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Boyce, Brown & Kemp (1873-1916)

Boyce, Brown & Kemp; Boyce, Thomas Amos; Brown, James; Kemp, Alfred

Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent; wholesale Tunbridge ware manufacturers (fl.1873-1916)

The origins of this partnership are to be found in the business of James Brown snr. who learnt the trade in the workshops of Henry Hollamby of Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells. He started his own business at Violet Place, Camden Road (1862); Goods Station Road (1865); Tunnel Tip (1871) and 9 Mercer Street (1878). His son, James jnr. was apprenticed to Henry Hollamby.  The business was relatively small; in 1871 employing only four men and a girl and was absorbed by the partnership of Boyce, Brown and Kemp.

Thomas Amos Boyce (b.1846-d.1914) was recorded in census as wood turner (1881), joiner (1891) & Tunbridge ware maker (1901 & 1911). James Brown (b.1844-d.1922) was recorded in census 1871-1911 as Tunbridge ware maker. It has not been possible to identify further details for the third partners, Alfred Kemp. Their workshops in Camden Road aimed their manufactures in the main to retail shops in Tunbridge Wells, with direct sales of finer wares forming a small element in their trade, and thus they did not identify most of their productions. An exception is a cabinet designed for cigar storage, with eight drawers, the top face of each with an oval stamp, applied in magenta, to identify Boyce, Brown and Kemp as the manufacturers. 

The general range of products: glove and handkerchief boxes, tea caddies and chests, pin cushions, paper knives etc., are unlabelled unless the retailer chose to mark them. Many of the Hollamby designs and veneers were used and initially goods were sold to the trade by Hollamby; although it was reported that in February 1890 a visitor to the Camden Road premises were shown mosaic depictions of Eridge Castle, Battle Abbey, Hever Castle, Tonbridge Castle, Penshurst Place and the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. 

Hollamby’s workshop suffered fire damage in 1891 and Boyce, Brown & Kemp purchased the residual stock. The number of workmen employed in Camden Road was only eleven in 1910 and with the onset of World War I was to fall further. In 1916 the business was taken over by John Thomas Ellis, of Porter’s Bazaar, the Pantiles, who was one of the partnership’s customers and in 1923 by David H. E. King Ltd.                       

Sources: Austen, ‘Tables by Tunbridge Ware Makers’, Furniture History (1997); Austen, Tunbridge Ware (3rd ed., 2001).