Our space houses the 12th century, Saxon remains of the original foundations of Kingston Bridge as well as the 14th century Medieval Undercroft. We are proud to be the guardians of this fascinating part of Kingston Upon Thames’ local history.
Archaeologists guided by the Museum of London exposed the foundations of Kingston Bridge just downstream of the present one: the gently curving cobbled street that led to it, and the Undercroft vaulted basement of a medieval house that stood beside it.
It is our role to preserve and celebrate this heritage, so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. In doing so, we hope you find the artefacts in FUSEBOX to be a source of creative inspiration.
The discovery of this heritage was made during the construction of John Lewis & Partners in 1986. Planning for the department store began in 1979 but was not completed until 1990, largely due to the recovery, study and excavation of both the Saxon Bridge and Medieval Undercroft.
Once discovered, archaeologists at the Museum of London were brought in to oversee the excavation of the 12th century stonework and timber. It was decided these artefacts would be recovered and positioned in the space they are today, to preserve this heritage whilst also keeping it close to its original positioning.
Pynford South Limited were brought on to oversee the recovery of the Bridge and the Undercroft. They developed a technique of reinforcing the architecture in concrete, which can still be seen around the curve of the Undercroft and footings on the Bridge. Newspaper clippings from the time described the 1986 excavation, where the artefacts were lifted by crane, as a monumental feat in British architectural history.
This Medieval Undercroft is dated to c. 1350. It was originally uncovered in 1900, on the corner of Old Bridge Street and Thames Street, during the demolition of The Rose and Crown public house. The Undercroft was then built over and lost, until it was rediscovered in 1985. Due to its proximity to Kingston Market, it is thought The Undercroft formed the cellar of a merchant’s house, and was used to hold goods for trade.
Kingston upon Thames has been home to a bustling market for centuries, with the oldest surviving records dating back to the early 1200s. The Ancient Market remains a place of historical significance, with traders still making use of its central location and the Grade II listed Ancient Market House being a key space the local community.
Constructed centuries after the Saxon Kingston Bridge, The Undercroft shows how the bridge allowed people to move via the River Thames and into Kingston. Taken together, both Kingston Bridge and The Undercroft speak to the way in which people have shaped, and indeed continue to shape, their local area.
The stone foundations from the original Kingston Bridge date back to the 12th Century (c. 1170). If you look directly above these foundations, you can see a timber recreation of the original bridge in typical Saxon architectural design. When it was constructed, the original Kingston Bridge provided the only crossing over the River Thames other than London Bridge.
The Bridge remains important to local history, as it developed Kingston into a riverside market town. Due to its significance, the bridge was subject to reconstruction over the following centuries, before falling into a state of disrepair in the 19th century.
Construction for the Kingston Bridge we see today began in 1825, around 30 metres upstream from its Saxon predecessor. Once completed in 1828, the bridge still connected Kingston’s town centre with the Borough of Richmond Upon Thames. Today, it forms part of a major road connecting people, transport and communities across the two boroughs.
Through a collaboration with students at Kingston University and Kingston College, we have begun to engage young creatives in the history of their local area. We are using art to recall the way in which Kingston has developed over the years: through innovation, community and creativity.
Our understanding of history continuously evolves, and our role at FUSEBOX is to capture this through local peoples’ perspectives and creativity. As an arts organisation, we are driving Kingston’s creative sector into the future, whilst as a heritage site, we will use the past as a source of inspiration for our work.