L udwig Reich (1873 – 1954)
Ludwig Reich was born in Germany in 1873, one of 10 sons of a farmer in the Black Forest. Aged 17 and knowing no English he emigrated and settled in Glasgow, serving an 8 year apprenticeship with a German jeweller and watchmaker. He decided to seek his fortune in South Africa in 1899 and found work with a jeweller in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. He was proud of the fact that he had engraved the plate for Cecil Rhodes’ coffin in March 1902. However the climate of South Africa did not agree with him, so he returned to England shortly afterwards and settled in Tunbridge Wells.
He opened his first jewellers and watchmakers shop at 109 Camden Road in October 1902 with very little stock, and was successful enough that within a short time he expanded this outlet to include the next door premises. At the start of WWI he was briefly interned and on his return to Tunbridge Wells the windows of his shop were broken. He was ostracised by the parishioners of St Augustine’s Church and a gift of £500 which he offered as a thanksgiving for the end of hostilities was refused due to pressure from prominent parishioners.
He had married Wilhelmina, the daughter of a German jeweller living in Maidstone in January 1903. They had 5 children, all of whom became involved with the business of L.Reich and Sons which by 1925 had opened a further shop on Monson Road.
In 1951 Ludwig was photographed by the Reveille magazine and a short video made by Pathe News
Ludwig died on 3 July 1954 at his home 212 St John’s Road. His sons and grandsons carried on the business in Monson Road until it finally closed in 2014