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

Date: November 13,2017

Pickfords today is a moving company, part of Pickfords Move Management Ltd. The business is believed to have been founded in the 17th century, making it one of the Uk’s oldest functioning companies. The earliest record is of a William Pickford, a carrier who worked south of Manchester in 1630 and in 1646, a north country yeoman by the name of Thomas Pickford had his lands confiscated by Parliament for gun-running and supporting the Cavaliers during the English Civil War.  When the company was first established they were engaged in supplying quarry stone by packhorse for the construction of roads and on the return trip carried goods for third parties. In 1756 the company relocated to London and in 1776 they invented the fly wagon which speeded up deliver. In 1776 the company expanded by purchasing the business of William Bass, a Staffordshire hauler of ale for a local brewer. With the funds he went on to form Bass Brewery, which still exists today. In 1779 he entered the canal industry and ran wagons on the railway. In 1816 the company closed due to bankruptcy and the Pickford family sold out their interest to other businessmen. In the 20th century the company switched to road haulage. In 1920 the company was sold again, to Hays Wharf Limited on the back of the burgeoning post WW 1 home removal business. Websites like Wikipedia expand on this account and continue the story to today where Pickfords has branches throughout the Uk and Ireland and provide a full range of moving services.

Pickfords established offices in the town of Tunbridge Wells early in the 20th century. Local directories note they had a branch office in 1903 at 11 Goods Station Road but between 1913 and 1930 operated from premises at 4 Monson Road and by 1934 had moved to premises at 32 High Street where Arthur J. Sturges was the company agent. He was also the agent in 1930.

The company’s main building was located on the north-west corner of Colebrook Road and High Brooms Road. This building was a large structure of three floors with a flat roof and built of dark brown brick. As can be seen in the photograph (opposite )of this building it was surrounded along the road frontage by a tall barrier to screen the view of its operations from the road. Note the overhead crane just inside the entrance which was used to assist in the loading and unloading the lorries and pantechnicon vans. opposite. Shown below  left is a map from 1991 on which the building is identified as “ Depository”. A 1909 os map of High Brooms shows two smaller buildings on this site, which buildings were demolished to make way for the Pickfords building.


The company office in Tunbridge Wells at 4 Monson Road was located on the north-west side of the road just south of its intersection with Calverley Road. A 1907 os map showing the location of the building is shown above right.

The offices at 32 High Street were located on the west side of High Street just north of Payne’s Jewellers (37 High Street) on the east side, who’s location is identified in many postcard views of the High Street by their large clock mounted to the front of their shop. Of these two buildings, only the one at 32 High Street survives. Shown opposite right is an advertisement for their business at 32 High Street dated 1944.

Shown below left is a view of High Street looking north. The clock shown in this image is that of Payne's Jewellers (no. 37) and just beyond it on the opposite side of the road is No. 32. Shown below right is a view of Monson Road looking south from Calverley Road.

Their premises at 11 Goods Station Road were located on the north side of the road between Meadow Road and the General Hospital. The building they occupied was later demolished around the time the Hospital was torn down and replaced in the 1930’s by the Kent & Sussex Hospital on St John’s Road (it too is gone and replaced a few years ago by the new hospital in Pembury).

The Pickfords building on Colebrook Road still exists. A Planning Authority document from 1991 reported on an application by developer Sims-Russel Ltd to convert the warehouse building into four 2BR flats and six 1BR flats. Approval for this conversion and since that time the building has been flats. Shown below are four modern photographs of the building, which to a large degree appears little altered on the outside, but of course the interior has been completely redone. This building today (photo opposite)is called Amberley Court and is owned or managed by Flying Fish Properties of 55 London Road, Southborough.


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

Date: December 9,2017


Novelty postcards became popular during the Golden Age of postcards in the 1902-1918 era and the companies that published them produced them in large quantities. The topics they chose to convey humour were as varied as one could only imagine, but among them were several series of postcards by ‘BB London’ (Birn Brothers), a London publisher in operation from 1905 to 1964 which portrayed couples embracing and kissing. At the top of these cards was printed “Is it a crime to kiss in” followed by the name of the town. Examples of these cards with various town names in England, including Tunbridge Wells, can be found as well as an equal number in the United States, where the BB firm had a branch office in New York. Shown above is an example of one of these cards with Tunbridge Wells printed on it and later in this article I provide other examples.

Below the image of the couple was printed “ To Err is Human, To Kiss Divine, a corruption of “To Err is Human, To Forgive Divine”, from ‘An Essay on Chriticism’ by Alexander Pope (1688-1744).

The history of kissing is quite an interesting topic, and one that varies by country. In some countries kissing in public is against the law and perpetrators are dealt with severely in the courts. It may surprise some to learn that on July 16,1439 the Parliament of King Henry VI issued a proclamation banning kissing in England, not only in public but anywhere at any time for any reason and with anyone, but of course this did not put an end to kissing. It seems the King and others decided it was necessary to put in place the ban on kissing for health reasons, particularly the fear of spreading the plaque, before how it was transmitted was understood. Even today medical practitioners warn of the dangers of kissing and in the 19th century they opposed kissing babies, the bible (in accordance with the Oaths Act of 1888) and other kissing events where germs could be transmitted.

Traditionally British folks have been very conservative in their acceptance of kissing in public. In the Victorian era kissing a ladies gloved hand was considered acceptable but nothing further. An article in the Express dated February 12,2010 posed the question “ Should kissing in public places be banned?” and stated in part “ When it comes to public displays of affection (PDA) Britain is divided, with 45% against public passion. The Express noted that in Britain there was a north-south divide in opinion stating that “more than 60% of people living in Kent have admitted to experiencing a little on-street steaminess”. It seems the good people of Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere in the county like to kiss, and often, with those living northward less so inclined. And so the answer to the postcard posing the question “ Is it a crime to kiss in Tunbridge Wells?”  is “absolutely not!”, provided of course if the kiss is sanctioned by both kissers, for if it is not one can expect to find him/herself in court on a serious charge of ‘sexual abuse’ or similar legal jargon.

In this article I present some interesting information on the History of kissing with an emphasis on Tunbridge Wells, and, some examples of “kissing postcards” are shown.


This is a much debated question, some suggesting it has its roots in the mother passing food to its baby from the mouth such as some animals do. However distasteful this meeting of the lips my sound it makes primitive practical sense.

Kissing takes many forms for many purposes. Kissing the ring of the Pope or the hand of an important person is a sign of respect. Kissing of the bible at court in accordance with the Oaths Act of 1888 was a sign of a solemn promise to God to tell the truth. Politicians in modern times seem to have taken up the practice of kissing babies perhaps to present themselves as family men/women and raise support from the mothers.  Those who have seen the movie the Godfather will be familiar with the term “The Kiss of death”, when given meant you were soon to meet your maker. Conversely “The Kiss of life”, although not an actual kiss is taken to represent breathing new life into something, such as that reported in The Courier August 24,2016 when it was announced that the new town centre manager “vowed to give Tunbridge Wells the kiss of life” by making the town more popular among visitors.

Kissing the cheek, particularly in France, was and still is an acceptable form of greeting, and one that has found its way to England and other countries with mixed views. In Victorian times in England women were covered from head to toe including the wearing of gloves. It was considered proper for gentlemen to kiss the gloved hand of a lady as a gesture of respect/greeting/thanks, but absolutely no kissing in public anywhere else on the lady.

Last but not least, kissing is physically stimulating. Some enjoy it-some don’t. It is an act of love or affection when both parties consent to it and has taken the form of ceremony as a standard act between bride and groom at weddings after the exchange of rings, as a symbol of binding the couple together.

Whatever the reason for kissing, it is the public display of romantic affection that has raised the greatest amount of debate and the passing of some interesting laws banning it.


The laws dealing with what is acceptable and what is not in the eyes of the law is an international issue for not all countries condone kissing.

Kissing was a  crime in puritan Boston even if a sailor just got back from six months at sea and kissed his wife. Anyone caught kissing could end up being severely whipped. Today Americans take every opportunity to kiss no matter when or where, a practice not supported, according to studies, by people in Britain.

Kissing in public in India and Arab countries is against the law. An article dated June 3,1999 entitled “Stealing a kiss is no longer a crime in Caracas” stated that lovers caught in the passionate embraces faced arrest, the result of a ban by the Venezuelan capital’s mayor Irene Saex on kissing in public parks”. It was reported that “ Amorous antics were getting so out of hand  that there was a danger of traumatising children”. The New Delhi News of February 2,2009 printed an article entitled ‘Kissing in Public Married Couple Not Obscene’ in which the court stayed proceedings against a married couple who kissed in public. The police officer spotted them; took them to the police station and arrested them and then released on bail. They appeared in court under a charge of obscenity but were let off with a fine.

In England a number of events are worthy of note. Firstly it may come as a surprize to learn that kissing was once against the law in England for on July 16,1439 the Parliament of King Henry VI issued a proclamation banning kissing in England, not only in public but anywhere at any time for any reason and with anyone, but of course this did not put an end to kissing. It seems the King and others decided it was necessary to put in place the ban on kissing for health reasons, particularly the fear of spreading the plaque, before how it was transmitted was understood.

Gibson’s Law Notes of May 1886 presented this interesting and humorous case. “ That adventurous gentleman who expressed his determination to kiss one of the barmaids at Brixton Station probably thinks now that he placed too high a value on a kiss so obtained. Having put his determination into execution, he was given into custody for assault. He offered to square the girl for the loss of a kiss by giving her 20 pounds, and the manager 25 pounds. Value of the kiss 45 pounds. But why should the manager have had 5 pounds more than the girl? He was not kissed! However this young spark evidently did not know the market value of kisses as well as the magistrate, for that functionary only fined him 5 pounds. What a shocking sign of lack of experience! Imagine a knowing young man in this nineteenth century being ready to pay nine times the proper value of any particular article”.  The non-consensual act of kissing today is still not legal and one participating in this act can face serious charges of sexual assault if the matter is taken to court.

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of September 22,1894 recorded a case of a kiss “ An apology-Mother; “Did that young man apologize for kissing you”. Daughter-“yes momma, and he did it so nicely that I kissed him to show how freely he was forgiven”.

The Daily Mirror of February 17,2009 ran an article ‘Kissing Crimes and Facts” which in part announced that in Warrington, Cheshire a ban was put in place preventing couples from kissing on the railway platform on the basis that it holds up commuters; that in Indiana it’s illegal for mustachioed men to habitually kiss human beings; that in Hartford, Connecticut it is illegal for a husband to kiss his wife on Sunday and in Cedar Rapids,Iowa it’s a crime to kiss a stranger”. One has to wonder how many, apparently antiquated laws there are on the books of various countries on the lawful or unlawful act of kissing.

The Oaths Act of 1888 specifies that those giving testimony must swear on a bible and kiss the bible. Several newspapers in the 1880 and 1890’s ran articles entitled ‘Kissing the Book’ stating that magistrates were refusing witnesses to kiss the bible as it had become greasy and otherwise objectionable. There was a great deal of discussion over this topic and those who refused to kiss the book and offered instead to kiss an internal page or place a clean piece of paper over the cover of the bible before kissing it were not allowed by the court to do so.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle dated January 14,1898  and others ran an article entitled ‘A Kissing Line” in which it was stated that the idea of establishing a kissing line on piers to keep enthusiastic incoming passengers and their equally demonstrative friends from meeting for prolonged embraces before the baggage had been disposed of was discussed and in some places rules were put in place to put a stop to kissing in an effort to speed things up. Apparently there were fines charged for an infringement of the rules.

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of September 29,1888 posted an article which read “ This is becoming an expensive country for gentlemen who are fond of kissing young ladies at railway carriages. Mr Montague Williams, a magistrate has raised his prices, and the charge for one minute’s kiss-say from Liverpool Street to Bishopsgate is now 5 pounds.”


Since King Henry VI banned kissing in 1749 on fear of passing along the plague, medical practitioner have been against kissing for it allows for the passing of germs and the causing of disease, some quite serious.

Newspapers from all over England posted articles about the dangers of kissing from a medical point of view. One from 1898 in the Whitstable Times stated “ The Decline of Kissing-Kissing says the doctor is of style. Nobody does it now but sweethearts, young children and teachers. In families where proper respect is paid for hygiene, children are cautioned against promiscuous kissing..”. The same newspaper of August 11,1894 gave an article entitled ‘Kissing Condemned’ which was by Johannes Secundas of the British Medical Journal, dealt with hissing from every conceivable point of view including disease”.

Articles dating back to the 1880’s up to today posed the question “ Should Babies be Kissed?” with the general consensus of medical practitioners that they should not be kissed on the mouth for fear of transmitting disease.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of April 17,1903, which published many articles about events in Tunbridge Wells, presented an article entitled “ Cult of the Kiss’ in which a medical report came out with a serious indictment against “ the old fashioned act of kissing, which, it declared, has been slowly but surely going out of favour”.


The kissing gate is often the subject of chatter about the origins of its amorous-sounding name.

A kissing gate is a type of gate that allows people, but not livestock, to pass through. ... The name comes from the gate merely "kissing" (touching) the enclosure on either side, rather than needing to be securely latched.

That hasn’t stopped many clinging to a more romantic notion: that the first person to pass through would have to close the gate to the next person, providing an opportune moment to demand a kiss in return for entry and no doubt the gate was where neighbouring sons and daughters of farmers met and kissed. Shown below left is a photo of a kissing gate on the Tunbridge Wells Circular Path near Shirley Hall and to the right of it is another kissing gate near Eridge Park Lake.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of June 30,1939 posted an article on the removal of kissing gates which roused criticism. Members of Pembury Council, at their meeting on Monday, criticised the Tunbridge Wells Corporation for removing two kissing gates in the footpath through Forest Wood, Pembury.


This heading is the title of many articles dating back to the 19th century, which continue today.

The Express of February 12,2010 presented one of this title which stated “ Almost half of Britons are prudes when it comes to kissing in public places. When it comes to public displays of affection (PDA) Britain is divided, with 45% against public passion. Half of Londoners said PDA made them feel uncomfortable, while 35% said kissing in front of other people was “inappropriate, rude and dirty”. Loved-up Britons should instead head to Nottingham if they want some public passion as here 55% of people positively embrace outdoor romance. The north-south divide continues in Leeds- where one in five believe public kisses are ‘sweet’-and Manchester where more than a third are in favour of street smooching. Over a quarter of those in Cardiff have never kissed passionately in public but more that 60% of people living in Kent have admitted to experiencing a little on-street steaminess. Karen Moore, from Philips Sensual Massagers, which carried out the study said “ Britain has always been accused of being a prudish nation, especially compared to other European countries but this shouldn’t be the case. “Providing we don’t go over the top, we should all feel comfortable kissing out partner in public. Kisses are such an important part of a relationship as they allow us to keep our relationships intimate and shouldn’t be frowned upon”.

The Telegraph of December 4,2017 ran an article entitled ‘ Kissing in Public? No thanks, we’re British’. The author Hannah Betts argued that if you must exhibit affection there are strict rules that must be followed. She comments on the epidemic of public kissing in the USA, among most notably those in the film industry and says ‘ it makes your face pucker into an image of distaste. For we are British, for the love of God. We do not do this. PDA’s are for children and foreigners-the emotionally incontinent, and/or people with something to prove. The most a British paring should be prepared to hazard in public is a spare kiss on the cheek, or occasional linked arm. Even more social kissing should be viewed as a repellant affection that has somehow taken hold”.


Thousands of postcard views of Tunbridge Wells have been produced over the years and certainly the most interesting and most numerous are those of the town from the early 20th century. These typically feature scenic views of The Commons, High Rocks and Street Views. Among these cards one does not find any showing couples kissing and rarely any showing people holding hands.

Tunbridge Wells has been blessed with many wonderful and prolific photographers who captured fine images of the town. Some of them did field photography and specialized in it (such as Harold H. Camburn) and others specialized in portrait studio work, of which there were many. At these studios people and sometimes pets had their photographs taken, often on the occasion of a wedding;an anniversary; the birth of a child; or other significant event (such as going off to war). Although one would expect some signs of affection in these images, none are found of people kissing and rarely are any found showing people holding hands, or embracing, or for that matter engaging in any form of physical contact. Such were the social norms of the times when outward signs of affection were not considered acceptable. Even in the privacy of a portrait studio everything was kept prim and proper.

Shown opposite left is a CDV by Tunbridge Wells photographer Simms showing a charming view of a lady with her young children, about as affectionate CDV as one can find. Another from Tunbridge Wells photographer Everest shows a typical “stiff” family portrait with no obvious sign of affection between husband and wife. Try and find a CDV of a couple embracing or kissing! It will take a great deal of searching to find one- it just was not the thing to do.

Novelty postcards, which have been popular since the start of the Golden Era in postcards (circa 1900), however, appeared on the market in great numbers and among them were more risqué images, including images of couples embracing and even kissing. These images took the form of artists drawings however and not images of real people taken with cameras, although some “real photo” postcards of couples kissing can be found in small numbers. That type were largely produced in the USA where sensibilities were different to those of the British people. Shown opposite is an example of such an image .

As I began this article in the ‘Overview’, before exploring the history of kissing, the kissing novelty card of interest that pertains to Tunbridge Wells is the one shown in the overview. This postcard was printed in Germany (Saxony and Bavaria), where most early postcards were made in the 19th and early 20th century. The postcard was produced by a firm in London and the USA  , who’s postcards were divided backs. Those produced for the British market were identified as “ BB London” and typically had printed on it a serial number. This company was a large printing house that operated in London from premises at 67-70 Bunhill Row from 1905 to 1964. They produced tricolor postcards on a wide variety of subjects that included Christmas cards, greetings, actresses, views, propaganda, military and naval themes and artist signed cards. They also produced many postcards in sepia, as real photos, and embroidered silks. Despite their large postcard production they seem to have been primarily involved in printing cheap pictorial books. The letters in the company name “BB” stood for the Birm Brothers.

The Novelty card was a unique type of postcard, often depicting humerous topics, including many during WW 1 making fun of the Germans. They also produced many that challenged human sensibilities, such as bathing scenes and much of the text on the images was quite suggestive in a typically British sense of humour way. Noting blatant but one got the true message.

The kissing postcards by BB appear to have been produced, based on the style of the image, in at least three series and from those that were posted they bear franking in the period of 1906 to 1910.

Three features of these cards, no matter what series they came from, was they all featured a central image of a couple either kissing or at least embracing. At the top was printed “ It’s No Crime to Kiss In” followed by a space for the name of the town to be printed.  It appears that cards bearing the name of Tunbridge Wells were printed on order, for not every town in England appears on these cards. Cards bearing the names of cities and towns in the USA far outnumber those produced in England.  The third feature on these cards are the words “ To Err is Human , To Kiss is Divine”, a corruption of the phrase “ To Err is Human, To Forgive Divine” from the work ‘ An Essay on Criticism ‘ by Alexander Pope (1688-1744) of whom an image is shown opposite.

How many different images in each series were produced is not known but a quick search on the internet indicated ten different images of couples all bearing the same text, six of which are shown below. Conceivably there could be other examples of cards with Tunbridge Wells on them showing some of the other images of couples but to date none was found.

Kissing of course has been portrayed on more than postcards and photographs. It is found in sculpture and paintings and in many products and one can purchase a car sticker (photo opposite) that reads “ Kiss Me I’m from Tunbridge Wells”. Films and theatrical performances such as ‘Kiss Me Kate’ , shown in Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere,also feature or refer to kissing and of course many songs have been recorded on this topic.

Despite all the discussion about kissing, kissing is here to stay and I’m glad for it as I got plenty of kisses last Christmas, and it wasn’t Father Christmas who was kissing me.


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

Date: December 10,2017

As postcards became the quickest, easiest way to send a greeting or note around 1898, they also made the perfect vehicle for a joke. A postcard back has just enough space for a note or comical remark from the sender who had the pleasure of knowing they’d just delivered a smile—or a guffaw.

Some comic/novelty postcards were political in nature, mocking a political candidate, the suffrage movement, or the enemy during a war. Others contained racy or risque jokes or simply a comical image and text. Shown above is a “Kissing” postcard where the name could be printed in the blank space. Details of this type of card were given in the Kissing article above.

One form of novelty card were those in which there was a flap that when opened revealed a strip of miniature postcard views of the town or of the subject portrayed. Examples of this type of card are shown below.The one of the Tunbridge Wells postman (opposite) shows him with a satchel containing miniature postcard views of the town. These were printed to order with the name of the town added and examples of the same card can be found with different town names on them.

Comical/Novelty cards were produced by many companies around the world, including England, where they were quite popular. Some of the cards produced for seaside towns depicting people of all shapes and sizes at the beach were quite comical.

Shown below is a selection of comical or otherwise interesting novelty cards bearing the name of Tunbridge Wells. Some of this type of card were made in Tunbridge Wells by Photochrom but most were made elsewhere. Many of the early cards were printed in Germany as they were more advanced than Britain in the 19th century printing trade.




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