I hadn’t been to Kingston Upon Thames for a long time. So long that I really couldn’t remember what it was like and therefore didn’t have any preconceptions about the place that were fostered from distant memories.
The map that is published by the local authority and is available for free from hotel lobbies does not show that many ‘must see’ attractions. Kingston itself is overshadowed, metaphorically, by the major attraction on the other side of the River Thames, Hampton Court Palace. The best advice I can give is make a good day out to visit Hampton Court Palace then come across the Thames and have a walk about the town.
I stayed in the Premier Inn in Wheatsheaf Way which is only 10 minutes walk from the railway station. The taxi fare is £6.20 because the route is elongated by the one way system for traffic around the town. The Premier Inn is about twenty minutes walk from Kingston Bridge and about five from the town centre.
The End of Analogue
In the Old London Road is a piece of street art that comprises of twelve old red and redundant telephone boxes arranged like collapsing dominoes. This installation was completed in 1989, was created by David March and its proper name is ‘Out of Order’.
It is a bit of fun and is regularly photographed by visitors including me.
The River Thames
I walked through part of the shopping area to Kingston Bridge and the River Thames.
The wide river as gliding by giving off glints of reflected sunlight and a man rowing a single downstream slipped under one of the arches of the bridge without his oars making a ripple on the surface of the water. Hampton Court Palace on the opposite bank was hidden by the still green foliage of the trees around it.
Swift the Thames flows to the sea
Flow sweet river flow
Bearing ships and part of me
Sweet Thames flow softly
(Sweet Thames Flow Softly by Ewan McColl)
The romantic vision was broken by a tobacco fueled clack of a cough which carried across the water from a fisherman sitting on the opposite bank. Even the ducks, geese and swans reacted to this bronchial racking.
My walk took me upstream past modern blocks of buildings fronting stainless steel and glass on to the embankment. On the ground floor were restaurants and cafes and from the first floor upwards were apartment blocks.
Hoggsmill River and the Clattern Bridge
Half a mile upstream from Kingston Bridge the Hoggsmill River joins the Thames. It is less than 10 meters wide but flows clear and swiftly. Walking towards Clattern Bridge from the Thames you will pass through a deep and sheer sided valley of high-rise apartment blocks.
Walking towards Clattern Bridge you will see it has two stone arches, which are the oldest part of the bridge, topped with some untidy brickwork. This is one of the oldest bridges in Surrey with the earliest substantiated reference to it dated in 1203. It was originally only eight feet wide and gained the medieval name ‘Clatterybruge’ which is thought to have been derived from the sound of horses hooves when they crossed it.
Looking at the bridge which has stood for over 800 years and is still in full use and the modern buildings around it I wondered which would still be still standing in another 800 years time?
The Coronation Stone
There are steps beside the Clattern Bridge that bring you up to the High Street and facing the Guildhall on the other side of the road.
Go through the gates to the Guildhall and turn immediately left. There you will see a small enclosure surrounded by pale blue wrought iron fencing and a stone at the centre. This stone represents the town’s linkage to Royalty as it was used as the seat for seven Anglo Saxon Kings to be crowned on during their coronation ceremonies starting with Eldred the Elder on 8th June 900.
Caveat—the map I used to find my way around shows the Coronation Stone as being across the Hoggsmill River from the Guildhall. It isn’t, it most definitely is within the grounds of the Guildhall.
Paper Airplanes—Not Quite
Having seen the Coronation Stone, leave the grounds of the Guildhall and turn left and then turn left into Kingston Hall Road. Not far along and near the entrance to the local college is College Roundabout. This is adorned with metal 54 metal replicas of paper airplanes arranged in a swooping flight pattern. This installation was designed by two students of the nearby college, Michael Antrobus and Tom Kean, and was completed in 2012 to mark the connection between the town and the UK’s airplane industry.
The Airplane Roundabout marked the end of my walk about in Kingston. I walked back to the hotel along streets the retail part of the town. All of the big national chains have a presence here as well as a good collection of independent retailers but as you may gather, retail is not really one of my preoccupations.
I have now been to Kingston Upon Thames. I had no great expectations and to be honest there is really nothing there that would make me wake up one morning and say ‘You know what, I really must go to Kingston Upon Thames today.’ Been there, seen it, haven’t bought a T shirt and I can safely cross it off my list of places I have seen.