The foundation stone of the Opera House was laid on 10th October 1901 by Mayor W. H. Delves and Sir Beerbohm Tree. It opened in 1902. After a period as a bingo hall, it now houses a wine bar, although the interior has been preserved.
The card below shows the facade, and was posted in 1904, only two years after the opera house opened. The publisher is not identified on the card. The railings of the Congregational Church are in the right foreground. There is a recent picture of the same view in my Photograph Album.
J Salmon employed an artist, F W Burton, to paint the busy image below. It is No. 813.
The view below is from a hand coloured postcard with no identifiable publisher, just a number A 06721. However I believe it dates from very soon after the opera house was completed. Everything looks so new and clean. In addition the wall on the right looks lower and of different masonry to the stone wall visible in later pictures. There is a modern picture taken from a similar location in my Photograph Album.
This next view from a Valentine's Series postcard (38912), was posted in 1906. The buildings on the right are Calverley Parade were designed by Decimus Burton and built about 1830. They were demolished, together with most of his Calverley Terrace which faced south into Crescent Road, to make way for the Civic Centre in about 1938/39. The location of the original Tunbridge Wells Telephone Exchange can be identified by the mast on the extreme right. Tunbridge Wells was amongst the first to have a public telephone service.
Here is another card, number 20015, published by Photochrom, with a closer view of the opera house and showing the Decimus Burton buildings more clearly.
Here is a detail from the card above showing the statue of Hermes surmounting the central dome.
The card shown below is number 50551 in the Celesque Series produced by the Photochrom Company, Tunbridge Wells. The date 1920/30 judging by the costume. Interestingly, the statue previously on top of the central dome seems to have been removed.
I enquired about this matter to Tunbridge Wells museum; Dr Ian Beavis has informed me that the bronze figure of Hermes was removed in the 1920s, although the reason why is unclear. Some books have claimed it was due complaints about the statue's nakedness, however a more likely explanation is that the statue became unsafe and was in danger of falling into the street. The figure was seen in the basement of the opera house some decades later, however a search in the 1980's failed to find it. Rumours are that it is decorating someone's garden today - it would be nice if it could be returned to its proper place.
A canopy or porch has also been erected on the pavement in front of the entrance and the copper domes have gone green with verdigris. The tree on the right has grown significantly too!
The Opera house is also visible on some of the pictures of Mount Pleasant Road.
Scanned antique postcards
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