Tunbridge Wells Heritage
Experience an historic spa town break in Royal Tunbridge Wells, the only spa town in the South East of England, equidistant from the coast and the capital.
Set amongst a rich heritage of orchards, hop farms (and hop picking), vineyards, market towns, iron production and cloth weaving, the Tunbridge Wells borough possesses a fascinating depth of history and heritage.
The region as a whole boasts 25 areas of conservation status meaning the structures and land are protected for posterity and to be admired by many more generations.
A new town in the making
Northern developments of the town began in the early 1800’s when plans to create a new town, complete with gardens, features and services “suitable to the reception of genteel families” on the Calverley Estate.
This extensive undertaking was to be designed by a brilliant young architect Decimus Burton who had made his name designing and building the innovative residential Regents Park.
He designed and built the private residences in Calverley Park and Calverley Park Terrace. Calverley Park, overlooking 20 acres of meadow and park grounds, known today as Calverley Grounds, contains twenty-four villas, chiefly of the Italian and Grecian style of architecture.
Using local stone from the quarry on the Calverley Estate, he also remodelled and extended Calverley House, a Georgian mansion, now the Hotel Du Vin, it was here that Princess Victoria stayed as a young girl.
The new town springing up included villas, a terrace, a parade, rows of shops, a market place, the gothic Holy Trinity Church and the Calverley Mews, which afford extensive accommodation for horses and carriages. All this was completed in 20 years “so that the residents upon this estate might enjoy the same advantages as those who lived nearer the springs.”
The Great Hall (1870 – 1872) at the bottom of Mount Pleasant Road, was designed by a local architect in a contemporary French style with a large hall which was to supply the demand for public rooms for cultural activities including lectures, concerts and social events.
There was also a library and reading room in The Great Hall which was eventually destroyed in a mysterious fire.
The purpose built Opera House, at the top of Mount Pleasant Road, opened in 1902. Originally it was planned for the opening to coincide with the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In 1931 the Opera House converted to a cinema which had to compete with the large newly built Ritz cinema, once described as “Kent’s most luxurious cinema” which opened its doors in 1934.
Today the Opera House is a popular pub; it still retains the stage and grand balconies and occasionally transforms back into an Opera House for a night or two.
Heritage Trails to do around Tunbridge Wells
Well before the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells was built up, the villages and hamlets in the countryside were securely established.
Places such as Horsmonden and Cranbrook have wonderfully colourful histories. Take a look at the tapestry of heritage on the village pages to whet your appetite before you delve into the real experience.
The churches have been at the foundation of communities in bygone times. One way to explore the area and its heritage is to follow the route in 'On the Wealden Churches Trail’.
This will provide you with a thoroughly scenic journey right across our beautiful Wealden countryside.
A Heritage Walking Trail was launched for the 400th anniversary of the Chalybeate Spring’s unearthing. This guides the visitor around some of the most interesting and important historic sights of the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Special commemorative claret plaques on buildings of significant historic interest can be discovered in this illuminating self guided tour. Take a preview of the trail from your device right now!
Just a short train journey from London's Charing Cross and easily accessible by car from the coast and the main road routes in the South East, Royal Tunbridge Wells makes an ideal base to get away from it all as a holiday or a pleasant day out.
What should you do next?
If you would like to come to Tunbridge Wells to explore and find out more about its rich history, culture and heritage, then first of all, we suggest you download our map of Tunbridge Wells to help plan your visit.
By downloading our map, it will be much easier to find and visit many of our amazing attractions such as the historic Pantiles walkway, the Seven Wonders of the Weald, not to mention our many amazing stately homes, gardens and churches.
If time is of the essence, then we suggest you try our one-hour guided walking tour of Royal Tunbridge Wells - you will not be disappointed!
Further recommendations for Tunbridge Wells research:
Accommodation - find a place to stay and relax in
Be Inspired - Ideas for rainy days, dog friendly places and special offers
Top tips from the locals - Blogs