Oast roofs in the sunset - photo by Mike Bartlett Oast roofs in the sunset - photo by Mike Bartlett The Pantiles - photo by David Hodgkinson The Pantiles - photo by David Hodgkinson Windmill - photo by Mike Bartlett Windmill - photo by Mike Bartlett Spa Valley Railway at Groombridge Station - photo by David Hodgkinson Spa Valley Railway at Groombridge Station - photo by David Hodgkinson

Culture, customs, traditions and all the arts have been an integral part of Tunbridge Wellian life since the town’s birth.

Home to a wealth of creative talent, Tunbridge Wells has one of the largest populations of creative professionals in Kent.  Inspiration abounds from the local heritage and natural environment.

Many might think of shopping and café culture when thinking of Tunbridge Wells and, whilst there are fantastic cafés and boutiques here in Tunbridge Wells, it’s not all about coffee (well, maybe just a little bit!).

History of culture in Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge ware is one famous example of locally made art. It is a form of marquetry and was first created in the 1700s. The Chalybeate Spring was only discovered in 1606.

Marquetry is a delicately inlaid pattern in wood as a form of art to decorate objects such as tables, jewellery boxes, pill boxes and so on.  See image below.

Trinket boxes - photo by David Hodgkinson

Culture in Tunbridge Wells – “…it’s a place of innovation, of change. Some of the big firsts happened here in terms of photography, science, politics, particularly around women’s suffrage, all here in Tunbridge Wells. It attracts innovators ..”

Links to English Literature

Jane Austen was a fan of Tunbridge ware owning a few pieces herself.  Her brother Henry Austen is buried in Woodbury Park Cemetery in a quiet place on the outskirts of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and friends, were known to ‘explorate’ Ashdown Forest, only 30 minutes away by horseless carriage. It is a little known fact that Pooh came to church in Royal Tunbridge Wells too.

The famous authors, E M Forster and Thackeray both lived in Royal Tunbridge Wells for a time. One of the best restaurants in town is in the house where Thackeray used stay.

Thackeray is famous for writing Vanity Fair, the book without a hero. Edward Morgan Forster is famous for writing Howard’s End, A Room With A View and A Passage to India amongst others.

Siegfried Sassoon lived in the little village of Brenchley, riding in the Wealden hills and woods and playing cricket on the village cricket pitch. Sassoon is famous for his moving world war poetry.

Find out more with a group guided tour  of Royal Tunbridge Wells or from the self guided Heritage Walking Trail.

Inspiring carpets of countryside

Indoors and outdoors there is always something to enrich your visit right here in the Garden of England.

Charles Tattershall Dodd I is one such well known artist who lived and painted the Tunbridge Wells area throughout his life.

There is an active visual arts community that often arrange large exhibitions, art trails and other events in the surrounding towns and villages too.

For example, the pretty village of Cranbrook has an annual art show in the historic Vestry Hall. The Museum there is worth browsing round to find out more about the rural history and culture of the Weald of Kent.

There are numerous notable art galleries  in the town with a variety of changing exhibitions displaying local Kent and Sussex artists’ work as well as works by international guests.

The award winning parks and open spaces are havens for natural historians and admirers of sculpture – visit Dunorlan Park and Pashley Manor.

Performing Arts

There are 3 theatres in the borough with lively entertainments programmes throughout the year for adults, families and children.

The Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre combines both visual and performing arts with space for both and right in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Musicals, operas, jazz, rock, comedy, drama, dance, you name it, all come to Tunbridge Wells. Live music is a big part of the town’s culture of which you can read more about on the What’s On page.

Each year there are many different types of festivals celebrating the culture of the area. The Live Music and Festivals page has more information on this including music, the Mela, dance, poetry, art and literature.

Royal Tunbridge Wells continues to build on its reputation as a contemporary cultural and creative hub in Kent.

Make sure you search our things to do for the latest exciting events. There’s too much to enjoy in a weekend, so make a holiday of it and check out some accommodation right now!

If you want history, theatre, concerts, music, art and literature, Tunbridge Wells is the right place for you!