ALL ABOUT
TUNBRIDGE WELLS

Page 5

 

 

THE MEAD SCHOOL OF TUNBRIDGE WELLS

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

Date: November 18,2018

OVERVIEW

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells is one of several private prep schools by the same name that can be found in Britain. The education that the schools provided to girls and boys was based generally on Christian principals. The Mead’s Mission is to ensure that a minimum high standard is achieved for all Meadites to feel success whilst also working relentlessly towards the ambition which is for all Meadites to make outstanding Pastoral, Artistic and Academic progress.

The history of the Mead School in Tunbridge Wells dates back to at least the early 1970’s when it is referred to fondly by students who attended it as “The Old Mead School”, which school was founded by Miss Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis (1904-1987) at her residence of No. 1 Linden Gardens. The school was comparatively small with a student population of about 30.

When Lilian retired from teaching and running the school (circa 1980) it was still operating on a firm foundation but after her retirement the school went into a state of decline. Planning Authority records from 1986 up to the time of her death refer to applications made by Lilian and later the executors of her estate to redevelop the site of her residence and adjacent grounds which included the demolition of her home. Lilian’s health failed and was admitted to The Clarence Nursing Home at 3-4 Clarence Road, Tunbridge Wells, where she died November 3,1987.

Upon Lilian’s death the fate of the Mead School entered a phase of uncertainty and in the 1980’s another central figure in the history of the school appeared in the form of a teacher by the name of Michael Robin Dence, most often referred simply as Robin Dence (1929-1998).  The Dence family resided at ‘Braidswood’ a large 2 sty residence located at 1 Linden Park Road, constructed by local builder Louis Beale & Sons in the late 19th century. It was his intention to carry on the Mead School after Miss Lewis. Planning Authority records for the period leading up to 1983 note several applications by Robin Dence for approval to redevelop his residence including conversion of the home into a school. He was however unsuccessful in this endeavour and sold the property to a developer who subsequently demolished the home and constructed a seniors home that exists today by the name of ‘Regency Hall’.

Upon the sale of ‘Braidswood’ Robin Dence purchased a 19th century private residence called ‘Northcote’ at 16 Frant Road. The earliest reference to him at 16 Frant Road was an application by him in 1983 for Planning Authority approval for “ The Mead School 16 Frant Road” where he requested and received approval for a change in use from residential to a private school. Further applications for approval for work on the building were made in 1985,1986 and lastly in in 1987 when he received approval to add a new wing to the school for kindergarten, gymnasium, additional classrooms and living accommodation. In this work a former teacher and naval man by the name of Noel Gallagher (sp) ,who Robin had known from his time teaching at Skippers School in the late 1970’s, undertook maintenance work on the premises and apparently assisted Robin Dence in the operation of the school.  During the era of Robin Dence a little private school in Southborough called ‘Hillycroft School” (given variously as Hilly Croft) relocated and merged with the Mead School at 16 Frant Road.

In 1987 the history of the Mead School entered its third phase when in August of that year an experienced and much respected teacher by the name of Angela Culley purchased the school from Robin Dence. In an email to me Angela stated that the school building was in sad shape and that there was “really no school to buy” having only 12 students and the building itself “was in a horrific state, dead birds, muck and a toilet in a cupboard in the kitchen”.

Anglea Culley decided to keep the name ‘Mead School’ in honour of its founder Lilian Lewis and from 1987 onwards, up to the time of her retirement in 2017 ,the school prospered enhancing her reputation and the school itself as a formidable teaching institution. The school building itself underwent a number of changes during the time of Mrs Culley and today it is run by Andrew Webster who took over in September 2017. In an article about his appointment it was stated “ The Mead School is a very popular and high achieving school, and the quality of its applicants is impressive”. In Andrew the school found a gentlemen with impressive experience as a teacher and leader and under his leadership the school continues to prosper.

In this article I present the history of the Mead School in three parts. Part one reports on the school during the Lilian Lewis era. Part 2 reports on the school during the Michael Robin Dence era and Part 3 the history of the school during the Angela Culley era.  Included in the article are a number of photographs and comments about the school from former students. Of particular importance in telling the story about the school is direct input in the form of information and photographs supplied by Angela Culley and by Judith Gower (the niece of Robin Dence), input that I am most grateful for.

I specifically want to thank Angela and Judith for their valuable contribution, in the form of first- hand knowledge, about the school and certain key figures reported on in this article.

PART 1-THE LILIAN LEWIS ERA

In this section I report on the history of The Mead School from the time she founded it at her home located at No. 1 Linden Gardens circa 1970 up to the time of her retirement and death in November 1987. Included in this section are a series of group photographs taken at her school, that according to those who submitted them ( teachers and students) cover the period of 1974 to 1976.  Information is presented in various subsections about Lilian Lewis and her family; the building at 1 Linden Gardens, and the school itself.

[1] LILIAN LEWIS AND HER FAMILY 

Lilian Lewis, often referred to as “Miss Lewis” never married and came from a respectable family with firm religious convictions. She was born as Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis July 25,1904 in Farnborough, Hampshire (image opposite).  Her birth was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1904 in the registration district of Hartley Wintney, County of Hampshire.

Farnborough is situated in northeast Hampshire near the boundary with Surrey. The River Blackwater forms part of the boundary. It is located 34 miles (55 km) southwest of London and 16 miles (26 km) east of Basingstoke, directly to the south of junction 4 of the M3 motorway. The town lies at the centre of the Blackwater Valley conurbation, which includes Aldershot, Camberley, Yateley, Sandhurst, Frimley and Farnham. Farnborough was founded in Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The town is probably best known for its association with aviation.

According to the 1911 census, Lilian was one of six children born to Alfred John Lewis (1882-1954), a carpenter, born March 7,1882 in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and Lilian Lewis,nee Scudder (1875-1959) born July 14,1875 in Mottingham, Kent. Her parent’s marriage was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1903 at Farnham,Surrey. Lilian Scudder, in 1902, was living with her parents and siblings in Chertsey, Surrey. Lilian was their eldest child.  Lilian’s siblings were (1) Alfred John Wicliffe Lewis (1904-1964) who became an architect (2) Stanley Philip Lewis (1907-1972) (3) George Miller Lewis(1908-1971) who in 1939 was working as a civil servant with the post office in the engineering department (4) Charles Arthur Raymond Lewis (1910-1979) (5) Alick Neil Lewis (1911-1996).  As the only daughter in the family Lilian was doted on. Lilian began her early education in Farnborough.

Alfred John Lewis was one of several children born to George Lewis born 1847 and Mary A. Lewis, born 1850. At the time of the 1901 census, taken at Queens Road in Farnborough,Hampshire George Lewis was a mineral water maker worker. With him was his wife Mary Ann; his daughter Eleanor,age 15 and his son Alfred John Lewis a carpenters apprentice.

Lilian Scudder was one of several children born to John Skudder, born 1855 in Chiselshurst,Kent and Elizabeth Scudder, born 1853 in Essex. Lilian was baptised July 30,1876 at Saint John the Baptist church at Eltham, Greenwich. Her parents were living at Mottingham,Kent at the time of her birth and her farther was working as a labourer. At the time of the 1881 census, taken at 13 Nash’s Cottage in Bromley, Kent John Skudder was a general labourer, With him was his wife Elizabeth and three of his children including his daughter Lilian. At the time of the 1891 census, taken at 32 Waldo’s Road in Bromley John was working as a stoker. With him was his wife Elizabeth and his children George and Albert and Lilian who was working as a general servant. At the time of the 1901 census Lilian Scudder was living on the town of Ash, Surrey and working as a laundress employer with two women boarders who were working for her as ironers and washers.

The Lewis family lived in Farnborough until they moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1911, based on the birth records of the Lewis children, all of whom being born in Farnborough except for Alick who was born in Tunbridge Wells. Upon arriving in Tunbridge Wells Lilian attended a local school up to the age of 13. Which school(s) she attended were not determined.

The 1911 census, taken at 2 Rosehurst Villas on Woodland Road, Tunbridge Wells (image opposite)  gave Alfred John Lewis as a carpenter. With him was his wife Lilian and their children Lilian, Alfred, Stanley and George, all of whom were in school. The census recorded that the  Lilian’s parents had been married seven years and that all five of their children were still living. Alick Neil Lewis was born in Tunbridge Wells July 19,1911 after this census was taken.

Woodland Road runs north from Silverdale Road up to  Holmwood Road and on this road are two sty red brick homes, predominately semi-detached residences typically of about 8 rooms but also 2 sty red brick terraced homes such as 2 Rosehurst Villas typically of 6 rooms with 2-3 bedrooms.

Although the Lewis family were certainly not wealthy, they were at least comfortable.  Alfred John Lewis was able to provide his children with a good education with his wife instilling in their children good Christian principles, principles which Lilian followed and which in part led to her eventually establishing the Mead School.

Alfred John Lewis served during WW1. Military records show him as #76875 and that in 1917 he was with the RAF.

When Lilian left the family home was not determined but it is clear from a 1939 list that she remained in Tunbridge Wells and had by that time moved on to persue  her teaching career.

The 1939 list of occupants of 24 Eastcliff Road in Tunbridge Wells gave Alfred John Lewis as born July 7,1887 and working as a builders decorator. With him was his wife Lilian given as born July 14,1875 working as the home in domestic duties; his son Stanley born March 7,1905 working as an estimating clerk and foreman; his son Alick, born July 19,1911 who was a motor transport heavy worker and Charles Arthur Raymond Lewis, born April 3,1910 who was working as a refuse disposer.

A second list for 1939 taken at 10 Sutherland Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis as born July 15,1904 and working as a school mistress. With her was Edith H. Divall a single lady born 1874 with the occupation of “Authoress” and her daily companion Doris V. Divall a single lady born 1906 and Eva D. Hewett a single lady born in 1881 who was living on own means. Shown opposite is a view of her residence, a 2 sty terrace located just south of Grove Hill Road on the west side, described by estate agents as a home with four bedrooms.

Probate records gave Alfred John Lewis of 24 Eastcliff Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died February 17,1954 at the Kent & Sussex Hospital. The executors of his 6,462 pound estate were his son Alfred John Wicliffe Lewis, architect and Robert Lee Marshall, master builder. He was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery. His son Charles Arthur Raymond Lewis died August 27,1979 at 24 Eastcliff Road.

Alfred’s widow Lilian died in Tunbridge Wells in April 1959 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery April 27th.

Where Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis lived and worked after 1939 was not established but it is with reasonable certainty that she remained in Tunbridge Wells given that she later took up residence at 1 Linden Gardens at least by 1970 at which place she founded the Mead School and at which place she remained until the early 1980’s until failing health forced her to move to the Clarence Nursing Home. Shown opposite is a photo (an enlargement) of Lilian taken in 1974 from a Mead School group photo. She is the lady wearing glasses clad in the black and white dress.

Probate records gave Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis of The Clarence Nursing Home 3-4 Clarence Road, Tunbridge Wells when she died there November 3,1987 leaving an estate valued at 189,062 pounds, Lilian was buried November 12,1987 at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.  Today 3-4 Clarence Road is called ‘Rose Hill House’ (image opposite). A Planning Authority application in 1998 was approved for the conversion of the Clarence Nursing Home building into flats.



More about her residence and school at 1 Linden Gardens is given in the next subsection.

[2] 1 LINDEN GARDENS/MEAD SCHOOL

The significance of 1 Linden Gardens in the history of the Mead School is that this building was the residence of Lilian Frances Elizabeth Lewis since about 1970 up to the time of her death in 1987 , in which building she founded the Mead School. In this section I provide a list of known occupants of the building and details about some of them. Also give are some maps showing the location of the building and information pertaining to it found in the records of the Planning Authority. Also given are a group of photographs of Miss Lewis ; the teaching staff, and the pupils of the school during the period of 1974-1976.

The land on which Linden Gardens was constructed was owned ,like much of the land in the town ,by the Marquess of Abergavenny (the Nevill family). Early maps show Linden Gardens as an unlabelled private lane providing access to a building and land at the western end of the lane. Today, it is still considered to be a private road, for not even Google maps provides street views of the homes later built on it, although its name began to appear later on maps as Linden Gardens.

On maps up to at least 1852 the site of Linden Gardens is given as “Sussex Gardens” and shown as a woodland. By 1868 a small network of roads was extended into the site , including what became known as Montacute Road which towards the north branched off into Linden Park Road. The development of Linden Park, is described in the book ‘ The Residential Parks of Tunbridge Wells began in the late 19th century and some brief information in this regard is given in the second section of this article in reference to the ‘Robin Dence Era’.  

By the 1890’s some construction of homes on Linden Gardens began including No. 1 Linden Gardens. On this map the future site of 1 Linden Gardens is marked as plot 154.

When No. 1 Linden Gardens was constructed was not established but obviously (from occupancy records)sometime in the late 1900’s.  Given below, from a review of local directories, census records and other sources( such as Planning Authority records) is a partial list of known occupants. There are many gaps in the occupancy record and it appears evident that all of the early occupants rented the premises from the Marquess and many did not reside there long enough to appear in census records, and for that reason little definitive information is known about them. It should be noted from the list below that the original 1 Linden Gardens was demolished circa 1990 and that on the site two new homes were built, namely 1 and 3 Linden Gardens and so listings of occupants after that year are for the new house and not the original structure.

1899……………Charles Berg, 1 Linden Gardens

1903……………Misses Ditmas 1 Linden Gardens

1922-1932……Charles Reginald Holmes

1934……………. Mrs Mary Adele Holmes (the widow of above)

1960…………….Amy Elizabeth Maud Blundell

1970-1987……Miss Lilian Florence Elizabeth Lewis

1987-1989……The executors of the estate of Miss L.H.E Lewis

1991……………. Mrs P. Rhodes

2007…………….Miss A. McAline

2009……………Mr Peter Levewspilz

Before providing some information about the above occupants given below is information pertaining to 1 Linden Gardens from the Planning Authority files from 1974 onwards. It was noted that none of the applications refer to the conversion of what began as a private residence into a school by Lilian Lewis and so one can conclude that any work done on the house to convert into a school took place before 1974.  A comparison of maps over several years show that originally 1 Lindon Gardens had a more or less rectangular footprint but sometime in the early 20th century and before 1974 several alterations and at least one addition was made to the building, and it is to be expected that when Lilian Lewis moved into the premises and converted it into both her residence and school that a number of changes to the building were made, which work may have included an extension to the premises to accommodate classrooms etc.

In 1986, the first application found since 1974 for 1 Linden Gardens was for April 1986 when an application was made under the name of “Miss L.F.E. Lewis” for an access road; 5 terrace houses and car parking on the site of Mead Cottage”. This proposed development ,as shown on the map opposite, was for partial development of the west half of the grounds on which 1 Linden Gardens was located. As one can see from the map the house/school occupied the eastern half of rather extensive grounds and the application called for the severing off the western half with a road off Linden Gardens leading to the proposed new homes at the rear of the site. The “Mead Cottage” ,so named after the Mead School,was no doubt once the gardeners cottage associated with the main house. This application was approved but the work not carried out immediately. A second application was made in July 1987 by Mid Sussex Builders for “five terrace houses with integral garage on site of Mead Cottage, Linden Gardens”. This application was also approved but the work not carried out at that time. A third application was a renewal  for three terrace houses with three garages with parking and turns on the site of Mead Cottage. This application was made by “the executors of Miss L.F.E. Lewis deceased” dated June 15,1889 with the firm of Messrs Bracketts of 27-19 High Street acting as agents for the executors. Once again this work was approved as one can see from maps of that era the access road and new homes were built. From these planning applications it is clear that Lilian Lewis had intended to sell the western half of her property to Mid Sussex Builders perhaps conditional on these builders obtaining planning approval to redevelop the site. Although such approval was granted the sale of the site to the builders did not take place and instead the executors of Lilian’s estate had to deal with the sale/development of the property in 1989.

Having disposed of the west half of the grounds of 1 Linden Gardens, an application for Planning Authority approval was made in September 1986 for three terraced houses and garages on the site of 1 Linden Gardens. A map for this application is shown opposite and the work called for the demolition of the former Mead School building to make way for the new homes. The application was approved but the development of the property was altered and built on the site instead was two 2 sty red brick homes given the address of 1 and 3 Linden Gardens. Shown above is a map from 2009 showing the existence of the two new homes.

Shown opposite is a photograph of the new homes built at 1 and 3 Linden Gardens which appeared in a Planning Authority file retaining to an application dealing with fences, gates and walls.

(1)  CHARLES BERG

From the list of occupants nothing definitive was found for Charles Berg apart from a listing of him at 1 Linden Gardens in a 1899 directory. He was not found in census records of Tunbridge Wells for either 1891 or 1901.  A 1901 census for Linden Gardens was found but although listings for other homes on this road were found no listing for No. 1 was given suggesting that it was unoccupied or that the resident was absent.

(2)  MISSES DITMAS  

The first occupant for which some information was found was for the “Misses Ditmas” who were listed in a 1903 directory at 1 Linden Gardens.  The two sisters were Jessie Florence Ditmas who was born in the 1st qtr of 1855 in Beverley, Yorkshire and her sister Elena Ditmas  born 1854 in Beverley. Jessie was baptised February 21,1855 at Saint John and Saint Martin, Beverley and given as the daughter of Frederick(born 1812) and Laura Isabella Ditmas, nee Boghurst (1824-1900).  Jessie was one of eleven children in the family, children that were born between 1851 and 1866.  Shown opposite is an image showing Laura Isabella Boghurst to the right of her sister Emily.

The 1861 census, taken at Morland Road in Beverly, Yorkshire gave Frederick Ditmas  as age 49 and on the army list. With him was his wife Laura and their seven children, including Emily, Laura, Elena, Jessie, Euphemia, Leil and Shaffesbury. Also there were four servants.

At the time of the 1871 census Jessie and her siblings were living with their parents in Yorkshire.

The 1881 census, taken at 19 Victoria Road in Dover gave Laura Ditmas as a widow and officers wife born 1824 in Beverley, Yorkshire. With her was her children (1) Jessie Florence (2) Octavia A, age 19 (3) Frank B, age 15 (4) Alfred R,age 15, Also there was one visitor and three domestic servants.

The 1891 census, taken at Ventnor, Hampshire gave Jessie and her sister Leila B. Ditmas,age 33, living as visitors with the George H. Brittain family.

The 1901 census, taken at 6 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells gave Jessie F. Ditmas as single  with her sister Elena, a spinster, both of whom were living as visitors to Mary Ann Padwick, a 57 year old widow with the occupation of “caretaker”. Also there was one domestic servant.

A directory of 1903 gave the two sisters living at 1 Linden Gardens. They were not found there in the 1911 census or subsequent directories. Shown opposite is a photo of Jessie and her sister Elena taken in Tunbridge Wells about 1903.

In the period of 1928 to 1931 Jessie was living at 98 Beech House in Reigate, Surrey.

Probate records gave Jessie Florence Ditmas as a spinster who died December 11,1949 in Surrey  and who was of 13 Clyde Road, Croydon. She had died at The Birdhurst Nursing Home at 4 Birdhurst Road in Croydon. The executor of her 2,476 pound estate was Laura Margaret Holycritde, spinster and her solicitor.

Probate records for Elena Ditmas gave her of 2 Lansdown Road in Croydon when she died April 1,1933 at 25 Lansdown Road. The executor of her 1,021 pound estate was her solicitor.

(3) THE HOLMES FAMILY

The next occupant of 1 Linden Gardens for which information was found is the Holmes family, details of which are given below. Records note their occupancy of this residence throughout the period of 1922 to 1934.

The branch of the family who resided at 1 Linden Gardens was Charles Reginald Holmes (1863-1931) and his wife Mary Adele Holmes, nee Williams (born 1852).

Charles Reginald Holmes was born 1862 in Eldersfield, Worcestershire, one of  ten children born to Rev. Richard Homes (1824-1893) who was born 1824 in St Edmunds, Suffolk and died at Upton on Severn, Worcestershire. Charles mother was Margaret Anne Holmes,nee Kent,  born 1826 at Upton on Severn, Worcestershire and died 1893 at Upon on Severn.  Charles was baptised August 28,1862 at Eldersfield.

The 1871 census, taken at The Vicarage in Eldersfield gave Richard Holmes as the Vicar of Eldersfield (image opposite). With him was his wife Margaret and five of their children , including their son Charles. Also there were two domestic servants.

The 1881 census, taken at 68 Hamingford Road in Islington, London gave Charles Reginald Holmes with his brother Alfred John Holmes living at lodgers at the residence of Sarah Hutton. Charles at that time was working as a commercial clerk wine merchant and his brother a commercial clerk East India trade.

The 1891 census, taken at 41-43 Norwood, St Mary, London gave Charles Reginald Holmes working as a commercial clerk and living as a boarder.

The 1901 census, taken at 1 Beverley Road in Barnes, Surrey gave Charles Reginald Holmes as a commercial clerk. Living with him was his spinster sister Margaret Ann Holmes and one domestic servant.

On September 19,1902 Charles Reginald Holmes married Mary Adele Williams who was born 1876 in Llandovery, Wales. The marriage took place at Bisley, St John the Baptist Church, Surrey (image opposite).

Charles and his wife Mary had a daughter, Katherine Esther Homes who was born 1909 in Barnes, Surrey and was the only child born to the couple by the time the 1911 census was taken. The 1911 census, taken at 14 Woodlands Road in Barnes, Surrey, a residence of 9 rooms, gave Charles as a shipping clerk. With him was his wife Mary; their daughter Katherine , one nurse and one domestic servant.

Moving ahead to 1922 is found from a directory of that year a listing for Charles Reginald Holmes at 1 Linden Gardens.

Probate records gave Charles Reginald Holmes of 1 Linden Gardens when he died December 18,1931. His wife Mary Adele Holmes was the executor of his 8,962 pound estate and after her husband’s death she continued to live at this home as recorded in a directory of 1934.

Mary Catherine Rose Holmes (1865-1931), one of the spinster sisters of Charles Reginald Holmes was living with her brother at 1 Linden Gardens. Probate records gave her of 1 Linden Gardens when she died December 31,1931 at St Ives Hotel Heene-terrace, Worthing. The executors of her 8,048 pound estate were Katherine Esther Homes ( Charles’s daughter), a spinster, and Mary Adele Holmes, (Charles’s widow).

The National Archives has in their collection a record reporting that on May 8,1934 1 Linden Gardens was sold by the Marquess of Abergavenny to Mrs Mary Adele Holmes.

The last year in which Mary Adle Holmes occupied the home was not established and nor was the year and place of her death.

(4)    AMY ELIZABETH MAUD BLUNDELL

A record of Amy as the occupant of 1 Linden Gardens was given in the London Gazette of May 27,1960 in which was recorded that she was of 1 Linden Gardens, Tunbridge Wells, a widow, who died March 3,1960 at 54 Marine Parade, Brighton. The executors of her estate were Percy Joseph Blundell, a fruiterer and Joseph Charles Blundell, a fruiterer, and Winifred Rosina Tapp, a married women. Amy was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery March 9th.

Amy was born as Amy Elizabeth (Lizzie) Buttler in the 4th qtr of 1875 at Kensington,London. She was baptised November 18,1875 at Pennington St Mary Magdalene Church in Westminster and given as the daughter of George Lam Buttler (an accountant) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Buttler or Woodfield Crescent. Amy’s name and that of other members of her family is often given in the alternative as “Butler”.

George Lam Buttler was born 1841 in Hanover Square and his wife Elizabeth Buttler, nee Leonard, was born 1839 in Salisbury, Wiltshire (died 3rd qtr 1920 at Harrow, London).

The 1881 census, taken at 55 Arlington Road in Paddington gave George Lamb “Butler” as an accountant. With him was his wife Elizabeth and six of their children, including Amy. The children had been born between 1866 and 1879 with Amy and the older children attending school.

The 1891 census, taken at 6 Maude Terrace in Walthamstow, Essex gave George “Buttler” as an accountant employing others. With him was his wife Elizabeth and their children Amy, Agnes and Frank, all of whom were attending school.

In the 4th qtr of 1904 Amy Elizabeth Maud “Butler” married Joseph Charles Blundell at Sevenoaks, Kent.

Joseph Charles Blundell was born in the 2nd qtr of 1874 at Shoreham,Kent. A postcard view of Shoreham by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn is shown opposite.  The 1881 census taken at Sepham Heath Halstead Lane at Shoreham,Kent  gave Joseph Charles Blundell and his four siblings living with their parents . His father Joseph was a fruit grower on property of five acres. The Blundell family were all connected with the fruit growing industry as noted in the 1881 census which next door to or in close proximity to Joseph Charles Blundell where (1) Charles Blundell, age 74, fruit grower of 7 acres employing two boys, and his family (2) Charles Blundell, age 35, fruit grower on 30 acres employing three men, with his wife and four children (3) James Blundell, age 50, fruit grower employing four men. With him was his wife and children.

The 1891 census, taken at Oxford Lane in Shoreham, Kent gave Joseph Charles Blundell a fruit growers assistant living with his parents Joseph and Rosina and six siblings. His brother Harry,age 19, was also a fruit growers assistant and Charles father Joseph was a fruit grower employing others. Other members of the Blundell, engaged in the fruit growing industry were living nearby.

The 1901 census, taken at London Road in Shoreham, Kent gave Joseph Charles Blundell as a fruit grower on own account. He was living with his parents Rosina and Joseph, a fruit grower and proprietor of a coffee refreshment shop, and  three of his siblings. His brother Harry was also a fruit grower on own account.

The 1911 census, taken at 164 High Street in the town of Tonbridge gave Joseph Charles Blundell as born 1875 in Shoreham, Kent. With him was his wife Amy and their children (1) Winifred (age 5).Winifred had been born August 24,1906 at Shoreham, Kent. In 1936 she married Alfred P. Tapp and had a daughter Wendy J.R. Tapp (later Burgess September 27,1963) born June 27,1937. In 1939 Alfred, shopkeeper grocer, and his wife Winifred and their daughter were living at Litteholme , Crowborough, Uckfield, Sussex. Winifred died in the 2nd qtr of 1986 at Hastings and Rother, Sussex.  (2) Percy Joseph (age 4) (3) Joseph Charles Blundell,born October 28,1908. In the 4th qtr of 1934 he wed Irene Elizabeth Blundell (born March25,1909). Joseph became a fruiterer and in 1939 was living with his wife in Tunbridge Wells at 7 Mount Sion. Joseph died June 13,2001 at Oakfeld,Sussex but was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium June 22nd.

The 1911 census recorded that Joseph and his wife had been married seven years and that they had three children who were all still living. At this time Joseph Charles Blundell was a fruit grower and a fruiterer shop proprietor. Percy Joseph Blundell (1907-1989) (photo above right) married Nory Fry (1917-1987) (photo above left) in Tonbridge in the 4th qtr of 1939. Nora died in Tunbridge Wells in the 2nd qtr of 1987 and Percy died in Tunbridge Wells June 22,1989.

Probate records gave Joseph Charles Blundell of 79A High Street, Tunbridge Wells when he died August 14,1924. The executor of his 200 pound estate was his widow Amy Blundell.

(5) LILIAN FLORENCE ELIZABETH LEWIS 

Details about Lilian were given earlier in this article. She had moved into 1 Linden Gardens circa 1970 and had the premises converted into both her private residence and the Mead School. Shown here and below are some photographs taken at the school in the period of 1974-1976 in which Lilian can be seen with other members of staff and pupils of the school. In one of the images can be seen the back of the building, which appears to have been constructed of red brick covered with white render. Unfortunately more photographs of the building itself were not located.













The Facebook website, from which site the photographs were obtained, were submitted by former pupils and members of staff. Of Miss Lewis Carol Rhodes said “she was a lovely lady, strict but in a nice way”.

Robert  Harkins said “ I remember Miss Lewis, a sweet lady. The school went downhill after she passed away. Good to see it back on top again”.













Angela Culley in an email to me stated in part “ Mr Dence (who your will read about in the next section of this article) had known Miss Lewis for some years as his parents had lived in Linden Gardens (actually at 1 Linden Park). When Miss Lewis retired he bought The Mead School from her. She sold her bungalow for development and there are now town houses on its site. I kept the name of The Mead simply because it seemed a nice thing to do. In her heyday Miss Lewis was clearly dearly loved and highly respected. Over the years I have been lucky enough to meet some of her former pupils and all speak very warmly of their time in her care. She was a very Christian lady and I like to think she would be thrilled to know that The Mead under my care was registered as a Christian school and ran much on Christian principals. The original Mead School was tiny, I believe circa 30 pupils run from Miss Lewis’ home…”.

With this I end my coverage of The Mead School during the era of Miss Lilian Florence Elizabeth Lewis .In the next section is the continuing story of the history of The Mead School during the time of Michael Robin Dence.

(6)  MRS P. RHODES

The only information about Mrs Rhodes comes from a April 1991 Planning application by her for ‘Two 4BR detached dwellings, land at 1 Linden Gardens. This application was appoved. The result of which was the demolition of the old house and its replacement with two new homes. A photo of these new homes is given elsewhere in this article along with a site map.

PART 2- THE MICHAEL ROBIN DENCE ERA

In the last paragraphs of the preceding section Angela Cully described that Lilian Lewis and Michael Robin Dence ( most often referred to simply as Robin Dence) were both members of the teaching profession and that both of them lived in Tunbridge Wells in the years leading up to the death of Lilian Lewis in 1987. Lilian’s home at 1 Linden Gardens was not far from the Dence residence called ‘Braidswood’ at 1 Linden Park Road and obviously the two came know one another. Angela Culley stated that when Lilian retired Robin Dence took an interest in taking over the Mead and “bought it from Miss Lewis”.

As you will read later Robin attempted in the 1980’s to convert his residence at 1 Linden Park Road into a school which suggests that his connection with the school at 1 Linden Gardens had ended and that it was his intention to re-establish the Mead School at his home. He however was not able to receive Planning Authority approval for this and after a few other unsuccessful redevelopment attempts sold off his home to developers and bought the former grand residence at 16 Frant Road and converted it into The Mead School. The operation of the school during his time, as you will read later ,was not very successful and in 1987 he sold the school building to Angela Cully who put the school on a firm foundation. I begin my coverage of Michael Robin Dence with the following sub-section about him and his family.

(1) THE DENCE FAMILY

Michael Robin Dence was born May 21,1929 at Ticehurst Sussex. He was one of two known children born to Alexander Frank Dence (1897-1976) and Nesta Violet Dence, nee Hermitage (1899-1980. The only other child known to be born to Alexander and Nesta was Helen Mary Dence. Judith Gower ,who I thank for contributing information for this article,was the niece of Michael Robin Dence, who replying to my inquires reported on her own first-hand knowledge of the family and that of her mother and even Nesta.

Alexander Frank Dence was one of nine children born to Arthur Thomas Dence (1871-1931) and Ethel Mary Dence, nee Searle (1875-1956). Alexander Frank Dence was born August 24,1897 at Teddington, Middlesex. Shown opposite is a photograph of Arthur Thomas Dence.

Alexander Frank Dence had been living with his parents and siblings in Surrey from about 1900 until 1909.  The 1901 census, taken at ‘Hillside’ in the town of Byfleet, Surrey gave Alexander living with his parents and two siblings and three servants.

At the time of the 1911 census he was living as a boarder in Dorset at a boys school (College House, 6 Westerhall Road).

Alexander served with the British Army during WW1 from 1914 until 1918. Military records gave him of the University of London and that he was a Lieut with the Gloucester Regiment with a reference to the London Hospital.

In the 3rd qtr of 1922 Alexander Frank Dence married Nesta Violet Hermitage (1899-1980) and with her had two children (1) Michael Robin Dence (1929-1998) (2) Helen Mary Dence.

Nesta Violet Dence, nee Hermitage, was born July 3,1899 at Eastbourne, Sussex. Her parents were Lindsey Herbert Hermitage (1871-1958) and Ellen Joanna Allston Hermitage ,nee Bindon born 1869).  Ellen was the daughter of Stephen Bindon (1830-1920) who ran an upholsterers shop and his wife Sarah Ann Bindon,nee Wright who assisted her husband in the business along with Stephen’s two nieces.  Ellen’s middle name is sometimes given in records as “Alberta” rather than Allston.  Several variations of Ellen’s name is given in official records of birth, marriage, census, death etc. Judith Gower stated that Ellen was always known as “Nellie” and even signed her cheques as Nellie. At least one census record gave her name as Nellie. Nesta had a sister Leila Doris Hermitage, born 1904 in Eastbourne. Nesta’s parents were married in 1898.  Shown opposite is the wedding photo of Lindsay and Ellen, taken at a photo studio in Eastbourne, Sussex. Shown below left is a photograph Lindsay, Ellen (Nellie) and Nesta Hermitage. To the right of it is a photograph of Leila and Nesta Hermitage.

 









At the time of the 1901 census Lindsay and his wife and daughter Nesta were living at 17 Lewes Road in Eastbourne where Lindsay was a merchant selling pianos and had assistants working for him. He was still running his piano shop at 17 Lewes Road at the time of the 1911 census and living with him was his wife and two daughters.

By October 6,1912 Lindsay (who was admitted to the Freemasons in Tunbridge Wells on that date) and his family moved to Tunbridge Wells where he established his piano dealers shop at 53 High Street and lived at 3 Cumberland Gardens. By this time his business operated under the name of “ Lindsay Hermitage Limited/Ltd. A postcard view of his shop is shown opposite.

Directories show that Lindsay lived at 3 Cumberland Gardens from 1913 to about 1920, and from at least 1922 to 1938 he lived at 1 Linden Park Road. Due to the absence of directories online for the years after 1938 it is not known where Lindsay and his family lived after that period but it is likely he remained at No. 1 Linden Park in the 1940’s. Judith Gower stated “ The family moved to Braidswood, 1 Linden Park towards the end of the war, and lived there until Ellen’s (Nellie) arthritis made it impossible for her to manage the house. They moved to a small service flat in London Road and Braidswood was let. The flat was not a success for a number of reasons and they bought 73 Claremont Road. This was also a flat, the ground floor in a small block of 2 flats. They stayed there for the rest of their lives. Grann-Nellie-died in The Red House Nursing Home in Bishops Down. Lindsay lived longer and died in the nursing home almost opposite the flat. Meanwhile someone appeared out of the blue, wanting to buy Highlands, 3 Chilston Road. My parents were only too pleased to accept as it was a very awkward Victorian house which local agents had said would be hard to sell. As it happened the lease on Braidswood was up, so it was arranged that we should move there, which we did, and remained there. Grandpa had left Braidswood to my mother, and left other properties he owned of the same value, to his other daughter Leila May. Robin had started teaching at a small school in London. At the same time he said that he was taking a part time teaching degree at polytechnic. I think this is probably true, though I am sure he never actually passed it. When Mother died he wanted to turn Braidswood into a school. He bought the little dama (sp..probably meant to be “drama”) school in Linden Gardens, though I don’t know whether he bought the bungalow (the house of Lilian Lewis). The local authority (The Planning Authority) would not allow 1 Linden Park to become a school as it was on a bend in the road. One of his (Robin’s) failings was that he could never realise it would be a traffic hazard, so he bought the house in Frant Road. As you know he had the bulk of his parent’s estate. They rightly thought that I had a career, a husband and a family, and he did not. It meant that he could afford to put at least some of his grandiose ideas into practise. One of his problems was that he never had the patience to do anything properly. He loved the idea of being a Headmaster, but never gave a thought to the responsibilities that went with it. I had met Angela Culley, and realised that she would make a success of the school; in fact she and I were in phone contact at that time as Robin’s ideas as to what he should move to his bungalow were very confused”.

A listing for 1 Linden Park Road in 1939 gave Lindsay Hermitage as a piano merchant born December 31,1871. With him was his wife Ellen, given as born September 7,1869 and one domestic servant.

In the 1950’s Lindsay  lived at 73a Claremont Road.  His home address was given in probate records as 73a  Claremont Road but he had passed away at the Lonsdale Nursing Home (image opposite)in Tunbridge Wells on August 25,1958. The executors of his 30,744 pound estate were his married daughters Nesta Dence (wife of Alexander Frank Dance) and Leila May (wife of George William Rayes May). His wife Ellen passed away in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1956. No burial record for them was found in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.

Further details about Lindsay and his family and business are given in my article ‘ Lindsay Hermitage Ltd-Piano Dealer of High Street’ dated December 21,2016.  Several Hermitage family photographs can be found in that article also.

Regarding 1 Linden Park Road, Judith Gower stated in part that this residence was referred by the family as ‘Braidswood’ and that it passed from her paternal grandparents to their daughter Nesta Violet Hermitage and then to her son Michael Robin Dence.

Returning now to the Dence family the UK Medical and Dental Students Register gave Alexander Frank Dence being registered August 6,1915 and that he had taken preliminary exams at Oxford in 1914 and Cambridge 1915. The record shows that he commenced medical studies at London Hospital July 31,1914.

A directory of 1929 gave Nesta Violet Dence and her husband living at ‘Cranham’ on Woodfield Lane in the parish of Ashtead, Surrey.

Travel records gave Alexander Frank Dence departing from Montreal, Quebec,Canada on the ship AUSONIA of the Canada Steamship Line and arrived August 27,1928 in London. His proposed address was given as Danehurst, Yardly Park, London and his occupation was given as “Biologist”.

A 1934 directory gave Alexander Frank Dence living at 3 Chilston Road, Tunbridge Wells.

Travel records gave Nesta Violet Dence departing May 25,1939 from Southampton on the ship SIBAJAK of the Rotterdam Lloyd Royal Mail Line destined for Marseilles, France. She was travelling with her husband, given as a director, and her children Helen and Michael (Robin).

Travel records gave Alexander Frank Dence departing May 26,1939 from Southampton destined for Villefranche, France on the ship CHRISTIAAN HUYGEN of the Netherland Line Royal Dutch Mail and that he was a director and of ‘Highlands’ 3 Chilston Road, Tunbridge Wells. He was travelling alone.

A 1939 directory for 3 Chilston Road gave Alexander Frank Dence as born August 24,1897 with the occupation of “Captain T.F. Reserve/Managing Director of Machine Manufacturing Company/ Director of other companies and vice chairman Merchantman Branch”. With him was his wife Nesta given as born July 3,1899.

Probate records gave Alexander Frank Dence of ‘Braidswood’ 1 Linden Park Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died November 24,1976 leaving an estate valued at 15,518 pounds and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.

Probate records gave Nesta Violet Dence of 1 Linden Park Road Tunbridge Wells when she died October 12,1980 leaving an estate valued at 101,723 pounds.

Judith Gower in an email to me had the following to say about members of the Dence family. Robin Dence never got married and had no children. My grandmother Nesta  would have been furious to be told she was a teacher-she was a musician who in later years taught at various schools. She taught the Spencer girls including the later Diana Princess of Wales.” A photo of Diana taken in 1971 is shown opposite. Judith continues by stating “ I was alive when she (Nesta) taught Diana and can remember talking about the Spencer girls. I have photos of my grandparents and their home Braidswood, as it was always known in the family. Robin Dence had no qualifications (teaching) at all despite having gone to Hailebury School near Hertford. My mother qualified as a doctor. Robin bought the house in Frant Road ( 16 Frant Road). Robin was very strange, we think that he probably was Aspergers or non the autistic scale. He was very jealous of my mother and after his death we discovered the had actually forged my mother’s signature on documents. My mother was very upset but my father persuaded her that it wasn’t worth getting upset about. My grandparents lived in Highland which I think is the house you know about. They then moved into Braidswood in Linden Park Road which belonged to my grandmother’s parents then my grandmother. It was sold by Robin to a developer and there is now a block of flats on it “.

From the ‘Old Tonbridgian News’ April 2017 Paul Thompson had this to say in part regarding the year 1958 while he attended the Tonbridge School. “My teacher was the delightful Nesta Dence wife of Alexander Frank Dence, Biology Master at Tonbridge (1922-1928) the long serving cello teacher at the school. She had great success with her bass pupils…”

From a series of emails from Angela Culley here is what she had to say about Robin Dence. “ I took over The Mead School  (at 16 Frant Road) in 1987 having bought it from Mr Robin Dence in August 1987. Mr Dence had known Miss Lewis for some years as his parents had lived in Linden Gardens (actually at 1 Linden Park Road). I had met him whilst teaching at Skippers Hill where I started my teaching career. He was an unusual and in some ways a quite extraordinary and sad character and certainly not a natural school teacher. When Miss Lewis retired he bought The Mead School from her. She sold her bungalow for development and there are now houses on the site. Mr Robin Dence bought 16 Frant Road and obtained change of use to a prep school for 60 pupils. This I believe was 1983. At the same time another small school, Hillicroft ( actually Hillycroft and sometimes Hilly Croft), in nearby Southborough also closed and the pupils of both schools merged at the new site. However by 1987 only 12 pupils remained, two of whom were Miss Lewis’s great nieces. Miss Lewis died in the Autum of 1987, her funeral was one of the first occasions I attended at Head of The Mead. She is buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery.” In a second email Angela stated that Robin Dence is not shown in the group photos of The Mead School you sent me. I do not recognize the man in the photos wearing glasses. I don’t think Robin Dence came to know Miss Lewis until the early 1980’s and I suggest the connection is his mother Nesta who taught cello there”. In a third email from Anglea she added “ I started my teaching career in 1975 at Skippers Hill Manor and left on maternity leave in July 1980. I think Robin Dence joined Skippers in 1978/79. He was teaching in a separate building to me and whilst always perfectly charming was rather individual and in many ways lived in the past era. He was very proud of his parents and I got to know him quite well as he regularly gave me lifts back to Tunbridge Wells. This is how I knew of his ambition to own and be Headmaster of The Mead. It was always his original intent to run the school from his parent’s home in Linden Park. Did you now he was a severe diabetic?” A continuation of her third email is given in a later section.

From the above emails mention is made of Robin Dence teaching at Skippers Hill Manor School. A photograph of the school is shown opposite. Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School opened in 1945 as a co-educational prep school in Mayfield with students attending ages 3 to 13 and situated on a 22 acre site.  The school had been founded by J.R. Ward and his wife Maureen. Initially set up as a boys boarding school, later girls were admitted. Today the pupils come from all around the world. Maxine,their daughter, and her husband Sydney Assayag joined the school in 1878 and in 1996 they took over the management of the school. In 2009 Sydney passed away. In 2010 the school was acquired by Bellevue Education and today they accommodate about 155 pupils. On the school website you can read about the schools history and testimonianls,such as those by Patrick O’Shea, who began attending the school in 1945 at age 5 and remained there until 1952 and stated “ I have fond memories of Skippers and the values it gave me are still with me today”. In 2015 Mr Tim Lewis retired as headmaster of the school after 25 years service and Mark Hammond, who at that time was the Deputy Head became the new headmaster. Shown here is a photograph of Mr Lewis and Mr Hammond.

Given here and below are some newspaper references to the Dence family. The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 22,1932  under ‘Thanks of the Town listed “Councillor and Mrs A.F. Dence”. The Courier of February 10,1933 referred to a funeral which was attended in part by “ Mrs Ethel, Mr Dence, Mr & Mrs Alexander Frank Dence and Nesta Dence, Mary and Robin Dence”. The Courier of June 2,1933 referred to Councillor Dence in connection with “speedy motor crash”. The Courier of July 14,1933 under ‘New Members’ listed Helen Mary Dence,age 7 and Michael Robin Dence,age 3, of Chilston Road”. The Courier of April 22,1938 listed ‘Exam Result’ “First R6 Marshall and H. M. Dence”. The courier of February 3,1939 referred to Nesta Dence in a play. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of July 12,1940 gave “ Staplehurst-The evening was presided over by Mr A.H. Dence…” The Courier of January 17,1947 reported in part “ Tunbridge Wells News In Brief-Mr Robin Dence of the Young Conservatives presided. Councillor Q.H. D. Draper, chairman of the water board addressed the Young Conservatives”. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of April 21,1950 reported on a tennis tournament in Tunbridge Wells and that Mr. M.R. Dence was a member of the tennis club and assisted in the organizing of the event. The Young Conservatives referred to was primarily a social club, hosting dances, beauty contests, car rallies and winning endorsements from sports stars. They made a virtue of this apolitical reputation to recruit a mass, middle-class membership, with the rhetoric of service and citizenship embedded themselves in local civic society. Much more about them can be found on the internet and other sources.

The Church Society publication ‘ The Churchman’ in an article about ‘New Conservartives” referred to Northwood being ready to occupy early 1957. The cost of the building being 200,000 pounds of which 160,000 is set in hand. The appeal is being made for the balance of 40,000 pounds by the council of the College and contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by the appeal organizer Mr A. F. Dence, Braidswood, 1 Linden Park, Tunbridge Wells”.

In the next sub-section I report on the Dence family residence at No. 1 Linden Park. Unfortunately no photograph of Michael Robin Dence or his parents were available at the time this article was written but Judith Gower reported in an email to me that she had photographs which she did not share with me.

Michael Robin Dence died March 15,1998 in Tunbridge Wells. He was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium March 25th and buried his funeral urn buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on April 3rd.

[A] No 1 LINDEN PARK ROAD 

Linden Park is a residential development dating back to 1886 when local builder Beale & Sons made application to the Tunbridge Wells Works Committee for a new road and the construction of four houses. In the following years ten houses were built in two phases, on rising ground. These homes were large red brick homes  sprouting gables,turrets, balconies,black and white timbering etc in the Edwardian style. Beale seems to have been the architect, developer and builder. A photo of No. 1 Linden Park was not available but shown opposite is one of the homes (No. 2) in Linden Park showing the typical features of homes in this development. Details about the builder of this and other homes on Linden Park Road can be found in my article ‘ Beale & Sons-Tunbridge Wells Builders’ dated January 2,2014.

It was not established by the researcher where Michael Robin Dence was living at the time of his mother’s death in 1980  but as the executor of her estate he took over 1 Linden Park Road . References to the house is made in various Planning Authority records, details of which are given later, and shows that he was a resident of that house in the 1980’s.

It is clear from a review of Planning Authority records that although Robin Dence intended to re-establish the Mead School at 1 Linden Park Road he was unsuccessful in this attempt but did so when he later purchased an old and large home at 16 Frant Road.

The first Planning Authority record for 1 Linden Park Road from 1974 onwards was that of 1982 when Mr Robin Dence applied for a change in use of residential to a prep school. Approval was not given and again refused on appeal. He had proposed to establish the school to accommodate 60 pupils. Shown opposite is a site map dated 1982.

In 1983 an application was made for ‘ Regency Hall No. 1 Linden Park Road’ by Robin Dence for the construction of two dwellings on part of the site of the residence. A site map  shows that he had intended to sever the property into two parts with the new homes constructed on the north half. Approval for the work was not given.

In 1983 an application was made by Mr. J.D. Sams for ‘Regency Hall 1 Linden Park Road for a 3 sty block of six one bedroom retirement flats. The matter was decided July 2,1984 and the work was approved. It is clear from this application that Michael Robin Dence had given up trying to redevelope his property and establish his school and that in 1983 he sold 1 Linden Park to Mr Sams and that in that year he purchased the house at 16 Frant Road with the intention of establishing the The Mead School there.

In 1984 an application by Hamm Investments was made for a change in use from residential to a rest home for Regency Hall 1 Linden Park Road. This application was refused.

In 1984 an application was made for Regency Hall 1 Linden Park Road by Mr. JH. Sam for ‘demolition-listed building consent’ but this application was refused.

In December 1984 an application was made by Mr James Sams for 21 one bedroom retirement flats in 3 sty blocks Regency Hall 1 Linden Park Road. He was refused permission to proceed and lost again on appeal.

On May 13,1985 an application by Mr J. Sams for listed building consent to demolish the house at 1 Linden Park Road was approved. As a result the house was torn down and the site cleared. On the site was constructed the group of buildings known as Regency Hall which continues today as a seniors home.

[B] THE MEAD SCHOOL 16 FRANT ROAD

In 1983 Michael Robin Dence purchased an old house dating back to the 19th century called ‘Northcote’ at 16 Frant Road indenting to convert the residence into The Mead School. In this section I provide information about the building during the time Mr Dence owned it from 1983 up to the time he sold it to Angela Cully in 1987. Also given is a list of former occupants of the house and information about some of them. Below is a list of known occupants obtained from a review of local directories and other sources.

1873………………..Edward Fry Loof

1874……………….Thomas North

1882………………..Captain Skottowe

1899………………..Mrs North

1903………………..Mrs Faire

1911……………….. Rose F.Terry

1922………………..George Goodman

1928-1939……….Dr. Robert Maurice Ranking (1876-1939)

1939-1959……….Alice Ruth Ranking and John Maurice Ranking

1959………………..Robert Duncan Ranking

1960’s-1970s….. The Horncastle family

1983-1987……….Michael Robin Dence

1987-2017……….Angela Culley (The Mead School)

2017-2018……….The Mead School

(a) EDWARD FRY LOOF

Edward Fry loof was listed at 16 Frant Road  from a return of owners of land in Kent dated 1873. It gave the area of the site as” 2-0-8 with a rent of 152-8”.

Edward Loof was born 1811 in Speldhurst and died August 24,1904 at Langley Villa, 15 Frant Road.

The 1881 census, taken at 15 Frant Road gave Edward Fry Loof and his wife (Mary Ann Loof)and two servants. The same information was given in the 1891 census. A directory for 1894 gave Edward Fry Loof at 15 Frant Road.

Edward Fry Loof was a jeweller and watch/clock maker with premises in the Parade (Pantiles) and Chapel Place. His father William Loof had started the business in Tunbridge Wells and Edward took it over when his father retired from business. In 1850 Edward’s business operated under the name of Loof & Ninnes.

Further details about the Loof family and their business was given in my article ‘ Loof & Ninnes of Tunbridge Wells’ dated April 21,2013.

From research it was not established when Edward Fry Loof first took occupancy of 16 Frant Road but her had certainly left the premises and moved to 15 Frant Road by 1874.

As you will see in a later section the home at 16 Frant Road did not exist from a 1852 map but was shown on a map of 1868.

(b) THOMAS NORTH AND MRS NORTH

Thomas North was found at 16 Frant Road in a directory of 1874 and his widow Mrs North was found there in a directory of 1899.

Maps showing 16 Frant Road in some cases refer to the home as ‘Northcote” which name is believed by the researcher to be based on the North family surname.

No definitive information was found for him except a death record for a Thomas North in 1886 and that he was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery November 4,1886.

(c) CAPTAIN SCOTTOWE

The name Scottowe appears in many records in connection to military service and as ship captains dating back to at least 1799. Captain Scottowe appeared in a directory at 16 Frant Road in 1882 but no record of him was found in the town in the 1881 census nor the census of 1901.  No other definitive information about him connecting him to Tunbridge Wells was found.

(d) MRS FAIRE

Mrs Faire was listed at 16 Frant Road in a 1903 directory. She was not found in Tunbridge Wells in either the 1901 or 1911 census and no death record was found for her in the town. As a result little definitive information was found for her.

It is known from the Kent & Sussex Courier of July 8,1904 that Miss Faire assisted in a floral fair by the Tunbridge Wells Horticultural Society in aid of the local hospital. The Courier of August 26,1904 reported that a gift of flowers was given by Miss Faire to the hospital and she is shown in the records of the local Horticultural Society as being a member (July 7,1905). The Courier of August 25,1905 reported on the Broadwater Down Flower Show and that a collection of begonias were shown by Mr Watson who was the gardener to Mrs Faire. It is clear that that the grounds of 16 Frant Road during its occupancy by Mrs Faire were nicely landscaped with flower gardens and a greenhouse for the propagation of plants and it is expected that Mr Watson resided on the site in the gardeners cottage.

(e) ROSE F. TERRY

Rose was found at 16 Frant Road in the 1911 census and given as born 1868 in Bloomsbury, London and living on private means. With her is the residence of 13 rooms were just three servants. No other definitive information was found about her.

(f)    GEORGE GOODMAN

George Goodman was listed in the 1922 directory as living at 16 Frant Road. Directories for him from 1913 -1918 gave him of 1 Summerville Gardens, Tunbridge Wells. No listing for him in Tunbridge Wells in 1911 was found. A directory of 1930 gave him living at 10 Calverley Park and a directory for 1934 gave him at 13 Calverley Park.  No other reliable information was found for him.

(g)  THE RANKING FAMILY 

The earliest record of the Ranking family at 16 Frant Road was 1928 and the family continued to live there until at least 1948

Robert Maurice Ranking was born February 15,1876 at 180 Mount Ephraim road,Tunbridge Wells. His father was doctor John Ebenenezer Ranking (1850-1912) and his mother was Elizabeth Raning, nee Duncan (1849-1927).  A photograph of Robert is shown opposite.

Robert was one of six children in the family who were all born in Tunbridge Wells during the period of 1876 to 1889, with Robert being the eldest child. Like his father Robert went into the medical profession.

Details about the Ranking family were given in my article ‘ John Ebenezer Ranking and Family-Medical Practitioners’ dated December 26,2016.  George Lancaster Ranking (1877-1926), the brother of Robert Maurice Ranking also became a doctor.  John Ebenezer Ranking is memorialized by a statue and plaque that can be found today at the new Pembury Hospital, having served from 1880 to 1912 at the old General Hospital in Tunbridge Wells.

At the time of the 1881,1891 and 1901  census Robert Maurice Ranking was living with his parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells . When the 1911 census was taken he was living at Cork No. 34 Urban, Cork, Ireland.  When WW1 broke out he enlisted for service in the army.

In 1922 Robert was living in Tunbridge Wells on Mount Ephraim Road. In 1925 Robert was living at Hanover House at 18 Mount Ephraim Road. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of Feburary 3,1928 reported that Dr Ranking has moved from 18a Mount Ephraim Road to 16 Frant Road.

A medical directory of 1930 gave Robert Maurice Ranking of ‘Northcote’ 16 Frant Road,Tunbridge Wells.

Robert had married Alice Ruth (1873-1944) who died in Tunbridge Wells .Robert and his wife had a son John Maurice Ranking who was born July 3,1910 at Holborn, Middlesex and died in Tunbridge Wells November 9,1959.  He also had a son Robert Duncan Ranking  who was born in Tunbridge Wells October 24,1915.  Robert is Duncan Ranking was found listed at 16 Frant Road in 1959. Probate records gave him of 4 Arundel Road in Seaford, Essex when he died April 25,1994 leaving an estate valued at under 125,000 pounds.

John Maurice Ranking was living with his parents in Ireland at the time of the 1911 census. In 1946 he married Patricia Cranwill McLeod who was born January 2,1924 in Dublin, Ireland and died 2006 in Lewes, Sussex. A passenger list recorded that John Maurice Ranking and his wife Patricia both of 16 Frant Road sailed from Southampton. Patricia had been born January 2,1924 and died in the 3rd qtr of 2006 at Lewes, Sussex.

The  London Gazette of August 4,1939 reported that Robert Maurice Ranking was late of 16 Frant Road and that he died July 4,1939 at the Lonsdale Nursing Home. His will was proved by his widow Alice Ruth Ranking and his son John Maurice Ranking, doctor of medicine, both of 16 Frant Road.  His estate was valued at 9,802 pounds. Alice Ruth Ranking died in Tunbridge Wells January 16, 1944 while a resident of 16 Frant Road. Upon her death her son John Maurice Ranking acted as the executor of her estate and occupied the home with his wife.

The National Archives report from their records that Northcote, 16 Frant Road was sold to Dr. John Maurice Ranking February 6,1948. John died in Tunbridge Wells November 9,1959. Probate records noted that John was of 16 Frant Road at the time of his death and that the executor of his estate Robert Duncan Ranking, barrister at law.

(h) MICHAEL ROBIN DENCE

Michael bought 16 Frant Road in 1983. I have reported in the previous sections details about the Dence family. Michael had purchased this former private residence with the intention of re-instating the Mead School there.

Angela Culley in an email to me stated “Initially Robin had asked me to run the school for him for 1K a term. When I drew his attention to the fact that I would have a baby he said the baby could sleep in the garden. He was innately a kind man but totally unrealistic. When he had finally moved to 16 Frant Road he had joined forces with another extraordinary character from Skipper School called Noel (perhaps Noel Gallagher) but sadly I can’t remember (not positive about) his surname, but he was a pipe smoking ex naval man and again not qualified. Together they would have presented as an unlikely pair to run a prep school. Noel took on a lot of the maintenance work but by 1987 the building was in horrific state, dead birds, much and a toilet in a cupboard in the kitchen. Whilst accepting his school had failed, Robin was reluctant to let go and was desperate for a partnership. This would never have worked. He also tried to put a lease onto the property and then in the 11th hour was trying to sell it to a nursing home company. In the end the original agreed price of 200k was raised to 280k which was a nightmare given the school had to open on September 10th if I was to be able to honour the mortgage payments. Completion finally happened on August 20th,1987 giving me less than 3 weeks to prepare for and open the doors to The Mead’s next adventure”.

Angela Culley also reported that after Robin Dence purchased 16 Frant Road in 1983 that “at the same time another school, Hillicroft (actually Hillycroft or Hilly Croft) in nearby Southborough also closed and the pupils of both schools merged at the new Mead School site. However by 1987 only 12 pupils remained. I bought the school from Robin Dence in August 1987 but at that time there was no school to buy”.

Given here is some information about the Hillycroft school referred to by Angela Culley. Shown above  is a photo of Hillycroft at 7 Park Road in Southborough and below are some group photographs taken at the school.

 





The Hillycroft School had been in operation before the outbreak of WWII. When it began was not established but an account by Mr Havard that was posted to the WW2 Peoples War website recorded that he was 4 years old at the beginning of WWII and lived with his parents in Crendon Park, Southborough. “ I started school at age 5 in a little private school where ages ranged from five to nine or ten, all in the same room, with one teacher. It was called Hillycroft School and at that time was in a building belonging to a women’s Christian association called the CAWG Hall. It was quite large and of wooden construction clad in corrungated iron and painted dark green. Situated at the north end of Southborough it was about a mile from my home”. He goes on to report on seeing during lunch break at the school men cutting up iron railings for the medal drive and that in 1940 when there was an air raid having to form up into a crocodile in order to take shelter at a nearby empty garage situated in the basement of a nearby house. His story makes for fascinating reading and his entire account can be read online.

Before Hillycroft became a school it was a Victoria era private home. An investigation into its prior occupants was not undertaken, but it was noted from the 1911 census that no listing for No. 7 Park Road was found but that No. 5 Park Road was a private home of 12 rooms. It is expected that No. 7 was comparable in size.
 
Mildred Eileen Eliza Kirby (photo opposite), who was born in 1911 and died May 18,2007 peacefully at her home in Forwich, Canterbury, Kent but was buried in the Southborough Cemetery. She had been the former principal of Hillycroft School on Park Road but had retired from that position in December 1978. Her funeral was held May 29,2007 at St Thomas Church, Southborough. A former student at the school during her time stated “ She left a lasting impression on me. I attended Hillycroft School from 1960-1967 where she was a most wonderful teacher.In the mid 1990’s my youngest daughter and I visited her  at her home called Hillycroft. She had the most wonderful memory and loved to have news of all her former pupils. She never seemed to age and was someone I admired immensely”.  Today there is a Victorian era home at 7 Park Road called Hillycroft.

Several other accounts by former students of the school from the 1960’s can be found online.

A Planning Authority record from April 1984 shows an application made by Richard M. Padgett for a change in use from a school to a residential home for the elderly, which application was approved. This confirms that the school had closed in 1983 and merged with the Mead School on Frant Road.

A Planning application was made by R.M. Padgett for a change in use of 5 Park Road to a home for the elderly with parking to the rear of No. 5 and No. 7 Park Road. This application was refused.

In July 1984 an application by R.M. Padgett was approved for a single story extension at the lower ground floor of Holy Croft 7 Park Road.

In July 1986 Croft Residential Homes applied to a single story extension to provide a lounge and dining facility and the installation of a lift at Hilly Croft 7 Park Road and for the demolition of cedarwood buildings at the rear of the property. This application was approved.

In August 1987 an application by Croft Homes was approved for a relocation of the car park at Hilly Croft.

In 1988 an application by Croft Homes for a 3 sty extension at Hilly Croft was refused

In July 1998 an application by Mr and Mrs C. Taylor for conversion of 7 Park Road from a seniors home back to a single residential use was approved.

In January 2002 a retrospective application by Mr. C. Taylor regarding gates and walls at Hilly Croft was approved.

An estate agents brochure for Hillycroft 7 Park Road described the building as ‘A substantial detached Victorian villa offering light and spacious accommodation with attractive secluded gardens. There is a large extension to the rear providing versatile space for a variety of uses…” For full details of the residence including a number of interior and exterior views and floor plans see the Mayfair website.

From a review of Planning Authority records for 16 Frant Road during the time of Michael Robin Dence is given the following.

The first application for Planning approval referring to 16 Frant Road after 1974 was one dated 1983 by Mr Robin Dence who received approval for ‘ The Mead School 16 Frant Road’ for a part change in use from residential to a private school for 60 pupils. 

In 1985 Robin Dence was refused permission for the construction of a carport at 16 Frant Road. Shown opposite is a map from the planning files showing the site of this building.

In 1986 R. Dence of the Mead School received approval for the Mead School 16 Frant Road for the installation of a garden shed. In the same application he was refused permission for the erection of temporary mobile classrooms.

In 1987 M.R. Dence received approval for a new wing to form kindergarten , gymnasium, additional classrooms and living accommodation for the Mead School 16 Frant Road.

This was the last application made by Mr Dence at this site. In Part 3 of this article I give information regarding Planning applications during the time of Angela Culley.

PART 3- THE ANGELA CULLEY ERA 

In the previous sections I reported that Angela began her teaching career at Skipper School in 1975. She had been fully trained as a teacher and obtained her degree at Oxford University.  Some information about her subsequent teaching career has already been given. Shown in this section are some modern views of the exterior of the school taken from Frant Road.

Moving ahead in time to 1987 Anglea reported to me by email that she had bought the building at 16 Frant Road from Robin Dence  August 20,1998 for the sum of 280,000 pounds. Upon taking over the Mead School she began her careers work in establishing the school , maintaining high standards and expanding the school to what it is today, a school with an outstanding reputation providing classes for some 250 pupils.

For reasons of confidentiality no further personal or family information is given about her other than that already given to me by her and presented in previous sections of this article. In closing off her comments she stated “ I met my husband at Skippers and during maternity did a lot of supply teaching before we both moved to Sevenoaks Pre School. We lived in Tunbridge Wells. I stayed there until 1987 when my husband left me and that is why with a 6 year old and a 3 year old in tow I started The Mead. My husband stayed at the Sevenoaks Prep School. “

Since 1987 the school has been improved, modernized and enlarged as reflected in accounts about the school and various Planning Authority applications such as those below.

In 1996 Angela Cully received approval for a portacabin for temporary use as a dining room.

In 1997 Mrs A.Culley received approval for a conservatory and balcony at ‘The apartment 16 Frant Road’.

In 1999 an application was refused for the Mead School regarding the demolition of buildings and the erection of a block of flats and two detached residences. These new buildings were to be erected at the rear of 12 & 14 Frant Road for use by the school. The idea had been to move The Mead onto 27 acres of fields off the Bayham Road.

Subsequent applications were made up to 2015 for a range of changes to the site including such items as a fire escape in 2005; a 2 sty extension in 2006/2007; changes to ground floor windows in 2006 and 2007 and a 2 sty extension in 2015. This final extension earned a Civic Society award. Other minor work was also noted.

Details about the Mead School along with recent photographs can be found on the schools website. On that website was “ On September 10th,1987 the school was re-established  and re-opened with twelve pupils by Mrs Anglea Culley who over the subsequent 30 years as Headmistress saw the school flourish, develop and grow into its current community of some 230 pupils. Mrs Culley retired last year (2017) after 30 years at the helm and Mr Andrew Webster (image opposite) took up the position of Headmaster at the start of the new academic year. The mission today remains true to 1987: ‘ T provide a first class education, where every child can feel success, to as diverse and broad range of families as is feasible’. The buildings may grow and develop; the curriculum may change to meet the times but the very values and soul which make The Mead, remain and stand the test of time so that generations of Meadites can look back and say with confidence ‘Those were really good days and they set me up for life’.

On January 16,2013 it was announced “ ISA welcomes Angela Culley (image opposite) as Chair. ISA is delighted to welcome her as our new chair for 2013. She is head of the Mead School. She had been an active member of the Independent Schools Association (ISA)for many years and has been closely involved with our inspections and membership committees.

In 2016 The Mead School received a Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society award for a new extension to the building, an extension designed by architect Robert Shreeve of Robert Schreeve Associates. The extension was designed in such a way that it looked as though it had always been part of the Victorian House. A photo taken during the awards ceremony is shown below left. A photo taken marking Angela's retirement is shown below right.




An article in 2016 gave “ Retired head of the Mead School-Angela Culley founded it in 1987 and run as a proprietorial school until 2016 when it became part of the Wishford group of schools. She became chair of ISA in 2013 and is currently Vice President of ISA and Foundation Governess at the local C of E Primary School. She also sat on the governing body of a successful co-educational independent school for 20 years (Bethany School in Goudhurst)”.

The ISA website gave Angela as being born  February 1954 and appointed director of ISA April 25,2002, appointed director of the Bethany School November 13,1999 (resigned August 32,2017). Appointed director of Mead School August 13,1999 and resigned from that school August 13,2017.  In 1999 The Mead became a limited company.

In May 2017 the school bade farwell to Angela Culley at the FOM Masquerade Ball held at the Spa Hotel. Guests engaged in in various activities including a casino and disco and games.

 

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