838 – King Egbert’s Great Council

In 838 the Saxon King Egbert held a Great Council in Kingston, possibly in a church preceding our present All Saints. This important meeting was attended by the King, his noblemen, the Archbishop Ceolnoth of Canterbury and other senior clergymen. At this Council Egbert and the Church agreed to support each other and work together.

At this time Kingston was a small group of scattered settlements. Although All Saints had not yet been built, the community was likely served by a wooden minster church.

Documents from the time describe the council as taking place at ‘illa famosa loco quae appeletur Cyningestun in regionnae sudregiae.’ This means that it was ‘that famous place called Cyningestun in the region of Surrey.’ The name suggests a royal estate, including a timber hall and a church, which would probably have sat on the current site of All Saints.

900 – 978 – As many as eight royal coronations on the site of the later All Saints Church

As many as eight, and certainly three, Saxon kings were crowned in Kingston in the tenth century. They are said to have been crowned whilst sitting on the ‘coronation stone’ which still stands in Kingston today. The tradition of being crowned in Kingston was first established by Edward the Elder (899-924), consecrated in 900 when England was not yet one country. Edward’s successors crowned here were:

  • Athelstan, first King of England (925-930)
  • Edmund (939-946)
  • Edred (946-955)
  • Edwy (955-959)
  • Edgar “the Peaceable” (959-975)
  • Edward “the Martyr” (975-978)
  • Ethelred “the Unready” (978-1016)

925 – King Athelstan, first King of England, crowned in Kingston

In 925 King Athelstan was crowned with great ceremony in the church at Kingston. He was the most important of the Saxon kings crowned in Kingston as he went on to become the first King of England. The coronation service compiled for Athelstan was the foundation for our present Coronation service, with which Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. During his reign Athelstan was the first king to unite different regional kingdoms into one nation – England. Click here to read more about Athelstan.

1030 – 1050 – construction of St Mary’s Chapel

St Mary’s chapel was built in the eleventh century and survived as an annex to All Saints Church until 1730. You can still see where St Mary’s stood in All Saints churchyard, to the south of the church, where plaques at St Marys’ four corners were laid in 1936.

1120 – All Saints Church built

All Saints Church was built in the twelfth century, possibly by Gilbert the Norman, Sheriff of Surrey, under the orders of King Henry I. The date of the building is disputed. We think that the 1120s/1130s is a safe assumption but there is some evidence that points to a date later in the twelfth century.

All Saints was cruciform in shape, with a nave the same length as the present one, but probably without aisles, and with a central tower. The south transept was later extended to join the north wall of St Mary’s, which became the Lady Chapel for the church.

1459 – St Mary’s Chantry

St Mary’s Chantry was founded in 1459 on the south side of the chancel by William Skerne to pray for his family. Chantry chapels were founded and endowed by rich parishioners who would pay for a priest to say prayers for their family members and assist their souls’ journey to heaven.

William Skerne founded St Mary’s Chantry to pray for his uncle and aunt. His uncle, Robert Skerne of Down Hall, Kingston, had died in 1437. He had been a well-known and respected local lawyer. Robert’s wife Joanna Skerne was the illegitimate daughter of Edward III and his mistress Alice Perrers. Memorial brasses to the couple can still be seen in the church.

1477 – Holy Trinity Chapel

Groups of less wealthy locals could form groups to jointly endow a chantry chapel to pray for the souls of its members. The Holy Trinity Chapel was built on the north side of the chancel in 1477 by the Guild of the Holy Trinity, a religious society whose purpose was to promote worship. The Holy Trinity Chapel was later refurbished to serve as the East Surrey Regiment Memorial Chapel.

1503s – Churchwardens

By the sixteenth century the Priest of All Saints was assisted in managing his growing parish by two churchwardens. These were local men chosen each year by the parishioners and the priest.

Their duties were mostly financial and to do with the repair and maintenance of the church and its contents. For example, they were in charge of paying for repairs for the church organ and bells. Their accounts from the early sixteenth-century survive to this day.

1530s – The Reformation at All Saints

The Reformation in the sixteenth century marked a turbulent period for All Saints Church. The ways people were allowed to worship changed, the church’s ornaments and vestments were confiscated, and the appearance of the church was drastically altered.

In 1549 the government demanded an inventory of goods of Kingston church, and in 1553 most of Kingston’s church goods were confiscated. The altar became a ‘communion table’. The rood screen separating the altar from the congregation was taken down and sold. Many images and statues would have been removed.

1633 – Edmund Staunton

In 1633, Edmund Staunton became vicar of Kingston. Staunton was an energetic ‘Puritan’ minister. He was typical of the increasing popularity of preachers who attacked the Church of England during the reign of Charles I (1625-49).

1654 – Richard Mayo

‘The excellent Mr Richard Mayo’ was a Presbyterian minister, probably resident in Kingston from 1654 and minister at All Saints from 1656 until 1662.

Richard Mayo was removed as vicar, after the Restoration of Charles II (1660) because he refused to take the Anglican sacraments and pledge allegiance to the King. He and many of his supporters formed a separate congregation which met at various places in Kingston.

1703 – The spire comes down during the great storm

During a great storm in 1703 the spire collapsed and the tower also had to be dismantled because it was also badly damaged. It was rebuilt in brick in 1708. The spire, however, was not replaced, significantly changing the look of the church from outside.

1730 – Collapse of St Mary’s Chapel

In 1730 St Mary’s Chapel, an annex to All Saints which had stood for 600 years, suddenly collapsed. The building’s foundations had been weakened by Sexton Abram Hammerton’s grave digging. When the building collapsed the Sexton, his son and his daughter Hester had been nearby digging graves and so were trapped in the rubble.

The Sexton died in the accident, but miraculously Hester and her brother were pulled from the rubble alive after seven hours. Hester had helped her father dig graves since she was 13 years old so took over his job and was a well-known person in Kingston.

1817 – Samuel Gandy

Kingston’s vicar from 1817 to 1851 was the ‘eccentric but genial’ Samuel Whitlocke Gandy, a popular and committed clergyman. He penned the lyrics of a number of hymns, including ‘What though th’accuser roar’ :
What though th’ accuser roarOf ills that I have done!I know them well, and thousands more:Jehovah findeth none.

He increased the seating at All Saints by enlarging the around the nave, but by 1830 the church was full to capacity (again) and Gandy founded new churches. The first was St John the Divine, Richmond (Kingston parish covered Richmond until 1849), and then in other outlying parts of the parish at Ham (1832), Hook (1838) and Kingston Vale (1839), and then in the expanding suburb of Norbiton (1842). Another new church was founded by the developers of the Surbiton estate (1845).

1850 – Inauguration of the Coronation Stone

The Coronation Stone is the block on which it is traditionally said that the Saxon Kings sat during the ceremony of the coronation – the crowning. It is an ancient sarsen stone (of the sort found at Stonehenge), probably recovered from the ruins of St Mary’s Chapel when it collapsed in 1730.

In 1850 it was properly displayed in the marketplace, on a plinth carved with the names and coins of the seven Saxon kings crowned upon it, and surrounded with ornamental railings in a ‘Saxon’ design. In 1935 the monument was moved once more outside the town’s Guildhall, and will soon return to All Saints’ churchyard.

1862 – 66 – Brandon’s restorations

The first major phase of Victorian restoration of All Saints took place in the 1860s under the architect Raphael Brandon. His work included removing the west gallery and the creation of the great west window, the stained glass being by the firm of Lavers and Barraud. Unfortunately, when the Norman west door was uncovered, it was judged incapable of being preserved, and it was photographed and destroyed.

1884 – 88 – Pearson’s restorations

The second phase of restoration was undertaken by John Loughborough Pearson in the 1880s. This included inserting new tracery in windows which had been altered in post-medieval times, extending the transepts, constructing new roofs, removing galleries and heightening the east and west arches of the tower.

1920 – Memorial chapel

After the First World War the Holy Trinity Chapel was restored to become the Memorial Chapel of the East Surrey Regiment, and pay tribute to Kingstonians who had died fighting in the war. Restorations were carried out by friends, relatives and comrades of the regiment. They were completed in 1921 and the chapel was dedicated as the Regimental War Memorial by the Bishop of Southwark.

A book of remembrance listing the names of the regiment’s 6000 men and officers who had died in the war was placed in the Chapel. The colours of the East Surrey Regiment were hung in the chapel. The regiment also erected a memorial gate on the entrance from the market place to the church. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Kingston on Armistice Day in 1924.

1978 – 79 – Cawdron’s reordering

The church was reordered in 1978-9 by architect Hugh Cawdron. It was transformed from its Victorian appearance to provide a more flexible space not only for worship but for musical and dramatic performances. The pews were replaced with flexible seating, and a square altar was installed beneath the central tower. The choir stalls were moved from under the tower to the first bay of the Nave, and they are now in the Abbey at Milton Abbas. The church was then able to serve a small congregation in the east end or a larger one in the nave.

2013 – 14 – Major restoration work

In 2013-14 we completed a further reordering of All Saints to enhance its beauty and its ability to meet new needs. A new entrance was created on the north side of the church, opening All Saints up to the main commercial centre of the town. The new entrance necessitated some internal reordering, relocating the altar into the main body in the nave of the church. The east end was opened up to serve as a flexible area for worship and community use.