As a young boy around the age of 13 like many others I use to play in the River Medway in Tonbridge Park every time the river was lowered for the annual cleaning of shopping trolleys & other discarded items. One day when the river was lowered I found a strange looking bottle with a marble inside with the words the "B" Horsley & Co MINERAL WATER TUNBRIDGE. I took it home and showed my farther and said to him that they had missed the word WELLS out; he then explained to me that this bottle was not from Tunbridge Wells but Tonbridge.
I was confused then he went on to explain that the now Tonbridge used to be spelt with a “U” not an “O”. I told him that I found it in the river in the Sports ground he said that the Sports ground was in fact many years ago a Racecourse. He said the park was always a very popular place and there would probably be loads more in the river people would have just thrown them in during boat rides, pick nicks, and watching the Racing.
with is in mind of I went again to the river to find many weird & wonderful bottles all shapes & sizes with different names & spellings of the town. Soon the shelves on my bedroom wall began to fill with my artefacts from the river occasionally I would find clay pipes & the tails of bombs from the war & once found with my brother an Enfield 38 revolver officers issue – what a prize find indeed the handle had rotted away but that did not matter we wanted to keep it. Our Mother made us take it to the local police station and they kept it don’t know whatever happened to it.
As I got older I would research many of the names impressed on these bottles & became very interested in the towns overwhelming history. My collection of bottles was forever increasing, one day while searching the lowered river bed I came across another person collecting bottles he had been collecting to many years and told me that he also dug up bottles from Victorian rubbish tips. He went on to say that all the local Victorian tips had been found & gave me a few names of other collectors within the town after looking at there collections in envy I was determined to find a victorian rubbish tip to dig .
For those who know me I did have hair once, This was in my younger days when i use to dig down about 7/8 ft the deeper being older finds
I spent many hours in the library going throw old town records & maps until I found details of a local farmer being paid to collect the town’s rubbish. This rubbish once colleted was taken and tipped in to a pond on his land. After approaching the land owner nearly a hundred years later I was armed with my flask fork & shovel and found this now dried up pond & I began to dig, very soon I began to come across many broken bottles pots jars etc, but many in perfect condition' bottles made out of earthenware that when cleaned looked as if they had just been made.
I soon learned that you had to keep the whereabouts of these rubbish tips top secret as other collectors would soon raid the site after rare prize bottles. Occasionally I would find other towns bottles & would use these to swap for items from my home town, I was hooked soon I stated collecting anything from the town postcards, china, prints anything with the magic words Tonbridge.
When my grandfather passed away I inherited his cricket ball stitching equipment from four generations of ball makers in the family what a prize to add to my collection, I now have the towns largest collection of Tonbridge memorabilia and house a large part of my collection in the towns Historic Castle for the local schools town folk & visitors to see.
Even today I still search the river bed when lowered for bottles and other Tonbridge items but not very productive these days.
Many people ask me what will i do with the collection
I would love to think that my lovely Children Abby Robert & little Jessica Jeffery would keep it going should anything ever happen to me . But once im gone i will never know or will i.
My Dear Abby bless You "Grab Stick" i remember when you gave me my first piece of crested Tonbridge china.
Robert my dear son you helped with Roberts History Adventures and we spent many good times going around the town .
And now my Dear little Jessica i am sure i can find something for you to be interested in.
God Bless Them all and may they do well in life and achieve all they wish love you always Dad
please know even if i was not always there i will always be here if you need me .
x x x Love you x x x