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Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

by Chris Parker

Tunbridge Wells Culture

Culture and the arts have been an integral part of Tunbridge Wellian life since the town’s beginnings.

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

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.

History of culture in Tunbridge Wells

For instance, Tunbridge ware is locally made marquetry and was first created in the 1700s. The Chalybeate Spring was only discovered in 1606.

What is marquetry?  It is delicately inlaid wood patterns as a form of art to decorate objects such as tables, jewellery boxes and so on.  See image below, more can be seen and learnt about Tunbridge Ware in the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery .

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

The Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery Manager on 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 and people who want to change..”

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.

E M Forster and Thackeray both lived in Royal Tunbridge Wells for a time.

Siegfried Sassoon lived in the little village of Brenchley, riding in the Wealden hills and woods and playing cricket on the village cricket pitch.

Find out more with a 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 are fascinating collections at the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery on Mount Pleasant of his work. 

Here also are some 60,000 objects revealing the history of the town including the most impressive collection of Tunbridge Ware in the world.

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.

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.

The award winning parks and open spaces are havens for natural historians and admirers of sculpture – visit Dunorlan Park, Marle Place (by appointment) 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 Festivals page has more information on this including music, the Mela, dance, 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 museums, theatres, concerts, music, art and literature, Tunbridge Wells is the right place for you!

Explore Highlights

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