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Metro moves south east to a commuter town that’s finally holding its own, by Andrea Dean
Setting the scene
Tonbridge is perched on the River Medway, halfway between central London and the coast, and four miles north of Tunbridge Wells. Comparisons are often made between the two towns, with Tonbridge regarded as slightly scruffier and less stuffy. Fast becoming a highly desirable place to live, it boasts a long history, a 900-year-old castle and excellent schools. These include fee-paying Tonbridge School, founded in 1553, and three grammars: The Judd, Tonbridge Grammar and Weald of Kent.
Tonbridge has a healthy supply of Victorian and Edwardian properties, boosted by mid-20th-century through to modern developments.
‘Tonbridge is becoming the new Tunbridge Wells,’ says Jennifer Edmonds of estate agency Howard Cundey. ‘Prices were lower but are rising and will be level by mid-2015. Prices start at £125,000 for a one-bed flat and go up to £1.5million for a large house.’ Rents are from £600 a month.
New-builds are sprouting along the river. At Ward Homes’ Blossom Bank, three-bed houses start at £339,995. Waterside Reach from Redrow is a collection of apartments with open-plan living spaces. Two-bedders start at £239,995, and early next year Redrow launches Somerhill Green.
Centra Living, part of Circle Housing, has two shared ownership schemes. Two-bed flats at Scott Road are from £50,625 for a 25 per cent share of full market value £202,500, and two-bed apartments and three-bed houses at The Pinnacles start from £80,000 for a 40 per cent share of full market value £200,000.
Shops and entertainment
Plans to regenerate the town centre – which can’t compete with the Regency splendour of Tunbridge Wells – suffered a major setback when Sainsbury’s withdrew from the scheme.
However, there are some gems: Ian Chatfield is a top-notch butcher and deli, and Finch House is a highly rated café. There’s a Saturday market, and a farmers’ market on the second Sunday of the month. The Oast Theatre, Tonbridge Canoe Club and the Juddians Rugby Football Club are well-supported, and residents are gearing up for this weekend’s Christmas festival.
The straightforward commute is another plus point. Tonbridge is one of the south-east’s busiest stations, and trains take under 35 minutes into London Bridge, then continue on to Waterloo East and Charing Cross. An annual season ticket, covering travel in Zones 1-6, costs £4,524. A direct rail service runs to Ashford International for catching the Eurostar, and Dover and Folkestone are just over an hour’s drive along the M20 for people who prefer to take their car across the Channel, using the numerous ferry services available.