14 September 2013

Kingston Heritage Open Days 2013

Kingston upon Thames has a museum but, apart from that, the Council does little to promote the heritage of the Borough and so organising the Heritage Open Days, part of the national scheme, falls to the Kingston upon Thames Society.

This year the Heritage Open Days were 12 to 15 September which was not very convenient for me, and it was also very wet, so I did not get to see much but I made a determined effort to see the new BalletBoyz studio in Canbury Park Road.

The studio was also used for an extensive exhibition on the history of aviation in Kingston upon Thames, especially appropriate as the building used to be part of the Sopwith factory.

Kingston Aviation have done a fantastic job in documenting the history and putting all the elements together in an easy to consume exhibition. Several histories were told, of the factories, the planes that came out of them and the men that designed and built them.

It was a fascinating and informative read and I spent much longer going through it all than I expected.

There were also a few people from Kingston Aviation there on hand to explain some of the details and tell further stories, such as the Top Secret work that was done during World War II where the over 14, 000 Hurricanes played a major part in defending Britain.

There were a few painting too and I've selected a couple because they show where I live.

This is a nice picture of the plane but it is also a good one of Kingston and Ham. The large white building surrounded by fields is the Ham factory.

This is a closer view of the factory as it was just before it closed. The frontage is absolutely magnificent and it is criminal that it was allowed to go. Behind the factory Ham has grown in to a large village mostly to support the factory. Now it is commuter-belt and a lot of the sense of community has gone though many people locally still have memories of working there.

The exhibition had lots of models too.

I chose this one of a Sopwith Camel because that is the plane that Biggles flew in World War 1. One of his (many) books was called Biggles of the Camel Squadron. I have a copy.

The development I live in (once called Royal Park Gate but I think that name has been buried with the estate agents who dreamt it up) was built almost twenty years ago on the site of the factory and until recently the only link with its illustrious past was in the street names. The Sopwith Camel is remembered in Camel Grove. Most of the other roads are names after airfields, such as Yeovilton Place, Northweald Lane and Tangmere Grove.

The Kingston Aviation exhibition was wonderful and the people behind it are so well organised that I am sure that I will find myself at further exhibitions and talks in the future.

Before rushing for my date with ten London pubs I had another look at the main studio.

Sympathetic restorations do not come much more sympathetic than this one. It clearly was once an industrial shed and it would not take much to make it one again. In the meantime it is brilliant to have BalletBoyz on the doorstep.

There was a new team running Kingston Heritage Open Days in 2013 and I think they got off to a great start, not only did they keep the show on the road (there was a real danger that it would not happen this year) but they managed to add a few new venues and I know that they have plans to build on this success next year.


All comments are welcome. Comments are moderated only to keep out the spammers and all valid comments are published, even those that I disagree with!