Caution And Hope After 80% Drop in Covid-19 Cases in February

The Mayor of Southborough has told residents he remains concerned about vulnerable members of the community just as the coronavirus restrictions are due to be slowly lifted in the coming months.

With schools due to reopen on Monday, official figures for Tunbridge Wells Borough show cases in February were 80 per cent lower than January. There were 286 new cases last month, compared with 1,736 in January.

Mayor Alain Lewis (pictured below) told Southborough News: “While we can be happy that the rate is going down, we still need to keep the measures in place to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable people. We also need to let the NHS and key workers do their job in treating us, vaccinating us and caring for us.”

Alain Lewis new

Cllr Lewis concluded: “We can have some optimism that better days are nearer.”

The very latest statistics are encouraging, with the most recent figure for the 7-day rolling average of daily cases in the Borough running at 6 new cases a day, having dropped from 100 new cases a day two months ago.

But the situation is still not as reassuring as last June and July when infections were only one new case a day, although testing was much lower at that point so many cases will have gone undetected.

Here is the graph for weekly case numbers per 100,000 of population in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells:TW Feb

Here is the graph of the weekly case numbers per 100,000 of population in Tonbridge and Malling Borough:

Ton Feb

The figures record a total of 227 deaths from Covid-19 in Tunbridge Wells Borough and 259 in Tonbridge and Malling, based on information on death certificates.

Below is a reminder of the possible dates announced by the government for the reopening of the economy:

March 8th Schools reopen
March 29th Up to 6 people can meet outdoors
March 29th Outdoor sports resume
April 12th Hairdressers, pub gardens & gyms reopen
April 12th UK self-catering holidays possible
May 17th International travel may restart
May 17th Pubs can seat customers indoors; Cinemas & theatres at 50%
June 21st Nightclubs open & event limits end

Southborough in the 1940s Remembered

I had such a great response to my recent blog on the history of our home and what it was like to live in Southborough in the 1940s that I have posted here a 20 minute film of Monica Farrier’s visit and what she recalled so vividly.

She recounts moving from Sheffield Road to Speldhurst and then back to Pennington Road in Southborough in 1949 to look after her eccentric great aunt Isabella Clara Gallard.

If you have any new information to add or any comments, do please email me at martin.webber10536@gmail.com

A Successful Hunt for Our Home’s History

Our Pennington Road house was built in the 1850s and one of the many charms of owning an old house is being able to speculate about what the people who lived here before were really like.

At night – on their way up to bed – they slid their hands on the same stair banisters as us. And on warm spring days they pushed open the same sticky wood sash windows to let in air.

Bannisters 36 2But how have the attitudes, customs and clothes changed over 170 years of life in Southborough?

Our hunt for house history led us first to ask our friendly neighbours whether they were still in contact with any of our home’s former owners.

Home VE DayAs a result, Southborough’s former G.P., Dr Alick or “Sandy” Cameron, paid us a visit. In the 1980s, he shifted some huge rocks to the front garden and planted some “dwarf” trees on the former lawn. Those trees now tower over the house, as you can see from the picture above taken on the VE Day 75th anniversary in May 2020!

Roses Front

And then Mr and Mrs Rose came for tea – they had found the house lying empty in the 1960s.  They told us they clambered in through a window at the back and liked what they saw and made it their family home. One of their old pictures (above) shows Pennington Road’s former number 38 still standing before it was demolished to make way for the Dennington Court retirement flats.

The Rose family even imported an unwanted lamp post from Rusthall and stuck it in the front garden to create a makeshift climbing frame! (Picture below)

Roses Lamp

The standard research tools for house histories are the national Census records up to 1911 and the Kelly’s street directories that list “head of household” names from the 1880s to the 1970s. Remarkably, these researches revealed that our home was the residence of the Gallard family for 61 of its 170 years.

There were Gallards in Pennington Road from 1891 to 1952. Shown below is the 1911 census return where you see the signature of the 50 year old unmarried Isabella Clara Gallard, who went on to live at number 36 for a further 40 years.

Isabella signatureWe thought we had struck gold by finding the Gallard connection. Given that the Gallard’s Almshouses are one of Southborough’s most prominent landmarks, surely we thought a contact there would be able to provide lots of pictures and prose about the life of the family and maybe even a photo of them sitting in front of a roaring coal fire in our cosy front living room.

We contacted the Gallard’s Almshouses for any history or contacts….but sadly there was almost nothing. The researches they carried out for their centenary in 2011 had concluded that the Gallard descendants had moved away or simply died out.

1911 Census wide

One curiosity of that 1911 Census (shown above) was that a six year old was living there with Esther Gallard (the widowed second wife of Charles Gallard) and her 4 very grown up “children.”

The six-year old child was Esther’s grandson, Cyril Henry Pearson, curiously living apart from his mother Edith who had married and was living at 7 Sheffield Road with 3 other children and her husband, Cleveland Pearson.

This was a puzzle but we still only had names.  We were even more eager for pictures, personalities and stories. The trail went cold until I began wondering around the St Peter’s Church graveyard on a dull December day in 2015.

There I found the headstone marking the resting place of Charles Gallard (the father of the four siblings living in our house in 1911). Also named on the same headstone was Charles Gallard’s first wife and a much more recent individual. This was Beatrice Hull née Pearson who died only in 1987 (picture below).Beatrice Hull grave

The Kelly’s directories had shown the Hull family arriving when the Gallards left in 1952, but we had assumed there was no family connection.  The gravestone was proof that the families were connected, and so the Hull/Pearsons were going to be the key to unlocking the secrets of the Gallards.

Birth and Marriage records showed Beatrice Hull’s daughter Monica was married to one Brian Farrier. And this is where we really struck lucky. An internet search yielded a page from the Southborough Cricket Club site (below) with a message from Brian Farrier that he was still closely following Southborough cricket from his home in Cornwall.

Cricket Brian Farrier

Needless to say I rang all the Farriers in Cornwall in the phone book. After a few dead ends, a lady picked up the phone. 

I asked the lady politely if it was Monica Farrier who used to live in Southborough.  Slightly wary at first, she quickly gushed forth with a flood of information and history.

She revealed that she had herself lived in our home as a child when her mother Beatrice and the rest of the Hull family moved in to help care for her eccentric great aunt Isabella Clara, who was the last survivor of the many Gallards in Pennington Road. 

In following months we obtained more stories and photographs about the Gallards than we could have ever imagined existed.  We even got sent a picture apparently from 1906 of young Cyril Pearson with a cricket bat posing in one of Southborough Common’s many amazing settings where almost nothing has changed in the past 120 years.

Cyril

Inglenook today

Armed with Monica’s almost photographic memory of her days in Pennington Road, many details became clearer.

We found that the Gallard surname derived from the first Charles Gallard did indeed die out in the next generation. That was certainly no fault of the original Charles Gallard, who we believe built many of Pennington Road’s houses and lived from 1823 to 1885. He married twice and had a total of 11 children. 

These Gallard siblings clearly had money, as most apparently never worked.  So you might have expected them to attract a choice of suitors. But all those 11 children only produced four marriages and 7 children between them in the next generation.

With no evidence at all, we can speculate that maybe they were stuck in the middle of the rigid class system of the time. Perhaps they were unwilling to marry “beneath themselves” to the poor commoners of Southborough, but also not accepted enough as a match by the families of the retired generals and other middle class professionals that inhabited the better villas of the town.

It could also just be that they enjoyed their own company and their own comforts too much to want to marry.

3 girls cu v2 copy

Above is possibly the most charming of the photos that Monica sent us, showing three of the Gallard sisters, when they were in their younger days probably in their late teens in the 1880s, a few years before they moved in to our home.  But they weren’t far away.  They lived then at the current number 24 Pennington Road.

We believe that it is Florence standing up, looking the happiest. Kate is the oldest of the them in the plainest dress on the right.  And the youngest on the left is Edith, probably 19. 

Here is another picture of Edith:

Edith Gallard crop

Edith did marry.  And remarkably we have a picture of her wedding day, taken clearly in the back garden of our home on 3rd October 1900.

1900 wedding copy

In the picture above from 1900, you can make out the back porch and two first floor sash windows, which all still look just the same today. By the time Edith married, she was 33, according to the record.  Her groom was the dashing and handsome Cleveland Pearson, who was 8 years younger, aged only 25.

Here is the record of the wedding at St.Peter’s Church:

Southborough St Peter Register of Marriages 1898-1920

Over the next 13 years they produced five children. But sadly all did not go well with their relationship.  After Beatrice was born in 1913, Cleveland moved out to live with another woman.

Either difficulties in the marriage or the small size of their home in Sheffield Road could help explain why their second child, Cyril, was farmed out to his aunts at the more spacious residence of 36 Pennington Road, where Cyril was living in 1911 according to that census record shown earlier in the blog.

If it helps, below is a not entirely exhaustive version of the Gallard family tree.

Gallard Tree simple copy

The two sisters Irene and Beatrice Pearson were apparently very close. And they seemed to be involved in the happy community events of Southborough. 

The picture below is taken with both sisters dressed up to perform in the Royal Victoria Hall in 1920.  Irene was 14 years-old and Beatrice (seated and Monica Farrier’s mother) was seven. No doubt their aunts helped them rehearse in the spacious living rooms of 36 Pennington Road.RVH in 1920 copy

Here are two more charming pictures – very possibly of Cleveland and Edith’s first child, Winifred Pearson, who was born in 1902.  It is guesswork from the placement of pictures in an album handed down through Irene’s family to a lady now living in New Zealand who paid us a visit only last week (February 2021).

The same album contains this magnificent picture of a man, possibly Cleveland himself, taken in the early 1900s when he was in his late twenties.

Cleveland crop

One more wonderful picture for us to be given by Monica was that of her mum’s “Aunt Flo” in our back garden (shown below) The garden wall is just the same although the rose bush is sadly now gone.

Aunt Flo copy

This picture must be from the 1930s.  It is 50 years after the first photo of the three sisters, in the 1880s.

We believe Florence was the longest serving resident of our home. One of the four Gallard photo albums that are now in various Gallard descendants’ hands has a dedication written inside the front cover, showing that it was a gift to Florence on her 21st birthday. That note is shown below next to Florence’s image from the 1880s. 

We don’t have much of what Florence wrote in her life.  Just one postcard written in 1913 to her half-sister known as Ellen or Miss E.E. Gallard at 10, York Gate, Regents Park. 

The card reads: “I hope you will have a very happy new year. I trust you found Margie brighter today. I can see the colour of my blouse today – was quite ashamed of it. Issie and I sat talking till 12.30pm Tuesday and I was not ready to get up next morning. Love and best wishes, Flo.”

There’s also an earlier postcard sent in the other direction to Flo by her half-sister Ellen. 

Dated 11th January 1909 it says:  “I was surprised as received your letter this morning.  Many thanks for it. Delighted to hear the news. Hope mother is no worse for going out on Monday. Did not have rain on Sunday.  Mr W said it was very wet and rough at Brighton. I did enjoy my stay with your self.”

Here is another photo below with the Gallards and Cyril again in a very familiar Southborough Common setting with the school next to St Peter’s Church behind them.  Black dresses seemed to have given way to white dresses and hats with flowers in them:

Common v3 copy

The back of this photo above states that the picture is of Margery (the youngest sibling in the wheelchair), Edith (Monica’s grandmother who is standing), Kate, Issie, the boy Cyril and finally on the bench is Frank Gallard (although Frank looks rather old for someone in their fifties, asssuming this was another picture taken roughly in 1906).

Isabella was the last Gallard in our home, but unlike Flo who never left home, Isabella did spend some time living away from Southborough. The picture below is Issie on horseback on a holiday in Ireland.

Issie horse crop

Monica describes Issie as “very prim and proper” but she did apparently work closely with a Mr Wolf who ran an antiques shop in the Laines in Brighton, taking the role of his personal assistant for some years.

Issie was clearly a stubborn woman as she refused to have electricity in the house, arguing that it was too dangerous. Instead she felt the system of gas lighting was much safer.  A pulley attached to the sitting room ceiling turned on the gas tap which was lit manually by a taper lifted to the ceiling. At bedtime, the light was extinguished by pulling a second rope to cut the gas supply.

Below is a photo of Issie with the lady who looked after her before the Hulls moved in. Eva Pratt and her daughter Margery are standing with Issie in our back garden.  The Pratts apparently moved to Devizes.

Isabelle 2

Monica’s first hand accounts of Issie in her final few years up to 1952 were wonderful.  Issie lived and slept in the front downstairs room on the right as you went up the drive.

At Christmas, Monica remembers opening the windows to hear the local Salvation Army choir singing carols to her from our front lawn. Issie – with her long white flowing hair – dressed up in a Father Christmas suit and gave out presents from a tea chest. 

One of the issues with the old Gallard photo albums we’ve been shown, is the complete lack of name labels. Everyone at the time knew who all the people were, so they clearly thought labels just weren’t needed.

But from the place in the albums and the frequency they appear, we can be pretty sure that the images below are of Esther (née Esther Ann Martin), who was Charles Gallard’s second wife (and so Flo and Issie’s mother), who opened the Gallard’s Almshouses in 1911.

And these below are almost certainly images of her husband, the first Charles Gallard.  He died six years before the family moved down the road from 24 to 36 Pennington Road.

 

Charles Gallard’s first son was his namesake Charles J. Gallard, who was an even more successful builder than his father, as he moved out of Southborough and constructed much fancier red brick homes in Boyne Park in Tunbridge Wells.

Charles J. Gallard had no children – which prompted him to donate his fortune to the construction of the Gallard Almshouses in 1911 after his own and his wife’s death. Hence, the Almshouses were opened by his stepmother, Esther.

Below is the rather indistinct photo of Charles J Gallard from the report in the Courier of the Almshouse opening on 25th October 1912 and next to it a photo from a Gallard album that may perhaps be Charles J. too but 30 years earlier.

 

But back now to more modern times and the tales of Monica living in our home in the 1950s.  One of Monica’s stories was going up to bed with her sister Cynthia in the days before any electricity, let alone central heating.

In winter, they would get into their night clothes downstairs where it was warm in front of the coal fire and hurry upstairs carrying their candles to their bedroom on the top floor. Monica remembers: “It was a white enamel candlestick.  Probably quite dangerous. It was jolly cold in those days…you could see your breath…it almost froze.”

Issie died in 1952 and there was a very short notice in the Courier, shown below:

Isabella Clara v3

After that Monica’s father, Bill (who was actually an electrician working for the GPO) was able to finally install electricity in our home.

Monica remembers her sister Cynthia thriving in her studies at Tonbridge Grammar School, despite doing her homework in front of the television in the front room.  It must have been a shock for the home that was without even the ability to plug in a radio in 1952 to be plunged into the television age just a few years later.

Another big change after Issie died was that the narrow pathway that snaked from the entrance gate to the front door was widened into a drive for a car. The old pedestrian gate was clearly left lying around the back garden for some time after that as you can see from the photo below from the late 1950s which is of Cynthia and Barrie.

San Remo Gate Video

The “San Remo” name for our house on that gate was in use for at least 50 years. Sadly why the resort in the Italian Riviera should have such significance for the home is lost in the mists of time. The gate was “green and solid” according to Monica and is very similar to one still surviving at 28 Pennington Road.  

The tradition of having a “tradesman’s entrance” was maintained at number 36 in Issie’s time, even though it was a rather odd arrangement.

Having walked in through that old gate to 36 in its original position, you took the path to the right of the bushes if you were a friend of the family. But if you were a “tradesman” then you took a different path to the left of the bushes.  Bizarrely both paths started and ended in the same places.

Here are some more glimpses of the back garden of our house in the 1950s, with the back of the house unpainted and showing the  washing on the line and an open route around the house where a garage now stands. It’s the same view as that of the wedding photo from 1900. It shows Beatrice, Barrie and Monica’s sister in law Annie Hull.

Cynthia-San Remo 2 v2

Monica and Brian and their son David, plus Monica’s brother Barrie all came to visit in 2016.  It meant Monica and Brian could stand on the steps outside San Remo’s front door just as they did 60 years before when Brian came on his visits courting Monica and they said their farewells late at night.  It was a wonderful few moments of nostalga for them both.

Monica+Brian

Sadly Brian died a few months ago in Cornwall. But at least our home history hunt had meant Brian and Monica had had another chance to relive their happy first days together.

We found far more than we could have expected about our house, but we still lack information before the Gallards.

One mystery was that we were told that our pair of semis (34 and 36 now – we think formerly “Stanley Villas”) was built for two sisters and they had a connecting door between them. When plaster was removed during recent renovation work, brickwork was found suggesting such a door was indeed filled in – but we have no other evidence of that story of the sisters, so our search continues.

After such a great response to this blog with hundreds of reads, I have decided (with Monica’s permission) to post here a youtube link to a film of Monica’s return to Pennington Road. 

If it brings back any memories or you’d like to add any more to the treasure trove of Gallard history, do please email me at:
martin.webber10536@gmail.com

In particular if you have any contacts with the Still or Harmer family, I’d like to know.  The Gallards builders became Still and Harmer at some point. Is there any proof that it was Charles Gallard’s firm which built the first 1850s homes in what was then still Pennington Lane?

Local Covid Cases Fall in January

The closure of schools, hairdressers and other non-essential businesses has produced a 19% drop in Covid-19 cases in Tunbridge Wells Borough in January, compared with December’s record figure of 2,139 positive tests.

The weekly case rate trend is down in both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, but national restrictions are likely to stay in place for many weeks to come with health services still under strain and cases still much higher than last August.

This is the graph for Tunbridge Wells showing the trend of weekly cases per 100,000 of population easing back to the levels of early December:

Covid TW Jan

And this is the graph showing the weekly case rate per 100,000 population in Tonbridge Borough with the data for the last day of January now published:

Covid Ton Jan

The situation locally is now not as bad as the national picture. The latest weekly case rate per 100,000 of population for all of England is 258, compared with the Tunbridge Wells figure of 182.

Here are the figures over recent months for the cases of positive Covid-19 tests over the previous 7 cases per 100,000 of population locally:

  Aug 1 Oct 1 Nov 14 Jan 4 Jan 29 Jan 30 Jan 31  
Tun Wells 6 21 119 590 179 179 182 Tun Wells
Tonbridge 3 17 202 829 198 187 181 Tonbridge

There have been a total of 189 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in Tunbridge Wells.  52 of them were in the first wave of the crisis before September. The second wave has sadly been much worse with 137 deaths in the five months since then. 

Tonbridge Borough has seen 191 deaths in total.

Thursday Update: Local Covid-19 Cases Edge Higher

Tunbridge Wells Borough has recorded another record rate of new Covid-19 cases, although the latest rise was less than previous days suggesting cases may be nearing a peak as tougher restrictions and school holidays have an effect in reducing transmission.

It is not clear whether full testing and reporting will be in place over Christmas, so this blog will cease tracking the figures for the next week until reporting gets back to normal.

In some more apparently good news, the figures for the three of the worst hit Kent Boroughs (Swale, Medway and Maidstone) fell in the latest weekly reporting period from the day before.

The weekly Tunbridge Wells Borough case rate fell back to just 78 per 100,000 of population on 24th November, but in the month since then has sadly climbed back up – to a new record rate of 454 cases per 100,000 people over the week to December 19th, which is the latest data available. 

The rate in Tunbridge Wells Borough is 35% above the England average. The Tonbridge and Malling Borough case rate is more than twice the England average.

Meanwhile, the latest concern is a new Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa that appears to be making younger people sicker compared with the original virus.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the areas of Sussex that border Tunbridge Wells would move up from Tier 2 to join the Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day.

Here are the latest numbers: (NB slide the display to see all 7 columns of numbers or view in landscape).

Aug 1Oct 1Nov 1Nov 14Dec 17Dec 18Dec 19
Tun Wells62153119407436454Tun Wells
Tonbridge31791202654679683Tonbridge
Sevenoaks32399197475496528Sevenoaks
Wealden*51348125327357367Wealden*
Swale1122203619952921884Swale
Maidstone611123236759768752Maidstone
Medwayn/a211443181,0451,0771,064Medway
Bromley33498160596666699Bromley
Rother^04344132603634656Rother^
Hastings2344194897962977Hastings
Aug 1Oct 1Nov 1Nov 14Dec 17Dec 18Dec 19
Oxford14133139249274295310Oxford
Southmptn235170228177195216Southmptn
Bristol443407488157165164Bristol
Nottinghm8412377263214228229Nottinghm
Cardiff2120306160697697702Cardiff
Cambridge420147274197200200Cambridge
ENGLANDn/a101232275306326336ENGLAND
WALESn/a102287184649639635WALES
Updated 20:00 GMT Thu 24 Dec

The figures above are confirmed cases per 100,000 of population in the previous 7 days, dated to when the test was taken. 
*Wealden District includes Crowborough & Frant  plus the Sussex bit of Groombridge– still in Tier 2 until Boxing Day when moves to Tier 4
^ Rother District Council includes Ticehurst & Hurst Green – also now in Tier 4

All statistics are sourced directly from:
https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

Sunday Update: Covid-19 Virus “Out of Control”

All non-essential shops were forced to shut from today in Kent and London after the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said a new variant Covid-19 virus was “out of control” and it needed to be brought under control.

Mr Hancock said it would be very difficult to keep the virus under control until the vaccine had been “rolled out” and everyone should now act as if they might have the virus.

Tier 4 restrictions were imposed affecting Southborough after the relentlessly increasing tally of Covid-19 cases, which have been reported on this site in recent weeks.

Back on November 17th, the rate hit a peak in Tunbridge Wells of 134 per 100,000 population. Fortunately, it fell back to a weekly case rate of 78 on 24th November, but since then has sadly climbed back up – to a new record rate of 339 cases per 100,000 people over the week to December 14th. 

This is how the trend in Tunbridge Wells Borough looks in a graph:

Updated 16:30 Sun 20 Dec

This is how the trend in Tonbridge and Malling Borough looks in a graph:

Updated 16:30 Sun 20 Dec

This is how the trend for England looks in a graph:

Updated 16:30 Sun 20 Dec

There were 2 more deaths recorded in the week ending 4th December in Tunbridge Wells, taking the total number who have Covid mentioned on their death certificate to 91.

There were 5 deaths recorded in Tonbridge in the latest week, bringing the total deaths of residents of that Borough linked to Covid-19 to 90.

All statistics are sourced directly from:
https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

Local Cases of Covid-19 Surged in November

Despite the so-called “Second Lockdown” coming into force on November 5th, which meant only essential trips were allowed away from home, Covid-19 cases have doubled in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells over the past month.

Latest updates now at:
https://southborough-news.com

Given the situation is complex and fast moving, official figures for how each local borough and selected university towns are faring will be updated daily here on this page until the end of November:

Aug 1Oct 1Nov 1Nov 14Nov 28Nov 29Nov 30
Tun Wells6215311995102116Tun Wells
Tonbridge31791202217226229Tonbridge
Sevenoaks32399197125125133Sevenoaks
Wealden*51348125115112104Wealden*
Swale1122203619565578568Swale
Maidstone611123236359382375Maidstone
Bromley33498160146151165Bromley
Rother^04344132117120112Rother^
Hastings2344194686675Hastings
Aug 1Oct 1Nov 1Nov 14Nov 28Nov 29Nov 30
Oxford14133139249125125121Oxford
Southmptn235170228757171Southmptn
Bristol443407488177176168Bristol
Nottinghm8412377263159161162Nottinghm
Cardiff2120306160223228249Cardiff
Cambridge420147274757159Cambridge
Updated Sat 5 Dec 18:30GMT – NB Data 5 days delayed

The figures above are confirmed cases per 100,000 of population in the previous 7 days (some iPhones only display 4 columns at a time in portrait – 7 columns of dates should be visible if you drag your view to the last date Nov 30 or hold the phone in landscape mode).
*Wealden District includes Crowborough and Frant
^ Rother District Council includes Ticehurst & Hurst Green

The case rates in the north of Kent are some of the worst in the country, which means all of Kent – including Southborough – were moved into the toughest English level of restrictions -Tier 3 – when the “second lockdown” ended and new rules started on Wednesday 2nd December.

Local MPs have called for the south of Kent to be given less onerous rules, but a statement by the Health Secretary on Thursday 26 November insisted that the medical resources for the whole county were already being stretched.

Figures in the chart below are for confirmed cases in the previous 7 days in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, which show the two surges in cases in November:

Updated from data Sat 5 Dec

Kent’s status in Tier 3 is bad news for the area’s pubs which can only offer takeaway food, while pubs in neighbouring Sussex in Tier 2 can welcome customers inside if they are eating substantial meals.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock’s statement said about Kent:
“Case rates are high and continuing to rise with large increases in case rates in almost all areas in the last 7 days. Some of the highest case rates in the country are currently seen in Kent. Rising case rates in people aged over 60 are a particular concern. Positivity is also increasing in 10 of the 13 lower tier local authorities. Kent And Medway STP are reporting hospital admissions are increasing and mutual aid necessary across the county.”

As of 13th November 2020, 85 deaths linked to Covid-19 had been reported in Tunbridge Wells Borough.

All statistics are sourced directly from:
https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

Wanted! New Name for Southborough Hub

The mayor of Southborough, Cllr Alain Lewis, has said the new community building under construction that is currently known as the “Southborough Hub” will have a new name suggested by residents.

Cllr Lewis told Southborough News: “There should be community engagement to decide on the name, so we are open to suggestions.”

The latest pictures of the building under construction are supplied by Cllr Nick Blackwell and are shown on this blog. The complex will contain a large doctors’ surgery, a replacement KCC library, a hall, meeting rooms and offices for Southborough Town Council.

Cllr Lewis insisted the building would not be given the Hub title when it opens.

He said he welcomed suggestions emailed to the council which would be: “Something with context to Southborough and what the people of Southborough want to call the building.”

Cllr Lewis said: “It could have historical relevance or a contemporary name we have not thought of. There’s plenty of talent in Southborough and High Brooms to surprise us I think.”

The mayor’s email address is:
Alain.Lewis@TunbridgeWells.gov.uk

Cllr Lewis also updated Southborough News about progress of the building, revealing that despite disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hub was on schedule for completion in Spring next year, probably being ready in April 2021.

Cllr Lewis stated: “There was an initial delay in getting parts from Germany, but they’ve been going great guns in building it.”

Asked about the chances of events being held in the Hub similar to the pantomime held in the Royal Victoria Hall every year before it was demolished, Cllr Lewis said: “That’s the plan.”

But he said it was too early to say whether there would be any event in Christmas 2021. He said: “There’s still plans that still need to be made to ensure that all the activities that were promised can take place in the Hub.”

The Hub is currently being built by Paddock Wood based builder Baxalls under the direction of Kent County Council officials, but the complex will be handed over to Southborough Town Council shortly after completion.

The Hub was the brainchild of the previous Conservative controlled Council which lost power in local council elections last year. Cllr Lewis is from the Labour group.

Southborough Mayor says People Must Stay Vigilant

The mayor of Southborough, Cllr Alain Lewis, has said the people of the town need to remain vigilant to keep themselves safe from the Covid-19 virus, even though there are now only a “handful” of cases in West Kent.

Cllr Lewis stated: “People should socially distance in the street. If you are not wearing a mask, people should keep two metres apart.”

Cllr Lewis (pictured below) said not everyone was currently wearing masks appropriately, but he praised the community’s general response to the crisis. He said: “People do watch out for each other in Southborough.”

Cllr Lewis told Southborough News: “As far as we know there are currently very few cases, but I’m not sure how many people have been tested. I only know of one person who has been tested.”

Five months after the UK government told people to stay at home, official statistics record the number of known cases in all individual wards in the boroughs of Tunbridge and Tunbridge Wells as between 0 and 3.

The mayor accepted that the number of Covid-19 cases was lower than in the rest of England, but argued: “I think that’s due to people being vigilant and being safe and socially distancing and wearing masks and shielding – and that needs to carry on!”

Cllr Lewis said he knew only one person who had had Covid-19. That was someone who isolated after having heavy cold symptoms and found later – following an antibody test – that his illness had been Covid-19.

Cllr Lewis was optimistic about the state of the local economy, arguing that some local shops had benefited from the numbers who had stopped travelling to work and had used Southborough’s facilities more than before the crisis.

He said: “In Southborough we’ve been lucky and had a benefit from people working from home that when the shops did open fully in July there was a ready number of people available to go shopping.”

Cllr Lewis continued: “I’ve had stories that the flooring firm is rushed off their feet and a carpet fitter locally is also rushed off his feet. The cricket shop had queues of people waiting outside.”

He added: “Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have been fantastic in that the officers have stepped up and really looked how to help – and have looked to coordinate with parish and town councils around the Borough. William Benson has been a wonderful collaborative chief executive.”

Looking back over the summer, Cllr Lewis said the town’s weekly clapping drew large numbers, indicating people’s strong appreciation for work of NHS staff and other key workers.

He added that he’d seen many instances of neighbours checking up on each other and doing shopping for each other and talking to neighbours. Facebook pages have allowed people to reach out and ask for help.

Cllr Lewis said: “If you are ‘home alone’, contact is priceless. The social networks in Southborough have been fantastic.”

He praised the Southborough SOS group for continuing to organise people to regularly go out to pick up litter and remove weeds so making Southborough a better place for everybody to live in.

Cllr Lewis added there had been incidents of anti-social behaviour in the town arising from what he called “teenagers that possibly lost direction because they weren’t in school for such a long time.” But he thought that the problem would be eliminated now schools had restarted.

He said there have been gatherings on the Ridgewaye and Yew Tree fields with people making noise, drinking and leaving behind bottles and cans. Brokes Wood saw illegal parties: “leaving a mess which was unfortunate”.

After earlier cutbacks to police resourcing locally, Cllr Lewis said the incidents showed that “all of Kent does need to be policed appropriately.”

The new head of policing in West Kent, Chief Inspector Rachael Cumberland, is coming to listen to concerns of Southborough Town Council later this month at a full council meeting.

According to the latest figures published on the BBC website, in Tunbridge Wells Borough there have been 83 coronavirus-related deaths out of 512 cases (up to August 21st).

There were 8 new cases in the latest week to 31st August (that’s 7 cases per 100,000 people). In Tonbridge there were 2 new cases in that week.

Updated news is here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51768274

Another way of tracking the number of Covid-19 cases every week by individual wards is using this link, although all local wards read 0-3:

https://phe.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=47574f7a6e454dc6a42c5f6912ed7076&fbclid=IwAR069ngaF8XLUhXE1jxSAgGd9WRgB_Cf_6O1omjkqQPlJOnLgiXTMD95nmM

 

New Community FM Radio Station Approved for Tunbridge Wells

The broadcasting regulator OFCOM has today approved the opening of a new community radio station serving Tunbridge Wells, Southborough and Tonbridge which will be easily accessible on all FM radios from next year.

The news delighted the dedicated volunteers at Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells who had  put in many hours of work over the past year into compiling the successful bid.

They had feared the coronavirus crisis would have put their efforts on hold, but the decision to give the green light to the West Kent Community Radio application went through just in time before OFCOM halted its approval process.

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It is understood that OFCOM believes a vacant frequency is available in our area, although the actual frequency hasn’t been announced and it may depend on the final transmitter site. The provisional site was on high ground in Southborough enabling the signal to reach both Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

The station will be able to reach up to 100,000 listeners, providing a new forum for debating local issues and building links within the community.

In a message to volunteers, the station manager of Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells, Chris Manser (centre seated below) said: “The whole team are very excited to be able to transition our service on to your FM radios. At the same time, we will always retain the request programmes for patients in the local hospitals, as we have for some 59 years.”

HRTW team

Nigel Peacock (pictured seated left of picture above), who will manage the transition, said “The team have been waiting a long time to bring a local radio station to our towns and villages. We are delighted that true local radio will now return to the area”.

In its OFCOM proposal, the target audience was specified as the core towns of Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough, Langton Green, Speldhurst, plus related neighbourhoods and villages.

West Kent Community Radio’s primary target audience will be the 45+ age group, and the main purpose of the service will be to improve the health and wellbeing of the station’s listeners through entertainment and information.

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The station promises to play music from the sixties to the present day, with album tracks, classical, specialist and live music, biased towards a lighter style for our more mature audience.

The main types of speech output broadcast over the course of each week are planned to be: “News, information, features, advice, interviews and phone-ins, presented in a friendly and engaging way with content designed to encourage and promote good health and wellbeing.”

The new station will build on the existing service Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells, which has been serving local hospitals since 1961. You can listen over the internet on this link:
http://bit.ly/2Y4fqVZ

HRTW

In a media release issued today, West Kent Community Radio said: “The new radio station has to work through a number of aspects with OFCOM over the next few months, as they prepare to start broadcasting. West Kent Community Radio will operate from the existing three studios and offices run by the hospital radio service, adding new facilities before the launch.”

“Around 60 volunteers are starting to prepare the transition to FM and others are expected to join the team as launch date approaches.

“Last year, the team ran an online survey to ask what locals wanted from a new local radio station. Over 450 people responded, and those views were critical in preparing the application. The station is expected to provide a range of programming and details will follow in due course.”

Southborough News has a full listing of existing FM stations audible in the area here:
https://southborough-news.com/fm-radio/

And in July 2020 a full list of digital (DAB/DAB+) stations was added here:
https://southborough-news.com/dab-radio/