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Emily Jane Chatfield - Dipper at the Chalybeate Springs

Emily Jane Chatfield - 1847 - 1921

Born Emily Jane Strange in 1847, she was one of 7 children of George Strange, a carpenter, and grand-daughter of Edward Hilder Strange, the proprietor of the Royal Kentish Hotel in Tunbridge Wells, an Alderman and one of the oldest members of the Town Council. The Strange family were well established in the area. Her maternal grandfather was John Richardson, an architect of Somerville House, Mount Ephraim.

Emily married Henry Chatfield, a grocer’s assistant from Hastings in 1874. They had 3 sons, Harry, Ernest and Leonard.

In 1881 Henry was described as a shopman / grocer and Emily a mantle maker. The Chatfields lived at 7 Granville Road with their 3 sons, but tragedy soon overtook the family when Henry died in June 1881 aged 40, and son Ernest in 1882 aged 4.

By 1891 Emily had moved to 14 Grecian Road where she was making a living as a dressmaker. Son Harry was a telegraph messenger and Leonard was still at school. This house was fairly substantial for a widow making a living as a dressmaker, so possibly she got help from her extensive family. By 1896 they had moved again to 13 Norfolk Road, and in 1899 she was employed as a dipper at Chalybeate Springs in the Pantiles, a position she held until her death in 1921. Son Henry still lived with her at this stage, as well as her married sister Minnie Bagwell and she rented out a room for lodgers Joseph and Sarah Moisey. Still at Grecian Road in 1911 she let out 3 rooms of the 7 in the house.

The position of dipper could only be held under a very old custom, dating back to 1606, by a freeholder’s daughter, and subject to the approval of the Court Baron of the Lord of the Manor. Emily was always happy to talk to visitors and tell them of the history of the Springs, according to her obituary in The Courier of February 25th 1921. She features on the well known postcard of the Springs from about 1905 called “Taking the Waters” by H G Groves. Her daughter-in-law Edith assisted her as a dipper.

Emily was one of the oldest members of the Rehoboth Chapel and was connected with the congregation for over 40 years. Following her death on 21st February 1921, her funeral service was conducted by Rev Evans, the Pastor of Rehoboth.

She is buried in Section C1 (General) plot 547 with her sister Alice Elizabeth Hunt who died in 1926. No memorial exists.

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