Architecture in Kingston

I live in Kingston upon Thames and if you go to Kingston  today the first thing you’d notice is the horrendous one-way system, and the second is probably that Temple of Consumption better known as Bentall’s shopping centre. However, it has an amazingly rich history and a somewhat inadequate museum (shared with the library) considering its importance.

Where England Began

Over 1000 years ago, Kingston was the birthplace of England. Prior to All Saints Church being built, its site was an important estate of the West Saxon Kings and host to Royal coronations.  King Egbert held his Great Council of 838 AD ‘in that famous place called Cyningestun’ and over the following centuries it is possible as many as eight Saxon kings were consecrated here, although only 3 can be verified for certain. The most well-known of these Saxon kings was Athelstan, the first true King of England. After being crowned in Kingston in 925 AD Athelstan defeated the Scots and Vikings, unifying regional kingdoms into one nation.

Coronation Stone

Up until 1730 the Coronation Stone resided in a Saxon Chapel of St Mary in the grounds of the current All Saints Church. In 1730, the Saxon Chapel collapsed and the stone was moved to various locations including the old Elizabethan Guildhall in the Market Place and then onto Assize Courts yard. In 1935 when the current Guildhall was built, the Coronation Stone was moved into the grounds next to the Hogsmill River, which is where it stands today.

Kings Stone

All Saints Church

All Saints Church is on the Thames side of the shopping centre. The church is 900 years old, though little of the original cruciform church remains, having been added to and rebuilt many times, notably by the Victorians who let’s face it, just couldn’t leave things alone.

All Saints01

I actually think the church is now a lovely inviting space after its restoration by architects Hugh Cawdron in the late 70s and Ptolemy Dean in 2013/14. I’m really looking forward to seeing the choirs performing there at Christmas!

All Saints03

Eric Gill Reliefs

Bentalls Shopping Centre is part classical facade, part 20s Art Deco (enter by the side facing John Lewis’s) and part 1980s pseudo Art Deco-/Egyptian whatever-it-was! But if you look up from the Thames side you will see relief carvings on 2 windows, which are by no less than Eric Gill.

Bentalls 01 Bentalls 02

Perhaps not Gill’s best work – I think they’re a little vulgar – but there are some important architectural features to be seen in Kingston. Another part of Bentalls I really like are these wonderful keystones in Portland on the arched windows at street level. Absolutely fabulous craftsmanship.

Bentalls 03

Kingston Bridge

Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines Bridge. The present bridge was opened in 1828, replacing an earlier wooden bridge, and has been widened twice since. It is built of Portland stone: comprising five elliptical arches. The centre arch enclosed a 60-foot span, 19 feet in height, and the side arches 56 feet then 52 feet in span progressively from the centre. The abutments were terminated by towers or bastions, and the whole surmounted by a cornice and balustrade, with galleries projecting over the pier. The length of the bridge was 382 feet and 27 feet in width. The bridge has been widened twice since its inception, in 1912-14 and again in 2000.

Kingston Bridge

Clattern Bridge and The Hogsmill River

I love the history of London and especially rivers and tunnels. Most of London’s rivers were barely more than streams. The Clattern Bridge is one of the oldest in Surrey, being mentioned in 1293 as “Clateryngbrugge” and the Hogsmill is one of the tributaries of the Thames, rising in Ewell and flowing in at Kingston, and interestingly provided the backdrop for Millais’ Ophelia.Bridge a

The Old Town Hall

To be found in the 800 year old market place, alongside many timber-framed buildings is this wonder. The gilded statue is of Queen Anne and is from an older, timber building on the site. The present building was built in 1840 and was recently restored.Old Town Hall

Timber Framed Buildings

One of the great things about Kingston is the bonkers timber buildings which are now high street shops for all the usual brands. Believe it or not this one of carved oak gable and corbels is Top Shop.Topman 02Topman 03

Below is a Victorian facade depicting the history of Kingston, complete with Saxon Kings. I love it.Jack Wills More stiff-leaf oak carving.Oak carving

Letter Carving, St Paul’s Church, Queen’s Road

I’ll leave you with this. While most letter carving is V-incised it doesn’t all have to be. I love this plaque at St Paul’s in Queen’s Road. It’s in uncial and is raised-lettering. I think it’s wonderful, bold and very of its time. It’s very striking from the path as I take Wilbur (my spaniel) to Richmond for his walk.St Paul's Queen's Road

I just wanted to add that all photos are my own.

What do you think?



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