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: 48

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  1. 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

  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 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'.

  4. 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.

  5. Add Dunorlan Park to your Itinerary

    Dunorlan Park

    Type

    Parkland / Woodland Garden

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    A glorious local awarding winning park and testament to the Victorian landscaping era. Boating lake and cafe.

  6. Add Putlands Sports & Leisure Centre to your Itinerary

    Putlands Sports & Leisure Centre

    Type

    Sports Ground

    Paddock Wood, Tonbridge

    Purpose built centre provides sports hall, fitness studio, meeting rooms, outdoor tennis courts, football and rugby pitches.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Add Assembly Hall Theatre to your Itinerary

    Assembly Hall Theatre

    Type

    Theatre

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    The Assembly Hall Theatre is a 1,000 seat theatre offering an eclectic programme with everything from family shows to classical music.

  10. Add Scotney Castle to your Itinerary

    Scotney Castle

    Type

    Garden

    Lamberhurst

    Not one but two houses! Victorian country house and ruined 14th century moated castle set in one of England's most romantic 'picturesque' style gardens.

  11. Add St. Mary's Church Speldhurst to your Itinerary

    St. Mary's Church Speldhurst

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Tunbridge Wells

    We welcome visitors to our beautiful church.

  12. Add Parish Church of King Charles The Martyr to your Itinerary

    Parish Church of King Charles The Martyr

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    The first permanent building in Tunbridge Wells. Stunning plasterwork ceiling by Sir Christopher Wren's Chief Plasterer.

  13. Add St. Mary's Church Goudhurst to your Itinerary

    St. Mary's Church Goudhurst

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Cranbrook

    The church on the hill above the village.

  14. Add Bowles Outdoor Centre to your Itinerary

    Bowles Outdoor Centre

    Type

    Adventure Park / Playground

    Eridge Green

    A day and residential outdoor centre with accommodation offering rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and development courses and fun!

  15. Add The Queen's Hall Theatre to your Itinerary

    The Queen's Hall Theatre

    Type

    Theatre

    Cranbrook

    Providing entertainment in the heart of the Kent Weald.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Hawkhurst Fish Farm

    Add Hawkhurst Fish Farm to your Itinerary

    Hawkhurst Fish Farm

    Type

    Fish Farm

    Hawkhurst

    Carp fishing for the family with a choice of 7 lakes, cafe and pottery.

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

    St. Mary's Church Lamberhurst

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

  20. Add Salomons Estate to your Itinerary

    Salomons Estate

    Type

    Museum

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Salomons Estate – Kent’s undiscovered gem

    Constructed by Decimus Burton for Sir David Salomon, it was the first house in Britain to use domestic electricity.

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