Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tonbridge Tollgates

Three iron posts, in separate locations in Tonbridge, mark former tollgate sites in the town.
All the commemorative markers are identical, and were put in place by TUDC (Tonbridge Urban District Council). They are undated.

The first is situated outside the Public Library on the corner of The High Street and Avebury Avenue. It's hard to imagine a tollgate in this busy area of the town, but until the coming of the railway the southern part of Tonbridge, as we know it today, simply did not exist.

Outside the Public Library on The High Street

The second marker is on the corner of Hadlow Road and Mill Lane.  This was one of several tolls along this route and it was there until 1868.  There is an undated photograph of this location on

The final tollgate marker can be found on Shipbourne Road.  This one is very hard to spot as it sits behind railings and is slightly hidden by foliage.  The location is directly opposite the petrol station that is next to The Royal Oak pub.

Shipbourne Road tollgate marker

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

The oldest post box in Tonbridge is at the station on Platform 2. Victorian and wall mounted it pre-dates all others in the town.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

Tonbridge cemetery was opened and consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on August 17th in 1857 

The Slade History Project

A project is underway to build a unique collection of the history of The Slade area in Tonbridge. Jacqui Wyatt and a team of enthusiasts will be spending the next few months collecting memories, photographs and records connected with the area. 

VE Day street party decorations in Hawden Road

Can you help so it can be documented for the future?
Do you or your family remember the Slade area before 1977?
Did you visit the Cattle Market or go to the Slade or Bank Street School?
Did you use the Whitefriars Social Club in Lansdowne Road?
Did you work at the Market or for Caffyns, Ongleys or any other of the local businesses?

The Cattle Market on Market Day

The Elliots in their Houselands Road backgarden in 1901

Please contact Jacquie Wyatt on 01732 770457 at 13 Havelock Road TN9 1JE or on

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

Bank Street Poorhouse was built in the 1720's and served Tonbridge until 1845 when it opened as Bank Street School. The building has been refurbished into offices and is now occupied by Warners Solicitors.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

New Discoveries

With the help of Martin, a Tonbridge Daily reader, the number of Ghost Signs discovered in the town has now risen to 9.   Research still has to be done to identify when and why they were painted, but in the meantime here they are.  If there is any information that can help this project please use the comment box below or email

On the alley wall of William Hill, High Street

A second sign on the side of William Hill, High Street
River Lawn Road - virtually illegible but the word Stormont seems faintly visible

A 16th Century Sunday

Muskets and pikes, and 16th century dancing were all part of a real life history presentation at Penshurst Place last weekend.  In the warm March sunshine, and under a blue sky, a cast of actresses and actors recreated the colour, sights and sounds of a household preparing for the coming of the Spanish Armada. There were grisley tales of gruesome punishments, lessons in Elizabethan dancing and a volunteer visitor was captured and locked in the stocks.

In the Barons Hall one could step back 400 years to be surrounded by a lifelike banquet of hogs head, pheasant, fruit and other past delicacies, but we decided the sunny Cafe terrace, a slice of Lady d'Isles legendary apple cake (does she actually bake it?) and a 21st century Latte would be more our style.

A really great afternoon in probably my favourite local place.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Recognising Tonbridge

A solitary arched stained glass window sits high on a wall to the rear
 of a very familiar building in Tonbridge.
Where am I standing today?

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

English Romantic landscape painter JMW Turner used Somerhill House Tonbridge as the subject in a painting in 1811

Monday, 26 March 2012

Recognising Tonbridge Recognised

Two readers recognised where this week's Recognising Tonbridge was situated.  The close up of the gold painted grapes is part of the decorative vine that forms the wrought iron railings outside Hanover House, opposite Tonbridge School.

The grape vine has been used as a symbol since ancient times and is found frequently in the decorative arts, including metal work, of the early 20th century.  I can't fix a date on these railings although the style is of a mixture of Art Deco and Art Noveau, and I have been unable to find any record of their installation.

The majority of the iron railings in the town were removed during World War II, hacked off with only their stumps remaining. These were to be melted down to help the war effort.  Sadly the reality was that the metal could not be reused, and often their fate was to be dumped at sea.  However, some railings survived and it is possible that this decorative railing is one of them, or it could be a post war addition.  Any information on the railings is welcomed.

Hanover House Tonbridge - Grade II Listed - 19thC House with 17thC fragment

Art Group's Cultural Olympiade

Today I strolled through the glorious sunshine to Tonbridge Castle to view the exhibition which is at present showing in The Council Chamber. 

It's Tonbridge Art Group's 'Cultural Olympiade' this year and during their Spring Exhibition visitors are invited to vote for their gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

There is an interesting variety of paintings and crafts, and a section hung with sports related art, which will be on show until April 1. Entry is free and the exhibition is open daily from 10am to 4pm.

Olympic Values III - Mike Insley - Acrylic

Anne Lovejoy - Ceramic

Olympic Values I - Mike Insley - Oil

The Chequers Inn Tonbridge - Mary Fowdrey - Oil

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Shipbourne Road Ghost Sign

A reader contacted me this week with the information that she had spotted a ghost sign in Shipbourne Road.  It's situated high on the side of a building close to the One Stop shop.

I am assuming that what remains visible on the wall is only part of the orginal sign and, for some reason, the remainder has been painted over. It seems doubtful an advertising sign would have been as small as this. The lettering has deteriorated to such an extent that it is illegible, but hopefully someone may have some information to help to solve why it was originally there, and it can then be added to the list of the other 6 ghost signs still remaining in Tonbridge.

If you can help please email or comment in the box below.

Recognising Tonbridge

This week's image should be far easier to recognise than the last Recognising Tonbridge post.  So, where in the town am I standing today?

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

In 1778 a male midwife and surgeon opened a shop in Tonbridge High Street with a limited offer to deliver babies free of charge within 4 miles of the town.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Festival on Facebook

Tonbridge Arts Festival is now on Facebook
Leave a comment and give them a 'Like'

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Snippet Comment

I was left the wonderful comment below on one of the Tonbridge Daily Snippet posts.
I am delighted that the blog is getting locals to look closer at their town, and notice things that are already around them.

'It's amazing what we pass every day and never 'see' until you point it out!!
Well done Tonbridge for bringing the past back into the present, and recording the present for the future.'

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Ultimate Test

Katherine Foster-Smith is not only an award winning marmalade producer, she has managed to scoop the approval of the Greek side of my family with her Beetroot and Orange Relish ... and believe me ... this is probably the highest accolade one can ever attain.

Great Preservations - World Marmalade Competition - Bronze Award
Tonbridge Farmers Market

Last Sunday Yiayia (Grandma) Polycarpou arrived at my home for a traditional English Sunday roast, and rather too many dishes of homemade accompaniments travelled with her .  A roast is not a roast, according to Yiayia, unless there is a considerable choice of Greek food on the table too. So the roast pork and yorkshire puds jostled for pride of place with a dish of moussaka and koupepia (stuffed vine leaves), and the cinnamon fragrance of an english apple crumble mingled with the scent of loukamades soaked in honeyed rosewater.  For those of you who have experienced the hilarious My Big Fat Greek Wedding you will appreciate what it can be like when marrying into a Greek family... especially where food and the matriarch of the kitchen is concerned. One can do well, but never as well as the elders, and nothing is ever as good as the Greek way.  It's something we accept and smile about ... that's Greek tradition.

Beetroot & Orange Relish

I'd made a trip to Tonbridge Farmers Market earlier that day, and stopped by at Great Preservations' stall to congratulate Katherine on her award when she asked me what I was cooking for the family, and recommended the Beetroot and Orange Relish which she assured me would complement the roast pork perfectly.  I left for home with a jar of Katherine's relish that she kindly gave me to try.  It was when I placed the 'non-self made' relish on the lunch table, and met with Yiayia's noticeably raised eyebrows, that I felt I had to justify my actions by explaining the relish was made by hand ... at home ...  and in the kitchen of a Tonbridge lady (just a few streets away) who had won a national award for her preserving skills.  The biography impressed, and that was all that was needed to encourage Yiayia to have just a taste of the aromatic burgundy preserve, and it wasn't long before she was nodding her head with rare approval, and combining the koupepia and the pork crackling with the Beetroot and Orange Relish.

So thank you Katherine for the free gift which really was a delicious accompaniment to the English/Greek meal, and for satisfying grandmother Polycarpou.  You have passed the ultimate test.  I certainly know what to take with me next time I visit the Matriach's own kitchen.


A marker showing the location of a former tollgate sits opposite the petrol station on Shipbourne Road

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Tonbridge Country Dancing Festival

This is a repeat post from last year, but with the Tonbridge Arts Festival taking place this June it has renewed my interest in the Country Dancing Festival, which was held every summer on Tonbridge Castle lawn during the 1960's.  All the junior schools in Tonbridge were invited to take part in the event, and dancing teams from the fourth year (that's now year 6) provided an entertaining, albeit chaotic, afternoon of traditional folk dancing for an audience of parents, teachers and residents.

Tonbridge Castle Lawn c1963

There was lots of skipping around in circles , and skipping around in inner and outer circles, and more skipping around in circles - not to forget the heel/toes, promenading and clapping  to the tune of the loud speaker music which was linked to a gramophone, or perhaps it was a tape recorder, but apparantly it was always crackley.

Does someone know any more about the festival, have their own memories, or are there any more photographs out there of the event? Please contact Tonbridge Daily on or use the comment box below.

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

A dispute on the introduction of mixed bathing at Tonbridge swimming pool in 1910 caused national attention.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

In 1596 Katherine Brystone was found guilty of poisoning her husband and was burned to death in Tonbridge

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Recognising Tonbridge Recognised ...

...or more precisely not recognised this time, and it  does make me feel just a little smug to outwit some of you usually very eagle eyed locals.

On this occasion it was a simple case of looking up in the High Street, and the intricate wrought iron work that creates the compact Juliet balcony effect would have been spotted above The Pepper Grinder. 

There are many features of bygone architecture that still remain in Tonbridge. Another visual world exists above eye level, and above the modern shop frontages, giving us an idea of how our town would have looked in the past.

So look up when you're next in the High Street, and you may very well be surprised as to how interesting some of the buildings are.

Juliet Balcony at 135 High Street


The Pepper Grinder

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Tygers Head

As always I'm looking forward to the next art exhibition at Tygers Head, and this time the opportunity to meet Brighton born artist Roger Phillpot, who is travelling from his home in France for the pre-opening evening in Tonbridge. Much of Roger's work has evolved from his post war memories, and as this period holds historical interest to me I am excited at the prospect at delving into the paintings to see what I can discover.

Exhibition dates: 24th March to 1st April
Open Saturday and Sunday 11am to 6pm
Monday to Friday
by appointment

Tonbridge Arts Festival

 Take a look at what's happening at Tonbridge Arts Festival between June 15 and 24
The website is now live and more events are scheduled to be added.
Subscribe for updates,
find out the latest news
and even get involved

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

A young farm girl named Nellie who drowned herself in a pond behind The Cardinal's Error some centuries ago is said to haunt the Tonbridge pub today

Friday, 16 March 2012

Those Were The Days

Those really were the days when Liptons re-opened its doors at 52 Tonbridge High Street (Vodaphone now occupies the premises).

This was a time when butter was not only 1/- a pound (I think that's about 10p in today's money), it was also 'the best and purest in the world'.

This was a time when recycling was all sorted out, and customers were charged for glass jam jars which were refunded on their return. Simple really!

I don't have a date for this ad but I would guess it's post rationing, so maybe late 1950's or 1960's.

And, by the way, whatever did happen to greengage jam?

Have A Go

The friendly Angel Indoor Bowls Club members were at Tonbridge Farmers Market last weekend giving locals a chance to roll a ball, and get a feel of what it might be like to play the game for real.  Their club is the long green building just behind Sainsbury's Car Park on Avenue du Puy, and being an indoor venue, rain never stops play. 

Club members at Tonbridge Farmers Market

Now you may think that the club is really for the slightly older members of our town, but you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that it's a club that attracts all ages.  They even have a successful Junior Section. Once inside the building it opens up like Dr Who's Tardis to reveal a large indoor lawn (not real of course but green carpet), a fully stocked bar with seating area and even a restaurant too. The club also has a very strong social calendar with regular quiz, cabaret and comedy nights plus a variety of talks. This place really is rather a well kept secret.

Angel Indoor Bowls Club
Restaurant and Cafe
The club will be opening their doors tomorrow (Saturday 15 March) from 2 until 5pm when anyone who is interested can have a go, or simply take a look around the club. Members will be at hand to show you how to roll the ball, and tell you all about the social side of the club.  I was told to bring some socks as in general bowling shoes need to be worn, and heels are definitely not allowed on the rink.  

I'm sure nobody could be worse than me at having a go, as when I had a try at Tonbridge Farmers Market the ball curved really well (that's what I think it's supposed to do), but mine unfortunately curved in the wrong direction and into the bushes.

If you can't make the open afternoon tomorrow, regular open evenings are also held every first and third Wednesday of the month, between 7 and 9pm, and there's always a friendly face to show you the ropes.  

Give them a call on 01732 771200 or 01732 771262 for more information. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Painter Man

A short video of Tonbridge Round Table painting Slade School - Well Done Chaps!!!!!

Recognising Tonbridge

I've been looking up again in Tonbridge ...
... where am I today?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Ghostly Remains

After the last post on Ghost Signs I was contacted by a reader with information as to where three further signs were in the town, so this afternoon I took my camera and myself on a walk of discovery around the south of Tonbridge.

Meadow Road Tonbridge
The first painted sign I found clings to a garage wall in Meadow Road which I found incredibly hard to  completely decipher, but it seems to read:-

Dry Tree Farm Dairy
Deliveries twice daily
in this district

There is a name and it is possibly E Harris, but I am unable to work that out or the inscription at the top of the advertisement.

St Stephens Street Tonbridge

A second bleached and faded sign remains on a property in St Stephens Street adjacent to the Punch & Judy pub.  This was probably painted by Mr. Palmer himself who is advertising the one and only as a Signwriter, Grainer, Painter, Paperhanger and Decorator. I searched through the Kelly's Street Directories with great expectations that a Mr. Palmer would have lived at this address, but his name was not to be found here or in St Stephens Street.  As there has always been a watering hole next door I wondered if Mr. Palmer could have been always found there.

Rear of Priory Street Tonbridge

The final remaining ghost sign I was directed to was really hard to find as a block flats has been built in front of it, and has rendered it almost invisible.  It sits high in the apex of  a side wall near to the corner of Priory Street and Priory Road. The flats that were completed this year were built on the site of the former Railway Bell pub.  The sign reads:-

Estb 1845
Medway Coal Compy
And At
Tunbridge Wells, Hastings,
London & Elsewhere

I don't hold out much hope for the preservation of this sign, and believe it will be lost very soon as a number of flues spurt out their vapour directly onto the lettering.  This was so disappointing as it will only be a matter of time before it fades and disappears.

Vapour damaging the sign

Luckily the sign has been documented and photographed many times, and also appears on Google Street Map (see here before the flats that hide it were built.

I am not sure how long the Medway Coal Company was in Priory Street, as the main office was in or close to Tonbridge High Street.  There was a coal merchants listed in Kellys Street directories at this address in 1886, followed by Carter Smith Ltd who were firewood dealers and by 1919 the Medway Coal Company are listed, but as firewood dealers and not coal merchants.  A photograph on that depicts Ray Lucas with his horse and Medway Coal Company cart, does have some evidence of a firewood store in the picture, but it is unsure where this was taken.  It could be at the Priory Street address.  It is all rather a mystery.

Tonbridge Historical Society Pictorial Collection No. 29.033

I believe that I have now probably covered all remaining ghost signs in Tonbridge on this blog.  If there are any more that haven't been mentioned please let me know, and in the meantime take a look at those that still cling onto these old walls before they disappear.