The Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr
is at the south-east corner of London Road and Nevill Street in Tunbridge
Wells. The church was the first permanent building in Tunbridge Wells.
Before 1676 there was no village and not even a name on the map. Summer
visitors for the spa waters had to find rooms in Rusthall or Southborough,
both a kilometre and-a-half away. Businessman and builder Thomas Neale saw
an opportunity and purchased the site of the springs.
The first chapel on this site was built in 1676,
occupying what is now the area between the font and the organ case.
By 1688, the rising popularity of the resort meant that the chapel
had to be enlarged. It gained its own parish in 1889, with reversed
orientation, and underwent further modification. The old schoolroom
behind it gave way to a sanctuary, furnished with credo and paternoster
boards from the recently-demolished All Hallows Bread Street in London.
First Church of Christ Scientist occupies a
smallish corner site on the western side of Linden Park Road, opposite
Sussex Mews. The date at which the church opened is unknown, as is
anything further about its history. The building itself could be modern,
but carries a suggestion of being not quite that modern, perhaps being
erected in the fifties. It was either occupied by another, unknown, church,
or the Christ Scientist church has been here all this time.
Rehoboth Baptist Chapel occupies the centre of
Chapel Place, behind King Charles the Martyr Church (see above), which
stands immediately to the east. The building was erected in 1851 by the
Strict Baptists. At the time, there were dwellings around it, but these
have since been replaced with garages. The chapel closed down at an unknown
date and is now in use as a commercial premises (a hair salon). Presumably
its members joined the main Baptist Church.
Mount Sion Presbyterian Chapel stood on southern
side of Mount Sion Road, close to the junction. In 1689 the local Presbyterians
formed a church and initially met in the ballroom of Mount Ephraim House. A
local Baptist bought a house in his own name on Mount Sion from Thomas Seal, a
Quaker. A chapel was opened on the site in 1720 (shown here, by J J Dodd). The
site is now occupied by a two-storey brown-brick double apartment block, with
a grey-tiled second storey.
Christ Church stands on the eastern side of the High
Street, adjacent to the central railway station on its northern flank. The
original church, shown here, was built between 1835-1841. It gained its own
parish in 1856 from Holy Trinity Church (below). In 1862 galleries were built,
and a chancel and vestry were later added. The decision was taken to demolish
it in 1996 and rebuild the entire site to resemble a small shopping mall. The new
Christ Church remains in use today.
Vale Royal (Wesleyan) Methodist Church is sited on
the eastern side of London Road, opposite the junction with Vale Road. Methodism
arrived in Tunbridge Wells in 1762 when John Wesley visited. The first chapel on
the site was built in 1812. In 1821 and 1839 the church added rooms for a Sunday
School and other uses. The chapel was extended in 1847 but was demolished for the
current church, which was completed in 1873. The church was redeveloped in 1982.
Emmanuel Church faced the London Road on
Mount Ephraim (almost opposite Vale Royal Methodist Church (see
above)). The church started as the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel,
built in 1769 in the grounds of the old Culverden House which was then
occupied by the Countess of Huntingdon herself. After being enlarged
several times, it was demolished in 1870 and Emmanuel Church put up
in its place. This was removed in 1974 by the town's authorities.
Holy Trinity Church stands on the northern side
of Church Road, approximately seventy metres (yards) west of Mount Pleasant
Road. The church was built between 1827-1829. In 1833 it gained a parish
taken from St Peter & St Paul Church Tonbridge, making it the first
parish church in Tunbridge Wells (the older King Charles the Martyr (see
above) remained a chapel until 1889). It was built to serve the rapidly
increasing population in the residential town.
The Gothic church was designed by Decimus Burton (1800-1881),
the noted architect of such famous London buildings as the Hyde Park Screen and
the Constitution Hill Arch. It was built in locally quarried sandstone, but it
held its last religious service in 1972. In early 1974 it was declared redundant
and plans were afoot to demolish it but fortunately the residents of Tunbridge Wells
raised a petition and it was saved. Today it is home to the Trinity Theatre &
Seven photos on this page by P L Kessler,
and one from the collection of the Tunbridge Wells Corporation.