Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy birthday, Pat

Today Pat would have been 78, although she never seemed that old. The Knights are blessed with very young looking skin so I always forgot that she wasn't as young as she looked.

To celebrate her birthday, and her life, the very kind ladies at Mount Ephraim House threw a lovely birthday memorial tea party in her honour. 

I know I've been bad at blogging (again) and that this isn't strictly related to the suitcase but it seemed only right to post today.

Although I've been back to Mount Ephraim House since Pat passed away in January, Tim hadn't. I was very proud with the way he coped with the day - first anniversaries are always hard but I'm very glad we were able to mark it in some way. 

We wanted to say thank you to the staff at Mount Ephraim for everything they did for Pat in the seven years she lived there. We made a donation which, between us, we agreed would be spent on a tea trolley and some nice china that would be used on special occasions - mainly because Pat loved a cuppa and a slice of cake.

Marilyn, the wonderful activities co-ordinator at Mount Ephraim, had a plaque made for the tea trolley (which was quite a mission!) but it means that Pat will be remembered there for a very long time.

We took some beautiful cakes along from Clare's Cake Creations which went down very well. 

The lounge was also adorned with papier mache tea sets which I love - might even have a go at making one.

Pat would have really enjoyed today. Her answer to everything was a cup of tea and if there was a biscuit or a little cake to go with it, then all the better.

Happy birthday, Pat xx 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Our oldest photograph?

Back in February when we first inherited the suitcase, I didn't know what to do with it but knew I wanted to find out more about the contents.

This is one of those items that particularly intrigued me. I'd never seen a carte de visite before and had no idea what it was. Following a visit to the Tunbridge Wells Museum, I discovered that they are a kind of very early business card. This is possibly the oldest picture we now own.

The front of the carte de visite

First patented in 1854, the carte de visite became extremely popular just a few years later and was exchanged among friends and visitors. I wish I knew who the lovely lady pictured is but sadly I have no idea why she has been treasured for 150 years.

The card is slightly bigger than today's average business card and as it's mounted on card, it's a lot thicker. I can't imagine you would keep it in a wallet, unless it was of your loved one perhaps.

The back of the card gives details of where it was created

As you can see from the back of the card (above), it was produced in Grosvenor Road in Tunbridge Wells. I believe Henry Jenkins was a well known photographer in the town but I haven't been able to find out much about him or the Alpha Studio (below).

As always, if anyone knows more about him, or recognises the woman pictured on our carte de visite, I would love to hear from you.

H. Jenkins studio tunbridge wells

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back in the swing...

I must apologise for my long absence from Blogger. I don't really know why but life has been rather hectic recently, work has been busy and I haven't made the made the time that I should have for blogging. I've said a proper sorry over on Miniatures make me happy so I won't repeat it here.

During the last couple of months I've been asked quite a few times what my next post will be here. "What's next to come out of the suitcase?" I really like that people are interested and I've often bored them with tales of the things to come - I just haven't managed to actually write about them.

I suppose part of my reluctance is that I don't want to rush through this project. It's obviously finite and one day I will have gone through all the objects and it will all be over.

So, in the spirit of procrastination, I'm going to delay the next object for a little longer.

Meantime, I would like to draw your attention to Mount Ephraim House's new Facebook page which is doing rather well. Pat spent the last seven years of her life at Mount Ephraim and because the wonderful staff looked after her so well there, I'm keen to let everyone know about the amazing work they do.

I love that I can now easily see what the residents are up to, which has recently included a boat trip, fishing, and a very successful garden party, on a daily basis. It's also lovely to see families interacting with the page - a thoroughly modern way of communicating with relatives.

Of course, if you want a bit more detail you can always visit the home's blog.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A spot of more recent history

Not every item in the suitcase is very old - I like the fact that some represent more recent history.

Pat was extremely proud of Tim, her only child, and I imagine she treasured the photo below because he appears in it and because it was taken for the local paper.

The fencing group being presented with their qualifications by the Tunbridge Wells Mayor.

Tim used to enjoy fencing and joined a local group in Tunbridge Wells. The photo above, which was taken by a photographer at the Kent & Sussex Courier, shows Tim and the rest of the group being presented with their fencing qualifications by the Tunbridge Wells Mayor and Mayoress.

It was taken in the Camden Centre, again in Tunbridge Wells, in the early nineties. I'm not sure I would have taken much notice of Tim when he had a beard (let alone marry him!) but I didn't know him at this point in his life.

So, did you spot him?

Tim, Pat's son, in the early nineties 

He can't remember much about the group but if anyone recognises themselves, do get in touch.

Monday, May 20, 2013

School days

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts recently. We've been busy sorting things out (and I've been slightly distracted by Miniatures make me happy) but I hope to get back on track soon.

In the last week of Pat's life, we spent our evenings in her room at Mount Ephraim House going through the suitcase. One of the photos that appealed to me most was the one below as she is instantly recognisable as the young girl on the left. I wish she'd been awake so we could have asked her about it.

Pat (left) in what we assume was her school uniform

A week later and sadly I was drafting her eulogy. It's the first time I've ever had to write one but fortunately I was basing it on some beautiful words that Tim had already written. It made me realise that although we knew all the vague details about her life, we weren't too clear on the specifics.

Every time I drove her down Calverley Park Gardens in Tunbridge Wells, she would comment that she went to school in a building on the right hand side. It was only after she died that I realised I had no idea what it was called. She talked about the nuns and the fact that they spent a lot of time in bomb shelters but that was really all I knew.

Finding out more about the school proved (and is proving) extremely difficult. I've been really lucky when posting pictures on Twitter and Facebook - someone is almost always able to help. In this instance, there were several suggestions about where the shot above was taken but I'm now fairly sure it is the school she attended in Calverley Park Gardens.

Searching the internet (my usual first port of call for all information) proved fairly fruitless but huge thanks to Carolyn Gray who managed to locate the cutting below, via a local historian.

We believe that Pat must have attended 16 Calverley Park Gardens, Convent of the Blessed Sacrament. I would love to know more about the school and to see more pictures but so far, I've had no luck.

I'm hoping this post might prompt some memories so we can find out more. Do get in touch if you think you could help.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A letter from a stranger

When the post arrived at work today it contained a wonderful surprise. I sometimes forget that this blog is public and that it's rather easy to find out where I work and contact me there.

Telephonists at work (L-R): Pat Gentry and Shirley Bourne
If you haven't seen the photo on the left before, it's one of the first I posted  here. I love it and have always thought Pat looks beautiful.

What we didn't know was why it was taken and who the other lady in the photo is - but now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we do.

When looking for answers about where Pat and Vic got married, I posted this blog in the 'New old photos of Tunbridge Wells' group on Facebook which is how, via a friend, it was discovered by Shirley Turner who is pictured on the right.

So, when I opened the post today the letter below was the first thing I saw. I'll let Shirley explain in her own words.

I think this is amazing. How lovely to have stirred up such memories and how wonderful that Shirley took the time to write and share them with me. She also kindly gave permission for me to post them here.

Along with the letter she also included a copy of the front page of The Post which is where the original photo appeared. The date means Pat was probably 20 when it was taken.

The wording under the photo reads Photo submitted by Tunbridge Wells Branch and published by courtesy of the "Tunbridge Wells Advertiser", which explains the stamp on the back of the photo pictured in my previous post.

Tim and I are so pleased that we now know more about the origin of the photo and about Pat's younger days. He also remembers the name Pat Strange and recalls going to school with Neil Bassett, son of Brian mentioned in the letter.

I should say this isn't the first time that someone has been in touch about the blog. I received a very intriguing phone call at work a few weeks ago which I hope to follow up soon.

More on that another day...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UPDATED: The new Mr and Mrs Knight

There are quite a few wedding pictures in the case and while I'm not sure who most of the bride and grooms are, there's one couple that I was very pleased to know.

Pat Gentry and Vic Knight were married on 14 June 1958. We're not sure where the church was but we assume it was in Tunbridge Wells.

The new Mr & Mrs Knight at their wedding reception 

The reception took place at Carrs Corner, also in Tunbridge Wells. The photos remind me of simpler times -although it's clear that everyone is dressed for a wedding. Pat was a very beautiful bride, more than fit for her handsome groom. 

Guests at the reception in Carrs Corner

I'd love to know if anyone recognises the venue - I assume it's a local restaurant or similar but I'm sure someone must remember it.

UPDATE: Someone did recognise the venue! Part of what I'm enjoying about this blog is that people are taking such an interest in it. However, on this occasion I have an apology to make as it turns out the venue wasn't at Carrs Corner so I am sorry to everyone who looked into where it might be. 

I posted the blog over on Facebook group New old photos of Tunbridge Wells where everyone was very helpful. Eventually a gentleman commented that he'd spoken to a guest at the wedding and could confirm that the reception took place at the church hall at Sibby's Corner in Hawkenbury.  

Kathleen Gentry (Pat's mother) and her sister Heather Seeney (nee Barber)

Pictured above is the mother of the bride Kathleen Gentry and her sister Heather, presumably arriving at the wedding. I love 50s fashion so am particularly fond of this photo. 

When Pat lived at residential home Mount Ephraim House, one of her fellow residents was a former beau of Heather. They hadn't seen each other for years but I always liked that they had shared memories.

Each of the photographs is in a cardboard frame with the photographer's signature featured in one corner. Michael Wheeler of Langton Green seems to have had quite a varied career. I notice he produced advertising material for Peter Adolph, the inventor of the Subbuteo football game. Pat worked for Subbuteo during her younger days so I wonder if this is how she came across Mr Wheeler?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Park life

Sadly, like many of the photos in the suitcase, I don't know who is pictured here or when it was taken. However, the setting does look very much like Calverley Grounds in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

This area of the town has quite a history attached to it. Calverley Grounds originally belonged to Mount Pleasant House, where the future Queen Victoria regularly stayed between 1826-34.

In 1825 the land was purchased by a property developer. His architect, Decimus Burton, went on to create a new town which was designed to rival the nearby Pantiles. In 1837 the house was converted into The Calverley Hotel (now Hotel du Vin) but the meadows were preserved as an informal open space.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council purchased the land in 1920 and added a bandstand, sports facilities and created the formal gardens we know today. 

A sundial was installed in the rose garden in 1924 and I assume it is the one pictured here. I like the fact that the children are so smartly dressed and imagine a photo opportunity was quite a rarity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

UPDATED: Time to celebrate - but why?

I love this photo but I know absolutely nothing about it. I assume it was taken in Tunbridge Wells and it looks like a street party but what for? Perhaps VE day? The chap on the right seems to be in uniform but I think he's the only one.

If anyone has any thoughts on where it was taken or why a street party is being held, do feel free to share.

UPDATE - when and where

This post created quite a lot of interest on Twitter (for which I am very grateful - I love that people are interested in the photos) and there were many thoughts on when and where the photo was taken. 

Dizzernp managed to better date the photo by identifying the uniform pictured. Apparently it's 40 pattern BD (Battle Dress) which was worn by the British Army from 1942 but was replaced in 1949. This means the celebration could well be for VE day or VJ day in 1945. The lack of decorations is also a clue as it was clearly a time of austerity.

As for where it was taken, popular opinion seemed to be a street off Camden Road. Pat and her parents lived in Prince's Street so that would make sense. The image below from Google maps is taken in Cambridge Street looking into Prince's Street. What do you think? Could it be the same road?

Cambridge Street in Tunbridge Wells

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My first week of blogging

A week ago I'd never written a blog, I didn't know how to start and I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted one. 

However, I did know I couldn't let our lovely suitcase sit in a corner for another 50 years without sharing some of the memories so I took the plunge. And I must admit I'm very glad I did.

The real point of this post is to thank everyone who has shown an interest, taken the time to read it, shared the link and most importantly, welcomed me to the world of blogging. It turns out bloggers are a very friendly bunch, not that I ever doubted that fact.

Special thanks go to my husband Tim over at HeroPress who sent The Happy Whisk and Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor my way - both of whom have been very welcoming and encouraging.

Clare at Three Beautiful Things was kind enough to include me on her blog and also found this wonderful story of a suitcase that is filled with nursing memorabilia from the First World War. I'm glad she thought of me when she came across the report.

I write for a living but working in PR, I am always thinking about the words I use and whether my client will like them, whether they will grab the journalists' attention or identify with the audience. Here I can write what I like, and I must say it's rather refreshing.

In fact, I liked my first taste of blogging so much that I started another one. Feel free to pop over to Miniatures make me happy and see what I'm up to there.

Once again, thank you for listening and sharing in our precious case of memories - it really is very much appreciated.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Chiesmans - a store full of memories

The suitcase is full of wonderful photos, letters, documents that were clearly important to someone. I completely understand why they have been stored away and kept for so many years.

Then there are the items that I really can't comprehend such as this paper bag that appears to come from a shop named Chiesmans. Why would anyone keep it?

Having found out a bit more about it, I think I'm starting to understand it.

Chiesmans Ltd was a department store retailer. The first shop, a drapery on Lewisham High Street, was founded by brothers Frank and Harry Chiesman in 1884.

Chiesmans Brothers became a private limited company in 1921 when the brothers' sons Stuart, Russel and Harold Chiesman joined the family business after the end of the First World War.

A second store was purchased in Maidstone in 1933, followed by sites in Canterbury, Gravesend, Tunbridge Wells, the Isle of Wight, Ilford, Upton Park and Rochester.

In 1976 the company was bought by House of Fraser Plc - a name I am much more familiar with and one which gives me an indication of the type of shop this was.

The Tunbridge Wells store was on the corner of Calverley Rd, where the Body Shop now stands. Mr Beavis at the Tunbridge Wells Museum later told me that when the buildings were demolished, the new facade was built to replicate its predecessor exactly. Internally the awkward steps and the challenges of old buildings had been removed, but the integrity of Tunbridge Wells' architecture had been maintained externally.

When I first met Anke with the suitcase, he posted a picture of the bag on Twitter which prompted a lot of people to share their recollections of the store. I loved that something so simple could stir up so many fond memories - one person even said they still have a set of steak knives they purchased there.

People also mentioned the cafe that served cakes. This fact stood out for me - it makes me wonder if the owner of the bag had been for afternoon tea, a treat perhaps, and kept the bag as a memento?

We'll never know, but I am glad that I now know a bit more about the store's history.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pat's early career

We believe this photo was taken in the early 50s. Pat (left) was born in 1935 which would put her in her late teens here. She was a telephonist and worked in the exchanges in and around Tunbridge Wells.

Pat Gentry (left) at work

The back of this photo reveals the copyright belongs to the Kent & Sussex Courier and Tunbridge Wells Advertiser. The former is still going strong today.

The stamp on the back of the photo indicates it was professionally taken

Presumably it was taken for a news story but without an exact date, I think it could be difficult to find out what it was.

The exchange was an incredibly important part of Pat's life. It was here that she met Vic Knight, a telephone engineer and her future husband.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The case in question

This is it - the case of memories that inspired me to finally start a blog.

My husband Tim and I inherited it very recently when his mother, Pat Knight, passed away. She was quite poorly in her last week but we spent a lot of time in her room at Mount Ephraim House, a wonderful residential care home in Tunbridge Wells.

That was when I discovered it tucked away in a corner. Pat was sleeping soundly but we spent a happy half hour going through the case, marveling at the contents. I very much regret not finding it sooner and being able to ask her about the people in the photos. Sadly we know who very few of them are.

A lot of the photos and documents belonged to her father - there's even a tin of his old tobacco in there.

I wanted to find out more and share what I think is a wonderful piece of history so my first outing with the case was to see Mr and Mrs Anke. Tunbridge Wells experts and history fans, it was lovely to see their enthusiasm. In fact, I have them to thank for the name of this blog.

They pointed me in the direction of historian Ian Beavis at Tunbridge Wells Museum who was able to tell me a little about the well known photographers that had captured a lot of the images I showed him. I was amazed to hear that some of the photos date back to 1880.

Clearly someone has cherished these bits and pieces for years - and now it's our turn. I'm sure there must be people who will be able to help fill in the blanks but I hope as I post pictures of the contents (which I promise will be better than the attempt above), happy memories will be stirred for other long term Tunbridge Wells residents.