-- The settlement of Denny Bottom was described in 1832 as consisting of ‘broken ground, pig-sties, rude cottages and small enclosures’. Apart from the Hobblies (built in 1569), no buildings survive from that period, but the present layout of the area, with small dwellings clustering close to the rocks, preserves something of its early character. Small scale quarrying and sand digging continued here much later than elsewhere on the Commons, a quarry along Apsley Street being in use as recently as 1914. The Toad Rock Retreat, established around 1880 and subsequently enlarged, was destroyed by fire in 1998 and rebuilt in similar style.
-- First popularized in a local guide in 1810, it is not named until the 1823 edition of
Clifford’s Tunbridge Wells guide. It was fenced and the base strengthened with masonry in 1881-2. The original railings were renovated during the winter of 1993-4. Before geologists were able to explain its origin, it aroused much speculation, including the idea that it was possibly man-made. Some nineteenth century observers believed that it was ‘the remains of an ancient sphinx’, and as late as 1933 H G Wells referred to this idea in his novel
Christina Alberta's Father
. The Toad and other outcrops were in fact eroded into their present forms by wind action during the last Ice Age. As a result of this geological history, the surrounding area was designated a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1992.
DENNY BOTTOM ROCKS
-- In Victorian and Edwardian times visitors to the Toad were liable to be accosted by self-appointed guides who would offer to point out the names of many other rocks in the vicinity. The oldest names appear to be those of the Loaf, the Lion (mentioned in the
1850s) and the Parson’s Nose (painted under this name by Charles Tattershall Dodd in the 1840s, but named the Old Man’s Head on a sketch of 1824 and the Pulpit on Edwardian postcards). Martin and Row's guide
Tunbridge Wells of Today
.1895) provides the only substantial published list (said to be far from complete) but gives no clue to precise locations. As well as the three mentioned in earlier sources, they name the Little Toad, Elephant, Fox’s Hole and Footsteps, located through oral tradition for the present map, as well as the still unlocated Bloodstain, Cradle and Pig’s Head. The Bloodstain, known to other sources as the Bleeding Rock, is generally understood as a spot where dripping water left an iron stain, but no site fitting this description can be pointed out today. Another named rock, the Dog’s Head, is illustrated in a late Victorian print. Edwardian sources mention, as well as some of the above, the Table, Camel, and Double Rock, of which only the former can be identified today. Other names on the present map have been preserved only by oral tradition.
-- An early twentieth century beauty spot frequently illustrated in town guides, first popularised when in 1905 the Conservators cleared it of undergrowth and provided seats. At the time it was noted that the rock surface there ‘presents different col
ours of a rich and varied character’, although this is not evident today. Bull’s Hollow is the site of a quarry (disused by 1890), named after Robert Bull, a quarryman who worked there and built a cottage in the early nineteenth century. The original cottage, occupied by several generations of the Bull family, was enlarged into its present form in the 1950s. There was a military rifle range here in 1918-19. The rocks of the quarry were first publicized as a site for climbers in 1936.
-- A detached portion of Rusthall Common which today resembles an appendage to Hurst Wood. It is named Steel Green on Bowra's map of 1738.
-- Another early settlement like Denny Bottom, clustered around a small detached portion of the Common. The Green proper is now much reduced in size through road widening but originally boasted a spring and a pond. The pond was filled in in 1899.
TWO YEWS COTTAGE
-- One of the oldest surviving houses in Tunbridge Wells, dating from the mid to late fifteenth century. The main part of the house would have been an open hall prior to alterations around 1600. There is a nineteenth century addition to the original building.
-- The most notable relics of several excavations for marl on Rusthall Common are two depressions which by the 1870s had developed into ponds. A bowling green was established to the south in 1913, but in time the site proved unsatisfactory and no trace remains today. Today the ponds are notable habitats for amphibians. The larger of the two was restored early in 1993, with further work in 1996. In the latter year, efforts were made to restore the second pond, but owing to its small size this is likely to remain a seasonal pool. Marl was a generic term for various kinds of clay which, it was believed, could be employed as fertiliser to make poor local soils more suitable for agriculture. This practise was popularized locally by Gervase Markham in his
Inrichment of the Weald of Kent
(1683). The two ponds seen today are simply the lowest points of a much more extensive, although relatively shallow, excavation whose boundaries can be seen on older maps. Other marl pit sites, some of which are much deeper, can be found north of St Paul's Church, north and north-east of the Cricket Ground, and in the triangle between Tea Garden Lane and Langton Road. Recently restored
. Later view.