Borough of Tunbridge Wells

Coordinates: 51°07′44″N 0°15′39″E / 51.12889°N 0.26083°E / 51.12889; 0.26083
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Borough of Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells shown within Kent
Tunbridge Wells shown within Kent
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Non-metropolitan countyKent
StatusNon-metropolitan district
Admin HQRoyal Tunbridge Wells
Incorporated1 April 1974
 • TypeNon-metropolitan district council
 • BodyTunbridge Wells Borough Council
 • MPsGreg Clark
Helen Grant
 • Total127.9 sq mi (331.3 km2)
 • Rank112th (of 296)
 • Total115,681
 • Rank207th (of 296)
 • Density900/sq mi (350/km2)
 • Ethnicity
95.1% White
1.4% S.Asian
1.1% Black
1.3% Mixed Race
1.0% Chinese or other
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code29UQ
GSS codeE07000116
OS grid referenceTQ5817739112

The Borough of Tunbridge Wells is a local government district with borough status in Kent, England. It takes its name from its main town, Royal Tunbridge Wells. The borough also contains the towns of Paddock Wood and Southborough, along with numerous villages and surrounding rural areas. Large parts of the borough fall within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The neighbouring districts are Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling, Maidstone, Ashford, Rother and Wealden.


The town of Tunbridge Wells had been governed by improvement commissioners from 1835.[1] The commissioners' district was reconstituted as a local government district in 1860, which in turn became a municipal borough in 1889.[2][3] That first borough of Tunbridge Wells was renamed "Royal Tunbridge Wells" in 1909 following a petition from the borough council to Edward VII.[4]

The modern district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, covering the whole area of three former districts and parts of a fourth, which were all abolished at the same time:[5]

The new district was named Tunbridge Wells after the area's largest town, but without the Royal prefix.[6] The district was not initially granted borough status.[7] The council resolved to petition for it in June 1974 and a borough charter was received on 20 December 1974, allowing the chair of the council to take the title mayor.[8][9]


Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Founded1 April 1974
Hugh Patterson,
Liberal Democrat
since 24 May 2023[11]
Ben Chapelard,
Liberal Democrats
since 25 May 2022[12]
William Benson[10]
since 2010[13]
Seats48 councillors
Political groups
Administration (35)[14]
  Liberal Democrats (17)
  TW Alliance (10)
  Labour (7)
  Independent (1)
Other parties (13)
  Conservative (11)
  Independent (2)
First past the post
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
2 May 2024
Meeting place
Town Hall, Mount Pleasant Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council provides district-level services. County-level services are provided by Kent County Council. Much of the borough is also covered by civil parishes, which form a third tier of local government.[15]

Political control[edit]

The council has been under no overall control since 2021. Following the 2022 election a coalition of the Liberal Democrats, local party the Tunbridge Wells Alliance, Labour and an independent councillor took control of the council, with the same coalition continuing following the 2023 election.[16][17]

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[18][19]

Party in control Years
Conservative 1974–1994
No overall control 1994–1996
Liberal Democrats 1996–1998
Conservative 1998–2021
No overall control 2021–present


The role of mayor is largely ceremonial in Tunbridge Wells. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 1998 have been:[20]

Councillor Party From To
James Scholes[21] Conservative 1998 21 May 2002
Len Horwood Conservative 21 May 2002 30 Jun 2004
Melvyn Howell Conservative 30 Jun 2004 23 May 2007
Roy Bullock Conservative 23 May 2007 19 Jan 2011
Bob Atwood Conservative 19 Jan 2011 6 May 2012
David Jukes Conservative 23 May 2012 5 May 2019
Alan McDermott Conservative 22 May 2019 26 May 2021
Tom Dawlings Conservative 26 May 2021 25 May 2022
Ben Chapelard Liberal Democrats 25 May 2022


Following the 2023 election and two subsequent changes of allegiance in July and August 2023, the composition of the council was:[22][23][24]

Party Councillors
Liberal Democrats 17
Conservative 11
Tunbridge Wells Alliance 10
Labour 7
Independent 3
Total 48

Two of the independent councillors sit together as the "Independents for Tunbridge Wells" group.[25] The next elections are due in 2024.


Since the last boundary changes in 2003 the council has comprised 48 councillors representing 20 wards, with each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held three years out of every four, with a third of the council being elected each time for a four year term of office. Kent County Council elections are held in the fourth year of the cycle when there are no borough council elections.[26]

In the 2016 European Union referendum, Tunbridge Wells was the only district in Kent that voted to remain in the EU (54.89%).


The council is based at Tunbridge Wells Town Hall on Mount Pleasant Road, which had been completed in 1941 for the old Royal Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.[27]


The borough of Tunbridge Wells lies along the south western border of Kent, partly on the northern edge of the Weald, the remainder on the Weald Clay plain in the upper reaches of the rivers Teise and Beult.

Much of the borough lies within the High Weald, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The presence of sandstone outcrops and the chalybeate springs, together with old workings, point to ancient iron manufacturing in the area.

The Weald Clay plain along the northern edge of the borough forms part of the so-called Garden of England, named for its extensive orchards and former hop farms, sheep and cattle. A string of villages lies across this plain, from Brenchley and Horsmonden to Benenden and Headcorn.


The main roads through the borough are the A21 London to Hastings road and in the east, the A229, which runs from the A21 at Hurst Green through Cranbrook to Maidstone.

There is a railway line across the clay plain in an almost unbroken straight line between Redhill, Tonbridge and Ashford, Kent. The SER line to Hastings passes through Tunbridge Wells; here there was once a further branch connection south-eastwards to Groombridge, and at Paddock Wood is the southern terminus of the Medway Valley Line to Maidstone.

Places of interest[edit]

Apart from Tunbridge Wells itself, places of interest in the Borough include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act 1835". The National Archives. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  2. ^ "No. 22401". The London Gazette. 6 July 1860. p. 2543.
  3. ^ Kelly's Directory of Kent. London. 1913. p. 712. Retrieved 3 October 2023.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ "Royal Tunbridge Wells". Kent and Sussex Courier. Tunbridge Wells. 10 April 1909. p. 7. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  5. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 27 September 2023
  6. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973",, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 31 May 2023
  7. ^ "District Councils and Boroughs". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 28 March 1974. Retrieved 27 September 2023.
  8. ^ "Big vote for borough go-ahead". Kent and Sussex Courier. Tunbridge Wells. 28 June 1974. p. 1. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  9. ^ "Borough status". Kent and Sussex Courier. Tunbridge Wells. 20 December 1974. p. 3. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  10. ^ "Chief officers". Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  11. ^ "Council minutes, 24 May 2023". Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  12. ^ "New Council Leader elected". 25 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  13. ^ Harris, Mary (3 March 2018). "A pay rise of around £15,000 will be given to the chief executive at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council". Kent Live. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  14. ^ "Coalition to run Tunbridge Wells council to be agreed after Conservatives lose power". 16 May 2022. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  15. ^ "Local Government Act 1972",, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  16. ^ Thorne, Lucy (5 May 2023). "Tunbridge Wells local election results 2023". Kent Live. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  17. ^ "Borough Partnership continues following local elections". Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. May 2023. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  18. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 14 May 2023.
  19. ^ "Tunbridge Wells". BBC News Online. 19 April 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  20. ^ "Council minutes". Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  21. ^ "Council's Tory group selects new leader". Kent Online. 26 April 2002. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  22. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Esson, Daniel (27 July 2023). "Labour Tunbridge Wells borough councillor suspended from local party over screening of Jeremy Corbyn: the Big Lie". Kent Online. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  24. ^ Croucher, Lilly (23 August 2023). "Ex-Alliance leader quits party to form new independent group". Times of Tunbridge Wells. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  25. ^ "Your Councillors by Party". Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  26. ^ "The Borough of Tunbridge Wells (Electoral Changes) Order 2001",, The National Archives, SI 2001/3559, retrieved 3 October 2023
  27. ^ "Timeline History of Tunbridge Wells". Visitor UK. Retrieved 23 February 2021.

External links[edit]

51°07′44″N 0°15′39″E / 51.12889°N 0.26083°E / 51.12889; 0.26083