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North Kingston Centre

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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 17th 2013
Discover Kingston's Past
kingston, north centre, local history room, archives, sewing class
Made in craft classes.

After a trip to Kingston Museum and taking a number of historic walks, I did not think that there was anywhere else to go to learn about the town; but I was wrong. Not long ago, I picked up a leaflet about their Local History Room, which is located in North Kingston Centre.

the horse in motion, eadweard muybridge
Image from Wikipedia

The leaflet listed a number of resources available for study, and said that there was also an art collection, and collection of material by Eadweard Muybridge. A pioneer in photography, Muybridge is the creator of the famous Horse in Motion (1872), and was greatly influential in the Birth of Cinema.

This place sounded like it was worth a look, so on the hottest day of the year, I made the unwise decision to pay a visit. By the time I reached Kingston, I was already feeling pretty hot and bothered, and after completing a few jobs, the 31 C weather was getting to me. Still, I thought that once I was in the centre, I would be out of the sun, and be able to rest.

What I didn't realise, however, was just how far away the North Kingston Centre was. It is located at the at the end of Richmond Road. The very end. Without any shade, it felt like the long slog would never end, but eventually I got there. Upon entering, I discovered that the North Kingston Centre is in fact their adult education centre, and that they offer a wide variety of courses. These include subjects such as art & craft, horticulture, maths & science, cooking, health & fitness, and so on.

primary school, kingston
Fern Hill Primary School right next door.

For parents, this could potentially very useful place to study as there is a primary school right next door. Drop your kids off, go to class, pick them up again, all without leaving the grounds.

north kingston centre, adult education, sewing classes, pillow
Upholstery made in sewing classes.

In the main hallway there were several noticeboards advertising these classes, as well as display cases showing off students' work. There was also a sign pointing the way to the Local History Room. Upstairs. Great.

north kingston centre, adult education, sewing classes, garden
Relax out in the garden after class.

As I climbed the steps, I was given a beautiful view of the garden, which makes a perfect place to take a break. When it's not too hot that is.

north kingston centre, adult education, local history room
Kingston Directories

The Local History Room was at the end of the corridor, and full of old books behind locked display cases. I you want to get anything out, all you have to do is sign the guest book and ask the secretary at the front desk.

north kingston centre, adult education, local history room

The archives were filled with everything you ever wanted to know (and didn't) about Kingston; there are charters, legal records, building plans, hospital records, council minutes, deeds, directories, census returns, archeological reports, maps, photographs, and the list goes on.

As these materials are not allowed to be taken out of the room, most students will do their research on site, but depending on the condition of the books, photocopying is allowed.

I was was just there out of general interest, so took a photo album off the shelf and leafed through the pictures. It was fascinating to see how Kingston has changed over the centuries. For example, the Bentalls Shopping Centre on Wood Street was very different in the 1930s: a small two-story bargain shop with a barber's. In 1890, Clarence Street had a jam shop and a 'Fifty Shilling Tailors'.

north kingston centre, adult education, local history room

As well as books, there was also access to computers and digital media such as film footage, and slides. It was then that I figured out that the Eadweard Muybridge collection written about in the leaflet was not actually something on display, but material that could only be booked by appointment. It also turned out that the art collection was less of a collection, and just framed pictures hanging sporadically around the building.

Overall the visit was a bit of a disappointment, but that is only because the function of the centre was not what I expected. For anyone doing research of the town, or wanting to learn a new skill, it has a lot to offer.
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Why? Place to study
When: Mon, Thurs, Fri: 10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm, Tues: 10am-1pm & 2pm-9pm (term time), 2pm-7pm at other times
Phone: 44 (0)20 8547 6738
Where: Kinston
Cost: Free
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