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.