The Royal 100
PUBLISHED: 10:50 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
How do you celebrate the centenary of becoming a 'Royal' town? In Tunbridge Wells, they took a photo of 100 residents, aged one to 100
A TV ad for a well-known brand of yoghurt inspired the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Cllr Mike Rusbridge, to dream up a very special way to commemorate the 100 years since Tunbridge Wells became a 'Royal' borough. And at 3pm on 16 April, that dream became a reality.
One hundred residents, one for each year from one to 100, gathered at the Assembly Hall for tea and anniversary biscuits (courtesy of the Rusbridge family bakers) and to take part in a giant commemorative photograph that will become an iconic reminder of the day the town received its 'Royal' prefix.
"We don't have many days on which we can say, this is a really good day for our town," Cllr Rusbridge, 62, told the gathered crowd. "But I think this is a particularly good day for Tunbridge Wells."
And the Mayor's 'Team 100' had plenty to tell Kent Life about their special town. Leonard Pierce, one of the three centenarians present, was born on 7 February 1909, before Tunbridge Wells even became Royal, and cherishes the memory of walks on the Common with his gardener father.
And at the other end of the scale, baby Benjamin Wain didn't have too much to say himself, but mum Grace, 23, said how much her ante-natal group liked meeting for coffee in Fenwick. "I haven't found anything here I don't like yet," she laughed.
"The only thing I'd change is a bus link from the bottom of town; it's hard work pushing a buggy uphill!"
Pierre Daley, 34, would agree - confined to a wheelchair, he applauds the community spirit in Tunbridge Wells, but feels more accessible transport is needed.
Dhanna Ram Sharma, 68, has lived in the town since 1966 and was one of the first Asian residents. "People used to speak to me in French or Spanish because they'd never seen an Asian before!" He's been a bus driver, a driving instructor, a railway guard and he and his wife ran the post office at Jarvis Brook for nearly 16 years.
He loves the town's green spaces, especially Dunorlan Park, and is a big fan of the pool at St John's, where he has swum for 30 years. But he finds the condition of the local roads "disgusting" and thinks it's ridiculous that so many of the town's public toilets are shut during the day.
TWGGS pupil and ballet student Sylvia Villa, 11, has lived here since she was five and likes the shopping centre best. "If I was Mayor, I would have a cinema in the town," she said.
Mum of two Rosy Serpis, 50, also went to TWGGS and has lived in the town for 30 years. She loves Trinity and the Common, but finds the traffic "appalling" and would like to see more on offer for the under-18s.
District chief inspector Russell Nyman, 43, started his police career in Tunbridge Wells 23 years ago and describes the town as "vibrant."
He does think, however, that there could be better links between the top and bottom of the town, either via a bus link or a tram, and would love to see local schools' facilities open up through the holidays. "It'd stop the youngsters hanging around the street corners and give them somewhere to go."
Joining the throng and proudly sporting his '41' badge was MP Greg Clark, who told me: "The idea is absolutely fantastic, it's a permanent way of commemorating the centenary - everyone is really proud to be here and at the next centenary, people will be looking at this photograph with great interest to see just who was around in 2009."