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Tunbridge Wells Common Tour - Page 3
RACE COURSE -- Appears on Bowra's map of 1738 and remained in use until 1851. Race meetings were held for two days each year, in August or September. The winning post, stand, and enclosure stood on the north side of the present Higher Cricket Ground. The Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria attended in 1834. In 1845 residents petitioned for the suppression of the races, on the grounds that they were a cause of drunkenness and riotous behaviour. After races ceased to be held, the course (apart from the section crossing the Cricket Ground) was preserved as a footpath and bridle-way and can still be followed today. Along the southern section, between Major York's Road and Hungershall Park, is a clearing where heathland restoration is in progress. Near the north west corner is the site (formerly marked by a plaque) of a thatched shelter destroyed by a flying bomb in 1944, with the death of an elderly resident. Hidden in the undergrowth north of the car park where the race course meets Fir Tree Road is the site of a small quarry.

CASTLE ROAD -- Possibly named after the Castle Tavern, opened between 1665 and 1670, which stood on Mount Ephraim between the junctions with Church Road and Castle Road. The building, no longer extant, was converted to a lodging house in the mid-eighteenth century. An alternative theory is that the tavern was named after Castle Rock (now Wellington Rocks).

ROMANOFF LODGE -- Built in 1852 by Thomas Allfree on the site of a late eighteenth century cottage occupying, along with Castle Cottage, the site of old gravel or sand pits. Allfree was the proprietor of Romanoff House School (occupying the building in London Road now known as Vale Towers), founded by him in the 1830s; the present Rose Hill School is in lineal descent. Allfree used the name Romanoff because he had been a tutor to the Russian royal family. Photo 10 Oct 2004.

ONSLOW HOUSE -- The original Onslow House was built in the early 1880s on the site of the late eighteenth century Castle Cottage. As a condition of permission to build, an old sand pit on the opposite side of the road latterly used as a stonemason’s yard was filled in and restored to the Common. Onslow House was replaced by the present row of houses in 1965.

CORONATION CHESTNUT -- A red-flowered tree planted in December 1911 to commemorate the coronation of George V. The trees that now surround it have all grown up subsequently.

PRINCESS ANNE'S OAK -- Overlooking London Road, between Mount Edgcumbe Road and the Vale Road corner, is an oak tree said to have been planted around 1700 to commemorate the several visits of the Princess (later Queen) to Tunbridge Wells between 1684 and 1698. The Victorian railings around the tree were restored in 1995, and a plaque affixed. Photo April 2007

HIGHBURY -- Built around 1906 on the site of Exeter Villa, a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century lodging house. In the vicinity of the house is one of the Common's surviving areas of acid grassland, characterized by the nest mounds of the Yellow Meadow Ant. Lizards are frequently to be seen here. Photo 14 November 2004.

STRANGE'S AVENUE -- Planted c.1810-20 by Edward Hilder Strange, proprietor of the Royal Kentish Hotel, as an ornamental avenue leading down to his front entrance. It consisted originally of some forty sycamores and chestnuts, but many trees have been replaced in subsequent years.

FONTHILL -- The present pavilion (which since 1993 has functioned as a live music venue known as The Forum) was built in 1939 by the Borough Council to provide ‘rest rooms and general conveniences’ for locals and visitors enjoying the Common. It replaced a forge, coach builders' workshop, and attached cottage (Fonthill House) dating from 1833. An earlier forge on the site is shown on Bowra's map of 1738. This is said to be the site of the cottage occupied by Mrs Humphreys, who provided Lord North with a cup to drink from the chalybeate spring when he discovered it in 1606. The buildings on the edge of the Common east and west of Fonthill were from early times an untidy clutter of small cottages and rough working buildings: the present unattractive structures are in lineal descent. The present garage is on the site of the Kentish Stables, then belonging to the Royal Kentish Hotel opposite. The FORUM 10 Oct 2004

Page last updated: 13/11/2007