Tunbridge Wells Tourist Guide
Places to see and things to do in and around the thriving town of Royal Tunbridge Wells!
The development of Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells is situated in West Kent on the Kent and Sussex border and today has a population of approximately 105,600.
The history of this town all began with the discovery of a chalybeate (water containing iron) spring in 1606. Dudley, Lord North, courtier to James I, was staying at Edridge when he saw the spring by a common where local people grazed their animals. The story goes that he tried the water and claimed later that it had healed him of an illness, possibly tuberculosis. The popularity of the spring used by Dudley spread as he recounted his tale to his rich friends. From 1608 onwards wells were dug and a pavement laid. In 1630 Queen Henrietta Maria visited the spring. The future James I came in 1670 and popularised the High Rocks as a venue for a day’s outing. By 1686 buildings were being constructed for use by men and women which later developed into coffee houses. Charles I and his queen camped near the wells in 1663 but most visitors stayed in nearby villages such as Southborough and Rusthall and even Tonbridge. Lodging houses were put up in the late 1600s on the hills of Mount Ephraim and Mount Sion. Thomas Neale, Lord of the Manor of Rusthall, created a colonnade of shops on the Common for visitors. A chapel was dedicated to King Charles the Martyr.
From 1680 a town gradually grew and took its name from nearby Tonbridge which at that time spelt its name Tunbridge. Pantiles were laid on the walk in 1699 after a visit by Princess Anne the year before. These pantiles were later replaced with stone but the name remains to this day. By 1725 the town had a population of around 1,500 and this period was when the area was at its peak of fashion. As seaside visits then became more favoured the wells were less visited. However the railway arrived in 1846 and by the 1880s over 25,000 people lived in the town. The town’s fortunes were also restored by John Ward and architect Decimus Burton. They created a new residential area centred on Mount Pleasant. A properly organised street plan was developed with a range of housing from large villas to terraced cottages together with shops and open spaces. The town was allowed to add the word ‘Royal’ to its name in 1909 as Edward VII recognised its links with royalty and the aristocracy. Only one other town in England enjoys this title.
Tunbridge Wells today then has a town centre of two halves – the southern part being the oldest containing the spa and pantiles and the northern section holding the more recent developments such as the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre, opened in 1992 by Princess Diana, and pedestrian and retail outlets together with the Assembly Halls and Trinity Theatre. The town’s open spaces add to the sense of a unique landscape.
How to get to Tunbridge Wells
Rail – Mainline rail service from Charing Cross to Hastings takes approximately 50 minutes. Connecting services to Gatwick Airport and Ashford International stations.
Road – A26 and A21 routes from London to south coast as well as via M20 and M25.
Sea – Less than one hour by car from Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone and just over one hour from ferry ports at Dover. One hour to Newhaven-Dieppe crossing.
Air – approximately 40 minutes from Gatwick, 60 minutes from Heathrow and 80 minutes from Stansted.
The Seven Wonders of the Weald
These are only 8 miles east of Tunbridge Wells and are within 10 minutes drive of each other: Bayham Old Abbey; Bedgebury National Pinetum; Bewl Water near Lamberhurst; Marle Place Gardens; Lamberhurst Vineyard; Finchcocks near Goudhurst; Scotney Castle Gardens.
Places to visit in the Tunbridge Wells area:
Houses and castles
Chartwell, near Westerham; Chiddingstone Castle; Hever Castle; Knole, Sevenoaks; Leeds Castle, Leeds, near Maidstone.
Sissinghurst Castle; Scotney Castle; Penshurst Place; Groombridge Place; Enchanted Forest, Groombridge; Great Dixter House, Northiam; Bedgebury Pinetum, near Goudhurst; Broadview, Hadlow; Downderry Nursery, near Hadlow; Hole Park, Rolvenden.
All Saints, Tudeley; King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells; St. Dunstan’s, Cranbrook; St. Mary the Virgin, Speldhurst.
Old Bayham Abbey near Lamberhurst; Cranbrook Museum; Cranbrook Union Mill; Finchcocks Musical Museum, Goudhurst; High Rocks, near Tunbridge Wells.
The High Weald Walk; Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk; Tunbridge Wells Indoor Tennis Centre.
Lamberhurst; Sandhurst, near Cranbrook; Biddenden; Chapel Down Winery, Smallhythe; Barnsgate Manor near Uckfield, East Sussex.
Tunbridge Wells offers a distinctive shopping experience. Its first rate combination of specialist shops and big high street names in a delightful and historic setting make the town a popular destination with all kinds of shoppers. There are several distinctive shopping areas: The Pantiles - in the historical heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the famous colonnaded walkway now home to antique shops and specialist small boutiques, as well as the Pantiles Shopping Arcade found in the old Corn Exchange building. The old High Street & Chapel Place - full of character and a great range of small shops many still retaining their original Victorian frontages now selling designer clothes, home furnishings, jewellery and gifts. Royal Victoria Place - an award winning undercover shopping centre with over 100 well known High Street names. Calverley Road and Mount Pleasant Road - at the ‘top’ end of town with many big High Street names as well as numerous smaller independent shops and the Great Hall Shopping Arcade. Camden Road, Monson Road, Vale Road and Mount Ephraim - a friendly local feel normally found in a smaller town or village is still very much alive here with these areas' numerous small, specialist shops.
Late night shopping:
Thursdays until 8pm and Sundays 10:30am - 4:30pm in Royal Victoria Place and some shops in Calverley Road and Mount Pleasant Road.
Farmers' Markets take place in Civic Way in Tunbridge Wells on Saturday mornings once or twice a month depending on the season.
Tunbridge Wells is the perfect place for lovers of antiques - be it serious shopping or just browsing. As well as more than 35 antique shops in and around the town, there are regular auctions and antique fairs held in the area.
Alliance & Leicester PLC, Lower Mall/148 Royal Victoria Pl 01892 510144
Barclays Bank PLC, 10 Calverley Rd 0845-755 5555
Halifax, 48 Calverley Rd 01892 791911
Bradford & Bingley, 28 Monson Rd 01892 537677
HSBC Bank plc, 105 Mount Pleasant Rd 0845-740 4404
Lloyds TSB Bank PLC, 20-26 St. Johns Rd 0845-300 0000
NatWest, 89-93 Mount Pleasant Rd 0845-600 2803
Coutts & Co, Wellington Gate/7-9 Church Rd 01892 701080
Clydesdale Bank, Wellington Gate/7-9 Church Rd 01892 617620
Cheltenham & Gloucester PLC, 62 Mount Pleasant Rd 01892 533766
NatWest, 85 London Rd, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells 0845-600 2803
Clanricarde Medical Centre, Clanricarde Road 01892 546422 Out Of Hours: 0845 1552255
The Medical Centre, Greggswood Road 01892 541444
The Grosvenor Medical Centre, 23 Upper Grosvenor Rd 01892 544777
Kingswood Surgery, Kingswood Rd 01892 511833
St Andrews Medical Centre, St Andrews Ct/Pinewood Gardens 01892 515455
Lansdowne Road Clinic, 23 Lansdowne Rd 01892 526722
I Teeth Dental Care, 16 Newton Rd 01892 616062
Calverley Dental Practice, 57-59 Calverley Rd 01892 543898
Woodbury Park Dental Surgery/1A Woodbury Pk Rd 01892 522297
Hill House Dental Partnership, Hill Ho/Clanricarde Rd 01892 525798
Dental Surgery, 65 Mount Ephraim 01892 542141
Dental Surgery/49 London Rd 01892 522605
The Gentle Dental Centre, 67A High St 01892 547002
The Tunbridge Wells Nuffield Hospital, Kingswood Rd +44 1892 531111
Tunbridge Wells Tourist Information Centre. The Tourist Information Centre is situated in the Pantiles and offers local residents and visitors an all year service including: Assembly Hall Theatre tickets; holiday information on UK destinations; details on local places to visit, eat and stay; tickets for Guided Walking Tours of Royal Tunbridge Wells; a wide selection of maps, guidebooks and souvenirs; local produce. For the latest information contact the Centre at:
Tourist Information Centre
Old Fish Market,
Royal Tunbridge Wells,
Kent TN2 5TN
Tel: 01892 515675 (answerphone when out of hours.
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015