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Whilst the addition of the Royal prefix to the name of Tunbridge Wells was a demonstrable means by which the standing of the locality could be esteemed, it is the Pantiles – formerly the Walks and the Parade – which remain as the embodiment of everything which led to the bestowal of such regal munificence upon the town the first instance.
There are countless, readily discoverable articles available on-line which outline the inception development and history of the town’s most notable feature – and I would advise you to execute a simple internet search to find such resources should you wish to avail yourself of the relevant knowledge. However, I do not think that there can be any better illustration of what the Pantiles experience itself actually may have been than contemporary reports, crafted when the attraction was at the height of its popularity, and – therefore – I commend you to the care of the singularly erudite Mr Jasper Sprange, a local bookseller, stationer, librarian and printer who – in 1780 – set out his own first-hand accounts of the methods by which one should properly conduct all aspects of a prospective ‘Day at the Wells’…

Please note that some of the more idiosyncratic spellings in the following are Mr Sprange’s own work, retained for the sake of authenticity...


You first go down in a suitable undress to the public walk, which on your approach you will find resounding with a confusion of voices, that cannot fail of giving you a pleasing idea of the place in general, and an agreeable foretaste of the scenes in which you are soon to engage.
Here your first business is to go to the well, taste the water, and pay the customary fee, called a welcome penny, to the dippers, and at leaving the place you make them a further present, according to the time you have drank the waters; you then proceed to the other public places and there subscribe according to your rank – at the assembly rooms, a crown or more each person; at the coffee-house the same for each gentleman, which entitles him to the use of pens, ink, paper &c. again at the bookseller’s the subscription is the same for which you have the use of whatever book you please to read at your lodgings and here also, a book is open for the ladies. The library consists of upwards of six thousand volumes of the most entertaining kind; and every new publication is added immediately as published, for the use of the subscribers: the newspapers are also taken in daily.

The Circulating-Library and the Coffee-house, as mentioned before…some particular amusements predominant there among others, were then omitted, let me just observe are places where the social virtues reign triumphant over prejudice and prepossession. The easy freedom and cheerful gaiety, arising from the nature of a public place, extends its influence over them, and every species of party spirit is intirely stripped of those malignant qualities which render it so destructive of the peace of mankind. Here divines and philosophers, deists and Christians, whigs and tories, Scotch and English, debate without anger, dispute with politeness, and judge with candour; while every one has an opportunity to display the excellency of his taste, the depth of his erudition, and the greatness of his capacity, in all kinds of polite literature, and in every branch of human knowledge



The bookseller’s shop has indeed and advantage over the coffee-house, because there the ladies are admitted: and, like so many living starts, shine in the greatest splendor, while they evidence that British beauties are no less superior to their sex throughout the world, in the ornaments of the understanding than they are universally allowed to be in the external graces of the body
The band of music likewise, which plays three times a day in the orchestra on the public walks, and at the balls, is supported by subscription, for which a book is open in the great rooms.
Thus subscriptions are ended till the clergyman’s book is opened, and you may then freely engage in all the amusements of the place.
The company usually appear on the parade between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, to drink the water, and practise the necessary exercise of walking, which is sufficient amusement for an hour or two; they then return to their lodgings to breakfast, or else assemble in parties; and it is customary frequently for the company in general to breakfast together in the public rooms, or at the coffee-rooms; and sometimes in fine weather, under the trees upon the open walk, attended with music the whole time.


After breakfast it is fashionable to attend morning service in the chapel, to take an airing in coaches or on horseback, to assemble at the billiard-table, to pass the time in rural walks, to associate in the bookseller’s shop, there to  collect the harmless satire, or the panegyric of the day, or else to saunter upon the parade; every one according to his disposition or the humour which then happens to be predominant.
When prayers are ended, the music, which had only ceased during the time of divine service, strikes up afresh, and the company thickening upon the walks, divert themselves with conversations as various as their different ranks and circumstances, so that an attentive listener to the several parties would this moment fancy himself at the Royal Exchange, and the next at the palace; now and an India factory or an American plantation.
While a great part of the company are thus amusing the time on the parade, others are no less agreeably employed at the milleners, the jewellers, toy-shops &c. where little rafflings are carried on till the important call of dinner obliges the different parties to disperse.


Dinner finished, the band of music again ascends the orchestra, and you once more behold the company return in crouds to the walk; but now the morning dress is laid aside and all appear in full and splendid attire, the highest finishing of art and expence being added to the prevailing power of beauty, the insinuation of polite address and dignity of rank and talents.
In these advantageous circumstances, the general desire of all is to see and be seen, till the hour of tea-drinking, when they assemble together, as in the morning, commonly at the public rooms, or at the coffee-house rooms.
This over, cards succeed in the great rooms, which are supplied with a proper number of tables, and all necessary accommodations, and where the greatest order and regularity are observed that can consist with the liberty of a public place.



Twice in a week there are public balls in the great assembly-rooms – on Tuesdays at the room on the walk, and Fridays at the lower-rooms; every other night in the week (Sundays excepted, when the company generally meet to drink tea at the coffee-house) are card assemblies at each of the public rooms alternately.
The Master of the Ceremonies to explain more fully the nature of the balls &c. has published the following Rules:

  1. That there be Two public Balls every week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Ladies to pay as Gentlemen 3s. 6d.
  2. To begin with Minuets, and then Country Dances – All restrictions in point of dress to be abolished, except in regard to those Ladies who intend to dance Minuets, who are requested to be properly drest for that purpose.
  3. One Cotillion only, immediately after tea will be danced, and to prevent the time lost in the choice of the particular Cotillion, and in practising it, the Master of the Ceremonies will undertake himself to name it, and ins figure shall be previously put up in the Great Rooms , that they may be acquainted with it.
  4. As the custom of dancing, two following dances only, with the same Lady, at present prevails pretty generally, the Master of the Ceremonies thinks it proper to establish it as a rule here.
  5. The Master of the Ceremonies thinks it almost needless to observe, that it is deemed a point of good breeding, for those Ladies who have gone down with the dance to continue in their places, till the rest have done the same.
  6. The Master of the Ceremonies desires the company to come early, that the Balls may begin at the usual hour of seven.
  7. The Master of the Ceremonies desires to have the honour of presenting himself to the company on their arrival, that he may not be wanting in the necessary attentions to them.
  8. The Chapel, being originally built by subscription, is not endowed with any provision for an established minister.- As he depends therefore for his support on the voluntary Contributions of the company that frequent the place: It is hoped that he may rely with confidence for the reward of his labours, in the benevolence of those who reap the benefit of them.
  9. It is humbly requested of all persons who frequent the Rooms to subscribe, to enable the renters of them to defray the many necessary and heavy expences attending them.
  10. Besides the Two Rooms, the other general places of subscription are the circulating Library, the Ladies Coffee-Room, the Gentleman’s Coffee-Room and the Post Office.
  11. The Water Dippers at the spring, who are appointed by the Lord of the Manor, have no allowance, but depend on what is given them by those who drink the waters.
  12. The Master of Ceremonies hopes it will not be thought improper for him to recommend to families on leaving the place (having been any time here) to consider the Waiters of each of the Rooms – He will not presume to dictate to public generosity: Those only therefore who wish to be directed in this will receive the necessary information, on application to him.
  13. It has been an old established custom for every Lady and Gentleman to drop a shilling in to the Sweeper’s Box, and as the poor man and his wife, constantly attend the Walks, and the Rooms morning and evening, and have no other means of subsisting; it is hoped that none will refuse to comply with so small and equitable a bounty.

And there you are – a complete, hands-on guide to the social niceties of taking the waters at Tunbridge Wells with matters of correct deportment at associated social soirees also considered for good measure; I remain, Ladies - Gentlemen, you're very humble servant...

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