Kingston upon Thames

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Kingston upon Thames
Kingston Market Square.jpg
Old Town Hall on Market Place
Grid reference: TQ182693
Location: 51°24’37"N, 0°17’58"W
Post town: Kingston upon Thames
Postcode: KT1, KT2
Dialling code: 020
Local Government
Council: Kingston
Kingston and Surbiton

Kingston upon Thames is a large town in Surrey, close to the edge of the metropolitan conurbation. It is the ancient market town and a town where several kings were crowned in days before the Norman Conquest.

Name of the town

In 838 the town was styled Kyningestun famosa illa locus ("that famous place, Cyningestun), the Old English name menaing "King's town (or estate)". Seven Saxon kings are traditionally said to have been crowned at Kingston, while seated on a large stone – The Coronation Stone – that stands outside the Guildhall. There is a local tradition that these Saxon coronations gave Kingston its name, but the first recorded coronation there was that of King Aethelstan in 924,[1] when the town already bore its name.

Kingston upon Thames appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Chingestone and Chingetun(e).

The town

Kingston Bridge with John Lewis in the background

Central Kingston is a busy predominantly retail centre, with a small number of commercial offices and civic buildings. It has several car parks, connected by a ruthless one-way system. It is connected to Twickenham, Richmond, Wimbledon, and London Waterloo by National Rail trains.

Shopping is well catered for and is generally towards the upper end of expectations, with a good mixture of familiar High Street chains and more select boutiques. The shopping centre includes a shopping mall, "The Bentall Centre", containing the Bentalls department store and large branches of chain stores found in many British high streets. There is a large branch of the John Lewis department store group, with a Waitrose supermarket, located in the basement. The Rotunda, located in the former Bentalls furniture depository building (a local landmark), includes a bowling alley, fitness centre, a 14-screen Odeon multiplex cinema and some restaurants.

Recent developments along the riverside south of Kingston Bridge have added bars, restaurants and a theatre, the Rose Theatre which opened in 2008 with Sir Peter Hall as the director. The ancient market is still held daily in the Market Place.

Kingston's civic buildings include the Guildhall which houses the Council of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the magistrates' court, and County Hall, home to Surrey County Council from 1893 to 2020. There is also the county court, a local museum and public library. A short distance away is the crown court building, adjacent to County Hall.

Kingston's main open space is the River Thames, with its lively frontage of bars and restaurants. Downstream there is a walk through Canbury Gardens towards Teddington Lock. Upstream there is a promenade crossing the Hogsmill River and reaching almost to Surbiton. Across Kingston Bridge is a tree lined river bank fronting the expanse of Hampton Court Park.


The Hogsmill flowing under Clattern Bridge

Kingston was built at the first crossing point of the Thames upstream from London Bridge and a bridge still exists at the same site. Kingston was occupied by the Romans, and later it was either a royal residence or a royal demesne.

There is a record of a council held in Kingston in 838, at which Egbert King of Wessex, and his son Ethelwulf were present. In 924 Kingston was the place at which Aethelstan was crowned King of the English; chosen both as King of the Mercians and of the West Saxons. He was later to conquer all the lands as yet unredeemed from the Norse in the north; the first effective ruler of all England. Later kings were crowned here too; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the coronation here in 979 of Ethelred II ("the Unready").

In the Domesday Book Kingston was held by William the Conqueror. Its Domesday assets were: a church, five mills, three fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, 40 acres of meadow, woodland worth six hogs. It rendered 30 pounds.[2] The Clattern Bridge over the Hogsmill River is mentioned in 1293 as "Clateryngbrugge"[3]

In 1730 the chapel containing the royal effigies collapsed, burying the sexton, who was digging a grave, the sexton's daughter and another person. The daughter survived this accident and was her father's successor as sexton. Kingston sent members to early Parliaments, until a petition by the inhabitants prayed to be relieved from the burden. Another chapel, The Lovekyn Chapel, still exists. It was founded in 1309 by a former mayor of London, Edward Lovekyn. It is the only private chantry chapel to survive the Reformation.

Kingston in 1846

For much of the 20th century, Kingston was a major military aircraft manufacturing centre specialising in fighter aircraft – first with Sopwith Aviation, H G Hawker Engineering, later Hawker Aircraft, Hawker Siddeley and eventually British Aerospace. The legendary Sopwith Camel, Hawker Fury, Hurricane, Hunter and Harrier were all designed and built in the town and examples of all of these aircraft can be seen today at nearby Brooklands Museum in Weybridge. Well known aviation personalities Sydney Camm, Harry Hawker and Tommy Sopwith were responsible for much of Kingston's achievements in aviation. British Aerospace finally closed its Lower Ham Road factory in 1992 part of the site was subsequently redeveloped for housing, the river side part of the site remains as a community centre and sports complex. The growth and development of Kingston Polytechnic and its transformation into Kingston University has made Kingston a university town.


The Rose Theatre opened on 16 January 2008 and seats approximately 899 people. The audience are arranged around the semi-circular stage, thus making the theatre feel cosy and enclosed. All Saints Church is host to classical choral and music concerts mostly on Saturdays and houses a Frobenius organ.

There are a number of choral societies including the Kingston Orpheus Choir and the Kingston Choral Society, an amateur symphony orchestra the Kingston Philharmonia, and the Kingston and District Chamber Music Society.

A number of annual festivals are organised by the Council and Kingston Arts Council including Kingston Readers' Festival, Think-in-Kingston and the Festival of the Voice. Kingston University runs the Stanley Picker Gallery and Kingston Museum has a changing gallery on the first floor. 'Singing it Back' singing groups come from Kingston upon Thames and run in the local area.

Eadweard Muybridge

John Galsworthy the author was born on Kingston Hill.

The photographer Eadweard Muybridge who was born at Kingston and changed the spelling of his first name in reference to the name of the Saxon king on the Coronation Stone. He was a pioneer in the photography of the moving image.

Kingston has been covered in literature, film and television. It is where Jerome K Jerome's comic novel Three Men in a Boat begins. In H G Wells' The War of the Worlds, cannons aimed against the Martians are positioned on Kingston Hill. In The Rainbow by D H Lawrence the youngest Brangwen dreams of a job in Kingston upon Thames in a long, lyrical passage. In Jane Austen's Emma, Mr Knightly regularly visits Kingston, although the narrative never follows him there.

Kingston is referenced (and used as a filming location) in episodes of Monty Python. More recently, a scene from Mujhse Dosti Karoge, a Bollywood film starring Hrithik Roshan as the leading actor, was filmed by the toppled telephone boxes sculpture in Old London Road.

Nipper, the famous "His Master's Voice" (HMV) dog, buried in the town under Lloyds Bank. His owners lived nearby in Fife Road.

Kingston Green Fair was held annually from 1987 to 2008 in Canbury Gardens, next to the river, on the Spring Bank Holiday. The word "Green" in the title refers to the ethos of the fair as promoting sustainable development. For instance no meat or other products derived from animals were allowed to be sold, and no electricity was permitted on the site unless generated by wind, sun, or bicycle power.

Sights of the town

The sculpture "Out of Order"

The middle of town is has the picturesque within the urban, the ancient coronation stone perched in front of a modern civic building, the Hogsmill still flowing as from time immemorial but constrained in its course by walls.

One of the more unusual sights in Kingston is several disused red telephone boxes that have been tipped up to lean against one another in an arrangement resembling dominoes. This sculpture by David Mach was commissioned in 1988 as part of the landscaping for the new Relief Road, and is called Out of Order.

Outside links


  1. Mercian Register (Abingdon Chronicle) for 924: Æþestan wæs of Myrcum gecoren to cinge 7 æt Cingestune gehalgod
  2. Surrey Domesday Book
  3. Kingston Borough Council – Plaque on the bridge


  • Charles Dickens, Jr (1994) [1887, 1879]. Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1887 (facsimile ed.). Devon: Old House Books. ISBN 1-873590-12-1.  – A guide to the Thames written by the novelist's son.