Kingston upon Thames

Kingston upon Thames, Kingston

The ancient capital of Surrey, and coronation place of Saxon kings, hence ‘king’s town’

Hidden London: Kingston, Bentalls

There is con­sid­er­able evi­dence of Roman occu­pa­tion and it is claimed (though less cred­i­bly) that Julius Cae­sar crossed the Thames here. In 838 Kingston was cho­sen as the seat of the great coun­cil con­vened by King Egbert and presided over by Ceol­nothus, Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury.

The town’s long asso­ci­a­tion with roy­al­ty con­tin­ued in the tenth cen­tu­ry with Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, who was the first of sev­en Sax­on kings to be crowned here. The Coro­na­tion Stone, prob­a­bly the town’s most notable pos­ses­sion, stands by the twelfth-cen­tu­ry Clat­tern Bridge over the Riv­er Hogsmill, out­side the more recent Guild­hall.

Kingston was an impor­tant roy­al manor by the time of Domes­day Book, which declared that it had a church, five mills and three salmon fish­eries; the bor­ough badge (coat of arms) has an escutcheon charged with three salmon on an azure field.

Kingston’s post-Nor­man sig­nif­i­cance owes much to its bridge, which was for near­ly a thou­sand years the low­est Thames cross­ing except for Lon­don Bridge.

There has been a mar­ket in Kingston since at least the 13th cen­tu­ry, and pot­tery, fish­ing, tan­ning and the wool trade were key indus­tries through­out the Mid­dle Ages. The gram­mar school was found­ed in 1561.

Kingston was an impor­tant coach­ing town in the 18th cen­tu­ry but the Druid’s Head is the only con­tem­po­rary sur­vivor from the inns of that peri­od. The town’s trans­port links were improved when a stone bridge replaced its wood­en pre­de­ces­sor in 1828 but civic resis­tance blocked the arrival of the rail­way until 1863, although Kingston-on-Rail­way opened at Sur­biton in 1838.

Kingston’s res­i­den­tial pop­u­la­tion leapt when pri­vate estates such as Rich­mond Park were added along Rich­mond Road in the 1930s. At the far end of that road, the pio­neer­ing Sop­with Avi­a­tion Com­pa­ny was suc­ceed­ed by Hawk­er Engi­neer­ing, which man­u­fac­tured cars and motor­cy­cles as well as the air­craft for which it is best known.

Kingston has become the prime retail loca­tion for south-west Lon­don, yet retains one of the best medieval street plans out­side the City. Its flag­ship store, Ben­talls, opened in 1867 and was recon­struct­ed at the end of the 1980s, when it met with com­pe­ti­tion from John Lewis. At the same time a trans­for­ma­tion began with the con­struc­tion of a relief road, which per­mit­ted the pedes­tri­an­i­sa­tion of the town cen­tre.

Sev­er­al new and regen­er­a­tive devel­op­ments are present­ly pro­posed or under­way in the area, includ­ing the replace­ment of the exist­ing Eden Walk shop­ping cen­tre with a retail/services/residential scheme, 328 res­i­den­tial units and a lin­ear park at Queen­shurst in North Kingston, a major new ‘learn­ing resource cen­tre’ for Kingston Uni­ver­si­ty and the rede­vel­op­ment of the Old Post Office site with 319 homes and var­i­ous ameni­ties, as shown in the developer’s CGI below.

Hidden London: Royal Exchange Kingston CGI

A notable feature in Old London Road is the set of tumbling telephone boxes created in 1988 by the Scottish sculptor and installation artist David Mach.

Postcode areas: Kingston upon Thames KT1 and KT2
Population: 23,328 (Grove and Canbury wards, 2011 census – a one-third increase on 2001)
Station: South West Trains (zone 6)
Further reading: Tim Everson, Kingston-upon-Thames: Then & Now, History Press, 2012
Websites: Visit Kingston, Kingston Online