Tunbridge Wells Elite Taxi Service
A short history of Royal Tunbridge wells
The area which is now Tunbridge Wells was part of the parish of Speldhurst for hundreds of years.
The origin of the town today came in the seventeenth century. In 1606 Dudley, Lord North, a courtier to James I who was staying at a hunting lodge in Eridge in the hope that the country air might improve his ailing constitution, discovered a chalybeate spring. He drank from the spring and, when his health improved, he became convinced that it had healing properties. He persuaded his rich friends in London to try it, and by the time Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, visited in 1630 it had established itself as a spa retreat. By 1636 it had become so popular that two houses were built next to the spring to cater for the visitors, one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen, and in 1664 Lord Muskerry, Lord of the Manor, enclosed it with a triangular stone wall, and built a hall "to shelter the dippers in wet weather.
Until 1676 little permanent building took place visitors were obliged either to camp on the downs or to find lodgings at Southborough, but at this time houses and shops were erected on the walks, and every convenient situation near the springs was built upon. Also in 1676 a subscription for a chapel of ease was opened, and in 1684 the Church of King Charles the Martyr was duly built and the town began to develop around it. In 1787 Edward Hasted described the new town as consisting of four small districts, "named after the hills on which they stand, Mount Ephraim, Mount Pleasant and Mount Sion; the other is called the Wells.
The 1680s saw a building boom in the town: carefully planned shops were built beside the 175 yards 160m long Pantiles promenade then known as the Walks, and the Mount Sion road, on which lodging house keepers were to build, was laid out in small plots. Tradesmen in the town dealt in the luxury goods demanded by their patrons, which would certainly have included Tunbridge ware, a kind of decoratively inlaid woodwork.
They have made the wells very commodious by the many good building all about it and two or three miles around which are lodgings for the company that drink the waters. All the people buy their own provisions at the market, which is just by the wells and is furnished with great plenty of all sorts of fish and fowl. The walk which is between high trees on the market side which are shops full of all sorts of toys, silver, china, milliners and all sorts of curious wooden ware besides which there are two large coffee houses for tea, chocolate etc. and two rooms for the lottery and hazard board (i.e. for gambling).
An 1860 engraving of The Calverley Hotel, on Decimus Burton's Calverley estate. It still stands today as Hotel Du Vin & Bistro.
Following Richard Russell's 1750 treatise advocating sea water as a treatment for diseases of the glands, fashions in leisure changed and sea bathing became more popular than visiting the spas, which resulted in fewer visitors coming to the town. Nevertheless, the advent of turnpike roads gave Tunbridge Wells better communications on weekdays a public coach made nine return journeys between Tunbridge Wells and London, and postal services operated every morning except Monday and every evening except Saturday. During the eighteenth century the growth of the town continued, as did its patronage by the wealthy leisured classes—it received celebrity cachet from visits by figures such as Cibber, Johnson, Garrick, Richardson and the successful bookseller Andrew Millar and his wife and in 1735 Richard (Beau) Nash appointed himself as master of ceremonies for all the entertainments that Tunbridge Wells had to offer. He remained in this position until his death in 1762, and under his patronage the town reached the height of its popularity as a fashionable resort.
Calverley Crescent, part of the Calverley Park estate
By the early nineteenth century Tunbridge Wells experienced growth as a place for the well-to-do to visit and make their homes. It became a fashionable resort town again following visits by the Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and benefited from a new estate on Mount Pleasant and the building of the Trinity church in 1827, and improvements made to the town and the provision of facilities such as gas lighting and a police service meant that by 1837 the town population had swelled to 9,100. In 1842 an omnibus service was set up that ran from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells, enabling visitors to arrive from London within two hours, and in 1845 the town was linked to the railway network via a branch from South Eastern Railway's London-Hastings Hastings Line at Tonbridge. During this time Decimus Burton developed John Ward's Calverley Park estate.
In 1889 the town was awarded the status of a Borough, and it entered the 20th century in a prosperous state. 1902 saw the opening of an Opera House, and in 1909 the town received its "Royal" prefix. Due to its position in South East England, during the First World War Tunbridge Wells was made a headquarters for the army, and its hospitals were used to treat soldiers who had been sent home with a "blighty wound"; the town also received 150 Belgian refugees. The Second World War affected Tunbridge Wells in a different way—it became so swollen with refugees from London that accommodation was severely strained. Over 3,800 buildings were damaged by bombing, but only 15 people lost their lives.
Following the war, large-scale housing estates were built at Sherwood and Ramslye (Showfields) to accommodate population growth.