KENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY  -- RESEARCH   Studying and sharing Kent's past      Homepage

Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 126   2006 page 418 - Book Reviews - continued

informative text in an attractively designed book. This book is a history, but also a well-shaped guide and gazetteer, divided into eight sections covering main industries, with each site discussed and indicated by its OS grid reference. Thus this comprehensive book is designed to be used and consulted.
   The starting point, by Frank Tullett, is the geology and topographical location of the town as a bridging point over the River Medway with the road to the coast running across the half-a-mile wide flood plain. The river and its neighbouring streams provided transport and water power (also annual floods), while the clay sands, gravels and Hastings Beds provided building materials. Next is a succinct outline of the industrial history of Tonbridge by Christopher Chalklin. This is then followed by the eight sections: agriculture and allied trades, water and wind power, extractive industries, metalworking and engineering, manufacturing, utilities and services, communications and entertainment, and transport.
   Tonbridge had a wide range of industries of varying sizes. In the mid nineteenth century the railway was the largest single employer of wage labour; in 1881 the census listed 47 cricket ball makers in the town in several workshops – they had organised their own union by the 1890s; a printing works produced Punch in the 1840s, and the Whitefriars Press (it printed books for Penguin in the 1950s) was the largest employer in the town in the late 1940s with 300-350 employees. There is no mention of stone and glass bottles (there were two breweries in the town in the nineteenth century), or glass for windows (difficult stuff to transport), being manufactured in Tonbridge. One wonders whether they were imported via the Medway wharf (the river was made navigable to the town by 1740) and by the railway line opened in 1842 south of the river and half-a-mile from the old town. Carriers are not mentioned in the section on ‘Transport’ and a local map showing their routes would have been instructive. And now that coal merchants’ offices have virtually disappeared, how and by whom was coal distributed before the coming of the railway and after?
   It might be helpful to say a little more on just two sections to indicate the usefulness of this book. First, ‘Water and wind power’: water provided the energy for milling corn, fulling cloth, making gunpowder, and iron making processes including furnaces, while the sole windmill located in Southborough ground corn until the 1860s. Second, ‘Utilities and services’: industrial processes which are often accorded brief mention in local historical studies, although vital to economic and social wellbeing. The section covers gas production and distribution both public and private (gasworks, holders); water supply (water works, reservoirs, wells – but no mention of early pumps); surface drainage and sewerage (works, pumping station, and the recently constructed flood control barrier at Leigh completed in 1982); electricity (generation, street furniture); and

Previous page       Back to Page listings       Next page      

For details about the advantages of membership of the Kent Archaeological Society   click here

Back the Contents page   To Arch. Cant. List   To Publications On-line   To Research Page   To Homepage

Kent Archaeological Society is a registered charity number 223382
© Kent Archaeological Society February 2012

This website is constructed by enthusiastic amateurs. Any errors noticed by other researchers will be to gratefully received so
 that we can amend our pages to give as accurate a record as possible. Please send details too