15 posts categorised "Shop"

Payne: The Seventh Generation

Walking along the High Street I looked at the time. "I wonder how many other people still check the time by using that clock" I pondered.

Payne & Son Clock

The clock in question belongs to the jewellers, Payne & Son, one of the oldest families of jewellers in England.

They began their trade in 1790 in Wallingford and gradually opened branches northwards towards Oxford before opening their southernmost branch here in Tunbridge Wells in 1870.

The shop at 3 South Grove Terrace - as 37 High Street was then called - was purchased by William Payne and he dispatched his son Thomas Payne to Tunbridge Wells to administer it. The building was fairly new when William Payne purchased it, having been built only 20 years prior on the site of South Grove House by William Willicombe. There is a very similar terrace on The Pantiles, also built by Willicombe, and interestingly has the same cast iron ballustrading at first floor level. See if you can spot it on The Pantiles when you next visit.

The shop thrived and Thomas Payne continued as a jeweller and watchmaker here until his death in 1886. During his final years of ill health he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law Sidney William Allen. This partnership was commemorated with the mosaic step which you can still see today.

Payne & Son Mosaic

Today just the Oxford and the Tunbridge Wells branches remain in business and both are still being tended by a Payne, ours by the seventh generation Michael Payne. So, how has the business survived for this long? What is its secret? Simple. Quality.

This is most evident in the most famous bit of bling in Tunbridge Wells, the Mayor’s chain and badge of office. When Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was incorporated in 1889 the newly-elected Mayor, John Stone-Wigg, being the very generous man that he was, commissioned Payne & Son to make the chain as a gift to the borough. It was designed by the Mayor himself and is formed of twenty three links, comprising of eighteen 18ct gold TW monograms supporting five enamels showing the Arms of England, Kent, and Sussex, the see of Canterbury, and the rose of England.

Payne & Son Clock

One of the many benches that craftsman work at inside Payne & Son.

If not the Mayoral chain then the clock is probably the most beheld piece of hardware that Payne & Son has created. Imagine how many people over the years have walked under that clock on their way to work and checked if they were on time. John, who has worked at Payne & Son for 27 years, winds the clock a couple of times a week with exactly fourteen clockwise rotations of the large crank, any more and all the weights and cables fall off and he really doesn’t want to have to go through that again.

Payne & Son Clock Mechanism

Payne & Son Coronation Clock

The clock during the Coronation.

The clock is supposed to be an eight-day mechanism but as the shop front was changed many years ago (you can see the old window in the photograph to the right) the clock’s weight cable had to be re-routed and as this lengthened it it made the clock more of a six-day clock. The weight is in the basement of the shop and falls about 12 feet during a cycle. It was made by Payne & Son themselves and as you can see from the black and white photo it once carried a rather large crown atop it, although this was only for a short period during the Queen’s coronation. The crown is still in the shop today, safely stored down in the basement.

As it has so much character the shopfront has been used in a few television broadcasts. The first was in 1987 when the Post Office ran a national advertising campaign to show that their High Street branches stayed open longer than banks, the shop was dressed up as a Post Office for the day complete with a fake postbox outside. The shop was also used for an episode of "Perfect Scoundrels" starring Peter Bowles, but perhaps most famous of all was the shop being used by John Cleese in a Yellow Pages advert from 1996 - "Got any antique diamond rings?". Apparently the staff still get asked that to this day.

Payne & Son Clock

This strange item is a bowl of shellac, it is used to hold onto jewellery when engraving and polishing.

Even more intriguing is the fact that this shop - that hundreds of people walk past every day - has its very own Chalybeate Spring. Yes indeed, right there in the basement is a specially constructed channel carrying our local spring water along.

Payne & Son Clock Spring Water

I guess you're wondering if there is an eighth generation of Payne ready to take the business well into the 21st century. It turns out that yes there is. Although still only at school the business looks like it'll be in safe Payne hands for very many years to come.

You can see more photos of inside Payne & Son over on our Tunbridge Wells Project.

Time to Remember

I received a tip many moons ago from regular readers Matthew Morrison and Mike Goode about a rather special shop on Camden Road (it's actually half in Quarry Road) which apparently had one of the most accurate clocks in the world inside. It turned out to contain a lot more than that.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

Time to Remember is owned by Andrew, who you can see in the photo above, and his shop is a horologists dream.

Within a few seconds of saying hello we excitedly got onto the subject of clocks, obviously, and I had to ask straight off the bat "where's the most accurate clock in the world?"

Now, if you had to choose from the hundreds that surrounded you in this shop I guarantee that this one would have been very far from the top of your list because there, sitting high above a door frame, was a simple tiny little clock about four inches across.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

"Is it really the most accurate clock in the world?" I hear you ask. Well, nearly, it's definitely the most accurate in Tunbridge Wells that's for sure, and it owes this accuracy to the NPL-CsF2 atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory from which it receives a time signal every day. Astonishingly it is accurate to within 1 second every 138 million years. So yes whilst it is one of the most accurate clocks in the world, it just so happens there are many more like it. There is a rather nice video of it where you can hear it's thunderous ticking.

Now, what there isn't many more of is the much more interesting clock below. This one is rather special indeed.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

The clock you see above is called the Shortt-Synchronome Clock No.3 and it is a part of one of the most important developments in timekeeping since the invention of the pendulum clock two hundred years before it. This clock is directly responsible for detecting that planet Earth had a slight wobble. That's right, this clock sitting on a wall in a shop in Camden Road helped discover that our planet wobbled on its axis. How amazing is that?

This clock began its life in Greenwich, the home of time, in 1921. It was the third clock made by English engineer WH Shortt who perfected the free-pendulum idea. In an ordinary pendulum clock the free swinging of the pendulum, on which timekeeping accuracy depends, is interfered with by the need to sustain the pendulums motion and to count the swings to tell the time. In Shortt's free-pendulum clock, these two functions are carried out by a subsidiary ‘slave clock’, therefore allowing the master pendulum to swing freely except for a fraction of a second each half-minute, when it receives an impulse from the slave. This enables the clock to have amazing accuracy.

This clock, when installed in Greenwich, was used to help keep GMT, and during its first year it was accurate to within 0.01 seconds. Three years later in 1924 the clock was moved to other duties as more accurate clocks were being produced by Shortt. It became the standard time bearer for what is known as Sidereal Time, that is the time the earth takes to revolve once on its axis, which is not exactly 24hrs but 24hrs and 4 minutes. This is used by astronomers to keep their telescope trained on a specific spot in the sky.

How about that? Amazing eh? There it is now keeping perfect time sitting unassumingly on a wall in Camden Road, and do you want to know something even more amazing about this amazing (too many amazings?) timepiece? It was found in a junk shop! One of Andrew's friends who happened to work at the Greenwich Museum discovered it one day whilst browsing and passed it onto Andrew.

I really recommend you pop by and say hello to Andrew and take a look at these clocks because they are masterpieces.

There are just far too many wonderful clocks in this aladdin's cave to go into detail about them all here but here are a few of the more interesting examples in Andrew's ever-changing display.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

This clock above is made by local Tunbridge Wells maker called William Ruffell. He operated around 1874 from, and here's the spooky bit, a shop in Camden Road! It's a rather wonderful balloon clock and would look superb on any mantle. Alas I couldn't find enough money in Mrs Anke's purse to buy it right there and then. Andrew says that clocks from local makers fly out the door in no time (first clock joke), so if you buy this clock I want words with you.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

This small odd-shaped clock is given to recipients of the Order of the Garter. It therefore could've been owned by royalty yet here it sits in a shop on Camden Road. Amazing!

Time to Remember, Camden Road

This is a GPO clock and would've graced the walls of a telephone exchange. The red diamonds marking the 15 minute intervals generate the call timing pulses necessary to charge telephone subscribers for their calls. Callers in those days would've paid for 15 minutes at a time rather than today's per second charging.

Time to Remember, Camden Road

This clock is on the outside of the shop and it's another of the "most accurate in the world" clocks so this is the one to set your watch to when you pass by. The interesting thing about this one is that it was made by Andrew himself and it's a direct replica of the clock onboard the Astoria studio that belongs to Pink Floyd. Cool eh?

Now, if you do visit Andrew's shop the first thing that strikes you (second clock joke) is the sound. It envelopes you. Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick...well you get the message. It's rather lovely and actually quite restful after a while. We made a few audio recordings whilst we were in the shop, and Andrew was kind enough to set lots of the clocks of chiming. Take a listen below.

If you'd like to learn more about Andrew and his shop then head on over to Mrs Anke's blog where she has written a lovely piece. We'd both like to say a huge thank you to Andrew for taking the time to chat to us and for our lovely readers for dropping us the tip. Thank you all.

Do You Love Royal Tunbridge Wells?

We are very proud to announce the launch of our I Love RTW t-shirts. They are now available to purchase from Sussex Mews on The Pantiles.

Tunbridge Wells T-Shirts

The good news is that these shirts are designed in Tunbridge Wells, printed in Tunbridge Wells and sold in Tunbridge Wells, with all the profits staying in our local economy. So, pop down to The Pantiles and get yours now. Only £15!

Thank you to the TIC for stocking the shirts, a big thank you to Signal Printers who produced a wonderful quality product and the biggest thank you to our brilliant model, Charlotte. Oh, and thanks also to her mum and dad for letting us borrow her for the morning.

If you do purchase one then please, please, please send me a photo of yourself wearing it, to either our Facebook page or to our email and you will go on the Wall of Fame.

Straight from the Sea to Tunbridge Wells

Sankeys Fishmongers

The final piece in the puzzle that you will no longer covet a Waitrose here in Tunbridge Wells has just been found. It comes in the form of a much-needed fishmonger and it comes from the people that provide the fabulous Sankey's Restaurant. I got an exclusive sneak preview of the premises today, in Vale Road opposite the train station, with a tour from the owners and I just know that this place is going to have housewives, and househusbands of course, queueing around the block.

It should be open in a couple of weeks and keep your eyes peeled here on this blog for photographs of the opening and the future official opening visit from Rick Stein. This is great news for the local economy, lets hope there is more to come.

Cultural Milkshake

Where better to soak up some local culture after a long holiday away than a shopping jaunt around town. Our aim was to walk the length of the once-neglected Camden Road which is now beginning to shine with new specialist stores and thankfully none of the usual High Street fare.

Camden Road Old Signs

I really suggest a walk down Camden Road if you have some spare time and especially with the upcoming Camden Road in Camera exhibition that starts this weekend. The exhibition is designed to show the road through history by displaying old photographs of shops and buildings in, or close to, the actual buildings in the photographs. There will also be a huge display of all the submitted images which will look fabulous.

Camden Road Old Signs

As a bit of a challenge to coincide with the exhibition we thought we would try and find some of the old Camden Road amongst all the new shops and frontages. We succeeded, as you can see from the pictures, can you find where the old signs we photographed are?

Camden Road Old Signs

To polish off a long walk we took some advice from the new SO Tunbridge Wells magazine and stopped into Bean for a refreshing milkshake, and heavens are we glad we did! I recommend the Cadbury's Caramel one, mmmmmmmmmmm. We're really looking forward to another walk down this great road next week, and another milkshake, I hope you will too.


  • I am a spritely 30-something living with my beautiful wife in the most fabulous town in the entire world, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

    We love to soak up the culture, the lifestyle, the nature, the history, the people, the art, the architecture, and the countryside in this idyllic part of the Weald, and because we love our town so much we made our blogs to share it with the rest of you.

    If you have any questions, comments or suggestions then please get in touch by sending us an email or if you are on Twitter then you can tweet me at @ankertw.

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