Tunbridge Wells The Royal Borough and its Hidden Delights
Decimus Burton A major Architect of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
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
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
Homes in the Village area taken by Gypsy Willow
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.
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?