ALL ABOUT
TUNBRIDGE WELLS

Page 3

 

ALEXANDER FERGUSON TAYLOR –THE FAMOUS ORGANIST

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

Date: August 18,2017

INTRODUCTION

Alexander Ferguson Taylor was born November 18,1898 in Lanarkshire, Scotland, one of three known children born to Robert Mack Taylor and Annie Taylor. Alexander’s father was one of the leading solo violinists of Scotland and representative for the London College of Music. Alexander began his studies under his father but at age 9 won a scholarship and entered on several years of study of both piano and organ, in preparation for his organ performances on the theatre circuit. During WW 1 he and his brother John Ferguson Taylor, born 1895, served with the Royal Navy. John Ferguson Taylor also became a noted organist on the theatre circuit under the name of Jack Courtnay, a name he went by for most of his life.

Alexander’s claim to fame, as it relates to the history of Tunbridge Wells is that he was the organist when the Ritz Theater (photo above) opened in the town on December 3,1934. On the opening night the film ‘Sing As We Go’ starring Grace Fields was shown but the highlight of the programme was the organ interlude given by Alexander. Over the years the organ was a special feature of the theatre and was played by many organists up to the time of its removal in 1970 to make way for a multi-screen complex. Restored and used elsewhere this fine organ is still in use but Alexander is long gone having passed away , it is believed, in the 1980’s.

This article provides information about the Taylor family with a particular emphasis on the life and career of Alexander Ferguson Taylor. Information about the opening of the Ritz Theatre and his performance there is also provided, along with some photographs of the Ritz Theatre, the organ, and Alexander.

THE TAYLOR FAMILY

Alexander Ferguson Taylor was born, based on his Naval Records, November 19,1898 at Shettleston, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The 1901 Scotland census, taken at 34 Merryston Street in the pairish of Old Monkland gave Robert M. Taylor, born 1873 in Glasgow as the head of the family with the occupation of “railway lower clerk”. Living with him was his wife Annie, born 1873 at Glasgow and their children (1) John F. Taylor, born 1896 at Coatbridge, Lanarkshire (2) Alexander F. Taylor, born 1899 at Shettleston,Lanarksire (3) Elizabeth B. Taylor, born 1900 at Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.

The 1891 census, taken at 5 Stuart Place, Eastmuir 1st floor gave George Taylor, age 47 and his wife Grace,age 47. With them were six children aged 1 to 18 with Robert Mack Tayor the eldest and given as born 1873 at Parkhead, Lanarshire, and working as a railway clerk. His birth record gave Robert Mack Taylor being born February 13,1873 at High Church Glasgow, Scotland, the son of George Taylor and Grace Mack.

The website of the Davis Theatre in Croydon gave the following account of Alexander and the photograph shown opposite.

“ For a mighty organ a mighty organist, Mr Alex Taylor comes to the Davis Theatre with a reputation made in two Continents. Moreover, he is a Brtisher-who has been acclaimed in the States and has been brought back to England to preside at an organ which he regards as the finest he has ever seen. Born in Glasgow in November 1898, Mr Taylor began his studies under his father, who was one of the leading solo violinists of Scotland and representative for the London College of Music. At the age of nine Mr Taylor won the open scholarship for London, offered under the auspices of the Glasgow Athenaeum of Fine Arts, and entered on several years of study of both piano and organ in preparation for the concert platform. Prior to the war he entered the Royal Naval School of Music, taking up the study of the clarionet to gain orchestral experience. At the outbreak of the war he was attached to the H.M.S. Cornwallis and was aboard when that vessel was sunk ninety miles off Malta. With a handful of survivors he was rescued. Having gained experience after the war he went to the United States and was appointed organist at the Million Dollar Grand Theatre, Pittsburgh,then followed his appointment as musical director at Zaring’s Egyptian, Indianapolis, Great Lakes Theatre, Buffalo,next claimed him, then on to Shea’s Theatre, Buffalo, as solo organist. Later he became “ace” organist to the Stanley Circuit’s big theatre in Pittsburgh. From this position Mr Taylor was brought back to England by the Davis Theatre. Mr Taylor’s forte is ‘playing to pictures’, and he is looking forward to the Compton organ at Croydon which he said appeared to him to be a marvellous instrument for solo work. English organ builders are famed for the tonal qualities of their instruments and from the super Crompton organ at which he will preside many fine effects can be obtained.” The article, which formed part of the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Davis Theatre in Croydon dated December 18,1928, continues with comments by Alex Taylor about the organ.  The photo of Alex given above shows him at the Compton organ at the Davis Theatre in Croydon as presented in the aforementioned 1928 programme.

Regarding his service in WW I the Royal Marine Register gave him as born November 19,1898 and that his enlistment date in the Royal Marines Band was November 25,1912 (service No. 2066).

Regarding his appointment in Pittsburgh a passenger list of Alexander Ferguson Taylor was found. It noted that he was single; that he was from Hallareig Street, Airorie, Scotland; that he was born 1899 at Shettleston Scotland; that he had departed from Glasgow and arrived at New York on the ship COLUMBIA with the occupation of musician. His intended destination in the USA was Pittsburgh. Strangely however his father’s name was given as “Thomas Taylor” and not Robert Mack Taylor as given in the 1901 census. A search for both a Thomas Taylor and a Robert Mack Taylor was made in collection with being a noted violin soloist and any connection with the London College of Music, but nothing under either name was found by the researcher.  As you will read later  the dates of birth of Alexander and his brother John Ferguson Taylor coincide with the information in the 1901 census and therefore it is the belief of the researcher that the entry of “Thomas Taylor” as the father in the passenger list is an error.

The Pennsylvania Federal Naturalization  Record for 1923 gave “Alexander Ferguson Taylor age 24; occupation-music player; born Glasgow, Scotland November 19,1898; now residing on St Marie Street, Pittsburgh; arrived in the USA on the ship COLUMBIA at New York January 5,1923”. Other information was given on this record such as his height, weight etc.

From the ‘Directory of Theatre Organists’ the following was written “ Alexander Ferguson Taylor (photo opposite) was born in Glasgow, brother to Jack Courtnay (John Ferguson Taylor) he studied at the Atheneum, Glasgow. By the age of eight was a paid church organist. During the 1914-1918 war was a Royal Marine bandsman. Served on the H.M.S. Ciornwallis (torpedoed) and the H.M.S. Bacchante. After demobilization went to America where he appeared at Fox Theatre, Washington; Shea’s Buffalo: Zarings Egyptian, Indianapolis; The Million Dollar Grand, Pittsburgh; plus many others. On return to the Uk opened he Davis Theatre, Croydon; Grand Theatres,Maidstone, Tooting, and the Elephant & Castke; Empire Theatre Coventry; Ritz Cinemas Oxford and Tunbridge Wells. Made recordings on the Decca Label (image oppoiste) on the Compton, Davis Theatre Croydon; Wurlitzer, Grand Tooting; Christie, Granada Walthamstow. Made radio broadcasts for W.M.A.K., K.D.K.A. & W.K.B.F. in the USA and BBC in UK. Made Pathe films with the tenor Frank Titterton”. The source of this information was credited to ‘Theatre Organ Word”, who his brother John Ferguson Taylor was associated with.

From the internet is an article entitled “The Theatre Ogan-The Granada Theatre in which information is given about the history of this theatre .In part is stated that the theatre opened September 7,1931 “and included in the events of the evening an organ interlude performed by Alex Taylor (photo opposite). In this photo you can see Alex Taylor at “the mighty Wurlitzer of the Grand Theatre, Tooting”. The article stated “ Alex Taylor played regularly at the Wurlitzer organ of the Granada Theatre Tooting until April 30,1932. During his tenure at the theatre he made a number of radio broadcasts and made several gramophone records for The Decca Record Company, as well as a couple of short films for Pathe. Alex Taylor made the first recording released to the public of the Wurlitzer organ of the Grand Theatre, Tooting with the tune ‘Were You Sincere’. For two weeks between May 2 and 14 a deputy ( Harold Ramsay) played in Mr Taylor’s place . Mr Ramsay returned to play the Tooting organ after a time in the USA and remained there until September 3,1932 when Alex Taylor returned to play his final term from September 5,1932 until November 19,1932”.

Alexander played the organ at many theatre openings over the years. In addition to those referred to above he opened July 22,1937 the organ at St John Vianny Church in Clayhill; In 1957 opened the Compton organ at the Ritz (ABC) cinema in Warrignton, Lancashire; In 1939 opened the Compton organ at the Ritz (ABC) in Sconthorpe. In 1928 he opened the organ at the Coventry Empire Theatre. He opened the organ at the Granada Theatre in Maidstone in 1934. Many other examples can be found on the internet.

When and where Alexander died was not established but he was still performing in the early 1960’s and most likely died in the 1980’s.

I have referred above to Alexander’s brother John Ferguson Taylor a.k.a Jack Courtnay. From the Directory of Theatre Organists is the following information about him and a photo of him from that source is shown opposite.

“Jack Courtnay was born John Ferguson Taylor (brother to Alex Taylor) on the 14th September 1895 in the parish of Garturk, Scotland. Taught to play the violin and piano by his father. Gained an open scholarship to the Glasgow Atheneum School of Music. Appointed to Coatdyke Parish Church when quite young. Ran away from home and joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers. 'bought out' by irate father after six weeks. Then went to work as a pattern maker at an iron foundry. Then worked on the railways as a weighing clerk, then disappeared back into the armed forces and enlisted in Royal Marine Bands. Appointed organist at the Shotley Barracks Training Establishment. On the outbreak of war joined H.M.S. Implacable. History was made when the squadron was hove to so the brothers could have a conversation. At the time Alex was on H.M.S. Cornwallis. After service in the Dardanelles John was discharged disabled. John emigrated to Toronto, Canada, started working in a bank, quit to play in a Nickleodeon, was appointed to play Loew's Theatre and Winter Garden. Having heard a Wurlitzer took a job at Allen's Beaver Theatre (for lower pay). Toured Canada, opened Capitol Theatre, Winnipeg. Left there to take a position at the State, Minneapolis. Returned to the UK for a holiday, took a job as a tram conductor in Bournemouth. Was inducted into making valves for submarines, had to retire as only one in ten were serviceable. Ended up washing bottles in a Bournemouth brewery. Returned to the USA where he opened at Loew's Lexington, then toured. Returned to the UK and introduced the first slide solo at the Kings Theatre, Sunderland. Opened the first five Wurlitzers in the UK and was responsible for introducing Reginald Foort to the Wurlitzer. Returned to America and located in Florida and held a number of appointments. Broadcast regularly on W.I.O.D., W.T.O.C. and W.J.A.X.. Opened the Wurlitzer at the De Soto Hotel, Savana. When the slump hit ran one of the largest chicken farms in Florida. Back to the UK to work for Southend Council. Returned to cinema organ playing in 1943, opening at the Regal, Old Kent Road. Appointed musical contributor to Kinema Weekly and Ideal Cinema in 1945. In 1946 published Theatre Organ World.”

From an article entitled ‘Organ Solos’ was the following information about Jack Courtnay of the Theatre Organ World “ Editor of the Theatre Organ World; Fellow of Trinity College, London; organist at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square; music editor of Kinematograph Weekly and Ideal Kinema; Hon. Sec & Treasurer, Association of Theatre Organists; Hon Sec. of Theatre Organists Benevolent Fund”.

THE RITZ CINEMA TUNBRIDGE WELLS

The history of this cinema makes for interesting reading. My article entitled ‘ From Magic Lanterns to Movies’ dated February 9, 2012 provides considerable details about its history and many photographs.  From the aforementioned article I noted that the Ritz opened December 3,1934 with the film ‘Sing As We Go” starring Gracie Fields. The highlight of the programme was the organ interlude given by Alexander Ferguson Taylor on the Compton Organ.Two photos of this organ are shown in this section along with the front and back of a series of photos of Alex at the organ during a performance at the grand opening of the Ritz in Tunbridge Wells. On the back of these photos is labelled a reference to Alex at the Ritz Theatre, Tunbridge Wells.

In 1970 the organ at the Ritz was removed to make way for a multi-screen complex. There was an outcry from the public in Tunbridge Wells, and a band of loyal followers lobbied in vain to find an alternative home for the organ in the town.  Henly and District Organ Trust purchased the organ and installed it in the Regal Cinema where it was used for monthly concerts until 1986 when the cinema closed down. It remained untouched, and fell into disrepair until 1993 when developers bought the cinema that was to be demolished to make way for a car park. The organ was saved, bought and dismantled and removed within a couple of weeks. Nicholas Pitss, a classically trained organist and organ restorer bought the organ and with a small army of helpers brought the console and its 600 pipes back to Pinchbeck.






















The organ was restored and installed in a studio annexe in Nicholas’s former home in Pinchbeck. At that location people from Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere  attended monthly concerts. A larger venue was needed and so Nicholas and Mark Willerton set about to find a new site for the organ in a new building. Nigel Ogden, presenter of Radio 2 The Organist Entertains was invited to give the opening concert in October 1999 and today the organ is still in use.


LEWIS THORPE & SONS-BUILDERS AND CONTRACTORS

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

Date: August 17,2017

OVERVIEW 

Lewis Charles Thorpe (1877-1959) was born in Tunbridge Wells, one of four children born to Josiah Thorpe (1850-1901), who ran a carpenters business from Camden Road, and Eliza Thorpe, nee Brown (1851-1932). Josiah was one of several children born to Henry Thorpe(1812-1886) of Speldhurst and Mary Ann Thorpe, nee Snell (1815-1883). The Thorpe family had a long history in the construction trades.

At the time of the 1881 census Lewis was attending school and living with his parents and siblings at 94 Camden Road. He left the family home, and Tunbridge Wells in the 1880’s and by 1891 was living and working in Hampstead, London as a drapers apprentice at a shop on the High Street.

His father died in Tunbridge Wells February 1901 and by the time of the 1901 census Lewis returned to Tunbridge Wells.  He is found in the 1901 census as a “carpenter worker” living with his widowed mother and four boarders at 12 Albion Road.

In the 3rd qtr of 1901 Lewis married Ada Ticehurst (1877-1950) in Tunbridge Wells. Ada had been born in Tunbridge Wells and was one of 10 children born to John Ticehurst (1846-1915) and Ruth Ticehurst, nee Jenner (1846-1918). She lived with her parents in Southborough up to the time of her marriage. Lewis and his wife went on to have five daughters and two sons  between 1902 and 1914. His sons Charles Lewis Thorpe (1910-1984) and Robert John Thorpe (1914-2006) joined their father’s business under the name of Lewis Thorpe & Sons.

At the time of the 1911 census Lewis and his wife and three children were living in premises of five rooms at 89 Edward Street in Southborough, where Lewis was a “joiner builder worker”. At this time he was working for another builder, but it was not long afterwards that he went into business for himself and is found in Southborough directories of 1914 to 1918 at 89 Edward Street , with the occupation of carpenter. During WW 1 he served with Royal Naval Air Service, but his service was only for five months in 1917 and returned to Southborough to continue his work as a carpenter.

Directories of 1921 to 1938 gave the listing “ Lewis Thorpe, builder, 44 Holden Park Road. Local newspapers throughout the 1930’s report on the building activities of Lewis Thorpe on Woodland Way in Bidborough; Bidborough Ridge, and Pinewood Gardens in Southborough, where he constructed a number of fine homes. The photograph, shown at the top of this section, taken September 4, 1926 in front of his premises on Holden Park Road, shows the company sign on the building at 44 Holden Park Road and members of his staff about to head off for a company outing to Herne Bay, as noted on the back of the photograph.

It was not until after WWII that the business began to operate as Lewis Thorpe & Sons as builders and decorators from premises at 44-46 Holden Park Road in Southborough.  On April 7,1952  I was announced that Lewis Thorpe & Sons had been the successful bidders for the construction of 18 homes in the Sherwood Estates development in Tunbridge Wells. It is to be expected that the company built many other homes in and around Tunbridge Wells over the years. The business was still at 44-46 Holden Park Road up to at least 1959 but in the 1960’s, up to at least 1968, the business operated from just 44 Holden Park Road.  This building still exists today, as does the former builders yard and workshop next door, which was converted into a private residence.

Lewis Charles Thorpe was of ’Lalecar’, London Road, Southborough when he died October 1,1959. The executors of his 49,594 pound estate were his sons Charles Lewis Thorpe and Robert John Thorpe, both of whom were builders. The sons took over the business of Lewis Thorpe & Sons when their father retired in the 1950’s but continued the business under that name after the death of their father.  The death announcement for Robert John Thorpe in 2006 gave him as “the last surviving partner of Lewis Thorpe & Sons” and that at the time of his death he was of Lyng,Norfolk.

Lewis’s mother Eliza (1850-1932) became the second wife of William Kingswood (1854-1917) in 1903. William was the son  of Edward Kingswood, a Tunbridge Wells boot and shoe maker. When William married Martha Crowhurst (1856-1895) in 1874 he had five children with her between 1877 and 1885 and during that time William ran a boot and shoemakers shop on Camden Road (initially at No. 112 in the 1880’s and 1890’s but by 1901 at No. 142). His marriage to Eliza Thorpe was a short one for he died in Tunbridge Wells in 1917 and the marriage was childless.

The Thorpe family is an interesting one. Their presence in Tunbridge Wells is a long one, and decendents of the family branch that is the subject of this article can still be found in the town. It was/is a large family, the members of which had diverse occupations. This article concentrates on the life and career of Lewis Charles Thorpe and his sons as local builders.

JOSIAH THORPE AND FAMILY

I begin my account of the Thorpe family with Josiah Thorpe (1850-1901) the father of Lewis Charles Thorpe (1877-1959) the founder of Lewis Thorpe & Sons, builders and contractors of Southborough.

Josiah was born 1850 in Tunbridge Wells and was one of eleven children born between 1838 and 1860 to Henry Thorpe (1812-1886) who was born in Speldhurst, and Mary Ann Thorpe, nee Snell (1815-1883).

At the time of the 1851 census Josiah was living with his parents and siblings at Basinghall Lane in Tunbridge Wells. He continued to live his parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells until his marriage to Eliza Brown (1851-1932) 1870 in Tunbridge Wells. Eliza had been born in the town of Tonbridge.

Josiah and his wife Eliza went on to have the following children, who were all born in Tunbridge Wells (1) Albert Thorpe(1871-1932) (2) Ada Selina Thorpe, born 1873 (3) Henry Vincent Thorpe (1875-1930) (4) Lewis Charles Thorpe (1877-1959). Details about the three sons are given in later sections of this article.

The 1871 census  gave Josiah and his wife living at 8 Basinghall Lane, Tunbridge Wells where Josiah worked as a carpenter. A view of Basinghall Lane is shown above.

The 1881 census, taken at 94 Camden Road gave Josiah as a carpenter employing one boy. With him was his wife Eliza, who was working as an assistant in a fancy repository and his children Albert, Ada, Henry and Lewis, who were attending school. Also there was one assistant in a fancy repository.

The 1891 census, taken at 94 Camden Road gave Josiah as a carpenter on own account. With him was his wife Eliza who was a fancy shopkeeper; his son Albert, a paper hanger and plasterer worker; his daughter Ada, a drapers assistant; and his son Henry Vincent Thorpe who was working as an upholsters apprentice. Shown opposite is a postcard view of Camden Road. Josiah’s son Lewis Charles Thorpe was found in the 1891 census in Hanpstead, London working as a drapers apprentice at a shop located at 214-216 High Street. Several others were working in the same shop.

Josiah Thorpe passed away in February 1901 in Tunbridge Wells and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on February 27th.

After Josiah died his wife Eliza continued to live in Tunbridge Wells. The 1901 census, taken at 12 Albion Road gave Eliza as a widow and living on own means. With her was her son Lewis Charles Thorpe who was working for a builder as a carpenter. Also in the home were four boarders. Shown opposite is a photo of Lewis when he was a young man.

Continuing with the life and times of Eliza Thorpe, she married William Kingswood (1854-1917)in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1903. She and William however had no children. William was born in Hartfield, Sussex and baptised there on November 13,1859. William was one of seven children born to Edward Kingswood (1809-1892) and Sarah Waters, nee Edwards, born in 1824. At the time of the 1861 cenus William was living with his parents and siblings in Hartfield. The 1871 census, taken at 7 Albert Street, Tunbridge Wells gave Edward Kingswood as born in Leigh, Kent and working as a bootmaker. With him was his wife Sarah, born in Hartfield, and five of his children, including his son William who was also a bootmaker. At that time Edward Kingswood and his sons Edward age 26, and William were both working as bootmakers in their fathers shop.  In the 3rd qtr of 1874 William married Martha Crowhurst (1856-1895) and with her had five children in Tunbridge Wells between 1877 and 1885. His first wife Martha died in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1895. The 1881 census, taken at 112 Camden Road gave William as a bootmaker. His wife Martha and three children were living with him. The 1891 census, taken at 112 Camden Road gave William as a bootmaker on own account. With him was his wife Martha and five of this children. The 1901 census, taken at 142 Camden Road gave William as a widower and working as a bootmaker on own account. With him was just his son Sidney Percy Kingswood (1881-1917), a railway clerk who died while serving his country in WW 1. Directories of 1903 and 1914 gave William as a bootmaker at 142 Camden Road. The 1911 census taken at 142 Camden Road gave William as a leather boot maker and repairer on own account. Living with him in premises of six rooms was just his second wife Eliza, who as I noted above married him in 1903. The couple never had any children. Probate records gave William Kingswood of 10 Stratford Street, Tunbridge Wells when he died December 19,1917. The executor of his 633 pound estate was John Kingswood. William was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on December 24th.

When William Kingswood died Eliza Kingswood (formerly Thorpe) nee Brown, continued to live in Tunbridge Wells. Probate records gave Eliza Kingswood of 10 Stratford Street, Tunbridge Wells when she died November 6,1932 at 45 Stone Street, Tunbridge Wells. The executors of her 651 pound estate were her sons Albert Thorpe and Lewis Charles Thorpe, both given as builders. Eliza was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery November 10th.

In the next section I provide information about Eliza’s sons Albert Thorpe (1871-1933) and Henry Vincent Thorpe (1875-1930).

ALBERT AND HENRY THORPE

Albert and Henry Thorpe were the eldest of three sons born to Josiah and Eliza Thorpe.

[1]Albert Thorpe (1871-1933) was born in Tunbridge Wells. He was baptised in Tunbridge Wells June 24,1871. At the time of the 1881 census he was attending school and living with his parents and siblings at 94 Camden Road. He was still with him parents at 94 Camden Road at the time of the 1891 census and working as a paper hanger and plasterer. On April 23,1893 Albert married Annie Fuller who had been born in Tonbridge in 1872. At the time of the 1901 census, taken at 116 Camden Road Albert was operating a stationary and fancy shop. With him was just his wife Annie. The 1911 census, taken at 116 Camden Road gave Albert as a stationary and fancy goods dealer. With him in premises of 4 rooms was his wife Annie, who was assisting her husband in the business; his sister in law Rose Fuller, a 18 year old dressmaker and a niece Catherine Fuller, age 9. The census recorded that Albert had been married 17 years and that there was no children from the marriage. Probate records gave Albert Thorpe of 45 Stone Street, Tunbridge Wells when he died July 5,1933 at Meadow Road, Tunbridge Wells. The executor of his 946 pound estate was William Arthur Giles, signwriter. Albert was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery and a few years later his wife joined him there. It was interesting to note that at the time of his father’s death in 1901 both he and his brother Lewis Charles Thorpe were given as “builders” and based on that one must conclude that he joined his younger brother Lewis in the building trade, giving up his former occupation.

[2]Henry Vincent Thorpe (1875-1930) was born in Tunbridge Wells March 1875 and was baptised in the town on March 28,1875. Henry was the second eldest son born to Josiah and Eliza Thorpe. He was living with his parents and siblings at 94 Camden Road at the time of the 1881 census and was still living there with them at the time of the 1891 census. His occupation in 1891 was given as “upholsters apprentice”. In the 4th qtr of 1894 Henry married Emily Hawkins and with her had 9 children between 1893 and 1910. The children born between 1893 and 1903 were born in Tunbridge Wells and those born in 1905 and afterwards were born in Lingdfield, Sussex. The 1901 census, taken in the town of Tonbridge at 97 Woodside Road gave Henry as a furniture polisher worker. With him was his wife Emily and four of his children. The 1911 census, taken at Walstead Cottages in Lindfield Sussex gave Henry as an upholsterer and furniture dealer. With him was his wife Emily; 9 of his children and one niece. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 5 rooms; that the couple had been married 16 years and of their 13 children 10 were still living. Henry died at Cuckfield, Sussex December 1930.

LEWIS CHARLES THORPE (1877-1959)

Lewis was the youngest of three sons and one daughter born to Josiah and Eliza Thorpe. He had been born in Tunbridge Wells January 7,1877 and was baptised in the town February 15,1877. In the first section of this article I reported on his whereabouts and occupations up to the time of his father’s death in 1901.

The 1901 census, taken at 12 Albion Road, which I gave earlier gave Lewis as a carpenter worker, single. He was living with his widowed mother Eliza who was living on own means.

In the 3rd qtr of 1901 Lewis married Ada Ticehurst (1878-1950) in Tunbridge Wells and with her had the following children (1) Ada (1902-1902) (2) Lilian May (1905-1987) (3)Ethel Alice (1908-1978) (4) Dorothy Kate (1909-1910) (5) Charles Lewis (1910-1984) (6) Elsie Amy (1913-1995) (7) Robert John (1914-2006). Of these children the sons Charles Lewis Thorpe and Robert John Thorpe are of particular interest as they joined their father in his business as Lewis Thorpe & Sons, builders and contractors of Southborough. Shown opposite is a family group photo taken during WW 1 in which Lewis is shown in uniform along with his wife Ada seated with their children.

Ada Ticehurst was born in Tunbridge Wells and was one of 10 children born to John Ticehurst (1846-1915) and Ruth Ticehurst, nee Jenner (1846-1918). At the time of the 1881 census Ada was living with her parents and siblings at 132 Meadow Road, Southborough. At the time of the 1891 census she was living at 7 Elm Road, Southborough.

Shown opposite left is a photo of Robert, Lewis and Charles Thorpe and to the right is a photo showing Lewis and his wife Ada and their son Charles.

The 1911 census, taken at 89 Edward Street in Southborough gave Lewis as a joiner,builder,worker. With him was his wife Ada and their children Lilian,Ethel and Charles. The census recorded that they were living in premises of 5 rooms; that they had been married 10 years and of the four children, three were still living. It was his daughter Dorothy Kate Thorpe, born in 1909 who had died in 1910. Shown above is a photo of Edward Street. Edward Street runs in a north to south direction and intersects with Holden Park Road where Lewis Thorpe later lived. The 1914 and 1918 directories gave the listing “ Lewis Thorpe, carpenter, 89 Edward Street”.

Military records (Royal Navy Seamen Services) and RAF records gave Lewis Charles Thorpe born January 2,1877 Tunbridge Wells as serice number 227616 with his first service in WW 1 dated March 24,1917 and that his first ship was President II. The records also gave his last date of service as August 23,1917 on the President II. His next of kin was given as his wife Ada Thorpe. Why his service in the war was so short was not determined but perhaps was released on medical grounds.

With the passing of the Naval Forces Act by Parliament on June 30, 1903, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was created. The London Division was established on  November 10, 1903 and held its first drill night at the Fishmongers' Hall. It then moved to the Doterel-class sloop-of-war HMS Gannet then moored in the Thames. The Gannet had been renamed HMS President on  May 16,1903. She served for nine years as the centre's home, until being paid off on March 31,1911, and is now preserved in Chatham Historic Dockyard. She was replaced by HMS Buzzard, which had been serving as a training ship at Blackfriars since 19 May 1904. She took the name HMS President on 1 April 1911. This President served until January 23,1918, when she was lent to The Marine Society, finally being sold on 6 September 1921. The President took a number of roles and duties, one of which was to serve as the accounting base for Admiralty personnel.Shown opposite is the President II (HMS Buzzard) that Lewis was trained on.

Local directories of 1921 to 1938 gave “Lewis Thorpe, builder and decorator and house and shop fitter,44 Holden Park Road, Southborough”. Holden Park Road runs west off London Road and is located just north of Mayfield Road and about half way between Vale Road and Tangard Lane. Shown below are four photographs of Holden Park Road. The first two,on the top row, are by local photographer and stationer James Richards .The photo in the second row (left is by an unknown photographer and dates to about WW 1 but is most likely also by James Richards. The fourth image is a modern view from Google Maps. The home was built of red brick. In this last image the part of the building to the right, in white render, has on the wall beside the front door No. 42. Next to it is No. 44 and to the left of it is No. 46. If you compare this image to the one given in the overview it can be seen that the part of the building that is now No. 46 did not exist in the 1920’s and therefore was a later addition . The white building to the left of the house, now in residential use, sad on the former builders yard of Lewis Thorpe & Sons and a partial view of this building can be seen in the 1926 photo, suggesting that it was in use as a builders yard/shop/garage during the time the company was in operation.





















Local directories of  1951 to 1959 gave “ Lewis Thorpe & Sons, builders and decorators, 444-46 Holden Park Road,Southborough”. Directories of 1966 and 1968 gave “ Lewis Thorpe & Sons, builders and decorators, 44 Holden Park Road.

A review of the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser gives some indication of where the company was working. The Sevenoaks Chronicle of July 31,1931 reported that houses and land with all road charges paid could be obtained from Lewis Thorpe. On offer was “Type A 40 feet frontage and Type B with 50 feet frontage” in Southborough.

The Kent & Sussex Courier from January 2,1933 to January 26,1936 advertised homes by Lewis Thorpe on Woodland Way in Bidborough as “exceptionally well built homes with two good reception rooms, three nice bedrooms, tiled bathroom and kitchen with every possible convenience with hot and cold water and electrics”. A photo of homes on Woodland Way is shown above.

Newspapers from January 5,1934 to June 15,1934 advertised homes by Lewis Thorpe on Bidborough Ridge (photo opposite). The advertisments remarked on the “magnificent views, superb modern homes beautifully finished 4 bedrooms, two reception rooms, garage, main drainage, large gardens with room for a tennis court”. A freehold purchase price was given as 1,900 pounds with no road charges.

In 1934 advertisments for homes by Lewis Thorpe in Pinewood Gardens (photo below) in Southborough appeared. These homes were described as being on “the choicest sites in the district” and that “only four plots are unsold”.

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of April 28,1939 advertised detached homes and bungalows by Lewis Thorpe of 44-46 Holden Park Road.

A passenger list recorded that Lewis and his wife Ada departed from Southampton on the QUEEN MARY and arrived at New York September 19,1938. After their vacation the couple returned to England.

No doubt house construction during WW II suffered but surged after the war. It is believed that Lewis Thorpe retired from the business in the 1950s but was carried on by his sons.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society newsletter of Autumn 2001 contained an article about the Sherwood Residential Development in which was given “ In April 7,1952 7 tenders for contract 1A for Sherwood were opened and it was resolved that subject to Ministry Approval, that Lewis Thorpe & Sons should be contracted to build six 3BR and twelve 2BR houses for the price of 27,691 pounds.”. Shown below is an aerial view of this development taken in 2017.

Probate records gave Lewis Charles Thorpe of ‘Lalecar’ London Road ,Southborough,when he died October 1,1959. The executors of his 49,594 pound estate were his sons Charles Lewis Thorpe and Robert John Thorpe, who were both given as builders, having worked with their father for many years. After their father’s death the company Lewis Thorpe & Sons continued for many years.  Lewis was buried in the Southborough Cemetery. His wife Ada had died November 7,1950 and was buried in the same cemetery.

THE SONS OF LEWIS CHARLES THORPE

Lewis Charles Thorpe had two sons who joined him in his business that operated under the name of Lewis Thorpe & Sons namely Charles Lewis Thorpe (1910-1984) and Robert John Thorpe (1914-2006).

[1] CHARLES LEWIS THORPE

Charles was the eldest of the two brothers who was born November 4,1910 in Southborough. At the time of the 1911 census he was living with his parents at 89 Edward Street. He continued to live in Southborough with his parents and siblings in the 1920’s at the family home on Holden Park Road. A photo of him as a young man is shown opposite. Another photo of him  taken at the time of his daughter’s (June) wedding August24,1960 is also shown below left. Other photos of him were given in previous sections of this article.

In the 2nd qtr of 1932 Charles married Marjory Alice Steed (1910-2000) in Southborough. Marjory was born May 30,1910 in Tunbridge Wells,the daughter of Robert Steed (1882-1974) and Alice Catherine Steed, nee Matthews (1885-1975). Robert Steed was born August 21,1882 in Tonbridge and died February 16,1974 in Southborough. His wife Alice was born November 2,1885 in Croydon,Surrey and died in Tunbridge Wells on April 1,1975. Marjory appears to have been the only child in the family. At the time of the 1911 census Marjory was living with her parents at 51 Douglas Road, Tonbridge. Marjory and her husband had two daughters, one of which was Valerie Thorpe (1934-2012). The second daughter was June Thorpe who married Peter Frank Lloyd at St Peter’s Church in Southborough August 24,1960Marjorie died October 3,2000 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium October 9th.  Shown above right  is a photo dated 1932 of the wedding of Marjory to Charles. .

Charles Lewis Thorpe died in Tunbridge Wells December 13,1984 and was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium on December 19th. Probate records gave Charles Lewis Thorpe of Fruit Trees, London Road, Southborough when he died leaving an estate valued at 53,919 pounds.

[2] ROBERT JOHN THORPE

Robert was the youngest of the two brothers, having been born November 26,1914 in Southborough. Photographs of him as a boy with his parents were given in previous sections of this article. Robert grew up at the family home on Holden Park Road in Southborough, living there with his parents and siblings and attending the local school.

A family tree indicates that in the 2nd qtr of 1940 he married Muriel Timpson and in 1947 he married Betty Kirby with the marriage registered in Tonbridge. He had a son Robert Lewis C Thorpe (1948-2003), who’s mother must have been Betty Kirby.

At the time of his father’s death in 1959 and his mother’s death in 1950 Robert and his brother were both given as “builders”. When the business of Lewis Thorpe & Sons ended was not established but the last directory listing for the business was in 1968.

At some point in time Robert left Tunbridge Wells for he died in Norwich, Norfolk, his death being registered there in the 3rd qtr of 2006. A death notice for him stated “ Robert John Thorpe of Lyng, Norfolk, formerly of Southborough, Tunbridge Wells. The last surviving partner of Lewis Thorpe & Sons, builders, passed away peacefully at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital June 29,2006,aged 91 years”.

 

ROBERT “POM POM” WHITING THE FOOTBALLER

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

Date: August 25,2017

OVERVIEW 

Much has been written about Robert Whiting and for that reason this article provides only an overview of his life and career,and concentrates instead on his connection to Tunbridge Wells. Shown opposite is a photo of Robert taken about 1912 by Ebenezer Pannell of Hove while Robert was a goaltender with the Brighton & Hove Football Club.

Robert became a well-known goaltender who began his football career around 1902 with the football team (West Ham United) of the Thames Iron Works Company, a company he was employed by as an iron worker. In about 1904 Bob Whiting moved to Tunbridge Wells and joined the First Team of the Tunbridge Wells Rangers. While living in Tunbridge Wells he met Sarah Quinnell,a laundry worker, (who went by the name of “Nellie”), the daughter of William Quinnell, a brick maker’s labourer. On August 12,1907 Robert and Nellie were married at St John’s Church, Tunbridge Wells and took up residence with relatives at 89 St John’s Road.

Robert and Nellie had three children namely (1) Robert Leonard Whiting, born 1908 in Tunbridge Wells (2) William James Whiting, born 1909 (reg. in Hove, Sussex) (3) Joseph Frederick Whiting, born 1917 in Tunbridge Wells.

In 1906, while playing for the Tunbridge Wells Rangers, scouts for the Chelsea Football Club saw him and were so impressed that in April 1906 they signed Robert up as a reserve goaltender for Chelsea F.C. In 1907, due to an injury to the regular goaltender, Robert became an active player with the club, making 54 appearances between 1906 and 1908. In 1908 Robert joined the Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and became the club’s First Team Goaltender, a position he held until he enlisted in the army January 31,1915 with the 17th Service Btn (Footballer’s Btn) of the Middlesex Regiment. At the time of enlistment he gave his home address at 9 Coleridge Street, Hove. His wife Nellie was still living in Tunbridge Wells at that time with their children. Robert received basic training in Nottinghamshire and later Wiltshire. By June 1915 Robert was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant. After months of training the Battalion embarked for France, landing at Boulogne November 18,1915. By the spring of 1916 the Battalion experienced heavy fighting at Vimy Ridge. Serving in filthy conditions he contracted scabies and was evacuated to The 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton in May 1916. During his sick leave in Brighton he met up with his wife Nellie who fell pregnant with their third child, In June 1916, believing he would be returned to the front upon the end of his medical treatment he went AWOL (for 133 days). During part of that time he stayed in Tunbridge Wells. He was arrested October 16; charged with desertion; and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment with  hard labour. However his sentence was suspended, demoted to the rank of Private, and returned to action in France. It was while fighting near Arras that on the morning of April 28,1917 that he and many of his comrades were killed. He was hastily buried but during subsequent shelling his and other graves were obliterated. As a soldier with no grave his name is recorded on the Arras War Memorial. His name is also given on one of the brass plaques forming part of the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial and his name also appears on other plaques and memorials, particularly as it relates to his football career.

Upon Robert’s death in 1917 his wife Nellie was still living in Tunbridge Wells with their three children at Albion Square on   St John’s Road  opposite to Skinner’s School. Albion Square was a block of 16 houses and  had originally housed those working in the local brickmaking industry.

Soon after Robert’s death unfounded rumours began to spread that Robert had been executed for desertion, which caused great distress to his widow, friends and relatives. As a result, at the request of Nellie, the facts relating to Roberts military service and the circumstances of his death were published in the Sussex Daily News May 1917 and again September 3,1919. The same information appeared in other newspapers, including the Kent & Sussex Courier.

When Robert died his wife Nellie was left with two young boys and a new-born baby to care for. He meager widow’s pension did not cover the cost of living and so found work as a washerwoman and took in laundry at her home in Tunbridge Wells to support the family, working from morning till night. Around 1932 she became seriously ill and had to give up work. She died at No. 12 Albion Square, Tunbridge Wells July 4,1933 at the age of 50.

The sons of Robert Whiting did not have easy lives. Robert Leonard Whiting (born 1908) worked as a bus conductor but later in life was employed as a Planning Officer for Tonbridge Rural District Council.  He got married in 1932 to Violet Nellie Quinnell (born 1911 Tunbridge Wells) and had one child in 1935. From 1932 to 1935 he and his family lived with his mother Nellie at No. 12 Albion Square. Later he and his wife and son settled in Rusthall. He served with the Royal Regiment of Artillery during WW II . He died in Rusthall October 23,1967 with his wife passing away in 1976.

William James Whiting, Roberts second son (born 1909) worked as a bus conductor  with the Maidstone & District Bus Company and a builder’s labourer before joining the Royal Navy in WW II. In 1933 he married Lucy Websell and with her had three children between 1935 and 1947. Near the end of his working life he was employed as a painter and decorator and school caretaker. He died while on holiday in Bournemouth in 1983. His wife Lucy and his son Laurence were killed in a car accident on New Year’s Eve 1989.

Joseph (Joe) Whiting born in Tunbridge Wells in 1917 was the youngest son. He joined the Royal Navy as a 15 year old cadet in 1932. He was still with the Royal Navy during WW II serving on various ships. When he was invalided out of the Nay in 1945 he married May Nina Loivaine Rogers (born 1915 in Tunbridge Wells) and with her had four children between 1948 and 1964. Joseph and his family lived in West Farleigh, near Maidstone, until the 1950’s when they then moved to Marden. Joseph took on a variety of jobs, including boiler maintenance and lorry driving. A skilled mechanic, he managed a garage in Marden and for a number of years served as a volunteer fireman. He died February 27,1974. His wife May died in 1998.

HIS FAMILY-PRE TUNBRIDGE WELLS YEARS

Robert Whiting was born in the East London district of Canning Town, Essex January 6,1883 under the name of "Robert Greenhalf". [The birth of Robert Greenhough (Greenhalf) was registered in the East London district of West Ham during the 1st Quarter of 1883]. Bob Whiting's parents were Robert Greenhalf (born 1852, Whitechapel, London) and Margaret Gorman (born 1857, Southwark, Surrey).

When the 1881 census was taken, Robert's mother, Margaret Gorman, was living with her two sisters - Ellen (aged 25) and Eliza (aged 18) - and their teenage brother Edward Gorman in Fern Street, Bow, East London. Twenty-three year old Margaret Gorman and her two sisters were all working as "match makers" (probably as employees of the Bryant & May match factory in Bow), but sixteen year old  Edward Gorman was described as an "unemployed labourer". No parents are recorded at Margaret's home; twenty-five year old Ellen Gorman, Margaret's elder sister, being recorded as the "Head of Household". Robert Whiting (born c1852, St George's, London), who was later to become the father to Bob Greenhalf  (Whiting), was, at this time, living in Bow, East London. On the 1881 census return, Robert Whiting (legally known as Robert Greenhalf) is described as an unmarried man of 29, working as a "boiler-maker".

On March 12,1882, Margaret Gorman married Robert Greenhalf (also known as  Robert Whiting) in the East London district of Mile End. The newly married couple moved to Canning Town, a dockland area in the eastern suburbs of London. Robert Greenalf, the couple's first child, was born in 1883. Edward Greenhalf, Bob's brother, arrived the following year. [The birth of Edward Greenhalf was registered in the district of West Ham during the 3rd Quarter of 1884]. Margaret gave birth to a number of children over the next dozen years - Ellen Greenhalf (born c1886, Canning Town), Martha Greenhalf (born 1887, Canning Town), Mary Ann "Polly" Greenhalf (born 1889, Canning Town),  Frederick Greenhalf (born 1891, Canning Town), James Greenhalf (born 1894) and Joseph Greenhalf (born 1897). The births of her children were registered under the surname of "Greenhalf", yet all eight children adopted the surname of Whiting.

When the 1891 census was taken on  April 5,1891, Bob's mother gave her name as Margaret Whiting and her six children are also listed under her husband's adopted surname of "Whiting" -  Robert Whiting (aged 8), Edward Whiting (aged 6), Ellen  Whiting (aged 5), Martha Whiting (aged 3), Polly Whiting (aged 1) and Frederick Whiting, a baby who was only a few months old.

Between 1891 and 1897, Margaret Greenhalf gave birth to two more children - James Greenhalf (born 1894, Canning Town) and Joseph Greenhalf (born 1896, Canning Town). The two new additions to the family, like their older siblings, adopted the surname of "Whiting".

Margaret Greenhalf (also known as  Margaret Whiting) died in 1900 at the age of 43, leaving her husband Robert Whiting (formerly known as Robert Greenhalf) to bring up their eight children. When the census was taken on  March 32,1901, forty-nine year old Robert Whiting (Greenhalf), who was then working as a "Boiler Maker" in the local iron works, was caring for eight children. Eighteen year old Bob Whiting (Greenhalf) and his younger brother Edward Whiting (Greenhalf) were both employed as dock labourers. Presumably, fifteen year old Ellen Whiting, the eldest of three daughters, was helping to bring up the three junior Whiting boys, the youngest of whom was only 4 years of age.

Bob Whiting began his working life as a dock labourer, but around 1902, he was taken on as ship-building worker by the Thames Iron Works & Ship Building Company (photo opposite dated 1895). This company, formed in 1857, was situated off the River Thames alongside Bow Creek and drew many of its workers from nearby Canning Town where Robert Whiting lived with his family. While with this company Robert, already a keen footballer, became a member of the Iron Work’s football team, later known as the West Ham United. Six foot tall and weighting around 12 stone, he was naturally suited to the role of goalkeeper. Although he showed great promise he only managed to make the Reserve Team of the West Ham United. In 1904 he left his job and the team and moved to Tunbridge Wells, where he joined the First Team of the Tunbridge Wells Rangers.

THE WHITING FAMILY IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS

In 1904 Robert Whiting, still single, moved to Tunbridge Wells where he played as the goalkeeper with the Tunbridge Wells Rangers.

Robert Whiting found lodgings in Tunbridge Wells and it was here that he met Sarah Quinnell (born 1883 in Tunbridge Wells), the daughter of William Quinnell, a brick maker's labourer who lived in St John's Road, Tunbridge Wells. Robert and 24 year old Sarah (a.k.a. Nellie) Quinnell were married August 12, 1907 at St John’s Church on St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells. The marriage record showed that Robert and Sarah were living at that time at 89 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells.

It appears that Sarah Quinnell (known as 'Nellie' to her family and friends) was the youngest of nine children born to Lucy and William Quinnell. Sarah's parents Lucy Hyland (born 1827, Hastings, Sussex) and William Quinnell (born c1825, Tunbridge Wells, Kent) had married in the bride's home town of Hastings in 1863. William and Lucy Quinnell settled in Tunbridge Wells setting up home at No. 75 St John's Road. It was here during the 3rd Quarter of 1883, that Sarah "Nellie" Quinnell was born. When Bob Whiting met Nellie Quinnell, she was earning her living as a laundry worker.

On January 13,1906, Bob Whiting  played in goal for Tunbridge Wells Rangers in a F. A. Cup Tie against Norwich City. Scouts for Chelsea Football Club were impressed by Bob Whiting's performance and in April 1906 he was signed up as a reserve goalkeeper for Chelsea F. C. When Chelsea's regular goalkeeper  Michael "Micky" Byrne was injured in the opening match of the 1906-1907 season, Bob Whiting was given the opportunity to establish himself as the club's first choice goalie. Between 1906 and 1908, Bob Whiting  made 54 appearances in goal for Chelsea Football Club. In the Summer of 1908, Bob Whiting joined Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club  to become the club's First Team Goalkeeper, a position he held until he enlisted for service in WW 1 with the British Army in January 1915. Information about his war service and death in 1917 are given in the next section. A photo of Robert dated 1908 is shown above.

Robert remained in England from the time of his enlistment in 1915 until sent to France, where he arrived November 1915. During that time he received military training and while on leave he returned to Tunbridge Wells to be with his wife and two sons (1) Robert Leonard Whiting born 1908 in Tunbridge Wells (2) William James (Jim) Whiting born in Hove Sussex 1909. Robert’s third and last child was Joseph (Joe) Whiting who was born in Tunbridge Wells February 26,1917.

Shown opposite is a map showing where the Whiting family lived in Tunbridge Wells. At the time of the marriage between Robert and Sarah (Nellie) they were living at 89 St John’s Road. When Robert was signed by the Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club in 1908 he set up home in Hove. Sussex but his wife and children often stayed at the family home in St John’s Road during the football season. Sarah’s home at 89 St John’s Road was in the row of houses on the western side of the road (marked by the red square). On the other side of the road (marked by the blue square) is the Skinners School. The red square also marks the approximate location of Albion Square where Mrs Sarah (Nellie) Whiting lived with her three children after the death of her husband in 1917.

Given below, from the Sussex Photo History website are some details about the families Tunbridge Wells residences.

“By 1911, Bob Whiting had found a place to live in Hove. When the census was taken on 2nd April 1911, Robert Whiting (described on the census return as a "Professional Footballer", aged 27) was recorded at 138 Westbourne Street, Hove. At this time, Bob's wife Sarah ('Nellie') and their two children were boarding with Sarah's brother-in-law, Walter Hollamby in St John's Road, Tunbridge Wells. The 1911 census lists Mrs Sarah Whiting, aged 28, alongside her two sons, three year old Robert and one year old (William) James Whiting as members of the household at 89 St John's Road, Tunbridge Wells. Sarah and her husband Bob had been living at this house with Mr and Mrs Quinnell, Sarah's parents, when they married in 1907. Mrs Lucy Quinnell, Sarah's mother had died at this address in St John's Road in 1908. William Quinnell, Sarah's widowed father, was still living at 89 St John's Road at the time of the 1911 census. On the census return, William Quinnell is described as an 86 year old "Brick Worker" but it is unlikely that he was still working at this advanced age. The "Head of  Household" is given as Walter Hollamby, a fifty year old house painter. Walter Hollamby (born 1862,Tunbridge Wells) had married Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Quinnell (born 1862,Tunbridge Wells), Sarah's elder sister, in 1885. Walter and Elizabeth Hollamby and their three children Walter (23), Nellie (17) and Frank (12) shared their house with Elizabeth's elderly father and Mrs Sarah Whiting and her two boys.”

“When Bob Whiting signed up for the Army in December 1914, he gave his home address as 9 Coleridge Street, Hove. When Mrs Sarah ('Nellie') Whiting, Bob's wife, gave birth to their youngest son, Joseph Frederick Whiting, on 26th February 1917, she was living at No. 10 Albion Square, St John's Road, Tunbridge  Wells. The block of 16 houses known as Albion Square was situated behind Sarah Whiting's former home in St John's Road, Tunbridge Wells. ( In the 1881 census, Albion Square appears in the schedule between number 85 and 86 St John's Road; By 1911, the location of Albion Square was given as between 97 and 99 St John's Road, Tunbridge Wells). Originally used to house labourers employed in the local brick-making industry, Albion Square consisted of 16 houses. In 1917, Mrs Sarah ('Nellie') Whiting and her three sons were living at No. 10 Albion Square. Between April 1917 and 1930 the Whiting family were residing at No. 3 Albion Square and, from 1930 until 1933, at No. 12 Albion Square.”

The name Hollamby is well-known in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area in connection with Hollamby’s Nursery in Groombridge and the Hollamby family who were active in Tunbridge Wells in the business of making Tunbridge Ware. I have written about the Hollamby’s in my articles ‘ Hollamby’s Nursery Groombridge ‘dated October 31,2011 and ‘Tunbridge Ware-A Profile of Manufacturers’ dated February 11,2012.

When Robert Whiting was killed in France on April 28,1917 his wife and children were living in Tunbridge Wells. In May 1917 Nellie was informed that her husband had been killed in action. During the month of May Nellie received letters of condolence and sympathy from her husband’s commanding officer, 2nd Liet. J.G. Howard, the acting adjutant of the 17th Middlesex Regiment and Reverend Donald Murray, Chaplain to the Forces in the British Army. Nellie also had received the customary message of sympathy from the King and Queen and a letter from the Army Council which clearly stated  that her husband had died in action. However unfounded rumours began to circulate that her husband had been executed as a deserter. In response to these rumours Nellie had the Sussex Daily News publish the article opposite dated May 1917. A brief version, clarifying the death of her husband also appeared in the Sussex Daily News September 3,1918 and a similar announcement appeared in the Kent & Sussex Courier.

When Robert died in 1917 Nellie was left to care for two young sons and an infant son Joseph Whiting (born February 1917) and found taking care of them difficult. Her widows pension was not enough to live on and so worked as a washerwoman and took in laundry at her home, working long hours from morning till night.Around 1932 she became seriously ill and had to give up work. She died at No. 12 Albion Square, Tunbridge Wells July 4,1933 at the age of 50. Burial records for the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery gave “Sarah Nellie Whiting” buried July 6,1933.

Nellie’s son Robert Leonard Whiting (born 1908) lived with his mother Nellie at her home at No. 12 Albion Square, working as a bus conductor before his marriage in 1932 and up to 1935, the year of his son’s birth, after his mother had passed away. He helped his mother with some funds from his employment. Nellies youngest son Joseph (Joe) left his mother’s home at age 15 (1922) and joined the Navy. Nellies second eldest son William James Whiting (born 1909) lived with his mother Nellie at her home and helped his mother with some funds while working in the town as a bus conductor. Further information about the three sons of Robert Whiting is given in a later section of this article, but now I return to Robert’s military service.

THE WAR YEARS

When war broke out in 1914 Robert was the goalkeeper with the Brighton & Hove Football Club (photo oppoiste) on the First Team. Professional footballers were bound by fixed term contracts to the football clubs and technically they could not join the armed forces unless their employers released them. On August 29,1914 The Daily Sketch published an article urging professional footballers to join the army. Four months later on December 14,1914  William Joynson-Hicks, a Conservative MP established the a Service Btn of the 17th Middlesex Regiment , which became known as the “Football Battalion. As a consequence Robert Whiting enlisted for service as a private with the “Footballers Battalion” in January 1915. His attestation records were signed by him January 31st, giving his home address as 9 Coleridge Street, Hove, Sussex. Shown below left is a photo of the Albion Sharp Shooters in which Robert is shown in the back row on the extreme right. This photo shows members of the Brighton & Hove Albion football team practising rife drill in the early months of the war. To the right of it is a photo of the Brighton & Hove Albion team in the 1914-1915 season in which Robert is shown in the back row in the dark shirt (fifth from the left).












After basic training at White City, the 17th Service (Football) Battalion moved on to Cranleigh in April 1915. From Cranleigh, the 17th Service (1st Football) Battalion were transported to Clipstone Camp (photo oppoiste), a massive army camp near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. After a month at Clipstone Camp, the 17th Service (1st Football) Battalion travelled south to Perham Down in Wiltshire. At Perham Down, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the raw recruits of the 17th Service (1st Football) Battalion were trained for armed combat. By June 1915, Bob Whiting, who was now 32 years of age, had been promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant. After months of battle training, the 17th Service (1st Football) Battalion embarked for France, landing at Boulogne on November18, 1915.

The 17th Service (1st Football)  Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment were sent to reinforce the troops based in the trenches near the French town of Loos, the location of a recent major British offensive. (The Battle of Loos, which took place between September 25th and October 14,1915, had resulted in 50,000 British casualties). By early December 1915, Lance Sergeant Bob Whiting and his comrades in the 17th Middlesex Regiment were having their first taste of trench warfare.

In the spring of 1916, the 1st Football Battalion moved south to Vimy Ridge, where it experienced heavy fighting near Souchez and sustained a number of casualties.

It was while serving in the filthy conditions of the front line that  Lance Sergeant Bob Whiting contracted scabies. Towards the end of May 1916, Lance Sergeant Whiting was evacuated to England and sent to The 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Dyke Road, Brighton, for treatment (photo opposite).

During his sick leave in Brighton, Bob Whiting was able to meet up with his wife, Nellie. Already the mother of two young boys ( Robert Leonard, aged 8, and William James, aged 6), 'Nellie' Whiting fell pregnant during her husband's stay in Brighton. As his medical treatment neared completion, Bob Whiting realised that he would soon be declared fit for active service and returned to his regiment in France. In June 1916, instead of reporting for duty, the 'father-to-be' went absent without leave. After 133 days (nearly 4 months and 2 weeks), Bob Whiting was arrested in October 1916 and charged with "Desertion". The arrest of Bob Whiting was reported in The Brighton Herald on 21st October 1916. He was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment with hard labour however as soldiers were needed his sentence was suspended and was demoted to private and sent back to the front.

In March 1917 Robert was returned to ‘B Company’ of the 17th Middlesex Regiment, who were taking up their positions forf a major offensive on the German lines east of the French city of Arras. Early on the morning of April 28,1917 the Football Battalion of the 17th Middlesex took part in an attack on German-held territory around Oppy Wood. It was reported that “ On April 28,1917 the 17th Middlesex Regiment were virtually annihilated at Oppy Wood during the Arras offensive, only one officer and 41 men returning unscathed from the German Lines”. Among the hundreds killed was 34 year old private Robert Whiting. In a letter to his wife it was stated that “he lost his life while attending to the wounded under fire, and died while doing his duty both well and nobly”. Robert was one of 462 men from the Middlsex Regiment who lost their lives that day.

Robert was hastily buried near where he fell with his comrades but subsequent artillery fire obliterated his grave. As a man with no grave his name was entered upon the Arras War Memorial (photo opposite). Some 35,000 names appear on this memorial who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 to August 1918 but who have no known grave. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it was completed in 1932.

His name also appears on one of the brass plaques of the Tunbridge Wells(photo below left). He is one of 801 men who’s name appears on this war memorial from WW 1. Names of those lost during WW II were later added to other plaques. This war memorial (photo below right) is located on Mount Pleasant Road in front of the Civic Centre. Details about it and a transcription of the names on the War Memorial were given in three articles I wrote several years ago, and among which was a brief summary of information about Robert Whiting.















Shown opposite is a glass panel from artist Jonathan D Boarst’s free-standing memorial window featuring two images of Bob Whiting. The 2 metre high, double-sided memorial, which was created to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Soldier, was unveiled at London’s Westminster Abbey November 2,2010. Also on this memorial is an image of 2nd Lieut Walter Daniel Tull who was killed March 25,1918 while serving with the 5th Middlesex Regiment. On  November 10,1910 Westminster Abbey held a service for local schoolchildren and relatives, commemorating the missing men of 1914-1918. At this service it was said “Among those remembered will be London-born Robert 'Pom Pom' Whiting (1884-1917), father of three, pre-war goalkeeping star and Middlesex Regiment soldier. His extraordinary personal history combines sporting prowess, patriotism, reckless desertion, ostracism by his local community, redemption by brave military service and tragic loss in battle.”

In 2012 Brighton & Hove Albion erected a memorial at their new stadium to commemorate players, those who worked there and supporters of the club who fell in the First and Second World Wars. Roberts name appears on this memorial.

He is also remembered on Hove’s war memorial in the town library. The football clubs he played for also have memorials of their players who were killed in WW 1 and so Robert’s name appears on all of those he played for.

On April 2,2004 a group of three medals of Robert Whiting was sold at auction for 1,100 pounds.

THE SONS OF ROBERT WHITING

Robert and his wife Nellie had three sons born between 1908 and 1917. A photo of them and some brief information is given about them, for they all lived in Tunbridge Wells with their mother on St John’s Road during their early lives. Some continued to live and work in Tunbridge Wells after their mothers death in 1933.

[1] ROBERT LEONARD WHITING

Robert was the eldest son of the Brighton & Hove Albion footballer Bob Whiting, pictured opposite in army uniform during the Second World War. Robert Leonard Whiting was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1908. As a young man, Robert Leonard Whiting worked as a bus conductor, but later in his life he was employed as a Planning Officer for Tonbridge Rural District Council.

In 1932, Robert Leonard Whiting married Violet Nellie Quinnell (born 1911, Tunbridge Wells). In 1935, Violet gave birth to the couple's only child, Robert Whiting, probably named in honour of his father and grandfather. [The birth of Robert L. Whiting was registered in the Kent district of Tonbridge during the 1st Quarter of 1935]. From the year of his marriage in 1932 until 1935, the year of his son's birth, Robert Leonard Whiting lived at his mother's house at No. 12 Albion Square, Tunbridge Wells. Robert and Violet Whiting later settled in Rusthall, Kent.

Robert Leonard Whiting served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery during the Second World War. After the war ended in 1945, Robert Leonard Whiting went to work for Tonbridge Rural District Council. After a series of promotions, Robert Leonard Whiting became a Planning Officer for Tonbridge R. D. C.

Robert Leonard Whiting was interested in music and relatives recall that he played the ukulele and accompanied himself on the small guitar-like instrument when he sang at family gatherings.

Robert Leonard Whiting died in Rusthall, Kent, on 23rd October 1967, aged 59. Robert Leonard Whiting's wife, Mrs Violet Nellie Whiting died in 1976.

[2] JAMES (Jim) WHITING  

Jim Whiting, Bob Whiting's second son, photographed in his bus conductor's uniform in the 1930s when he was employed by the Maidstone & District Bus Company. William James Whiting, generally known as 'Jim', was born in Hove, Sussex, in 1909. Jim Whiting worked as a bus conductor, a scaffolder and a builder's labourer before joining the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Jim Whiting's war service included duties onboard  HMS Anson, a battleship which escorted merchant ships of the arctic convoy as they brought vital supplies to the northern ports of the Soviet Union (Archangel and Murmansk). Jim Whiting also served on the heavy cruiser  HMS Cumberland. After the war, Jim Whiting returned to the building trade and later worked as a painter & decorator. From around 1950, Jim Whiting  was employed by British Rail, painting and refurbishing railway stations in the South of England.

William James 'Jim' Whiting married Lucy Websell in 1933 and fathered three children - June (b. 1935), Terence (b. 1944) and Laurence (b. 1947).

Jim Whiting worked as a painter & decorator and school caretaker at the end of his working life.

Jim Whiting died on holiday in Bournemouth, shortly after celebrating 50 years of marriage (1983). Tragically, Mrs Lucy Whiting, Jim Whiting's wife, and her son Laurence Whiting were to lose their lives in a car accident on New Year's Eve 1989.

[3] JOSEPH (Joe) FREDERICK WHITING 

Joseph was  the youngest son of Bob Whiting, photographed in his Royal Navy uniform during the Second World War (image opposite).  Joseph Frederick Whiting, was born in Tunbridge Wells on 26th February, 1917.  Joe Whiting joined the Royal Navy as a 15 year old cadet in 1932. In his early naval career Joe Whiting served as a stoker aboard the Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Kent. During the Second World War, Petty Officer Joe Whiting also served on a number of other vessels, including Minesweepers, Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) and Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs). Joe's naval career was brought to an end in 1945, when he was seriously injured during an enemy attack.

Around 1945, the year he was invalided out of the Royal Navy, Joe Whiting met May Nina Louvain Rogers (born 1915, Tunbridge Wells, Kent). The couple produced four children between 1948 and 1954 - Robert (born 1948), James (born 1949),  Stewart (born 1951) and Julia (born 1954).

Joe Whiting and his family lived in West Farleigh, near Maidstone, until the mid 1950s, when they moved to Marden, a village 8 miles south of Maidstone. During his time in Marden, Joe Whiting took on a variety of jobs, including boiler maintenance and lorry driving. A skilled mechanic, Joe Whiting managed a garage in Marden and for a number of years served as a volunteer fireman.

Joseph Frederick Whiting died on 27th February 1974, the day after his 57th birthday. Joe's wife, May Louvain Whiting, died in 1998, aged 83.

THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS RANGERS 

As noted above Robert Whiting joined the Tunbridge Wells Rangers when he settled in the town in 1904. On January 13,1906 he played for this club in a F.A., Cup tie against Norwich City and performed so well that he was picked up in 1906 as a reserve goalkeeper for the Chelsea Football Club. Although his football career in Tunbridge Wells was a short one, his membership with the club forms part of a long and colourful history of the Rangers.

In my article ‘Francis Reginald Gilbert-A Career in Printing’ dated July 3,2011 I wrote “My grandfather Francis Reginald Gilbert(1882-1975) had a long and fascinating career as a printer in both England and Canada. He was born September 6,1882 in Tunbridge Wells and was the middle son of Robert and Eliza. His older brother Robert Herbert born 1880 in Hastings,Sussex would be the first of the two brothers to embark upon a career as printers. Robert completed his schooling at the age of 13 and began a 7 year apprentiship with the Lewis Hepworth Company and in 1896 Francis followed him in that profession with the same employer. It was also around 1896 that my grandfather became a member of the Vale Rangers football team but left before it turned professional in 1903 as the Tunbridge Wells Rangers of which Lewis Hepworth was the team president.Lewis Hepworth had initially set up the Vale Rangers for the benefit of his employees and played "friendlies" on the Lower Cricket Ground.”

Details about the Tunbridge Wells Rangers can be found on the clubs website; on Wikipedia and several other websites and several photographs of the team can be found online. For that reason I have not provided a detailed history of the club. Shown in this section from top to bottom are three early image of the club. The first photo is dated 1906 and was taken by local photographer H. Jenkins. The second photo was taken for 1907-1908 when the club was the winners of the senior cup. The last image is a postcard for the same 1907-1908 event.

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