The King’s Stone of Kingston

Little did I know, when I recently ventured to the realm of Kingston, that I was in store for an ancient quest. It wasn’t quite Arthur pulling out Excalibur, but I did encounter the King’s Stone of Kingston.

What is it?

Known as The Coronation Stone, tradition and Kingston folklore say that this stone was used during the coronation of Seven Saxon Kings from 900 – 979 AD.

Kings Stone Kingston

No one seems that certain though.

The adjacent plaque has the opener; “According to tradition, this stone was used during the ceremony of coronation…”. Historic England also describes it as “The stone on which the West Saxon Kings are traditionally said to have been crowned during the C10.”

So what’s the truth?

Firm facts are a little shaky, but the Anglo Saxon chronicle (one of our best Medieval Sources) does confirm that both Athelstan and Ethelred were crowned in Kingston, on 4 September 925 and 14th April 979 respectively.

Although he doesn’t mention the stone explicitly, the antiquary John Leland (1503-1552) refers to Kingston as a location where “a few kinges crounid there afore “the conqueste””.

As for the stone itself it is indeed and ancient Sarsen block (the same stone used for building Stone Henge) but instead of just a free-standing, public block, This was probably incorporated into an early church nearby.

Today All Saints Church stands in the centre of Kingston. The building today has been rebuilt and restored many times but does contain some parts going back to the early 12th century according to Pevsner.

Kings Stone Kingston

Image from Wikimedia Creative Commons

It was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church of St Mary which is said to have been the site of Coronations for Saxon Kings.

After the crumbling – and dangerously unstable – St Mary’s church was pulled down in 1730 the stone was preserved and stations outside the Town Hall.

Today the stone is grade I listed and Historic England says that it was used as a horse mounting block until 1850 when it was moved to its present position and given a little more grandeur befitting a Royal relic.

The King's Stone of Kingston

But Kingston’s ancient heritage doesn’t end there…

Three Fishes

kings stone kingston

These three salmon are the ancient coat of arms of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, recorded in 1572 and 1623. The fish represent the three fisheries mentioned in the Domesday book.

Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see them all over the town centre.

kings stone kingston

And one more ancient monument for luck…

Clattern Bridge

kings stone kingston

The bridge here, crossing Hogsmill River, is one of the oldest in Surrey. The oldest reference is from 1203 where it’s Medieval mouthful of a name is given as ‘Clateryngbrugge’, thought to be onomatopoeic of the horses clattering across the cobbled bridge.

Know of any more historic beauties in Kingston? Tell me in the comments!

More London Inspiration

3 Comments

  • Julia Peterson

    Reply

    Hi Katy,

    Your excellent article on Streatham Rookery reminded me that I came across the original site of the Beulah Spa, Upper Norwood while walking during lockdown …….
    Beulah Spa, Upper Norwood – the Thorpe Park or Glastonbury of its day which spanned from 1831 to 1856……..a phenomenally popular, yet now almost forgotten, UK attraction covering 25 acres, visited by Queen Victoria (4 times), Thackeray (any inspirational link to Vanity Fair …),Charles Dickens (who mentions Beulah Spa 3 times in his Sketches by Boz), alongside thousands of Victorian fun seekers. A concert by Strauss attracted an audience of 10,000.

    The Spa Water, of course, was an enticement for the virtuous and was compared favourably by Michael Faraday to the waters of Bath and Cheltenham. Add archery, a maze, live music, two lakes embellished with islands, gypsy fortune tellers and circus acts and a forceful people magnet was produced. There was a camera obscura with a lens powerful enough to see Windsor Castle – this must have been an early 19th century mind-blow and eye-pop akin to us seeing the dark side of the moon.

    Decimus Burton, protege of John Nash and architect of Wellington Arch, Green Park, Regent’s Park, and Tunbridge Wells to name but a few, was commissioned in the 1820’s to design the spa buildings and landscape the grounds. His entrance lodge and ticket office to the extravaganza (now Tivoli Lodge) and an atmospheric field edged by woodland with a solitary explanatory sign are the only clues remaining of this magnificent spectacle . A large hotel was built by enterprising local landowners to accommodate the immense crowds visiting the area (replaced now by the Beulah Spa Harvester ). All this before Crystal Palace crystallised and ‘outsparkled’ the Spa.

    In Dickens’s Sketches By Boz, the ‘Seven Dials’ story and ‘Passages through the life of Watkins Tottle’ both reference the now forgotten Beulah Spa, an attraction which must have lived in the memory of countless visitors and possibly sustained them. Dickens’s book publisher, William Hall, lived close by and, while his house no longer stands, a magnificent cedar tree remains in Dickens Wood Close under which Dickens reputedly wrote David Copperfield. Walking the steep and fairly consistent incline from central London to Upper Norwood, Dickens may have tarried in Beulah Hill at the Conquering Hero public house, cleverly named to ameliorate the concerns of local objectors who apparently thought a public house would disgrace the neighbourhood. A pond next to the pub (while a great refuge for wildlife now) is a rather dilapidated reminder of what was a drinking stop for horse-drawn trams and cattle, known imaginatively as the Big Pond.

    Expansion of the railways in the 1840’s together with the relocation of Paxton’s Crystal Palace from Hyde Park to Sydenham in 1854 eventually sealed the fate of Beulah Spa which closed 1856. It has almost disappeared into the midst of time. Almost.

    Beulah Spa should be added to Upper Norwood’s scant but zany claims to fame – it was where Pickles the dog found the 1966 World Cup , the site of the first British phone call from Crystal Palace to Menlo House (named after Edison’s home in New Jersey), and the refuge of Emile Zola in the Queen’s Hotel after the Dreyfus affair.

    Go for a welcome ale at the Gipsy Hill Brewery. Gipsy Hill so called as, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the area was famous for travellers, the woodland notorious for providing cover for outlaws and smugglers. The diarist John Evelyn recorded an encounter there where he was dragged from his horse and robbed. The woodland also served as refuge for those fleeing the Great Plague of 1665, a fact which resonates over 350 years later during our own time of self isolation.

    [Other gems close by: Crystal Palace subway with Italian mosaic ceiling, grade 2 listed under the Parade…. Brickwork in station…. Foundation stones of the Crystal Palace and the Dinosaurs.
    The 1685 well and site of a Spa in south London’s secret garden, the Rookery, Streatham Common.
    Sainsbury’s, Streatham Common – housed in former Silk Mill and then by P.B.Cows Indian Rubber Works of Cow Gum fame.]

    October 6, 2021 at 9:14 am
  • FREDERICK S ASHMORE

    Reply

    I hlearned from a talk by Kingston’s biodiversity officer, Elliott Newton, that the Hogsmill is a fine example of a chalk stream. It’s a treat to lean over the Clattern Bridge and watch large fat chub waiting in the stream.
    If you’re in Kingston, it’s worth visiting the Museum to learn how resident Eadward Muybridge worked out how to photograph moving objects.

    October 10, 2021 at 7:58 am

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.