Tolworth, Kingston upon Thames
The ‘scrag end of the borough’ – as the Evening Standard once controversially described it – Tolworth straddles the Kingston by-pass, south-east of Surbiton
Tolworth was recorded as ‘Taleorde’ in Domesday Book (after a man called Tala) and mutated through ‘Talworth’ before the present version of the name took hold in the late 19th century.
The manor was given by Elizabeth I to Henry, Earl of Westmoreland and bought by Nathaniel Polhill, MP for Southwark, in 1781. For most of the 19th century the earls of Egmont were Tolworth’s principal landowners. St Matthew’s church was built on the border with Surbiton in 1875. The largely unexplained generosity of a Coutts banker resulted in a church that was much larger than the locality needed, but which was appreciated by the inhabitants of the villas springing up along Ewell Road at the time. In the 1880s brickfields in Red Lion Lane (now Road) and William Hipwell’s 550 acre dairy farm were the major employers. Tolworth isolation hospital was built in 1889, in the face of vigorous local objections.
On the death in 1897 of Charles George Percival, the seventh earl of Egmont, the farmland was sold for development, although progress was slow at first, partly because of poor drainage. The manor house burned down in 1911.
With the opening of the Kingston by-pass in 1927 a massive programme of expansion began, with houses and amenities replacing farms such as Tolworth Lodge. Ewell Road was re-cut and Tolworth Broadway appeared. Tolworth central school was built on the site of Fullers Farm. This has since become Tolworth girls’ school and sixth form, a specialist technology school with academy status.
Tolworth station opened in 1938, originally as the terminus of the first stage of the Chessington branch line, which was extended to its final length a year later.
The Seifert-designed Tolworth Tower, built in 1964 on the site of the former Odeon cinema, is outer London’s tallest building. Its 22 storeys ascend to 265 feet and the supermarket at ground level was the largest in southern England when it opened. Originally a Fine Fare, the store is now a branch of Marks & Spencer, with a Travelodge at the rear. In the late 1960s the creation of an underpass helped relieve congestion at Tolworth Junction.
In April 2017 the Mayor of London gave the green light to German discount supermarket chain Lidl’s proposal to build a £70m UK headquarters in Tolworth, on a site hitherto occupied by the Jubilee Way motorcycle track.
A high proportion of homes in the ward of Tolworth and Hook Rise are owner-occupied and contain dependent children. According to the 2011 census, 64 per cent of residents are white British and the most populous minorities are of Indian and Sri Lankan birth or descent.
Postcode area: Surbiton, KT6
Population: 9,833 (Tolworth and Hook Rise ward, 2011 census)
Station: South West Trains (zone 5)
Further reading: Mark Davison and Paul Adams, Tolworth Remembered, Mark Davison, 2000
and Mark Davison, Surbiton Memories and More Tales of Old Tolworth and Berrylands, self-published, 2004
William Hogarth’s ‘little country box by the Thames’ in Chiswick is now a museum and gallery.
Camley Street Natural Park is a miniature ecological wilderness just north of St Pancras station.
Junction Road has a gastropub that was restored in 2010 with help from English Heritage.
You can’t go inside Debenham House but even from the street it’s a remarkable sight.