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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 a great photograph of a young man smartly dressed in a uniform making his rounds as a delivery boy for local grocers J. Sainsbury, who had a shop on Mount Pleasant Road. In this image the tricycle box bears the name and location of the shop and a sign on top offered as a "Special"- New Grass Lamb. Sainsbury had a chain of grocery shops in the southern part of England and had set up a branch shop in Tunbridge Wells in the early 1900's. The website of Sainsbury's states "the most junior role in the company was that of "egg boy" who tested eggs by candling. Another junior role was a delivery boy." The book 'The Erosion of Childhood-- Childhood in Britain 1869-1818' indicated that at the beginning of the 20th century "most boys did delivery jobs (newspapers, milk and groceries) and shop labour, for which they might pick up a penny per hour". Details about Sainsbury with photographs of their shop in Tunbridge Wells can be found in my article 'The History of J. Sainsbury-Grocers' dated May 9,2012. One photo of their shop on Mount Pleasant Road is shown opposite, and it was from this shop that the lad in the photo above loaded the groceries into his delivery tricycle and set off on his rounds in all kinds of weather.

Tricycle delivery conveyances like this one were a common sight in the town and most often ridden by boys and young men at the start of their working career. Although some of them worked their way up in the grocery business most found other types of employment.


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. Most of my relatives 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, born in Tunbridge Wells and her son born in Canada. 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.


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

Date: August 29,2017


Frances Wise (1841-1924), nee Russell, was born in Tunbridge Wells. She was one of several children born to Tunbridge Ware manufacturer Robert Reginald Russell (1809-1873) and Philadelphia Agnes Russell (1814-1879), nee Seymour. A photograph of Frances taken at a Tunbridge Wells photo studio is shown opposite.

She received her education at a local girls school in the 1850’s. At the time of the 1861 census she was working as a dressmaker and living with her parents and siblings at 1 Bedford Terrace, Tunbridge Wells.

In 1865 Frances married John Wise (1838-1885) in Tunbridge Wells. John was one of eleven children born to George Wise(1810-1877) an agricultural worker, and Ann Wise, nee Bryan (1812-1889). John’s parents lived all their lives in Yorkshire.

John Wise was a tailor, and at the time of the 1851 census in Yorkshire he was working as a tailors apprentice. When he completed his apprentiship in 1858 John worked in Yorkshire as a tailor. By 1864 John took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and worked at a tailors shop and while there met his future wife Frances Russell.

John Wise and Frances went on to have eleven children between 1866 and 1884 but three of them had died before 1911. All of the children had been born in Tunbridge Wells.

When the 1871 census was taken at 2 West Grove, Claremont Road, Tunbridge Wells John Wise was working as a tailor and his wife Frances was a lodging house keeper. At the time of this census three of their children were living with them along with one domestic servant and five lodgers. A directory of 1874 gave the listing “ John Wise, lodging house, 2 Claremont Road”.

When the 1881 census was taken at 4 Dukes Road, a modest semi- detached home of red brick, painted white, John Wise was working as a tailor. With him was his wife Frances and seven of their children.

In 1885 tragedy stuck the family when John Wise passed away at only age 47 leaving Frances to support and raise a large and young family on her own. To support the family she drew upon her prior skills as a dressmaker, an occupation she had before her marriage to John Wise.

At the time of the 1891 census, Frances was the proprietor of a dress and mantle makers shop at 34 High Street, a shop located on the west side of the High Street, north of Payne’s Jewellers at No. 37. High Street circa 1910 is shown opposite with No.34 being on the left side in the vicinity of the lamp standard.The 1891 census recorded that she employed others to work in her shop and several of her children worked there as well including her eldest daughter Agnes Ann, born 1866; her daughter Ellen Elizabeth (1876-1958) and her daughter Maude Emmeline (1880-1959). All three of her daughters worked in the shop as dress and mantle makers and Frances also had a young lady working in the shop as a dress maker’s apprentice. From all accounts the business was a success and set the family on a sound financial footing.  A directory of 1899 gave the listing ‘Mrs Frances Wise, dress maker, 4 Mount Sion Road”.

When the 1901 census was taken at Brunswick House, 26 Mount Sion Frances Wise was there and working as a dress maker on own account at home. With her were her children Ella, Maud who worked in the home for their mother as dress makers. Also in the home was Frances’s daughters Edith and Eva who assisted in the home. Also there were three dress maker workers and one cashier clerk all living as lodgers. Brunswick House still exists as a large family home. Built in the Victorian Era it is a large building of some 2,500 sf arranged over four floors. Shown opposite is a postcard view of Mount Sion by Judges posted 1928 which is a view looking west. No. 26 Mount Sion is further east than what this postcard shows but gives an idea of what the street looked like at that time when it was lined with lime trees.

A postcard sent by a family friend  called Fred in December 1905 addressed to Miss E. Wise of 26 Mount Sion ( who was France’s daughter Ella Elizabeth Wise) is featured in this article and states on the  back in part “ I am glad to hear of Mrs Wises’s condition” (referring to Ella’s mother).

Frances; three of her daughters Ella, Maud and Eva were still living at 26 Mount Sion along with one lodger at the time of the 1911 census. Their home was described as having 12 rooms. Local directories record that Frances Wise and her daughters were still living at 26 Mount Sion in 1913. Frances at that time was age 71 and still working as a dress maker.

The ladies who went to Frances to have a dress made came to her with a dress pattern and the materials needed to make the dress. Upon their arrival they discussed details about what was to be made and the customer would have a private fitting to obtain the necessary measurements. Then Frances and her daughters would begin cutting the fabric and embark on both hand and machine stitching to create the dress. Fancy items like lace and buttons etc would be added and then the customer would be asked to come in to try the dress on. Any necessary adjustments would then be made to satisfy the customer. Unlike today where most women buy “off the rack” dresses custom made took time and their creation required a great deal of skill on the part of the dressmaker, a skill which Frances Wise and her daughters had. Frances may have done some advertising for her business but most of her trade would have been by word of mouth and by referrals from satisfied customers.

Of Frances’s surviving six daughter’s it appears that only her eldest daughter Agnes Ann Wise ever got married, as the probate record for Frances Wise referred to daughters Maud and Eva as spinsters in 1958 and burial records for the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery note the burial of Maud in 1959 and Eva in 1964. The daughter Minnie Grace Wise was buried there in 1952 and the daughter Ella Elizabeth was buried there in 1958, both spinsters. Her daughter Gertrude Frances Wise who was born in 1870 died of unknown causes at age 14 and was buried in the same cemetery in 1884. And so, as one can see, most of the members of this family lived out their lives in Tunbridge Wells. Frances’s sons Charles Ricard Wise and George Thomas Wise either died in Tunbridge Wells or left the town sometime after 1891. The last record for Charles was the 1881 census and George was last found in the 1891 census living with his widowed mother and siblings and working as a clerk.

Although many women found themselves in the unenviable position of having lost a husband early and being left with many children to care for, one has to admire Frances Wise for her ability to raise her children after the loss of her husband through her enterprise running a dressmakers business and lodging house. Frances passed away in 1924, some 39 years after her husband and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on October 4,1924.


Frances Wise, nee Russell, was born 1841 in Tunbridge Wells. Her birth was registered in the 2nd qtr of 1841. She was one of eleven children born to Tunbridge Ware manufacturer Robert Reginald Russell (1809-1873) and Philadelphia Agnes Seymour, born 1813 in Wadhurst, Sussex.

From my article ‘Tunbridge Ware-A Profile of Manufacturers’ dated February 14,2012 I stated in part “The industry of making Tunbridge Ware in Tunbridge Wells began in the 1700’s and essentially came to an end about 1939 . During the war  the industry went into a state of decline and more or less ended as a significant local industry.The quality of the items produced went through a period of transition also for initially the items were rather crude compared to the many finely crafted examples produced during the industries finest days in mid to late 19th century and as the industry declined and the "old masters" disappeared the latest items produced were quite poor in comparison to their forerunners.What began as a "local souvenir" became pieces of finely crafted "works of art",very intricate,well made and finely crafted examples of woodcraft many of which often appear at auction and command high prices for there are many collectors of them and of course in the case of the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery the examples they have on display have significant local importance to the town which adds even more to their value”.

From the aforementioned article I gave the following information about Robert Reginald Russell, who was active in the manufacture of Tunbridge Ware from about 1829-1871, which I have supplemented with information about his daughter Frances.

Robert Reginald Russell was born September 3,1809 in Tunbridge Wells and was baptised in Speldhurst on September 1, 1811. Robert was one of eleven children in the family. His parents were John Russel (1772-1852) and Sarah Russell, nee Curtiss (1773-1858). In the period of 1811 to 1816 Robert lived with his parents and siblings in Cobham, Kent.

On December 11,1831, in Tunbridge Wells, Robert married Philadelphia Agnes Seymour(1814-1879) who was born in Wadhurst, Sussex.

The 1841 census taken at #10 Yard ,MountEphraim,Speldhurst recorded Robert as a Tunbridge Ware maker living with his wife Philadelphia Agnes Russell, nee Seymour(1814-1879) and his 6 year old daughter Elizabeth and son George,age 2 and daughter Frances,age 2 months. Three other people were also living with the family. This home,based on the order in which the census was taken, was located near Chancellor House, which in the 1930’s became the site of the Kent & Sussex Hospital. At #7 Yard nearby was Thomas Waterman who was also a Tunbridge Ware maker.

The 1851 census, taken at 7 Tranquil Terrace (near the Railway Inn) gave Robert as a maker of Tunbridge Ware . Living with him was his wife Philadelphia and six of their children, including their daughter Frances who was attending school. Also in the home was Robert’s sister in law Elizabeth Seymour, a single lady born 1806 in Wadhurst.

In the 1861 census ,taken at #1 Bedford Lane,Tunbridge Wells ,Robert was given as a "master marquetrie maker" employing 1 man. Living with him was his wife Philadelphia and their children  Elizabeth,age 26, house keeper; Frances,age 19, a dressmaker and Jabez Russell,born 1845 Spelhurst who was also listed as a "marquetrie maker". Also in the home was one visitor and four lodgers.

Local directories record Robert in 1851 at London Road; in 1855 at The Parade and in 1867 at #1 Vale Place.

Robert Russell also exhibited his wares at the 1851 Great Exhibition and is credited as having worked in Tunbridge Wells "producing sophisticated designs for over 20 years". It is also known that Robert Russell had contacts with the Royal Family and that examples of his work are among the possessions of the Royal Family.

The 1871 census taken at #1 Vale Place,Tunbridge Wells recorded Robert as a Tunbridge Ware manufacturer.Living with him was his wife Philadelphia and their spinster daughters Elizabeth, a 36 year old dress and mantle maker and Harriet G Russell, a 23 year old dress and mantle maker.  

Robert Reginald Russell passed away July 1873 in Tunbridge Wells.

Robert Russell's wares occasionally appear up for sale at different acution houses and antique dealers and one can see examples of his work from time to time advertised on the internet. One online gallery said of Robert " He was a maverick who developed his own version of marquetry.His work was reminiscent of ecclesiastical neo-gothic patterns and was ised either on its own or in conjunction with mosaic work.In an advertisment of 1863 he claimed his new marquetry to be of "superior character".Not many pieces of Russell have survived".

One object  he was known to have made included  various visiting card cases with geometric motif and cross banding and checkered borders. Although not a prolific producer compared to other local makers his work is highly prized and considered to be a good example of very fine work. Shown above is an example of Tunbridge Ware but not necessarily one made by Robert Reginald Russell.

Returning now to Frances Russell, the central figure in this article, I pick up her story after she was living with her parents and siblings at the time of the 1861 census at No. 1 Bedford Lane, where at that time she was working as a dressmaker, a skill which she would heavily rely upon after the early death of her husband.  This story continues in the next section.


Frances Russell left the family home upon her marriage to John Wise (1838-1885) in 1865. The couple were married at Holy Trinity Church (image opposite dated 1890).

John Wise had been born April 23,1838 at Atwick, Yorkshire and was one of eleven children born to George Wise (1810-1877), an agricultural worker,  and Ann Wise, nee Bryan (1812-1889). His parents lived all their lives in Yorkshire.

Before coming to Tunbridge Wells John lived in Yorkshire with his parents and attended school. Unlike his father he decided that farming was not for him and took an interest in being a tailor.

At the time of the 1851 census in Bewholme, Yorkshire John was working as a tailors apprentice for John Newlove who was a tailor and draper. When he completed his apprentiship in 1858 John worked in Yorkshire as a tailor. By 1864 John took up residence in Tunbridge Wells and worked at a tailors shop and while there met his future wife Frances Russell.

As noted above John married Frances in 1865 and with her had the following children, who were all born in Tunbridge Wells  (1) Agnes Ann, born 1866 (2) George Thomas, born 1869 (3) Frances Gertrude, born 1870 (baptised April 24,1870)(4) Gertrude Frances(1870-1884) (5) Charles Richard, born 1872 (6) Ella Elizabeth (1876-1958) (7) Minnie Grace (1878-1952) (8) Maud Emmeline (1880-1959) (9) Edith  M, born 1882 (10) Eva Eleanor (1884-1964). Shown opposite is a CDV of the Wise sisters taken at the Tunbridge Wells studio of Edward Simms.

The 1871 census, taken at 2 West Grove, Claremont Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave John Wise as a tailor. With him was his wife Frances, a lodging house keeper, and their children Agnes Ann, George Thomas, and Frances Gertrude Wise. Agnes was attending school and the younger children were at home. Also in the home was one servant and five lodgers. The 1874 Kelly directory gave the listing “ John Wise, lodging house, 21 Claremont Road”.

The 1881 census, taken at 4 Dukes Road, Tunbridge Wells (photo opposite) gave John Wise as a tailor. With him was his wife Frances, given as a tailors wife, and seven of their children, the eldest four of which were in school. Among them was their daughter Gertrude Frances Wise, born 1870 who died in 1884 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on April 14th.  The home at 4 Dukes Road was a modest semi-detached brick home located off Granville Road on the east side just north of the intersection of Granville and Dukes Road, not far from the St Barnabas School and St Barnabas Church. In this photo No. 4 is on the left side of this building.

In 1885 tragedy befell the family when John Wise passed away at only age 47. He had died July 17,1885 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on July 23rd. As no probate record for him could be found the size of his estate and the names of his executors could not be established. The death of John Wise left Frances in a difficult position for at the time of his death she was still looking after seven children, ages 5 to 20, with four of them under the age of 15 and still in school. Drawing on her prior working experience as a dress maker she relied on her skills in this trade to support her family.

Shown here are two CDV’s taken at the studio of Aleric Hawkins De Arth of 4 Mount Sion, stated by family members to be photos of the Wise children. Unfortunately the names of the sitters were not given.

The 1891 census, taken at 34 High Street gave Frances as a widow and the proprietor of a dress and mantle makers shop at 34 High Street. At this shop several of her children worked in the business and Frances also had hired help. With Frances at the time of this census was her eldest daughter Agnes Ann Wise, age 25, who’s occupation was ‘dress and mantle maker worker’. Also there was Frances son George Thomas Wise, a clerk and her daughters Ella Elizabeth, age 15, and Minnie Grace, age 13, both of whom were working for their mother as dress maker workers. Frances’s three daughters Maude, Edith and Eva were with her and attending school. Also at the shop was one dress maker’s apprentice.

The shop at 34 High Street was located on the west side of the Road in the block south of Vale Road and north of South Grove. Further south at No.37 High Street on the opposite side of the road was the well-known shop of Payne’s Jewellers over the entrance to which was their famous clock, a distinctive feature in postcard views of the High Street. Shown above left is one of these postcards and on the right is a modern photo of 32-34 High Street, occupied in recent years by Crew Clothing. No. 34 is on the left side of this image.

The 1899 Kelly directory gave the listing “ Mrs Frances Wise, dress maker, 4 Mount Sion. When she closed her shop on the High Street was not determined but must have been in the late 1890’s.  In 1900 she moved from 4 Mount Sion to ‘Brunswick House’ at 26 Mount Sion.

The 1901 census, taken at Brunswick House 26 Mount Sion (photo opposite gave Frances Wise as a “dress maker on own account at home”.  With her was her daughter Ella Elizabeth, age 25, single,and her daughter Maude Emmeline,age 21, single, both of whom had the same occupation as their mother. Also there were the sisters Edith and Eva who was “assisting at home”. In addition there were four lodgers, of which one was a woman cashier and the other three women were dress maker workers. The Ear Z& Eye Hospital was just down the road at No. 22 Mount Sion.

Brunswick House was a Victorian Era home located on the south side of Mount Sion  at the eastern corner of Mount Sion Road with Eden Road. A very old residence called Ivy Chimneys was next door at 28 Mount Sion. This home still exists today and was recently offered for sale by an estate agent who described it as being a “substantial Victorian property of some 2,500 sf in accommodation arranged over four floors”.

The ladies who went to Frances to have a dress made came to her with a dress pattern and the materials needed to make the dress. Upon their arrival they discussed details about what was to be made and the customer would have a private fitting to obtain the necessary measurements. Then Frances and her daughters would begin cutting the fabric and embark on both hand and machine stitching to create the dress. Fancy items like lace and buttons etc would be added and then the customer would be asked to come in to try the dress on. Any necessary adjustments would then be made to satisfy the customer. Unlike today where most women buy “off the rack” dresses custom made took time and their creation required a great deal of skill on the part of the dressmaker, a skill which Frances Wise and her daughters had. Frances may have done some advertising for her business but most of her trade would have been by word of mouth and by referrals from satisfied customers.

Shown above is the back of a postcard published by S. Hildesheirmer & Co. Ltd of London and Manchester postmarked December 3,1905. It was sent by a family friend who signed his name “ Yours truly-Fred” and was sent to “Miss E. Wise, 26 Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells”. The person to whom this was sent was Frances Wise’s spinster daughter Ella Elizabeth Wise (1876-1958) and stated in part that the sender was “glad to hear of Mrs Wise’s condition” suggesting that Frances Wise had been ill but was on the road to recovery. Some other interesting items in the postcard is the reference of going to a lecture on “Landlordism & Poverty” and that slides were shown of the homes of the rich and poor. There is also a reference to Fred attending a lecture on Australia by Mr Henry Stead and that Fred was off to “Shirley Hills tomorrow”.

A review of the newspaper “The South London Press” dated October 7,1905  shows that the lecture on Landlorism & Poverty had taken place in London at which several gentleman spoke. This topic was a popular one at the time and stimulated much debate over the disparity between the rich and poor, in terms of land ownership, housing and living conditions. Other articles in the same newspaper on the same or related topics also appeared throughout the period of January 14,1905 and October 21,1905. By definition Landlorism is an economic system under which a few private individuals (landlords) own properties, and rent to tenants. Books such as ‘Housing Landlorism in Late 19th C Britain’ by P. Kemp in 1982 and ‘Origin and Results of Landlorism in England’ by Joseph Leggett in 1896 are but two of several books and articles published on this topic. No doubt this topic was connected to a Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief (1905-1909) which was a body set up by British Parliament in order to investigate how the Poor Law System should be changed.

The Mr Henry Stead referred to in the postcard was Henry Stead (1875-1921) who at the time of his death edited the Australian Review of Reviews. He was the publisher of ‘Steads Review’. In 1902 he married Jeannie Maclelland 1880-1939) with whom he had three children. Henry Stead was one of six children born to William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) of whom a photo is shown opposite. Shown below is a photo taken in 1891 of William Thomas Stead along with his wife and children. Henry Stead is the young man seated front row right.

William Thomas Stead was an English newspaper editor who, as a pioneer of investigative journalism, became a controversial figure of the Victorian Era. Stead published a series of hugely influential campaigns whilst editor of The Pall Mall Gazette. Among other things he was well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England’s criminal codes. He died aboard the RMS Titanic and was considered to be one of the most famous Englishmen on board when the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Further details about him can be found on such websites as Wikipedia.  His son Henry Stead was living in Wimbledon Surrey with his wife and children from 1902 to 1911 but was regularly in Australia. News of his death on December 10,1921 appeared in several newspapers such as ‘The Northern Territory Times and Gazette of December 31,1921 which stated on the front page “ Henry Stead Dead-Henry Stead, editor of Stead’s Review died while returning from Frisco and was buried at Tahiti”. Another newspaper of December 20,1921 reported that he had died at sea on board the ship MARAMA. Henry Stead, because of his business dealings in Australia was in London in 1905 and it was while there that he gave the lecture on Australia that Fred referred to in the postcard to Frances Wise.

The 1903 to 1913 Kelly directories gave the listing “ Mrs Frances Wise, dress maker, 26 Mount Sion”. The 1911 census, taken at 26 Mount Sion gave Frances as a lodging house keeper but based on the directories must have still been engaged in dress making. With her was her daughters Ella Elizabeth, Maud Emmeline and Eva Eleanor who’s occupations were all given as “at home”. Also there was one lodger. The census recorded that the family was living in premises 12 rooms and that of the eleven children Frances had three had passed away by 1911. The three daughters listed above were all spinsters and never married. After the 1911 census the family continued to live in Tunbridge Wells.

Frances Wise passed away in Tunbridge Wells in October 1924 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on October 4th. Her daughter Maud Emmeline Wise was buried in the same cemetery September 10,1959. Eva Eleanor Wise was buried in the same cemetery February 12,1964 as was Minnie Grace Wise on April 18,1952.

Probate records for France’s spinster daughter Ella Elizabeth Wise gave her of 2 Neville Terrace, Montacute Road ,Tunbridge Wells ( a 3 bedroom Victorian Terrace) when she died March 17,1958. The executors of her 948 pound estate were her spinster sisters Maud Emmeline Wise and Eva Eleanor Wise. Ella was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on March 21,1958. No burial records in Tunbridge Wells were found for France’s children Agnes Ann, Charles Robert and George Thomas Wise.



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

Date: August 22,2017

The Greyhound Hotel was located at 131 Upper Grosvenor Road on the north-west corner of Upper Grosvenor Road and Dunstan Road. This large 2 sty red brick building with usable attic space was built sometime after 1872 and before 1881. Shown opposite is a map from 1907 on which the location of the pub is shown. Below the map is a photo of the building dated 1954.

The Hotel was once a favourite pub that served a good pint and basic meals and also included rooms for guests.

The first known licensed victualler of the premises was David Taylor who was found there at the time of the 1881 census. David had been born in Tunbridge Wells in 1837, one of several children born to Robert Taylor, a gentleman who ran a plumbing and painting business in the town.  At the time of the 1841 census David was living with his parents and five  siblings at 4 Edger Terrace on the High Street where his father was a plumber. By the time of the 1851 census the family moved to Mount Pleasant Terrace where David’s father was a plumber and glazier. At the time of the 1861 census, David and his 30 year old brother Liberty were working for their father as plumbers and painters. His father was at that time employing four men and one boy in the family business. The 1871 census, taken at 8 Grove Hill Road gave david as a plumber employing eight men. With him was his wife Sophia who had been born 1834 in Lamberhurst. David left the Greyhound by 1891, when in that year Ralph Young was the licensed victualler.

Ralph Young had been born in Frant, Sussex in 1831 and was the son of Henry and Isabella Young.He had been baptised in Frant on December 18,1831. He was married to Martha and had a daughter. He and his family came to Tunbridge Wells by 1871 when in that year he was the licensed victualler of the Kentish Yeoman Inn and was still there at the time of the 1881 census. He moved over to The Greyhound Hotel in the late 1880’s.At the time of the 1901 census Ralph was living with his wife Martha and one domestic servant at 15 Stratford Street, Tunbridge Wells, and was a retired publican. He was found at the same address in the 1911 census, a widower living on his own in 5 rooms.Ralph died in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1914.

After Mr Young came Austin Collett, who took over by 1899 but was gone by 1903. Austin had been born 2nd qtr 1857 in Oxfordshire, one of several children born to Richard , a farmer, and Ann Collett.  Austin was found in the 1901 census at The Greyhound with his wife Elizabeth; five of his children and one domestic. He died July 3,1925 at 5 Haringay Gardens, Haringay, Middlex leaving an estate valued at 7,813 pounds.

William Mubsby was found at The Greyhound in the 1903 Kelly directory but was gone by 1911. After Mr Mubsby Arthur George Rennison (1853-1916) took over. He had been  born in Ramsgate in the 1st qtr of 1853 and had been married twice. He was found at The Greyhound in the 1911 census as a widower. Living with him was two of his stepdaughters and three members of staff working in the hotel. While Arthur was running The Greyhound the Kent & Sussex Courier of January 1,1915 reported that “a fire had broken out in a stable at the back of the pub but the quick action of the fire brigade soon had it extinguished. Several military horses were in the stable and a number of soldiers held themselves in readiness to remove the horses but found there was not need to do so”. Arthur died at The Greyhound Hotel September 22,1916 leaving his 6,664 pound estate to his two stepdaughters. At the time of the 1901 census Arthur was a widow and running the Phens Arms pub in Chelsea, London.

Upon the death of Arthur George Rennison in 1916 Tom Harvey took over and was still there at the time the 1918 Kelly directory was published. From at least 1922 to 1930 the Greyhound was run by Harold George Knight who had been born September 15,1889 in West Ham, Esssex. He was living at The Mount in Warwick Park according to the 1914 Kelly directory and died in Tunbridge Wells December 1969.

In 1934 Len Loveland, who had been the former licensed victualler of The George on Mount Ephraim for 20 years took over The Greyhound and remained there for several years.

Lynn Parker was running the pub in 2004. A review of Planning Authority Records shows that in 1999 permission was granted to Persian Leisure Ltd to erect a one sty side extension to the pub to expand its kitchen and toilet facilities. Further work on illuminated signs and toilets for the disabled was undertaken in 1999 and 2000.

By 2006 The Greyhound was closed as trade had dropped off. Shown opposite is a photo of the building taken after it had been boarded up, with its horrible blue paint and graffiti.

The property was bought by a developer (Gap Developments of Basingstone) who obtained Planning Authority Permission in 2006 to demolish the building and erect in its place a large building containing 14 flats. With this The Greyhound Hotel was added to a growing list of “Lost Pubs of Tunbridge Wells”.  

Shown here is a site map from the 2006 application and also a set of drawings showing modifications to the old pub. Below this set of drawings is an elevation and floor plan showing the building that was to replace the Greyhound.

The Design and Access Statement from the 2006 file stated in part that the site was rectangular in shape and sloped down towards Upper Grosvenor Road. The applicant stated that the hotel was no longer needed and had been closed as trade had dropped off to the extent that it was not feasible to keep it running. The grounds around the Greyhound had been paved over to provide space for parking; its ground floor walls had been pained a bright blue with the second floor retaining its original red brick and its hip roof finished in slate tiles. Reduced to a pile of rubble by the developer and hauled away this once fine pub was added to the growing list  of  "lost pubs" in Tunbridge Wells.



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

Date: August 27,2017


In the modern age ,where recycling and the reduction of waste under the mantra of “ Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”  has become popular, it is perhaps worthwhile to go back a few hundred years and see how it all began by people known as “Marine Dealers” ,most often referred to as “rag and bone men”, who patrolled the streets of Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere gathering rags, bones, metal and “junk” in general.

Those engaged in this line of work were men and boys of all ages, typically from the bottom end of the social ladder, dirty,poorly dressed and poorly educated, if at all, who wandered the streets on foot carrying a greasy sack over their shoulder, or for those who could afford it, pushing a cart or riding on a horse drawn waggon, calling out on their rounds “ rags and bones..rags and bones” or “any old iron”. Rag and Bone men could still be seen on the streets with their horse drawn waggons in the 1960’s, replaced in more modern times by lorrys operated by respectable recycling companies.

The items they collected were taken back to a depot/ yard where they were sorted and resold, yards which typically were a mess and reeked, much to annoyance of their neighbours.

They were often drunk and disorderly with many accounts of them being brought before the Magistrate on various types of crimes being found in the local newspaper.

They were a “colourful” bunch, and represented the darker side of a town most often noted for its high society and the home of the rich and famous.

In this article I report on the trade of the Marine Dealer with a particular emphasis on those engaged in it in Tunbridge Wells in the 20th century.


The origin of the term “Marine Store Dealer” dates back hundreds of years to a time when they were proprietors of stores selling equipment to Mariners, perhaps components of old ships such as sails, cordage, ironwork, and other provisions found on a ship. Later most became known as junk dealers in scrap metals and other goods. Many engaged in this line of work as said to be connected to gypises (Romary people)who operated as the hub of a barter economy which enabled them to develop quite large businesses in crockery ware, hardware of every kind, fur, wool, and every conceivable article of trade and commerce.

A Marine Store Dealer was a licensed broker who bought and sold used cordage, bunting, rags, timber, metal and other general waste materials who sorted the purchased waste by kind and grade. He also repaired, mended and recovered , materials. These dealers were governed by an Act of Parliament 1st Geo. IV. Sec 16 cap. 75 which enacted that every marine store dealer shall have his name inserted in legible characters over his shop door  and shall also keep a book in which he shall insert the name and address of any person whom he bought and sold to.

Marine Store Dealers were most often referred to as“rag and bone men” even though they collected all manner of scrap, for while patrolling the streets of the town they could be heard calling out “rags and bones” or “ any old iron”.

Those familiar with the works of Charles Dickens will recall from “A Christmas Carol” a character called Joe who was a marine store dealer and a receiver of stolen goods. Dickens describes the deplorable conditions of London  and in part wrote “ Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beeting shop, below a penthouse roof, where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal were bought. Upon the floor within were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges,files,scales,weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bed and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and sepulchres of bones…”

The Marine Store Dealer has been romanticised in song and verse and many references to them can be found. Many will be familiar with the song “Any Old Iron” that appeared in the 19th century and was made popular in 1911 when it was performed and recorded by Harry Champion (1865-1932) (photo opposite). Harry was an English music hall composer, singer and Cockney comedian. Peter Sellers (1925-1980), of Pink Panther movie fame, also made the same song popular with his 1957 rendition of it. Many others have come out with their version of the son. Continuing on a musical note ,in recent times the Brighton recording artist “ Rag-N-Bones” performed at the Forum in Tunbridge Wells (image below).

Many examples of poems referring to rag and bone men can be found such as a poem by William Butler Yeats entitled ‘The Circus Animals Desertion” which in part gave

“Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind but out of what began?

A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,

Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut

Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone

I must lie down where all the ladders start

In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”

Nineteenth-century rag-and-bone men typically lived in penury, surviving on the proceeds of what they collected each day. Conditions improved following WW II, but the trade declined during the last half of the 20th century. Lately however, due in part to the soaring price of scrap metal, rag-and-bone men can once again be seen at work in many third-world countries, as well as some first-world countries. In the Uk, 19th century rag-and-bone men scavenged unwanted rags, bones, metal and other waste. Henry Mayhew’s 1851 report on London Labour and London Poor estimated that in London between 800 and 1,000 “bone-grubbers and rag-gatherers” lived in lodging houses, garrets and “ill-furnished rooms in the lowest neighbourhoods”. Mayhew went on to state that in 1851 “White rag would fetch two-to-three pence a pound, depending on condition. Coloured rag would bring about two pence a pound. Bones worth about the same could be used as knife handles, toys and ornaments, and when treated, for chemistry. The grease extracted from them was useful for soap-making. Brass, copper and pewter was values at about 4-5 pence a pound. In a typical day a rag-and-bone man might expect to earn about sixpence”. Mayhew stated that “many who worked as rag-and-bone men did so after falling on hard times, and generally lived in squalor and usually started work well before dawn”.

In the 20th century, a 1954 report in The Manchester Guardian mentioned that some men could make as much as 25 pounds a day collecting rags. The same newspaper in 1958 reported that “John Bibby, a rag and bone man, got 2 pounds for his cart load of rags, furs, shoes,scrap car parts, a settee and other furniture he had collected.”

The rag-and-bone trade fell into decline. In Manchester for example in the 1950’s there were around 60 rag merchants but by 1978 the number had dropped to about 12, many having moved into the scrap metal trade. A newspaper report of 1965 estimated that in London only a few hundred rag-and-bone men remained. By the 1980’s they were mostly gone but lately ,with conservation being front and centre, there has been a resurgence in recycling and reputable businesses now collect reusable waste by the lorry full.


References to Marine Store Dealers and rag-and-bone men can be found in local newspapers and books throughout the 19th century and no doubt there were some operating before that time. They were looked down upon as dirty ignorant people who could not be trusted, often drunk and appearing before the Magistrate on various charges. Shown opposite is a marine store dealers yard filled with "junk".

The Town and Village Mission Records of 1853 reported on the creation of a Ragged School in the town, established in a building erected from subscriptions at a cost of 229 pounds. The school began with 12 pupils but grew to accommodate an average of 90. The source reported “ Since the opening of the New Ragged School in Tunbridge Wells things have been going on with very encouraging prospects”. The school, in addition to providing an education to the poorest of the poor gave the pupils food and lodging. The source gave several examples of the poor souls the school took in including a 14 year old boy who’s old habits caused him to seek a living by collecting rags and bones and begging. “ He was covered with rags and dirt”. Another was a 16 year old boy “who could read a little and for years wandered about seeking a living by collecting rags and bones in a most filthy condition”. A third boy,age 17 had for the past four years “been wandering about collecting rags and bones, clothed in rags, lodging in beershops, and houses of ill-fames. He had been in prison four times and is addicted to swearing and drunkenness”. A photo of the boys at the ragged school is shown opposite.

Those in the Marine Store trade were not always successful in making a go of it. The Law Times of November 24,1883 for example reported that one George Wagborn, a marine store dealer of Tunbridge Wells had to appear under a “liquidation by arrangement” at a meeting to be held at the Clarence Hotel in Tunbridge Wells  December 4th. Many others found themselves in the same position.

A review of the 1911 census for Tunbridge Wells showed as an example that in that year there were thirteen “Marine Store Dealers” in the town. A list of them is given below. Among them can be found Benjamin Butler, an interesting chap, details of whom are given in the last section of this article.

[1] John Gardner, age 38, single, a lodger at 3 Market Road

[2] Alfred Bowden, age 23, single, living with parents at 2 Albion Square on St John’s Road

[3] Charles Bowden, age 18, single, brother of Alfred (above) at 2 Albion Square

[4] Benjamin Butler, age 49, 7 Tunnel Road, living in 5 rooms with his wife and seven children

[5] Albert Fuller, age 28 with his family at20 Rochdale Rd, given as a rag sorter and marine dealer

[6] Harry Gates, age 24, single, a boarder at 7 Tunnel Road

[7] Frederick G. Austin, age 32, married, 27 Kirkdale Road

[8] Frank Brewer, age 31, married lodger at 27 Kirkdale Road
[9] George W. Leadley, age 21, living with parents, 93 Silverdale Road

[10] Absolane Beaney, age 57, married; 7 Varney Street and 1& 2 Market Road

[11] James Glover, 56,married, a rag and bone dealer of 17 Varney Street

[12] F. Hearne, age 26, single, a rag dealer at 5&7 Varney Street

[13] F. Osborne, 34, single, rag dealer of 5 & 7 Varney Street

As can be seen from the above list these men lived in the poorer and rougher parts of town with several on Varney Street and Tunnel Road. What this census does not record are the many boys and young men of no fixed address who slept rough by night and wandered the streets by day collecting scrap.

During the scrap drives in Tunbridge Wells during WW 1 and WW II the Marine Store Dealer provided a valuable source of much needed materials for the war effort but they were not beyond suspicion as the book ‘Kent and Sussex 1940; Britains Frontline’ noted in an account stating “ Being named a fifth columnist during the war could be traumatic for the individual concerned. A Tunbridge Wells rag-and-bone man who was singled out for this treatment ended up drowning himself in a pond, thinking he was about to be arrested”. The name of the man was not given to facilitate further research about him, but most likely the pond referred to was Brighton Lake, where others had done themselves in. A postcard view of Brighton Lake is shown opposite.

A more complete review of Marine Store Dealers in the town before 1911 was not undertaken by the researcher but for those interested in such information, a review of prior census records and local directories would provide a starting point for such an investigation.  I now turn, in the next section ,to  information about Benjamin Butler, a Marine Store Dealer listed in the 1911 census, who operated for many years in the town from premises at 7 Tunnel Road with his son(s) under the name of B. Butler & Son.


Benjamin Butler had been born 1862 at Gillingham, Kent, one of several children born to John Butler, born 1826 in Lenham,Kent, a beer retailer, and his wife Eliza, born 1827 in Chatham.

The 1871 census, taken at the Travelers Rest , 62 Brook Street, Chatham gave John Butler as a beer retailer. With him was his wife and five children, including Benjamin who was attending school.

The 1881 census, taken at 143 Brook Street in Chatham gave John Butler as a beer retailer. With him was his wife Eliza and four children including Benjamin who was working as a general labourer.

In 1891 Benjamin married Sarah Ann, born 1871 in Upchurch. In 1893 and 1894, at Chatham the couple had two daughters Bessie and Sarah. In 1896 they had a daughter Emily in Hastings; in 1898 a son Benjamin in Hove,Sussex and a son Fred in Worthing,Sussex in 1901.

The 1891 census, taken at 46 Cross Street in Chatham gave Benjamin as a proprietor of a marine dealer shop. With him was his wife and one daughter and his brother in law Edward Greenshut.

The 1901 census, taken at 4 Langdon Road in Worthing gave Benjamin as a marine store dealer on own account. With him was his wife ; five of his children and one domestic servant.

By 1907 Benjamin and his family took up residence in Tunbridge Wells at 7 Tunnel Road. He and his family were listed there at the time of the 1911 census. No. 7 Tunnel Road was recorded as having five rooms and living in these rooms was Benjamin, a marine store dealer, and his wife Sarah and seven of their children Bessie,age 18; Sarah,age 17; Emily,age 15; Benjamin,age 13; Fred,age 10 and two children born in Tunbridge Wells namely James Alfred in 1907 and Mary in 1910. Also there was one boarder who was working for Benjamin as a marine store dealer. The census recorded that although Benjamin had had 9 children, two of them had passed away sometime before 1911.

Benjamin’s son Benjamin, born 1898, served as a private in WW 1. He had been living at the time of his enlistment December 12,1915 at 7 Tunnel Road. He was called up on October 12,1916 and served with the Royal Engineers Inland Waterways and Dock Company. His next of kin was given as his mother of 7 Tunnel Road. His medal index card gave him as No. 205455/WR503698 of the Royal Engineers with the rank of sapper and was awarded the Victory and War medals but not the 1914/1915 Star. Benjamin survived the war and in 1925 was married at Cranbrook, Kent to Edith Evelyn Tye (1895-1933) and with her had three children between 1926 and 1930 in Rochford, Essex.

Benjamin senior operated his business from his premises at 7 Tunnel Road under the name of B. Butler and Son. Since Benjamin junior was the eldest of his sons, presumably he was the son referred to in the company name. Shown opposite is a 1920 advertisment for the business that appeared in the local newspaper. Note in this advertisement that he advertised himself as a Wholesale and Retail Rag Merchant and that he advertised for sale rags, bones, old carpet, bagging, fat and jam jars.

The directories o 1913 to 1911 gave the listing “ Benjamin Butler & Son, marine store dealers, 7 Tunnel Road. The directories of 1930 to 1938 gave “ Benjamin Butler & Sons Ltd, 7 Tunnel Road, marine store dealers.

Probate records gave Benjamin Butler of 7 Tunnel Road, Tunbridge Wells when he died September 7,1920. The executors of his 29,957 pound estate were Sir Robert Vaughan Gower, knight, solicitor, and Bessie Winton ( wife of Philip Winton).

By the time of Benjamin’s death his eldest son Benjamin had not long returned from his service in the war and by 1926 he and his wife and children were living in Rochdale. Benjamin seniors second and third sons Fred and James Alfred Butler  joined their father in the business during WW 1 and continued it after their father’s death. When exactly the business ended was not established but it was still operating in 1938 and no doubt continued until at least the end of WW II.

The old premises and yard at 7 Tunnel Road of Benjamin were torn down and the site redeveloped in the mid 20th century and on the site today can be found some homes.

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