Trinity: a local theatre and cinema
Trinity theatre/cinema is housed in an old church. Many volunteers and lots of money raising made this all possible.
The theatre side happens throughout the year (with a bit of a break in August) and it includes serious plays, comedies, dance, musicians, pantomime and children's shows.
Performances are sometimes given by international artists such as Adzido Pan african Dance Ensemble and Alexi Sayle. There are times when the theatre's own amateur company performs.
There are stand-up comedy nights and there are some ground breaking performances in both dance and theatre.
Trinity also shows films every week. These are often contemporary films with an international appeal.
There is a bar and a cafe. Also, there is an art gallery which can have some interesting exhibitions.
I used to go there 10-15 times a year but the amount of dance and live music has decreased with the rising popularity of stand-up and films.
Still, there are a few things that I'm tempted by in the Autumn!
ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
Here is a 'thing to do' that you ought to do before you decide what to do. The Tourist Information Centre is umissable on any stroll through the Pantiles, the distinctive single storey black and white building standing out quite clearly. The information centre hasn't been handing out leaflets since 1745 though! The date on the front of the building refers to the old fish market for which this almost certainly served as the main office.
Today you will be unlikely to come across cod, haddock or plaice but you will find information on Tunbridge Wells, surrounding destinations and places of interest. Timetables, , contact numbers for accommodation, lists of concerts and shows etc - you'll find it all here. There is currently a rumour of pressure to close down this particular office but as of June 2008 it's still present and correct.
Open Monday - Saturday 9.00-17.00. Closed Bank Holiday Mondays, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
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The Opera House
Once a fine theatre, home to the performing arts in Tunbridge Wells, Ellen Terry being one of the most notable names associated with the place, now it is the home of the cheap pint and microwaved food courtesy of J D Wetherspoon.
Opened in 1902 as a grand theatre, by 1931 it had turned into a cinema. In the 70s it became a bingo hall and now it's a pub.
Fortunately despite all of its transitions the interior survived quite well and when wetherspoons took over they actually carried out a refurbishment that was sympathetic to the original style of the theatre. The upper circle and the balconies all appear quite original although these areas are out of bounds to the public so don't expect to be able to examine the original bits too closely.
Wetherspoons a have actually held a few operatic concerts here which must have been successful as they have just announced they will be putting on more this year (2008)
If you are in the area it is worth popping in for a look even if you don't stay for a drink as it is still quit grand inside!
Tunbridge Wells Mela
The Tunbridge Wells Mela is a multicultural annual event in Calverley Gardens celebrating ethnic diversity within the borough in the form dance, music and food! Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine to share with friends (or buy it there!) and enjoy the afternoon! It's free!
We met local (to Tunbridge Wells) VTer ChrisnJan (and their adorable greyhound George who was impeccably behaved for the entire afternoon!) and spent a really relaxed and fun few hours here together.
I think this event will get bigger each year - it was estimated that there were around 10,000 in attendance but I don't think there were quite that many - even so, it looked as though everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves - it's a real family event and the gorgeous weather made it a lovely day out!
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AT YOUR CONVENIENCE. DON'T GET CAUGHT SHORT!
Well it might not be a major attraction but when a chap or chapess is 'caught short' there really is nothing more convenient than a local 'Public Convenience'. This ladies and gentleman is a more than acceptable public toilet for the lady or gentleman in need of an emergency stop as they approach the Pantiles. Situated straight opposite the southern end in Linden Park Road, I have invariably found them to be clean, vandal free and often decorated with fresh flowers. My better half can happily vouch for the 'ladies'! Quite a refreshing change from the seedier ones you often come across.
Although glancing at the photo might lead you to believe that KFC sponsor the toilets, they do not. And as far as I am aware, the good Colonel never flushed at the Linden Park Conveniences!
- Family Travel
CALVERLEY GROUNDS - THE PERFECT PARK
Calverley Grounds is a picture perfect park nestling wihin the centre of Tunbridge Wells, just behind the shops on Mount Pleasant Road. Originally it formed part of the grounds of Mount Pleasant House at which time it became a favourite girlhood haunt for Queen Victoria. Curious to think of her playing in what is now a rather splendid public park - well, perhaps not in the area where the bandstand is, as that used to be where the lake was!
After the house was rebuilt in 1837 and transformed into the Calverley Hotel, the grounds were purchased in 1840 for the good of the local community and the park started it's new life. Much of the landscaping work done between 1920 and 1926 shaping the grounds into the beautiful green space we see today. facilities include tennis courts, bowling greens, a croquet lawn, basketball court (!) and one of the best traditional 'greasy spoon' cafés (colloquial British term!) you're likely to come across...and believe me, I do mean that as a compliment! Just check out my restaurant tips...
For those 'caught short' there are public toilets right by the Mount Pleasant Road entrance and also, rather curiously, a very quaint looking Dental Surgery! Worth noting that the nearest children's playground is situated just a few minutes walk away in another park called 'The Grove' and also that the Calverley Grounds closes at dusk.
- Family Travel
THE FARMERS MARKET - WORTH A DELICIOUS DETOUR!
Well, I've got to admit that I do like my food...my food, your food, in fact just about any food that hasn't been securely chained to the table. If you're lucky enough to be passing Tunbridge Wells when the Farmer's Market is in town, I strongly suggest you take a timely detour and tuck in. Purveyors of provisions from Kent and Sussex set up stall selling an array of produce from organic vegetables to luxuriously flavoured loaves of bread, from organic wine and honey to herbs, and joints of lamb to vegetarian curries. Why not do as I do and purchase a pie to snaffle down whilst you thread your way through the stalls? It isn't enormous (that's the market, not my pie!) but there are plenty of decent stalls to attract your attention.
If interested, you'll find that the market takes place outside the Town Hall on specific Saturdays between 9am and 2pm. Don't leave it too late or you'll find yourself with little left to buy! The remaining dates for 2008 are as follows...
12th and 26th July
9th and 23th August
13th and 27th September
11th and 25nd October
8th and 22nd November
23 December (for this day only, 12pm til 6pm)
- Food and Dining
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About nine miles from Tunbridge Wells town centre, Scotney Castle is the remains of a fourteenth century, moated castle set in some wonderful landscaped gardens. The garden has spectacular displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia in May and June, wisteria and roses rambling over the ruins in summer, and trees and ferns providing rich colour in autumn. There are some lovley walks around the estate, from the car park, take the circular route via Kilndown and you will get the oppotunity to have a beer and a wonderful lunch in the Globe and Rainbow. Go through the surrounding woodland in May and you will find carpets of Bluebells as far as the eye can see.
This tip has been updated on my Kent page.
King Charles the Martyr
Built in 1676, this was the first permanent building in Tunbridge Wells, although it only became a parish church in 1889. The original chapel has been extended and enlarged over the years but a lot of the original features still survive. The building looks quite plain from the outside, but step through the door and you will be in for some surprises, including the wonderful plasterwork ceiling.
There is so much history to this place I couldn't possibly go through it all so if you want details just follow this link
The Pantiles grew up around the spa waters of the Chalybeate Spring. It all started with a few wooden buildings thrown up around the Dipping House. By the early eighteenth century it had turned into a colonnaded walkway. In Georgian times, "The Walks" as they were known then, were the place to be seen, with only the gentry allowed on the upper walks while everyone else were restricted to the lower walks. The daily events and protocol were overseen by The Master of Ceremonies, Richard Beau Nash, a well known dandy who had made a name for himself in the other popular spa town of Bath.
Today The Pantiles has a mix of shops, art galleries and restaurants with outdoor seating. The tourist information office can also be found here, in The Old Fish market. Once you have chosen your leaflets take them next door to The Duke of York and peruse them over a pint of ale.
You can still taste the waters today; costumed dippers serve tastings from the dipping house during the summer months.
But a word of caution; It doesn’t taste very nice!
There is a bandstand where you can sometimes catch a performance by local theatrical groups or live music.
Parts of the Tommy Steele film "Half a Sixpence" were filmed here and the shop used as the sweetshop setting is still here today.
Originally known as "The Holy Trinity", this wonderful piece of architecture, designed by Decimus Burton, was the first parish church of Tunbridge Wells. In 1974 the church commissioners declared The Holy Trinity Church 'redundant to pastoral needs'. In 1975 public outcry was the only thing that saved the Church after the commissioners paved the way for demolition. After years of restoration Trinity first opened its doors as an arts centre in 1982. Its success grew and grew being rewarded with awards and grants enabling further improvements.
Today it is a wonderful theatre/arts centre with a diverse mix of performances throughout the year. If you cannot make it to one of the evening shows, it's still worth calling in for a coffee and to browse the artwork on display whilst listening to the pianist tinkle the ivories.
Dunorlan Park was once a private landscaped garden, today though, it is a public park. Thanks to a £2.1 million grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund the park has just undergone a massive restoration project. It really is a very nice place to go on a fine day, take a stroll along well maintained paths, picnic on the grass or take a boat out on the lake. Boats are available for hire during the summer and fishing is allowed during the fishing season. There is also a cafe where you can sit and watch the parklife around you. Occaisionally some quite large events are held here.
On a rainy day
If you feel you need to find indoor activitys then head for Knights Park. Situated on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, just off the A21, it is home to The Odeon multiscreen cinema, Bowlplex ten pin bowling alley and Esporta Fitness Centre. There is also a pub/restaurant called The Hop Pocket which does the usual chain pub grub which is usually quite good and very good value for money. On nice days we walk our dog here and have a lunch outside. Also there is Frankie & Bennys, I would not reccomend this place, the food is below average and the service is nothing short of terrible. I have tried to eat here four times, the first I enjoyed, the second I walked out before my order was taken, The third I complained and had my bill reduced and the fourth I walked out again. I will not give them another chance.
The Pantiles - is a colonnade of shops, once very popular with the gentry, but now just as popular with Joe Public. The name Pantiles is the name of the paving slabs or tiles which were baked in pans. It's a pedestrianised area where you can meet friends in one of the numerous little coffee places or pub or restaurant or just browse the many interesting (but somewhat expensive shops!) The Chalybeate Spring is also here (see Local Customs tip).
There are lots of little interesting gift shops, antique shops, galleries and boutiques as well as a lovely kitchenware emporium. (Looking for a a quirky cake tin?? This is the kind of place you might find it! :))
There's a variety of architectural styles in evidence here, eg Regency, Georgian, Victorian and white clapboard cottages. There is a real village feel about the place, especially on a warm sunny Sunday morning!
This is a definite "Must See" for visitors to Tunbridge Wells.
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The Corn Exchange
Back in the 19th century this was a theatre built by Sarah Baker - a famous dancer of the era, later it became the Corn Exchange, and now it is a gallery/cafe with a few small shops.
A statue of the Goddess of the Harvest can be seen at the top of the building.
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