What’s it all about?
Royal Tunbridge Wells, known simply as ‘TW’ by the twats who live there, became popular as a spa resort after a young Queen Victoria sampled its calming and regenerative delights. It might be a very different place today if Her Majesty had just stopped off for a quick slash behind a bush.
Despite its reputation for middle-England bigotry, Tunbridge Wells is more woke than you might imagine. Cosmopolitan couples looking to start families have migrated from London, gradually displacing the indigenous racists. These days, the only residents to be viewed with hate and mistrust are those who don’t have bifold doors.
The town displayed its surprisingly progressive credentials by being the only place in Kent to vote to stay in the EU. However, it remains a Tory stronghold and is still whiter than Antiques Roadshow.
Any good points?
The numerous large parks are an undeniable boon. Dunorlan is perhaps the pick of the bunch, with its expansive boating lake and picturesque Victorian follies. If you hear somebody shouting ‘Tarquin, don’t be so silly!’ they’re probably talking to their cocker spaniel.
Dunorlan’s playground is conveniently situated on a spring, so even a light drizzle will turn it into a horrifying mud bath. The local children don’t complain though, they just don their Kath Kidston wellies and get stuck in.
Tunbridge Wells is on the train line between London and Hastings. The southbound route tends to get disrupted if there’s any kind of weather, so if heroin on the beach is your thing, best hop in the car.
Much of the historic architecture of the town has been preserved, and the Edwardian-baroque design of the Opera House is an undoubted highlight. The elegant features even survived an interior fire during World War II. It’s now a Wetherspoons.
The town centre is disappointingly generic, with more empty units and charity shops than the locals would care to admit. Wealthy housewives enjoy donating though, competing with each other to see if they can get something in the window display.
Venturing out of the built-up areas, High Rocks is a stunning sandstone formation of, er, large rocks. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest but the rocks are mainly great for climbing up, walking on and jumping across. Situated next to a pub for maximum peril.
Hang out at…
The Pantiles is the Georgian colonnade where the ‘wells’ of Tunbridge Wells are located. Now a row of independent shops, bars and restaurants, you can no longer ‘take the waters’ but you can certainly spend eight quid on a coffee and buy a designer gilet for your dog.
A branch of The Ivy offers pricey brunch and a fleeting feeling of superiority. The perfect place for mums to compare their house extensions and children’s eleven plus scores over a smoked salmon bagel and glass of fizz.
Sankey’s is a fish restaurant downstairs and a boozer upstairs, so you can pretentiously eat a whole lobster before letting the façade crumble and downing shots of Sambuca until you puke. Sort of a metaphor for Tunbridge Wells as a whole.
Where to buy
If you have more money than God, why not purchase a mansion in Camden Park? Nobody really knows what it’s like inside this mysterious gated community aside from the residents, their cleaners and Ocado delivery drivers.
With its proximity to the prestigious Claremont state primary school, Farmcombe Road offers incredibly overpriced semi-detached properties, partly thanks to parents renting second homes to get into the postcode. Somewhat hilariously, Claremont was recently downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ with catastrophic consequences for local house prices.
Tunbridge Wells also has its fair share of social housing, it’s just hidden away like a mad old aunt who’s not allowed out of the attic. If you don’t fancy competitive chat at the school gates about how stressed and high-powered you are at work, head on over to Sherwood where you’ll be able to have a couple of tinnies and a fight instead.
From the streets:
Eleanor Shaw, 54: “I’m from Tunbridge Wells but I don’t think I’m ‘disgusted’ about anything. Apart from the fact that Crowborough has a Waitrose when we don’t. Who can I write to about that?”
Nathan Muir, 35: “No, I don’t live in fucking Tonbridge!”