Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

by Chris Parker

Tunbridge Wells Culture

Culture, customs, traditions and all the arts have been an integral part of Tunbridge Wellian life since the town’s birth.

Home to a wealth of creative talent, Tunbridge Wells has one of the largest populations of creative professionals in Kent.  Inspiration abounds from the local heritage and natural environment.

Many might think of shopping and café culture when thinking of Tunbridge Wells and, whilst there are fantastic cafés and boutiques here in Tunbridge Wells, it’s not all about coffee (well, maybe just a little bit!).

History of culture in Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge ware is one famous example of locally made art. It is a form of marquetry and was first created in the 1700s. The Chalybeate Spring was only discovered in 1606.

Marquetry is a delicately inlaid pattern in wood as a form of art to decorate objects such as tables, jewellery boxes, pill boxes and so on.  See image below.

Tunbridge Ware marquetry at Tunbridge Wells Art Gallery and Museum - David Hodgkinson

Culture in Tunbridge Wells - “…it’s a place of innovation, of change. Some of the big firsts happened here in terms of photography, science, politics, particularly around women’s suffrage, all here in Tunbridge Wells. It attracts innovators ..”

Links to English Literature

Jane Austen was a fan of Tunbridge ware owning a few pieces herself.  Her brother Henry Austen is buried in Woodbury Park Cemetery in a quiet place on the outskirts of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, and friends, were known to ‘explorate’ Ashdown Forest, only 30 minutes away by horseless carriage. It is a little known fact that Pooh came to church in Royal Tunbridge Wells too.

The famous authors, E M Forster and Thackeray both lived in Royal Tunbridge Wells for a time. One of the best restaurants in town is in the house where Thackeray used stay.

Thackeray is famous for writing Vanity Fair, the book without a hero. Edward Morgan Forster is famous for writing Howard's End, A Room With A View and A Passage to India amongst others.

Siegfried Sassoon lived in the little village of Brenchley, riding in the Wealden hills and woods and playing cricket on the village cricket pitch. Sassoon is famous for his moving world war poetry.

Find out more with a group guided tour  of Royal Tunbridge Wells or from the self guided Heritage Walking Trail.

Inspiring carpets of countryside

Indoors and outdoors there is always something to enrich your visit right here in the Garden of England.

Charles Tattershall Dodd I is one such well known artist who lived and painted the Tunbridge Wells area throughout his life.

There is an active visual arts community that often arrange large exhibitions, art trails and other events in the surrounding towns and villages too.

For example, the pretty village of Cranbrook has an annual art show in the historic Vestry Hall. The Museum there is worth browsing round to find out more about the rural history and culture of the Weald of Kent.

There are numerous notable art galleries  in the town with a variety of changing exhibitions displaying local Kent and Sussex artists’ work as well as works by international guests.

The award winning parks and open spaces are havens for natural historians and admirers of sculpture – visit Dunorlan Park and Pashley Manor.

Performing Arts

There are 3 theatres in the borough with lively entertainments programmes throughout the year for adults, families and children.

The Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre combines both visual and performing arts with space for both and right in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Musicals, operas, jazz, rock, comedy, drama, dance, you name it, all come to Tunbridge Wells. Live music is a big part of the town’s culture of which you can read more about on the What’s On page.

Each year there are many different types of festivals celebrating the culture of the area. The Live Music and Festivals page has more information on this including music, the Mela, dance, poetry, art and literature.

Royal Tunbridge Wells continues to build on its reputation as a contemporary cultural and creative hub in Kent.

Make sure you search our things to do for the latest exciting events. There’s too much to enjoy in a weekend, so make a holiday of it and check out some accommodation right now!

If you want history, theatre, concerts, music, art and literature, Tunbridge Wells is the right place for you!

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Number of items: 46

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  1. Add Groombridge Place and The Enchanted Forest to your Itinerary

    Groombridge Place and The Enchanted Forest

    Type

    Garden

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells offers a fun day out for all the family with award winning gardens, and the Enchanted Forest, with its giant tree swings and other exciting thrills to discover.

  2. Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk

    Type

    Waymarked Trail

    Tunbridge Wells

    The Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk is a 27.5 mile (44.3km) route that explores the wide variety of fertile and beautiful countryside around Royal Tunbridge Wells, a town within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the borders of Kent and East Sussex.

  3. Add Pashley Manor Gardens to your Itinerary

    Pashley Manor Gardens

    Type

    Garden

    Ticehurst, Wadhurst

    At Pashley you will discover 11 acres of beautiful borders and vistas - the culmination of a lifetime of passion for gardening and an admiration of the tradition of the English country garden.

  4. Add Chalybeate Spring to your Itinerary

    Chalybeate Spring

    Type

    Spa

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Visitors came to see and be seen in fashionable Tunbridge Wells, but above all to 'take the waters'.

  5. Add Spa Valley Railway to your Itinerary

    Spa Valley Railway

    Type

    Steam Railway

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Spa Valley Railway takes you on a picturesque railway journey through through the beautiful Wealden countryside from Tunbridge Wells to High Rocks, Groombridge and Eridge

  6. Add High Rocks to your Itinerary

    High Rocks

    Type

    Natural Feature

    Tunbridge Wells

    Acres of breathtaking sandstone rocks interlinked with bridges provide a scenic walk in a tranquil woodland setting.

  7. Add Weald Sports Centre to your Itinerary

    Weald Sports Centre

    Type

    Leisure / Swimming Pool

    Cranbrook

    High quality sporting facilities to include swimming pool, sports hall, fitness studio, exercise studio and creche.

  8. Add Bewl Water to your Itinerary

    Bewl Water

    Type

    Lake / Reservoir

    Lamberhurst

    Set in the heart of the High Weald and surrounded by 800 acres of outstanding natural beauty, Bewl Water is the perfect place to watch the seasons change and to enjoy some healthy family fun for all ages.

  9. Add Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest to your Itinerary

    Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest

    Type

    Forest

    Goudhurst

    Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest is a magnificent place for healthy outdoor activities.

  10. Add Sissinghurst Castle Garden to your Itinerary

    Sissinghurst Castle Garden

    Type

    Garden

    Cranbrook

    Famous, stunning gardens set in the remains of a large Elizabethan house amidst the unspoilt Weald countryside.

  11. Add Cranbrook Union Windmill to your Itinerary

    Cranbrook Union Windmill

    Type

    Windmill

    Cranbrook

    The tallest surviving smock mill in the British Isles, measuring 72 feet to the top of the cap.

  12. Add Grosvenor and Hilbert Park to your Itinerary

    Grosvenor and Hilbert Park

    Type

    Parkland / Woodland Garden

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Grosvenor and Hilbert is the town's oldest public park and still contains some original historic features, such as the lake and grottoes or 'dripping wells'. There is an exciting and challenging play area which is well worth a visit.

  13. Add St Thomas a Becket Church, Capel to your Itinerary

    St Thomas a Becket Church, Capel

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Capel

    Twelfth century church with wallpaintings of the same period - the most extensive in West Kent. They depict various biblical scenes including Cain and Abel and The Last Supper.

  14. Add St. Mary's Church Lamberhurst to your Itinerary

    St. Mary's Church Lamberhurst

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

  15. Add Kino Cinema Hawkhurst to your Itinerary

    Kino Cinema Hawkhurst

    Type

    Cinema

    Hawkhurst

    Kino is the UK's first purely digital cinema with the full HD experience.

  16. Add Merriments Gardens Ltd to your Itinerary

    Merriments Gardens Ltd

    Type

    Garden

    Hurst Green

    The gardens at Merriments in the rolling Sussex countryside never fail to delight.

  17. Add The Forum to your Itinerary

    The Forum

    Type

    Event Venue

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    From spring water dispensary to nationally acclaimed live music venue in Royal Tunbridge Wells!

  18. Add Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre to your Itinerary

    Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre

    Type

    Theatre

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Located in a converted Grade A listed church by the noted architect Decimus Burton, Trinity Theatre hosts a varied programme of art exhibitions, theatre, films, dance, opera and music productions.

  19. Add St. Dunstan's Church Cranbrook to your Itinerary

    St. Dunstan's Church Cranbrook

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Cranbrook

    Cathedral of the Weald.

  20. Add Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre to your Itinerary

    Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre

    Type

    Leisure / Swimming Pool

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    A great local resource for those interested in health and fitness, with most facilities available on a pay and play basis.

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