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Image for 25 years & still going strong

Article by Neill Barston | 28th August 2019

25 years & still going strong

The INDEX Magazine & longstanding local companies are celebrating their success. And as part of our celebrations – we cast an eye over some of the key events past and present in Tunbridge Wells.

Take a trip down Tunbridge Wells High Street today and its vibrant cafe culture and arts scene underlines its decidedly confident outlook. Having recently been named one of the top 20 places in the country to live by the Sunday Times, its status as a historic royal spa town continues to attract a growing number of people to live and work in the area.

Much of the town’s future development will hinge on the outcome of major proposals for new civic offices and a brand-new 1,200-seater theatre in the Calverley Grounds area. However, the ambitious plans to replace Tunbridge Wells’ historic council offices and Assembly Hall Theatre that have been landmark features of the town, have met with concerns from some residents. Consequently, the £90 million scheme is now being halted for further consideration by the council.

Clearly, the area remains a firm favourite with commuters and families seeking a lifestyle with easy access to some of the finest countryside in the region. However, there is little doubt that the town has seen many changes over the past 25 years since INDEX Magazine first launched its flagship edition in the area. During that time, the magazine has sought to reflect key developments, which have proved it retains a strong sense of community and typically Kentish identity.

Diversity

The area certainly seems to have grown in diversity over the past couple of decades – with the population of the town growing around 10% from its figure of 116,00.

For many in the town during the 90’s, life in a largely pre-digital age was perhaps a little less complex, with our obsession with all things online having only just started to gain a serious foothold in an era before the dawn of social media. Back then, Tunbridge Wells had recently lived up to its regal name tag, with Princess Diana visiting the town in 1992 to formally open Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.

While it has enjoyed its share of success over the years, like many high street locations, it has come under increasing pressure from internet retailing. However, under new ownership, it is now undergoing an £11 million revamp, which it is hoped will see its wide range of stores fit for the next few decades.

As publisher of INDEX Magazine, Stephen Gurney, explained, it has been an eventful and memorable couple of decades in publishing within the area. While he acknowledged that present trading conditions surrounding Brexit had posed challenges for a number of businesses in the area, he remained optimistic of an upturn in economic fortunes.

“We have been going for 25 years now and it seems that people still want to read magazines as well as digital editions, which is good news for us. The development of the internet has brought many changes for businesses in the town over the past couple of decades. They have had to become a lot more lean to survive and compete.

“There are some fantastic businesses and organisations in the area, some of which have been supporting us since our earliest editions, including the likes of Wells Bedding, the Assembly Hall Theatre, and West Kent College, who have all featured in the magazine,” explained the publisher, who revealed it has been heartening to see so many companies support INDEX Magazine

He added: “I’ve found publishing over the years to be exciting and challenging. Though it can be tough at times, it is also rewarding. I think there are some good things happening in the town including the former cinema site being redeveloped, so in a few years’ time, I think this will be an amazing place to live and work.”

The times they are a changin’

There have been many environmental changes to the Tunbridge Wells area over the past few decades that have left their mark. Not least of these has been the significant amount of residential development in the area and neighbouring towns. In terms of housing prices, there have been huge increases over the past two decades. According to a Savills survey, national average property values were just £66,000 for England and Wales in 1995, compared to well over £200,000 today (and over £400,000 in the Tunbridge Wells area) for an average three-bedroom family home. 

Commuting has also become far more expensive as well, with season tickets to London costing around £5,000 a year from Tunbridge Wells. But under the era of privatisation that began in the mid 90’s, rail fares were comparatively cheaper with the annual season ticket roughly £2,000. As for other costs, the average price of a pint of lager in Kent is presently around the £3.90 mark, which compares to a national average of just £1.60 in the 90’s.

JOIN THE PARTY!

This October the Fairtrade Foundation turns 25. For most of us, Fairtrade means the distinctive circular Fairtrade logo on bananas we buy at the supermarket, but did you know that both Tunbridge Wells and more recently Tonbridge have Fairtrade Town status? The purpose of a Fairtrade Town is to contribute to the Foundation’s aim of tackling poverty by enabling disadvantaged producers from poor countries to receive a better deal, through encouraging support for the Fairtrade Mark.
• Visit fairtrade.org.uk 

MARKING 30TH OF TOWN TWINNING

2019 sees Tunbridge Wells celebrating the 30th anniversary of its formal partnership link with Wiesbaden in Germany. When British and German ex-servicemen first made contact in 1960, they quickly found that they spoke a common language of active reconciliation. The subsequent exchanges they organised led to the formal signing of a Twinning Charter in 1989.

To mark this 30th anniversary, a celebratory concert is taking place on Saturday 28th September at 7.30pm, at the Trinity Theatre. The Tunbridge Wells Twinning & Friendship Association has teamed up with the town’s annual International Music Festival to offer you a concert featuring two world-class performers: Michael Collins, one of the world’s great clarinettists, and star international pianist, Michael McHale. They will perform a selection from their acclaimed Wigmore Hall concerts, providing an evening of top-quality classical music with works by famous German, French and British composers and featuring the dazzling virtuosity of two world-class musicians.
Tickets can be booked through the Trinity Theatre Box Office at trinitytheatre.net, by phone on 01892 678678 or in person. The full price is £19, with some concessions available.

Local firms with the winning formula

The Barn
Owners Patrick McGuire and Ron Zanre acquired The Barn in 1992, and Philippe Sorak joined as general manager at the same time. Therefore, The Barn has had the same owners and management for 27 years. Philippe’s wife, Janet, joined him in joint management in 2012. In addition to being a successful pub and restaurant, The Barn has developed an excellent reputation for hosting weddings and private parties and has consistently won wedding venue awards.
• 1 Lonsdale Gardens, Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1NU, call 01892 510424 or visit barn-pub-rest.co.uk

Creating Beautiful Gardens
Frogheath Landscapes transform private gardens into elegant sociable spaces, creating tranquil intimate settings for relaxing and entertaining. An award-winning member of the Association of Professional Landscapers, our highly skilled teams are experienced in designing and building a wide range of traditional and contemporary gardens in rural, urban and coastal areas.
• Frogheath Landscapes, Willingford Lane, Burwash Weald, East Sussex TN19 7HR, call 01435 883516, email info@frogheath.co.uk or visit frogheath.co.uk

Bailey Wighton – Dedicated to their customers since 1958
A lot of things have changed since Bailey Wighton opened its doors in 1958 but one thing has remained the same – our friendly, family-run service. Our large showroom in Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells offers a huge range of quality carpets, rugs, hard flooring, sofas, chairs and recliners.
• 78 Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2AS, call 01892 520074, email baileywighton@btconnect.com or visit baileywighton.co.uk

SitSmart
SitSmart, the office chair and accessories specialist based in Tunbridge Wells, and established in 1994, is a leading distributor of quality ergonomic products for both business and home use. We service local and national companies, leading the way with our 24-hour control room seating. We also offer stylish Scandinavian seating for modern interiors. A free trial is available on all office chairs. 
• Call 01892 510202, email sales@sitsmart.co.uk or visit sitsmart.co.uk

David Haugh
Bespoke wardrobes in timber and painted finishes are made to your exact requirements; they are proving as equally popular as our kitchens. David Haugh has been established for more than 30 years and are also well known for kitchens, bedrooms and studies. 
• Pop into our local workshops and showroom in Tunbridge Wells located on the Bayham Road, Bells Yew Green, East Sussex TN3 9AT, call 01892 750310 or visit davidhaugh.co.uk

Happy Birthday Heritage Open Days!
HODs, as we affectionately call two weeks in September, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. This year the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, including Paddock Wood, Horsmonden, Cranbrook and Capel, have 51 free events available from 13th-22nd September. Archaeological digs, museums, churches, windmills, walks and talks are possibilities for all ages. Events are organised by a group of volunteers who invite you to be a “Tourist in your own Borough”.
• Visit tunbridgewellsheritageopendays.org

Thomson Snell & Passmore are on the move
Thomson Snell & Passmore will be moving to new, refurbished premises in autumn 2019 at Heathervale House, 2-4 Vale Avenue, Tunbridge Wells. Known for its practical and tailored legal advice to generation upon generation of clients, this is a new chapter in the firm’s 450-year history. Tunbridge Wells is an intrinsic part of Thomson Snell & Passmore’s history as the world’s oldest law firm. The firm has been in the town centre for more than 100 years and prides itself on being a very active member of the community.
• Visit ts-p.co.uk or call 01892 510000.

Merriments Gardens
Beautiful gardens with colour-themed borders set amongst the rolling countryside of East Sussex. Seamlessly blending, Merriments large borders of inspiring planting evolve through the seasons from spring pastels to the fiery autumn hues of the many trees, all on a gently sloping, south-facing site with good parking and easy access. Plants seen in the garden are available to purchase, along with a gift shop and licensed restaurant serving coffee, lunches and cream teas.
• Hawkhurst Road, Hurst Green, East Sussex TN19 7RA, call 01580 860666 or visit merriments.co.uk

Edwards Lighting and Furniture 
Lighting and Furniture Centre, previously known as Edwards Electrical, is a family-run company which was established 50 years ago in 1969. Originally a successful lighting store they then ventured into occasional furniture for living, dining and bedrooms in their extensive showrooms in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. All items are stocked for fast delivery. Items can be purchased in-store, online delivery or “click and collect”. Open 7 days a week with free parking.
• Tonbridge Lighting Centre, 420-422 Vale Road, Tonbridge TN9 1SW (01732 363583), Tunbridge Wells Lighting Centre, North Farm Industrial Estate TN2 3BF (01892 527647) or visit lighting-centres.co.uk

Brittens Music
A landmark on Grove Hill Road in the town for 27 years, Brittens Music is excited to announce the introduction of high quality grand pianos from prestigious makers including Steinway, Boesendorfer, Bechstein and Yamaha presented on the ground floor showroom, while in the basement check out the selection of quality second hand upright pianos, from under £1,000. You can also find a range of music lessons at Brittens along with all of your instrumental and musical essentials. 
• Grove Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1RZ, call 01892 526659 or visit brittensmusic.co.uk

Insulation Services
Family-run Crowborough-based Insulation Services, which was established in 1977, offers a supply and installation service covering stylish composite and PVC-U replacement doors, PVC-U/aluminium and timber windows, bifolding doors, conservatories, window and door accessories and Roofline Products. Insulation Services were awarded the 2019 Platinum Certificate of Excellence for achieving and maintaining an impeccable trading record and demonstrating the highest standards in both installation and customer service.
• Vision House, Crowborough Hill, Jarvis Brook, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 2EG, call 01892 661858, email sales@insulation-services.co.uk or visit insulation-services.co.uk

Broadlands
Broadlands was established in Tunbridge Wells in May 1989 by Shane Raggett and two other individuals (who have since left the business) to serve the needs of corporate, professional and individual clients. Owned and run today by Shane Raggett, Broadlands Commercial Property Agents (TW) Ltd specialise in all aspects of commercial property including acquisitions and disposals, providing marketing advice and other property related matters. 
• 52 High Street, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1XF, call 01892 512422 or visit broadlands.co.uk

Thurlwell’s
Thurlwell’s designer jewellers, founded by master craftsman Chris Thurlwell in 1989, specialise in designing and handcrafting beautiful and unique jewellery. Since then Chris has developed a reputation for innovative and artistic design, as well as superior quality craftsmanship. Chris prides himself on providing impeccable personal service and understands the importance of collaborating with his clients, which means you are assured of creating something together that will be cherished for years to come.
• Studio 6, Sussex Mews, The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5QJ, call 01892 533223, email thurlwells@aol.com or visit thurlwells.com

Adams & Finch the Lucky Sweeps
Adams & Finch the Lucky Sweeps have been keeping your homes safe and warm for more than 39 years. Carbon monoxide – the silent killer – can strike into any home that has not had their chimney flues properly cleaned and maintained regularly. Adams & Finch the Lucky Sweeps have more than 4,500 clients that put their trust in us to keep them safe – and the silent killer at bay.
• Call 01892 784537 or 07802 412642.

Caroline Charles
Caroline Charles’ AW19 range is irresistibly tempting, upbeat and colourful. The designer, who has created iconic pieces for Princess Diana, and worked with everyone from Helen Mirren to Mick Jagger, produces clothes that are perfect for both urban and country life. Look out for the new season’s Suzanna range in-store, as well as at a special event in the Tunbridge Wells Store on Thursday 3rd October in aid of local charity Hospice in the Weald.
• 40 High Street, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1XF or email tunbridgewells@carolinecharles.co.uk

OPEN architecture 
OPEN architecture are a professional RIBA Chartered Architecture firm who utilise their 25 years of planning experience to create beautiful and functional living spaces for clients. Our holistic architecture approach offers the highest level of service and maximises the use of space with a commercial, ethical and ecological hand. We want to ensure that our clients gain maximum potential on each project and design is vital in this process. Make sure you contact OPEN architecture today and see how we can provide the right solution for you. 
• Call 01732 779580, email reception@openarc.co.uk or visit openarc.co.uk

Wells Interiors
Part of Tunbridge Wells High Street history for many years, Wells is a leading independent family-owned luxury bed and furniture retailer established since 1925 with extensive showrooms. Wells has the best display of quality beds and furniture in the south east of England with ranges including Relyon, Vispring and Tempur to name a few! And we often source products for our customers.
• 44 High Street, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1XF, call 01892 272353 or visit wellsinteriors.co.uk

Consultus Care & Nursing 
For nearly 60 years Consultus Care and Nursing has been providing exceptional live-in carers and nurses to the elderly and most vulnerable people in the UK. With a one-to-one, 24/7 live-in care professional, you or your loved one can remain happy and secure among your personal belongings and precious memories in your cherished home. Contact us today for an informal chat and find out how we can help improve you or your loved one’s life.
• Visit consultuscare.com, email office@consultuscare.com or call 01732 355231.

The Horder Centre
The Horder Centre, a specialist orthopaedic hospital located in Crowborough, will be celebrating 30 years of surgery at the centre this September. The hospital, which is part of charity Horder Healthcare, was originally built as a medical centre and residential home for those suffering from arthritis and was turned into a surgical centre in 1989. It now performs more than 2,000 hip and knee replacements every year and enjoys a national reputation as being a centre of excellence. 
• Visit horderhealthcare.co.uk or call 01892 620939.

Baldwins Travel
Award-winning travel agent in Kent and Sussex, Baldwins Travel has been trading in Tunbridge Wells for over a 100 years and is recognised by the travel industry as the leading independent travel agent in the South East. This year they won Travel Agent of the Year – London and the South East for the 12th consecutive year, and were also crowned National High Street Travel Agent of the Year for the 4th time since 2014. Why not come and meet the team at the #HolidayInspirations Show on 22nd September at East Sussex National Hotel TN22 5ES and be in with a chance of winning a 5 night stay for 2 in Mexico.
• For more details visit baldwinstravel.co.uk

Quality Shoe Repairs
For quality shoe repairs, not to mention bag stitching repairs, keys cut and more, pop into 17a Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1NT (01892 670228) for a service you can trust – and a service that has been serving the community for years.

FROM THE FIRST ISSUE TO TODAY

Satellite Shop
“We ran our advert in the first INDEX magazine 25 years ago and much has changed since then! Steve’s hairdo and our range of products and services to name a few... Congratulations to Steve and co at the INDEX for making it this far and here’s to serving the good folk of Tunbridge Wells for another 25 years!”

Dancing Boutique
A family-owned business born in Tunbridge Wells in July 1971, the Dancing Boutique have kept with the times and many of their products are available through their website – dancingboutique.com – as well as in-store. Offering dance wear for everybody as well as uniforms and catering for all disciplines, and servicing local schools in Kent and East Sussex as well as further afield, pop in-store to take advantage of their years of experience.
• 82 Victoria Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2PW, call 01892 529720 or visit dancingboutique.com

Fashion Carpets
Royal Tunbridge Wells’ premier supplier of high quality floor covering – carpet, wood, laminate and vinyl. We are a long-established family-run business and have built an unrivalled reputation for providing a truly personal service. The company is a preferred retailer for all leading manufacturers of fine flooring materials. With our extensive product range, depth of experience and detailed technical knowledge we are confident of finding the perfect floor covering for every need and taste.
• 42 High Street, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1XF, call 01892 528676 or visit fashioncarpets.co.uk

Assembly Hall Theatre
The theatre in the heart of the town has been a much-loved and valued venue in Tunbridge Wells for since first opening in May 1939, and is renowned for attracting diverse audiences from the borough and beyond. With a calendar of events throughout the year, the Assembly Hall Theatre caters for all tastes showing a wide variety and range of performances including: Classical and opera, comedy, dance, family events, music, musicals, spoken word and drama. So there is bound to be an event just for you! 
• Crescent Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2LU, call 01892 530613 or visit assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk

The following are also fellow longstanding local companies who have been going strong for decades:

Badger Bathrooms (badgerbathrooms.co.uk)
Ballards (ballardsgroup.com)
Benenden School (benenden.school)
Bethany School (bethanyschool.org.uk)
Brighton College (brightoncollege.org.uk)
Citizens Advice Tunbridge Wells and District (twcab.org.uk)
Connels (connells.co.uk)
Cranbrook School (cranbrookschool.co.uk)
David Salmon (davidsalmon.co.uk)
Derrol Tozer’s Fine Upholstery (derrolltozersfineupholstery.com)
Frogheath Landscapes (frogheath.co.uk)
Green Thumb Lawn Treatment Service (greenthumb.co.uk)
Hever Castle (hevercastle.co.uk)
Homeleigh (homeleighgroup.co.uk)
Ibbett Mosely Auctioneers & Valuers (ibbettmoselyauctions.co.uk)
Kay & Pascoe LLP (kayandpascoe.co.uk)
Mayfield School (mayfieldgirls.org)
Medway School of Dance (medwayschoolofdance.co.uk)
Millwood Designer Homes (millwooddesignerhomes.co.uk)
MTS Cleansing Services Ltd (mtscleansing.co.uk)
Open Architecture (openarc.co.uk)
Pettitts Travel (pettitts.co.uk)
Practical Philosophy (practicalphilosophykent.org)
Rapport Housing & Care (rapporthousingandcare.co.uk)
S I Insulation Services (insulation-services.co.uk)
Sussex Stone & Ceramic Ltd (sussexstone-ceramic.co.uk)
The Carpenters Arms (carpentersarms.net)
The King’s School (kings-school.co.uk)
The Kitchen Doctor (thekitchendoctor.com)
The Walsh Bros (walshbros-jewellers.co.uk)
University of Kent (kent.ac.uk)
Vine Hall School (vinehallschool.com)
West One Bathrooms (westonebathrooms.com)
Woodwork Kitchens (woodworkkitchens.co.uk)

Header Image © David Bartholomew (www.davidbartholomew.co.uk)

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