Sort file:- Tunbridge Wells, March, 2023.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 12 March, 2023.


Earliest 1871-

Alma Tavern

Latest 1977+

7 Varney Street (4 North Street 1871Census)

Royal Tunbridge Wells

Alma 1954

Above photo 1954. Creative Commons Licence. Although this pub looks to be different from the one below. Local knowledge required.


Above photo, date unknown.

Alma ledger

Alma ledger. 1951-57. Creative Commons Licence.


Situated down a side street off Calverley Road. Demolished between 1979 and 1982, to make way for the Royal Victoria Place shopping mall. It has been described as "a very basic beer pub and Common Lodging House, one up from a spit and sawdust pub."


Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada Date: February 1, 2017.



The Alma Tavern, also known as the Alma Tavern Common Lodging House, was located at 7 Varney Street. This ‘beer house’ was noted as being a rough place in a part of town lived in by those from the lower end of the social scale. It was just a stone’s throw away from another pub known as the "Grosvenor Hotel" at 5 Ways and not far from a second pub called The "Crown Tavern Common Lodging House" at 53 Varney Street. The "Crown" and the "Alma" and other buildings on the west side of Varney Street were demolished after 1979 but before 1982 and the "Grosvenor," who’s front façade only remains today, became the entrance to Royal Victoria Place shopping centre. The land along Varney Street eventually was swallowed up by the construction of the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre which was opened by Princess Diana in 1992.

The name “Alma” came into common use throughout Britain to name pubs and other buildings in recognition of the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War. When this tavern began operations is a matter of some speculation. Some have stated it started by 1871 but this is not supported by my research for it does not appear in either the 1871 census or the 1874 Kelly directory. It first appears mentioned in the Kent & Sussex Courier of June 23, 1875 and it may well have been run at that time by David Brewer who was listed as beerhouse keeper there at the time of the 1881 census. There was in 1871 an "Alma Beer House" run by George Love, but this pub was located at 4 North Street.

The "Alma" has been run by a number of beerhouse keepers since it began operations and records of its existence can be traced up to 1979 when Planning Authority approval was given for an illuminated sign for “The Alma Public House 7 Varney Street”. This article reports on the location and description of the tavern by text, maps and photographs and provides information about the men and women who ran it. Shown above is the last known photograph of the "Alma" dated 1959.



The "Alma Tavern" sometimes referred to as the "Alma Tavern Common Lodging House," was located at 7 Varney Street, its location being shown and labelled on the map below.

Tunbridge Wells map 1982

The Alma Tavern, like many other pubs and buildings in England derive their name from The Battle of Alma of September 20, 1854 during the Crimean War.

There was also another pub in Tunbridge Wells called the "Alma Beerhouse" at 4 North Street, located south of Bayhall Road and east of Prospect Road which in 1871 was run by beerhouse keeper George John Love. There was also an "Alma House" in Tunbridge Wells, details of which were not investigated except that the 1858 directory gave the listing “John Arnold, builder, Alma House, Calverley Road”.

From the Inspiring Women website it was stated “Four of the common lodging houses in Tunbridge Wells were also licensed premises. The "Crown" and the "Alma" in Varney Street, the "Dorset Arms" in Calverley Street and the "Standard" in Little Mount Sion. Three of them provided mixed accommodation which meant shared washing facilities. Young unmarried women were not admitted at all”.

Varney Street, Bassinghall Road, Goods Station Road and Golding Road were among the streets in that part of town that were generally to be avoided. Those that lived and worked there were from the lower end of the social scale and police reports record them as having high crime rates. The "Alma" and the "Crown" were noted for fights and disagreements among their patrons and from a website about closed pubs it was stated that the "Alma" was “a very basic beer pub, one up from spit and sawdust in the 1960’s”. Just east of the "Alma" on the south east side of Varney Street was the Salvation Army Citadel (now gone) who catered to saving the souls of those who patronized the local pubs and consumed the demon drink. No doubt some of them attended the regular Salvation Army meetings, like the two young lads from the Baltic Sawmill (Goods Station Road) Murder case that was widely reported on.

The Sussex Advertiser of November 16, 1878 reported on a crime that had been committed at the "Alma Tavern" on Varney Street about the theft of an umbrella, the property of Thomas Bachelor and involved a man who lived at Yew Tree Farm in Southborough who was drinking with a friend of his at the "Alma Tavern."

The Kent & Sussex Courier of January 18, 1900 gave a sad account when it reported “Having conveyed to the mortuary the body of George Johnson, aged 80, a pedlar, of no fixed address, who was found dead in a chair at the "Alma Tavern," Varney Street where he was lodging. Dr. Elliott was called but his services were of no avail”.

In terms of the building itself it was of modest red brick construction and reported in the 1911 census to consist of 13 rooms at that time it was occupied by Stephen Charles Skinner (given as Stenkin E Skinner in the census) and fourteen lodgers. The sign on the pub in both images above show that Carrington’s Ales were served there. It is to be expected that over the years, like most pubs in the town, the brewery that owned the pub had changed and which breweries owned it in prior years was not determined except that the Kent & Sussex Courier of June 23, 1875 carried an advertisement by Kenward and Co, The Close Brewery who thanked those who had patronized their pubs. The advertisement listed over six local pubs owned by them including “The Alma Tavern, Varney Street”.

7 Varney Street was the site of the "Alma Tavern" from 1875 up to circa 1979 when in or around that year it was demolished along with all of the other buildings on the west side of Varney Street. This fact can be seen from the 1982 map shown above from the Planning Authority files. The last and for that matter only Planning Authority record for the "Alma" from 1975 onwards was in 1979 when in that year an application was approved for the installation of an illuminated sign for “The Alma Public House, 7 Varney Street”. In the years following developers put together a plan to redevelop the area and in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s work began on designing and constructing the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre, which swallowed up the former site of the "Alma" and many other roads and buildings in the area. This new mall was opened by Princess Diana in 1992.



Although David Brewer is not listed at the "Alma" in 1875 the Kent & Sussex Courier noted the existence of the pub. David had been a resident of Tunbridge Wells since 1868 and was the beerhouse keeper of the Alma at the time of the 1881 census and so most likely was its first occupant.

David Brewer was born 1841 in Hackney, London, one of five children born to John Brewer, an agricultural labourer and later a shoemaker born 1814 in Mayfield, Sussex. David’s mother was Mary Ann Brewer born 1812 at Mayfield, Sussex.

The 1841 census, taken at 3 Prospect Place in Hackney gave John Brewer as an agricultural labourer. With him was his wife Mary Ann and this sons James, born 1838 and David, born 1841.

The 1851 census, taken at Railway Cottage in Ticehurst, Sussex gave John Brewer as a shoemaker. With him was his wife Mary Ann and five of their children including their son James who was a railway labourer and David who was attending school.

In 1866 David married Elizabeth Kneller in Tunbridge Wells. Elizabeth had been born 1847 in Lewes, Sussex. David and his wife had eight children between 1868 and 1890, all of whom had been born in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1871 census, taken at 39 Stanley Road (image opposite), Tunbridge Wells gave David as a plasterer. With him was his wife Elizabeth; two of their children, and David’s sister Esther, age 27, a laundress.

The 1881 census, taken at the Alma Tavern, 7 Varney Street, Tunbridge Wells gave David as a beerhouse keeper. With him was his wife Elizabeth; five of their children and 10 lodgers.

The 1891 census, taken at 45 Stanley Road, Tunbridge Wells gave David as a bricklayer. With him was his wife Elizabeth and six of their children, all of whom except their son William, who was a groom stableman, were attending school.

The 1901 census, taken at 20 Auckland Road gave David as a bricklayer worker. With him was his wife Elizabeth and five of their children.

David Brewer passed away in Tunbridge Wells in the June 1905 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on June 15th.



Edward Coleman was listed at the Alma at the time of the 1891 census. He was born 1859 at Sandhurst, Kent and was baptised May 22, 1859 at Sandhurst, one of several children born to Alfred and Elizabeth Hannah Coleman.

The 1861 census, taken at Bayham Cottage in Frant, Sussex, gave Alfred Coleman as an agricultural labourer born 1837 in Sandhurst, Kent. With him was his wife Elizabeth Hannah, born 1838 at Ewhurst, Kent and their son Edward, age 2.

The 1871 census, taken at Arphan Place in Tonbridge gave Alfred Coleman as a labourer, With him was his wife Elizabeth; three of their children including Edward, a scholar, and one boarder.

The 1881 census, taken at Budzell Park, Brenchley, Kent, gave Alfred Coleman as a farm bailiff. With him was his wife Elizabeth; their son Edward, a gardener; a niece and two farm workers.

In the 1st qtr of 1886 Edward married Emma Ashdown in Sevenoaks, Kent. Emma had been born 1862 at Newbury, Kent but died sometime before 1901 but after the birth of a daughter Gladys in Tunbridge Wells in 1890.

The 1891 census, taken at The Alma Tavern, 7 Varney Street gave Edward Coleman as a beerhouse keeper. With him was his wife Emma; their daughter Gladys and two lodgers.

The 1901 census, taken at North Frith, Hadlow gave Edward Coleman as a gardener domestic, With him was his second wife Annie, born 1862 at Whitstable, Kent and Edwards daughter Gladys, age 6 mths, born 1890 Tunbridge Wells.

The 1911 census, taken at 100 Auckland Road listed Edward Coleman and his family. Edward Coleman died in the 1st qtr of 1946 at Ashford, Kent. Shown above is a photograph of Auckland Road dated 1905.



The presence of William Chaplin at the Alma was recorded in the 1899 Kelly directory as “The Alma Tavern,7 Varney Street, William Chaplin beerhouse keeper. Strangely no other definitive records for him were found.



Stephen was born 1870 in Canterbury, Kent and baptised there on July 10, 1870. He was one of ten children born to John Skinner, a carter, born 1837 in Canterbury and Esther Skinner born 1842 in Canterbury.

In the period leading up to 1881 he lived with his parents and siblings in Canterbury. The 1881 census, taken at 15 Duck Lane in Canterbury gave John Skinner as a carter. With him was his wife Esther and nine of their children, including Stephen who was attending school. Stephen’s brother John was a general dealer and his brothers James, Alfred and Frederick were all errand boys. The rest of the children were attending school.

The 1891 census, taken at 55 Sussex Street in Southwark, London gave Stephen as a single man living on his own and working as a gas works labourer.

In 1895 Stephen married Ada Parry (1876-1896) who appears to have died while giving birth to their first child, for in July 1898 Stephen married Kate Clara Brett (1874-1954) in Canterbury and with her had six children between 1898 and 1913. From the children’s birth records it was noted that their first child was born 1898 at Westerham, Kent; who was followed by three children born in Tunbridge Wells in 1900, 1901 and 1908, and then the last two were born in Brighton, Sussex in 1912 and 1913.

The 1901 census, taken at The Alma, 7 Varney Street, gave Stephen as a publican employing others. With him was his wife Kate, born 1874 in Canterbury and their children Esther, age 2 and Jessie, age 1. Also there were two servants and ten lodgers.

The 1911 census, taken at The Alma, 7 Varney Street, gave Stephen as married but no members of his family were with him. He was given as a beer retailer. With him in premises of 13 rooms were fourteen lodgers. The census recorded that he had been married thirteen years and that he had five children, all of whom were still living. In this census Stephen’s name was incorrectly given as “ Stenkin E. Skinner”.

Stephen and his family left Tunbridge Wells after the 1911 census and before 1912 when in that year his son Stephen Alfred Skinner was born in Brighton.

Stephen Charles Skinner died March 1,1917 at Carlton Hill, Brighton, Sussex. Probate records gave him of 97 Carlton Hill at the time of his death. The executor of his 1,245 pound estate was his widow Kate and his son Frederick Skinner (1907-1981) a licensed victualler.



Frederick first appears at The Alma in the 1913 Kelly directory and was still listed there in 1917. For unknown reasons his wife Elizabeth became the licensed victualler of the Alma in 1918 and was still listed as such in the 1922 Kelly directory. This change in management suggested, as is often the case that Frederick had passed away with his wife taking over but no death or burial records for Frederick was located.

Frederick was born in the 3rd qtr of 1874 at Folkestone, Kent, one of several children born to William Marsh, a miller employing others, born 1849/1849 at Shepherds Wells, Kent and Elizabeth Marsh, born 1850 in Sittingbourne, Kent.

The 1881 census, taken at Mill Cottage, Cheriton Road in Folkestone, gave William Marsh as a miller employing eight men. With him was his wife Elizabeth; four of their children including Frederick and one general servant.

The 1891 census, taken at Folkestone gave Frederick living with his parents and siblings and attending school.

The 1901 census, taken at 5 Bourverie Road in Folkestone gave William as living on own means. With him was his wife Elizabeth; their son Frederick, a house agent/auctioner; Edith, age 22, a dressmaker; Mary, age 20, a milliner and Ada age 12.

In 1904 Frederick married Elizabeth Marsh (maiden name unknown). She was born 1869 at Moorsley, Devonshire.

The 1911 census, taken at the Camden Arms, Willesley Pound, Cranbrook (image opposite), Kent gave Frederick Charles Marsh as a “beer retailer by license”. With him was his wife Elizabeth, given as “assisting in business” and their two children Audry, born 1905 in Dinton, Kent and Frederick Charles junior born 1908 in Bride, Sussex. The census recorded that the couple had been married 7 years and had just the two children and that they were living in premises of five rooms.

As noted at the beginning of this account Frederick was found as the beerhouse keeper of the Alma on Varney Street, Tunbridge Wells from 1913 to 1917 and that his wife took over from him in 1918 and was still at the Alma when the 1922 directory was prepared.

Frederick died at the Public Library in Folkestone, Kent in 1947 and was buried August 15,1947 at the Hawkinge Cemetery in Hawkinge, Kent.



The only definitive record found for Daniel Wild was the 1930 Kelly directory which gave “ Daniel Wild, beer retailer, 7 Varney Street, Tunbridge Wells”.



The only definitive record for this gentleman was the Kent & Sussex Courier of January 20, 1939 which in part gave “To the Clerk of the Rating Authority of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, aforesaid, and to all whom it may concern, I. Harry William Avard, now residing at The Alms, Varney Street, in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, beer retailer, do hereby give notice that it is my intention to apply at the ……….”



The only definitive record pertaining to David was a listing of him from licensing records which gave him as the licensed victualler of the Alma on Varney Street from 1951 to 1957.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, Friday 3 April 1874.


John Ritson, shoemaker, of Varney Street, was summoned for assaulting Rose, the wife of George Love, beerhouse keeper, Varney Street, on the 24th inst.

Mrs. Love, whose husband keeps the "Alma Tavern," Varney Street, said the defendant lived in a cottage at the back of the tavern. On the day in question she refused to draw him any beer, when the defendant used indecent language and struck her in the face with his fist. She refused to draw him any beer because he was drunk. She denied that she took hold of defendant by the collar, but she did push him.

A man name Black collaborated, and said defendant deliberately struck Mrs. Love.

Defendant said he did use bad language, but the complainant took hold of him by the collar and shook him. In disengaging himself he swung his hand round and unfortunately hit her in the mouth.

A man named Ashford was called, and he said that when playing cards at the "Alma" beer house, Mrs. Love shook the defendant, and it was by turning round that Mrs. Love got hit.

The Bench fined the defendant 10s. and 11s. costs, or 10 days' imprisonment with hard labour, the Chairman remarked that the defendant had been charged on several previous occasions with assaults.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 31 July 1874.

Tunbridge Wells. A Drunken Woman.

Margaret Sayers, a married woman, was charged with being drunk and riotous in Varney Street, on the previous Saturday night.

The case was proved by P.C. Fenner, who said that the defendant, who was drunk, created a great disturbance outside the "Alma" beer house, and after cautioning her several times, he found it necessary to take her into custody.

Defendant pleaded guilty, and asked the Bench to forgive her. She was not in the habit of taking drink, and a small quantity upset her. If the magistrates discharged her she would leave the town at once.

Superintendent Embery said the woman was a stranger in the town. She had made a great noise in the cell. She had been locked up since Saturday night.

The Chairman said the Bench would discharge the defendant as she had been locked up since Saturday night, and they hoped she would not do so any more. It was most disgraceful for a woman to be placed in such a situation.

Defendant then left the court, and her husband thanked the magistrates for their kindness.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 6 February, 1914.



The Annual Brewster Sessions for the Borough of Tunbridge Wells were held at the Town Hall on Monday morning, the Mayor (Councillor C. W. Emson) presiding over a large attendance of the Justices.

The Magistrates had decided to renew all the licenses, with the exception of the "Anchor," Camden-road; the "Rifleman," Kensington-street; the "Good Intent," St. John’s-road; the "Standard," Little Mount Sion; and the "Alma," Varney -street. The licensee of these houses would be considered at the adjourned annual licensing meeting a month hence.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 6 March, 1914.


Mr. W. A. Wardley asked the Bench to renew the licence of the "Alma" Beer-house, Varner-street.

P. Sergt. Waters gave evidence to the effect that the "Alma" was a beerhouse and common lodging-house, with several beerhouses and fully-licensed houses in the near neighbourhood.

Mr. W. A. Wardley addressed the Bench with the object of proving that the house filled a public want, and that if the Bench took away the liquor license they would be depriving the tenant of that which enabled him to get a living, in conjunction with the lodging-house. Eleven beds were provided on the licensed premises, and there were l4 beds in a separate house next door. It was important to note that no intoxicants were sold in the lodging house.

The tenant, called by Mr. Wardley, stated that he did miscellaneous trade of about £2 a week in tobacco, minerals, etc.


From the By Mary Harris, 7 March 2023.

The Alma Tavern was at 7 Varney Street, down a side street off Calverley Road. It was one of many other English pubs and buildings to derive their name from The Battle of Alma of September 20, 1854 during the Crimean War.

Noted as being somewhat of a rough place, it was demolished in the early 1980s with the land along Varney Street eventually swallowed up by the construction of the Royal Victoria Place.



LOVE George 1871-74+ (age 30 in 1871Census)

BREWER David 1875-81+ (age 40 in 1881Census)

COLEMAN Edward 1891+ (age 38 in 1891Census)

CHAPLIN Edward 1899+

SKINNER Stephen Charles 1901-11+

MARSH Frederick Charles 1913-17+

MARSH Elizabeth Mrs 1918-22+

WILD Daniel 1930+

AVARD Harry William 1939+

BRYON D 1950-57+




If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-