Kingston’s importance stems from its position on the River Thames. This was an artery for trade and for centuries Kingston Bridge was the first crossing upstream of London Bridge. In the early 18th and 19th Centuries, Kingston was an important staging post for coaches, had leather, brewing and other industries, had markets and was self sufficient for basic goods and services. The railway came to Surbiton in 1838 and a station opened in Kingston in 1863.
Kingston has been an important administrative centre since time immemorial and today it has a Crown Court, County Court and Magistrates’ Court, the headquarters of Surrey County Council, a University and a College of Further Education. While there is virtually no manufacturing industry left in the town, it remains a busy shopping centre with a vibrant night-time economy. The newly-developed Charter Quay area, which archaeologists believe was the centre planned of what became the medieval town of Kingston, is now the home of the recently-opened Rose theatre as well as the river-side housing complex.
Despite considerable development and redevelopment since the Second World War little of any distinction was added in this period and it was an ill-considered plan by Surrey County Council to build a relief road parallel to the river cutting the Town Centre from the artery that brought the town into being that precipitated the formation of the Society in 1961. Opposition to the plan grew amongst architects and residents alike and was finally succesful in defeating the proposal. Since that time the Kingston upon Thames Society has continued to support higher standards of planning and the preservation, protection,development and improvement of features of historic or public interest within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.