Royal Tunbridge Wells And Pantiles
Royal Tunbridge Wells (often called simply Tunbridge Wells) is a Wealden town in west Kent in England, just north of the border with East Sussex. It has a population of approximately 45,000 (2001 census) and is the administrative centre of the Tunbridge Wells Borough. The borough has a population of 104,030 (2001 census). The town is twinned with Wiesbaden in Germany. In 2006 it is celebrating its 400th anniversary.
The town was founded around the Chalybeate Spring discovered in 1606 by Dudley, Lord North, a courtier to James I. The high iron content of the waters were believed to have medicinal qualities and the town developed as a spa town. It was named after the nearby town of Tonbridge, which was at the time spelled “Tunbridge”. The similar names and alternative spellings have been a source of confusion ever since, especially to uninformed people traveling on the London-Hastings railway line. The spring can still be visited in the Pantiles area of the town, surrounded by Regency architecture.
The prefix “Royal” dates to 1909, when King Edward VII officially recognized the popularity of the town amongst royalty and aristocracy by bestowing the town with its official “Royal” title. To this day, Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of only two towns in England to be granted this, the other being Royal Leamington Spa.
The town centre is separated, roughly, into two sections.
The southern part of the centre is the older part of the town, containing at its heart the “Village” area. It is here that The Pantiles can be found, which contain the spa which made the town so famous. This area is popular with tourists and residents alike, and live music is usually played in the old bandstand through the summer period.
Also on the southern side of the town is the Spa Valley Railway which operates heritage trains from Tunbridge Wells West Station to nearby High Rocks and Groombridge.
The north is the more recent part of the town containing the Royal Victoria Place Shopping centre (owned by The Westfield Group) as well as the pedestrian area and many retail shopping outlets. This part of the town also contains some pieces of noted architecture. The north part of the town is also home to the Assembly Halls and the Trinity Theatre (formerly Holy Trinity Church), which offers live comedy, drama and musicals. The old cinema is soon to be demolished and replaced by a nightclub, shops and bars.
At the end of Lime Hill Road is the newly refurbished, but controversial, Millennium Clock, designed by a local sculptor.
References to Tunbridge Wells abound in literature as diverse as Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester Tunbridge Wells and E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View. David Lean’s epic film Lawrence of Arabia closes with Mr. Dryden answering King Feisal: “Me? Your Highness? – On the whole, I wish I’d stayed in Tunbridge Wells.” In the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” Tracy Di Vicenzo says to Bond that she looks forward to living as Mr. and Mrs. James Bond of Acacia Avenue, Tunbridge Wells.
Tunbridge Wells came into cricketing spotlight during the 1983 Cricket World Cup , when Kapil Dev scored 175 not out off 138 balls for India against Zimbabwe on July 6, 1983. This was the record for the highest score in a one-day international
The town has a number of hotels, including The Spa, The Royal Wells, The Wellington and The Swan. The most famous might be the Hotel du Vin, formerly Calverley Hotel, which dates back to Decimus Burton’s Calverley estate.
There are a number of restaurants, including chains such as Carluccios, Wagamama, and McDonald’s. Richard Phillips’ Michelin-starred Thackeray’s, located in the former residence of William Makepeace Thackeray, is generally regarded as the favorite restaurant for residents and tourists alike, although many would praise the Bistro at Hotel du Vin especially for lunch. Recently the well-known chef Raymond Blanc opened a brasserie, Le Petit Blanc, in the recently regenerated “Clock” area. A number of clubs and bars. including (the not very good) Davinchis line the traditional High Street, while wine bars, pubs and other restaurants can be found in the Pantiles, near The Wells.
More popular with those who seek live music and recreational substances, The Forum is on the Common, across from the High Street. Other venues, such as the Royal Wells and the Sound Garden, provide live entertainment.
Tunbridge Wells also has many other eating places, coffee shops and similar. Relish! on Camden Road which is a café and delicatessen. Bean on Camden Road specializes in chocolate. Arte Bianca on Chapel Place serves coffee and sandwiches and supplies all kinds of Italian food, both fresh and pre-packed. There are also a large number of traditional pubs around the town.
Shopping in Tunbridge Wells
Royal Victoria Place The Royal Victoria Place Shopping Centre was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1992. This, combined with the Calverley, Camden and Grosvenor Roads, provides many chain retail outlets. Hoopers (formerly Weekes), the largest department store in the town, is situated on Mount Pleasant Road. Many smaller shops can be found further south, around the High Street, Chapel Place and the Pantiles.
The once down-at-heel Camden Road has become increasingly bohemian since 2000, with little arty shops opening up, including Bluemoon gallery, as well as more functional shops like Bob’s DIY and World of Sewing. Camden Road is also home to In Gear, a clothing and fashion shop, frequented by young people, primarily Goths. A particular landmark is the snooker club, with its elephant flanked doorway. The street is held together by The Camden Road Traders’ Association.
A farmers market is held outside the Town Hall on the second and fourth Saturday morning of each month.
Natives of Tunbridge Wells
Among those born in Tunbridge Wells are:
Caroline Fry (1787-1846), writer.
Richard Jones (1790-1855), economist.
H T Waghorn (1842-1930), cricket historian.
Sir Francis Robert Benson (1858-1939), actor and theatre manager.
The Reverend Arthur Shearly Cripps (1869-1952), missionary and writer.
Frank W. Boreham (1871-1959), Baptist preacher.
Victor McLaglen (1886-1959), actor.
Arthur Waley (1889-1966), Orientalist.
Compton Bennett (1900-1974), film director.
Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971), theatrical director.
Keith Douglas (1920-1944), poet.
Alec McCowen (born 1925), actor.
William Nicholson (born 1948), writer.
Gary Barden (born 1955), musician.
David Gower (born 1957), cricketer.
Shane MacGowan (born 1957), Punk singer.
Sarah Sands (born 1961), journalist.
Jamie Spence (born 1963), golfer.
Alistair Appleton (born 1970), television personality.
Oliver Chris (born 1978), actor.
Richard Rose (born 1982), footballer.
Other famous residents
As a spa town Tunbridge Wells was a popular resort for the upper classes, including members of the British Royal Family. It was a favored place for retirement, so a number of famous people have died there.
Richard (Beau) Nash (1674-1762), celebrated dandy and leader of fashion.
Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton (1685-1754), politician (died in Tunbridge Wells).
The Reverend Thomas Bayes (1702-1761), mathematician (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Henry Bilson Legge (1708-1764), politician (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Richard Cumberland (1732-1811), dramatist.
Sir Charles Ogle, Bt. (1775-1858), naval officer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Sir Howard Douglas, Bt. (1776-1861), military officer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Horace Smith (1779-1849), poet and novelist (died in Tunbridge Wells).
John Cox Dillman Engleheart (1784-1862), miniature painter (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge (1785-1856), Viceroy of India (died in Tunbridge Wells).
William Thomas Brande (1788-1866), chemist (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803-1873), author.
Ker Baillie Hamilton (1804-1889), colonial governor (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Sir Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (1811-1888), naval officer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), novelist.
Golding Bird (1814-1854), medical writer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
The Reverend Edward Meyrick Goulburn (1818-1897), clergyman and writer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Philip Carteret Hill (1821–1894), Nova Scotia politician (died in Tunbridge Wells).
William Temple (1833-1919), recipient of the Victoria Cross (died in Tunbridge Wells).
The Reverend Thomas Roscoe Rede Stebbing (1835-1926), zoologist (died in Tunbridge Wells).
John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll (1845-1914), Governor General of Canada.
Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939), daughter of Queen Victoria.
Sir Richard Robinson (1849-1928), businessman and local politician.
Julius Drewe (1856-1931), businessman and builder of Castle Drogo.
Rachel Beer (1858-1927), newspaper editor.
Francis Meadow Sutcliffe (1863-1941), photographer.
Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding (1882-1970), Royal Air Force officer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham (1887-1963), military officer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Léon Goossens (1897-1988), oboist.
Enid Lakeman (1903-1955), political reformer.
Arthur Fagg (1915-1977), cricketer (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Duncan Lamont (1918-1978), actor (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Patrick Mayhew, Baron Mayhew (born 1929), politician.
Mary Rhys-Jones (1934-2005), mother of the Countess of Wessex (died in Tunbridge Wells).
Tom Baker (born 1934), actor.
George Cohen (born 1939), football player.
Jeff Beck (born 1944), musician.
Virginia Wade (born 1945), tennis player.
Paul Condon, Baron Condon (born 1947), police commissioner.
Nick Brown (born 1950), politician.
Graham Kendrick (born 1950), songwriter.
Louise Jameson (born 1951), actress.
Jilly Goolden (born 1956), television personality.
Jo Brand (born 1957), comedian.
Sid Vicious (1957-1979), musician.
Samuel Batchelor (born 1959), poet.
Nick Knowles (born 1962), television personality.
Nick Wallace (born 1972), writer.
Martin Corry (born 1973), rugby player.
How to get to Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells lies about 35 miles to the south-east of London
and 50 miles north of Dover. It can be reached in less than an
hour by train from central London and Ashford International-Heathrow Airport – 58 miles
By rail: Trains run regularly from London Charing Cross and London Bridge
stations and to Hastings and with connections to the Channel Ports.Text provided by our friends at wikipedia