Bluemoon Gallery: Paintings, glass, ceramics, jewellery
Oh, there are times that I could have spent thousands of pounds here!
My wife loves the jewellery ---especially the silver work.
I really like the glass; the champagne glasses at Christmas are so beautiful...
The paintings aren't to our taste but they seem popular.
Once you've been in here, you can pop next door to the 'Black Dog' for a coffee and some cake.
Redbox Camera: Photographic Shop
Don't be put off by the indow display, this is a great place to buy photographic equipment, have photos processed, sort out your camera problems...
The guys in here are down to Earth, no nonsense people who are not into pressurised selling.
I always use this shop.
vaious: An overview of Tunbridge Wells shops
Tunbridge Wells has many shops which are not always obvious to a visitor.
The Royal Victoria Centre is basically a mall at the top (north) end of the town. Inside there are the usual shops plus a food hall (KFC, McDonalds etc), public toilets and disability centre and gym. There's a creche there too.
The shopping streets outside the RVC are the Calverley Precinct, Monson Road, Grosvenor Road and Camden Road. Obviously there are are other shopping roads off of these.
To the south, going down the hill, is Mount Pleasant with its shops, restaurants, Town Hall, library, bankbuilding societies.
This street becomes the High Street soon after it passes the main Tunbridge Wells railway station. The High Street is a narrow road with many interesting shops and restaurants.
At the end of the High Street you should walk through Chapel Place (more shops!) down the steps, around the corner, across the pedestrian crossing and in to the Pantiles.
This is the most touristy part of Tunbridge Wells. There are tea rooms and cafes , restaurants, a band stand, public toilets and plenty of Georgian architecture to enjoy.
various: Calverley: outdoor pedestrian precinct
Just outside the Royal Victoria Centre (shopping mall) is the Caverley area which has a wide variety of shops including Waterstones for books, shoe shops, jewellers, Starbucks, building societies, phone shops and clothes shops.
There are benches upon which to sit, trees, flower beds and public phone boxes.
The Framing Centre: framing of photos, prints etc
I like to have my best photos framed professionally. There are many places in Tunbridge Wells but I believe that this is the best for value, the quality of the work and the service provided.
Don't be put off by the window display!
Habitat: The Temple of Sir Terence
Sir Terence Conran opened the first Habitat in London in 1964. They sell all things of a trendy homeware-ish nature but at affordable prices.
What to buy: I love popping in here and finding a bargain, particularly some of their photographic prints.
There's also loads of lovely bedding, soft furnishings and lighting as well as cookwear and candles etc etc etc! It's different to the kind of thing you would find in department stores. Definitely a favourite shop of mine!
What to pay: It's a little more expensive than traditional stores but it's also slightly off-beat. You can find bargains though - well worth looking!
Breeds the Cutlers: Trading for 181 years!
Breeds the Cutler was established way back in 1829 and - sad as I am to report the news - this might well be one of those 'last chance to see' moments. The fact that there is still a shop in evidence that still calls itself a 'cutler' is splendid enough, but find one that's been a going concern for 179 years are you are doubly blessed. In June 2008 I visited the shop to find what looked like a closing down sale in full swing. High shop rents and the increasing unwillingness of people to buy a long term quality purchase over a succession of short term cheap ones has tolled the death knell for many a specialist shop. In truth sets of cutlery and fine china are now the stuff of one off wedding purchases but it is a delight to see quality glassware, knives and other specialist cookware on view.
In the past Yuletide always saw the basement transformed into a rather magical Christmas shop with more decorations than you can shake a stick at. Certainly my own children always loved walking through the small colour-themed areas; small but perfectly formed as they say!
Just for the record, my wife and I left the shop having bought an oak chopping board, glassware and possibly the best pair of moustache trimming scissors I have come across - though that last purchase isn't one for the ladies unless they happen to be bearded!
The good news is that Breeds weathered the storm and recently located to new premises on the High Street. As of September 2010 things were looking good but you know what they say. Use it or lose it!
What to buy: Cutlery, glassware, scissors, knives, kitchenware, specialist cooking utensils and gadgets.
What to pay: From a little to a lot.
- Luxury Travel
- Food and Dining
THE GREAT HALL: ARCADIA!
Well the Great Hall is arguably greater than the sum of it's parts. It is basically a very small but perfectly formed shopping arcade that hosts the wonderful Breeds the Cutler, Hoopers rather swish and rather expensive store for men, a furniture shop and last but not least the headquarters and shop of BBC Radio Kent - like a broadcasting zoo you can sometimes view the live presenters doing their shows through the window! You have a car park and Calverley Fields park behind the Hall but best of all you have the building itself. I must say I think it's rather magnificent and has a soupçon of La Belle France running through it's design. Even if you don't venture within it's certainly worth a snap!
CHILDRENSALON: CHILDHOOD DREAMS
Not everyone can claim to have idyllic well behaved offspring (have you seen some of the parents?!) and yet we can all aspire to getting as near the ideal as possible. If one was to mash up peoples misty eyed remembrances of what a perfect childhood might look like, it would I daresay have more than a dash of the Victorian/Edwardian Peter Pan/Mary Poppins-ish nursery - beautiful clothes, dashes of fairydust and plenty of wooden toys. Well this is exactly what's on offer a the Childrensalon.
Although my own children are now racing through teenagerdom, I still can't pass this shop without pausing to gape at their window. My last two utterances have been something like - "That Noah's Ark is absolutely gorgeous. I want it!" and "I wish I'd had a castle like that one!". My wife meanwhile ignores my plaintive blubbing and homes in on the girly dresses and nicknacks. Everything I've ever noticed in this shop seems to have been beautifully designed and beautifully made. If you're after a wonderful wooden toy then this is where to look for it. Everyday clothes, shoes, dressing up clothes, toys, pedal cars... The emphasis is on quality and that of course has never come cheap. But if you want to see things that your regular department store simply doesn't have then it's wort popping in here.
Needless to say it's a family run shop which has been in existence in Tunbridge Wells since 1952. It grew from a fascinating beginning in post war Vienna - but to read the whole story you'll have to head to their website. You know, if we want to avoid all high streets becoming depressing clones of one another, with the same chains offering the same goods in every town and city then we really need these 'one-offs' to swim against the tide and survive. Let's hope they continue to do so.
What to buy: I'd like the Noah's Ark please Santa...
What to pay: More than usual.
- Family Travel
Cath Kidson: Flower Power!
Having founded her first shop back in 1993 in (wait for it, it's so deliciously predictable!) Notting Hill, Cath Kidson has now become a household name but probably only if you happen to have a trendy household. Make no bones about it, I like a lot of her stuff. She seems to have taken once unfashionable chintzy patterns, and designs that border on nursery chic and turned them into money spinning products. Is she one wonders the Laura Ashley of the Noughties?
The Tunbridge Wells store is one of 16 situated here in the UK and whether you want a Summery dress, delightful wallpaper, funky fabrics or chic oven gloves this is the place to come. I mean, goodness, they even sell fabric doorstops! Yes, this is definitely the perfect 'indoor' shop to go with 'Le Petit Jardin's' gardening bits. I don't doubt that it's all rather lovely but if I filled my entire house with it I would have a floral-based fainting fit.
Mon - Fri 9.30am - 5.30pm
Sat - 9.30am - 6.00pm
Sunday - 12pm - 5pm
What to buy: The New Rose Bloom Dog Bed. Yes, that would make an interesting surprise present for a pet-hating mother-in-law.
What to pay: It all depends on your level of self-control and your aversion to chintzy bits!
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
G. Collins and Sons: The Jewel In the Crown - 'er, literally!
if you are after jewellery and only want the best then a visit to Collins and Sons should probably be on your agenda. It certainly has an attractive shop front, decked out as it is, in traditional 'mock Tudor' black and white. But step a little closer and you will see something of interest. For there, nestling on the outside wall between the first and second floors, is none other than a Royal Warrant! Somewhat different than an arrest warrant, these are in the gift of the monarch to bestow upon tradesman/companies who provide produce or services for senior members of the Royal Family. In this case Mr Collins earned his as jeweller to H.M. The Queen, serving as Royal Jeweller in 2000 and more recently appointed in 2007 as Crown Jeweller. Basically his is the honour of caring for the Crown Jewels currently housed in the Tower Of London. Doubtless he could also change the odd watch battery if required but I doubt that that's how he spends his day. Frankly if anyone is likely to have a delicious diamond or terrific tiara about them, it's going to be Mr Harry Collins.
I must say, it was a while before I became aware of all his official titles but he obviously has some rather special customers. I used to wonder why there always seemed to be a limousine and the odd bodyguard knocking around near the entrance. Good for him though, particularly as this is a one off family business. Quite a jewel!
And in case any American chums are wondering, yes we do spell jewellery differently here in the UK!
What to buy: Jewellery ancient and modern. Cartier, Patek Philippe, Georg Jenson etc etc. If you can't afford it, they've probably got it.
What to pay: If you have to think about it, you probably can't afford it. You will not find prices quoted on their website. There is often a reason for that...
- Luxury Travel
Le Petit Jardin: Gardening as an aesthetic pastime
There's no doubt about it, Le Petit Jardin is a delightful shop stuffed full of beautiful things. As a keen organic gardener myself whenever I wander in their I am overcome by an array of pastel colours and a wave of aesthetic delight quite makes me forget the amount of manure I've got to double dig into my soil. Take this extract from a recent update of theirs...
"As well as our ever changing and classic garden range, we now offer some scrummy interior goodies, including vintage French furniture and cushions, yummy blankets, hand knitted toys from a fair trade cooperative in Africa to linens for the home from Lithuania."
Absolutely nothing wrong with that but let me make it quite clear that this is a place for garden lanterns, wooden plant signs and wonderful hammocks. You will not find many 'tillers of the earth' wandering around the shop - in fact, I'm not sure they'd like too much earth trodden around inside at all - but you will find people who love their gardens (probably big) but quite possibly planted and maintained by their personal gardeners (also probably big).
Definitely worth a visit. Lots of lovely things but at a price!
What to buy: Two Lithuanian cushions for a garden-based pillow fight?
What to pay: Anything substantial wont come cheap but it will be lovely.
- Arts and Culture
- Luxury Travel
Hall's Book Shop: Beauteous book browsing!
Well this is one of The Major's regular haunts whenever I visit Tunbridge Wells. It is in effect an antiquarian (secondhand) bookshop that looks exactly like you'd want it to look. Established back in 1898 , Halls has it all. A terribly appealing Victorian exterior, matched by plenty of dusty nooks and crannies inside, watched over by similarly crumbly and characterful shop assistants. In truth there was a young looking chap behind the counter last time I went but perhaps he was one of the oldies who'd been using lots of moisturiser?
Venture inside and you will be overcome by wall to wall books. Better still they have one of those delightful library ladders with which brave customers can attempt to conquer the secondhand summit! After falling and breaking the odd leg, venture up a windy staircase to the second floor. More books. As with all antiquarian bookshop the posher, rarer volumes are kept behind the counter away the them grubby hands of ordinary mortals. Ask and you shall receive!
Look closely at the photo and you will notice a rather comely young lady - trust me on this for I saw both sides - peering into the shop window. Some mistake I thought as I approached the portal? But no! She came in and enquired about the books. Highbrows in high heels. There is a god in heaven!
9.30am - 5.00pm
Monday - Saturday
What to buy: Books and plenty of 'em!
What to pay: Pence to pounds. The rarer they are the more you'll pay - but there's plenty of affordable stock. in fact most of it! There is even a 10p section with a trust box outside the shop!!
- Arts and Culture
Various: Royal Victoria Place
This is the indoor shopping area in Tunbridge Wells. It's really no different to any other mall in any part of the the UK, as it has all the same shops, and stalls. It has the usual "Lull the shoppers into spending more - spacious, calming white/glass/foliage/music ambience" that shopping psychologists have been using for years.
It's just a shopping mall with the same screaming kids and harassed (but with a little more spending money and slightly trendier parents) - this is Tunny after all.
What to buy: Toys. clothes, electrical, homewear, stationery, etc etc
What to pay: Depends on what you are buying. The prices will be the same as other UK chain stores
The Black Dog cafe: The Black Dog cafe
Good food and drink. It's as easy as that! Sit outside to watch the shoppers wandering ---or sit at the window if it is raining.
Then you can browse nextdoor in the Bluemoon Gallery.
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