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The Kingston Royal Walkabout

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published July 3rd 2013
Rivers, Religion, and Royalty
charter quay, kingston, royal walk about

Kingston is full of historic places to see, and has many connections to royalty. It's name in fact derives from 'Kinges Tun', which means a royal far, or estate. Kingston is one of only four royal boroughs in England and Wales, the others being Kensington & Chelsea, Caernaforn, and Windsor & Maidenhead. The first mention of Kingston was in 838 C.E., documenting a royal council meeting.

The town provides many different tours and self-guided walks; a few months ago, I went on a walking trail of Kingston. This time round, I decided to take the Kingston Royal Walkabout; it does have some crossover, but is more detailed than the walking trail, and has some optional extensions you can visit.

The one problem I find with Kingston's self-guided walks is that they always start off in the centre of town, which means you walk past several of the locations before reaching the start, and then have to do a lot of back tracking. It would be much more sensible if they started the walk at the location closest to the train station or bus depot, as this is where most visitors will be arriving from. I usually get to Kingston by train, so decided to follow my own route, which in my opinion makes much more sense.

kingston, post boxes, out of order, david mach
'Out of Order', David Mach, 1989

I started off at Old London Road, where you will see the iconic 'Out of Order' installation (okay, not iconic like Big Ben, but at least in terms of Kingston). The sculpture was made my David Mach in 1989 and depicts a series of tumbling phone booths. How this fits in with the theme of royalty I'm not quite sure (if it were post boxes then I'd understand), but it is a quirky display well worth seeing.

kingston, cleaves almhouses
Cleaves Almhouses

Further along Old London Road are Cleaves Almshouses, which were built in 1668 by William Cleave for elderly residents. An Almshouse included private two rooms (one up stairs, one down), plus a communal area where the residents could socialise. The houses have now been adapted for modern day living.

kingston, lovekyn chapel
Lovekyn Chapel

At the end of the road, I crossed over to Lovekyn Chapel, which was built in 1309 by Edward Lovekyn. It is the the first site on the trail that has a recognisable royal connection. A chantry chapel needed royal permission to be built in the fourteenth century, and King Edward II gave consent on the agreement that all his debts to Lovekyn be cancelled. Although Lovekyn is a rather saccharine name for a chapel, it is fitting, considering that the debts were for Edward I marriage feast to Princess Margaret of France.

kingston, quaker meeting house
Quaker Meeting House

My next stop was the eighteenth century Quaker House on Eden Street; Although I found the building, finding the entrance was another matter.

kingston, saxon kings
Seven Saxon Kings

Kingston was the crowning place of seven Saxon Kings. Opposite the Quaker House, you can see a plaque depicting Edward the Elder, Athelstan, Edmund, Edred, Edwy, Edward the Martyr, and Ethelred.

kingston museum, Athelstan
King Athelstan

Take a trip to Kingston Museum to learn more about him, and other interesting local history facts.

kingston, guild hall
Guild Hall

Walk to the end of Eden Street and you'll reach the Guild Hall, opened by Princess Alice in 1935. The building contains portraits of Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth II. They are located in the committee rooms, and not usually open to the public, but can be viewed by special request.

kingston, coronation stone, guildhall
Coronation Stone

On the grounds of Guildhall, you will find the Coronation Stone, which as the name suggests, was used to coronate the seven Saxon Kings.

kingston, clattern bridge
Clattern Bridge

Clattern Bridge is on the other side of the road; it is the oldest bridge in Surrey, and named after the clattering sound of horses crossing over.

picton house
Picton House

Further along High Street, is Picton House. The story behind this building starts in Africa, when a small boy called Cesar Picton was sold into slavery and brought to England to serve the owners of the house. Picton later became a wealthy coal merchant.

queen's promenade
Queen's Promenade

Continue down High Street to reach the beautiful Queen's Promenade, named after Queen Victoria. Victoria was a frequent visitor to Kingston, travelling through the town to get to Claremont House. As you walk along the promenade, you will see all the canal boats and yachts sailing by; you can even take a trip on the Turk Launches, which run every half hour.

kingston, st. raphael
St. Raphael Church

About five hundred metres down the promenade, you'll reach Portsmouth Road. On the opposite side is St. Raphael Roman Catholic Church. It is of Italian design, and built in 1848 by Alexander Raphael. Many royal weddings took place here in the nineteenth century, including Princess Helene of Orleans.

charter quay, kingston, royal walk about
Charter Quay

I then walked back to the Queen's Promenade, which take you to the Charter Quay, a modern building development with flats, restaurants, shops, and a wetland area. It is a lovely place to sit out by the riverside.

kingston, bridge
Kingston Bridge

At the end of the promenade is Kingston Bridge. The original wooden bridge was broken in 1554 to stop Thomas Wyatt and his rebels from crossing. Wyatt is credited with introducing sonnets to England, having a affair with Anne Boleyn, and forming an uprising in protest of Queen Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain. Queen Mary was so grateful for the bridge being destroyed, that she awarded Kingston with two annual fairs, plus the right to hold another fair for two days in July. The stone bridge was built in 1828 and opened by the Duchess of Clarence.

kingston, hampton court park, horse
Hampton Court Park

Cross the bridge and you'll reach the entrance to Hampton Court Park; it has a golf course, horse & pony paddock, and you can walk through it to reach Hampton Court Palace & Gardens.

kingston, bentall centre
Bentall Centre

Travel back across the bridge until you reach Clarence Street, where you'll find the Bentall Centre. Built in the 1930s, the front of this shopping complex was designed to look like Hampton Court Palace. Unfortunately, at the moment, building works are being done at the front, so there is a lot of scaffolding up.

kingston, jd sport
JD Sport replaced the Rose Tavern

Turn into Church Street and you will be able to see the original Tudor timber work of William Shale's Rose Tavern. At the end of the road is All St. Church. The gates to the church were presented by the East Surrey Regiment, now the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment.

kingston market
Ancient Market

Right outside the church is Kingston's Ancient Market. It has always had a fine quality butcher's fishmongers, and competively priced fruit & veg stalls, but in recent years has become quite a foodie paradise. There are artisan bakes, people selling preserves, and several street food stalls, including exotic burgers and asian cuisine, and paella. Sadly, because of this, the council has forced the two remaining non-food stalls to close.

kingston market, statue

In front of the market is a statue commemorating Kingston's three-time mayor, William Shrubsole, who died in 1880. The monument is a bit confusing, because it does not depict the mayor, but a woman and child.

kingston, druid's head
The Druid's Head

Although the tannery and candle maker's are long gone from Market Place, The Druid's Head Inn (or pub today), is still there.

And so ended my Royal Walkabout. The walk takes about two hours to complete if you visit everything on the list, but you might want to stop for a break in between. There are dozens of cafes, pubs, and restaurants along the way to stop into.
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Where: Kingston
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