2 April 2017

Tunbridge Wells And Sackville College

Last month I had a day trip to Tunbridge Wells, it was a disappointment. I thought it would be a larger place with more to see and more going on, which to be fair in summer there probably would be more activities, but on an overcast day in March it was a bit of a let down. There are lots of places around the town, but we arrived at 10.15 and had to be back at the coach at 1pm, just enough time for coffee, browsing the few shops that were open and lunch. 

The Pantiles area is very nice, with artisan shops and a good combination of cafes and restaurants. Shame the coach company hadn't done a bit of homework to find out about the markets held on the 1st and 3rd weekends with stalls of food, vintages and crafts.

One of those lovely old fashioned ironmongers shops that sells all manner of kitchen equipment.

I had no idea there were so many types of wooden spoons

or sieves

 something for the dog

There are some very nice buildings around the town

The weather turned to rain 
but the afternoon was much better 
with a visit to Sackville College Almshouse in East Grinsted. 

The statue is Sir Archibald McIndoe, the world renowned pioneering plastic surgeon.

Sackville College is a very attractive Jacobean Almshouse founded by Robert Sackville, the Earl Of Dorset, in 1609 and still in use as an Almshouse today. In his will the Earl provided a sum of money with which to buy land and “build a convenient house of brick and stone” to be used as an almshouse. Almshouses were established as a place of residence for poor, old and distressed people.

The original meaning of college is an organised body of persons engaged in a common pursuit, a self-governing constituent body offering living quarters.

The College is built of Sussex sandstone around a quadrangle and contains large mullioned windows and four fine old doorways

The main entrance

One door leads to what used to be the communal kitchen for the residents.

Quite a cosy room where we had tea and cake after the tour.
The tea was good but the piece of cake I had was dry.

Another door leads to the quarters used by the Sackville family for overnight accommodation as they journeyed to and from their estates in Sussex. 

The main hall in the Sackville quarters, used for dining and entertaining.

The square window to the right of the picture is where the ladies would look down into the hall to see what the men were getting up to!

To the left of this fireplace is a very old wooden chair which, over the years has been graced  by King Charles II, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and, in June 2014, HRH The Princess Royal while in East Grinstead to unveil the statue of Sir Archibald McIndoe.
People would insist in sitting in it so I decided to go back later to get a photo, unfortunately I forgot, I was too focused on tea and cake!

The Sackville family crest 

And a fourth door to a lovely little chapel

This cosy room was home to one of Sackville's most famous residents, the Victorian hymnologist Revd. Dr. John Mason Neale. He wrote many well known hymns and carols, probably the most famous of which was "Good King Wenceslas"

Dr. Neale also founded the first Anglican sisterhood, the Society of St. Margaret, and was one of the leading figures in the Oxford movement, which endeavoured to revitalise High Church institutions. He died here in 1866 after twenty years as Warden.

Originally this room would have been just a room with bare earth underfoot and no heating. Kitchen and bathroom facilities were communal. But it was much better than being homeless. Residents had to be local to East Grinstead and single. They had to attend church services and abide by various rules and regulations of the Almshouse.  

 Today the College Warden lives in the part of the wing that once served the Sackville family. The College still provides affordable accommodation, now modernised and comfortable, for elderly people. They each have their own flats and the use of the common room and the chapel. The College is a charitable foundation which operates according to an act of Parliament of 1624 and a Royal Charter of 1631.


  1. Oh, how disappointing your visit to Tunbridge Wells wasn't what you were expecting. It would have been lovely for the markets to be there to peruse vintage wares and crafts. There are some lovely buildings there. I too, have never seen so many wooden spoons or sieves.

    1. Hello Kim, yes if our visit had coincided with the markets I would have been in my element :-)

  2. It looks like a pretty place to me, maybe it was a quiet rainy day, that many people were inside. When the sun shines everything always looks better.

    1. Hello Marianne, this area was pretty. You're right, everything looks better when the sun is shining.

  3. In another life, I used to live close to East Grinstead and have actually been there twice this year, but have never been inside Sackville College. So, great to see your photos. I think the road between EG and Tunbridge Wells is one of the loveliest drives in the south. It's a pity you didn't catch the Pantiles when it was sunny and lively - it seems very cosmopolitan then - but at least you could have a bit of an explore!

    1. Hi Mike, yes it was a pretty drive and being on a coach meant I could appreciate it more. In summer or even on one of the market weekends it would have been busier and better. But the Sackville College visit was good so it wasn't a wasted day.

  4. Hello Polly,
    I am sorry your trip was disappointing. It looks like what was there was very charming!
    Big hug

    1. Hello Giac, charming is a lovely word and it describes the Pantiles area very well :-) x

  5. Such a difference a day full of sunshine makes when visiting..looks charming!

    1. Hello Nana, sunshine turns a good day into a glorious one :-)

  6. Goodness me did you see all this in just three hours Polly? You must have had your skates on 😊 love the name of the pet shop.. 'collared'😀

    1. Hello Grace, it looks a lot but it wasn't a very large area. I liked the name too, I imagined going up to my two and saying "ok boys you're collared" ha ha.

  7. What lovely photos! Even though you found it disappointing, I think I might take a trip to the wooden spoon capital of the world :)

  8. Hello, what a lovely town. The college looks interesting. It does look like you have seen a lot, great tour and photos. Have a happy day!


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