TONBRIDGE [TUNBRIDGE], a market town in the Tonbridge or south-western parliamentary division of Kent, England, 291 m. S.S.E. of London by the South Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. of urban district (1901), 12,736. It is situated on rising ground above the river Medway, which is crossed by a stone bridge erected in 1775. The church of St Peter and St Paul, chiefly Decorated and Perpendicular, with some portions of earlier date, was completely restored in 1879. There are remains of an ancient castle, consisting chiefly of a finely preserved gateway, of the Early Decorated period, flanked by two round towers. The castle was formerly defended by three moats, one of them formed by the Medway. Tonbridge School was founded by Sir Andrew Judd, lord mayor of London in the time of Edward VI., and was rebuilt in 1865, remodelled in 1880, and extended subsequently. Ornamental articles of inlaid wood, called Tonbridge ware, chiefly sold at Tunbridge Wells, are largely manufactured. There are gunpowder mills on the banks of the Medway, and wool-stapling, brewing and tanning are carried on. There is some traffic on the Medway, which is navigable for barges.
Tonbridge owed its early importance to the castle built by Richard, earl of Clare, in the reign of Henry I. The castle was besieged by William Rufus, was taken by John in the wars with the barons, and again by Prince Edward, son of Henry III. After being in the possession of the earls of Clare and Hertford, and of the earls of Gloucester, it became the property of the Staffords, and on the attainder of the duke of Buckingham in the reign of Henry VIII. was taken by the Crown. It was dismantled during the Civil War. The lords of the castle had the right of attending the archbishops of Canterbury on state occasions as chief butlers.
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