The man who put Tonbridge on the map – Sydney Simmons celebrates 100th birthday

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TONBRIDGE legend Sydney Simmons has celebrated his 100th birthday – at one of his many town triumphs, Poult Wood Golf Course.

As an engineer and surveyor, Mr Simmons was responsible for the development of large swathes of the town after the Second World War.

He also used his skills and knowledge to serve with distinction in various theatres of war.

In honour of Mr Simmons reaching the milestone, Poult Wood Golf Club organised a centenary tournament, with more than 80 members taking part on Monday, October 30. A teak bench inscribed with his name was presented to himby his extended family, to be placed on the course he played at until he was 96.

His son John said: “It was a superb day, the club had everything laid on for him. You can only describe it as a banquet, and then there were all the golfers and many members of his extended family there. It was amazing.”

Mr Simmons, who was born on October 27, 1917, has lived in the town since 1951, and was the Chief Surveyor for Kent before he retired in 1982.

A veteran of D-Day in 1944, when he established beach heads for the troops, he served
throughout the Second World War as a Captain in the Royal Engineers.

He was also responsible for the construction of the vitally strategic runway at Gibraltar airport in 1941, and recalls taking a rock kestrel injured in the blasting of the rock faces and nursing it back to health.

Mr Smmons served in France,Holland and Germany, and in May 1945 one of his happiest memories was being f̻ted by the liberated towns people of Sevenum in Holland, as they brought out their finest food and wine Рwhich had been hidden away for years Рand he was serenaded by nightingales.

He built his own house in Higham Lane in 1957, and has been married to Joan for 74 years – they have five children, 13 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.

Working for what was then the Tonbridge Urban District Council, he oversaw the expansion of the small market town, including the residential expansion of north Tonbridge in the 1950s and ’60s.

The town’s sewage works were built under his stewardship, and he celebrated his wedding anniversary by taking his wife Joan to the opening.

Mr Simmons was responsible for naming many of the roads, agonising for hours over the dinner table to ensure local historic names were preserved.

The development of the Cannon Lane mini bypass was one of his passions, ridding the High Street of the stifling congestion experienced all through the ’60s. This led to the development of the town’s industrial estates.

He was also at the forefront of the development of Haysden Lake as a leisure facility and nature reserve, alongside the town’s other open spaces and the swimming pool.

The restoration of the Norman castle is one of engineer and surveyor’s finest legacies, saving the dilapidated buildings in the mid-1950s.

With a dedicated team of stonemasons and workmen, he oversaw the repair works to the walls, towers and mote for over a decade from his office at the castle.

In later years, he became Chairman of the Tonbridge Historical Society and was the major authority on the town’s past.

He published many articles detailing the restoration works in the Kent Archaeological handbook, and when he retired he spent years transcribing the records of the town
wardens from 1500 to recent times.

Mr Simmons’s final major achievement was as the founder, President, Chairman and first Captain of Poult Wood Golf Club.

His vision drove the development of a public golf course in Tonbridge, and he was instrumental in purchasing 93 acres of land from North Frith Estate for the enjoyment of all, not just the elite.

He oversaw the development of the course design and clubhouse with the architect Fred Hawtree.

The course was opened in 1974 and he had the honour of hitting the first tee shot.

Mr Simmons presented the Captain’s Day prize to an aspiring 12-year-old local schoolboy, Paul Way, who went on to become a Ryder Cup golfer.

He was also the longest playing member at Lamberhurst Golf Club, winning many tournaments, including the Kent Veterans Championship in 1984.

Ever modest, his hard work, enthusiasm and diligence over 66 years has produced a vast legacy that has benefitted every person who lives or works in Tonbridge.

As he was always keen to remind everyone, the town’s motto is ‘The good ofthe people is the supreme law’.


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