K07: Park Road

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Two tales from World War Two

Trying to understand today what it must have been like to be a civilian during the Second World War in Kingston is quite impossible. The continuous threat from bombardment, the rationing, the worry for loved ones on the front, carrying your gas mask everyone, queues for the buses, houses destroyed down your street, patches of intelligence about the atrocities in the East – the sheer pressure of the situation, and the only consolation that it least it was shared by everybody, and we were just “another south-west suburb” (Surrey Comet, 1944). This blog is about two aspects of the war experience in Park Road, Kingston: bombardment and war time manufacturing.

“V Bomb Kills Five”

There were a number of HE (High Explosive) bomb strikes on or near Park Road early in the war recorded by the ARP Wardens of Kingston Council on a ‘Bomb Map’ available at Kingston History Centre. They were at 20:43 on 30/10/1940, 19:19 on 12/11/1940 and 20:33 on 29/11/1940. The Park Road – New Road junction was also the location for the only V-2 rocket to land in the former Borough of Kingston, the present monument at the site erected in 1995.

V-2s were retribution weapons, the first long-range guided ballistic missiles, sent over London by the German Luftwaffe as payback for the effective bombardment of German cities by the Allies. According to Wikipedia, modern reconstructions estimate that they create a crater of 20m wide, by 8m deep, ejecting around 3000 tons of material into the surroundings.

The bomb landed at 14:35 on Monday, 22nd January 1945. The article to the right is how the Surrey Comet wrote about it in their issue of 27th January 1945, page 7.

Later, A.W. Forsdike, Town Clerk and ARP Controller, wrote a report on the incident. There were 5 immediate fatalities, and 3 later in hospital as well as 120 injured. The injured were treated at the Aid Post and Kingston Hospital: “at one period it was thought that the hospital may become congested”. In total, 40 people were hospitalised. Kings Road, Tudor Road, New Road and Elm Road were also damaged with a total 2004 houses affected (33 demolished, 80 seriously damaged).

His report describes how “the most severe and widespread incident in the Borough” was managed by a mixture of civilian volunteers and service personnel. ARP Wardens, the National Fire Service and Police were in action by 14:42. British soldiers from the nearby barracks and American Forces from encampment in Richmond Park cleared the roads within 3 hours. A mobile First Aid post was set up by the Women’s Voluntary Service and Housewives. Dangerous work was carried out to rescue those under rubble by Wardens and the Heavy and Light Rescue Parties from the Borough’s Villier’s Road Depot, led by a man called Coulton: “All the living casualties were extricated within about an hour”.

Incident Control was set up in houses opposite Alexandra Hotel for three weeks, manned by ARP Wardens. An Enquiry Point was managed by the WVS for one week after the event and they also managed a large number of curved asbestos huts later erected to meet the housing shortage on the road. Forsdike wrote that: “Owing to the tremendous demand for labour in the London area, we are only permitted to repair houses up to a standard laid down by the Ministry and known as “reasonable comfort”. Plastering, painting and distempering (except patching) at the present stage, is entirely prohibited, except under exceptional circumstances.”

For me, the most evocative and poignant description in the newspaper article is the call by rescuers for silence. Silence. Silence, in order to listen for life, rescuers ‘holding their breath whilst…bent low and strained to hear a noise which would guide them to a rescue’ (Surrey Comet, 27/1/1945). It is unsettling to imagine the scene, as children were dragged alive from the rubble.


Park Works, 16 Park Road

One way in which we remember the past is through the designation of the built environment as having some sort of historical interest: this could be through identifying conservation areas, or protecting certain buildings from adaptation and demolition. This is done at local level by the Council and at national level by Historic England (previously English Heritage).

The south of Park Road is in a conservation area and ‘area of special local interest’, designated in June 1989 by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. In April 2015, a planning application was made by Countywide Design to convert Park Works, 16 Park Road (a site on the junction with Borough Road) from multiple occupancy industrial estate into homes and white collar office accommodation. The application was withdrawn in November 2015.

In the early part of the 20th century Park Works was used by Jabez Summers and Son who were builders. From 1922 to 1971, H D Symons & Co Ltd used the works and in war time they were involved in producing glass fabric insulation used in the aircraft industry. This activity was considered of national importance, damage or destruction to/of the factory was to be reported to the Ministry of Home Security (ref.Emergency Control File).

The factory expanded in 1939 to a design by A.P. Starkey, better known as an Odeon Cinema architect, to house 260 workers, of whom 230 were women. The two-storey facade to Borough Road was added at this time, with a pillbox or fire watching post incorporated into the design in early 1941, after the previous winter’s bombardments of the local area (as detailed above). To avoid disruption to production, factory owners would often build their own watchtowers which would  allow work to continue below as the air raid sounded. Employees would keep a look out above and warn of likely incendiary devices, at which point workers would rush to the shelters. The factory therefore represents a number of interesting historical themes: the significance of local, small scale manufacture to the war effort, women’s roles in the war, and wartime design. The Borough Road facade is now listed Grade II thanks for the efforts of a man called Nigel Bailey, who has kindly written the following:

When I was alerted to the fact that Park Works was under threat of demolition, I was motivated to get it listed for two reasons, firstly because it is a rather unique building, secondly because it was clearly part of Kingston local war time history. The building had a story to tell. I started with the Pillbox-study-group.org.uk. I was surprised that despite them not being aware of it, they seemed unintererested. I wondered if they thought it was a folly, not a genuine pillbox. When I discovered that the original drawings for the building described it as a fire watch post, it convinced me that the building was all the more unique. After all, there are lots of pillboxes dotted about the countryside.

It still irritates that I couldn’t establish exactly what was manufactured at the factory. Insulated electrical wiring seems most likely. Not quite the story I was hoping for, but I was pleased that Historic England agreed with my supposition that it was supplied to the Hawker Aircraft industry for use on the Hurricane fighter planes. The high point in my research was when I found a letter in the Kingston Emergency Control File, kindly retrieved by Kingston Local History, which described Park Works as being of national importance during wartime.

My pleasure at Park Works being grade II listed was slightly dampened by the fact that Historic England only listed the front section of the building- the canteen- and fire watch post. The saw tooth roofed workshops, where the manufacturing took place, remain unprotected despite the delightful architectural interiors.

 It is only through the effort of local people, that the past can be remembered and preserved and I personally feel that Park Works story is worth looking after. I visited the site yesterday and can appreciate that it isn’t the tidiest part of our shared borough, but factories are messy places, they are where things are made which demands a certain amount of chaos. Park Works also remains an important facility for small local businesses.


Both stories – one of destruction and the other of production – seek to illustrate the human experience of war in Kingston, and how we attempt to remember, understand and protect it in the present. This blog is written in remembrance of the eight casualties from the V-2 rocket strike, of whom we only know five names.

 Amy Ethel Dormer
Patricia Land
Winifred Gertrude Maton
Mary Read
Vera Styles


Bailey, N (2015) Park Works: A case for its Ptotection  Unpublished, available at Kingston History Centre

Built Heritage Consultancy (2015) Park Works Kingston upon Thames: Heritage Statement  Available here.

Burford, R (2015) ‘Small businesses fact the boot as developers plan Kingston industrial park redevelopment’ Your Local Guardian Available here.

Butters, S (2013) ‘That Famous Place’: A history of Kingston upon Thames Kingston University Press

Forsdike, A W (1945) Town Clerk’s Air Raid Reports 1940-1945 Unpublished, available at Kingston History Centre, reference KT189.

Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (2015) Planning Database Available here.

Royal Borough of Kingston (2016) List of Conservation Areas Available here

Surrey Comet, 27th January 1945, p.7.

Wikipedia (2016) V-2 rocket Available here.


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’


  • 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


Have you ever wondered what all the numbers and letters on buses and their stops mean? Here is a limited guide to what I’ve learnt…


Letters and numbers on the front of the bus:

The letters refer to the bus type/ design, since 1990s privatisation, the number of types has really expanded. Letters for classic bus types include ‘RM’ for Routemasters, ‘RT’ for Regent Three, and ‘RF’ for Regal Four. The 213 uses DOEs  (Alexander Dennis Trident II Optare Enviro 400) and PVLs (London Plaxton President bodied Volvos). The number afterwards is individual to the bus, like the numbers assigned to limited edition artist’s prints.

DOE28 at Sutton Garage. 'DOE' refers to bus type (both chassis and body design), '28' is the individual number assigned to that specific bus.

DOE28 at Sutton Garage. ‘DOE’ refers to bus type (both chassis and body design), ’28’ is the individual number assigned to that specific bus.

Combination of letters and numbers on the side of the bus:

The letter refers to the garage where the bus comes from. So, all 213s will have ‘A###’, where ‘A’ means Sutton. Previously, they could have had ‘K’ for Kingston or ‘NB’ for Norbiton Garages but they are both long gone now, Kingston where Oceana now is, Norbiton where the Wickes store is. The number following, the running number, indicates where the bus is in the fleet, so if you wait to see a few buses pass they should be in chronological sequence. This number corresponds to a duty number on the driver’s duty card, this tells the driver where on the route they are supposed to be at a certain time.

The letter number combination on the yellow panel tells you that the 213 is from Sutton (A) and its running number is '250' - so the next bus should be '251'

The letter number combination on the yellow panel tells you that the 213 is from Sutton (A) and its running number is ‘250’ – so the next bus should be ‘251’


Stop sign for Malden Green Avenue

Stop sign for Malden Green Avenue – Towards Sutton

Yellow/Orange numbers and letters on stop signs/ Numbers on bus shelters:

These numbers are assigned by London Buses/ Transport for London presumable for maintenance and inventory purposes. The yellow number is called an ‘Origination and Destination plate’. All the stops in Kingston Borough start with K and all the stops in Sutton with J but I don’t know anything else about them

Live departure numbers:

These numbers appear on a red and grey panel fixed on the sign post. You can also get a full list of these on TfL’s website which allows people with fancy phones (what I call smart phones) to find out when the next bus will arrive at any given stop.

Letters above stop signs:

This is called a ‘Point Letter’ and refers to a position on a map which is used when there are a number of different bus stops to choose from, i.e. at interchanges and town centres. It is specific to a physical location so that for example, on the 213 route there are three stops with point letter E.

Number on stop sign (underside)

This is called the stop number and is unique to the sign, it is on a little greyish disk on the bottom of the route display, for London Bus’s inventory records.

Individual shelter number and map for identifying your stop.

Individual shelter number and location map for identifying your stop.

A Walk from Lindsay Road to Blake’s Lane

First off, I have an email address now, feel free to message me with any thoughts about the project or contributions which you’d prefer not to share publicly. It’s 213bus@gmail.com!

Now to the blog….

This blog is a bit more about my project rather than specifically about buses or local history.

I’m completing this project as part of a Masters degree called ‘Heritage (Contemporary Practice)’ at Kingston University. Instead of doing a traditional dissertation I have chosen to do this, a creative project. There are three elements which I will be assessed on: a 5000 word essay, a journal (this blog) and a creative outcome. Initially, I thought that my creative outcome or proposal should be a local history exhibition. I’m still exploring if this will be possible but in the meantime I want to keep my options open and have come up with a few other ideas: a 213 festival (events programme, heritage bus, gingerbread buses!), a historic bus tour (seems appropriate, travelling on an old 213), or a group of walking tours (with guide to the local history). Which is your favourite? Any other suggestions?

I spent a bit of today doing some good old fieldwork. By that, I mean I walked from Lindsay Road – my stop, to Blake’s Lane next to the A3 roundabout taking photos of stuff. At each bus stop I took a photo of the stop itself and the view from the stop (if you looked directly ahead of you). I’m hoping to come across some old photos of the stops so this should make a good contrast. Plus, I want to deposit my research in an archive (possibly, Kingston, Sutton and the London Transport Museum if they want it) so it will be nice to have a record of the 213 as it is in 2013 for unknown people in the future to look at….see the example below of Lindsay Road, where I wait for my bus most mornings…

left: view of the stopright: view from the stop

left: view of the stop
right: view from the stop

As well as photographing the stops, I was also on the look out for interesting things to research. I could look into the design of stops themselves, Lindsay Road has a new shelter because an old tree feel on top of the last one, and I must say it is absolutely rubbish! Way too tall that is doesn’t actually function as a shelter either from wind, rain or sunshine! Or maybe look into the history of pubs on the route: today I passed the North End Tavern and the Worcester Park (boarded up). Other interesting things: churches, F W Paine funeral directors, Police station, interconnection between railway and bus route, interconnection of different bus routes, Manor Park Recreation Ground, ‘Roadstar’ art piece….. Lots of possibilities!

I then came back and designed a business card. Have you guys got any good suggestions of where I can print it without excessive postal charges? I also made up a postcard/flyer thing which I’m thinking of getting printed as a way to start collecting other people’s thoughts, memories and experiences….A lot to think about, a lot to do!

Business Card       Postcard

57 Varieties*

One of the ideas of the project is to collect local history information around each of the stops on the current 213 route and produce a blog entry about each. To that end, I’ve started the process of collection – finding photos, interesting stories and remembrances. I imagine that this could become a good structure for an exhibition – maybe the two routes (Kingston-Sutton; Sutton – Kingston) running along the walls with each stop marked and a collection of ephemera surrounding it, plus a place for people to fill in a postcard of their thoughts and memories to be shown alongside, each stop blurring into the next as the walls are filled.

I was typing up the list of stops going each way which my mum had written out (also available on a handy interactive map at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/?r=213) and suddenly the scale of this project dawned on me. 57* different stops to consider and research…. Overwhelming and also strangely awesome. Things that seem simple can become so complex so quickly. I’m excited at the possibilities of this project for involving a whole load of different people (anyone really- that has, does or will ever conceivably use the 213 bus route or lives their lives alongside it). Will any coherent meaning emerge from this? I think what interests me about the project is that it will produce something more collage, or patchwork in character, a collection, a changeable mass of information that connects us all. The 213 follows a physical geographic route, but is part of a complex network of interconnecting routes: physical, social, historical, economic. And that’s just one bus route!

* The route from Kingston to Sutton stops at 44 stops, from Sutton to Kingston it stops at 45 stops. There are 57 individual names for the stops.

Some of the 89 bus stops on the 213 route (both directions)

Some of the 89 bus stops on the 213 route (both directions)

Getting My Anorak On.

Sutton Bus Garage sign

Today I went on the bus from Fairfield, Kingston to Sutton, Bushey Road, and decided to take a photo of each of the stops.

Now, although I probably come across as a geek a lot of the time (and certainly some of the guys and girls at school thought I was and said so, a lot, to my face), taking photos of bus stops is not something I feel particularly comfortable doing. Luckily my parents were with me or else I probably wouldn’t have done it.

Why does it make me feel uncomfortable to be seen doing research by other bus travellers? I suppose my behaviour was abnormal. But then, no one questioned what I was doing, so was it all in my head? Are we not all entitled to our little eccentricities? The bus driver didn’t make a comment when we got to the end of the line (Sutton Bus Garage) and asked for where we could pick up the 213 going back the other way… Mum drafted a nice list of all the bus stop names so my research into local history can get under way.

If any of you readers use the 213 I would be really grateful if you would like to contribute a photograph of the street view at your bus stop and share it with me on here. That way we can start collecting an image of the bus route in 2013 which will be an interesting contrast with any historic photos I come across over the next few months.