Bow to the town of kings
The west London suburb of Kingston upon Thames occupies an enviable position between two of the capital’s greatest assets: the river and Richmond Park. This ancient “town of kings” possibly witnessed the crowning of as many as seven Saxon kings on its famous coronation stone, which still sits outside the Guildhall.
Today, the traffic roars around the edge of Kingston’s bustling modern shopping centre, but the shape of the medieval town can still be seen in the fine old market square and the surrounding warren of little streets and alleyways. The famous tumbling phone boxes, an artwork called Out of Order, has been a famous landmark in Old London Road since 1988.
Kingston only became a London borough in 1964, when the GLC was formed and London’s regional government expanded into the capital’s suburbs. Before then, Kingston was in Surrey, and in a strange geographic quirk, Surrey county council still has its headquarters there and remains the town’s largest single employer.
A plentiful supply of houses rather than flats, low crime levels, attractive conservation areas, good schools and an easy commute by train to Waterloo has made Kingston a popular choice for families whose budgets don’t stretch to other nearby property hotspots such as Wimbledon and Richmond.
The Coombe Estate, between Kingston Hill and Coombe Lane West, is the exception to the cheaper than Wimbledon or Richmond rule. This is an enclave of expensive, often gated houses, sitting on large plots. Like a smaller St George’s Hill in Weybridge or Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water, many of the older-style houses are being knocked down and rebuilt in footballers’ wives style.
The most expensive house currently for sale on the Coombe Estate is Telegraph Cottage, in Warren Road. It has eight bedrooms, five reception rooms and staff accommodation. Estate agent Knight Frank (020 8946 0026) is selling it for £10 million. Before this, the most expensive house on the estate was The Vineyard, which sold for £5.7 million earlier this year.
Most of the rest of Kingston’s houses are Victorian. In the Liverpool Road conservation area close to Richmond Park, which takes in Crescent Road and Queen’s Road, there are fine five- and six-bedroom Victorian houses that sell for between £1 million and £2.15 million.
The Richmond Road conservation area, which straddles Richmond Road, is close to the Thames, running north from the town centre. Albany Park Road has large, double-fronted houses that sell for between £1.75 million and £2.15 million if they are detached, and between £1.2 million and £1.5 million if they are semi-detached.
On the eastern side of Richmond Road there are more modest, gable-fronted houses that start at about £400,000, or £475,000 with a roof extension. South of the town centre in the Fairfield/Knights Park conservation area there are two-bedroom cottages with prices about the £350,000 mark.
In the Grove Crescent conservation area, close to the university, there is a real mix, ranging from large, detached family houses selling for between £750,000 and £1.25 million, to houses that have been divided into flats and are now rented out to students.
WHO BUYS THERE
Families migrate to Kingston for the schools. The top-performing primary schools in north Kingston are a particular draw, according to estate agent Adrian Overington from the Kingston branch of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.
Sporty young professionals, who use Richmond Park and the Thames towpath as an outdoor gym or who join the rowing club, which holds an important annual regatta in July, also like the area. Many rugby players from nearby Harlequins buy or rent in Kingston, too.
Staying power: good, especially as Kingston offers the possibility of moving up the housing ladder, from a flat to a two-bedroom cottage, to a larger family house.
Postcodes: KT2 is north of the town centre and includes the best streets and access to the best primary schools. KT1 is south of the town centre, where the cheaper houses are found.
Best streets: Coombe Park Road, Warren Road, Warren Cutting, George Road and Stoke Road on the Coombe Estate; Crescent Road and Queen’s Road in the Liverpool Road conservation area, and Albany Park Road in the Richmond Road conservation area.
Up and coming: the area around Norbiton station is cheaper and convenient for those working at Kingston Hospital. Gable-fronted houses in Cobham, Chesham and Chatham Roads sell for about £475,000, compared with £625,000 for a similar house in north Kingston.
What’s new: Kingston has seen a number of new flat developments over the past five years, most notably Charter Quay, a popular riverside development off the market square with a piazza featuring shops and restaurants and outdoor dining. Montague Place, in Albany Park Road, is a development of 36 flats, of which nine remain at prices ranging from £235,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £460,000 for a spacious two-bedroom flat. For more information, contact Hamptons on 020 8546 9944.
OFSTED’S A BIG FAN
Kingston is spoilt for choice when it comes to good schools. The following primary schools get top billing from Ofsted: St Luke’s CofE in Acre Road; Latchmere Junior in Latchmere Road; St Agatha’s RC in St Agatha’s Drive; Coombe Hill Junior in Coombe Lane West, and Fern Hill in Richmond Road. Rokeby is a prep school on the Coombe Estate.
Kingston council has two top-performing grammar schools — Tiffin and Tiffin Girls’ School. Private schools include Kingston Grammar, which is mixed; in nearby Wimbledon there is King’s College School for boys, and Wimbledon High, the local Girls’ Day School Trust; in nearby Hampton, there is Lady Eleanor Holles for girls and Hampton School for boys. Marymount is a private Catholic girls’ school on the Coombe Estate.
Shops and restaurants: high street shopping is one of Kingston’s strengths. With 3.5 million square feet of retail space, Kingston is the seventh-largest retail centre in the UK and has two big department stores — John Lewis and Bentalls. There is a market in the square. The French Table in nearby Surbiton is considered by some to be the best local restaurant, while there are two Carluccio’s, in Charter Quay and in Bentalls, and a branch of Jamie’s Italian in the high street, one of only three in London.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF KINGSTON UPON THAMES:
For more local restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres, cinemas or attractions; or to book a table or tickets for a night out, visit LondonLive.co.uk/Kingston-upon-Thames.
Search properties, jobs or dates in any London boroughs.
Open spaces: there is rowing and sailing on the Thames, riverside walks on the Thames Path, and the wild acres of Richmond Park to the north, while Bushy Park and Hampton Court Park are a walk across Kingston Bridge.
THINGS TO DO
The Kingfisher Leisure Centre and David Lloyd at the Rotunda both have swimming pools. At Hampton, across the river, there is a year-round heated lido. The new Rose Theatre, part of the Charter Quay development, is a theatre in the round, based on the Elizabethan Rose Theatre discovered in Southwark.
The Kingston Museum houses the bequest of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who pioneered moving pictures and was born in Kingston. There is to be a big Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain in September, which will be matched by special exhibitions at the Kingston Museum and at Kingston University’s Stanley Picker Gallery. There is also a 14-screen multi-plex cinema in the Rotunda.
Transport: Kingston station is in Zone 6 (annual railcard £1,904); Norbiton is in Zone 5 (annual railcard £1,760). The journey into central London from both stations takes around 30 minutes.
Council: the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (Liberal Democrat-controlled) has a Band D council tax for 2010/2011 of £1,522.51.
One-bedroom flat: £197,921
Two-bedroom flat: £267,181
Two-bedroom house: £308,662
Three-bedroom house: £413,551
Four-bedroom house: £650,593
One-bedroom flat: £775 to £1,200 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £900 to £1,800 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,075 to £2,000 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,450 to £2,850 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,550 to £5,000 a month
Five-bedroom house: £2,700 to £13,000* a month
*on the Coombe Estate
Pictures by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication (21 July, 2010)