Salomons Museum

Sir David Lionel Salomons (1851 – 1925)

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Son of Philip Salomons and Emma Montefiore. Nephew of Sir David Salomons , from whom he inherited the title and the Broomhill estate in 1873.

Picture of Sir David Lionel Salomons

Married Laura de Stern in 1882. Five children: Maud , Sybil , David Reginald , Vera and Ethel.

Educated privately, and then at University College , London , and Gonville and Caius College , Cambridge .

David Lionel and his sisters were orphaned in their teens and moved to Broomhill to be cared for by their uncle, David Salomons . Sir David died just before David Lionel completed his studies at Cambridge , and he inherited the title and the estate.

From an early age David Lionel Salomons was interested in science and mechanics and would pass his spare time in the workshops and factories of London . At the age of fourteen he befriended a watchmaker and learned how to repair and make his own clocks and watches. After he had finished his Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge he started a series of popular scientific lectures for the general public in Tunbridge Wells. These included demonstrations of electrical experiments, his chief enthusiasm.

His second great love was transport – in all its forms. He invented a railway signalling system, built a magnificent stable block for his horses, acquired the second car in Britain and went on to be a pioneer of ‘horseless vehicles', and in later years wrote a small book about aeroplane flight.

David Lionel greatly extended the Broomhill estate, adding garages and a ‘Science Theatre' at the back of the house. The house was one of the first to be lit with electricity, and it contained considerable collections of art and books.

Sir David spent much of his time in London , either commuting daily from Tunbridge Wells or staying at 49 Grosvenor Street , his London home. He was a magistrate in Kent (though he did not often sit) and was called to the Bar in 1874. Also that year he was a Deputy Lieutenant for Kent and stood (unsuccessfully) as the Liberal candidate for Mid-Kent in the general election. In 1880 he was High Sheriff of Kent and in 1899 he was elected as a County Councillor . He became a magistrate for London , Middlesex and Westminster , a Life-Governor of University College , London , Master of the Coopers Company for the year 1893, and Honorary Colonel for the Kent Fortress Engineers. By popular demand, he was asked to be Mayor of Tunbridge Wells in 1894 – despite not being a borough councillor – and during his term of office arranged what was probably the world's first motor show.

A list of the societies he belonged to shows the range of subjects he was interested in: astronomy, chemistry, civil engineering, geology, geography, meteorology, commerce, physics, military, inventions, archaeology, law, statistics, zoology, botany, agriculture, electrical engineering, photography, microscopy, and ‘self-propelled traffic'. He also belonged to a number of sporting and coaching clubs.

He patented several inventions (mostly electrical apparatus, but also one for buoyant soap!) and wrote several books. One on the Management of Accumulators became a standard text and ran to several editions. He was also in the habit of publishing a little book of reflections and sayings each year, which he sent to his family and friends as a New Year greeting.

Although he was not as involved in Jewish affairs as his uncle, he retained his Jewish faith and, unlike many scientists of the day who were atheists or agnostics, viewed science as a way of marvelling at God's creation.

Sir David Lionel's only son, David Reginald Salomons, died in the First World War, so the baronetcy was not passed on. Sir David Lionel died in 1925. He is buried in the family burial ground at Lower Green, Tunbridge Wells.

» Find out more about his pioneering work with motor cars, click here.
» Find out more about his electrical work.