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Trinity Arts Centre (Formerly Holy Trinity Church), Royal Tunbridge Wells

Description: Trinity Arts Centre (Formerly Holy Trinity Church)

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 20 May 1952
English Heritage Building ID: 167949

OS Grid Reference: TQ5837539492
OS Grid Coordinates: 558375, 139492
Latitude/Longitude: 51.1328, 0.2622

Location: 8 Church Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1JT

Locality: Royal Tunbridge Wells
Local Authority: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: TN1 1JT

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Listing Text

872/2/73 CHURCH ROAD
872/3/73 (North side)
20-MAY-52 Trinity Arts Centre (formerly Holy Tri
nity Church)

(Formerly listed as:
Holy Trinity Church)

1827-9 by Decimus Burton. Converted into an arts centre in 1981.

MATERIALS: Local tooled sandstone ashlar.

PLAN: Nave, N and S aisles, small chancel, W tower, vestibules N and S of the tower, NE vestry.

EXTERIOR: An impressive piece of Gothic Revival urban-building in the late 1820s. Although the overall lines of the church are Perpendicular, much of the detailing is from earlier medieval periods. The dominant element is the division of the aisle walls into six bays divided by buttresses with offsets, between each of which is a two-light window within deep reveals and containing acutely pointed Y-tracery with cusping. All parts of the church have shallow embattled parapets, apart from the chancel and E face of the nave where the parapet is plain. The E window is broadly based on work of the early C14 and has four lights with a ten-foiled circle in the head. The W end is symmetrically arranged about the W tower. This has angle buttresses and three loosely-defined stages. The first stage is by far the tallest and incorporates a plain moulded W doorway above which is a two-light square-headed window. Apart from on the E face there is then a short clock stage, above which comes the belfry level with two-light windows under a crocketed ogee canopy. The top of the tower is finished off with large corner pinnacle and a pierced parapet with small gablets in the middle of each face. Either side of the tower are vestibules with N and S entrances and which lead to stairs to the galleries.

INTERIOR: The interior has been much altered following conversion to an arts centre but the form of the arcades is still clearly visible with five bays with clustered columns and moulded capitals. Above is an awkward junction between the moulded arches and a vertical continuation of the piers which rise straight upwards to meet the flat ceiling.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Following conversion to an arts centre the W part of the main space is filled with raked seating. There are meeting room, café and kitchen spaces on the ground floor but the galleries to a large extent survive. The E window of c1830 also survives and is an important example of pre-Victorian painted glass: it has figures of the Evangelists set under scrolls and canopies. Two good monuments survive at the W end to Maria Thomas (d. 1833) by William Behnes, and also to Lt Charles Newton (d. 1843) by Richard Westmacott junior.

HISTORY: The building occupies a prominent position in the centre of Tunbridge Wells and was the first church to be built in the town in the C19. It marked one end of Decimus Burton¿s Calverley estate. Unfortunately the buildings which linked it to the Calverley estate have gone, swept away by the C20 civic centre development. The church cost, £10,591, and was paid for mainly by the Church Building Commissioners (£8,059). The builders were Henry and Aaron Barrett of Tunbridge Wells. The completed church provided 1,500 seats, 939 of which were unappropriated. In the later C20 it was threatened with demolition by the Church Commissioners but found a future as an arts centre and is in daily use.
The 1820s saw a considerable expansion of Anglican church-building as efforts were made to provide places of worship in towns which were inadequately provided with them. In some cases, as here, the Church Building Commission played an important role. The resultant buildings varied considerably in quality and style with Gothic gradually assuming the ascendancy. At Holy Trinity, Decimus Burton produced a building of considerable presence which is important in the townscape of Tunbridge Wells. Although the proportions are typical of Commissioners' churches, his detailing is more solid and genuinely medieval than was usual, although there is no mistaking the fact that this is a church of its time. Before the 1840s such churches lacked long chancels but these were usually replaced in the Victorian period with ones that emulated medieval precedent. The short projection at Holy Trinity is, therefore, a relatively rare example of the survival of the pre-Victorian arrangement. The conversion to an arts centre in the late C20 has had no significant impact upon the exterior while the interior still retains its arcades, much of the galleries, and an important example of pre-Victorian glass painting.

Decimus Burton (1800-81) began his career in the office of his father James, who was a London builder, and then worked for the architect George Maddox (1760-1843). He began his independent career as an architect in 1821 and retired from the profession in 1869. He became architect to the Royal Botanic Society in 1841. He was succeeded in the practice by his nephew Henry Marley Burton (d 1880). His output was considerable, and his reputation remains high; his contribution to the expansion of Tunbridge Wells was very significant.

Roger Homan, The Victorian Churches of Kent, 1984, p 97.
John Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, 1969, pp 556-7.
Michael Port: Six Hundred New Churches: The Church Building Commission 1818-1856, 2006, p 334,
Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1995, pp 194-6, esp. 196.

Trinity Arts Centre, formerly Holy Trinity church, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is a fine example of late Georgian church-building in the Gothic style by a well-known architect and which was an important element in the architectural evolution of Tunbridge Wells in the early C19.
* Although much altered internally it still retains fixtures of interest, most notably an important example of pre-Victorian glass painting in the E window.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.