Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bradshaw's Tunbridge....

You've no doubt all heard Michael Portillo go on about the railways in Victorian times and what George Bradshaw's handy little book had to say about all the many stops on his journey. So what does the guide have to say about our dear old Tonbridge? Well don't get too excited as our town is, more or less, described as a stop off before the far more salubrious town of Tunbridge Wells a few miles down the track. Here's what he said:

Tunbridge (spelt with a U in 1866 of course)
Population, 5,919
A telegraph station
Market Day- Alternate Tuesdays
Fair- October 11th

Situated on the Tun and four branches of the Medway, all crossed by bridges. It is noted for its excellent Grammar School with sixteen exhibitions. The castle, of which a fine noble gateway flanked by round towers still remains, was built by Richard Fitz Gilbert, Earl of Clare and Hertford, who likewise founded a priory here for Augustine Canons, the refectory of which may still be seen. Open on Saturdays from 10 till 4, by permission of the proprietor. This, besides being the branch station for passengers to Tunbridge Wells, has a convenient refreshment room appended.

4 comments:

Paul Bailey said...

Surely Tonbridge was the main station rather than Tunbridge Wells, especially as it was an important junction.

Outraged said...

Paul is correct, though I think Bradshaw's words carried a different meaning than if used today. In Bradshaw's 1866, Tonbridge would as now, be the rail station where the branch (line) to Tunbridge Wells connected to the main line. The rail line from Redhill to Tonbridge opened in May 1842, with Ashford reached by December of that year. A "small branch line reached Tunbridge Wells two years later. The line ended at Tunbridge Wells. With the Hastings extension ten years away. Of interest is that in 1844, the Tunbridge Wells branch out of Tonbridge Station crossing Priory Road did not exist. The route involved trains reversing out of Tonbridge to a point near to the Vale Rise bridge. Then, the points operated, and the engine, now pulling, onto the branch line, which is still partially visible crossing Goldsmid Road,, just below Olives shop. And along what is now Bridge Close, towards the Strawberry Hill tunnel.

Paul Bailey said...

Correct Outraged, the old line towards Tunbridge Wells followed the line of Pembury Grove up to Bridge Close and then to the Strawberry Hill Tunnel. You can see it's former course quite clearly on Google Maps, satellite view. Apparently it was constructed like this because of the steep gradients, and concerns over runaway trains.

Have quite enjoyed Michael Portillo's series though, even if it has been repeated a couple of times. Nice work if you can get it being paid to travel arond the country by train!

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