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

Date: May 13,2017

Two branches of the Hogbin family settled in Tunbridge Wells in the 1870’s and established grocers shops. The first branch was that of William Hogbin(1844-1896) one of seven children born to agricultural labourer/gardener George Hogbin (1809-1871) and Sarah Hogbin, nee Hobday (born 1813). William lived as a child with his parents and siblings in St Stephens, Kent in the 1850’s but by 1861 the family moved to Canterbury, Kent where his father was a gardener and William worked as a grocer. In 1866 William married Mary Anne Tylhurst, the daughter of Richard William Tylhurst at Herne, Kent and by the time of the 1871 census was living in Deptford, Kent where he was a grocer. He and his wife had two children(Edith and Frank William Hobkin) while living in Deptford.

By 1874 William and his wife and daughter Edith moved to Tunbridge Wells, where in the directory for 1874 William had a grocers shop at 13 Goods Station Road. A photo of Goods Station Road is shown above in which can be seen some men watering the road. At the time of the 1881 census he and his wife Mary Anne and daughter Edith and brother John Moss Hogbin ( a coachman) were living at Telford Lodge on Upper Grosvenor Road.

By 1882 William had expanded his business to include shops at 1 Grosvenor Road, 13 Goods Station Road and 62 High Street. Shown opposite is a trade card for William which refers to his shop at 1 Grosvenor Road and below is a postcard view of the High Street. By 1891 William and his wife and daughter and one servant were living at 29 Lime Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells.

Soon after the 1891 census William and his wife left Tunbridge Wells and William retired from business. William died August 5,1896 at Strood Green, Middlesex leaving an estate valued at just 56 pounds to his son Frank William Hogbin, a grocer’s traveller.

The second branch of the Hogbin clan to settle in Tunbridge Wells and establish grocers shops were the brothers George and Thomas Hogbin. They were two of eight children born to Thomas Hogbin (born 1838) and Mary Hogbin, nee Maxted , born 1840. George was born 1869 in Acol, Kent and Thomas in 1859 at Acol. At the time of the 1871 census George and Thomas and five siblings were living with their parents at the Crown & Sceptre pub in Acol, Kent (photo opposite)where their father was the publican. By the time of the 1881 census Thomas and his sister Sarah (born 1847) and cousin Alfred W. Hogbin (born 1864) had moved to Tunbridge Wells where in that year Thomas and Alfred were working for William Hogbin as grocers assistants at 13 Goods Station Road, along with four other grocers assistants and one domestic servant.

In 1882 at Maidstone Thomas Hogbin married Fanny Elizabeth Underwood(1858-1940) and with her had a daughter Mabel Fanny Hogbin, born 1883 in Hastings, Sussex. At the time of the 1891 census Thomas and his wife Fanny and daughter Mabel and his sister Rosina,age 20, and two boarders were at 13 Goods Station Road, Tunbridge Wells, where Thomas was a grocer employing others, having taken over the shop from William Hogbin who by this time had retired from business.

At the time of the 1901 census Thomas and his wife Fanny and daughter Ethel and father in law Alfred Usherwood were at 19 Goods Station Road where Thomas was a grocer employing assistants in his shop.  Local directories for 1891 to 1899 gave Thomas as a grocer at 13 Goods Station Road and the 1903 Kelly gave him as a grocer at 19 Goods Station Road. By the time the 1911 census was taken Thomas and his wife had moved to Tenderden, Kent (image opposite of High Street)where Thomas had a grocers shop. Thomas and his wife emmigrated to the United States and settled in California where Thomas died in 1951 and his wife Fanny in 1940.

The last member of the Hogbin clan covered by this article is George Hogbin, the brother of Thomas referred to above. George was the younger brother born in Acol, Kent in 1869. He lived with his parents and siblings until his marriage to Annie in 1891 and at the time of the 1891 census he and just his wife were at St Mary Magdalene, Sussex where George was working as a grocer’s assistant. By 1892 the George and his wife moved to Southborough. In 1893 they had a daughter Olive Elizabeth Hogbin .The 1899 Kelly directory gave George Hogbin as a grocer at 85 Auckland Road. Shown above is a view of Auckland Road circa 1905.

The 1901 census, taken at 15 Holden Park Road, Southborough gave George as the proprietor of a grocer’s shop who had assistants working for him. Shown above is a postcard view of Holden Road by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn which he produced for the Southborough business men Fielder and Jarrett, one of several postcards Camburn made for them.  

The 1911 census, taken at 13 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells gave George as a grocer and provision merchant. With him was his wife Annie; his daughter Olive who was a bookkeeper at home and his two other children Doris, born 1901 in Tunbridge Wells and Raymond, born 1907 in Tunbridge Wells, both of whom were attending school. Local directories of 1903 gave George as a grocer at 15 Holden Park Road, Southborough. Directories of 1903 to 1922 gave George as a grocer at 13 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells. A postcard view of Camden Road looking north from Calverley Road is shown below left and to the right is a view of Lansdowne Road from 1864.

On February 2,1921 George Hogbin was initiated into to Pantiles Lodge of the Freemasons and at that time his occupation was give as “grocer”. When George retired from business was not established but he was not found in the 1930 local directory. It is known from probate records that his wife Annie Elizabeth Hogbin died July 28,1936 at 12 Lansdowne Road, Tunbridge Wells and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on July 31st.   Probate records for George gave him of 11 Quarry Rise, Tonbridge who died April 17.1963 at 12a Lansdowne Road, Tunbridge Wells. The executors of his 15,178 pound estate were Winifred May Hogbin, widow , and George William Marchant, retired gas official. George was buried near his wife April 23rd.

The age of the corner grocers shop has all but disappeared from the commercial districts of Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere as the time when the lady of the house went out to do her daily shopping with her shopping basket has been largely replaced by a weekly shop at the supermarket, a trip normally made by motor car instead of by walking. Grocery shops sold all manner of goods and in early times many items were bought in bulk by weight which the shopkeeper weighed out on a scale. Tinned goods were also a major item stocked by grocers. Meat had to be bought at the butchers with fish and poultry bought at the fishmongers and poulterers and produce purchased from the greengrocer or fruitier. Today modern supermarkets sell all these items making shopping more convenient, but at the expense of the demise of the small independent shop proprietors engaged in the this aspect of the retail market.



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

Date: May 13,2017

Henry Gardner was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1864. At a young age he was sent off by his parents to attend a boarding school in Brenchley, Kent (Image opposite). He is found at the time of the 1871 census at this school, called Glenmead, a school for boys and girls, run by 62 year old headmistress Ann Joy and her 57 year old sister Clarisa, Joy and two assistant teachers.

His father had died young and was raised by his mother Eleanor, born 1836 in London. The 1881 census, taken at 5 Chapel Place in Tunbridge Wells gave Eleanor Gardner, age 45 as a widow and the proprietor of a toy and fancy dealers shop. With her was her son Henry, age 17, who was working as an account bookmaker. Also there was one general servant. Shown above left is a photograph of Chapel Place, dated 1880 looking towards the High Street,  a rather secluded but busy little shopping area off the High Street near the Pantiles, and in the oldest part of the town.

In 1889 Henry married Jane, who was born 1867 at Torquay, Devon (view opposite) , the marriage taking place in Devon. After the marriage Henry and his wife resumed living in Tunbridge Wells

How and when Henry became trained as a printer and bookbinder was not established but at the time of the 1891 census, Henry was living at 14 Sutherland Road working on own account in this trade. Living with him was his wife Jane and his widowed mother Eleanor who’s occupation was given as “servant at registry office”. Also there was Henry’s daughter Eleanor who had been born 1890 in Tunbridge Wells. One lodger was also living with the family to bring in a little extra money.

Eleanor died in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1891 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery which had opened in 1873 as a replacement for the Woodbury Park Cemetery, who’s plots were spoken for or occupied by that time.

The 1901 census, also taken at 14 Sutherland Road (image above), gave Henry as a stationer, newsagent employing assistants. With him was his wife Jane; two boarders and one domestic servant as well as his children (1) Eleanor,age 11; Dorothy Ethel, age 8; Hilda Haiseldon, age 6; Marjorie, age 2 and Henry Mount Stephen Gardner, age 7 mths. All of the children had been born in Tunbridge Wells.

As was the case with most stationers shops in the town, a selection of postcards was offered for sale. Henry had made arrangements with a local photographer to supply him with postcard views of the town bearing his name as the publisher. Shown below left is one example giving a view of the Duke of York Hotel/pub in the Pantiles.  The 1899 Kelly directory gave the listing “ Henry Gardner, printer, 11 Vale Road and 14 Sutherland Road, In the same directory, interestingly, he was also listed as an insurance agent for Westminster General Life at 11 Vale Road and the 1903 Kelly listed him as a printer and insurance agent at 11 Vale Road. Shown below right is as postcard view of Vale Road from the 1930's, featuring the Vale Road post office (now gone) and the Presentation Tank from WW 1 that was scrapped during the metal drive in WW 2.

The 1911 census, taken at 20 Mountfield Road (image opposite), Tunbridge Wells, gave Henry as a “printers representative printing on own account”. With him in premises of four rooms was his wife Jane and his children Marjorie and Henry Mount Stephen Gardner. Both of the children were attending school. Also there was one lodger. The census recorded that the couple had been married in 1889 and that of their five children all were still living.

The 1913 directory gave the listing “ Henry Gardner, insurance agent 20 Mountfield Road. No mention of him being a printer was found in this directory. By 1922 Henry left Tunbridge Wells and was found in the 1922 directory for Tonbridge (private residence listing) at 4 Pembury Road.

Death records gave Henry Gardner born 1864 in Tunbridge Wells who died in the 3rd qtr of 1943 in Tunbridge Wells. Probate records gave Henry Gardner of 9 Quarry Rise Tonbridge when he died July 13,1943 at the Kent & Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. The executors of his 134 pound estate was his widow Jane Gardner. The death record for Jane Gardner gave her born 1866 and died in Tonbridge in the 4th qtr of 1948. Probate records gave Jane Gardner of 9 Quarry Rise, Tonbridge, widow, when she died October 10,1948. The executor of her 1,669 pound estate was her married daughter Dorothy Ethel Jackson (wife of George Linden Jackson). Both Henry and his wife were buried in the Tonbridge Cemetery, an image of which is shown above.  



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

Date: May 14,2017


Whitbread Brewery was a large brewery in Wateringbury which owned hundreds of pubs throughout England including several in Tunbridge Wells, each with a hand painted sign on which the name of the pub and an image of its namesake was shown.

In the years 1949 to 1955 the brewery produced five series of miniature pub sign cards , of 50 cards per series, for Kent and the south-east portion of Sussex, with additional series of cards for other parts of England issued up to and including 1973. Known as the “Whitbread Miniature Inn Signs Series” they were issued to each of their pubs where they were given out by the publicans with a pint of beer as a powerful form of advertising.

These cards have become quite collectable and often appear for sale at auction or on such websites as Ebay. This article provides a brief introduction to Whitbread’s Brewery; a brief history of pub signs; details about the trade cards they produced with examples of those for pubs in Tunbridge Wells. Shown above is the miniature card for The Harp’ pub on St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells and  a postcard view of the pub itself.


The business was formed in 1742 when Samuel Whitbread formed a partnership with Godfrey and Thomas Shewell and acquired a small brewery at the junction of Old Street and Upper Whitecross Street and another brewhouse for pale and amber beers in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. Godfrey Shewell withdrew from the partnership as Thomas Shewell and Samuel Whitbread bought the large site of the derelict King's Head brewery in Chiswell Street in 1750. The new brewery was for the production of porter, and was renamed the Hind Brewery after the Whitbread family coat of arms.

From the outset, Whitbread was the leading financial partner, and solely responsible for management, and in 1761, Whitbread acquired Shewell's share of the business for £30,000. It was the largest brewery in the world by the 1780s. In 1796 the company produced 202,000 barrels of porter. The firm struggled after the death of Samuel Whitbread Sr, and saw ownership transfer to his son, also called Samuel Whitbread. The company adopted the name Whitbread & Co Ltd in 1799.

The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1948. Between 1961 and 1971, Whitbread's output increased from 2.1 to 7.4 million hectolitres and it became Britain's third-largest brewer by output. Whitbread decided in 2001 to sell all its breweries and brewing interests (Whitbread Beer Company) to Interbrew, now known as InBev. Whitbread-branded alcoholic beverages are still available in the UK, such as canned Whitbread bitter, but these are not produced by InBev, merely produced under licence by other producers. InBev controls the use of the Whitbread brand, and the hind's head logo, for use on beverages. In 2002 Whitbread sold its pub estate, known as the Laurel Pub Company, to Enterprise Inns.The Whitbread & Co brewery building at 52 Chiswell Street in London still survives, although beer ceased to be brewed there in 1976.  Whitbread is still in business today but is no longer involved in the brewing industry. Shown above is a photo of their brewery on Bow Road in Wateringbury.

Whitbread owned hundreds of pubs throughout England including several in Tunbridge Wells. Also of local interest is Kelsey’s Culverden Brewery (photo opposite) operated many years ago by E &H. Kelsey. Details about this brewery (gone now) in the Culverden part of St John’s Road was given in my article ‘ Early Brewing History and the Culverden Brewery St John’s Road’ dated May 2012. In that article I stated in part “By 1895 the Culverden Brewery owned over 100 pubs in Kent,Sussex and Surrey. In 1877 the brewery had to be rebuilt after a disastrous fire,when flames-fed by hundreds of sacks of hops-could be seen for miles around.Kelsey's Brewery lost its independence in 1948,and eventually became part of Whitebreads.The Culverden Brewery survived until 1962.”


In 1393 King Richard II decreed that pubs must have signs “Whoever shall brew ale in the town for the intention of selling it, must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale”. And so pubs throughout England installed hand painted signs either on the wall of the their pub or suspended from the building on brackets. These signs were particularly important when much of the population was illiterate and the images portrayed on trade signs in general typically gave a visual clue as to the type of goods the shop sold.

Early pub signs often featured the names of important people such as “The Kings Head’, “The Queens Head” etc but theme signs such as “The Foresters Arms” , “The Crown and Thorns” etc were common and just about any catchy name was given to a pub .

For many observers, the image on the pub sign is what catches the eye and holds the interest. In times past, most signs were hand-painted and made of wood or metal. Today signs are increasingly being produced by computer-generated graphics on lightweight materials such as aluminum, fiberglass, Perspex or similar materials. The signs can be quite elaborate and pleasing to the eye and demonstrate some significant artistic ability by the artist who designed and painted it. An example of the Tunbridge Wells pub sign is shown above.


From 1949 to 1955 Whitbread, who owned hundreds of pubs, produced five series of miniature pub sign trade cards featuring the pubs under their control in Kent and the south-east part of Sussex. In later years, up to and including 1973 series of cards were produced by them for pubs in other parts of England.

The miniature cards were produced by the company as trade cards, which were distributed to each pub and handed out to customers who bought a pint by the publican who ran the pub. Their purpose was to stimulate trade and get you coming back to a Whitbread pub for your next pint.

The cards were playing card size, measuring 2” by 3”  with sets of 50 cards for each of the five series produced. Series 1 to 3 were made of thin metal. Later series 3 was reproduced in card with series 4 and 5 also made of card. Some claim that the early cards were made of metal instead of card because of paper shortages from the war.

At the time these cards were produced Whitbreads were in Wateringbury, Kent. Whitbread had to compete with cigarette cards and with many hundreds of matchbox labels also used by publicans to advertise their house.

Ever since these cards were produced there have been collectors of them and those who have an interest in this hobby eagerly seek out the missing cards in their collection at auctions and on such websites as Ebay, some of them commanding high prices. Books about the collecting of these cards have been produced, details of which can be found on the internet.

How many miniature pub sign cards were produced for the Whitbread pubs in Tunbridge Wells is not known by the researcher but three examples from these series of cards were found , the images of which are shown in this article. Those found are for “The Harp”; the “Grove Tavern” and the “Lord Cornwallis’. The first two are shown above and shown here is the front and back of the Lord Cornwallis card. Each card in the series included some information on the back about the name of the pub along with the card number and series number. The card for the Grove Tavern is stated as being card No. 17 from series 2. The card of The Harp is stated to be card 24 from series 5 in 1955, although there is also a reference to The Harp being also part of the series 3 issue in 1951. The Lord Cornwallis card was card No. 23 from series 4.

The Lord Cornwallis was located on Eridge Road but was demolished between 1987 and 1990 to make way for a roundabout for a new Sainsbury store. A photo of it from the 1970’s is shown opposite. In 1938 the publican was Albert John Tooth. The Harp on St John’s Road had been around since circa 1862 and was still operating as a pub by that name in 1938 but today the building is a shop dealing in the sale of fireplaces. There was also a pub called The Harp on London Road back in circa 1839 run by Henry Goodman which by 1867 was run by C. Santer, with other publicans there in the intervening years. The Grove Tavern is still in operation today.



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

Date: May 14,2017


In 1873 the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery was constructed as a replacement for the Woodbury Park Cemetery as all of its plots were either spoken for or occupied. The new cemetery consisted of 23 acres of land but since then was enlarged twice, now being 28 acres, with over 44,000 burials including 72 WW 1 and 63 WW 2 Commonwealth graves.

It was not until 1958 however that the town’s first crematorium was built on land abutting the Borough Cemetery. An article in The Architect and Building News of August 17,1960 gave the following account along with the floor plan and black and white photo shown  below. The image of the building is a view of it from the north.

“The crematorium is designed to cater for the needs of Tunbridge Wells and other towns and villages within a radius of 15 miles. Those responsible for the design and construction of this facility were William Pickering (in succession to Hugh B. Bishop) Town Engineer and Borough Surveyor; Brian G.W. Blackwood, Chief Architectural Assistant, and D.R. Nolans & Co., Quality Surveyors.”

“ The site is on land adjoining the existing Tunbridge Wells Cemetery; the land being acquired some time before the war for this purpose. It is a pleasant site overlooking typical Sussex countryside of farms and woodland and its within one and a half miles of the town centre. There is little development around it”.

“ It is supposed that, when the crematorium is working to maximum capacity, services will take place every 30 minutes for six days of the week. There is on chapel, two cremators and other ancillary buildings. It may be necessary at a later date to provide an additional chapel and a further cremator. The scheme has been designed so that these additions may be economically carried out”.

“ The building is planned so that the cortege arrives at the main entrance to the crematorium under the cover of the porte-cochere and the mourners go directly into the chapel. The vestry is so sited that the clergymen can see the arrival of the cortege.”

“ The chapel has been designed to seat 72 people and it is assumed that when a large service is required it will be held at a church or chapel prior to going on to the crematorium”.

Shown below left is a view of the new chapel and to the right is a view of the old chapel.

Shown below left is a view of the waiting room and to the right of it is shown the crematorium and the old chapel waiting room.

The website of the Crematorium gave the following “ The crematorium was dedicated by The Lord Bishop of Rochester on December 2,1958. The crematorium echoed architectural thought and design of an era carrying out its first cremation six days later on December 8th. Since then the crematorium building  and its grounds have benefited from many improvements encompassing structural refurbishment and replacement cremators in 1994, followed in 2008 by redecoration and replacement of soft furnishings to improve the overall ambiance of the crematorium chapel. In 2014, the crematorium additionally benefitted from a 1.1 million pound replacement of cremators with state of the art emissions monitoring and filtration equipment and the provision of a new catafalque and curtains.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier of December 5,1958, which I appreciated receiving from Susan of the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library gave the following information under the heading " Town's New Crematorium in Moving Service' . The crematorium with its chapel and garden of remembrance on Bayhall Mill Road, Hawkenbury was officially opened and dedicated on Tuesday by the Bishop of Rochester the Rt Rev. C.M. Chavasse, in the presence of the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells (Councillor E. Croucher). The Mayor, Bishop Chavasse, Canon W.T. Barry the vicar of St Johns and the town clerk entered the building. Then followed by the Bishop assisted by the Rural Dean the Rev. R.W. Thornhill, vicar of King Charles the Martyr; the Rev M.L. Couchman, vicar of St Mark's Broadwater Down in who's parish the crematorium was built, and Rev C.T. Gilwhite, minister of Vale Royal Methodist Church, representing the Free Churches. The Bishop gave a moving speech and commented on the importance of flowers and the memorial garden. Following the services they inspected the chapel. It is a dignified building of simple proportions in natural brick with wide high windows and much use of natural unpolished wood. The colour scheme is grey with a deep red carpet and touches of pale blue in the pew area.
Shown above is a current site plan of the crematorium. Some modern views of the buildings grounds, interior and exterior are presented in this article. Shown on the plan in the upper left is ‘The Children’s Memorial Garden, a lovely spot dedicated to babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth. The Tunbridge Wells Sands is a national charity established to provide help and support to parents who had lost their babies and does fundraising for the training of medical professionals and for research which might help to prevent the loss of babies. A photo  of this Memorial Garden are shown here, the centerpiece of which is a charming statue. On May 14,2014 the newspaper reported that this statue had been stolen about a week previous and there was little hope of its recovery, however on June 22,2014 it was reported “to our delight the Sands Statue has been returned to the Memorial Garden”.


William Pickering (1915-2007) was a multi-talented individual and a gentleman with considerable experience. He had been born in Yorkshire and at an early age took an interest in and training in art at the Leeds College of Art from 1931 to 1935 and exhibited his watercolour paintings at the Royal Academy and taught classes in art.  As a boy he moved up through the ranks of the Boy Scouts. He first took employment with local government before WW 2. When war broke out he served with the Royal Engineers in England, France and later Germany. During the war he was engaged in the building of sections of the British Mulberry Harbour and transporting them to France. He landed in Normandy on D-Day, and in Germany he was involved in bridge and railway work and the clearing of mines and other work.

After returning to civilian life after the war he joined the council staff of Wakefield, qualifying as a civil, mechanical and water engineer. He then moved to Weston-Super-Mare and became Deputy Engineer and Surveyor. He came to Tunbridge Wells in the 1950’s and took the position of Town Engineer and Surveyor, a position he held until his retirement in 1973, after which he lived out the remainder of his life in Crowborough. For further details about his life and career see my article ‘William Pickering-The Town Engineer ‘ written in May 2017 which is given in the June 2017 edition of my website. William Pickering was responsible for many projects in Tunbridge Wells, the new crematorium being but one example.

It is perhaps fitting to note that after William Pickering died at the Kent & Sussex Hospital on December 26,2007 that he was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on January 10,2008. His name is recorded in the book or remembrance shown above. A Thanksgiving funeral service was held for him in Crowborough.


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

Date: May 10,2017


William (Bill) Pickering was born April 13,1915 at Horsforth (image opposite), Yorkshire. His birth was registered at Leeds, Yorkshire in the 1st qtr of 1915. He was one of three children born to William Pickering and May Pickering, nee Petrick. His siblings were Stanley and Dorothy Pickering.

William Pickering senior had been born 1888 in Yorkshire, the son of William Pickering, a clerk. May Petrick was born 1890 at Keighly, Yorkshire and was the daughter of Thomas Petrick (born 1858 in Leeds, Yorkshire) and Martha Elizabeth Petrick, nee Whitehead, born 1857 in Leeds. At the time of the 1911 census, taken at 333 Kirkstall Road in Leeds, Thomas Petrick was a currier out of work. Living with him in premises of 5 rooms was his wife Martha, who was a boot dealer. Also in the home was their daughter May Petrick who was working as a milliner and a 72 year old aunt. William and Martha had been married 26 years and May was their only child.

On April 13,1913 William Pickering senior married May Petrick at Burley St Mattias church in Yorkshire. At the time of the marriage William’s father was a clerk and May’s father was a foreman.


Christened as William he was always “Bill” to the many friends who shared his numerous and varied activities and interests.

Not long after William’s birth he moved with his parents and siblings to Leeds, Yorkshire. On his 11th birthday he became a member of the 14th Leeds Scouts, rising through the Scouts movement to become a Rover and eventually a King’s Scout. As such, one of a guard of honour, he met his hero Baden Powell, the first Chief Scout. Shown above is a photo of Baden Powell.

William cherished his memories of The 3rd World Scout Jamboree at Arrowe Park, Merseyside,Birkenhead in 1929. As it was commemorating the 21st birthday of Scouting for Boys and the Scouting movement, it is also known as the Coming of Age Jamboree. With about 30,000 Scouts and over 300,000 visitors attending, this jamboree was the largest jamboree so far.

As a youth William took an interest in art and demonstrated artistic talent. He took training at the Leeds College of Art (photo opposite) from 1931 to 1935. In 1846 the Leeds Mechanic’s Institute (which offered drawing classes) merged with the Literary Institute, creating the Leeds School of Art, In 1903, then known as the Leeds College of Art, moved to its present location on Vernon Street, who’s radical design reflected the clean lines of the Art & Craft movement. A number of websites, including that of the Leeds College of Art provide additional information about the history of this institution.

In later years William taught adult education classes; was a resident artist on Saga cruises; and made a series of instructional videos. He became a water-colour artist of exceptional talent and had exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. He painted semi-professionally for the architectural and construction professions.

Before the war William entered the local government service. In the 2nd qtr of 1939 he married his first wife Freda Mabel Usher who had been born in 1912 and with her had three sons, all born in Yorkshire. His wife Freda died in 1979 as did his son Peter, details of which are given later.


Soon after William had entered the local government service the war broke out and he was commissioned in the Royal Engineers, obtaining the rank of Captain. He was closely involved in England in the construction of sections of the British Mulberry Harbour and in transporting them to France.

He and his comrades landed in Normandy on D-Day and also to take part in the assembly of the manmade harbour and thereafter went on through to Germany with his unit, clearing mines, clearing; clearing/repairing and constructing bridges, and restoring railway lines.

At the end of the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, he ferried troops back across the Lower Rhine to safety. Like all of those who served William had many memories of the war which he at times recounted to family and friends. Shown above is a photo of the Royal Engineers landing at Normandy June 9,1944.


When the war ended William returned to civilian life and joined the council staff at Wakefield where he qualified as a civil, mechanical and water engineer.

He then moved to Weston-Super-Mare to become Deputy Engineer and Surveyor where he remained until moving to Tunbridge Wells in the 1950’s where he took up the position of Town Engineer and Surveyor. While working in this capacity he undertook a number of projects including the design and construction of the Kent & Sussex Crematorium (photo opposite), which opened in 1958. Details about this building are given in my article ‘The Kent & Sussex Crematorium’ dated May 10,2017.

William was the last engineer and surveyor of the former Tunbridge Wells Borough Council which was succeeded by the present authority at the local government reorganization in 1974 and it was in that year that William retired and moved to Crowborough, where he lived out the remainder of his life.


In 1979 two great tragedies left a lasting mark on William for in that year his first wife Freda Mabel Pickering (1912-1979), nee Usher passed away at age 67. Death records show that Mabel passed away January 1979. It is believed she died at the Kent & Sussex Hospital and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium in Tunbridge Wells and that funeral services were held in Crowborough. There is a burial record for her on January 12,1979 given as “Kent” but more than likely should have been Crowborough, Sussex for the family was living in Crowborough in 1979.

The second tragedy of 1979 was the death of Williams son Peter Edward Pickering. Peter had died while taking part in the multi-hulled version of the Fastnet Yacht Race. This race was the twenty-eighth Royal Ocean Racing Club’s yachting race held generally every two years since 1925 on a 605 mile course from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock and then to Plymouth via south of the Isles of Scilly. In 1979 it was the climax of the five-race Admiral’s Cup competition, as it had been since 1957. A worse than expected storm on the third day of the race wreaked havoc on over 306 yachts taking part, which resulted in 18 fatalities ( 19 yachtsmen and 3 rescuers). Emergency services, naval forces, and civilian vessels from around the west side of the English Channel were summoned to aid what had become the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time which involved some 4,000 people including the entire Irish Naval Service’s fleet, lifeboats, commercial boats and helicopters. The race had begun on August 11th and on the yacht “Bucks Fizz”, a yacht shadowing the fleet to view the race, were four people namely Peter Edward Pickering, Olivia Davidson, John Dix and Richard Peneral, all of whom were killed.

Probate records for Peter Edward Pickering gave him of 3 Romney House, Abbey Park, Beckenham “ last known to be alive August 13,1979 and who’s dead body was found August 16,1979. He left an estate valued at 44,609 pounds. He was buried August 24,1979 in Kent.

Shown opposite is a photo of a memorial erected to those who died in this race. The memorial originally included the names of 15 people who died but soon after it had been installed it became known that six names were missing, including that of Peter Pickering, and so the committee added the missing names. This memorial was erected at Cape Clear Island in 2003. There is a second memorial with 19 names on it at Holy Trinity Church, Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Apart from these tragic events William enjoyed his life in Crowborough and found many activities to busy himself with. In an obituary of him from the Friends of Crowborough Hospital, which William was connected with, it was said “ Bill Pickering lived his life to the full and died at the age of 93….When he retired from his work in Tunbridge Wells, he lived in Crowborough for over 30 years…He was a man of many and varied interests and experiences. He is , perhaps, best known among the Friends of Crowborough Hospital as the talented water colour artist who painted the four Crowborough snow scenes depicted on our well-known Hospital Christmas cards. The sales of these cards has raised hundreds of pounds towards the cost of rebuilding the Hospital and the purchase of equipment within it. Mr Pickering also exhibited paintings at the Hospital, with a proportion of the proceeds benefitting Crowborough Hospital. Apart from his painting, his interests included ‘ham’ radio, sailing, ornithology, the building and driving of miniature steam railway engines and playing clarinet and recorder”. Shown above is a photo of one of Williams paintings that was turned into a Christmas card and also a modern view of the Crowborough Hospital.  It was also noted that The Crowborough Lions reproduced a Christmas card in an edition of 500 from a water colour by William Pickering of entitled ‘Windlesham in Victorian Winter Snow’.

Regarding Williams interest in miniature steam railways his name appears in the records as a member of the Crowborough Society and that he delighted at taking his turn at driving passenger trains on the track at Goldsmiths Leisure Centre.  He was listed as a resident of Byeway, Mill Lane, Crowborough and was a director of the Crowborough Locomotive Society (03211481)from July 7,1996 up to the time of his death. This Society had been established in 1989. A photo pertaining to this miniature railway is shown above.

An interesting article in the Sussex Courier of May 16,2014 gave a historical account of the hotels of Crowborough, including the 100 room Beacon Hotel that was the largest in Crowborough but it was demolished to make way for a housing development. A photo of the hotel is shown opposite. What makes this article of interest is what it says about William “Bill” Pickering.  In part this article states “ The Beacon’s opulent fittings were sold off, and in 1956 the once-grand hotel was demolished. Long afterwards, on a fine summer’s morning, the late Bill Pickering was in the garden of his home in Mill Lane, on the perimite3r of the hotel grounds, when he saw a small, very elderly man leaning on the gate. During conversation the old man said he was on a nostalgic journey. He had been a gardener at the Beacon Hotel and it was there that he met his wife, who was probably one of the indoor staff. He told Mr Pickering that Crowborough Mews had housed the generator for the Beacon’s electricity supply and it was also ‘where we kept the pony’. The lawns were mown every morning before 7:30 and the old ex-gardener had to fit boots on the pony to ensure that no hoof marks disturbed the immaculate grass or the residents when it was drawing the (one horse-power) mower. Mr Pickering said at the time “His wife had died and I think he was making the last journey. It was quite touching”.

Kent Live and the East Kent Gazette Group announced “ William ‘Bill’ Pickering of Crowborough died December 26,2007 aged 92 years. Private Committal. Thanksgiving service at All Saints Church, Crowborough Thursday January 10,2008 at 2:30. Flowers or donations if desired to the R.N.L.I care of Paul Bysouth Funeral Services, 9 Croft Road, Crowborough”.

Death records gave William Pickering born April 13,1915 died at the Kent & Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells on December 26,2007 and that he was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on January 10,2008. His name is recorded on the crematorium's book of remembrance (photo opposite).It is not known, but expected that his urn and that of his first wife were buried in the Crowborough Cemetery. He was survived by two of his sons, including William James Pickering who had been born in the 3rd qtr of 1941in Yorkshire who’s mother’s maiden name in birth records was given as Usher. The name of William’s other surviving son was not established.

The obituary of the Friends of Crowborough Hospital state “ Mr Pickering died in the Kent & Sussex Hospital on Boxing Day (2007). He is survived by his two remaining sons, to whom we offer condolences”. They state in an earlier part of his obituary that he lost his “first wife” and son Peter in 1979 but make no mention about who his second wife was or what happened to her. Presumably she died before 2007. A photo of William Pickering from his obituary is shown opposite,which photo was taken on the occasion of his 90th birthday. It is of poor quality but to date is the only one located.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 15,2010 announced the death of Barbara Ethel Saulez who died peacefully in Crowborough January 6,2010, aged 86, the widow of the late George Saulez “and dear friend of Bill Pickering”, a great character who will be much missed by her family and friends” . The funeral was held at the Tunbridge Wells Crematorium Wednesday January 27,2010. The funeral was arranged by Paul Bysouth Funeral Services, 9 Croft Road, Crowborough, the same service which took care of William Pickering’s funeral.

An attempt was made by the researcher to obtain an obituary from the local Tunbridge Wells newspaper for William Pickering but the library in Tunbridge Wells does not have in their collection newspaper articles this recent . They were however most helpful in providing information about him from other sources, and I thank the library staff for their contribution to this article. Should a good photo of William Pickering be found it will be posted as an “Article Update” to my website.

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