Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

by Chris Parker

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

Calverley Park Crescent by Chris Parker

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 The Opera House, Royal Tunbridge Wells by David HodgkinsonVictoria’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.

Hawkhurst has its own special heritage of adventure rooted in the 18th Century. Smugglers and gangs ruled the area with the help of the locals! Follow the trail to retrace their dastardly deeds.

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 homesgardens 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: 

Culture

Museums

History of the Pantiles

History of Royal Tunbridge Wells

History of the Chalybeate Spring

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

Number of items:

Number of items: 43

, currently showing 1 to 20.

  1. 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'.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

    St. Dunstan's Church Cranbrook

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Cranbrook

    Cathedral of the Weald.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Add Cranbrook Museum to your Itinerary

    Cranbrook Museum

    Type

    Museum

    Cranbrook

    A 'must' for every visitor to the Weald.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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