Named after the town’s social reformer and suffragist, Amelia Scott, the building on Monson Road, is the Council’s flagship project and was first conceived around nine years ago.
Inside the building, The Amelia houses a new library, visitor information centre, museum and art gallery.
After being introduced by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council chief executive William Benson, the great-niece of Amelia, Helen Boyce, cut the ribbon to open the centre and told the crowd in front of building about meeting the great campaigner for the first time when she was a girl of nine years old.
“Cousin Milly, as she was known in the family, insisted on pouring the tea, although she was 90 years old and could barely see,” Ms Boyce recalled.
“So we had to call out when she reached the rim of the cup. I can see now how determined she was, even at the age of 90.”
Inheriting Miss Scott’s possessions from her parents in 1993, the great-niece offered the collection to the Women’s Library in London, which accepted and sent a ‘large van’ to collect everything.
“Knowledge about women’s activities blossomed with the World Wide Web at that time – this was about 2002 – and Amelia Scott’s work became known to women’s history researchers.”
However, Ms Boyce did keep her great aunt’s brooch, and has lent it to the cultural centre.
Ms Boyce’s daughter, Amelia Bodfish, who was named after the turn of the century reformer, read part of her mother’s speech, telling the story of Miss Scott becoming ‘really socially aware’ after attending a conference of the National Union of Women Workers (NUWW) in Bristol.
On her return to Tunbridge Wells, she immediately started a local NUWW branch in 1895, ‘and did not stop working in many causes until well into the 1930s.’
Although Amelia Scott is known as a suffragist – a non-militant campaigner for women’s suffrage – she was also particularly dedicated to benefiting poor and working-class women and mothers, providing housing and a social club, and later a maternity home.
The Kent Archives ‘sent’ a modern-day celebratory telegram for the occasion, tweeting an archive photograph of Miss Scott with her sister Louisa ‘Louie’ Scott.
“After a lifetime of social activism and campaigning for women’s #suffrage, we like to think this photograph of #AmeliaScott and her sister, both in their 90s, captures yet another day of philanthropy and community outreach in #TunbridgeWells,” the Archives tweeted.
The old inscription for the picture reads: “Lived every moment of their long-life thinking, working and serving others, in Public and Private life. Passed March 1952.”
A spokesperson for the Council said around 1,000 people visited The Amelia Scott on Thursday when it opened at midday.
The centre is set to open seven days a week.