51°16′59″N 0°21′00″E / 51.283°N 0.350°E / 51.283; 0.350

Tonbridge and Malling
Tonbridge Castle
Tonbridge and Malling shown within Kent
Tonbridge and Malling shown within Kent
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Non-metropolitan countyKent
StatusNon-metropolitan district
Admin HQWest Malling
Incorporated1 April 1974
 • TypeNon-metropolitan district council
 • BodyTonbridge and Malling Borough Council
 • MPsTracey Crouch
Tom Tugendhat
 • Total92.71 sq mi (240.13 km2)
 • Rank136th (of 296)
 • Total133,661
 • Rank179th (of 296)
 • Density1,400/sq mi (560/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code29UP (ONS)
E07000115 (GSS)
OS grid referenceTQ6386756441

Tonbridge and Malling is a local government district with borough status in Kent, England. The council is based at Kings Hill. The borough also includes the towns of Tonbridge and Snodland along with numerous villages including Aylesford, West Malling and surrounding rural areas.

The neighbouring districts are Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Gravesham and Medway.


Tonbridge and Malling Borough covers an area from the North Downs at Burham and Snodland in the north to the town of Tonbridge in the south. The River Medway meanders north-east through the borough towards the Medway Gap, having in the west of the area received the River Eden. The Eden Valley Walk is also mostly in this borough.


Ancient times

The area has been occupied for thousands of years. The Neolithic people left behind much evidence: megaliths such as Kit's Coty House at Aylesford and the Coldrum Stones at Trottiscliffe; and the Long barrows at Addington being examples. Bronze and Iron Age finds are also plentiful. There is evidence of the Romano-British civilisation along the Medway Valley.

The immediate district of Tonbridge is omitted from the Domesday Book; however most other settlements in the Borough are included. Castles were built at Tonbridge, Allington and West Malling in the 13th century. Religious houses: Malling, Aylesford and Tonbridge were built: one such was St Mary's Abbey dating from 1092. Aylesford Priory on the banks of the Medway, was built in the 13th century.

There are surviving medieval manor houses including Ightham Mote and Old Soar Manor.

19th century onwards


Tonbridge district can be divided in two distinct areas, which were divided at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the woods and heaths of the ragstone (1) ridge from Great Comp to East Malling. Northwards lies the well peopled Vale of Holmesdale with the market town of West Malling as the principal centre of population, an area crossed lengthways by the railway and motorway (M20); southwards of the ridge is the heavy clay of the Weald and valley of the Medway[2]

Kentish ragstone geologically speaking is the Upper Greensand Ridge, used in church building in Kent.

Modern times

Hadlow Tower is in Tonbridge and Malling Borough
Fairlawne House is in this borough

The land included is mainly agricultural – orchards, and livestock in the main – although major business parks and buildings within 30 miles (50 km) coupled with the railways and the motorway means a majority of working residents commute to work in the more built-up villages and Tonbridge. The new settlement of Kings Hill can be regarded as tied in with the economy of Maidstone equally with that of parts of Kent further to the western extremity.

A remnant of the once flourishing hop-growing industry is provided by a tourist attraction at Beltring: once the Whitbread Hop Farm, it puts on weekend exhibitions and shows. Tonbridge and Malling has 27 listed buildings in the highest category of the national system, Grade I. This includes eight churches, five reduced structures left over from St Mary's Abbey or Malling Abbey, West Malling and four manor houses, mostly built by lower social ranks than the titled nobility.

Ightham Mote is in Tonbridge and Malling

A diverse materials and appearance construction is Ightham Mote which is recognised in the highest category of the UK's architecture listing system, Grade I, though no longer in private hands. East Malling Research Station disseminates results of research into matters affecting horticultural crops, with particular emphasis on the fruit, hop and nursery stock industries.

Many of the villages are beside long-distance walks with tourist accommodation, enabling tours of the orchards and bluebell woods.

Administrative history

The district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. It covered the whole area of two former districts and part of a third, all of which were abolished at the same time:[3]

The new district was named Tonbridge and Malling, combining the names of the former districts.[4]

The district received borough status on 16 December 1983, changing the name of the council from Tonbridge and Malling District Council to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and allowing the chair of the council to take the title of mayor.[5]


Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council
James Lark,
since 17 May 2023
Matt Boughton,
since 13 July 2021
Julie Beilby
since February 2013[6]
Political groups
Administration (22)
  Conservatives (20)
  Independent Alliance (2)

Other parties (22)

  Liberal Democrats (11)
  Green (8)
  Labour (3)
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
Gibson Building, Gibson Drive, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4LZ

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council provides district-level services. County-level services are provided by Kent County Council.[7] Much of the borough is also covered by civil parishes, which form a third tier of local government.[8]

Political control

Since the 2023 election the council has been under no overall control, being led by a coalition of the Conservatives and the Independent Alliance.[9]

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until the new arrangements came into effect on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[10][11]

Party in control Years
Conservative 1974–1995
No overall control 1995–2003
Conservative 2003–2023
No overall control 2023–present


The role of mayor is largely ceremonial in Tonbridge and Malling. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 1985 have been:[12]

Councillor Party From To
Mark Worrall[13] Conservative 1985 1995
David Thornewell[14] Liberal Democrats 1995 May 2003
Mark Worrall[13] Conservative May 2003 26 Apr 2012
Nicolas Heslop Conservative 30 May 2012 13 Jul 2021
Matt Boughton Conservative 13 Jul 2021


Following the 2023 election, the composition of the council was:[15]

Party Councillors
Conservative 20
Liberal Democrats 11
Green 8
Labour 3
Independent Alliance 2
Total 44

The next election is due in 2027.


Extension to the Gibson Building including the main reception, completed 2000.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's main offices are at the Gibson Building in Kings Hill, which had been built in 1939 as the officers' mess building of RAF West Malling.[16] The building is named after Wing Commander Guy Gibson, known for leading the Dambusters Raid, who had been based at RAF West Malling in 1941–1942.[17] The council moved to the Gibson Building in November 1974, just a few months after the council's creation.[18] A large extension to the Gibson Building was added in 2000.[19] The council also has an office at Tonbridge Castle, which had been the offices of the former Tonbridge Urban District Council.[20]


See also: Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council elections

Since the last boundary changes in 2023, the council has comprised 44 councillors elected from 19 wards, with each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[21]

Wider politics

In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the area is covered by the larger Tonbridge and Malling Parliamentary Constituency and part of Chatham and Aylesford Parliament constituency.


Much of the district is covered by civil parishes, with the exception being the former Tonbridge Urban District, covering the town of Tonbridge, which is an unparished area. The parish council for Snodland takes the style "town council".[22]


Six railway routes operate through the borough.

The South Eastern Main Line on the route London – Tonbridge – Ashford International – Dover crosses the west of the borough with stations at Hildenborough and Tonbridge.

The Maidstone East Line on the route Victoria – Maidstone East – Ashford International – Canterbury – Thanet with its stations at Borough Green & Wrotham, West Malling for Kings Hill, East Malling and Barming crosses the north of the borough.

From Tonbridge, the Hastings line services run to Tunbridge Wells and Hastings, with some through services from Hastings to London, and the Redhill to Tonbridge Line services run to Redhill: through services on that line to Guildford have been discontinued.

The High Speed 1 line with Eurostar services crosses the north of the borough, but there are no stations here, although southeastern high speed commuter services to / from London St Pancras call at Snodland during the morning and evening peak periods.

The Medway Valley Line links the North Kent Line at Strood with the South Eastern Main Line at Paddock Wood railway station. Stations are at Snodland, New Hythe, and Aylesford on the Strood – Maidstone West section of the line in the north of the borough and Wateringbury on the Maidstone West – Paddock Wood section of the line in the south of the borough. Beltring and Brandbridges Halt is close to the borough boundary. Trains on this line now run through from Paddock Wood to Tonbridge, but through services from Maidstone West via Strood to London Bridge have been discontinued.

The borough has road routes passing through it. There are three motorways: the M2, M20 and the M26; three west-east roads (A20; A21 and the A26 road). Three other roads of similar stature are the A227, A228 and A229.

In addition there are long distance footpaths, among them the Greensand Way, the Medway Valley Walk, the Wealdway and the Eden Valley Walk.[citation needed]


In terms of television, the area is served by BBC South East and ITV Meridian. Television signals are received from the Tunbridge Wells [23] and Bluebell Hill TV transmitters, BBC London and ITV London can also be received from the Crystal Palace TV transmitters.

Radio stations for the area are:

Local newspapers are Kent and Sussex Courier and Kent Messenger, which is published by the KM Group.

Youth radio station

Tonbridge and Malling has youth projects and organisations including Cupid FM, the first ever youth radio station or project of its kind within the area. The project received funding and support from Kent County Council and Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, and during 2006 set up a studio and online broadcast which came to a close in November of that year. The station was run by local teens and music was populated by the latest chart hits.

Mayors and chairmen

The councillor presiding at council meetings was initially called the chairman until December 1983 when the council was awarded borough status and the role was renamed mayor. The existing chairman at that point, Barry Hughes, became the first mayor.[5]

Freedom of the Borough

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling.

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2019)


Military Units


See also


Kent History Illustrated Frank W Jessup (KCC, 1966)

  1. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Tonbridge and Malling Local Authority (E07000115)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  2. ^ extract from Kent Dr Felix Hull (An Ordnance Survey Historical Guide 1988)
  3. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 31 May 2023
  4. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 31 May 2023
  5. ^ a b "Looking back on start of an era". Kent Online. 23 December 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  6. ^ "New leader for council... but not just yet". Kent Online. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  7. ^ "Local Government Act 1972", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  8. ^ "Election maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  9. ^ Smith, Alan (25 June 2023). "Tories keep control of Tonbridge and Malling on the casting vote of the Mayor". Kent Online. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  10. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  11. ^ "England council elections". BBC News. 6 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Council minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  13. ^ a b "'Shock' as Tonbridge and Malling leader Mark Worrall dies". BBC News. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Review leads to confusion as council is said to lack a 'compelling narrative'". Kent and Sussex Courier. 22 April 2022. p. 14.
  15. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Historic England. "Gibson Building, Gibson Drive, Kings Hill (1387787)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  17. ^ Plaque by main entrance doors to civic suite: "The Gibson Building / Named after Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC DSO DFC RAF / Who said of RAF West Malling when serving here with 29 Squadron during 1941/42 "Of all the airfields in Great Britain, here, many say (including myself) we have the most pleasant"
  18. ^ "Next week Tonbridge and Malling District Council moves to new headquarters at West Malling Airfield". Kent and Sussex Courier. Tunbridge Wells. 22 November 1974. p. 44. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  19. ^ Plaque in the main reception, within the extension, reads: "This building was opened by The Worshipful The Mayor of the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling Councillor Michael J. Dobson on 11 August 2000."
  20. ^ "Contact us". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  21. ^ "The Tonbridge and Malling (Electoral Changes) Order 2022", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 2022/1141, retrieved 25 June 2023
  22. ^ "Parish councils contact information". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  23. ^ "Tunbridge Wells (Kent, England) Full Freeview transmitter". May 2004.
  24. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 10 May 2005.
  25. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 9 May 2006.
  26. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 15 May 2007.
  27. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 13 May 2008.
  28. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 12 May 2009.
  29. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 11 May 2010.
  30. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 17 May 2011.
  31. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 30 May 2012.
  32. ^ "Council Minutes". Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. 14 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Former councillor joins roll of highest honoured - Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council". Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  34. ^ "Tonbridge crowds cheer Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment". BBC News. 19 June 2011.
  35. ^ "'Exceptional' Peter Bolt is made Freeman". 5 September 2019.