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Discover the fascinating people and places of Tunbridge Wells.Take a journey back in time to the 19th and early 20th century. See what the town was like in the days of the horse and carriage and what the people did who lived there. See the vintage postcards and photographs.Read the articles about the different trades and professions and the people who worked in them.Learn about the historic buildings and the town's colourful history.

This month I feature the postcard above taken on the occasion of the Mayor's Garden Party held in the Calverley Grounds on July 7,1937. The party was hosted by Mayor  E.J. Strange and the Mayoress. Shown in this image is the "Living Chess Display" where pupils of the High School took part in the hour long chess game. In addition to this event the programme consisted of a Bowls Tournament and a Military Band that played in the bandstand. Tea and other refreshments were also served in the Calverely Grounds Pavilion, which along with the bandstand is shown in the postcard opposite franked in 1937.

The event was well attended and everyone had an enjoyable time. The Courier of May 28,1937 reported the Rotary Club and the Coronation Tributes to those who staged the living chess display earlier in the year found the event so effective during the Coronation celebrations that the programme " is to be repeated at the Mayors Garden Party to be held later in the season". This announcement was made at the Tunbridge Wells Rotary Club luncheon held at the Tudor Café.

The Courier of July 0,1937 reported that " The Calverley Grounds was enhanced Wednesday afternoon by this colourful effort which took place at the Mayor's Garden Party. Always a social event of the Mayor's year of office this event was made distinctive by reason of the new features which were introduced".....

Garden parties in 1937 seemed to be  all the range. The Courier of September 10,1937 for example reported "The delightful Sundown Court, Tunbridge Wells, afforded a picturesque setting for the garden party to which Sir Robert Gower and Miss Pauline Gower invited about 300 members of the St John Ambulance Brigade on Saturday".


The articles on this site are replaced by new ones on the first of the month, so come back and visit this site often. Feel free to copy any text and images of interest to you.Due to the quantity and size of the images in this website users will find that some of them are slow to appear. Please be patient, as they are worth waiting for.Those without high speed internet service will no doubt have to wait longer than others. To move from one page of the website to the next simply click on the page number in the bar at the top of the page-not the "Go To" instruction at the bottom of the page.

Also note that if you attempt to print any pages from this website before the page has fully loaded, some images may not be printed and the layout of the page may be distorted, as the text and images are repositioned during loading. For the best copy wait for the page to fully load.

There is no provision for contacting me from this website. If you wish to contact me I would suggest contacting the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library or the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society who will forward your inquiry to me. Their contact details can be found on their websites.


I am a researcher and writer of articles about the history of Tunbridge Wells and was a member of the Tunbridge Wells Family History Society (TWFHS) until its recent demise. I had been a regular contributer to the TWFHS Guestbook and Journal. I assist others with their genealogical inquiries on various websites such as Rootschat and the Kent & Sussex History Forum. I have had many articles published in various society journals, Newsletters and Magazines in England and Canada. I am decended from three generation of Gilberts who lived in Tunbridge Wells since 1881.

Shown here is a photograph of me taken in July 2015 proudly displaying my T-shirt. I was trained and worked as a Civil Engineer and in the late 1980's changed careers and became the owner of two corporations engaged in General Contracting and the supply of building materials. Upon my retirement in 1998 I devoted my spare time to research,writing and gardening. I lived in southern Ontario from 1950 to 1981 but moved to Thunder Bay,Ontario (about 950 miles north of Toronto) to work as a Supervising Engineer in NorthWestern Ontario. My father Douglas Edward Gilbert (1916-2009) came to live with me in 1983. He had been born in Tunbridge Wells but came to Canada with his parents/siblings in the early 1920's. All but one my relatives (mostly second cousins, none of which have the surname of Gilbert) live in England and some still live in Tunbridge Wells. The only Gilberts from my family line in Canada are me (born in Canada 1950). My dads sister Mabel Joan Gilbert, born in Tunbridge Wells in 1921 died October 2017 in Barrie, Ontario. Her only child Garry Williamson is living in Barrie with his wife and two adopted sons. Since I never got married I am the last of the family with the surname of Gilbert in Canada and England and I am the self appointed genealogist of my family line. Although my greatgrandfather of Tunbridge Wells had three sons and four daughters I am the only surviving descendent with the surname of Gilbert. A complete family tree of my family going back five generations can be found on the Ancestry UK website.

I established this website in 2011. Every month I replace all of the articles with new ones so please come back and visit again. If there are any articles you wish to keep for your records feel free to copy them. There is no archive of older articles on this site but the Tunbridge Wells Library and the Museum retain copies of my articles for their local history files,so please contact them to see them. I am in regular contact with the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society (Chris Jones) who takes an interest in my work and may have some of my articles in his files. Occasionally I republish older articles that have been updated with new information.

On October 9,2014 I was presented with a Civic Society Community Contribution Award in recognition of the contribution that this website has made to the town, especially in the field of history and family history. In the summer of 2015 I had the pleasure of visiting Tunbridge Wells and seeing first hand all of the places I had written about and those which will be featured in future articles. Shown above (left)is a photo taken during this trip at Hever Castle by Alan Harrison in July 2015 in which I am wearing my "I Love Royal Tunbridge Wells" T-Shirt, a slogan which accurately expresses my great interest in the town and its history. Shown with me is my good friend and neighbour Mrs Susan Prince of Thunder Bay,Ontario, who organized the trip,and the lady in dark blue on the right is my second cousin Mrs Christine Harrison of Tunbridge Wells. Christine's grandfather Robert Herbert Gilbert is my grandfathers eldest brother.Christine and her husband were kind enough to drive us around Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. It was a memorable holiday, and one that will be reported on in various articles of this website. Also shown above right is a photograph of me that appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier in August 2015 from an article written about my visit to the town.This photograph was taken by the Courier photographer at the Victorian B&B, 22 Lansdowne Road, where I stayed during my visit. A reception was also held on June 30,2015  to commemorate my visit  and my work in writing about the history of the town by the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society in the garden at the home of John Cunningham,who is a member of the Civic Society.John, Chris Jones and some 30 others came out for the reception and afterwards Susan Prince and I had a lovely meal and evening with John and Chris and their wives at John's home.

I hope you enjoy reading about my family and the articles I have written about the history of Tunbridge Wells.


On page 5 of my December 2018 website I presented an article about the history of The Mead School on Frant Road.

At that time an image of Braidswood, 1 Linden Park Road was not available but in January 2019 a postcard view with related text was located, which is presented here.

This image is from a book by Margaret A.V. Gill entitled ' Royal Tunbridge Wells
in old picture postcards.

The names of the buildings in Linden Park Road in the text are in order from left to right making Braidswood the house on the far right.


Shown opposite is a close up view of J. Phippens inscription at High Rocks as presented in this unposted Photochrom postcard. Details about this topic were given in my article ' James Phippens High Rocks Inscription dated September 3,2018.

Photochrom had their large photographic works in Tunbridge Wells and also premises in London. Near the base of the inscription can be seen a "W" one of many examples of people carving their initials and other marks on these much visited rocks.


St Valentines Day (Feb. 14th) is upon us once again and the shops are well stocked with all manner of merchandise,including lovely cards, heart shaped boxes of chocolates, bunches of flowers etc. This special day began in the Middle Ages as a feast of 'Courtley Love' which encouraged nobility and chivalry. In the 15th century France February 14th became an annual feast day celebrating romantic love. What better place can there be than Royal Tunbridge Wells to celebrate the occasion with its long history of Royal Connections and its romantic walks and gardens. 

Did you know that Tunbridge Wells had a Lovers Lane ?-Well Peltons guides of 1876 and 1896 recorded that there was one off St James Road. Maybe one still exists. One can find postcards showing views of lovers lanes throughout Britain but unfortunately one was not found for Tunbridge Wells.

There are lots of fine restaurants and interesting places to see and why not spend a romantic night, with breakfast in bed, at one of the town's hotels. St Valentine is also the patron saint of travelling so why not take a special trip or spend part of the day locally visiting Dunorlan Park, the Calverley Grounds, Groombridge Place and other colourful destinations. Whatever you choose to do don't hesitate to rekindle the romantic flames  by doing or giving something special to your loved one. As the postcard on the left states " Royal Tunbridge Wells is a most embracing and a(mews)ing place and the one on the right announces " It is no crime to kiss in Tunbridge Wells.  Some in the town are bold enough to announce on the bumper sticker below " Kiss me I'm from Royal Tunbridge Wells". It seems the good people of Tunbridge Wells are a rather romantic lot!

Valentine Cards date back to the 18th century but they were hand made rather than mass produced. The oldest known example of a Valentine card is 1797. In Victorian times, with rapid advances in printing and manufacturing cards were mass produced. By the mid 1870's some 100,000 Valentine cards were circulated in London alone. In 1840 the Uniform Penny Post bolstered the popularity of sending cards. Today some 1.6 billion pounds are spent in Britain on Valentine cards. Many of the old cards were real works of art and there are people who collect them.


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

Date: January 2,2019


For generations the Mount Sion Grove has been the scene of quiet walks along pathways that meandered through this little slice of heaven. It provided a beautiful and tranquil oasis in a built up area of homes. It has been enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike and when my friend Mrs Susan Prince and I visited the town in 2015 we made a point of going to see it.

During the summer season people assembled and sat beside the bandstand (image opposite) ,where thanks to the local Band Committee, band performances could be enjoyed, the sounds of which drifted beyond the boundaries of The Grove.

An added feature in The Grove, during the inter-war years was an annual summer programme of entertainment advertised from 1920 up to 1936 as “Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion”, which event was put on by  Theatrical Manager/ Producer Colin Robert Ballard Brown (1876-1947), a gentleman well-known throughout most of England for his cast of performers who entertained audiences in many of the music halls  and other entertainment venues in the country.

During the winter season “Ballard Brown”, as he was most often referred to by,  concentrated on performances in London but took his shows on the road to the Provinces mostly during the summer season. From about 1924 to 1938 his productions could be seen regularly at the Palace Pier in Brighton from January to December (image opposite), another place that Mrs Susan Prince and I visited in 2015. Although an exhaustive search of Counties where his productions could be seen was not undertaken those of Kent, Sussex, Norfolk, London, Liecestershire, Lancashire and Portsmouth Hampshire were  just a few noted. His productions were looked forward to with much anticipation and newspaper accounts were full of compliments and positive comments about him and his shows. 
Although nothing (or at least very little) appears to have been written about Colin Robert Ballard Brown (the man), newspaper reports about his shows can be found in abundance, including the Kent & Sussex Courier who gave details about all of his performances in Tunbridge Wells at Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion. In this article I present some information about Mr Brown and a brief overview of events at The Grove Summer Pavilion. Shown at the top of the ‘introduction’ is the only known photograph of this summer pavilion.


Every week Music halls presented new performances with a new set of artistes, who travelled around the UK performing at different theatres. It was twelve to eighteen months before artistes complete a circuit and in this way the artistes were able to keep their own acts ‘fresh’ to each new audience. Organizing and running these performances were booking agents and theatrical producers, and theatrical managers such as ‘Ballard Brown’ who was listed with this occupation in a 1939 directory. Shown opposite is a postcard entitled ‘Ballard Brown’s Entertainers”.

Although an exhaustive investigation was not undertaken of Ballard Brown’s productions, a review of newspaper reports in a selection of counties suggests that he was active from at least 1916 (ref. The Variety of May 1916) to 1939. (insert ‘ East Ham Palace Theatre’)

A historical account of the East Ham Palace Theatre (image below) in London noted that in 1928 a performance of the pantomime ‘Cinderella’ was given, which performance was by Ballard Brown Enterprises. Ballard Brown took this same performance to other theatres in the circuit.

An article of December 17,1930 entitled ‘ Pantomime Forecasts’ referred to Ballard Brown’s Enterprises performance of Aladdin.

The Stage (London) of Mary 21,1936 reported “The Provinces- Ballard Brown’s Enterprises Ltd present 44 The Bing Boys Are He-re and listed the company in the performance.

Many other references to “Ballard Brown’s Productions “throughout the countries music halls can be found on the internet and elsewhere.

There were three different performance circuits with circuit 1 having the best artistes and theatres. Circuits 2 & 3 had lesser known artistes who were either working their way up the ladder or who were coming down the ladder. In addition to this, there were groups of theatres that were owned by the same person or group of people that formed their own circuits.

There were generally, two performances on weekdays and three on Saturday when there was an afternoon matinee performance. Each performance followed a format. There were one or two ‘headline’ acts and a number of lesser supporting act. Most performances included a comedian or comedy acts and various specialty acts. These included exotic dancers, jugglers, tumblers and animal acts. The musical acts were supported by the pit orchestra.

In the post war years, the growth of cinema in the 1940’s and television in the 1950’s combined to create a decline of traditional music hall entertainment. Many theatres closed and travelling productions like those of Ballard Brown ended.


Ballard Brown, a name he was most often referred to as, was born and baptised as Colin Robert Ballard Brown. He was born (according to a 1939 record) on February 28,1876 in Edinburgh,Scotland.

He received his early basic education in Edinburgh and at an early age became interested in the entertainment industry. His parentage and family information while living in Scotland was not established.

He began his career as a vocalist, performing on the stage in London.

A passenger list dated March 3,1901 gave him as a passenger travelling under the name of Ballard Brown, born 1876 In Edinburgh, Scotland. He was listed as a “vocalist” and as being married. He was sailing alone on the S.S. MARMION.

The records of the Freemasons gave Colin Robert Ballard Brown as a music entertainer when he was admitted into the Canute Lodge while a resident of 64 Blandford Road in Acton, Middlesex.

Directory listings for the period of 1905-1915 gave “Ballard Brown” at 64 Blandford Road Acton. Ealing, Middlesex.

The birth record of Robert Colin Gerald St Leyer McCarthy Ballard Brown gave him born April 15,1902 and baptised May 21,1909. He was given as the son of Robert Colin Ballard Brown, a lay vicar and vocalist, residing at 64 Blandford Road.

The 1911 census taken at 162 Kennington Park Road in London gave Colin Robert Ballard Brown, born 1876 in Edinburgh living with 44 men and one woman as a boarder at this lodging house. Others living there as boarders had a variety of occupations but none were noted, apart from Colin, as entertainers. Colin was given as married but his wife was not with him. His occupation was given as “vocalist”.

Records of him being a theatrical producer began to appear in 1919 and a London directory of 1938 listed “Ballard Brown Productions” under the heading of ‘Theatrical Producers’ at 8 Charing Cross, London.

A directory of 1929 listed Robert Colin Ballard Brown at 38 Speldhurst Road, Acton, Ealing. With him was Rita Ballard Brown and Patricia Ballard Brown.

A 1930 directory for Speldhurst Road in Acton gave Robert Colin Ballard Brown. With him were Margarite Myrtle Monica Maud Ballard Brown and Elizabeth Annie Ballard Brown.

A directory of 1938 gave the listing Robert C.B. Brown, theatrical manager, born February 28,1876. With him was Winifred Brown born June 13,1896 who was his wife. Her occupation was given as “unpaid domestic duties”.

In the 3rd qtr of 1946 Colin R.B. Brown married Katherine W. St Leyer at Plymouth, Devon.

The death of Colin R.B. Brown born 1876 (age 71) was registered in the 3rd qtr of 1947 in Plymouth, Devon. Probate records gave Colin Robert Ballard Brown of 8 Tamar Villas near Plymouth, Devon when he died September 22,1947. The executors of his 4,951 pound estate was his solicitor and Gerald Ballard Brown, hotel manager. At the time of writing this article no photographs of him were located.


The text associated with the postcard view of the Summer Pavilion in The Grove (image opposite posted 1923)  from the book ‘ Royal Tunbridge Wells in Old Picture Postcards’ by Margaret A.V. Gill read as follows “ For many years between the wars alfresco entertainments were given ‘every afternoon and evening by good-class concert parties from May to September’. Almost contemporary with this view came the great hailstorm of May 25,1922 when ‘A most remarkable sight was to be witnessed in Mount Sion Grove. The fury of the storm and the gigantic proportion of the hailstones resulted in vast quantities of chestnut blossoms being forced onto the ground from the overhanging branches. Almost all of the paths through the Grove were obliterated and from a distance, the area looked one compete carpet of grass and blossom. A performance was in progress at the Summer Pavilion at the time and thanks to the elaborate arrangements made by the Manager…it was possible to complete the entertainment without any serious difficulty. The audience were well protected, and the awning stood its test well and all underneath were quite dry”.  The performance referred to was that of Ballard Brown. Shown opposite is one of several postcards produced for the storm of 1922 showing the size of hailstones dropped throughout the town. Details about this storm were reported on in my article ' The Great Flood of 1922' dated May 4,2017. In part it was reported that around 11:30 am on May 25th a freak storm bombarded a 10km swath of the area with tons of hailstones the size of walnuts (some say the size of tangerines) smashing windows and stripping trees of their leaves with wind speeds from 161 to 186 mph. Along with the hailstones came a great flood of low lying areas, such as the bottom of Mount Pleasant Road. The effects of the storm kept clean-up crews busy for quite some time.

From a review of newspaper articles from 1919 to 1940 it was established that the productions of Ballard Brown at the Summer Pavilion took place annually from 1920 to 1936. His productions ended in 1936 as reported in the Courier of January 8,1937 which in part stated “ The Coming Band Season Calverley Grounds- By arrangement Mr C.R. Ballard Brown’s concert party performances were given in the Summer Pavilion Mount Sion each week from May 30 to September 19,1936. The income  was 160 pounds less and the expenditure had increased”….as a result these performances, being uneconomical ended.

Announcements for “Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion” appeared in the Courier on a regular basis annually from May to September, in which details of the performances to be given were provided. Below is just a sample of a few of these announcements.

The article which establishes the first Ballard Brown performance at the Summer Pavilion was the Courier of April 24,1925 which announced that it was the fifth season making 1920 the year in which the performances began. This article in part stated “ Mr Ballard Brown’s fifth season under distinguished patronage, Grand Opening of the season Monday May 4th at3:15 and 7:43 wet or fine”.

The Courier of August 19,1924 announced “ New Summer Pavilion-Tonight ‘ The Musical Comedy Kids’ Carnival Revel-Hundreds of novelties given away by the ‘Kids’. Tomorrow- last Tunbridge Wells performances of the greatest success at the Summer Pavilion. Monday next-Exclusive engagement of the ‘Famous Co’ six…………..”

The Courier of July 3,1925 gave “ Summer Pavilion-Don’t miss farewell performances of the extraordinary success ‘Make-up-box’ Sunday next 3:15 and 8pm. Two performances only. The Famous Celtic Singers and Herbert Cameron (Royal Opera House)…”

The Courier of July 30,1928 gave “ Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion Mount Sion-Farewell performance of ‘Frills and Flounces’. Tonight-Grand special night-‘The Yorkshire Pudden’. Monday next-‘ The Rhapsodies’ and Frank Dunlop, your favourite comedian. Full programme every afternoon”.

The Courier of July 27,1928 reported “ Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion-Last two days of The Rhapsodies’ Tonight-Grand-As-You-Please competition for ladies and gentlemen. First Prize-Silver Tea Service, value /3/3/0. Monday next-Expensive engagement of Will Gane (himself)…”

The Courier of September 7,1928 gave “ Grove Summer Pavilion-A social programme was given at the Grove Summer Pavilion over the weekend. On Friday there was an ankle competition, in which 18 competitors took part and the following day there was a special competition for children. On Monday………..”

The Courier of September 27,1929 gave “ Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion Mount Sion-Daily at 3:15 and 3pm. Tonight final competition. The best dubbed as shingled head of hair for ladies. First Prize-A silver tea service. Reserves seats.”

The Courier of July 15 and September 23,1932 gave “ For health and happiness, fresh air visit Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion, Mount Sion Grove. Tomorrow (Saturday night) Grand Farewell. Seats booked at Burnea, 40 High Street and at the Summer Pavilion. Are you missing the good things at the Grove Summer Pavilion?”

The Courier of May 14,1936 reported “ Ballard Brown’s Summer Pavilion-Daily at 3;15 and 8pm. Last two days of the popular ‘Poppies’. Pop in and see them. Next week extraordinary attraction ‘Le Grand Devvette.,12 casino girls and George Belton from London”.

The Courier of September 4 and 6,1936 published a letter to the editor from a person stating that he/she was disappointed in the lack of patrons for the entertainments at the Summer Pavilion. This resulted in a drop in revenue and put the entertainments there in jeopardy.


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

Date: December 31,2018


The Carlton Hotel, located on the SW corner of Eridge Road and Montacute Road was built in the mid1870’s and attached to the north end of Nevill Terrace, a row of eight large Terrace Homes and given the address of 9 Montacute Road. The earliest reference to the Carlton Hotel was from the Kent & Sussex Courier of September 27,1876 when an application of an indoor beer licence was applied for on behalf of Miss Harriett Bowles for a full licence at a building called “ Kevil” to be called the Carlton Hotel. The licence was granted making Harriett Bowles the first licensed victualler of the hotel. It is speculated with some degree of certainty that “Kevil” was a lodging house before being converted into the Carlton Hotel and dates to the early 1870’s around the same time that Nevill Terrace was built.

The Carlton Hotel is often given in directories as a private hotel under the name of the Carlton Family Hotel or the Carlton Family and Commercial Hotel.  Sometime after 1905 and before 1923 an addition was constructed on the north facade of the building. In 1937 the Carlton Hotel became known as the Lord Cornwallis, a public house which operated until 1986 when J. Sainsbury PLC (of the local Sainsbury supermarket) received Planning Authority approval to demolish the Lord Cornwallis pub to made room for a roundabout at the corner of Eridge Road and Montacute Road. The entire building was however not demolished- just the addition on the north façade. The original Carlton Hotel building still exists today  but as a building of flats. It of course has undergone renovations over the years.

There have been at least a two dozen licensed victuallers of the hotel/pub from 1876 to 1986, a list of them and some information about them are given in this article. None of them owned the building itself but were licensees of a brewery. The National Archives for example records that on December 3,1935 the Carlton Hotel was sold to Frederick K. Leney and Sons Ltd and it had been owned at other times by other breweries, including Whitbreads in the 1950s.

Shown above is a postcard dated circa 1905 by James Valentine showing the Carlton Hotel on the right with the Tunbridge Wells West station shown at the end of Montacute Road.

A number of notable people stayed at the Carlton Hotel over the years including the A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame). His autobiography stated in part “ We then hurried away to the station and made off and took the train to Tunbridge Wells. Here we found a lovely hotel called the Carlton Hotel, we had a tremendous tea of ham and eggs, after a grand wash, and then went to bed”. Shown opposite is a postcard by Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer/publisher Harold H. Camburn showing the Carlton Hotel.

The Courier over the years published dozens of advertisments for staff to work at the hotel. On gentleman who worked there was Arthur Gilbert Simmonds (1881-1917) who served in WW1 and was killed in France June 28,1917. He was gazetted a Lieut in the R.G.A and went to France, where he was killed in action. His name appears on the Sevenoaks War Memorial and elsewhere.

In this article I present a number of photographs and maps showing the location of the building and what it looked like over the years. Since at least 1986 the former Carlton Hotel was converted into flats, a use it retains today, and a use shared by most of the homes in Nevill Terrace who began as single family residences, typically of 5 bedrooms.


Shown opposite is a map dated 1883 showing the Carlton Hotel on the SW corner of Eridge Road and Montacute Road. Below is  the 1907 OS map showing the same location. Below these two maps is a site map from the Planning Authority file for 1986 in connection with the demolition of the Lord Cornwallis public house that was an addition constructed on the north façade of the original Carlton Hotel. Beside the Carlton Hotel was the Carlton Hotel stables where horses and carriages were kept for hotel guests. The hotel was built of brick with some stonework on the main floor with a slate roof and wood windows.

The earliest reference to the Carlton Hotel was from the Kent & Sussex Courier of September 27,1876 when an application of an indoor beer licence was applied for on behalf of Miss Harriett Bowles for a full licence at a building called “ Kevil” to be called the Carlton Hotel. The licence was granted making Harriett Bowles the first licensed victualler of the hotel. It is speculated with some degree of certainty that “Kevil” was a lodging house before being converted into the Carlton Hotel and dates to the early 1870’s around the same time that Nevill Terrace was built.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of June 22,1877 and in subsequent years reported that employees of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway held their annual dinner at the Carlton Hotel.

Various articles in the Kent & Sussex Courier in 1878 reported that the West Kent (Queen’s Own) Yeomanry Calverley held their drills on the grounds of the Carlton Hotel.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 31,1896 reported that Mr. Thomas Humphry had received instructions from Mr. Frank Cant, the celebrated rose grower of Colchester, to sell by action the Carlton Hotel Yard February next”.

Over the years this hotel has been the venue at which many meetings, receptions and other events were held, as noted in the Kent & Sussex Courier throughout the 19th and 20th century.

During the brief period of the Municipal Telephone System (1901-1903) when the Central Exchange was in the Calverley Parade, the Carlton Hotel was one of only four public call offices in the town. In about this time the proprietor of the hotel advertised it as “four families and gentlemen, facing the Common and close to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, Billiards-the largest and best ventilated room in the town. Bath & Smoking rooms. Large dining room…capable of seating 100. Bedrooms with all the latest up-to-date improvements. Lighted by electric light”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of February 27,1920 announced “ Carlton Hotel- The new dining hall to seat 250 is now in course of construction and will be ready in March and can now be booked for dinners, concerts, dancing, meetings etc”. This dining hall is the extension on the north elevation of the original building shown in at least two photographs given later in this article.

The Kent & Sussex Courier of April 30,1937 gave a detailed account under the headline ‘ The Lord Cornwallis-New Hotel with moderation in its modernisation-bright and pleasing atmosphere” which in part stated “ A change has taken place at the old Carlton Hotel, Eridge Road, which in future will be known as the ‘Lord Cornwallis’….” Later in the buildings history the side wing received alterations and the front extension to the bar.

The historical significance of this building was recognized when approval was given for demolition of the Lord Cornwallis pub when a condition of approval required that “the building is not to be demolished before a contract for carrying out the redevelopment of the site has been made and that the Royal Commission of Historical Monument are given an opportunity to make a record of the building”.


Show above left is a photo of the Lord Cornwallis  before partial demolition and to the right is an image of the building in 2016 when the roundabout was constructed. Below them on the left is an advertisement for the opening of the Lord Conrwallis and to the right of it is a 2018 photo of the building as flats.  


Given below is a list of known licensed victuallers of the Carlton Hotel and after 1937 the Lord Cornwallis. Research shows that the transfer of licenses occurred on a very frequent basis. The list is based on a review of local directories, census and other genealogical records and articles in the Kent & Sussex Courier. Further information about a few of them is given below the list particularly in reference to the dates on which a license transfer was made. Given in brackets after each name is the name of the brewery that owned the pub. The numbers in brackets right after the names  note the year in which a license transfer was made with (1) being person licence transferred from and (2) etc name of person to whom the licence was transferred.

1876-1877………..Mrs Harriett Bowles

1877-1878…………John James Spencer/Thomas Huntley Spencer

1878-1879………....Edward Ellison

1879-1891 …………Alfred Waters

1892…………………..W.H. Downs (1)

1892………………….. Mr. K (or B) Rogers (2)

1902…………………..Mrs Whale (1)

1902-1904………….James Robert Roy (2)

1904-1905………….Charles Feller

1906-1907………….Mr. Domvile

1907……………………Alexander Thompson

1914……………………Mr L.W. Barrett (1)

1914……………………Mr Horace West Inman (2)

1917-1918…………..George Wake

1919……………………Major W.H. Poole (M.C.)

1920……………………Mr and Mrs Philip James Robin (1)

1920-1922……………Philip James Robin(2)

1922-1923…………..Alfred George Caldwell/Henry Gordon Sharp

1923-1925…………..Major Henry Gordon Sharp

1927-1930…………...Frederick William Willson (1)

1930-1931…………...William James Goodwin (2)

1935…………………… (Frederick K. Leney and Sons Ltd)

1938……………………Alfred John Tooth (Fredk Leney and Sons Ltd)

1946-1950………….Mr. H.L. Pursey (Whitgreads Brewery)

1986……………………J. Sainsbury PLC


Mrs Bowles was the first person to be granted a licence when the Carlton Hotel opened in 1876. The first reference was in the Courier of September 27,1876 regarding an application for an indoor beer licence “at the Carlton Hotel, by Mr. W.C. Cripps, solicitor on behalf of Mrs Harriett Bowles for a full license to Kevil House, which is to be called the Carlton Hotel”.

The second  notice appeared in the Courier October 13,1876 when Mr W.C. Cripps, solicitor, applied for the confirmation of a license to the Carlton Hotel, on behalf of Mrs Harriett Bowles.

At least five articles in the Courier from November 1,1876 to June 2,1877 refers to the Carlton Family and Commercial Hotel under the proprietorship of Mrs Harriett Bowles “for years at the Mitre Hotel in Maidstone begs to inform residents and visiting gentry and the public” that the hotel provided excellent accommodation.

The Courier of September 14,1877 referred to a meeting at the Bankruptcy Court in the matter of proceedings for liquidation by arrangement or composition with the creditors instituted by Mrs Harriett Bowles of the Carlton Hotel.

The Courier of October 3,1877 reported on the “temporary” transfer of licence from Harriett Bowles to Mr J.J. Spencer.

The Courier of November 14,1877 reported on a change in licence from Mrs. Harriett Bowles on the application of Mr Warner, solicitor, acting for the creditors of Mrs Bowles to Mr John James Spencer.


The Courier of October 12,1877 reported that the Carlton Hotel was under new management.

The Courier of November 14,1877 reported on the transfer of the license from Mrs Harriett Bowles to Mr John James Spencer.

The Courier of January 25,1878 reported on “the extensive stabling  and commodious lock-up coach housing at the Carlton Hotel . The restaurant attached to the Carlton Hotel in Eridge Road is now opened”.

The Courier of March 1,1878 reported on the planting of a tree opposite the Carlton Hotel which he named “Carlton”. Others planted trees and named them including Mr Barton, Lord George etc.

The Courier of March 29,1878 reported on an “innaugural dinner at the Carlton Hotel Tuesday evening where a numerous company assembled and to wish success to Mr Thomas Huntley Spencer in his management of this establishment”.

The Courier of December 11,1878 reported that the license had been transferred from John James Spencer to Mr Edward Ellison.


The Courier of December 11,1878 reported that the license had been transferred from John James Spencer to Mr Edward Ellison. The same report appeared in the Courier of January 8 and 10,1879.

The Courier of October 8,1879 reported on the transfer of the license from Edward Ellison to Mr Alfred Waters.


The Courier of October 8,1879 reported on the transfer of the license from Edward Ellison to Mr Alfred Waters.

Alfred Waters and his family were found at the Carlton Hotel in the 1881 and 1891 census but was gone by 1892 when it came into possession of W.H. Downs.

[5] W.H. DOWNS

Mr Downs became the licensed victualler in 1892 following the departure of Alfred Waters who was there at the time of the 1891 census.

The Courier of April 15,1892 reported on the transfer of licence from W.H. Downs to Mr B (or K) Rogers.

[6] MR K (or B) ROGERS

A Mr K (or B) Rogers was listed at the Carlton Hotel in 1892 after W.H. Downs.

The Courier of April 15,1892 reported on the transfer of licence from W.H. Downs to Mr B (or K) Rogers.


Mrs Whale was the proprietor in the early part of 1902 but later that year James Robert Roy took over.

The Courier of June 18,1904 reported a temporary transfer of licence from Mrs Whale to Mr J.R. Roy.


James took over from Mrs Whale in the latter part of 1902 and was still there in 1904 but later that same years Charles Feller took over. He is listed at the hotel in a 1903 directory.

The Courier of June 18,1904 reported a temporary transfer of licence from Mrs Whale to Mr J.R. Roy.

The Courier of September 9,1904 reported in the temporary transfer of licence from J.Robert Roy to Charles Feller.


Charles took over the hotel in the last part of 1904 and was still there in 1905 until Mr Domvile took over in the first part of 1906.

The Courier of September 9,1904 reported in the temporary transfer of licence from J.Robert Roy to Charles Feller.

The Courier of April 14,1905 reported that the licensed victualler of the hotel was Mr. Charles Feller.


Mr Domvile took over in the first part of 1906 but in 1907 he was replaced by Alexander Thompston.

The Courier of May 31,1907 reported a transfer in licence from Mr Dromvile to Alexander Thompson.


Alexander took over from Mr Domvile in 1907 but was gone by 1914.

The Courier of May 31,1907 reported a transfer in licence from Mr Dromvile to Alexander Thompson.


Mr Barrett was found at the Carlton Hotel in the first part of 1914 but but later that year Mr Horace West Inman took over.

The Courier of July 3,1914 reported on a license transfer from Mr. L.W. Barrett to Mr. Horace West Inman.


Horace took over from Mr L.W. Barrett in the later part of 1914 but was gone by 1917.

The Courier of July 3,1914 reported on a license transfer from Mr. L.W. Barrett to Mr. Horace West Inman.


George was found records of 1917 and 1918 as the proprietor of the hotel. He is listed at the hotel in a 1918 directory.

The Courier of May 11,1917 reported that the licenced victualler of the Carlton Hotel was George Wake.

[15] MAJOR W.H. POOLE (M.C.)

Major Poole took over the hotel from George Wake in 1919 but was replaced by Mrs and Mrs Philip James Robin in 1920.

The Courier of April 4,1919 reported “Change in proprietorship of the Carlton Hotel-Major W.H. Poole M.C. late Middlesex Regiment and Northumberland Fusiliers desires to announce that he had taken over the hotel and will conduct same as a high-class restaurant and commercial hotel”.

The Courier of October 15,1920 reported a change in proprietorship of the Carlton Hotel “this week in favour of Mr and Mrs Robin of Westerham who have a large experience in the hotel and catering business”…”and that the former licensed victualler was Mr. W.H. Poole”.


Mr and Mrs Philip James Robin took over the hotel from Major Poole in 1920 and were still there in 1922 but later that year the partners Alfred George Galdwell and Hanry Gordon Sharp took over. Philip James Robin is listed as the proprietor of the hotel in a 1922 directory.

The Courier of October 15,1920 reported a change in proprietorship of the Carlton Hotel “this week in favour of Mr and Mrs Robin of Westerham who have a large experience in the hotel and catering business”…”and that the former licensed victualler was Mr. W.H. Poole”.

The Courier of May 6,1921 reported that the licensed victualler of the Carlton Hotel was Mr Robin.


These two gentlemen were business partners and took over the hotel from Mrs and Mrs Philip James Robin in the later part of 1922. In 1923 the partnership was dissolved with Henry Gordon Sharp carrying the operation of the hotel on his own until 1925.

The Courier of November 3,1922 reported that “Henry Gordon Sharp of the Carlton Hotel had been summoned for selling intoxicating liquor during prohibited hours on October 33,1922”.

The Courier of July 20,1923 recorded that the licensed victualler was “Major H. G. Sharp”. The same report appeared in the Courier of March 16,1923.

The London Gazette of October 26,1923 reported that the partnership between Alfred George Caldwell and Henry Gordon Sharp carrying on business as licensed victuallers at Tunbridge Wells under the name of Carlton Hotel has been dissolved by mutual agreement and Mr Sharp is to continue the business. Dated October 18,1923”.

The Courier of August 1,1924 reported “Wanted to purchase- matter of the Limited Partnership Carlton Hotel. Notice given for winding up of the limited partnership known as The Carlton Hotel in Tunbridge Wells”.

The Courier of Mary 29,1925 reported “ Late Tunbridge Wells Hotel Keepers Failure- Bankruptcy meeting of creditors and recovery made against The Carlton Hotel Limited Partnership”.

The Courier of November 6,1925 reported on the bankruptcy dissolution of Henry Gordon Sharp “the general partner of the Carlton Hotel, Tunbridge Wells”.


Frederick ran the hotel from 1927 towards the end of 1930 when in that year it was taken over by William James Goodwin. Who the licensed victualler was in 1935 was not established but the hotel was owned by Frederick K. Leney and Sons Ltd. The National Archives has in their collection documents pertaining to the sale of the Carlton Hotel to this brewery on December 3,1935.

In 1903 and 1903 Frederick was a beer retailer at 19 Sutherland St, Aston, Birmingham. On May 19,1913 he was admitted into the Lodge of Freedom of the Freemasons.  

The Courier of August 17,1927 recorded that the proprietor of the Carlton Hotel was Mr F.W. Willson. He is  listed at the hotel in a 1930 directory.


Towards the end of 1930 Mr Goodwin took over the hotel from Mr Willson and was still there in 1931.

The Courier of September 19,1930 reported that the licensed victualler of the hotel was William James Goodwin.

The Courier of August 21,1932 reported on a case of a broken window “the property of William James Goodwin of the Carlton Hotel.

[20] Alfred JOHN TOOTH 

The Courier of April 30,1937 reported on the opening of the Lord Cornwallis ( the former Carlton Hotel) and that Mr Tooth was the licensed victualler. He was still there in 1938.

For further details regarding the opening of the Lord Cornwallis see either the long courier article  of April 30,1937 entitled “ The Lord Cornwallis-New Hotel with moderation in its modernisation-Bright and pleasing atmosphere”. This article and related images can also be found on the Dover Kent Pub Archives website, which I highly recommend reading. Shown opposite is an advertisement for the opening.

The name ‘ Lord Cornwallis’ was well chosen for during WWII he organized a fundraising campaign in support of the war, a campaign that received donations from the people of Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere to raise money for a squadron of Spitfires, one of which was named ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells’, details of which were given in my article ‘ The Spitfire named Royal Tunbridge Wells’ dated July 24,2016.  You can also read more about the gentleman on the Kent Spitfire website.

[21] H.L. PURSEY

Local directories listed Mr Pursey as the licenced victualler of the Lord Cornwallis from 1946 to 1950 and during that time the premises were owned by the Whitbreads Brewery. Who ran the after 1950 was not investigated but on September 9, 1986  J. Sainsbury PLC made application to demolish the Lord Cornwallis ( northern addition only) to make way for a roundabout at the corner of Montacute Road and Eridge Road, which application was approved.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of July 7,1950 gave the following. “ A Beefeater for 21 years- Kent hotel landlord at Royal inspection. Mr H.J,. Pursey, landlord of the ‘Lord Cornwallis’, Eridge Road, Tunbridge Wells, has been a Beefeater (member of the King’s Yeoman of the Guard) for 21 years. And on Tuesday he was one of the 80 Yeomen who came from all parts of the country to Buckingham Palace for the King’s first post-war inspection of his bodyguard. For 22 years, from 1900, Mr Pursey served in the Grenadier and Welsh Guards. During the 1939-1945 was he was in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment for two years. Leaving with the rank of warrant officer. Mr Pursey has had the ‘Lord Cornwallis’ for the last 4-1/2 years, and before that he was the landlord of the ‘George and Dragon Hotel” , Speldhurst, for 13 years.

For further information about him and the George and Dragon Hotel refer to may article ‘ George and Dragon Inn-Speldhurst’ dated December 30,2012.




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

Date: January 3,2019


The provision of bandstands in Tunbridge Well dates back to the 19th century, the earliest one being the bandstand in the Pantiles. This bandstand was replaced over the years with new versions and today there is still one at this location providing entertainment to residents and visitors alike.

The second bandstand to be constructed was the one in the Mount Sion Grove in the spring of 1897. This was a second hand bandstand designed for Warrior Square, St Leonards-on-Sea but removed and re-erected in Tunbridge Wells. It fell into a state of disrepair and was taken down in 1946.

The third bandstand in the town was one installed in 1899 at the Grosvenor and Hilbert Recreation Grounds but due to its deteriorating condition and the decline of interest in bands playing there is was taken down in 1935.

The fourth bandstand in the town was what was supposed to be a temporary bandstand at the St John’s Recreation Ground but it continued in use until the 1930’s

The fifth bandstand was one constructed in the Commons adjacent to the Queens Grove.  This bandstand was installed in the late 19th century and the bands that played there, as organized by the local band committee, provided musical performances on a regular basis, performances that were enjoyed by residents and visitors alike to this popular site. Like most of the others it suffered in condition and was taken down in the 1930’s .

The last and youngest of all the bandstands was the one installed in the Calverley Grounds in 1924. This bandstand has a long and interesting history having been initially damaged and then destroyed during WWII it was demolished. Later it was replaced by a series of more modest bandstands, the last of which survived until 2010 when it was demolished and not replaced.

 Details about all of the aforementioned bandstands and the bands of Tunbridge Wells were given in my article ‘ History of Tunbridge Wells Brass Bands and Bandstands’ dated December 26,2012.

In this article I provide a more detailed account of The Mount Sion Grove Bandstand and a larger selection of postcard views of it and its surroundings.


The Grove was a small wooded area donated as a public open space in 1703 and set out with walks in the early 19th century.

Many improvements were carried out under the direction of William Law Pope, a minister of King Charles Church who was the leading trustee from 1864 with the honorary position of curator.

Under the Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act of 1890 the Grove was transferred from the trustees to the new Borough Council. Council embellished the Grove with the addition of iron railings, ornamental gates, seats and lamp standards. Many new trees and shrubs and flower beds were also added.  The Courier of September 25,1890 reported on discussions regarding the provision of a bandstand in The Grove, but nothing was done to provide one until a decision was made in late 1896 to provide one.

In the latter part of 1896 a decision was made to purchase a second-hand bandstand that stood in Warrior Square Gardens ,St Leonards-on-Sea, for 35 pounds.

Warrior Square Gardens (image opposite) was a site opened as a subscription garden in 1852. The gardens were surrounded on three sides by residences. In about 1890 a bandstand was erected there at the south end of the gardens and for several years bands played there, which performances were much enjoyed but residents complained about the noise.  The Hastings, St Leonards Chronicle of August 15,1896 reported on a concert held at the bandstand in Warrior Square Gardens

In 1896/1897 a pier, with a pavilion and a bandstand erected at the end, was provided. This new bandstand, combined with the complaints of noise from the bandstand in Warrior Square made the old bandstand redundant. As a result it was sold to Tunbridge Wells. The bandstand was disassembled and transported to Tunbridge Wells, most likely by train but possibly by horse and waggon.

Given below are a few samples of newspaper reports from the Kent & Sussex Courier regarding deliberations about the provision of a bandstand in The Grove. It should be noted from such articles as the Courier of September 11,1895 that band concerts had been held in The Grove for many years before the arrival of the bandstand but these were held out in the open and discussions took place about the need for a bandstand and other articles of the time suggested that a pavilion or some form of protection should also be provided for the audience. The Courier of September 30,1896 reported “ Proposed Bandstand-The Railway and Parks Committee on Thursday, the Surveyor was instructed to prepare plans for a bandstand in the Mount Sion Grove, which should include an arrangement for shelter of part of the audience”. However ,The Grove was a relatively small plot of land and heavily treed and concern was expressed about the removal of trees and the lack of funds. As a result no pavilion was built.

Funds for any work in The Grove came from “The Grove Fund” , the money in which could only be used for work in The Grove and it was out of this fund that the bandstand was payed for.

The Courier of October 9,1896 reported “ Mount Sion Grove Bandstand-The Parks Committee had a special meeting yesterday morning when they chose the site for the proposed bandstand in the centre of The Grove. This will also be the centre of a board walk..”

The Courier of November 13,1896 reported “ The Railway and Parks Committee hoped to erect the bandstand in the Mount Sion Grove. Mr Skillen remarked that the performances during the past season of the late Borough Band had been most successful…”

Margaret A.V. Gill in her book ‘ Royal Tunbridge Wells in Old Picture Postcards’ provided a postcard view of the bandstand, which I have not provided here as better examples have been given throughout this article. The text associated with the image read “ In 1896 the Town Surveyor was instructed by the Railway and Parks Committee to prepare plans for a bandstand in Mount Sion Grove, with ‘an arrangement to shelter part of the audience in wet weather’, though it was feared that the available funds would not be sufficient for the purpose. Opportunely a second hand bandstand came onto the market the following spring originally designed for Warrior Square, St Leonards, but removed because of complaints by tenants and property owners. ‘But for the recent gales the bandstand would have been practically as good as new; however, it was seen and purchased after the storm, hence at a considerable reduction form the price first asked; when it is erected, with a new coat of paint (which I believe all outdoor bandstands require annually), I feel sure it will give the burgesses every satisfaction’. And it did for many years, though by the 1930’s it had fallen into a deplorable state”.

When the decision was taken to provide a bandstand in Mount Sion Grove questions were raised as early as 1896 as to whether the proposed bandstand in The Grove was to be a permanent one or not (ref. Courier October 9,1986). In March 1898 articles in the Courier identified the need for a bandstand in the Common and questions were raised and suggestions made that the bandstand in The Grove be relocated to the Common. One of these dated March 16,1898 stated “ Great need of bandstand in the Common- If the association undertook to remove the bandstand from The Grove and pay a small rental could not be moved to the Common. If a bandstand could be moved from Warrior Square to The Grove it could be moved from Mount Sion Grove to the Common”. However the bandstand in The Grove remained right where it was and later a bandstand was erected in the Common beside the Queens Grove.

The Courier of December 23,1898 reported “ The Committee had a meeting in Mount Sion Grove on Saturday last. A decision was made to cut down a quantity of dead timber and also to remove the bandstand from its present position in the central part of The Grove”. As result the bandstand was relocated to a new spot in The Grove.

In September 1897 there was an illuminated music event  in The Grove “almost Parision in variety,beauty and extent” involving 7,000 coloured lamps and Chinese lanterns to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

Each year the local Band Committee hired bands to play at each of the towns bandstands. These entertainments were much enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

A playground was added in The Grove in 1899 and a summer pavilion for concert parties added in 1920 which  lasted until 1936. Details this summer pavilion were given in my article ‘ The Mount Sion Grove Summer Pavilion’ dated January 2,2019.

During WW II much of The Grove and the octagonal shaped bandstand was requisitioned by the military, and the ornamental iron railings and gates were removed and sent off for the war effort metal drive.

By 1946 the Grove and the bandstand were in a poor state of repair. The bandstand had become very dilapidated and it was decided to demolish it in 1946 and no replacement for it was provided.

The Civic Society newsletter of Spring 2006 states “ There were originally bandstands in The Grove and the Grosvenor Recreation Ground but these were swept away in the wave of helplessness and self-hate that seemed to afflict this country between the 1920’s and 1950’s.”




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