The Edwards of Tenterden

10/04/2020
Tenterden News
Photo: In the distance you can see the Edwards Brewery chimney 
 
THE EDWARDS OF TENTERDEN
Part one of a two-part series
Reprinted from St Mildred’s Church Parish News April 2020 & May 2020
 
MANY readers will know Henry and Felicity Edwards as long standing residents of the Town at Eastwell farm. Some may not know that the family has had a presence in Tenterden for nearly 150 years, contributing much to public service as well as to the rural economy.
 
Our story begins in 1872, when Obadiah Edwards purchased the Tenterden Brewery in what is now Station Road, together with 10 public houses in the area. The price paid was about £7,000. The Edwards were originally farmers and brewers from Hartfield in Sussex and Obadiah had become licensee and brewer at the Grosvenor Inn in Calverley road, Tunbridge Wells but now decided to expand and leave the area.
 
The Tenterden Brewery was established in 17 45 and had seen several owners including the Shepherd's from Faversham and most recently Richard Young, who had acquired the business in 1866. From all accounts, the business blossomed and, in due course, Edwards' three sons, Henry (born 1862), Robert (born 1866) and Frederick (born 1873) joined the business. Initially, the family lived in the brewer's house, attached to the brewery, but later Obadiah and his wife Margaret moved to Eden Villa (No 153 in the High Street by the Methodist Church), Robert to West House (98, High Street) and Frederick to Crayville (82, High Street, corner of Station Road). Henry continued to live in the Brewer's House.
 
When Obadiah took over the brewery the machinery was driven by a "walking horse" spur wheel of some 15 feet in diameter. This turned a central shaft and by inserting wooden pinion wheel cogs, different machines were powered. In 187 4, the first steam engine was installed and by the 1890s most of the plant and machinery had been renewed. In 1898 a dynamo was installed which fed into an accumulator to provide lighting for the entire premises including the Vine Inn.
 
Obadiah also became involved in local affairs and was Mayor of Tenterden in 1898 and 1899. He died in 1905 at the age of 73 and left the Brewery business to his three sons in equal shares. Robert became the head brewer, Henry was in charge of sales and distribution and Frederick became the engineer. Henry's wife, Emma was Chief Cashier.
 
The business continued to prosper for a number of years, but with the outbreak of War in 1914 everything changed. Beer duty was raised from 7/9d to £5 per barrel. Licensing laws were introduced to reduce drunkenness, by restricting pub opening hours, which had hitherto been 18 hours a day. Prior to this, the brewery had operated a "get you home service" for customers with a horse and dray. Many men were away or lost fighting in the trenches and in 1919 the country was hit by a devastating flu epidemic. In consequence, the Brothers put the business up for sale by auction on 31st January 1922 at the Elwick Auction Rooms in Ashford.
 
The auction catalogue provided a valuable insight into the business. Prior to the War, annual beer sales had averaged between 5,000 and 6,000 barrels (one barrel equals 288 pints) However, Post 1918 this had halved to 3,000 barreIs. In addition, wines, spirits and mineral water sales were £23,604 in 1921.
 
The brewery site extended from the Vine Inn at the front, facing the High street, to the graveyard at the rear, on land which is now a car park and public toilets. The Brewhouse, which occupied the rear of the site, was on two levels. On the ground floor, water tanks, a wart pump and an engine room containing a Marshall's steam engine with appropriate gearing and shafting. On the upper floor, a fermenting room with vessels, a copper and various liquor tanks. There was a cooper's shop, a bottling store, an aerated water plant for making soft drinks and a spacious yard with stabling for eight horses. Two Morris Commercial lorries were purchased from Drake & Fletcher of Maidstone for delivery purposes in 1913, but these were subsequently requisitioned by the Army and horses were retained.
  
Water for the brewery was originally supplied from three wells in the yard, but in 1893 a well was dug at the bottom of Coombe Lane. Initially powered by a wind pump, a diesel engine was later installed. Reputed to be the first in Kent, people came from far and wide to see and listen to it. The remains of the well have been recently restored and no doubt some of the pipework remains under the adjacent burial ground.
 
The business as a whole was sold at auction for £28,700 to Jude Hanbury & Company, brewers of Canterbury. However, it soon became apparent that they were only interested in the pubs, all of which were in a twelve mile radius of the Town. The brewery was closed down in 1925 and the site was cleared a year later. Jude Hanbury was absorbed by Whitbread in 1929 and the Canterbury brewery was then closed.
 
A new phase in the history of the Edwards family was about to begin.

 

The Edwards of Tenterden

Photo left: The Brewhouse and Staff. Far Left: Henry Edwards. Far Right: Frederick Edwards (End) and Robert Edwards
Advert right: from Thomsons Guide 1904
 
Obadiah Edwards & Son - Public Houses 1922 
 

NAME

RECENT HISTORY

British Volunteer, New Street, Ashford

Shepherd Neame. Closed. Residential development

Kings Head, Shadoxhurst

Shepherd Neame. Open

The Bull, Rolvenden

Privately owned. Open

Casteleton's Oak, Biddenden

Demolished 2019

Crown, High Street, Cranbrook

Open as Costa Coffee

William the Conqueror
Rye Harbour

Shepherd Neame. Open

Rose & Crown, Swamp Road,
Old Romney

Privately owned. Open

New Inn, East Cross, Tenterden

Now This ancient Boro, Privately owned. Open Previously Honeymoon Chinese Restaurant

Black Horse, West Cross, Tenterden

Now The William Caxton. Shepherd Neame. Open

Vine Inn, High Street, Tenterden

Shepherd Neame. Open (Acquired 1922)

 
PART TWO
 
In 1922, with the family brewery in Tenterden now sold at auction to brewers, Jude Hanbury of Company of Canterbury, the three Edwards Brothers were establishing a completely new lifestyle
 
Henry (aged 58) moved out of the brewer's house into Crayville on the corner of Station Road, where his brother Frederick (aged 55) had been living. Henry purchased for his only surviving son Frank, aged 21, Eastwell Farm at East Cross in the Town. This had been primarily a chicken farm at the time with a haulage business attached, but Frank expanded it with enthusiasm into a wide range of livestock with much success. Henry died in 1944. 
 

 

The Edwards of Tenterden

 

The Edwards of Tenterden

Photo: FC Edwards, Electrical & Motor Engineers 
 
Frederick (aged 48) and his family decided to leave the area and moved to Cirencester in Gloucestershire. His son Frederick Cyril, aged 22, was by then running an electrical and cycle business at number 17 High Street (now Cancer Research UK). He was a keen motorcycle enthusiast and had participated in the Isle of Man II races. Frederick senior had been involved in municipal affairs in his early years, having served on the Borough Council from 1905 until he left the area, becoming Mayor in 1912 and an alderman in 1919. He died at Cirencester in 1932 and his son in 1961.
 
Robert (aged 55) continued to live at West House in the High Street for a time. He and his son George farmed at Coombe Farm in Chennell Park Road. Robert was an accomplished bell ringer at St Mildred's Church. He died in 1953 and George in 1989.
 
Frank Edwards died in 1962 and Eastwell Farm was inherited by his son Henry Harold Obadiah Edwards. Henry was born there in 1943) as was his sister Jennifer. Henry and his wife Felicity continue to live in the Farm House, although Henry is semi-retired. In 1949 the farm house was completely destroyed by fire when the family were out in the fields and had to be re-built. In 1940 the MOD requisitioned farm land adjacent to the railway station to build several Romney type huts for food storage. Ownership was returned to the farm in 1968 and the buildings survive to this day. One is occupied by the Colonel Stephens Railway Museum and the Tenterden Forge. Another two contain the recently established Old Dairy Brewery - a real link with the past. 

 

The Edwards of Tenterden

 Photo right: Henry Edwards
 
Henry has given a lifetime of municipal service to the Town. He was first elected to the Town Council in 1979 and retired in 2019. He was Town Mayor in 1989 and 1990. In commendation of his 40 years of service to the welfare and preservation of Tenterden, Henry Edwards received the Honorary Free of Tenterden from the current Mayor, Councillor Jean Curteis on 18 November 2019.
 
The next generation of Edwards is represented by Henry's son Richard and his daughter Karen Amanda, both of whom live in the Town. Richard has three children, Robert, Oliver and Jessica. He carries on the family tradition of bell ringing as Bell Captain of St Mildred's and ensures that the bells ring out!
 
Philip Shaw
The author would like to thank Henry and Felicity Edwards for their help in compiling this article and also Jack Gillett and John Weller for information.
 

Henry Edwards receiving the Honorary Freedom of Tenterden on 18 November 2019 

Henry Edwards, Freedom of Tenterden

 

Henry Edwards, Freedom of Tenterden

 

Henry Edwards, Freedom of Tenterden

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