88 posts categorised "Architecture"

John Jarvis Yard

Finally, after months of letter writing, phone ringing, and door knocking, David and I finally got permission to get inside and photograph the abandoned John Jarvis Yard.

John Jarvis Yard

Entrance to John Jarvis yard offices on Goods Station Road.

I think we made it in the nick of time too as the place has well and truly been ransacked since we last passed by a month ago.

John Jarvis Yard

Inside the North Building.

So, who was John Jarvis, and what was in his yard?

John Jarvis Yard

Inside the yard.

The John Jarvis family ran their building firm out of the yard after it was founded in 1883. They made a tremendous contribution to the development of Tunbridge Wells over the 130 years of their existence. Amongst other local buildings they were responsible for building the Opera House and the Kent and Sussex Hospital, which it claimed at the time was the town's largest building. After the Second World War they built and restored many houses, schools, and corporate buildings, and on the morning of the 16th of October 1987 a long line of people could be seen queuing the length of Goods Station Road wanting repairs to their houses. The company finally succumbed to the ravages of the recession in 2008 and 35 people were made redundant. The yard continued to house industry for many years afterwards though.

John Jarvis Yard

Inside The Glass Studio.

One of the great discoveries we made on our exploration of the site was this small shed (pictured below left).

John Jarvis Yard

Outbuildings in the yard.

Inside were rolls and rolls of paper (pictured below). Each roll had the name of a building neatly written on the side. Unfurling the first one we realised that they were the blueprints to every project the company undertook. We found plans for buildings all over the country, including a small number of Tunbridge Wells ones too. Sadly a rather large hole in the roof of the shed has damaged most of them beyond repair so they sit forlorn on the shelf unloved and crumbling away. We left them in situ. I don’t think there is anyone who can restore such a huge pile of documents, let alone someone with the room to keep and store them so I think they'll just be lost to the elements.

John Jarvis Yard

Plans, plans, plans, and more plans.

So what’s happening to the site now? The latest planning applications for the “demolition of existing buildings and erection of [nine] houses (terrace of [five] and two pairs of semi-detached houses) and associated parking” has been approved, although if you wander past there today the For Sale sign is an obvious question mark on that.

John Jarvis Yard

One of the abandoned offices.

The site is now long deserted, the last remaining resident craftsman and artists were removed to make way for the development and now it lies neglected just waiting for someone to rescue it.

Go explore our gallery of photographs of the John Jarvis Yard site.

The Five Year Plan

Our Five Year Plan 2014-2019

Front cover of the TWBC Five Year Plan.

You may remember that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council revealed their Draft Vision for the borough back in February. Well now it has been updated.

Now called Our Five Year Plan, it sets out, just liked the Draft Vision did, to show what the Council want to achieve between 2014 and 2019, and it does make for encouraging reading.

Visually it's a very different document to the Draft Vision and whilst there aren't too many changes there are a few that might interest you.

The most fascinating of these shows just how serious David Jukes is, and it appears in the very first words of the document: "Our vision..." has become "My plan...".

Additionally the following sentence in Jukes's opening foreword has had a little something added to the end (bolded) that makes promising reading for those following the Water in the Wells project:

"In five years time...Royal Tunbridge Wells...will have a vibrant retail trade and a rich cultural heritage based on music, the arts, leisure and water to continue its spa tradition."

Mr Jukes then finishes the foreword with this new, and rather good, line.

"People that know me will know I like to get things done and I believe it clearly sets out what we will do over the next five years to help local people, businesses and visitors to our borough."

I think he means it.

If you didn't manage to read a copy of the Draft Vision back in February then make yourself a cuppa and have a good nose of the new plan and see just where TWBC wants us to be in 2019.

I'd love to know what you think of the plan, let me know in the comments below.

Burlsem House

One of the last parts of the old Kent & Sussex Hospital site was being locked-up and prepared for demolition this week. I had just four hours to get there and photograph Burslem House before it was too late.

Burslem House

I arrived to a busy scene, porters were loading vans with furniture and trolleys full of unwanted possessions ready for the dump were being piled up outside. NHS staff were milling around inside making sure nothing was left behind. I didn't have much time before the keys were handed over to the demolition contractor so I quickly made my way in.

Not much was left inside. Aside from a scattering of old furniture, some worrying-looking stains, and a few dents in the carpet, it was pretty lifeless and looking very sorry for itself. Mind you I never got the chance to see it when it was full of people living there.

Burslem House

One of the many bedrooms on the upper floors.

The former nurse accommodation block was opened back in 1934 just a week after the official opening of the main hospital. It was opened by Robert Burslem who was the mayor of Tunbridge Wells from 1932 to 1934. He was a man who not only worked tirelessly to support the hospitals in the area but also to support the victims of war, he owned a stonemasons which specialised in the carving of names onto war memorials. After Mr Burslem died in 1960 the building was named in his honour.

Burslem House

Quiet please.

The top three floors were dedicated to living accommodation whilst the ground floor housed treatment rooms, offices, and physical rehabilitation facilities. The bedrooms upstairs were small but seemed to have everything you'd need and each floor had communal kitchens, laundries, and bathrooms - some of these had definitely seen better days. There were also resident lounges scattered throughout the floors where doctors and nurses could watch television, play pool, and get up to all sorts of other recreations.

Burslem House

One of the cleaner baths I found.

Whilst I was up on the top floor I couldn't resist a quick panorama of the work currently underway at Royal Wells Park. You can see just how big the site is from this picture can't you.

Royal Wells Park Panorama

Panorama of the Royal Wells Park building site from Burslem House. Click for larger.

So that looks like the last you'll see of the old site. Once Burslem House is gone the new offices and homes will start going up pretty quickly - in fact you can see from the photograph above that one block is halfway up already.

Burslem House

The main gymnasium.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to John Weeks for the very-early-morning email and subsequent permission to shoot inside, and in return I'd like to take this opportunity to quickly plug his book Bandages & Benevolence. It's a really terrific read on the history of the Tunbridge Wells Hospitals and contains loads of unique photography and material. The book is available from the hospital at Pembury (7am-7pm in the hospital restaurants), in Waterstones, or send a cheque for £10 (P&P free!) to: Bandages & Benevolence Book, Emergency Planning Unit, Level 3, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Tonbridge Road, Pembury, Kent TN2 4QJ.

Burslem House

One of the few exterior details showing Pan, the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music.

See lots more photos on our Tunbridge Wells Project.

I'd love to hear from you if lived inside Burslem, why not see if you can spot your room in the gallery (I think I got most of them, to be honest they all looked very similar after three hours) and let me know what it was like.

Ritz Cinema Concept

We're all hoping that March is going to be the month for the Ritz Cinema, when it finally gets razed to the ground. For a little taster of possible things to come this rather great concept for the site was discovered by KA Architectural today.

Avanti Architects concept for the Ritz Cinema site

Avanti Architect's concept for the Ritz Cinema site. Copyright Avanti Architects.

The concept was created by Avanti Architects at the end of last year.

Notice in particular the way that they have reintegrated the old light tower that was on the Ritz, only this time they've made it into a camera obscure. A brilliant idea that would be a hit of a tourist attraction.

Avanti Architects concept for the Ritz Cinema site

Avanti Architect's concept for the Ritz Cinema site. Copyright Avanti Architects.

Here is their explanation of the concept:

The brief for this invited competition project called for a landmark mixed use scheme at the heart of the historic town centre. The accommodation consists of office, retail, hotel, spa and restaurant space. Key themes of the proposals included developing a strong and distinctive skyline, high quality public realm space and careful attention in relating to neighbouring buildings in particular the Town Hall. The appreciable slope on the site has been addressed through a series of stepped pavilions with attics above. The design is crowned with a new public facility – an observation terrace and ‘camera obscura’ which reinstates an historic device originally installed in the 18th century to exploit the dramatic typography of the town.

Avanti Architects concept for the Ritz Cinema site

Avanti Architect's concept for the Ritz Cinema site. Copyright Avanti Architects.

You can see a few more drawings on their website. Well, what do you think?

The Jukes of His Word?

Now that the new plans for our town have been out for a few days I hope you’ve all made your views known.

Tunbridge Wells Draft Vision

Concept sketch of Mount Pleasant and Civic Way. Copyright James Galpin.

No idea what I’m talking about? Then read on.

A few days ago Tunbridge Wells Borough Council published a 28-page document declaring its vision for Tunbridge Wells over the next five years. It makes for some rather promising reading and I felt a fair amount of confidence oozing off of the pages.

The document, overseen by Councillor David Jukes, is full of determined phrases such as "by 2019 we will have...", and "we will...". Councilor Jukes even went as far to say "if this document lays on a shelf gathering dust then sack me". Either he’s not planning to be around in 2019 or he’s pretty darned sure about the contents of his plan.

There might well be 28 pages of it to read but it’s pretty bite-sized so it won't take you long to get through, perhaps you'll even have some time spare to leave a comment or two on it too. We’ve gone over most of the big ticket items that appear in the document before so instead let’s pull out a couple of the more interesting new points that caught my eye:

I think the most exciting of these could be the redevelopment of Union House, the blight that dominates the view at the end of The Pantiles.

Adjacent to the Pantiles, Union House (together with adjoining land) has been identified as an ‘area of change’ and provides a significant opportunity to improve the area and the entrance to Royal Tunbridge Wells town centre. Union House currently provides outdated office accommodation and the landowner is keen to develop this site.
Next steps: The Council will work with Union House and landowners of the remaining parts of this site to enhance this important area and provide a mixed use development at the end of the Pantiles.

Sounds good eh? Let's whet your appetite some more:

"...retaining and enhancing the setting of the listed war memorial which will be located in the heart of the new space and giving it a more appropriate setting for ceremonies. Steps and informal seating could also be included around the statue linking the different levels of Civic Way to Mount Pleasant Road."

Couldn't come quick enough. Let's have another:

"The Council is committed to improving the [Assembly Hall] customer experience and updating the theatre to modern standards, which includes improvements to the seating, ventilation and catering facilities."

Wonderful! We want more:

"create a key public square and extend the development of a shared space from Fiveways to the cultural and learning hub and site of the Civic complex as well as introducing a water feature to the upper part of town."

Alright, enough, I'm getting giddy now.

There are loads more promises just like these inside the document. Of course the Ritz Cinema site gets a token mention too, and as of today (17th February) the Council has officially served a Section 215 on the owners which "effectively initiates the process of requiring the demolition of the site".

You’ve got until Friday the 28th of March to put your feelings across on the Council's consultation page and you can always leave them here too.

I just hope that I'm wrong about the sentence at the end of the foreword: "This is an organic document...". Hmmmmm, read into that what you will.

So, tell me, does this give you some hope, does it fill you with feelings of expectant joy?


  • I am a spritely 30-something living with my beautiful wife in the most fabulous town in the entire world, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

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