The History of Trinity Church and Cemetery
In 1824 Tunbridge Wells residents applied to the Church Commissioners Fund for new churches.
Trinity Church was designed by Decimus Burton. He was working on 24 houses in Calverley Park within the town.
The land for the church and graveyard was given by local property owner Mr Thomas Thomson who lived on the other side of Church Road, opposite the site of the new church.
A public appeal was made and lots of local people, including Thomas Thomson, donated towards the cost of the construction. The government paid for the rest. The first stone was laid in 1827 and the church was consecrated on 3 September 1829.
The church itself seated 1500 people, more than the current Assembly Hall Theatre. It was normally packed and you had to get there early.
Queen Victoria worshipped here when she visited the town.
Trinity Cemetery was the first burial ground in Tunbridge Wells. The first burial, Elizabeth Coxhead aged 14, took place in April 1830. By the mid 1840s the cemetery was full and only people who had previously bought a plot could be buried there. The final burial, Harriet Annesley aged 87, took place in 1907.
As the old chapel was found not to afford sufficient accommodation for the increased number of residents, and the great influx of visitors during the season; a meeting of the inhabitants was held on the 25th of August, 1824, to consider the necessity of erecting an additional place of worship in the principles of the established church. The Rev. Martin Benson presided, and in addition to a liberal subscription entered into, an application was made to the Commissioners for building churches, for their assistance in promoting this desirable object. This having been granted, and a suitable piece of ground purchased near the Calverley Property, the first stone was laid on the Duchess of Kent’s birthday, 17 August 1827.
The building was completed in about two years, and on 3 September 1829, it was consecrated, with the accustomed ceremonies, by the Bishop of Rochester, attended by Dr. Lushington, Chancellor of the Diocese; the Rev. W. L. Pope, who officiated for the Vicar of Tunbridge, the Rev. H. A. Woodgate, the Churchwardens, and the building Committee assisting on the occasion. The public were admitted by tickets, and the ceremony was attended by most of the respectable inhabitants.
The Church, called “Holy Trinity”, is a handsome structure in the style of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and is seen to great advantage from many parts of the common. Decimus Burton, Esq. was the Architect, and Messrs. Barrett, of Tunbridge Wells, were the Builders. It cost upwards of £12,000, although the stone used in the building was procured from the Calverley quarry, in the immediate neighbourhood of the church. There is no endowment for the Clergyman, whose income is derived form the Pew Rents. The repairs of the church are paid from a Church Rate, levied as may be required. The Benefice is at present in the gift of the Rev. Sir Charles Hardinge, Bart. – afterwards the presentation will be in the hands of John Deacon, Esq., of Quarry Hill. There are about 1500 sittings, nearly one half of which are free. The present Incumbent if the Rev. I. N. Pearson. There is a house, called the Parsonage house, situated near the New Market, belonging to the Marquis of Bristol, which, it is said, this munificent nobleman has recently conveyed to the Church for the use of the Incumbent, and that it is about to undergo some extensive alterations.
The Clerk is Mr. J. B. Hasting, Priory Cottage, near the church, where Sittings may be obtained. Divine Service is performed on Sundays, at 11 in the morning, and at 1/2 past 3 in the afternoon, (in the winter at 3.) The Sacrament is administered on the third Sunday in the month. A Sunday School is established here for girls and boys, which is attended by nearly 150 scholars.
Extracted from “Colbran’s New Guide for Tunbridge Wells”published 1840 (Page 93 and 94)
1974 - 1977
In 1974 the church was deemed redundant and de-consecrated. By 1977 a local fundraising campaign raised £50,000 for a new arts and community centre and the first iteration of Trinity Theatre was born.
Although the church itself has been deconsecrated, the cemetery remains consecrated ground as there are burials within. Permission has to be sought from the diocese of Rochester for any changes to the cemetery.
Your family history...
Do you have any interesting stories to share about any of your ancestors who may have been baptized, married or buried at Holy Trinity? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Please email them to us. We’d also love to see any old photographs you have of the church and its surroundings.