Constructed in 1863, this former Victorian wine cellar in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has been cleverly converted into an elegant two-bedroom house. Defined by a considered monochrome colour palette, the house is filled with a beautiful blend of striking design elements such as a Victorian cast-iron staircase, Crittall doors and a lovely French window. While this detached house sits within a conservation area, it is not listed, allowing the potential for further extension. Set on a quiet side street, its location in the heart of the market town means it is well-located for the lively attractions of the local area both within the town and in the surrounding Kentish countryside.
Setting the Scene
Tunbridge Wells derives its name from the freshwater spring acclaimed for its rejuvenating properties. Discovered in 1606, the Chalybeate Spring spurred development in the surrounding area, eventually becoming known as The Pantiles. The apex of the town’s rapid growth coincided with the Victorian obsession with healing waters. Many grand residences were built during this time, often with white façades that complemented the pre-existing white clapperboard buildings that lined the narrow cobbled streets. As the town developed, it became necessary to build additional structures for storage space to cater to the increasingly affluent population. The present house is one such example, originally serving as a wine cellar and dating to the mid-1800s. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
The main entrance to the heritage-green painted house is a striking double wooden front door. Stepping through the doors, flanked by Corinthian pilasters, the space opens onto a light and airy living area – with bespoke cabinetry leading the eye through to the stunning spiral staircase. Handy shelving built around the portal leading to the kitchen keeps the space streamlined and provides ample display space. Wooden floors by Fired Earth run throughout the ground floor, adding a sense of flow.
The kitchen has been thoughtfully laid out, with units lining both walls, allowing plenty of space for a large dining table in the middle. The cabinetry is glossy white, topped by stainless steel worktops and a contrasting splashback of porcelain tiles in Amber by Mandarin Stone, all reflecting light into the room. In one corner, an original wrought iron spiral staircase leads to the first floor, where exposed brickwork adds texture.
The laid-back monochrome scheme downstairs is amped up in the two en-suite bedrooms, where black wooden floorboards contrast with pure white walls. In the main bedroom, three sash windows with panelled shutters punctuate the high arched ceiling, creating a dramatic sense of volume. Double Crittall doors open to the en suite with a wonderful oval-shaped bath accented by marble panels and brass fittings.
In the second bedroom, a French window opens onto a small balcony that looks onto the cobbled street below, filling the room with a gentle breeze on summer days. In the adjoining bathroom, white porcelain tiles line the floor, while the shower has been plastered with Tadelakt and has brass taps that will develop a beautiful patina with age.
The Great Outdoors
A small grassy area, shared with neighbouring houses, directly adjoins the rear of the house. Slightly further afield is the nature reserve, High Rocks, with plenty of walks.
Out and About
The house is tucked down a quiet lane in the heart of The Pantiles. In summer, the town has the same alfresco atmosphere as a European city, as many restaurants and cafes spill out onto the streets. Geography is a lovely little natural wine bar next door to The Ivy, while Sankey’s The Old Fish Market is the place to go for champagne and oysters. Thackerays, The Beacon, The Square Peg and Tallow are also highly recommended for delicious food. Local pubs in the town and the nearby countryside include the Kentish Hare, the Sussex Arms and Ragged Trousers. There are live jazz performances on the bandstand on summer evenings.
There are many highly regarded state and private schools in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. Primary school options include Rose Hill and The Mead. Secondary options also include the highly sought-after grammar schools and encompass Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School, Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar, Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls, Tonbridge School, Judd and Skinners.
Trains run from Tunbridge Wells, a 10-minute walk from the house, into London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross in under an hour. The M25, Ashford International (for connections with the continent) and Gatwick Airport are all within easy driving distance.
Council Tax Band: D
In 1606, freshwater springs were discovered in Royal Tunbridge Wells (a town part of the wider borough of Tunbridge Wells), and it evolved into a spa town. Over the next 300 years, the town grew, filled with villas, roads and public parks. The springs – or ‘wells’ – were set at one end of the collonaded promenade known as The Pantiles, paved in 1700.
In the Georgian and Victorian eras, the town was one of the chief resorts of fashionable London society escaping the city and was designated an official royal patronage in 1909 when King Edward VII recognised its popularity – spurred on by its many royal and aristocratic visitors (including his mother, Queen Victoria).
The area is also lesser known for its industrial history, including making Tunbridge Ware (wooden items with veneered hardwoods such as beech, sycamore and cherry). The Tunbridge Wells Museum holds the most extensive collection of Tunbridge Ware in the world.
- Five Good Things: what to see, read, visit and buy this OctoberPursuits
- At the Table: an evening of fun and feasting with Olympia and Ariadne IrvingLeisure
- Northern Lights: five homes in the north that have us in awe
- A Maker’s Story: Roddy Maude-Roxby, the man behind the maskInteriors
- Inspiration of the Week: more is more at this timber-framed house in Suffolk