What we are doing
SERVING KINGSTON FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS
The Kingston upon Thames Society, founded in 1962 and affiliated to the Civic Trust, is Kingston's major voluntary and independent organisation concerned with planning and conservation. Its President is by tradition the current Mayor of the Royal Borough. To represent the interests of townspeople and to encourage public participation in issues affecting the future of our town, the Society engages in a wide range of public events and behind-the-scenes activities. These include:
- A monthly public meeting, with a guest speaker, on a topic of local interest
- A Newsletter for members three times a year
- Society representation on meetings of local conservation and planning bodies
- Visits to buildings of interest, and outings to historic towns
- Co-ordination of the borough's Heritage Open Days programme
- Townscape Awards for new buildings of distinction
- Leaflets and Booklets on subjects of local interest
- Guardianship of Coombe Conduit, one of Kingston's oldest buildings
- Partnership with other groups in community projects
- Social events: a garden party in summer and a New Year buffet
Monthly public meetings provide the opportunity for people to listen to and question speakers on important local issues. The subjects of recent meetings have ranged from a public forum on the controversial 'K+ 20' plan for town centre redevelopment, to a behind-the-scenes look at the refurbishment of Kew Palace before its reopening to the public after ten years. Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of every month in the Judge Lecture Theatre at Tiffin Boys' School, London Road, starting at 7.30pm. All are welcome, members and non-members, and there is adequate parking. Why not come along and see the Society in action?
Three Newsletters a year, distributed free to members, bring eight pages of news and comment on local affairs, with illustrations. Recent articles have concerned Tesco's plans for a supermarket at Tolworth, Council policy on pavement A-boards and front-garden car parking, developments at Kingston University, and progress on recycling. There are also full reports on our meetings and other Society activities, and a calendar of current events planned by the Kingston Society and by allied groups such as the Kingston Archaeological Society and the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service.
Representatives of the Society's Executive Committee scrutinise important planning applications submitted to the Council and report to the full Committee where a decision is taken whether on to approve or oppose the applications.
The Society is also represented at meetings of Neighbourhood Committees, Conservation Area Advisory Committees, the Town Centre Management Group and the Thames Landscape Strategy.
The Society organises regular visits to buildings of interest in or around Kingston. These have included the Kingston Grammar School's new Arts building, the Star & Garter Home in Richmond, and Normansfield Hospital Theatre in Teddington. In addition there is an annual summer outing to an historic town, usually with a guided tour arranged by the local civic society. Recent destinations have included Chichester, Salisbury, Romsey and Canterbury, last year we visited Portsmouth and this year the visit will be to Cambridge.
HERITAGE OPEN DAYS
The Kingston Society co-ordinates the borough's participation in the national Heritage Open Days scheme, when free entry is offered to more than 20 interesting buildings that are normally closed to the public. The Kingston Society has been organising this scheme for five years, and produces an illustrated leaflet on the properties which has earned respect as an index of Kingston's heritage of historic buildings.
Every other year the Society presents Townscape Awards recognising building developments which in the Society's view have done the most to enhance the environment. The candidates are nominated by members of the public, or the Society, and the final selection is made by a specially chosen sub-committee. The Awards take the form of a framed certificate signed and presented by the Mayor as President of the Society, and past recipients have spoken of the high regard in which they hold them.
This year connecting with Kingston Horticultural Society we are making awards for the greenscape.
LEAFLETS AND BOOKLETS
The Society has produced a number of leaflets on subjects of local interest. These include an illustrated map-guide to Richmond Park, in co-operation with the Friends of Richmond Park, and walks around Kingston and Surbiton and along the Hogsmill. The Society also produced for Millennium Year a 64-page booklet, Public Art in a Market Town, which describes and illustrates in full colour more than 30 of the Royal Borough's sculptures, stained glass, mosaics and other art works. A few copies of the booklet are still available. We have recently produced a colour leaflet for the Coombe Conduit supported by English Heritage, who own the site.
The Kingston Society acts as guardian of one of Kingston's most important ancient monuments, the Conduit House on Coombe Lane West, which was built in the time of Henry VIII as the source of fresh water for Hampton Court Palace. The Society manages this property on behalf of its owners, English Heritage, and Society members open it to the public on the second Sunday of every month from April to September, as well as during the Heritage Open Days weekend.
The Kingston Society was a partner, with Kingston Tour Guides and the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service, in the group which designed and produced the mural on the history of Kingston's Ancient Market Place, which was unveiled in Shrubsole Passage in November 2003. The group are now active in a new public art project for the borough.
Kingston Society members enjoy a New Year celebration which accompanies their annual general meeting. The New Year party is normally attended by the Mayor of Kingston, as President of the Society.