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Rusthall Common Tour - Page 2
COACH ROAD -- A surviving section of a road which in the mid-nineteenth century continued beyond Langton Road to the corner of the Common where the road now known as the Midway begins, after which it continued south to meet High Rocks Lane. At the junction with Rusthall Road is a drinking fountain erected in 1887 in memory of Margaret Cunliffe of Nevill Park.

ASSEMBLY ROOM SITE -- A bramble filled pit marks the site of the first Assembly Room for the entertainment of the visitors to the Wells, built in 1655 when most still lodged at Rusthall. In 1665 this facility was transferred to Mount Ephraim House. A contemporary bowling green extended to the west.

RUSTHALL CRICKET GROUND -- Levelled in 1885-6, replacing an earlier unsatisfactory site established in 1865 at the north-western corner of the Common. It was enlarged in 1906. The informal playing field to the east, known as ‘the Bumps’ was cleared in the 1950s and levelled in 1961.

ST PAUL'S CHURCH -- Built 1849-50, with a north aisle added in 1864. Edwardian views show on the western side of the footpath between the church and Langton Road a now vanished pond within the bounds of the enormous marl pit marked on Bowra's 1738 map. The avenue leading up to the church was planted to commemorate the accession of George V in 1910.

BEACON HOTEL -- Built in 1895 as Rusthall Beacon by Sir Walter Harris (later Lord Mayor of London) on the site of two cottages attached to the original Tea Gardens, opened c.1818, after which the road is named. Together with the Tea gardens site, he bought part of Cold Bath Farm, the area known as Happy Valley. The estate was bought in 1907 by Colonel Edward Sydney Sladen (mayor of Royal Tunbridge Wells 1910-12), who erected in the grounds the Burmese Bell brought back by his father Sir Edward Sladen which was later placed in Calverley Grounds. From 1938 and through World War II, the house was used as a residential home for Jewish refugee children. The building became a hotel in 1950.

HAPPY VALLEY -- One of the town's chief beauty spots in Victorian and Edwardian times. There are many pictures of that period showing what was said to be ‘as beautiful a view as England affords’ from the traditional viewpoint marked today by a clearing to the east of the Hundred and One Steps. Nowadays, due to obscuring trees, the best view can be obtained from the footpath between the Steps and the Beacon Hotel. The name was invented around 1870 (after the earthly paradise in Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, 1759) for what are now the grounds of the Beacon Hotel, but were originally the pleasure grounds surrounding the Cold Bath of 1708. Early postcard.

HUNDRED AND ONE STEPS -- Constructed to provide the main access to the Cold Bath of 1708. Early postcard.

HUNDRED AND ONE STEPS -- Constructed to provide the main access to the Cold Bath of 1708 and therefore presumed to be contemporary with it. They appear on Bowra's map of 1738. By 1840 they had become covered by turf, and were apparently not revealed to view again until early in the twentieth century. Some postcards following their rediscovery erroneously describe them as ‘the Roman Steps’, creating a local legend that has endured to the present day. Missing and damaged steps were replaced by old kerbstones in 1959.

HAPPY VALLEY CAVES -- Sometimes described as Sweeps’ Caves because they were once used as a dump for soot. Colbran's town guide of 1839 describes them as ‘dormitories for gipsies etc.’. They were probably intended originally to shelter wooden seats and excavated at the time of development of the Cold Bath to provide viewpoints over the valley.
HAPPY VALLEY ROCKS -- Mesolithic flint implements found here suggest these were used as
camp sites by nomadic hunters of the period, as the cliffs at High Rocks are known to have been; they would have used the overhangs (much higher above ground level than we see them today) as shelters. Early local botanists knew them as the Cold Bath Rocks. The rock nearest to the path is known as the Cheesewring (i.e. cheese-press) Rock, on account of the narrow gap separating the isolated stack from the cliff behind. The stack was underpinned with masonry in 1932. In the post-war period, the rocks above the path became obscured by undergrowth, but they were cleared in the mid-1990s.

Page last updated: 21/07/2009