Kingston upon Thames overview
What’s it all about?
Once an ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned, Kingston still boasts royal affiliations and a reputation for retail therapy. It is now home to two Royal Parks, Hampton Court Palace and a shopping hub to rival Central London. With a friendly community, renowned university and one of the lowest crime rates in London, Kingston’s amenities have lured residents to its leafy streets for decades. Although Kingston is a haven for families seeking a peaceful lifestyle, the recent past has proved that it is not just a quaint suburban town. Its traditional demographic is coexisting with a new influx of young professionals who are falling for the area’s lively cultural scene, riverside pubs and shopping opportunities. As property developers continue to cater to this market, constructing increasingly impressive contemporary apartment blocks with views over the Thames, Kingston cements its status as a prime location for city commuters.
- Nipper the dog, famous for appearing in HMV advertisements, lived and was buried in Kingston. Nipper Alley, next to The Kings Tun pub, is named after him.
- Rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio, author Nick Hornby and rock legend Eric Clapton are all alumni of Kingston University.
- The Coronation Stone in Kingston is believed to be the site where seven Anglo Saxon kings were crowned.
Architecture and property
For centuries Kingston's Clattern Bridge was the only crossing point of the Thames west of London Bridge, so a settlement developed here long before the railways came. Cardinal Wolsey built Hampton Court in 1520, and in 1603 James I kicked off Kingston's provenance as an important shopping centre by granting it a licence for a Saturday market. Evidence of the town's Tudor heritage can be seen its buildings. The oldest, a butcher's shop on the corner of the passage that leads to Apple Market dates back to the 15th century. In and around Market Place there are other buildings dating back to the 17th century. There are also many mock-Tudor buildings here built from the 1900s to the 1930s, recalling Kingston's heritage.
Today Kingston has a broad mix of architectural styles, including Victorian and Edwardian period homes and 1920s and 1930s builds. House hunters can choose from almost every property style, ranging from entry level flats in the town centre to expensive family homes in the Coombe Estate. Kingston continues to see an increase in the number of young professionals, and the burgeoning market of high end flats and apartments reflects this.
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Eating: Kingston's High Street runs parallel to the Thames, so many of the restaurants here spill out onto the river bank come summer. The team at Riverside Vegetaria make it their mission to ensure their dishes are so tasty that even the most ardent carnivore will come back for more, and was voted London’s best veggie restaurant in 2012. The new development at Riverside Walk also makes the most of its watery location, and Cau, Bill’s and Busaba Eathai all have stunning views. Other confirmed local favourites include Indian Roz ana, Vietnamese Pho Hoi An and Turkish Cappadocia.
Culture: The 900 seat circular auditorium at The Rose Theatre is modelled on Elizabethan playhouses. This picturesque Kingston venue puts on excellent productions to rival those of any London theatre. For something more upbeat, try the Crack Comedy Club, Kingston’s oldest comedy night, currently hosted by the library.
Sport: Kingston is a great place for sports fans as its riverside location and vast green spaces allow for all sorts of unusual team and individual sports. There are several golf clubs catering to all levels of experience. Coombe Wood Golf Club is a friendly local club, while you can’t beat the landscape at Hampton Court Palace Golf Club. Getting involved with the Kingston Rowing Club is easy, and many locals join just to try something new and remain lifelong members. The Thames Sailing Club is also based in Kingston, where races are held throughout the summer.
- Kingston Town Centre is a shopper’s delight, with stores ranging from unique boutiques to high street chains. The large shopping centres in the area like The Bentall Centre and The Rotunda lure people from all over London. Clarence Street is the pedestrianized shopping heart of Kingston, with a large John Lewis on the riverside.
- Kingston’s historic Market Place has been in existence for over 800 years and regularly hosts visiting markets, including the festive Christmas Market and regular Continental Markets. There is plenty on offer with two permanent markets and a number of regular visiting markets.
- Branches of most large supermarket chains can be found in Kingston, with a Tesco and Sainsbury’s close to the station and a large Asda with car park between Kingston and Norbiton stations.
- Kingston is also home to two speciality Asian supermarkets: Longdan and Hmart, where locals can pick up all kinds of exotic ingredients.
- The borough of Kingston Upon Thames has seven libraries, most of which are open five days a week. The library on Fairfield Road has reading groups for adults and children, IT tuition and even a small shop.
Kingston is one of the greenest areas of London with two Royal Parks in close vicinity, as well as several smaller green spaces dotted around the borough. Sandwiched between Lower Ham Road and the Thames, Canbury Gardens is a consistently popular destination for families. However, its regular crowd are usually those with more niche leisure pursuits, as the park is home to the Kingston Rowing Club boathouse and its wide riverside pathway is a great spot for fishing. Other local parks also boast sporting facilities and parents often take children horse riding or cycling in Richmond Park then spend the rest of the afternoon looking out for the deer that stroll casually by. If wildlife doesn’t appeal, just across the river lie two important historical open spaces. Avoid the tourists at Hampton Court and make for neighbouring Bushy Park to take in the fine architecture including the Diana Fountain dating from 1637 and the Baroque-style collection of pools at the Upper Lodge Water Gardens.
High rise residential properties are springing up throughout Kingston, particularly alongside the river. Kingston Riverside offers high end contemporary apartments with views over the Thames, and Kingston Heights is a mixed use development combining private apartments, affordable homes and an upmarket hotel. A new Signature care home with 92 private apartments and a specialist dementia suite opened its doors in 2014.
Rail: Fast trains from Kingston station to Waterloo take 30 minutes, or locals can reach Victoria in 40 minutes via Clapham Junction.
Bus: Kingston has an exceptional bus network, with regular service provided by more than 30 routes. Numbers 65 (to Ealing), 85 (to Putney) and 281 (to Hounslow) take passengers north of the river, while the 406 (to Epsom) and 515 (to Guildford) travel into Surrey.
Road: Just eight miles from the M25, Kingston has excellent road connections. Its main thoroughfare is the busy A3, providing good access into central London.
River: River buses provide an excellent travel alternative on days when A3 traffic is particularly bad. In summer there are peak time services between Kingston and several London stations, including London Bridge and Canary Wharf.
Getting away: Kingston locals can take their pick of London’s main airports. Gatwick is only a 45 minute drive away and the handy X26 bus runs a regular service to Heathrow, taking 35 to 45 minutes.
The area has 35 primary schools including community schools, academies, foundation schools and voluntary aided schools, so there’s something to suit every family’s requirements. Kingston is home to one of England’s oldest schools, Kingston Grammar School, with a history dating back to 1561. Other good options include Tiffin School for boys, which became an academy in 2011, and Tiffin Girls’ School.
Kingston University is a popular option for further education, and also runs several postgraduate and part time courses. The university is renowned for its art, design and architecture courses.
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