Welcome to Tunbridge, Vermont
The town of Tunbridge was created on September 3, 1761 by way of a royal charter which King George III of England issued to Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire.
The name Tunbridge was chosen by Wentworth and most likely in honor of (or to gain favor with), the English noble William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein (1717-1781), fourth Earl of Rochford, Viscount Tunbridge, Baron Enfield and Colchester. De Zuylstein’s secondary title is derived from the old “royal borough” of Tunbridge Wells (sometimes Royal Tunbridge Wells) in England.
Just before dawn on October 16, 1780 the town line of Tunbridge and Royalton was witness to the last major raid of the Revolutionary War in New England. In the “Royalton Raid” three hundred Indians led by British soldiers headed down from Canada along the First Branch of the White River. Part of a series of raids designed to terrorize frontier settlements, the result was the destruction of dozens of homes, and crops and livestock necessary to survive the coming winter. Although women and girls were not harmed, 28 men and boys were taken captive and marched to Canada to be imprisoned. In the years that followed, many of the captives made their way back to their families, but some never returned. One resident, Peter Button, was killed in Tunbridge near the Royalton town line along what is Rte. 110 today. A historic marker has been erected there.
The first Tunbridge proprietors’ meeting of which there is any record was held at the house of John Hutchinson on May 28th 1783. The minutes of this meeting show that others were previously held, but no records of them are to be found. Elias Curtis was the first proprietors’ clerk.
The entire center of Tunbridge Village, including the fairgrounds was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Officially the district listing is “Roughly, along VT 110 and adjacent rds. including Town Rd. 45 and Spring and Strafford Rds.”
Tunbridge has five covered bridges (all listed on the National Register)
- Cilley Bridge — South West of Tunbridge Village (off Howe Lane from VT 110)
- Flint Bridge — North Tunbridge on Bicknell Hill Road (off VT 110)
- Larkin Bridge – North Tunbridge on Larkin Road (off VT 110)
- Howe Bridge — South of Tunbridge Village (entering on VT 110) at Belknap Road
- (or Hayward & Noble or Spring Rd.) Bridge —In the Village, West side of VT 110 on Spring Road
Tunbridge also has two other structures are individually listed on the National Register:
- Hayward & Kibby (or Hayward & Noble) Mill — On Spring Road in Tunbridge Village
- South Tunbridge Methodist Episcopal Church
Tunbridge World’s Fair
The historical antecedent of the Tunbridge World’s Fair can be traced to the town’s charter which therein authorized the establishment of two annual fairs when the population of the town reached 50 families.
It wasn’t until 1867 that, after a succession of fairs in Orange County starting in 1847, the Tunbridge Agricultural Society was organized and staged a fair at the Elisha Lougee Farm in North Tunbridge. At the 1867 fair Vermont’s former Lieutenant-Governor Burnham Martin referred to the fair as a “little World’s Fair”. Lewis Dickerman adopted the phrase and used it in the 1868 publicity handbills and the Tunbridge fair has used the name ever since.
In 1875, the Union Agricultural Society assumed the sponsorship of the fair and moved its location to the present fairgrounds in the center of Tunbridge.
In 1894 the fair joined the National Trotting Association and for many years has maintained the only remaining grass race track in Vermont.
The annual fair continues to this day with demonstrations of farming and agricultural traditions and culture, working antique displays, horse and ox pulling, horse racing, cattle and horse shows, junior exhibits, floral and 4-H exhibits, contra dancing, gymkhana, and many free shows.