Project Britain

History of Tonbridge

by Mandy Barrow

 
 
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The Tudors 1484

 

Five hundred years ago the world was a very different place.

We were only just realizing that America existed and we had no idea about Australia. England (including the Principality of Wales) and Scotland were separate kingdoms, each with their own royal family.

The Tudors were a Welsh-English family that ruled England and Wales from 1485 to 1603 - one of the most exciting periods of British history. They ruled for 118 years.

Tonbridge

Tonbridge was a small town during the Tudor times with only a few hundred houses on the north side of the river, between the river and Bordyke. Goods and supplies were carried in horse-drawn wagons. In winter the wagons often got stuck in the muddy clay soil.

Houses

New bigger houses were built during this time. The houses were made of oak timbers, with walls of wattle and daub, and a thatched roof. The floors jutted out over each other.

The houses were built on both sides of the street and made the streets gloomy because they blocked the light. The streets were narrow and crowded, this made it easy for criminals to rob and steal from shops, traders and people.

Examples of Tudor houses can still be seen in Tonbridge today.

The Chequers Inn
Early Tudor
Port Reeve House
Tudor front masking a much older building

A Tudor house in disguise

Sometimes houses are altered. Ferox Hall is a good example of this. It was built during the Tudor times but was later given a Georgian facade (mask) to its front.

It is said that Queen Elizabeth I once slept at Ferox Hall.


Ferox Hall

1553 - Tonbridge School was built. It was the first ever school in Tonbridge. This first building was demolished in 1803 and replaced by a new one in 1864.

Roads

The roads were just wide enough to take a horse or oxen-drawn cart and were in very poor condition. They did not have good surfaces and they were not properly drained. Deep ruts made by carts filled up with water when it rained. Most people traveled on horse back or on foot. For short journeys people paid to have themselves carried in a chair.

The Plague Strikes!

The Black Death (Bubonic plague) arrived in Europe from the Far East in 1347, carried by the fleas on black rats. The open sewers in the street attracted the rats. People threw their rubbish into these sewers thus feeding the rats and spreading the disease quickly. For 300 years the black plaque kept returning.

Plague spreads to Tonbridge

There are two recorded instances in Tonbridge.

1557 - 58 - plagues hits Tonbridge causing many deaths.

1610 - Plague hits town again killing many

New stone bridge

1526 - Henry Vlll paid for a new stone bridge across the river

 

Population

The population of Tonbridge was about 500.

 

 
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