What we are doing

The Kingston upon Thames Society, founded in 1962 and affiliated to the Civic Trust, is Kingston’s major voluntary and independent organisation concerned with planning and conservation. Its President is by tradition the current Mayor of the Royal Borough. To represent the interests of townspeople and to encourage public participation in issues affecting the future of our town, the Society engages in a wide range of public events and behind-the-scenes activities. These include:

Monthly public meetings provide the opportunity for people to listen to and question speakers on important local issues. Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of every month in the Judge Lecture Theatre at Tiffin Boys’ School, London Road, starting at 7.30pm. All are welcome, members and non-members, and there is adequate parking. Why not come along and see the Society in action?

Usually every month distributed free to members, bring news and comment on local affairs, with illustrations. a calendar of current events planned by the Society and by allied groups such as the Kingston Archaeological Society and the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service.

Representatives of the Society’s Executive Committee scrutinise important planning applications submitted to the Council and report to the full Committee where a decision is taken whether on to approve or oppose the applications.

The Society is also represented at meetings of Neighbourhood Committees, Conservation Area Advisory Committees, the Town Centre Management Group and the Thames Landscape Strategy

The Society organises regular visits to buildings of interest in or around Kingston. These have included the Kingston Grammar School’s new Arts building, the Star & Garter Home in Richmond, and Normansfield Hospital Theatre in Teddington. In addition there is an annual summer outing to an historic town, usually with a guided tour arranged by the local civic society. Recent destinations have included Chichester, Salisbury, Romsey and Canterbury, last year we visited Portsmouth and this year the visit will be to Cambridge.

The Society co-ordinates the borough’s participation in the national Heritage Open Days scheme, when free entry is offered to more than 20 interesting buildings that are normally closed to the public.

The Kingston Society has been organising this scheme for five years, and produces an illustrated leaflet on the properties which has earned respect as an index of Kingston’s heritage of historic buildings.

Usually every other year the Society presents Townscape Awards recognising building developments which in the Society’s view have done the most to enhance the environment. The candidates are nominated by members of the public, or the Society, and the final selection is made by a specially chosen sub-committee. The Awards take the form of a framed certificate signed and presented by the Mayor as President of the Society, and past recipients have spoken of the high regard in which they hold them.

This year connecting with Kingston Horticultural Society we are making awards for the greenscape.

The Society has produced a number of leaflets on subjects of local interest. These include an illustrated map-guide to Richmond Park, in co-operation with the Friends of Richmond Park, and walks around Kingston and Surbiton and along the Hogsmill. The Society also produced for Millennium Year a 64-page booklet, Public Art in a Market Town, which describes and illustrates in full colour more than 30 of the Royal Borough’s sculptures, stained glass, mosaics and other art works. A few copies of the booklet are still available. We have recently produced a colour leaflet for the Coombe Conduit supported by English Heritage, who own the site.

The Kingston Society acts as guardian of one of Kingston’s most important ancient monuments, the Conduit House on Coombe Lane West, which was built in the time of Henry VIII as the source of fresh water for Hampton Court Palace. The Society manages this property on behalf of its owners, English Heritage, and Society members open it to the public on the second Sunday of every month from April to September, as well as during the Heritage Open Days weekend.

The Society was a partner, with Kingston Tour Guides and the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service, in the group which designed and produced the mural on the history of Kingston’s Ancient Market Place, which was unveiled in Shrubsole Passage in November 2003. The group are now active in a new public art project for the borough.

The  Society members enjoy a New Year celebration which accompanies their annual general meeting. The New Year party is normally attended by the Mayor of Kingston, as President of the Society.

What we have done

A Kingston Master Plan issued in April 1963 was the Society’s first ‘battle ground’. In particular, the Society opposed (successfully) a proposed ring road, part of which would run along the riverside.

In the early days there was in Council circles (as the Society’s published history Kingston Conserved recalls), ‘an undercurrent of wariness towards this new collection of busybodies’. Over the years barriers of mutual suspicion have been broken down. The Society now enjoys the respect of Kingston Council, which often solicits its advice about planning applications which are likely to prove contentious.

For its part, the Society reserves the right to be outspokenly critical of what its committees see as undesirable Council actions (or inaction). It plays a large part behind the scenes in shaping decisions that affect the townscape by its representation on Conservation Area Advisory Committees, and its watching brief at Neighbourhood Committees and other Council consultative committees. It maintains regular scrutiny of borough planning applications and makes representations to Kingston Council, and to the local newspapers, on controversial issues. A few highlights of recent years:

  • Kingston Society, and in particular its vice-president Ken Peay, played a major part in the campaign to save the Filter Beds site on Portsmouth Road from undesirable development, which was successful.

  • The Kingston Society played a major part in blocking a Tesco proposal for a supermarket at Giggs Hill Green.

  • The Kingston Society played a major part in opposing the excessive height originally proposed for the Charter Quay development, as a result of which its overall size was considerably reduced.

Helping Make The Future