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

Date: July 14,2017


Early 19th century guides reported that “small transparent pebbles are found on the paths of the Common, especially after rain. These crystals are called Tunbridge Wells Diamonds, and, cut and polished, form brilliant additions to the jewell-case”(Bracketts guide of 1866).

Small rounded pebbles can still be seen there today in the vicinity of Wellington Rocks (photo opposite) where they can be spotted embedded in the sandstone formation, and that presumably the most attractive of these eroded out of the rock, and were once collected and turned into jewellery by local jewellers. The Tunbridge Wells commons of some 104 hectares is a favourite spot for both local residents and visitors to the town, and no doubt many of them picked up these curious crystals that  became keepsakes. The commons is underlain by sedimentary rock and the Wellington Rocks is but one of many rock outcrops in the site, and similar outcrops can be found in other parts of the town and surrounding area, and so presumably these ‘diamonds’ can be found elsewhere. In the photo above one can speculate that the little girl is poking around in the sand for some Tunbridge Wells diamonds.

One of the earliest guides of the town making reference to Tunbridge Wells Diamonds is Colbrans 1850 guide in which an advertisement appeared for William Loof, senior, who among other things was a jeweller operating from premises at 8 Parade. In his advertisement he announced as part of his offerings “ A choice assortment of Tunbridge Wells Diamonds mounted in pins, rings, broaches etc”.

Colbrans 1855 and 1863 guides gave the following “ Tunbridge Wells Diamonds-The transparent substances, apparently pebbles, which are found upon the several paths leading to the Common, especially after rain, are actually crystals, rounded and coated by attrition, and the minutest are always more accurately formed than the larger ones. They partake of the Nova Mina, of Brazil, exactly in quality, where it occurs, both as regards detached and massive crystals. The rounding by attrition is a clear proof that at some very remote period they have been acted upon in some such way as the pebbles of the sea-shore; and they this afford corroborative evidence to the assumption that this neighbourhood has, at one time, been an arm of the sea. The natural position of these crystals in the South of England, is in the white or grey marl, found above and below the chalk, but chiefly below it, in their layers. These crystals when cut and polished, are extremely brilliant, and are introduced into rings, brooches, and other ornamental articles of jewellery”.

Colbrans 1863 directory included an advertisement for E.F. Loof, the son and successor to his father William Loof in which he announced that this business at 8 Parade had been “established upwards of 60 years”. Although his father made mention of jewellery made with Tunbridge Wells Diamonds, his son made no mention of them in his advertisement.

The proceedings of the East Kent Natural History Society of 1872 reported in part “ Small pebbles of rock crystal were found in the Commons of Tunbridge Wells. Having been cut and polished they are referred to as Tunbridge Wells diamonds”.

In a blog about diamonds the following article appeared under the heading ‘ Were the Tunbridge Wells Diamonds Really Diamonds?’. The photograph shown opposite appeared with the article. The article stated “A recent article about the Tunbridge Wells Diamonds spurred a relatively big conversation among many on the industry, as well as those who have an interest in prospecting. The article relayed information about diamonds that were harvested, cut, polished, and set in jewellery pieces in the 19th century. According to the piece, even Queen Victoria was known to have possessed one of the stones. But was it really a diamond? It there were diamonds in the area, wouldn’t prospectors have already dug up the land and starting mining for more of the valuable gems created by Mother Nature? In short, yes. Most likely, if the diamonds had been diamonds, in truth, there would have been a large scale mining operation in place. They were marketed as diamonds. That much is absolutely true. And, if all fairness, even the article in question calls to attention the fact that these were mislabeled. The stones that were so painstakingly collected and polished were actually varieties of quartz. They were available in several colours, as quartz is known to be today. And, although none of the known specimen were of any notable size, they did hold value, and still would today.  Quartz  is considered a jewellery-worthy stone, even by modern standards, but what would make the pieces of even greater interest is the local significance they hold. They are not be manufactured today, and have not been for many decades. That means that there are a limited number of the jewellery pieces in existence, and even that is stated with a certain level of reservation, as the owners of those pieces are not currently known, so there is no way to know how many, if any of those original pieces survived the years. The real trouble with identifying Tunbridge Wells diamonds is a lack of identification. Chances are these pieces do exist, but they would very likely be dismissed as costume jewellery, unless paperwork was kept along with the stones.”

An article in Kent Live dated November 3,2016 entitled ‘ Did You Know There Was A Tunbridge Wells Diamond?’ stated in part “Royal Tunbridge Wells has some pretty cool historic credentials of which it can be proud. But what has been widely unknown among the population now, is that it has its own diamond-the aptly named Tunbridge Wells Diamomd.  The crystals could be found on the paths of the Tunbridge Wells Commmon, especially after a rain when they glistened. Some can still be seen embedded in the town’s famous sandstone outcrop Wellington Rocks.” Shown opposite is photo of these crystals from the article with the text “ They are transparent and are to be found on several parts of the Common (Ref. 1920).

The article continues with “ Their brightness is described as ‘extremely brilliant’ and they were sold in a fashionable jewellers on the Pantiles in 1837. In the 1800’s a considerable trade was done in cutting, polishing and mounting the diamonds into jewellery which would have been sold on The Pantiles (and at other jewellers shops in the town). They shined brightly and were ‘brilliant additions to the jewel case’ according to archive documents. They may even have been bought by the young Queen Victoria who was a frequent visitor to Tunbridge Wells, said Peter Wotton, who along with his wife Pam (photo opposite), has written the just-published book ‘The Pantiles Clock History’.  When asked why so few people know of the diamond he said “ It’s a difficult one really. The Tunbridge Wells Diamonds went out of popularity over a hundred years ago. My guess would be increased modern knowledge; sill required for cutting; the source drying up. Though it may be simply running down of the popularity. I suppose everything has a zenith and then disappears”. He said it would be “wonderful” if people who owned any of the diamonds came forward. The Wottons learned about the diamonds while doing research for their book and found them referred to in an advertisement by watch and clockmaker, and jeweller W. Loof at a time he held a Royal Warrant. According to a reference in 1837, Mr. Loof had some “fine specimens” of the diamonds.”

Shown opposite from the above article is an advertisement by W. Loof in which he refers to “ A choice assortment of Tunbridge Wells Diamonds, mounted in pins, rings, studs, brooches etc.”.

“The couple who live in Tonbridge, said although there were many references to the diamonds in the Tunbridge Wells Museum, finding them was a bit like finding one of the crystals themselves. “You have to hunt”!. There is plenty if you search hard or are very lucky.”

The Tunbridge Wells Museum’s Dr Ian Beavis said “ We’re aware of the Tunbridge Wells diamonds through references in local guidebooks from the 19th century. They were little pebbles of variously coloured quartz-white, clear, pink,yellow, orange –which weathered out of the sandstone outcrops on Tunbridge Wells Common- particularly Wellington Rocks. If you look at Wellington Rocks today, you can see layers of small pebbles embedded in them from the days when the rocks were laid down on the floor of a shallow freshwater sea in the Cretaceous era (about 135 million years ago). These embedded pebbles include the quartz ones that the Victorian jewellers used. You can still pick up ‘Tunbridge Wells Diamonds’ in the sandy areas around the rocks. Unfortunately we have no examples of any made into jewellery- and I’ve never heard of anyone else having one. They must be out there somewhere, but without a provenance no one would know what they were- they’d just look like any other piece of costume jewellery made from semi-precious stones. Young Princess Victoria spent a lot of time holidaying in Tunbridge Wells with her mother the Duchess of Kent. We know she did a lot of shopping in local retailers for personal souvenirs, and presents for family and friends. She bought a lot of Tunbridge Ware over the several years she visited here, so it’s likely she would have bought these other local souvenirs too”.

Somewhere in your granny’s old jewellery box may lurk an example of Tunbridge Wells Diamonds.


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

Date: July 15,2017

John Pearson had been born 1843  Brenchley, Kent, a village some 7 miles E.N.E. of Tunbridge Wells and part of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. He was one of several children born to John Brenchley, an agricultural worker and sometimes blacksmith. His mother was Sarah Pearson. Shown opposite is a photo with related text of John and his son Edwin during the time John ran his business in Tunbridge Wells from the book ‘Tunbridge Wells In Old Photographs Vol. 1’.

In the 1850’s John lived in Brenchley with his parents and siblings and learned the trade of blacksmithing from his father. Shown opposite is a postcard view of the village of Brenchley.

At the time of the 1861 census John was single and working as a blacksmith in the blacksmith business of Thomas Scrace in Penshurst at Walkers Glen Cottage.

In 1867 John wed Mary who was born 1843 in Pembury, who also came from a family with an agricultural background. A reliable marriage record was not found for them but the 1911 census records that they were married in 1867, most likely in Pembury. After the marriage John and his wife settled in Strood, Kent where their first of eleven children were born, although only seven of them were still living by 1911, according to the census record.

By 1870 the family moved to the town of Tonbridge, where they had two more children, namely Herbert in 1870 and Agnes in 1872. At the time of the 1871 census, John and his wife and children were living at “Gregory’s Forge” on the High Street in Tonbridge, where John was a shoeing smith. In addition to his wife Mary their children John,age 4 and Herbert age 1 were living with them, the eldest of which was attending school.

In 1874 their fourth child Edwin was born at Capel, Kent but by 1877 the family moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1881 census, taken at their semi-detached home at No. 35 Newcomen Road gave John as a blacksmith. Living with him was his wife Mary, his five children John,age 14, a printers apprentice; Herbert,age 11; Agnes,age 9; Edwin,age 7 and Louisa,age 4, who was born in 1877, the first child to be born in Tunbridge Wells. Also in the home was one lodger.

The 1891 census, taken at 29 Newcomen Road gave John with his wife Mary and five children, Edwin,age 16, a grocers porter; Louisa, age 14, a general servant; Mary G. age 7, scholar; Frank, age 7, scholar and May,age 4, scholar. All of these children , apart from Edwin, had been born in Tunbridge Wells.  John at that time gave his occupation as “blacksmith employed” indicating that he had not gone into business for himself until later.

Shown above is a map from 1909 on which is highlighted in red the locations in which John is recorded in census records of 1881 to 1911. At dart 1 is Newcomen Road. No. 29 was on the south side about opposite Richardson Road, being a semi-detached residence. No. 35 was on the north side of Newcomen just east of its intersection of Richardson Road. At dart 2 is the semi-detached residence in Hope Terrace . At dart 3 is shown the row of semi-detached homes called ‘Kelsey Cottages”, who’s name is derived from E& H Kelsey’s Culverden Brewery labelled on the map. At the eastern end of the Kelsey’s Cottage block can be seen a small building, which was the shoeing and blacksmiths premises of John Pearson, the same building shown in the photograph at the top of this article.

The 1901 census, taken at 1 Hope Terrace, St John’s Road, gave John as a ‘farrier and blacksmith on own account’. With him was his wife Mary and his children Edwin, age 26, who was working for his father as an “assistant farrier and blacksmith at home”. Also present was Louisa, age 23, a “sewing maid shirts”; Mary G. age 19, a cook domestic and Frank,age 19, a carriage/coach painter. Shown opposite is a modern view of St John’s Road. Behind the shops down the lane is Hope Terrace.

A farrier is a person who shoes horses. A blacksmith is a person who makes horseshoes and a broad range of iron objects employing the use of a forge, hammer, anvil and other tools to shape the heated metal. A description of this line of work from the ‘Pictorial History of Tunbridge Wells’ dated 1892 for the shoeing smith and farrier business of W. Pratt on Goods Station Road provides some clarification. “ Time was, and that not so long since, when the work of the farrier was carried on under very different conditions than those which now obtain. He was an item in the crowd of workers in the community, and that was all. Now he occupies a very different position, and the effective performance of the important duties committed to this charge have a great influence on the well-being of his fellow-citizens. It has been the duty of Mr Pratt, R.S.S. to give practical expression to the teachings of smith-work and farrier science; to prove by irrefutable evidence that improvements are practicable in these times which would have astonished the populace in the old days…The forges in his shop are kept constantly going by thoroughly qualified workmen engaged in turning out shoes of the latest and most improved design, and which are generally recognized to be far superior to any on the market…” And so one can conclude that the remarks pertaining to the business of Mr Pratt can also apply to that of Mr Pearson and others operating in this type of business in the town at that time.  Certainly, in the years leading up to WW 1, the horse and horse and carriage were still the main means of transportation in Tunbridge Wells and horses were still used on the farm. And so, the farrier and blacksmith were essential trades and to a lesser degree today, still are.

The 1911 census, taken at 1 Kelsey Cottages St John’s Road gave John Pearson as a “blacksmith retired unable to work”. With him was just his wife Mary, all of his children having moved away. His son Edwin most likely took over his father’s business and continued it at 1 Kelsey Cottages for several years. When the business ended was not established but in the ‘Old Photograph’ book referred to earlier, it was stated to”still be flourishing until about 1920”.

The 1911 census recorded that John and Mary had been married for 44 years (since 1867); that they were living in premises of 3 rooms and that of their eleven children only seven were still living.

Death records show that John Pearson, born 1843, died in Tunbridge Wells February 1915 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. His wife died not long after and was buried in the same cemetery.


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

Date: May 11,2015

Mary Hone Smith was an amateur collector of fossils who scoured the hills and dales of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area looking for fossils to add to her extensive collection.She maintained contact with members of the learned geological community of the day,such as Gideon Mantell, and was often visited and consulted by others with the same interests at her home in Tunbridge Wells and she was a contributor of fossils to the small museum in the Pantiles of the local Natural History Society.

Mary Hone Smith was born as Mary Hone Vincent on September 5,1781 in Streatham,Surrey(image opposite).She had been baptised September 30,1781 at St Leonard Streatham,Surrey and was one of two known children born to Richard Vincent and Mary Vincent, nee Hone.Richard Vincent married Mary Hone on June 4,1780 at St Martin in the Fields,Westminster,Middlesex, and Mary was their eldest daughter.

Mary’s sister was Elizabeth Ann Vincent who had been born 1793 in Steatham,Surrey and died May 20,1873 in Surrey. Elizabeth married John Green, with whom she had two children and in 1841 was living in Lambeth,Surrey; om 1851 at Newington Surrey. As noted later Elizabeth is found living in Tunbridge Wells with her sister Mary Hone Smith at the time of the 1861 census and Mary is given as blind in this census. In 1871 Elizabeth was living in Cheam,Surrey and died in Surrey on May 10,1873.

On July 26,1802 Mary Hone Vincent married William Hugh Smith (1789-1838)at St Mary Church, St Marylebone, Middlesex (photo opposite). Details about the parents and siblings and career of Wiliam Hugh Smith are lacking but all evidence indicates he was of the merchant middle class, for during the time of May’s marriage she never needed to work and after his death census records record she was a lady of independent means.  Referring back to her marriage the banns were recorded July 11, 18 and 25, 1802 and the marriage record gave William as a bachelor and Mary as a spinster, both of the parish of the church they were married at. The ceremony was witnessed by Ann Maria Turner and Charles Turner, suggesting that the parents of William and Mary were both deceased at the time of their childrens marriage. As those who study genelogy can appreciate researching anyone with the common surname of Smith can be challenging, and in Williams case his middle name is often not given in records, making the task even more challenging and where no positive identification can be made I have chosen not to speculate on which William Smith was the husband of Mary.

It is known from baptism records that William Hugh Smith and Mary had a son William Smith born May 3,1806 in London and that the boy was baptised at St Marylebone on June 2,1806. It is also known that the couple had a daughter Clara Elizabeth Smith who had been born 1808 in London(given 1851 as Westwick,Middlesex).

Clara Elizabeth Smith  married Thomas Bishop, a merchant in about 1829 . The 1841 census, taken in the parish of Bilborough,Notinghamshire gave Thomas Bishop as born 1799 in Nottinghamshire and working as a merchant. Living with him was his wife Clara and two domestic servants. The 1851 census, taken at their same residence on Hill Street, gave Thomas as a cotton merchant. Living with him was his wife Clara; a cousin and three domestic servants. The 1861 census, taken at 8 Grove in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire gave Thomas with his wife Clara and four servants. The 1871 census, taken at 34 Town Street in Bramcote,Nottinghamshire gave Thomas as widower and still working as a merchant. Living with him as a cousin and four domestic servants. Thomas passed away in the 1870’s in Nottinghamshire.

William and Mary lived in the London area during the early years of their marriage but by the 1830’s the couple had taken up residence in Newport Pagnell,Buckinghamshire, where many members of the Smith clan can be found in records, although not all of them of course are related to this couple. Death records show that William Hugh Smith died in the 3rd qtr of 1838 at Newport,Pagnell,Buckinghamshire, a postcard view of which is shown opposite.

Soon after the death of William Hugh Smith, Mary moved to Tunbridge Wells and it was while there , as a woman of independent means, that she devoted her time to looking for and collecting fossils. A book entitled ‘Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians; A Historical Perspective’ edited by Richard Moody records on page 117 under a heading of “Women Saurian Workers”, the following information about Mary Hone Smith.

“ Mary was married to William Hugh Smith who died in 1838, prior to her move to first Sussex Place and then Mayo House in Tunbridge Wells,Kent. She devoted considerable time to the acquisition of a magnificent collection of local Cretaceous fossils. Like Miss Benett, she was known to purchase material from quarrymen and exchanged with other collectors. She also collected her own material from chalk quarries, some of her fossil reptiles were figured by Dixon and Owen (catalogue in NHM, purchased 1878) (Cleevely 1983). Cleevely (1983) listed fossils also in the Brighton and Nottinghamshire museums, and in the Institute of Geological Sciences (IGS) (ex-GSL). Gideon Mantell was well acquainted with Mrs Smith (Mantell 1837 pp,98-108). In 1842 when he was living at Chester Square, Pimlico,Mantell wrote ‘visit to Tunbridge Wells; called on Mrs Smith and inspected some beautiful and rare fossils from the Kentish chalk (Mantell’s journal p158 June 13th;Curwen 1940). And on November 23,1845 wrote ‘Mrs Smith of Tunbridge Wells left for my inspection a beautiful specimen in chalk of 30-40 vertebrae with ribs, and jaws and teeth of a small lizard,allied to the AGAMA;such a  beauty! and from Kent. (Mantell’s journal p198; Corwen 1940)”.

The book continues with “ Mary was listed as blind in the 1861 census, and died at the age of 82 in 1866. After her death her collections passed to her daughter, the first Mrs Bishop of Bramcote, Nottinghamshire, , who unfortunately died young. Her successor, the second Mrs Bishop, sold much of the collection to the British Museum (Natural History), London (BMHH),whereas Mr Bishop bequeathed material to the Nottingham Museum in 1877 (Cleevely 1983). A small cabinet was retained by the second Mrs Bishop. Sadly no one specific specimen from Mary Hone Smith’s collection exists in the Brighton Museum (J. Cooper, pers. Comm,2009)”.

The Mrs Bennett referred to in the above account was Mrs Etheldred Bennett (1776-1845), probably the first woman geologist born and bred in Wiltshire and the daughter of a local squire. She like Mary was an avid collector of fossils. In an account about Mrs Bennet there is reference to her copying a method she used in her collection of fossils which she copied from William Smith (1789-1839). It is not known if this is the same gentleman as Mary’s husband William Hugh Smith (1789-1838) but dispite the similarities it appears that they are not the same man.The William Smith referred to in the book was William Smith (23 March 1769 – 28 August 1839) who in 1815 published the first edition of his Geological Map of England and Wales making a seminal contribution to the understanding of the geology of the UK by showing the locations of coal and other raw materials  fuelling the industrial revolution.

The same article about Mary in the book also appeared in a Geological Society of London special publication entitled ‘Forgotten Women in an extinct Saurian (Man’s) World’ by Susan Turner, Cynthia V. Burek and Richard T.J. Moody dated 2010.

The abstract from the aforementioned publication  gives us an insight into the role women played in this field of research, a field normally reserved for men. “Despite dinosaurs becoming significant icons in our culture, few women have made major contributions to the study of fossil vertebrates, especially reptilian taxonomy, by specializing in the dinosaurs and related saurian. Most women who were involved over the first 150 years were not professional palaeontologists but instead wives,daughters and pure (usually unpaid) amateurs. In this book I note about 40 of them. As usual 19th century female practitioners are virtually unknown in this area except for one icon, Dorset girl Mary Anning of Syme Regis, who significantly contributed to the paleontology. Only in the 20th century did women such as Tilly Edinger conduct research with an evolutionary agenda. This paper considers the problems and highlights and the achievements of the oft-forgotten women in this field”.

And so it was in this setting that Mary Hone Smith became involved in the collection of fossils, one of only a few women engaged in this field of study, a study which she undertook while a resident of Tunbridge Wells. It is known that her arrival in the town was soon after the death of her husband in 1838 and that she took up residence in Sussex Place. The 1841 census, taken at Sussex Place (near the Parade/Pantiles) recorded Mary as a woman of independent means. She was living with Isaac Hargraves (1790-1856)born 1790 in Brighton, Sussex who was  a surgeon.An  image of Isaac is shown opposite. Also there was Joseph Delves, age 16, one of the well-known Delves clan of Tunbridge Wells that I have written about in various articles, and four domestic servants. Mary’s relationship to Isaac Hargreaves is not given in this census and is identified simply as a woman of independent means and obviously was a widow, although not stated as such in the census.  Isaac Hargreaves (sometimes given as Hargraves) was christened August 6,1790 at the Countess of Huntingtons Chapel at North Street,Brighton (photo opposite). He was one of seven children born to John Hargraves (1763-1845) and Ann Hargraves, nee Bradford (1761-1858).Isaac never married. In 1847 both Mary Hone Smith and Issac were still living at Sussex Place in Tunbridge Wells.

The order in which the 1841 census was taken provides some insight into where “Sussex Place” was located . Tracing the path of the census taker gives Glaston (sp) Down, Glaston House, then Sussex Place, followed by the Sussex Hotel parade(which is in the Pantiles, and which I have written about before),then Sussex House, followed by Gardner House, Nevill Lodge parade, and then several places identified simply as “Parade”.

Isaac had come to Tunbridge Wells early in his career for he is found in the 1826 Piggots directory as a surgeon in the town.The 1840 directory gave Isaac as a surgeon at Market Place in the Pantiles.

A map  by T.T.Barrow dated 1808 gives a list of lodging houses. Of particular interest is the list of lodging houses in the Parade at that time, which included Mary’s residence at “Sussex Place”, one of 14 lodging houses there at that time. Apart from being listed in the index Sussex Place is numbered on the map itself, but the scale is so small that its location cannot be identified on the map.

The 1851 census was taken at residence listed simply as “Mount Ephraim”.It is not known by the  researcher if this is a reference to “Mayo House” at 66 Mount Ephraim but if a family tree for Isaac Hargraves can be believed it states he and Mary were living on Mount Ephraim at Buckingham House. Living in this residence was Isaac Hargreaves given as age 60, unmarried, born 1791 in Brighton and given as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in general practice. Living with Isaac in the 1851 census  was “Mary Hope Smith”, widow, age 67, with no occupation given. Also present there was one assistant surgeon, a footman, a housemaid, a cook and two other servants.  Buckingham House can be seen on the 1867 map on Mount Ephraim near the top of the map, well north of Mayo House.

Isaac Hargraves was recorded in the British Medical Journal of July 17,1857 in relation to his death August 16,1856 in Tunbridge Wells. The then president of the British Medical Society stated in his address “ Since out last anniversary there has been the death of Isaac Hargreaves. He was a talented surgeon and a perfect gentleman.Upon two occasions he filled the chair which I now unworthingly occupy; and all well remember how admirably he discharged his duties. His liberality to his patients knew no bounds. Indeed he was liberal to a fault.He had bequeathed a handsome legacy to the dispensary at Tunbridge Wells with which he was connected, and has made a magnificent bequest of 500 pounds to the Medical Benevolent College to which he had been a handsome donor while living”. It is interesting to note that Mary Hone Smith was with him at the time of the 1841 census at Sussex Place and then stayed with him when Isaac moved to premises on Mount Ephraim. Was their relationship simply one of friendship or was there more too it? What is known from the probated will of Isaac Hargreaves is that he left a large annuity to Mary Hone Smith, payable annually for the rest of her life. In a codicil Isaac also left money to Joseph Delves  who was the surgeon living with him at the time of the 1841 census. Isaac was buried in the cemetery in St Paul’ Church,Rusthall.

The 1861 census, taken at “Mayo House” gave Mary H. Smith as the head of the household.She was identified as age 77, born 1784 Essex,Surrey, and living on independent means. With her was her sister Elizabeth Green, details of whom I have given earlier and a 16 year old woman identified as Louisa Smith born 1845 London. The relationship of Louisa Smith to the other occupants was not given and may have just been a servant who shared the same surname. Also present was one 17 year old young lady who was a servant. 

Mayo House derived its name from Dr John Mayo(1761-1818) who occupied a home on the site of the current Mayo House (not the same home ) from 1813 to 1818. Dr Mayo’s house was subsequently demolished and replaced by the building occupied by Mary Hone Smith in the 1850’s and 1860’s. A commemorative plaque to Dr Mayo was installed on the front of this home .A  modern photograph of the home ,which also shows the plaque, is given below. The history of the Mayo family in Tunbridge Wells was given in my article ‘The life and Times of Dr Mayo’.

It is known from my own research ; from the website of the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery and from direct input from Ian Beavis that in the 1830’s a small natural history museum existed at the rooms of the Literary and Scientific Society at the Pantiles and that the present museum traces its foundation back to the summer of 1885 when Dr George Abbott began to arrange displays in the Society’s entrance lobby. Mary Hone Smith was a frequent visitor to this early repository of fossils, was a member of the Society, and was a contributor of fossils. Today the local museum has over 28,000 natural history specimens in its collection of various types, most of which were collected in Victorian times and perhaps some of Mary’s specimens can be found among the collection, although not specific attribution of any of them are given to her. However, record keeping of the times was so poor that this does not mean that some of her fossils have not found their way into the collection.

For more information about the history of the old natural history museum, Dr. Abbott and the history of the current  see my article ‘Literary and Scientific Societies of Tunbridge Wells dated August 15,2013. From the “overview’ of this article is the following “ In the early 19th century residents of Tunbridge Wells saw the need for institutions and societies that promoted the advancement of literacy and scientific study. Two of these were the Society of Literacy and Scientific Enquires, which was founded in 1836 and held their meeting s at the Pantiles, and the Useful Knowledge Institution which was founded soon after. In the 1840’s and 1850’s both of these societies operated together. The Society of Literacy  and Scientific Enquiries ,according to Colbrans 1844 guide  “had a library, and a small museum including fossils etc of the neighbourhood”.

Probate records reported that Mary Home Smith was a widow late of Tunbridge Wells who died April 7,1866 in Tunbridge Wells. The executor of her estate, which was valued at under 1,500 pounds was Thomas Bishop of Bramcote,Nottinghamshire, esq.As I noted earlier Thomas Bishop was Mary’s brother in law from the marriage of her sister Clara to him.I have also previously identified the role of Mary’s daughter and brother in law and the second wife of Thomas Bishop in disposing of Mary’s fossil collection.

The Gazette of May 11,1866 gave an announcement of the death of Mary Hone Smith “late of Mayo House,Mount Ephraim,Tunbridge Wells and confirmed the details given in the probate records. It can be stated from the Gazette reference that Mary died at her home ‘Mayo House’ in 1866. The well-known local solicitor William Charles Cripps, was the lawyer appointed to handle her estate.Mary was buried in the cemetery at St Paul’s Church,Rusthall (photo opposite).

On October 19,2013 the International Day of Archaeology was celebrated. As part of the event a display of fossils and archival information was layed out for the public to examine,all of which related to the Natural History Museum in Nottinghamshire. The highlight of the event was a tribute payed to pioneering women in this field and among the names of those recognized was Mary Hone Smith (1784-1866). It should be noted that the year of birth of Mary is often mistakingly, but understandably, given as 1784 instead of her actual birth date of September 5,1781 for the records of BMD , regarding her death in 1866 gave her year of birth as 1784 and this error had been perpetuated. Shown opposite is a photograph of the event showing items on display. Associated with this event was an article by ‘Trowel Blazers’ which is a blog celebrating the contribution of women to archaeology, palaeontology and geology which  was born out of righteous indignation that so many women, and their aggregate contribution to research, had been forgotten. In part is stated “ one or two women being written out of (popular) history can potentially be dismissed as the chance loss of a rare thing, hundreds cannot.These pioneering women did face prejudice, and they defied social convention. They had to carve out a niche for themselves, but they weren’t alone: when they weren’t allowed to study alongside men, they started their own colleges; when they weren’t allowed to dig with men, they started their own excavations. And wealth, privilege and connections gave them the power to achieve these things. In doing, they opened up opportunities for other women, and created a critical mass of women – doing top-quality research – who could have a real influence and power in a young discipline.Today, women hold 46% of UK academic posts in archaeology. In contrast, in the biological, mathematical and physical sciences this figure is just 28%. Could this be a legacy of these early collaborative networks? If so it highlights the importance of social networks, and the emotional, practical and political support they offer, in effecting demographic change.”

Today Dr. Adam S. Smith is a paleontologist and curator at the Nottingham Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall, where one can see the fossils of Mary Hone Smith. A photograph of the museum is shown below.

I close off my coverage of Mary with the following article that appeared in  “HOGG’ a newsletter of the History of Geology Group of the Geological Society of London February 2014 . This article was written by Mike Smith, the meeting coordinator, who gave an account of the Natural History Museum at Kensington at which place can be found a large collection of fossils, and which account gave the following about the collection of Mary Home Smith housed there,

“Mrs M. H. Smith’s Collection-This lady, who lived at Mayo House, Tunbridge Wells, not only purchased valuable specimens from quarrymen and collectors, but collected herself, especially from the Chalk, and worked with the microscope until prevented by blindness. She presented fossils to Mantell and the Brighton Museum, and a few to the British Museum; and her collection was utilised by F. Dixon in his Geology of Sussex. A MS. “Catalogue of Fossil Organic Remains" in her cabinet, compiled and illustrated by S. P. Woodward, with other drawings by W. H. Bensted, G. A. Mantell, and J. Delves, is preserved in the Library of the Geological Department. On Mrs. Smith's death the collection passed to her daughter, Mrs. Bishop of Bramcote, near Nottingham. She also died before long, and in 1878 the greater part of the collection was sold to the British Museum by the second Mrs. Bishop. It consisted of 248 complete specimens and about 130 fragments, and included the typespecimen of Dolichosaurus longicollis, Owen, with specimens of Pterodactylus conirostris, Polyptychodon interruptus, Plesiosaurus, and Chelonians, all figured by Owen in either the first or second edition of Dixon's book, and in his “Reptilia of the Cretaceous Formations" (Palaeontogr. Soc., 1851); type-specimens of Saurocephalus lanciformis, Agass., Pachyrhizodus basalis, Dixon, with a specimen of Edaphodon mantelli also figured in the same work; fine specimens of Enoplocytia leachi and E. sussexensis, some figured; Oreaster coronatus, Goniaster regularis, and the type of G. smithiae, figured by Forbes in Dixon. A cabinet of small Chalk fossils from Mrs. Smith's collection was bequeathed by Mr. Bishop, who died in 1877, to the then proposed Nottingham Museum, while a small collection, arranged by his first wife, was retained by his widow. Mrs. Bishop, who subsequently moved to Watford (Herts), presented the Museum with the above-mentioned catalogue in 1892”.


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

Date: April 20,2017


The central focus of this article covers the period of 1917 onward during the time the family of general merchant Michael Panoty Nicolaidi (1862-1920) lived in Tunbridge Wells.

Michael, who came from a Greek background, was the son of Panayouti Nicolaidi,an Athens  banker, and apart from operating a general merchants business in London had business dealings in Smyrna,Turkey and Constantinople. Smyrna (sometimes given as Smyrne) is an ancient Greek city on the Aegean coast off Anatolia and today is known as Izmir, Turkey. Michael was known as a ‘levantine’ a person trading to the Levant. The Levant is a large area in the Eastern Mediteranean extending from Greece to Cyrenaica.

In the 3rd qtr of 1908, a Croydon, Surrey, Michael married Annie Jane Willoughby/ Crisp who was born 1873 in Bombay, India, and who was the daughter of Emma Crisp and William Crisp, a chief accountant with the Public Works Department in Bombay.

Michael and his wife Annie, who often went by the name “Nancy” had their first child  Xeni Nancy Nicolaidi in July 1909 in Croydon, Surrey, and soon after moved to London. While living in London the couple had two more children namely Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi in 1910 and Stephanie Elli Nicolaidi in 1912.

In 1917 Michael and his wife Annie and their three children moved to Tunbridge Wells and purchased a large home on Eden Road, called Eden Villa, in the old Mount Sion part of town, and renamed it the ‘Acropolis’ in recognition of Michael’s Greek roots. Shown opposite is a painting of Mount Sion by Sidney Baker dated 1909.

Michael died at the ‘Acropolis’ April 20,1920 and his wife Annie,who still owned the ‘Apropolis’ , died at the Tweedale Nursing Home in Tunbridge Wells on September 6,1920. In 1919 Michael made a trip to Smyrna and Consantinople to rescue the business lost to the Germans and the Turkish but became ill and returned to Tunbridge Wells. His wife made the same trip in 1920 and became ill also. It was as a result of the illness they contracted that they passed away.

In the years preceding their death Emily Catherine Howard worked for the family as the children’s nanny. Upon the death of the children’s parents, the trustees appointed Emily as the legal guardian of the children; sold the ‘Acropolis’ which reverted back to its former name of Eden Villa; and bought a home at 42 Prospect Road, Tunbridge Wells for Emily and the three children to live in. The trust specified that the home was to be kept for the benefit of the children until they reached the age of 21. Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi , who often was known simply as ‘Willoughby’,received his education at Tonbridge School.

When Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi was age 19 (1929) he left the family home and emigrated first to Australia but soon after to New Zealand where he became a sheep farmer. Michael W. Nicolaidi lived out the remainder of his life in New Zealand; was married there in 1933 to Elloway Beryl Page and had children, including a son Michael Nicolaidi who  became a journalist, arts administrator and still works today as a novelist. Michael W. Nicolaidi died in New Zealand in 1999.

Xeni Nancy Nicolaidi, who often went by the nickname of ‘Nixie’, attended a local girls school and lived with her nanny and siblings,after the death of her parents. In 1934 she  marriage John Woodthorpe in Tunbridge Wells and with him had three (4 ?) children. During WW II Xenia was an ambulance driver. This family moved around a fair bit but lived in or near Tunbridge Wells for part of the time. Xenia died at the Lydford Nursing Home in East Hoatley, Sussex September 23,1989.

Stephanie Elli Nicolaidi lived with her nanny and siblings after the death of her parents in 1920.  In 1935 she married John Bertram Hill in Tunbridge Wells. John had been born in Ceylon in abt 1910 but at the time of the marriage was living with his parents in Southborough. His father Bertram Hill was a retired circuit judge of Ceylon. After the marriage they left Tunbridge Wells and lived in Norfolk and then farmed in Robertsbridge. John was in the Marine Corps and served in WW II as a personal assistant to Marshal Hyland and later was involved in the liberation of the Belsen Concentration Camp. Stephanie and her husband had six children, among which was their youngest Charles Hill born in 1954. John Bertram Hill passed away 1959 in Surrey and Stephanie died at Lowestoft, Suffolk in 2010.

I wish to thank Charles Hill of Norfolk, the son of Stephanie Elli Hill, nee Nicolaidi for his extensive contribution of information and photographs for this article as well as to Michael Nicolaidi of New Zealand, the son of Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi and Vicki Woodthorpe, and the granddaughter of Xenia Nancy Nicolaidi for their contributions.

Although much can be written about this family from my own research and that undertaken by decendents of the Nicolaidi family this article, by necessity, provides an abbreviated account of the pre and post Tunbridge Wells era, with a more detailed coverage provided of events that relate directly to the town of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area.

THE YEARS 1862-1908          

Despite rigorous attempts by decendents of Michael Panoty Nicolaidi (1862-1920) to establish details about his early family life, their efforts had limited success. It is known that Michael was born December 31,1862 but where is unclear, although Smyrna, Turkey has been suggested as a possibility, most likely due to his business dealings in Smyrna. It is known from his marriage record of 1908, which certificate was found at the Greek Cathedral in London, that his father was Panayouti Nicolaidi, an Athens, Greece, banker. An early photograph of Michael P. Nicolaidi (shown opposite) certainly shows a Greek connection for the image was captured at the Athens photographic studio of C. Bochringer. Several other photographs from the 1899 to 1908 period by Bochringer of ancient ruins and other scenes in Athens can be found on the internet. The image of Michael P. Nicolaidi is not dated but a rough estimate of when it was taken can be deduced from an estimate of his age at the time the photo was taken.

One good reference which provides detailed information about the family and other Nicolaidi’s and other families connected to them from various business dealings can be found on the website where a posting was made by Charles Hill who I consulted with and referred to in the ‘Introduction’. This posting in part was used as a resource in the preparation of my article.

I next move ahead in time to 1908 with the marriage of Michael Panoty Nicolaidi. The marriage register  of the 3rd qtr of 1908 gave “ Michael P. Nicolaidi to Nancy Willoughby” at Croydon Surrey. “Nancy Willoughby” was in fact Annie Jane Willoughby/Crisp for whom some explanation is necessary, which is given later in this section.

Shown opposite is a photograph taken at the time of the marriage of Michael to Annie, although they are not shown in the photo. The photograph shows a group of men taken at a pub. The names of those shown in the photo are not known. The photo was taken at a pub on Sanderstead, Surrey and Michael and his bridge took up residence at ‘Holmby House’ in Sanderstead, a house owned by the Langridge family. Shown below is a photo of The Parade in Sanderstead, Surrey.

Annie’s maiden name was Crisp being baptised as Annie Jane Crisp January 10,1874 at St Andrews Church in Bombay, India. Her date of birth was recorded as October 31,1873  at “the Presidency of Bombay India” and her parents were given as William Arthur Crisp and Emma Crisp of Bombay(born 1847 in Bombay). Annies father’s occupation was given as the chief accountant of the Public Works Department (PWD) in Bombay. Marriage records show that William Crisp, born 1847, the son of Frederick Crisp, married February 3,1873 in Bombay Emma Collins (nee Willoughby)the daughter of John Robinson Franklin Willoughby, thus clarifying the origin of the ‘Willoughby’ name. Emma Willoughby /Collins had been born October 2,1846 at Poona, India and died March 30,1920 at Edinburgh, Scotland. She had been baptised March 27,1849 at Poona India and given as the daughter of John Robinson Franklin Willoughby (1805-1852) who died in Mauritius. Emma Willoughby married Michael Collins in Bombay March 31, 1862. Emma was given as only age 15 at the time of the marriage.  The Times of India announced February 19,1872 that on Febrruary 16th at Byculla near Bombay that Michael died and that he was the Assistant Superintendant GIP Telegraph, age 34.

A review of birth and baptism records show that of the eight children born to William Arthur Crisp and his wife Emma, Annie was the eldest. Her siblings were (1) Eva Maud Crips born April 30,1875 Bombay; baptised July 16,1875 (2) Ethel Lucy Crisp born December 11,1876 Bombay; baptised March 30,1877 (3) Frederick William Toggitt Crisp born August 5,1878 Bombay; baptised October 31, 1878 (4)Robert Duncan Crisp born June 14,1881 Bombay; baptised September 5,1881 (5) Jessie Lilian Crisp born April 15,1884 Bombay; baptised August 5,1884 (6) Mary Stewart Crisp born October 4,1887 Bombay; baptised December 31,1887. (7) Douglas Willoughby Crisp born November 6,1889 Bombay; baptised February 22,1890.

Emma Crisp, nee Collins, born in Bombay 1846 was found as a widow in the 1911 census, taken at Heath End, North End  Road, Hampstead. With her was her daughter Eva Maud Harrington, nee Crisp, a widow and two Harrington children. Eva Harrington was found with her husband George and son Leslie in the 1901 census at Paddington, London where George was an accountant and clerk on own account.  Eva died in the 1st qtr of 1919 at Totner, Devon.

Annie’s sister Ethel Lucy Crisp married Herbert Ernest Harrington, age 35 March 16,1895 in Bombay, India. Herbert was the son of Jermiah Harrington. Herbert is believed to be the brother of George Harrington who’s marriage was given above.

Annie’s brother Frederick William Toggitt Crisp was found in the 1911 census at 16 Paddington Road in Portsmouth, Hampshire with his wife Norah Mary Blaky Crisp, born 1873 in London. The census recorded that the couple had been marrie4d 32 years but had no children. Frederick’s occupation at that time was given as “ sick berth steward Admiralty Royal Navy”.

Annie’s brother Robert Duncan Crisp was found in the 1911 census at 52 Longbrook Street, Exeter, Devon as an artist. He was single and living as a boarder with the William Bright family. Probate records for Robert Duncan Crisp gave him of Valley House, Witham, Essex, when he died April 21,1939 at 48 Newland Street, Withtam leaving an estate of 632 pounds to his widow Emily May Crisp.

Annie’s sister Jessie Lilian Crisp was found in the 1901 census at 25 Oxford, Teisnmouth West, Devon. She along with her siblings Douglas Willoughby Crisp, and Mary Stewart Crisp were all pupils at school.

THE YEARS 1909 TO 1916

In the previous section I reported on the marriage of Michael Panoty Nicolaidi to Annie Jane Crisp in the 3rd qtr of 1908 at Croydon and I pick up the story from there up to the time the family moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1917.  Shown opposite right is a photo of Michel taken around the time of his marriage in 1908 and to the left is his wife Annie taken about the same time.

The first child born to Michael and Annie was Xeni Nancy Nicolaidi who’s birth was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1909 in Croydon, Surrey. The family at this time was living in a home on Sanderstead, Surrey called ‘Holmby House’ that was owned by the Langridge family.

The Times newspaper announced a birth “July 19,1909 at ‘Glengariff’ Russell Hill, Purley, Surrey of a daughter to Mr and Mrs M.P. Nicolaidi of Smyrna”. This was the birth of Xeni Nancy Nicolaidi. Shown opposite is a photograph of Russell Hill Road in Purley, Surrey dated 1903.

Not long after the birth of Xenia the family moved to London where in the 4th qtr of 1910 their son Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi’s birth was registered at Kensington. In the 4th qtr of 1912, a Paddington, London the birth of their daughter Stephanie Elli Nicolaidi was registered. She had been born September 18,1912.

Shown opposite is a photo of Xenia Nicolaidi as a baby with her nurse Rose who the family say preceeded their nanny Emily Howard, taken 1909 in Smyrna.

Regarding the business dealings of Michael Panoty Nicolaidi, a review of was made of directories in England the results of which are given below.

1912-1913……..(1) M.P. Nicolaidi, 3 Queen’s Gardens West Paddington (2) M.P. Nicolaidi & Co.,general merchants, 14 Billiter Street, Avenue, London.

1914-1915……….(1) M.P. Nicolaidi 14 Parkhill Road, Haverstock Hill (2) M.P. Nicolaidi & Co., general merchants, 14 Billiter Street, Avenue, London.

Although by 1917 Michael had taken up a residence in Tunbridge Wells he still conducted business from London as noted below.

1918-1920…….M.P. Nicolaidi & Co. general merchants, 48 Fernchurch Street , Avenue, East London.

1922-1924……...M.P. Nicolaidi & Co, general merchants, 90 Cannon Street, London.

Although Michael passed away in 1920 listings of the business continued after his death but the last directory listing found was for 1924.  Directories from 1917 onwards only list his private residence in Tunbridge Wells.

Michael Nicolaidi of New Zealand who I referred to earlier stated in part “ My grandfather Michael Payotti Nicolaidi born December 32,1862 worked for the Ralli Brothers in India before setting up on his own account. He emigrated to England in 1908 and by 1919 he had homes in London and Smyrna and was operating his company –M.P. Nicolaidi & Co-out of Smyrna, London and Constantinople.” Shown above are two Nicolaidi postcards, the one on the left in Smyrna and the other in Constantinople. Michael continues by stating “In 1908 they had a residence at 3 Queen’s Gardens, Bayswater. Their three children were baptised at St Sophia, Moscow Road where my grandparents were married in 1908”.  Shown below are two views of the St Sophia Greek Cathedral on Moscow Road, which is a grade 1 listed building located in the Bayswater area of London and which cathedral was consecrated February 5,1882.

Charles Hill, from his Levantine Heritage website stated “ In 1914 Grandpa was interned presumably under the Aliens Act and technically Smyrna was part of Turdey. It is likely he was a Levantine of Italian descent but that would have also been bad news in 1914. Apparently a deal was stuck if he deciphered Greek broadcasts from British agents in Athens as the Navy only had one Greek speaking officer who I think was a member of the Argenti family who was based in the Aegean. On this basis he was released and allowed to keep his Italian nationality and have diplomatic immunity to stay in the UK. I know after WW 1 he was given a sole concessionaires licence to trade in opium for the National Insurance Commission... In the war years of 1915-1918 grandfather was in Salonika for some reason, presumably working for the British Government though in what capacity Im not sure but likely as an interpreter. His letters at the PRO library (under ministry of supplies archives), Kew, London, show he was also trying to move supplies back to England and asked for help of the Royal Navy due to German and Turkish activity in the Aegean. He was trying to export dried fruit back to England…” See his website regarding various letters by Michael P. Nicolaidi for further information


Family history records that Michael and his wife Annie and three children moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1917 and lived in a home they named the ‘Acropolis’ a name based on the Greek ancestry of the Nicolaidi’s.

The book entitled ‘A History of Mount Sion’ by Roger Farthing (2003)confirms this when it states on page 309 “ In 1887 Eden Villa was sold by Augusta Puckle to Henry Wild, who sold it in 1917 to Mrs Nicolaidi who called it ‘Acropolis’….but thankfully the present owners gave reverted the home to its proper name of Eden Villa, numbered 4 Eden Road”. The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society held a garden party at Eden Villa in 2003 a report of which appeared in their Autumn 2003 newsletter which in part stated “ The Garden Party this year was held at the home of Gill and Devon Twells, and was a great success…” A photo of Eden Villa from that article is shown opposite.

Eden Villa was and still is a grand 3sty home located in the old historic part of the town known as Mount Sion. Shown below is an aerial view of the area on which Eden Villa is labelled and also a recent photo of Eden Villa much as it appears today,as shown in the referenced book.

Shown opposite is a photo of the Nicolaidi family on the lawn of the ‘Acropolis’ and below is a another view of them at the home. The view on the right shows Ned the gardener with Jacko the dog, a dog which family members say was the mascot of the 8th Btn of the East Kent Regiment known as the “Buffs” which had been rescued from the war when the Buffs were disbanded in France in 1918 and given to Stephanie Elli Nicolaidi as a pet. Also shown in this photo is Ethel Harrington, Annie Jane (Nancy) Nicolaidi, Xenia Nicolaidi and her sister Stephanie and to the right Herbert Harrington and Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi.

Charles Hill, who I have referred to earlier reported by email to me that "Michael P. Nicolaidi loved gardening and the growing of flowers, with a particular liking for Fuscia. No doubt his garden at the ‘Acropolis’ was quite lovely and Charles notes that on the grounds Michael had a greenhouse and orangry and that  “the remnants of which are still there. I have a schedule of works my grandparents did to the house. They were fined by the Ministry of Works for unnecessary building works’ post WW 1”. He also stated that the family left London to avoid the bombing in London. According to Charles Hill Michael P. Nicolaidi “was a keen bridge player and a member of the Tunbridge Wells Bridge Club who still hold records today of his membership”.  He also stated “ visitors to the ‘Acropolis’ included the then Prime Minister Lloyd George, Capltyon Bellairs whose family founded the Canadian Bellairs Institute, the Keyser family and Prince Andk Belerusky-Bekisekski the exiled grandson of Tzar Nicholos II.”

A local directory dated 1920 gave the listing “ M.P. Nicolaidi, ‘Acropolis’ Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells. Shown opposite is a photo taken 1917-1918 at an unknown location (either Craven Hill Gardens in London or at the ‘Acropolis’ which shows from left to right Annie Jane Nicolaidi, Michael P. Nicolaidi (seated) and their children Michael, Stephanie and Xenia.

The Times of London reported “Death-April 20,1920 at ‘Acropolis’ 4 Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells, M.P. Nicolaidi of 48 Fenchurch Street and Smyrna, Asia Minor, the beloved husband of Nancy Nicolaidi, aged 56 years”.

The Chemist and Druggist of May 1,1920 reported “At ‘Acropolis Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells on April 20th Mr M.P. Nicolaidi, Levant merchant, Fernchurch St London and Smyrna, Asia Br. Aged 56”.

Probate records gave Michael “Panyoti” Nicolaidi of Acropolis Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells died April 20,1920. The executor of his 715 pound estate was his widow Annie Jane Nicolaidi. Michael was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on April 26,1920 as Michael Panoyari Nicolaidi.

The Times of London reported “ Death-September 6,1920 at a nursing home in Tunbridge Wells Annie Jane Nicolaidi, widow, of M.P. Nicolaidi”.

The London Gazette of November 12,1920 reported “ Annie Jane Nicolaidi (also known as Nancy Nicolaidi) deceased. Notice to creditors regarding her estate, late of the ‘Acropolis’, Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells, widow, died September 6,1920”. One of the executors listed was Robert Ernest Gisburn.

Probate records gave Annie Jane Nicolaidi otherwise Nancy Nicolaidi of Acropolis Eden Road, Tunbridge Wells, widow, who died September 6,1920 at Tweedale Nursing Home, 1 & 2 Tweedale Terrace, Tunbridge Wells. The executors of her 13,227 pound estate were Robert Ernest Gisburn, chartered accountant. Annie was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on September 10, 1920.  Shown opposite is a  postcard view of Tweedale Terrace by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn.

Charles Hill reported to me from his research that “the ‘Acropolis’ was sold in 1920 for 1,500 pounds and that a  trust fund set up upon the death of his grandparents in 1920, run by trustees, bought a home at 42 Prospect Road in Tunbridge Wells where the children could remain until they reached the age of 21 under the guardianship of Emily Catherine Howard (their nanny) at which time the house was to be sold”. Shown below left is a map showing the location of 42 Prospect Road and a modern photo of the house.


In this section I provide information about the three children of Michael P. Nicolaidi and his wife Annie namely Xenia, Stephanie and Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi. Shown opposite is a photo taken in Tunbridge Wells showing from left to right Stephanie, then either Gerald Paterson or Jim Byyth (on the horse) followed by Michael and Xenia.

As noted in the previous sections the children’s nanny Emily Catherine Howard was appointed as their guardian upon the death of their parents in 1920 and took up residence at 42 Prospect Road, Tunbridge Wells. Details about where the children lived before that time has already been given.

Before continuing with the three children a few words and photos are warranted about the children’s nanny for she played an important role in the lives of the children until they reached age 21. Shown below left is a photo of Emily Howard, date unknown. To the right is a photo dated circa 1920 in Tunbridge Wells showing seated Emily Howard and to the right are the three young Nicolaidi Children. Standing at the back is Ranee Nicolaidi, stated by family members to be the daughter of Annie Jane Nicolaidi from a prior marriage, although no marriage record has been found. Charles Hill, the son of Stephanie Hill, nee Nicolaidi refers to Ranee as his aunt.

Emily Catherine Howard(photo opposite) never married. She had been born about 1869 but due to several others by the same name her exact date of birth was not established. She is reported to have been born at Straford St Mary, Essex and there was a Emily Catherine Howard birth registered in Lexden, Essex in the 2nd qtr of 1868. Death records gave her born 1870 and that she died in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1956. Probate records gave Emily Catherine Howard of ‘Glendale’, Sandhurst Road, Tunbridge Wells, spinster, who died February 12,1956 at the Clarence Nursing Home, Tunbridge Wells. The executor of her 3,797 pound estate was Mary Ann Page, widow. Shown below left is a photo of ‘Glendale’ and to the right is a photo of the Clarence Nursing Home, located at 3 Clarence Road. The photo of Glendale was sent to me by Vicki Woodthorpe, the granddaughter of the Xenia Nicolaidi who stated that her grandparents lived at Glendale in about 1950 and so it is obvious that Emily Howard was living with Xenia Nicolaidi and her husband and children at that residence in the 1950’s. Vicki adds to the story by stating “ Nanny Howard is buried 3 or 4 graves away from the Nicolaidis in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery and that she died age 86 on February 12,1956.” Cemetery records note her burial there on February 17,1956.

Charles Hill reported “ Emily Catherine Howard brought up the three children after their parents death. She had been their nanny and later became their legal guardian. She never married and had previously been Nanny to the Rothchild and Imhof families in London and had made many trips to Smyrna on escort duties as Grandmother came back to the UK to have all her children. On one occasion grandmother brought an English nurse Wilhelmina Williams  from Smyrna to assist one birth. In her old age Emily Catherine Howard was looked aftert in her old age by my mother and her sister”.

[1] XENIA NICOLAIDI (1909-1989)

Xenia was the eldest child. Her birth was registered in Croydon, Surrey in the 3rd qtr of 1909. Her death record gave her birth as July 19,1909 .

In the previous sections I noted her living with her parents firstly in Surrey and then from 1910 to 1916 in London. She then lived with her parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells at the ‘Acropolis’ 4 Eden Road up to the time of her parents death in 1920, after which she and her siblings were in the care of their nanny Emily Catherine Howard and lived at 42 Prospect Road, a home Xenia and her siblings were entitled to live at until they reached age 21. A sale record for 1930 noted that 42 Prospect Road sold for about 1,638 pounds.

On July 14,1934 Xenia, now age 25, married LouisJohn Woodthorpe. Shown opposite from the Courier is a photo of the wedding between “L.J. Woodthorpe and Miss X.N. Nicolaidi under the heading “ Interesting Tunbridge Wells Wedding”. The article records that the wedding took place at Christ Church (shown below), Tunbridge Wells  between Xenia Nancy Nicolaidi of 42 Prospect Road, Tunbridge Wells daughter of the late Mr and Mrs M.P. Nicolaidi of Smyrna and London and Mr Louis John Woodthorpe of 3 Oakfield, Court Road, son of the late Mr and Mrs J. Woodthorpe of Lingfield.” The article goes on to describe in detail what everyone was wearing, what presents were given and details about those in attendance.

Vicki Woodthorpe, the granddaughter of Xenia stated to me that she wrote down the memories of her grandmother and passed along to me the following information.  “ Both I and my parents have lived in Tunbridge Wells at different points of our lives. My parents lived in Crowborough (7 miles from T.Wells) for about 45 years. I also have a sister and two nephews who also live in Crowborough. After Prospect Road Xenia and John lived at Moordown, Chestnut Ave, Tunbridge Wells; White House, Burwash, Sussex; approx. 1950 at Glendale,Sandhurst Road T.Wells; approx. 1963 at 17 Rotherview, Burwash, Sussex; early 70s at 6 Broad Hill Close, Broad Oak, Sussex; mid 80’s after John died (just Xenia) at Martletts Court, Crowborough; Ivy Hall Care Home, Crowborough and then Lydfords Care Home, East Hoathly, Sussex”.

“ John Woodthorpe worked in the late 1940’s with a Japanese shipping company; then during WW 2 a sergeant with the Royal Engineers in Gibraltar; in the late 1940’s a Philatelist; in the 1960’s a freight specialist-Fisons, London”.

“ Xenia told mum she was the first female sub editor of Reuters pre -war and was an ambulance driver in WW 2 with the WRNS. She worked at the council in Crowborough probably after the war; was British Berkefeld secretary then Personal Assistant to someone in London towards the end of her career.”

“ Granny (Xenia) played tennis for the Tunbridge Wells Tennis Club and played into her 40s I believe and told mum she played against Virginia Wade towards the end of her (Xenia’s)tennis career. She also told mum she played violin for the Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra.

From Charles Hill it was learned that Xenia and her husband John had three (4?)children namely Peter (born 4th qtr 1948 at Hailsham,Sussex) who is still living in the area; Janet C. (born 3rd qtr 1938 in Tunbridge Wells) who emigrated to Australia and David J. (born 2nd qtr 1936 Tunbridge Wells) who emigrated to South Africa but who is now living in East Grinstead. There is also reference to Xenia’s youngest son Nick who died in 2002.  Shown opposite is a photo of Xenia with her first born child David.

Death records gave the birth of Xenia as July 19,1909 and that her death was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1989 at Uckfield, Sussex. Probate records gave Xenia Nancy Woodthorpe of Lydfords Nursing Home, East Hoathley, Sussex when she died September 23,1989 leaving an estate note exceeding 100,000 pounds. Her husband died May 4,1985


Michael’s birth was registered in Kensington, London in the 4th qtr of 1910.  His nickname was ‘Nick’ but often referred to as ‘Willoughby”. He lived with his parents and siblings in London until the family moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1917 and then lived with the family at the ‘Acropolis’ 4 Eden Road until his parents died in 1920 and then lived at 42 Prospect Road Tunbridge Wells with his siblings and nanny Emily Catherine Howard. While living in Tunbridge Wells Michael attended the Tonbridge School (photo opposite)

At age 19 (1929) he left England and emigrated initially to Australia under the ‘Big Brother Scheme’ and soon after to New Zealand where he lived out the remainder of his life. A review of the Australian passport register noted that Michael given as “ M.W. Nicolaidi” arrived at Queensland Australia November 8,1929 on the ship BALRANALD.

Also found was a passenger record for a Michael Nicolaidi age 20, born 1911 who departed from Bristane, Australia and arrived at Hull, England May 11,1931 on the ship HUBSONS BAY which the occupation of sheep hand and with a proposed address of 42 Prospect Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

A marriage record for him has  Michael Willoughby Nicolaidi to Ellaway Beryl Page in 1933.

Electoral Records of 1935 to 1949 records Michael Willoughby Nicoladidi as a sheep farmer with wife Ellaway. Shown opposite is a sheep farm in New Zealand. The directory of 1969 has Michael as a storeman living with wife Ellaway at 19 Meeanee Quay Westshore. A directory of 1972 has Michael as retired and living with wife Ellaway at 101 Harbour View Rd and was still at same address in 1978. In the directory of 1981 they were living at 17 Third Avenue.

Michael died in New Zealand in 1999. He had a son Michael Nicolaidi born 1938 who became a journalist, arts administer and novelist who’s latest work is a book ‘A Greekish Trinity’ which gives his account of the Nicolaidi family.  He was the founding president of Playmarket, an agency for emerging New Zealand playwrights, set up in the 1970’s He has also been a board member of the NZ Film Commission, and has written and directed several short films. He lives ne4ar Feilding in Aotearoa, New Zealand. His cousin Charles Hill, who lives in Norfok, contributes to the Levantine Heritage website. Details about Michaels career can be found on the internet along with photos of him.


Charles Hill, who I have referred to earlier is the son of Stephanie and her husband John Bertram Hill. Much of what is given below is based on his personal knowledge but has been supplemented by my own research.

The birth of Stephanie was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1912 at Paddington, London. From her death record her birth was given as September 18,1912.

Stephanie lived with her parents and siblings in London until the family moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1917 when from 1917 until the death of her parents in 1920 she lived with the family at the ‘Acropolis’ 4 Eden Road. From 1920 onwards, while under the care of her nanny Emily Catherine Howard she and her siblings lived at 42 Prospect Road in Tunbridge Wells. She was married in 1935 at age 23.

The marriage between Stephanie and John Bertram Hill was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1935 in Tunbridge Wells. The date of the marriage was July 20,1935. Wedding photos provide by Charles Hill are shown below. The marriage certificate gave John Bertram Hill as age 24, bachelor, traveller for an oil company of 16 Culverden Park Tunbridge Wells, the son of Bertram Hill (Civil Service in Ceylon-retired) to Stephanie Elli Nicolaidi, age 22, spinster, dispenser of medicine,of Norland Crendon Park, Southborough, daughter of Michael “Panyotti” Nicolaidi (deceased-general merchant). They were married at St Augustines Catholic Church in Tunbridge Wells (photo above).

Of his parents Charles Hill states “ John Bertram Hill lived with his parents  Bertram Hill (1865-1943) and Adelina Pattie Hill in Southborough. Bertram was a retired circuit judge in Ceylon, where his son John Bertram Hill was born in 1910.  My father John B Hill worked  for Duckhams Oils in the UJ. After the marriage of my parents they left the Tunbridge Wells area and lived in Norfolk, Chester, Ashurst then farmed in Robertsbridge. My dad during WW 2 was a personal assistant to Marshal Hyland and later involved in the liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp. Mother trained as a pharmacist and along with her sister Xenia was a member of the Tunbridge Wells Lawn Tennis Club and it was while with this club that the two sisters met their future husbands.”

Bertram Hill had been born in 1864. His birth was registered in the 4th qtr of 1864 at Lambeth, London. The 1871 census, taken at George Lane in Woodford, Essex gave Bertram Hill as age 6, born 1865 at Brixton, Surrey, as a pupil in a school run by Thomas l. Lampe. The 1881 census, taken at Christs Hospital School in Newgate Street, London gave Bertram Hill born 1865 at Brixton, Surrey as a scholar. A travel record gave Bertram Hill born 1865 departing from Sydney, Australia arriving at Liverpool October 10,1919 on the ship AENTA and given as retired with his last place of residence given as Ceylon and intended place of residence as England. With him on the trip was his was his son John Bertram Hill, given as age 9 of Ceylon) and Adeline Pattie  Hill, wife, age 47 born 1872.

Bertram’s death was registered in Tonbridge in the 3rd qtr of 1943. Probate records gave Bertram Hill of 16 Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells when he died September 2,1943. The executor of his 8,528 pound estate was his widow Adeline Pattie Hill. His wife Adeline Pattie Hill,according to death records, was born 1872 and died in the 2nd qtr of 1955 in Surrey. Probate records gave Adeline Pattie Hill of 205 Brighton Road, Purley, Surrey, widow, who died Apil 14,1955. The executors of her 7,905 pound estate were Bertram Alan Hill, silk merchant, and John Bertram Hill, paint salesman.

The Bertram Alan Hill referred to in the probate record above was one of the children of Bertram Hill and a second son was Henry Philip Hill. Both of them are given in the 1911 census, taken at Greatham, Hampshire where Bertram Alan Hill was give as born 1899 in Ceylon and Henry Philip Hill was given as born 1898 in Ceylon. Both of them were attending the Bedales Co Educational Sshool, a proprietary boarding school at Bedales, Petersfield, Hampshire. John Haden Bedales was the schoolmaster and at that school there were 70 male and 60 female students.  Probate records for Bertram Alan Hill gave him of 12 Arundel Road in Cheam, Surrey when he died April 17,1983. His actual date of birth was October 8,1898.

Stephanie and John had six children of which Charles Hill is the youngest. John Bertram Hill died in 1959 when Charles was only age 5 (born 1954). The death of John Bertram Hill was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1959 in Surrey with his birth given as 1911.  Probate records gave John Bertram Hill of 11 Stoneyfield Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey who died April 9,1959 at Dene Hospital, Caterham, Surrey. The executor of his 626 pound estate was his widow Stephanie. Shown opposite is a photo dated 1955 showing Stephanie and her husband and children.

Stephanie Hill died age 98 years on February 19,2010.  Her death was registered at Lowestoft, Suffolk.


Charles Hill stated “ Rannee was spelt “Rance” in her birth records. She was my aunt born 1900 in Walthamstow, London. She married Maunsell Philips in 1920 and had a son Peter who was born in 1922. Ranee later divorced and remarried and died in Uckfield in 1962”. Shown opposite right is a photo provided by Charles Hill identified as a wedding photo of Ranee to a man in Warmington.

Shown opposite left is a photo of Ranee (at the back) with nanny Howard seated and the Nicolaidi children Stephanie, Michael and Xenia, probably taken in Tunbridge Wells.

Shown opposite right is a photo of Ranee Philips with her son Peter taken circa 1920.

Charles Hill stated “ Ranee was a very proficient pianist who gave concerts in Tunbridge Wells and also at Smyrna.


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