This community artwork was commissioned to commemorate the 21st Birthday of Royal Victoria Place and its links with the town’s unique royal heritage. In keeping with the centre’s royal namesake, artist Helen Marshall was commissioned to create a giant portrait of Queen Victoria at the time of her 21st birthday. The artwork is composed of over 3,000 photographs featuring those submitted online by the public, from the centre archives and a whistle stop tour of the town itself undertaken by Helen Marshall visiting well-known local businesses, organisations and schools between December 2013 and June 2014.
The historical portrait used for the final artwork was kindly lent by the National Portrait Gallery, London: Queen Victoria, reduced copy by W. Warman; after Thomas Sully, watercolour, (1838). © National Portrait Gallery, London.
The photographs were taken in and around Tunbridge Wells and submitted online by the public, from the Royal Victoria Place archives and a whistle stop tour of the town itself by Helen Marshall visiting well-known local businesses, organisations and schools including AXA PPP, Kent & Sussex Courier, BBC South East, BBC Radio Kent, Harold Brown & The Victorian B&B, Hotel Du Vin Staff, Oakley School and Hillview School for Girls – Tonbridge.
‘VICTORIA AT 21’ is now on permanent public display at Royal Victoria Place and is located between Ernest Jones and BHS on level 2.
Click here to download the Commemorative ‘Victoria At 21’ Booklet
A Royal Heritage:
Tunbridge Wells has always been proud of its royal heritage. And while not everyone chooses to add the ‘Royal’ suffix granted to the town back in 1909 by King Edward VII, the choice of name for West Kent’s largest shopping centre back in 1992 seemed to demand something a little bit regal to reflect the town’s royal history. Add to that Queen Victoria’s frequent childhood holidays in the town she described as ‘the dear place’, adding ‘I am so very fond of it’, and Royal Victoria Place was an obvious winner.
The name was just the beginning of Royal Victoria Place’s strong links with the town’s royal heritage. On 21st October 1992, Royal Victoria Place was officially opened by the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Over 5,000 shoppers packed the malls together with thousands of other visitors who flocked to visit Kent’s newest shopping centre and welcome ‘The People’s Princess’.
The commemorative plaque, which was unveiled by HRH The Princess of Wales during her visit in 1992, is now displayed pride of place on the upper mall opposite the brand new portrait ‘Victoria At 21’ to mark the 21st Birthday of Royal Victoria Place.
It was amazing to see this project which has taken almost 18 months finally unveiled and able to take pride of place at Royal Victoria Place. Already within the first few days since it went on public display, it has created a lot of interest and it’s great to see the reactions of shoppers when they either see their own photo or that of someone they know. We are so proud of what Helen Marshall has created for us and this artwork will enable us to provide a legacy for the future with a link to the proud royal heritage our town enjoys!Marc Burchett