Earlier this year, King Charles III was crowned in Westminster Abbey, but had history turned a different path, he could well have ended up in a cathedral in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Instead, Westminster got an Abbey, and Kingston kept its 900 year old All Saints Kingston church.

The current church dates to around 1120 – making it roughly 900 years old, but sits next to an even older Saxon era church, which is close to where Saxon Kings were crowned at the Kings Stone. You can see the outlines of the old Saxon church in the grounds next to the current church, picked out with stones and a few small signs.

The present church was begun in 1120 under the orders of Henry I, and has been enlarged and rebuilt several times. During the 14th century, the Norman nave was widened. The chancel and the chapels of the Holy Trinity to the north and St James to the south were added during the 15th century. The original high wooden spire on top of the tower was struck by lightning and almost entirely destroyed in 1445 and was rebuilt in 1505.

By 1600, the church was described as having fallen into decay, and they had to rebuild the tower in brick to stop it falling down. On top of that, the chapel of St. Mary, which stood at the south-east of the church was pulled down in 1730 after some of the walls fell, killing the sexton.

The church we see today though is the result of 19th century restoration and Victorianisation.

Thanks to its free(ish) standing location in the town centre, you can go inside through doors on both sides of the church, which at ground level is very much a flint wall with stone surrounds, but look at the tower and you can see the more recent brick repairs clearly.

It’s also a busy church, and when I popped in the other week after looking at some elephant poo (yes, really), was filled with racks of clothes being pawed over by people eying a fashion bargain.

It’s quite a light feeling church, which isn’t just thanks to the puritan whitewashing of the walls, but also the use of pale blue to paint the ceiling between the wooden beams, which helps to make it less gloomy than many other churches.

The gold tinged angels reminded me strongly of the angels in Westminster Hall.

Over to one side, a war memorial has a book of the dead opened in lit recess, and rather harder to look at as it was surrounded by chairs, is a lump of stone in a glass case. It is said to be the oldest stone in the church and could be from an old stone cross from the previous Saxon church.

Or not, it’s really not that easy to know for certain, especially as it was found amongst building materials elsewhere.

Just think, if Westminster hadn’t taken over as the heart of government, this church would be a little-known memory underneath a much larger cathedral that would have replaced it.

The church is open most days when there isn’t an event, and unlike cathedrals, it is free to visit.

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2 comments
  1. Nigel Headley says:

    This is very much a church of the local community. There is always a lot going on in and around it in the churchyard. It clearly makes a good living from renting out space in front of it and facing the main street and there is the almost permanent fixture of a fairground ride or two. Right now, there is a full size marquee with a Christmas market within. Not sure what Jesus would’ve made with all; I seem to remember he chucked out all the traders from the Jerusalem temple.! Still, in the modern world of balance sheet and finance, the mix of commerce and community benefits is a good thing

  2. David thomas says:

    There are free guide leaflets, a cafe open 10-16.00 weekdays and children’s play area as well.

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