The People's Town - Tonbridge
PUBLISHED: 13:59 25 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:56 20 February 2013
With a splendid castle, great river scenery and a fascinating history, Tonbridge has all you could want from a peaceful, commuter-convenient town set in the middle of lovely countryside
The river Medway runs beneath Tonbridge High Street and the town has the remains of the finest example of a motte-and-bailey castle in Britain.
An important settlement long before its more affluent neighbour, Tunbridge Wells, existed, the earliest part of Tonbridge grew up around the castle. This area, with its much-loved 14-acre sportsground, still oozes history, contrasting with the more modern commercial sector below Big Bridge.
Literary links include Jane Austen and E M Forster, while nearby Hildenborough is home to Dame Kelly Holmes (see also page 39).
Most of Tonbridge is centred around the High Street, and there are 17 car parks and no appreciable hills, apart from around the castle and its surrounding parkland and Quarry Hill at the south end, which has numerous steep roads leading off it.
The High Street divides naturally into the less glamorous commercial sector below Big Bridge, where youll find most of the larger shops, and the quaint top end. Most of the historic buildings are near the castle and include the welcoming parish church of St Peter and St Paul, The Priory, Ferox Hall and Port Reeves House.
Tonbridge Castle, which incorporates the Visitors Information Centre (01732 770929). Now only the13th-century gatehouse and the River Wall and Curtain Wall remains, but theres an 18th-century mansion and exhibition areas, where you can seeShaun Jefferys fascinating display of historic artefacts
Tonbridge Sportsground, next tothe castle. 14 acres of public parkland
The Chequers and Rose and Crown public houses. The former is 500 years old, site of the hanging of Wat Tylers brother, while the adjacent Rose and Crown is Tudor in origin
Parish church of St Peter and St Paul (01732 770962) the oldest building in Tonbridge, withconnections to Jane Austens family
Bridges. From the white-paintedBig Bridge enjoy fine river views and watch local canoeists; Little Bridge crosses the Medway at a lower point
St Stephens Church (01732771977) Victorian church with anotably tall spire to the far south
The Oast Theatre (01732350261) former oast, now home to Tonbridge Theatre and Arts club
E M Forster Theatre (01732304016) based at Tonbridge School.
Where to eat and drink
The Poacher (01732 358934) in nearby Tudeley is a well-regarded pub-restaurant, or try The Ivy House (01732 771429) in the High Street, an excellent English gastropub, whose food is always fresh and tasty. For lovers of Italian fare, ASK (01732 353611) also in the High Street, offers stone-baked pizza and fine pastas, in a modern setting. Ghost-hunting real-ale fans should head to The Cardinals Error (01732 770107) a 15th-century pub said to be one of the areas most haunted places. The Punch and Judy pub (01732 352368), near the police station, also serves great real ale and tasty food.
Where to shop
The High Street has plenty of chain stores, including a Waitrose and Monsoon, theres also Angel Walk and The Pavilion arcades, linking the Angel Leisure Centre and Beales with the High Street. Among the excellent independents are The Gift Box (01732 354131) and its sister boutique, (01732 773443), while for home improvement theres Leslie Charles (interior furnishings, 01732 356688) and two of the featured shops in Traders Talking (see next page). Markets in town are the Fleamarket at the Angel on Fridays and a weekend market opposite the railway station.
The nearest Farmers Markets are the award-winning Shipbourne Farmers Market (01732 833976), held in and around St Giles church on Thursday mornings, and Hildenborough Farmers Market, held at Hildenborough Church Centre on Tuesday mornings.