after 1846 in a new villa in Eden Road. Among his good works were the job-creating Brighton Lake (see may article about Brighton Lake published in 2013) or’Pope’s Puddle’, and the foundation of Murray House Girls School (1858)”. See also my article about the History of Murray House’ published in 2013.”

With respect to King Charles the Martyr Church (image opposite)the Civic Society Newsletter of Summer 2010 included an article about the church by John Fuller which in part states “ A comprehensive demolition of the church was carried out in 1846 by William Law Pope who removed the ante-gallery and the old cottage, widening the passageway behind (a public benefit) by about two and one half feet.Only the three pillars on the balcony of the old ante-gallery remained and continued in place supporting the roof until 1881 when the side the chapel was rebuilt once again”. This church, located at the bottom end of London Road by Chapel Place was built by public subscription and opened in 1678 as the first place of worship in Tunbridge Wells. It was extended at one end in 1682 and again in 1696 when it almost doubled in size. The building has undergone many changes since that time but is famous for its plaster ceilings and also has a fine sundial on the exterior wall that was recently restored, details of which are given in my article entitled “Sundials of Tunbridge Wells”.

As noted above William Law Pope (photo opposite) became a priest in 1821. William Law Pope took up permanent residence in Tunbridge Wells and ministered at the Chapel of Ease from 1829 to 1879(some say 1877).Members of his congregation became known as “Popites” and was considered to be an outstanding Minister of the “modern Jerusalem”. Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) and her mother, the Duchess of Kent often attended  Pope’s church whilst staying at Calverley (Mount Pleasant ) house in 1826-1828 and 1834 and at Boyne House on Mount Ephraim in 1835.Hearing the Rev. Pope preach,she was of the opinion that the sermon he preached on August 24,1834, “was not as good as some of his others”. Princess Victoria is also quoted as saying “ He (Pope) can and has preached some very fine sermons”. The Friends of Woodbury Park Cemetery also say that Pope preached on Sunday August 23,1835 before the future Queen with his text from Matthew VI.6; “thy kingdom come” and that the Princess wrote in her diary “ It was not one of his best sermons and it was not according to my liking”.

In the 1851 census Willliam Law Pope is found residing at Eden Villa in Tunbridge Wells. He is single,age 53, the Incumbent of the Chapel of Ease and living with him are three domestic servants. He is still listed at Eden Villa in the 1852,1857 and 1859 Poll.

On July 15,1855 James Pope passed away at Sturry,Kent. The London Gazette of February 19,1856 reported on his death and said he was formerly of Hamilton Terrace,St John’s Wood, Middlesex but late of Sturry, Kent, esq, who died in or about July 1855. His creditors were asked to submit their claims to his executors who were named as the Reverent William Law Pope and Sophia Anne Pope. The monumental inscription of James Pope’s headstone read “James Pope,esq,died July 15,1855 age 58” which makes him born in 1797 just the year before William Law Pope. It is believed by the writer that James Pope was William Law Pope’s brother and that Sophia Anne Pope was James wife. There is no record that William Law Pope ever married .

The 1861 census, taken at #2 Eden Villa, records William Law Pope, age 63. Living with him is one visitor; three domestic servants; his 7 year old nephew Charles Wall, born at Killoran, Galway,Ireland and his niece Alicia Wall, age 3, born at Killoran.The 1871 census, taken at #2 Eden Villa records William as the incumbent of the Chapel of Ease and living with him was three servants.

An article entitled ‘The Origin of the Grove’, available on the internet, reported  in part “ Many improvements to the Grove were carried out under the direction of William Law Pope, the public-spirited minister of King Charles the Martyr Church, who was the leading trustee (of the Grove0 from 1864 with the honorary position of Curator. His actions in removing ageing trees while replacing them with new ones led to accusations of vandalism, against which he defended himself in  a pamphlet ‘A Word about the Grove’, published in 1868. He complained that instead of consulting him, his critics had questioned ‘irresponsible workmen’ who had facetiously told him ‘ that I was either doing, or intending to do, many things which I never entertained & thought of doing’. By that date Pope had planted nearly one hundred trees of 31 species, along with around 400 shrubs. He argued strongly for moving away from the almost exclusive use of oak and beech, saying that diversity is ‘suitable to a Grove, as distinguished from a wood”. The Grove, situated off Grove Hill Road was bequeathed to the town in 1703 by the Muskerry-Purbeck family. On April 20,1703 a deed of endowment declared that the Grove should be preserved ‘as a grove, shade of walk, for the benefit of local inhabitants’. The trees were not to be cut down or destroyed and so it is no wonder that residents became concerned when William Law Pope undertook what he saw as the necessary removal of trees. In 1781 the Grove contained some 200 oaks and variety of other trees, In 1890 the Council took over control of the Grove.

The Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators offer the following “ In 1858 representations of Freeholders met with the Rev. William Law Pope’s Poor Fund Committee, set up to provide work for unemployed labourers. They agreed upon a programme of work which included creation from a swampy hollow of what is now known as Brighton Lake, and the levelling of a terrace walk running parallel with Eridge Road on the slope above the new lake.  The following information about Pope and Brighton Lake is from my article entitled “The History of Brighton Lake’ dated  September 29,2012.

“Brighton lake,located in the southern part of Tunbridge Wells, has an interesting history not only because of how it was created but because it is a spot of great natural beauty enjoyed by residents and visitors to the town for 154 years.It has been photographed extensively and has been the subject of over twenty different postcards and the lake is home to many species of flora and fauna of significance amongst naturalists.Brighton lake ,referred to affectionately by some as “Popes Puddle” today covers an area of some 2,225 square metres and is located in the Commons on an plot of land beside  the A26 (Eridge Road).The lake cannot be seen from the road for it sits on an elevated piece of ground and is nestled in a wooded area. The lake derives its name from the fact that Eridge Road was known in the 19th century as Brighton Road, a road which then and today is a main route to the town of Brighton.It is referred to as “Popes Pubble” in memory of the man responsible for the creation of the lake, Reverend William Law Pope.What makes Brighton lake unique is that it is not a natural lake at all. It is a man-made lake created in 1858 by the sweat and toil of many men who carried out William Pope’s vision for a spot of beauty in the town while at the same time providing work for the unemployed. Tunbridge Wells in the 1850’s was predominantly an agricultural based economy with some manufacturing  but had a solid reputation as a spa town with good water, good climate and beautiful scenery.It  was and still is a place where those of significant financial means came to visit or lived on a permanent basis.But as was the case in most  town’s at that time, not everyone was prosperous and there were many men out of work, especially those engaged in seasonal  occupations.Brighton Lake came into being as a direct result of a growing Victorian concern over poverty in the town at a time when thousands of men, women and children went to the workhouse in Pembury. It was in this economic and social climate that widespread pressure was brought to bear on town leaders to do something to alleviate this sad state of affairs.One of those who headed the call for action was the energetic Reverend William Law Pope the vicar of King Charles the Martyr Church (Chapel of Ease) who championed the idea of putting men to work in the grand scheme of creating Brighton Lake. The lake was just one of many projects organized for this purpose by Pope’s “Poor Fund Committee”.Supported by donations, trees were planted on the Common;the cricket grounds were improved and a walkway was built in Mount Ephraim,to name just a few projects undertaken.” 

Alongside Pope’s pastoral work he did a great deal for education in the town, and was involved in the building of an Infants’ School off Camden Road, and over Decimus Burton’s Victoria School of 1834 in Grover Street.The book ‘ Royal Tunbridge Wells’ by Roger Farthing states “Among the good works of William Law Pope was the founding of Murray House Girl’s School”. Shown opposite is a photo of Murray House on Berleley Road, Mount Sion  (the white building on the left) taken by local photographer D.J. Johnson. The  photo , from Tunbridge Wells in Old Photographs, 2nd Edition’ states “ Murray House was purchased in 1858 by William Law Pope, Minister of King Charles the Martyr Church, for the girls of his church school. An extension was opened in 1909.The school continued until in 1953 it was incorporated in the new Bennett Memorial School, whose first year pupils used the building for a few years more. On the right of the  photo is Berkeley Place, built as a lodging house in 1699”.

From the book ‘Tunbridge Wells in Old Photographs’ 1st edition is a photo on pg 111 that I have not reproduced here which shows a group of boys who are pupils of King Charles the Martyr School dated 1902. The text associated with the image states “W.A. Diggins took the photo August 1902 and served as the headmaster from 1879 until his retirement in 1914. He took  over the post from  his father, Alfred Diggens, who served from 1856. In its earlier days the school met within the premises of the church and did not acquire a building of its own until 1848 after William Law Pope, the church’s minister, had obtained an adjoining site.After this building became inadequate, alterations and extensions were undertaken in 1887. The school survived until 1960….The original school, the first to be established in the town, was set up in 1698 by public subscription,being originally ‘maintained by the charitable contributions of the nobility and gentry resorting to that place in the summer season’.

Continuing with William’s involvement in schools William was called upon to give an account of his involvement in schools in Tunbridge Wells  at a meeting of Special Assistant Poor Law Commissioners in 1843. To summarize his comments I give the following.  William said “ I have been incumbent of the chapel of Tunbridge Wells for nearly 13 years.On my first coming to the town there was no other place of worship other than my chapel; there was no other public school for boys than the National School called the chapel school, supported by voluntary contributions, raised chiefly by a sermon preached annually in the chapel, and visited and controlled principally by the incumbent of the chapel. I have had exclusive superintendence of this school for 13 years. The school is open  to the sons of artisans, agricultural labourers and small shopkeepers. There are at present 112 boys there, and numerous applications for further admission. Five weeks of vacation are given at hop picking season, and one week at Christmas” . William goes to say that by his rule all boys are required to be in school, except at times of illness or vacation. He states that it has been difficult to keep children in school and that the ones  withdrawn the most are those from agricultural families who tend to take their boys out of school once they reach a certain size and strength. He states “ I have no doubt that the artisans and town parents are more generally sensible of the value of a good education than labourers in agriculture. Boys usually leave the school between the age of 12 and 14 and at age 13 boys have generally a good knowledge of arithmetic and geography, a fair knowledge of natural history;they write well and are very well acquainted with the principles of their religion.There is one good infants school in this place and by this means children come to the school more advanced, and may be removed from it at an earlier period than otherwise would be the case…”

The London Gazette of August 22,1879 announced “The Rev. William Law Pope, late of Tunbridge Wells, clerk, Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford, and late incumbent of the Chapel of Ease, Tunbridge Wells died February 26,1879” The executors of his estate were Robert Nash and William Henry Delves. He left an estate valued at under 12,000 pounds.He was buried in the Woodbury Park Cemetery. A photo of his grave site is shown opposite. The Archaeological Cantiana of 1874 gave the listing “ Rev. W.C. Pope, D.D., Eden Villa, Tunbridge Wells”.

For anyone interested in more information about Pope the Friends of Woodbury Park Cemetery had a booklet available for a small fee entitled ‘William Law Pope & Henry Bishop’ . Another book by the same title was written by David Sushell.

For anyone interested in reading more about the history of the homes on Eden Road and in particular Eden Villa, Eden House and Marlborough Villa see the articles I have written about them.




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

Date; February 20,2014


Frank William Stone (1841-1921) is perhaps best known as having been the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells from 1898 to 1900 but he was also an Alderman and a well - known solicitor who practiced law in Tunbridge Wells all his life in partnership with other well- known local solicitors such as Thomas Fox Simpson( 1828-1894) and his son Alfred Thomas Simpson (1859-1934) and others. Apart from his close ties to the Simpson family he was also related by way of marriage to the William Roper family known locally for their involvement in matters pertaining to farming, the Warwick Park development, the Neville Cricket Ground and the 1895 Motor Show, among other things. The Stone family represent, from the 1930’s back in time, some four generations of the family, in direct decendency from a line of solicitors that established law practices in the town dating back to John Stone in the early 1820’s and progressing to Neville Roper Stone, the son of Frank William Stone, who became a solicitor and joined his father in his law practice.

This article provides details about the life and career of this gentleman and his family and outlines  the connection between the Stone family and that of the Simpson’s and Ropers. Further information about the Simpson family is given in my article ‘ The Life and Career of Thomas Fox Simpson’ dated February 19,2014 and further information about the Roper family is given in my article ‘ The Life and Times of William Roper-Surveyor/Auctioneer’ dated January 5,2014.


In 1824 there were only two attorneys listed in the Pigots directory, namely John Stone and Walter Sprout. By 1840 there were six law firms including Stone,Son & Bremridge, who had their law office on Mount Ephraim. The name of Stone is found in connection with the practice of law in various partnerships right up to 1938, the year in which I concluded my research. Those with an interest in modern history may choose to investigate the continuation of this family in the practice of law after that time to bring the story up to date.Shown opposite is an early engraving showing Mount Ephraim dated 1790.

I begin my coverage of the Stone family with John Stone (1774-1858), who was born in Kent and was the son of John Stone born 1750 in Kent and who was living in Speldhurst in 1835. John may have had a number of siblings but the only one known to the researcher was Alfred Stone, born in 1770.

On July 14,1800 John Stone (1774-1858) married Jemima Baldock(1780-1850) at Goudhurst,Kent. John was at that time a resident of Speldhurst and his wife a resident of Goudhurst.Jemima had been born 1780 and was the daughter of Thomas Baldock(1733-1802) of Burwash,Sussex, who was a surgeon, and Frances Hawes (1748-1780).Jemima was one of five children born to the couple.

John must have been born in Tunbridge Wells, or if not had moved to the town at an early date, for there is a record of John Stone practicing law in Tunbridge Wells in 1812. An article of clerkship dated May 22,1812 recorded that a George Hammond had become a clerk to “John Stone of Tunbridge Wells”. In 1816 there was a second Article of Clerkship referring to John Stone of Tunbridge Wells.

John Stone and his wife Jemima is known to have had the following children (1) Alfred (b1801) (2) Robert William (b1802) (3) John (1805-1844) who became a solicitor (4) Charles Henry Stone (1806-1882) (5) William Stone (1808-1878) who became a solicitor and became the father of Frank William Stone (6) George Frederick Stone, born 1813. It appears that there were other children born to the couple and the two young women mentioned below from the 1841 census may also be their children.His son John Stone had been baptized April 17,1805 at Speldhurst.

On August 30,1822 an Article of Clerkship was entered into in Tunbridge Wells between John Stone (1771-1858) and his son John Stone (1805-1844). This article reads in part “ Alfred Stone of Tunbridge Wells, gentleman, makes oath that by articles of agreement between John Stone the elder of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, gentleman, one of the attorneys of His Majestry’s Court of Kings Bench at Westminster and a solicitor in the High Court of Chancery, and of John Stonem the younger, son of the said John Stone the elder, to serve him in the profession of an attorney at law and solicitor in Chancery for a term of five years”. This agreement was Thomas Beeching, the younger and Alfred Stone. Alfred Stone was the brother of John Stone the elder and Thomas Beeching was a member of the well-known Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Beeching family of Beeching Bank fame. For anyone interested in the Beeching family I wrote an article about them entitled ‘ The History of Beeching Bank’ dated May 17,2012. As noted above the 1840 directory listed as attorneys in Tunbridge Wells the firm of  Stone,Son & Bremridge at Mount Ephraim. The first stone is John Stone the elder and the son is John Stone (1805-1844). When John Stone the younger died in 1844 the firm continued under the same name with John’s other son William Stone 1808-1878) becoming the son in the company name.

The 1841 census was  taken at (indecipheral) House on Mount Ephraim Road. Based on the order of homes taken in this census it was located between Boyne House (gone now but located where Boyne Park Road is today) and the Mount Ephraim Hotel. Show above is map showing Mount Ephraim in 1839. The residence, although not labelled by name that the Stone family were living in is clearly shown and is the only building located between Boyne House and the Mount Ephraim Hotel, both of which are labelled on the map. Those occupying the residence in 1841 were John Stone, age 67, born 1774, a solicitor; his wife Frances Baldock, age 50, born 1791 and what no doubt are their daughters Sophia Stone, age 25 and Ann Stone, age 26. Also in the home were two domestic servants.

In the 1851 census John Stone the elder was in Brighton,Sussex where he was visiting his niece Henrietta Lower, nee Davey.  On March 17,1858 John Stone the elder died at Hastings,Sussex


I begin here with William Stone (1808-1878) who entered at an early age his father’s law practice and for a time he was with the firm of John Stone & Son. When his father passed away in 1858 he became a partner with James Bremridge and William Henry Wall  who together ran a law practice in Tunbridge Wells. William had been born March 25,1808 in Tunbridge Wells and was baptised August 18,1808 at Speldhurst. His articles of clerkship were dated May 30,1827 and qualified after the normal 5 year period as a lawyer in 1832. He had articled with his father and lived in Tunbridge Wells up to that itme.

On September 10, 1836 William married Anne Elliott Roper (1816-1882) at Frant,Sussex.Anne was the daughter of William Roper born 1790 and Frances Roper born 1791 and the sister of John William Roper.The William Roper referred to lived most of his life in Frant, Sussex and was a successful farmer. William roper had married Frances Elliott October 14,1815 at Towcester, Northampton and had been borrn 1790 at Potterspury, Northamptonshire. The 1851 census, taken at Bayham Road in Frant is an interesting one for it ties together the families of Stone, Simpson and Roper. The census records William Roper as head of the home, a farmer of 520 acres and employing 22 men. Living with him was his wife Frances, born 1791 and his son John William Roper, born 1817 who was a farmer of 300 acres and employed 20 men. Also in the home was Thomas Fox Simpson, age 23, a solicitor and listed as the nephew of William Roper. This of course means that his mother (whos name is not known) was the sister of William Roper. Also in the home was Frederick William Stone, listed as the grandson of William Roper, making one of William Ropers daughters his mother, and this was Anne Elliott Roper(1837-1882).

The 1851 census, taken at 5 Belvedere Terrace, Tunbridge Wells lists William Stone, age 43, an attorney, as head of the home. Living with him was his wife Anne and his children (1) Fanny Roper Stone (1837-1901) (2) Frank William Stone(1841-1921) (3) Arthur Robert Stone(1842-1853) and Edward Baldock Stone(1844-1917). Also in the home were three servants.

The 1861 census, taken at 5 Belvedere Terrace recorded William Roper as an attorney and solicitor. Living with him was his wife Anne and their sons  Frank William Stone, and articled clerk in law, and Edward Baldock Stone, a solicitor. Also in the home were two visitors  and three servants.

The 1871 census, taken at South Lawn, Tunbridge Wells recorded William Stone as a retired solicitor and living with him was his wife Anne and son Frank William Stone, a solicitor and three servants. It is interesting to note that living next door to the Stone family, at Bank House, was the family of Thomas Beeching the well- known family of bankers in connection with Beeching Bank.

Probate records give William Stone,late of Tunbridge Wells, gentleman, died August 27,1878 at 40 Hartley Street,Middlesex. His executor of his 9,400 pound estate was his son Frank William Stone, solicitor.Williams wife passed away, according to probate records, while a resident of 40 Addison Gardens in Kensington,Middlesex on July 20,1882. The executors of her 2,484 pound estate were he two sons Frank William Stone,solicitor of Tunbridge Wells and Edward Baldock Stone,barrister in law, of 6 King’s Bench Walk Temple, London.

Before proceeding in the next section with a continuation of the Stone family I offer the following information about William’s former law partner James Bremridge. James was a barrister, baptised February 22,1801 at Barnstaple,Devon, the son of John and Ann Bremridge. On April 15,1841 he married Dame Louisa Ann Colebrook at St Luke, Chelsea. James was a resident of Speldhurst up until about 1847. In the 1851 census, taken in Southborough he was living with his wife Louisa, four visitors and two servants as well as with their adopted daughter Felucutu Garden,age 14. Louisa had been born 1790 at Madras India and died May 28,1867 at Horsham,Sussex. Lousa had been married twice before, firstly to James Edward Colebrook (1761-1838) on January 21,1820 at St John’s Cathedral, in Calcutta, India. She then married Henry Steward and had a daughter with him.After that she married James Bremridge. The 1861 census finds James Brembridge as a solicitor not in actual practice at Taplow Buckinghamshire and living with him was his wife Louisa and his 64 year old brother in law Thomas Colebrooke and four servants. When Louisa died in 1867 James wed Mary Elizabeth, born 1824 at Ilfracombe,Devon and moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1871 census, taken at ‘Clairville’ Frant records the presence of James and his second wife Mary and two servants. Probate records show that James died in Tunbridge Wells July 18,1879. The executors of his 6,000 pound estate were his wife Mary Ellis Bremrige and Frank William Stone, solicitor, Tunbridge Wells.

William Stone’s other partner was William Henry Wall  who had been born 1848 in Pembury,Kent and weas baptised there on January 15,1848. In 1851 he was living with his parents William Henry Wall, born 1817 at Hammersmith and Harriet Wall, born 1815 at St Andrews, London. Also present in the home were his two siblings,  and six servants. The wall family were obviously well to do and Williams father was a solicitor and William Henry Wall junior followed in his footsteps in the legal profession.  The 1861 census was taken at the same address and William was living with his parents and five siblings, a governess, one visitor and seven servants. William Henry Wall junior went on to marry Emma, born 1841 Paddington and in the 1871 census, taken at Holland Road in Kensington, London William was a student at law. In that census was living with him his two sisters,one visitor and one servant. In the 1881 census,taken at London Road in Pembury, Kent WilliamHenry Wall was age 33 was a solicitor and living with him was his sister Emma and three servants. On April 23,1884 at Leeds, Yorkshire William Henry Wall age 36 married Mary Ellen Robert Green, a spinster, age 25 and the daughter of William Green a Commissary in H.M. Services. Probate records for William Henry Wall senior record that he passed away at Pembury on May 26,1872, leaving an estate valued at under 16,000 pounds to his widow, as the executor. When and where William Henry Wall junior passed away was not determined.

Details about his partnership with members of the Simpson family can be found in the separate article I wrote about them.  I now return to Frank William Stone , his life and career.


Shown opposite is a portrait painting in oil of Mayor Frank William Stone that hangs at the Tunbridge Wells town hall along with other former Mayors of the town. A very distinguished gentleman indeed. Frank William Stone (1841-1921) was born in Tunbridge Wells, and was the eldest son of William Stone (1808-1878). I have already referred above to the fact that William, like his father decided upon a career in law and that up until the time of the 1871 census he lived with his parents and siblings . In 1871 he was residing at South Lawn next door to Bank House occupied by the Beeching banking family. He had  been taken in as a partner in the law firm of Stone & Simpson, a partnership between William Stone and Thomas Fox Simpson initially but when his father retired he became the head of the firm under the same name. The law firm at this time occupied premises at 21 and 23 Church Road. Not only did the law firm offer legal services but they also acted as agents for Accidental Life and Law Fire in 1874. Details about the various law firms in which the Stone family were involved are given later in this article.

In 1872 Frank married Annie Elizabeth Andrews (1852-1894),born at Blackheath,Kent and with her had the following children (1) Neville Roper (1873-1943) (2) Hugh William(1875-1962) (3) Annie Emily (1877-1950) (4) Arthur Percival (1881-1952) (5) Gerald Owen (1883-1949)  (6) Frank Lawford (1889-1939). In the 1881 census, taken at 1 Beulah road Frant was living with his wife and for children and four servants. In the 1891 census, taken at 6 Carlton Road Frank was living with his wife Annie; their five children and several servants.

By 1899 Frank and his son Neville were partners in the law firm of Stone, Simpson and Stone. Frank had also by this time been a councillor and Alderman of town council and served as Mayor of Tunbridge Wells from 1898 to 1900. When his wife Annie died in 1894 he remarried, this time to Hannah rose Millar (1860-1931) but did not have any children from this marriage. In the 1901 census, taken at Carlton Lodge Frank was living with his wife Hannah and son Gerald and four servants.

Probate records give that Frank William Stone of Carlton Lodge, Tunbridge Wells died October 3,1921. The executors of his 62,959 pound estate was his wife Hannah Rose Stone and his son Neville Roper Stone, solicitor. Frank was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on October 6th.

After his father’s death Neville Roper Stone continued the legal practice. Neville had been born in July 1873 at Tunbridge Wells. He was living with his parents and siblings at the time of the 1881 census. In the 1891 census, he was a scholar living at Radley,Berkshire. In 1899 he married Amy Beatrice Hayne(1872-1954), born  at Islington,London and with her head the two known children namely Reginald Nevill Stone (1899-1966) and Evelyn Annie Stone (1904-1994), both of whom were born in Tunbridge Wells.  He continued to live and work in Tunbridge Wells the rest of his life. A photo of the wedding of Evelyn Annie Stone is shown above.

Probate records give that he was of ‘Framfield’ at 17 Oakdale Road, Tunbridge Wells , which was his private residence, and also of 21 and 23 Church Road , which was the location of his law office. He died March 19,1943 at Framfield. The executors of his 18,000 pound estate was Amy Beatrice Stone and Evelyn Ann Roberts, widows. A photo of 17 Oakdale Road is shown above.


I have already to some degree covered the partnerships in which members of the Stone family practiced law. In the 1860’s and 1870’s the firm went by the name of Stone,Wall & Simpson and continued under that  name until Mr Wall left the firm. In 1882 the firm went by the name of Stone, Simpson & Son when Alfred Thomas Simpson , the son of Thomas Fox Simpson entered the firm. At that time Frank William Stone was a clerk to the Magistrates and clerk to the Guardians of the Tonbridge Union. The firm was also clerks to the County magistrate for the Frant Division and clerk to the Tonbridge District and Mark Cross Highway Boards. The public offices handled by the firm in 1899 was much the same as it was in 1882 but the firm operated under the name of Stone, Simpson & Stone. The three partners at that time were Alfred Thomas Simpson, Frank William Stone and Neville Roper Stone. In 1903 Harold Percy Mason joined the firm which became Stone, Simpson & Mason. Throughout the early 1900’s the company continued under this name and did so until about 1930 when David Luke Vernon Hanson joined the firm and business operated as Stone, Simpson & Hanson, and continued under that name until at least 1938, the last year I researched. I have left the history of the family and the firm to investigate after 1938 to others  and with this I end my coverage of the history of the Stone family.




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

Date: February 19,2014


The main focus of this article is well known Tunbridge Wells solicitor Thomas Fox Simpson  and his family. Thomas had been born 1828 into a large ,financially well off family from Thorpe Abbot, Norfolk. Details about his parents and siblings are lacking but his father was a solicitor and sent his son off to university to get his degree in law. In 1841 Thomas was attending an academy in Norfolk but by 1851 had moved to Frant,Sussex and by 1861 he had taken up residence at 7 Calverley Parade and later at 6 Garden Road. He first practiced law in the partnership of Stone, Wall & Simpson.When William Henry Wall left  the firm it operated in the 1870’s as Stone & Simpson from premises on Church Road. Thomas’s son Alfred Thomas Simpson followed his father and became a solicitor and joined the firm , which in the 1880’s became Stone, Simpson & Son.  When Thomas Fox Simpson passed away in Tunbridge Wells in 1894 his son Alfred took his place and practiced law with the firm of Stone & Simpson with his partner Frank William Stone (1841-1921),the son of Tunbridge Wells solicitor William Stone (1808-1878) and grandson of Tunbridge Wells solicitor John Stone (1774-1858).  In addition to working as a solicitor Frank William Stone was also involved in local affairs serving as Mayor of the town from 1898-1900 and who’s son Neville Roper Stone (1873-1943) joined the firm in the 1890’s and the law firm operated under the name of Stone, Simpson & Stone. By 1903 Hardy Percy Mason joined the firm and it operated under the name of Stone, Simpson & Mason. When Mason left the firm and David Luke Vernon Hanson joined it by 1930 the firm became known as Stone, Simpson & Hanson with the three solicitors involved in the firm being Alfred Thomas Simpson, Neville Roper Stone and David Luke Vernon Hanson. The company was still operating under that name in 1938  even though Alfred Thomas Simpson, also known as Thomas Alfred Simpson, died September 1,1934 and did not have any children who became solicitors, thus ending the involvement of the Simpson family in the legal profession in Tunbridge Wells. The law offices of all these partnerships was at 21 and 23 Church Road with Alfred Thomas Simpson being a long time resident of Calverley Park, an area of historic homes set in a lovely park setting.


Thomas was born 1828 at Thorpe Abbott, Norfolk. He lived in Norfolk with his parents and siblings in his early childhood and decided at an early age that he would follow his father into the legal profession. In 1841 he was attending an academy in Norfolk , obtained his university degree in law and was admitted to the bar in the 1840’s. The 1851 census, taken at Bayham Road (photo opposite circa 1905)in Frant Sussex recorder Thomas as a solicitor, living at that time in the home of William Roper,as William Ropers nephew, a farmer of 520 acres, the father of William Roper.FSI  who was an auctioneer,surveyor and valuer who during his life was involved with the local Agricultural Show and was involved in the early stages of the Warwick Park development and other local activities, such as the Nevill Cricket Ground. Also present at the roper home was Frank William Stone who later became a solicitor but at the time was a scholar and listed as the grandson of William Roper senior. The mother of Frank William Stone was Anne Elliot Roper (1816-1882), the daughter of William Roper(born 1790).

Thomas soon left the Roper home and took up residence at 7 Calverley Parade and is found there in the 1850’s.  In the 3rd qtr of 1857 Thomas married Maria Nunn. She had been born 1830 at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Marie was the sister of Frederick Nunn (1837-1870), the son of a solicitor/Magistrate’s Clerk at Bury St Edmunds. Frederick had played first class cricket for Cambridge University in 1859 and graduated from there with a BA and in 1861 he was in Tunbridge Wells visiting his sister Marie and her husband Thomas Fox Simpson.

The children born to Thomas and Maria were (1) Alfred Thomas (also known as Thomas Alfred) (1859-1934);(2) Frederick Clement (also known as Clement Frederick)(1865  -1946);  (3) Maurice George ( 1867-1954); (4) John Sturley (b1860) ;(5) Godfrey William (1866-1946); (6) Margaret (b1869); (7) Alice Maud (b1870-); (8) Eva Maria (b1870); (9) Dora (b1862); (10) Harry Edward (b1863 ); (11) Charles Ernest (b1864-)(12) Guy (1875-1953).  Thomas’s wife Maria died in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1884 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on May 27,1884.

The 1861 census was taken at 7 Calverley Parade and recorded Thomas as a solicitor and living with him was his wife Maria, three of their children and his brother in law Frederick Nunn. Also in the home were three domestic servants. The 1871 census, taken at 6 Garden Road recorded Thomas, a solicitor and living with him was his wife Maria; five of their children and five servants. The family was found at the same address in 1881 when at that time living there was Thomas, his wife Maria, nine of their children and three servants. Thomas son John Shurley was an undergraduate at Oxford and son Harry Edward was an articled clerk. The rest of the children were all attending school. A postcard view of the Calverley Parade on Mount Pleasant Road between Crescent Road on the south and Monson Road on the north is shown opposite. Calverley Parade was one of John Wards developments from the late 1820's.

After the death of his first wife Thomas decided to remarry and so in 1886 he wed Elizabeth Ann French at Cheltenham,Gloucestershire. Elizabeth had been born August 17,1850 at Newport Parnaell, Buckinghamshire and was a widow. Elizabeth was one of three children born to Robert Thomas French(1814-1867) and Charlotte Webb (1821-1899). She had been living at her place of birth up to July 1878 when she married Edward Fisher (1828-1881) and with him had two daughters. Her first husband died only three years after they were married. The Fisher family had moved to Tunbridge Wells and were living there at the time of his death in 1881.  Thomas and Elizabeth had only one child from the marriage namely Hilda in 1887.

The 1891 census, taken at 9 Garden Road recorded Thomas as a solicitor. Living with him was his 2nd wife Elizabeth; seven children from his 1st marriage;  Hilda from his 2nd marriage; the two daughters of his wife from her first marriage and six servants.

Thomas Fox Simpson was president of a very successful debating society which met weekly at the Pump Room (image below) . His portrait is shown opposite . Charles Hilbert Strange, the local architect, gave in his ‘ Tunbridge Wells Past and Present’ of 1946 the following “ In 1893 the Borough was granted a separate Commissioner of the Peace, and magistrates were chosen from all classes of society. Thomas Fox Simpson was the first Magistrates’ Clerk, a man of fine presence who exercised considerable influence in the young borough.”

After a long and successful career Thomas passed away in Tunbridge Wells in 1894. Probate records give him of 6 Garden Road and that he died on September 14,1894. His executor was his son John Sturley Simpson, an accountant and he left an estate valued at about 9,700 pounds. Thomas was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on September 18th.  His wife Elizabeth was living in Eastbourne, Sussex as a boarder in 1901. The 1911 census, taken at 15 Calverley Park Crescent recorded Elizabeth, widow, living on private means. Living with her was her daughter Elizabeth Fisher from her first marriage and two visitors of the Keywood family. Her residence was recorded as having 8 rooms. Elizabeth remained in Tunbridge Wells and died in the town July7, 1934 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on July 10th.

The Courier of September 19,1894 published an announcement  entitled “ Death of Mr Thomas Fox Simpson”  , a very long article, from which , in part, I give the following. “ It is with deepest regret that we record the death, after a prolonged and painful illness, of our respected townsman, Mr Thomas Fox Simpson, which occurred at his residence, Clyde House, on Friday morning last, at half-past nine o’clock.” The article continues by stating that his illness had worsened within the week and that “he was in much pain” and that his family was with him until the last. His illness had extended back “for a period of two years when he sustained his first stroke of paralysis…” last March he had a relapse and that was the last time he entered his office”. He had been confined to a bath chair and later had a third stroke. “ Mr Thomas Fox Simpson is another of the fast vanishing links between the past and present.The deceased gentleman, unlike his partner,whos name goes back in the firm for three generations, was not a native of Tunbridge Wells,to which town he came about the year 1851.He belongs to a well-known Norfolk family, whose members follow professional pursuits. “The name of Stone, Wall & Simpson became a household word. Mr Simpson had not been in town long before we find him taking an active public part in the welfare and progress of the town.During the latter part of the 1850’s we find him taking a part in various public meetings for a variety of objects. He took part in public meetings to have the income tax reduced that had been increased as a war tax. In 1866, at the time of the cattle plague he took part with his brother  Mr Phillip Simpson of Lamberhurst  in a public committee  which was formed to stop the spread of the desease.In the same year he explained to the public the details about the Oxted and Groombridge Railway. About this time he was involved with Major Lutwidge in forming the Volunteer Fire Brigade. For upwards of twenty years he was Vice President of the Literary Society and the Mechanics Institute. He took a great interest in the Friendly Societies of the town; he was associated with the Holmsdale Lodge of Freemasons; Honorary member of the Tunbridge Wells Tradesmens Association; a sidesman of St James Church; a man often called upon as an after dinner speaker at town events, where he was well known for his wit and oratory skills.Mr Simpson enjoyed swimming; was Vice President of the Town Cricket Club and most of the athletic bodies in the town. He was a Conservative agent but did not put himself forward for positions in local politics.He  and his partners held many public offices in the town…..The Death of Mr Simpson leaves a gap that will not be easily filled”. I would suggest looking at the original article for much greater detail about his life and career than I have provided here. It make for a very interesting read!


As I have already noted in the ‘Overview’  Thomas  began his career as a solicitor in Tunbridge Wells by 1851 and continued to work as a solicitor in the town in partnership with various other solicitors almost up to the time of his death, although his son Albert Thomas Simpson joined his father in the practice in the latter years. A review of local directories provides considerable detail about the different aspects of his career and the various responsibilities he undertook. In 1862 he was in the firm of Stone, Wall & Simpson who had their business premises that year at 4 Belvedere Terrace Image opposite). The aspects of the business at that time were (1) Clerks to County Magistrates for Tunbridge Wells & Frant Divisions (2) Clerk to the Guardians for Tonbridge Union (3) Solicitors to the Calverley Waterworks and to the Tunbridge Wells Prosecution Association (4) Solicitors to the Tunbridge Wells Permanent Benefit & Building Society (5) they were also agents for Phoenix Life.

By 1867 they had added (1) Clerk to the Tunbridge Wells District Highway Board (2) Solicitors to the Tunbridge Wells Gas Company.  In 1874 the firm became agents for Accidental Life and Law Life, which they continued until at least 1882 when at that time the firm operated as Stone, Simpson & Son, Thomas’ son having joined the firm. By the early 1880’s the law office was conducting their business from 23 Church Road and by 1899 they had expanded their premises to include 21 and 23 Church Road. Alfred Thomas Simpson had by 1899 become a clerk to the Pembury School Board and is also found with the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment 1st Volunteer Btn (D & E companies) at the Drill hall, Victoria Road as “Major Alfred Thomas F. Simpson, commanding D Co.” and by this time he was living at 24 Calverley Road. In 1899 Alderman Frank William Stone, a partner in the law firm became Mayor of Tunbridge Wells and served in that office from 1898 to 1900. More about the law firm after the death of Thomas Fox Simpson is given later under the name of his son Alfred Thomas Simpson.


In this section I provide only a limited amount of information about Thomas’s children and have selected only his eight sons to comment on.

(1)    SIR MAURICE GEORGE SIMPSON- Sir Maurice George Simpson, C.S.I., who died on the 2nd July, 1954, was born in 1866 and educated at Tonbridge School, Tonbridge, Kent, where he became Head Boy in 1885. In 1887 he passed from Coopers Hill Engineering College into the Indian Telegraph Department and started 43 years' distinguished service in India and the India Office. He rose rapidly in his profession and became Electrical Engineer-in-Chief to the Indian Telegraph Department in 1906, and on retiring to England in 1914 he joined the Indo-European Telegraph Department of the India Office. His progress here was equally distinguished, and in 1923 he was appointed Director-in-Chief of this Department, which position he held until he retired in 1931. Sir Maurice was a man of great personal charm, and whilst in India he was of great help to many young engineers starting their service, not only with the Government, but in other branches of the profession. He was always ready to give a helping hand and sound advice, and many engineers to-day will remember with gratitude the assistance he gave them in their early days. He was an active member of the Calcutta Local Section of The Institution, which was formed in 1911. He was also a prominent freemason. He received the C.S.I, in 1928 and was knighted in 1931. In 1933 he was elected a Director of W. T. Henley's Telegraph Works Co., Ltd., and its associated companies, retiring in 1947 at the age of 81, much to the regret of the directors and staff, with whom he was very popular. He joined The Institution as an Associate in 1889 and was elected a Member in 1898. Maurice was married June 7,1892 at Moulmein, Burma to Kmma Mina Margaret Connell, the daughter of John Connell. The marriage had taken place at St Matthew’s Church in Moulmein and their Diamond Wedding was announced in the newspaper June 7,1952. Probate records give “ Sir Maurice George Simpson, knight, C.S. I. of Earls Court Hotel (image above), Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, died July 2, 1954 at the Lonsdale Nursing Home, Tunbridge Wells”. His wife Dame Emma Nina Margaret Simpson was the executor of his 1,110 pound estate. The probate for his wife gave “ Emma Mina Margaret Simpson of 15a Boyne Park, Tunbridge Wells,widow, died February 10,1957. The executor of her 4,028 pound estate was their son Clement Maurice Simpson, M.C., retired Brigadier in H.M. Army. Maurice had other children including Thomas Harold Simpson who had joined the Royal Navy Mary 15,1909 and worked his way up through the ranks until retiring as a Rear Admiral September 16,1948. He had been educated at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. A Rear Admiral Simpson Memorial Prize is awarded annually to who meet certain academic standards in the RN Engineering College, the funding for which was provided by the Simpson family.

(2)    ALFRED THOMAS SIMPSON (1859-1934)- He was born in Tunbridge Wells;baptised in Tunbridge Wells on September 23,1859;  was the eldest son of Thomas Fox Simpson; graduated from university with a degree in law and joined his fathers practice in Tunbridge Wells under the name of Stone, Simpson & Son. He had earlier, like his brothers, attended the Tonbridge School. Their records show that he graduated with second class honours in the final law examination in 1881. Alfred lived with his parent until after 1861 and then was away at school. In the 1891 census, taken at 6 Garden Road,Tunbridge Wells Alfred was recorded as a solicitor and was living with his parents and siblings. The 1901 census, taken at 24 Calverley Park, recorded Alfred as the head of the home and as a solicitor and Major with the West Kent Regiment. Living with him was his brother John, who was working as an accountant, his spinster sister Alice and his married sister Eva M. Murdock. Also in the home were three servants. In the 1911 census, taken also at 24 Calverley Park, Alfred is the head of the home . Living with him was his siblings John, a chartered accountant, Alice Maud, a 41 year old spinster and his sister in law Emma Nimn Margaret.Also present in this 13 room home were two domestic servants. It appears that Alfred never married. His probate records gave him of 5 Calverley Park (his private residence) and 23 Church Rd (the law office) and that he died September 1,1934 at the Tweeddale Nursing Home at Tweeddale Terrace (image opposite),Tunbridge Wells. The executors of his 33,984 pound estate were Frederick Clement Simpson, brick company’s manager, Sir Maurice George Simpson, knoght, and David Luke Vernon Hanson, solicitor. By this time Mr Hanson was a partner in the same law firm as Alfred. In terms of his law practice the 1899 directory listed Alfred as a clerk to the Borough Magistrates. His partner Frank William Stone had other appointments. By 1899 the law firm was operating under the name of Stone, Simpson & Stone recognizing that Stone seniors son had entered the practice. In 1899 the firm was an insurance agent for Phoenix Fire. Aflred was also in that year a solicitor and commissioner for oaths, clerk to the justices for the borough and for Tunbridge Wells (Kent) and Frant (Sussex) and petty sessional divisions and pembury school board. The company by this time was operating from premises at 21 and 23 Church Road. His partners at that time and for many years afterwards was Frank William Stone and his son Neville Roper Stone. By 1901 the business was joined by Harold Percy mason who together operated as Stone, Simpson & Mason and they continued by that name up to at least 1928.By 1930 the business operated as Stone,simpson & Hanson when David Luke Vernon Hanson joined the firm. The same organization continued up to and after the time of Alfred’s death in 1934.

(3)    FREDERICK CLEMENT SIMPSON (1865-1946)- Frederick was born in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1865. In 1871 he was living with his parents and siblings at 6 Garden Road and went on to attend Tonbridge School (photo opposite) .As a student he was living at Chardstock, Dorset in 1881 where he attended St Andrews College. Sometimes he went by the name of Clement Frederick Simpson. In 1898 Fredrick married Blanche Evelyn Smith, one of four children born to the Hon. Edward Thomas Smith (1836-1882) and Emma Jane Homfray (1849-1882). Frederick became involved in the early part of his career in the brewery business. The 1911 census, taken at 3 Court Road, Tunbridge Wells records Frederick as a brewery director. Living with him was his wife Blanche ,born 1875 in the Falkland Islands. Also in the 10 room home was their children Kenneth Homfray ,age 10; Harry Fox,age 7 and Rachel Mary, age 5, all of whom were born in Tunbridge Wells. Also in the home was one visitor and three domestic servants. The census records that they had another child which was not present in the home at the time of the census but was still living. When his brother Alfred Thomas Simpson passed away in 1934 Frederick was one of his executors and identified at that time as a brick company manager. Probate records give “ Clement Frederick Simpston, otherwise Frederick Clement Simpson of Earls Court Hotel, Tunbridge Wells died October 31,1946 at Nuffield House guys Hospital London Bridge,London”. Lloyds bank Limited was the executor of his 10,463 pound estate. His wife Blanche was of 11 Wooddville Road ,Bexhill, Sussex when she died July 2,1943 at the Clarence Nursing Home in Tunbridge Wells. Lloyds Band was the executor of her 2,533 pound estate. There is no record of either of them being buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery but most likely were buried in another cemetery in the area.

(4)    GODFREY WILLIAM SIMPSON (1866-1946)- Godfrey was the sixth son of Thomas Fox Simpson and was born like the rest of his siblings in Tunbridge Wells. The last census record of him living with his parents and siblings was for 1871 at 6 Garden Road. He is given in the records of Tonbridge School as “born 1865. Football Fifteen 1883. In the Medical Profession. A surgeon at Llantwit Major, South Wales”. Like his brother Frederick he was attending St Andrews College at Chardstock,Dorset in 1881.Godfrey married Frances Elizabeth in 1893, who had been born abt 1866 at Edinburgh,Scotland. The 1901 census, taken at Caggon Hall in Lamberhurst, Devon recorded Godrey as a physician and surgeon on own account. Living with him was his wife Frances; their two children Gwenedd Huina, born 1894 at glouchestershire, and Sturley Phillip, born 1897 at Lamberhurst. Also in the home was three domestic servants. In the 1911 census, taken in their 11 room home at 20 the Grays,spencer Park, Wandsworth common, London, Godfrey is a physician and surgeon. Living with him was wife Frances; their two children, a boarder, a companion and two servants. Probate records gave Godfrey William Simpson of 8 St James Road,Tunbridge Wells  when he died August 3,1946. The executor of his 1,422 pound estate was his son “Sturley Phillip Simpson C.B. C.B.E. MC Air Vice Marshal R.A.F. “ An image of St James Road dated 1909 is shown above.

(5)    GUY SIMPSON (1874-1953)- Guy was born November 5,1874 in Tunbridge Wells.The last census record of him living with his parents and siblings was that of 1891 at 6 Garden Road. On April 15, 1909 he married Ethel Nash (1888-1969) at New Westminster, British Columbia Canada  and with her had the following children; Charles Frederick Simpson (1910-1988) who had  been born in British Columbia Canada; Arthur Guy Simpson (1912-1975) who was also born in British Columbia; and Alfred John Simpson (1913-1990) who was born in Devon. Passenger lists record that the Simpson family had departed for good from Canada when they sailed from Montreal to Bristol. Guy was one of those who emigrated to Canada to seek his fortune but decided to return to England in 1913 where he remained. Guy passed away December 31,1953 at Ashburton, Devon. Guy had decided to spend his life as a farmer. Probate records show that he was of 3 West End Terrace in Ashburton,Devon but had died at Torbay Hospital at Torquay,Devon. His wife Ethel, of the same address, was the executor of his 1,547 pound estate. His will was witnessed by John Sturley Simpson of Wyken Lodge Tunbridge Wells, accountant, and Alice Maud Simpson of Wyken Lodge,Tunbridge Wells, spinster. A photograph of Guy Simpson and his family are shown opposite, which was taken during his time at Ashburton,Devon.

(6)    CLARLES ERNEST SIMPSON – Charles had been born in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1864. In the 1891 census he was living with his parents and siblings at 6 Garden Road. In the 1901 census he was a student at Aymeirchion and Corpus Christie in Wales,age 37, single. Charles went into the teaching profession. He is found in the 1911 census at Aigton, Bailey and Chaigley, Lancashire where he was a teacher in what appears to be an institution connected with the church for most of the occupants were Roman Catholic priests. Charles was given as age 47 and single in this census and so it appears he never got married.

(7)    JOHN STURLEY SIMPSON- John was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1860. In the 1881 census taken at 6 Garden Road he was living with his parents and siblings and was listed as an undergraduate at Oxford. In the 1891 census, taken at the same address John was living with his parents and siblings and working as an accountants clerk.The 1911 census, taken at 14 Calverley Park, of 16 rooms, recorded Alfred Thomas Simpson, solicitor, as head of the home. Living with him was his brother John Sturley Simpson who was still single and working as a chartered accountant. Also in the home was Johns spinster sister Alice Maud Simpson, age 41 and his married sister in law Emma Nima Margaret Simpson, age 42 who had been married 19 years and had three children of which only 3 were still living. Also in the home were two domestic servants. John never got married.  In the probate records of his brother Guy Simpson dated 1953 John Sturley Simpson was listed as one of the executors and that he was an accountant of Wyken Lodge, Tunbridge Wells.  Probate records give John Sturley Simpson of Wyken Lodge, Tunbridge Wells passing away on June 18,1917. His brother Frederick Clement Simpston was the executor of his 3,322 pound estate. John was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on June 20th. Shown above is a view of some of the grand homes in Calverley Park.

(8)    HARRY EDWARD SIMPSON- Harry was born in the 2nd qtr of 1863 in Tunbridge Wells , one of eight sons born to Thomas Fox Simpson.In the 1881 census, taken at 6 Garden Road, Harry was living with his parents and siblings and working as an articled clerk.Harry had a very short life, dying at the age of only 27. He never married and died in Tunbridge Wells April 1890 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on April 3rd.

REFERENCES  -For further information about the Stone Family and other solicitors that were partners in the Simpson Law firm see my article entitled ‘ The Life and Times of Mayor Frank William Stone’ written February 20,2014. The 1851 census record I gave in the Simpson article above makes reference to the family of William Roper and that Thomas Fox Stone was William’s nephew and that also in the home was Frank William Stone who was the grandson of William Roper. For further information about the Roper family lease refer to my article entitled ‘The Life and Times of William Roper-Surveyor/Auctioneer’ dated January 5,2014. For further information about the Earl’s Court Hotel refer to my article entitled ‘Earl’s Court and the Hon. F.G. Molyneux’ dated April 12,2012. For more information about Tweedale Terrace refer to my article entitled ‘ The History of Tweedale Terrace and Richmond Terrace’ dated January 21,2013.


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