Tunbridge Wells The Royal Borough and its Hidden Delights

Decimus Burton A major Architect of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Decimus Burton
Decimus Burton

Taking the Waters and all the Pretty Houses

Royal Tunbridge Wells was discovered long ago around 1600 as a resort fit for a king. The commanding position on the sandstone hills in the County of Kent gave it long views over the beautiful surrounding Weald but its main draw was the healing Chalybeate Spring in the center of town, the Pantiles. It is also in easy reach from London. People traveled from London and surrounding towns to take the cure. Soon it was issued a Royal Warrant which made it even more famous.This was granted by the King. Huge Georgian terraces of grand houses were built to house the visitors and Inns with livery stables peppered the ever growing town.

Beautiful parks were laid out and Decimus Burton (1800 - 1881), an architect of note designedn before retiring in 1860. He captured the classical style of the Romans and Greeks. The crescent of stately homes at the top of the park is world famous and tours are arranged to view the a beautiful crescent at the top of Calverly Park. He designed many private residences in the tow splendors created by Decimus ( he was the tenth child of an already famous architect). Besides the obvious master pieces, hidden away in the middle of town, often with the original cobbled streets, are many homes of great beauty. This area is called "The Village",

Bordering the Village is a smaller park called the Grove. This area boasts many mature trees and the "Compasses " public house or Pub as they are fondly known in the UK. It was originally called "God encompasseth us" but over the years has been reduced to the more manageable name, Next to it is another small pub, "The Grove" with free wireless Internet  access and next to that just up the street is one of the best Fish and Chip shops in the South East. It is worth reading this article for this knowledge alone!

Photos of Tunbridge Wells taken by Gypsy Willow

Cottage next to the Grove Park in the Village
Cottage next to the Grove Park in the Village
Georgian House in the style of Decimus Burton in the Village
Georgian House in the style of Decimus Burton in the Village
Calverly Crescent by designed by Decimus Burton
Calverly Crescent by designed by Decimus Burton

Dunorlan Park and Chicken Soup

On the outskirts of the town is the large and impressive Dunorlan Park, donated to the town in Victorian times. Originally part of the Calverly Estate, it covers some 80 acres. It contains another Chalybeate spring which bubbles out of the ground in a rusty pool. It doesn't taste too good but don't let me put you off! There is a large lake with boats for hire, swans and ducks to feed and flocks of seagulls to avoid. It contains examples of one of the first artificial stone inventions. There is a regal fountain at one end of an avenue of Deodar cedars and at the other end is a Greek Temple which used to hold a beautiful bronze sculpture, the Dancing Girl. Sadly only its picture remains as it was stolen many years ago. They are made of the artificial stone called Pulhamite invented by James Pulham who never gave anyone his recipe so it went to the grave with him. There is a huge old tree thought to be the oldest yew tree in the world. On a lighter note, there is a charming cafe the speciality of which is home made chicken soup made from scratch each day, I can also vouch for the hot chocolate, the best I've ever tasted. Well worth a visit

Dunorlan Park Map
Dunorlan Park Map

Homes in the Village area taken by Gypsy Willow

Elegant Regency house in the Village area
Elegant Regency house in the Village area
The garden This garden brings to mind the White gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll that have an air of peace.
The garden This garden brings to mind the White gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll that have an air of peace.
Another garden view
Another garden view
A sweet front door
A sweet front door
Pretty pink house. Taken in the rain!
Pretty pink house. Taken in the rain!

The Pantiles and the Dissolute Youth

This the hub of Tunbridge Wells where the original Chalybeate spring was discovered in 1606 by a young nobleman returning from a weekend of libations. On drinking from the spring, his hangover was miraculously cured and he quickly spread the good news. Even today you may taste the water at the well at the end of the Pantiles. It is served by a wench wearing the costume of the day, if the weather is clement. Those of you who prefer to partake of kinder beverages and for those who need to take away the taste of the well water, there are many cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. The shops in the pantiles are varied and if it is raining, (as well it might!) there is the large corn exchange containing shops, galleries and antique shops which is completely under cover. It is fairly hidden away but well worth a visit. Things were certainly done in style in the olden days! Adjoining the Pantiles is the Common, a large wooded area of public domain. It is very beautiful and contains outcrops of huge sandstone boulders. The sand itself is particularly fine and was used to make glass in times past, Remnants of the old works still remain. There is a beautifully tended Cricket Pitch where matches are played in the summer, tea being served in the smart new pavilion. This is a new one built to replace the original wooden one set alight by Vandals a few years ago.


Beautiful Slide show of Yunbridge Wells, showing the Pantiles, High St. Calverly Park etc.

In Summary.

These are just some of the delights awaiting you in Royaj Tunbridge Wells. There is a superb Hotel, the Hotel du Vin housed in a Decimus Burton designed dwelling converted into the Calverly Hotel and recently added to the prestigious Hotel du Vin Chain with a French flair. The town has a very interesting museum showing the development of the town. It also has wonderful examples of Tunbridge Ware, a form of woodwork made up of tiny squares of different colors, including a viridian green formed by a fungus on dead wood that dyes it green. The articles are small but highly collected.It also sports a huge rocking horse and many costumes worn in former times. With the Museum is a very well appointed Library which offers free Wireless Internet access, useful for the visitor.

The town is surrounded by many more delightful places to visit, Hever Castle of Anne Boleyn fame, Leeds Castle with its summer Concerts on the lawn, Glyndbourne of Operatic fame, Lamberhurst Vin yards Vintage Railways and more. The town is amply supplied with excellent restaurants and coffee bars and the shopping is first class to suit all price ranges. The town is easily reached from London and Gatwick airport by rail. Don't you think it would be worth a visit?

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Comments 11 comments

Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

What a delightful hub. I am facinated by areas and history. You painted a wonderful picture and gave nice information. Now the only problem is getting me all the way over there. ;)


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Save those airmiles, Papermoon, I even get them at the supermatket! Thank you for your kind comment.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

Someday


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

You wont be disappointed. Thanks for dropping by!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Excellent hub! We live about an hour's drive from Tunbridge Wells and try to make a 'research' visit at least once a year.

The shops there are simply wonderful!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Lucky you!I love the shops there and the sense of history that surrounds the town. The museum is great too. Thanks for stopping by.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Gypsy Willow, You must be Heaven sent to me . Tunbridge Wells is the place of my happiest childhood memories. My uncle, Aunt and cousin lived in The Pantiles and we visited every Summer. This hub brought back so much happiness inside me, and believe it or not, I am originally from Wales. I must now read all your hubs with the Great Welsh Dragon at the side of them.

Pleased to meet you on hubpages, Dim x


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Dim thanks for dropping by. The Pantiles is a wonderful place, how lucky to visit there. My best friend in England lives there and I visit as often as possible. Which part of Wales do you come from? Now that's godzone country! Nice to meet you too. x


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Down south in Wales , although I think Pembroke , Carmarthen and the West coast is my favourite. , but then North Wales is so gorgeous...

Your hubs on Wales are fantastic. You should be a travel agent for the place.

I shall be visiting Merthyr Tydfil soon where I was born.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

My grandad was born in Merthyr Tydfil in the Angel Inn which I understand was a rooming house. I wrote a hub about him (The Harley Davidson Guy) I love Pembrokeshire and have a little cottage there which I wrote a poem about. Thanks for checking out my hubs!x


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

You wont be disappointed I'm sure, it is a wonderful town. Hope you get to check it out.

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