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

Date: December 11,2018


Arthur Baker (1845-1912) was born in Chipping Ongar, Essex, one of six children born to solicitor William Baker (1795-1875) and Elizabeth Ann Baker, nee Crew (1814-1897).

At the time of the 1851 census he was living with his parents and siblings at Manor House, High Street, Chipping Ongar, Essex. When the 1861 census was taken at the same residence Arthur was living with his parents and three siblings and one domestic servant with the occupation of “ artist painting”. 
Where he took his artist training was not established but he became an accomplished painter in oil specializing in paintings of animals most notably dogs, cattle,deer and sheep. He also did water-colours and drawings in black and white chalk on brown paper. His works of art were entered in the finest art exhibitions in London and have been sold at auction, commanding high prices.

In 1879 Arthur married Katherine Thorp (1844-1932). She had been born in Bromley, Kent, one of eleven children born to Jonathan Thorp(1809-1874) a wealthy gentleman with interests in land and houses, and his wife Laura Sandilands Thorp, nee Wrightson (1808-1867). The married couple immediately then took up residence in Tunbridge Wells in a fine home named ‘Beechcroft’ at 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, where Arthur worked at home producing many works of art. Arthur also travelled regularly including Northumberland and other parts of Britain where he sketched and painted.

Arthur and Katherine had just two children, both born in Tunbridge Wells, namely, (1) Ellen Maud Baker (1880-1942) who died in Tunbridge Wells as a spinster (2) Ethel Katherine Baker (1883-1952) who never married and died at Kings College Hospital September 9,1952 while a resident of Streatham Common, London.

The census records for ‘Beechcroft’ 36 Upper Grosvenor Road record Arthur and his wife and two daughters at this address up to 1911 and on April 9,1912 Arthur died at this home. He was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on April 13. Probate records show that the executors of his 6,118 pound estate was his widow Katherine and his two spinster daughters all of 36 Upper Grosvenor Road.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 15,1912 published an article entitled ‘The Works of the late Mr Baker’ in which details of his artistic work was given and that “The works of Mr Arthur Baker, the animal painter, of Tunbridge Wells, are well worthy of inspection”. This announcement pertained to an exhibition of his artwork in the town and visitors were encouraged “ to not lose the opportunity now afforded of purchasing something beautiful for their collections as well as possessing an example of Mr Baker’s admirable work”.

His obituary also appeared in the Courier soon after his death, the contents of which form part of the information of this artist and his work given in this article.  Some information and images are also given about his residence ‘Beechcroft’ and of course a few examples of his paintings and sketches are given as well, including the one above  entitled ‘ A Terrier Ratting’. Although some of his work dates from the early 1900’s he was most active in the period of 1864 to 1889. Despite the fact that he was such an accomplished artist virtually nothing has been written about the man and his career.  There is some indication that his daughter Ellen Maud Baker also became an artist ,but although mention is made of her in art publications ,no examples of her work were found, suggesting that she never achieved the notoriety of her father.


Arthur Baker’s birth was registered in the 1st qtr of 1845 at Ongar, Essex. He had been born 1845 at Chipping Ongar, Essex (according to census records) and was one of six children (all born in Chipping Ongar between 1843 and 1855) to William Baker, a solicitor (1795-1875) and his wife Elizabeth Ann Baker, nee Crew (1814-1897). Shown below left is a postcard view of Chipping Ongar, Essex. Chipping Ongar is a small market town in the civil parish of Ongar, in the Epping Forest district of the county of Essex, England. It is located 6 miles (10 km) east of Epping, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Harlow and 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Brentwood. Its population in 2011 was about 6,000. Arthur and his siblings were all baptised at St Martin Church, Chipping Ognar. A photo of the church is shown below right.



Arthur was the second eldest child in the family and the second eldest son. One of his siblings was Alfred Crew Baker (1847-1883) who lived his entire life in Chipping Ongar. The records of the St Martin Churchyard in Chipping Ognar record the presence in that cemetery of Arthur Baker’s father William; his brother William Sydney (1842-1864) and brother Alfred Crew Baker and one other member of the Baker family. These names all appear on the headstone of Arthur’s father William, a photo of which can be seen online.  Although no photographs of Arthur Baker were located shown here are two photographs of his brother Alfred Crew Baker.

The 1851 census, taken at the ‘Manor House’ 166 High Street, Chipping Ongar gave William Baker born 1795 at Terling Essex, a solicitor. With him was his wife Elizabeth  born 1814 at Highgate, Middlesex; four of their children (including Arthur who was in school) and two domestic servants.

The Manor House , at 166 High Street, is a grade II listed building. The listing description reads “House; Late C14/C15; early C19 extension to rear; remodelled in later C19. Roughcast over brick and timber frame; gabled old plain tile roofs; C19 brick ridge, lateral and end stacks. L-plan with cross-wing to right 2 storeys; 4-window range. Late C19 bracketed segmental hood over half-glazed door. Gabled canted bay windows with glazing-bar casements; gable end of cross wing with C19 end stack to right. Early C19 parallel range to rear left; gabled projecting bay (incorporating C15 timber-framed oriel) to rear left. Interior: obscured timber-framed partitions.  Late C14/C15 three-bay roof over main range has queen-post trusses with cambered tie beams and curved windbraces; tie beams, collars, wall plates and purlins are moulded; timber-framed projection, probably former oriel window, to rear left. Cross wing to right has late Cl5/early C16 crown-post roof.”  A photograph of the house is shown opposite.

The 1861 census, also taken at the Manor House, High Street, Chipping Ognar gave William Baker as a solicitor. With him was his wife Elizabeth; five of their children, including Arthur (an artist painter) and one domestic servant. Where and with whom Arthur took his artist training as a sketcher and painter in oil and watercolour was not established. In the next section of this article information is given about his artistic career and images of his work.  No 1871 census was found for Arthur with his parents as by then he had left the family home. Where he was residing in 1871 was not established but it is believed that he was living and working in London at that time.

In 1879 Arthur married Katherine Thorp (1844-1932) at Edmonton, Middlesex. Katherine was born 1844 in Bromley, Kent, and was one of eleven children born to Jonathan Thorpe (1809-1874) and Laura Sandilands Thorp, nee Wrightson (1808-1867).  Jonathan Thorpe had been born March 9,1809 at Macclesfield, Prestbury and died November 13,1874 at Edmonton, Middlesex. He was a wealthy gentleman with income from land and houses according to census records. Jonathan’s  wife had been born in Woking ,Surrey and died in the 1st qtr of 1867 at Gravesend, Kent.

In the 1840’s the Thorp family lived in Bromley, Kent but by 1851 they were living in Lewisham, Kent. It is most likely that Katherine was living with her parents in Gravesend, Kent in the 1860’s but was living at Edmonton, Middlesex up to the time of her marriage to Arthur Baker. At the time of the 1851 census Katherine was in school and living with her parents and seven siblings and two servants. Her father at that time was given as an owner of lands and houses.

The birth records of Arthur Baker’s two children suggest that Arthur and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells right after their marriage in 1879. Arthur and Katherine had the following children, both born in Tunbridge Wells. (1) Ethel Katherine Baker (1883-1952). Her birth was registered in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1883. Probate records gave her as a spinster of 23 Copley Park Streatham, Common London when she died at Kings College Hospital on September 9,1952 . The executor of her 19,170 pound estate was the Westminster Bank. (2) Ellen Maud Baker (1880-1942). Ellen’ birth was registered in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1880. Records of her in artist publications indicate that she had artistic talent was a painter. No examples of her work were found suggesting that she never gained the notoriety of her father. She died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1942 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. Shown below are two images of her dated 1917 and 1918. The records of the V&A note that Ellen Maud Baker bequeathed to them an old long case clock.

The 1881 census, taken at ‘Beechcroft’ 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, gave Arthur Baker as an ‘artist in paints’. With him was his wife Katherine and their two daughters (of no occupation). Also there was one general servant and one nurse maid.

The 1891 census, taken at ‘Beechcroft’ 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, gave Arthur as an artist on private means. With him was his wife Katherine and their two daughters (both in school); one visitor and two domestic servants.

The 1901 census, taken at 36 Upper Grosvenor Road gave Arthur as an artist painter on own means. With him was his wife Katherine and his two daughters ( no occupation) and two domestic servants.

The 1911 census, taken at ‘Beechcroft’ 36 Upper Grosvenor Road gave Arthur as a painter artist of private means. With him was his wife Katherine and their two daughters (of no occupation). Also there was one domestic servant. The census recorded that the couple had been married 32 years and that they had just the two children. Their residence was given as a home of 12 rooms.

Probate records for Arthur Baker gave him of 36 Upper  Grosvenor Road when he died April 9,1912. The executors of his 6,118 pound estate was his widow Katherine Baker and his two spinster daughters Ellen Maud Baker and Ethel Katherine Baker, all of the same residence. It was not established when Katherine and her daughters left this residence.  Arthur was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery April 13,1912.  The Courier of May 10,1912 published the probate record for Arthur Baker.


The Courier of April 19,1912 reported on the “Funeral of Mr. A. Baker”-impressive service at Tunbridge Wells stating in part “ The funeral of Mr. Arthur Baker, of Beechcroft, Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells, took place on Saturday. The first part of the service was conducted in Holy Trinity Church, where the deceased gentleman had held the honoured position of people’s warden for a period of nine years, besides being prominently connected with the work of the church in various other directions. The affection and esteem with which Mr Arthur Baker was regarded by all who knew him was reflected in the large and representative attendance in the Church, which included several well-known local Nonconformists as well as Churchmen. Before the arrival of the family mourners at the Church, the organist Mr E.F. Harding, gave a beautiful rendering of Chopin’s “Marche  Funebre”. The coffin was met at the main entrance of the church by the Vicar of Holy Trinity (the Rev. D.J. Slather Hunt), the Ven. Archdeacon A.T. Scott (St Jame’s), the Rev. A.W. Oliver (King Charle’s), the Rev. W.H. Ferguson (Vicar of St Paul’s,Strtatford, and a former curate at Holy Trinity), and the Revs. C.H. Bellamy,H.M. Martin and C.E. Sell (curates at Holy Trinity). The opening part of the burial service was impressively read by the Rev. D.J. Stather Hunt, the lesson by Archdeacon Scott, and the prayers by the Rev. A.W. Oliver. During the service a large congregation united in singing the hymn, “ My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. And “Peace, Perfect Peace”, was also feelingly sung. The singing was led by the Church Choir. Towards the conclusion of the solemn service, the organist rendered portions of “ I know that my Redeemer liveth”, and “O rest in the Lord”. The internment took place at the Borough Cemetery…” The article continues with a list of mourners, among which it was noted the presence of Mr Alfred Strutt, R.B.A. (artist from Tunbridge Wells) and local artist Charles Tattershall Dodd. The article ended with a list of names and messages from over 30 people who had laid wreaths or other floral tributes.

The Courier of April 19,1912 reported on the “Easter Vestry Meetings” in which the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church gave in part the following information under the heading of ‘The Late Mr Arthur Baker’. “ The Vicar said they had met that day under very special and solemn circumstances. They had sustained a very serious loss in the sudden death of Mr Arthur Baker. It was altogether impossible for him to describe the many ways in which Mr Baker had helped the Church, and gave the best of his time and strength to the parish. Not only had he been for many years people’s warden, but perhaps the greatest part of his work was devoted to the schools, for which he acted as correspondent, a position which entailed a very large amount of work. So in many ways they would find it impossible to fill his place”. The article concludes with a description of a resolution passed paying tribute to Mr Baker and his work in connection with the church.

Katherine Baker died in the 2nd qtr of 1932 at Wandsworth, London and buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.


Beechcroft , was described in the 1911 census as a residence of the Baker family and a home of 12 rooms, located at 36 Upper Grosvenor Road. 

As can be seen from a recent photograph of this home (opposite) , it was a three sty residence with attic space constructed of brick and finished in yellow and white render, with a slate roof. The home had been built in the mid 19th century and over the years has had many occupants. The home is located on the south-east side of Upper Grosvenor Road about half way between Meadow Road on the south and Park Road on the north.

In the 20th century the home was divided up into at least three flats. Details about changes to the building can be found online in the records of the local Planning Authority.


Arthur was primarily interested in the sketching and painting of animals and outdoor scenes in which animals are featured. He was a keen naturalist as demonstrated by a 1902 record of The South Eastern Naturalist and Antiquary Society in which Arthur Baker of 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells was listed under “ members, associates and delegates for 1902”.

As noted in the  first section of this article he began his schooling in the town where he was born, namely Chipping  Ongar, Essex. Sometime after 1851 and before 1861 his occupation became that of an “artist painter”, a career that occupied his life up to the time of his death in 1912. When and with whom he received his artistic training was not established.

A book entitled ‘ Year Art’ dated 1894 listed Arthur Baker in a dictionary of artists and given as a resident of 36 Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells.

A number of his paintings and sketches were found on the internet as having been sold at auction and those offering his work for sale note that he was most active between 1864 and 1889 and that he frequently exhibited his work as various art exhibitions in London.  

Some examples of his work are shown below. From left to right, top to bottom in order are (1) ‘A Smooth Fox Terrier in a Landscape- an oil on canvas about 16” x20” (2) ‘Highland Cattle’ dated 1901 and about 19” x30” (3) ‘Highland Cattle’ dated 1883-an oil on canvas signed and dated Arthur Baker/1883 lower left and measuring about 24”x 30” (4) ‘Highlands’ dated 1883.

Some other works by him listed but not illustrated were (1) Landscape and horse and cart (2) Sheep in Country Lane dated 1865 (3) Wooded Landscape with cattle and sheep. Also found but not illustrated was a large coloured print of various breeds of dogs in a barn entitled “Our Dogs” that was first shown in the publication ‘The Boys Own Paper’.  As can be seen from his work his produced sketches , oil paintings and water-colour paintings primarily those illustrating animals.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of November 15,1912 gave the following “ The Works Of The Late Mr. Baker- The works of Mr Arthur Baker, the animal painter of Tunbridge Wells, are well worthy of inspection. The collection, though in every way representative of the artist’s style and range of subject, shows but a tithe of the immense number of studies he has left. His industry was only equalled by his modesty, and it is but fitting that now the people of Tunbridge Wells have an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with some of his charming pictures. “ In the safety of the fold” the artist has painted with great grip of his subject a flock of Scotch sheep being enclosed in the fold; upon one of the stone walls some collies are watching, and the men are closing the entrance. A most difficult incident to tackle, but well carried out. There are many very interesting Scotch cattle subjects in which Mr Baker excelled. Her also loved painting the red deer, and two or three of his successful efforts are on the walls. Those interested in the wild white cattle of Britain will be able to see what they looked like in two or three paintings of the black-eared and black-nosed bulls, sketched in Northumberland , at Chillingham, from which place the herd takes its name. Dog lovers will be quite delighted with the many beautiful studies and paintings of their favourites. Mr Baker only sketched and painted from the best. Then we turn to the quick studies of cows in every conceivable position, drawn with a master’s hand. The sheep drawings, sketched with intimate knowledge, and the sweet little landscape gems full of light and atmosphere. There are also some beautiful and fresh water-colours done at home and abroad. The critics will be delighted with the drawings in black and white chalk on brown paper. Many of these are instinct with life and artistic feeling. It is to be hoped that visitors will not lose the opportunity now afforded of purchasing  something beautiful for their collections, as well as possessing an example of Mr Baker’s admirable work”. The article unfortunately did not indicate the location of the exhibition or its date and duration.

The Courier of April 19,1912 also published the following comments about Arthur Baker by the Tunbridge Wells artist Alfred Strutt who had attended Mr Bakers funeral. “ We have received from Mr Alfred W.Strutt, F.R.G.S., of Wadhurst, the following appreciation of the late Mr. Arthur Baker, and being the tribute of such a well-known artist as Mr Strutt will, we are sure, be read with pleasure. Mr Strutt writes: “ May I ask if you will kindly insert a few notes on the work of the late Mr. Arthur Baker in your next issue of the Courier”? During a friendship of over thirty years, it has been my privilege to see most of his artistic efforts, and I should like his many friends who, know only his religious activities, to realise how beautiful his sketches and water colours are. Reference was made in your last issue to his contributions of canine sketches, but if there was one animal more than another that he loved and thoroughly understood, it was the cow. His patience and long study of these animals resulted in a really wonderful knowledge. He must have drawn and painted hundreds of these useful creatures, singly and in groups. To look through his well-filled folios makes one envious to possess a specimen of his sympathetic and delicate work, and happy were those who received from time to time at the heading of his letters some delightful little pen and ink sketch of a cow, horse, or stag. One cannot but feel that if he had devoted his skill to copper-plate etching the world might have seen some lovely things in this sensitive and expressive medium. Mr Baker had a very great gift in choosing moments of beauty in the lighting of his animals. How often I have rejoiced at the way he put on the high lights when the sun glistened upon the horns, tipped the edges of ears, or caught the line of the back, touching with rare perception where ribs or hip bone caught a gleam of light. His drawings of landscape were full of charm, and showed the delight he felt in nature itself. Repose was the keynote of his work. It is to be hoped that an exhibition of his drawing might be arranged, that those who do not know them may have the opportunity of realizing how charming an artist has been in their midst. Alas! that this genial and sincere friend has gone, extreme modesty prevented the world knowing much of his special powers, but happy were those who could claim his friendship”.

For further information about Alfred William Strutt (1856-1924) see my article ‘Alfred William Strutt-A Famous Artist’ dated December 17,2018.


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

Date: January 8,2019


The central figure in this article is Lewis Appolinaire Leroy (1902-1976) who founded Leroy Tours in Tunbridge Wells in about 1940. A photograph of him from about the 1960’s wearing his iconic black beret is shown opposite.

Lewis was one of two children born to Dennis Casimire Leroy (1879-1951) and Gertrude May Young (1880-1950) who were married in 1902. Lewis’s brother Dennis Eric Leroy (1909-1963) also played an important role in Leroy Tours. Lewis was born December 30,1902 in Balham, Surrey.

At the time of the 1911 census Lewis and his brother Dennis and his parents were in a residence of 9 rooms at 20 Semley Road in Croydon, Surrey, where Lewis’s father was working as a solicitor’s clerk. Dennis would later go on to be an auctioneer and estate agent.

Lewis continued to live in Sussex throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1923 he married Nora Mary Richardson (1895-1977) and with her had just one child namely John Lewis Leroy (1928-1997) who later married a previously married woman who had a daughter Linda Webb that John adopted. Stephen Skelton married Linda Webb in 1971 . I wish to thank Stephen for his valuable contribution to this article, which appears later in a separate section.

From a 1939 directory it was noted that Lewis and his wife Nora were living at 7 Upperton Gardens in Eastbourne and that Lewis’s occupation was given as “ Master radio etc dealer”.

About 1940 Lewis and his wife and son moved to Tunbridge Wells where Lewis opened a radio dealer’s shop and it was at that shop, when asked to display a travel poster in window, that Lewis became seriously interested in the travel business, interested enough to start Leroy Tours.

Lewis’s shop ,according to a 1944 newspaper advertisement, was located at 79 Mount Pleasant Road, on Mount Pleasant Hill, Tunbridge Wells, at which place his business was reported as “ Leroy’s Radio & Television Service Ltd”. He was still operating his business at this address until at least 1947 as reported in a local newspaper.

In the words of Stephen Skelton “Lewis and his brother Dennis, saw the opportunity to run their own tours, and started Leroy Tours Ltd which went on to become one of the biggest and best-known tour companies in the UK. Lewis’s son John joined the company straight out of school aged 18 (in maybe 1947)  and took it to bigger and better heights.”

A newspaper dated December 20,1957 gave the listing “ Mr Lewis A. Leroy, Leroy Tours, Dudley House, Tunbridge Wells but before this time had operated from St John’s Road.

By the 1960’s Leroy Tours was operating from an office on Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, called Europa House (Wellington Gate).

By 1962 the Leroy’s had aviation interests (Air Ferry Limited ) as well as holidays but around October 1963 they sold control of their group to Air Holdings Ltd which had British United Airways amongst its portfolio. Lewis Leroy stayed with the business as a director until June 1972.

Leroy Tours got taken over and when Lewis was allowed to he started another tour company catering to the older passenger but it never really got off the ground.

After retiring from business Lewis and his wife moved back to Eastbourne, Sussex. Probate records gave Lewis Appolinaire Leroy of 11 East Cliff, Dover, Company Director when he died December 11,1976. He had been last seen on December 10th and his body found December 11th. Lewis was so distraught by the death of his wife on October 1, 1976 that he decided to commit suicide. His son John was one of the executors of his estate.


Lewis Appolinaire Leroy (1902-1976) was born December 30,1902 at Balham, Surrey. He was baptised March 13,1903 at B attersea, St Michael Church.

Lewis was one of two children born to Dennis Casimire Leroy (1879-1951) and Gertrude May Young (1880-1950) who were married in 1902. Lewis’s brother Dennis Eric Leroy (1909-1963) also played an important role in Leroy Tours. Lewis’s paternal grandparents were Appolinaire Leroy (1848-1930) and Annie Hayward Gibbs Churchill (1855-1937). His maternal grandparents were Jonathan Young (died 1881) and Catherine Catlir (born 1840).

Dennis Eric Leroy married Emily Gwendoline Harris (1908-1976) in the 3rd qtr of 1929 in Eastbourne. Probate records gave him of the Barrow Nursing Home, Carew Road, Eastbourne when he died November 1,1963. The executors of his 49,439 pound estate were his widow and Harry Price, chartered accountant.

At the time of the 1911 census Lewis and his brother Dennis and his parents were in a residence of 9 rooms at 20 Semley Road in Croydon, Surrey, where Lewis’s father was working as a solicitors clerk. Dennis would later go on to be an auctioneer and estate agent. Lewis at that time was attending school and received only a basic education before entering the workforce around age 18.

In the 2nd qtr of 1923 the marriage between Lewis and Nora Mary Richardson (1895-1976) was registered at Uckfield, Sussex and after the marriage the family lived in Eastborne, Sussex where Lewis opened a shop selling radios and related products. Lewis and his wife had just one child namely John Lewis Leroy (abt 1928-abt 1997).

A directory of 1939 gave Lewis and his wife Nora living at 7 Upperton Gardens in Eastourne. Lewis’s occupation was given as “ Master radio etc dealer. His wife Nora, who had been born February 8,1895 gave her occupation as “domestic duties at home”.

In about 1940 Lewis and his wife Nora and son John and brother Dennis moved to Tunbridge Wells . Lewis opened a radio dealers shop at 79 Mount Pleasant Road and was found there in newspaper advertisments up to at least 1947. Details about his business addresses in the period of the 1950’s to 1960’s were given in the ‘Overview’ and reported on in more detail later.

Initially Lewis and his brother Dennis ran Leroy Tours but Lewis’s son John joined the business in about 1947.

Records of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society listed a Mr Lewis Leroy as a member in 1963.

In 1971 Lewis retired from business and he and his wife moved to Sussex. Lewis’s wife Nora died in Eastbourne, Sussex October 1,1976. Probate records gave Lewis Appolinaire Leroy of 11 East Cliff, Dover, Company Director when he died December 11,1976. He had been last seen on December 10th and his body found December 11th. Lewis was so distraught by the death of his wife on October 1, 1976 that he decided to commit suicide. Of this matter Stephen Skelton stated “Lewis Leroy sadly took his own life by jumping off the cliffs at Dover. His wife had just died and it was Christmas time and he was very depressed. I have some other details of this, but they are not very pleasant as you might imagine. John took the death badly and it precipitated him selling his farm in Tenterden and eventually moving to Scotland where he had three hotels, a large estate and many letting cottages.

The executors of Lewis’s  143,099 pound estate were his son John Lewis Leroy, Claude Percy Wells and John Clemence. The solicitors were Sprott & Sons, 16 Church Road,Tunbridge Wells.


Lewis Leroy, before settling in Tunbridge Wells in about 1940, had been a dealer of radios and other products in Eastbourne, Sussex.

Upon arrival in Tunbridge Wells Lewis opened a radio shop at 79 Mount Pleasant Road, which shop was located on the east side of Mount Pleasant Road, on Mount Pleasant Hill, on which was a row of shops running from Weekes department store at the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Grove Hill Road, up to the bank at the top of Mount Pleasant Hill. Shown opposite is a postcard view of Mount Pleasant Hill.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of January 2,1944 and also June 30,1944 reported “ Radio Service-Can collect, repair and deliver within 15 miles of Tunbridge Wells. Write Lewis Leroy, 79 Mount Pleasant Road. Leroy’s Radio & Television Service Ltd”. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of September 8,1944 and April 27,1947 referred to the business at the same location.

At this shop Lewis sold a radios and other related products, details of which are given later in the account by Stephen Skelton. Lewis’s interest and subsequent active involvement in the travel business began while operating this shop. He and his brother Dennis decided to start Leroy Tours, initially offering coach tours in England but later on the continent, which business expanded to include travel by air though a business that Lewis was a partner in called Air Ferry Limited. Details of this airline business are given in a separate section of this article.

The location of the company’s business premises changed over the years. In the early 1950’s they had an address on St Johns Road.

Shown above is an advertisement for Leroy Tours which gave their address in an office at Europa House (Wellington Gate). Several travel brochures for Leroy Tours can be found online for the 1950’s and 1960’s.

To digress somewhat, Europe House is located on Church Road on a site west of Trinity Church and east of Telephone House. In this image taken towards Mount Ephraim can be seen Europa House to the right of Telephone House. A redevelopement proposal of 2002, when this photo was taken is given below.

“Thomas Rothermel, Crest Nicholson's Conservation Area Expert at the Public Inquiry:   KEY SPACES 4.4.3: The composition of this wide space is wrecked by the ugliness, height and bleakness of Telephone House, and its tarmaced front car park and cheap looking boundary wall. Similarly Europa House [the overbearing building on the right] makes a harmful southern boundary to the space between it and the former church." He continues: "Note height bulk and ugly form of Europa House." He adds (HARMFUL ELEMENTS 4.5.2): " Europa House in its present configuration is grotesquely ugly in itself an alarmingly insensitive to the listed terrace which is next to it on its western side. Europa House, now called Wellington Gate, is five huge storeys high in its main elevation with a further mansard floor, and then another two lumpy layers above that. Both in short, and long views, its bulk, form, massing and detail design do immense harm to this part of the conservation area. The detailed design of the main front elevation is execrable with silly little pediments and uncouth vaguely classical motifs producing an extremely clumsy and inept design. " Europa House will be part of the view of future residents of the development on Church Road.”

The Civic Society Newsletter of Spring 2014 gave “In a previous report we noted the change in planning law which permits offices to be converted to housing without planning permission. Two such cases in Calverley Road caused ripples last year in connection with the need for parking. Now the tide has reached Wellington Gate in Church Road, the oversize sixties block formerly Europa House. It has been determined that this too does not need planning permission to become flats.”

In the 1950’s and 1960’s  independent holidays abroad were the prerogative of the wealthy but even then the Leroy family was able to arrange reasonably priced inclusive holidays on the continent.  The organisation was quick to see that, although some people enjoyed touring, others preferred to reach a sunny location as quickly as possible and spend their holidays basking in the sun.

Lewis Leroy, habitually seen wearing the black beret which he had made his personal trademark, had built over the years a business with a solid reputation for good value and personal service.  By 1962 Leroys was a substantial touring and holiday business, owned a fleet of coaches and now held the controlling interest in an independent airline (Air Ferry Limited).

An article in a magazine dated January 13,1956 regarding an application by the B.E.T. Company to operate tours on the continent gave in part “It was stated that, until recently, Lewis Leroy, of Tunbridge Wells, employed M. and D. coaches to carry passengers on their Continental tours to the coast, but they were now handled by East Kent.”

The Sussex Agricultural Express of December 20,1957 gave “ Regional map of Europe and personal advice (all free without obligation) to Mr. Lewis A. Leroy. Leroy Tours, Dubley House, Tunbridge Wells”. An image of a tour map with an address of Dudley House is shown above.

Their first known coach was a 1957 AEC Reliance Duple Britannia 607KMT , followed in 1958 by 608-611PMG , 604-607UMF came in 1959 and were followed in 1960 by 614-617HX , all being Duple Britannia C40F. (Seen in photograph opposite). This photo was taken at the Leroys base , the old BRS depot in Tenterden , Kent. The man in the beret is Lewis A Leroy the owner and the other person is the firm’s chief engineer Terry Franklin. After Leroy Tours ceased coach operations Franklin became chief engineer at World Wide Coaches in Camberwell , London. By 1962 the Leroys had aviation interests as well as holidays but around October 1963 they sold control of their group to Air Holdings Ltd which had British United Airways amongst its portfolio. Lewis Leroy stayed with the business as a director until June 1972.

There was a London connection at Leroy Tours as they purchased RTW151 KLB881 to use in The Netherlands to promote their overseas business. This venture failed as the bus was deemed too high to use in that country and it was quickly returned to Tenterden. It found a new home at Pinewood Film Studios with Jack Crumps Denham Coaches fleet which was actually based inside the studio grounds. This bus survives to the present day in store with The London Bus Company.

The location of the old BRS depot was on the land down the (B2080) Appledore Road , about 1 mile from Tenterden town centre on what is now occupied by William Judge Close. William Judge had a haulage business on what was essentially an industrial estate prior to nationalisation after WW2. The present turn into William Judge Close , opposite Holly Tree Cottage , from the Appledore Road is the old entrance to the estate. It was somewhat wider in those days and had an island of greenery to allow for turning vehicles off the main road.

John Blewit wrote “In 1964 at the age of seventeen I got a job working for Leroy Tours on a yacht that they owned based in Italy.The yacht carried around 16 passengers and use to run along the coast from Genoa down to Viareggio callin at Portofino, Santa Margherita and Lerici on the way. The vessel was a converted north sea motor torpedo boat and was powered by two Rolls Royce 250hp diesels. It was converted in a boat yard somewhere on the river Medway in Kent. The skipper and engineer was a John Walker who had previously worked for a small coastal shipping company based in Rochester. There was a crew member who was a shipwright and had worked at the boat yard where the yacht was converted, His name was Peter but I cannot remember his surname. I still have a photograph of the yacht and if anyone out there knows anything about the yacht or any of the crew then send me an email. By the way the yacht was called " The Fairlands ".

A gentlemen identifying himself simply as Bob wrote “I had a family coach tour holiday with Leroy Tours around 1961/2. I still have in my hand right now a Leroy Tours lapel badge as worn by all in the holidaying group. Chrome LT with a double green stripe through the centre on an off centre vertical.” Shown opposite is one of these badges and described by the seller as “LT Leroy Tours Tunbridge Wells bus coach staff - these badges have been often wrongly described as Lothian Transport (or even London Transport) They were made and used in the early-mid 1960s for Leroy Tours of Tunbridge Wells -they ran airports services and European tours. The badges can be found in green, amber and possibly other colours -makers known are J R Gaunt and W Reeves”

The website of the West Kent Sunday Football League reported that in 2017 the league celebrated their 50 anniversary. Stuart Turner, age 76, the WKSEL chairman recalled in part ““I played two seasons for one of the big firms in Tunbridge Wells, Leroy Tours – who organised European coach tours before package deals started. We were hopeless, we lost our first match 18-0 to Rusthall New Town.”

Dennis Seager a Travel Specialist from April 1958 to October 2001 wrote “1953 to 1958 in the Royal Air Force helping to close redundant airfields and to deep sea dump the old bombs. Difficult to settle after five years of travelling while in the RAF, so obtained a PSV coach driving licence with Grey Green Coaches of East London, after which spend several years of service work and touring in England. Then joined Leroy Tours of Tunbridge Wells spending many years touring most of Europe as driver then courier. Returned to England for an office position with Galleon World Travel of London before being asked by another coach company to join them as a director. Finally with a friend I set up in London, European Group Transport which supplied up to thirty coaches each week to European tour and holiday companies, then purchased two Mercedes coaches and registered Anglo French Coachways together with another company Dover Supply Company Ltd. Finally retired early in the 2000 and settled in Suffolk. Have traveled widely to most of Europe, Canada, USA, North Africa and to South East Asia. Kept friends with my travel contacts and still organize travel for friends.”


Air Ferry Limited was a private, independent British airline operating charter, scheduled and all-cargo flights from 1963 to 1968. Wing Commander Hugh Kennard, the Air Kruise founder and a former Silver City Airways director, and Leroy Tours founder Lewis Leroy formed Air Ferry Ltd in 1961 as a subsidiary of Leroy Tours to operate general charter and inclusive tours.

Hugh Kennard (image opposite) worked closely with Mr. Lewis Leroy in the days of Air Kruise and Silver City and now he had reached agreement on the formation of Air Ferry.  The airline would be a subsidiary company to Leroy Tours Ltd. with Wg Cdr Kennard and Mrs. Kennard as directors and Mr. Leroy as Chairman.

Air Ferry started operations on April 1.1963, providing IT charters from Manston Airport near Ramsgate, Kent, in south east England. It initially operated two 40-seat Vickers Viking and two 80-seat Douglas DC-4/C-54s piston airliners. Before the start of operations, the Air Transport Licensing Board (ATLB) had awarded Air Ferry three A-type licences to operate scheduled services from Manston to Le Touquet, Ostend and Verona. Services to Le Touquet and Ostend were due to begin in mid-April 1963 and to Verona on 1 April 1964. These operated between Manston and Le Touquet, Calais, Ostend as well as Rotterdam. Air Ferry added a third DC-4, more Vikings, a Bristol Freighter, and a pair of Douglas DC-6As to its fleet over the coming years. The latter were the airline's first pressurised aircraft.

In October 1964 Air Ferry's ownership passed to Air Holdings as a consequence of the latter's acquisition of Leroy Tours. At the time, Air Holdings was the parent company of British United Airways (BUA), Britain's largest contemporary independent airline and leading private sector scheduled carrier. This made Air Ferry an associate of BUA. Air Holdings' takeover of Air Ferry restored the cross-Channel vehicle ferry services monopoly of British United Air Ferries, a sister airline of BUA.

In 1968 Air Ferry leased a pair of Vickers Viscount 800s. By that time, it operated scheduled and non-scheduled services carrying passengers and their cars as well as cargo from Manchester, Bristol and London in addition to Manston. Summer 1968 was Air Ferry's last season of operations, and the airline ceased trading on 31 October 1968.


Given in this section is an account about Lewis Leroy and Leroy Tours by Stephen Skelton dated January7,2009, which I was most grateful to receive. Although some information has already been given from this account I have reproduced it in its entirety as written by him.

I married John Leroy’s (Lewis’s son and only child) step-daughter in Sept 1971 and worked for John in various capacities for many years. He was a partner in the vineyard I set up in Tenterden in Kent (where he lived for much of his later life) and he and his wife, Moreen, were the very loving and caring grandparents to my three children. John died of a brain tumor in around 1997, aged approx. 69, and Moreen died in maybe 2010 aged around 88.

The business started when Lewis Leroy was asked by a coach tour company to put up a poster in his shop window and to sell tickets for tours. He had a shop selling radios, records, sheet music etc in Mt Pleasant. Lewis and his brother Denis, saw the opportunity to run their own tours, and started Leroy Tours Ltd which went on to become one of the biggest and best-known tour companies in the UK. John joined the company straight out of school aged 18 (in maybe 1947)  and took it to bigger and better heights. He was very interested in what we then didn’t call computers, and introduced a novel booking system, using a call-centre, again, not what it would have been called then, with telephonists taking bookings and customers sending in their cheques. They would send out brochures in early December and on New Year’s Day, open for bookings. John used to say that within a few days they would be 50% sold out with a very healthy cash balance in the bank. John introduced the use of a Powers-Samas punch card system for keeping customer records, which was pretty unusual for the time.

They were originally based in St John’s Rd, then in Dudley Rd, then in Church Rd, firstly at the top where the BT building used to be (which Leroy Tours built and rented to BT) and then at Europa House which was their offices when I first knew the family and which was family owned until around 1996. With all the cash they were generating, Lewis and John (Denis was bought out at some early stage) invested in property all over T Wells, plus a small farm (Quarry Farm) along the Bayham Abbey Rd where John built a house (called Coppers – it had a copper roof).

The business went from strength to strength and they based their coaches in Belgium and Switzerland, had what we called ‘the Depot’ in Tenterden for their UK based coaches. They would take the customers down to Dover or Folkestone, Lewis would see them off wearing his trademark French beret. It was said that Lewis’s grandfather had been one of Naploeon III’s employees when he and Princess Eugenie were exiled to England and they settled in Chislehurst in 1871.

John introduced the concept of the all-inclusive package holiday to the UK and were the first to use air flights. They started Air Ferry airways, opened up first Manston and then Lydd Airports, had a hotel at Greatstone, had a boat in Italy (see attached email) and built the company up into quite a major concern. They eventually sold out to the Cayzer family who owned British United Airways in 1964. John bought a large estate at Morghew Park in Tenterden which he expanded and owned other farms as well. He eventually sold it to Hans Rowsing in 1980 or thereabouts.

I have a number of original brochures, plus other material, and have always wanted to write something much more comprehensive about the Leroy family as John was a truly remarkable and generous man and I owe much to him.

Lewis Leroy sadly took his own life by jumping off the cliffs at Dover. His wife had just died and it was Christmas time and he was very depressed. I have some other details of this, but they are not very pleasant as you might imagine. John took the death badly and it precipitated him selling his farm in Tenterden and eventually moving to Scotland where he had three hotels, a large estate and many letting cottages.


Given below are some comments made by former employees of Leroy Tours sent to me by Stephen Skelton

From: Mike Pilcher ( :: 2007-11-18 02:22:56

I drove this coach, 631WKL, for the Leroy Tours company in the mid-sixties. I was stationed at various European cities for periods of 6 months at a time and drove extended tours of 2 & 3 weeks throughout western Europe, including Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Hungary. We operated continuously so that when we unloaded a tour, we immediately reloaded and set off again on the same route. This coach ran "like a top"! We were assigned to one vehicle and we were responsible for it's cleanliness and mechanical condition. This fostered extreme pride in appearance and reliability of the coaches. It's sad to see this "grey" photo of what I knew to be a top line vehicle of it's time. I subsequently drove a brand new Reliance 691 Plaxton Panorama for the same company and stayed on a 3 week tour (every 3 weeks) from Ostend to Rome and back for 2 or 3 years. Does anybody have any information or a photograph of the Plaxton Panorama JKO675E? Best regards, Mike.

From: Dennis Seager ( :: 2008-11-25 17:09:12

I also drove for Lewis Leroy in the 60s. I drove for several years during the summer months an 8 day tours to Lake Garda in Italy, starting in May until late September. It was a continuous holiday for me for which I was paid, and I met many friends during those years and it started me off towards my own travel business. Happy memories Dennis Seager

From: Mike Pilcher ( :: 2008-11-27 01:47:19

Dennis, a real surprise to see something from another Leroy's driver. I don't think I know you but it is just good to read your comments on the Independant Bus site. Have you had any contact with any other Leroy people? I worked on the tours in the season and worked in Leroy's workshop in Tenterden during the winters. It certainly was the most enjoyable job I ever had and I "look back at it" almost every day. They were good times. Best regards, Mike.

From: Dennis Seager ( :: 2009-09-25 21:24:47

Hello Mike, I only worked for Leroy during the summer months as my home was a long way away from Tenterden, but that is where I picked up the coach every spring, I spent five seasons going to Lake Garda in Italy, and loved it so much that I still go back there now. I ended up with my own travel company in Chistlehurst. Those were the days. Dennis

From: Mike Pilcher ( :: 2009-10-13 02:17:27

Dennis, I now live in Whitehall, Pennsylvania but I still travel with my wife to Switzerland every September. I just like Europe so much , probably due to my coaching experiences. I'm now retired but worked 30 years for the Mack Truck company, travelling the world with the exception of South America. How is the travel business now. Do you still do tours in your Chistlehurst company? Regards, Mike.

From: Mick Giles ( :: 2009-11-22 09:27:34

Hi Mike, My father drove for many years working for Leroy Tours out of Tunbridge Well Kent. He drove 633WKL and i have a black a white picture of him and his courier by the coach. His name was Victor Giles not sure the years he worked for Leroy but i remember it was probably the last 50s to the mid 60’s. I also remember going to Ostend for a weekend to visit him with my sister and mother as we didn’t see him sometimes for 3 weeks as he was touring Europe and earning lots and lots of money to keep us.

From: Mike Pilcher ( :: 2009-11-25 17:05:57

Hello Mick, It's good to hear of your father Victor Giles driving for Leroys. I don't think I knew him but it's another piece of information for my "big Leroy puzzle". Mick, is it possible that you or your family may have a Leroy Tours brochure(s)? I am searching far and wide for a brochure. I am willing to pay to have a copy made or for you to mail it to me and I will copy it and return it to you. Please let me know. Thanks and regards, Mike.

From: Mike Pilcher ( :: 2009-11-28 02:19:17

Dennis, Do you have any copies of a Leroy Tours brochure? I am trying to write as much as I can about the company and need a brochure so I can accurately describe the routes I worked. I'm willing to pay for a copy or copy it and return it to you. Thanks, Mike.


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

Date: December 24,2018


In my article ‘ The Day the Circus Came to Town’ ,dated September 8,2015 ,I provided a history of circus performances in Tunbridge Wells and the following overview of the arrival of the Barnum & Bailey Circus in July 1899. Included are some images of the circus from the original article as well as five exceptionally rare magic lantern slides from July 14,1899 that were recently discovered. Apart from these images number of others from other sources provide a pictorial history of this grand event in the town’s history.

Barnum and Bailey are perhaps one of the most recognized circuses in the world based in the United States. In 1898 and 1899 this circus toured throughout Britain on the railway. In 1899 the company toured 112 towns in Britain putting on a total of 349 performances and travelling over 4,000 miles between venues. Their circus on that tour included a menagerie, a military band, seventy horses and a collection of ‘living curiosities’. In July 1899 they brought their circus to Tunbridge Wells.

The following account of the show in Tunbridge Wells was given in the Kent & Sussex Courier . “In the small hours of a July night in 1899, some of the most extraordinary visitors ever seen in the town arrived in Tunbridge Wells. There were wild men from Borneo and Siamese twins, elephants and camels, giants and dwarfs, and an "orchestra" of cats who could play musical instruments”.

Shown opposite is an 1899 photograph of ‘Elephants on Parade’ preceded by a lavish cavalcade through the town. Eye-catching posters advertising Barnum and Bailey's Circus appeared all over Tunbridge Wells. Barnum and Baileys' animals included everything from elephants and tigers to camels and wolves

Barnum and Bailey's circus was billed as "The Greatest Show on Earth" and, for the Courier reporter despatched at two o'clock in the morning to watch its arrival in White's Fields in St John's, this was clearly no exaggeration. Caught up in the magic created by legendary American showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, whose company had merged with Bailey's London circus in 1888, he was clearly awestruck by what he saw, not least by the sound of American voices, still a great novelty in England.

The show had arrived at Tunbridge Wells West Station (image below)from Brighton, where it had performed the previous day, in four trains, with 67 specially-adapted railway cars attached. The company included 840 people, from performers, blacksmiths and mechanics to more than 70 cooks and waiters responsible for feeding everyone three times a day. Travelling with them were some 400 horses plus a huge range of other animals, 17 enormous circus tents and all the equipment needed to put on five simultaneous shows around the massive big top. Barnum himself was no longer alive by this time, but the story of the man behind one of the world's great circuses would live on, revived in the 1980s by the smash hit musical, starring Michael Crawford, which traced the story of his life.

When the circus arrived in Tunbridge Wells that summer, it had already been touring Britain for two years and stories of its strange attractions and glittering shows had captured the imagination of a Victorian public hungry for new forms of entertainment. For Barnum, dubbed "the prince of humbug", had been the ultimate showman. His purchase, in 1882, of an elephant from London Zoo and the arrival of "Jumbo" in New York had captured headlines the world over, and even the creature's unfortunate demise in a train accident had been turned to profit as Barnum put his remains on display.

Tunbridge Wells had been inundated with brightly-coloured posters promoting the circus for weeks in advance of its dramatic arrival, and the following day thousands gathered on the Common and along the main streets to watch the traditional procession which preceded the opening of the show. "Barnum and Bailey have reduced this to a fine art", noted the Courier in its report on the mile-long procession headed by 40 beautifully turned out horses trotting four abreast, pulling a golden coach carrying a military band. Next came "seven open cages containing the handsome Bengal tigers, lions, leopards, pumas, hyenas, Siberians wolves and bears". A dozen camels followed, plus 16 elephants and a team of ponies pulling giant fairytale sculptures. The procession culminated in a depiction of Christopher Columbus' triumphant return from the New World surrounded by the entire Spanish court. As the free street pageant wove along Mount Pleasant and through the town centre, office workers came out to see, builders stopped work to gape at the spectacle, and hundreds of children skipped the beginning of school to watch. The brilliant spectacle was, of course, cleverly designed to whet the watching public's appetite for a show which, admitted the breathless report in the next edition of the Courier, "defies description". For Barnum and Bailey's was not only bringing them a show, it was also giving spectators a glimpse of a strange, colourful world beyond their everyday lives. Tunbridge Wells was not isolated in the same way as the far-flung American communities which had embraced the circus with such enthusiasm, but for sheer drama and spectacle, this was hard to match. And with such a glittering pageant building up to the show, it was small wonder that townspeople flocked to see the actual performances. By the next day, the show would have moved on to Hastings and then up around the coast to Ramsgate. Its departure would be as swift and seemingly magical as its arrival, leaving local people still dazzled by the sheer spectacle of Phineas Barnum's unique vision”.


A detailed account of the circus was given in the courier of the above date under the heading ‘ Barnum And Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth’. This account is given in this section in its entirety.

We look upon it as a distinct honour to Tunbridge Wells that the town should have been selected for a visit from Messrs. Barnum and Bailey with undoubtedly the greatest show on earth. There are, we understand, many false rumours current concerning the single price of admittance, and Messrs. Barnum and Bailey have asked us to assist them in correcting them by assuring the public that one ticket commands a view of all the advertised attractions and a seat, whether the ticket is a shilling or seven and sixpence. There is nothing more to pay. The difference in the various prices only means a better seat in a better location, according to the price paid. The one price, whatever is paid, entitles the holder of a ticket to see everything that is advertised in connection with the exhibition. There is a side show and a minstrel and vaudeville exhibition, to which sixpence is charged, but these form no part of the big show. Every seat, including the cheapest, is guaranteed to give a good view of the entire performance.

‘The Procession’………… All showman of any pretensions look to the glitter of gilt and tinsel and the brave spectacle of cavalcades to help their receipts, but Messrs. Barnum and Bailey have reduced this to a fine art, and it has been left to them to show the public what is possible in the way of big street pageants. The “greatest show on earth” seemingly throws out its greatest energies for this free display of its magnificent resources. This event, the features of which have been placarded on brilliant posters for weeks, has been looked forward to with keen interest, and on Friday morning we anticipate our main thoroughfares will be lined with crowds of sightseers. It is said the procession which will start from the show-ground, will be at least a mile in length, and will consist, amongst other things, of a platoon of police, mounted officers, a military band, a forty-horse team, seven open dens of wild beasts, a novel male choir, chimes drawn by six horses, lady performers, and side saddle experts, mounted ladies of the hippodrome, gentlemen hippodrome riders, two 2 horse Roman chariots with lady drivers, two 4-horse Roman chariots, band chariot drawn by ten horses, eight golden chariots containing wild beasts, triumphal chariots, caravan of camels with Asiatic riders, twenty performing elephants, two elephants with howdahs and Oriental beauties, band chariot drawn by six zebras, Japanese dragon chariot with performers, nursery characters in coaches, Blue Band chariot drawn by ten horses, seven golden cages containing rare animals, an organ chariot, a triumphal float, followed by the Columbus sections, Royal mace bearers and squad of eight Royal trumpeters, triumphal throne chariot of Ferdinand and Isabella, mounted grandees, nobles, cavaliers, knights and ambassadors, the Great Discoverer Christopher Columbus, an emblematic float, and a Calliope. It is arranged that the procession shall take place between 9 and 10 o’clock, and the order of the route will be St. John’s Road, London Road, High Street, Mount Pleasant, Monson-road, Calverley Road , Grosvenor Road, back through St. John’s Road to the Show Field. Spectators will be able to see a triumph in the art of coaching. On Friday morning 7s 6d and 4s seats can be booked at Mr. H. G. Groves, Pantiles Post Office.

THE COURIER OF July 19,1899

Given here in its entirety is an article entitled ‘ The Greatest Show on Earth At Tunbridge Wells-The Grand Procession-A Colossal Affair’.

On Friday morning last Messrs. Barnum and Bailey’s show arrived at Tunbridge Wells, and the anticipation of the last few weeks reached a climax when the much talked of visit became an accomplished fact. We are near enough to London to be familiar with the displays at Olympia, but, nevertheless, the interest excited locally is as keen as in any of the more remote districts which this great show visited, and judging from the crowds which lined the streets this morning, the visit of the premier showmen has created more interest than any recent event in the town.

But it is our first duty to deal with the arrival, which took place in the small hours of the morning. White’s Fields, St John’s, was the locale of this mammoth exhibition, which the complete organization of Messrs. Barnum and Bailey enables them to rear as if by magic. The Show with 840 persons engaged in it arrived in four trains, to which were attached 67 railroad cars, each of which is 54 feet long and built on the American plan. Automatic couplers, now the subject of much discussion, are used, with all the latest devices of the railway world. There are sleeping cars on the well-known Pull-man model, in which the show people rest as they move from place to place. The first of the trains arrived at the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway from Brighton at 12:30 in the morning, and was followed by the others, the last reaching Tunbridge Wells about 2:30. Reference has been made to the magic-like celerity with which the fields were transformed into a show field with huge tents, which all told number 17. One in-stance of the perfect system which prevails may be quoted as indicative of the whole. Messrs. Barnum and Bai-ley have with them their own caterers, with a staff of 12 cooks and 60 waiters, and, incredible, though it may seem, within 60 minutes of the arrival of the “range” van at the field, breakfast was ready for everyone, with the tables all laid in one of the large tents. Turning to the show, never has a meadow raised a so stupendous a crop in one night as was to be found here. Next to the size of the Show, probably the most striking feature of it is the extraordinary celerity and ease with which it is transported from town to town. The fabled palace of Aladdin was scarce moved with more dispatch. The secret, of course, is in the perfection and almost mechanical precision which characterizes the whole organization – animals as well as the men. Those whose duty or curiosity called them to the scene at that untimely hour declared that the process of unloading the hundreds of horse, wild animals, wagons, and accessories of the show was a really amazing spectacle.

Each wagon was drawn by teams of six and eight horses, and from all accounts the constant tramp of hoofs and the clatter of the hundred and odd heavily-laden vehicles, would make sleep well-neigh impossible for the residents in this particular neighborhood. When the miscellaneous freight was disgorged on the show area, was one of remarkable activity. The menagerie tent, owing to its dimensions, stood out conspicuously from the rest, but when the pavilion which is devoted to the performance, and is 600 feet long, was reared, it was dwarfed into comparative insignificance. A survey of the show in what may be termed its dishabile state formed a rather interesting study. In the southernmost tent were the blacksmiths and mechanics, of whom there are stated to be 75 engaged all year around. A short distance from this was the establishment of a coiffeur, who was counterfitting nature by dressing a wig of golden hair with all the necessaries of his art around him. The next tent was a gigantic structure, as it might well be, seeing that its contents consisted of 250 heavy horses, including a magnificent stud of greys, which a contingent of oatlers were grooming with practiced hands, whilst others were brushing up apparently endless lines of harness. Still nearer to the centre of the ground was the ring stud department, which contained 115 circus horses, representing a small fortune of value. The neighbor to this was the menagerie, a veritable Noah’s Ark, which betrayed its character by a babble of noises, chief among which was the trumpeting of a score of elephants; elsewhere on the grounds were dressing tents, side shows, and last but not least the cooking and dining tents. These are on a gigantic scale, which is readily understood when it is remembered that about 800 persons have to be provided for thrice a day. There are twelve cooks and 60 waiters, and it is stated to be the rule of the establishment that all get the same food – the stable boy has as good a meal as the proprietor.

Here is a sample lunch menu: soup, roast beef, Irish stew, turkey, potatoes, bread, coffee, and that indispensable item for an American, iced water. A day’s consumption of provisions includes 2,100 lbs. of meat, 700 lbs. of bread, 16 bushels of potatoes, 120 lbs. of coffee, and 5 lbs. of tea. Coffee is served at every meal. Before leaving the commissariat department, it may be added that the quantity of feeding stuff the horses and exhibition animals require daily includes 10 tons of hay and 156 bushels of oats, whilst for litter 10 tons of wheat straw is used per diem. The value of the 400 horses connected with the establishment is set down at £30,000.

The necessary sleeping accommodations for the army of artistes and workman connected with the show is met by the hiring of rooms in the towns visited, and the utilization of a dozen sleeping cars, including Mr. Bailey’s private car. In strolling through the show ground the visitor was confronted with so many unaccustomed sights that he might have doubted whether he had not been suddenly transported across the main to the New World. Almost everyone connected with the working staff of the show is either a native or a naturalized American. Everywhere the American accent fell upon one’s ears, and the tall, sturdy, big muscled fellows hard at work or at rest reminded one vividly of the Western types whom Mr. Frederic Remington portrays with such fidelity in the pages of Harper’s. Still further variety was added to the scene by the presence of Orientals in fez and flowing robes, and the members of the freak genus, who were indulging in a constitutional.

When the procession, which was a mile in length, emerged from the show-ground, where a large con-course of spectators had assembled, the mounted police assumed the lead, and from thence piloted it thorough the thoroughfares of the town. After the police, the band carriage led the way, the music from which told the throngs of spectators ahead of the approach of the cortege. There was nothing finer in the display than this first contingent. The chief achievement naturally was the harnessing of forty bays to the leading carriage. In this case the fittings are all the best-made harness, and the amount of leather, buckles, and adjustment involved may perhaps be imagined. It would not do for a single strap to be a single hole out, for the animals are entirely placed under the control of one man, and he literally and actual has his hands full. Jake Posey (image opposite) the hero in question, is a driver with a record to boast of. In his hands he holds the ribbons which guide the forty horses, and these alone mean dead weight to him of ninety pounds without allowance for a pull of an ounce. The horses are harnessed four abreast, and there are ten relays of them; driving around a corner in Sheffield recently Jake lost sight of practically all his team, yet he had them still under control! The horses are beautifully matched, of very even build as well as colour; nearly forty minutes were occupied in hitching them all in. Mr. Frank Hyatt, who had the general supervision of the out-o’-doors show for something like thirty years, was able to lead off the pageant as nine o’clock struck.

Carl Clair’s military band  was accommodated in the gilded car which “the forty” drew, and these led the procession, the musicians played. Immediately behind came seven open cages containing the handsome Bengal tigers, lions, leopards (one of which was quite black – a curiosi-ty), pumas, hyenas, Siberian wolves, and bears; each cage was also tenanted by an unconcerned keeper, who as far as appearance went, might have been in a cage with dummies. Following these was a “chimes van,” a pretty fancy, in which a performer at a key-board con-trolled a number of silver tubes, on which church bells were imitated. Sixteen lady riders in neat fawn or fancy costumes  ,and five gentlemen jockeys rode in front of a couple two-horse and a couple four-horse Roman chariots, and a handsome bandwagon with performers, which was drawn by a lovely team of blacks. Ten closed vans containing animals, but whose gilded exteriors were very picturesque, came next, being in advance of twelve camels, whose riders wore Egyptian or Arab costumes.

Sixteen elephants were headed by the huge beasts Mandarin and Fritz . The last was named is four inches less in height than was the historic Jumbo, but he weighs 1,200lb more. Teams of six ponies trotted along behind the elephants, affording a striking contrast in the poetry of motion; these drew cars on which were representations in tremendous carved figures of “Mother Goose,” and “Bluebeard.”

The Japanese troupe in a most appropriately coloured and shaped car, were body-guarded by a whimsical clown in a pony turn out, and after a band van and eight more closed animal wagons, the concluding section was reached. This was an endeavor to portray the return of Columbus after his important voyage. Proceeded by two heralds and the Royal trumpeters, the King and Queen of Spain, enthroned in elegance, were drawn, surrounded and escorted by Maids of Honour, and followed by quite a host of cavaliers, nobles, officers, Moors, and a detachment of golden-armoured knights , Columbus himself bringing up the rear with a trophy car, on which were an Indian wigwam, Indians, war materials, jewels, etc. The whole of these costumes were technically correct, according to history; they made an imposing sight.

The very last item in the cavalcade was a steam calliope, an invention much favored by Mississippi steamboats, and by which a whistle is worked with steam and so controlled that it can play various well-known airs. At the corners of each car were flown flags of all nations, the effect being decidedly good. The pro-cession which took twenty minutes to pass any given point, and which was more than a mile in length, followed the advertised route.

After surveying the whole procession, and reflecting thereon, probably the general conclusion will be that its greatest feature is the splendid display of horseflesh. The equine stud was the best of its kind, and every animal seemed in perfect condition so far as the momentary glances of each team could indicate. Probably no finer or more unique display of horses – not to speak of elephants and wild beasts – was ever presented before the public; and a word of praise must be added for the admirable way in which Chief Constable Prior regulated street traffic. The whole arrangements for the procession were, in fact, previously submitted for his approval. The fine weather, of course, added to the success of the spectacle.

To view this wonderful cavalcade the streets and the Common were utilized by the thousands of people, notwithstanding the unusually early hour of nine o’clock being the appointed time. In fact, long before the clocks of the town proclaimed that that hour the coigns of vantage were occupied, and no sooner was the sound of the drum and trumpet heard than work-man threw down their tools, hurried off their scaffolding, ladders, or whatever they were engaged upon and hurried to the route selected in time to catch a passing glimpse of the greatest show on earth.

Perambulators were much in evidence and from the number of school-children who were crowding about in all directions the early attendance rolls at the several schools of the town must have presented a somewhat singular appearance. The order of the procession, and the route selected was as notified on our sixth page. It was indeed a monster cavalcade for apparently “the greatest show on earth” throws out its greatest energies for this free display of its magnificent resources. The horses were many of them splendid animals, and all looked well- groomed and cared for, a grand contrast to the sorry spectacle on sometimes see in our streets on such occasions. They were richly caparisoned and fortunately the weather was all that could be desired so that they were able to be seen at their best.

Turning to the performance, no time was wasted, the opening parade, which was in part a repetition of the Columbus section of the street pageant, being immediately followed by three different batches of trained elephants, who occupied the rings and went through with their singular performances. It was impossible to see anything like all that was done, and later in the programme, when five different shows were going on at once, the bewilderment was greater than ever. By the exercise of wondrous agility it was possible to get a glimpse of everything, but the experiment is scarcely to be recommended; seemingly it would be better to go again, this evening, and by varying the seat watch what proceeds immediately in front of one, and be content with that.

The general exhibition defies description; to attempt anything like an adequate catalogue of what is to be seen would be to write a volume. Nearly two hours seemed all too short a time in which to “see” the animals in the menagerie properly, to say nothing of the human prodigies who are on view in the same tent. The monkey cages were naturally unending sources of amusement, hippopotamus, who obligingly opens his capacious and curious maw, the polar bears, who seem to have found an answer to the perpetual motion problem, the intelligent elephants, and the numerous odd creatures of Nature, were each and all worthy of a far more minute inspection than was possible. The prodigies had to be seen to be believed [see back cover]. Among them may be mentioned the wild men of Borneo, two curious little men who cannot speak, but who possess much intelligence; Hassen Ali, a gigantic young Egyptian, whose hand is a foot, and whose foot is nearly a yard; Khusani, a Hindu venerable, whose 22 inches of stature allow him to tip the beam at 24lb.; Lalloo, another wonderful Hindu who has a second body attached to his own; Chas. Tripp, a handless man; Delphi, an indescribable; A Yankee boy of seven who talks like a lawyer, and remembers figure phenomenally; Jo-Jo “the human sky-terrier,” who has the face of a dog covered with long hair; Miss Annie Jones, who boosts a luxurious beard ; Miss Ivy, the monster headed girl; Billy Wells, whose head seems intended for an anvil; Frank and Annie Howard, who are tattooed marvelously; James Morris, whose skin seems to be well mixed with gutta percha; Tomasso (image above), a young man who thrusts pins into himself in a most amazing manner; Alfonso, a negro who has a terrific appetite for tin tacks, wadding, paraffin oil, and other like delicacies; Delin Fritz, who swallows swords and bayonets and many other things. There are trained pigs too. Artistic performances by a clever Japanese couple, and lightning calculations by a gentleman who had “a system,” which he will communicate for a small consideration, are other noteworthy features.

In the side show tent, for which a small extra charge is made, very full value for the money is given. Just inside the door may be found “Zip,” P. T. Barnum’s famous “What is it?” by whose means he amassed a for-tune in 1864 in the old American Museum. Zip has a very small head of phenomenal shape; he was picked up at Singapore, by a sailor, and his value as an exhibit was at once seen by the late Show King. He cannot speak, but hears and understands tolerably; he is a “ward of the show,” and enjoys perfect health and, to him, an ideal existence. A snake charmer is next, a ventriloquist, and Eli Bowan, a legless man of great ability. At the far end a cat orchestra, in which real cats play real instruments, finds rooms, and on the other side are ranged Gamia, a strong man who lifts a 250lb. dumb-bell with ease; Prince Zamuda, a conjuror who does the Maskelynea box trick very smartly; and a needle swallower, whose appetite is as enormous as it is singular.

Large crowds gathered in the vicinity of the show and watched with interest every phase of the work of the erection as it was expeditiously carried on. Especially interested were they in the novel spectacle of witnessing a score of elephants being watered. The raising of the principle tent was a operation calling for great skill, patience, and no small amount of strength, but it was accomplished in a wonderfully short space of time, as also was the fitting of that mass of seats, which is built to accommodate 15,000 human beings.


Given in this section is some information about various members of this circus as listed in the Courier of July 1899 along with images of them.


“Zip the Pinhead,” originally exhibited in P. T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York as “What is it?” He was variously described in the press as a wild man from Borneo or Africa. The Tunbridge Wells Courier reported that he had been picked up by a sailor in Singapore, and also claimed, incorrectly, that he could not speak. His real name was William Henry Johnson (1842-1926), born in New Jersey to two former slaves. He performed in freak shows for 67 years, including at Coney Island in his old age.


Miss Annie Jones (1865-1902) was a famous bearded lady who began touring with P. T. Barnum as a child of nine months. She was married twice. An image of her is shown opposite.


Frank Hyatt now and for some years past the general superintendent of the Barnum & Bailey United Shows. Born at Jefferson Valley, Putnam Co., New York, Feb. 21, 1842, he first entered the show business in 1863, with the old Van Amburg & Co.’s Circus, where he remained until 1865, when the firm became Barnum & Van Amburg, and exhibited in this city on Broadway, between Spring and Prince Streets. After the dissolution of the latter firm, in 1870, he continued with Van Amburg until 1875, when he transferred his services to the Great London Circus an became its treasurer, occupying that position until the show closed at Augusta, Ga., in 1876. The next season he engaged with Adam Forepaugh in Chicago as manager, going to California and closing at Heywood, Cal. In 1877 he became a partner with Den Stone and George Bronson, the show closing at Chicago, Ill., in June of the same year. The following year he rejoined Mr. Forepaugh as advance agent, and made a tour of the South during the frightful epidemic of yellow fever prevalent that year. During 1878, 1879 and 1880 he was engaged with the Forepaugh Circus as assistant manager, going over to the Barnum Show again at the time of its consolidation with J. A. Bailey’s Great London Circus in 1881, where he remains at present. During Mr. Hyatt’s twenty-seven years in the circus business, he has filled every position connected with a show. [Died 1927] New York Clipper, March 16, 1889.


Shown opposite is a photograph of Carl Clair dated 1907 showing his 35 member band.

Carl Clair (née George Smith) was Barnum & Bailey’s premiere bandmaster from 1893 to 1907. Starting out with the King & Franklin Circus in the midwest, Clair moved on to Barnum & Bailey after Jim Robinson left the position vacant. He and his band of approximately 35 musicians accompanied the circus on its European tour, and he would remain with Barnum until his death in 1907, after which his lead bass player took over his role as music director.


In 1884 the wolf boy met one of P. T. Barnum’s many talent agents during a tour of Liverpool. He saw great profit in joining Barnum in America and did so that same year. It was there that he was given the name Jo-Jo ‘The Dog-Faced Boy’. During his time with Barnum he was billed as ‘The most prodigious paragon of all prodigies secured by P. T. Barnum in over 50 years’. At his first public unveiling he was met with audible gasps from the assembled media. His animalistic looks contrasted the neatly pressed and ornate Russian cavalry uniform he wore. Barnum fielded questions and, after members of the press were affirmed that Jo-Jo did not bite, they lined up and took turns tugging on his facial hair.

At times Jo-Jo lived up to his namesake by growling and snapping and members of the audience. A bite from Jo-Jo would have been nothing serious as his form of hypertrichosis robbed him of all but two teeth. At other times he was quiet and dignified. He was known to be a gentle and generous man. He was described by the New York Herald as being as playful as a puppy with his audiences and ‘the most absorbingly interesting curiosity to ever reach these shores’. He was an avid reader and spoke as many as five languages. Following his stint with Barnum he continued to tour the world. He briefly returned to the United States to join up with the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.

In 1904, during a tour of Greece, Jo-Jo contracted pneumonia. He died shortly thereafter at the age of 35 with no heirs or romances of note. However, when new of his passing reached the United States he was mourned by sideshow performers and enthusiast everywhere.

[6] LALLOO  

Laloo was born in Oudh, India as the second of four siblings in 1874. He was accompanied into this world by his parasitic twin brother who was little more than a headless mass of limbs attached to his breastbone.

Laloo was quite popular in nearly every big sideshow of his era, he traveled extensively and even worked with P. T. Barnum. His advertisements often billed him as the ‘Handsome, Healthy, Happy Hindoo’ – as ‘exotic’ acts and persons were all the rage in America at that time. Also, in a bit of common showmanship, he would often dress his brother as a girl and advertise the twin as his sister.

Laloo was also something of an rights activist and, in 1889, he participated in a well orchestrated protest to have sideshow performers referred to as “prodigies” and not “freaks”. The protest was successful and the word ‘freak’ fell out of common practice for quite some time.

By 1894 Laloo was married, to a average woman, and well off financially. Not only did he command great sums from his sideshow ventures, he also padded his income by offering to display his body to physicians for examinations at a great profit. It has been said that Laloo lived a very lavish lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Laloo died an early death in a train wreck in 1905 while working for the Norris and Rowe circus in Mexico.


During his time, Charles Tripp was not only the most well known armless wonder, he was also one of the most famous Canadian entertainers of his era. Born in Woodstock, Ontario on July 6, 1855 Charles Tripp owed much of his fame to his performance partner and dear friend Eli Bowen.

Charles Tripp was born without arms. But, as a young boy, he quickly adapted and became phenomenally adept at using his legs and feet as competently as a fully formed man would use their arms and hands. He was never exhibited during his youth but was well known locally for performing rather mundane daily tasks in extraordinary ways.

As a young man, Charles Tripp grew restless in his small hometown. As fortune would have it, at the age of seventeen, Charles heard of a showman in New York who exhibited special people with unusual talents. Seeing this as his opportunity for fame and fortune Charles Tripp packed his bags and headed to New York determined to meet the showman.All he had was a name, but that proved to be more than enough. The showman was P.T. Barnum.

Upon his arrival in New York, Tripp located Barnum’s office and marched in unannounced. Barefoot, he demonstrated his morning routine by combing his hair, folding his clothes and putting his socks on. Barnum hired Tripp immediately. His career would last more than fifty years.


He was known as ‘the man with the iron skull’ who allowed stones and boards to be broken on his head. His skull was reported to be three times thicker than a normal man. He would put a rock on head and would not even blink when it was smashed with a large hammer.


Frank and Annie Howard were siblings and came from America. Frank had been born 1857 in Providence, Rhode Island. At an early age he became a sailor and was so interested in tattoos that his body was eventually covered with them. Annie was also so inclined and for many years the couple toured with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  They said that they had been shipwrecked and rescued by South Sea savages who forcibly tattooed them, but in actual fact most of Annie’s tattoos were done by her brother. In the 20th century Frank left the sideshow circuit and became the owner of the biggest tattoo shop in America.


James Morris was born in Copenhagen New York in 1859 and used his unique talent to amuse friends and coworkers from a young age. His ability to stretch his skin as much as eighteen inches from his body, with no perceivable pain, made him incredible popular with officers when he joined the military. Those officers invited reporters and journalists to witness Morris’s unusual talent and from there Morris was recruited by several circuses, sideshow and dime museums. By 1885 he was world traveled and joined up with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.



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