Tunbridge Wells - Encyclopedia

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TUNBRIDGE WELLS, a municipal borough and inland watering-place of England, chiefly in the Tonbridge parliamentary division of Kent, but extending into the eastern division of Sussex, 341 m. S.E. by S. of London by the South Eastern & Chatham railway, served also by a branch of the London Brighton & South Coast line. Pop. (1891), 29,296; (igoi), 33373It owes its popularity to its chalybeate spring and its beautiful situation in a hilly wooded district. The wells are situated by the Parade (or Pantiles), a walk associated with fashion since the time of their discovery. It was paved with pantiles in the reign of Queen Anne. Reading and assembly rooms adjoin the pump-room. The town is built in a picturesquely irregular manner, and a large part of it consists of districts called "parks" occupied by villas and mansions. On Rusthall Common about a mile from the town is the curiously shaped mass of sandstone known as the Toad Rock, and a mile and a half south-west is the striking group called the High Rocks. The Tunbridge Wells sanatorium is situated in grounds sixty acres in extent. Five miles south-east of Tunbridge Wells is Bayham Abbey, founded in 1200, where ruins of a church, a gateway, and dependent buildings adjoin the modern Tudor mansion. Three miles south, in Sussex, the village of Frant stands on a hill which is perhaps the finest of the many view-points in this district, commanding a wide prospect over some of the richest woodland scenery in England. The vicinity of Tunbridge Wells is largely residential. To the north lies the urban district of Southborough (pop. 6977). There is a large trade in Tunbridge ware, which includes work-tables, boxes, toys, &c., made of hard woods, such as beech, sycamore, holly, and cherry, and inlaid with mosaic. Tunbridge Wells was incorporated in 1889, and is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen and 24 councillors. Area, 3991 acres.

The town owes its rise to the discovery of the medicinal springs by Dudley, Lord North, in 1606. Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I., retired to drink the waters at Tunbridge Wells after the birth of her eldest son Charles. Soon after the Restoration it was visited by Charles II. and Catherine of Braganza. It was a favourite residence of the princess Anne previous to her accession to the throne, and from that time became one of the chief resorts of London fashionable society. In this respect it reached its height in the second half of the 18th century, and is specially associated with Colley Cibber, Samuel Johnson, Cumberland the dramatist, David Garrick, Samuel Richardson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Beau Nash, Miss Chudleigh and Mrs Thrale. The Tunbridge Wells of that period is sketched with much graphic humour in Thackeray's Virginians.

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