The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

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Bath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]    The Pantiles [a.k.a. The Parade, The Walks]  Tunbridge Wells  

Books and other documents
PublishedTitle, author and references
1766The History of Tunbridge Wells by Thomas Benge Burr ⇒ p. 1
1797The Tunbridge Wells Guide by J. Sprange ⇒ Perspective view
1810Tunbridge Wells and its Neighbourhood by Paul Amsinck and Letitia Byrnep. 9
1830Guide of Tunbridge Wells ⇒ p. 15
1840New Guide for Tunbridge Wells by John Colbran and edited by James Phippen ⇒ p. 2
1883Pelton's Illustrated Guide to Tunbridge Wells by J. Radford Thomson, M.A. ⇒ p. 53

Historical records

1606HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

Dudley Lord North was a distinguished nobleman in King James's court … this young nobleman had reached his twenty-fourth year, when he fell into a lingering, consumptive disorder that baffled the utmost efforts of medicine … and his physicians advised him to retire into the country, and try the efficacy of that last remedy, change of air, for the re-establishment of his constitution.

His lordship, in the spring of 1606 made Eridge-House the place of retreat … when, finding his disorder rather increased than diminished … his lordship therefore, rejecting all sollicitation to remain any longer, abruptly quitted this retired mansion, and began his journey to London.

His road lay directly through the wood in which these useful springs were concealed from the knowledge of mankind; … he could not pass by without taking notice of a water, which seemed to claim his attention, on account of the shining mineral scum that everywhere swam on its surface, as well as on account of the ochreous substance which subsided at the bottom, and marked its course to a neighbouring brook. His lordship accordingly observed these uncommon appearances, the meaning of which he could not instantly comprehend; however, they induced him to alight from his carriage, in order to examine it more attentively; and at the same time he ordered one of his attendants to borrow a little vessel from the neighbouring hovel, that he might taste it: and the peculiar ferruginous taste of the water not only convinced Lord North, that it held its course through some undiscovered mine, contained in the dark cavities of the earth, but also gave him room to fancy, that it was indued with some medicinal properties, which might be beneficial to the human race.

Some of the water was carried to London, the physicians were consulted upon its virtues, and … the result of their inquiries proved so favourable to this hereto neglected spring, that they hasted back again to publish its valuable qualities, and to give their noble patient sufficient encouragement to try its efficacy, on the return of the vernal season

[in 1607] Lord North returned to Eridge to add the power of the water to the purity of the air, and … the success he met with more than answered his most sanguine expectations, … he returned to town so perfectly freed from all his complaints

1630HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, who was sent here by her physicians, for the re-establishment of her health, after the birth of Prince Charles

The queen continued about six weeks at the Wells, and dwelt in tents the whole time. Her camp was pitched upon Bishops-down-common, and certainly diffused a splendor and magnificence over this wild country, to which it had hitherto been an absolute stranger; … The curiosity of this gay young queen induced her one day to walk from the Well a little way into the county of Sussex, where she wandered about till, at length growing weary, she sat down on a bank beneath the shade of a spreading birch for refreshment; and, when she had sufficiently rested herself, she arose, and ordered a stone to be placed there, as a memorial of her travels in that county. … The Queen's-stone, an alehouse in the road to Frant, is built where this monument was placed, and the sign which hung there till within these few years, was drawn from a view of the stone itself. It is now the sign of the Blue-bell

1636HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

The first buildings erected in the vicinity of the springs were two little houses, or rather cottages, one for the accommodation of the ladies and the other for the gentlemen. … The latter of these two houses, which in the present age might perhaps be called a coffee-house, was then named the Pipe-office, because there the gentlemen usually met to converse over a pipe, and a dish of coffee, when they had drunk their proper quantity of water.

1638HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

In two years more, a green bank, now paved and called the 'Upper Walk', was raised and leveled, and a double row of trees was planted on its borders to defend the company from the violence of the meridian sun. Under these trees the tradesmen usually stood to dispose of their goods in the hours of water-drinking

1639HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

The next year they began to build a few houses for the accommodation of the company at Southborough and at Rusthall

1664Historya convenient hallBurr's Tunbridge Wells

In 1664 the old rails, placed round the Wells by Lord Abergavenny, were displaced, and a strong stone wall built round them, instead of this wooden one. This work was executed at the expense of Lord Muskerry, son to the 2nd earl of Clancarty. … He was then lord of the manor, and his arms were placed in the arch of the gateway leading to the springs. This young nobleman renewed the stone pavement within the wall, placed a handsome bason over the main spring, for the better reception of the water, and raised a convenient hall to shelter the dippers from the weather in the hours of attendance upon the company; from which there is also a projection extended to preserve the well from any mixture with rain water.

It is probable that Lord Muskerry thus particularily interested himself in adorning the place this season, in compliment to his royal mistress Queen Katharine, who was sent to Tunbridge Wells for her recovery from the effects of a dangerous fever, which in the previous winter had reduced her to the verge of the grave.

Her majesty was very successful in the use of the water, which greatly raised its reputation, and consequently encouraged the inhabitants to second the generous efforts of their landlord, and to exert their utmost efforts to render the place both beautiful and convenient.

1664The SpringsThe Springs, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Colbran's Tunbridge Wells

1665 to 1670HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

In this space the assembly room (called Mount-Ephraim-House) was brought home from Rusthall to Mount Ephraim, on which a bowling green was inclosed, a tavern (now [in 1766] a lodging house but still retains its original name of the castle) was opened and many lodging houses were erected for the use of the company; but the triumph of the hill was short, Mount Sion became a formidable rival, and quickly eclipsed its growing splendor; for when the ball-room, the bowling green, and the lodging houses arose so near the spring, a less convenient distance was generally avoided

Thus in the course of a few years we find Tunbridge forsaken; Southborough and Rusthall raised and ruined; Mount Ephraim drooping; and Mount Sion in the full bloom of prosperity; this last indeed not only rivalled, but despoiled her predecessors, and triumphantly transferred their ornaments to herself; for many houses were brought from Southborough, Rusthall, and Mount Ephraim, to be rebuilt on Mount Sion; and some, whole and entire as they were, were wheeled on sledges to be fixed in this new seat of favour.

1676HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

The annual increase of company reporting to the Wells, encouraged the lord of the manor about this time to think of improving his estate, by erecting shops and houses on and near the walks; he therefore entered into an agreement with his tenants, and … then began to build upon the green bank, and in every convenient situation near the springs.

1684HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

A subscription was opened in 1676, to raise a fund for building a chapel; which subscription was continued till 1684, when … this was judged sufficient … and a chapel dedicated to King Charles the Martyr was accordingly built on ground given for that purpose by Lady Purbeck of Somerhill … it was afterwards greatly enlarged and beautified

Adjoining to the chapel is a charity school, for fifty or more poor boys and girls, … supported by a contribution collected at the chapel doors, at two or three different times in the season.

1687HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

In 1687, a fire broke out in the house … at the bottom of the walk, by which the life of one poor child was lost, and all the shops, and other buildings, so lately erected on the green bank, were entirely consumed

It rose more glorious from its ashes, the buildings being afterwards more regularly planned, and better contrived … an assembly-room, coffee-houses, shops, and dwelling-houses have been erected in one continued line, and a convenient portico placed in front, and carried on from the upper end of the parade quite down to the well.

1688 to 1702HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

In 1688, Princess Anne of Denmark was at Tunbridge-Wells … This princess several seasons successively honoured the place with her presence, and was a great benefactress to it. She gave the bason to the spring called the "Queen's-well" which is situated on the left hand as you enter the area, and distinguished from the other by its iron bars

In 1698 her royal highness took her son, the young Duke of Glocester with her to the Wells, and was made sensible of the utility of paving the walks by a fall which he got; in his play with other children. … she left money for this purpose … her royal highness returned to the Wells before any progress was made. This neglect very much disgusted the princess, who thereupon instantly quitted the place … but before she went, she took effectual methods to have the pavement carried on with proper diligence.

On the accession of this princess to the throne of Great Britain, the inhabitants of Tunbridge-Wells, … planted the "Queen's-grove" on the common, for a growing monument of gratitude to their royal and generous benefactress.

1726 to 1740HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

About 1726, the lord of the manor's building lease expired, and … this occasioned a tedious law-suit between the lord and the tenants, which … was finally determined in favour of the latter, who were adjudged to have a just claim to a third part of the buildings, … all the shops and houses on this estate were divided into three equal lots … and they happened to draw the middle lot, which included the assembly-room on the walk

After this the landlord and tenants entered into a long agreement to restrain and prevent the increase of buildings on the manor, which was confirmed and established by an act of parliament, that passed royal assent on 29th April 1740.

1735HistoryThe first "King" or Arbiter Elegantiarum of Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]

Beau Nash, born in 1674 in Swansea in Wales. He served as an army officer and was then called to the bar but made little of either career. In 1704 he became Master of Ceremonies at the rising spa town of Bath, and he retained that position until his death in 1762. He is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave.
He was a "man who for more than fifty years presided over the pleasures of a polite kingdom." The pains he took in pursuing pleasure, and the solemnity he assumed in adjusting trifles, may one day claim the smile of posterity. He was the first who diffused a desire of society and an easiness of address among a whole people, who were formerly censured by foreigners for a reservedness of behaviour, and an awkward timidity in their first approaches. He first taught a familiar intercourse among strangers at Bath and Tunbridge Wells, which still subsists among them. The ease and open access first acquired there, our gentry brought back to the Metropolis, and thus the whole kingdom by degrees became more refined by lessons originally derived from him. Nash was an adventurer, whose manners, dress, and (not least) his assurance, gave him a vast influence over the society that resorted to the fashionable watering-places. His equipage was sumptuous, and he usually travelled to Tunbridge Wells in a post chariot and six greys, with outriders, footmen, French horns, and every other appendage of expensive parade. In order to support his extravagances, Nash had recourse to gaming. Where the wealthy and the idle assemble, there the sharper and the flatterer will certainly be found. As is still the case at Monaco, so during the last century at Tunbridge Wells, gambling was one of the chief attractions.
Nash became, about the year 1735, the first "King" or Arbiter Elegantiarum of Tunbridge Wells, an office which he had long sustained in the famous city and watering-place of Bath. The chief decree enforced by this despot of the beau monde, was that every visitor should live in public. The lodging houses were merely places of accommodation for eating and sleeping. The whole of the intermediate time of their temporary inhabitants was spent on the Walks, in the Assembly Rooms, in pleasurable excursions, or at chapel. Thus every hour of the day had its allotted occupation; the whole was regularly digested into system; and from the nobleman of the first rank to the meanest visitor, all were compelled to obey, and to yield to the established customs. Nash did indeed owe to the air of Tunbridge Wells his own recovery to health, but under his regime it was considered chiefly as a place of amusement, gaiety and society. Partly by the use of reason and sarcasm, and partly by assumption and impudence, Nash removed many of the obstacles to social enjoyment. He banished riding-boots and swords, he discouraged private gaming parties, he insisted upon early hours, and repressed flagrant immorality and vice. It should also be said, to his credit, that he was capable of generous and of charitable actions.

1776HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Burr's Tunbridge Wells

The Wells, properly so called, is the center of business and pleasure, because there the markets, the medicinal water, the chapel, the assembly-room and the public parades are situated

These parades are usually called the upper walk and the lower walk; the first being neatly paved with square brick, raised about four steps above the other, and particularily appropriated to the company; the second remains unpaved, and is chiefly used by country people and servants.

On the right hand of the paved walk in the way from the well is the assembly-room, the coffee-houses, and the shops for silver-smiths, jewellers, milleners, booksellers, Tunbridgeware, &c. From thence a portico is extended the whole length of the parade, supported by Tuscan pillars, for the company to walk under occasionally. This walk is shaded by a long row of large and flourishing trees planted on the left hand of it, in the midst of which is erected a gallery for musick; and the whole is properly separated from the lower walk by a range of neat palisades, opposite to which are the taverns, a few decent lodging-houses, and a very elegant assembly-room, with a coffe-house, and all needful conveniences for the entertainment of company.

1790 to 1827HistoryBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Colbran's Tunbridge Wells

From the year 1790 to 1827, scarcely anything occurred worthy of particular notice. The place gradually increased and improved both in the number of buildings and of population. It was regularly visited by the most distinguished characters in the literary, political, and fashionable world; to enumerate whom, would be to republish the Court Guides and Peerage Books of the last half century.

1809The Bath HouseThe Bath House, Tunbridge Wells by Paul Amsinck & engraved by Letitia ByrneLetitia ByrneAmsinck's Tunbridge Wells

1809Chapel and BathsChapel and Baths, Tunbridge Wells by Paul Amsinck & engraved by Letitia ByrneBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Amsinck's Tunbridge Wells

1827View of Tunbridge Wells, Baths, Library, etcView of Tunbridge Wells, Baths, Library, etcBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

1827The Bath HouseThe Bath House, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

1839Tunbridge WellsTunbridge WellsBaths and Mineral SpringsColbran's Tunbridge Wells

11th May 1857Chalybeate SpringChalybeate Spring, Tunbridge Wells by Rock & Co., LondonPrivate collection

1880The Chalybeate SpringThe Chalybeate Spring, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Pelton's Tunbridge Wells

1880Entrance to the Parade, showing the Mineral SpringsEntrance to the Parade, showing the Mineral Springs, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Pelton's Tunbridge Wells

1880The Parade from the Chalybeate SpringsThe Parade from the Chalybeate Springs, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Pelton's Tunbridge Wells

1896Chalybeate Springs, The PantilesChalybeate Springs, The Pantiles, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

c 1900Chalybeate SpringChalybeate Spring, Tunbridge Wells photographed by Valentine's seriesBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

c 1905Taking the Waters at the Original SpringsTaking the Waters at the Original Springs, Tunbridge Wells photographed by H.G. GrovesEmily Jane Chatfield [Strange]English Homes and Villages

1924The Chalybeate SpringThe Chalybeate Spring, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

c 1930Chalybeate Spring and King Charles Church, PantilesChalybeate Spring and King Charles Church, Pantiles, Tunbridge WellsBath House [a.k.a. Chalybeate Springs, The Wells]Private collection

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