Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

Fabulous 19th century architecture, Calverley Park Crescent

by Chris Parker

History of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Visitors have been coming to Royal Tunbridge Wells since the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in 1606. Over the subsequent years   the town grew in popularity and gained its reputation as the place to see and be seen.

It became a favourite destination for fashionable society who needed accommodation and wanted places of entertainment such as coffee houses, gaming-rooms and an assembly room for dances and balls.

In 1684 the widow of Viscount Purbeck, Margaret , whose love of fashion and dancing had gained her the nickname of “The Princess of Babylon”, provided the land on Mount Sion for the earliest lodging houses and the ground at the northern end of the Pantiles, where the Church of King Charles the Martyr was built. And so the town began to spread.

First Well at Tunbridge Wells

Visitors who had come to “take the waters” required a place for worship and generously donated a substantial amount of money so that a church could be built. Sir Christopher Wren sent his chief plasterer Henry Doogood to create its magnificent ceiling. It was here that Princess Victoria attended church services with her mother, the Duchess of Kent.

The Grove is the oldest park in Tunbridge Wells, in 1703 it was given to the towns people to provide “a shady place or walk” and seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the town. A deed of endowment was drawn up to ensure that the trees in the Grove were protected. To this day the Grove continues to provide a haven of tranquility for local residents and visitors.

 

Amusements and Riotous Behaviour in Tunbridge Wells

From 1800 the town grew rapidly, in 1831 there were 5,929 inhabitants and in 1841 this had risen to 8,302. It was the fastest growing town in Kent! The town became increasingly popular with people seeking the enjoyment of retirement and began to attract an influx of permanent residents. 

The cost of living was cheaper than in London but it was possible to get to London as stage coaches ran a reliable service from Tunbridge Wells to London with the journey only taking five hours! 

The environment was a great asset to the town “romantic, rural, rugged with a vast variety of different views….” The surrounding countryside was ideal for walks and rides and early guide books of the town described the country houses that could be visited in the area. High Rocks was a favourite attraction and a popular excursion. 

Entertainment for residents and visitors took place on the Common including firework displays, cricket matches, archery and horse racing. In 1750 Lady Coke wrote to her friend Mrs Eyre describing a typical day in Tunbridge Wells. “The outward amusements are cricketing, horse races and other diversions, such as walking, riding and airing in carriages.”

Residents petitioned for the abolition of the races in 1845 on the grounds “that they were a cause of drunkenness and riotous behaviour.” Once the race meetings were stopped, the race course was conserved as a footpath and bridle-way which can still be followed today. 

Royal Tunbridge Wells - 110 Years of Being 'Royal'

In 1909 King Edward VII officially recognised the popularity of Tunbridge Wells with its many royal and aristocratic visitors - including his mother, Queen Victoria - over the centuries by granting the town its "Royal" prefix.

Today, Royal Tunbridge Wells, or Tunbridge Wells as it is more commonly called, remains a popular place to live and to visit as it maintains much of its original charm and elegance.

Surrounded by beautiful countryside and just a short distance from London it is an ideal destination for a short break.

Want to learn more about the colourful history of Royal Tunbridge Wells? Then why not take up the option of our Guided Walking Tour!

With so much to discover why not stay for a few days?  Check our accommodation pages to find the perfect place to stay.

Number of items:

Number of items: 43

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  1. 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.

  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 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

  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 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Add Cranbrook Museum to your Itinerary

    Cranbrook Museum

    Type

    Museum

    Cranbrook

    A 'must' for every visitor to the Weald.

  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 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.

  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 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  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. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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