Resident lent his family’s name to village landmark
FRED Sibbey, whose long family connection with Tunbridge Wells lives on through “Sibbey’s Corner”, has died at the age of 96.
A well-known member of the Hawkenbury community, Mr Sibbey, of Napier Road, lived in the area all his life.
He was born in 1915 at Jubilee Cottages in Hall’s Hole Road, later living with his parents and two sisters above his grandparents’ shop on the corner of Nelson Road, the general store that gave its name to today’s local landmark.
In his recollections of his life, published by the Hawkenbury Village Association, Mr Sibbey recalled how his grandmother, Charlotte, was in charge of the store while her husband William ran his coal, coke and wood business alongside.
He said: “To me, the cellar under the shop was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave, full of sides of bacon, large round cheeses, boxes of oranges, apples, bananas…”
After his grandparents’ death, Mr Sibbey’s father Joseph took over the coal business and his Uncle Bert ran the shop.
Looking back on his childhood between the wars, he recalled the excitement of Sunday School outings to the seaside and Empire Day celebrations in Calverley Grounds, summer hop picking at Little Bayhall Farm and skating on the lake in Dunorlan Park in the reflection of lights strung up all around.
“Uncle Fred always had a story to tell,” said his nephew, Richard Stubbings. “He worked all his life and was always content with his lot, a really nice guy whom everybody liked.”
After leaving King Charles the Martyr School, Mr Sibbey began work building greenhouses at CH Whitehouse of Frant, where he stayed for most of his working life.
He met his wife, Dorothy, at a concert party in The Grove in 1937 and they married four years later.
“He caught my eye straight away,” recalled Mrs Sibbey, who lived in nearby Nevill Street. “We had a lot of fun boating on the River Medway with friends or catching the train to the coast if we were feeling flush.”
At the outbreak of war, Mr Sibbey was called up to work as an engineer on Hawker aircraft, but by 1950, after a brief spell at builders T Bates & Sons, he had returned to his old job, where he continued until his retirement in 1979.
A keen gardener, he was a prize-winning member of Hawkenbury Allotment Holders’ Association and also spent time researching the history of the village to which his family had contributed so much.