Recent meetings and visits

Previous meetings

Wednesday January 18, Annual General Meeting

The annual opportunity for the Chairman and Committee to tell the members how THEY think we have done and the members to respond by telling the Chairman and Committee how THEY think we have done!

Modest refreshments will be provided (together with a begging bowl) which we hope will encourage an exchange of views and ideas.

Wednesday 16 November, David A Kennedy, A Street of change: Eden Street

Eden Street has had many changes in the past, is undergoing change and faces more changes. Its origins can be traced to pre-Roman times and it was once called Heathen Street. Formally, many people lived in this interesting street and had their businesses there. Its prison, Militia barracks, lodging houses, boarding schools, Methodist Church, Friends' Meeting House, YMCA and all but one of its pubs have disappeared.

The talk investigates why the name of the street changed, looks at some of its past institutions, the people who lived there, how they earned their livings, and where they came from.

Wednesday 19 October, Elisabetta Tonazzi, RBK Conservation Officer

It gives the Committee great pleasure to welcome the newly-appointed Conservation Officer, to its monthly meeting this October. It has been a bone of contention that the Borough does not seem to give the priority to its heritage and its conservation that the Society would wish. It is delighted to welcome the new appointment and hear what her “First Impressions” are of our Borough.

Needless to say, our members must be acutely aware of the tsunami of applications for dense and high developments now confronting the Planning Department and its Development Control Committee so do take this opportunity to make sure the new Conservation Officer knows what concerns residents most deeply.

Wednesday 21 September, Direction of Travel for the Royal Borough of Kingston

Leader of the Council, Cllr. Kevin Davis, will be speaking on the recently published programme entitled “Direction of Travel”. This is a key document outlining the future direction in which the Conservative administration hopes to lead.

It should be noted that this document covers the WHOLE Borough and thus the Kingston Society which unusually for a civic society covers the WHOLE borough, is uniquely placed to give a cool, authoritative opinion on what is planned.

Wednesday 15 June, Student accommodation in Kingston

Our members have been puzzled, if not alarmed, by the huge number of accommodation blocks coming on line for students in Kingston. This is not only because of their ubiquity but also because the students involved are not even necessarily from Kingston University.

This is a good opportunity to inform us how these facilities have come about and how managed in the long term. Mr Raj Kotecha, Executive Director, Amro Real Estate PartnersLtd will lead the discussion and a representative from Kingston University Estates Dept. will be there to field questions particular to the University.

Wednesday 18 May, Buildings Lost in Kingston

This is an opportunity for our members to bring along any photos or cuttings and memorabilia they may have illustrating the enormous changes that have threatened to engulf Kingston for the last 50 years or more.

We hope to show an old documentary film made in Kingston which may help prompt our members to share their memories. This is an opportunity for contributions from you, our members, so please make good use of it!

Wednesday 20 April, Kingston's power stations

The tall chimneys of Kingston’s power stations were a significant landmark since the construction of the original plant in 1893. After a brief and non-technical outline of how power stations work, David will provide a brief outline of the history of the two power stations that were built beside the river near Canbury Gardens.

David will show how the steady growth of demand for electrical power resulted in the original plant becoming unable to cope and how plans for the second power station were developed in the 1930s. David will describe the technology used in this second power station and the, then revolutionary, steps taken to minimise pollution.

Wednesday 16 March 16, The Story of Tolworth

Bob Phillips and Pat Ward have recently published "The Story of Tolworth" and will tell us something of what was involved in its research and history.

This is also an opportunity to discuss Tolworth and the unprecedented pressure for really major developmen in this neighbourhood

Wednesday 17 February 16, New Malden futures

A panel of three will tell us how their exciting plans are progressing to take the initiative in the re-development of the important Cocks Crescent site in New Malden.A local councilor, an RBK officer and local activists are all on board.

Wednesday 18 November 15, Townscape Awards

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 in the Royal Borough. In November we will present the awards and hear from the developers and architects behind them.

Wednesday, 21 October 15, Royal Star and Garter Home

We will have a talk on the new Royal Star and Garter Home in Surbiton.

Alistair Kingsley, Royal Star and Garter Regional Fundraising Manager, will give a talk entitled “From Richmond to Kingston”

All residents in the nieghbouring boroughs of Kingston and Richmond will be familiar with the landmark building outside the Richmond gate to Richmond Park. What they will not be so familiar with is the sort of new thinking that has led to the search for new premises, offering different sorts of accommodation in the surrounding area. What is going to happen to the old site? How are the moves managed? How will any attendant possible trauma be managed? These and many other questions can be posed in the course of this meeting.

Wednesday 16 September 15, Mini-Holland

We got an update on Kingston Council's Mini-Holland programme of cycling improvements across the Borough.

Kingston mini-Holland was a £33m investment package in an exciting range of projects to encourage cycling in and around Kingston. Funded by the Mayor of London, it included new infrastructure and special activities to encourage and support new and nervous cyclists to take up cycling.

The presentation was by the Programme Manager, Julian Sindall, who explained what the projects were, and why the offered benefits for both cyclists and other road users in Kingston.

Wednesday 15 July, Eden Walk

British Land, USS and their design team presented their plans for the transformation of Eden Walk with new shops, homes, offices and public realm. Together with the plans for the Old Post Office site, this redevelopment will have huge significance for the Kingston town centre.

With a major public consultation planned for June, the presentation gave an opportunity for Society members to hear about the feedback to the emerging scheme from local residents and to probe the plans well before any application is submitted later in the year.

Wednesday 17 June, Former government offices in Tolworth

Tolworth former government building site – final application for redevelopment? It appears that Tesco has finally given up on a new supermarket of any size on this site and the proposal now being consulted on, the last of several, is largely housing but of what type?

A team from the developer and architect presented their ideas.

Wednesday 20 May, The Warren House Tales – A social history since 1865

Victoria K.L. Good, author of the recently published book of this title, told us about her researches into this interesting house in Warren Road, Coombe.

Warren House, is probably the finest Victorian House on the Coombe Estate and its former Japanese water garden one of the most delightful in England at the time. As part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the property, author Victoria K L Good, will give an illustrated talk, based on her book, about the lives of the six different families who owned and occupied Warren House since its construction in the late 1860’s.

They and their visitors were some of the richest and most influential men and women of their day and each played an important role in the history of this country. There was also a chance to learn about the gardens, and an exciting new project to commemorate Coombe’s horticultural heritage.

Wednesday 15 April, Coombe Conduit, an enigmatic Tudor waterworks

Coombe Conduit is one of Kingston’s most important ancient monuments. It was built around 1540 as part of a system, together with Gallows Conduit and Ivy Conduit, to collect fresh water from springs on Kingston Hill and channel it through three miles of buried pipework to the palace of Hampton Court. Dr. David Kennedy, the Society’s Secretary and officer responsible to English Heritage for the Society’s management of Coombe Conduit, shared the latest research on this subject.

After taking us on a virtual tour of Coombe Conduit, pointing out some of the enigmatic features, David outlined how the system worked. Then, he evaluated the ongoing controversy whether it was initiated by Cardinal Wolsey or by Henry VIII.

David presented experimental evidence on water quality and then focused on how the pipes crossed the Thames upon the bed of the river. Finally, he considered why a decision was made in 1876 to obtain drinking water from a commercial source, and the fate of the Conduit system thereafter.

Wednesday 18 March, Pocket development in North Kingston

Pocket is a new kind of property developer providing intermediate housing for London's singles and couples. They are built and priced for the young working market earning less than the GLA threshold for affordable housing but earning too much to qualify for social housing.

Pocket create small developments of compact apartments which are only available to first time buyers who purchase their property outright with at least a 20% discount to the open market. Their homes have a restrictive covenant which controls their future affordability.

Daniel Poll from Pocket provided information on the current planning application for a Pocket development in Cowleaze Road, North Kingston.

Wednesday 18 February 15, Matthew's Manifesto

Our new chairman, Matthew Rees, used the first public meeting since the AGM to outline the direction that he wanted to take with the Society in the next few years.

In his talk he said a little about himself, what he had done and the buildings and places that he liked, as these had been a strong influence on what he wanted to do. He also shared his initial thoughts on what these things might be, things like making the email updates more informative. He also gave his views on Kingston and what this might mean for the Society.

Wednesday 19 November 14, talk by Shaan Butters on her new history of Kingston, “That Famous Place”

Kingston is lucky in having a comprehensive history of its existence from Stone Age to the present, written not by a local enthusiast but by a professional with a proper regard for records and references. She will give us a behind the scenes account of the the book and the difficulties she encountered in threading a continuous narrative from the sources.

Wednesday 15 October 14, talk by St. George on the proposed Ashdown Road car park development

Malcolm Wood of St Georges, the developers involved in The Old Post Office site and Ashdown Road car park, together with architects John Thompson and Partners told us how their plans are shaping.

Wednesday 17 September 14, Kingston in London but not run by London

Tony Arbour is the London Assembly Member for Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow and a Councillor in Richmond. He was a senior lecturer and Honorary Visiting Fellow at Kingston University Business School and a former Governor of the University.

Wednesday 16 July 14 - Surbiton, the development of a railway town

David Kennedy, a member of the Committee of the Kingston upon Thames Society and active researcher on the history of the Borough, told us about the history of Surbiton.

Tradition has it that Thomas Pooley was a Cornishman who settled in Kingston upon Thames where he owned several malthouses. Furthermore, it is believed that when a station of the London and Southampton Railway was established in 1838, close to the present Surbiton Station, Pooley borrowed money to build an adjacent new town for wealthy people who worked in London but wished to live in the Surrey countryside. It is also believed that Pooley’s development, which was never fully realised because of his bankruptcy, formed the nucleus of modern Surbiton and that he originated the idea of commuting.

The talk, which was based on new research on original records, traced Pooley’s life, challenged some of the aforementioned traditions and analysed the failure of his enterprise.

Wednesday 18 June 14 - Planning in the Royal Borough

Viv Evans, the recently appointed Head of Planning and Transport at the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, will give his first impressions of the challenges facing the Borough and his assessment of the options open to it.

Wednesday 21 May 14 - Kingston University Town House

Sean Woulfe, Director of Estates Delivery at Kingston University, spoke on the plans for the new Town House.

He gave a presentation on the initial design concepts for a transformational new building in a high-profile location on Kingston University's main campus on Penrhyn Road.

Wednesday 19 March 14 - Cycling in Kingston

The virtues and vices of cyclists and cycling can ignite a more heated discussion than any other in Kingston at present. With strong opinions on both side it seems, clear that an armed truce is not a viable option for the well-being of the future of Kingston. On one hand there are strong calls to increase cycling facilities to improve access to town centres, reduce traffic and encourage healthier lifestyles. On the other there are complaints of cyclists jumping red-lights and mixing badly with pedestrians on shared paths.

A lively debate was had and, to be provocative, the conclusion was reached that promoting cycling in a good idea but neither motorists nor pedestrians were prepared to make any sacrifices to allow this.

Wednesday 19 February 14 - New Kingston Quaker Centre

Summer 2014 sees the opening of a new green building for Kingston Quakers on Fairfield East. The building is interesting for its architecture and attention to green issues.

We will have three speakers; Graham Torr, Quaker, on the history of the move from Eden Street and the vicissitudes on the way, John Langley, architect, Tectus Architecture, on the design and Guy Butler, Total Construction, on strategies to balance the green ethos with practicalities of construction.

See the Kingston Quakers website for more details about the new centre.

Wednesday 15 January 14 - Marketing Kingston's Markets

Our speaker at January's Public Meeting, following the AGM, was James Kennedy, Commercial and Marketing Director of Kingstonfirst, who told us about the new promotion activities for Kingston's markets. He also took lots of questions and we had a long and interesting discussion.

All of Kingston's markets are being brought under one brand. This look-and-feel will be used mostly for Kingston's Ancient Market and Kingston's Monday Market but will be extended to other special events, such as the night markets. The look that they have gone for reflects the chalkboards used by many of the traders. A new website is being developed to promote the markets and this will have a piece on each of the traders that will include a short video.

Kingstonfirst want to make the Ancient Market a cultural and creative space, making it the heart of Kingston again. They hope to be able to use the Memorial Gardens ocassionally as well but only if they get approval from the British Legion.

James' talk was very interesting and very well received as the level of questions and comments showed. Kingstonfirst have clear and realistic plans for developing Kingston's markets and the Society is supports them in this.

Wednesday 20 November 2013 - Tony Leitch Townscape Awards 2013

These awards were initiated by the late Tony Leitch and are named in his memory. They are awarded biennially to buildings or related projects completed in the previous two years that, in our view, have made a significant contribution to the townscape of the Royal Borough.

They can be for schemes large or small and in the past they have been awarded to schemes as diverse as: the Sir William Rous Wing at Kingston Hospital, new railings St Andrew’s Square, an extension at Tiffin School and a tram substation conversion in London Road.

Six projects have been selected for this year’s awards and they will be presented at the meeting. You can be sure of an interesting evening. All present will be given a complimentary glass of wine at the end of the proceedings!


At the Society's February meeting, Urban Designer Ricardo Bobisse and Architect Mike Tonkin described how, after being selected from 44 other teams, they were commissioned to prepare proposals for the upgrading and improvements to the Kingston Market area. The budgeted cost was set at two million pounds. They concentrated in this presentation on the Market Place itself.

The main recommendations were to change the function of the Market House, and to prevent it from being surrounded by market rubbish. In so doing the stalls needed to be repositioned and redesigned to house rubbish.

At present the Town's Information Bureauis housed on the ground floor of the Market House, but it will in future be in the proposed extension to All Saints Church. The first floor is available for meetings and functions, but is not easily accessible, particularly by the disabled. It is underused.

The proposal, subject to the re-siting of the Information Bureau, is to convert some of the ground floor glass windows to glass doors to allow a free flow through. This floor should house stalls probably selling food products. The upper floor should house a cookery school with associated restaurant and lift. This has been tried successfully elsewhere.

There are not so many market stalls as in the past and they are bunched around the Market House. It is proposed to free access to the sides of the market House by providing a new layout of stalls. Possibly the stalls should be redesigned probably in wood. Provision would be made for storing refuse, including packaging within the stalls themselves.collected periodically during the day and taken to a compactor.

The remaining space would be available for al fresco functions, possibly musical presentations. The present varied paving types to be replaced probably with clay brick paviors arranged in patterns. the present unacceptable remoteness of the river from the Market Place would be improved by making the existing alleyways more attractive, with look out points over the river at the end.

Previous visits

Riddles, Saturday 26 September 15

The guided walk will begin on the steps of Tate Britain. You will learn about whinging poms at Chelsea College of Art. We will touch on how a famous art gallery was built on the profits of rotten teeth, on how one King spent so much time praying that we ended up being ruled by the French, on how another King who lost his head, still stares across the road at his persecutor. We will see a palace which was never built, and if you have the energy, a church which is not in a field, a station named in memory of a much loved Queen, a great playwrite who is in the gutter but looking at the stars, and a stable with a Michelangelo or two and the odd Leonardo.

New Quaker Centre, Fairfield East, Kingston at 11am on Saturday 16 August 2014

This was an opportunity to visit the exciting new building for the Kingston Quakers. They specified quite a lot of particular requirements and are delighted to find that the architecture of the new building facilitates their being met.


In 1719 Richard Boyle, Lord Burlington returned from his second Grand Tour. He was only 25 years old and was the richest man in the country. On his first visit to Italy he collected sculpture, paintings and furniture and sent back eighty cratefuls.

On his second visit he became enamoured of the work of the architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80) in Venice and the Veneto. There he collected all the drawings of Palladio that he could and brought back a copy of Palladio's Quattro libri dell'Architecttura.

On returning to England Burlington also started to collect the drawings of Inigo Jones, who had also used Palladios' book and had built the first truly classical buildings on these small islands. From these two sources Burlington created, next to his house, a perfect architectural masterpiece: Chiswick Villa, linked into its park by vistas and axes.

It is a celebration of mathematics, proportion, symmetry and delight. Its only purpose ia as a Temple of the Muses, a true Museum. It is a monument to the genius of Burlington and a memorial to the poor on whose backs it was built.

We had a wonderful visit in late August. For those who could not join us, do go and see it, and do not miss the new cafe by Peter St John and Adam Carusoe, which is a perfect modern complement to the fine old building.


Members and Friends met in July for a coach trip to Rye and Battle Abbey. In spite of disappointing weather forecasts we were able to have dry periods when we needed them and we had an enlightening day out and enjoyed the beautiful old houses of Rye and the imposing fields of the Hastings battlefield./p>