The route that I had chosen to walk and historically observe possesses a lot of significance not just to the history of south-west London, but even to myself. Situated along the south-eastern outskirts of Richmond Park, what is now known as the A308 road began its existence during the Roman occupation of Britain and was built to link London and Portsmouth, which had been used for centuries as the main thoroughfare between the two cities and the settlements along it until the completion of the Portsmouth Direct Line railway and the A3 motorway. My route covered approximately 2 miles (3.2km) and began from the very top of Kingston Hill, descending down all the way via London Road and Kingston Town Centre and finished at the Coronation Stone. It was history mixed with personal nostalgia.
As I have already mentioned why it is historical generally, the reason why the Kingston Hill area is important to me personally is because this area is where I used to live for the first five years of my life. It is also where I went to school and where I go for recreational walks or cycle rides whenever I’m in a bad mood or in the need of exercise. After all this time, only recently I discovered the historical significance of the area, and I thought that it would be a perfect idea to observe the history behind it.
My walk began at the top of Kingston Hill, one of the highest points in Greater London. The area is typical of other settlements on the outskirts of Richmond Park: leafy, green, tall trees, detached Edwardian-era houses – a very upper-middle class place. It is a busy road, indicating that it is still an important road link between road settlements. There was a green plaque at the corner of Warren Road that indicated to a property in the middle of Coombe. It was Telegraph Cottage, which is most notable for having been the temporary residence of former general and later 34th President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. It was from this cottage that the then-general stayed while acting as Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, where he also planned the D-Day landings. Although the cottage wasn’t on my route, the memorial to it was, so I took a picture of it.
I began walking down Kingston Hill and on the Richmond Park side all the Edwardian houses had names, such as “Turnpike Cottage”, indicating a possible hint to a turnpike being in the area. However, the most remarkable aspect of this section is Canbury School. Opened in 1982 and occupying a large Victorian house, it is the secondary school which I attended. But the school has a much bigger claim to fame – previously named “Canbury House”, it was the residence of world-famous father-and-son record-breaking land and water motorists Malcolm and Donald Campbell, the latter of whom was born and raised at the house. Malcolm broke the land speed record three times and the water speed record once, while Donald broke land and speed records countless time in his famous Bluebird speed machines which eventually led to his tragic death at Coniston Water, Cumbria in 1967 while trying to push the water speed record beyond 300mph. Their legacy was commemorated on 29th November 2010 when English heritage unveiled a blue plaque (or bluebird plaque!) on the side of the school. I was a 14-year-old pupil back then, and I remember attending the ceremony well. Looking back, it’s unbelievable that I spent five years walking through the corridors where two of history’s most famous speed kings lived!
I continued further on, where I noticed that the architecture of the houses began to change from late-Victorian/Edwardian to modern 1960s/70s era council housing. The Kingsnympton Park Estate was where I lived for the first five years of my life, but I never knew, until a few months ago, that this modern working-class area surrounded by upper-middle-class homes was actually incredibly historical. Ancient Roman artifacts such as coins and urns had been uncovered there on many occasions through the centuries and were recorded by notable early modern antiquaries such as John Leland and John Aubrey. Aubrey spoke of a gallows being on the sight of what is most likely Kingsnympton estate, which for me was a rather grim feeling knowing that many convicts met their ends on this sight. To my side there were two century-old cottages, both named North and South Lodge, respectively. The South Lodge was of peculiar interest, since it was situated beside a detailed iron gate. During my research I found out that this was in fact the side entrance to a mansion that occupied the site, of which the plaque that I photographed explains.
I soldiered on like a Roman legionnaire from the point where the hill began to descend. To my left side was the Kingston Lodge Hotel. Established in 1985, it was the site of two public houses since at least the early 18th century, the Fox & Coney and George and the Dragon, respectively.
I began to walk further down the hill and encountered Kingston Hospital, the place where I was born. Observing the area, I noticed that the street of the main entrance was called “Galsworthy Road” and was in fact named after the novelist John Galsworthy, who wrote The Forstyle Saga and won the 1932 Nobel Prize in Literature. Contrary to what I thought, he wasn’t born at Kingston Hospital, but at the top of Kingston Hill, just less than a kilometre away from my starting point at a retirement home posthumously named Galsworthy House.
After passing Kingston Hospital, I noticed the landscape was becoming less green and more urban with lower-middle-class homes. At the Park Road roundabout, this division between the two areas became more evident, and is even reflected today as the boundary between Kingston & Surbiton and Richmond Park constituencies which goes along the southern part of the Kingston Loop Line. Completed over the course of the late 19th century, the few remaining small terraced homes from that period built along the railway line can reflect the working class life of the area.
I continued underneath the railway bridge, passing by relatively new buildings until I walked past St Peter’s Church, Norbiton. Built in its current form from 1840-1842, it is a Grade II listed building and is sited on part of the grounds formerly belonging to Norbiton Place and was built as a result of public subscription generously supported by Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV. Back then, it must have been one of the tallest buildings in the area, compared to all the other modern buildings surrounding it today.
As I continued further down, Kingston Hill road had ended, and now it was London Road. Here houses two important schools in the borough, Tiffin Boy’s and Kingston Grammar, as well as the Lovekyn Chapel. It is the only remaining free-standing chantry chapel in England and, dating back to 1309, is the oldest complete building in Kingston. Although it is no longer used for religious services, it’s the most popular venue in the Royal Borough for civil ceremonies and civil partnerships.
Going through what is now the historic Old London Road, named due to its connection to London, I also came across what was the former Kingston Police Station which was built in 1864, as shown by the year above the entrance.
Finally, I made my way to the very historic centre of Kingston. Surrounding me were plenty of antique buildings, ranging from Tudor to Victorian. I managed to also find approximately where the following drawing was made.
Shrove Tuesday Football in the Market Place at Kingston-upon-Thames from the Illustrated London News on 28 February 1846
I finally walked to the place where my walk ended – at the Coronation Stone, Kingston’s most famous landmark. It is believed to be the stone where the first seven Anglo-Saxon Kings of England were crowned: Æthelstan, Eadred, Æthelred the Unready, Edward the Elder, Edmund I, Eadwig and Edward the Martyr, respectively. The stone is of great importance since it is the reason why “Kingston” is named as it is. Next to the coronation stone was the Clattern Bridge, the oldest surviving bridge in London. Clattern Bridge, built way back in 1293, crosses the Hogsmill River just before running into the Thames and was named so because of the noise of horse’s hoofs as they crossed.
I looked back on my walk with a sense of accomplishment. After all this time of travelling up and down Kingston Hill and going to the town centre, I only occasionally looked at it within a historical context. Only when I did my research I actually realized and appreciated Kingston-upon-Thames for how remarkably historic this town really is.
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portsmouth_Direct_Line#cite_note-marshall-12> [Last accessed 5/11/2016]
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/8168731/Malcolm-and-Donald-Campbell-memorial-unveiled.html> [Last accessed 5/11/2016]
 Kingston Museum and Kingston History Society, “The George and Dragon Public House, Kingston Hill (1728-1985)”
 <http://www.southwark.anglican.org/find-a-church/kingston/norbiton-st-peter> [Last accessed 9/11/2016]
[7 <http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/NEWS/11702088.Academic_challenges_football_history/#gallery1> [Last accessed 9/11/2016]
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