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Tunbridge Wells Common Tour - Page 1

Map of Tunbridge Wells Common

THACKERAY'S HOUSE -- An early lodging house of the late seventeenth century, whose true name is Rock Villa. The novelist William Thackeray lodged here in 1860. He greatly enjoyed his walks over the Common, which he describes in his Roundabout Papers.

BELLEVILLE-- Built probably about 1840 on the site of an earlier cottage shown on Bowra's map of 1738. Thackeray describes a house on the Common near Rock Villa in which he stayed as a child in 1823; this has been identified with Belleville but was more likely Gibraltar, the only one of the three rock built cottages at the apex of the Common known to have been used as a lodging house at that date. Early view.

SAINT HELENA -- Built between 1828 and 1838 on the floor of a small stone quarry and used in early times as a lodging house. It replaced an earlier and much smaller cottage shown on Bowra's map of 1738 and illustrated in a number of eighteenth and nineteenth century illustrations along with a second small structure to the north, on the other side of the rock. At the foot of the rocks a manhole cover marks the entrance to caves excavated for sand and open to the road until its level was raised in a controversial road levelling scheme carried out by the local Turnpike Trust in 1833. Residents complained that the loss of the caves spoiled the picturesque and much illustrated first view of the town which visitors saw as they travelled in from London. The caves were reopened at the outbreak of World War II to serve as air raid shelters.Photo 10 Oct 2004. Early postcard

GIBRALTAR COTTAGE -- Built as a lodging house between 1814 and 1824 on the site of an earlier and smaller cottage of the same name. It was occupied by members of the Tunbridge ware making family of Burrows from the 1820s to c.1845. Having fallen into decay, it was restored and altered in 1970-71. The name is an allusion to the rocks on which the cottage stands; in the past Gibraltar has been used as a general term for the rocky eastern apex of the Common. Until the mid-nineteenth century, a pond known as Parson’s Pond existed below the cottage alongside London Road.

JORDAN HOUSE -- Premises occupied in the first half of the nineteenth century by Tunbridge ware makers Humphrey Burrows Senior and Junior. Their factory and show room was patronized by Princess Victoria, as is commemorated on a well-known print.

LOWER CRICKET GROUND -- First used as a cricket pitch in the 1850s by the pupils of Romanoff House School. From 1860 it was the site of an annual bonfire on 5 November, and it was regularly used as a venue for civic celebrations of coronations and jubilees. It was levelled and railed in 1885-6. There was a Territorial Army encampment here in 1914. The original railings, along with those of the Higher Cricket Ground, were taken for the war effort in 1942. View 1904.

JUBILEE OAK-- Planted in June 1887 by Mrs Stone Wigg, wife of the Chairman of the Local Board, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

MOUNT EDGCUMBE ROAD-- Traditionally known as Donkey Drive, from which animals were hired for riding. This pastime was introduced in 1801, and enjoyed by Princess Victoria in the early 1830s, continuing into late Victorian times. The avenue of flowering cherries (King's Avenue) was planted in March 1937 for the coronation of George VI. The contemporary King's Grove, a circle of scarlet chestnuts between Mount Edgcumbe and Victoria Grove, did not flourish and the trees, described twenty years later as ‘small and stunted’, became obscured by the later growth of saplings.

MOUNT EDGCUMBE ROCKS -- Well-known in Victorian and Edwardian times and a popular vantage point for views across the town. They were known to children of the mid-twentieth century as the Devil's Dyke. A pond at the foot of the rocks was filled in in 1879. By the 1960s, the open grassy space in front of the rocks had become overgrown by scrub which obscured them completely, but the area was cleared in 1994-5. Click for images - Old post card .Volunteers work

MOUNT EDGCUMBE -- A hillock named after Emma, Dowager Countess of Mount Edgcumbe, who spent the summers of 1795-7 in the town. The group of three buildings here appear as early as Bowra's map of 1738. They were originally two lodging houses (Mount Edgcumbe [A], now a Hotel, and Ephraim Lodge [C]) and a private house (Mount Edgcumbe Cottage [B]). The Arctic explorer Sir William Parry stayed at what is now the hotel in 1839.


Page last updated: 30/03/2010