Published on September 10th, 2013 | by The Town Crier0
Who put the ‘Royal’ in Tunbridge Wells
It’s been a Royal summer: on July 15th the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were given the
Freedom of the Borough, and a week later on July 22nd HRH Prince George of Cambridge was
born. It’s twenty one years since Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Tunbridge Wells and opened the
Royal Victoria Centre, on October 21st 1992. She is one of many Royals who have visited the town,
an exception is our current Queen, who has never been to the actual town, despite visits to Eridge
Church, Eridge House Trials and Benenden School, and the Duke of Edinburgh paying visits to the
Bowles Outdoor Centre in the 60s and 70s.
So who has been to our right Royal town, one of the two towns in England granted the title?
The first Royal visitor was Queen Henrietta Maria in 1630, after the birth of her son, the future
Charles II ( a tradition not followed by Wills and Kate then?!). In 1663 Charles II and his Queen
came, and camped near by, and in 1678 the Chapel of King Charles the Martyr was built, a lasting
memory of our first connections. Another Royal who gave a lot to the town was future Queen Anne,
who as a Princess visited in 1698 with her son. When he fell over on ‘The Walks’ she demanded
they were repaved, she returned the next summer and found they hadn’t been repaved, and vowed
never to return. When they were re-tiled – it was with pan-tiles, although in 1793 they were repaved
again with Purbeck Stone.
Of course our top Royal visitors were the Duchess of Kent, and her daughter, Princess Victoria.
During the 1820s and 1830s they often came to stay at Mount Pleasant House, later named
Calverley House, now Hotel du Vin. In 1827 Princess Victoria laid the foundation stone at Holy
Trinity Church. Tunbridge Wells reference library contains a lengthy account of a visit made in June
1849 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to see the Queen Dowager at Calverley Hotel. While here
they travelled out to High Rocks, and bought presents for their children from ‘Mr Rye’s Tunbridge
repository’. Queen Victoria returned in 1876 to visit the Romary Biscuit Factory in Church Road.
Just a little note to Queen Elizabeth II – Queen Victoria came by train, and it took ‘something under
an hour’ – so not too far to travel?
We were granted Royal status in 1909 by King Edward VII, and since then visitors have included:
1928, the then Princes of Wales, 1932 Queen Mary visited the Pantiles, in the same year HRH
Duchess of York (future Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother) laid the foundation stone at the Kent and
Sussex Hospital, and in 1941 King George VI visited Broadwater Down. The Queen Mother made
several visits after this, and Princess Margaret was also a regular visitor, including in 1986 watching
‘Calamity Jane’ in The Assembly Hall to raise funds for a scanner at the hospital. Last year the Duke
and Duchess of Wessex toured the Pantiles area, from bandstand to well. Perhaps if the ‘Water in
the Wells’ scheme gets a new water feature for Tunbridge Wells we could ask the current Queen
along to lay a foundation stone?