Visit some hidden treasures in Tonbridge

    Tonbridge Castle 2

    The Tonbridge Medieval Fayre is one of many events taking place this weekend as part of a nationwide Heritage Open Days programme being held from September 8-11.

    In September every year, around 40,000 volunteers across England organise 5,000 events to celebrate the country’s history, architecture and culture. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are FREE to explore (www.heritageopendays.org.uk)

    Other events in Tonbridge include guided Jane Austen-themed walking tours of the town, which will take place at 11am on Saturday and Sunday starting at the Castle Gateway.

    The Tonbridge Art Group, Tonbridge Civic Society, Tonbridge Historical Society, Tonbridge Parish Church Bell Ringers and members from the Jane Austen Society will all be exhibiting at Tonbridge Castle throughout the weekend.

    Cllr Maria Heslop, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said:

    “There is a really exciting range of properties, events and activities taking place throughout the Heritage Open Days weekend this year, celebrating a slice of England’s fantastic architecture and culture in and around Tonbridge and Malling.”

    There has been a castle in Tonbridge since the Norman Conquest of 1066, when William of Normandy defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Richard Fitzgilbert, his kinsman, was granted estates in Kent to guard the crossing of the Medway at Tonbridge and he raised a simple Motte and Bailey castle on the very site where the present one stands today.

    Tonbridge Castle 3

    On August 30, 1999, the Gatehouse at Tonbridge Castle closed to visitors and work on a £375,000 millennium project began. The missing floors on the ground and first floor levels have been replaced, and the spiral staircase in the East Tower repaired.

    This enabled a circular tour of the gatehouse to be possible.

    In replacing the floors, two additional rooms have been created. An education room, mainly for school and group use, provision for an exhibition space for local community use, and a second venue for civil marriage ceremonies has been provided. Architect Stuart Page ensured the work was of a high quality and in keeping with the fabric of the Medieval Gatehouse.

    In September 2000, the Gatehouse reopened in celebration of the Millennium. A Victorian Birthday Party commemorated 100 years of the castle being in local authority ownership, and the Heritage Open Days Festival was celebrated Borough wide.

    In 2003, the reroofing of the Gatehouse was completed. The project, led by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, cost approximately £450,000. The council received some financial help in the form of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This latest restoration work will help preserve the structure of the Gatehouse, improve the interior of the building and provide shelter all year round. You can now enjoy your visit to Tonbridge Castle whatever the weather!

    Today, Tonbridge Castle boasts Kent’s best example of a Motte and Bailey Gatehouse and one of the best in England.

    Free partial tours will operate over the weekend, but you will have to book a place.

    For more details visit www.tmbc.gov.uk

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