Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators Header

Tunbridge Wells Common Tour - Page 2

MOUNT EPHRAIM PROMENADE -- Originally levelled as a turf walk on the northern edge of the Common in 1881, but later gravelled (1891) and asphalted (1925). Just as in the early nineteenth century seaside resorts modelled themselves on the older spas, so in later times Tunbridge Wells adopted seaside terminology. Alongside the Promenade is one of the Common's surviving areas of acid grassland, an important wildlife habitat.

WELLINGTON HOTEL -- Opened in 1875 by John Braby. Braby was an admirer of the Duke, whose wife stayed in the town on a number of occasions.

MOUNT EPHRAIM HOUSE -- Charles II and Queen Katharine stayed here in 1663 while their court camped on the Common. The house served as the Assembly Room for the entertainment of visitors from 1665 to 1670. It was substantially altered in the 1840s, acquiring an extra storey and a new facade. Together with the Chalet, built in its grounds around 1800, it served as the Tunbridge ware manufactory of William Fenner from the 1790s, the business being subsequently taken over by Edmund Nye around 1840 and Thomas Barton in 1863. Manufacture continued until Barton's death in 1903. On the edge of the Common around the corner of the boundary wall is a row of seats: this area was traditionally noted as a sun trap and named the South of France.

WELLINGTON ROCKS -- Named after the Wellington Hotel. In earlier times they were variously described as the High Rocks on Mount Ephraim, or as Castle Rock (either named after the nearby Castle Tavern, or because of the shape of rocks’ highest point). Early nineteenth century guides report that “small transparent pebbles are found on the paths of the Common, especially after rain. These crystals are called Tunbridge Wells Diamonds, and, cut and polished, form brilliant additions to the jewel-case”. Small rounded pebbles can still be seen here today embedded in the sandstone, and it is presumably the most attractive of these, eroded out of the rock, which were once collected.


JUBILEE LIME -- Planted in March 1977 to commemorate Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.

HIGHER CRICKET GROUND -- Although cricket was played on this site informally from the mid-eighteenth century, its status as an official ground dates from 1839 when the newly formed Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club were given permission to use and improve it. It was enlarged in 1859 and 1875. County matches were played here from 1845 to 1880, but they ceased due to the poor condition of the pitch which was regularly trampled by the public and grazing animals. On either side of the pavilion are flowering cherries planted in June 1953 to commemorate Elizabeth II's coronation. Around the cricket ground, and elsewhere on the Common, can be seen a number of cast iron 'hawthorn' benches dating from the 1860s and restored in the early 1990s  (Photo Spring 2007); subsequently, many replicas of the originals have also been made and installed.

ROYAL VICTORIA GROVE -- Planted in February 1835 as a double avenue to commemorate visits to the town by Princess Victoriria with her mother the Duchess of Kent. Just to the north was the earlier Queen’s Grove, planted for the coronation of Queen Anne in 1702 and replanted in 1811; this never did well and died out in the early 1850s. Victoria Grove was planned as three rows of sycamores, limes, and elms, but some trees had to be replaced in later years and often did not conform to the original plan. The elms succumbed to disease in 1972, and in 1992 the third row was replanted to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession. For a few years from 1911 a moveable bandstand was set up to the south. To the north of the Grove is a small patch of surviving heathland, a type of vegetation once much more widespread on the Common. Postcard view 1909. 

Page last updated: 13/11/2007