Kingston upon Thames is the principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames in southwest London. It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is now situated south west of Charing Cross. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. Though it now lies outside the borders of the County of Surrey, Kingston remains the location of the administrative headquarters of Surrey County Council.
Kingston was called Cyninges tun in 838, Chingestune in 1086, Kingeston in 1164, Kyngeston super Tamisiam in 1321 and Kingestowne upon Thames in 1589. The name means 'the king's manor or estate' from the Old English words cyning and tun. It belonged to the king in Saxon times and was the earliest royal borough. It was first mentioned in 838 as the site of a meeting between King Egbert of Wessex and Ceolnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury. Kingston lay on the boundary between the ancient kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, and in the early tenth century Wessex absorbed Mercia into the kingdom of England. Probably because of the town's symbolic location, several tenth century kings were crowned in Kingston, Æthelstan in 925, Eadred in 946 and Æthelred in 979. Other kings who may have been crowned there are Edward the Elder in 902, Edmund in 939, Eadwig in 956, Edgar in about 960 and Edward the Martyr in 975. It was later thought that the coronations took place in the chapel of St Mary, which collapsed in 1730, and a large stone recovered from the ruins has been regarded since the eighteenth century as the Coronation Stone. It was initially used as a mounting block, but in 1850 it was moved to a more dignified place in the market before finally being moved to its current location in the grounds of the guildhall.
For much of the 20th century, Kingston was a major military aircraft manufacturing centre specialising in fighter aircraft – first with Sopwith Aviation, H G Hawker Engineering, later Hawker Aircraft, Hawker Siddeley and eventually British Aerospace. The legendary Sopwith Camel, Hawker Fury, Hurricane, Hunter and Harrier were all designed and built in the town and examples of all of these aircraft can be seen today at the nearby Brooklands Museum in Weybridge. Well known aviation personalities Sydney Camm, Harry Hawker and Tommy Sopwith were responsible for much of Kingston's achievements in aviation. British Aerospace finally closed its Lower Ham Road factory in 1992; part of the site was subsequently redeveloped for housing but the riverside part houses a community centre and sports complex. The growth and development of Kingston Polytechnic and its transformation into Kingston University has made Kingston a university town.
Kingston upon Thames formed an ancient parish in the Kingston hundred of Surrey. The parish of Kingston upon Thames covered a large area including Hook, Kew, New Malden, Petersham, Richmond, Surbiton, Thames Ditton and East Molesey.
The town of Kingston was granted a charter by King John in 1200, but the oldest one to survive is from 1208 and this document is housed in the town's archives. Other charters were issued by later kings, including Edward IV's charter that gave the town the status of a borough in 1481. The borough covered a much smaller area than the ancient parish, although as new parishes were split off the borough and parish eventually became identical in 1894. The borough was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, becoming the Municipal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames (then spelt with hyphens). It had been known as a Royal borough through custom and the right to the title was confirmed by George V in 1927. Kingston upon Thames has been the location of Surrey County Council since it moved from Newington in 1893.
In 1965 the local government of Greater London was reorganised and the municipal borough was abolished. Its former area was merged with that of the Municipal Borough of Surbiton and the Municipal Borough of Malden and Coombe, to form the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames. At the request of Kingston upon Thames London Borough Council another Royal Charter was granted by Queen Elizabeth II entitling it to continue using the title "Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames" for the new borough.
Kingston was built at the first crossing point of the Thames upstream from London Bridge and a bridge still exists at the same site. Kingston was occupied by the Romans, and later it was either a royal residence or a royal demesne. There is a record of a council held there in 838, at which Egbert of Wessex, King of Wessex, and his son Ethelwulf of Wessex were present. In the Domesday Book it was held by William the Conqueror. Its domesday assets were: a church, five mills, four fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth six hogs. It rendered £31 10s (£31.5).
In 1730 the chapel containing the royal effigies collapsed, burying the sexton, who was digging a grave, the sexton's daughter and another person. The daughter survived this accident and was her father's successor as sexton. Kingston sent members to early Parliaments, until a petition by the inhabitants prayed to be relieved from the burden. Another chapel, the collegiate chapel of St Mary Magdalene, The Lovekyn Chapel, still exists. It was founded in 1309 by a former mayor of London, Edward Lovekyn. It is the only private chantry chapel to survive the Reformation.