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Sort file:- Tunbridge Wells, April, 2019.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 14 April, 2019.

PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Paul Skelton

Earliest 1865-

Crown Tavern

Latest 1913+

53 Varney Street (London Road 1873 Kent and Sussex Courier)

Royal Tunbridge Wells

 

Not to be confused with the "Rose and Crown" which was originally referred to as the "Crown."

 

In November 1912, a large gathering of the Tunbridge Wells branch of the National Union of Women Workers assembled to discuss the poor provision of women-only Common Lodging House places.

Whilst a relatively small number of women used them, even as few as six a week added up to two thousand a year, and therefore to a significant social problem. The NUWW's letters to magistrates, together with those from other agencies asking that the premises' licenses be withheld, had previously fallen on deaf ears.

The following year, the Crown's owners put the building up for sale. The house accommodated 28 people in 8 bedrooms, with a bar and a small kitchen for lodgers who paid between 6d and 10d a night. The aim of the NUWW was to purchase the house and re-open it as a Common Lodging house for women and children only.

The purchase price of 1,600 was raised through the sale of 1 shares, and Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd was formed. The premises were renovated, cleaned, and transformed into the Crown Lodging House for Women and Children which was opened in a ceremony performed by the Mayoress in July 1913. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Mr. E. Brotherton, one of the directors of Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd, paid tribute to Amelia Scott who, he said 'had worked so hard in the matter'.

Other common lodging houses in Tunbridge Wells that were also licensed premises included the "Alma" in Varney Street, the "Dorset Arms" in Golding Street and the "Standard" in Little Mount Sion.

 

Today, (2014) Varney Street has been swallowed up by the Royal Victoria shopping development.

 

Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Date: January 30, 2017.

THE CROWN TAVERN COMMON LODGING HOUSE.

OVERVIEW.

The Crown at 53 Varney Street was both a tavern and common lodging house, which in 1911 was described as being premises of 14 rooms. This red brick building no longer exists, having been demolished by 1982 along with other buildings on the west side of Varney Street.

The first known proprietor of the tavern was Thomas Card who was listed there as a beerhouse keeper in 1873. At the time of the 1871 census he was the beerhouse keeper of the "Wheatsheave" pub at 4 Camden Road and by 1877 he had moved from the "Crown" to the "Roebuck Inn" at 81 Camden Road where he was both a publican and coal merchant employing two men. By 1891 he had given up this business and was a carman living at 26 Albion Road. He died in Tunbridge Wells in 1901.

A newspaper report dated April 6, 1877 reported that a Mr Roberts had been charged with assaulting Mrs Caroline Lucy Rabbit, a widow, who was the proprietor of the "Crown" on Varney Street. She had taken over the running of this establishment upon the death of her husband George Rabbit in the 4th qtr of 1875. George Rabbit had been born in Frant in 1827, the son of Robert Rabbit and agricultural worker who’s wife Phoebe had passed away before 1851. George and Caroline Lucy Couchman had been married in Tunbridge Wells in 1861 and by 1871 were living at 29 North Road, Tunbridge Wells with their two daughters. In about 1880 Caroline left Tunbridge Wells and is found in the 1881 census in Rotherfield, Sussex where she was the beerhouse keeper of a local pub. Caroline died in Paddington, London in 1901.

In about 1880 the "Crown" was taken over by James Barrett (1846-1905) who had been born in Cork Island. James was the son of William Barrett, an agricultural labour and Anne Barrett. James was married but his wife died sometime before 1881. In 1881 his premises were called ‘The Crown Tavern Common Lodging House’ and crammed in there were 24 lodgers. At the time of the 1891 census he had 14 lodgers and about the same in 1901. James died at the "Crown Tavern" in 1905.

The last known keeper of these premises was Albert John Skinner who was listed there in the 1911 census and the1913 Kelly directory but was gone by 1922. Albert had been born in 1884 at Canterbury, the son of John and Esther Skinner. He was married in 1908 to Ellen Leaney, born in 1891 and by 1911 the couple had one daughter. In 1911, in addition to his family, were living 22 boarders in 14 rooms. He died in Thanet, Kent in 1975.

In November of 1912 a large gathering of the Tunbridge Wells branch of the National Union of Women Workers (NUWW) assembled to discuss the poor provision of women-only Common Lodging House places.

In 1913 this tavern and lodging house was put up for sale. The house accommodated 28 people in 8 bedrooms, with a bar and a small kitchen for lodgers who paid between 6d and 10d a night. The aim of the NUWW was to purchase the house and re-open it as a Common Lodging house for women and children only.

The purchase price of 1,600 was raised through the sale of 1 shares, and Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd was formed. The premises were renovated, cleaned, and transformed into the "Crown Lodging House for Women and Children" which was opened in a ceremony performed by the Mayoress in July 1913. The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 25, 1913 gave the following account pertaining to this building under the heading "The Old Crown Tavern in Varney Street is now transformed, almost out of recognition". Mr. E. Brotherton, one of the directors of Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd, paid tribute to Amelia Scott who, he said 'had worked so hard in the matter'.

Now no longer a tavern this Women and Children lodging house continued in operation for several years. How long it remained in this use was not established and the history of the building since they took over in 1913 up to the time of the buildings demolition circa 1980. No mention of this building was found in the records of the Planning Authority from 1975 onwards and so no clues about the building from this source were found but it is known that the "Alma Tavern" at 7 Varney Street was still there, with presumably the "Crown" and other buildings in the area in 1979.

Tunbridge Wells map 1982

Shown above is a map from 1982 showing Varney Street on which is highlighted in red the location of the Alma Tavern at No. 7. As can be seen from this map all of the buildings on the west side of Varney Street had been demolished by that time.

THE COMMON LODGING HOUSE.

"Common lodging-house" is a Victorian era term for a form of cheap accommodation in which inhabitants are lodged together in one or more rooms in common with the rest of the inmates, who are not members of one family, whether for eating or sleeping. The slang term flophouse is roughly the equivalent of common lodging-houses. The nearest modern equivalent is a hostel.

There was no statutory definition of the class of houses in England intended to be included in the expression common lodging-house, but the definition used above was adopted to include those houses which, under the Public Health Act 1875 and other legislation, must be registered and inspected. The provisions of the Public Health Act were that every urban and rural district council must keep registers showing the names and residences of the keepers of all common lodging-houses in their districts, the location of every such house, and the number of lodgers authorized by them.

The scandalous condition of the common lodging houses in London, which were frequently the resort of criminals and prostitutes, prompted the Common Lodging Houses Acts 1851 and 1853. These regulations, however proved ineffectual and the requirement that residents vacate the premises between 10 a.m. and late afternoon hit poor and sick residents hard, as they were obliged to walk the streets in the intervening period in all weathers.

Even tighter control was imposed when regulation of common lodging houses was transferred from the police to the London County Council in 1894, resulting in the imposition of higher standards and regular inspection of the premises by council officials. The new regulations required the landlords to limewash the walls and ceilings twice a year and the mixed sex accommodation, which was frequently a cover for a brothel, was abolished. Proper beds and bedding had also to be provided instead of mattresses on the floor and worse.

 

[1] THOMAS CARD

Thomas Card was born 1834 in Withyham, Sussex. He was baptised there in October 5, 1834, one of several children born to George and Anne Card. Thomas was still living at Withyham up to the time of his marriage there on November 10, 1855 to Jane Box (1834-1913). Jane had been born in Withyham, Sussex and was the daughter of William Box. Thomas and his wife went on to have six children and it can be seen that the family moved to Tunbridge Wells by 1869 for in that year they had s son William (1869-1898) and a son Walter (1879-?) both born in Tunbridge Wells. The 1871 census, taken at the ‘Wheatsheave’ pub at 4 Camden Road, gave Thomas as a beerhouse keeper. With him was his wife Jane and three of their children. A local directory of 1873 gave Thomas as the beerkeeper of the Crown Tavern on Varney Street but was gone by about 1875. The 1881 census gave Thomas as a publican and coal merchant employing two men while at the Roebuck Inn at 81 Camden Road. With him was his wife Jane; three of their children, and one domestic servant. The 1891 census, taken at 26 Albion Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave Thomas as a carman. With him was his wife Jane, their son Walter, and one visitor. Thomas died in Tunbridge Wells January 21, 1901. The executor of his 2,324 estate was Henry Dainton, a retired brewer’s agent.

 

[2] GEORGE AND CAROLINE RABBIT

Several variations in the spelling of this families surname were found but ‘Rabbit’ appears to be the most reliable.

George Rabbit had been born 1827 in Frant, Sussex. He had been baptised in Frant July 29,1827 and was one of several children born to Robert and Phoebe Rabbit. He was still living in Frant with his parents and siblings at the time of the 1841 census. The 1851 census, taken at the cottages in Frant gave Robert Rabbit as age 47, a widower working as an agricultural labourer. Also there were seven other Rabbit children and one granddaughter. In the 4th atr of 1861 George married Caroline Lucy Couchman in Tunbridge Wells. Caroline had been born 1827 in Tunbridge Wells. The 1871 census, taken at 29 North Road, Tunbridge Wells gave George Rabbit as a beerhouse keeper. With him was his wife Caroline; their two daughters Fanny, born 1858 and Jane, born 1861 and six lodgers. Soon after took over the running of the Crown on Varney Street and in the 4th qtr of 1875 he died there. Upon his death his widow Caroline took over the establishment. A newspaper report dated April 6, 1877 reported that a “Mr Roberts had been charged with assaulting Mrs Caroline Lucy Rabbit, a widow, who was the proprietor of the Crown on Varney Street”. In about 1880 Caroline left Tunbridge Wells and is found in the 1881 census in Rotherfield, Sussex where she was the beerhouse keeper of a local pub at or near Green Hill. With her was her niece, one boarder, two visitors and one domestic. Caroline died in Paddington, London in 1901.

 

[3] JAMES BARNETT

James Barnett took over the Crown Tavern and Common Lodging House from Caroline Lucy Rabbit circa 1880. James had been born 1846 in Cork, Ireland and was still in Ireland up to at least 1851. The 1861 census, taken at 3 Isabella Place in Putney, Surrey, gave William Barrett (his father) as a labourer born 1821 in Cork, Ireland. With him was his wife Anne, born 1821 in Cork and their two sons John, born 1849 in Cork and James born 1846 in Cork. The 1881 census, taken at 53 Varney Street Crown Tavern and Common Lodging House gave James and a laundress and twenty four lodgers there, most of whom were hawkers and dealers. James had been married but his wife had passed away by that time and he appears not to have had any children. The 1891 census, taken at the same place gave John as widowed and working as a beerhouse and lodging house keeper. With him were 14 lodgers. He was still running this establishment at the time of the 1901 census. Probate records gave James Barrett of the Crown Tavern on Varney Street when he died March 26, 1905. The executor of his 985 pound estate was Julia Lynch, widow.

 

[4] ALBERT JOHN SKINNER

Albert took over The Crown pub and lodging house upon the death of James Barrett in 1905. Albert was born in the first qtr of 1884 at Canterbury, Kent. He was baptised November 2, 1884 at Canterbury and was one of several children born to John Skinner (1837-1898) and Esther Skinner, nee Failkner (1842-1910). In 1885 Albert was living in Canterbury. The 1891 census, taken at 20 King Street (The Farriers Arms) at St Alphage, Kent, gave John Skinner as the licensed victualler. With him was his wife Esther; three of their children including Albert; one niece and 31 boarders. In 1908 Albert married Ellen M. Leoney, the daughter of James and Sarah E. Leoney. She was living with her parents at 11 Balmoral Street in Ash, Surrey at the time of the 1901 census, and at that time Ellen was working as a drapers apprentice. She had been born 1891 in Oxfordshire. Her father was a railway guard. The 1911 census, taken at 53 Varney Street gave Albert as a publican and lodging house keeper. With him was his wife Ellen and their only child, Minnie Kathleen Skinner (1897-1993) who had been born in Oxfordshire. Also there ,in premises of 14 rooms, were 22 lodgers. Albert John Skinner was still listed at 53 Varney Street in the 1913 Kelly directory but in that year the Crown Tavern and Common Lodging house was put up for sale and purchased by the Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd who converted the building into a lodging house for women and children, details of which are given in the last section of this article.

 

THE LADY’S LODGING HOUSE

The following information is from the website ‘Inspiring Women’.

Life in pre-First World War Tunbridge Wells was not comfortable for everyone. Those who had to travel from place to place for work were reliant on common lodging houses for their overnight accommodation, as they frequently were unable to pay the 1 shilling per night charge for other types of lodgings. 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 Golding Street and the "Standard" in Little Mount Sion. Three of these provided mixed accommodation which meant shared washing facilities. Young unmarried women were not admitted at all. It was feared that women would often prefer to stay in the casual wards of the workhouses than to face the degradation of mixed lodging houses.

In November 1912, a large gathering of the Tunbridge Wells branch of the National Union of Women Workers assembled to discuss the poor provision of women-only Common Lodging House places. Whilst a relatively small number of women used them, even as few as six a week added up to two thousand a year, and therefore to a significant social problem. The NUWW’s letters to magistrates, together with those from other agencies asking that the premises’ licenses be withheld, had previously fallen on deaf ears.

The following year, the Crown’s owners put the building up for sale. The house accommodated 28 people in 8 bedrooms, with a bar and a small kitchen for lodgers who paid between 6d and 10d a night. The aim of the NUWW was to purchase the house and re-open it as a Common Lodging house for women and children only.

The purchase price of 1,600 was raised through the sale of 1 shares, and Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd was formed. The premises were renovated, cleaned, and transformed into the Crown Lodging House for Women and Children which was opened in a ceremony performed by the Mayoress in July 1913. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Mr. E. Brotherton, one of the directors of Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd, paid tribute to Amelia Scott who, he said 'had worked so hard in the matter'.”

The Women’s Library has in their collection the ‘Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses By-laws (1870).

The Kent & Sussex Courier of July 25, 1913 gave the following account pertaining to this building under the heading “The Old Crown Tavern in Varney Street is now transformed, almost out of recognition”.

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society newsletter of Autumn 2003 contained an article entitled ‘Low Life in Victorian Times’ which in part stated “In the 1860’s -1880’s the areas of town to avoid, if you belonged to polite society, were Golding Street, Varney Street, Bassinghall Lane, Ely Lane, Goods Station Road and that part of St John’s Road known as the ‘Lew’. Much of this area has disappeared beneath the Royal Victoria Place. Beerhouses were two in a penny in some parts of town. On Varney Street there were two, the "Crown" at 53 Varney Street and the "Alma" at 7 Varney Street with fights and foul language being common at both of them. Hardly the place for a women’s lodging house it would seem. The Salvation Army Citadel was also on Varney Street and no doubt they were busy saving souls given the rough types living in the area.

 

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, Monday 8 January 1872.

Assault by a blind musician.

William Joseph LeMirt, a blind musician, was charged with committing a murderous assaults on Catherine Betts, a woman who walked with a crutch, at the "Crown Tavern," on the night of 24th December.

Catherine Betts deposed that she was the wife of Robert Betts, and lodged at the "Crown Tavern." On Sunday, 24th December, she was at the "Crown Tavern." Prisoner and his wife were fighting and the woman was much hurt and covered with blood.

Prosecutrix washed the woman's face and fed the child they had with them. Both prisoner and his wife then left the house, but shortly afterwards the woman returned, and challenged prosecutrix to fight. On her refusing the encounter, the woman assaulted her, and tore her bonnet of her head. Mrs. Rabbitt parted them, and prosecutrix went to bed. Sometime afterwards the prisoner returned and behaved in a very violent manner, running about like a mad man. The little girl who was with prisoner told him that prosecutrix was in bed, when he went up to her, struck her with a stick, and after that she did not know what happened. For two days she could see nothing, her eyes having been injured, and during that time she was an inmate of the infirmary. Caroline Rabbitt corroborated the above evidence. Mr. Rix, surgeon, who attended the woman on the 26th, said he found the woman very much bruised, and both eyes swollen.....

(Rest missing from paper.)

 

From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 24 August 1874.

Tunbridge Wells Petty Sessions. Brutal Assault on a Woman.

Jacob Styles, a labourer, was charged on a warrant with assaulting Caroline Rabbitt, at the "Crown Tavern," on the 9th of the 16th inst.

The complainant said that her husband kept the "Crown Tavern" beer house, Varney Street, and on the evening of Sunday the 16th inst., the defendant went to the house and called for a pint of beer. He asked for a bed, and was told that he could have half a bed, for which he paid. He (defendant) took his beer and went into the tap room and sat down. Shortly afterwards he asked to be shown to his bed, and she (complainant) replied that it should be shown to him in a few minutes by her. Without anything further taking place, defendant forced his way into the bar and struck her on my head and face, causing a wound on the head which bleed all night. She had been ill with rheumatic fever for the last 4 months, and for that reason was not able to show him up to his room. Defendant about 5 years ago obtained 5s. from her by false pretences, and she had not seen him from that time until the evening when he committed the assault, and then she did not recognise him until after the assault.

In reply to questions put by the defendant in cross-examination, complainant said that she did not say to him when he asked for his candle to go to bed, "Go into the kitchen and buy some more beer." She did not tell him that if he did not like that he could have his money back. She did not threaten to split his skull or to lay hands on him.

A witness name Sarah Manwell, gave corroborative testimony, and denied that either Mr. or Mrs. Rabbitt struck the defendant or pulled his whiskers.

Defendant said that Mrs. Rabbitt refused either to light him to bed or to give him his money back, and then the row and a scuffle commenced.

Superintendent Embery produced a list of convictions against the defendant for assaults committed in the Mark Cross Petty Sessional Districts. Defending absconded directly the warrant was issued, and was apprehended at Mayfield.

The Chairman, in delivering the decision of the Bench, said:- This was a brutal and unprovoked assault on a woman, and there was not the slightest excuse whatever for it. It appeared to be not the first time that you have been charged with brutal assault, and we intend to teach you, and rough fellows like you, a lesson. We send you for one month to Maidstone gaol, with hard labour. 

 

LICENSEE LIST

Last pub licensee had CARD Thomas 1873+ Next pub licensee had Kent and Sussex Courier

RABBIT George 1875+

RABBIT Caroline Lucy Mrs 1876-77+

BARRETT James 1879-1905+ (age 32 in 1881Census) Post Office Directory 1891Post Office Directory 1903

SKINNER Albert John 1906-13+ Post Office Directory 1913

Tunbridge Wells Common Lodging Houses Ltd 1913+

http://pubshistory.com/CrownTavern.shtml

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

 

Kent and Sussex CourierKent and Sussex Courier

CensusCensus

Post Office Directory 1891From the Post Office Directory 1891

Post Office Directory 1903From the Post Office Directory 1903

Post Office Directory 1913From the Post Office Directory 1913

 

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

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