Tonbridge in the Great War

Welcome to the town page for Tonbridge. Explore your town map to discover people who lived in your town during the First World War.

Tonbridge in the First World War was a bustling town with the inhabitants being reminded of the War on a daily basis. They would have been aware of the increased rail traffic as Tonbridge was on the main line between London and the coast. Musket practice was held at the Drill Hall (formerly the Corn Exchange) for the West Kent Battalion Volunteer Training Corps.

The local inhabitants attended fund raising concerts in the Castle grounds which was also the venue for First Aid training as War broke out. Concerts were also given at the Public Hall for soldiers billeted locally, the Public Hall was also the venue of a soldiers club open to all ranks.

We are reminded of the stress the War caused those on the Home Front by a local woman who was so overcome by the worry of her husband serving abroad and not hearing from him that she had to be rescued from the River Medway by Mr Cantle, who was the landlord of The Chequers. Subsequently Mr Cantle received a Royal Humane Society Award for his bravery.

Quarry Hill House was handed over to be used as an auxiliary hospital and received its first wounded – who were Belgian soldiers – in October 1914. Many local women served as VAD’s their roles ranging from nursing, to cooking and housework.

During the War 3000 people from Tonbridge served and 346 were killed – amongst these was Henry Webber who at 67 was exempt from service but petitioned the War Office to be able to serve alongside his three sons. Mr Webber died on the Western Front whist his sons returned safely.

Over 2000 alumini of Tonbridge School served of whom 415 were killed in action.

Sources: various editions of the newspapers such as the Kent Courier and the Kentish Gazette

Please add information to your town page by clicking Upload Your Story. Tell those important stories about your relatives – share their experiences to help build a picture of your community during this period. Don’t forget to check out your local clubs and societies, and whilst you are exploring our site take a look at the other towns around the coast to discover more about Kent’s rich history during the First World War.

1. Tonbridge Tank

Tonbridge Tank

2. Bradford Street

Bradford Street

3. Barden Road Manor

Barden Road Manor

4. Tonbridge Junction

Tonbridge Junction

5. St Eanswythe

St Eanswythe

6. Wooly and Blythe

Wooly & Blythe

7. Belgian Soldier Funeral

Belgian Soldier Funeral

8. Whitefriars Press

Whitefriars Press

9. Old Post Office and Bridge

Old Post Office and Bridge

10. Spickett’s Paragraph

Spickett's Paragraph

11. Dougall VC

Dougall VC

12. Bank Street Drill Hall

Bank Street Drill Hall

13. The Chequers Inn

10am 10.09.1915 Maidstone

653ton-the-chequers-inn-tonbridge-front653ton-the-chequers-inn-tonbridge-back 

The transcribed text reads:

I am sorry but I shan’t be able to get out tonight, for I am on duty again. I hope you get this in time to stop you coming up.

I should be able to come out Saturday night if you come up dear

Au revoir,

With love from G.A.V.

 

Miss Cheeseman

The Chalet

Loose

Nr Maidstone

14. Tonbridge Castle

27.03.1915 7.45pm

Tonbridge

650ton-tonbridge-castle-front 650ton-tonbridge-castle-back

This card is written in French and addressed to:

Mademoiselle Steenbruggen

4 Ayr Terrace

St Yves

Cornwall

15. Quarry Hill

Quarry Hill House on Quarry Hill was used as an auxiliary hospital during the First World War. Alicia Grice served there, starting as a probationer in 1914 and becoming a nurse in 1916 when she transferred to work in Birmingham and then went to work in France.

Source: Kent and Sussex Courier, various dates

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Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

16. The Public Hall

During the First World War concerts were performed here for soldiers billeted in the town, a Soldiers Club met at the Public Hall - the club represented all ranks, a chance for officers, NCOs and men to mix socially.

Source: Kent and Sussex Courier, various dates

610ton-greetings-from-tonbridge-cropped-public-hall  

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

17. Tonbridge Castle

The Kent Volunteers used the lower castle grounds for training such as physical education and bombing practice. Open air concerts were held throughout the War and in 1917 £7 15s was raised for the hospitals Sunday fund.

Source: the Kent and Sussex Courier, various dates Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

610ton-greetings-from-tonbridge-front

18. Tonbridge School

Over 2000 alumni from Tonbridge School served in the First World War, with 415 of these being killed in action during the course of the War. Wounded Belgian soldiers were also treated at Tonbridge School

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

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19. The Medway

During the War all the important bridges such as this one would have been guarded and patrolled- either by the local territorials or by the Scouts.

Unfortunately during the War the Medway at Tonbridge was also where a young mother and her baby went missing. The lady concerned, according to the Kent and Sussex Courier, had a husband serving at the Front and left a note saying she was tired of life and was ‘going to end it’. This story demonstrates the toll to families of the strain of having a relative serving on the Front during the War

607ton-the-medway-in-tonbridge

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

20. The Chequers, High Street

The Chequers, 122 High Street, was run by the Cantle family during the First World War .The landlord AJ Cantle rescued a young woman from drowning in the Medway in February 1917 - she had become overwrought with worry about her husband serving on the Western Front. Mr Cantle received the Royal Society Humane Award for his brave action.

Source: Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser - Friday 04 May 1917 (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

 

608ton-the-h-street-the-chequers-tonbridge

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price