I must admit I always assumed that Kingston was a dump. This was pure prejudice based on its impossible-to-navigate one-way system, inducing in one the desire to get the hell out as soon as possible.
But yesterday the scales were lifted from mine eyes when I joined a walking tour group led by Brian Cookson, the Thames bridges expert and author (Crossing the River). At first glance, Kingston is a modern, shopping-mall type town, but in fact it has many old buildings of note dating from Tudor times onwards. Some are pubs, many are now shops. Pizza Express, for example, is in a Tudor building.
I shan’t go into detail, and I’m only scratching the surface here, but I was delighted to discover that:
Kingston upon Thames is one of only three Royal boroughs in England (the others being Kensington & Chelsea and Windsor & Maidenhead).
Kingston was where the seven Saxon kings of England were crowned. The Coronation Stone is next to the guildhall.
William of Wykeham (“Manners Maketh Man”), probably the best-known historical bishop of Winchester, had a palace here.
The red London phone box “domino” installation is in Kingston.
Kingston Grammar was granted its Royal Charter from Elizabeth I.
The Thames tributary Hogsmill has a 13C stone bridge, the Clattern Bridge.
The wealthy coal merchant Cesar Picton was a former slave from Senegal who owned a fine early-Georgian town house which is still standing.