Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer and in this episode he is in search of the spring water of a Spa town in Kent.The Chalybeate of Tunbridge Wells – that’s pronounced ‘kal-eeb-ee-ot’ by the way, means iron water. In the programme to be aired on the Community Channel early next year, Richard will tell how the original orange coloured waters were discovered, by whom and how a fashionable resort arose from nothing at the beginning of the 17th century.
This is the 8th full length in the series of programmes, funding by Richard and some of his followers. You can help fund the next episode by making a donation on the right of the website.
Work is nearly complete on the next Bald Explorer episode, Taking the Waters; a documentary about the discovery of the spring water at Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. However, there are still a few things to make it complete and hopefully assist the telling of the story.
When filming, particularly on a limited budget, it isn’t always possible to match the same production values as the big boys. The BBC love to take their presenters into museum archives and have them presenting pieces to camera while at the same time handling original texts, books and scrolls. It is as if they need to demonstrate visually that what they are telling the audience is factually true. To be honest, I do wonder how many people would know whether the so-called 17th century manuscript written on vellum and scrawled in ink by a quill pen is genuine, or that it is the book in question or even if it proclaims the things we are being told. We have to take all this on face value – but they do love to show you this type of thing, so you can ‘believe’ it is authentic.
I am afraid, I do have to cheat a little here. Whilst I try to give an as honest account as possible, I cannot pretend to be a leading authority on any subject, nor do I have the money to access the genuine original materials – but I am not really sure that I need to in order to tell the same story convincingly.
However, cheating is really only there to help the message be understood. For example, in the first picture, (above) you will see me sitting in my kitchen with a few samples of what looks like chalybeate water. Chalybeate is actually crystal clear if taken from source, but it does contain quite a large amount of iron, which leaves an orange tinge in the glass. I filmed watered down Ironbru to colour the water slightly. I wanted to distinguish it from tap water and I am hopeful that using this commercial product it would even contain an element of iron!
Secondly, my kitchen is old fashioned, and no science lab – so to give it the feel of authenticity and help paint the picture of an old Victorian chemist’s lab, I added in post production a couple of period medical posters. Yes, they were not there when we filmed, but adding them afterwards gives the impression of a laboratory without me actually saying I am in one. Dramatic licence at work here, I think.
I also used a little computer graphics to create imagery of the original Pantiles and source of the spring water. We know from historical text it was surrounded by a shed and small fence and we are told a number of timber framed properties were built in close proximity before the current constructions were erected. I haven’t found any reference material for these early buildings so I have made an educated guess and the short animation is merely there to illustrate the descriptions.
The main aim of all this deceit, if one wants to call it that, is really to engage with the viewer, encourage people to either read further about the subject or visit the spring waters for themselves and make up their own minds.
The programme will be broadcast in the new year on the Community Channel. I make these programmes for free and as yet I do not gain an income from them. If you would like to help get these episodes produced and get to view the finished documentary before its first transmission, then please visit the website and make a small donation. You can find the Payal button on the right hand side. Thank you very much.
As you may be aware, I am currently making another long format episode of the Bald Explorer about the subject of water. Not any old water you that might find in your tap or down a well – this is Chalybeate spring water, stacked with iron and coloured with an orange tinge. There are quite a few springs up and down the country like this and many located in famous resorts – Bath, Epsom and Harrogate. The BE is interested in one discovered by a nobleman while convalescing at the beginning of the 1600s in an area we now call Royal Tunbridge Wells. A place where gentry and royalty came in large numbers to be seen and parade along the Pantiles at the height of the Georgian period.
In 1841, Augustus Granville published the second volume of his well researched book, The Spas of England which concentrated on his travels in the Midlands and South of that country. He was an eminent physician who had previously brought out a guide to the spas of Germany – a country renown for their love and fascination with health giving water.
Granville worked his way round the country, describing not only the facilities which the Spa towns had to offer, but also tit bits of information about the locality, eating places and hotels. He stayed at Tunbridge Wells for a short, but didn’t have too many good things to stay about it. On one occasion, when in Buxton, Derbyshire, staying at the Crescent hotel, a hugely popular and expensive mansion of a place, the general manageress asked him if he was the same A.B. Granville that authored the work on Spas of Germany to which he bashfully confessed he was. She lampooned immediately, nearly casting him asunder from her hotel – the reason she exclaimed was that by telling the readers of his book how marvelous it was in Germany, most of her wealthy customers had lost interest in the English Spa scene and had disappeared abroad – many never returned.
The work is a little out of date, of course, but aside from the information on spring water and health advice bathing in the sea, it is a jolly good read.
I am hoping to have the programme finished and delivered to the Community Channel by January 2014 and no doubt it will transmitted soon after.
The Bald Explorer is a self funded TV documentary series and if you have enjoyed the programmes, you help is always appreciated. You may donate, if you like, to help me cover the costs of production by using the Paypal button to the right hand side of the website. Thank you so much.
In the next Bald Explorer programme, hopefully aired on the Community Channel in 2014, I am in search of the spring water of a Spa town in Kent. I am referring to Chalybeate of Tunbridge Wells – that’s pronounced ‘kal-eeb-ee-ot’ by the way, meaning iron water. I want to tell how the original orange coloured waters were discovered, by whom and how a fashionable resort arose from nothing at the beginning of the 17th century. Jason Reeve, my son Billy and myself have been stalking around the Kentish weald with camera and tripod, boom pole and microphone getting the facts (as far as they are known) onto digital media. I will be editing the footage and shaping it up into a TV programme fairly soon. There is still much, however, to do.
Today, for example, I was over at an actor friend of mine’s abode shooting a short sequence depicting the eminent physician and Spa enthusiast, Augustus Granville, who wrote an entertaining book The Spas of England, published in 1841. He wasn’t terribly impressed with the spring water or the resort when he visited at the beginning of the Victorian period, although to be fair to the town of Tunbridge Wells, it was a few years after its most fashionable period, the 18th Century. He bemoaned that few used the cold bath and that there was little mineral quality to the famous water. Nick Scahill, who collects all things Victorian, agreed very kindly to play the part of Granville.
The wells, named after the local medieval town of Tunbridge (now spelt Tonbridge and four miles to the north) are located in an area known as the Pantiles. It has nothing to do with the architectural titles you find on roof tops. These were small square clay fired titles baked in special pans and laid on a walkway in front of the spring head. Unfortunately, they have now gone, but the name lingers on, much to the confusion of visitors and no doubt some residents of the town.
I am hoping to film in the privately owned Pantiles area very soon and obtain an interview a Dipper (a lady in traditional dress who dishes out the water for tourists to taste) and record a conversation with the curator of the Tunbridge Wells museum about the fine Tunbridge Ware that became all the rage in 1700s.
Don’t forget, you can help make the Bald Explorer programmes happen by making a small donation via the special button on the right hand side of the website. The shows are completely self-funded for transmission on the Community Channel which is a not-for-profit TV station. If you do make a contribution, I will make sure you get to see a copy of the finished episode before it is broadcast. Thank you very much.
The Bald Explorer is back and the next production is under way (Autumn 2013). In this episode, ‘Taking the Waters’, Richard Vobes, aka the Bald Explorer is investigating the story of the spring water discovered at a spot near the medieval town of Tonbridge in Kent – later it was to become Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Richard wants to find out what makes the water so good, how it became popular and why is there today for visitors who are keen to make the excursions today.
This is a teaser video, partly filmed on the common near Royal Tunbridge Wells (www.twcommons.org) and at High Rocks, a popular tourist resort and wedding venue (www.highrocks.com). The full production will be available in early 2014 on the Community Channel (www.communitychannel.org).
Follow him on Twitter: @BaldExplorer or Richard Vobes @Vobes.
Crew: Producer/Presenter – Richard Vobes. Photography – Jason Reeve. Sound – Billy Lindsey.