The museum was built in 1904, and though from the front, it looks looks like a modest building, you'll change your mind when you see their stained glass windows. Unlike the rest of this 20th century building, the windows are from the 16th century and absolutely exquisite, particularly the one depicting members of the royal court.
You enter the museum through the gift shop, which along with your usual range of knick-knacks, also sold handmade soap, cards, and history booklets. The gift shop also had three display cabinets, including one about the LGBT community.
One of the other displays featured Martinware pottery. The four brothers specialised in making salt glazed stoneware, bird sculptures, and novelty jugs, such as ones with human grinning faces. A miller from Kingston, called Ernest Marsh, was a collector of their pottery, and donated his collection to the museum.
The third cabinet had the most interesting display; a giant pewter platter. At the coronation of King George IV, the platter was used to serve a two hundred pound baron of beef to seven hundred children at Kingston Market place.
The further through the museum I went, the further back in time I travelled. In the next cabinet, I saw what looked like a rotting piece of drift wood; it turned out to be a three metre longboat made from an oak tree in the Anglo Saxon period between 870-1000 AD.
The Anglo Saxons had a very prominent role in Kingston. It is alleged that seven Anglo Saxon kings were coroneted there, although only two can be confirmed. These include Edward the Elder in 900 AD and his son, Athelstan in 925 AD on the 4th September. Athelstan is said to be the first king of 'all' England.
The museum has some interesting fossils on show too; these include mammoth teeth & a tusk, deer antlers, and a human skeleton. Many of these remains were found by accident when clearing was being done for the construction of what is now Eden Walk. A minor mystery was also dredged up from the River Thames, where they found Roman coins; this is unusual since Kingston was never a Roman town.
Heading back to the future, the museum also commemorated many technological innovations, including the pioneering work of their local photographer, Edweard Muybridge, who famously invented the Zoopraxiscope. The device was the first step towards cinema.
Talking about cinema and media entertainment, who can tell me what HMV's connection to Kingston is? The answer is staring you in the face (literally). The dog in their logo was a tarrier called Nipper, and he was buried in Kingston on Clarence Street in 1895. In 2010, Kingston named the road Nipper Alley, after him.
And so ended my tour of the museum. The museum also has an art gallery on the first floor, but unfortunately that was closed at the time.
I loved the bit about Nipper, Briony. Local museums are very important and publicising their existence is essential to keeping history alive. Your article even had me googling Kingston Market Place and the Museum. Certainly, a place I would like to visit if ever we cross the seas. If it was not for your article, Kingston would have forever remained un googled.