Sort file:- Tunbridge Wells, March, 2022.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 06 March, 2022.


Earliest 1851-

Harp Hotel

June 1981

79 (70) St Johns Road

Royal Tunbridge Wells

Harp Hotel

Above postcard, date unknown, kindly sent by Ed Gilbert.

Former Harp Hotel 2016

Above photo, 2009, kindly sent by Ed Gilbert.

Former Harp Hotel 2016

Above photo, 2010, kindly sent by Ed Gilbert.

Harp card 1955Harp Card 1955

Above card issued April 1955. Sign series 5 number 24


I believe the pub closed in 1977 and as in 2018 was operating as the Victoria Stone fireplace shop.


Sussex Advertiser 27 July 1858.


An accident of a rather serious character occurred to Mr. Goodwin, brother-in-law to Mr. Walker, of the "Harp Inn," on Tuesday last. It appears that he was over-looking and assisting some men at work on the Lew, when some horses ran out of the field into an adjoining one. Mr. Goodwin ran after them with a pitch fork, which he held by the prongs, to drive them back. In running he unfortunately let the fork drop, and the consequence was that the prongs entered his left side just below the heart. On medical examination the wound was found not to be fatal as it was first feared, and the unfortunate man is now recovering as well as can be expected.


Maidstone Telegraph, Rochester and Chatham Gazette, Saturday 1 December 1860.

Tunbridge Wells. A dead body found in a field.

On Tuesday an inquest was held at the "Harp Inn," by J. M. Dudlow, Esq. coroner, upon the body of David Pike, a labouring man, aged 57, who was found dead in a meadow belonging to Mrs. Kelsey, the Lew, on the previous morning.

The person who found him was John Waters, a labourer employed in the Garden of Mrs. Fisher, great Calverden. He saw the deceased lying on his face, his arms drawn under him. There was no evidence of violence, nor were there any footsteps except those of the deceased himself. He lived near the place where he was found, and appeared to have been going home. He was a man addicted to drinking, and suspected of poaching and constantly watched by the police.

The Widow of the deceased said he left his house a little after 5 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, and that was the last time she saw him alive. He was then sober.

Mr. Sopwith, surgeon, who was sent for on the discovery of the body, said the deceased had been dead about 4 hours when he examined him. He appears to have laid down in a state of illness, and died in a fit of apoplexy.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the surgeon's evidence.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 14 November, 1873.


Yesterday (Thursday) morning, J. N. Dudlow, Esq., one of the Coroners for Kent, held an inquest at the "Harp Hotel," St. John’s, Tunbridge Wells, on the body of Stephen Card, a fly proprietor, of 50, Standen-street, Tunbridge Wells, whose death took place under the circumstances detailed in evidence. Mr. Pollard was elected foreman of the jury.

The jury having been sworn, and the body (which was lying at the "Harp") viewed, the following evidence was taken:—

Robert Sayers deposed: I live at Tunbridge Wells, and am a brewer, in the employ of Messrs. Kelsey. The deceased has lodged with me for a little better than two years and a half. He has been of late driving a cab on his own account. Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, at five o’clock, Mrs. Card called me, saying that she could not find her husband, who had been missing for some time. Mrs. Card has not been able to get out of doors for some time. I went to look for him, and on going out of the back door, found the well-lid open, and the bucket, which was three-parts fall of water, at the further corner of the well. I had a lamp with me, and in holding it over the well, I saw the deceased at the bottom, lying sideways, on the top of the water. He seemed to be quite dead, and there was not a bubble on the water. I went for assistance, but just as they were getting a rope round the body I was obliged to go about my occupation. The well is 40 feet deep, and there was 5 1/2 feet of water in it at the time. Deceased has been rather low and melancholy of late, and Mr Peete, his medical man, said that the more company he had the better. A person called on him on Tuesday night about money affairs, and that appeared to upset him. I have never heard him threaten to destroy himself, and I never knew him quarrel with anyone.

By a juryman: As far as I could see the body was lying on its side in the water.

James Crouch deposed: I am a stationary engine driver, and live at Tunbridge Wells. I have known deceased since March last. Deceased lived next door to me. On Tuesday night between half past nine and ten o’clock, I drew some water from the well, after which I shut the lid down and placed the bucket, which was about half full of water, on it. I left it quite secure, and I have reason to believe that no one else drew water after me that night. The bucket when half filled with water would weigh about half-a-hundred weight. I was with deceased on Sunday morning, when he complained that his head was very bad.

By the Coroner: I do not know anything about a person calling on deceased on Tuesday night for money.

William Carrett, a gardener, deposed: On Wednesday morning I heard that Card was in the well, and Sergt. Spittles came and fetched me and my father, who is a well digger. On going down the well I found deceased with his head and legs downwards, and it looked to me as if he had doubled himself up, and gone down head foremost. He was quite dead. Deceased had on a shirt, neck tie, and one sock, and the other sock was floating on the top of the water. It was a 3ft 6in bore well. I do not think that he got down by accident.

By the Coroner: His feet were at the bottom of the water, and I could not see anything of him but a portion of his neck and back. I did not know anything of deceased.

Ephraim Card, fly driver, deposed: Deceased was my brother and was a fly driver. I last saw him alive on Monday morning, when he was ill in bed, and I took him a little brandy. He said he was very bad, but thought he was a little better. He had been attended for about a month by Mr Peete. He had been very low and melancholy, but I do not know whether he had anything on his mind. His wife had been ill for a long time, and is unable to attend here. He was in difficulties I believe, but I cannot say whether that preyed on his mind.

By a Juryman: He had property I believe.

The Coroner: As the wife is in a delicate state of health, and as it might be dangerous for her to attend here, we may, I think dispense with her presence.

The jury acquiesced in this suggestion.

Mr W. H. Rix, surgeon, deposed: Yesterday morning I received information that a man named Stephen Card, had been taken out of a well in Standen-street, and I proceeded to the place. The body had been taken to the "Harp," and I came in here and examined the body. Deceased was quite dead, and the body was cold but not stiff. Death had resulted from drowning. From the evidence and what I have heard outside, I have no doubt that the deceased was disturbed in mind at the time of the commission of the act. One wrist was bound up with a coloured handkerchief, there being a slight wound, occasioned probably the day before, and the knuckles of the other hand were bruised.

The Coroner briefly reviewed the evidence, and said there could be no doubt as to the fact that deceased threw himself into the well, and so caused his own death. If they were agreed on that point, they would next have to decide as to his state of mind at the time of the occurrence, and the evidence went to show that he was in difficulties, and that his mind was disturbed.

The jury after a few moments consultation, returned the following verdict: "That the deceased drowned himself, being at the time of unsound mind."


From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 8 May 1874.

Extraordinary Suicide.

At the "Harp Hotel," yesterday (Thursday) morning, at 10 o'clock, Mr. J. N. Dudlow, one of the coroner's for Kent, held an inquest on the body of George Hayward, an old man who was found dead with his throat cut, at his house, at St. John's on the previous proceeding Monday morning.

Mr. Lee was appointed foreman of the jury.

The body having been viewed, the following evidence was taken.

William Hayward deposed:- I am a porter, and the deceased was my father. He was a sawyer, and was 52 years of age. On Monday morning last, at about 20 minutes to 5 o'clock, I found him on the sofa downstairs with his throat cut. There was a razor lying by the side of him, and he was quite dead. He had not done any work for the last 10 years, and had been ill on and off during that time. The illness has affected his head; he was very strange at times, and it has affected his mind.

By a juryman:- I fastened the front door the night before. He went to bed the night before with my mother, and they were then good friends. He had not had words with anybody the day before.

Mary Hayward deposed:- Deceased was my husband. He was 52 years of age, and a sawyer. He had been ill for a long time, and has not done any work for 9 years past. He slept with me. About 2 o'clock on Monday morning he went to bed, and I awoke at about half-past four when I found he was gone. I looked about the room but could not see him, and I then went to the boys' room with my son William went down stairs and called out that his father was dead. I rushed downstairs, and found him on the sofa. He did not seem to have struggled in the least. I saw the blood, but could not remain to see whether his throat was cut, as I was so frightened. Mr. Satchell has attended him, and a good doctor he has been to him. Deceased has been much worse since Christmas, and has wandered in his mind a great deal.

Mr. W. C. Satchell deposed:- I am a surgeon living at Tunbridge Wells, and have attended the deceased for many years - more particularly during the last two years. On Monday morning, shortly before 5 o'clock, I was called to attend the deceased, when I found him sitting on the sofa, in exactly the same position as when I last saw him, 3 or 4 days before. He was quite dead, and there was a deep wound in his throat, which had evidently been inflicted by the man with his right hand. There was a razor on the sofa by his side, and a great deal of blood. It was, I should say, his own act. There were no signs of struggling. He had suffered from general rheumatism and pains in his head, and a result of an unfortunate accident to his left leg had much increased his sufferings. Extreme obesity and also aggravated his case. He complained greatly of pains in his head, and on one occasion he told me that unless I could give him relief he should go crazy. I then talked to him, and told him to try to bear the pain, and I would do all I could to prevent him from going crazy. His wife nursed him during the whole of his illness, and I wonder how the poor man bore it all. From my knowledge of the case, and from the evidence I have heard, I have no doubt, in my own mind, that the deceased committed suicide while in an unsound state of mind. At the same time I may say I did not observe anything in the man's behaviour to warrant me in having him put under restraint.

The jury, without any hesitation, returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased committed suicide while in an unsound state of mind.


From the Kent and Sussex Courier. 2 April 1886.


Temporary authority was granted to Mrs. J. T. Elliott, to carry on the license of the "Harp Hotel," in the place of Mrs. Gaston.




Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Date: October 21, 2016.

The Harp Hotel was located in a very fine looking Victorian style building on the north-west corner of St John’s Road and Culverden Down, at 79 St John’s Road, although records prior to 1882 record it at 70 St John’s Road, an address the researcher disputes.

The history of this site as a public house dates back to at least 1839 when a different building occupied it, which was the premises of the ‘Harp Inn”. The old Harp Inn building was demolished in the 1870’s to make way for the impressive building that still exists on the site today.

Compared to other hotels in the town The Harp Hotel was small, consisting on the main floor of a pub and dining facilities and a washroom and on the second floor about six rooms for guests.

Since it was located just up the road from Kelsey’s Culverden Brewery, and it is known that Kelsey’s beverages were served extensively in pubs within a mile of the brewery, it is expected, but not confirmed that when the hotel first opened in the 1870’s that it served beverages from this brewery. In 1895 and for many years later it was a pub owned by Frederick Leney & Sons Ltd of the Phoenix Brewery in Wateringbury, who’s sign can be seen on the photo of the The Harp Hotel top postcard. In the early to mid 20th century is was owned by the Whitbread Brewery, who’s name appears on a sign of The Harp Hotel in 1951.

Over the years The Harp Hotel has been operated by many licensed victuallers, details of which are presented in this article. Planning Authority records show that in June 1981 approval was given for a change in use from a public house to a retail showroom with ancilliary offices. As a result the Harp was closed and the building converted to this use.

In recent times the building has been known as “Victoria House”, the business premises of a company called “Victoria Stone” who sell Victorian style fireplaces and stoves. In 1982 Planning Approval was given for a new shop front and in 1994 approval was given for conversion of part of the ground floor and 1st floor offices into two flats. In 2008 approval was given for rearrangement of the existing 5 residential units in ground floor and in the single sty extension to the rear and in 2014 conversion of two bed sits from one flat was approved. From at least 2008 onwards the building has been owned by Bill Burnett.

This article reports on the design and location of the building and its history as a hotel with an emphasis on the period from the 1870’s, when it began, up to the WW II era. A number of images of the building and related views are presented as well as information about the occupancy history of the building.

DESIGN AND LOCATION (insert ’68 and 70 St Johns Road’)

The 1881 census gave the location of The Harp Hotel as 70 St John’s Road but all records after that date gave it at 79 St John’s Road. It is believed, but not confirmed by the researcher that the address of No. 70 was in error and should have been given as No. 79. Some evidence to support this assertion is that since 1862 a pub has been in operation at 66 St Johns Road, which began that year as the "Red Lion," later to be known as the "Lava Bar" and later still "Spanner in the Works" and today as St John’s Yard. Details of this pub are given in my article ‘The Red Lion Public House on St John’s Road’ dated September 30, 2014. Next door to (north of) No. 66 is today an old unimpressive brick building (No. 68 and 70) and next to it at No. 72 is the Byng Hall. It is implausible that a pub would be located at No. 66 with another pub (The Harp Hotel) located in the building next door. Today, or at least until recently No. 68 and 70 were the premises of a business by the name of ‘Blean’. A photo of this building and the pub St John’s Yard to the right of it is shown opposite. It is also worth noting that No. 79 St John’s Road, the former site of The Harp Hotel is located directly across the street from the Byng Hall.

(insert scan of highlighted 1907 os map)

Another noteworthy building in the vicinity of The Harp Hotel, which has been there since The Harp opened is the building recently occupied by the Tunbridge Wells Martial Arts Centre, which began as the Mission Hall and later used as a Methodist Chapel. Details about the history of this building were given in my article ‘The Mission Hall on St John’s Road’ dated February 1, 2016. Its location is shown with a blue arrow on the 1907 os map given opposite, on which by way of a red arrow is also shown the location of The Harp Hotel at No. 79 St John’s Road. On this same map in green is marked the location of the St John’s Yard pub at No. 66.

(insert 1849 map’)

Shown opposite is the Gisborn map of 1849 which shows the existence of the “Harp Inn” on the site of what later became that of The Harp Hotel. The building on the site at that time was later demolished to make way for the building on the site now. It is obvious however that the name of The Harp Hotel has its roots in the name of its predecessor, the Harp Inn. A map of 1839 does not show the area occupied by The Harp Inn, but directories note its existence at that time.

(insert scan of 1868 map)

Shown opposite is a map dated 1868, and once again the location of the “Harp Inn” is shown, its footprint being identical to that on the 1849 map. The same information is shown on a map of 1872, but a map of 1899 shows that the old Harp Inn Building had been replaced by that time by a new building on the site, which on the 1899 map is labelled as a public house.

(insert ‘1884 map’)

Shown opposite is a map of 1884 which shows the Harp Inn building as it appears on earlier maps, although by 1881 the premises were named The Harp Hotel.

Who designed the new building; who built it, and in what year it was built was not established, but a best estimate is that it dates from the 1880’s, sometime after 1884 and before 1899.

The best description of this two sty brick building is that given by the photo of it in the ‘Overview’ taken no sooner than 1895, for in that year F. Leney & Sons was incorporated and it is the sign of the incorporated company that appears on the pub.

Shown below are two other photos of the building, taken in 2009 and 2010, when it was the premises of ‘Victoria Stone’ , a company that sold Victorian style fireplaces and stoves. Note the sign over the front door with the name ‘Victoria House’ which appears in the same position as the former Harp Hotel Sign. Also note that some of the original windows of the pub have been closed in and that the brick on the building has been repainted a number of times. By comparing the photo from 1895 to these images one can also see remnants of the old pub sign on the wall facing St John’s Road and the bracket that used to have the pub sign hanging from it. Although the entire building has architectural merit, perhaps its most striking feature is the copper roofed turret above the front door.

As noted in the overview The Harp Hotel was small, in comparison to other hotels in the town, consisting on the main floor of a pub and dining facilities and a washroom ,and on the second floor about six rooms for guests.

In terms of recent history available online records from 1981 give some insight into changes in use. In June 1981 approval was granted by the Planning Authority to convert the Harp Hotel into a showroom with ancillary offices. This application resulted in the final closure of The Harp Hotel. In 1982 approval was granted for a new shop front. This change can be seen by comparing the old and recent photos of the building presented in this article. In 1983 approval was given for ‘roof over yard”. In 1994 a retrospective application was given for conversion of the ground floor store and first floor offices into two flats at the rear of 79 St Johns Road. The applicant was W. B. Victoria Stone Ltd. In 2008 approval was given for a retrospective application by Bill Barnett for rearrangement of the existing five residential units on the ground floor and single sty extension. Shown below is an architect’s plan for this application which shows the existing floor plans and elevations of the building.

(insert scan of 2008 plan)

In 2014 approval was granted to Bill Barnett regarding a retrospective application to the creation of two bed sits from one flat which was in the first floor part of the building. A report stated that “this property had been operating as two bed sits since 2013 and that the application pertained to that part of the building in a rear extension to the Harp Hotel that was made many years ago”.


There is not information to confirm that The Harp Hotel operated as a Free House, and appears to have been owned by various breweries over its long history, namely Kelsey’s Culverden Brewery, followed by the Phoenix Brewery (Leney & Sons Ltd) and lastly by Whitbread in the mid 20th century. During that time a number of licensed victuallers have run the pub/hotel, details of all “known” operators, which are given below the summary table is presented here.

All information given in this table is based on a review of local directories, census records, and other accounts. All dates are approximate unless otherwise stated and this list may not be complete. The list has been compiled to include its occupancy as the Harp Inn from 1839 onwards, but references variously as The Harp Inn and The Harp Hotel appear later. The 1824 Pigots directory gave no listing for the Harp.

See Licensee list at bottom of page.


The 1840 Pigots directory gave the listing under ‘Taverns and Public Houses’- Henry Goodwin “Harp, London Road”. As a point of clarification, London Road and St John’s Road are one and the same roads. Early references to the road give it as London Road and later this section of the road, where the Harp was located, became known as St John’s Road. No listing for Mr Goodwin was found in the 1858 Melville Directory but his wife” Mrs Goodwin” was listed as running a lodging house at Calverley Promenade. Henry was gone from the premises by 1847, when by then John Pace took over.

As you will read under the heading “John Rivett Walker’ Henry Goodwin was his brother in law and Henry suffered a bad injury in 1858 while chasing some cows with a pitch fork.

Henry had been born in Speldhurst in 1829. He was baptised there March 29,1829 and given as the son of Henry Goodwin and Mary Goodwin, nee Camfield.

The 1851 census, taken at the “Harp Inn, London Road” gave the innkeeper as John Rivett Walker. With him was his wife Mary and four of his children and also his brother in law Henry Goodwin, a bricklayer, given as born 1830 in Speldhurst.

On September 19,1853 Henry married Mary Ann Fraser in Tunbridge Wells and with her went on to have at least 9 children born from 1856 onwards in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1861 census, taken at 3 Goodwin Cottages on London Road gave Henry as a bricklayer. With him was his wife Mary Ann and four children. No 3 Goodwin Cottages, named after him, was one of three cottages (1,2,3) by the same name located side by side.

The 1871 census, taken at Mayfield Cottage on Albion Road gave Henry as a bricklayer. With him was his wife Mary Ann and seven of his children.

The 1881 census taken at 17 Culverden Square, Tunbridge Wells, gave Henry as a bricklayer. With him was his wife Mary Ann and eight of their children.

Henry continued to live in Tunbridge Wells, working as a bricklayer until he retired. He died in Tunbridge Wells March 7,1916.


The only listing for John Pace at the Harp Inn was that of 1847. By 1851 John Rivett Walker had taken over the premises. No record of him was found in Tunbridge Wells in the 1840 Pigots directory.

John was a man with a variety of occupations as noted in the census records below.

John Pace was baptised as John Alliss Pace March 29,1818 at Speldhurst, the son of Joseph and Ann Pace. He was one of several children in the family.

The 1841 census, taken at London Road gave John as a carpenter, With him was his wife Sarah, who had been born 1823 in Tunbridge Wells and their daughter Mary, born 1840.

The 1851 census, taken at 7 Edgers Cottage on the High Street near the High Street Bridge, gave John Alliss Pace as a carpenter. With him was his wife Sarah and daughter Mary and one servant.

The 1861 census, taken at Hertford Lodge in Tunbridge Wells gave John as a photographer. With him was his wife Sarah and son John, plus a number of servants.

The 1871 census, taken at 9 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells gave John as a carpenter, With him was his wife Sarah; his son John and one granddaughter.

The 1881 census, taken at 3 St John’s Road gave John as a builder. With him was his wife Sarah and three of his children.

The 1891 census, taken at 53 Queens Road, Brighton, Sussex (the Feathers Hotel) gave John as the hotel proprietor. With him was his wife Sarah, one granddaughter and one servant.

The 1901 census, taken at 3 North Quadrant, Brighton, Sussex gave John as an ironmongers clerk. With him was his wife Sarah and three children.

Probate records gave John Alliss Pace of 15 Surrey Street, Brighton, Sussex when he died July 22,1901. The executor of his 1,073 pound estate was John Pace, the son, a licensed victualler, and Mary Dyer, daughter and wife of Clifford Dyer.


Records show that John was the licensed victaller at the time of the 1851 census and was still there in a 1855 directory. No listing for him was found in the 1858 Melville directory and the census record of 1861 confirms he was gone by then. The account below confirms he was there in 1858.

The website ‘Dover Kent Archives’ gave the following. “Tunbridge Wells Intelligencer Accident (Sussex Advertiser July 27,1858) “An accident of a rather serious character occurred to Mr Goodwin, brother in law to Mr Walker, of the Harp Inn, on Tuesday last. It appears that he was over-looking and assisting some men at work on the Lew (an area of St John’s), when some horses ran out of the field into an adjoining one. Mr Goodwin ran after them with a pitch fork, which he held by the prongs, to drive them back. In running he unfortunately let the fork drop, and the consequence was that the prongs entered his left side just below the heart. On medical examination the wound was found not to be fatal as it was first feared, and the unfortunate man is now recovering as well as can be expected.

John Rivett Walker was born about 1808 at Woolaston, Northamptonshire and spent his early years there. In 1833 he wed Mary, born 1828 at Speldhurst. A review of birth records of his children show that he and his wife and daughter Ann, born 1834 at Willington, had taken up residence in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1851 census, taken at the “Harp Inn, London Road” gave John as an innkeeper. With him was his wife Mary, age 23 and the following children (1) Ann, age 17 (2) Rosina, age 4, born 1847 Tunbridge Wells (3) John, age 3, born 1848 Tunbridge Wells (4) Mary, age 1, born 1850 Tunbridge Wells. Also there was his brother in law Henry Goodwin, age 21, born 1830 in Speldhurst, a bricklayer. Also there were four people living in rooms at the Hart Inn.

The 1861 census, taken at Regent Villa on London Road, Tunbridge Wells gave John as a bricklayer and builder employing 30 men and several boys. With him was his wife Mary, age 34; nine of his children, eight of which were born in Tunbridge Wells between 1849 (John) and 1861 (Rivett). Also there was one house servant. Based on the order in which the census was taken Regent Villa was the second premises listed in the census past the Harp Inn.

The 1871 census, taken on London Road, Tunbridge Wells gave John as a master builder. With him was his wife Mary and eight of his children plus one servant. The birth dates of these children range from 1849 to 1866, and based on a review of the records he and his wife had a total of 13 children. In this census his son John, age 22, was a carpenter. His son Henry, age 19 was a bank clerk. His son William, age 18 was a bricklayer and the rest of the children were attending school.

Probate records gave John Rivett Walker late of Tunbridge Wells, builder, who died December 22,1873 in Tunbridge Wells. The executors of his under 3,000 pound estate was his widow Mary Rivett Walker and John Alliss Pace, carpenter, both of Tunbridge Wells.


William was listed at the premises in the 1861 census but gone by 1862.

William had been born 1827 at Ardingley, Sussex, one of nine children born to Richard Comber (1794-1879) and Sarah Comber, nee Box (1792-1872). William lived at Ardingley up to at least 1838.

The 1861 census, taken at the “Harp Inn” gave William as an innkeeper. With him was his wife Harriet, born 1836 at Chailey, Sussex, and his 11 month old daughter Caroline who had been born 1860 at Penshurst, Kent. Also there was one house servant.

His whereabout in subsequent years is unclear but he appears in the 1891 census at Wiversfield, Sussex as a master brewer on his own with the William Baldock family as a lodger. He was identified as a widower. He appears to have passed away by the time of the 1901 census in Sussex.


Thomas is given at the premises in the 1862 post office directory but was gone by 1871.

Thomas Street was born 1817 at Wargrave, Berskshire and came from an agricultural background. He had married Hannah, born 1818 at Wargrave by 1847 and between 1848 and 1860 had six children. A review of the birth records of the children show that their son James was born in Tonbridge in 1848 and son Frederick born in the same place in 1851. From 1853 to 1860 he had another four children who were all born in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1861 census, taken at “Liptraps” in Tunbridge Wells gave Thomas as an agricultural worker. With him was his wife Hannah and six of his children. Liptraps was either Liptraps Farm located in what later became the Liptraps residential development, south east of the SER line near High Brooms off Sandhurst Road.

Thomas left farming to become the licensed victualler of the Harp by 1862 but appears to have remained there for only a short time.

The 1871 census, taken at the Great Lodge, in the Liptraps farm area, gave Thomas Street as an agricultural labourer. With him was his wife Hannah and two children.

Definitive information about his life after 1871 are lacking.


Mrs Sarah Grace Gaston, the mother of Robert Gaston was listed at the licensed victualler in a directory of 1874. Her husband James Gaston was listed there in 1873. The 1881 census and 1882 Kelly directory gave her son Robert as operating the business. They were gone from the premises by 1891.

The 1851 census, taken at High Street in Epson gave James Gaston, as a whitesmith, born 1819 in Sutton. With him was his wife Sarah Grace, given as born 1826 at Kingston, Surrey and their two sons James (b1847) and Robert (b1849), both born at Epsom. Also there was one servant. Sarah Grace Gaston had been born as Sarah Grace Porter who had four children between 1847 and 1867. Sarah Grace Porter was born December 30,1824 and was one of ten children born to Robert Porter (1796-1846) and Ann Porter, nee Goodall (1795-1870).

Baptism records for Robert Gaston gave him born March 9,1849 at Epsom and baptised July 25,1852 at All Saints, Kingston. His parents were given as James and Sarah Grace Gaston.

The 1861 census, taken at the Kings Head put on the High Street in Epsom, Surrey gave James Gawston as the publican. With him was his wife Sarah, who was assisting in the business, and their children James and Robert and one servant. It was in this atmosphere that Robert Gaston became interested in the beverage trade.

On June 21,1873 Robert Gaston married Ellen Salmon at St Matthew, St Pancras, London. Robert at that time was a clerk. Marriage records show that James Gaston was a licensed victualler (deceased) and Ellen’s father Herbert was a traveller (deceased). Local records of 1873 show that James Gaston and his family were living in Tunbridge Wells and in that year he was the licensed victualler of the Harp Inn.

When James Gaston passed away his wife Sarah Grace Gaston took over the license and was assisted by her son Robert at the Hart Inn.

The 1881 census, taken at the “Harp Hotel, 70 St John’s Road” gave Robert Gaston as the head of the family. With him was his wife Ellen, born 1846 at Soho, Middlesex, and one servant.

The 1881 census, taken at 21 Queens Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave Sarah Jane Gaston as a widow. With her were her children William, age 19, a clerk, and her daughter Charlotte who was attending school.

Probate records gave Robert Gaston late of the Harp Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, licensed victualler, when he died there February 26,1886. The executor of his 391 pound estate was his widow Ellen Gaston of The Harp Hotel.

After the death of Robert, his mother ran the Harp Hotel, although as noted below Mrs J. T. Elliott temporarily took over her license.

The 1891 census, taken at 24 John Street, Tunbridge Wells gave Sarah Grace Gaston as a “retired publican”. With her was her 23 year old daughter Charlotte, a milliner.

The 1901 census, taken at 32 North Farm Road, High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells, gave Sarah Grace Gaston living with the Charles Norton family where she was living on own means. She was given in the census as Charles Norton’s mother in law. His wife Charlotte was Sarah’s daughter.

Sarah Grace Gaston died in Tunbridge Wells in the first quarter of 1903.


Mrs Elliott is listed there in 1886, the same time as Mrs Sarah Grace Gaston. From the Dover Kent Archives website is was recorded that “Temporary authority was granted to Mrs J. T. Elliott, to carry on the license of the Harp Hotel, in place of Mrs Gaston.


Alfred is listed at the premises in a 1891 post office directory. No record of him in the town at the time of the 1891 census was found and nor was any other definitive information.


Robert is listed at the premises in the 1901 census and 1903 post office directory.

Robert was born March 20,1871 in Tunbridge Wells, one of seven children born to Richard Corke (1827-1917) and Elizabeth Corke, nee Simmons (1836-1896).

Census records of 1871 and 1881 gave Robert living with his parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells. At the time of the 1891 census he was living at St Brides, London.

On April 15,1897 Robert married Sarah Parkham Reeves, the daughter of Robert Reeves. She was born September 19,1878 at Egham, Berkshire. Robert and Sarah went on to have eight children between 1898 and 1915. After the marriage and up to at least 1899 the family lived in Maidstone, Kent, but by 1901 had moved to Tunbridge Wells.

The 1901 census, taken at the Harp, 79 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, gave Robert as the licensed victualler. With him was his wife Sarah and two of their children and two servants.

The 1911 census, taken at 1 Buston Park Road in Brentford gave Rober Simmons Corke as a brewery inspector. With him was his wife Sarah and four of their children.

Probate records gave Robert Simmons Corke of 6 Courtney road, Colliers Wooed, Mitcham, Surrey, when he died January 9,1952 at Surrey County Hospital, Carshalton, Surrey. The executors of his estate were Sidney Montague, farmer, and Sidney Daniel Proctor, labourer.


Robert Reeves is listed in the 1911 census as the licensed victualler of the Harp Hotel at 79 St John’s Road.

Robert was born 1853 at Kemsing, Kent, one of eight children born to Thomas and Mary Reeves. He was baptised March 7,1853 at Kemsing, Kent.

At the time of the 1861 census he was living with his parents (his father was an agricultural worker) along with four siblings and some farm workers. The 1871 census, taken on Church Lane in Seal, Kent recorded Thomas as an agricultural worker with is two sons Robert and Frederick.

In 1874 he married Jane Packham, who was born 1853 in Sevenoaks, Kent.

The 1881 census, taken at 66 High Street, Tunbridge Wells gave Robert as a beerhouse keeper. With him was his wife Jane; their children Maud, age 5 and Jane, age 2, both of whom had been born at Egham, and Elizabeth, age 7 months who had been born at Ashford. Also there were one servant and two lodgers. The 1891 census recorded the family at the same premises with Robert as a beerhouse keeper.

(insert ‘Bridge Hotel’)

The 1901 census, taken at the Bridge Hotel, at 6 Broadway gave Robert as a licensed victualler. With him was his wife Jane; four of their children, two of whom were born in Tunbridge Wells in 1885 and 1887; two visitors and six servants. No. 6 Broadway was located on the east side of Mount Pleasant Road across the street from the SER station. A photo of the Bridge Hotel is shown opposite. Details about the Bridge Hotel and the people who ran it are given in my article ‘The History of the Bridge Hotel – Mount Pleasant Road’ dated January 26, 2014. Robert was listed at the Bridge Hotel in the 1899 and 1901 directories.

The 1911 census, taken at the Harp Hotel 79 St Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells gave Robert as the licensed victualler. With him was his wife Jane, a barmaid and a barman. The census recorded that the premises consisted of five rooms and that they had been married 38 years. Of their 10 children only 6 had survived. What became of Robert after 1911 was not determined.


William is listed at the premises in the Kelly directories of 1913 and 1918. Robert Reeves was there at the time of the 1911 census.

William was born 1876 in Westminster, London, one of several children born to William Robert Smith who at the time of his sons marriage in 1904 was a fruiterer (deceased).

The 1881 census, taken at 9 Stopford Rod, London gave William Smith senior as born 1841 in Paddington and working as a commercial clerk, With him was his wife Jessie, born 1848 at Marylebone, London, and their three children Emily, age 6, William Robertg, age 4 and Annie, an infant.

The 1901 census, taken at 126 Trafalgar Road in London gave Jessie Smith as a 53 year old widow. With her was her son William Robert Smith, age 25, a “cutter paper”; her 25 year old daughter Eliza, a cook domestic, and her 8 year old daughter Annie. Also there was one boarder.

On June 12, 1904 William Robert Smith married Jessie Maud Harmer at St Giles, Clerkenwell, London. Jessie had been born 1881 at Walworth, London and was the daughter of William Harmer, a licensed victualler at the time of her marriage.

The 1911 census, taken at the "Eight Bells Inn" in New Rents, Ashford Road gave William Robert Smith as the licensed victualler. With him was his wife Jessie; three of their children and one domestic servant. The census recorded they were living in premises of 6 rooms and that they had been married in 1904 and had just three children.

As noted above by 1913 and up to his death in 1919 William was the licensed victualler of the Harp Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

Probate records gave William Robert Smith of the Harp Hotel, 79 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, when he died March 11, 1919. The executor of his 1,667 estate was his spinster daughter Elizabeth Jane Smith and Joseph Jones, printer. William was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery on March 14, 1919. No record for the burial of his wife in Tunbridge Wells was found.


Percy is listed at the premises in the 1922 Kelly directory. No definitive information for him was found by the researcher.


Harry is listed at the premises in the 1930, 1934 and 1938 Kelly directories. No definitive information for him was found by the researcher.

PHOENIX BREWERY/ FREDERICK LENEY & SONS LTD (insert ‘High Street’ postcard showing Leney wagon on high street)

Charles Leney first acquired the lease of Wardens Hill Brewery on Bow Road early in 1838, at which time it became known as Phoenix Brewery and the business traded in the name Charles Leney.

In 1847, Charles' younger brother Frederick moved to the village and joined him in the business, which then became known as Messrs Leney, or sometimes Messrs Charles & Frederick Leney.

After 21 years, in 1859, Charles Leney left the business, later leaving the village in 1861. His brother Frederick remained in the village and continued to run the business which simply became known as Frederick Leney.

(insert scan of Leney 1895 advert pg 25 yesterdays bottles)

Around the summer of 1864, Frederick was joined by his eldest son Charles, from which time the firm traded in the name Frederick Leney & Son, then F Leney & Son from the end of 1870. Frederick's second son Augustus joined the firm in about June 1873 when it then became known as Leney & Sons.

Frederick Leney died on 26th May 1881, leaving four sons and four daughters.

It was Frederick's second son Augustus who was the strength behind the expansion of the business, which was finally registered as Frederick Leney & Sons Ltd. in the spring of 1895.

The firm of F. Leney & Sons was described in the following account of 1892 from ‘The Pictorial History of Tunbridge Wells and District. “ Messrs F. Leney & Sons, ‘Phoenix Brewery’, Wateringbury. Local office: 20 London Road, Mr W. H. Downs, Proprietor - The past quarter of a century has witnessed a marked improvement in the manufacture of our popular beverage, and this gratifying result is due to the ability and enterprise displayed by such well known exponents of the trade as Messrs Frederick Leney & Sons. The firm has been in existence some seventy or eighty years, and, under able management, has increased in popularity, until now it occupies a leading position among the best known of its kind in the county. From the seat of operations, Wateringbury, a large and valuable trade is being carried on. The brewery is very extensive-it is appointed throughout with the utmost convenience, its brewery plant being replete with every modern improvement, and is one of the largest and most perfect of its kind in the county. The entire facilities for the extensive carrying on of the trade are of an exceptional character. In connection with the brewing interest has been introduced a patent tap, which, besides being exceedingly novel in its construction, has become very popular and useful to their numerous customers. The tap in its operation absolutely prevents the loss of the contents of the barrel; it is fixed before leaving the brewery, the user only needing to screw on the end portion, insert the key, and the process is completed. The operation takes but a few seconds to carry out, and once fixed it is impossible to remove the key without closing the aperture, and, being made of the best metal and neatly fitted, no leakage ensues as in other taps. In our opinion it is a capital invention, which only requires to be known to be adopted. Mr. W. H. Downs, of the London Road, is the local agent.”

(insert ‘Leney truck’)

By the mid-1920s, there were no members of the Leney family actively associated with the company, and in 1927 Frederick Leney & Sons Ltd. was acquired by London Brewers Whitbread & Co., though the Leney name was retained until about 1960. Their lorries, as shown opposite, could be seen on the streets of Tunbridge Wells in the 1920’s and later.

The beverages produced by this brewery were sold in many pubs in Tunbridge Wells. They also operated a brewery store at 26 London Road from about 1895 to 1928. An advertisement dated 1895 is given above noting this address. The postcard shown above dates from about 1905 and shows a Frederick Leney & Sons delivery wagon at the south end of High Street in Tunbridge Wells on its way to make deliveries to its pubs. The sign on The Harp Hotel given earlier in this article bearing the name of Leney & Sons Ltd dates the photo to 1895 or later.

THE WHITBREAD BREWERY (insert ‘Harp hotel sign’)

This brewery served Free Houses and pubs they owned with beverages produced at their brewery(s). At one time they owned 8,500 public houses, with the Harp Hotel on St John’s Road being one of several in Tunbridge Wells, as noted by “The Harp” sign given opposite, dated 1951, from a book of the same year describing the history of the brewery and its pubs. Given below is an overview of the founding and operation of this business and some another local pub signs bearing the name of Whitbread.

(insert’ Whitbread photo 2,3,4’)

This brewery was founded in London in 1742 by Samuel Whitbread (1720-1796) when he went into partnership with Godfrey and Thomas Shewell and traded initially as Godfrey Shewell and Company.

Godfrey Shewell left the partnership upon his marriage in 1748. Thomas Shewell and Whitbread acquired the Chiswell Street site, known as the King's Head Brewhouse in 1750. Thomas Shewell retired in 1761 when Whitbread bought him out for 30,000.

Additions were made to the Chiswell Street Brewery in 1758 and other expansions of the business continued in subsequent years.

Samuel Whitbread died in 1796 by which time the Brewery was producing 200,000 barrels of beer a year and was described as the best in London and employed around 200 men.

After the death of Samuel Whitbread I the Brewery was run by his son Samuel Whitbread II (1758-1815) and his father's executors until 1799 when a partnership made up of Samuel Whitbread II, Richard Sangster, clerk, Joseph Yallowley, clerk, and Timothy Brown, banker, was formed. The terms of the partnership freed Whitbread from attending personally to any business. They were joined by Joseph Goodman, Jacob Whitbread (Samuel's cousin) and Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, banker in 1800. Timothy Brown left the partnership in 1810 after an accounting dispute.

At the start of the eighteenth century the majority of the Brewery's trade was with free houses with 392 licensed victuallers in London and two hundred spread throughout the rest of the country. Along with these freehouses there were also twenty-nine leaseholds. In 1812 the business amalgamated with that of Martineau and Bland of the Lambeth Brewery, King's Arms Stairs, Lambeth, adding a further 38 leaseholds to the list bringing the total number to 91. The Lambeth Brewery closed down and the stock of beer, horses and the larger part of the machinery and utensils were transferred to the Chiswell Street Brewery. The managing partners at this time were Robert Sangster, Michael Bland, John Martineau and Joseph Martineau. By 1889, when the Company was formed from the partnership, the number of licensed houses controlled and served by the Brewery totalled many hundreds.

After Samuel Whitbread II's death in 1815 (he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor), a new partnership was formed comprising two new partners, William Wilshere and John Farquhar. John Martineau, Joseph Martineau and Michael Bland were the managing partners. William Henry Whitbread (1796-1879), the second son of Samuel Whitbread II, joined the partnership in 1819, along with Samuel Charles Whitbread (1796-1879), his younger brother. Richard Martineau joined the partnership in 1828 as a junior partner and John Cam Hobhouse (later Lord Broughton, son of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse) became a partner in 1831.

John Martineau died in 1834 "being seized with apoplexy {he} had fallen in to the vat" in the Porter Tun Room. The jury returned a verdict of "death by the visitation of God". Charles Shaw Lefevre (MP 1830-57, later Viscount Eversley, son-in-law of Samuel Whitbread II) joined the partnership in 1840. This partnership ran for twenty years. William Whitbread (d 1879), the second son of Samuel Charles Whitbread, and John Martineau became partners in 1860, followed by F Lubbock in 1875, Samuel Whitbread III (1830-1915) in 1879, and W H Whitbread, second son of Samuel Whitbread III, in 1885.

After Viscount Eversley died in July 1889 the business was registered as a limited liability company, Whitbread and Company Limited, with Samuel Whitbread III as chairman. Brewery business had been conducted by partnerships for ninety years, the total number of partners during this period being thirty, seven of whom were members of the Whitbread family.

Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century the Brewery expanded purchasing additional land and buildings on the north side of Chiswell Street. By 1905, at the height of production when the brewery was at its fullest extent, the freehold area of Chiswell Street was over five acres. Production at Chiswell Street rose rapidly again with the success of bottled beer which began in 1868 following a reduction on the duty on glass. By the middle of 1889 the Brewery was producing 336,000 barrels up to nearly 700,000 barrels by mid-1900 with profits equalling 205,000. To meet the demand for bottled beers depots were opened in Lewisham, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Weston Rise, Cardiff, Manchester, Totteham, Newcastle, Poole, Hull, Leicester, Nottingham and Kingston and a new headquarters office was opened at 27 Britannia Street, London, in 1900.

Circumstance and legislation brought in during the Great War saw production limited to 18 million barrels at the start of 1917 and then halved by March to less than a third of pre-war output. By 1918 production had fallen to 400,000 barrels and was only 100,000 barrels higher eighteen years later. Over 1000 Whitbread employees had enlisted in the War and 95 were killed either in action or from wounds sustained.

Following the purchase of the Forest Hill brewery in the early 1920s, Whitbread began experimenting with brewing 'bright' beer where the beer was matured and filtered before bottling to prevent sedimentation. The technique was a success and rolled out to the whole Whitbread brand. In the 1920s Whitbread also introduced the Double Brown which was designed to rival Guinness and was almost a recreation of Whitbread's original porter.

In the mid-1920s Whitbread was experiencing a slump in trade. Sales were down overall by an average of 34%, twice that experienced by the trade as a whole. In response Sydney Nevile, the managing director, decided upon an avid advertising campaign using popular celebrities. He also attempted to widen the range of products available with additions such as cider and to develop exports to the colonies although the latter was not particularly successful. However it was the popularity of Mackeson's milk stout which buoyed sales in the late 1930s and although still a long way off their 1913 peak they were a third higher than in 1932.

Unlike the Great War of 1914-18, general beer production across the country rose rapidly during the Second World War with Whitbread's production up 50% to 914,000 barrels by 1945 - almost beating the 1912 record of 989,000. Despite mass devastation of buildings in the surrounding area due to fire raids, Whitbread's own fire brigade was able to protect the Chiswell premises. Even after the great raid on 29th December 1940, production at the plant restarted after only four days. Between 1939-1945, 565 (90%) of Whitbread's licensed public houses in London were damaged by the Blitz, with 29 completely destroyed and an additional 49 so badly damaged that they had to close.

(insert ‘Whitbread photo 1’) hops in Paddock wood

By 1948, the Company was employing 5,000 people. In addition to Brewery workers, by the 1950s over 5000 people were employed in the cultivation and harvesting of the hop bines that were grown by the Company in Kent. New breweries were built at Luton, in 1969, Samlesbury, Lancashire, in 1972 and Magor, Gwent in 1978. The Chiswell Street Brewery ceased brewing in 1976. In 1989 the Company operated 6 breweries at Castle Eden, Durham; Magor, Gwent; Exchange Brewery, Bridge Street, Sheffield; Court Street, Faversham, Kent; Monson Avenue, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; and Cuerdale Lane, Samlesbury, Preston, Lancashire.

Some residents of the town will remember the Culverden Brewery on St John’s Road, during the time it was run by E & H Kelsey. Details of this brewery were given in my article ‘Early Brewing History and the Culverden Brewery St John’s Road’ dated May 5,2012, in which I noted in part “In 1961 the giant brewing company Whitebread took over the former 'Flowers' Culverden Brewery with Arthur Reginald Kelsey as its chairman. This came to a sudden end however when Arthur passed away in Tunbridge Wells December 9,1962 at the Lonsdale Nursing Home….. By the time Whitehead had taken over the brewery the end for the aging brewery in Tunbridge Wells was near and after the passing of Arthur Kelsey in 1962 the building and brewery were closed down for good and demolished, ending over 100 years of family brewing. The brewery building was replaced with the telephone exchange building.”

During the final decades of the 20th Century, Whitbread seriously invested in the food and lodgings sectors. The Beefeater brand was launched in 1974 and Brewers Fayre followed five years later. Whitbread introduced Pizza Hut and TGI Friday's to Britain in the 1980s and adding continental-style high street brands like Costa, Cafe Rouge and Bella Pasta in the nineties. During that time Whitbread Hotel Company developed from a small number of three and four-star coaching inns and country houses, establishing Travel Inn in 1987 and securing the UK rights to the Marriott brand in 1995.

The Whitbread Beer Company was sold to Belgian brewer Interbrew in May 2000. First Quench (off-licences business) was sold in September 2000 to the Japanese investment bank Nomura (then jointly owned with Punch Group). Whitbread continues as a company with interests in hotels, restaurants and health and fitness clubs.

Inserts mentioned above can be found at the following address from December 2016.



GOODWIN Henry 1839-40+

PACE John 1847+

WALKER John Rivett 1851-58+ (age 41 in 1851Census)

COMBER William 1861+ (age 32 in 1861Census)

STREET Thomas 1862-Feb/64 Sussex Advertiser

SANTER Charles Feb/1864-67+ Sussex Advertiser

GASTON James G 1873-74 Kent and Sussex Courier

GASTON Sarah Grace Mrs 1874+

GASTON Robert 1881-82 (age 32 in 1881Census)

GASTON Mrs to Apr/1886 Kent and Sussex Courier

ELLIOTT J T Mrs Apr/1886+ Kent and Sussex Courier

PLAYFOOT Alfred 1891+

CORKE/COKE Robert Simmons 1901-03+ (age 30 in 1901Census) Kelly's 1903

REEVES Robert 1911+

Last pub licensee had SMITH William Robert 1913-19+

STREETER Percy 1922+

NOKES Harry 1930-38


Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903

Kent and Sussex CourierKent and Sussex Courier


Sussex AdvertiserSussex Advertiser


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