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Whats in a name:

One story sugests the town got its name from the many bridges that crossed over the river Medway in the town. There were 5 streams in the town so the name Tonbridge shortened from the word  “Town of Bridges  Town of Bridges






Tonbridge was recorded in the Domesday Book 1087 as Tonebrige, It may indicate a bridge belonging to the estate or manor (from the Old English tun), or alternatively a bridge belonging to Tunna, a common Anglo-Saxon man’s name.



The 'Tonbridge' name, in the late 1800's was actually known as Tunbridge, old maps prior to this date show it as such.  In the late 1890's/early 1900's this was changed by the Royal Mail as it caused confusion with Tunbridge Wells a much more recent town. The latter has always spelt its name that way.



1782 Map

 Not Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge wells was always known as the Wells near Tunbridge then the springs were discovered in 1606 then in 1909 King Edward VII recognised the town because of the springs and gave the town its official "Royal" title Royal Tunbridge Wells but Tonbridge is the older town.

If you look around the town on old buildings you can see different spellings of the name Tonbridge.

TUNBRIDGE proposed change of the name to TONBRIDGE

Since long before the 16th century the town had been spelt as TUNBRIDGE.

From the early 1800s the town was being spelt both with a U or an O. The town’s local board was formed in 1870 and they agreed to the commercial spelling of the town and this was to be TONBRIDGE. One of the town’s local board members was a Mr. Thomas Pawley the proprietor of the Rose and Crown Hotel in the high street. From 1860c – 1890c you can see clearly the two spellings TUNBRIDGE &TONBRIDGE in various documents maps prints and in the town itself.

Thomas Pawley had his bottles changed from a U to an O around 1870, although a high percentage the community adopted the spelling TONBRIDGE not everyone agreed the post office continued to use the spelling TUNBRIDGE and did not agree to use the O until February 1893 with the official name change and then it was adopted fully by the community.

Below is a copy of the postmaster general proposing the change of the towns spelling from TUNBRIDGE to TONBRIDGE dated 7th February 1893


TUNBRIDGE proposed change of the name to TONBRIDGE

The Postmaster General, I submit Memorials from the Tunbridge local board and the Ratepayers Associations, asking that the spelling Tonbridge may be adopted by the department.

As it appears to be from the Surveyors report that the form of the name is commonly adopted by public bodies and the residents in the town generally.

I think the request should be granted and if you approve I will issue instructions for the Name to be spelt on the date stamps and on all official documents.

7th February 1893   

The post office agreed and the Tunbridge became Tonbridge on the 4th Mach 1893


To fall perfectly in line with this is Bottle from John Salkeld Horsley the owner of the B Mineral water company at the Masonic Buildings next to the Great Bridge.  Horsley started business in 1887 when the new buildings where built and continued to trade until 1893.

 All Bottles from the company the B under Horsley have been spelt TUNBRIDGE until this nice find with the spelling TONBRIDGE which was the year Horsley sold the business to Hugh Nicholls in April y 1893.


This was sadly being then End of the spelling TUNBRIDGE, a nice historical bottle that falls perfectly in line with the change.  Hugh Nicholls continued the trade at the Masonic Building still using the name the B but all bottles produced after where spelt TONBRIDGE.

Yet even though sadly we changed the name still today many of the locals pronounce the town TONBRIDGE sounding the U – TUN.  It’s a bit like the way many pronounce London sounding a U  Lun.
















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