THIS SITE TAKES SHAPE largely through people's reactions and contributions, so feel free to EMAIL if you have any suggestions. Click on the map left for enlargement.
There is also a Rusthall Village Association for anyone interested in getting involved in local politics. It aims to give residents a voice in how they would like the village improved, and act as a channel to voice local opinion to the Rusthall Parish Council which can then pressure Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to make (or not, of course) changes.
THE ANONYMOUS LOOKING ROAD at the top was once the main Coach Road of this part of the Weald when it was still all wild, tangled forest. A superhighway of several centuries ago, to service which the Red Lion was originally built in the 15th century at Lower Green, a few bends straight ahead and out of view.
Another survivor from those times is Two Yews Cottage (right and on the far side of the crossroads in the picture above) which is possibly the oldest building in the Tunbridge Wells area, sitting as it does beside the old Coach Road. On the left is Rusthall's most famous landmark - the Toad Rock in Denny Bottom.
One attraction of Rusthall is that it has an astonishing range of shops and services for a village of this size, plus a restaurant, cafe and several takeaways. These are enough for most residents' daily needs, but if they want more, Tunbridge Wells is only a mile or so away, and from there it's only an hour to London on the train. There's a regular bus but many locals prefer to walk to the town anyway, which you can do mostly through woodland. And that is another charm, because despite all its amenities the village is surrounded by woods and common land.
It's ideal dog-walking territory because pick almost any direction and you'll soon find yourself in countryside or woods. One way is Rusthall Common leading to St Pauls Church, Happy Valley, the Beacon Hotel, High Rocks and many other places.
In another, beyond the Red Lion, you'll find Shadwell Woods leading to Speldhurst. While in a third direction we have the wonderful and surprisingly little known treasure of Hurst Woods, one of the prettiest bluebell woods around, which in the 1980s was rescued by the Woodland Trust from becoming a housing estate. Click on the picture on the right for a set of photos taken there.
For the energetic thereís a lovely circular walk through Hurst Woods to Speldhurst and then back through Shadwell Woods to Lower Green in Rusthall, with pubs along the way should you need refreshment.
Photo by Allan 'Jif' Peters.
Moon Over Denny Bottom
Painting by Allan 'Jif' Peters.
To the purists Denny Bottom means just the area of Rusthall around the Toad Rock enclosed by Woodside Road and Harmony, Upper and Apsley Streets, but effectively it includes the rest of Woodside Road, Grange Road, Rusthall Park and Rustwick too. Bretland Road is debatable. Until a hundred odd years ago much of it was smallholdings and a sandstone quarry, one of several dotted around Tunbridge Wells to provide stones for the wealthy mansions of the town and also, possibly, St Paul's church on the Common nearby.
Click HERE for more paintings of Denny Bottom by Allan 'Jif' Peters.
The southern corner of the area was once known as
Little Denny Bottom Meadow
and was run as a smallholding. Click on the map of Denny Bottom left for an enlargement.
Denny Bottom was also one of Tunbridge Wellsís laundry areas. The pub was in fact once the main laundry but several other houses nearby shared the load. Washing would be carted up from the town to be scrubbed and hung out on the rocks and gorse bushes of the Common to dry.
The Toad Rock Retreat had parts that were said to date back to the 18th century until it burned down in 1998 and had to be completely rebuilt.
It was originally three cottages knocked into one apparently, but these had been so chopped and changed over the years that basically all that remained of them were some internal walls, the main chimney and the front of the Games room. Apparently the pub also burned down in the 1930s. Certainly it was extensively rebuilt then, so much of the outer structure dated from then. Half the neighbours who happened to be at home that day were standing just behind the camerawoman, whose great shot appeared on the front page of the local Kent and Sussex Courier. The firemen disapproved of this 'gawping' and tried to encourage people to go home, but to many locals it was like watching an old friend die and they were ignored.
(Right) The 1998 fire.
(Left) A steel engraving from around 1830 showing (probably no more accurately than the Toad itself) the cottages that were later to become the Toad Rock Retreat.
The new Toad Rock Retreat is as faithful a recreation of the old building as possible with new materials and building regulations. In fact for a while people revisiting after a few years often assumed that the old place had just been spruced up.
As with many pubs, its fortunes have varied enormously in the years since reopening, sometimes thriving and sometimes not. It has even closed down completely a couple of times but it is currently prospering again under new landlords Nick and Shelley. If you want a meal it's usually best to book in advance. The menu is broad and tasty and there are usually several real ales to choose from. Click
HERE to visit their website.
Besides the pub, the main draw for visitors to Denny Bottom is the Toad Rock and its surrounding outcrop, plus the sands and Bullís Hollow through the woods which offers challenging routes for serious climbers. These rocks have provided generations of kids with the next best thing to the seaside. All the rocks have different names, some of which date back at least a century, and there are certain jumps or climbs which are rites of passage for the kids.
Occasionally there are accidents and children have broken ankles and so on but remarkably few, considering. Perhaps this is because the rocks have been so worn by their feet that routes are clearly recognisable. Also the kids seem to keep an eye on each other.
Until the 1980s the attractions of Denny Bottom were curiously unreflected in property values. In the early 50s a whole terrace between the old Scout Hut and shop (opposite the pub) was demolished because the seven houses were deemed simply not worth repairing. In the 70s there was even talk of knocking down the whole area and starting again, so houses could be picked up for a song (i.e. £800 in one case in Harmony Street). In the early 80s one could still buy a house in Upper Street opening onto the Common for the same as an equivalent building on the far side of the town facing the gasworks. Which was lucky for those of us who moved in then.
Now you have to pay a bit of a premium, but the complications of parking keep prices from spinning completely out of control.
For a history of the small businesses that have come and gone in Denny Bottom, below are a couple of articles by local historian Dennis Penfold, that were first published in the St Paul's News in 2003
DENNY BOTTOM I
DENNY BOTTOM II
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