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The History of Tunbridge Wells

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The discovery of the Chalybeate Springs led to the birth of the elegant town of Tunbridge Wells which lies thirty miles or so from England's capital London, and yet it's surrounded by the rich countryside of the Weald , in the county of Kent. Although the local surrounding area saw early settlers farming the land from as far back as the Bronze Age, Tunbridge Wells did not come into its own until the discovery of the 'healing waters' of the Chalybeate Springs .

The Springs were uncovered by Lord North, an ailing aristocrat who was visiting nearby, Lord North saw the rich waters, heavily discoloured by large amounts of iron deposits which were contained in them whilst he was out riding in 1606, he tried them and found them to have healed his ailment. On his return to London , he wasted no time in sharing his news, and it wasn't long before London Society, and the Gentry followed in his footsteps eager to try the waters. Word spread fast, resulting in the rapid growth of a popular and fashionable destination, it became necessary to have places to stay resulting in the building of large houses and villas in 1630 to cater for the influx of people. A few shops sprang up, and Tunbridge Ware was produced for the first time which grew in popularity with its intricate and fine detailing which was craved as a souvenir.

It wasn't until 1735 that Richard Beau Nash, a fashionable Dandy arrived in the small town, he became Master of Ceremonies and was responsible for the entertainment and the portrayal of the town. He organised dances, music evenings, balls, and social events which only led to the rising popularity of the town that was to rival elegant Bath . The growth also led to the building of the Pantiles which the town is known for. The splendour of the two storey colonnaded Pantiles still draws visitors, however during their heyday it was the place to be seen, elegant members of society promenaded along the walkways in their finery close by to the Chalybeate Springs. The taking of the waters were assisted by a Dipper who were, at the time appointed by royalty, this tradition continues today, whereby anyone who wishes to take the waters is assisted by a costumed Dipper during the summer months, however, they are no longer appointed by Royalty. The 18th Century also saw a Fire Brigade arrive, which was one of the first in England to operate as a designated Fire Brigade.

With the dawning of the 19th Century came a police Force in 1836, the coming of the railway, and the building of a Theatre which later became a Corn Exchange for the buying and selling of grain, it also saw the issuing of an important declaration whereby it became a Royal Borough in 1866, together with the welcome, and necessary arrival of a General Hospital in 1884 to care for the sick.

The Wild West Showman Buffalo Bill arrived with his entourage and horses in 1903 to make ready for his show spectacular to be held within the town. 1909 saw Edward VII issuing the title of Royal Tunbridge Wells in recognition of its Royal patronage over the years, as the town had seen Queen Victoria arrive as a princess, and also the mother of Charles II , Queen Henrietta Maria take the waters. The twentieth Century also saw the cease in the production of Tunbridge Ware, and later the loss and devastation that was caused by the bombs dropped during the bombing raids that were carried out during WWII .

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Battle of Lostwithiel - 1644, Battle of Dunkeld - 1689
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