Lost loos of Tunbridge Wells

From February/March Tunbridge Wells ‘Town Crier’ magazine:

Almost as soon as I sent in my Town Crier piece for January, all about The Forum, another gig was announced. Organised by the group behind the Pootings village festival ‘Poofest’, the gig – ‘Loofest’ – will be raising funds to help renovate The Forum’s toilets. Along with (hopefully) a Community Capital Grant from the council, a disabled toilet will be installed (as well as a hearing loop). It’s been about a year since meeting someone from Attitude is Everything about how to help make the venue more accessible to all.

It does seem rather amusing that the toilets are one of the last improvements to be made at the venue, as the building heads towards it’s 80th anniversary of being built, and being the largest toilet block in Europe. Replacing a blacksmiths and fire engine station, Fonthill is one of very few buildings on The Common, and was built as rest-rooms for those walking on The Common. Back in the 1930s there were tea rooms along The Pantiles – but one wonders what their toilet provision was like, that the council felt such a large block of toilets was necessary.

It reminded me that at ‘Fiveways’ there was a block of Victorian underground toilets. Named Fiveways as five roads met at this junction, the toilets were at the end of Mount Ephraim Road and Lime Hill Road (see photo). In attempting to find out about this area I found “Fifty years of pedestrianised plans as told in Courier headlines”. It was in the 1960s that first plans were drawn up to ‘improve’ the town, including a one-way gyratory ring road. Opposition, and a lack of funds, meant the plan was put on hold. Parts of this plan had included a shopping centre and pedestrianising Monson Road. It was Easter Sunday 1981 when the first “Day of the Walker” was held, with temporary barriers either end of Calverley Road at Camden Road and Grosvenor Road. After further experiments this area was pedestrianised in 1985, followed by plans to build Royal Victoria Place. In 1990 an idea was put forward to demolish Starline Taxi offices in Lime Hill Road, demolish the Victorian toilets, and change the road layout to make a town square. It was seen that the toilets ‘could no longer meet public demand’, although there didn’t seen to be any plan to build new ones!

It was 1998 before this plan went ahead, including commissioning and installing the Millennium clock, and was followed shortly by re-landscaping the Calverley Road precinct, to allow cafés to put tables outside. I guess during that decade, the opening of Royal Victoria Place in 1992 provided enough toilets for the town.

Other lost toilets are along Camden Road, where a Victorian toilet was by St Barnabas School, and a more modern block by St Barnabas Church. The most bizarre was a gentleman’s pissoir in Goods Station Road, dating back to 1866, about where the back entrance to Fenwicks now is. Remembered by Fred Scales (who sent me the Fiveways photo) as being there in the 1940s and known as The Pepperpot, it was located almost opposite Sawyer’s Fish shop… what a pleasant thought!

If you are interested in helping fund-raise for The Forum, and get their toilets fit for the 21st century, click on poofest.co.uk – headline act Roxxon certainly got the crowd dancing at Poofest last August, so should be a good night for a good cause.

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