DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

Sort file:- Tunbridge Wells, January, 2019.

Page Updated:- Monday, 07 January, 2019.

PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Paul Skelton

Earliest 1700-

Compasses

Open 2019+

45 Little Mount Sion

Royal Tunbridge Wells

01892 530744

https://www.greeneking-pubs.co.uk/compasses/

https://www.whatpub.com/compasses

Compasses 2014

Above photo kindly supplied by Edward Gilbert 2014.

Compasses 2014

Above photo showing the "Compasses" rear view from the Grove, 2014, kindly supplied by Edward Gilbert.

Compasses inside 2014

Above photo kindly supplied by Edward Gilbert 2014.

Compasses sign 1986

Above sign, March 1986.

With thanks from Brian Curtis www.innsignsociety.com.

 

The pub is referred to in 1718 as being owned by Thomas Matthews who also owned the "Grove Tavern" at that time. Thomas died in 1818 and at that time the pub was owned by his son John Matthews. In 1824 it was called "Compasses" and run by William Hodges. Under the same name in 1840 it was run by Thomas Baker. "Compasses" later became known as "The Compasses." In the 1826-27 directory it is called The "Three Compasses" and then "The Compasses and Horseshoes" (1847 Bragshaw directory). The 1851 and 1858 directories list it as "The Compases Inn." Later it became known as "The Three Compasses" and is now known as "The Compasses" Public House.

Edward Gilbert has also found an account from The Annual Register about a matter dated November 1789 when the pub was called the "Three Compasses." It reports that the landlady of the pub at that time was a Mrs Peek who died in the pub during a pub brawl between two patrons November 1789.

There is also an account and a map (Bowras 1738 map) that records for 1738 that Robert Mercer owned the "Compasses" as well as other property nearby. There is also a reference to a Margaret Brett selling some of her property holdings to Robert Mercer in 1719 but its not stated whether this had anything to do with the Compasses. It is known that the Brett family had extensive land holdings in the area of the pub.

 

From the South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 16 May, 1837.

ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.

On Monday morning last, the family of Mr. Baker, of the "Compasses Inn," Mount Sion, were thrown into great confusion by one of their servants (Ann Vinehall) attempting self-destruction by hanging herself with an apron, which she had previously affixed to the upper part of the bed. She was discovered by Mrs. Baker, who caused her instantly to be cut down and medical assistance procured, but it was upwards of three hours before she could be recovered from her insensibility. The cause doubtless arose from Mrs. baker finding her in her room, into which she gained admission by means of a false key, having previously been accused by Mr. Baker with having robbed him. On Wednesday last she was brought up before our worthy magistrates, A. Akers, Esq., and fully committed for trial as the ensuing sessions, and a detainer will also be lodged against her for felony on the prosecution of Mr. William Hodges, the late landlord of the "Compasses."

 

Written By; Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. October 9, 2014.

THE COMPASSES PUBLIC HOUSE MOUNT SION

The public house “Compasses” is considered to be, or claimed to be, the oldest pub in Tunbridge Wells, although this is disputed, for pubs such as the “Grove Tavern” and the "Angel" date well back into the 18th century. What is known is that it appears to be the oldest pub of continued operation that today uses the same name “Compasses” that it began with, although the full name of the pub has undergone several changes, including such names as Compasses, The Compasses, Compasses Hotel, Compasses Inn, The Compasses and Horseshoe, The Three Compasses, The Compasses Public House and even the Hogshead and Compasses in the 1990's. Today it is most often referred to as The Compasses and the sign on the building reads “The Compasses”.

The pub today is a large three story red brick building with later two and one story additions and the oldest part of the building has all the appearance of being a 19th century structure. What the original pub looked like is not known but most likely was a much smaller and more crudely built building consisting of the main pub area with living accommodation either behind or above.

This article traces the long and interesting history of the building and those who owned and operated it.

THE 18TH CENTURY

As noted in various accounts Mount Sion is one of the oldest parts of Tunbridge Wells and throughout its history there have been two pubs, namely The Compasses at 45 Little Mount Sion and The "Grove Tavern" at 34 Little Mount Sion/19 Berkeley Rd. References to The "Grove Tavern" claim that it dates back to the 1600's. Roger Farting, who undertook extensive research on the history of Mount Sion and published a book on the topic had this to say about The Compasses in his book ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells 'published in 1990.' In 1684 the timber frames of houses began to rise, scattered over the Mount Sion hillside and up the edge of the Common and here and there to the east, to be clad with planks or hung with tiles. There was no attempt at grandeur”. One could expect that this same style of construction applied to The Compasses.

In the 1700's the Brett family became large property owners and as Bowras's map of 1738 shows, the name of Mr Brett appears often in the Pantiles. Kipps engraving from 1718 or 1719 also makes reference to “Brett's boarding house, (Chapel House) the Grove” in Mount Sion. Regarding the Brett family Farthing notes “Brett Mr John of the Wells was buried at Tonbridge on 23 November 1719. He was married and still hoping for children but his houses and land passed to his nephew, John Brett, Doctor of Physic… In 1727 Dr Brett filed a suite. In 1840 Dr Brett died and his wife Margaret died in 1743”. Although there is no information indicating that the Brett family ever owned The Compasses there is a reference by Farthing to the land acquired by John Ward for his Calverly Estates development in about 1823 and that part of his land holdings included Jack Woos quarry and spring which Margaret Brett had sold to Robert Mercer in 1719, and it is Robert Mercer who is important to the history of The Compasses. The 1734 Poll for Knights lists “Robert Mercer, Speldhurst”. Bowras 1738 map shows the public house as that of R. Mercer and that Robert Mercer owned another building which today is at the north west corner of Mount Sion and Belgrove Road.

Fathing states “The Compasses, probably built about 1700, consisted originally of the rear portion of the present building .The Probate Inventory (plate 44 in his book), of Landlord Thomas Mathews (it was ‘John' Mathews at the Grove Tavern) who died in 1817 shows that there were a kitchen and parlour on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the first floor and an attic above”. A recent photo of the rear of the building that he referred to is shown opposite and appears as a two story red brick building with attic above, with gable style roof covered with slate. Despite Farthing's statement, it would appear to me that this older part of the building is perhaps not the same structure from 1700, but it would make sense that it predates the more modern (19th century) three story structure it is attached to. Since John Matthews was the owner of The Compasses when he died in 1817, one could speculate that he had been the owner of it for some time, but if The Compasses was built in about 1700 as Farthing suggests, he certainly was not the first owner.

A clue as to who an earlier owner was is given in the most unusual account of ‘The Annual Register' of 1789 when it refers to an incident in November of that year at The Compasses. The account states “ A few days ago, while one Fenner, a turner, and Philpot, a carpenter, were drinking together at the firm of The Three Compasses at Tunbridge Wells, a quarrel arose between them, which proceeded to blows. During the battle, which was severely contested for some time, the sight had so great effect on Mrs Peek, the landlady, that she expired, though the most immediate and necessary means were applied for her recovery. But what is more extraordinary, on the news of her death being carried to a Mr Field, at Mount Ephraim, about half a mile distant, and a relative of the deceased, the shock was so great, that he died while the melancholy story was relating to him”. The Three Compasses referred to was the same pub as The Compasses today and so this account gives a records that Mrs Peek was the landlady of the pub in 1789. It is not known if she owned the pub or just ran it.

In my article ‘Tunbridge Ware-A Profile of Manufacturers' dated February 14, 2012 I outline the history of making Tunbridge Ware in the town, and in that exhaustive piece of work I gave in part the following regarding Mr Fenner “William Fenner was one of the best known makers of Tunbridge Ware and proudly pronounced on his business card "established in 1720". The business was begun by an ancestor of William Fenner but he himself was in business in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially he worked under his own name but for part of his career he became partners with Nye and together they operated as Fenner & Nye from "The Chalet" on Mount Ephraim. In his retirement years he was offering lodgings on Mount Pleasant. He died May 5, 1869 at the age of 88, making him born in 1781. He was buried in the Woodbury Park cemetery. It is believed by the researcher that the Fenner referred to in The Annual Register story of 1789 was the ancestor of the William Fenner I referred to in the Tunbridge Ware article and was a maker of Tunbridge Ware. This claim is supported by the reference in the 1789 article to “Fenner, a turner” for wood turners were often involved in the making of Tunbridge Ware.

As no other information about the 18th century history of this pub was found by the researcher, although there will be records somewhere, I now present a list of occupants of the pub up to the 20th century.

A LIST OF PUB OCCUPANTS

From a review of directories, census records, planning department records and various other sources I have compiled the following list of known publicans. This list should not be considered complete and records for every year of the 19th century and beyond were not available to the researcher.

1738………..........Robert Mercer (Bowras 1738 map) Name given as “The Compasses”.

1789………………….. Mrs Peek (landlady at time of her death in 1789) Name was “The Three Compasses”.

1803……………………Mr D. Schooeler (died at The Three Compasses1803)

1817…………………..Thomas Matthews (owner of “Compasses” when he died 1817).His son John no doubt inherited the pub.

1823-1834………….William Hodges (Pigots directories 1823, 1827) Name given as “Compasses” 1823 and “Three Compasses” 1826-1827

1839-1847…………Thomas Baker (Pigots 1840 ;1841 census, and Bragshaws 1847 directories) Name given as “Compasses” 1840 and “Compasses and Horseshoe” 1847

1851…………………John Jarvis (1851 Kelly directory) Name given as “Compasses Inn”

1855…………………Charles Pantry (1855 Directory)

1858-1863…….... Benjamin Cooper (1858 Melville directory; 1861 census; 1862 Kelly). Name given as “Compasses Inn”. Benjamin died 1863 at the pub

1863-1868………………….Charles Waghorn (1867 Kelly directory; 1868 electoral) Name given as “Compasses”

1871-1874…………………. Henry Clifford (1871 census; 1874 Kelly directory). Name given as “Compasses” in 1874 and “Compasses Inn” in 1871.

1881-1891………… William Gatling Hobbs (1881 and 1891 census and 1882 Kelly directory). Name given as “Compasses”

1899…………………… John William Wells (1899 Kelly) Listed as “Compasses Hotel,45 Little Mt Sion”.

1901-1913……………Charles Henry French (1901 census and 1903 and 1913 Kelly). Name given as “Compasses”

1918-1934………….. Joseph James Harding (1918,1922,1934 Kelly). Name given as “Compasses”

1938………………….Frederick John Lawrence (1938 Kelly). Name given as “Compasses”

1949-1950………….. “The Compasses Hotel”, The Grove, Tunbridge Wells (name of publican not given)

1974…………………...”The Compasses Public House” (1974 planning application with applicant given as “Keitbread Fremlins (John J. Candwell) Ash House High Street, Hawkhurst, Kent

1994-1997……………”The Hogshead and Compasses, 45 Little Mount Sion” (three planning application giving applicant as “Whitbread Inns Plc”)

2005-2007…………… “The Compasses Public House, 45 Little Mount Sion (three planning applications giving applicant as ‘Green King Pub Co, Bury St Edmunds).

LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION

Shown throughout this article a some modern views of the pub. At the time of writing this article no old views of the pub were found, but surely some must exist. There is available a site map of the pub taken from the files of the local planning authority from the year 1997 when an application was made regarding the removal of two trees labelled at “1” and “2” on this plan. The pub itself is labelled as “P.H.” for Public House. To the right of it is a building labelled “garage” which today is known as the business “The Compasses Garage”. To the rear of the pub is the local park known as “The Grove”, from which spot was taken the rear view photo of the pub shown at the top of this page.

The site plan showing the footprint of the building shows three important features and indicated by the irregular shape of the building. In the middle part of the structure is the three sty red brick park from the 19th century. To the rear is the 1-1/2 sty earlier structure. Along the front is a single sty addition, and adjacent to this building is today an outdoor patio with picnic tables and unbrellas. Also shown on this plan to the left of the pub is highlighted in red the former building of Robert Mercer, who also owned the Compasses pub in 1738.

Unfortunately not shown here but available from the council are are a set of architects plans of the Compasses, from the planning authority files, which pertain to applications made in 2006 and 2007 for the construction of a covered patio structure. The first plan shows what the buildings elevations and floor plan looked like in 2006 when approval was refused for the construction of a “freestanding glazed canopy with metal framework”. The application was redone in 2007 and was approved, for the construction of “a pitched roof canopy to form covered patio”. The second set of drawings gives the proposed elevation of the pub based on a pitched roof structure. This extension to the building was proposed for the east end of the pub and the finished work can be seen on one of the photos of the front of the pub.

From a review of the planning authority files for the period of 1974 to 2014 the above project was the only major change to the building. An application in 1874 was approved for “alterations”; in 1994 approval was given with respect to trees on the property. Applications in the 1994-1997 period pertained to trees and signage. The colour scheme of the exterior of the pub was changed from yellow to green, but both continued the red colour of the pubs sign.

As noted in the list of occupants/owners, the pub has undergone a number of different owners over the years and apart from those mentioned on the list it was also at one time a pub owned by Kelsey's Culverden Brewery. For information about local breweries see my article “Early Brewing History and the Culverden Brewery St John's Road' dated May 5, 2012.

THE OCCUPANTS OF THE PUB

Given here is a brief summary of those given on the list of occupants of this pub for the period from about the 1820's to the pre WW II era.

1) WILLIAM HODGES……….William is found as the publican of “Compasses in 1823 and of the “Three Compasses” 1826-1827. William was born 1805 Tunbridge Wells and on April 26,1830 he married Sarah Ann Harris at Ticehurst, Sussex. The 1841 census, taken at Gothic Villa in Mount Sion recorded William as a corn merchant. Living with him was his wife Sarah, born 1831; his son John, born 1833; his mother Sarah Hodges, born 1781. Also in the home was one domestic servant. The 1851 census, taken at Mount Sion, recorded William as a corn merchant. Living with him was his wife Sarah and son John and one servant. William died in Tunbridge Wells in 1855. His will, dated February 24,1855 described a man with significant property and assets. Among his holdings included two farms in Withyham, Sussex and several properties in Mount Sion, including coach houses and stables in Mount Sion; Montgomery House and Grove Place. His john and one other gentleman were names as executors of his estate and he makes specific mention in his will to his son John; his wife Sarah Ann and also a daughter.

2) THOMAS BAKER………Thomas is referred to at the pub in Pigots 1840 directory; the 1841 census, and Bagshaws 1847 directory. In 1840 the pub was called “Compasses” and in 1847 as the “Compasses and Horseshoe”. The only reliable record for Thomas was the 1841 census, taken at Mount Sion where he is shown as a publican born 1811 and living with him was his wife Harriott, born 1811 Kent and his son William, born 1832 Kent (probably Tunbridge Wells). No 1851 census record was found for him in Tunbridge Wells and so it appears that he left The Compasses and Tunbridge Wells sometime after the 1847 Bagshaw directory and the time of the 1851 census.

3) JOHN JARVUS……John is found at the “Compasses Inn” in the 1851 Kelly. No 1851 census record was found for him nor any other definitive information.

4) CHARLES PANTRY……….Charles is listed at the pub in a 1855 directory. He was born in 1794 and baptised April 23,1794 at Bonnington, Kent, and was one of seven children born to Thomas Pantry and Elizabeth Pantry, nee Shorter. On September 7, 1847 he married Eliza Croft at Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. He and his wife had three children between 1851 and 1857 among which was his son Harry, born 1854 in Tunbridge Wells and it is likely that Charles was in charge of the pub in that year. By 1856 he and his family moved to Hellingley, Sussex where a son Edward Thomas was born in 1857. The 1861 census, taken at Worplesden, Sussex recorded Charles as a widow and working as an inn keeper. Living with him was his three children and two lodgers. No further information was determined for him.

5) BENJAMIN COOPER……….Benjamin is recorded in the 1858 Melville directory; the 1861 census and 1862 directories at the “Compasses Inn” in Mount Sion. Benjamin was born 1824 at Beckley, Sussex, one of five children born to Benjamin Cooper, a grocer,(1798-1857) and Harriott Santer (1806-1894). The 1841 census, taken at Beckley, recorded Benjamin senior as a grocer. Living with him was his wife and four children, including Benjamin junior. On June 20,1849 Benjamin junior married Mary McBeth, born 1825 at Catsfield, Sussex. Mary was one of four children born to Robert Mc Beth(1785-1853) and Mary Tanner (1793-1837).The 1851 census, taken at the Broad Oak Inn in Brede, Kent, recorded Benjamin as the innkeeper. Living with him was his wife Mary and their only child Ernest Albert Cooper (1847-1901). By 1858 Benjamin and his family moved to Tunbridge Wells and took over the “Compasses Inn”. The 1861 census, taken at the Compasses Inn recorded Benjamin as the innkeeper. Living with him was his wife Mary and one male servant who was working as a “pub boy”. Probate records show that Benjamin died at the Compasses Inn on September 12,1863.The executors of his under 300 pound estate was his wife and one other non-family member.

6) CHARLES WAGHORN……..Charles is listed at “Compasses” in the 1867 Kelly directory and no doubt he took over the pub upon the death of Benjamin Cooper in 1863. He left the pub sometime before 1874. Due to the absence of a 1871 census record the researcher was unable to draw any definite conclusions about his background. The 1851 census gave a Charles Waghorn born 1834 Tunbridge Wells, working as a grocer and living with him was his wife Ellen and daughter Emma. The 1851 census records two Waghorn families in Tunbridge Wells but there were no clues to which family William belonged to. In one case Charles Waghorn was born 1834 in Southborough, the son of paper hanger Danial Waghorn and his wife Mary; and in the second case Charles Waghorn, born 1835 Tunbridge Wells was the son of William Waghorn, a journeyman painter and his wife Emily. It is perhaps more likely that the family of Charles Waghorn with parents Daniel and Mary is the correct family for Charles older brother William, born 1838 Tunbridge Wells was in 1861 working as a cellerman. The 1868 electoral register listed “Charles Waghorn, Compasses Inn”

7) HENRY CLIFFORD………..He is found at the “Compasses” in the 1874 Kelly directory. He began at the pub sometime after 1867 and was gone before 1881. The 1871 census, taken at “Compasses Inn” recorded Henry as born 1840 Brompton, Kent, a publican. He was single and living with him was his niece Nelly Clifford, age 19, “assisting in business”. Also present was one waiter, one general servant and one domestic. At Compasses Stables was living a mail contractor with his brother (a groom) and one servant. None of them appear to have any connection to the operation of the inn itself. Unfortunately no 1881 census for Henry was found but the 1891 census, taken at 34 Mount Sion recorded Henry Clifford as living on own means and living with him was his sister Ellen, born 1845 at Brompton and one domestic servant.

8) WILLIAM GATLING HOBBS………William is given at “Compasses” in the 1881 and 1891 census and the 1882 Kelly directory. His name is sometimes given as William George Hobbs but his correct name is William Gatling Hobbs. William was born 1840 at Uckfield, Sussex, one of eight children born to James Gatling Hobbs (1807-1887) and Jane Heath (1809-1873). In 1871 he was single and living with his parents in Uckfiled, Sussex and working as a gardener/labourer, and his father at that time was a farmer. In the mid 1870's he married Elizabeth Jane (maiden name not determined) in Sussex and by 1881 moved to Tunbridge Wells. His wife had been born 1841/1845 at Maresfield, Sussex. The 1881 census, taken at “Compasses Inn” recorded William as the hotel keeper. Living with him was his wife Elizabeth and three lodgers. The 1891 census, taken at 45 Little Mount Sion (Compasses address) recorded William as the “house keeper”. Living with him was his wife Elizabeth Jane and one servant. The 1901 census, taken at 29 Castle Street, Southborough recorded William as a retired hotel keeper. Living with him was his wife Elizabeth Jane. In December 1905 Elizabeth passed away and was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on December 14th. William continued to life at 29 Castle street up to the time of his death at the General Hospital in Tunbridge Wells on February 12,1927. The executors of his 3,009 pound estate were two of his brothers. William was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on February 17,1927.

9) JOHN WILLIAM WELLS………..John is recorded at the “Compasses Hotel” in the 1899 Kelly directory. He was gone from the premises at the time of the 1901 census and his stay there appears to have been a short one for he was not there until after the 1891 census. John was born 1865 in Hastings, Sussex and baptised August 6,1865 at St Clements, Hastings, Sussex. he was one of three children born to George Wells (1830-1891) and Sarah Pierce Sayers (1841-1907). In 1871 he was living with his parents in Hertfordshire but by 1881 had moved to Tunbridge Wells. The 1881 census, taken at High Street, Tunbridge Wells records George Wells as a professional cricketer. Living with him was his wife Sarah and his three children, including John William Wells who was attending school. At the time of the 1891 census he was living with his widowed mother and brother in New Shoreham, Sussex. His mother in 1891 as well as John were working as confectioners assistants. In 1893 he married Frances Hanah (maiden name not determined). By 1899 he and his wife moved to Tunbridge Wells where William took over the Compasses Hotel. He left Tunbridge Wells by the time of the 1901 census. The 1911 census, taken at 14 Prospect Place in Hove, Sussex recorded John William Wells working as a carpenter. Living with him was his wife Frances Hannah, born 1833 at New Shoreham, Sussex; seven of their children and two boarders. The census recorded that they were living in seven rooms; that they had been married 18 years and of the seven children they had only 6 were still living.

10) CHARLES HENRY FRENCH………Charles is given at the “Compasses” in the 1901 census and the 1903 and 1913 Kelly directories. Charles was born 1848 at Long Sutton, Lincolnshire. His first wife was Sidwell Floyde (maiden name unknown) born 1852 at Dunster, Somerset. Charles pursued a legal career and worked most of his life as a solicitors clerk. He married Sidwell in 1872 and with her had four daughters. The 1881 census, taken at 32 Calverley St, Tunbridge Wells recorded Charles as a solicitors clerk. Living with him was his wife Sidwell; his four daughters, and three visitors. The 1891 census, taken at 21 and 23 Church Street, Tunbridge Wells recorded Charles as a solicitors law clerk. Living with him was his wife Sidwell; his four children and two servants. Three of his daughters were working at that time as drapers assistants or drapers apprentices. By the time of the 1901 census Charles took over the operation of the Compasses pub from John William Wells who is listed there in the 1899 Kelly directory. His wife Sidwell died in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1900. The 1911 census, taken at ‘The Compasses Hotel” recorded Charles as the licensed victualler. Living with him was his second wife Ann Clarissa Reed who he had married in Tunbridge Wells in the 1st qtr of 1902. Ann had been born 1861 at Islington, Middlesex. The census records that the couple had been married 9 years and they had no children together. It also records that the premises had 12 rooms. Also living with the couple was Charles step son Leslie Henry Brett Reed, an organist born 1891 in Romford, Essex. Also present was a nephew, one barmaid and one domestic servant. The last record for Charles at the pub is the 1913 Kelly which gives “Charles Henry French, Compasses, 45 Little Mount Sion”.

11) JOSEPH JAMES HARDING……..Joseph is listed at the “Compasses in the 1918, 1922 and 1934 Kelly directories. There are no other records that provide details of his life and since there is more than one person of that name living in the 1918-1934 period no definitive information is presented. With this I end my coverage of the occupants of the pub.

 

LICENSEE LIST

MATTHEWS Thomas 1718+

MERCER Edward 1719-38+

PEEK Mrs to Nov/1789

MATTHEWS John 1818+

HODGES William 1824+

BAKER Thomas 1837-40+

JARVIS John 1851+ (age 24 in 1851Census)

PANTRY Charles 1855+

COOPER Benjamin 1858-62+ (age 37 in 1861Census)

CLIFFORD Henry 1873-74+ Kent and Sussex Courier

HOBBS William George 1881-82+ (age 41 in 1881Census)

HOBBS William Gatling 1891+

FRENCH Charles Henry 1913+

HARDING Joseph James 1918-30+

LAWRENCE Frederick John 1938+

http://pubshistory.com/Compasses.shtml

 

Kent and Sussex CourierKent and Sussex Courier

CensusCensus

http://theweald.org/P2.asp?PId=TW.CompssI

 

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

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