K05: Norbiton Church

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Norbiton Hall (mansion and estate)

Norbiton Hall estate dates from 1174, when Henry II granted the manor of North Barton to one of his Knights of Anjou. The site was later part of the Lovekyn chapel endowment. Over the years it has been the residence of Eramus Ford (1532; Commissioner of Sewers who complained to the king that 35 of his finest elm trees had been destroyed, possibly for the construction of Hampton Court), Richard Taverner (1547; High Sheriff of Surrey, and protestant preacher who translated the bible into English), George Evelyn (1588; brother to the diarist John), the Countess of Liverpool (1829; widow to Prime Minister, the Earl of Liverpool).

Described by former resident in 1965, William Hardman as ‘one of the prettiest places in Surrey’ with beautiful gardens growing peaches, apricots, melons and a greenhouse full of strawberries, a copper beech under which the children sat with their governess, a great cedar and a vast magnolia where Hardman and his wife entertained their guests. Hardman even held an horticultural exhibition there in 1867.

The lands around Norbiton Hall mansion were gradually sold off from 1868, Birkenhead Avenue was laid in 1882 and by the turn of the 20th century the house and the remaining 4 acres of ground were surrounded by ever busier roads.

*Hardman was a Kingston Magistrate and High Recorder. During his time at Norbiton Hall, he received almost daily in a dedicated ‘Justice Room’ the drunk, disorderly and vagrant of Kingston. In a letter, Hardman wrote ‘they howl and groan before me in vain, [and] tell of piteous tales to a deaf ear’, a compassionate man, clearly!

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Norbiton Hall (flats)

A consortium of local businesses proposed a dog race track on the site in 1933 but this was rejected by both Kingston Council and National Government on appeal.

The site instead was developed into 192 flats by the London County Freehold & Leasehold Properties Limited who by 1935 had £8,000 000 of assets in the form of 7000 flats. Their purpose was apparently to ‘provide a public service for a public need’ through ‘labour saving flats designed on the most scientific lines’ – they had 18 branches including the headquarters at Marble Arch, London.

Norbiton Hall flats had built-in cupboards, dust chutes, constant hot water and for £85 per year – which included rent, rates, water, porterage, grounds maintenance – got you a dining hall, reception room, two bedrooms and tiled kitchen and bathroom. The bathrooms were the ‘last word in luxury’ with generously proportioned baths, chromium fittings, tiled floors and walls; meanwhile the kitchens  facilitated ‘perfect management’, apparently.

The Plaque on the side of the hall was unveiled by Sir Alfred Woodgate, Mayor of Kingston and reads ‘Here formerly stood Norbiton Hall. Built in the 16th century on Lovekyn’s Chapel land. It has been the residence of Richard Taverner, George Evelyn, Sir Anthony Benn, The Countess of Liverpool and others’

Sources:

  • Butters, S (2013) ‘That Famous Place’: A history of Kingston upon Thames Kingston: Kingston University Press
  • Sampson, J (2006) The Kingston Book London: Historical Publications Ltd
  • Surrey Comet, 3rd December 1977
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