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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 7 August 2011

Tunbridge Wells Part 2: Churches of Tunbridge Wells

The Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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 Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Holy Trinity Church stands on the northern side of Church Road, approximately seventy metres 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.

Holy Trinity Church, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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 & Arts Centre.

Seven photos on this page by P L Kessler, and one from the collection of the Tunbridge Wells Corporation.



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