A special thank you to Emily Gordon, from Salomons Estate who created the 190 Years of Salomons Estate event on Friday, 30th of August, which members of the Southborough Society Committee, along with other special guests were invited.
Guests were treated to a fascinating talk and tour from the museum’s curator, Chris Jones (who incidentally will be presenting our next talk in November).
If anyone has not been to visit the Salomons Museum, you must! The entry is free and you can see a wide range of objects and artefacts tracing the history of the Salomons family within its stunning original Victorian interior (and while you are there you can explore the picturesque grounds).
Emily has kindly written the article below about the evening and history of Salomons Estate.
Salomons Estate Through The Years
By Emily Gordon
Salomons Estate is known for little more than being a conference centre on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. After 190 years of fascinating history at the Victorian country house, it is about time we explored the untold tales of this hidden gem in our very own town.
Last month, 50 very special guests gathered to share their unique stories and experiences of Salomons Estate through the ages. Here we piece together the jigsaw puzzle that they collectively helped to shape.
The story starts in 1829 when Sir David Salomons bought a ‘very elegant small villa’ on the edge of Tunbridge Wells before tearing it down and commissioning the renowned British architect, Decimus Burton, to design the substantial country house that exists today. Sir David Salomons was one of the founding members of what is now known as Natwest Bank and was the first ever-Jewish Lord Mayor of London. The politician campaigned tirelessly for the equal rights of Jews and laid himself open to considerable penalties, speaking for his cause in the Houses of Parliament.
Salomons Estate is now part of the Jewish Country House Project, which celebrates Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the world of the Anglo-Jewish aristocracy. Representing the Jewish Country House Project at the 190th celebrations was Thomas Stammer who is currently working on a book featuring Salomons Estate.
Sir David Salomons left the estate to his nephew Sir David Lionel Salomons who was a keen scientist and engineer, making history on several occasions. Sir David Lionel Salomons built laboratories, and workshops in the grounds and a unique science theatre to demonstrate his experiments, which is still enjoyed by visitors today. Among many of his outstanding achievements, Sir David Lionel Salomons was the first person in the UK to hold a motor show. He also had the law changed so that cars could travel more than 4mph, invented an electric exposing camera in 1895 and was granted a patent for his invention of the automatic railway signaling system.
The third notable member of the Salomons family to live on the estate was First World War hero, Captain Reginald Salomons. Visiting Salomons on the 190th anniversary were James Beeny and Gina Georgio, who wrote the West End musical ‘The Dreamers’ which tells the moving tale of Captain Reggie Salomons and his team of 128 men, mainly from Southborough and High Broom, who lost their lives on the HMS Hythe, which sunk off the coast of Gallipoli in 1915. Last December, James and Gina’s top West End cast performed The Dreamers in the renowned Abbey Road Studios.
In 1937 Reggie’s sister, Vera Bryce Salomons, gave the estate to Kent County Council for use as a convalescent home – in memory of her brother, father and great-uncle. In the 1970s it was transformed into a training centre for regional health authorities, during which time residential facilities where build.
Returning to the estate for the 190th celebrations was Liz Scholey, manager of the NHS center in the 1980s. Liz and her husband John were also celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary last month, which was made extra special by visiting the venue where they got married.
In the 1990s Salomons was handed over to Canterbury Christ Church University who continued to use it for educational purposes. To accommodate their needs, the University converted the stables into offices and lecture rooms and the residential facilities into accommodation.
Today Salomons is operated by Markerstudy Group, which celebrates all aspects of the estate’s history. The group encourages local residents to simply explore the grounds, visit the museum and learn more about the extraordinary family it was once home to. They are working on an ongoing refurbishment programme, which aims to restore the Victorian charm of the country house and retain the unique features that make it so intriguing. They also continue to facilitate education, training and conferences on site and welcome weddings and special occasions that bring the charming house to life.