A historic stroll through Kingston-Upon-Thames

A wide view of the market square with the former Town Hall (now the Market House Lobby) and the Jack wills in the background. From this spot it’s hard to miss the large golden statue of Queen Victoria. Sometimes it just takes a brilliant local guide to show you the true image of a place that you think you may know. That’s what Mike Gibbs, a volunteer Kingston tour guide, happily did for two of us from the Rohan store in Kingston-Upon-Thames.

After just a few minutes of chatting with Mike in the market square I soon realised having seen this area on a daily basis I’d noticed nothing of its glistening historic treasures. All of my blank ignorance would be colourfully filled in over the next hour.

We followed our guide for only a few paces down a narrow alley off the corner of the square. Looking up the side of a familiar and relatively ordinary looking Georgian era building we saw the beautifully preserved original Tudor structure and glass windows were still in place after more than 400 years.

A wide view of the market square with the former Town Hall (now the Market House Lobby) and the Jack wills in the background. From this spot it’s hard to miss the large golden statue of Queen Victoria.

Feeling mightily impressed by this incredible discovery we are then taken about 20 paces back on to the square to the front of the Jack Wills building.

In that very short walk of 20 paces, Mike eagerly described how Kingston grew from having three fisheries, five mills and 86 villagers in 1066 to its current state as a thriving retail centre with over 43,000 residents.

Looking up at the grand Tudor style façade of the Jack Wills building we are baffled at the sight of an odd Royal gathering. Six highly detailed stone carved statues depicting various royals, some famously crowned in Kingston, cling scattered across the front of the building like vibrant baubles on a Christmas tree. As impressive as this is, we will soon discover that the market square holds one final royal figure wrapped in pure gold, far larger and finer than all the others combined, commanding an appropriately royal view from the balcony of the former Town Hall.

The splendid and striking façade of the Jack Wills building on the market square with the six carved statues. Beside it stands the oldest building on the square (currently occupied by White Company) dating back to 1570.

It’s no surprise that the rest of the tour remains as packed with entertaining and interesting information, reshaping our perspective of the local landscape that we had previously thought was so ordinary. Without a willing guide we would have continued to pass real historic gems such as how the population of Kingston held off the army of Sir Thomas Wyatt from overthrowing Queen Mary; an annual football game played in the market square with unlimited players and frighteningly few rules; the bridge that keeps expanding (now three times its original width).

It just goes to show that the familiar can be a new place with a keen and interesting guide.

Come along and see Michelle and I in the Rohan store in Kingston and maybe we will share some local secrets with you. There’s much to be said about what lies beneath our feet and the floorboards in store.

By Christian Fisher

Avatar Local legend claims that the architect of the Bentall Centre was taken up the tower of All Saint’s Church, directed to observe Hampton Court Palace over the river and told to recreate that grand style.
Avatar Mike, Michelle and Tallulah gather by the Coronation Stone, believed to have been the site of the coronation of seven Anglo-Saxon Kings.
Avatar Mike, Michelle and dog (Tallulah) pause at the site of the original Kingston Bridge where the residents defiantly dismantled it in 1554 in order to delay Sir Thomas Wyatt and his army from reaching London to overthrow Queen Mary.

- Michelle Mendonça (Store Manager) and Christian Fisher (Deputy Store Manager) from the Rohan store in Kingston took part in the guided walk.

- The Kingston Tour Guides run a tour starting at the Market House Lobby every Sunday at 11:00am (April – September). £5.00 per person, £3 under 12’s.

- All images and text credited to Christian Fisher

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