Noteworthy Buildings on The Commons – The Royal Wells Hotel
There has been a hostelry in the vicinity of the present Royal Wells Hotel for the past three centuries or so. John Bowra’s map of 1738 names the “Huntsman and Hounds” on this part of Mount Ephraim, although Bowra’s map of 1808 has the “Hare and Hounds” facing the common in this position.
The building illustrated here, which was the venue for our 2009 Annual Dinner, dates from around 1830. Thus it was still new when the young Victoria stayed at Boyne House next door in 1835, with her mother the Duchess of Kent, whose impressive coat of arms surmounts the hotel’s parapet. Originally called the Mount Ephraim Hotel, the establishment has also been known as the Royal Hotel, the Royal Mount Ephraim Hotel, the Royal Wells Inn, and now the Royal Wells Hotel.
A glimpse of the hotel, as it was in Victoria’s time, can be seen in a picture of the common and Mount Ephraim in Colbran’s guide of the early 1840s. In this, the Tunbridge Wells artist Charles Tattershall Dodd shows the building, resplendent with its Royal coat of arms, and the word HOTEL above the right-hand second floor window. At that time, the first floor had a pretty veranda along the front, with a canopy and balcony that were typical of the Regency period. However, in the late 19th century the veranda was replaced with an ambitious winter garden extending across the full width of the building.
By 1950, under the then proprietor Cecil Wyer, the Hotel was advertising itself as providing hot and cold water, gas fires and telephones in all of its bedrooms, together with excellent cuisine and service. With a telegram address of “Comfort”, its claim was “Your happiness and comfort is our first consideration”.