Kingston Trails


Heritage Trail

This is a trail focusing on Kingston's Heritage. The walk is easy and will take around 2 hours
to complete if you visit all sites of interest.
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1 Coronation Stone
Kingston Coronation Stone c.1900 Coronation Stone, situated near the Guildhall Coronation Stone, enclosed by ornamental railings

In appearance they may be unprepossessing but coronation stones embody a great deal of history, and legend. Kingston’s Coronation Stone, currently located outside the Guildhall, is no exception. Tradition has it that on this stone no fewer than seven Saxon kings were crowned, during the tenth century. We can’t be entirely sure of this. But contemporary sources, on which we can probably rely, attest to the crowning of two kings, Athelstan and Ethelred (the Unready) and also perhaps of one other, Eadred. That alone makes Kingston a significant place in the history of Saxon kingship – and of Saxon England.

There may even have been a royal residence in Kingston. Again, we can’t be sure; but there was undoubtedly a church, perhaps as early as the eighth century when Saxons converted to Christianity. The present church of the parish, All Saints, dates its origins to the twelfth century. Evidence from those times, even of royalty, is scarce. Indeed it is not even clear that the slab of sandstone located outside Kingston’s Guildhall is something on which Saxon kings were crowned. It’s not even possible to be sure where the stone originally came from. It’s been suggested that it may have formed part of a druids’ circle. There is no evidence to support such a claim.

What is certain is that people in Kingston believed the stone to be of some historic value. For a long time it was kept in or in the vicinity of the parish church. Only in the nineteenth century, however, did locals begin to take real interest in the stone. The Victorians were fascinated by the Saxon period. And in Kingston they wanted to celebrate the stone as a historical artefact. In 1850 a local alderman raised funds to have the stone mounted on a plinth bearing the names of seven kings. It was then enclosed by railings, in what was regarded as a Saxon style, and displayed prominently near the market place.

There it remained until 1935 when, with the building of the current Guidhall, the stone was moved the short distance to its present location. There are plans to move it once more, to the vicinity of All Saints’ Parish Church, to emphasise more clearly the stone’s importance as a link with Kingston’s royal and religious past – the past as the Victorians saw it and the past as it might have been in Saxon times.

Sources - June Sampson, The Story of Kingston (1986), Shaan Butters, The Book of Kingston 1995

2 Guildhall

The Guildhall was opened in 1935 by Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The building contains portraits of Queen Anne, painted and presented by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1706, and of Queen Elizabeth II painted by Arthur Pan in 1953. It also incorporates linenfold panelling from the old Tudor Hall. The portraits are located in committee rooms where meetings take place regularly, and can be seen by prior arrangement.

Walk away from the Market Place, down the High Street over Clattern Bridge, the oldest bridge in Surrey. Cross the road using the pedestrian crossing by the Police Station. Walk back over the bridge, stopping to read the plaque set into the brick parapet.

3 Clattern Bridge
Clattern Bridge Clattern Bridge, as seen from High Street Need caption Clattern Bridge from the South, the medieval arches clearly visible Clattern Bridge, with the Guildhall behind Clattrn Bridge painted by L.M. Sengel, c.1905

The Clattern Bridge carries High Street over the Hogsmill River into Market Place. As you walk over it now, you'd hardly realize there was a bridge there, but it is the oldest working road bridge in Surrey and possibly the oldest in England. The blue plaque on its northern parapet marks it out as special: a grade II listed, scheduled ancient monument.

There has been a bridge on this site since the 12th century and perhaps even earlier. Its exact origin is shrouded in the mists of time, but folklore insists Saxon kings rode over it from their palace further down the Thames, to be crowned at Kingston's Coronation Stone. The bridge provides a crossing point for the Hogsmill River which forms an ancient boundary of Kingston to the south and the town's main defence from that direction.

The best view of the remains of the old bridge is from the north side, accessed by descending the steps on the right side of the parapet.

The earliest recorded existence of a bridge at this site is in a charter of 1158, where it is referred to as the Clateringgebrugende. The name probably derives from the Old English word Clatrung (meaning clattering); perhaps so named because of the noise of horses hooves as they clattered across its stone surface into Kingston market place. The original bridge consisted of three arches (which can still be seen from the north side). Two are clearly visible, the third is now buried beneath a tudor-style building overhanging the river.

Some histories suggest 'many a slanderous and noisy gossip' were escorted to the west bank of the stream to be ducked on the Cucking Stool'. The Cucking Stool was a basket attached to a beam suspended over the water, in which troublesome women were immersed in water to quieten their tongues. The stool was apparently in use until the late 18th century. In August 1572 the town's accounts record that the Kingston scolds had become 'past bearing' and a new cucking stool was ordered to be made. It cost 23 shillings and four pence. It was put to use straightaway, ducking the wife of Downing, a gravemaker of the parish,

"she was sett on a new cukking stolle made of a grett hythe and so browght a bowte the markett place to Temes brydge and ther had iij Duckinges over hed and eres becowse she was a common scolde and fyghter."

(Highways and Byways in Surrey, Eric Parker, 2009,

Turn back south along the High Street, passing the Rose Theatre and some attractive 16th, 17th and 18th Century properties until you reach Picton House, a white building on your right.

4 Picton House

This early eighteenth-century house was once the home of Cesar Picton, a respected black businessman who lived there from 1788-1807. The story of this Kingston coal merchant's success is particularly remarkable because he had been brought here seventeen years earlier as a slave from Senegal. He was just six years old when a British army officer who had served in Senegal gave the little boy to Sir John Philipps and his family as a gift in November 1761. Black body-servants were particularly popular amongst wealthy families at the time - as fashionable symbols of wealth and social status - but also cheaper than white waged servants because they were not paid. Although male servants usually served men, young black boys became particularly popular with fashionable women who liked to display them at parties and show them off at theatres and other popular public venues. These boys were usually richly dressed, and often sported a turban – a potent symbol of their exotic origins – they appear in the art of the period, in formal family portraits but also in the graphic satire of William Hogarth, who mocked the manners of the day. There is no record of this little boy's original name but like most Senegalese he was almost certainly Muslim and Lady Philipps dressed him in a rich 'velvet Turbet for [a] black boy'.

The Philipps' were a Christian family noted for their support of education and missionary work. A month after his arrival they arranged for the boy to be christened Cesar and paid three of the upper servants at their home in Norbiton House to be his godparents. This ceremony confirmed Cesar was part of their Christian household, but there was also a popular belief that baptism conferred a form of freedom on slaves, who could not then be sent back to the plantations. Although many Christian godparents exerted themselves to save their godchildren from being sold or shipped abroad, the law remained hotly contested. Cesar was lucky: he remained in the service and under the protection of the family, with whom he became a firm favourite, until the death of Lady Philipps in 1788. It was customary to reward loyal family servants in wills, but Lady Philipps was particularly generous to Cesar, leaving him £100. This legacy set Cesar free to follow his own course in life, but many years later her daughters also left him substantial sums in their wills a sure sign of the esteem and affection in which he was held.

Cesar took the surname of the Philipps' ancestral home in Wales, Picton Castle, to give himself a proper English Identity and rented the coach house and stables now known as Picton House. The Philipps family had been significant coal owners in Wales and, having spent some time with the family there in his youth, Cesar picked up sufficient knowledge of the business to make a success of being a coal merchant. By the time he was forty, he had made enough money to buy Picton House and other property in Kingston, including a wharf and a malthouse. He left Kingston in 1807 (the year that Britain abolished the slave trade) and moved first to Tolworth and then in 1816 to Thames Ditton, where he bought a house for the huge sum of £4000. He renamed this property Picton House too and lived there, in some style as an English Gentleman, supported by the rents from his other properties. Cesar Picton was 81 when he died, in 1836, just three years after slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire. He was buried in All Saint's Church, Kingston - a memorial marking the spot in the South Aisle was removed but a diamond shaped stone marked 'C P 1836' is still visible.

Picton House c.1955 Cesear Picton was buried in All Saint's Church Picton House, 2012 Ceasor Picton plaque, high street Picton House, 2012 Picton House, 2012

Walk further south along the Hight Street and turn right onto Queen's Promanade.

5 Queen's Promenade

Queen's Promenade was made in Queen Victoria's reign and named after her. The Queen often came through Kingston on her way to Claremont House in Esher.

Queens Promanade 1903 Community notice board along Queen's Promenade Relax along the riverfront View of Kingston Bridge from Queen's Promenade

Continue South along Queen's Promenade about 500 metres. Look across to the other side of Portsmouth Road and you will see the St Raphael's Roman Catholic Church, an Italianate building.

6 St. Raphael's Roman Catholic Church

St. Raphael's Church, which stands overlooking the Thames, is a magnificent Grade II listed building, which has impacted on the social and religious life of Kingston since its completion in the late nineteenth-century. It was the first Catholic Church to be opened to the public in Kingston, though it was originally built as a private chapel.

As well as its scenic location, it is notable for the legends surrounding its founder, Alexander Raphael. The story goes that in the 1840s, Raphael fell ill for a prolonged period. When he eventually and surprisingly recovered, his doctor presented a large bill to him. However, Raphael insisted that it was not the doctor's work that had brought him back to health, but the Virgin Mary. In prayer, he had vowed to her that if she interceded his recovery, he would build a church in honour of her, pledging £7,000 to it. St. Raphael's was completed in 1848, but he refused to have it consecrated. Raphael claimed he had a dream professing that once his new church was consecrated, he would die, so continued to worship elsewhere and put off the consecration. After several cancellations with Bishop Nicolas Wiseman, Raphael forgot to cancel one in 1850. On this occasion a butler let Bishop Wiseman into the church to complete the consecration. Raphael sacked the butler when he found out, and then true to the supposed legend, died within months of the ceremony.

Recent research through the parish records by Father Vincent Flynn has actually shown that the church was never consecrated – and the story was just a legend that has made the character and mystery of the church greater.

The church was designed by eminent architect, Charles Parker, in a Victorian Italianite style. The interior of the church is an elegant Renaissance style, which shows the remarkable classic beauty of Catholic churches. The three stained-glass windows above the marble High Altar depict Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani, Tobias and the Angel Raphael, and the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to be the Mother of God.

Beneath the Altar is the Savile crypt, where members of the Savile family who inherited the church are buried, along with Alexander Raphael. Raphael's memorial tablet above the west door further shows what an important figure he was in Kingston's history. The Latin inscription praises Raphael's "unswerving faith", and celebrates his charitable nature. It also notes that he received the honour and title of the 'Golden Knighthood of the Order of St. Sylvester', from Pope Pius IX, further showing his significance as a great figure in Kingston's history.

As well as being a great part of Kingston's religious life, St. Raphael's has brought a number of well-known names to our town. It is believed that Chopin once played the organ in the choir loft here. Also, highlighting Kingston's long association with royalty, the Prince and Princess of Wales (later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) were guests at a French royal wedding here in 1895.

Although the legends surrounding St. Raphael's may not be true, it is a truly spectacular and charismatic building, rich with history and tradition. It continues to have a great impact of the lives of locals and students alike in Kingston today, and remains a fitting tribute to the work, life and legend of Alexander Raphael.

Walk back towards Kingston along Queen's Promenade. As you walk along the riverside towards Kingston, note the attractive views, and stop to admire Kingston Bridge.

7 Kingston Bridge

The bridge you see today was designed by Edward Lapridge and opened to the public in 1828 by the Duchess of Clarence, later Queen Adelaide, whose husband later reigned as King William IV. The new approach road to the bridge was named Clarence Street in her honour.

This stone bridge replaced a wooden bridge originally constructed around 1170 and situated 100 feet further downstream. It is said that residents broke the wooden bridge deliberately in 1554 to stop Thomas Wyatt and his rebels from crossing. For the construction of the stone bridge, the river was dredged to allow navigation by vessels with increased draft. Originally the waterway was wider, shallower and had 'beaches'.

Tolls were charged for crossing the bridge with only Kingston Charity school children being exempt. In 1838 passengers avoided paying the toll for 13 days by walking across the ice! The bridge became free from toll in 1870 to much public rejoicing.

The bridge was widened in 1914 to help accommodate the trams and widened and strengthened again in 2001 to cope with heavier, modern traffic.

You can view remains of the medieval bridge in John Lewis’ basement. This is a point of interest on the River Thames Ramble Trail (point 10).

Note Kingston Bridge is to be viewed from Queen's Promenade on this trail, not visited itself. Therefore, from the Charter Quay wetland area, turn your back on the river and walk towards the Market Place through Shrubsole Passage.

8 Shrubsole Passage

Panels detailing the history of the Market Place were installed along the passage in 2002. The passage is named after William Shrubsole, three times Mayor of Kingston who died in office in 1880.

9 Kingston's Ancient Market Place and Market House

The street layout around the market place has not changed since the medieval ages and the Market place remains one of the best preserved medieval street plans in London. Excavations have shown that it was probably laid out as a deliberate act of town planning in the late 12th century and a market place at the centre is a common feature of other Surrey towns. With the help of the 1208 charter and archaeological evidence, the earliest buildings around the market place have been identified as being occupied houses and shops or workshops on street level, with some of the trades being a charcoal supplier, a silver/goldsmith and potters.

The earliest documented record of a market being held in the market place is 1242. From 1256, Kingston was permitted to hold an annual fair for eight days in November and many Royal charters have been used to strengthen it since. The 1441 charter established market rights and documents properties on the west side being occupied by a baker, fishmonger, sawyer, skinners and a number of inn-keepers. The famous charter of 1628 by Charles I granted Kingston a monopoly over markets within a seven mile distance of the town and it was used successfully to oppose a market in Surbiton in 1840. The charter remains in force today.

Kingston continued to expand in the 16th and 17th centuries and by 1664, had 455 households with an estimated population of over 2000. Kingston traders became organised into guilds during the middle ages and four trade guilds controlled trade in the town until 1835. These were the cloth traders (mercers), shoemakers, butchers and the woollen drapers. To become accepted as a member of the one of guilds and trade in town, you had to train as an apprentice with a Freeman of one of these companies. During this time, Kingston became an important centre for brewing, tanning, milling and boat building, with the volume of trade growing as the town continued to grow as an inland port.

Since medieval times an annual Shrove Tuesday Football game was held in the Market Place. The game celebrated the people's victory over the notorious and murderous raid of the Danes. Their leader was allegedly decapitated during the defeat and his head was kicked around in triumph, as the towns people cheered at their heroic resistance against the Danes. Every year, all the apprentices would leave work at 11am to play football until a team scored. The game was brutal as players on the opposing teams were also at risk of being knifed, hit with a cudgel (a type of trogon) or bitten. Occasionally a player had to jump in the river to retrieve the ball. Over time the organised game died down and in 1863 the game was finally suppressed.

Since medieval times an annual Shrove Tuesday Football game was held in the Market Place. The game celebrated the people's victory over the notorious and murderous raid of the Danes. Their leader was allegedly decapitated during the defeat and his head was kicked around in triumph, as the towns people cheered at their heroic resistance against the Danes. Every year, all the apprentices would leave work at 11am to play football until a team scored. The game was brutal as players on the opposing teams were also at risk of being knifed, hit with a cudgel (a type of trogon) or bitten. Occasionally a player had to jump in the river to retrieve the ball. Over time the organised game died down and in 1863 the game was finally suppressed.

The Robin Hood Games also took place in the Market Place, where the towns people dressed up and acted out the characters from the Story of Robin Hood and gave displays of their great archery skills.

The Ancient Market Place has been trading for over 800 years and continues today with more than fifty traders and open six days a week.

Turn right and the Druid's head pub is situated a bit further down the road on the right.

10 Druid's Head

(taken from Richard Holmes book 'Pubs, Inns and Taverns of Kingston')

The Druid's Head at 3 Market Place has the distinction of being the only old inn in the Market Place to have maintained its use as a public house to the present day. There is some confusion in published sources, where the first inn on the site is claimed to be the Chequer: however my research points to the Chequer being in (modern day) Church Street. The Bell however seems to have occupied the 3 Market Place site from the 16th century: the first reference comes in 1550 when owner John Amo (interestingly, a shoemaker) is excused for adding a bay window that protruded a foot more than its predecessor.

The inn does not appear by name in the 1709 Quit Rent return, and is first mentioned as the Lion and Lamb in the next surviving return for 1724. It also appears in the town's 18th century inquest reports as the innkeeper John Baker died in 1735 as a result of excessive drinking. In 1748 John Chalmers, a trooper of the Royal Regiment of Blues quartered at the inn, was thrown from his horse in the stableyard, fracturing his arm, leg and back and lingering several days before dying. The horse was declared "deodand" and thereby forfeit to the Lord of the Manor. In 1764 another innkeeper, Mrs Piggott, was killed by a fall down the cellar stairs.

In 1832 a landlord who was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids changed the inn's name to the Druid's Head. According to antiquarian George Ayliffe, writing over 70 years later, his name was "Shiner Walker'", but the licence returns show that the landlord of the time was John Walter.

In the 19th century the Druid's Head had the longest range of stabling for coach-horses in Kingston, and one of the largest rooms, used for a sixpenny dance at fair time. Unlike many other pubs it does not seem to have had long-term publicans, with different names appearing in each directory and census. One such landlady, Lucy Makepiece, was in 1864 subject to the bizarre theft of a pistol and a whipthong from an upstairs closet. The thief's defence was that he has only taken them "for a lark in the skittle ground".

The pub is reputed to have been a favourite of Jerome K Jerome. In Three Men in a Boat the characters set out from Kingston, and Jerome gives the following nice description of the Market Place:

"Many of the old houses, round about, speak very plainly of those days when Kingston was a royal borough, and nobles and courtiers lived there, near their King, and the long road to the palace gates was gay all day with clanking steel and prancing palfreys, and rustling silks and velvets, and fair faces. The large and spacious houses, with their oriel, latticed windows, their huge fireplaces, and their gabled roofs, breathe of the days of hose and doublet, of pearl-embroidered stomachers and complicated oaths. They were upraised in the days 'when men knew how to build.' The hard red bricks have only grown more firmly set with time, and their oak stairs do not creak and grunt when you try to go down them quietly."

The Druid's Head was acquired by Hodgson's in 1886, but by 1909 was threatened with closure. The ancient stables were of particular concern. Although they were large and could accommodate 16 horses, they were built of oak and therefore a fire risk, in a poor state of repair and "apparently not drained in any way". At the same date the pub had four bars, a public dining room and nine bedrooms. The landlord paid £75 per annum to the brewery in rent, and charged 3s 6d a night for a bed and breakfast. A further attempt at closure was made in 1910, but happily the Druid's Head has not only survived by acquiring the adjoining premises, once the Swan/Red Lion. The building is now grade II* listed.

Turn right and the Druid's head pub is situated a bit further down the road on the right.

11 Jacobean Oak Stairway

The old Jacobean staircase is located in numbers 6-9 Market Place. Currently housed in Next, these stairs have been a part of Kingston’s rich heritage since the mid-seventeenth century.

Originally part of the Castle inn (number 5 Market Place), the elaborately carved oak staircase would have been the principal staircase to two or more floors of the Castle inn. There are a variety of intricate carvings, including a castle, grapes, and Bacchus (the God of wine) seated on a wine cask. There are also three sets of initials carved into the walls of the building and staircase, which were revealed during a recent renovation. These include ‘SB’ which stands for S. Browne, the inn’s owner.

The staircase was moved in 1912 to number 6 Market Place when it became a department store called Hide’s. Hide’s, later known as Army and Navy, was a well known store that sold a variety of items and remained successful until its closure in 1987. Cardinal’s indoor market occupied the building after Hide’s closed and the staircase was neglected, falling into disrepair.

In 1997, with the building of Charter Quay, numbers 6-9 Market Place were refurbished and the staircase was removed and sent to Carpenter Oak in Swindon for restoration, together with a stained glass window, which depicted the arms of Cecil Hook, Bishop of Kingston from 1911-1923. Unfortunately, the window disappeared before it could be returned to the original site in the new Borders Bookstore along with the staircase. Since November 2010, the building has been a Next clothing store, and the staircase can still be enjoyed while walking up to the first floor Starbucks, which overlooks the Market Place.

Directions: Turn to face South across the Market Place, and you will see Henry Shrubsole's memorial.

12 Memorial of Henry Shrubsole

Henry Shrubsole came from a respected local family whose Drapery and Fashion firm was founded in Kingston Market Place in 1760. The company remained there until 1986 under various owners and names, and was the oldest Drapery firm in the Borough and one of the oldest in Britain. A high class store, favoured by Queen Victoria, it was expended by John and Henry Shrubsole in 1866 alongside the lines of the London Department Stores.

The memorial in front of the Market House is dedicated to William Shrubsole, three-times Mayor of Kingston who died in office in 1880.

Walk round to the back of the Market House. To the left, Thames Street goes off towards Kingston Bridge. From the corner of the market place you can admire our next point of interest, the 1902 facade of Millets.

13 3-5 Thames Street, 1902 Facade (formerly Millets)

In medieval times a mansion called Bishops Hall belonging to the Bishop of Winchester once stood to the west of Thames Street on the riverside. Hugh Herland, royal master-carpenter, lived here in 1392. Herland designed the famous hammer beam roof of Westminster Hall for Richard II. Much of the timber came from Kingston.

Turn to face the corner of Thames Street and note the building facing the Market place.

14 Thames Street Shops

On the corner of Thames street note the X shop, including a little building to the side, which dates from 1590. The tall façade, designed in 1909 and 1929, shows important people connected with Kingston including Edward the Elder, King Athelstan, King John, Edward III and Queen Elizabeth I. This shop was earlier used by Boot the Chemist. Phillipsons Lending Library was once here. It is said that Queen Victoria used the Library.

Turn right and then left into the gates to All Saints' Church.

15 All Saint's Church

A church has been at the heart of Kingston town since the 8th century. All Saints Church was known as All Hallows before the reformation and was originally a minister serving Kingston as well as the larger area of Richmond, Hook, Thames Ditton and East Moseley. All Saints became a parish church for the area of Kingston by the early 12th century.

The church has an interesting history: In her Golden Jubilee year, the Queen visited to All Saints church to unveil a stone commemorating the crowning of her predecessor Edward the Elder in 900. The King of Wessex held his great council on the site in 838, and Athelstan and Ethelred were two of the seven Saxon kings of England reputed crowned at All Saints in the 10th century.

Construction of the present church commenced in 1120 under the rule of Henry I. In 1130 the Church of All Saints was rebuilt in stone on its present site and it has been extended or refurbished ever since over the centuries. All Saints was an important site for the community as the building provided a spiritual focus for the town as well as a place of sanctuary for criminals fleeing from justice. In 1262, thieves Richard Le Parmenter and John de Marscall took refuge at All Saints.

Within the church there is a 15th century wall painting of St Blaise, a 16th century tomb of Sir Anthony Benn, a 17th century marble font attributed to Sir Christopher Wren , twelve bells and a 18th century Carillon. The great west window in the 19th century and the magnificent Frobenius organ were installed in 1988. There is also a Memorial Chapel for the East Surrey Regiment.

Until the early 16th century all religious life revolved around the Church. Parish priests were not always well educated but they baptised and buried, took services, listened to confessions, comforted the sick, said prayers for the rain, dispensed holy water to ward of fire or plague and blessed the crops. Every year, the Kingston Parish collected 53s 4d to pay the priests wages and their services were valued by the community.

In 1725 at a public meeting in the vestry of All Saints Church, it was agreed that church wardens and overseers of the poor together with the bailiff and other substantial Kingston ratepayers should take a lease of a house for conversion into a workhouse. The poor were to be taught the habits of virtue, sobriety, obedience, industry and labour with the view of cutting off their "entail of poverty and idleness".

The All Saints Parish Church is still a strong presence to the local community today. Set between the ancient Market Place and the Bentall shopping centre, the church has a long-standing, strong musical tradition and is a great location for neighbourhood events. All Saints is a place of worship but also a venue for arts and concerts as well as a place to rest and reflect in a busy town centre. The church continues to impact the lives of those who live or work in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in many ways.

Come out of the church by the same door and back into the Market Place. Turn left and left again, and walk towards Clarence Street. There was once a pig market where the flower stall now is. Number 6-8 Church Street was once the Rose Tavern, owned by William Shale, a valet to Henry VIII; inside fine original timbers can be seen. Continue on and you will see the Bentall Centre. Turn left and then right to see the side entrance.

16 Bentall Centre

The Bentalls Centre is a retail hub for Kingston town centre, with shops ranging from fashionable brands, such as Hollister to high street favorites like W. H. Smiths. With an impressive glass atrium higher than the nave of Westminster Abbey, and its 'Aston Webb' façade modeled on Hampton Court Palace, its architecture is as diverse as its shops.

Frank Bentall opened his first drapery shop in Clarence Street in 1867. Within a year, he expanded his business and under the leadership of his son, Leonard Bentall, the store became the largest privately owned store in Europe and went public in 1946.

Stretching from Clarence Street to Wood Street, Bentalls department store occupied the entire 3.5 acre site of the present day Bentall Centre. The Bentalls store introduced the first British made escalators, connecting all of the floors of the newly extended department store in 1931, which became known as 'escalator hall'.

In 1934, the store was completely rebuilt (without closing) and the 'Aston Webb' façade was built on the exterior of the building. The Aston Webb façade was modeled on the Sir Christopher Wren section of Hampton Court Palace and provided grandeur to the Bentalls department store.

In 1987, the Bentalls store entered a new phrase under its chairman Edward Bentall and the whole store was knocked down, with the exception of the façade to build the Bentall Centre. In an example of amazing design and engineering, the Aston Webb façade remained as the external wall on Wood Street whilst the Bentall Centre was built behind it in two phrases. Designed by Building Design Partnership, the Bentall Centre was opened in November 1992, linking four floors of shopping with 13 escalators.

The Bentall store now occupies a site at the northern end of the centre. Although, Bentalls was sold to Fenwicks in 2001, the department store still retains its famous name.

Return to Clarence Street, with the Bentall Centre on your left, continue walking and take the first left. At the end of this pedestrianised street turn right onto Fife Road. Follow Fife Road and cross over the A307/Wood Street onto the 'island'. You are aiming to walk under the railway bridge to the right of the one way road, so cross the A308 and turn left to walk under the bridge. Continue and turn right onto Canbury Park Road. Continue along this road until the juncture with Elm Crescent on the left.

17 The Sopwith/Hawker Factory & Experimental Shop

Sopwith House

In Canbury Park Road are two buildings associated with Kingston's world famous aviation heritage. Sopwith House is now all that remains of the Sopwith Aviation and later Hawker Aircraft factory in which were designed and built many of Britain's most famous fighter aircraft during the 20th century.

The factory was constructed in great haste in 1914 to meet the demand for aircraft during World War One and here was built the Sopwith Camel – the most successful Allied aircraft of that war. There was never an airfield in Kingston and new aircraft from the factory were trucked by road to Brooklands for flight testing – a Camel can still be seen at Brooklands Museum today.

Hawker Hurricane

Surely the company's finest moment however was the construction of the Hawker Hurricane – here seen on its maiden flight in November 1935 – which played a vital role in the victory of the Battle of Britain and led its designer, Sydney Camm, to be hailed as the 'man who saved Britain'. (1)

Together with the more well known Supermarine Spitfire, the two aircraft formed a deadly partnership in 1940 and successfully defended Britain from the onslaughts of the Luftwaffe – then the most powerful air force in the world. Yet, it was the Hurricane that did most of the damage with more victories to its name than all other aircraft types and ground defences put together.

Siddely House

The prototype Hurricane was first assembled in 1935 in Hawker Aircraft's Experimental Shop on the south side of Canbury Park Road, today called Siddely House.

In March 1936 with war with Germany on the horizon, company chairman Tom Sopwith made a crucial decision. He put the aircraft into production in advance of a government order and at the company's own risk. This decision, made here at a Board Meeting at Canbury Park Road, was arguably critical in allowing the under-strength RAF to defend the country in 1940.

Sydney Camm

Sydney Camm was Hawker's Chief Designer from 1925 until his death in 1966. Hailed as 'the greatest designer of fighter aircraft the world has known'(2), it was also acknowledged that 'he was a genius, but often quite impossible'(3).

All Camm's aircraft are characterised by his trademark simplicity and elegance. In the 1930s he was responsible for a series of highly successful biplanes and in the 1950s the Hawker Hunter – the classic Cold War fighter. At the end of his career he led the team that developed vertical take-off and landing aircraft – which developed into the Harrier jump jet.

Retrace your steps, passing under the railway bridge, keeping to the left of the main road. Cross over the A308 again this time passing the Rotunda, heading South alongside the A307/Clarence Street. Follow this road until you get to Wilkinson's Store on your left. Turn onto Old London Road where you will see the famous collapsing telephone boxes, a sculpture made by David Mach in 1989 entitled 'Out of Order'. Further along Old London Road on the left are Cleaves Almshouses, our next site of interest.

(1) Headline from News Chronicle, 18th February 1941

(2) Sopwith, Sir Thomas. From his address at Sir Sydney Camm's memorial service at St Clement Danes, March 1966

(3) Sopwith, Sir Thomas. In a conversation with Harald Penrose. In Bramson, Alan.
Pure luck: the authorised biography of Sir Thomas Sopwith (1990) Crecy: Manchester. Page 117

18 Cleaves Almhouses

Almshouses are charitable housing provided to typically elderly people who can no longer work to earn enough to pay rent, to live in a particular community. They are generally maintained by a charity or the trustees of a bequest.

William Cleave, born in 1572 ran a prosperous business in the City of London and was a liveryman of the Haberdashers Company, with a residence in Kingston. He was a kinsman of the Tiffyn family, whose charitable bequest helped found Tiffin's School in the 19th century. He died in the year following the Great Fire of London on May 11, 1665 at the grand old age of 95 and is buried in All Saints Church next to Kingston Market Place. In his will, William Cleave made several charitable bequests, including a legacy of land and money for the provision of housing for 'six old men and six old women'.

The money bequeathed totalled £500 and was raised by the sale of lands and tenements he owned. As his will states “all his messuages [sic], lands, tenements and whatever else he had in the parish of Kingston for the maintenance of twelve poor people of the social parish for ever- six poor men and six poor women of honest life and reputation, the profits thereof to be equally divided amongst them: none to be admitted but single persons and above sixty years of age”. His wishes were carried out to the letter and Cleave's Almshouses were built in 1669, extended in 1889 and substantially refurbished and modernised in 1994.

The original accommodation each comprised one room upstairs and one room downstairs. A central hall was also provided for communal activities and socializing. The buildings have been modified over time to suit the residents' needs and allow for improvements. The window tax of 1696 caused alternate windows to be bricked up on the Old London Road elevation. Kitchens and toilets were added in the 19th century and in the 1950s, small upstairs bathrooms were added. A further ten homes were completed in 1910 at the rear of the site. This created a garden space that most properties can enjoy today. In the 1990s, the Victorian buildings were converted to single storey accommodation to give greater housing opportunities for those less mobile. In 1996, the original twelve houses were also refurbished and extended.

More recently in October 2003, following a legacy bequeathed by Miss Blanche Audric, a terrace of six homes was built on a parcel of newly purchased land. This created the last arm of the quad around the gardens.

As Elderly people now represent a greater percentage of the population than ever before, Cleave's Almshouses provides a useful and often more individually tailored solution for the elderly, than council flats or care homes. Many almshouses allow the tenant or guest to own pets, which is recognized as being a significant contribution to a person's wellbeing and prevents the feeling of loneliness often associated with the old age.

Go to the end of London Road. Look across the main road. On the corner, opposite Kingston Grammar School is the Lovekyn Chapel.

19 Lovekyn Chapel

This private Chantry Chapel was built in 1309 by Edward Lovekyn. Royal consent was needed, and this was obtained from Edward II in return for the cancellation of debts owed to Lovekyn for arranging the marriage feast of the King's father, Edward I to Princess Margaret of France. Queen Elizabeth I gave the chapel to form a Grammar School by Royal Charter in 1561. Queen Elizabeth II visited Kingston to celebrate the school's 400th anniversary in 1961.

Go back to the telephone boxes and turn left. Cross over the road at the traffic lights towards Cattle Market bus station. Carry on along Wheatfield Way towards the Museum on your left.

20 Kingston Library and Museum

Kingston Museum is a Grade II listed building and was designed by Alfred Cox, the same architect who designed Kingston Library. The library opened in 1903 and the museum opened one year later in 1904. Funding for the building came partly from the wealthy Scottish-American benefactor, Andrew Carnegie, of Carnegie Hall fame and partly from a loan taken out by the Corporation. The cost of the museum was £6,000. The Museum was restored between 1992 and 1997 with three permanent galleries: Ancient Origins, Town of Kings, Eadweard Muybridge and an Art Gallery for temporary exhibitions.

One of the most striking features of the museum building is the six beautiful stained-glass windows. They were originally designed for the old Town Hall, now called the Market House in Kingston's Market Place but were transferred to the museum when the Council moved to the Guildhall in 1936. They were designed by Dr. William Finny, seven times mayor of Kingston, and a keen local historian. Four windows have civic themes, such as the Millenary of King Edward the Elder who was crowned in AD 902, and the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. One incorporates original 17th glass from a previous town hall and the 'May Games' window depicts Kingston's May Day dancers from the 16th century.

The museum has a large and varied collection of local interest, a fine collection of Martinware pottery, written records with the earliest surviving charter dated 1208, and the internationally renowned Eadweard Muybridge collection. The pioneer photographer was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1830 and died here in 1904 bequeathing his unique collection of photography equipment and prints to the museum.

One of only five Royal Borough's in the country, Kingston upon Thames rich history can be explored in the museum.