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Tonbridge

Tonbridge is an old market town on the River Medway, at the edge of the tonbridge estate agents letting agents image.High Weald an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It's about four miles north of Tunbridge Wells with which it is often confused by people outside Kent. This is on account of the pronunciation of its name, although spelt ‘Ton’ the first syllable rhymes with ‘bun’.

The origin of the name Tonbridge is not exactly known, although place-name experts believe it is a joining of ‘tun’; a manor or farm in Old English, with ‘brycg’, an early form of ‘bridge’.

This makes a lot of sense; as far back as the Iron Age there was a river crossing here and a Saxon settlement probably grew up beside the river.
It was not until 1241 that Tonbridge was first mentioned as a borough, which confirms that until the mid 13th century it was just a small settlement. However, the town probably began to grow when the Normans arrived and built a castle.

Still standing today, the 13th century Motte and Bailey Castle remains the dominant feature of the town and stands in 14-acres of parkland open free of charge to the public.

Tonbridge has been a market town since the Earl of Gloucester was granted the right to hold a weekly market in 1259, at the time the population was just a few hundred people. The market was originally held in what is now the High Street, but moved to Bank Street in 1856 when the Tonbridge Stock and Cattle Market Company was formed. A farmers market is still held once a month in the town.

Tonbridge still has more than 150 listed buildings, including Port Reeve’s House, believed to be the oldest house in the town. The cellar of the house could date from as early as the 12th or 13th century, when it was a defensive blockhouse. The original property on the site was about 16 square feet in size and built between 1350 and 1400.

It is one of only four buildings in Tonbridge listed Grade II*. The others are the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, The Ye Olde Chequers Inn and 124 High Street next door to it. The Castle the only Grade I building in the town.

In 1740 the Medway Navigation Company was created and wharves built where goods could be unloaded from barges that came up the newly navigable river. Gunpowder and other naval supplies were despatched from the local powder mill and Wealden forest to the dockyard at Chatham.

In 1842 a railway link to London was established and a station was built south of the river. New homes, initially for rail-workers and later commuters, were built around the station, resulting in a change to the shape of the town.

In the first half of the twentieth century Tonbridge became well-known as a printing town after two London printers, Bradbury & Agnew (later the Whitefriars Press) and Truscott & Son established presses locally. At one time two million Penguin paperback books were being printed annually in Tonbridge.

Tonbridge is home to the famous Tonbridge School, one of the leading boys boarding schools in the country and highly respected internationally. Sir Andrew Judd a former Lord Mayor of London founded the school in 1553.

The father of Jane Austen taught at the school and cricketer Colin ‘Kipper’ Cowdrey (so called because of his propensity to fall asleep anywhere), learnt the game there. Cowdrey is not the only famous cricketer with a connection with Tonbridge, in the High Street you can find a blue plaque devoted to the town ’s famous England and Kent cricketer Frank Woolley.

Directions to Tonbridge

  • By Road - Tonbridge is situated on the A26 between Maidstone and Brighton and the A21 between London and Hastings and can be reached from both the M20 and M25 motorways within 20 minutes by car.
  • By Rail - Tonbridge Station is on the mainline rail service from Charing Cross to Hastings. Services take approximately 50 minutes to Charing Cross or Cannon Street. There is also a connecting service to Ashford International station and the Eurostar service with a journey time of around 35 minutes.
  • By Air - Gatwick Airport, Heathrow Airport and Stansted Airport are all within easy reach of Tunbridge Wells. Gatwick is 40 minutes away by car or taxi, Heathrow 65 minutes and Stansted 70 minutes.

Tonbridge Schools


Tonbridge has excellent local schools achieving high exam grades and university admissions. Click on the following links to find out more about the facilities at each school:
Follow this link to find a complete list of Nursery Schools, Middle Schools and Sixth Form Colleges in Kent

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