Royal Tunbridge Wells (pop. 100,000) was founded in the early 17th century as a spa town around the Chalybeate Spring, said to cure the melancholy, the colic and have other health-giving properties. It was named after the nearby town of Tonbridge, which was spelled "Tunbridge" at the time.
Tunbridge Wells has long been associated with the prim middle classes and upper classes. Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray and mathematician Thomas Bayes are two of the most famous people who took up residence there.
References to the town in literature abound, and its atmosphere is perhaps best captured by David Lean's epic film Lawrence of Arabia, which closes with the words from Dryden as answer to King Feisal: "Me? Your Highness? - On the whole, I wish I'd stayed in Tunbridge Wells."
The town is divided in two main areas. The south is the older part and referred to as the "Village". It contains the spa itself as well as The Pantiles, formerly known as The Walks and the Royal Parade, which uses, quite uniquely, roofing tiles for paving.
The northern part of town, around the Victoria Place Shopping centre, is newer, and is principally a shopping district. It does nevertheless have few notable sights, like he Assembly Halls, the Trinity Theatre or else the Millenium Clock on Lime Hill Road.
How to get there
Tunbridge Wells train station is on the Main Kent Coast line, which runs between London's Charring Cross and Hastings. Trains from London take 30 to 45 minutes depending on the type of train and cost about £12. The station is only a short walk from the centre of town.
By car, the main roads into Tunbridge Wells are the A21, which runs from the M25 down to Hastings, and the A26, which goes to Brighton.