When you’re in London, Oxford Street is supposed to be The Place for Shopping, which is why I can’t stand it – it’s always full of slow-moving people and the shops are frankly pretty dull. Unfortunately, today I had to do some shopping and my local shops couldn’t provide. As Westfield is believed to be evil, according to https://londonparticulars.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/early-objections-to-westfield-london/, I thought I would brave Kingston.
Kingston, which I was sad to learn was not the subject of the UB40 song ‘Kingston Town’, is a pretty good place to shop, and though it does have many of the disadvantages of Oxford Street, it’s less overwhelming. Plus they have a Shakeaway there, a shop that is an invitation to ruin. If you’re not familiar with this company, basically it’s a chain of milkshake shops that will put pretty much anything into a blender and turn it into a milkshake. I, for instance, had a milkshake containing treacle tart and custard, and spent the next hour or so on a sugar high. I strongly suspect the company started out as an idea someone had when they were stoned.
When I’d bought what I came to buy, I had a quick stroll around the old part of town. Kingston is actually a very old place, dating back to the Roman era. Seven of the Saxon kings were supposedly crowned here. There are a few relics of earlier ages still visible. For instance:
What you see here is the Clattern Bridge. This crosses the Hogsmill River, which is nothing to do with Harry Potter. The side visible between the buildings dates from the thirteenth century – the bridge as a whole was widened in the nineteenth.
Here’s a view of the bridge from the river side. I’ve seen this location used on TV to represent a country village. It’s also a wildfowl sanctuary, albeit quite a small one.
Here are some fishes on the other side of the bridge. Not that that’s got anything to do with medieval Kingston, I just thought I’d take a photo of some fish.
This is the Lovekyn Chapel. It’s nowhere near the Clattern Bridge, but it’s pretty notable anyway. It was founded in 1309 by a gentleman named Edward Lovekyn, who had been Lord Mayor of London and is, according to Wikipedia, “the only private chantry chapel to survive the Reformation.” So screw you, Henry VIII. The chapel is now part of Kingston Grammar School.
This is probably the most important artefact:
It’s the Coronation Stone. According to a combination of history and mythology, no less than seven kings have been crowned on this, and a friend of mine ennobled it further by drunkenly urinating on it. No monarchist he.
The first king crowned there was Edward the Elder, which is a dreadful thing to call a baby. Still, his first wife was Ecgwynn and his second Aelfflaed, so I suppose it could have been worse. Among other things he conquered Essex, the fool.
The second was Athelstan the Glorious, who is now largely forgotten despite the fact that he was the first king to rule all of England and in general seems to have been pretty damn good as kings go. His reign lasted from 924 to 939, meaning that he was so obscure that the Monty Python team felt they could get away with putting King Arthur in his place in ‘The Holy Grail’. Poor sod.
Edmund I was the third king crowned there, and again did not seem to be bad at his job. He made peace with Scotland and increased the number of monasteries in England, but was assassinated by a thief named Leofa. To give you some idea of how history remembers Edmund, one of the titles by which he is known is “Edmund the Deed-Doer.” Oh yes. Edmund gets things done.
Edred came next, and sticks in my mind for the fact that one of his biggest enemies was a Norwegian named Eric Bloodaxe, who tried to conquer Northumbria. Now, Edred, demonstrating that perhaps he should be known as Edred of the Brass Balls, decided that he wasn’t going to stand for this, invaded Northumbria and wrecked the place up. Bloodaxe ran crying to Mama. Incidentally, his brother was known as Haakon the Good, which can’t have done much for the Bloodaxe street cred.
Edwy or Eadwig followed, and he was just rubbish.
Next up was Edward the Martyr, and again, not very good. During his reign, the nobles in the North of England were all marching around like they owned the place. Edward was assassinated under unknown circumstances, and became the centre of a cult.
This cult didn’t help Ethelred the Unready, who wasn’t prepared for any of this. He was the last of the Kingston kings. One of his children was Edmund Ironside, who went on to become a detective in San Francisco.
I should present documentaries, I really should.