Jolies Laides (French) [ʒɔli lɛd] - Pretty-Ugly.
Pembury Road, just one of the ways into town.
Another jolie laides for you to ponder over.
I'm guessing most of you only see Pembury Road at about 30-40mph, or probably even less at rush-hour. But how many of you take the time to walk along the entire stretch? At speed or stuck getting later for work with every minute in traffic, Pembury Road can seem like a disagreeable place to be. But, the road formerly known as Millionaires Row and Calverley Fair Mile, really is a pleasant stroll. To give it it's fair dues I shall celebrate the road with some photos and factoids.
Directions carved into the stone wall at the Prospect Road junction.
Coming into town from the A21 end, have you noticed the wild flowers growing on the verge by the roundabout? It looks as if someone was passing in their car and casually tossed a packet of wildflower seeds out of the window. Or was it perhaps a frustrated roadworker with a horticultural passion that needed venting as he was laying those new kerbstones?
Wildflowers growing in the verge.
Hundreds of cars a day drive around this corner, I wonder how many see the pretty flowers?
Pembury Road contains one of our most beautiful parks, Dunorlan. Henry Reed had the Dunorlan mansion built during the 1860s with gardens that took in 75 acres. Although the mansion has long since been demolished, the gardens were bought by the town council after the Second World War and opened as a park to the public. In 2003 the council was presented with a large sum of money from the Lottery Fund to restore the gardens to their former glory.
Old retired sign beckoning visitors into Dunorlan Park.
With its broad grass verges and sweeping views of far off countryside it was ripe for development and in the 1860s William Willicombe built some very prestigious mansions which attracted some of the wealthiest people in Tunbridge Wells to occupy them. One of his large properties, in fact the one where he lived himself, was called "Ravensdale" and became a Dr Barnardos property for training nursery nurses for Children's Homes.
It was noted that along with Broadwater Down, Pembury Road houses had the most servants per household, an incredible five or more.
The gorgeous vistas are numerous along Pembury Road, if you know where to look.
On an 1838 map, the road was known only as "To Woodsgate Hastings" and no houses existed on either side except Mill Farm on the north side and "Burnt House or Calverley Manor Farm" on the south side. Burnt House Farm, an estate with a Chalybeate Mineral Spring, was situated roughly in the vicinity of Dunorlan lake. Popular for a time in the mid 18th Century with visitors who drank the waters. A stone slab recording the location of the farm and some information was unfortunately broken up, removed from the premises and thrown into the lake many years ago.
The mysterious wooden throne that suddenly appeared overnight.
Ever stood at the Swing Gates bus stop and wondered what on earth the Swing Gates were? It seems at one point in history there were some kissing gates here to block the path down to the Marlpits and to stop livestock getting onto Pembury Road. Marl is a generic term for various kinds of clay which, it was believed, could be employed as fertiliser to make poor local soils more suitable for agriculture. I'm presuming that the name of the location was changed from Kissing Gates to Swing Gates to stop giving people ideas whilst waiting for a bus.
Traffic whizzes along, just think of what they are missing.
Little do most commuters travelling along the road know that you are in fact driving along an elongated plateau of land which is about 150 metres above sea-level, which is why the views out onto the countryside are so vast.
What is this mysterious spaceship of a structure hidden amongst the trees?
It's no spaceship, it's a water tower, used to maintain our water pressure.
Although most of the great early mansions have long-since disappeared, you can still see a few if you walk along, Shandon Lodge is one of them, this is home to a heritage plaque commemorating Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) who apparently visited his cousin, Charles Fletcher Lutwidge there.
The hidden stairs to nowhere. Well they used go from one side of the road to the other.
Some of the more interesting buildings along the stretch are listed, including: The Woodlands, mid-19th century Concord College (formerly Ferncliffe), early 19th century Blackhurst and Pembury Grange, built in 1869 by George Devey for John Ward's son. Such were the scale of these mansions that modern day families could not sustain them and most became schools, a few notable ones include: Sandown Court, which became a secondary school and entertained Sid Vicious as one of its pupils, Pembury End which was built in 1884 by Henry Cugar and became the offices of the SE Gas Board until opening as a Leonard Cheshire home for the disabled in 1968, Beechwood became the Convent of the Sacred Heart boarding school and Pembury Place became St. George's School.
Signs tell users which side to walk or ride on. Or do they?
There you have it, I think you'll agree that even Pembury Road has its nice bits, all you need to do is take your time, keeps your eyes peeled and wander.