Kingston-upon-Thames Church, Surrey

Kingston has a long history as the most important crossing on the Thames between the City of London and Windsor. In 838 AD King Egbert held his “Great Council” here, the Saxon equivalent of a Parliament. It is believed that Egbert had a stone church built at Kingston to house the Great Council, a fragment of Saxon stone still exists at the Church today.

In 902 AD the son of Alfred the Great, Edward the Elder, came to Kingston to be crowned – as did the next six Saxon Kings. The Thames marked the boundary between the Angles of Mercia and the Saxons of Sussex and so the coronation here was also the opportunity for diplomacy. The Saxon coronation stone now stands outside the Guildhall but Egbert’s church was certainly used during the ceremony.

Ethelred the Unready was the last King crowned here and during the chaos of his reign the Danes sailed up the Thames to Staines burning everything they found on the way – including Kingston-upon-Thames and Egbert’s All Hallows’ Church.

Kingston did not recover until well after the Norman Conquest – around 1120 Gilbert the Norman, Sheriff of Surrey, built a church at Kingston in traditional cruciform style with a central tower. It is thought that it was around the size of the current church and the altar was deliberately placed where the chancel of the earlier church stood to keep a line of continuance with the Saxon rulers. Little of Gilbert’s church has survived aside from a few stones and a couple of pillar bases. The earliest surviving work of any great amount is from the 13th Century.

Around 1370 the Norman nave was pulled down and a new nave with aisles was constructed. During the 15th Century the church as we see it today was essentially completed including the tower, crossing and chapels.

During the 17th and 18th Centuries most of the changes to the church were to the interior fixtures, and the usual round of rebuilding happened during the Victorian period when the majority of the plain, post-Reformation, glass was replaced with stained glass.

Unusually, Kingston has kept its entirely cruciform shape with a central tower – the majority of English parish churches were rebuilt with a west tower or towers. This meant that during the 1970s when the churches internal structures were re-ordered that the sanctuary with its altar was placed under the tower, rather than at the far eastern end of the building.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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