Posts Tagged ‘Tonbridge’


September 4, 2016

Brenda was my mum’s cousin. She was the daughter of my Great Uncle Ron and was born in 1934. That made her roughly midway in age between my mum and me.

I can’t say I saw much of her until the last twenty years or so of her life. She lived in Tonbridge in Kent and trips there involved seeing grandparents, possibly an uncle or aunt and sometimes a great aunt or uncle. We tended to see Great Uncle Ron in his antique shop – or junk shop as we all called it and Brenda inherited his love of old items and also the shop.

Here is Brenda, a lovely caring, sharing lady sitting at the back of the shop.


This photo dates from 2001. My sister visited and wrote this.

….It was but a little way then to call on Mum’s cousin Brenda, sitting in the back of the most wonderful jumble of an antiques shop. I hadn’t seen her for a few years, but when I told the lady in the shop to tell Brenda that Paula was here she called out “Oh I was thinking about you because I have some toys!” She made a cup of tea and I browsed through all the higgledy-piggledy items. The shop was busy – lots of dealers in and she always knew who they were and what they wanted and could always put her hand on just the little item that they might be interested in.

Brenda was probably the last person I really knew who lived in Tonbridge. She died in 2014.

Beryl Ware

August 5, 2016

Beryl Grace Ware was my great aunt. I do not know if I ever met her. She was the second daughter of William Thomas Ware and Sarah Jane (nee) Kesby. She was born between October and December 1910

Her siblings were Will, Cis, Alfred, Reg, Ron and Marj. Reg was my grandfather.


The picture is ‘as found’ and de-scratched and features Beryl – the little girl. It was taken in about 1916. Seated are Sarah Jane (nee Kesby) and William Thomas Ware my great grandparents.

Clockwise round – the little lad is Ron Ware, then Reg Ware, William Ware, Cis Ware, Alfred Ware and  Beryl Ware.

Beryl married Roy Harris who worked at the ‘Crystalate’ (record factory) and later at the waterworks with his father in law.

Beryl had a son, Anthony, born during World War One.

Beryl as a young woman.



Beryl and Roy Harris are the left hand pair on this 1935 photo of her sister, Marge, marrying Les Clifton.

Roy was keen on painting. This is a piece of his early work


Beryl is on the left of this picture taken at her brother Ron’s golden wedding celebrations in 1983. Her niece, Vera Sparrowhawk is on the right.


Beryl died in 1995

My late uncle, Bill Ware wrote

Roy Harris worked for the record company in Tonbridge until it was sold then he worked at the water works.

Beryl worked for Marks and Spencer in Tunbridge Well until her marriage then only part time in shops around Tonbridge

Florence (or Cis) Ware

March 13, 2016

Florence ware was my Great Aunt. She is a good example of how little I know about this side of my family. I’m not sure I ever met Cis (she was always known as Cis) but I ought to have done. My one surviving aunt on that side of the family was brought up by Cis after her own mother (my Granny) died. My aunt still regards her biological cousins as her sisters and her biological brothers and sisters as cousins although, of course, she knows the truth.

I have a few photos of Cis but I’ll show this one which shows her in 1983 with her brother Ron – my great uncle.


Cis was born in 1895 and married Jesse Ollive in 1918. The couple had five children four of whom survived into adulthood. Florence died in 1984.

The little bit of personal information I have came from my uncle who wrote:

Jesse Olive worked for the Tonbridge Water Works Company until he lost his sight. He was then trained by St. Dunstans to make basket work. Cis for a short time had a sweet shop in Barden Road Tonbridge (after Jesse’s death in 1966) but for all her married life she was a housewife.

I really ought to know more.

Grandparents’ wedding

February 24, 2016

Granny and Grandad married at St Stephen’s Church in Tonbridge which must have been home parish for Grandad. It was 5th June 1920. Grandad, Reg Ware, had signed up for war service under age and had promptly been captured and became a prisoner of war. I do not know when he was repatriated. Granny was Jessie Jones and I know so little about her for she died in 1932 with four young children. Grandad remarried, perhaps too hastily, and there was an uneasy relationship between step mother and step children. First wi9fe, Jessie, became a taboo topic which was, no doubt, tough for the children.

What we do know is that Jessie was born in Ashton on Mersey in Cheshire and for some reason her gardener father brought his family south to the Tonbridge area. In 1911 the family lived in Hildenborough.

Unless lucky, one doesn’t know much about the earlier years of grandparents. I certainly don’t know how or when the two met. I don’t know if they had been childhood sweethearts or if they met after Grandad was returned home from the war. These days we’d call them childhood sweethearts anyway for they were both still teenagers when they got married. I almost feel it is a surprise that their first child came slightly over a year after the marriage.

We do have a couple of marriage photos and here is one of the bride and groom.


By this time Jessie lived in Leigh and this is thought to be at her family home.

It looks as though Reg has grown since he bought that suit!

This is by far the best photo I have of Jessie so let’s zoom in on the couple.


Shame they weren’t smiling but I still find this a charming and moving photo.

Mother’s early life

June 4, 2015

My mother doesn’t feature, on this blog, as much as my dad. There’s one main reason for this and also a secondary one. The secondary one is that mum died when I was a teenager so I never got an adult’s perspective on her. But the main reason is that I don’t have the same number of resources to base a blog post on.

My mum did not have an easy childhood. I guess her earliest years were much like many a child at the time. She had a complete family. Her dad was a railwayman and I imagine that by the time my mum was born in 1924 he was already a train guard and that meant shift, including night work. My mum had a mum who I never knew, an older sister and then a younger brother. It was soon after the fourth child was born that mum’s mother died. She had cancer and died in 1932 aged 32.

There was no social security or opportunities for care in the community. Her dad had to keep working to support his children and that meant he couldn’t care for them. He was determined they would not be taken away and put in care. For a while, the three eldest children were sent to live with grandma but she found this tough going and so my mum and her younger brother were sent off to an aunt. My uncle described this period as the happiest time of his childhood.

In 1934 the father remarried, my mum and the others gained a stepmother and they could return home.

From all accounts it was not a happy home. Stepmother had little idea on how to cope with children and she gave them a really tough time. No wonder they all left home as soon as possible.

This is one of the very few childhood photos I have of my mum. The year is 1928 and my mum is on the right. The older sister is on the left and younger brother in the middle. He is wearing his dad’s St John’s Ambulance cap.


It certainly looks quite a jolly photo in the back garden of the house in Tonbridge in Kent where the family lived.

And those three, together with the younger sister, all became parents and managed their children well. The unhappy period in their lives did not affect the next generation.


August 7, 2014

At the end of July a last link with my grandfather’s generation passed away. Marj was born in 1918 and was nearly twenty years younger than her big brother, my grandfather. They all lived in Tonbridge in Kent and at one time Marj lived quite close to Grandad and so we used to see her quite often. Then, as happens, families can move apart geographically and drift apart socially a bit as well.  But I got to know Marj again in the last twenty years and what a lovely, cheerful lady she was. She was full of life, fun and family stories which I was eager to snap up. Several family get togethers in those last twenty years have been enlivened by Marj.

And she’d have enjoyed her funeral – for yes, it was as enjoyable as such events can be. First of all, Marj had demanded that black was not to be worn at her funeral. It’s amazing how that turned what could have been a stiff and formal occasion into a much more relaxed affair.

The service was held in St Stephens Church in Tonbridge. This has witnessed many a family occasion including the wedding of my grandparents back in 1920. But oddly, it was the first time I ever went in the church.

It sits on quite a busy road junction just to the south of the town centre.


I don’t suppose my grandad, who died in 1968, would have recognised the interior. It has been modernised. I never knew it any other way, but I thought the space was very stylish and amongst other ‘luxuries’ there are toilets, quite a swish kitchen and I noted the ability, if wanted, to use computer projection. Comfortable chairs have replaced pews. I liked it.

We were able to look inside well before the service was due to start.


The service was a mix with traditional religion and a lovely eulogy and other memories given by Marj’s daughter in law and granddaughter.

The burial was in the town’s cemetery where many another family member, is also interred.

And after there was a wake which was full of joy and fun.

But let’s look at Marj.


Marj married Les in 1937 (at St Stephens) and here we see the wedding party after the marriage. Les and Marj have been dubbed ‘the trendiest couple in Tonbridge’. Just behind Marj are her parents, my great grandparents and, of course, other family members are in that shot too.

This next picture was what you might call the photo of honour at the funeral.


Many of us had not seen this photo before and we were all struck by family resemblances. This could have been my Aunty Vera, My mum, My Aunty Valerie or even my sister. But no, it was Great Aunt Marj.

Marj, you live on in our memories.

Places where family have lived.

August 5, 2014

I was fascinated by a comment from Current Descendant on a recent post about Great Granny’s house. Seemingly the terraced house, with just a narrow pavement (or sidewalk) between the house and the road, looks quite alien to the lady with Kalamazoo, Michigan connections. I guess land, and maybe cash, were more plentiful in the States.

But if one such street surprises, I thought we could see more of the ancestors homes from times past – whilst saying I have never lived in a house without a bit of front garden.


My wife’s grandmother was born in the cottage with the ‘for sale’ sign up. That was back in 1888. This is Bassett Street in Redruth and looks up to the chimney at Pednandrea which was, originally, much taller. This family got wealthier and were able to move to a bigger and classier house on Clinton Road.

Grandfather (who married the grandmother of Bassett Street) lived in a slightly classier house with a little bit of front garden in Claremont Road in Redruth.


Both these houses gave a view to a hill called Carn Brea. That was the name the couple chose for their own house which was in Cheshire.

By contrast, another part of the Cheshire family had this very nice farm house called Cowbrook Farm in Gawsworth.


This was in the family for several generations but great great granny Maria Mottershead lived there in 1861 with parents and siblings.

Now this was the home of my great great grandfather in Tonbridge in Kent


In 1881 John Ware lived there with his wife and seven children. It must have been cramped. This one is on Rose Street in Tonbridge, Kent.

Well, it’s a bit of a mixture, which probably makes us much like anybody else.


May 18, 2014

Groombridge was the surname of a branch of my family. They weren’t ancestors, just relations.

Jane Bertha Ware was a sister of my great grandfather Ware. She was born in 1876 and married Isaac Groombridge in 1893.

In 1901 the Groombridges had three children, William, Ethel and Fred. Isaac was an under gardener and the family lived at Priory Walk in Tonbridge. This area was home to quite a lot of relatives of mine.

In 1911 Isaac was a domestic gardener and lived at The Lodge, Quarry Hill House in Tonbridge. Three more children had been born – Ellen, Winfred and Isaac. Isaac died in 1912

A male Groombridge was born in 1913. He didn’t survive the year.

I know that Isaac and Jane’s oldest child, William, married Alfreda Mitchell and they had a son called Les. He was born in 1919


There we see William, Les and Alfreda.

Les in his turn married Kitty and I know of two sons, Gordon and Roger. I’d love to hear from them.

I have a photo of Isaac and Jane’s eldest daughter, Ethel Jane.


She married Ernest or Edward Larkin in 1923. They had a couple of daughters..

I haven’t traced the other children of Isaac and Jane. It probably means there’s a whole collection of Groombridge descendants out there somewhere.

I’d love to hear from them.

Mum, Grandad and Joey

April 28, 2014

This is a bit of family history which, alas, is long gone, but not forgotten.

In this picture, my mum looks quite young which, indeed, she was for she was born in 1924 and the photo dates from 1953 so she would still have been in her 20s.


It is clearly a summer photo. My mum has a summer dress on, with very short sleeves. She is kneeling on the ground with her dad, my grandad.

I have to say, I look at the photo and think, ‘he looks old’.

But he wasn’t. He was born in 1899 so he was 53, much younger than I am now.

But Grandad had had a hard life. He joined the First World War long before his 18th birthday and was captured and held prisoner for the duration. His first wife, my gran, died with four young children (my mum was second oldest). He struggled to keep the family together and it might be fair to say was not wholly successful – but I’d attach no blame to him, and much more blame to a system which offered no help or support in the circumstances.

One decision he made was to re-marry in haste. I’ll leave the second part of that little saying unsaid. Grandad needed a substitute mum for his children and he got one. Sadly she never really knew what a mother should be like. Life was not easy for him or the children.

As a widow, he had used drink for solace. The second wife probably stopped that. But she was at one with him in being a heavy smoker. And it is probably that which really makes him look old.

Grandad’s summer look goes as far as sleeves rolled up and the absence of a collar on his shirt.

The dog in the picture was called Joey and he was Grandad’s joy. I never liked him. I was always a tad scared. But I do recall that Joey doted on grandad and he doted on the dog.

All are gone. Joey must have gone first and I can’t remember when, but I don’t recall any other dog after Joey.

My mum died in 1967, aged just 43. Grandad died the following year in 1968.

Great Grandad’s Wallet

August 22, 2013

Amongst items promised to me by Grandad was his Southern railway pocket watch. The trouble was, he promised these items to cousins as well and one of them ended up with the watch. I think Grandad could see I was gutted when I learned of this and I received other items as kind of compensation. One of them was a leather wallet which, of course, is still in my possession.


Wallets used to mean something in those long gone days. Getting a wallet was a step on the road to manhood. It was on a par with getting a watch and I daresay great grandfather was proud of his wallet in its elegant brown brushed leather. It was, of course, complete with a full set of compartments for keeping all those essentials for a debonair man about town.


You can see in both the photos above that the press studs no longer function, although no doubt if I were armed with a sturdy needle and a sail maker’s palm I could re-attach them properly.

The main reason I am now pleased to have the wallet is because Great Grandad heavily inscribed his name and address in it.


It looks as though at first he just had his initials – W. T. W.  written firmly in the soft leather. He was William Thomas Ware. The rest of his name and address were added later and less firmly.

Great Grandfather was born in 1872 – in Tonbridge. It was his father who was killed in a train crash which I have featured in this blog. (click here). He died when I was about 9 months old so if I ever did meet him I have no memory of it. There’s talk of him being a bit of a lad. He followed his father into railway service. In 1901 he was a railway stoker – a fireman working on the footplate of steam engines but he never progressed to being a driver. There’s a story of over use of alcohol on duty and of his dismissal from the railway service. This is something I haven’t yet managed to verify.

In 1911 he was a self-employed firewood manufacturer. Presumably he chopped logs which were sold in the shop his wife ran. His address then was 170 St Mary’s Road in Tonbridge.

In 1932 my uncle wrote that his grandad worked for the local water works.

The shop was managed by my Grandmother as Grandfather was the engineer for the local water works, this arrangement seemed to work well. I was very happy there despite the strict discipline my Grandfather kept on us. He was a typical Victorian gentleman very fair and I loved him.

A story the same uncle told was that he recalled visiting grandfather in hospital and that he was wrapped up in bandages like an Egyptian mummy. Apparently the waterworks pumping engine boiler had exploded.

It seems Great Grandfather was an interesting man, so I am pleased to have the wallet.