Well, Well, Tunbridge Wells
Bordering the counties of Sussex and Surrey, the borough of Tunbridge Wells, hosts a number of heritage sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty within the county of Kent. The magnificent High Rocks National Monument is certainly a place to visit. Set in a tranquil woodland setting, acres of magnificent sandstone rocks interlinked with bridges provide a great place to walk and explore. Amongst an abundance of orchards, hop farms, vineyards and market towns the borough is also home to the only spa town in the South East of England – Royal Tunbridge Wells. Gaining its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1909 following its popularity during Victorian times as a fashionable place to be seen, with restorative health benefits since the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in 1606, visitors have been flocking and inhabitants have been increasing since. It was once the fastest growing town in Kent!
Tunbridge Wells 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. And so the town began to spread. In 1787 the English historian, Edward Hasted noted that the town had four districts named after the hills on which they stood: Mount Ephraim, Mount Pleasant, Mount Sion and the central area of The Wells.
The elegant county town is known for its unique shops, delightful cafes, restaurants and bars many of which are housed in wonderful examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture, including the original Opera House which was converted into a pub but still retains many of its original features, including grand chandeliers, booths and signage, and shows occasional opera performances.
Perhaps its most famous shopping ‘landmarks’ are the Georgian colonnade of The Pantiles, taking its name from the tiles it is paved with, the High Street in the historic quarter with is delightful array of independents, the hidden gem of Chapel Place and its characterful collection of shops plus the fabulous Farmer’s Market is a fixture two Saturdays a month.
Tunbridge Wells is also home to a wealth of creative talent, and creative professionals, it’s no wonder that there are so many eclectic outlets within the town, the long-established Arts Society of Tunbridge Wells, with its range of events also brings people together through a shared interest in the arts. There are many galleries all hosting regular changing exhibitions of new and established artists where you can purchase or peruse artwork at your leisure. For music, theatre and performance head over to The Forum, Trinity Arts Centre or Assembly Theatre.
When it comes to notable residents (past and present) Tunbridge Wells certainly has a few, which include David Gower, former captain of the English cricket team, comedian and actor Bob Mortimer, and Sir David Salomon (1797−1873), the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, whose home is preserved as the Salomons Museum north of Tunbridge Wells. Royal Air Force veteran Peter Adolph (1916−1994) designed and created the tabletop football game Subbuteo from his home in Langton Green. The enormously successful game celebrated its 75th anniversary this year and to commemorate the milestone, The Forum displayed an exhibition of the local history of Subbuteo, which included memorabilia and gave visitors the opportunity to see and play the game. Incidentally the name ‘Subbuteo’ is the Latin name for hobby – Peter Adolph’s favourite bird! A display to honour this fine invention is also on display at The Amelia Scott, where you can find further information on all that Tunbridge Wells has to offer.