The large, affluent town of Tunbridge Wells in western Kent is home to approximately 65,000 people. It’s known as a vibrant and desirable place to live, rich in cultural history and local attractions, with excellent amenities and great shopping.
If you’re thinking of moving to the area, there is plenty of information available to give you an overview of what you can expect to find in terms of homes, schools and transport and more. But what about the little known facts? The quirks that make a place really interesting? I spoke to local business Wessex Garage Doors to find out what really makes Tunbridge Wells tick.
What’s in a name?
According to local history, the name Tunbridge Wells originated as a result of the natural springs (‘wells’) in the area and their proximity to the town of Tonbridge (then ‘Tunbridge’). A popular spa town, it was King Edward VII who, in 1909, officially recognized the significance of the town with its frequent royal visits over the centuries including Queen Victoria. The designation ‘Royal’ is a rare and prestigious title. In fact, Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of only 3 English towns to be recognized as such, the other ones being Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Wootton Bassett.
Top 20 places to live
Tunbridge Wells was named among the best places to live in the UK according to the Halifax Quality of Life Survey carried out in 2014. Featuring at number 31, second in Kent after Sevenoaks which ranked 14th, the survey found that 96.1% of people were in good health, enjoying 32.9 hours of sunshine a week and giving an overall life satisfaction rating of 7.3 out of 10.
More recently, the Rightmove Happy at Home survey found that Tunbridge Wells is the 5th happiest place to live in Britain, based on factors such as community spirit, personal safety and neighborliness.
The Tunbridge Wells parliamentary constituency was formed in 1974 and, despite several boundary changes over the years, it has been Conservative since the beginning. Three MPs have served the constituency: Patrick Mayhew (1974-1997) and Archie Norman (1997-2005), and the current MP, Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Twinned with Wiesbaden
In 1989, Royal Tunbridge Wells was officially twinned with the elegant German spa town of Wiesbaden, Hesse. The first contact was made in 1960 when 4 ex-servicemen travelled to meet their German counterparts, keen to heal the wounds of World War II. A friendship was formed and a Treaty of Friendship signed in 1971 which eventually led to the two towns being officially twinned.
Motor sport history
There are over 700 motor clubs in the country and the Tunbridge Wells Motor Club (TWMC) is one of the oldest, having been founded in 1911. The Club prides itself on being a promoter of grass roots level motorsport, involved in many facets of the sport and providing opportunities for all ages, budgets and cars and also for disabled drivers. These days, TWMC organizes many non-competitive and social events alongside Autotesting and Sprinting.
First ever motor show
What’s more, Britain’s first ever motor show (the ‘Horseless Carriage Exhibition’) was held at Showfields in Tunbridge Wells in November 1895, organized by Sir David Lionel Salomons. Of the 6 exhibits listed – a Gladiator tricycle, 2 De Dion Boutons and three vehicles using Daimler engines – only 4 appeared at the show, which was followed by a small procession towards Tunbridge Wells town centre which ‘proceeded smoothly and in perfect control to the pleasure of many spectators.’
The grandest Wetherspoons
Tunbridge Wells has plenty of gorgeous architecture including the famous Pantiles. But did you know that the former Opera House is now a Wetherspoons pub? Complete with brass railings and grand chandeliers, it’s easily the grandest pub to enjoy a pint. Every year, the Opera House Tunbridge Wells branch of Wetherspoons closes for a few days to return to its former use as an opera house.
Tunbridge Wells is popular with the well-heeled, largely due to its enviable period housing stock. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many celebrities have made their home here. The former cricketer David Gower, comedian Jo Brand and athlete Dame Kelly Holmes all grew up here, while modern famous residents in the area include Davina McCall, Kerry Katona and Bob Mortimer. Nick Knowles of BBC 1’s DIY SOS attended The Skinners School before becoming a laborer; he has since moved to Spain.