11 October 2009

Exploring Kingston's past

The recent heritage weekend, part of the national scheme initiated by English Heritage, opened many buildings in Kingston upon Thames to the public.

I had seen quite a few of them in previous years but there were still sufficient new ones to explore to make it a full weekend.


The journey started on Saturday at Kingston College which has the advantage of being tall and more-or-less in the centre of Kingston. The panoramic views from there were very interesting but, sadly, were mostly seen through dirty glass windows and so did not make for good photos.

Next up was the home of Surrey County Council which is still based in Kingston even though Kingston is no longer part of Surrey politically, it is a London Borough.

County Hall had several interesting things to offer, including a disused court room that appears regularly on TV because it looks just like what a court room is expected to look like. But my favourite part was the entrance hall which has a mosaic floor with the letters SCC.


On Sunday it was a harder bike ride through Richmond Park to Kingston Hill where one of the many large houses there is now home to Holy Cross Preparatory School.

Holy Cross was quite a surprise!

The front of the school shows the some of the grandeur of the original house which was built for the Galsworthy family in 1870. Here John Galsworthy wrote Forsyte Saga.

In the large rear garden a huge modern extension has been built into the side of the hill (to minimise it's appearance) at the sort of cost one can only imagine is normally spent on luxury yachts. Think Grand Designs then double it. Unfortunately it is not a very attractive addition so you do not get to see a photo of it.


Almost hidden at the bottom of the still large garden (despite the recent extension) is Ivy Conduit.

The conduit was part of an elaborate water system built in 1516 to supply Cardinal Wolsey’s newly built Hampton Court Palace.

There is little to see now other than what looks like a pile of bricks but bricks are good and old bricks are even better.

The school grounds also include a secluded and peaceful pool as a reminder for what the gardens could have looked like when it was a grand private house.

After the school is was the easier bike ride down the hill to see the Cleaves Almshouses that date back to 1550, though they have been added to and updated a few times since then!



The almshouses are very well maintained and the view presented to London Road is simply gorgeous.

It was a very interesting and rewarding weekend and the Kingston upon Thames Society are to be congratulated for organising such a successful event.

1 comment:

  1. It is a great idea with these days when you can explore what is normally hidden. I think I remember those well-kept almshouses, beautiful.

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