Tunbridge Wells in 1836
Tunbridge Wells is between five and six miles south of Tunbridge, upon the border of Kent and Sussex, part of it being in each county. It extends into the parishes of Speldhurst (Washlingstone hundred, lathe of Scray), and Frant (Rotherfield hundred, rape of Pevensey, Sussex), but is chiefly in that of Tunbridge. The population cannot be given distinct from that of the parishes in which the town is situated. The chalybeate spring, to which the town owes its origin, was first noticed in the reign of James I, by Dudley lord North, who had been residing in the neighbourhood for the recovery of his health. The benefit which he derived from the water brought the spring into notice; the wells were sunk, paved, and enclosed, but the visitors found accommodation at Tunbridge town. The water is chalybeate, and nearly equal in strength to that of Spa, in Germany. The soil is dry, and the air of the place is healthy, though cold.
When Henrietta, queen of Charles I., visited the Wells, she and her suite remained under tents. By degrees however permanent habitations were erected in the immediate vicinity of the wells, and at the neighbouring villages of Southborough and Rusthall. After the Restoration the place rapidly increased. A chapel was built at Tunbridge Wells dedicated to King Charles the Martyr; a subscription-school was also established, and an assembly-room, coffee-house, bowling-greens, and other places of amusement were erected in the neighbourhood.
The town has much increased of late years. The Wells, properly so called, are in the centre of the town, and near them are the markets, the chapel, the assembly-rooms, and the public walks, or parades. There are a theatre, libraries, and the other usual requisites of a watering-place. Different groups of houses are distinguished by the names of Mount Zion, Mount Ephraim, Mount Pleasant, and Bishops Down. About a mile and a half south-west from the Wells, in the county of Sussex, are the High Rocks, which present a striking and romantic scene. The chapel at Tunbridge Wells has been enlarged since its first erection, and stands partly in each of the three parishes. There is a new church lately erected in Tunbridge parish, and there are some dissenting meeting-houses. Tunbridge Wells is famous for toys and small articles turned in holly, plum-tree, cherry-tree, sycamore, and various foreign woods.
Southborough is midway between Tunbridge town and the Wells. A new district church has been erected here, and there is (as already noticed), an endowed free-school. The place consists of a number of scattered houses.