Tonbridge History

Tonbridge Historical Society


The Society was founded in 1960 to provide a focus for local people with historical interests. Unlike some similar societies it is concerned with national history and with archaeology, as well as with the history of Kent and the local area. The annual subscription is £12 for single membership (over 18), £20 for joint membership (any two members living at the same address), age 18 or under: free. New members are welcome. If you would like to join, please download and print the Application form or apply to the Hon. Sec. via the contact page.

A programme of lectures by invited speakers runs through the winter months. Meetings take place in the Riverside Room in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge, usually on Thursday evenings. In addition there is an afternoon meeting, with tea, on a Saturday in November.

The society's Research Group explores varied aspects of the history of the town and its inhabitants, and has produced six publications.

A twice-yearly Newsletter is published with Society news, information, articles and pictures relating to the history of Tonbridge. You can download some recent Newsletters here.

The society also maintains extensive collections of archives and pictorial material, and is starting to build a collection of three-dimensional artefacts.

The local Archaeology Officer is a member of our Society and keeps a watching brief on building works in the area which may reveal historic material.

Lecture programme 2019-20

Meetings are held in the Riverside Room in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge, usually on the second Thursday of the month. Non-members are welcome to attend as guests at a fee of £3 (under 18s free), payable at the door.

Thursday, 19th September 2019 at 7.45 pm

Cabinets of Curiosity
Martin Crowther

Thursday, 3rd October 2019 at 7.45 pm

The Suffrage Movement in Tonbridge
Pam Mills

 Saturday, 9th November 2019 at 2.30 pm

Lees Court Estate – A Forgotten Prehistoric Landscape and more…… (two talks) 
Clive Drew & Richard Taylor
Booking is essential for this meeting – a form with details of charges is available from the secretary.

Thursday, 19th December 2019 at 7.45 pm

The Medieval Christmas
Toni Mount

Thursday, 13th February 2020 at 7.45 pm

The Siren Sea – medieval sailors, navigators, shipwreck and the occasional monster
Imogen Corrigan

Thursday, 12th March 2020 at 7.45 pm

The Post Medieval Iron Industry in the Weald from Tudor times to early 19th century
Jeremy Hodgkinson

Thursday, 16th April 2020 at 7.30 pm POSTPONED

We are all aware of the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak and the impact it is having on our everyday lives.  Therefore, we have taken the step to postpone the Society's AGM and talk on the 16th April until an appropriate date later in the year.



Our lecture topics in 2018-19 were '1066 and William the Conqueror', 'Tonbridge in WWI', 'The Knights Templar', 'London Customs', 'The Golden Years of Television', 'Old Kent Windmills', 'A Schoolgirl's War', 'The Domesday Knights of Canterbury'.

Our lecture topics in 2017-18 were 'British Travellers at the Court of the Tsars', 'A tour through the Darent Villages', 'Prehistoric discoveries on Kent’s Channel Coast', 'The quest for longitude', 'Hop Picking in West Kent', 'The plague doctor of Kent','Tonbridge turnpikes and transport'. 

Our lecture topics in 2016-17 were 'Crossrail Archaeology', 'Life in a Noble Household in the 14th century', 'Monasteries & Monastic Life' and 'Building a Mediaeval Cathedral', 'Bad King John?', 'Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart Kent', 'Elizabethan and Jacobean Deer Parks in Kent', 'Aspects of Medieval Tonbridge'.

Our lecture topics in 2015-16 were: 'Magna Carta', 'The Huguenots and their contribution to Kent', 'The Signs of the Times (how to read medieval art) and The Politeness of Princes (the reality of medieval etiquette and table manners)', 'An engineer at the Great Exhibition', 'The Medway Valley during the Roman Occupation', 'The real Downton Abbey – Edwardian Service', 'Fortress Tonbridge 1939-45'.

Our lecture topics in 2014-15 were: 'Traditional Kentish building meterials', 'Archaeology and Graffiti at Knole', 'The London Eye', 'First World War artists', 'Kent 100BC to 600AD', '19th century gluttony and starvation'.

In 2013-14 they were: 'The Georgians', 'Kent in the Civil War', 'Shakespeare's Playhouses', 'Theatrical Lives', 'A History of comic verse', 'A POW's diary', 'Gadshill Place', and 'The Luttrell Psalter'.

In 2012-13 they were: 'A History of domestic lighting', 'Hospitals and Almshouses', 'Victorian London' and 'Victorian leisure and pleasure', 'The Queen and the 1950s', 'Black Travellers in 19th century Africa', 'Policing the past', 'The Norman Conquest'.

In 2011-12 they were: 'Tudor Ladies', 'A City of Legends (Benghazi history and archaeology') 'Women Wartime Workers in the Munitions Industry and The Bevin Boys', 'Oral history – fact or fiction?', 'The building of the Crystal Palace', 'Cast Iron Firebacks', 'All the rage – fashions in the 1920s and 30s'. 

In 2010-11 they were: 'Louis XIVth', 'Knole and the Sackvilles', 'The Magpie' (drama presentation on the wives of Henry VIIIth), 'Railways in West Kent', 'The Origins and Early Development of Towns in Kent', 'The Salomons of Broomhill', 'The work of the KCC Heritage Conservation Team'.

In 2009-10 they were: 'Darwin, the scientist in the garden', 'Edward 1st', 'Paintings of domestic town gardens', 'The history of lace', 'The Wealden Forest Ridge project', 'Emigration in the 19th century', and 'Sightseeing in the Middle Ages'.

In 2008-9 they were: 'Rudyard Kipling', 'Mediaeval Sandwich', 'A country house Christmas', 'Plays and Players in Mediaeval and Early Modern Kent', 'Archaeology of the Olympic site', 'Westenhanger Castle', and 'A closer look at old Tonbridge'.


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