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

Date: June 8,2018


Edward Frederick St John Lyburn (1904-1977) was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of mining engineer Edward St John Lyburn (1873-1946) and grandson of William Lyburn, a master cabinet maker born 1836 in Dublin.

Edward, sometimes given in accounts as Eric Frederick St John Lyburn, decided to pursue a career as a doctor and received his education in Dublin initially but later in England. The UK Medical Students Register records he began medical practice in 1923.

In the 1930’s he practiced in Hastings Sussex and by 1938 operated as a medical practitioner at 28 Mount Pleasant Road in Hastings and also as a consulting physician at the Hastings Clinic on London Road.

He served throughout WWII as  Surgeon Lieut. Commander with the R.N.V.R. but by 1941 he lived and practiced medicine in Tunbridge Wells from a former private residence at 12 Ferndale Road, called “Ferndale Grange”. He was still at that address in 1950 although directories of 1945-1947 show that he also had a practice at 10 Harley Street in London. Shown below is a postcard view of Ferndale.

During the period of at least 1953 up to the time of his death in Tunbridge Wells in 1977 he operated from premises at 9 Broadwater Down, once a private residence built in the 1860’s.  Shown below is a postcard view of Broadwater Down.

Dr Lyburn was in interesting character. Newspapers dated 1949 in England, Australia and America published articles noting that Dr Lyburn was the first doctor to publically announce that he would work under the NHS and that in the same year he announced that due to large sums being “wasted on useless pills and medicine” he immediately tendered his resignation, being the first doctor to leave the NHS.

Shown in this article is a photograph of a steam machine invented by Dr Lyburn, which machine was featured in the British Pathe film of 1959 and demonstrated by Dr. Lyburn at the 3rd Annual Doctors Hobbies Exhibition held November 11,1959. Dr Lyburn claimed in the film that his steam machine had been helpful to some 37,000 patients with Thrombosis. Whether it really worked or was just another example of medical quackery was not established.

In 1960, Dr Lyburn threatened legal action when he came into conflict with Tunbridge Wells Town Council over signage near his premises and was also that year brought before a disciplinary hearing of the British Medical Society in 1950 “ for having advertised for the purpose of procuring patients. Sir Robert Gower, of Tunbridge Wells was his solicitor and it was stated that Dr Lyburn had as a consequence “removed a sign which had offended the Council and had ceased to call his clinic at Tunbridge Wells the Lyburn Clinic and that he was now taking patients under the NHS.

Edward Frederick St John Lyburn was a colourful character, which this article reports on. He passed away in Tunbridge Wells at 9 Broadwater Down April 6,1977 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on April 15th. He had been married twice, firstly to Maureen Margaret Armstrong in 1934, who he divorced, and then to Marquerite Hedden in 1945 at Tunbridge Wells. From these marriages he had one child, a daughter who survived him.  A photograph of Dr. Lyburn from 1959 is shown above that was taken at his clinic in Tunbridge Wells.


I begin my account of the family with Edward St John Lyburn (1873-1946) who had been born in Dublin, Ireland and died there December 5,1946. Edward was the son of William Lyburn, a master cabinet maker, who in 1903 was listed in a directory as a merchant. Edward’s mother was Jane Miller. Edward was baptised June 24,1873 in Dublin.

Edward received a good education in Ireland and became a mining engineer.

The 1901 census, taken at Glasthole, Dublin, gave William Lyburn as a master cabinet maker, age 65, born in Dublin. With him was his wife Jane Emily Lyburn, age 58, born in Belfast; their children Ina, age 23; Edward St John, age 28 and Frederick St John, age 18. Also there was one domestic servant.

On July 9,1903 Edward married Ethel Mary Griggs, a spinster born 1879. At the time of the marriage, at East Molesay St Paul Church in Surrey, Ethel was a 24 year old spinster, the daughter of Thomas Griggs, a merchant. She was living in East Molesay at the time of the marriage and Edward was given as a bachelor; a mining enginer of Hampton, Middlesex. Edward and his wife went on to have the following children (1) Edward Frederick St John Lyburn (1904-1977) who was born in Dublin Ireland (2) Rex St John Lyburn, who’s birth was registered in Dublin in the 2nd qtr of 1906. Rex marries a Miss Douglas in the 2nd qtr of 1934 at Ripton Yorkshire.  Like his brother Edward, he was educated at the University of Dublin and is listed in the UK Medical and Dental Students Registers of 1882-1937 as having begun his medical practice in 1923. (3) Sheelah St John Lyburn who’s birth was registered in Dublin in the 3rd qtr of 1909. She married in the 4th qtr of 1932 in Dublin.(4) Niall St John Lyburn born November 28,1912 in Dublin. He was listed in the Campbell College Register as the son of Edward St John Lyburn F.R.C.S L.F. O.S. of 1 Montevells Terrace Bay, County Wicknow and the brother of Edward Frederic St John Lyburn of the same college. This register gave for Naill “ V.L. July 1929; Apprentice Mercantile Marine SS MISTLY HALL 1930. Left Merchant Service 1936. WestRant Consolidated Mines, Krugessdopp, Transval; 1939-1945 war service S.A. R,N.V.R. Address-Care of Dr Lyburn, Spa Clinic, Tunbridge Wells”.

In October, 1904 Edward St John Lyburn, an engineer, and his wife Ethel Mary Lyburn departed from Liverpool on the SS CELTIC and arrived at New York, USA October 24,1904.

Directories of 1907 -1907 listed Edward St John Lyburn as a mining engineer at 37 Ailesbury Road in Ireland and those of 1929-1936 gave him in the same occupation and living at 5 Royal Terrace, Bray, Ireland.

Probate records gave Edward St John Lyburn of Clogheen Gorden Avenue Foxrock Dublin when he died December 5,1946 at Farnham, House Hospital , Finglas, Dublin. The executor of his 650 pound ( in England) estate was his widow Ethel Mary Lyburn.


Edward was the eldest child born to Edward St John Lyburn (1873-1946) and Jane Lyburn, nee Miller. He had been born June 11,1904 in Dublin, Ireland and was educated there, having trained in the medical field at the University of Dublin. He first entered private medical practice in 1923, according to the Uk Medical and Dental Student Register 1882-1937. In this directory he was listed as Eric Frederick St John Lyburn, a name by which he was often referred to in records. Shown opposite is a photograph of Dr Lyburn from a 1959 British Pathe film taken at his clinic in Tunbridge Wells.  

The 1911 census, taken at Simmonscourt, Donnybrook, Dublin, gave Edward St John Lyburn as a mining engineer. With him was his wife Ethel Mary Lyburn and his three children Edward Frederick St John Lyburn, a scholar; Rex St John Lyburn, a scholor, and Sheelah St John Lyburn. Also there was one nursery governess and one domestic. The census recorded that the couple had been married 7 years and had three children, all of whom were still living.

The Campbell College Register gave the following “ Entrance September 1917-Edward Frederick St John Lyburn, son of Edward St John Lyburn 1 Montevello Terrace Bay, County Wicknow. Brother of Niall St John Lyburn. CV.V. Dec. 1919; T.C.D. B.A. 1917; M.B. B.Ch B.A. V. 1920; 1939-1945 war service as surgeon Lt. Commander R.N.V.R. ; Medical Practitioner. Address- Spa Clinic, Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells”. His military service, as given above, was also given on a Navy List and records he served from 1931 to 1945.

Edward Frederick St John Lyburn was listed in two marriage records as Eric Frederick St John Lyburn. The first was in the 2nd qtr of 1934 at Rathdown to Maureen Margaret Armstrong although his wife may have been in the alternative Maude M.E. Daly. His second marriage was in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1945 to Marguerite Heddon. It is known from birth records that Edward had one child, a daughter.

A directory of 1935 gave “E.F. St. Jon Lyburn, medical practitioner, 38 Mount Pleasant Road, Hastings. A directory of 1938 gave “ E.F. St John Lyburn, medical practitioner, 28 Mount Pleasant Road, Hastings, Sussex also at the Hastings Clinic on London Road as a consulting physician”. A Directory of 1939 gave “ Eric Frederick St John Lyburn, doctor of medicine, 62 London Road, Hastings, Sussex”.

In 1938 Dr Eric Frederick St John Lyburn authored a book entitle “Doctor FCTCER” published by Stockwell.

Sometime after 1939 Edward lest Hastings and established his medical practice in Tunbridge Wells. Directories of 1941-1950 gave “ E.F. St John Lyburn, consulting plysician, Ferndale Grange, 12 Ferndale Road, Tunbridge Wells”.  Further information about Ferndale Grange is given later in this article.  During this time Dr Lyburn also had a medical office in London. Directories of 1945-1947 for example gave the listing “ Dr. E.F. St John Lyburn, physician, 10 Harley Street, London”, and a directory of 1952 gave “ Dr. E. F. St John Lyburn, 62 Queen Anne St., Welbeck, London”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of December 11,1942 referred to “ Optical Treatment”and that Dr. Lyburn, who presided, announced that next week Councillor Marsh would speak on the Economic Turn Round…”

In 1949 the name of Dr Lyburn appeared in newspapers in England, Australia and the USA over a matter which attracted headlines. The Advertiser of Adelaide, Australia dated November 15,1949 for example gave the following article under the heading “ First Doctor IN Health Scheme is First Doctor OUT”. The article reported “ London Nov. 14 Dr. E.F. Lyburn, 40 , of Tunbridge Wells the first doctor publically to announce that he would work under the National Health Scheme is the first publically to announce his resignation. Dr Lyburn said today ‘The 68 million pounds spent on useless pills and medicine under the Act has been tragically wasted. Domicillary services are appaling and inefficient”. Immedially his resignation was publicised the Missouri Medical Association telephones across the Atlantic offering to sponsor a lecture tour of the United States. Dr Lyburn accepted adding “’I shall not hesitate to criticise the anomalies of the service’”. The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York reported on December 9,1949 that “Dr Lyburn is a harsh critic of diagnostic standards in Britain and has resigned from the NHS”.

The minutes of the General Medical Council (supplement to the British Medical Journal) dated June 3,1950 ran an article about Dr. Lyburn under the heading “ Advertising to Procure Patient”. The article stated that The Council had considered its adjourned judgement in the case of Dr. Eric Frederick St John Lyburn, registered as of Tunbridge Wells, whom, at its previous session, it had found to have advertised for the purpose of procuring patients….Dr. Lyburn attended, accompanied by his council Dr. Elliot Gorst (instructed by Sir Robert Gower, solicitor, Tunbridge Wells). Mr Elliott Gorst said that Dr.Lyburn had observed the admonition given him by the Council, had removed a sign which had offended Council, and had ceased to call his clinic at Tunbridge Wells the “Lyburn Clinic”. He was now taking patients under the NHS. In reply to a question as to a paragraph which appeared in the Press in December last announcing that Dr Lyburn was rejoining the Service, it was stated that the statement was made at a Labour Party meeting at Pemburn which Dr. Brooks, of the Socialist Medical Association, had invited Dr Lyburn to attend. The Council did not see fit to direct the Registrar to erase Dr Lyburn’s name, and this closed the case”.

Directories of 1953 to 1977 gave “E.F. St. John Lyburn, physician, 9 Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells.

Dr Lyburn once again made the news in 1959 in connection with a medical device he had invented and put into use in his practice. Shown opposite is a photograph of this device as well as the information given on the back, which indicates that this invention was demonstrated at the 3rd Annual Doctors Hobbies Exhibition held November 11,1959. A British Pathe film, of 1959, which can be seen online featured Dr Lyburn and his device and his Tunbridge Wells Clinic. The two still photos of Dr Lyburn  are from this film. Dr Lyburn claimed in the film that his device had been used by him to treat Thrombosis in 37,000 cases to great effect.

Sometime after 1950 but before 1953 Dr Lyburn moved to new premises at 9 Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells. Directories of 1953 to 1977 gave “ E.F. St. John Lyburn, physician, 9 Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells. Further information about 9 Broadwater Down is given later in this article.

Dr Lyburn made the news once again in 1960 when a dispute arose regarding signs near his premises. The Eagle from Bryan Texas, USA dated August 5,1960, for example, was one of several newspapers in the USA, England and elsewhere that reported on the matter. This newspaper stated in part “ Dr Lyburn of Tunbridge Wells is threatening to sue unless the Council takes down the sign…The Tunbridge Wells Council claims the sign is 12” high and in black. Dr Lyburn stated “ There are four of them around my place”.

Probate records gave Edward Frederick St John Lyburn, otherwise Eric Frederick St John Lyburn otherwise Frederick St John Lyburn of 9 Broadwater Down,Tunbridge Wells, who died April 6,1977. The probate of his 6,385 pound estate was done in Brighton. No names were given for the executors of his estate. He was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium in Tunbridge Wells April 15,1977.


As noted above Edward Frederick St John Lyburn first occupied a former private residence at 12 Ferndale Road, Tunbridge Wells, which during part of its history was known as Ferndale Grange. Shown below is a photograph of this home and map showing its location. He was at this address from at least 1941 to 1950.

The home was one of several grand homes constructed in the Ferndale Residential Development in the 19th century. Details about the history of this home and its occupants were given in my article “ The History of 12 Ferndale Road” dated February 22,2017.

Directories of 1953 to 1977 gave “E.F. St. John Lyburn, physician, 9 Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells. He died at that address in 1977. His clinic at that address was for a time known as the “Lyburn Clinic” but he was forced to remove his sign.  The home is Broadwater Down was one of several grand homes built from the 1860’s onwards and was located towards the eastern end of the development. Shown above is a map from 1907 showing the location of the home. and a postcard view of the area. Several of the original homes in this development were demolished in the 20th century and their sites redeveloped.



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

Date: December 15,2016


Camden Road in the early 20th century was a thriving commercial district in Tunbridge Wells. During that time the town was well served by a number of photographic studios , who had set up premises on the town’s main roads. A number of photographers had operated at various locations on Camden Road dating back to the 19th century. One of those studios was located at 26 Camden Road, which from 1912 to 1948 had been in continuous use as a photographic studio.

The first photographer was Bijou Studios where were from at least 1910 up to 1915. This studio was one of two operated by the company, the other being at 6 Central Buildings on Seaside Road in Eastbourne, a studio run by Marcus Ralph Parry.  From 1915 to 1919 No. 26 Camden Road was the studio of Frederic Charles Cooper. In 1919 Amos Mark Phillips too over the lease the premises and operated his studio there until about 1948, being the last photographer to operate from this location.

This article provides information about the premises, and the photographers who ran their business from this location. Shown above is a winter view of Camden Road in the early 20th century.


Camden Road is one of Tunbridge Wells main commercial roads. In the early 1900’s it was a prosperous business location but over the years many of the shops, particularly at the north end, have become run down, and its importance as a shopping destination has declined.

Shown below left  is a site map from the Planning Authority files in which No. 26 and No. 28 Camden Road are highlighted. These premises are located on the east side of Camden Road about half way between Garden Road to the south and Wood St to the north and today both addresses are the premises of a restaurant (image below right).

The building is a two sty red brick building with shop fronts at street level and apartments or offices above. This building has seen a number of uses over the years, details of which can be found on the Tunbridge Wells Planning Authority website. No. 26, which was used as a photographic studio is to the south of No 28.

For building floorplans and other information about the building and its occupants see my article ‘ The Royal Tunbridge Wells Veterans Association’ dated December 2016, who for a time occupied 26 Camden Road.


The Bijou Studios is the first recorded photographic studio at No. 26 Camden Road. This was one of two studios operated by the same owner, the other being located in Eastbourne,Sussex from premises at 6 Central Buildings on Seaside Road by photographer Marcus Ralph Parry. Who ran the studio in Tunbridge Wells is not known,but directories show that this studio was in business at No. 26 from about 191O to at least 1915., and are found in directories there in 1912 and 1915. Since all of the studio CDV’s and postcards of this business give on the back the address of both the Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne studios it cannot be determined which photographs were taken at each studio. Few photographs by this business have been found, but those located are shown in this section.

Seaside Road was and still is a busy commercial district in the town and over the years a number of photographic studios have operated along it at various locations. Competition among the photographers there was severe and as a result they arrived and left frequently.

The proprietor of the Bijou Studio in Eastbourne was Mark Ralph Parry. Ralph had been born in the 4th qtr of 1879 at Camberwell. He was one of several children born to Arthur W.Parry, born 1853 in London, and Porttia Parry, born 1858 in Goring,Oxfordshire.

The 1881 census, taken at 303 Old Kent Road in Camberwell gave Arthur W Parry as a gentleman running a hosiers shop. With him was his wife Portia, his son Marcus and one servant.

The 1891 census, taken at 281 Old Kent Road in the parish of St Phillips in Camberwell, gave Arthur W. Parry as a hosier employer. With him was his wife Portia; his children Marcus and Edith, who were both attending school, two nephews who worked in Arthur’s shop as hosier assistants, and one domestic servant.

On February 20,1898 Marcus Ralph Parry, a photographer, married Fanny Mary Rowe, a 18 year old spinster. The marriage took place at St Philip church in Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, London. Fanny was the daughter of Henry Rowe, a cabinet maker.

The 1901 census, taken at 115 Harcourt Road in Essex, gave Marcus as a steam fitter worker. With him was his wife Fanny, who had been born 1880 at Plaistow, Essex and their two children May,age 1 and Victoria,age 3 mths, both of whom had been born in Essex.

The 1911 census, taken at the photo studio at 6 Central Buildings on Seaside Road in Eastbourne, gave Marcus as a photographer employer. With him was his wife Anny; his children May, Victoria and Marcus; one female photographic assistant and one domestic. The census recorded they occupied premises of 9 rooms; and that the couple had three children. The 1911 gave the listing “ Marcus Parry, photographer, 6 Central Buildings, Seaside Road” and the 1913 directory gave him as No. 7 Central Buildings.

When the war broke out Marcus signed up. He was attested December 11,1915 at Eastbourne in the army and in 1917 was transferred to the Royal Flying Corp (service No. 52384). At the time of his enlistment his occupation was given as “photographer’ and his wife as “Fanny Mary Parry”. He was mobalized November 27,1916 and was transferred to the Army Service Corps with the Army Printing and Stationary Service and later entered the RFC. He returned to Eastbourne after the war.

Passenger lists record that Marcus was retired when he sailed on the ship ADVISER of the Harrison Line Ltd from Durban, South Affrica, arriving in London on February 27,1946. Their address at that time was given as 141 Ditching Road, Brighton,Sussex.

When Marcus’s wife died is not known but she appears to have predeceased her husband. Probate records for Marcus Ralph Parry gave him of The Chalet Tascombe Way, Willington, Eastbourne and that he died on April 26,1955 at 36 Broad Road in Lower Willington, Sussex. The executor of his 1,500 pound estate was his son Marcus Edward Parry, an advertising manager.


Frederick Cooper took over the premises of Bijou Studios at 26 Camden Road in 1915 and remained there until 1919.

Frederick’s birth was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1878 at Eastbourne. Sussex. He was one of ten children born to Alfred James Cooper, born 1846 in London, a master tailor, and Julia Ann Cooper, born 1854 in London.

The census records for 1881 and 1891 gave Frederick living with his parents and siblings and attending school in Eastbourne.

The 1901 census, taken at 27 Upperton Road in Eastbourne gave Frederick working for his father as a tailors cutter. His father ran a tailors shop at that time. Frederick was living with his parents and six siblings at the time of the 1901 census. His 18 year old sister Amy Elizabeth Cooper was working as a telephonist and telephone company worker.

The 1911 census, taken at 35 Ocklynge Road in Eastbourne gave Alfred James Cooper as a master tailor employer. With him was his wife Julia; his son Frederick,age 32, single, who was working as a photographer; and a daughter Julia Ethel Mary Cooper,age 30, who was working as a clerk. The census recorded that Alfred and his wife had been married 37 years and that of their ten children only seven were still living.The census also recorded that the family was living in premises of seven rooms.

A 1913 Kelly directory gave the listing “ Frederick C. Cooper, photographer, 111 High Street, Surrey and in the Kent directory for 1913 and 1918 was ‘Fred C. Cooper, photographer, 26 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells. No examples of his photographs were found at the time of writing this article.

It is not known what became of Frederick C. Cooper after 1918 but it is known that his studio at 26 Camden Road was taken over in 1919 by Amos Mark Phillips.


Amos is found listed as operating a photographic studio at 26 Camden Road from 1919 to about 1948.  Examples of his work are scarce and in this section are shown the only three found to date. Two show the unveiling ceremony of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial on Mount Pleasant Road in 1923 ; one a studio photo of a nurse in uniform, probably taken just after WW 1;one of the footballer Alfred A Thompson who played with the Tunbridge Wells Rangers 1928-1929 and with other teams before that and one showing a group of ladies in costume.

Details about the life and career of Amos were given in my article ‘Amos Mark Phillips-A Tunbridge Wells Photographer’ dated December 8,2015. Given here is the ‘Overview’ from that article. “Amos Mark Phillips was born November 14,1883 at Kensington,London and was one of seven children born to Daniel and Mary Ann Rosina Phillips,nee Shaw. He attended Saint Dunstan’s school, which later became known as Captain Marryets School. Amos is found in the 1901 census as a pupil at this military school. His father Daniel at the time of the 1891 census was working as a stationers assistant but for some reason Amos decided that he would embark on a career with the military. He began service with the army in 1897 and in  1903 he was discharged as being medically unfit. Amos’s mother Mary Ann (Daniel’s 2nd wife) died in 1893 at Elham,Kent and his father then married Susan Jane Casey (his 3rd wife).By 1911 Amos’s father and his second wife and one son were living in Hythe,Kent. Daniel Phillips death was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1922 at Eastry. Amos’s whereabouts at that time was not determined and in fact his life after 1903 up to the time he arrived in Tunbridge Wells circa 1922 remains a mystery. No 1911 census or any WW 1 military records were located for him,although many war records were destroyed by fire during the bombing of London in WW II. Given the fact that he was discharged on medical grounds as unfit for service in 1903 it is unlikely he would have been able to serve during WW 1.

There is no record of Amos every being married and no death record for him was found. What is known is that he began to appear in Tunbridge Wells directories in 1922 as a photographer who had a photo studio at 26 Camden Road. How and why he  became a photographer is not known and it somewhat surprising given the fact that his military records before 1903 gave him as a “musician, clarinet performer”. Amos continued to be listed as a photographer at 26 Camden Road up to and including 1938 and it appears that his business ended around the end of WW II. What  became of him after 1938 was not established. Examples of his photographic work are very scarce, and it is somewhat mystifying why more examples are not around given the fact that he was a photographer in the town for at least sixteen years. This article reports on the Phillips family with an emphasis on Amos Mark Phillips and his photographic career.”



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

Date: December 10,2016

The world over, cats in the millions have lived with among us, and the lucky ones with us ,as family pets. Tunbridge Wells, like everywhere else is well supplied with cats of all sizes, colours and breeds and we are fortunate to have them share their lives with us. Cats could be found in Tunbridge Wells from the time it was first settled in the 17th century, and since the area was largely based on agriculture, the cat played an important role, as a working animal, in controlling rodents.

Some notable facts about cats in general in the town was that the first cat show was held in 1937 at the Pump Room organized by the Kentish Cat Society which concluded with a statement about the current  crisis of unwanted cats in the town, a problem that persists today.

The Tunbridge Wells Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1874. Records of this organization reported on several cases involving the mistreatment of cats, the details of which were too upsetting for me to report on. Later becoming a branch of the RSPCA the local branch continued to do good work both protecting animals and taking them in until good homes could be found for them.

In my article ‘ All About Cats’ dated April 3,2014 I reported on cats in general as it related to Tunbridge Wells. In this article I present a different slant on the topic as it pertains to black cats only. Black cats have been singled out by me from the rest of these adorable felines for throughout history society in general has treated them differently having associated the black cat as an omen of good or bad luck, and for that reason it has taken a unique place in the history of cats.

Thanks to superstition, black cats have been regarded since the beginning of recorded history throughout most of Europe as animals that bring bad luck. The same view is held by the Americans. In the UK however, the black cat is considered lucky and a bringer of good fortune, and for that reason it has been singled out from the rest of the cat population for special treatment, sadly not always of the best kind.

Recent reports by the Tunbridge Wells & Maidstone RSPCA for example state that when it comes to the colour of cats there is a great deal of discrimination around. While considered good luck on one hand, making one think that they would be great demand, a RSCPA report dated July 30,2014 reported on their appeal to the public to re-house a black cat after statistics showed that 94% of them are overlooked solely because of their colour. As a result they are bursting with beautiful black cats needing a new home. They state a number of reasons for black cats being hard to re-home, ranging from the idea that they are harder to tell apart than cats with more distinctive markings, and that they tend not to photograph well. Also they state that there are still some prevailing superstitions about black cats. It has become a national problem with over 70% of the felines at the RSPCA being black ones. Why the figure should jump to 94%  in Tunbridge Wells suggests a disproportionate bias in the town-why?-Who knows. Kate Harris, a staff member says “ The public simply choose not to visit when you say we only have black cats or they come and ask where the other coloured kittens are.

In reaction to this problem such events as “Black Cat Day”  or “Black Cat Appreciation Day” were organized to help find homes for this overabundance of black cats. One has to be deeply moved by this problem. These lovely black cats, just as cudley and affectionate as all other coloured cats, have been given the short end of the stick just because of the colour of their fur.

One person from Tunbridge Wells, who was a great advocate of cats in general was Harrison Weir (1824-1906), an artist, illustrator and writer known best among cat fanciers as the author of the acclaimed book “Our Cats And All About Them”, published in 1892 .Here is what he had to say in his book about black cats. “It is often said "What's in a name?" the object, whatever it is, by any other would be the same, and yet there is much in a name; but this is not the question at issue, which is that of colour. Why should a black cat be thought so widely different from all others by the foolish, unthinking, and ignorant? Why, simply on account of its colour being black, should it have ascribed to it a numberless variety of bad omens, besides having certain necromantic power? In Germany, for instance, black cats are kept away from children as omens of evil, and if a black cat appeared in the room of one lying ill it was said to portend death. To meet a black cat in the twilight was held unlucky. In the "good old times" a black cat was generally the only colour that was favoured by men reported to be wizards, and also were said to be the constant companions of reputed witches, and in such horror and detestation were they then held that when the unfortunate creatures were ill-treated, drowned, or even burned, very frequently we are told that their cats suffered martyrdom at the same time.It is possible that one of the reasons for such wild, savage superstition may have arisen from the fact of the larger amount of electricity to be found by friction in the coat of the black cat to any other; experiments prove there is but very little either in that of the white or the red tabby cat. Be this as it may, still the fact remains that, for some reason or other, the black cat is held by the prejudiced ignorant as an animal most foul and detestable, and wonderful stories are related of their actions in the dead of the night during thunderstorms and windy nights. Yet, as far as I can discover, there appears little difference either of temper or habit in the black cat distinct from that of any other colour, though it is maintained by many even to this day that black cats are far more vicious and spiteful and of higher courage, and this last I admit. Still, when a black cat is enraged and its coat and tail are well "set up," its form swollen, its round, bright, orange-yellow eye distended and all aglow with anger, it certainly presents to even the most impartial observer, to say the least of it, a most "uncanny" appearance. But, for all this, their admirers are by no means few; and, to my thinking, a jet-black cat, fine and glossy in fur and elegantly formed, certainly has its attractions; but I will refer to the superstitions connected with the black cat further on. A black cat for show purposes should be of a uniform, intense black; a brown-black is richer than a blue-black. I mean by this that when the hair is parted it should show in the division a dark brown-black in preference to any tint of blue whatever. The coat or fur should be short, velvety, and very glossy. The eyes round and full, and of a deep orange colour; nose black, and also the pads of the feet; tail long, wide at the base, and tapering gradually towards the end. A long thin tail is a great fault, and detracts much from the merits it may otherwise possess. A good, deep, rich-coloured black cat is not so common as many may at first suppose, as often those that are said to be black show tabby markings under certain conditions of light; and, again, others want depth and richness of colour, some being only a very dark gray.”

Although there are many sources of information about cats on the internet or in books the website Wikipedia presents a lengthy account devoted solely to black cats, noting its unique place in history under the heading “The Black Cat-Superstition, prejudice, bringer of good or bad luck”.

Since the 1880s, the color black has been associated with anarchism. The black cat, in an alert, fighting stance was later adopted as an anarchist symbol.More specifically, the black cat—often called the "sab cat" or "sabo-tabby" is associated with anarcho-syndicalism, a branch of anarchism that focuses on labor organizing .In testimony before the court in a 1918 trial of Industrial Workers of the World leaders, Ralph Chaplin, who is generally credited with creating the IWW's black cat symbol (Image opposite), stated that the black cat "was commonly used by the boys as representing the idea of sabotage. The idea being to frighten the employer by the mention of the name sabotage, or by putting a black cat somewhere around. You know if you saw a black cat go across your path you would think, if you were superstitious, you are going to have a little bad luck. The idea of sabotage is to use a little black cat on the boss."

Black cats is symbols of good fortune have appeared on all manner of objects such as T-shirts, postcards, greeting cards, china ,postage stamps etc. Although the images of cats in general have been exploited for commercial gain, it is the black cat that has brought in millions of pounds annually to enterprising businesses owners.

Regarding postcards, shown opposite is a Multiview postcard of Tunbridge Wells featuring in the centre a good luck black cat. Postcard publishers, including Photochrom of Tunbridge Wells produced large quantites of black cat good luck postcards. You can find them featuring towns throughout England in the same style as the one for Tunbridge Wells. Photochrom began operations in London producing postcards in 1903 .The company expanded their operations to Tunbridge Wells in 1891 through the aquisition of Carl Norman and Co. The construction of their new 3 storey building at 179-183 Upper Grosvenor Road became known as their "Graphic Works" branch which was considered to be at that time" the chief industrial house in Tunbridge Wells.

Photochrom also produced greeting cards ,calendars and many other items. One example of “Black Cat” type card by them are shown below.

Shown below are two examples of porcelain bearing the image of a black cat and the name ‘Tunbridge Wells’. The first is a thimble on the side of which is a black cat and the words “Good luck from Tunbridge Wells”. The second object is an example of ‘Crested Ware’ produced largely in the 19th century by such companies as Goss, Carlton, Willow Art and others. This one shows a black cat sitting on top of a pouffe.Crested ware as the name implies was produced for most towns in England bearing their town crest. Many examples of Crested Ware with Tunbridge Wells on it can be found in different shapes and sizes, but only the one of the black cat was made in this series. I have one of a Cheshire Cat with the Tunbridge Wells Crest in my collection. Details about these items can be found in my article ‘Crested Ware of Tunbridge Wells’ dated November 12,2015.

Black cats have been singled out for special coverage in poetry, songs, literature and films. Shown here is an image from the book ‘The Black Cat’ by Edgar Alan Poe, published in 1843 which was used in the 1934 American horror film ‘The Black Cat’.

Lippincott’s Magazine of 1885 in an article entitled ‘ Cats and Poets’ stated in part “ Cats take their daily strolls and nightly rambles and return as serene and unruffled as a Tunbridge Wells beau of the last century”. The bea  being referred to is likely Beau Nash the gentleman well-known for his association with the “waters” of Tunbridge Wells drawn from the spring in the Pantiles, and the master of ceremonies of entertainments in this old commercial district of the town.

The name ‘Black Cat’ has been incorporated into the names of various businesses such as Black Cat PC services of Tunbridge Wells; Black Cat Music and Black Cat Acoustics, both in High Brooms near the Industrial Park at 4 Chapman Way,Tunbridge Wells. While there is a Black Dog Café in Tunbridge Wells and a Black Horse pub on Camden Road there is, and never has been ,a Black Cat café or pub. Elsewhere there have been a number of Black Cat restaurants.

Another Tunbridge Wells company with a Black Cat connection was Dodo Designs who had premises in Tunbridge Wells. Their main business was the production and sale of reproduction “Antique” signs. One of their signs bearing the Black Cat image is shown opposite and was a sign for Black Cat Cigarettes, a popular brand in Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere, manufactured by Carreras in London, a company founded in 1788.  For further information about Dodo Designs see my article ‘The History of Dodo Designs Ltd (MFS)’ dated March 19,2015.

 An article that appeared in Paul’ Beverage Blog in April 2016 and also in the Advertiser reported on the Black Cat Brewery. The brewery began operations in Groombridge in 2011 but later moved to larger premises at the Palehouse Commons near Uckfield, Sussex. In October 2015 the Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival was held in Tunbridge Wells as the Spa Valley Railway headquarters in the former Tunbridge Wells West Station. The event was a joint venture between the railway and CAMRA. The award for the ‘Beer of the Festival’ went to the Black Cat Brewery.

Shown opposite is the emblem of the ‘Black Cats’ the 101 (City of London) Engineers Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). This regiment was formed in 1866 in Knightsbridge and still operates today as bomb disposal experts. Their emblem is taken form the 56tgh London Division flash worn during WW II and represents ‘Tommy’, Dick Whittington’s black cat. Although based at Carver Barracks near Saffron Walden, the regiments reserve component had detachments in Tunbridge Wells, Catford, Rochester and Reigate.

In another military related item is a cigarette card from Black Cat Cigarettes showing a soldier wearing his hospital blues from WW I. For anyone who bought a copy of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society book ‘The Shock of War’ (2014) will know many wounded soldiers from the war arrived for treatment and recovery in the town during WW 1 at the General and VAD hospitals set up for that purpose. Seeing soldiers in their hospital blues on the streets of Tunbridge Wells was unfortunately a common sight. If you have not purchases this book I would encourage you to do so by ordering it from the Society’s website-it’s a detailed and interesting book about all things related to WW I in the town.

Since about 2012 reports of a ‘Big Black Cat’ being sighted in Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere in England have been recorded. This cat however is not of the domestic variety by a black leopard (photo opposite). Coming across one of them would definitely not bee good luck!

In conclusion, I hope you found this article about Black cats interesting and informative. If you would like to add a furry friend to your family please adopt a black cat as they will give you as much love, affection and companionship as a cat of any other colour. I should know, for I had a black cat with five black kittens when I was a boy and today I have a very cute black and white cat called “Patches” who lucky or not means a great deal to me and I certainly feel very lucky to have her in my life. A photo of Patches is shown above waiting for me to play her favourite song " The Dickey Bird" which features birds chirping.

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