Hidden London

Tolworth

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Kingston upon Thames

The ‘scrag end of the borough,’ as the Evening Standard once controversially described it, straddling the Kingston by-pass south-east of Surbiton. Tolworth was recorded as ‘Taleorde’ in Domesday Book (after a man called Tala) and mutated through ‘Talworth’ before the present version of the name took hold in the late nineteenth century. The manor was given by Elizabeth I to Henry, earl of Westmoreland and bought Nathaniel Polhill, MP for Southwark, in 1781. For most of the nineteenth century the earls of Egmont were Tolworth’s principal landowners. St Matthew’s church was built on the border with Surbiton in 1875. The largely unexplained generosity of a Coutts banker resulted in a church that was much larger than the locality needed, but which was appreciated by the inhabitants of the villas springing up along Ewell Road at the time. In the 1880s brickfields in Red Lion Lane (now Road) and William Hipwell’s 550 acre dairy farm were the major employers. Tolworth isolation hospital was built in 1889, in the face of vigorous local objections. On the death in 1897 of Charles George Percival, the seventh earl of Egmont, the farmland was sold for development, although progress was slow at first, partly because of poor drainage. The manor house burned down in 1911. With the opening of the Kingston by-pass in 1927 a massive programme of expansion began, with houses and amenities replacing farms such as Tolworth Lodge. Ewell Road was re-cut and Tolworth Broadway appeared. Tolworth central school was built on the site of Fullers Farm. This became Tolworth girls’ school, a secondary modern now rated ‘exceptionally effective’ by Ofsted and heavily oversubscribed. Tolworth station opened in 1938. The Seifert-designed Tolworth Tower, built in 1964 on the site of the former Odeon cinema, is outer London’s tallest building. Its 22 stories reach 265 feet and the supermarket at ground level was the largest in southern England when it opened. Originally a Fine Fare, the store is now a branch of Marks & Spencer, with a Travelodge above. In the late 1960s the creation of an underpass helped relieve congestion at Tolworth Junction.

click for area map (opens in a new window)
Side view of Tolworth Tower

Like other parts of the borough (especially New Malden), Tolworth has a sizeable Korean community. A high proportion of homes are owner-occupied and contain dependent children.

Postcode area: Surbiton, KT6
Population: 9,531 (Tolworth and Hook Rise ward)
Station: South West Trains (Zone 5)
Further reading: Mark Davison and Paul Adams, Tolworth Remembered, Mark Davison, 2000
and Patricia J Ward, From Talworth Hamlet to Tolworth Tower, self-published, 1975

Corner House community arts centre

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

 
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