Hold the thin blue line in Tunbridge Wells

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GRANDE HEURE: The police station in the 1960s. Photo: Kent Police

Tunbridge Wells Police Station has been a part of the town for over 80 years, but its future remained uncertain after Kent Police moved most of its officers to Tonbridge. Here, Victoria Roberts and local photographer Emily Harding take an exclusive look inside the station and reveal some of its rich and fascinating history…

Tunbridge Wells Police Station was built in 1939. Along with the Assembly Hall, it was the only part of the civic complex to be built before the war, following a design competition held by the town in 1934 .

The ground floor constituted the working police station with a charge room, an investigation room, a telephone room, a parade and instruction room, six cells and a yard for the exercise of prisoners.

Meanwhile, the Magistrates’ Court occupied the first floor.

There were different stairways leading to the courtroom, depending on whether you were a prisoner that went straight from the cells to the dock…

… or a free member of society who could walk the ceremonial route of the main staircase with finely molded handrails, or the two additional staircases, with sleek Art Deco balustrades from the 1930s.

Kent Police curator Paul Upton pointed to architectural similarities to Tunbridge Wells Police Station, which later became Kent Police Headquarters – at Sutton Road in Maidstone – and the police station of Dover, both built in the same period.

“They have the same style and feel – definitely the brick facades and the sash windows and the square, almost Regency style. Dover has a similar classic style.

“At the start of the Second World War, there were nine of these district police stations [in Kent]. But on April 1, 1943, there was a temporary but mandatory merger with the Kent County Constabulary.

‘The Wartime Emergency Measure was made permanent in 1947, after the Police Act (1946), meaning Kent remained the policing authority,’ he added.

The building in Tunbridge Wells remained a working police station, but the magistrates’ court closed in 2000.

PALACE OF JUSTICE: The magistrates no longer sit in the courtroom of the police station

Today, the courtroom is empty, although it recently hosted a live theater production.

After the Tonbridge Police Station was built, he eventually took control of the Tunbridge Wells rosters, as well as some of its officers.

Tonbridge became the prisoner holding station, leaving the Tunbridge Wells cells redundant. Still, there have been some initiatives to relocate policing, such as the 2002 introduction of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), whose role is to be visible in the community.

Today, the police station serves as a base for local police units, the PCSOs, and serves as the headquarters of a local domestic violence charity.

UNLOCKED: The station cell block is now
used to house lockers and for storage

Police station not for sale

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Scott said Tunbridge Wells remained an “active” police station and Kent Police had no plans to sell the building.

Despite discussions over the past decade about redevelopment of the civic center site, which would have included the police selling off the Tunbridge Wells police station, Mr Scott has repeatedly stressed that the building will remain in police hands .

Addressing the Times last week he reiterated his commitment to keeping the station open in the city.

He said: “Tunbridge Wells remains an active police station, serving as a base for both officers and staff, including PCSOs.

“The front counter also remains open to the public and we allow the excellent charity DAVSS (Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services) to use part of the building. At this time, there are no plans to change this.

New photos from the police station: Emily Harding

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