Hopefully the past three parts of the Day at the Wells series have stirred up some great memories for you. Here are some that we have received so far. Some entries have been edited for the purposes of ease of reading.
Ruth Malone remembers from her childhood:
I remember it being a treat to go. I think I must have been under the age of ten but I'm not sure. (I'm 32 now.) It seemed like a really long walk from the car, but now I know that can't have been true as we always parked on the common.
We were given headsets to carry round with us and I couldn't quite get the audio to match up with the speed I was walking round. The thing I remember most about the audio was lots of animal noises such as horses clip-clopping down the street and probably some chickens. There were lots of models of people which I thought were quite scary and the scene I remember the most was a coach in a room with hay on the floor. I remember this one because it smelt of horse poo. I assume it was deliberate!
I think it was a fun day, but I genuinely can't remember anything that I learnt in the exhibition. I can't have been listening that hard. I do remember getting my mum to buy a green and white mug from the gift shop at the end. She's still got the mug and I drink tea out of it when I go to visit. I've attached a picture of it.
Sally Martin recalls happy days out:
I loved Day at the Wells. It really brought the atmosphere of the town in its heyday to life. I always took my guests from other parts of the country there. Have to entertain them myself now with my tales of days gone by.
Carole Noakes's astounding memory recalls quite a lot:
There was a central glass display unit in the entrance foyer which contained a serpent, a tenor recorder, a Tunbridge Ware banjo and some other instruments which I’ve now forgotten.
You were given a headset with the commentary and then were let loose to wander round; there was only one way you could go but you could hang around as long as you liked or scoot through quickly. I can remember a reconstruction of a London coaching inn with people getting on the coach to come to the Wells, there was a rake with a hangover in another room.
The rake was a young man about town who’d presumably come down from London to take the water and live the high life. He was in what I imagine was his boarding house room and according to the commentary it was the morning after the night before. He was out of bed, languishing in a chair and wearing, as far as I remember, a night shirt. Certainly he still wore his night cap and I think his wig was on its stand. There was a serving maid from central casting offering him coffee and he was refusing it with a gesture (not that one). The whole scene could have been painted by Hogarth.
The human models were quite eerie, almost like waxworks and a bit of the Pantiles had a mirrored wall at the opposite end so it looked much bigger than it really was, until you caught sight of your own reflection.
I’ve also remembered that there was indeed a ballroom scene which I think represented the Pump Room, and you looked down on it from a balcony.
The whole thing was accompanied by sounds of chatter etc and (I think) smells but I may be mixing that up with Jorvik the Viking one in York which was done by the same people. I think there may have been a ballroom scene but I’m not certain, but I think there were more than I’ve mentioned. As you were getting near the end there was a weird Talking Heads thing on a staircase where Beau Nash talked at you for a while.
I was sorry when it went. It wasn’t perfect but it was fun.
Hannah Malone remembers it in her own unique way:
Yes, I remember the smell - kind of like honey. Funnily enough, I smelt inside Biltong's ears this morning and they smell of Day at the Wells :-)
Also, there was a hideous blue hologram of Beau Nash on the way out.
Philip Dhont looks back fondly:
I've been searching for "a day at the wells" stuff for a few years now and unfortunately I haven't found any yet. I saw the exhibition in the early ninetees when I visited tunbridge wells as a student but when I came back to visit the town again together with wife and kids it was gone!
Steve Morton remembers and looks to the future:
The artificial, but very realistic smells as you toured around it. I guess you never got to see it? It was very well presented, a pity it has closed.
I heard somewhere that there was a possibility that that part of the Corn Exchange was going to become a digital cinema, not sure what happened or what that space is currently being used as?
Denise Rogers remembers stopping by en-route to elsewhere:
It was one of the first things we saw in TW, having come across it by following the brown tourist signs to the Pantiles whilst passing the area on our way to the coast. It must have been about 13 years ago. It was the only touristy thing we could find to do so we paid our money and went in. I remember the smells and noises being quite interesting but not being overwhelmed by it generally.
Carl Lewis recalls being right there at the start:
My mum and I were one of the first people to go aroud it. I agree with Denise about the smells. During our visit, they put items around the scenarios that were out of place (a packet of swan vestas in the Pantiles area for example). A prize was given for those who found them all. The face of Beau Nash at the end was a bit unsettling for me at such a young age at the time!
Dave Barnett mostly remembers through his nose:
The thing I recall most after all these years is the smell! And a bit dingy as you took a stroll through the dimly lit Georgian streets. Possibly not a true reflection of The Pantiles in their glory days. Not sure what I leant about Tunbridge Wells (it was 20 years ago) but it gave you a flavour (and aromas) of the times represented.
Rachel Heminway-Hurst remembers with her nose too:
I mostly remember my niece being quite bored being dragged around and the smell of oranges and horse poo. Quite a concoction!
Adam reminisces fondly:
I went twice, the year it shut and the year before and nearly applied to get a job there in the Marketing Dept before it shut down. I think it was around £6-£8 to get in. Entrance was in the Corn Exchange but concealed. After paying you walked in and there were audio units on one side. It felt already as if you were underground. You picked up the audio unit and followed what it said.
I have two vivid memories of the exhibition - 1) in an alcove was a bust of man on which was projected a film of an actor portraying Beau Nash (so I suppose it made it look like the head was talking to you) - it was very spooky. The whole idea was to make you feel as if you were back in the time of Beau Nash and he gave instructions to you as if you were a visitor to the Wells.
2) In the main area there were lots of well dressed/costumed waxwork models and in here there was brilliant audio of sounds you would hear if real - people talking, horses hooves etc. There was also a sedan chair with costumed carriers plus a carriage as well.
I remember in one part you get taken through a typical house of the era - barriered off rooms but you could look in and see what they would have been like in the Georgian era - I only remember one room though, the bedroom.
You went in a circuit back to the beginning, it was very dark and enclosed with no natural light. I believe that the floor in the main waxwork area was cobbled or had Pantiles down and there was also straw put down. I remember comparing it to London Dungeons which has similar "authenticity".
It was all decorated in the decor of the era. There was a gift shop and I recall on the wall somewhere a big old poster which had on it the bylaws/rules of the day (I think this was probably Beau Nash's rules, but may have been something different).
I really enjoyed it and think it was a loss to the town when it went.
Lesley Darcey Mouncer remembers it very well:
I am having terrible brainache and trying to cobble this together.
The main thing I remember is that all visitors that came to see us always wanted to go to A Day at The Wells and I was always happy to go. It was in the perfect place - The Pantiles, and had wonderful displays of how TW came to be and then fantastic dioramas (not sure if that is the right word - too much time in the US!) of scenes from The Pantiles past - and even some smells?
I remember a ball room and a gentlemans gaming room - I think!
I worked in tourism for over 20 years and often had transatlantic colleagues visiting the office. I would often take them down to the Pantiles and to the exhibition - there was even a gift shop for them afterwards. As other people involved in tourism, they were equally enthralled with the exhibit.
It gave the Pantiles a focal point and made visitors stay in the Pantiles for longer.
I think it was a extremely short sighted for it to be closed. There is nothing else like it around the area at all. But then I can never understand our council and their very strange decisions. If only we had had the internet then - maybe we could have roused an anti-closing down group!
One other thing that was fabulous for a couple of years - and I think around the same time, was when the council/tourist office used to employ a touring acting group for a week or two and they would "perform" along the Pantiles, completely improvising with the crowds. (Quite fun if they were improving with some alcohol fuelled people) They were a super talented bunch - full of gossip - based on true stories of real people from TW past. If you were sitting outside the Duke of York, you would probably get a player coming up and chatting to you about all sorts of drama. They also had musicians and the town crier. It was great - but I cannot remember exactly when it was. I am sure someone in the Tourist Office might know?
Paul remembers things that others missed:
Expensive, underground, some sort of audioguide! Been a couple of times, a fair while ago, all I really remember was a cobbled courtyard scene, and a gambling scene where you looked down from a balcony. I think it was you who said you knew the person who owned the gambling table in that scene, and it was quite rare? I have a really bad memory for things like this. I think you also got a sample of water with your visit?
Sarah Axford remembers it well:
I think Paul and I went there when I first moved to Tunny- so way back in 2002. I remember it was fairly expensive, but I think that covered an audio and a guide book.
There were lots of rooms with furniture from Beau Nash's time, and the scene set for each display dated back to this era. My fav room was a ballroom scene (which I think we looked over on) I was upset when it closed (after all it hasn't left much to show tourists considering Tunny is meant to be a tourist town). I would be interested in knowing what Tunny council have done with all the models?
Max Lewis remembers it being rather disappointing:
My son James and I were the very first visitors to the Day at the Wells. We arrived 20 minutes before it first opened. There was no one else in the queue. We thought it rather cheap and disappointing certainly compared with Jorvik which we had visited the previous year and was excellent. Towards the end the visitors each day were in single figures.
It was a poor quality tourist facility that must have cost the Council a fortune. The whole Corn Exchange has been a mismanaged project from day one. It is always empty and is tawdry. If only it had a theme such as a collection of alternative health venues I am sure it would have been a financial success. I think the Corn Exchange is made worse by the tatty A frame boards outside. Such a shame. The river under the Corn exchange you refer to is the water from Upper Cumberland/Cumberland Walk that goes under the Corn Exchange and eventually ends up at the Garden Centre near Sainsbury. The water is quite ferous though it is not the same water as the chalybeate spring.
George Hammerton recalls a very early memory:
When I was a little boy, around 9 years old, my parents brought me down to Kent and to the Tunbridge Wells Experience (as I seem to remember it being called). My sister and I fell in love with it and I think that for us it actually had a big influence on our moving here to live. Such a shame it's gone, I'd go every weekend if I still could :)
Alison remembers it in her usual style:
All I remember is that it smelt funny :) I do also remember dodgy cassette-based headsets with commentary and harpsichord music!?!
If you would like to leave your memories of the exhibition then please leave me a comment below. In our next and final instalment we'll explore what happened next and what might happen in the future.