War of the Worlds

John Wells with wife & son by the grave of H.G. Wells

Last night the BBC began its new dramatisation of this classis sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells. There is a connection, admittedly distant, between the author and Shorne.

This came to light a few years ago when the church was visited by John Wells from japan who is a great grandson of the writer. He was researching his family history and attending a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of H.G. Wells’ birth at Woking which is where he and his wife Jane lived while he was writing War of the Worlds which starts with the landing there of the Martian space ship.

H.G. Wells’ grandfather Joseph Wells (who was born in Ireland) and his father Edward before him were head gardeners at the Redleaf Estate near Penshurst. This was a significant garden at the time. While there Joseph raised the first dwarf dahlias.

The owner of the estate died in 1847 and it was probably soon after that Joseph moved to Shorne as he was recorded as living here with his wife Mary and daughters in the 1851 census. The reason for moving to Shorne is not known, nor anything about his life there or in which house he lived.

Joseph died in Denton 1859 and the inscription on his gravestone reads:

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOSEPH WELLS LATE OF PENSHURST, KENT WHO DIED JUNE 23rd 1859 AGED 66 YEARS ALSO MARY WIFE OF THE ABOVE JOSEPH WELLS WHO DIED OCT. 24th 1861 AGED 66 YEARS

The grave, which is covered by a stone slab and appears to be lined with brick, is opposite the north-east corner of the church by the grass path; it is not easily recognised as the inscription is on the back of the headstone, facing the church.

Joseph’s son by his first marriage, also Joseph and father of H.G. Wells, was gardener at Uppark a large estate now owned by the National Trust. It was there he met his wife. He was also a professional player in the Kent county cricket team and was the first cricketer to take four wickets in four balls in a first class cricket match.

Andrw Moffat