7 posts categorised "Corn Exchange"

Rosemary Shrager's Cookery School

The Pantiles has been experiencing a transformation recently and the famous chef Rosemary Shrager is one of the people behind these changes. Rosemary and her team are breathing life into the Corn Exchange with their newly-opened cookery school.

Rosemary Shrager's Cookery School

Mrs Anke slaps her dough about.

Mrs Anke and I were invited down for the day for a taster course of baking bread, filleting fish, and - the part I was particularly looking forward to - eating.

The luxurious kitchen is quite an amazing space - a welcoming blend of modern yet homely workstations put you at ease and allow you to settle in right away. The feeling of reassurance was also helped by a beautifully laid out table of coffee and cakes that greeted us as we sat down with Rosemary to break the ice and get to know each other. The lovely Jonathan was also on hand to see to everyone wishes: every kitchen needs a Jonathan I'm told, and we agree.

Right, on to the business of cookery.

Now, I must admit that I did hide behind my camera for most of the day, only venturing out to have a go at extracting a fillet from a sea bass. Which I think I did rather well at. I was more than happy to watch Mrs Anke and the rest of the invited guests exercise their skills under the expert guidance of Rosemary's executive chef, John Kirby, and his colleague Johnny. There are lots of people with names starting with J here aren't there.

Rosemary Shrager's Cookery School

Being a boy I was keeping a keen eye on the technology surrounding us. Their extraordinarily well-appointed kitchen is not only one of the most advanced in the country it is also one of the most eco-friendly. As a few examples: they have conductive hot plates which have special matching pans that help reduce energy usage by 30%, no wasteful gas here. Only 10% of their food waste is actually thrown away - the rest is dried in a dehumidifier and made into powders and ingredients for stocks and sauces, and they have an amazing glasswasher that does a cycle in 75 seconds!

Rosemary Shrager's Cookery School

After enjoying our little taster of the classes on offer (you can read more detail on Mrs Anke's post) we all sat down together around the chef's workspace to watch the masters at work, have a chat about food, and sample three courses made with the ingredients that we had helped to prepare. The dishes were delicious and to be able to watch them being prepared and cooked right under your nose is a really special experience. Quite how the chefs deal with all those pots and pans whilst chatting and answering our questions is beyond me.

I think this venture is a real coup for Tunbridge Wells and looks set to become quite a treasured glocal™ business. Glocal? Eh? What am I on about? Well, people are already booking up courses from all over the world which will be fabulous for our local economy, and one of the core values of the school is to use as much local produce as possible. Pretty much everything used in the school is sourced from around us here in Kent and Sussex. See, global and local - glocal™. Whatever I'm gibbering on about one thing I am absolutely sure of is that this new school will give the bottom end of town a real boost.

They will also be opening a delicatessen and café at the end of the year. So come on Tunbridge Wells let's get behind them, it will bring great things to our town.

Rosemary Shrager's Cookery School

Mrs Anke and I really enjoyed the day, we learnt a lot in such a small space of time, and can heartily recommend that if you want the perfect unusual present this year then head on over to their website to book.

You can now head on over to Mrs Anke's blog and she will fill you in on the the details of the day.

The Corn Exchange has a Tasty Future

It's not often I post Press Releases, preferring to sniff out and write my own stories, but I think when they are as exciting and possibly as important as this I felt it needed a place here.

Corn Exchange on The Pantiles

Inside the Corn Exchange.

If there is one thing the Corn Exchange needs it is people through the doors, and not only that but people then staying put inside. If any of you have been inside, and I'm sure most of you have, you'll know that it really struggles to achieve this and generally looks like the photograph above. So, the following great piece of news is just the shot in the arm the place needs.

PRESS RELEASE: Over the past couple of years, the historic heart of Tunbridge Wells has attracted gourmets from Kent, Sussex and beyond, with its fortnightly farmers markets and annual Pantiles Food Festival. Soon there will be greater reason still for foodies to visit...

TV chef Rosemary Shrager has announced plans to open a Cookery School in The Corn Exchange on the Lower Pantiles. The school, created to Rosemary’s own specifications, will be accepting students on one and two-day courses from Spring 2013. Gift vouchers are already available. In addition to a range of courses for home cooks (plus chef's tables, corporate events and private hire), apprenticeships will also be offered to provide professional qualifications and work experience.

The scheme was created in collaboration with the Marquess of Abergavenny - who bought the Lower Pantiles earlier this year and is keen to revive its fortunes.

A spokesperson for Rosemary Shrager said, "Rosemary has fallen in love with The Pantiles - and looks forward to working with the local business community to put it on the map as a tourist destination for gourmets. There are already many elements that will attract food fans to the area - regular farmers markets, The Pantiles Food Festival, one of the South-East's biggest cookware shops and numerous bars and restaurants."

Ahead of the Cookery School launch, the newly refurbished Tunbridge Wells Hotel, formerly The Swan, will be opening this month (November). Owned by Julian Leefe-Griffiths – known for his local gastro-pubs The Black Pig (in Tunbridge Wells) and George and Dragon (in Speldhurst) – the hotel will incorporate two eateries - La Boucherie and Brasserie des Sources. Both will have a strong leaning towards local and seasonal produce. Rosemary and Julian have already cooked up a deal to offer discount accommodation rates at the hotel to students booking her courses.

Rosemary says, “I absolutely love Tunbridge Wells, so it's all very exciting. There's so much potential here, and because The Pantiles is already a destination it's the ideal venue for the school and all the more reason for people to come for a cookery course and stay a few days more. With the many excellent local food producers and suppliers, great farmer's markets and even a food festival held on my doorstep, I can't wait to be a part of the vibrant food community here.”

Owner of the Lower Pantiles, The Marquess of Abergavenny has known Rosemary for many years and was keen to encourage her move to The Pantiles. “Rosemary’s Cookery School is key to our development plans for the future of the Lower Pantiles,” says the Marquess. “Most of our energies over the past nine months (since acquisition) have been focussed on restoring the buildings and giving the Lower Pantiles a much needed fresh coat of paint.

“Now, with Rosemary on board, we can look toward filling the space with more people and businesses that are likely to be a draw,” he says.

We'll have more soon when we can get you an exclusive chat with Rosemary when she's all finished in the Australian jungle, including a great competition. Stay tuned!

A Day at the Wells: Part V

I hope you have enjoyed reliving the memories of the Day at the Wells exhibition as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing about it.

The doors have long since closed but what has happened since and what will happen to the space in the future?

A Day at the Wells

The current entrance to the underground exhibition space.

The site has lain dormant since March 2004 after closing due to a lack of visitors and the council citing problems of damp and limited disabled access, even a petition with 1,600 signatures couldn’t keep the place going.

As you can see in the pictures throughout this post there is nothing but an empty shell left, a very large empty shell at that. This vast space hasn’t been used in any capacity since closing. But just look at it, this is a prime piece of real estate in our biggest tourist hotspot. Why isn’t it in use? Granted it is a very complicated space to attempt to utilise but surely it can be done, the question is how though?

First of all let us think about what we need in town, and let’s not be selfish, let’s think what tourists would like in our town too, after all their pounds, pence and euros are very important. We have been entertaining visitors for over 400 years, that is how our town was founded and flourished and this is the tradition we should base our decision on.

A Day at the Wells

One of the three large underground rooms.

So, what would tourists like to do on a day out that would also entertain local people day after day.

“A cinema!” I can hear you cry. Well there is a very fine arts cinema in town already so that isn’t necessary. “But we want a “blockbuster” cinema!” I can now hear you screaming. Yes that would be nice but there is one on the outskirts of town and to be honest do you go for a nice day out in a unfamiliar town and go and sit in the cinema? No, so if it’s no use to tourists then it’s no use to us. Remember, we need something that both parties can enjoy.

Retail? Not really, there is plenty in other parts of town. Let’s be a bit more cultured down this end of town.

I often hear talk of an ice rink being a popular choice, honestly is there that many people who want to pirouette about on ice every day to be able to sustain a permanent rink? No, thought not.

How about a museum, art gallery and cultural centre? A place to be able to see every object that our local museum owns. A place for school-children to sit and learn about all these wonderful items. A place to research. A place to create art, a place to see art, a place to be inspired. A place where tourists can learn how this wonderful town was founded. A place where locals can rediscover hidden treasures and learn about their own surroundings. Yes! This is more like it. Tourists always love visiting museums and galleries, and we all love to be inspired and learn more.

Question is: is there room for it? Let’s look at the photo of the room below which is the biggest in the space. It’s the room which used to house the Pantiles scene. Can you imagine this great space filled with wonderful works of art and ornate cases filled with our rarely-seen artifacts? Imagine this room packed with visitors all enjoying our history whilst a few look up overhead to a huge Tunbridge Ware blue whale hanging from the ceiling rivaling anything the Natural History Museum can manage.

A Day at the Wells

The grand room, or the Anke Room as it might be so called.

The bottom floor could house our entire art collection, as it is all underground the lighting could be controlled as to not damage it. The whole building could be scattered with our entire collection of objects and antiques and amongst it all small pockets of quiet spaces where you can sit, read, explore, create and learn.

How about we open up the floor so we can see and hear the River Grom flowing below? Imagine how wonderful a soundtrack to your visit that would make, as a bonus you could sit on the edge of some wooden decking and dangle your feet into the cool waters.

No need to install a coffee shop or a gift shop as these can be placed into the vastly under-utilised Corn Exchange to help their micro-economy boom. Disable access? No problem, surely the technology in lifts and access has improved in the past seven years that we can cater for any disability.

A Day at the Wells

Another of the three large underground rooms.

There were reports in the local media recently that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have been looking at what to do with the site over the next year. Head of Economic Development David Candlin said "In response to feedback from the strategic plan consultation, we would want to engage with the landlord to explore future business opportunities for the site." This is the perfect time to get this part of town regenerated and now, Mr Candlin, you have your perfect plan.

We’ve also had some great ideas generated from our Facebook page, here are some of them:

Alun 'Slick' Elder-Brown says “Personally, I would like the a few more antique shops and bookshops on the Pantiles. The Pantiles, to the rest of world speaks eloquence and style: it promises Regency. In reality, it's far from it: too many elitist boutiques and such-like; run by the wives of bankers looking to lose money. The only shops of any note are the kitchen shop, Steve Marshalls bookshop and the Futon shop.

Philip Dhont doesn't really care what we have, he says “Just bring us back a day at the wells!!!!!!!”

Carl Lewis says “Maybe turn the area into a better museum. I know that the one the town has is good, but there is so much in storage that is never shown. A cinema is a good idea, and should be named after one of the old cinemas that used to be in town.”

James Walker says “Cinema would be good - but it has to be part of a redevelopment (again) of the whole Corn Exchange bit of the Pantiles... such a wasted, underutilised space.”

Samuel Marlow says that it would “be good just as space, for exhibitions, photo or video studios.”

Denise Rogers says “I do think the Pantiles needs something for tourists. Why did the exhibition close, did it not have enough customers to be cost effective?”

Karen Gaynard says “Indie cinema! With comfy chairs and Taywells ice-cream. Somewhere local filmmakers can showcase their stuff. And a proper tapas bar with barrels dotted about the place :) *reach for the stars*”

I would imagine that it would be a fair few more than 1,600 people now that would want any of these ideas on their Pantiles and only time will tell if Mr Candlin, the Council and Targetfollow pay attention and give us anything.

Well, that’s it, it’s been a hard but utterly fascinating five weeks of research and writing and I couldn’t have done it without help. Thank you very kindly to all those lovely people who took the time to contribute their memories and thoughts. Thank you to Carolyn Gordon and Catherine Pitt for the generous loan of their guide books to help build this article. Thank you to Ian Beavis, Rachel Heminway-Hurst and all the kind people at Tunbridge Wells Museum for their help. Thank you to Juliana Delaney of CEO Continuum Leading Attractions and Monique White of The Continuum Group Ltd, the people that built the exhibition for their generous loan of materials. Finally thank you to you for reading.

Why not take a look at some of the images from our Tunbridge Wells Project of what the inside of the space looks like now to help you dream up your own uses for the space. Let me know in the comments what you think and any ideas you might have for its future. You never know who might be reading.

A Day at the Wells: Part IV

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.

Day at the Wells Souvenir Mug

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.

A Day at the Wells: Part III

In this the third installment of our Day at the Wells series we continue our tour through the exhibition. Catch up on the first and second parts if you haven't read them yet.

The Pantiles

The largest scene in the tour is dedicated to the Walks, the paved colonnade of shops that was the place to be seen. There is quite a variety of shops here. Can you spot Thomas Loggan? You can’t miss him, he’s the dwarf with a fan. He may have only been four feet one inch tall but this former official dwarf of the Prince of Wales was a big figure in town. His shop at the very end of the Pantiles was the most fashionable shop of all to be seen in, here you could buy your Tunbridge Wells souvenirs such as fans painted with local views, prints and oil paintings. Two rather exhausted chairmen have just delivered a duchess in a sedan chair right at Thomas Loggan’s door for a spot of shopping.

Day at the Wells

Looking down the Pantiles. Courtesy of TWBC Guide to the Exhibition.

Another shop here is selling souvenirs too, or toys and fairings as they were called then. This one is a little more of a down-to-earth souvenir shop compared to Thomas Loggan’s, here you can buy snuff boxes and other items decorated with delicate mosaics of local scenes. There are also dolls to buy for the children too. There is a little girl outside with her brother pulling her in a little chariot who has been given one of these dolls.

Day at the Wells

Children playing on the Pantiles. Courtesy of TWBC Guide to the Exhibition.

There is also a bookshop here. Outside of which a rather peculiar sight is taking place. In the Wells in 1740 a rather amazing piece of social freedom was one of the secrets to the resort’s success. In those days men and women would only meet by means of introduction, but here on the walks it was said that “no lady could refuse any gentleman of respectable address who presented himself politely”. Here a young lady is doing just that and chatting to a gentleman dressed in the latest fashion. I wonder what they are talking about.

This rather romantic meeting is in stark contrast to the pair chatting next on the walks. Sarah Porter, one of our famous dippers, has accosted a man for not paying is subscription monies for the waters. He’s going to regret crossing a dipper!

All the while walking along the Pantiles you can hear a band playing on the bandstand. This group of men were very important to the success of the Wells and were suitably well paid. Here they are regaling the crowds on a small organ backed by an oboe and a bassoon.

Day at the Wells

A band playing on the Pantiles. Courtesy of TWBC Guide to the Exhibition.

The Lodging House

Rich visitors to the Wells would rent an entire house for their stay but the rest of society would normally just rent a room in a lodging house. Here in this lodging house is a typical example of a parlour. Here the Luscombe family are about to sit down to tea.

The house is tastefully furnished but most of it is many years out of date, something which still hasn't changed in most lodging houses to this day. It’s not a luxury home either, there are no carpets and most of the furniture is serviceable rather than attractive. The same can probably be said of the old woman serving the tea.

Like all families the Luscombes were here to take the waters but there is another agenda to their stay. They are here to try and marry off their young daughter, seen here in her horse riding garb. As the Wells were so popular with all social classes it was seen as a great place for matchmaking and with so many dances hosted by Beau Nash even the most bashful and unsightly of daughters stood a great chance of finding a partner. Looking at the young Miss Luscombe here though, it looks like the Beau certainly has his work cut out for him.

Day at the Wells

Inside the lodging house. Courtesy of TWBC Guide to the Exhibition.

The Assembly Rooms

The same band of players that played on the Pantiles is here accompanying a ball which is in full swing. Balls usually started at 18:00 and lasted until exactly 23:00 when the Beau would raise his finger and the band would stop immediately. Each ball would begin with stately minuets with each couple dancing at a time until everybody had taken a turn. It was the Beau's function at this point to make up the couples for the dances. The Beau can be seen in this scene gesticulating some tall tale rather enthusiastically to an old woman with an ear trumpet.

Day at the Wells

The Assembly Rooms. Courtesy of TWBC Guide to the Exhibition.

At the other half of the exhibit two gentlemen are enjoying a game of roulette, well from a distance it looks that way but if you look closely at the picture you will see that the table is slightly different. They are playing a version of roulette called EO which was invented here in Tunbridge Wells. Someone called "Cook at the Wells" invented the game to get around the gambling laws that were coming into force to try and eradicate our nation’s addiction to gambling. These laws banned games based on their names and rules so any slight tweak meant that the game was legal again. This table evaded the rules by having an E for evens and an O for odds instead of the usual red and black. Simple but genius.

Our tour ends with a final word from the presiding genius Beau Nash who, through the wonders of "modern science", bids each visitor adieu. Ian Beavis dubbed it a blank dummy with a futuristic face projected onto it.

Don't forget to pick up a souvenir on your way out through the gift shop.

In the next installment we’ll share some of the memories of those who went to the Day at the Wells. Drop me an email with your memories and we’ll get them on the blog for the next part.


  • 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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