Southborough, Kent

Last updated

Holden Pond, South of Southborough Common - - 121905.jpg
Holden Pond, Southborough.
Kent UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Kent
Population11,124 (2001 Census)
OS grid reference TQ585425
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Tunbridge Wells
Postcode district TN4
Dialling code 01892
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°09′35″N0°15′55″E / 51.1598°N 0.2652°E / 51.1598; 0.2652 Coordinates: 51°09′35″N0°15′55″E / 51.1598°N 0.2652°E / 51.1598; 0.2652

Southborough is a town and civil parish in the borough of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. It lies immediately to the north of the town of Tunbridge Wells and includes the district of High Brooms, with the A26 road passing through it. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 11,124. The town is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Origin of name

After the Norman Conquest, the area came within the domain of Tonbridge Castle, one of 4 boroughs to do so. This was the South Borough. [1]


Southborough separated from Tonbridge in 1871 when its own board of health was formed [ citation needed ]. In 1894, it was recreated to become an urban district, with its own elected council to manage its affairs. It retained that title until 1974, when under local government reorganisation it became a civil parish. By historical accident, however, Southborough had a Town Council, which it has retained.

Southborough Town Council consists of 18 members, from the three town wards: North (seven Councillors); West (six Councillors); and East/High Brooms (five Councillors). The posts of mayor and deputy mayor are elected annually. As with many other Parish Councils, its responsibilities are less than those of the local Borough Council. At the same time, Southborough is part of Tunbridge Wells borough: the two wards of that borough are Southborough and High Brooms (three councillors) and Southborough North (two). [2] [3] The town has its own grant of heraldry: this includes reference to the cricket ball industry and contains two sprigs of broom, alluding to High Brooms. [4]


The Southborough Society'’ [5] ("the civic, heritage and amenity society for Southborough") is the main source for many of the facts in this part of the article

The remains of an Iguanodon (135 million years ago) was discovered in High Brooms. Before the first millennium AD the land here was heavily forested; however some significant finds have revealed that it was inhabited. Arrowheads and stone axe heads provide evidence of ‘’'prehistoric'’’ habitation of Southborough while burial sites from both the Bronze and Iron Ages have also been unearthed. The site of the Castle Hill Iron Age Fort, dating back to 315 BC, lies in the Eastern valley. Routes linking other forts are still part of the town’s road network. Little is then known about the district until the Norman Conquest as it was the most sparsely populated part of the Weald due to the almost impenetrable forest.

Richard Fitz Gilbert (later de Clare) was rewarded for his part in the conquest with land; [6] one such grant was the Lowey of Tunbridge, an area of land equating with the holdings of a manor, which covered some 20,660 acres (8347h) on the Weald and across the River Medway valley. He was also granted the right to build a castle at Tonbridge.

The Manor of Southborough was one part of the Lowey. Over the following seven hundred years it had a chequered history. After Richard de Clare, it was held by the Audley and Stafford families until 1521, when Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was beheaded on Tower Hill and the estates reverted to the Crown. Henry VIII gave the (now separated from Tonbridge) estate to George Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn, whose fate he also suffered. It was then passed to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who later exchanged it for other estates. Under Elizabeth I it had again reverted to the Crown: she bestowed it on Sir Richard Sackville who sold it to Thomas Smythe of Westernhanger. He was commonly known as Customer Smythe, a "farmer" of the collection of customs and excise dues. In 1790 when Lady Smythe died the Manor was split up and sold; the Manor House of Great Bounds and the Manorial rights being purchased by the Earl of Darnley who in turn parted with it to James Alexander.

The whole area was part of the Royal forest of Southfrith until about the middle of the 16th century, reserved by royalty for hunting. The settlement consisted of a number of isolated hamlets including Nonsuch Green, Holden Corner, Modest Corner and a few houses near the Common. High Brooms was a desolate tract inhabited by Romany Gypsies, very many of Kent's population today will have Gypsy heritage - whether they choose to admit this is another matter.[ citation needed ]

From 1639, lodging houses appeared in Southborough to accommodate visitors to the newly discovered chalybeate spring at The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells. During the reign of King Charles I, the Cavalier faction tended to stay at Southborough, whilst nearby Rusthall tended to attract visitors from the Roundhead (puritan) faction. [7]

Industrial Southborough

Iron was worked in the area since prehistoric times, since the underlying rock (the iron-rich sandstone of the Hastings Beds which make up the Weald) provided the raw material. From the mid-16th century onwards there were a number of water-powered furnaces on the two streams running through the town: one at Modest Corner; and three on the Southborough Bourne. The latter included the Vauxhall Furnace, operating from at least 1552, near Mote Farm in what is now Vauxhall Lane: and the Brook (Broakes) Mill opened in 1553. The rock was dug from "bell pits", and iron smelted here was worked at a forge nearby.

The forges probably continued working until the 18th century when the making of iron became uneconomical and in 1771 the sites were taken over for gunpowder manufacturing hence the name Powder Mill Lane. The mill blew up shortly afterwards but was replaced and continued manufacturing gunpowder. By 1845 a cornmill had been erected on the site, which continued in operation until 1942 when it was demolished. There are now no traces of any industrial workings on the site.

Apart from that heavy industrial employment, people in Southborough were mainly occupied in Agriculture, Textiles and Transport: trades such as Blacksmiths, Coachbuilders and Harness makers.

With cricket being played on the common, it is perhaps logical that the town became renowned for the manufacture of cricket balls. The first recorded makers were Philip Wickham and Joseph Smith of Modest Corner and many other cricket ball makers set up business including Thomas Twort and John Martin in 1853.

Southborough began to expand rapidly from 1879 when the Holden Estate was sold and laid out to accommodate 165 new dwellings. The High Brooms Brick and Tile Company started to build houses for its employees and the area expanded: it is now an industrial estate.

Southborough Common

The Common of Southborough (now owned by the Town Council) has always been part of the Manorial Holding. It was originally around 30 acres (120,000 m2) larger but between 1790 and 1810 portions were enclosed so that the total area now is 71 acres (290,000 m2). Under the Commons Registration Act 1965, a number of persons registered their rights as Commoners.

In 2003, the whole area of the Common – a conservation area – was the subject of an appraisal by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The appraisal report seeks to retain the historical significance of the Common and its immediate area. [8]

Cricket has been played on the Common for over 200 years.


On 18 October 1992, Southborough twinned with the town of Lambersart, France. The Twinning Charter signed by both towns formally resolved to honour the twinning relationship by establishing and maintaining friendly relations with each other, to foster and develop mutual understanding and respect between the people of their respective administrative areas, to favour all kinds of links between the two regions especially in the educational and cultural fields, to encourage exchange visits and to develop human and cultural relationships and establish a firm foundation for future understanding, respect and friendship between their people for all time. To celebrate five years of twinning on 18 October 1997 Lambersart Close on the new Barnetts Wood housing estate was officially unveiled followed by a reception at the Salomons Estate.

A friendship between the towns of Southborough and Kaniv in Ukraine began in the year 2001, when representatives of the towns met at the European Project for Youth in Lambersart. The friendship developed strongly and in 2005 the Southborough and Kaniv Association (SAKA) was founded. Now citizens of Southborough visit Kaniv as welcome guests and citizens of Kaniv are similarly welcomed in Southborough. SAKA has its own website -


Southborough has long been associated with sport. Cricket has been played on the common for over 200 years and the town was a centre for cricket ball manufacture until 1978. [8] Southborough Cricket Club play on the common. Their ground was used a number of times by the Kent Women cricket team between 1957 and 1971 and B. M. Close's Ground, a ground to the east of the town, was used for one first-class cricket match by Kent County Cricket Club in 1867. [9] [10]

Southborough has three football clubs, the largest of these is Ridgewaye FC. Ridgewaye F.C. formed in 1995. It is the largest youth organisation in Southborough having 550 members in 2016. It has been an FA Community Standard Club for the past three years [since January 2013]. The membership consists of boys and girls aged from six to eighteen years of age who play on Saturday and Sunday mornings at the Ridgewaye fields, off Yew Tree Road, Southborough from September to May.


The Royal Victoria Hall Theatre was built in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, It opened in 1900. It was the first Municipal Theatre in England. unsympathetic Building alterations during the 1970s have prevented the Royal Victoria Hall from being listed. In January 2015, it was announced that the theatre would close after the end of the run of the pantomime Peter Pan . Demolition could follow, but a campaign to save the Theatre has begun. Thousands of signatures both online and by hand have been collected and presented to southborough Town Council. [11]

Notable people

Related Research Articles

Tonbridge Market town in Kent, England

Tonbridge is a market town in Kent, England, on the River Medway, 4 miles (6 km) north of Royal Tunbridge Wells, 12 miles (19 km) south west of Maidstone and 29 miles (47 km) south east of London. In the administrative borough of Tonbridge and Malling, it had an estimated population of 41,293 in 2018.

Royal Tunbridge Wells Town in Kent, England

Royal Tunbridge Wells, previously just Tunbridge Wells, is a town in western Kent, England, 30 miles (48 km) south-east of central London, close to the border with East Sussex upon the northern edge of the High Weald, whose sandstone geology is exemplified by the rock formations at the Wellington Rocks and High Rocks. The town came into being as a spa in the Restoration and enjoyed its heyday as a fashionable resort in the mid-1700s under Beau Nash when the Pantiles, and its chalybeate spring, attracted significant numbers of visitors who wished to take the waters. Though its popularity as a spa town waned with the advent of sea bathing, the town remains highly popular and derives some 30 per cent of its income from the tourist industry.

Tonbridge and Malling Non-metropolitan district in England

Tonbridge and Malling is a local government district with borough status in Kent, England. Its council is based in West Malling.

Borough of Tunbridge Wells Non-metropolitan district in England

The Borough of Tunbridge Wells is a local government district and borough in Kent, England. It takes its name from its main town, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Borough of Maidstone Non-metropolitan district in England

The Borough of Maidstone is a local government district with borough status in Kent, England. Its administrative centre is Maidstone, the county town of Kent.

Pembury Human settlement in England

Pembury is a large village in Kent, in the south east of England, with a population of 6,128 at the 2011 Census. It lies just to the north-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Cranbrook, Kent Human settlement in England

Cranbrook is a small town in the civil parish of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst, in the Weald of Kent in South East England. It lies roughly half-way between Maidstone and Hastings, about 38 miles (61 km) southeast of central London.

High Brooms railway station

High Brooms railway station is on the Hastings line in the south of England and serves High Brooms and Southborough in the borough of Tunbridge Wells, Kent. It is 32 miles 70 chains (52.9 km) down the line from London Charing Cross. The station and all trains serving it are operated by Southeastern.

Tunbridge Wells (UK Parliament constituency)

Tunbridge Wells is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2005 by Greg Clark, a Conservative who served as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from 2016 to 2019.

Capel, Kent Human settlement in England

Capel is a hamlet and civil parish in the borough of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. The parish is located on the north of the Weald, 3 miles (4.8 km) to the east of Tonbridge. The southern part of the parish lies within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, whilst most of the land also falls within the Metropolitan Green Belt. As well as Capel itself, the parish includes the communities of Castle Hill, Colts Hill, Five Oak Green, Postern, Tudeley and Whetsted.

Hawkenbury, Tunbridge Wells Human settlement in England

Hawkenbury is a small village area located in the south east of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.

Rusthall Human settlement in England

Rusthall is a village located approximately 2 miles to the west of the spa town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. The village grew up around a large property called "Rusthall" located on Rusthall Common.

2007 Tunbridge Wells Borough Council election

The 2007 Tunbridge Wells Borough Council election took place on 3 May 2007 to elect members of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in Kent, England. One third of the council was up for election and the Conservative party stayed in overall control of the council.

Staplehurst Human settlement in England

Staplehurst is a large village and civil parish in the borough of Maidstone in Kent, England, 9 miles (14 km) south of the town of Maidstone, home to approximately 2,600 households and 6,000 residents. The name Staplehurst comes from the Old English 'stapol' meaning a 'post, pillar' and 'hyrst', as a 'wooded hill'; therefore, 'wooded-hill at a post'. The village lies on the route of a Roman road, which is now incorporated into the course of the A229. The parish includes the village of Hawkenbury.

B. M. Close's Ground was a cricket ground at Southborough in the English county of Kent. The ground was established in 1859 by Robert Winnifrith on land owned by George Newnham and was described in 1862 as "one of the best cricket grounds in Kent". The first recorded match on the ground was in 1859, when a Tunbridge Wells side played a New All-England Eleven. In 1867, Kent County Cricket Club played a county match against Hampshire in the ground's only first-class cricket match.

Iden Green Human settlement in England

Iden Green is a small village, near Benenden, in the county of Kent. It belongs to the civil parish of Benenden and the Tunbridge Wells Borough District of Kent, in the South East of England.

Church of King Charles the Martyr, Royal Tunbridge Wells Church in Royal Tunbridge Wells, England

The Church of King Charles the Martyr is a Church of England parish church in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. It is a Grade I listed building.

Barnetts Wood

Barnett's Wood is a 12.4-hectare (31-acre) Local Nature Reserve in Southborough, on the northern outskirts of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It is owned by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and managed by Kent High Weald Project and the Friends of Barnett’s Wood.


  1. "British History Online". Archived from the original on 25 April 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  2. "Setting up parish wards, 2001". Archived from the original on 9 August 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  3. Southborough Town Council Archived 3 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "Southborough Town Council arms (inter alia". Archived from the original on 25 March 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  5. The Southborough Society Archived 31 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Notes on other lands granted to Fitzgilbert Archived 3 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Melville, L (1912): Society at Tunbridge Wells in the 18th Century. London: Eveleigh Nash (available at". Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  8. 1 2 Southborough Conservation Area Appraisal Archived 25 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine , Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, August 2003. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  9. Other matches played on The Common, Southborough Archived 9 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine , CricketArchive. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  10. Grounds Records in Kent County Cricket Club Annual 2017, pp. 210–211. Canterbury: Kent County Cricket Club.
  11. "Southborough Royal Victoria Hall theatre threatened with demolition". BBC News Online. Archived from the original on 7 January 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2015.