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Tunbridge Wells Common Tour - Page 5

THE BROOK -- The small stream which once marked the county boundary flowed beside what is now Cumberland Walk, behind the Lower Walk of the Pantiles, and along Eridge Road before crossing the corner of the Common below the Cottage, the footpath to which once crossed a small bridge.

In 1853, following years of complaints that it had become an open sewer and was a hazard to public health, it was finally enclosed in a barrel drain at the expense of the Local Board, assisted by a contribution from the Earl of Abergavenny.

now emerges in the garden centre beyond the western boundary of the Common. Although local residents never dignified it with a name, it is in fact the beginning of the River Grom.

THE COTTAGE -- An enlargement of the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century Kentish Cottage, named from the long vanished farmhouse known as Kentish Villa a little to the north. It was the summer retreat from c.1850 of the Scottish preacher Dr John Cumming. In front of the Cottage are oaks probably planted around 1700 to mark the boundary of the Common: others of similar age can be seen further along the path to the north. Photo Oct 2007

GORSE AND BRACKEN COTTAGES -- Built about 1912 on the site of the early Victorian Spring Bottom Cottage, also known as Shoebridge's Cottage after a laundress who lived there in the 1860s.

BRACKEN COTTAGE POND -- A modern name for a survivor of several informal ponds scattered over the Commons up to the mid-nineteenth century and maintained as watering places for cattle and sheep. Most were filled in at various dates between 1850 and 1900. This pond was restored in 1992. It is fed by a spring via a small watercourse to the east.


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BISHOPS DOWN -- Triangular portion of the Common with adjacent houses which preserves the ancient name of the entire Common. There was formerly a pond here, but in 1865 it was filled in.

MANOR HOUSE -- Not a true manor house, but a late seventeenth century lodging house acquired along with other property at Bishops Down by George Kelley at the time when he purchased the Manor of Rusthall. In lodging house lists of around 1800 it appears as Mrs Shorey's Great House, after the then Lady of the Manor. The present name dates from c.1822.

SPA HOTEL -- Built in 1765 by Sir George Kelley, Lord of the Manor, as Bishops Down Grove. It was purchased from his heirs by Major Martin Yorke of the East India Company (after whom the road is named) in 1772. Its life as a hotel dates from 1878, when, following enlargement, it was opened as the Bishops Down Grove Spa and Hydropathic Sanatorium. On the strip of the Common in front of the hotel is a drinking fountain erected in 1887 in memory of the Hon. Francis and Lady Georgina Molyneux. Francis Molyneux moved to Tunbridge Wells in 1853, living first at Gibraltar Cottage and subsequently building Earls Court (now Reliance House) on Mount Ephraim. He was a leading member of the Freeholders, as well as the Local Board. Nearby, a plaque indicates an oak planted in July 1954 to commemorate a summer school held by the Men of the Trees, an early environmental group, at the Hotel.

Page last updated: 13/11/2007