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

Date: December 5,2018


A large plot of open land of some 5-6 acres was acquired by the town for use as a pleasure grounds in 1920. This land in part had once been part of the grounds of the Calverley Hotel and connected to John Ward’s residential development –Calverley Park. This plot of land became known as the Calverley Grounds and still exists today, although significantly changed, and is enjoyed by residents and visitors to the town alike.

The land itself sloped down southward from the Calverley Hotel and from East to West from the Calverley Parade.  A historical account about the creation and development of the grounds is given below as presented in a Heritage Report of August 2016. As one can see a development for the grounds was formulated calling for extensive landscaping, the installation of flower gardens and shrubbery; a sundial in the “Italian Gardens”; a grand bandstand (replacing an earlier temporary and less grand one); a pavilion near the bandstand; a tea room building; other sports facility related buildings and playing fields for lawn tennis, miniature golf etc. Of these the new bandstand erected in 1924 is the central topic of this article.

Here is what the report of 2016 said- “ Several attempts had been made, the first in 1864, to turn the area, which was privately owned with only restricted access, into a public amenity, but nothing decisive was done until 1920 (when the town bought the property)”. A public inquiry was held by the Ministry of Health to “address local opposition from the Ratepayes’ Association to the Council’s intended purchase of the site from the Calverley Estate. The Ministry found in the Council’s favour and the sale of the park and Great Hall was completed in early 1921, the same year that Council adopted ‘The Calverley Grounds’ as a new name of the park”. When this land formed part of the pleasure grounds of the Calverley Hotel it was an informal open space, consisting of meadows with a scattering of trees, a spring and , at the lowest point, a lake, which had been created in the 18th century by damming a stream. Formal gardens were restricted to the immediate vicinity of the Calverley Hotel.”

“The Council aimed to transform the grounds from parkland into a municipal park with formal gardens, sports facilities , and facilities for public entertainments. A temporary bandstand was installed at an early date so that concerts could begin in the summer. In the autumn of 1921 Robert Wallace of the Old Gardens was commissioned to prepare a general scheme for laying out the park, but it was decided not to implement  this immediately, and in the event development proceeded by stages over the next five of six years without an overall plan. During the winter of 1921-1922 tennis courts were laid out from the Mayor’s Unemployment Fund and shortly afterwards a thatched pavilion was built to service them. In the autumn of 1922 a completion took place  to design an ambitious concert pavilion incorporating a bandstand , large enough to seat 2,000 people. But the local political climate was unfavourable  to such a scheme and, although there were forty entries in the competition and a winner was selected , the Council decided not to proceed but to look for less expensive options.” A bowling green followed in 1923. In 1924 a bowls pavilion and tea house were built and an entrance lodge with public washrooms with  a set of  ornate iron entrance gates were built adjacent to the Great Hall off Mount Pleasant Road in 1925. Work on the pavilion to provide covered accommodation for concert audiences  began in 1925. “ This, like other buildings in the Calverley Grounds were designed by  then Borough Engineer and Surveyor, W.H. Maxwell” , and so from this one can conclude that it was Maxwell who designed the new bandstand erected in 1924. The new concert pavilion was opened by the Mayor in April 1926. The laying out of the landscaping and gardens was undertaken by local florist , nurseryman, landscaper George Israel Adams (1874-1944) of George I Adams Ltd which work included the installation of the sundial which had been donated to the town by Councillor  William Ernest Hempson (1858-1930). A plan of the site , including tennis courts, putting greens, bowling green and other sports facilities dated October 1931 was by then-Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Hugh P. Bishop but it showed what work had been completed, not what was proposed.  Further information about George Israel Adams and Councillor Hempson were given in my article ‘ The Calverley Sundial’ dated November 29,2018.

The development of the Calverley Grounds continued after 1931 and since that time a number of changes had been made. Among them was the long and interesting story of the bombing of the Calverley Grounds during WW2 which destroyed the bandstand and the pavilion. Since its destruction several utilitarian bandstands have been erected but paled in comparison to the grandest one of 1924.


Following the erection of a temporary bandstand in Calverley Ground in the years leading up to 1924. Council took the decision in early 1924 to proceed with the construction of a “new permanent” one.  According to the Heritage Report quoted from above it appears to have been designed by the towns Engineer and Survey W.H. Maxwell. Details about the life and career of William Henry Maxwell (1870-1955)  were given in my article ‘ William Henry Maxwell-Tunbridge Wells Waterworks Engineer’ dated January 29,2014. Who constructed the bandstand was not established as no newspaper reports from 1924 were found identifying the builder. It is known from the Heritage Report and from other newspaper reports that unemployed workers were hired to undertake some of the work in the Calverley Grounds but that all related to ground work and not building construction.

Several newspaper reports pertaining to this new bandstand were found, among which were the following.

The Courier of February 8,1924 reported that at a meeting Council on the recommendation of the Public Gardens Committee detailed the erection of a bandstand in the Calverley Grounds.

The Courier of May 9,1924 reported “ It is hoped that the new bandstand in the Calverley Grounds will be complete by June. The eight ornamental shields to be affixed to the bandstand will include four Borough Arms and four floral designs”. These shields can be clearly seen in some of the postcard views of the bandstand , some of which are given in this article.

The Courier of October 3,1924 reported “Erection of a permanent bandstand at the Grounds has been commenced and the stonework is in course of erection and will provide sheltered performances”.

The Courier of October 21,1924 reported “ Considerable progress is being made in laying out the Calverley Gardens. The new bandstand with its handsome cupola with surmounted weather vane is now complete”.

Shown opposite with related text is a photograph of the 1924 bandstand  taken in 1926. The text incorrectly states that the bandstand survived the dropping of an incendiary bomb September 26,1940 but that it “remained in use though losing much of its ornate ironwork”.

The Courier of July 3 and 31, 1931  reported on the consideration by Council of a proposal by Councillor Saunders to remove the bandstand; extend the pavilion and install a roof over the structure, thereby providing a fully enclosed venue in which music and other entertainments could be enjoyed indoors. After investigation and discussion it was decided that it would be unfeasible to proceed with the proposal and the matter was dropped

Shown opposite is a photo from the August 30,1940 issue of the Courier showing the 1940 bombing with the bandstand still standing in the background, although the pavilion was destroyed. The bomb had fallen during a bombing raid on August 22,1940.

The Courier of November 1,1940 reported that the Pavilion had been destroyed by fire together with a large quantity of chairs. The town's surveyor was instructed to dispose of the salvage.

The Courier of January 2,1942 reported on the disposal of iron and copper from the bandstand for scrap. A decision was deferred to the next meeting of the Parks Department.

Shown below is a photograph of the bomb damage (claimed in the text with the photo to be of September 26th) in which can be seen what became of the bandstand after the bomb hit. It’s copper roof and ironwork were salvaged and used as scrap as part of the WW 2 Metal Drive. A new bandstand , which paled in comparison to the original one, was not built until about 1956. The destroyed pavilion was never replaced. The stone plinth and some materials from the original bandstand were used in the construction of its replacement, a replacement that was cheaply built and very plain. There are obviously conflicting accounts of when exactly the bandstand was destroyed but it was certainly during bombing in WWII.

The original bandstand, and its successors, throughout their years in service, provided a valuable and popular site for all types of entertainments. Shown above right  is a postcard view  of the original bandstands replacement dated 1958.

Two related articles referring to the bandstand are (1) The Bombing of Tunbridge Wells During WW2’ dated December 22,2016 (2) History of Tunbridge Wells Brass Bands and Bandstands’ dated December 26,2012.



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

Date: November 29,2018


In 1920 Tunbridge Wells Council came into ownership of a large block of land that became known as the Calverley Grounds, which earlier had been part of the pleasure grounds of the Calverley Hotel and the open space associated with John Ward’s Calverley Park development in which villas were constructed in an arc around the central open land.

Upon acquisition of the property discussions began on how and when to turn this plot of land into a public park for the enjoyment of residents and visitors to the town. Many meetings took place from 1920 to 1924 regarding various proposals and finally in 1924 a plan was developed and work began to create what today is one of the most popular and heavily visited parks in the town, a site my friend Susan Price and I enjoyed visiting on a number of occasions during our visit to Tunbridge Wells in 2015.

The plan called for the construction of an entrance lodge with washroom facilities behind large decorative iron gates at the Mount Pleasant Road entrance to the grounds, adjacent to the Great Hall. Other work included grading and development of the embankments, the construction of a bandstand and pavilion, a tea house and two buildings pertaining to sports. Playing fields were also to be provided for the enjoyment of lawn tennis, miniature golf, bowls etc. In all it was a large and impressive plan, a plan for which construction activities took place largely in 1924, although a temporary bandstand predates the final and more elaborate one constructed in 1924 along with the adjacent pavilion.  The Courier of March 14,1924 reported that unemployed workers in the town had been hired to undertake work in the grounds for the completion of terraces and other landscaping work, an in fact unemployed workers had laid out the tennis courts in 1921-1922.

Among the grounds, lovely gardens were to be provided packed with trees, shrubs and flowers of all types with a central feature in the garden scheme being the “Italian Garden”. The Italian Garden was rectangular in shape with flower gardens around the perimeter. In the centre of  the manicured lawn within the garden plot was installed (in 1924) a lovely sandstone sundial, donated to the town (Ref. the Courier of November 14,1924) by Councillor William Ernest Hempson (1858-1930) who had purchased it from the firm of George Israel Adams (1874-1944), a company who advertised frequently throughout 1924 and other years as a florist, nurseryman, seedsman, landscaper who in addition sold and installed sunhouses and most notably in this article sundials. Mr Adams and his company were recorded in the Courier as having been hired to undertake most of the landscaping work in the grounds.

In 1935 another feature in the Italian Garden was installed in the form of the Burmese Bell, the gift of the Sladen family. Many postcard views of the Calverley Grounds have been produced showing the sundial and the Burmese Bell, a sample of which are presented in this article.

Further information about the development of the Calverley Grounds can be read online from a Heritage Report of August 2016 and portions of that report as it pertains to the sundial are given later in this article.

In this article information is given about Councillor William Ernest Hempson who gifted the sundial to the town, as well as information about George Israel Adams who apart from selling the sundial to Mr Hempson also was key figure in the overall landscaping of the Calverley Grounds.

As you will read later the art deco style sundial that exists today, which was restored in 2017 by the firm of Chilstone of Langton Green, is not the original one of 1924. The history of the sundial is an interesting one, involving damage and theft, and if you enjoy reading mystery stories then this article will appeal to you.


The significance of William Ernest Hempson (1858-1930) in the story of the Calverley Grounds sundial is that he was a noted solicitor and had served as a Councillor of Tunbridge Wells from 1921up to the time of his death in the town in 1930. The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 14,1924 recorded that Councillor Hempson had gifted a sundial to the town for installation in the Italian Garden of the Calverley Grounds.  Although not stated in the referenced article it is clear to the researcher, for reasons given later, that he had purchased it from the local firm of George Israel Adams, which firm you will read more about in the next section of this article. A photograph of William  from his obituary published in The British Medical Journal of February 15,1930 is shown above.

William had been born in the 4th qtr at Erwarton, Suffolk and was baptised February 24,1859 in Erwarton,Suffolk. He was one of seven children born to John Amis Hemprson (born 1822) and Mary Charlotte Hempson (born 1830).

The 1861 census, taken at Erwarton Hall in Erwarton, Suffolk (near Ipswich) gave John Amis Hemptson as born in Stosyth, Essex with the occupation of “farmer of 530 acres employing 27 men and 4 boys”. With him was his wife Mary  born in the same place as her husband in 1830. Also present were eight of their children, including their son William, and seven servants, a governess and other farm workers.

William received his early education at the Ispwich Grammar School and went on to received his legal degree as a solicitor. Details about his career are given later from his 1930 obituary and other sources.

At the time of the 1871 census, taken at Erwarton his father was still operating the family farm but William was away attending a boys school and later entered university. He was admitted a solicitor in September 1880.

The 1871 census taken at Auckland House on London Road in Ipswich ( a boys school) gave William attending the school with ten other boys. The school was run at that time by Robert Perry (a chaplain) and his sister Elizabeth.

In the 2nd qtr of 1883 , at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk,William married Kate Oliver (1855-1943)who had been born  at Bury St Edmunds. She was the daughter of George John Oliver (1827-1897) and Maria Agnes Oliver, nee Loder (1827-1897). At the time of the 1881 census Kate was living at 102 Risbygate Street in Bury St Emunds with her parents and siblings. At the time of that census her father was a grocer and wine merchant employing 10 men.

William and Kate had the following children (1) Ernest J. Hempson (born 1885 in Africa) (2) Oswald Arthur Hempson (1886-1960) (3) Norah Mary Hempson (born 1887) (4) Geoffrey Oliver Hempston who was born in Lewisham in the 1st qtr of 1889 and died in the 2ns qtr of 1945 at Northampton. Both Ernest and Oswald had been born in Catford, Kent. Norah and Geoffrey were  born in Forest Hill, London.

The 1891 census, taken at 1 Hurstbourne Road in Forest Hill, Lewisham gave William as a solicitor. With him was his wife Kate and their four children. Also there was one nurse and one general servant.

The 1901 census, taken at 9 Granville Park in Lewisham, London gave William as a solicitor employing others. With him was his wife Kate ; his children Oswald and Norah and three domestic servants.

The 1911 census, taken at 9 Granville Park, Lewisham gave William as a solicitor. With him was his wife Kate; his son Oswald (a solicitor) and three servants. The census noted that they were living in premises of twelve rooms.

A 1914 directory recorded William and his wife still living at 9 Granville Park. By this time all of their children had left home and begun their careers.

On April 17,1920 William arrived at Liverpool on the steamship CHANGUINOLA of Messrs Elders and Fuyffes Ltd line having departed from Kingston Jamaica. His occupation was given as “solicitor” and his address given as “ Mount Ephraim Hotel, Tunbridge Wells”. His wife took the trip with him and gave the same address as her husband.

On September 18,1920 Willian arrived at Quebec, Canada in the steamship SCOTIAN, having departed from London. The reason he gave for the trip was for his health and to visit his wifes niece in Duncan, British Columbia. From Quebec he went by train on the Canadian Pacific Railway to BC. He gave his nearest relative as his son Ernest J. Hempson of 33 Henrietta Street in Strand London.

Although not found listed in a Tunbridge Wells directory of 1922 it is obvious from his travel records that he was a resident of the town in 1920 and became active in local political affairs. His obituary states that he had lived in Tunbridge Wells since 1921. He was found in directories up to the time of his death in 1930 as “Councillor William Ernest Hempson”.

Directories of 1915 to 1920 gave William at 33 Henrietta Street, and 9 Granville Park, Lewisham. Directories of 1923-1927 gave William at 33 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden and 41 Molyneux Park Road, Tunbridge Wells.

Probate records gave William Ernest Hempson of 33 Henrietta Street, Stand, Westminster, Middlesex and of 41 Molyneux Park Road, Tunbridge Wells .He died February 6,1930 at the Tweedale Nursing Home, Tunbridge Wells (image opposite). The executors of hiws 34,404 pound estate were his widow Kate Hempson and his son Oswald Arthur Hempson and William’s solicitor. William was buried February 10th in the cemetery at St Paul’s Rusthall Church.

William’s former residence at 41 Molyneux Park Road was recently featured in an estate agents brochure. Shown below is a photograph of it. The home was described had having seven bedrooms; four baths and four sitting rooms. This  2 sty home was valued at 1.7 million pounds in 2017 and found located at the west end of Molyneux Park Road near Bishops Down Park Road.

William’s obituary, published in The British Medical Journal of February 15,1930 is a lengthy one, reflecting his long and distinguished career. Attached to the main obituary, which I provide below, detailed accounts were attached to it by Mr E. B. Turner F.R.C.S; The Medical Secretary; and Dr. James Neal the general secretary of the Medical Defence Union.

“WILLIAM ERNEST HEMPSON- We regret to record with much regret the death at Tunbridge Wells, on February 6th, of Mr. W.E. Hempston, who for nearly thirty years was the trusted legal adviser of the British Medical Association. William , one of the sons of the late J.A. Hempson of Erwarton Hall, near Ipswich, was educated at Ipswich Grammar School. He was admitted a solicitor in September 1880, at the age of 21, and for a time was associated with Messrs. Freshfields, solicitors to the Bank of England. In 1880 he started practice on his own account, and founded the firm of ‘Hempsons’ of which he was senior partner at the time of his death. In 1893 he was appointed solicitor to the Medical Defence Union, and in 1900 he was appointed solicitor of the British Medical Associaton. In consequence of holding these appointments he was brought into close touch with many members of the medical profession and medical societies throughout his active professional life. Mr Hempson was always an indefatigable worker. As a result of overwork during the war years, when his sons and many members of his office staff were away on active service, he was advised in the year 1919 that he must reduce his activities. He accordingly ceased to take part in the general practice of his firm from the year 1920,but he continued to advise the British Medical Association until the year 1928, when he finally relinquished the personal appointment of solicitor to the Association, and his firm (of which his son Oswald A. Hempson now becomes the senior partner) were appointed in his place. In recognition of his many years of work on behalf of the Association he was elected an honorary member at the time of his retirement, a distinction of which he was extremely proud. Three years ago he placed at the disposal of the Council, as a mark of esteem for the Association and appreciation of his happy relations with it, a sum of money to be awarded as a prize for the best essay on some phase or branch of public health. For many years Mr Hempson was intimately associated with the Medical Sickeness, Annuity, and Life Assurance Society, Limited. Since 1921 he had lived at Tunbridge Wells, where he played an increasingly active and useful part in local affairs. For the past seven years he had been a valued member of the town council of Tunbridge Wells, and had served on many committees, including the Health Committee, of which he was chairman. His enthusiasm for gardening led to his election as president of the Tunbridge Wells Horticultural Society, and he was a keep supporter of all local athletic clubs. At the funeral service on Feburary 1th , in St Paul’s Rusthall Church, the Council of the British Medical Assocaitoon was represented by Dr H, B. Brackenbury, Chairman of Council, and Dr. Alfred Cox, Medical Secretary. The Tunbridge Wells Division was represented by Dr F.T.C. Linton (chairman), Dr. Claude Wilson, and Dr E.A. Starling. Dr.Victor Jaynes represented the Medical Defence Union. There was a very large attendance at the church service, in which the municipal and hostital authorities, and the legal and medical professions were well represented.” Shown above is a postcard view of St Paul’s Rusthall Church.

The obituary of Williams on Oswald A. Hempson can be seen online as published in the British Medical Journal of February 20,1960.

Regarding ‘Hempson’s, referred to above, their website reports that “Hemptons is the UK’s quintessential healthcard Law firm…It opened for business in 1890. Its founder was William Ernest Hempson. The growing firm moved into new offices at 33 Henrietta Street,London in 1912 and following further expansion acquired additional accommodation across the road at 12-13 Henrietta Street, In 1990 the company opened it second office in Machester’s Mosley Street.” See their website for further details about the company’s history and premises.  Shown above is a photo of Henrietta Street.


The significance of the firm of George Israel Adams of Tunbridge Wells is twofold. Firstly it was the company from which William Ernest Hempston  purchased the Calverley Grounds sundial from. Secondly this company was hired by Tunbridge Wells Town Council to undertake most if not all of the landscaping work in the Calverley Grounds in 1924.

The Heritage Appraisal report of August 2016 gave in part the following. “ The laying out of shrubberies and flower beds , including an ‘Italian Garden’ was carried out in a piecemeal fashion, mostly between 1924-1926. A scheme for the soft landscaping  of the whole site  is preserved in the Borough Archive. It was produced by George I Adams Ltd, a firm of landscape gardeners based on Grosvenor Road then operating in the town, but is not dated.” The report continues with “ The Burmese Bell  bequeathed by Sidney Sladen was installed in the ‘Italian’ or ‘Rose’ garden in 1935, for which a sundial had already been presented by Councilor Hempson in 1924.” Details about Colonel Sladen and Burmese Bell were given in my article ‘ Colonel Sladen and the Burmese Bell’ dated February 22,2017.

The local directories of 1918 to 1922 listed “ George I Adams, florist, 21 Grosvenor Road; 71 Queens Road; Sandhurst Road”. The 1930 directory, which was the last directory found, gave “ George I. Adams, florist, 21 Grosvenor Road and Sandurst Road.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of February 1924 contained an advertisement which read “ George I. Adams, nurseryman, seedsman, florist, landscaper, plants, sunhouses, lawn tennis courts, sundials…Tunbridge Wells Tel. 248”. Several other similar advertisments for his business appeared in various issues of the Courier in 1924 and in other years.

George was born September 23,1874. His birth was registered in Tonbridge. He was one of eleven children born to George Fry Adams (1848-1927) and Martha Adams, nee Streatfield (1845-1929).  Up to  1880 the family lived in the town of Tonbridge but after that time resided in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1881 census, taken at the Fern Cottage Nursery on Queens Road gave George living with his parents and five siblings. His father George Fry Adams was given in this census as a florist and George was attending school.

The 1891 census, taken at Fern Cottage, 157 Queens Road, gave George Fry Adams as born 1848 in Rotherfield and working as a nurseryman employing others. With him was his wife Martha, born 1845 in Rotherfield, and ten of their children including George who was the youngest child.

The 1901 census, taken at 48 Forge Road in Southborough gave George Fry Admas as a dairyman employing others. With him was his wife Martha, his daughter Mabel (a nursemaid domestic); his son Percy (a cabinet maker); his son Newton age 14 and Reginald age 19 a dairyman working with his father. The 1911 census taken at Whitegate Farm on Reynolds Lane, Tunbridge Wells, gave George Fry Adams operating a dairy farm. With him was his wife Martha and three of his children who worked on the farm. The census recorded that the family were living in premises of 6 rooms; that the couple had been married 41 years and that 10 of the 11 children were still living.

George’s father died February 1,1927 in Tunbridge Wells and George’s mother died in Thanet, Kent in the 4th qtr of 1929.

George Israel Adams married Ellen Rebecca Botting (1868-1933)in the 1st qtr of 1896 in Tunbridge Wells and with her had two children namely Stanley G.S. Adams (born 1900) and Mabel Emmeline Adams (born 1905). Stanley had been born in Tunbridge Wells but Mabel was born in Oxfordshire.

The 1901 census, taken at 9 Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave George as a florist and nurseryman employing others. With him was his wife Ellen, born in Lamberhurst and their son Stanley. Stanley died sometime before 1911.

The 1911 census, taken at 21 Grosvenor Road ( 8 rooms) gave George as a nurseryman. With him was his wife Ellen who as assisting her husband in the business and their daughter Mabel. Also there was one domestic servant. The census recorded that the couple had been married for 15 years and that of their two children only their daughter was still living.

Moving ahead in time to 1939, George was given as a widow and working as a nurseryman. He was residing at 6 Chestnut Avenue in Southborough with just a housekeeper.

Probate records gave George Israel Adams of 21 Grosvenor road Tunbridge Wells when he died January 25,1944 at Tegothman Chestnut Avenue, Southborough. The executor of his 30,523 pound estate was his daughter Mabel Emmeline Connor (wife of Joseph Connor).


This section is named ‘The First Sundial’ for between 1924 when it was installed until at least 1987 it is shown in postcard views of the Calverley Gardens. In the postcard shown opposite, postmarked 1926 it appears on its own in the centre of the ‘Italian” garden. Views of the sundial after 1925 show it nearby the Burmease Bell,which as noted earlier was not installed in the garden until 1935.  During the course of this sundials history it was subjected to weathering and to some degree vandalism and circa 1990 it was replaced by “The Second Sundial’ one of an art deco style that is entirely different in appearance to the first sundial.

Images of the 1924 sundial best describe it and it has all the appearance of one being constructed of sandstone in an appealing carved form, no doubt from a local source of sandstone. It was installed on a solid octagonal base and on top was a bronze sundial. Whether the base the sundial sat on that is found today is original (1924) to the stone sundial is a matter of some speculation and in the next section I offer comments from Ian Beavis (the curator of the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery) who in reply to my inquiries made an onsite inspection of it and forwarded to me his observations. It is know from contacting the stone experts ‘Chilstone’ of Langton Green, who undertook a restoration of “The Second Sundial” in 2017 that they did not replace the stone base. It is known that the bronze sundial on top does not date back to 1924 as Chilstone stated that it was missing when they were contracted with for restoration work in 2017. Also since the ‘Second Sundial’ was installed as a replacement for the original one circa 1990 it is not known if the bronze sundial on it circa 1990 was a new one or if the 1924 bronze sundial had been reused on it.

Shown below is a sample of images of the ‘First Sundial’ during the period of 1935 to 1987. This sundial was a popular feature of the Calverley Grounds and many people had their photographs taken beside it, including me when I visited the Calverley Ground during my trip to England in 2015 , but at that time I was standing beside ‘The Second Sundial”.


No definitive information was found to establish what happened to the ‘First Sundian’ of 1924 but as stated above it was still shown there photographs up to the period of at least 1987. It is speculated in the absence of precise information that the 1924 sundial was replaced circa 1990 with an art deco styled one that still exists today in the Calverley Grounds in a 2017 restored condition.

Who made the art deco sundial; who donated it to the town, or who among town authorities purchased it are not known. Also not known is whether the bronze sundial on top of it was new circa 1990 or the re-installation of the 1924 version. What is known from the firm of Chilstone is that when they were hired by Helen Timms ( the head of Parks, Tunbridge Wells) to restore the sundial in 2017 for the Tunbridge Wells in Bloom competition the bronze sundial was already missing, no doubt the work of vandals and as a consequence they had to install a new one.

The best description of the ‘Second Sundial’ is by way of the image presented in this section; the information given to me by Steve Clark of Chilstone in an email and information provided by email in response to my inquiries by Ian Beavis who in addition of records in his possession did an onsite inspection of the sundial in late November 2017. Comments from these sources are given in this section of the article. Shown here is an mages of the ‘Second Sundial’ .

The firm of Chilstone in Langton Green is engaged in the business of creating beautiful garden ornaments, from fountains to statues and planters. Each piece is hand crafted and they also make bespoke items to order for gardens and house building as well as resporation projects. Their expertise in restoration work was the reason that the Parks department hired the company in 2017 to undertake the restoration of the sundial. The late Michael Dibben founded Chilstone Garden Ornaments in 1953 and began its long history at Great Linford Manor in Buckinghamshire  and in 1976 the company moved to Sprivers, a be4autiful National Trust property in Kent. In 1996 the business consolidated its show gardens and manufacturing workshop at Langton Green. In 2007 the business was sold to an entrepreneur who invested significantly, improving the company’s showgrounds, offices, moulds, and infrastructure of the business.

Shown below is an image of the art deco sundial during restoration by one of Chilstone’s skilled craftmen and a view of it after its reinstallation on July 6,2017.


Steve Clark of Chilstone’s stated the following by email to me November 27, 2018.  When asked about the material the sundial was made of he stated “ it looks like Natural Stone probably sourced locally from quarries originally in the Rusthall area, which is sometimes known as Tonbridge Stone. The original one (1924) would have been of a sandstone colour”. When asked if there were any identifying marks on any part of the sundial Steve stated “ We thought it looked older than 1985 however there were no marks and it was not made by Chilstone”. When asked about the bronze sundial Steve said “ The original sundial was stolen and we replace it with one of ours. There is a metal bar that goes through the entire baluster which saved it and enabled us to repair it. The repair was carried out by one of our most experienced craftsmen Andrew Sands”. As you can see from the image of this sundial there was a large crack that ran down its length, which defect was properly repaired. They did not replace octagonal stone base that it sat on.

Ian Beavis in an email to me of November 26,2018 confirmed that the First Sundial was from 1924 “ as confirmed by the Parks Committee Minutes. You are correct in your observation that the current sundial is not the one shown in views of the park going right up to the 1980’s. I’m pretty sure therefore that the current one is ‘new’- and I think I remember it going in since I’ve been working at the Museum (i.e. post 1985). Of course it may well be that the bronze sundial is original and that it was put on the new stone base in the late 80s/early 90’s.”

I also made an inquiry to Helen the head of Parks but she replied stating that she had no information about the history of the sundial



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