87 posts categorised "Architecture"

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?

The £12 Million Dream

I am now the most excited I have ever been about the future of our town. Why? I finally finished reading the 95 page feasibility study for our new cultural hub.

Behind the Library

Some of the wasted space between the Library and the Adult Education Centre. Hopefully not for much longer.

I can hear a few stunned quizical silences out there so if you’re one of the handful of souls who haven’t heard about this new cultural hub then let me give you a quick summary.

The Library, Museum, Art Gallery, and Adult Education Centre are to be redeveloped and expanded. Big time! £12 million worth of big time. The aim, and I love this sentence, is "to grow our role as the cultural centre of the Kent and Sussex High Weald, so that in 2024 the Borough of Tunbridge Wells is nationally recognised for its vibrant cultural provision".

The feasibility study for this expansion plan, conducted by Gleeds on behalf of TWBC and KCC, was to demonstrate how feasible it would be build the cultural hub in the town centre, and the major result of this was that it would fit perfectly into the ageing Civic Centre. The study was officially launched at a meeting this week (which I couldn’t get to at the last minute and I am still beating myself up about it) and you can download a copy of the document at the end of this post.

Tunbridge Wells Cultural Hub Concept

Concept drawing of new cultural hub. Copyright Gleeds.

To help raise the necessary £12 million for the plans it was also announced that the next stage of the project would go ahead as soon as possible with the preparation of a Heritage Lottery Fund application, or the purchase of a Lotto ticket, although I think the first one is more probable.

Hang on, so far so exciting but what is a cultural hub?

1,850sqm worth of museum and art gallery space.

It is the idea of bringing together every aspect of learning under one roof. It will enable visitors to enjoy something in the museum or art gallery, carry out some research on it, have a cup of tea and a sticky bun, and then set about creating their own wonderful creation, all the while being surrounded by like-minded people to further fuel their creativity. Or as the Council puts it, a place to “bring together all the materials, information, resources and collections that enable people to access and explore their local heritage".

I had goosebumps trawling over the minutiae: creative learning spaces, exhibition halls, lecture theatres, research facilities, studios, a café, the list goes on and on, but best of all is the 1,850sqm worth of museum and art gallery space. Drool.

The museum will grow enormously in size from its current 700sqm. The giant new space will also include the new “Tunbridge Wells Story” designed to highlight why our town exists, and at 200sqm you can imagine how detailed this special area will be when compared to the 1sqm that the current display occupies.

Imagine all that lovely light space. Imagine how wonderful it will be to finally get to display the 90% of the Museum’s artefacts that you can’t currently see. Imagine how much of a boost it will be to our local economy (according to one statistic Margate has enjoyed a £20 million boost to its economy following the construction of the Turner Contemporary).

Aerial View of Library, Museum, and Adult Education Centre

Aerial View of Library, Museum, and Adult Education Centre. Imagine this with a glass roof. Spectacular!

This has fortified my belief that Tunbridge Wells has really turned a corner this year, what with the So Create proposals, the upcoming shared space at Five Ways, the revitalised Pantiles, and now this. The future indeed looks bright (ignoring the Ritz of course).

Niggles? Not many of course but I would like to have seen a proposal idea for incorporating the town hall into the design, but according to the report it wasn’t worth pursuing as an idea (Page 41 of report). I disagree, I think if you’re going to spend £12 million on converting it you might as well spend £20 million and convert the whole thing. I really encourage you to download and read the document and to let TWBC know your thoughts.

...nobody balls this one up please.

Of course, all of this is pretty dependent on the Heritage Lottery Fund application, which will bring £3.5 million of the total £12 million build costs, being successful. So, just in case the worst happens, philanthropists I am talking to you now, this is your time to come out of the woodwork. This could be your time to shine. Rummage deep down the back of that sofa. Actually if donations are what it takes then consider me first in line.

Not to get your hopes up too much but the anticipated milestone timetable lists the front doors opening on the new complex in 56 months time. That’s Wednesday, August 1st, 2018. I’ve already put the day on my calendar.

Finally, I’m looking at all of the people in charge of this when I say, nobody balls this one up please. Let’s see this through to the end. Oh, and 3, 14, 16, 25, 32, and 44, just in case it helps TWBC.

What do you think of the plans? What do you general idea? Let me know in the comments.


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

    We love to soak up the culture, the lifestyle, the nature, the history, the people, the art, the architecture, and the countryside in this idyllic part of the Weald, and because we love our town so much we made our blogs to share it with the rest of you.

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