In the southwest of London, there is a place called Kingston upon Thames. It used to be its town, but now it’s part of a bigger area called the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. It’s about 10 miles away from a place called Charing Cross, and it’s right next to the Thames River. This place has an interesting history. Because the kings in old times would have their ceremonies here, and today it’s an important place for the government.
In this article, we will answer some common questions about Kingston:
- What is the oldest and most important place in Kingston?
- Why is London Kingston Upon important in history?
- How has Old London Road changed over the years?
- How does the Rose Theatre Kingston contribute to the local culture and arts?
- What does the Rose Theatre Kingston do to help the local culture and arts?
- What things does the Kingston Choral Society plan and do?
- What can you learn and do at Kingston Grammar School?
- Why is Kingston in County Surrey and not somewhere else?
- What information do we have about the seven Saxon Kings in charge at that time?
- How was it different from other towns during medieval times regarding trading and markets?
- How is it similar or different from other parts of London regarding progress and buildings today?
Interesting History of Kingston
Kingston is a historic place in Surrey, England. In 1835, it became a Municipal Council area called Kingston-upon-Thames. Later, in 1965, it became part of Greater London, a special area within London. Even though it’s part of London now, the Surrey County Council used to be there from 1893 to 2021.
Most of the town center is in the KT1 postcode area. But a few places north of Kingston rail station are in the KT2 postcode area. The town comprises four areas: Grove, Canbury, Tudor, and Norbiton. In 2011, around 43,013 people lived in the town, according to the UK Census, and the whole borough had about 175,470 people. Kingston is a famous place for shopping, with about 18 million visits every year. It’s the biggest retail center in the UK and a metropolitan area in the London Plan. Kingston University is also located there.
The Government of Kingston Town
Kingston upon Thames is an old Surrey county with a local government. Hook, New Malden, Kew, Richmond, Petersham, Thames Ditton, Surbiton, and East Molesey are all part of Kingston upon Thames.
In 1200, King John gave a special paper to the town of Kingston. But our oldest paper is from 1208 and is kept in the town’s records. Other kings also gave special papers, like Edward IV, who in 1481 made the town a borough.
Even though the parish and borough became the same in 1894, the borough was smaller than the historic parish at first. In 1835, a law changed the borough’s name to the Metropolitan Suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames. Usually, people call Kingston Upon Thames a Royal borough, and in 1927, George V made it official. From 1893 to 2021, the Surrey County Council had its main office in Kingston upon Thames, even though it did not directly control it.
Long Time Ago, in Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames had names from 838 to 1589, like Chingestune, Cyninges tun, Kingston, Kingston supra Kingestowne, and Tamisiam upon Thames. The words “tun” and “cyning” in the name mean “the king’s castle or estate” in old English. It was the first town that belonged to the king in Saxony a very long time ago.
Kingston was mentioned in a very old document from a long time ago, AD 838. It was a place where important people like kings and archbishops met. Before England was one big country, Kingston was on the border between two smaller kingdoms called Wessex and Mercia. Some kings were crowned there, according to old stories. But it’s not clear if those stories are completely true. People think the coronations might have happened in a chapel called St. Mary, but that chapel is not there anymore.
The Coronation Stone
A long time ago, a story says a large stone found in the ruins was used for important ceremonies called coronations. At first, it was used as a step for people to climb on, but later it was moved to a better place in the market in 1850. Finally, it was moved to where it is now, on the Guildhall grounds.
Every year since a long time ago, people in Kingston upon Thames and nearby places like Richmond and Twickenham played Shrovetide Football. They would kick balls around the town while the windows of homes and businesses were covered. It was a fun tradition, but it stopped in 1866 because it was causing too much damage as the cities grew.
Kingston Shrovetide Football 1846
In 1965, the way the local government was organized in Greater London changed, so the municipal borough of Kingston was removed. Kingston upon Thames then joined with the areas of Malden, Surbiton, and Coombe to become the London County of Kingston upon Thames. Queen Elizabeth II agreed to a new law, suggested by the Kingston upon Thames London Municipality Council, which allowed the area to be called the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
How Kingston upon Thames Grew as a Trading Town
Kingston upon Thames started as a place where people would buy and sell things in the olden times. They would use the river and the land to move goods around. In 1208, the town got special permission to have markets; in 1242 the market became official. People would sell grains, fruits, leather goods, wool, and cheese. They would also trade fish, cattle, and meat. More things were made and sold in Kingston, like bricks, pottery, and boats as time passed. It became a busy business place.
Tommy Sopwith wanted to make more airplanes, so he expanded his company from Brooklands to Kingston. He chose Kingston because there were skilled people there who knew how to work with wood and fabric like they did when making boats. Three important people in aviation, Harry Hawker, Sydney Camm, and Tommy Sopwith, were mainly responsible for making Kingston famous in the aviation field. Kingston was an important place for making military airplanes for a long time, especially fighter planes. Companies like H G Hawker Engineering, Sopwith Aviation, Hawker Siddeley, Hawker Aircraft, and British Aerospace made planes there.
The town is famous for having cool airplanes like the Hawker Fury, Sopwith Camel, Hunter, Hurricane, and Harrier. You can see these airplanes at the nearby Brooklands Museum. The place where they used to make airplanes, called Aerospace on Lower Ham Road, closed in 1992. Some of the buildings were changed into houses. Now, a community center and a sports complex are nearby.
City Growth in Kingston upon Thames
Kingston is a very old city built near a bridge over the River Thames. The bridge has been there for a long time, since the 13th century. After the Romans left, Kingston became a place where kings lived or owned. In 838, a meeting was held with a king named Egbert of Wessex. The famous ruler William the Conqueror also owned Kingston, as mentioned in The Domesday Book. At that time, Kingston had a church, five mills, four fishing spots that made money, 40 acres of grassland, 27 plows for farming, and six pigs’ worth of woods. It made a total of 32 pounds ($31.10).
In 1730, a man called the sexton was digging a grave when the chapel with statues of important people fell. He got buried under it with his daughter and another person. The daughter survived and became the new sexton after her father. The people in the area asked not to do the same job, and someone called Kingston sent people to talk in the early government meetings. The Lovekyn Chapel, a chapel for St. Mary Magdalene, is still used today. It was made by Edward Lovekyn, a mayor of London, in 1309. This chapel is special because it’s the only private chapel that was allowed to keep going during a time called the Reformation.
Once the railway came to the town in the 1830s, there was a lot of building and development in the southern part of the town. In the 1850s, a new estate called Surbiton Park was built on the land where Surbiton Place used to be. Even though it was part of Kingston, it later became a new town called Surbiton. In 1875, The Barracks were completed, and after that, there were always soldiers in the town.
Exciting Changes in Kingston upon Thames
In 1989, they built a new road called Kingston Relief Road, which meant that some busy streets in the town center had to be closed to cars. They also built two important shopping places, Bentall Center and John Lewis Kingston. Then, in the early 2000s, they finished making a nice walkway by the river as part of the Constitution Quay project. They also added restaurants, bars, and a theatre called the Rose Theatre, which opened in 2008 and was directed by Sir Peter Hall.
The way Kingston upon Thames is managed:
The area south of the train line, including the old town center, is taken care of by Ed Davey from the Liberal Democrats. It’s called Surbiton and Kingston. The area north of the train line is called Richmond Park, and Sarah Olney from the Liberal Democrats looks after it.
Famous Locations of Kingston upon Thames
Central Kingston is a busy place with some shops and government buildings. It’s mostly for people walking around and doing shopping.
The shopping center has a big mall called “The Bentall Centre.” It has a department store and many popular chain stores. The John Lewis department store and a Waitrose grocery shop are downstairs. Close by is a small retail center called Eden Walk that was built long ago. There is also a movie theatre called Odeon with 15 screens and some places to eat. The theatre used to be a storage building for furniture from Bentalls, a well-known store in the area.
Every day, there is a traditional market held at the Market Place. It sells a variety of things like fish, jewelry, special foods from different countries, local foods, and beautiful flowers. The market has been there for a long time.
The city has important buildings like the modern Crown Court, Guildhall, public library, smaller County Court, and Kingston Museum. The Guildhall is where the magistrates’ court is held, and the Kingston Council is near the Hogsmill River. The County Hall Building is close by, where the main offices of the Surrey Borough Council are. From 1791 to 1893, Newington was the county town of Surrey, but then Kingston became the county town from 1893 to 1965. Now, Kingston is one of the thirty-two London boroughs in Greater London. Guildford has officially become the county town of Surrey again, but Kingston still has a special title used for special events.
The River Thames is Kingston’s main open space, with many pubs and restaurants. If you walk through Canbury Gardens, you can go to Teddington Lock. On the other side, if you walk along the river, you can almost reach Surbiton. There’s also a public area called Eagle Brewery Wharf by the river, owned by the council. When you look at Kingston Bridge, you can see a tree-lined river bank as big as Hampton Court Park.
Culture of Kingston Upon Thames
Kingston Upon Thames has a rich culture with many exciting things to do. One popular place is the Rose Theatre, which opened in 2008 and can seat 900 people. The audience sits in a circle around the stage. On Saturdays, you can enjoy classical music at All Saints Church, which has a special Frobenius organ. The area also has different choral groups like the Kingston Choral Society, the Kingston Philharmonia, the Kingston Orpheus Choir, and the Kingston and District Chamber Music Society. The Council and Kingston Arts Council organize events yearly, such as Think-in-Kingston, Kingston Readers’ Festival, and Festival of the Voice. When you go to Kingston University, you can visit the Stanley Picker Gallery. And at Kingston Museum, they have a changing gallery on the first floor. The Rose Theatre even has a singing club for children and families to enjoy.
A famous author, John Galsworthy, was born and raised on Kingston Hill. Jacqueline Wilson, who also grew up there, went to school and still lives there. The university has a new building named after Galsworthy, and the main hall is dedicated to Wilson. Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer from Kingston, is also honored at the university. He was the first to take pictures that could move. R. C. Sherriff, a playwright, is connected to Kingston because he wrote his first play to help the Kingston Rowing Club. Another author, John Cleland, was born in Kingston too.
Kingston: A Place in Books and Movies
The city of Kingston has been shown in books, movies, and TV shows. It appears in a funny Victorian books called “Three Men in a Boat” and “The War of the Worlds”. In a book called “At The Rainbow”, a character spends a long and poetic time in Kingston upon Thames. In the book “Emma”, Mr. Knightly often goes to Kingston, but the story doesn’t focus on him there.
Kingston has a lot of history connected to art. Some famous artists and designers studied at the university there, like John Bratby, David Nash, Fiona Banner, and Jasper Morrison. There were also artists named Jeremy Moon and John Hoyland, who had their special art studios in Kingston.
The famous singer and guitar player Eric Clapton grew up in Kingston upon Thames. When starting his music career, he would play music on the street there to earn money. In that same town, the rock band Cardiacs was formed.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes refer to Kingston
Monty Python’s TV show mentioned Kingston. The sculpture of the upside-down telephone boxes in Old London Road was used in a Bollywood movie called Mujhse Dosti Karoge. It also appeared in a scene of the TV show The Good Life, where Richard Briers gets on bus 71 in “The Avenue” and goes to downtown Kingston.
Many places in the town were used for the Doctor Who episode “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” in 1974. They also filmed a whole episode of the TV show Primeval in 2008 at the John Lewis and Bentall Centre department stores. In May 2009, they filmed more scenes for Primeval in Kingston, especially in and around Market Place.
The Kingston Green Fair used to happen every year from 1987 to 2008 on the Spring Bank Holiday. It took place at Canbury Gardens, which is next to the river. The fair was called “Green” because it aimed to promote sustainable development. They had some special rules to protect the environment, like no electricity unless it came from the sun, wind, or a bicycle. They also didn’t allow the sale of meat or things made from animals unless these natural sources powered them. In 2002, The Crack Comedy Club started in The Grey Horse Pub and is also in Kingston.
The economy of Kingston upon Thames
In Kingston upon Thames, there are lots of places to eat and drink. Some old pubs have been turned into restaurants or bars in the central area. In the northern part of town (Canbury), traditional pubs like The Park Tavern, The Wych Elm Canbury Arms, and Willoughby Arms exist. Further south, near Fairfield, there are more pubs like The Spring Grove, The Druid’s Head, The Albion Tavern, The Cricketers, and The Duke of Buckingham. The Druid’s Head is special because it was one of the first pubs to serve syllabub long ago. You can also find many restaurants serving food from Italy, India, China, Thailand, and Pakistan.
Surrey Comet newspaper
The Surrey Comet newspaper has been around for a long time, celebrating 150 years in 2004. It is a local newspaper. Kingston, a place in the UK, spent a lot of money on shopping in 2010, about £810 million. It was ranked 25th in the UK for spending, just slightly ahead of Southampton and the same as Covent Garden. Regarding shopping in Greater London, Kingston is one of the top five places, with only four places in the West End being better.
Kingston even surpassed Croydon in retail sales. 2005 Kingston had £865 million in sales, ranking 24th overall and third in London. In 2015, a survey named Kingston the second-best place for shopping in Greater London, right after Croydon. According to Knight Frank’s “High Street Business Ranking” for the UK in 2018, only Cambridge, Chichester, Bath, and Reading were considered better places for shopping than Kingston.
Kingston upon Thames did well in selling things in 2011. Only a few places, like the West End, Shepherd’s Bush, and Stratford, did better than Kingston upon Thames when it came to making money from selling things. Kingston upon Thames made a total of £432 million.
Kingston upon Thames has a strange and interesting sculpture called “Out of Sequence” by David Mach. It comprises twelve old red telephone booths stacked on each other like dominoes. This artwork was put there in 1988 when they built the Relief Road. The artist called it “anti-minimalist.”
Local Transport for Kingston Upon Thames
Bus to Kingston upon Thames
Two bus terminals in Surrey and Greater London have routes to many places, including Kingston, Cromwell Road, Fairfield, and bus stops. You can even get to Heathrow Airport easily from there.
Road to Kingston upon Thames
The Kingston Bypass goes through the southern and eastern parts of Kingston. It’s a road called the A3, and it connects Kingston to places like Clapham, Wandsworth, and the City of London in the north. The A3 goes from the south to Portsmouth, passing through Petersfield and Guildford.
There are several radial routes as follows:
- A238 towards Colliers Wood, Raynes Park, and Tooting
- A2043 towards Cheam and New Malden
- A240 towards Epsom and Banstead
- A307 towards Richmond, Petersfield, and the M4, or towards Esher, Thames Ditton, and Cobham
- A310 through A308 towards Twickenham and Teddington
- A308 towards the Putney, A3, and Wandsworth and towards Sunbury-on-Thames, Hampton Court, and Staines
Rail/Train to Kingston upon Thames
The Kingston train station was built in 1863 and is the central place where people can catch trains in Kingston.
Trains from London Waterloo come to this station, and it is in zone 6 of London. You can go directly to places like Clapham Junction, Wimbledon, and Vauxhall from Kingston because trains go to Waterloo. If you want to go to Shepperton, you can take east trains and pass through Hampton, Teddington, and Sunbury. On the Kingston loop route, eastbound trains also stop at Teddington, Twickenham, Strawberry Hill, and Richmond before going to Waterloo. The signs at Waterloo Station advertising trains to Kingston will mention “Shepperton” and “Strawberry Hill.”
A station called Norbiton is nearby, which is in fare zone 5. It is on the same train line as the station we’re talking about. The station we’re talking about is Surbiton, located in London’s fare zone 6 on the South West Main Line. Surbiton station has been open since 1838 and is close to Kingston. Trains from Waterloo also go to Surbiton. If you go south from Surbiton, you can reach places like Hampton Court, Woking, Guildford, and Basingstoke in Surrey and Hampshire.
Making Kingston Easier to Get Around
In the 1960s, when the busy areas of Kingston were causing lots of traffic, planners had an idea. They suggested building a special road in a circle around the town center. This road called the Kingston Relief Road, was built in the late 1980s. It helps people get to Kingston Bridge and makes walking in busy shopping areas like Clarence Street easier for pedestrians. Before going over the River Thames on Kingston Bridge, the road goes under John Lewis Kingston on the western side of the town center. They also made two places for buses to stop and created lanes for people to ride bikes. As part of the project, they also asked artists to make special artwork, like the Out of Order sculpture by River Celebration and Carole Hodgson.
Routes for Cycling to Kingston upon Thames
Kingston is connected to locations around London and England via cycling paths.
Important routes to Kingston upon Thames include:
- Cycleway 28 is a two-way, segregated bike lane between Seething Wells and Kingston along Portsmouth Road.
- National Cycle Route 4 connects St. David’s to Greenwich. Near Kingston, NCR4 travels along the River Thames, passing across Kingston Bridge from the southern bank to the northern bank. The route travels via Ham, Barnes, and Richmond Park to Greenwich and Central London. NCR4 travels via Egham, Walton, and Eton to Reading. It is a section of EuroVelo 2, which runs from Moscow to Galway.
- Cycleway 30 is a segregated bike lane along A308 London Road from C29 at Putney Vale to Kingston.
- Cycleway 29 – A bike path between Fishponds Park and Kingston that is mostly two-way and separated from other traffic. Ewell Road and Penrhyn Road are followed throughout most of the journey.
Thames River – Kingston upon Thames
Exciting Places and Schools in Kingston
Kingston has two special places called Kingston Turks Piers and Kingston Town End. In the summer, you can have a fun boat trip with Turk Launches between Richmond St. and Hampton Court.
In Kingston, there are also important schools. The main building of Kingston University is at the Penrhyn Road campus. Kingston University and College, Latchmere, and Tiffin School are in Kingston. Some elementary schools are King Athelstan School, Fernhill School, and St. Agatha’s Catholic Junior School. There are also secondary schools like Tiffin School, Kingston Academy, Kingston Grammar School, and Tiffin Girls’ School. These schools have students from Surrey and Greater London.
Kingston has become a university town because Kingston Polytechnic, which became Kingston University in 1992, has grown and made progress.
List of Schools in Kingston upon Thames
- Alexandra School
- Burlington Junior School
- Christ Church CE Primary School
- Coombe Hill Infant School
- Corpus Christi RC School
- Fern Hill Primary School
- Green Lane Primary School
- King’s Oak Primary School
- Knollmead Primary School
- Lime Tree Primary School
- Malden Manor Primary School
- Maple Infants’ School
- Robin Hood Primary School
- St Mark’s & St Andrew’s CE Junior School
- St Joseph’s RC Primary School
- St Mary’s CE Primary School
- St Paul’s CE Primary School
- Tolworth Infant School
- Chessington School
- Coombe Girls’ School
- Holy Cross School for Girls
- Richard Challoner School
- Tolworth Girls’ School
- Tennis Avenue School
- Tiffin School for Boys
- Dysart School
- St Philip’s School
- Hillcroft College
- Holy Cross Preparatory School
- Park Hill School
- Shrewsbury House School
- Westbury House School
- Canbury School
- Burlington Infant School
- Castle Hill Primary School
- Christ Church Primary School
- Coombe Hill Junior School
- Ellingham Primary School
- Grand Avenue Primary School
- King Athelstan Primary School
- Kingston Community School
- Latchmere School
- Lovelace Primary School
- Malden Parochial CE School
- Our Lady Immaculate School
- St Agatha’s RC Primary School
- St John’s CE Primary School
- St Luke’s CE Primary School
- St Matthew’s CE Primary School
- St Paul’s CE Primary School
- Tolworth Junior School
- Coombe Boys’ School
- Hollyfield School
- The Kingston Academy
- Southborough High School for Boys
- Marymount International School London
- Tiffin Girls’ School
- Bedford School
- Malden Oaks School
- Kingston College
- Surbiton High School
- Educare Small School
- Liberty Woodland School
- Rokeby Preparatory School for boys
- Study School
- Kingston Grammar School
Sports in Kingston upon Thames
Four football teams play in Kingston, including Chelsea F.C. Women. They play at Chessington stadiums like Corinthian-Casuals, Kingsmeadow Stadium, Kingstonian, Tolworth, and Hook United. Unlike Kingstonian, Corinthian-Casuals, and Chessington & Hook United, who are not in a professional league, Chelsea F.C. Women play in the FA Women’s Super League.
Kingsmeadow Athletics Stadium is close by and home to Kingston Athletic Club and Polytechnic Harriers. The stadium has a lit-up running track 400 meters long, a gym, and a place to play 5-a-side football. Kingston Rowing Club started in 1858 and is located in Canbury Gardens by the River Thames. Kingston Rugby Club is found on the edge of the city. The Club organizes two big races called HEADs in spring and autumn. The Kingston Regatta occurs on the river just above the bridge in early July.
The Kingfisher Centre is a big place for fun near Fairfield. It has a big room for sports and a pool inside. Sport Kingston is a group that helps and supports sports in Kingston.
Kingston Wildcats School of Basketball is a local team that plays and practices basketball at Chessington School. They are part of the Surrey League and Basketball England National League, where they work to improve the sport.
London 2012 Summer Olympics in Kingston
In the London Olympics 2012, the Olympic Flame visited Kingston twice before the games began. On July 24, 2012, special people called torchbearers carried the flame through the area. On July 27, 2012, the flame was taken on a special boat called the Gloriana to the Olympic Stadium for the big opening ceremony. Kingston also hosted four cycling events during the Olympics, including races for people.
The London-Surrey Classic bike race used a route similar to the Olympic road race. It went through the city from 2013 to 2018. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RideLondon festival moved to Essex instead of having the event in Kingston.
Kingston upon Thames – Wikipedia. (2022, May 1). Kingston Upon Thames – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_upon_Thames