K02: Eden Street

K2: Eden Street

Since at least 1315, Eden Street was called Heathen Street, a reflection of its location on the edge of Kingston, where the heathens (those who didn’t belong) lived. Victorian sensibilities made the name change desirable – particularly as a number of churches had been built along the road and it was becoming embarrassing for 19th century Christian types to admit their address was ‘No. ___ Heathen Street’. The name change leant itself well to a new shopping centre Eden Walk: with apple logo and serpentine-shaped paths, the evocation of paradise on earth, or possibly a symbol of humanity’s great fall?!

Eden Walk Shopping Centre

The construction of Eden Walk in the 1960s and 1970s unearthed (literally) a 600 year old pottery kiln at No.70 and No.72 Eden Street. During the medieval period, Eden Street would have been on the outskirts of the Market town of Kingston. These sites were productive making and trading places, and are thought to have provided Henry III’s court with a massive order of 3,300 pitchers in the years 1264-66 of Kingston-type white ware.  The street was also the site for the meat industry: butchery, leather and horn trades – messy activities that were better sited out of town centres.

A shopping centre at the site was first conceived in 1936 by Kingston Council in part to provide much needed multistorey parking, and it was the first and only foray into retail development by the Borough. Its construction proved to be a bit of a headache and indeed there has been continued redevelopment on the site for the last 50 years, whilst shoppers continue to shop and Kingston continues as a primary shopping destination for Greater London.

Rapid development in the first part of the 20th century led to some major problems in Kingston, particularly regarding on street parking and congestion through the centre. These were problems of affluence – too many people able to afford cars and willing to travel into Kingston to spend. The Council recognised that something must be done and originally planned for a multilevel car park on what had been the Horsefair (where John Lewis is). Indeed, the basement for this was constructed prior to the Second World War when it was converted into a civil defense centre. After the war, it became a cricket training school and Eden Street was identified as the new prefered location for car park and shopping area as the Council already owned land at nos. 45 and 49 Eden Street. This development was Eden Walk Phase I, a plan to provide 26,000 sqft of shops and 14,000 sqft of offices. This phase began in 1964 and was completed in 1967 and provided the side of Eden Walk which presently includes Sainsbury’s and a smaller Marks and Spencer.

Then the Council planned for Phase II – the side including BHS and the creation of Alderman Judge Mall. This phase required the destruction of Lankester’s 17th century gabled properties and The Three Compasses public house. It also meant the council had to compulsory purchase 1.128 acres which led to major legal wranglings, time delays and spiraling costs. Indeed, the land price doubled from the start of purchase.  By the early 1970s, councillors were questioning where the town’s ‘facelift’ had gone, The development was considered even more important as Kingston Town’s population had declined by 6000 in the period 1965-1973 and something had to be done to continue attracting trade. Plans were finally drawn up in 1974: costing £5.4million, the development would include stairs and lift to four 1st floor shopping units and a car park with total capacity of 707 vehicles. The upper floor would also have a restaurant and coffee shop. At ground floor, space would be provided for a flagship store (BHS), and 23 smaller unit totalling 80,000 sqft retail space . Phase II construction began  June 1977 and was designed by architect Basil Roberts, who said of the development:  ‘everything possible had been done within the severe economic limits to make the scheme pleasing to the eye and sympathetic to Kingston’s medieval core’ (Surrey Comet, 18/6/1977, p.5). It was completed in 1979. A lead-lined time capsule was buried with the development but I didn’t find what was buried inside it, just the Surrey Comet article with people’s suggestions: stuffed fish, old and new money, Rolling Stones records and a packet of crisps, can of pop and one cheeky suggestion of burying the whole of the Kingston Council! After the hoohar of getting the development underway, one can perhaps understand some of the resentment held by local traders and shoppers too!

The original Phase I was enlarged 1983-85 to provide the present Boots store and more retail space for M&S. This extension replaced the Knapp Drewett/Surrey Comet offices. The whole complex was sold to a private company for only £16million in 1990, bearing in mind, Phase II alone cost £6 million in 1977, this doesn’t seem like a huge profit – if after inflation it even constituted a profit at all.

The modern shopping centre boasts an M&S, Boots, BHS and Sainsbury’s  among an array of other shops. It is presently undergoing yet another redevelopment led by Stanley Bragg Architects. What they call Phase I, (or more like phase III or even IV) was approved in January 2011 and involved re-cladding, new canopies, signage and lighting plus large ‘signage poles’ on the Eden Street side of the centre. Phase II plans were submitted in April 2011 to provide a new anchor store with an entrance onto Union Street, new paving, layout, seating and planting – this work is yet to be completed.

Sources:

Butters, S (1995) The Book of Kingston Baron Birch (no place of publication)

Eden Walk Shopping Centre:  http://www.edenwalkshopping.co.uk/

Kingston Borough News: 6/12/1974 p.3

Museum of London, Ceramics and Glass – Surrey Whiteware http://archive.museumoflondon.org.uk/ceramics/pages/subcategory.asp?subcat_id=701&subcat_name=Surrey+whitewares

Sampson, J (2006) The Kingston Book London: Historical Publications Ltd

Stanley Bragg Architects http://www.stanleybragg.co.uk/projects/79?page=1

Surrey Comet: 5/1/1973 p.8; 8/12/1973 p.1; 4/12/1976 p.1; 18/6/1977 p.5; 11/11/1977 p.9; 26/3/1993 p.4; 8/10/10 p.13; 29/4/2011 p.2

Wakeford, J (1990) Kingston’s Past Rediscovered Chichester: Phillimore & Co

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