Friday, 28 October 2011

Recognising Tonbridge Recognised

Within minutes of posting, the detail in the photograph was recognised by Shaun as the cannon situated at the entrance to Tonbridge Castle on Cannon Lawn. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where is this spot in Tonbridge?

The black and white photo above was sent to me by a Tonbridge resident.  The picture taken in 1937 shows her father and uncle in a canoe hired from the boathouse.  What puzzles us is where this stretch on the town's river could be.  The iron railings along the river bank could be a clue, although as the photograph was taken pre-war they were probably removed for munition.  Can anyone help with identifying the spot?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tonbridge Arts Festival Bunting

Children, adults, people wanted to design their own personal piece of bunting for the 2012 Tonbridge Arts Festival.  The bunting will decorate the River Walk railings and possibly The Mound.

Pick up a material triangle at the Four Heads Art Show at The Castle Council Chambers and either design on the spot or take it home and send it to the organiser.

Show is open daily from 10am to 4pm until Friday.

Recognising Tonbridge

Where am I today?

Genty Fine Art Exhibition

There is a new private fine art gallery in Tonbridge and by invitation of David and Helen Genty I visited the Jacques Doninioni exhibition at Tygers Head in Church Lane.  Their beautifully retored property is an unusual, but perfect space to exhibit the mainly French artists that will be on show in the future.  The coming together of the strong semi-abstract figuritive elements in the art married well with the strength of architecture of the building. 

 Dominioni's work is organic and physical and the colours he uses burn and glow.  The paintings are sometimes erotic, sometimes violent and sometimes disturbing.

Dominioni started his art training at fourteen years old as an apprentice in the renaissance atelier tradition passing by form, colour, sculpture, cabinet-making, ceramics, collage and engraving.  His work evolved as he travelled from Paris to Rome, to the Cote d'Azur and finally to the quiet of rural Vendee in France.

It really was a privilege to be able to view this exhibition and to also experience the knowledge and enthusiasm of the owners.  Thankyou David and Helen.

Viewing is by appointment only until the end of the week - Genty Fine Art 01732 369565

Saturday, 22 October 2011

How Times Change

The Dorset Hotel - 34 High Street*
Cafe Nero - 34 High Street - 2011

According to a comment on the most recent 'Recognising Tonbridge Recognised' post the building in which Cafe Nero now stands was once where The Dorset Hotel stood.  I have been unable to find the exact dates when travellers to Tonbridge would have stayed in the hotel, but according to the photograph it seems to have been late 19th or early 20th Century.  Maybe someone knows exactly when the hotel was in the High Street.  The upper facade is virtually unchanged however at street level it is totally unrecognisable.  The central arched doorway containing the double fronted doors surrounded by leaded glass is certainly a loss as are the large windows.  This was definitely once a grand building.  It is also interesting to note the width of the pavement which was very narrow.

Unfortunately the photograph doesn't show the roof apex or whether the dragon finial was in place at this time.

*Tonbridge Historical Society Pictorial Collection No. 9.006

Christmas Cheer in Tonbridge

The early arrival of Christmas to the High Street is causing a wave of discontent amongst the Tonbridge community who believe Christmas trees and twinkling lights are really 'not on' in October.  However, they are on and twinkling above the canopy of The Rose & Crown Hotel. 

With Halloween and Fireworks celebrations still to look forward to, the festive cheer of the High Street Hotel seems to be rather premature.  What do you think?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Recognising Tonbridge Recognised

Victorian Dragon Finial
Look up at Cafe Nero
The dragon was correctly identified by an 'Anonymous' reader as sitting on the roof above Cafe Nero in the High Street.

Dragon finials or ridge dragons, as they are sometimes known, are typical of the Victorian era.  Their purpose was not only a decorative device to emphasize the apex of a roof, but for the superstitious it was believed to ward off witches and other evil creatures.  Victorian architecture and art was highly influenced by the Far East, and often 19th century ornamental roof dragons reflect Chinese decoration. 

So remember to look up before going into Cafe Nero and spot the dragon looking down on you.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tonbridge Vandals

A vandal with a spray can has daubed the weatherboarded side of the surgery on Church Lane with green lettering, and also the brick walls along the footpath leading towards the Ivy House.  If the word on the building reads RAGE, it doesn't reflect the enormity of rage I felt when I was confronted with the vandalism. The wooden walls can be cleaned and repainted, but it's not going to be so easy to clean the mess from the brick surface.  I suppose we can be thankful that the headstones in the graveyard were spared.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Recognising Tonbridge

Can you lead St George to his dragon?
Where in Tonbridge am I today?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Charity Piano Recital

Alex Metcalfe from Tonbridge is playing a Charity Piano Recital in aid of Hospice in the Weald next Saturday October 15 at King Charles the Martyr in Tunbridge Wells ... 7.30pm start, tickets on the door £5.

The programme includes duets with Frances Yonge by Schubert, Poulenc and Luke Bedford, and solo works by Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Schubert, Bach and Rachmaninov.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Hive Of Information

Terry Clare - Beekeeper and Lecturer

The old romantic in me has idealistic notions of a cottage industry producing jars of homespun Kentish apple and cherry blossom honey with pretty countrified labels, and to be honest my family think I have lost the plot.  So, when I was told that an expert on beekeeping was coming to Tonbridge to lecture on this very subject it was not an opportunity to be missed.

On Monday evening I was a guest at a meeting of the North Tonbridge Horticultural Society where Terry Clare beekeeper extraordinaire gave a totally fascinating talk on ‘A Year in the Life of a Beekeeper’.

My front row seat ensured I saw all the beautiful images from the maestro’s presentation of close up shots of bees and the interior of the hives.  The hexagonal cells of the honeycomb resembled a work of art to me, and once again my mind wandered back into my romantic territory of whitewashed hives dotted around a sunny orchard.

Mr Clare explained that our culinary lives would be extremely dull if it wasn’t for bees as every colourful food we eat comes from a plant pollinated by bees.  Carrots, courgettes, apples would not exist.  Without bees we would only feast on wind pollinated food such as porridge, pasta and bread, so we have a lot to be thankful for as far as the humble bee is concerned.

The talk covered how to identify bees from wasps, the different bees, the history of hives, the honey making industry and the extraction of the golden nectar. Apparently that animated bundle of fluff we know today as the bumble bee was formerly known as the humble bee until around the middle of the 20th century – probably because as they fly, they hum.

I really must thank the North Tonbridge Horticultural Society for welcoming non-members as guests, and giving me the opportunity to attend such an interesting talk given by one of the most eminent speakers of the beekeeping world.  The hall at St. Philips was packed and every available seat taken.  It was a splendid evening and a friendly crowd. I must not forget to thank the ladies who organised the refreshments at interval time, as for 35p I had the best cup of tea I have had for years.  This must be the cheapest cuppa in town and it was with biscuits too.  Well done ladies.

It is the society’s 40th anniversary this year and not many local clubs can claim to have been going for this length of time.  So if you are interested in anything horticultural, have an allotment or a little flower patch there would always be a warm welcome to new members who will benefit from talks on a wide variety of topics from gardens to foreign travel.  There are three shows every year and members enjoy organised outings and discounts at local outlets.  Contact Carole Passey, Secretary on 01732 352707 or email

I did have a personal chat to Terry Clare about my interest and he is sending me details on local beekeeping courses.  So will my idealistic notions of my own cottage industry stay in the realms of my dreams?  Maybe not!!

Recognising Tonbridge Recognised

 Well done to Shaun, who must know Tonbridge really well, on recognising the picture above as part of the sculpture by Seamus Staunton that is situated on the lawns outside Tonbridge School Chapel. 

Bristol based Seamus Staunton works in a range of materials and many of his sculptures are created with strong industrial influences that often draw on natural landscape. 

Landed by Seamus Staunton

The sculpture outside the chapel is entitled 'Landed' and it does appear as though the rounded shape has landed or arrived from a different environment, and yet the regular rhythm set up by the pattern in the soft curves reflects the architecture of the buildings.  What I found fascinating was how my gaze was encouraged into the inner space of the form, through the structure and beyond which gave a sense that the sculpture and the place sat comfortably together.

I am sure many of you didn't realise that we had such an important piece of art on our doorstep.  It is certainly worth a stroll through the school grounds to take a look. If you wish to find out more about the artist and his work


Winner of The Brenda Hook Award - Point of Perspective (acrylic) by Val Sprott

Tonbridge Castle and Council Chambers

Last Friday evening I was invited to the preview and opening of Tonbridge Art Group's Autumn Exhibition at Castle Chambers.  The Indian Summer gave us a beautiful warm evening, and guests spilled outside under the sandstone castle enjoying a glass of wine, and a chat about the works on show which included paintings in oils, acrylics, watercolours and mixed media reflecting the diverse range of local talents.

Mayor Brian Luker

The private view was well attended and welcomed  Mayor of TMBC, Councillor Brian Luker,  accompanied by his wife, who opened the exhibition.  He spoke encouragingly about the value that a local exhibition brings to the community, and was highly impressed with the quality of the art on display. As part of his duties the Mayor chose his favourite work of art to be presented with the yearly Brenda Hook Award.   He remarked that it had been a difficult decision, but he had noticed one painting that took his eye immediately he had entered the exhibition, and maybe that was the one to go with.  The winner was ‘Point of Perspective’ (acrylic) painted by Val Sprott and she was presented the award by the late Brenda Hook’s daughter, Wendy.

Surprised winner Val Sprott

Wendy presents the cup in memory of her mother

 'Excellent exhibition', 'Great to see our local talent', 'Interesting and varied work' were some of the comments of the evening.  If you wish to know more about Tonbridge Art Group log on to or email