I have heard about Tonbridge many times that it is charming, but above all, it is expensive to live in, because house prices are at the forefront in the country. Although it is only half an hour from Maidstone to Tonbridge, it has never been “on my way”. Until one day, my dentist sent me there for an examination. I went early and stayed in town for a long time to wander on the streets and corners. Honestly, I thought I would fall in love with this town, but only in some places my heart beat harder. It lacked a soul. This is how I call these charming, peaceful, noise-free places in towns.
The main street is unfortunately not excluded from car traffic. I will skip the fact that you cannot take a picture without a car in the background or in the foreground. Cars, in front of beautiful buildings are my nightmare. Tonbridge has amazing buildings because it has a rich history. The town grew up at a natural intersection where the gusty and wild Medway narrows to form a natural ford. It was a route between London and Rye, a small town on the English Channel.
William the Conqueror gave the lands to one of his faithful knights, who at the beginning resided in the nearby castle in Hadlow. A castle in Tonbridge was built in the 11th century. Only the castle entrance gate has survived and there I directed my steps.
It was easy because there is a large, convenient parking lot in front of the gate. I went through it and walked around the courtyard. It was cold, but the sun warmed wonderfully, creating clear shadows of amazing shapes on the surface. I took few photos. I set the camera low on the ground to make a panorama and then I felt something watching me. The moment I was pressing the button, the beautiful model came in front of the lens. And after a while I was surrounded by her / his sisters and brothers. Here, squirrels are very accustomed to human presence, and probably even counting on some treats. Unfortunately I disappointed them and after a while they left.
From the castle courtyard there is a very nice view of the river and it is there that you can find a quiet shelter from street noise. A walk along the river is very pleasant.
After a walk around the castle courtyard and along the river I returned to the main street of the town. I saw a nice looking church above the roofs of the buildings and I decided to find it. It was hidden among the streets across High Street. I went inside, but there was a concert of carols sung by children from the local school, so I gave up sightseeing. I listened to the moment, the music was touching. It is for these beautiful concerts in churches and famous places that I like English Christmas.
I wandered around High Street admiring the look of distorted, black and white houses from the Tudor times that beautifully decorate the town. The Checkers Inn made the biggest impression on me, first of all, because the real gallows loop dangled above my head. From what I read later, in this fifteenth-century house on the first floor a judge resided, who regularly set punishments, enforced in front of the building, e.g. flogging. In the 16th century, two women were burned here at the stake, one for religious beliefs and the other for poisoning her husband. The loop on the oak stick was a visible warning for bad people. I had shivers down my spine.
The second building that deserves attention is Port Reeve’s House, which I came across while walking towards the church. It is the oldest building in the town. In its rich past, it served as an inn, shop, and house. During World War II it was severely damaged by the bombing Germans, but fortunately it was restored with precision. Currently it is in private hands.
Is it worth going to Tonbridge? If you like the history and times of Tudor then it’s worth it, if someone is looking for a small, delightful town with a peaceful soul, then you may be disappointed. I liked it, but I spent half a day here and I live 30 minutes away. Arriving from far away I advise you to organise a tour around few others towns of Kent, not just Tonbridge.