History of Tunbridge Wells

The discovery of the Spring

Royal Tunbridge Wells has been attracting visitors for 400 years and has become a landmark in Kent's history, ever since the chance discovery of the Chalybeate Spring by a young nobleman in 1606.

Its reputation as the place to see and be seen amongst royalty and the aristocracy over the years makes the history of Tunbridge Wells one of the most colourful in England.

Soon after Lord North's discovery, word of the purported health-giving properties of the spring water soon spread, and visitors from London and elsewhere flocked to 'the Wells' to try the waters.

Coffee houses, lodgings, shops, taverns and gaming houses soon sprang up in one continuous line near the Spring joined by a covered colonnaded walkway which later became known as the Pantiles.

This pretty and well-known colonnade is still to be seen today - full of interesting boutiques and antique shops, open-air caf├ęs, bars and restaurants.

Georgian Tunbridge Wells

In Georgian times particularly, Tunbridge Wells became a well-known and popular spa resort, a rival to nearby Brighton.

Its visitors alternated between Bath for the summer season and Tunbridge Wells for the winter season.

The lively social scene in Tunbridge Wells was famously organised by the dandy, Richard Beau Nash who also divided his time between Tunbridge Wells and Bath and made sure that residents and visitors alike adhered to the 'rules' of social behaviour.

Victorian Tunbridge Wells

In the early 1800's Tunbridge Wells became a very desirable place for rich business and professional people not just for a holiday, but also in which to live.

A great deal of building was undertaken to the north of the small spa as large villas and family houses were built - many of them by the architect Decimus Burton.

Evidence of this grand period of new architecture in Tunbridge Wells still survives today.

Royal Tunbridge Wells - 100 Years of Being 'Royal'

2009 saw the 100th anniversary of 'Royal' Tunbridge Wells.

King Edward VII officially recognised the popularity of Tunbridge Wells with its many royal and aristocratic visitors - including his mother, Queen Victoria - over the centuries by granting the town its "Royal" prefix.

In 1909 the town became known, as it is to this day, as Royal Tunbridge Wells, one of only a few towns in England to be granted this title.

Today, Royal Tunbridge Wells, or Tunbridge Wells as it is more commonly called, remains a popular place to live and to visit as it maintains much of its original charm and elegance.

Surrounded by beautiful countryside and just a short distance from London it is an ideal destination for a short break.

As part of the celebrations in 2006 marking the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring, a Heritage Walking Trail of the town was launched taking in some of the most interesting and important historic aspects of the town, including a series of special commemorative plaques marking buildings of significant interest or with a connection with interesting figures from the past.

Want to learn more about the colourful history of Royal Tunbridge Wells? then why not take up the option of our Guided Walking Tour!