Ernest Jean Pierre KUMPS and his wife Jeanne Josephine Marie (nee VAN BRIEN) came to Tunbridge Wells with their daughters Sylvie (15), Julienne (14), Madeleine (12), Elisa (9) and Jeanne (4) from their home at 239 rue de Merode in Brussels, not far from the Palais de Justice – the Law Courts – where M. KUMPS was employed.
Mme KUMPS was from Lier near Antwerp, and the couple had married in Antwerp on New Year’s Eve 1892. Daughters Sylvie and Julienne had been employed as shop assistants at the A l’Innovation department store on the rue Neuve in Brussels.
A home was found for them all at 40 Upper Grosvenor Road.
This 10-roomed house was offered by Miss CANDLER in late October 1914 on behalf of the Society of Friends – a fact mentioned in the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser, but not, so far as I can see, in the Kent & Sussex Courier – and had been the home of a leading member of the Society, Thomas Ashby WOOD, until his death at the age of 79 on 26 August 1914. According to his will, he left the house to his daughter Kate who had looked after him and the house since his wife’s death in 1912 – I’d thought maybe he’d left it to the Society of Friends.
I wonder where his daughter lived while it was home to the KUMPS family and others. And why it was left to Miss CANDLER to oversee its use as housing for the Belgian families. Anyone?
Mr KUMPS became the first President of the Belgian community’s Club Albert when it was set up in November 1914; he was President when the bust of the Mayor was presented to the town in September 1915, and continued in the role until January 1916 when he joined the Belgian Army and left for the Front. He was by then 6 months short of his 45th birthday.
His family left Tunbridge Wells for France from Southampton in May 1916.
Little Jeanne KUMPS must have made her mark on the town – not least when in March 1915 this “tiny mite of four years” sang the British National Anthem in English at a concert at St Luke’s School – a concert at which all the performers were Belgian refugees resident in the town (Kent & Sussex Courier, 26th March 1915).
In July 1917, the Courier reported that Bro. E. KUMPS of the Belgian Army sent fraternal greetings to the “Royal Victoria” Lodge of the Druids.
I have traced the family in the Brussels Censuses at the City of Brussels Archives (3) and find that they all returned safely to Brussels after the war.
I wonder what became of little Jeanne?
(1) Sarah CANDLER and her sisters, Lucy and Phillis, strongly influenced by their Quaker beliefs, were actively involved in Tunbridge Wells in a wide range of political and social causes. They ran the Woodlands Steam Laundry at 104 Upper Grosvenor Road. Read more about them on the University of Kent’s Inspiring Women website. Their older sister Elizabeth married an ASHBY but I have yet to find a connection with Thomas Ashby WOOD though I’m convinced there is one – ASHBY was his mother’s maiden name…
(3) The great thing about the City of Brussels Archives (Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles) is that they are open on a Monday when the National Archives (Archives Generales du Royaume) are closed!