To celebrate the Kings Coronation, Dr Ian Beavis, curator at the Amelia Scott and local celebrity for his incredible knowledge of our local history, shares with us why Tunbridge Wells was granted the ‘Royal’ prefix.

Tunbridge Wells, has a rich history and royal connection that has earned it the title of “Royal Tunbridge Wells.”

The royal connections of Tunbridge Wells date back to the 17th century when the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring, a natural spring that contained iron, led to the growth of a fashionable spa town. Queen Henrietta Maria came in 1629, and spent six weeks encamped with her courtiers on Tunbridge Wells Common. She explored the forest lands over the nearby county boundary and felt she was having something of an adventure in what was then a very remote part of the country.  Her visit inspired the first of many treatises celebrating the virtues of the health-giving chalybeate waters.

Black a white image. A group of people gathered around a Chalybeat Spring in Tunbridge Wells

Charles II and Queen Katharine came in 1663 and subsequently. They are said to have stayed at Mount Ephraim House (now Hotel du Vin), with the main body of their household on the Common as before. The Duke of York (later James II) made his first visit in 1670, when he popularised the High Rocks, along with his daughters Mary and Anne, both later queens. Princess Anne came on several occasions up to 1699, and a grove was planted on the Common to celebrate her coronation in 1702.  She gave money for what we now call the Pantiles to be paved with the square ceramic tiles from which it took its name. You can view one of the original Pantiles in the History of the Wells exhibition room at the Amelia Scott.

Eighteenth century royal visitors included George II (as Prince of Wales), his sons Frederick Prince of Wales, William Duke of Cumberland, and Frederick’s sons the Dukes of York and Gloucester. Although the Prince Regent (later George IV) preferred Brighton, he was seen at Tunbridge Wells on a number of occasions, as were his sister Princess Sophia, and his brothers Frederick Duke of York, Ernest Duke of Cumberland, and Augustus Duke of Sussex.

Most regular and popular of royal visitors were the Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess (later Queen) Victoria, who came almost every year between 1826 and 1835. They usually stayed at Mount Pleasant House (later the Calverley Hotel, now the Hotel du Vin), and the Princess much enjoyed her rides on the Common on her donkey named ‘Flower’. The townsfolk planted the Royal Victoria Grove, still to be seen on the Common, to celebrate these visits.

After her accession, Queen Victoria returned to Tunbridge Wells on two occasions, in 1849 and 1876. Edward VII came as Prince of Wales in 1862 and 1881; in later years, he agreed to the Council’s request in 1909 that the town be entitled to style itself ‘Royal’ on account of its long history of royal connections. Visits during the present century have included one by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1928, and four by Elizabeth, Duchess of York and later Queen Mother, between 1932 and 1986. Diana, Princess of Wales, opened Royal Victoria Place in 1992.  In 2006, as the climax of the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Tunbridge Wells waters, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, unveiled a monument in Dunorlan Park to celebrate the Victoria Cross holders of the Borough.

Join the Right Royal Weekend celebrations across the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells as we commemorate our Royal connections and the Coronation of the King.