High Brooms – bicycle repairs from the past…

Part of the real interest for me in writing this blog is trying to get a feel of historical High Brooms, how it would have been to live here in decades past whilst is was developing from Gypsy dwellings scattered through the woods of the high weald into area where many more people lived in close proximity to the industries that that they worked in. Many of the older Victorian buildings are still standing but ultimately they are just bricks, the remains or skeleton of a community if you like, but it is the people who have lived and worked here, walked the streets, loved, laughed and cried, the characters, the comedians and the villains that really fascinates me.

I know that many of the families with a long history here are still represented locally and certain names are well known and associated with the area. Previous blog entries have mentioned a few but its always nice when new photos and memories crop up like, this image of J Fermor Bikes from around 1910, kindly shared by Marilyn Laverty.

J Fermor Bikes in Cambrian Road around 1910

J Fermor Bikes in Cambrian Road around 1910 (copyright Marilyn Laverty)

She says “My great grandfather and my grandfather used to have a little business in High Brooms. It was J Fermor Bikes, this was around 1910. They lived at 74 Cambrian Road and my grandfather was on the census 1911 as a cycle engineer. I suspect he worked from home.”

Does anyone out there know any more about the Fermor’s in Cambrian Road and High Brooms, or even have photos and memories of other established local families that they would be happy to share through this blog?

Highbrooms 1909

Highbrooms as it was around the same time in 1909 with housing built on the hills above the clay pits

After I originally wrote this article in early March 2014 I have received the following information from Edward James Gilbert who has become a regular contributor to this blog and adds an excellent insight into the Fermor family history:

J. FERMOR BIKES-HIGH BROOMS

Written By; Edward James Gilbert (member of the Tunbridge Wells Family History Society)

Date: March 31,2014

I read with interest the posting about the bike business of J. Fermor, which prompted me to look further into the history of the family and the business and here are the results.

J. Fermor was James John Fermor, born 4th qtr 1877 at Withyham, Sussex. He was one of three children born to John George Fermor(1849-1931), a sawyer by trade, and Jane Phillips (1860-1936). James had been baptised February 4,1877 at St Michael’s Church in Withyham, Sussex and was the eldest of three sons. The Fermor family had moved to Tunbridge Wells sometime between 1877 and 1881.

The 1881 census records just James and his parents living at Mr Weares Cottage No. 3. The “Mr Weares cottage” referred to will no doubt be one of the many cottages constructed by John Smith Weare (1878-1890), the founder of the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company in 1885, a man who owned several properties in High Brooms and the surrounding area. John Smith Weare had moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1869 taking up residence  initially at Ferndale House at No. 3 Ferndale Road.  At the time of the 1881 census Jame’s father was working as a sawyer .

By the time of the 1891 census, the Fermor’s had taken up residence  at 94 Auckland Road , a short distance from the Grosvenor and Hilbert Recreation Grounds, in what was a small red brick terrace house.James was attending school and living with his parents and two brothers Edward Henry Fermor(1882-1946) and Ernest Sydney Fermor (1886-1942).

In October 1897 James John Fermor married Emily Elizabeth Woodgate in Tunbridge Wells. Emily had been born 1875 in Tunbridge Wells and was one of six children born to Edward and Susanna Woodgate. Before the marriage Emily was employed as a domestic servant . James and Emily took up residence at 59 Tunnel Road  not far from the SER line in an area of small homes.

The 1901 census, taken at 59 Tunnel Road records James John Fermor, a  stationary engine driver. A stationay engine driver today would be called a machine operator. In 1901 the engine was powered by steam and as the name implied was a large immobile engine used to  provide mechanical or electrical power to other machines. Stationary engines would have been used as the Broomhill Brick and Tile Company but also in farming and mining operations and for that matter anywhere else where a device to power machinery was required . Since 59 Tunnel Road was not far from the Baltic Sawmills Plant in the Goods Station Road area, and his father was a sawyer, there is a good possibility that James worked at the Baltic Saw Mills. In this census James was the head of the home and living with him was his wife Emily and  two of their children namely Lilian and Edward. James and Emily had six children in total namely (1) Lilian Beatrice(1898-1987) (2) Edward James (1901-1975) (3) Edward (1901-?) (4) Alice Elsie (1903-1973) (5) Cecil Leonard (1907-1963) and (6) Kenneth Wilfrid (1910-1946). All of the children were born in Tunbridge Wells.

By 1911 the family were on the move again, and in that year they were living at 33 Cambrian Road in Highbrooms. This residence was , like all the others there, constructed of red brick made by the Highbrooms Brick and Tile Company. This was quite a nice home with a pair of small bay windows on the main floor bordering the front door, with two windows on the front of the second floor. The front of the home was separated from the sidewalk  by a low brick wall with an entrance gate.Living at 33 Cambrian Road in 1911 was James John Fermor, an engine fitter; his wife Emily; and their five children, the eldest of which were attending school. The census records that their residence had only four rooms, which is hard to believe as the home looks larger than that.

At the time of the 1911 census, James John Fermor was only age 34 and his eldest son Edward was only 10. Marilyn Laverty suggests that her photo to two men and bikes dates from about 1910 but the eldest man in the photo, which I took to be James, appears much older than age 34, suggesting that the photo must have been taken later. Could the boy in the photo be his son Edward when he was a teenager ? The sign in front of the bikes reads in part “J. Fermor Bikes, below which is “Cycles” and then “Motors”, the rest of the printing is too small to be readable. It would be interesting if Marilyn could take a close look at the original photo and tell us what it says.

I was unable to find out much more about James John Fermor or the rest of his family after the 1911 census. They seem to disappear from directory listings but it is known that most of them remained in Tunbridge Wells. James John Fermor died in Tunbridge Wells in April,1955 and was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery  on April 6th. When and where his wife died has not been determined.

So what happened to his children ? Well Cecil Leonard Fermor married Harriet Brooker in the 3rd qtr of 1930 in Tunbridge Wells; Kenneth Wilfrid Fermor married Rose Brooker (probably the sister of Harriet) in the 3rd qtr of 1938 in Tunbridge Wells; Alice Elsie Fermor married John Mackenzie in Tunbridge Wells in the 4th qtr of 1929 and Lilian Beatrice Fermor married John T. Houghton in 1917. James father was buried in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery on May 28,1931. Cecil Leonard Fermor was buried there also on June 10.1963.Also  in the same cemetery was  Kenneth Wilfrid Fermor on April 1,1946. James eldest son Edward James Fermor was found in a 1922 Kelly directory for Tunbridge Wells as “a Vulcaniser”.

Quite an interesting family . I wish I knew more about them!

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

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High Brooms Boys School – 1958 – 1965

There has recently been quite a few memories posted on the High Brooms Society facebook page looking back at a childhood spent in the High Brooms area and the school gets a regular mention, alarmingly most of these memories seem to involve harsh punishment of one sort or another, as many of us remember schools were far stricter environments back in those days than they are today!

Coincidentally I have also been sent a photo from the school to share by Gary Mewis – this picture is of class 1 back in 1965 with the the redoubtable Miss Stonestreet in charge!

High Brooms School - 1965

High Brooms School – 1965 (photo copyright – Gary Mewis)

Following my original posting about the school Tad Stone has also been in contact to supply me with some further photos of his time at the High Brooms School, as shared below, Tad has also shared a list of the names that he can remember displayed below each photo:

1958/9 with Mrs Mutton and Mr King (Copyright Tad Stone)

1958/9 with Mrs Mutton and Mr King (Copyright – Tad Stone)

From Back row (L- R)
Bob Taylor, Andrew Smart, Stuart McEwan, ?, Earnest Tompkinson, Roger Relf, Leonard Aldridge
Ronald Latter, Terry Coles, Brian Paine, John Whiterod, Bob Jeffrey, Trevor —-, Mike Stone, Mervyn Fermer
Roy Hibbert, Michael Killick, ?, Peter Sandles, David Cushman, Richard Chalklin, Charlie Lindfield, Dudley Hutson, Donald Punyer
Richard Meakin, Raymond Parker, Graham Wickham, ?, Alan Stoner, Vincent Jones, ?, Roy Cheeseman

Teachers  Mrs Mutton and Mr King (Headmaster)

School Choir with Mr Shorter - probably 1960/1 (Copyright Tad Stone)

School Choir with Mr Shorter – probably 1960/1 (Copyright – Tad Stone)

From Back row (L- R)
Mr Shorter, Brian Paine, ?, Peter Sandles, Roger Clarke, ?, ?, ?
?, ?, Andrew Trott, John Whiterod, Like Stone, Andrew Smart, Terry Coles, Bob Taylor
Vincent Jones, Bob Tickner (I think), Bob Jeffrey, Mervyn Fermer, Roger Relf, Bob Everest, Alan Stoner, Raymond Parker, Richard Meakin

He remembers competing in singing competitions against secondary schools

Last year with Mr King - 1962 (Copyright Tad Stone)

Last year with Mr King – 1962 (Copyright – Tad Stone)

From Back row (L- R)
Roy Lockey, Peter Sandles, John Whiterod, Alan Stoner, Michael Killick
Raymond Parker, Richard Meakin, Vincent Jones, Terry Coles, Mike Stone, Ian Brown, Michael —-
Trevor —–, Earnest Tomplinson, Roger Relf, Andrew Smart, Mr King, Mervyn Fermer, Charlie Lindfield, Bob Everest, Richard Chalkin

Are any of you in any of the photos, or do you recognise anyone who is or perhaps you are still in contact or living in the area? Did you attend this school and have memories to share – we would love to know!

A quick scan on Google images also bought up this fantastic photo of the school from the Friends Reunited website taken in 1958.

High Brooms Boys School - 1958 (Friends Reunited)

High Brooms Boys School – 1958 (Friends Reunited)

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Further images from the Demolition of the High Brooms Gas Works

The cranes moved in to start demolishing (or ‘deconstructing’ if you prefer) the final Victorian gas holder on Monday, by Thursday morning they had almost reduced its height by half as they steadily moved around the structure attaching long chains from one crane whilst the workers were suspended in a cage from a second crane using welding gear to cut away large sections which are then lowered to the ground and added to the ever growing pile of scrap metal.

IMG_9713_crop1

This is an image heavy blog entry so would  not recommend viewing it on a mobile device unless you are connected by WiFi.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many thanks also go to Tim Bodiam who has supplied some of the images displayed here in the slideshow (as marked!)

Gasworks_small

Further images can be viewed on the LoveTunbridgeWells.com website at: http://lovetunbridgewells.com/gallery/events/2014-2/gasworks-demolition/

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Watching it come down

Watching it come down

The last of the giants in High Brooms is coming down….

Following on from previous entries about the Victorian gasometers in High Brooms today has seen the arrival of the heavy plant that will be used to dismantle the final giant structure that housed the expansion chamber when it was full of coal gas back in the days when the Tunbridge Wells Gas Company made and supplied gas to light peoples houses.

Gasometer, July 2013

Victorian Gasometer at High Brooms, July 2013

I remember as a child looking at this chamber as it slowly moved up and down within the steel frame but it has not been used for many many years (the gas is stored in the pipe networks these days) and the site has been desolate awaiting redevelopment but still dominating the skyline of the local area.

The Gas Works as they were in 1938

The Gas Works as they were in 1938 (courtesy of Mick White via New Old Tunbridge Wells Photos on facebook)

I arrived at the site hoping to get some shots of the workers in the crane cage with their welding gear fired up cutting away but I timed it with the arrival of heavy rain and the cage was already being lowered to the ground, I waited for a while hoping that they would resume the work and was rewarded with a beautiful rainbow over High Brooms instead.

Cranes set up for removal of the main structure

Cranes set up for removal of the main structure

I will endeavour to get some more photos as the huge steel sections are cut away and the structure is reduced back into the ground – I would really appreciate it if you have taken photos that you are willing to share here as well – just zip them across to me at the usual address as below and I will credit you for your works!

Close up on the rainbow

Close up on the rainbow over High Brooms

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Dominating the skyline - the view from Holmewood Road

Still dominating the skyline in January 2014 – the view from Holmewood Road

Happy Christmas people of High Brooms!

Just wanting to wish all the people of High Brooms a very happy Christmas, thank you to all who have taken the time to contact me this year with your invaluable stories, memories and comments that help to  fill in the gaps of the rich history about our little corner of Tunbridge Wells!

What a fantastic year 2013 turned out to be for the people of Highbrooms – we got a pub back in the new guise of the ‘Brick Works Freehouse’, we blocked TWBC development of the village green into housing then managed to get a real Village Green application approved by the kCC to protect this piece of land for future generations to enjoy! I am sure there are many other success that could be listed here – let me know.

View down Cambrian Road

View down Cambrian Road during late December 2009

The photo of Cambrian Road here was not actually taken of the snow, but as evidence that Southeastern did mange to run a train in snowy conditions once, back in 2009!

I also wanted to share a little link here to the TWUNTS (Tunbridge Wells Ukulele Night Thing) Christmas song ‘The Golden Balls of Christmas’ that has been released as a charity fund raiser for the Philippines. Many locals will know the TWUNTS from their rowdy musical nights playing in the old High Brooms Tavern – please take the time to have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQGiL5rZpZI  and donate if you can!

St Lukes in the snow

St Lukes in the snow taken from the High Brooms Village Green

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Local community enjoying the snow of the village green

Local community enjoying the snow of the village green

The floods in High Brooms!

I thought that with Met Office and Environment Agency issuing severe weather warnings with strong winds, the highest tides expected in 30 years and potential mass flooding across the UK for today (5/12/13) it would be a good time to share this old image taken from the Kent and Sussex Courier that was recently sent to me by  Derek Daniell.

Silverdale Road - flooded 1920s

The image shows a severely flooded Silverdale Road in High Brooms, probably during May 1922, when a ferocious storm hit the town with heavy rainfall over a short period and causing quite  a lot of flooding and rain damage.

At the Grosvenor Road end of Silverdale Road there are a number of small streams that these days run through ducting under the gas works site and connect with the streams flowing through Grosvenor and Hilbert park, they may even share the same chalybeate springs as a source, and this shows that it is likely the water table is very close to the surface at this point and may also have contributed to the flooding.

As the caption below the photo notes the Tunbridge Wells gas works buildings are visible at the end of the road, which is of greater historical interest to me, these were demolished many years ago and nowadays there is a modern housing estate built on this land but the removal of the adjoining original Victorian gas holders has only just commenced in 2013 as reported in my earlier blog entries.

The New Gas Works, Tunbridge Wells - 1880

The New Gas Works, Tunbridge Wells – 1880 – as they were before Silverdale Road was even built!

If you have something to contribute to this blog, or just want to let me know you are enjoying it feel free to comment below, email me at HighbroomsSociety@gmail.com or send me a message on twitter to: @HighbroomsSoc

Copyright for all images belongs to Daniel Marsh @danieljmarsh unless otherwise stated – please do not replicate or use in any form without prior permission being granted.

Farrant Haulage Lorries in High Brooms

Haulage began with one horse

G E Farrants horse and cart

G E Farrants horse and cart

The following article from the Courier newspaper, dated 26th January 2007, was kindly supplied to me by Derek Daniell, himself a long-term resident of High Brooms, and it tells the story of George Farrant and his local haulage business that ran for almost a century from around 1888 until the 1990’s.

Farrant Haulage

I found an example of one of the later ‘timber tractors’ actually registered to and used by Farrant’s haulage company on the Flicker website, this is a 1950 Latil VA12 Timber Tractor, listed as being sold new to G E Farrant of Tunbridge Wells, where it worked until 1973.

Timber Tractor

Timber tractor image via Flicker – Copyright Jacks_Dad1

There is also a 4-page article  about the Farrant motor lorries at High Brooms in the BYGONE KENT VOLUME 17 NUMBER 7 July 1996, although I have not currently been able to obtain a copy of this.

BYGONE KENT

BYGONE KENT VOLUME 17 NUMBER 7 July 1996

After I originally wrote this article in November 2013 I have received the following information from Edward James Gilbert who has become a regular contributor to this blog and adds an excellent insight into the business and family history of Farrants:

THE HISTORY OF FARRANT’S IN HIGH BROOMS

Written by; Edward James Gilbert – Thunder Bay,Ontario,Canada
Date: April 11,2014

OVERVIEW

The name of Farrant is well -known in Tunbridge Wells as it relates to a haulage company founded by George Ernest Farrant (1865-1943) in the late 1880’s in High Brooms. George had been born in Framfield, Sussex  and  in 1881 was working as a carter for George Martin in Uckfield, Sussex. His marriage in 1888 to Bethiah Ann Baldock(1867-1980) in Ticehurst resulted in the move of George and his wife to High Brooms in 1888, where they took up residence at 47 Colebrook Road, and  where George began his business in the town as a coal merchant with a single horse and wagon.  In 1901 while at the same address, his parents and three of his siblings lived next door at No. 49, where his father George Amos Farrant (1845-1934) worked as a carman.

By 1911 he and his wife and three children Gertrude Dorcas, Alec George and Gwendoline Gladys, had moved to Alexandra House at 28 North Farm Road.In 1914, while returning from a journey to Folkestone a tractor driven by George lost a wheel. The stearsman was fatally injured and George’s leg was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated.  By 1918 he expanded his premises by occupying both 28 and 30 North Farm road.

Farrant carried for all the major businesses in Tunbridge Wells and expanded from a main supplier of coal, coke and corn and domestic removals to long haul contracts by steam powered ‘Road Trains’. His steam fleet was ,in the pre WW II years, upgraded to diesel lorries.

In 1934 Farrant’s Limited was formed. In 1942 G.E. Farrant (Transport) Limited was incorporated. When George died in 1943 his business remained in the family and was continued by his daughters Gertrude and Gladys who were company directors. His son Alec went into farming.

A major change to the operation of the business came when Gertrude Dorcas Ferrant (1892-1980) married Reginald R. Norton (1893-1956) in 1920 and with him had a number of children who worked for and became directors in the business.  The business continued to expand under their control .The company’s mid-blue lorries were a familiar sight on local roads until the business closed. The last accounts for G.E. Farrant (Transport) Limited were filed up to June 30,2000 and the business dissolved December 11,2001.. The firm of Farrants’s Limited ceased operations on August 3,2004.

This article traces the history of the company and those who ran it.

 

BUSINESS LOCATION

Colebrook Road in High Brooms has always been primarily a residential area. The street was and still is lined with mostly red brick homes, some detached, but most terrace houses. Some had been finished on the exterior with white stucco, including 47 Colebrook Road where the Farrant family first settled in High Brooms. A photo of this residence is given latter.

North Farm Road was less developed than Colebrook Road in the 19th century but today has been redeveloped and built up. The site of Alexandra House and the companies business premises at 28 and 30 North Farm Road is today the site of a modern three storey brick building with a sign on that reads “ Andrew House and Cameron House 28-30 North Farm Road”.

Shown above is a map of the area. Marked in blue is the location of 47 Colebrook Road, situated on the west side of the road not far from High Brooms Road. No. 28-30 North Farm Road is marked in red and is located on the east side of the road south of High Brooms Road. At the time the Farrant’s operated their business there the area was less built up and their site would have included the family’s residence a yard for the business and no doubt at least one outbuilding in which the company’s horses and wagons, and later lorries were kept.

BUSINESS OPERATIONS AND CONVEYANCES

The company began hauling coal by horse and wagon. The photo above shows the companies horse and wagon (perhaps the first one) with a gentleman standing beside it. Could this be George Ernest Farrant?

Starting with one horse and one wagon ,  the number of each were added to as the business expanded. Later still the company left the age of horse and wagon and established a small fleet of steam lorries which over time were added to. Later still as the company approached the years of WW II the company switched to diesel and petrol lorries.

Three authoritative references provide details of the companies conveyances. The first is an article that appeared in the Old Glory Magazine in their December 2007 issue when Alan Barnes wrote an article entitled “G.E. Farrant-The Steam years” in which he author traces the history of the one-time steam hauler G.E. Farrant “whos modern fleet of lorries only finished when the business closed”. This magazine, containing the Farrant article can be ordered online.

The second reference is an 4 page article written by R.A. Whitehead, entitled “Farrants’ Motor Lorries at High Brooms” which appeared in By Gone Kent  Volume 17 Number 7 dated July 1996. I wish to thank the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library for sending me a copy of the article. I have reproduced this article later but begin with the following.

A third source of information is from an article that appeared in the Kent and Sussex Courier dated January 26,2007 which I have reproduced in its entirety here. “ George Farrant set up his haulage contracting business in High Brooms at about the time of his marriage in 1888, with a single horse and wagon, and progressed through steam vehicles to a fleet of six and eight-wheeled diesel lorries. He lost a leg in a steam tractor crash on Quarry Hill in 1914, but carried on as head of the business until his death aged 78, in 1943, when it was continued by his daughters Gladys and Gertrude and Gertrude’s husband Reg Norton.  Farrants carried for all the major businesses in Tunbridge Wells and expanded from a main supplier of coal, coke and corn and domestic removals to long-haul contracts by steam-powered “road trains”. Robert Whitehead, who writes extensively on steam haulage, has described how Mr Farrant seized an opportunity after customers complained that furniture carried in containers on goods trains often arrived damaged due to shunting. From 1919, he won business from the railways by using his relatively fast five-ton steam tractors for long-distance jobs. Returning from a journey to Folkestone for W.G. Harris, a Tunbridge Wells company, in 1914, a tractor driven by Mr Farrant lost a wheel on Quarry Hill. The stearsman was fatally injured and Mr Farrant damaged a leg so badly that it had to be amputated. His business continued to expand with more powerful vehicles and soon the range of his work on roads and drives, mainly for private clients, called for the purchase of a road roller. Then came timber tugs and better and faster road vehicles. A major job, moving house and farm equipment for George Drummond, a banker from Smarts Hill, Penshurst, to his other estate at Potsford, Hants, included a close brush with disaster. Sid Lambert, a driver for Farrants, was on a steep hill in the dark when the tractor ran out of control and he had to stop it by running along a roadside bank. Damage was slight, but daylight revealed that a wall on the bank concealed a steep drop. Steam lorries were the next generation capable of running to London and back in a day, but still needing water to top up the boiler. Sid ambert, facing a water crisis, broke the law by dropping his hose into a horse trough and was spotted by a policeman. He got away by warning the constable “If you don’t get some water into her she’ll blow up”. The policeman fled. Steam haulage was always a dangerous business and claimed the life of George Farrant;s son Alec while hauling timber in a wood at Bidborough in 1942. The firm’s last steam roller, a 1920 Marshall, lasted until 1960, driven by Bill Clinton, who moved to Farrants from High Brooms Brick where he drove a Sentinel steam wagon. Sale of the Marshall for Preservation ended Farrant’s long love affair with steam. The firm went over totally to motor transport, building from a humble Bedford two-tonner into a fleet of powerful six and eight when tippers. They were a familiar sight in their mid-blue livery on local roads until the business closed in the 1990’s”.

Recently Daniel of the High Brooms Society published a piece about Farrants on a blog in which the above Kent and Sussex article was included. Also included by Daniel was the photo shown above, which can also be found on a Flicker website, that is an example of one of Farrant’s timber tractors that had been registered to Farrant’s haulage company. It is a 1950 Latil VA12 Timber Tractor, listed as being sold new to G.E. Farrant of Tunbridge Wells where it worked until 1973.

Although not a Farrant lorry, shown opposite is a photo from the book Tunbridge Wells a Second Edition In Old Photographs, by Rowlands and Beavis, published in 1994.I have included the image and its related text as an example of the type of steam lorries being used in Tunbridge Wells as the beginning of the 20th century. The image and text are self- explanatory. These early steam contraptions were prone to mechanical breakdown and of course required water, often times needing the boiler topped up with water along the route. The lorry operated by The London and Counties Distributing Company Limtied ran in competition to Farrant. A second image, not shown here, can be found in the 1st edition of Old Photographs by Rowlands and Beavis on page 150-151 showing a different steam lorry operated by The London & Counties  Distributing Company , upon its arrival in Tunbridge Wells on June 7,1901, being “the company’s first goods car to enter the town”. The caption to that photo states that the company “intended to send a line of steam waggons, travelling at an average speed of five miles an hour to Tunbridge Wells and intermediate towns for the conveyance of goods of various descriptions. Their objective is quickness of delivery”. The wagon was delayed on its journey due to a broken pump, but was greeted in the town with cheers from the assembled traders of the town who welcomed the service.This inauguration of service was celebrated by a dinner at the Swan Hotel. The arrival of Farrant’s steam lorries in the town would have been met with the same enthusiasm.

Below is the article entitled “Farrants’ Motor Lorries at High Brooms by R.A. Whitehead I referred to above, as published in By Gone Kent.

As my article in Volume 16, Number 10 attracted so much notice it was suggested that an account of the motor lorries used by Mr Farrant might be of interest. The first motor lorry known to have been used by him was a Hans-Lloyd. This was a chassis intended for a two-ton payload, and was built in the early twenties by the German company of Hansa-Lloyd Werke AG of Bremen. At some point in its career it was converted into an articulated vehicle, possibley by Carrimore Six-Wheelers Ltd of Finchley,North London. It was this vehicle, along with the Clayton steam wagon, which was taken in part exchange by Richard Garrett & Sons of Leiston, Suffolk, when George Farrant bought the first Garrett six-wheeled steam lorry owned by the firm. The Clayton ended up as scrap but the Hansa was resold to Mr R.J. Hutchinson, for 60 pounds, a price far in excess of its scrap value which might have been 5 pounds.

The next motor lorry of which definite evidence survives was a Bedford two-tonner of the type introduced in 1934, but there may have been another light truck in between, the record of which does not survive. The Bedford, however, was so successful that it caused its owner to think about replacing his steam wagons with motors on serious haulage.

The rise in the Road Fund taxation on steam wagons imposed by the 1934 Budget coincided with the launch by Bedford of the WTS and WTL types with the engine moved forward over the front axle and the famous short bonnet. In the three and five-ton versions these were built over a period of twenty-years, and as the steam wagons were withdrawn a fleet of short wheel based WTS type, with hydraulic tipping gear, was built up. By the outbreak of war these numbered ten. Additionally a two-ton normal control Bedford, with the same cab design as the WTS, was brought primarily for the coal business. This had a very long life and, having had a complete rebuild in 1956, was still running in the 1960’s. Latterly at least it was driven by Fred Saunders-whether he drove it from new I cannot say.

Also owned was a 1937 pneumatic Latil Trailer, based upon a French design but actually built in this country by Shelvoke & Drewry at Letchworth, a firm better known for their refuse collecting vehicles. The Farrant example had a Meadows petrol engine, and the wheels were fitted with retractable steel stakes folding out from the hubs for off –road working. This remarkable tractor, which had a wheel-base of only 7 feet 6-1/1 inches; a wheel-track of 4 feet 11 inches; and steered on all four wheels, was extremely manoeuvrable on timber haulage work. The drive was through a dual range three speed gearbox and chassis mounted lockable differentials to reduction gearing in the hubs, the axles themselves being dead-beams. The drive severely limited the road speed which was about 15-16 m.p.h. at the maximum and resulted in a very characteristic high-pitched gear note. Its usefulness in the wood was still further increased by its being fitted with a winch carrying a hundred yards of wire rope. The tractor usually worked with a large pneumatic tyred timber tug under the care of its owner’s on Alex (Alec) who ultimately met his death when it overturned on top of him whilst he was working with it in a wood at Bidborough. The tractor was afterwards recovered and repaired.

Shown opposite from this article is a photo identified as “the second Latil tractor with a large log of round timber”.

Because of the large increase in home-grown timber production during the 1939-45 war and the shortage of parts the Latif was worked pretty nearly to death so that by 1947 it was ripe for renewal. G.E. Farrant himself died in 1943 and by then his two daughters Gladys and Gertrude, together with the latter’s husband, Reg Norton, were running the firm. As the original tractor had served them so well a further example in the then current range was purchased. In this the power unti was a diesel and the arrangement of the retractable lugs was dispensed with in favour of very much larger pneumatic tyres. However, the day of this type of heavy tractor was drawing to a close, conversions of agricultural tractors offering a cheaper alternative both in initial and running costs, and the timber hauling side of the Farrant business ended its days using two Fordson conversions fitted with spades, a winch, front protection, and cabs. They were not, however, fitted with four-wheel drive.

Post was shortages kept three WTS Bedfords in service for some while after hostilities ended, but as opportunity offered they were replaced by )-types, the updated version of the WTS introduced as the war began ,but ousted from production during the war by the austerity OY type. Though minute by today’s standards of size these tippers gave wonderful service. There were also two O-type articulated units; one driven by Fred Smith and the other by Charles Lambert. When the O-type Bedford was dropped from production in 1954 it was succeeded by the short-lived bulbous S-type, only one example of which found its way into the Farrant fleet, but after the S-type, in turn, had been superseded in 1960 by the TK type, two of these were purchased in 1967, one a flat-bed lorry and the other an articulated unit.

In the mid-fifties the firm had bought a Commer Superpoise normal control lorry, one of the last petrol-engined vehicles to be acquired. Two further Copmmers, fitted with the famous, but noisy, TS3 horizontal diesel power units were added in 1969-70. In 1960 the depot yard was altered and extended by escavating into the hillside at the rear of it, enabling a new maintenance building to be erected. Shown opposite is a photo with the caption “The yard in the 1970’s, with the Commes at the entrance to the workshop and Didges down each flank”. Removing the spoil from this work was one of the last duties of the O-type Bedford tippers. By this date the company was moving decisively into a type of business requiring larger vehicles. At this time one useful connection was the transport of paper rolls from the Reed International works at Aylesford, and it was mainly for this that three AEC Mercury chassis were purchased, two as articulated units, working with York semi-trailers, and the third as a four-wheeled flat lorry. Though reliable and satisfactory these were relatively slow and, moreover, the problems that followed the merger if Leyland and AEC interests were already apparent.

Shown opposite is a  photo of “one of Leyland ‘super mastiffs’. Though no more AEC’s were bought, somewhat later 91976/1977) there was a pair of six-wheeled Leyland Super mastiff 24-tonners, though, as one of the present directors remarked, what prompted Leyland to incorporate ‘super’ into the name baffles the imagination.

Probably the most successful of the bigger tippers run by the firm in those middle post-war years were the Dodge KT 900 six-wheelers of which it had four, a non-turbo four-wheeler, and two K1050 turbo-assisted four-wheelers together with a K3820P articulated unit. The latter were followed by further Dodge four-wheelers (the G16 Commando) seven of which were eventually operated.

It was as these Dodge lorries came to be replaced that the firm turned to Fofden six and eight-wheelers. Successive purchases brought the total of these vehicles to eight, made up of an S39 six-wheeler, an S80 eight-wheeler, three S10 six-wheelers, and three S10 eight-wheelers. All had aluminum alloy insulated tipping bodies. It was one of the S10 six-wheelers (EKR 501 V) that appeared on exhibition at the 1979 Kent Show without the body so as to show the then newly-introduced rubber suspension.

One of these Fodens ( WKO 931 S) remains in the fleet, though in reserve and unlicensed. The present archive vehicles are a Dodge four-wheeler, two ERF eight-wheelers, two Volvo FL7 six-wheelers, and six Volvo FL10 eight-wheelers, the latter plated for 32 tonnes. A marked contrast to the first Bedford and its two-ton payload”.

This ends the article in Bygone Kent.

To close off this section of the article I noted that an article in the Commercial Motor of January 12,1973 made reference to claims that Farrants had been overloading their lorries. In part the article stated that “G.E. Farrant (Transport) Limited of Tunbridge Wells  who appeared before Maj-Gen. A.F.J. Elmslie, the South Eastern Licensing Authority at Maidstone last week. A director of the company blamed vehicle construction, customer default, and weighbridge faculty for overhauling convictions. Mrs D.A. Norton, a director of Farrant, appeared before the licensing authority to defend the accusations.

THE FARRANT FAMILY

The patriarch of the family was George Amos Farrant (1845-1934) who had married Caroline Richardson (1838-1915).George had been born at Framfield, Sussex, one of many Farrants from that area. He had worked most of his life as a carter/ carman. His wife Caroline was born at Sandhurst, Kent. George and Caroline went on to produce nine children between 1862 and 1880. Their eldest son was George Ernest Farrant, born April 7, 1865 at Framsfield, Sussex, who is the central figure in this article.

The 1881 census, taken at New House Cottage in Uckfield, Sussex, records George Ernest Farrant as single, and working as a farm servant carter for George Martin.

The Farrant family remained in Framfield until 1888 when in that year George Ernest Farrant married Bethiah Ann Baldock (1867-1955)at Ticehurst, Sussex. After the marriage George and Bethia moved to Tunbridge Wells and took up residence at 47 Colebrook (sometimes given as Colebrooke), a road that named after the well-known Colebrooke family who owned the Colebrooke Estate and much of the land in the area.

Bethia Ann Baldock had been born 2nd qtr 1867 in Heathfield, Sussex. She was ,based on the 1871 census at Millhurst, one of four children born to George Baldock, an agricultural worker, born 1840 at Rotherfield, Sussex, and Dorcas ,born 1836 at Horsmonden, Kent. Her siblings had all been born between 1864 and 1870 and it is likely she had other siblings as well.

The 1881 census, recorded George Ernest Farrant with his wife Bethia at 47 Colebrook Road. The 1891 census, taken at the same address recorded George as a dealer in coal, running his own business. Living with him was his wife Bethia, one visitor and Georges mother in law Dorcas Relf, age 57, born at Horsmonden. It would appear from the change in her surname that she remarried after her husband George Baldock passed away. Dorcas was listed in the census as married.

The 1901 census, taken at 47 Colebrook road recorded George as running a coal merchants business. Living with him was his wife Bethia and his two children Gertrude Dorcas Farrant (1892-1980) and Alex George Farrant (1899-1942). George and Bethia had one more child, namely Gwendoline Gladys Farrant (1907-2003). Living next door to this family at No. 49 Colebrook Road was Georges  parents and  his sister Caroline, born 1881, a “builders wash”; his brother Isaac, born 1867, a Corporal in the 1st Royal dragoons, and Isaac’s wife Mary. George’s father was working at that time as a “carman” worker.

The 1911 census, taken at Alexandra House, 28 North Farm Road, Southborough, listed George Ernest Farrant as a “haulage contractor”. Living with him was his wife Bethia who was “assisting in the business” of her husband. The three children of George and Bethia were also present at the time of the census. Gertrude was working as a bookkeeper in the family business; the other children were attending school. There was also one domestic servant. The census recorded that their home consisted of six rooms; that they had been married 23 years and that they had three children who were all still living.

A review of local Kelly directories showed for 1913 “George Farrant, 28 North Farm Road, High Brooms, coal merchant”. ; For 1918 to 1922 “George Ernest Farrant, 28 and 30 North Farm road, coal merchant’; for 1930 “George Ernest Farrant, 28 and 30 North Farm Road, haulage contractor”; and for 1938 “George Ernest Farrant, 28 North Farm Road, haulage contractor”. Telephone directories listed the following; 1923 “ G. Farrant, contractor, North Farm Road”; 1937 “ G. Farrant, Carman, Contractor, North Farm road”; 1954-1969 “ G.E. Farrant (Transport)Limited, North Farm road”. In 1976 three listings were found (1) G.E. Farrant (Transport) Limited, North Farm road (2) Farrants Ltd, Public Works Contractors, 28 North Farm Road (3) Farrant Haulage Ltd 178 Bexhill Road, St Leonards on Sea, Hastings and Lamberhurst Road, Brenchley, Kent.

George Amos Farrant passed away in Tunbridge Wells in April 1934 and was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on April 14th.George Ernest Farrant passed away in Tunbridge Wells on January 16, 1943. Probate records show he was of 28 North Farm Road, Tunbridge Wells but died at the Lonsdale Nursing Home in town. The executor of his 4,836 pound estate was his wife Bethia. George was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on January 21st. Bethia Ann Farrant of 28 North Farm Road, High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells died June 19, 1955 at 32 North Farm Road. The executor of her 355 pound estate was her married daughter Gertrude Dorcas Norton and her spinster daughter Gwendoline Gladys Farrant. Bethia was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on June 22, 1955.

Gwendoline never married and lived with her parents most of her life. She died in the 1st qtr of 2003 in Tunbridge Wells. She was cremated at the Kent & Sussex Crematorium March 21, 2003 and her ashes buried in the Southborough Cemetery on March 31,2003.

George’s son Alex George Farrant followed his father into the family business but also went into farming. He had been living with his parents and siblings at Alexandra House, 28 North Farm Road at the time of the 1911 census and continued to do so for some time. In the 3rd qtr of 1922 he married Hilda rose Cornwell (1901-1990) at Eastbourne, Sussex. His name in the marriage records was given as “Alick”. He appears to have spent most of his life living in Tunbridge Wells. A second marriage between “Alec G Farrant” and Gertrude E. Swaitland took place in the 2nd qtr of 1924 in Tunbridge Wells and a marriage between “Alec G Farrant” and Edith Maud Sweetman took place in the 4th qtr of 1927 at Hailsham, Sussex. Probate records give Alec George Farrant of 4 North Farm Road, Tunbridge Wells died September 7, 1942 at Bread Field Farm, Bidborough, Kent. The executors of his 1,390 pound estate were his wife Edith Maud Farrant and his spinster sister Gwendoline Gladys Farrant. Burial records for “Alec George Farrant” record that he was buried in the Southborough Cemetery September 11, 1942. As noted in the Kent and Sussex Courier article dated January 26, 2007 Alec was killed on the job while hauling timber in a wood near Bidborough.

Details about Gertrude Dorcas Farrant are given in the next section about the Norton Family.

THE NORTON FAMILY

Gertrude Dorcas Farrant, the eldest daughter of George Ernest and Bethia Ann Farrant, Gertrude had been born May 2, 1892 at High Brooms and lived with her parents on North Farm Road until her marriage to Frederick Reginald Norton (1893-1956) in the 2nd qtr of 1920 at Tunbridge Wells. Frederick had been born in Southborough in 1893.He had been baptised December 9, 1894 at Tunbridge Wells with his parents being Charrles Joseph Norton and Charlotte Norton. The 1911 census, taken at 32 North Farm Road, High Brooms, recorded Charles Joseph Norton, age 41, born 1870 Tunbridge Wells and was working as “chief clerk brickworks” which no doubt is a reference to his employment at the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company. Living with Charles was his wife Charlotte, born 1868 in Epson. Also present was their son Frederick Reginald Norton who at the time was working as an apprentice draper. The census recorded that the couple were living in 9 rooms; that they had been married 19 years and had three children, all living.

Probate records for Frederick Reginald Norton record him of 32 North Farm road, High Brooms and that he died April 26, 1956. His estate of 8,157 pounds was left to his wife Gertrude. He was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on May 4, 1956.

Gertrude died in Tunbridge Wells in 1980.She was buried in the Southborough Cemetery on February 14,1980.Gertrude and her Norton family remained active in the Farrant haulage business and she was one of the directors.

Gertrude and Frederick had a number of children, who became involved with the Farrant business. In some cases they worked in the business and in other cases their role was that of company director.

I have referred in the “Overview” of two companies that had been formed in the 20th century during the time of George Ernest Farrant which I recap here. G.E. Farrant (Transport) Limited had been incorporated March 26, 1942 with its registered office at “Cameron House’ 28 North Farm Road. This company (No. 00572988) last filed accounts up to June 30, 2000. The second company was Farrant’s Limtied which began September 27, 1934 and ended August 3, 2004. The business address for Farrant’s Limited was c/o Larkings Cornwallis House, Pudding Lane, Maidstone, Kent.

Nicholas Charles Norton (born 1957) worked as a chartered accountant and director of G. E Farrant (Transport) Limited from June 8, 1991 to December 11, 2001. He was also a chartered accountant and director of Farrant’s Limited from June 1991 until August 2004.

Daphne Ann Norton worked for G.E.Farrant (Transport) Limited as a director and transport manager from June 8, 1991 to December 11, 2001. Her co-workers, who were all directors, were Richard John Norton, Nicholas Charles Norton, Julian Peter Norton and Colin Michael Norton. Julian Peter Norton was born 1965 and his last directorship with G.E, Farrant (Transport) limited was in 1991.

For enthusiasts of model railroading is shown above is a photograph of an HO gauge model railway car decorated to commemorate the firm of G.E. Farrant. The side of the model coal car has upon it printed the name “ G.E. Farrant Coal Merchant & Contractor Southborough”. The advertisement for this model train states “George Farrant set up as a haulage contractor in High Brooms in about 1888. Farrants carried for all the major businesses in Tunbridge Wells and expanded from a main supplier of coal, coke and corn and domestic removals to long haul contracts by steam powered ‘Road Trains’.” 

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