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

Date: December 16,2016


Francis Riley was a medical practitioner(M.D.) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (F.R.C.S.).He had been born 1868 in Cricklade, Wiltshire, a small town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire, England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester.

He was one of at least four children born to William Mumford Riley, a Civil Service Supervisor of Excise, born 1836 in Woodham, Essex, and Caroline Riley, born 1837 at Dolton, Devon.

He was a well-educated gentleman and by 1898 was the Senior House Surgeon at the Westminster Hospital. He had served as a Lieut. in the Royal Army Medical Corp and wrote a number of medical related papers including ‘Tunbridge Wells As A Health Resort’ which was published in the British Medical Journal in 1906 while a resident of Tunbridge Wells.

He had lived with his parents in Wiltshire initially but by 1881, while attending school, he lived with his parents and siblings in Eye, Suffolk. By the time of the 1891 census, taken in London, Francis was working as a clerk in the Civil Service. By 1901 he was living on his own in Sale, Cheshire and working as a surgeon.  On June 17,1904, at St Annes Church in Sale, Cheshire he married Clara Ellen Thompson, one of several children both to John James Thompson, a metal merchant, and Ellen Thompson of Warrington, Lancashire. While living and working as a medical practitioner in Sale, Cheshire, Francis and his wife had a son Albert in 1905.

In 1906 Francis and his wife and son moved to Tunbridge Wells, where in 1907 they had a son Frederick Thompson Riley. The family had taken up residence in a fine 13 room home at No. 3 Culverden Gardens, one of three identical homes (No. 1-3) located on St John’s Road on the south west corner of the road Culverden Park. At this intersection was the Monument to Canon Edward Hoare, and for that reason a number of fine postcard views were produced showing the monument and Culverden Gardens, one of which is shown above.

By 1918 Francis was to be found at Howard Lodge, located at 16 Mount Sion. He died there November 6,1919, and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.


Francis Riley was born 1868 at in Cricklade, Wiltshire,(view opposite) a small town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire, England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester.

Francis was one of several children born to William Mumford Riley, a prosperous gentleman who was a Supervisor of Excise with the Civil Service, and who because of his position was able to provide his children with a good education. William Mumford Riley had been born 1836 at Woodham, Essex and his wife was Caroline Riley, born 1837 at Dolton, Devon. At the time of the 1871 census the family were living in Lancashire. By 1874 the family moved to Eye, Suffolk.

The 1881 census, taken at Prospect Villa  on Magdalen Street, in Eye, Suffolk (image opposite) gave William Mumford Riley as a ‘Civil Service Supervisor Excise’. With him was his wife Caroline; four of their children namely Albert W, age 14, born in Dolton, Devon; Francis,age 13, born in Crickdale; Arthur, age 11, born in St Helens,Lancashire; and Edith M Riley, age 7, born in Eye Suffolk. Also in the home was one boarder and one domestic servant.

The 1891 census, taken at 4 Montros Villas in Putney, London gave Francis as a clerk in the Civic Service, living as a boarder with a Mrs Armstong, a lady living on own means.

Regarding the education, medical training and experience of Francis, the following summary from the 1920 UK & Ireland Medical Directory gives a full picture. “ FRANCIS RILEY…….Howard Lodge, Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells (Riley & Chisolm; Tel. Tunbridge Wells 504)-M.D. London 1905, M.B.B.S. 1898: F.R.C.S. Eng. 1899’ M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. London 1895; (Westminster); Guthrie Schol. Westminster Hosptial 1891; 2nd Class Hors. In Obst. Med. M.B. 1898; Prosect R.C.S. Eng. 1st Class Certif. 1893; late Senior House Surgeon Westinster Hospital (image opposite); Lt. R.A.M.C (Royal Army Medical Corps). Author, “Case of Diphtheria,” Lancet, 1896; “Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis,” ib 1901; “Tunbridge Wells as a Health Resort”, British Medical Journal 1908”.

Regarding his articles it was also found in the British Medical Journal for the British Medical Association, at their meeting July 35-28, 1911 that “Francis Riley of Tunbridge Wells” wrote a letter published in the Journal entitled ‘The Wage Limit and its Absence’ dated May27,1911 in which “Dr Francis Riley (Tunbridge Wells) writes to emphasize certain points to which, in his opinion, the whole profession should give attention”. In part Francis stated “ The wage limit of 160 pounds a year is unneccessarily high. The bulk of the working-class population who, under present conditions obtain inadequate medical attendance and require to be insured against sickness come well within a wage limit of 2 pounds or even less per week. To make it compulsory for those with incomes between 100 pounds and 160 pounds a year to join friendly societies or become Post Office contributors whether they desire it or no, is to deprive the medical practitioner of a large portion of his private practice from which he derives the bulk of his income, and inflicts gross injustice upon the profession to which the State is so much indebted…………..” The complete article can be found on the internet.

Regarding his term with the Royal Army Medical Corps, the London Gazette of June 15,1915 gave a listing for “Francis Riley, M.D. ; F.R.C.S, in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The London Gazette of January 26,1916 reported that on May 5,1916 Francis Riley M.D.; F.R.C.S. a temporary Lieut with the Royal Army Medical Corps, relinquished his command.

The 1901 census, taken at Northenden Road , St Anne, Sale, Cheshire  gave Francis Riley as a ‘surgeon on own account at home’. The only person living with him was one domestic servant.

On June 17,1904 Francis married Clare Ellen Thompson at St Anne’s Church in Sale Cheshire. Shown opposite is a view of the church.The marriage records gave Francis’s father as William Mumford Riley, a civil servant, and Clare’s father was given as John James Thompson, a metal merchant. Shown opposite is a photo ,stated by decendents to be of Francis and Clare taken in the studio of Ernest M. Smith of 21 Washway Road in Sale Cheshire.

Clare Ellen Thompson had been born 1878 in Sale, Cheshire, and it was while Francis was working in Sale that they met, fell in love, and after a short courtship got married. Clare came from a large family, which based on the census records shows she was one of at least nine children. At the time of the 1881 census her father John James Thompson, born 1842 in Halifax, Yorkshire was a metal merchant. Clare was living at that time with her father and mother Ellen, born 1844 in Warrington, Lancaster and six siblings at 10 Holmefield, Sale, Cheshire. There were also three domestic servants in the home. By the time of the 1901 census, taken at ‘The Towers’ on Brooklands Road, Sale Cheshire (photo opposite) Clare’s father had passed away. Living in the home at that time was Clare, living on own means; five of her siblings and her widowed mother who was living on own means. Also there was a sister in law of Ellen Thompson, one visitor and four domestic servants. Clare’s brother Alfred, age 22, was a medical student, denoting that the family was well off financially.

After the marriage Francis and his wife remained in Sale, Cheshire and it was there in 1905 that they had a son Albert Carruthers Riley. In 1906 the family moved to Tunbridge Wells and most likely took up residence at 3 Culverden Gardens. Details about this residence are given later in a separate section.

The Medical Directory of 1910 gave the listing “ Francis Riley, 3 Culverden Gardens, Tunbridge Wells and a 1920 Medical Directory gave the listing Francis Riley, Howard Lodge, Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells. This last directory was incorrect, for Francis passed away at Howard Lodge in 1919.

The 1911 Census, taken at 3 Culverden Gardens gave Francis Riley as a medical practitioner. With him was his wife Clara; their two children Albert Carruthers Riley, age 6 and Frederick Thompson Riley, who was born in Tunbridge Wells on December 12,1907, and who’s birth was announced in the Kent & Sussex Courier on December 20th, noting that the boy had been born on the 12th at “3 Culverden Gardens, St John’s Road. This census recorded that the family were living in premises of 13 rooms and that they had only the two children. Also living in the home was three domestic servants.

The 1913 Kelly directory gave the listing “ Francis Riley M.A. London, 3 Culverden Gardens, Tunbridge Wells. The 1918 Kelly directory gave the listing “Francis Riley, M.D, London, F.R.C.S. Eng. , 16 Howard Lodge, Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells”.

Probate records gave Francis Riley of Howard Lodge, 16 Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells when he died November 6,1919. The executor of his  5,051 pound estate was the Public Trustee. Francis was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on November 10th. Definitive information about what happened to his wife was not obtained, as a number of possibilities were found.


As referred to earlier one of the medical related papers Francis wrote was ‘Tunbridge Wells as a Health Resort’ which appeared in the September 8,1906 edition of the British Medical Society Journal. It is an interesting article which I have reproduced below in its entirety, which I have supplemented with some related images.

“By Francis Riley, M.D., B.S. Lond. F.R.C.S………..The history of Tunbridge Wells dates from the days when the dissolute Dudley North, discovered the chalybeate springs in the early part of the seventeenth century, and was advised by his London physicians to drink the water as a restorative to his jaded energies. The experiment was an unqualified success. He came, he drank, and was cured. Others, emboldered by the happy result, hastened to try the new “cure”, and the Wells became the fashionable resort of the wits and brilliant society figures of the day.(shown opposite is image of Dudley North).

An old print (image below) shows Dr Johnson promenading with David Garrick, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Speaker Onslow, and other nobilities of the eighteenth century. In addition to its fame as in inland watering place, the salubrity of the climate and the picturesque nature of the surrounding country have gradually attracted a large and increasing number of permanent residents, who have thus given to the town its distinctive feature as a residential health resort, and a place of refuge against the inroads of sickness and the infirmities of old age.

Situated as it is upon the bed of sandstone known as the Hastings Sands, at a height of nearly 400 ft above sea level, and towards the eastern side of the island, Tunbridge Wells possesses the elements which go to make a dry and bracing climate. Its position towards the south coast (thirty miles from Hastings) tempers the keenness of the easterly breezes and reduces the chilling effect of the elevation, so that the climate may be described as exhilarating and mildly bracing. Its healthlness, as well as its picturesqueness, is greatly enhanced by the magnificent stretches of common-about 250 acres in extent-which penetrate to the very centre of the town, and supply abundant life-giving atmosphere to every part (image below).  The pine woods which abound in the vicinity also contribute to the tonic and invigorating effect of the climate, and suggest the suitability for the open-air treatment of tuberculous and allied diseases; for, owing to the southerly situation, it could be carried out all the year round.

The beneficial effects of the climate are fully borne out by the returns of the medical officer of health for the borough. For the last six years the death-rate has fallen below 13.0 per 1,000 and, when it is remembered that a considerable proportion of the population is made up either of invalids attracted by the salubrity of the climate or of the aged and retired who desire to spend their declining years amidst pleasant surroundings, these figures are sufficiently remarkable. In the year 1905 more than one-half the total number of deaths took place over the age of 60, and no less than 30 per cent, over 70 years-a striking testimony of the influence of the climate in promoting longevity. At the other end of scale the abnormally low rate of infantile mortality-72 per 1,000 births in 1905-demontrates the suitability of the climate for children; as to this the medical men of the town are fully agreed. Some credit, too, should no doubt be ascribed to the almost entire absenses of deaths from xymotic diseases, in itself a tribute to the excellent system of sanitation which prevails in the town.

The thertapeutic indications of the Tunbridge Wells climate may be briefly summarized : First and foremost it is especially suited to diseases of the respiratory organs. The mildness and tonicity of the atmosphere, the height above sea level, and the gravelly nature of the soil are of great value in the treatment of bronchitis and bronchial asthma, as well as in the open-air treatment of consumption and surgical tuberculous. Cardiac diseases are benefited by the bracing atmosphere, as well as by Nauheim baths and massage to be obtained at the Spa baths (this is a reference to the Spa Hotel, a postcard view of which by local photographer Harold H. Camburn is shown opposite). The number of gentle ascents are of value in the treatment of obesity and fatty heart by the Oertel method of hill climbing combined with hydrotherapeutic and other measures. The clearness and mildly bracing effect of the atmosphere renders it peculiarly valuable in the treatment of nervous diseases, more expecially those attended with mental depression, such as cases if melancholia, hypochondriasis, and neurasthenia, and the early stages of general paralysis. Diseases of the digestive organs are also beneficially influenced; appetite is restored and the desire for exercise stimulated. Cases of anaemia also benefit by the bracing air combined with internal treatment, and the climate is particularly valuable in convalescence after surgical operations, and was often recommended for this purpose by the late Sir Spencer Wells. In most children’s diseases, especially debility, a favourable influence may confidently by predicted.

The good effects of the climate are enhanced by the very attractive nature of the town and its surroundings. The stretches of open common, 450 ft. above sea level, in and around the town, open out lovely views of the neighbouring country . On every side are to be found woodland and pastoral scenery scarcely surpassed in any other part of England, with the hop-fields, for which Kent is famous. Pine woods also and picturesque villages and places of interest abound in the vicinity. The unique promenade, known as the Pantiles, is a never failing source of attraction,where excellent music is provided during the season, which extends from June to October. Entertainments and theatrical performances are also provided for the amusement of visitors at the opera house and the Great Hall.

Mention must also be made of the chalybeate waters, to the discovery of which Tunbridge Wells owes its name and existence. Then contain an analysis about 4 gr. Of carbonate of iron per gallon, which sulphates of potash and soda, and chlorides of sodium and calcium, and are of undoubted efficacy in the treatment of anemia and allied disorders. They are largely drunk by visitors, and it is to be regretted that their use had, no doubt partly on account of the position of the springs, been allowed of recent years to fall into comparative neglect. The borough council is now, however, seeking Parliamentary powers to obtain full control of them, and there is every probability that in a short space of time the waters will become a greater source of attraction and benefit to visitors than is the case at present “ . 

This article by Francis Riley was produced while he was a resident of the town. On my visit to Tunbridge Wells in 2015 I found the climate most enjoyable and I can certainly attest to the workout one gets walking about the town up and down hills, such as the Mount Pleasant Hill, which darn near wore me out, but no doubt did me some benefit. If I hadn’t eaten so much fine food at the local restaurants no doubt I would have returned to Canada a few pounds lighter than when I began the trip to England.

Tunbridge Wells has always been noted as a place where the infirm visited to restore their health and a place where large numbers of people decided to move to during their retirement years. For this reason, the percentage of older people in the town to the general population has been greater than many other parts of England, and no doubt this has also had an influence on the town being noted as a place where “the rich” live, having accumulated a lifetime of earnings before coming to the town. Statistics over the years have also shown a much larger percentage of the population being female than male, being in large measure either spinsters living on own means or widows. Statistics also show that the county of Kent has an older age profile that the national average for the over 40 group and below average profile than the average for people aged 20-39. If the claims made by Francis Riley in his article  are to be believed, and no doubt he is quite correct, that what better place could one live than in Tunbridge Wells.


Given here is a brief history of Culverden Gardens as presented in part of my article entitled ‘Edward Gillett Gilbert MD and Botanist’ dated November 1,2014.

“Shown opposite is a postcard view of St Johns Road looking north towards its intersection with Culverden Park. Note the monument to Canon Hoare at the intersection. In an article I wrote about the history of the Culverden Grove mansion I described that on the S.W. corner of this intersection was the site of the Culverden Grove mansion which sat on large landscaped grounds. In that article I wrote “It was a grand mansion occupied by the rich and famous until it was eventually demolished in 1887 to make way for the construction  of three new homes on its front lawn(which became known as 1-3 Culverden Gardens) and for two large glass greenhouses to the rear of them on the footprint  of the Culverden Grove mansion  that became the Culverden Nursery run by William Charles Hollands who also had a florist shop next door at 13 and 15 St John’s Road.  The three homes referred to above as 1-3 Culverden  Gardens is referred to in The Courier of January 22,1937 in which it was stated “ The Courier exclusively announced that H.M. Office of Works was negotiating for the purchase of 1-3 Culverden Gardens, a prominent site with frontage on St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells in connection with the proposed new automatic telephone exchange.” As a result  1-3 Culverden Gardens was demolished to make way for the new telephone exchange building which had the address of 17 St Johns Road. In the 1960’s  a new telephone exchange building was constructed on the site in front of the old exchange building. The old exchange building became the Social Club.The history of the site beyond that has not been investigated by the researcher.Chris Jones of the Civic Society did indicate to me that Culverden Gardens still appeared in a 1953 directory being  occupied by Government Departments and the WRVS. No.3 Culverden Gardens seems to have been a popular residence for surgeons ,for a surgeon by the name of Francis Riley M.D. ; MRCS July 29,1895; FRCS June 8,1899; LRCO London July 29,1895; MB BS London (3rd class honours in obstetric medicine) 1898; MD 1905 lived there. He had studied at Westminster Hospital, where he was Guthrie Scholar in 1891, President’s Prizeman and Prosector at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1893, and later House Surgeon. He served next as Medical Officer on the steamships Fifeshire, Mound, and Buteshire, then practised for a time at Winton, New Zealand, when he was Public Vaccinator. About 1900 he returned to practice at Peny-bryn, Hereford, subsequently at 3 Culverden Gardens, St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, and finally at Howard Lodge, Mount Sion, He is listed in the 1911 and 1913 directory at #3 Culverden Gardens and died in Tunbridge Wells on November 6,1919 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on November 10th. “


Howard Lodge (image opposite) is located at 16 Mount Sion.  Francis Riley was noted as being there from at least 1918 up to the time of his death there in 1919.

Roger Farthing, a man one might consider an expert on the topic of Mount Sion, wrote a 484 page book entitled “ A History of Mount Sion’ (2003),from which source I give below some information.

From page 378 of the aforemention book is a site map dated 1833, a large building situated on an equally large plot of land next to Jernigham Place and the estate of Mr Stephan Sawyer, and fronting on Little Mount Sion. “In the words of the Howard Lodge deeds. ‘sometime in or about the year 1826 the two messuages occupied by Mary Beale, Harriett Beale, and Emily Beale, and called Mrs Wilmot’s Cottage and the other used as a lodging house were pulled down and upon the site thereof a messuage or Dwelling house and offices thereto were erected and built called Howard Lodge’. The Howard Lodge building as you can see (in the modern photos in this section) has not changed in its basic shape but new building has taken place since, fronting onto Cumberland Yard, on what the deed refers to as the ‘Back Lawn’. A small stable is shown (on the plan) but the original stables for Jernigham House must have been much more extensive and located probably in the area which is marked ‘Stephen Sawyer’s Estate’. Note the ‘Pump Yard’ which contained the well providing water also for Jernigham House although it belonged to Howard Lodge….. In 1836 Howard Lodge was sold to William Stanhope Taylor, esq., The mother of Howard Lodge’s first owner had in fact been Lady Lucy Rachel Stanhope, daughter of the 3rd Earl Stanhope, who rather spoiled her copybook by eloping at the age of 16 with the family apothecary and marrying him in 1796. He was Dr Thomas Taylor of Sevenoaks who is shown in a cartoon by James Gillray….” (see pg 381 of Farthings book for the cartoon).

Lucy and her husband had three sons and four daughters before she died in 1814. William Stanhope Taylor, was the eldest son and lived the life of a man of means…his house being described as “a residence of distinction”. “ The Stanhope Taylors continued to live in Howard Lodge in some style for the next twenty years or so.” Mr Taylor died in 1858 “and had been replaced by Richard Turner, the first of a number of doctors at Howard Lodge. By 1861 it was Dr Blackall Martsack who survived until about 1890 after which Drs Anderson, Adeney, RILEY AND CHISHOLM (Francis Riley and his medical associate) followed until many years later (1960-1965 era) when the building was sub-divided as it is now”.

The Mr “Chisholm” referred to above is the same person referred to in the 1920 Medical Directory I gave earlier as “Riley & Chisholm; Howard Lodge, Mount Sion Tel Tunbridge Wells 504”.   He was Robert Alexander Chisolm (1878-1956), the son of William and Mary Chisolm. His father had passed away before 1881. Robert had been born in Hampstead, Middlesex and graduated from Oxford University. Before coming to Tunbridge Wells he had practiced at a number of hospitals including Guys Hospital, Queens Children’s Hospital, Queen Mary’s R.N. Hospital and had served as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The 1918 Electoral resister had him still in Hampstead and he first appears in Tunbridge Wells with Francis Riley at Howard Lodge in 1918/1919 but a 1920 Medical Journal also had him at 11 Church Road in Tunbridge Wells. Details about his education and medical career can be found online in the listings of the Uk & Ireland Medical Directories of 1845-1942. On November 10,1915 at St Paul Church, Weymouth, Dorset ,Robert married Alice Maude Eleanor Naylor, born 1884, the daughter of Thomas Edwin Naylor. Directories of 1919 to 1942 listed him at Howard Lodge. A 1922 directory listed him as one of four medical officers of the Provident Dispensary at 106 Upper Grosvenor Road and a 1930 directory listed him as one of the medical men at the General Hospital on Grosvenor Road (postcard view above). Probate records gave Robert of Howard Lodge, 16 Mount Sion, when he died May 29,1956. The executor of his 3,148 pound estate was the Public Trustee. He was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. A more detailed account of his life and career may be the subject of a future article.  The date in which Howard Lodge, suggested by Roger Farthing as being subdivided 1960-1965 era may more precisely have taken place  soon after the death of Robert Alexander Chisolm there in 1956.


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

Date: July 1,2019


The Bowles Mountaineering Gymnasium is a sandstone outcrop in East Sussex located on the border of Kent about 8 km (5 miles) south of the town of Tunbridge Wells.

It was established as an introductory climbing and outdoor pursuit training centre where courses are offered to visiting young people wishing to develop their rock climbing skills.

Bowles Rocks was intended as a rock climbing gymnasium by John Walters who was a rock climbing enthusiast. In the early 1960's John Walters and other mountaineering enthusiasts bought the site from a pig farmer and cleared the site. Previously the site had been used as a firing range during WWII and to house pigs. Bullet holes in the rocks can still be seen today.  There are approximately 230 climbs at Bowles which range in difficulty.

In 1963 the Bowles Rocks Trust purchased the site and they maintain ownership today.


Shown below is the front and back of a postcard franked in Tunbridge Wells in 1969 entitled " Bowles Mountaineering Gymnasium". The postcard also bears a square ink stamp noting the 1909-1969 Jubilee of Royal Tunbridge Wells. It was in 1909 that "Royal" was added to the towns name. Details about the decision to go "Royal" was given in the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society Book ' Tunbridge Wells in 1909' by Chris Jones.

The person who sent the postcard was Sandra Stacey, a young women who with others had attended one of the rock climbing courses at Bowles. The postcard was sent to her parents in Whipton, Exeter, Devon. It is expected that she and others were staying in Tunbridge Wells while participating in rock climbing  at High Rocks located near the town of Tunbridge Wells on the way to Groombridge.



























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