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Bradshaw’s Guide

The Pantiles, III., Tunbridge Wells, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress

Tunbridge Wells

This town is, with the exception of Bath, the most ancient of the inland watering places. Nature has eminently favoured it by the salubrity of its air, the potency of its mineral springs, and the adjacent appendages of romantic and agreeable scenery. Dudley Lord North, a young nobleman of the Court of James I., whilst on a visit to Bridge House, happened to taste the waters, and these renovating a constitution impaired by too much indulgence, caused him to bring the place into fashionable repute. From that time visitors gradually increased, streets were laid out, lodging-houses built, and now, though the caprice of fashion has somewhat depreciated the fame of our own spas, Tunbridge Wells may still boast a large share of patronage in the season, which extends from May till November.

The town is built upon a sandy soil, and is divided into five districts called respectively Mount Ephraim, Mount Pleasant, Mount Sion, the Wells, and the Sew, at the latter of which a new church (St. John’s) has been built. The town has been much modernised of late years, the Parade alone evincing any symptoms of antiquity. The houses are chiefly detached villas with lawns in front, and large gardens in the rear. Those that are situated on the mounts have extensive views, that combine hill and dale, forests and fields, commons, meadows, and corn lands, with a large tract of hop-grounds. The drinking springs rise at the end of the Parade, close to the Post Office, which has a row of trees on one side, and a colonnade with shops on the other. The water is a strong chalybeate, and possesses great tonic power, but ought not to be taken without medical advice. A band plays three times a day on the Parade in the season, from July until November.

The ex-queen of the French visits the town annually, but the usual gaieties have long since declined. The climate is congenial, and the air upon the downs has a fine bracing and exhilarating property. There is almost perfect immunity from fog, and being sheltered from the north-east winds by the north downs, the temperature throughout the winter is pleasant and equable. The inns and boarding-houses are generally of a superior description. There are billiard rooms on the Parade and at the Castle Hotel, and photographs at Wood, Mount Ephraim. The manufacture of wooden toys and articles of domestic use, long celebrated as “Tunbridge Ware,” is still carried on here to a considerable extent, and was formerly the principal produce of the place. Tunbridge Common is a most, delightful resort in the summer; the old race course still exists, but it is not used; a new cricket ground has been made where many great matches are held. The old chapel has a sun dial with the following inscription: “You may waste but cannot stop me.”

Excursions may be ‘made to the Bridge Rocks, about a mile and a half south-west of the town; they are of considerable height, surrounded with wood, and much admired by visitors; Wednesday and Thursday. Eridge Park, the property of Lord Abergavenny, is one of the most delightful walks in the vicinity: start from the Parade, and proceed along the Frant road, branching off through the woods to the right; Penshurst, five miles distant, Penshurst Place, a quadrangular building of the Elizabethan style of architecture, Monday and Saturday; Crowborough Common, at the Beacon, seven miles from the Wells, stands at an elevation of 800 feet above the level of the sea; Eridge Castle, two miles distant; Hever, seven miles distant; Southborough, two and a half miles, at which there is a noble cricket ground, in great request among the clubs of the neighbourhood, there is also a smaller one on Southborough Common; Summerhill, two miles, a fine Elizabethan building, once the residence of the Earl of Leicester and General Lambert; Oxenheath, four miles; and Bayham Abbey, the seat of the Marquis of Camden, six miles distant, the ruins being exceedingly picturesque; the modern mansion is in the Gothic style. Open Tuesday and Friday. The High Rocks, Brambletye Ruins, and Toad Rock. There are other fine seats and handsome villas in the vicinity, and the environs of Tunbridge abound in beautiful walks and drives.

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