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

Date: June 12,2017



Tunbridge Wells, later Royal Tunbridge Wells, is best known as a spa resort town in Kent, England but it’s name has been used to name other places and things around the world namely;

(1) A steam engine of the LB&SC line was named “Tunbridge Wells”, the history of which was described in my article entitled ‘The Steam Engine Called Tunbridge Wells’ dated August 11,2016. The engine went into service in 1879 and was withdrawn from service in 1936.A photo of the engine is shown below.

(2)  Two Spitfire aircraft served in WW II  named “Royal Tunbridge Wells”. The people of Tunbridge Wells had raised enough money in the local Spitfire Fund to pay for a Spitfire and their contribution to the war effort was recognized by naming a plane after the town. The first one was lost six months after being presented ,on November 2,1941,to the RAF. The second one was lost in a mid-air collision with a second Spitfire in 1942. Details about these airplanes can be found in my article ‘ The Early Aviation History of Tunbridge Wells’ dated February 6,2014.A photo of the spitfire is shown below.

(3) The town of Tunbridge Wells in Orange County,Vermont, USA was named after Tunbridge Wells, Kent, by an early settler from England. This little town with a current population of about 1,300 was created September 3,1761 by Royal Charter, and derived its name from Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

(4) The town of Tunbridge Wells (now just Tunbridge) in Tasmania, about 107 km from Hobart. This small town was first settled in 1809 and was a coaching town on the Midland Highway. Local history states the town derived its name from Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

(5)  A porcelain figure of a horse called “Tunbridge Wells” identified as ‘No. 71151 British Cob Tunbridge Wells ‘ by Breyer, a photo of which is shown above.

When it comes to racehorses two examples are known. The first is the focus of this article, a racehorse purchased by some 700 shareholders of Tunbridge Wells, Kent in 1963 formerly called “Harwins First” but renamed “Tunbridge Wells” when bought by the shareholders.  The second racehorse called “Tunbridge Wells” is, or was ,owned by Ashburn Lane Investments Ltd in New Zealand.The horse was born September 29,2013 (Sire; No Excuse Needed…..Dam; Mermaid in The Rye) and trained by B.E. Newman. Like its Kent counterpart it had a disappointing start to its racing career.

My father Douglas Edward Gilbert (1916-2009) and his father Francis Reginald Gilbert (1882-1975) were both born in Tunbridge Wells. They and the rest of the family emigrated to Canada in the 1920’s. Francis loved sports ,especially lawn bowling and cricket ,but he and my father enjoyed watching and betting on horse races. They would sometimes go together to the race track either in Fort Erie or Woodbine but like most people who bet on horses had mixed success, most often losing more than winning. Although the horses he bet on showed great promise in his mind they often performed more like the animal shown in the Tunbridge Wells postcard opposite. Every week my father would purchase the “Racing Times” and study it, and when he was not able to go to the race track one of his workmates, who was a driver making deliveries, would take his bet and place it for him at the race track. My father told me that on one occasion he had asked his friend to place a bet on a horse, a rather longshot, which ended up winning the race and payed out quite a sum, however, much to my father’s disappointment, he found on the drivers return to work that he did not make it to the racetrack in time to place my father’s bet. My father and grandfather would also purchase “Irish Sweepstakes” tickets but never won anything. In later years, after my father had retired from business, and stopped betting money on horses,we would watch the horseraces at the Woodbine track on television together Saturday afternoon and compete with one another in seeing who could pick the winner. We would each put one dollar in the pot for each race-the winner taking all. Just one more example of the fond memories I have of the time my father and I spent together cheering “our” horses on and laughing. Shown above is a photo of my dad taken in 1939 after returning from the racetrack, his pockets a little lighter with cash then when he left. Shown opposite is a photo of the Woodbine Racetrack circa 1950.

In this article I provide an account put together from various sources about the racehorse “Tunbridge Wells” of Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The two main sources consulted were an article entitled ‘ When the Town Got A Horse’ from Frank Chapman’s book ‘Tales of Old Tunbridge Wells’ and an article in the Courier by Jane Bakowski dated March 8,2013. My contribution to the story about the racehorse is minor but puts all found information about it, along with several photographs, all together forming a more comprehensive report on this interesting aspect of the town’s history.


The idea of having a horse owned by local residents of Tunbridge Wells came from the Courier sports editor Frank Rushford, a keen racing man. He gained the support of Britt Gallup, who had a small racing stable at Eridge. The two men pondered the question of why towns did not buy their own racehorses and compete against each other. At that time Gallup pointed out that National Hunt rules decreed horses must not be owned by more than four people, but Gallup and Rushford came up with a plan to dodge the rules by setting up a scheme allowing townspeople to buy shares under the stewardship of four “official” owners. The enterprise was launched at an enthusiastic public meeting chaired by the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Tom Veitch.

It did not take long for Rushford to persuade his editor, Frank Chapman, the leap into the saddle, and he was joined by racing fanatics Norman Pearson, landlord of the Rose and Crown pub in Grosvenor Road (photo opposite), company director Charles Judd and Stanley Hart, owner of Skinners decorating business in Camden Road. These four men became the trustees who were appointed to run the horse on behalf of the shareholders. 

The Tunbridge Wells Racehorse Fund was launched just before Christmas 1962 and brought an immediate response from punters at the Rose and Crown, many registering using the Courier’s special coupons. Those wanting a share of the horse invested 5 or 10 pounds for a share.

Frank Rushford was appointed to keep a watching brief in the public interest.Within a month, Gallop was hot-footing it to the Ascot Bloodstock Sale with 525 guineas (561 pounds) in his pocket to cast a seasoned eye over the racehorses on offer. He returned home with a horse called “Harwins First”, the Courier front page announced “Tunbridge Wells Gets Its Horse, making the town the first and only town in England to be allowed to run its own racehorse, with the blessing of the National Hunt stewards.  Upon delivery of the horse it was renamed “Tunbridge Wells”.  The horse itself was a handsome animal standing over 16 hands and as Harwins First, a five year old hurdler,had boasted of two recent wins. A thrilled Norman Pearson told the Courier “ He could be the town’s lucky horse”, while Rushford simply noted “Win or lose….the town is going to get a lot of fun out of this horse”. 

News of this unique event in 1963 spread like wildfire among  news agencies around the world. Even the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada announced January 4,1963 “ Town Buys Racehorse-Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England……”. In the San Francisco Chronicle, writer Charles McCabe said; “Newspapers picked up the tale, wire services sent it to the ends of the earth. The name of Tunbridge Wells and its healing waters got identified with an old human dream. Its magics were on lips in Hong Kong clubs, Miami bars and pool halls in Hamtramck”

On a winter Sunday morning a large group gathered with pride to watch “Tunbridge Wells” being ridden round on the Lower Cricket Ground of the Commons by Gillian Porter, a very pretty girl, from the Gallup stables, wearing the group’s colours (blue and gold)knitted by a supporter. Shown opposite is a photo from Frank Chapman’s book.

Gillian Porter later married Paul Kellaway, the most successful rider of the town horse when its name became “Tunbridge Wells”. Shown opposite is a photo of Mrs Kellaway with “Tunbridge Wells” and another of the horse at an unidentified location (perhaps at the Eridge stables). Gillian was a cup-winning horsewoman and the head “lad” of Gallup’s Eridge stables. Paul Kellaway was a National Hunt jockey who had worked for Gallup since marrying Gillian. 

The racing career of “Tunbridge Wells” was a rather short one. On his first outing at Kempton Park on the horse Paul Kellaway was squeezed on the rails and fell, sending waves of despair through the town’s unusually crowed betting shops.His second outing was at Fontwell Park when the horse came in second. On the third outing on Easter Saturday April 19, 1963 at Plumpton“Tunbridge Wells” stormed to the front and stayed there to win. The champagne flowed at the Rose and Crown  when news of the victory reached the punters. A photo of the horse at this, its first victory,is shown opposite.  Once again the news media kicked into high geer and widely reported on this event giving notoriety to the both the horse and the town. When this accomplishment made national and international headlines, the National Hunt Stewards became nervous under pressure to allow more town horses, and perhaps some owned by factories. The supporters enjoyed following “their” horse and were upset and angry when the stewards ruled that the horse had to be sold. A local racing enthusiast, Wing Commander V.G. Byre, bought the horse and leased him free of charge to the trustees. He did moderately well but the magic time had gone and the experiment, as the NH Stewards regarded it, was terminated. 

Paying back the shareholders money was difficult as many subscribers refused to accept their cheques, but the rules were strictly followed and investors got 6 pounds and 12 pounds for their shares. A few seasons later owning a horse by extended syndication was allowed, but Tunbridge Wells remained the only town which could boast “We Gotta Horse”. Still tucked away in many a drawer is a little white card with a horse’s head motif indicating that the holder had been proud to hold a share in a horse called “Tunbridge Wells”.

Jane Bakowsi reported in her article “ Mrs Kelleway, now a widow, who now lives in Spain, said this week (March 2013); “It’s always a risk when you buy a horse-you can’t look inside and see what the engine’s like-but he (Tunbridge Wells) was a reasonably good hurdler. He didn’t compete at Cheltenham, but he won his races and everyone enjoyed it, which is the main point. I’ve no idea what became of him”. 




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

Date: May 22,2017


George Oswald Hughes was born May 17,1875 at Hastings, Sussex, one of  six children born to Robert Hughes, a solicitors clerk, and Elizabeth Hughes. Both of his parents were born in Oswestry, Shropshire but in the early 1870’s the family lived in Croydon,Surrey. By 1876 the family lived in Hastings, Sussex until George left the family home about 1910 and moved to Tunbridge Wells where he established his antique/fine art dealers shop at 2a Pantiles which was located at the north entrance to the Pantiles next to the former Bath House.  At the time of the 1911 census he was still single and working as an antiques dealer and living as a boarder with the Brown family at 13 Sutherland Road. From his shop in the Pantiles he sold antiques and paintings and was still in business at this location in 1915, when in that year he enlisted for service in WW1 and served as a clerk with the Royal Army Service Corps until he was discharged at the end of the war.

In 1919 in Tunbridge Wells George married a widow by the name of Millicent Buck who had a daughter from her first marriage.

George appears to have retired from business by 1922 for in that year he and his wife were living at 13 Meadow Hill Road in Tunbridge Wells.

George’s wife Millicent was of 13 Meadow Hill Road when she died May 25,1937 at a hospital in Hammersmith, London. George died at 19 Mountfield Road in Tunbridge Wells June 19,1946. George and his wife were both buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.


George Oswald Hughe’s birth was registered the 2nd qtr of 1876 at Hastings, Sussex. His military records gave his date of birth as May 17,1875. He was one of  six children born to Robert Hughes, a solicitors clerk, and Elizabeth Hughes.

Robert Hughes had been born 1845 in Oswestry, Shropshire and became a solicitors clerk. His wife was Elizabeth Hughes, born 1846 in Oswestry. The couple were married in 1869 and by 1871 the family established there residence in Croydon, Surrey. While living in Croydon they had two children namely Mary Ellen in 1871 and Jessie M. Hughes in 1874. In 1875 the family moved to Hastings, Sussex where in addition to George they had two other children namely Frederic Arthur (1881-1927) and Percy Herbert (1879-1895),

The 1881 census, taken at 13 St Andrews Square in Hastings gave Robert Hughes as a solicitors managing clerk. With him was his wife Elizabeth and six of their children including George. Also there was one domestic servant.

The 1891 census, taken at 1 Park Road in Hastings gave Robert Hughes as a solicitors clerk. With him was his wife Elizabeth; his daughter Mary, a needlewoman; and four other children, including George who along with the two youngest children were attending school. Also there was one domestic servant.

The 1901 census, taken at 1 Park Road, Hastings gave Robert Hughes as a solicitors clerk but by this time his wife had passed away. With him was his daughter Mary who was a manageress of the hosiery and woolen goods shop; his daughter Jessie of no occupation; his son George who was a clerk to the borough engineers and Frederick who was a bank clerk.


In 1910 George Oswand Hughes moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1911 census gave George as single with the occupation of “dealer in antiques”. He was living as a boarder with the Brown family at 13 Sutherland Road, Tunbridge Wells. The 1913 Kelly directory gave the listing “ George Oswald Hughes, 2a Ye Pantiles, dealer in antiques”.

Shown opposite is a 1880 view of the Pantiles featuring the former Bath House (later the glass shop of the Walter Luck).  From  the side of this building, facing the entrance to the Pantiles was Georges shop.

From this location George sold all manner of antique items such as Tunbridge Ware,furniture, porcelain, glass, etc and a selection of fine art paintings, including the one shown opposite, the image of which was turned into a postcard. As the text on the postcard states the image is a view of the Pantiles “from the original painting in the possession of G. O. Hughes …” The Pantiles is  the oldest commercial district in the town, much frequented by local shoppers and visitors.

On January 11,1919 , in Tunbridge Wells at Christ Church (photo opposite) ,he married Millicent Buck , a widow with one child,at Christ Church in Tunbridge Wells.  Millicent had a daughter from her first marriage, namely Rosalind Rica Buck who appears in Georges military records as his daughter Rosalind Rica Hughes, born April 12,1911 in Islington, indicating that she had been adopted by George.  The 1911 census, taken at 14 Melrose, West View, Highgate Hill, Islington,London gave Millicent Buck as born 1874 in London and that she had been married 1 year. At the time of this census she was living as the sister of Elizabeth Cooke, age 30, born 1881 in York. Also there was Reginald George Cook born 1904 in London, the son of Elizabeth Cook.

The military records for George Oswald Hughes, although charred by a fire which destroyed many of the WW 1 records in London, gave the following information about his service as a clerk with the Royal Army Service Corps (badge image opposite). He was a private ( 217541). His address at the time of attestation in 1915 was given as 13 Sutherland Road, Tunbridge Wells. The date of his marriage to Millicent Buck was given as January 11,1919 in Tunbridge Wells at Christ Church. His wife Millicent and his daughter Rosalind were listed as relatives but he gave his next of kin as his sister Mary Emma Hughes of Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells. Initially he was given as single but was still in the army at the time of his marriage to Millicent and her details were added to his military records. When her details were added her address was given as 13 Meadow Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells. He had initially been placed on the reserve list, having enlisted December 17,1915. He was mobilized on October 7,1916 . He was put on the reserve list March 9,1919 and discharged at the end of the war.  His military records listed him as a skilled man and was tested and proved himself “a good clerk with good typing skills”. This test was conducted at Aldershot October 19,1916. His medical examination gave him as being 5’-9” tall; brown hair with grey eyes and was fit.

After the war George returned to Tunbridge Wells but no directories were found of him operating a business in the town.  The 1922 Kelly directory only gave a listing for him as 13 Meadow Hill Road. The same address he and his wife lived at from his military records.

Probate records gave Millicent Hughes of Elm Grove, 13 Meadow Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells (wife of George Oswald Hughes) who died May 25,1937 at Royal Masonic Hospital Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith, London. The executors of her 986 pound estate was her husband and her solicitor. Her death record gave her born about 1875. She was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery May 37,1937.  Shown below are modern photographs of Meadow Hill Road(left) and Mountfield Road (right).



Probate records for George Oswald Hughes gave him of 19 Mountfield Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died June 19,1946. The executor of his 323 pound estate was Myrtle Vern Oackham, married woman. He was buried in the same cemetery as his wife June 24th.


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

Date: June 13,2017


In this article I present information about two inventors who worked together on inventions for the home under the name of ‘Russel Hobbs’, a collaboration between William(Bill) Morris Russell and Peter Wallace Hobbs. Peter had been born 1916 in Langton Green, near Tunbridge Wells, the same year my father Douglas Edward Gilbert(1916-2009) was born in Tunbridge Wells.

Most of the information presented comes from a Daily Mail article entitled ‘Kings of the Kettle’ dated October 23,2012  and an obituary of 2008, but it has been supplemented with information from my own research and a number of photographs.


Shown opposite is a photograph from the aforementioned article with the caption ‘Some like it hot; Peter Hobbs with a Monroe lookalike for the K1 kettle’s 50th birthday’.

QUESTION Who was Russell- Hobbs? Did he invent the electric kettle? Russell- Hobbs was, in fact, two people — William (Bill)Russell (1920-2006) and Peter Wallace Hobbs (1916-2008). Russell was the designer and Hobbs the salesman.

William Morris Russell was born on July 22, 1920. His father, a printer, suggested he become an electrical engineer, and the design element to his work was no doubt inspired by his mother, who named him after William Morris, the doyen of the arts and Crafts movement.

Some will remember that, aside from function, Russell Hobbs products were once beautifully designed pieces in their own right.

At 13, Russell won a scholarship to High Wycombe Technical institute. He was then apprenticed with the Rheostatic Company at Slough, which made automated controls and switchgear, where he completed an engineering diploma.

Although he was in a reserved occupation, Russell volunteered for the royal electrical and Mechanical engineers (REME) in 1943 and was commissioned, serving in anti-aircraft batteries until the end of the war.

In 1947, he joined the domestic appliance maker Morphy Richards, where he contributed to the design of the pop-up toaster, the electric iron and the hairdryer.

Peter Wallace Hobbs was born on May 3, 1916, at Langton Green, near Tunbridge Wells. In the Thirties Peter worked as an engineer at the Weald electricity Supply Company in Kent. He also enlisted in the royal engineers and was commissioned in the Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners. after the war, Hobbs joined Morphy Richards as its managing director in South Africa.

On his return, he met William Russell and the pair formed Russell Hobbs and began on the design and manufacture of a coffee percolator that would keep coffee hot without boiling. They also produced an automatic teamaker, but it could not compete with the popular Goblin Teasmade. Shown above is a photo of William Morris Russell and Peter Wallace Hobbs taken in 1951.

In 1956, they launched the K1 kettle (photo opposite), which truly established the firm. until then, electric kettles might boil dry if unattended, or cause electric shocks. The K1 automatic electric kettle featured a bimetallic strip that tripped the kettle’s ‘off’ switch when it was activated by steam. With this invention Russell Hobbs were recorded as the first inventors of the “Automatic Kettle”.

In 1960, Russell- Hobbs launched the classic K2 kettle (photo below), and in the Sixties and Seventies, it was the best- selling kettle in Britain. Costing around £7 at a time when the weekly average wage was £14, it was top of many wedding present lists — they were built to last. Russell Hobbs has reports of K2s that are still going strong.

In 1963, the pair sold their company to Tube investments. it was subsequently owned by Creda and Polly Peck. The brand is now owned by the Salton europe group, but retains its individual identity.

The Carpenter electric Co of Chicago produced the first electric kettle in 1891 but it was not an automatic kettle and if left unattended could run dry. This company demonstrated its first working model at Chicago World’s fair in 1893, having by then incorporated a heat radiator invented by British inventor R. E. B. Crompton of Crompton and Co.In early models, the element was housed in a separate compartment at the base. This meant water was heated indirectly, as with a traditional stovetop kettle. However, the electric element produced less heat than a gas ring so they were relatively inefficient.

In 1922, Leslie Large, an electrical engineer at Bulpitt & Sons of Birmingham, patented an immersible element that was to become standard for electric kettles. The element consisted of wire wound around a mica core and sheathed in a flat metal tube. It heated the water directly and made the electric kettle far more efficient, and Bulpitt & Sons marketed this innovation under the Swann brand name. The key innovation of Russell Hobbs was the automatic kettle.


Peter Wallace Hobbs was born in Langton Green, near Tunbridge Wells on May 3,1916. He was the son of Percy George Hobbs (1886-1945) and Winifred Ida Hobbs nee Hoptroff (1885-1973) Winnifred died 1973 in Worthing,Sussex and Percy George Hobbs died October 3,1945 at Orpington, Kent. Peter’s parents were married in the 4th qtr of 1914 in Tunbridge Wells.  Peter had a sister Ena M. Hobbs who was born in Langton Green in 1922. A postcard view of Langton Green by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn is shown opposite.

The 1901 census,taken at 29 Broadwater Down (photo below) gave the head of the home as 41 year old Agnes C. Cott. With her was one visitor; four domestic servants and following members of the Hobbs family (1) Ernest A. Hobbs, 36, born 1865 in Tunbridge Wells, with the occupation of gardener domestic (2) Ernest’s wife Ellen,age 42, born 1859 in Hartfield, Sussex (3) Ernest’s son Percy George Hobbs, age 14, born Tunbridge Wells and Ernest’s daughter Amy I. Hobbs, age 11, born 1890 in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1911 census, taken at 2 Glenco Villa, Meadow Hill, Rusthall gave Ernest Arthur Hobbs, age 46 as a gardener domestic. With him was his wife Ellen and their children Percy George Hobbs, age 24, an electrician, and Amy Isabel Hobbs, age 21 who was working as a clerk and bookkeeper. The census recorded that the family were living in premises of 5 rooms; that they had been married 24 years and had just the two children.

By the 1920’s the Hobbs family took up residence in Langton Green, a quaint little village that my friend Mrs Susan Prince and I had the pleasure of visiting in 2015.

Peter was educated at the Skinners' school, where he was keen on drama. He appeared in the school production of Iolanthe and was a member of Christopher Fry's Tunbridge Wells Repertory Players. A postcard view of Skinners school by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn is shown opposite.

During the late 1930s he followed his father into the Weald Electricity Supply Company in Kent as an engineer.

In the 3rd qtr of 1966, at Chanctgonbury, Sussex, Peter married Daphne Heather Drummond (1926-1992) and had a son. A photo of her when a little girl is shown opposite. Daphne was born December 23,1926 at Maidenhead, Berkshire and died August 26,1996. Daphne was the daughter of James Drummond (1879-1938) and Edith Alice Drummond, nee Tonkinson (1884-1962). She had a sister Elizabeth Drummond who was born in 1925 but died the same year.

Shown opposite is a wedding photo of Daphne’s parents. The wedding took place April 24,1924 at Codsoll. Staffordshire.

Peter enjoyed racing yachts with Don Morphy of MorphyRichards and was a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club.When he retired he moved to Malta. He had restored a farmhouse at Xlendi on Gozo island. In 1983 the family moved to Corrèze in Southern France. Peter Wallace Hobbs died April 11,2008 in France.


The following obituary and the photo opposite appeared in The Daily Telegram May 1,2008.

Peter Hobbs, who died on April 11 aged 91, was the salesman half of Russell Hobbs, the firm made famous by the electric kettle which came to rank among the most iconic domestic appliances of the post-war era.

Designed by Hobbs's business partner William Russell, the kettle incorporated a device that automatically switched it off when it boiled. Hobbs had gone into business with Russell in 1952, designing and manufacturing a coffee percolator that - for the first time - kept coffee hot, and also producing an automatic tea-maker to rival the ubiquitous Goblin Teasmade.

Hobbs and Russell were innovators, inventing and marketing products ahead of their time. By the mid-1970s the brand they founded had become the world leader in automatic kettles, having sold more than five million.

Their first automatic electric kettle, the vapour-controlled K1, appeared in 1955; but it was an expensive and rather ugly appliance (even though it was approved by the Design Council), and was soon replaced by the more elegant K2, a modestly curvaceous design originally produced in spun copper and polished chrome. Many considered it the best-looking electric kettle ever. It remained in production for many years before being updated; and the last model, the K4, was discontinued in favour of the jug kettle only in the late 1990s.

Peter Wallace Hobbs was born on May 3 1916 at Langton Green, near Tunbridge Wells, and educated at the Skinners' school, where he was keen on drama. He appeared in the school production of Iolanthe and was a member of Christopher Fry's Tunbridge Wells Repertory Players.

During the late 1930s he followed his father into the Weald Electricity Supply Company in Kent as an engineer, and with the coming of war was retained for a year there against his will. He finally enlisted in the Royal Engineers, and after training at Bangalore in India was commissioned in the Queen Victoria's Own Madras Sappers and Miners.

A year after the outbreak of the Second World War Peter joined the Royal Engineers and trained in Bangalore, and was commissioned as an officer in the Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners. In the Middle East he joined Paiforce (Persia and Iraq Force) where he was an adjutant to the commander of the Royal Engineers in the 6th Indian Division. After attending the Staff College at Quetta in Baluchistan, British India he was appointed Brigade Major at Sialkot in the Punjab. Returning to Britain he commanded a field company at the Royal School of Military Engineering then in Ripon in the North Riding of Yorkshire, with rank of Major.

On demobilisation he joined Morphy Richards as its managing director in South Africa, but his appointment coincided with a rare recession in that country, and he was forced to abandon his expansion plans and return to Britain.

For a time Hobbs was managing director of another company, trying to develop a coffee percolator by embedding an electrical element in the ceramic pot. The problem was finally solved when Hobbs consulted Bill Russell. When the company changed its mind, however, the two men decided to apply the process in a venture of their own, and they went into business as Russell Hobbs in October 1952, on the day of the last London "pea-souper" fog.

Working from a rundown factory at Croydon, Russell took charge of developing new products while Hobbs concentrated on sales. Business boomed in the growing postwar affluence of the 1950s, Russell Hobbs kettles and percolators becoming fixtures of every wedding present list. Then, in 1963, the pair sold out to Tube Investments. The brand is now owned by the Salton Europe conglomerate, but retains its individual identity. William Russell died in 2006. In the 1960s Hobbs became a director of the Valor stoves firm and later ran a restaurant, Manley's, at Storrington in West Sussex. He retired, first, to a farmhouse on the Maltese island of Gozo which he had restored in the 1960s, and where he had grown mushrooms commercially. Later he went to live in south-west France.

Although living in predominantly Catholic countries, Hobbs remained a staunch High Church Anglican, and took Communion with a dispensation from local Catholic bishops. In South Africa he had been involved in the Coloured Anglican Mission in Johannesburg with Fr Harry Leach and with Fr Anthony Hunter, who later became Bishop of Swaziland and godfather to Hobbs's son.

In his own kitchen Hobbs kept two K2 kettles; they remained in daily use - and untarnished - for more than half a century.

Peter Hobbs married, in 1966, Daphne Drummond, who died in 1996. He is survived by their son.



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

Date: June 13,2017


The County of Kent is known as the ‘Garden of England’ and Tunbridge Wells certainly has no shortage of lovely private gardens and public open spaces where flowers can be seen in abundance.

The central focus in this article are the floral displays on public land in the towns various parks and on the street. Although information and photographs are provided from various parts of the town there is a concerted effort to report on and show the special floral displays that once graced the entrance to the Calverley Gardens and the planted out embankment in front of the Civic Centre ,which once featured a functioning floral clock.

On my visit to Tunbridge Wells in 2015 I was delighted to see the wonderful floral displays in the Calverley Grounds and Dunorlan Park although the Grove seemed in June/July to be sadly lacking in flowers. The tour through the gardens of Groombridge Place, Penshurst Place and other places visited in and around Tunbridge Wells certainly did not disappoint me as an avid gardener and as a result I took over 700 photographs, many of which featured the floral displays encountered on my travels.


A floral clock or flower clock is a large decorative clock with the clock face formed by carpet bedding, usually found in a park or other public recreation area. Of all the types of floral displays it is the most elaborate, most labour intensive, and most expensive and for that reason there are few of them, but those that do exist are wonderful to see, varying in size and complexity and planted out in a wide variety of colourful plants and greenery.

The first floral clock was the idea of John McHattie of Edinburgh Parks and the clockmaker James Ritchie. It was first planted up in UK in the spring of 1903 in West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, though such floral clock already existed in 1900 in Switzerland and more precisely in the village of Les Avants above Montreux. In that year it had only an hour hand but a minute hand was added the following year. A cuckoo which popped out every hour was added in 1905. Its circumference is 38 feet and its depth 11 feet 10 inches. The length of one hand is 99 inches, and of the other 66 inches. When filled with plants the former hand weighs 80lb, the smaller one 50lb. The clock is planted out once each year. The work takes three men three weeks. Fourteen thousand plants are used at a setting. Each year the de-sign is changed. The mechanism for the Edinburgh clock is placed beneath the plinth of a nearby statue, and is organised to permit the minute hand to move every 30 seconds. Before each layout is planted out it is sketched and enlarged on strong cardboard. This is cut out and placed in position on the ground and terraced out. It is then filled in with suitable flowers, all of a dwarf nature. The design is laid on a steep rising bank. A postcard view of this clock is shown above. The clock was soon imitated across the United Kingdom and later throughout the world.

Tunbridge Wells is known to have two floral clocks. One was a privately owned floral clock set up in the garden of local jeweller and clock maker Ludwig Reich (1872-1954), the founder of L. Reich & Sons, who near the end of his career operated from premises on Monson Road. There is a British Pathe film dated 1951 on youtube that shows Mr & Mrs Reich with the clock and shows Ludwig operating the clock mechanism. Details about Ludwig, his family and business can be found in my article ‘ Ludwig Reich-Tunbridge Wells Jeweller and Watchmaker’ dated May 28,2014. At the time the film was taken Ludwig was living at 212 St John Road and his lovely clock was admired by all. He had taken up residence in Tunbridge Wells in 1902 and began his business at 109 Camden Road but later moved his shop to 12 Monson Rd and later still to 48-50 Monson Road near the Opera House.

The second floral clock was a public clock located on Mount Pleasant Road at the corner of Monson Road on the embankment in front of the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. A photo of this clock by Photo Precision is shown above, taken it would appear in the 1950’s. Regarding this clock, Ian Beavis ,in a May 2010 article entitled ‘Tunbridge in bloom through the ages’ stated, “ By the early 1950’s, the corner plot at the junction with Monson Road boasted a fully functional floral clock, which was replanted every year”. There is no longer a floral clock at this location or anywhere else in the town to my knowledge. A second photo of this clock is shown above with text dated 1955 by Sydney Lazell.


There are no shortage of beautiful private gardens in Tunbridge Wells but unfortunately, for understandable reasons, few of them can be viewed from the street, the grounds of many of the homes being  screened from public view by tall hedges, trees and shrubbery.

The streets of the town boast far fewer trees than they used to, many being severely trimmed back or removed altogether, the result of disease, old age, or in most cases road work and redevelopment.

The people of the town love their flowers and were well served from back in the early 19th century by such nurseries as Cripps, Charleton, Hollamby and others, and today there is no shortage of places to buy plants, trees, shrubs etc.

On the street itself, apart from the lovely lime trees that lined such roads as Broadwater Down, Grove Hill Road, Mount Pleasant Road, and flowering tress of other types (eg cherry) perhaps the most often planted out spot in public view was on the embankment facing Mount Pleasant Road in front of the civic centre. Ian Beavis wrote in his 2010 article that “although the new civic complex was not built until the 1930’s, the maintenance of flower beds along the raised lawn fronting Mount Pleasant began much earlier. They feature prominently in early 20th century views of the town centre”. Shown above is a selection of postcard views of this location showing the lovely floral displays. From left to right top to bottom is (1) a floral display the civic centre circa 1955 (2) undated image same location (3) Image dated 1959 showing the war memorial (4) undated image same location.  This location is also the site of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial which is festooned with floral wreaths etc during the annual Remembrance Day events. This war memorial can be seen in most of the images taken in front of the Civic Centre.

As I noted in the articles I wrote about horse troughs and drinking fountains, both of which were normally built side by side, the surviving horse troughs were filled with soil and planted out with flowers. One example of a horse trough planter in the town is shown above.

On my visit to Tunbridge Wells in 2015 many parts of the town’s commercial district were nicely decorated in places by hanging baskets filled with brightly coloured flowers, and during the annual ‘Tunbridge Wells in Bloom’ event a concerted effort by shop and other property owners is made to beautify the town with floral displays.Postcards from the early 1900’s show many examples of floral displays enhancing the town’s shopping streets. Views of the Pantiles show a prominent planting in Bath Square in front of the Chalybeate Spring, along with a variety of troughs on balconies along the Upper Walk. Photographs of the High Street, Mount Pleasant Hill and Monson Road and others show similar features. Two examples of these street views are shown below. The one on the left was taken in the Pantiles and the one on the right is self explanatory.




Tunbridge Wells had an enthusiastic Horticultural Society that was founded back in 1832, which Society ran garden competitions as well as offering prizes for flowers and produce exhibited at their annual show, most often held at the Spa Hotel. When the Dutchess of Kent and her daughter, the future Queen Victoria visited the show in 1834 some 1,200 people attended.

Up to the 1880’s the town had no public open spaces beyond the Common, the Grove and Woodbury Park Cemetery. Things changed however in 1885 with the creation of the Grosvenor & Hilbert Recreation Ground. When the first Borough Council was established in 1889, public parks were high on the agenda. The Council took over the management of The Grove on Mount Sion making various improvements including the laying out of flower beds. St John’s Recreation Ground was opened in 1900. Prolonged efforts to provide a town centre park finally achieved success in 1921 with the purchase of what we know as the Calverley Grounds (photo opposite), designed by Robert Wallace. In the 1950’s the former private estate of Dunorlan was taken over by the town and turned into Dunorlan Park consisting of  the terrace of the old estate home, an elaborate water fountain, and a large lake. This park has been brought to life by a fantastic display of flower beds which I thoroughly enjoyed during my visit to the park in 2015.

All of the aforementioned parks sported flower beds throughout the grounds in which could be seen a wide variety of plants. Shown below is a sample of photographs and postcard views of these parks. Listed from top to bottom and right to left are (1) The Grove (2) Grosvenor & Hilbert Recreation Ground (3)St Johns Recreation Ground (4) The Calverley Grounds (5) The Common (6) Dunorlan Park

The rest of this section is devoted to the “Special” floral display set up at the entrance to the Calverley Grounds off Mount Pleasant Road. The first image, shown opposite is dated June 1951 showing gardeners planting out an elaborate floral display for the Festival of Britain celebrations. Shown in the background in the tea house.

The second image, shown opposite left, is by Sydney Lazell and shows a lovely display of flowers in celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The tea house and a rather pathetic looking bandstand is shown in the background.  Royal occasions have from the beginning of time been celebrated in the town with parades and ceremonies , the streets being decorated with flags and bunting. Such was the case for the 1953 coronation.

Shown below is a selection of images of the Calverley Grounds taken at the entrance to the park showing examples of the special display set up there. Sadly this part of the park has been altered and there have been no special displays there for many years. Shown top to bottom from left to right is (1) 1951 ‘Welcome’ display (2) A 1953 floral display (3) a display for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Tunbridge Wells is a beautiful town, one which I hope you will visit. If you love gardening and floral displays you will not be disappointed.

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