The Woodgate Family

The Woodgates were an important Tonbridge family in the 18th and 19th centuries.

William Woodgate

William Woodgate married Frances Hooker, built up a considerable fortune and bought the new house (built by his brother-in-law Thomas Hooker) attached to Tonbridge Castle in 1793 for his son William Francis (1770-1828) who was known as the Major.

William Francis Woodgate

After William died, William Francis moved to Somerhill and made improvements to it. He had at least ten children, and one of his daughters married Dr Thomas Knox, the headmaster of Tonbridge School.

Another daughter, Maria, married James Thomas of the Madras Civil Service and is commemorated within Holy Trinity (now Trinity Theatre) in Tunbridge Wells.

During the threat of a Napoleonic invasion, William Francis commanded a troop of about 55 cavalry volunteers, as part of the West Kent Yeomanry, who were raised from among local inhabitants in 1794. His father had been one of three founders of the Tonbridge Bank in 1792 but in 1816 the Bank failed, bringing ruin to its backers. William Francis was forced to sell Somerhill. Although Woodgates no longer lived in Somerhill after that date, another member of the family, Francis (1781-1843), returned to live in Tonbridge in 1823 when he bought Ferox Hall. With the large family of succeeding generations of Woodgates living in Sevenoaks, Seal, Pembury, Penshurst and further afield, the family features in many aspects of the locality’s history throughout the whole of the 19th century.

The Woodgate family is one of the few Tonbridge families to have left a substantial archive of documents about its history. There is a copy of the detailed History of the Woodgates of Stonewall Park and Somerhill in Kent by the Reverend Gordon Woodgate and G. M. G. Woodgate, printed privately in 1910, in Tonbridge Reference Library, and another in the Tonbridge Historical Society’s archives. It contains substantial quotations from the family papers, which are deposited in the Centre for Kentish Studies.

More can be found about the Woodgate Family on the Tonbridge History website.