Dipper at The Chalybeate Spring, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Dipper at The Chalybeate Spring, Royal Tunbridge Wells

by Chris Parker

The Chalybeate Spring

Without the Chalybeate Spring, Royal Tunbridge Wells would not exist.  The natural Spring was discovered by a well-travelled English nobleman, a visitor on his way back up to the capital of England.

For more than 400 years visitors from afar have revelled in the accessibility and beauty of the area and stayed in the Tunbridge Wells region.

Since 1606, in fact tourists have come to see and be seen in fashionable Tunbridge Wells (it was not Royal until over 300 years later), but above all to 'take the waters'.

The word chalybeate (pronounced ka-lee-bee-at) means iron-rich, and the iron taste is evident in the water.  It dyes everything orange too, notice the staining round the walls of the bowls at the Spring.

At the height of its popularity in the eighteenth century, the Spring water was reputed to cure all sorts of ills from infertility and hangovers to obesity and 'a moist brain'.

History of the Spring

The Chalybeate Spring was a fortuitous find by the young nobleman, Dudley Lord North - 3rd Baron North, who noticed the reddish brown waters of the Spring foaming slightly from the ground.

Lord North had spent several days at the Abergavenny Estate at nearby Eridge recuperating and was returning on horseback to London.

Feeling a bit the worse for wear from heavy drinking and merrymaking, Lord North drank the water to quench his thirst.

Feeling much rejuvenated from drinking the cool iron-rich spring water, he declared it to be health-giving to all his friends and acquaintances.

The news of the Spring and its exceptional properties circulated and noble visitors from London and elsewhere flocked to the resulting hamlet springing up alongside the natural spa.

Since it wasn’t far from Tonbridge (originally spelled Tunbridge), already a town, it later became known as Tunbridge Wells.

The Wells

In the eighteenth century, the Chalybeate Spring became a vital daily custom for any honourable lady or gentleman visiting 'The Wells'.

Each day began with a tumbler of the spring water, followed by a “promenade” on The Walks, now known as The Pantiles, or a sojourn to the coffee house to hear the most up-to-date gossip, then off to church at the nearby Chapel of Ease, King Charles the Martyr.

After luncheon, time was whiled away with more “promenading”, wagering or a friendly game of bowls on one of the nearby greens. The evening finished with further betting, dancing, a musical soiree or ostentatious ball.

Drinking the Natural Spring Water

The Chalybeate spring water was served by someone called a 'Dipper' for a small fee - not for the water, which has always been designated as belonging to the people, but for being served the medicinal solution in a genteel fashion.

This tradition carries on today, as in the summer it is still possible to sample the cool Chalybeate Spring water served by a costumed dipper.

The Chalybeate Spring is situated in The Pantiles and, provided the water is flowing, is open from Easter to September, 10.00am to 3.00pm, Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Please check before making a special trip with the Tourist Information Centre.

You can read more about the Day in the Life of The Dipper.

After taking the water, you too can adjourn to a local café or inn and partake of further refreshment then perhaps some shopping in the delightfully historic alleyways of The Pantiles.

Number of items:

Number of items: 69

, currently showing 1 to 20.

  1. Add Pashley Manor Gardens to your Itinerary

    Pashley Manor Gardens

    Type

    Garden

    Ticehurst, Wadhurst

    Pashley is an ideal destination for garden lovers, art and history enthusiasts, keen photographers or those looking for a peaceful and enjoyable day out surrounded by beauty and nature.

  2. 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'.

  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 Penshurst Place and Gardens to your Itinerary

    Penshurst Place and Gardens

    Type

    Historic House / Palace

    Penshurst

    Set in the beautiful Weald of Kent, Penshurst Place & Gardens and the surrounding estate have stood on the banks of the river Medway since the 14th century, when the awe-inspiring medieval Baron’s Hall was built as a country retreat for the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John De Pulteney.

  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. Haysden Country Park

    Add Haysden Country Park to your Itinerary

    Haysden Country Park

    Type

    Country / Royal Park

    Tonbridge

    Haysden Country Park covers an area of about 65 hectares (160 acres) in the Medway Valley, to the west of Tonbridge.

  7. 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.

  8. Add UK Electric Bike Hire & Tours to your Itinerary

    UK Electric Bike Hire & Tours

    Type

    Cycling

    Biddenden

    Why not try an electric bike, zipping between vineyards or maybe stop at an iconic castle or a world-famous garden?  Our routes take you along the  quiet lanes of the Weald of Kent, passing oast houses and Wealden hall houses, farmsteads and ancient woodland.  You can stop at a village pub for...

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  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 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.

  14. Add Chiddingstone Castle & Grounds to your Itinerary

    Chiddingstone Castle & Grounds

    Type

    Historic House / Palace

    Chiddingstone, Edenbridge

    A stunning country house near Edenbridge.One of the Seven Wonders of the Weald 2016

  15. Add Hush Heath Winery to your Itinerary

    Hush Heath Winery

    Type

    Vineyard

    Staplehurst

    Hush Heath Estate has been producing England's most exclusive pink fizz, Balfour Brut Rosé, since it's award winning 2004 vintage

  16. 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.

  17. Calverley Grounds

    Type

    Parkland / Woodland Garden

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Calverley Grounds is a lovely landscaped park of gardens located in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells with attractive lawns and ornamental gardens, including an Italianate garden and welcoming cafe.

  18. Add All Saints Church Tudeley to your Itinerary

    All Saints Church Tudeley

    Type

    Church / Chapel

    Tudeley, Tonbridge

    A delightful 13/14th century church, restored in the 18th century, noted for its stained glass windows by the artist, Marc Chagall.

  19. Add Biddenden Vineyards to your Itinerary

    Biddenden Vineyards

    Type

    Vineyard

    Biddenden

    Biddenden Vineyards are set in 23 acres on a south facing slope where eleven varieties of grape are grown to produce white, red, rose and quality sparkling wines.

  20. 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.

Search Accommodation

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)

Search Things to Do

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)

Search What's On

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)
Date

Search Food & Drink

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)

Search Shopping

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)

Search Things to Do

Type:
Area:
Keyword: (OPTIONAL)

Now featuring traveller reviews from TripAdvisor.