Tunbridge Wells Council Leader calls for “Collaboration” between Parties

After last Thursday’s by-election defeat, the Conservative leader of Tunbridge Wells Council has called for all political parties to work together in collaboration in the interests of the Borough.

The Conservative’s 23 council seats are now outnumbered by the 25 seats held by opposition parties.

In an interview with Southborough News, Cllr Tom Dawlings (pictured below) said he spoke regularly with the opposition group leaders.

Cllr Dawlings said: “I believe that most of the priorities I set out when I was appointed leader of the council in May are uncontroversial and my intention is to continue to work on those priorities in the best interest of the town and borough.”

Cllr Dawlings 2

He argued that the cross-party collaborative agreement on plans to rent out the surplus space in the Town Hall for “co-working” showed that the different groups were able to work effectively together.

Cllr Dawlings outlined new proposals including an electric vehicle mini-bus service for the centre of Tunbridge Wells as well as a potential new cycle and pedestrian route from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge.

He said the cabinet system of running councils meant that after the full council appointed him for a four year term as leader last May, he then appointed the cabinet, which is responsible for most day-to-day decisions in the council.

Cllr Dawlings said he was unsure quite what might now happen if the Conservatives were outvoted in full council, noting that Tunbridge Wells had “no recent experience in coping with a political group having no overall majority”.

Tom Dawlings - CRFC

The major issue now confronting the council is the budget. The draft budget recently received unanimous approval at November’s Finance and Governance Cabinet Advisory Board and will be published for public consultation in December.

The council is planning to draw on reserves to cover the budget shortfall caused by a loss of income from charges (as a result of the Covid pandemic) and rising costs of staff, utility bills, waste collection and parks maintenance.

The budget will be addressed by the full council in February. The council plans to increase its element of Council Tax by 2% (or £5 mimimum per household). Cllr Dawlings emphasised that the bulk of the Council Tax collected by the Borough is passed onto Kent County Council, Police, Fire services and for Parish and Town Councils.

On the Speldhurst and Bidbrough by-election result, Cllr Dawlings said the result “was hugely disappointing” and the Conseratives had had an “admirable candidate” in Rowena Stanyer who took 46% of the vote.

Cllr Dawlings pointed out that his party’s share of the vote was an improvement on the May election result when the Conservatives had held the seat.

Matthew Sankey (pictured below) won the Speldhurst and Bidborough seat last week for the Tunbridge Wells Alliance Party by just 58 votes with a 50% share of the vote.

Sankey 5

The chair of Tunbridge Wells Alliance Nick Pope told Southborough News that the seat had been won by his party after “relentless campaigning”.

He said: “Matthew and volunteers were out canvassing and leafleting every day for 3 weeks across the ward.  We knew it could only be won by working hard and speaking to as many people as possible.”

Nick Pope (pictured below) emphasised the recent slide in Conservative support, pointing out that just 3 ½ years ago, the Conservatives had a massive majority, holding 43 out of 48 seats on the Borough Council.

Nick Pope crop

Nick Pope said: “It is up to Tom Dawlings, the Leader of the council, to decide what he should do. The Conservatives are still in control of the council with their majority. The Conservatives have all seats on the cabinet, all committee chairs and all committee vice-chairs. It is likely that little will change until the May elections.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative leader Cllr Tom Dawlings said he wanted to look at new options for a cycle and pedestrian route linking Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.

Earlier plans for an “active travel” route along the A26 which Borough Council officers had worked on for some time and for which Government funding had been secured had had to be abandoned when these failed to get the support of Kent Highways officials due to safety concerns. Cllr Dawlings said he was now discussing alternative routes using existing Public Rights of Way but away from the A26.

Despite the strong campaign against development around Capel, Cllr Dawlings continued to argue the case for satisfying central Government housing demands by developing a new settlement and including new infrastructure for road improvements, new schools and medical and recreational facilities. He said this was less damaging than adding more houses to existing villages where the infrastructure was already overloaded.

Save Capel

Cllr Dawlings said the recent speech where Boris Johnson suggested that green fields should be protected from development had not yet turned into revised government policy, so the existing Local Plan including the new development at Capel was continuing its approval process and was currently with government-appointed planning inspectors.

Cllr Dawlings also noted that the Borough Council’s Local Plan covered more than housing.  He argued the plans for Kingstanding Way on the North Farm Industrial estate provided: “wonderful business and employment opportunities.”

Town Hall crop

On the state of shops in Tunbridge Wells, Cllr Dawlings noted that the Pantiles area was currently “buzzing” and he expressed optimism that the empty BHS store would soon attract a new retailer.

He said the Council was looking at ways of helping the local economy by connecting the top and bottom of Tunbridge Wells more effectively.

He said there were plans to trial a light electric vehicle mini-bus style taxi around the centre of Tunbridge Wells.  He said the idea was “really exciting” and could improve the attractiveness of the town.

Town hall cu 2

Cllr Dawlings said there was cross-party support for efforts to upgrade the existing Town Hall building.  The council is working to improve its energy efficiency and catch up with a backlog of maintenance including repairs to the leaking roof and repainting of the windows.

Having brought the building up to a high standard, the council would be renting out unused space to bring in new income streams and reduce costs for the council.

Cllr Dawlings said that council staff numbers had been cut by 30% in recent years, so there was 20,000 square feet of office space that could be rented out, with the hope of bringing 300 new office workers into the centre of the town.

Borough Council Defeat for Conservatives in Bidborough ward By-election

The Conservatives grip on power at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has slipped further after their defeat in a by-election on Thursday.

Voters in the Speldhurst and Bidborough ward elected the Tunbridge Wells restaurateur, Matthew Sankey (pictured below) from the Tunbridge Wells Alliance Party, who won 50% of the vote.

Sankey 5

The Conservatives now have 23 seats on the council and are outnumbered by the opposition parties who have 25 seats, which means the Conservatives may struggle to get their key policies approved.

Years of drama over an abandoned theatre project and controversy over large-scale housebuilding plans on green fields have worn down the Conservative’s normally rock solid majority in the Borough.

The by-election was triggered by the death of the sitting Conservative Councillor Julian Stanyer. The Conservative candidate this time was his daughter Rowena Stanyer, who won 46%.

The Liberal Democrats didn’t stand, while Labour won 4%.

The ward of Speldhurst and Bidborough has 3 seats in total. Lucy Willis was elected for the Alliance in   the seat in 2019 (when she defeated the then Conservative head of the Council, David Jukes) while Harry Allen was elected for the Conservatives last May.

The seat also covers parts of Groombridge, Langton Green and Ashurst.

Turnout on Thursday was 34.7%.


Matthew Sankey
Alliance 788 50% Elected
Rowena Stanyer Con 730 46% Not elected
Aleksander Klimanski Labour 65 4% Not elected


Harry Allen
Con 912 22% Elected
Julian Stanyer Con 860 21% Elected
Matthew Sankey Alliance 626 15% Not elected
Anne Backshell Alliance 486 12% Not elected
Clare Himmer Green 311 8% Not elected
Jeremy Stirling Lib Dem 290 7% Not elected
Martin Brice Lib Dem 246 6% Not elected
Millie Gray Labour 176 4% Not elected
Anne Musker Labour 174 4% Not elected

Back in May, the Conservative Party lost its overall majority on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the first time in twenty years.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has put forward plans for thousands of houses in the Capel area, filling in much farmland between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood in order to meet central government housing targets.

Anger among local residents led to the Conservatives losing the seat of Capel in May to the Liberal Democrats who won 75% of the vote in that ward.

Tune to 95.5 and 106.7 FM for West Kent Radio

The first community radio station for Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells was officially launched onto the FM waveband on Thursday morning at 10.00am.

Station trustee Nigel Peacock said: “Launch day has been fantastic and we’ve been receiving lots of messages of support and requests to the studio and on our social platforms. It’s a great day for West Kent!”

The opening show was presented by Programme Controller, Chris Manser. On Friday, Isabella Matthews (pictured below) took her place behind the microphone at 4pm with her drivetime show.


West Kent Radio is a community radio station, which means it relies on volunteers to present programmes and local advertising to cover rent and other costs. Local businesses wishing to advertise can email:

There are two FM transmitters – one in central Tunbridge Wells on 106.7 FM and the other transmitter is on Bidborough Ridge pointing down to Tonbridge on 95.5 FM. Both signals can be received well on car radios in Southborough.

For indoor listening, owners of Amazon and Google smart speakers can say “Play West Kent Radio”. Alternatively, you can listen now by clicking this link:


300 areas in the UK now have volunteer-run community stations with many having been up and running for decades. But the broadcasting regulator OFCOM only approved West Kent Radio last year in one of the last batch of stations to be approved.

The station will carry local news every weekday morning at 7.30am, 8.30am and 9.30am. Plus there’s a local news update on weekday evenings at 4.30pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm.

Weather is after the national news on the hour from 7am to 6pm. Travel news is throughout the week. A series highlighting local landmarks and walking routes is broadcast on weekdays at 8.50am and 4.50pm.

On Saturday evening, there’s a pure 60s show sponsored by Southborough Lions at 7pm. Local and national sport is covered live from 2pm to 6pm on Saturday afternoons.

isabella-2-1-1West Kent Radio output will include a variety of music from across the decades, plus the 10am to 1pm daily show will have live studio guests talking about topics of local interest including health and wellness issues.

Trustee Nigel Peacock added: “We are delighted that true local radio is now returning to the area. It is testament to teamwork and we are proud to be bringing this special service to our towns and villages. Radio is the medium which builds connections and enriches community. This is everyone’s radio for West Kent.”

Meanwhile, Programme Controller Chris Manser (pictured below on launch day) said: “Our team of volunteer presenters are keen to reach out to the local community and provide a platform to enable local good causes, charities and organisations to interact with us and the listeners to share their news and stories.  Over the coming weeks, months and years we hope it will develop and grow to reflect the community we live in.”

WKR Manser

You can get in touch with the live studio by emailing: studio@westkentradio.co.uk and on Facebook, twitter and instagram @westkentradio.

Official Opening of Southborough’s New Civic Centre

On one of the warmest sunniest Saturdays of the summer, Southborough’s new Civic Centre was opened by the town’s mayor, Dianne Hill, in a festive event attended by hundreds of local residents.

Dianne Hill delivered the following speech: “A big welcome to everyone from Southborough, High Brooms and beyond to a Festival celebrating our past, present and future. A Festival that is the first to take place in our new Town Square and in our new Civic Centre and Library.”

She continued: “I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who has helped make this special day a success. In particular Southborough Street representing our amazing local businesses; Southborough SOS Group for their work making the Town clean and tidy for us; and all the other many groups that support our Town.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to Malcolm Clarke (Managing director), Graham Tuthill (project manager) and their team from Baxall Construction Ltd (pictured below with Greg Clark MP) who have been incredibly helpful and supportive delivering this building on time in extremely difficult circumstances. Thanks also goes to James and Bryn HMY architects.

“We also thank Kent County and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils but the biggest thank you, goes to you the people of Southborough and High Brooms who have waited patiently for this project to be completed.

“We stand here in the centre of Southborough, so rich in history. Nearby are the ghosts of the Ridgeway secondary school, our much loved Royal Victoria Hall, the Bat and Ball and the Bell pubs, and here the site of our very first fire station.

“But it is not just about our past or our present. We all have a special job of looking after the future of our town. We have to protect our common and our green spaces, plant more trees, support our local shops and defend its character for the sake of future generations who will live here.

“Now, we are here to celebrate our community and the possibilities that this new beating heart of Southborough and High Brooms, will provide for all of us. Please take the opportunity to look around the Centre and enjoy the stalls and events laid on for you during the day.

“We have waited a long time to have our Town centre back. So let’s officially open this event and then the party can begin.”

The festive atmosphere was largely thanks to the huge efforts of Nell Price and Rebecca Clow in organising a large number of stalls – some selling refreshments and others displaying the work of local groups ranging from the Scouts to the Southborough Cricket Club.

Conservatives Lose Overall Majority on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

For the first time in more than twenty years, the Conservative Party has no overall majority on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, as counting today revealed opposition parties gained 5 seats in Thursday’s local elections.

Years of drama over the abandoned theatre project and controversy over a massive housebuilding plan for Capel has worn down the Conservative’s normally rock solid majority in the Borough.

The Conservatives now have exactly half of the council seats, which is 24 of the 48 members elected.

The Liberal Democrats won the seat of Capel, defeating the leading Conservative, Carol Mackonochie.

Save Capel

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has put forward plans for thousands of houses in the Capel area, filling in much farmland between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood in order to meet central government housing targets.

The victorious Liberal Democrat in the Capel seat, Hugh Patterson (pictured below) won 75% of the votes and said on twitter that it was an “overwhelming victory on a huge turnout. TWBC – this a rejection of the Local Plan by the community most affected!”

TW Lib Dem Hugh

The turnout in Capel was 53%, which is the highest in the Borough emphasising the strength of feeling on the housing issue. The full result for Capel is below:

Hugh PattersonLibDem71775%
Carol MackonochieCon18720%
Christine SpicerGreen172%
Wendy DayLab162%
Christopher HoareUKIP162%

Below is some of the farmland near Five Oak Green that opponents in the Save Capel campaign are trying to preserve. 


There were 3 Liberal Democrat gains in all (Capel, Broadwater and Pantiles/St Mark’s), while Labour gained Rusthall and the local group, Tunbridge Wells Alliance Party, also gained one seat.

The Alliance defeated the Conservative councillor Barry Noakes, who had represented the Goudhurst & Lamberhurst seat for the past 13 years.  The victory was by just 28 votes.

But the Alliance candidate in the Speldhurst & Bidborough seat, the well-known restaurant owner Matthew Sankey, lost to the Conservatives, amid an even spread of votes to rival opposition parties. The full Speldhurst & Bidborough result (with two seats up for grabs) is below:

Harry AllenCon91222%
David StanyerCon86021%
Matthew SankeyAlliance62615%
Anne BackshellAlliance48612%
Clare  HimmerGreen3118%
Jeremy  StirlingLibDem2907%
Martin  BriceLibDem2466%
Millie GrayLabour1764%
Anne MuskerLabour1744%

The Borough Council opposition now consists of 13 Liberal Democrats, 5 Labour, 5 Alliance and one Independent Councillor.

Meanwhile in Southborough, there was no Borough Council voting in the north and west of the town but in the seat of Southborough and High Brooms, the incumbent Labour candidate Dianne Hill (below) triumphed with 52 % of the vote – the same share as the last election five years ago.

Dianne Hill now

Dianne Hill told Southborough News: “I love this community and I live here. I am really overwhelmed and so pleased and proud to be representing Southborough and High Brooms.”

Dianne HillLab103352%
Nasir JamilCon57629%
Aqab Mehmood MalikLibDem1628%
Anthony HoskinGreen1508%
Christine MarshallUKIP482%

After some confusion on PA news service about the totals, here is confirmation of the current councillors and their names:

48 RESULTS 2021 24 13 5 5 1
3 Benenden & Cranbrook Dawlings     Warne  
2 Brenchley & Horsmonden March*        
2 Broadwater Cobbold LOST Hall WON      
1 Capel Mackonochie LOST Patterson WON      
3 Culverden Scott Rands      
1 Frittenden & Sissinghurst Fairweather        
2 Goudhurst & Lamberhurst Hall        
    Noakes LOST     Knight WON  
3 Hawkhurst & Sandhurst Bland        
2 Paddock Wood East Hamilton       Atkins
2 Paddock Wood West Bailey        
    Thomas (retd)        
    Hills NEW        
3 Pantiles & St Marks Scholes Hickey      
    Horwood (died) Fitzsimmons WON      
3 Park Atwood     Pope  
    White NEW        
3 Pembury Barrington-King     Hayward  
    Roberts NEW        
2 Rusthall Podbury (retd) Funnell Britcher WON    
3 Sherwood Backhouse   Pound    
    Goodship NEW        
3 Southborough +HB     Everitt    
2 Southborough North Simmons Poile      
3 Speldhurst & Bidborough Stanyer*     Willis  
    Soyke (resigned)        
    Allen NEW        
2 St James’   Chapelard*      
      Wormington WON     Neave-LEFT
3 St John’s   Ellis      

Conservative Peter Oakford Wins His County Council Seat by Just 1%

The Kent County Council seat of Tunbridge Wells North – which includes Southborough – has been won by the Conservatives, with Peter Oakford narrowly holding his seat by just 80 votes, after many voters switched from the Liberal Democrats to Labour.

The Conservative lead over Labour was 35% to 34%, with an increased turnout from four years ago.

The Green party candidate, Anthony Hoskin, added to his tally from the last election, taking 11% or 611 votes.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have held their position in control of Kent County Council as a whole, with all 6 of the Tunbridge Wells area seats staying Conservative.

Cllr Oakford (below) was voted off the Borough Council two years ago but is still a powerful figure in the County Council as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services.

Peter-Oakford crop

The full results for Tunbridge Wells North (including Southborough) which had a 42 % turnout were:

MAY 2021
Peter OakfordCon2,04835%
Mike TappLab1,96834%
Aqab Mehmood MalikLibDem1,05718%
Anthony HoskinGreen61111%
Christine MarshallUKIP1272%
Total votes5,811

The results in 2017 were:

MAY 2017
Peter OakfordCon2,01742%
Martin BettsLab1,24826%
Marguerita MortonLibDem1,17225%
William O’SheaUKIP2154%
Anthony HoskinGreen1283%
Total votes4,780

The Borough Council results will be announced tomorrow with the Conservative overall majority in Tunbridge Wells in the balance.

Financial Boost for West Kent’s New Community FM Radio Station

The planned new West Kent Community Radio is today celebrating after being awarded almost £9,000 in National Lottery funding to buy the FM radio transmitters it needs to be able to launch its service later this year.

West Kent Community Radio evolved from Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells, an established hospital radio service which has been broadcasting radio programmes to local hospitals for the past 60 years.


The charity, which is staffed by more than 55 volunteers ranging in age from 22 to 77, was awarded an FM licence by OFCOM in March 2020 to provide a community radio service for Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough and surrounding areas.

At present, West Kent Radio provides a 24/7 service which can be heard in our local hospitals, online and via Smart speaker and has continued to provide programmes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with many presenters operating from their homes to keep the station on air.


The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will enable the service to be expanded and broadcast on FM across West Kent.

Broadcasting as West Kent Radio, the station’s output will include a variety of music from across the decades, regular local news bulletins and information on local sporting and social events.


It will host discussion programmes on topics of local interest to allow local people to engage with members of the County Council, town councils and residents and will provide a platform for local charities and support organisations to promote their services and enable local musicians to showcase their talents in live shows.

The charitable aims of West Kent Community Radio include the prevention or relief of sickness and the promotion of good personal mental and physical health, and broadcasting health education messages and advice in its programmes and hosting discussion programmes with health experts will help it to achieve these aims.


The station will continue to broadcast request programmes for patients in local hospitals as it has done for the past 60 years and aims to expand the requests service into care homes and other healthcare locations.

Chris Manser, Trustee of West Kent Community Radio said: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to press on with our plans to launch our service on FM and by providing music, news, entertainment, sport and good advice we hope to enrich the lives of our listeners in West Kent.”

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.


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.


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:

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?