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Why is Tonbridge called Tonbridge?

Why is Tonbridge called Tonbridge?

Tonbridge, a bustling town with a busy town centre, things to do and busy people; a world away from the place it was in 1087 when Tonebrige was mentioned in the Domesday book. Since then, a variety of names has been featured in the history books including Tonebrugga, Tonebricge and Tunbryega. The town took on the Tun spelling of the name with Tunbridge in the 16th century and then reverted back to Ton in 1870 when the similarity to nearby Tunbridge Wells caused too much confusion for the Post Office! Many argued that being the older of the two places, Tonbridge should have been able to keep its original name.


So, why Tonebrige

Tonbridge today features a river and several streams throughout the town and one school of thought says that the brige component related to the number of bridges that would have been required to pass over the water. Whilst, ‘town of bridges’ could have been the inspiration for Tonebrige nearly 1000 years ago, a contradicting argument states that this was a time preceding the use of the word ‘bridge’ so simply could not be feasible!

tonbridge howard cundey

Credit – Pete Chapman

Other suggestions:
-A man called Tunna built a bridge in the town
-The nearby river was previously called the river Tone
-‘burig’ meant fort so Tonbrige equated to ‘Town with a fort’.
-‘tun’ has previously been known to mean ‘farm’ in older language so the town could have been named after a farm featuring a bridge
In short, no one really knows but everyone seems to have their own favorite explanation and it doesn’t really matter as long as we’re not mistaken for Tunbridge Wells!

What’s your favourite theory?


Tonbridge Howard Cundey

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Sources – Tonbridge History, Tonbridge Collectables Featured image – Clem Rutter