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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kingston-upon-Thames and its place in history

Image: freedigitalphotos
Kingston-upon-Thames has a little of everything including historical intrigue, princes, paupers, massive multi-nationals and cottage industries.

As 'Kings Tun', the Saxons placed a lot of importance on what we now call Kingston-upon-Thames. They used the local churches to hold their councils and crown their kings. A succession of kings, including Edwy, Edmund, Edward, Edred, Egbert and Athelston, were crowned there. The Norman conquest of 1066 saw Kings Tun lose its royal status, which meant that William the Conqueror, the first Norman King, was crowned in London.

The 1200s saw Kingston-upon-Thames become a town in its own right, which meant a population of around 1,500 people. As a centre for agriculture, there was sheep shearing, crop cultivation and the use of water mills to produce flour from grain and the Thames was also home to salmon which were fished. The use of waterways in preference to overland transportation meant that Kingston-upon-Thames was important as an inland port. Markets were held every week, and fairs twice a year, making Kingston-upon-Thames an important trading post. When a bridge was built across the Thames, it was the first point at which the river could be crossed upstream of London Bridge, and that remained the case for centuries.

The beginning of the 16th century saw martyrdom in Kingston-upon-Thames, for a heretic known as Lollard. By 1520, however, Cardinal Wolsey had begun the construction of Hampton Court Palace, whose staff dramatically increased the population of the town and stimulated a growth in trade.

By 1560, the town's enlargement took another upward turn as a grammar school was built and a third market was approved. As a popular centre for brewing and malting, leather tanning and timber production, Kingston went from strength to strength. However, repeated outbreaks of the plague which was afflicting the whole country, left the population diminished and trade badly affected.

The civil war between parliament and the crown saw Kingston come under fire in 1642. Claimed by parliament at the beginning of the war, troops defended the town until they lost the Battle of Edgehill after which they withdrew. The royalists then moved into the town, leaving it plundered but still under parliamentary control, to the dismay of the many royalists living there.

The advent of the modern era saw Kingston grow, with the population increasing to 8,000. The malting industry waned, but other's moved there including the manufacture of both bricks and aircraft. The town was first lit by gaslights in 1833, and 60 years later these were replaced by electric ones.

In 1836 the first police force was formed and this was augmented by men known as Improvement Commissioners, with powers including cleaning and paving the streets and lighting the gas lamps. Horse-drawn carts became less popular in favour of electric trams and trains, which were ultimately joined by buses. The town's population grew along with its amenities, reaching 37,000 before too long.

Today, with a population of 147,000, Kingston is now a Royal Borough and a popular destination amongst those who love culture, the arts, sightseeing and shopping.
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