#147: Surbiton 16/08/2022

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Surbiton Station

I had to visit this station twice in a matter of weeks, as my first was interrupted soon after arriving due to a family emergency. So I only got as far as the platforms the first time around and got soaked on my second visit. The station is managed by South Western Railway, and I class it as an end of the line as it’s the furthest I can travel on this line out of London Waterloo using my Freedom Pass.

The station opened in the 1840s, moving from a location half a mile to the east, where it was the first Kingston station. The railway company built the station away from the town as Kingston Corporation feared a station would harm the coaching trade. Successive names saw the station called Kingston; Kingston Junction, Surbiton and Kingston and Surbiton in 1867.

The station was rebuilt in 1937 by James Robb Scott, a Scottish architect employed by Southern Railway in its fashionable art deco style. It is now a Grade  II listed building with an impressive ticket hall and clock tower.

I met Mike on my first visit. He was a knowledgeable gent explaining that the works on the island platform 3&4 were new stairs as the original ones couldn’t cope with the volume of passengers at peak time. I’ve also learnt that Harry Potter sat at this station reading the Daily Prophet in the Half Blood Prince. So I wonder if this skateboarder could be considered a modern-day Harry Potter with his mobile phone replacing the moving images of the Daily Prophet?


Before the arrival of the railway, Surbiton was predominantly farmland that belonged to the royal manor of Kingston. It now forms part of the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames: their website states, ‘Surbiton is a highly sought-after residential area located on the River Thames. It has a thriving shopping centre, providing a real mix of individually owned shops coexisting alongside smaller chain store outlets. Bar and café culture is also a growing feature of the centre, with newer venues working hand in hand with the older and more traditional pubs and restaurants.’

But here’s my take on the area.

Brighton Road and Victoria Road are the two main shopping streets but there are other shops around the junction near the station where St James’ Road and Claremont Road come together. Unlike many other town centres I’ve visited, there are very few unoccupied or closed shops, a sign of prosperity no doubt. 

The intensity of the morning’s rain challenged my resolve to walk around, but I persevered, and it was evident I was in the minority. But I don’t blame shoppers for staying away, and as the clouds cleared, the streets soon started to fill with those going about their business.

Here’s a rain-soaked shopper seen from a cut-through from St Phillip’s Road car park to Victoria Road.

I stopped halfway down Victoria Road to admire the local Sainsbury’s store. Well, nothing architecturally stimulating, you might think, but it was the mural inlaid into the sidewall that captured my attention. According to the VADS website, which is part of the University of the Creative Arts, these two murals had been commissioned by Sainsbury’s to celebrate and commemorate aspects of Surbiton’s history.

However, what stands out for me are the three historical names which feature prominently on the left-hand mural. They read South Beretum, Subertone and Surbelton. Furthermore, following a little research, other names include Suberton (1179), Surbeton (1263) and Surpeton (1486).

Seething Wells Filter Beds

Surbiton is framed by the river Thames on its northwest boundary as it flows downstream towards Kingston. On first walking through, the area appears residential, with faded iron railings guarding an unkempt wasteland that hides the river. You can see the Marina in Thames Ditton in the distance to the west, but what captures my attention are the signs attached to the railings placed there by the Seething Wells Action Group (SWAG). They read:

‘Make Seething Wells Green Again: Restore and protect the heritage and biodiversity of Seething Wells. Secure a long-term future of the site for the benefit of surrounding communities.’

Some research reveals the area gets its name in the eighteenth century from Siden Wells, where drinking water springs emerge. Fast forward a hundred years, and they became filter beds for several water companies providing water to the surrounding communities. Fast forward another hundred years, and they are decommissioned by Thames Water, with water supplies now provided through the Thames Water Ring.

For over twenty years, the SWAG has been campaigning to protect the filter beds as a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation. However, the landowners continue to submit planning applications, so the group’s effort to protect the site seems to remain. 

A riverside walk

I hadn’t realised how close to Kingston Upon Thames I was until I started walking along the riverside. I could see Kingston Bridge in the distance and decided to make this my day’s destination. Thankfully the rain had stopped by now, and the sun was trying to dry up the sodden ground. But that didn’t deter these tourists from hiring a motor boat to enjoy a brief river experience from the Kingston Town End Pier. Incidentally, you can also jump aboard a paddle steamer from here too.

The closer I got to the Bridge, the busier it became. But before reaching the restaurant hot spot, I stopped to listen to a chick calling for its mum in the water. I wasn’t alone, as another lady stopped to have her lunch and watched the excited chick eventually find its parent.

The area by Kingston Bridge was by now full of visitors, drawn by the finer weather and the desire to sit at one of the many restaurants overlooking the river. Quite pleasant but not idyllic as restaurants vied for outside space, and the river view was spoiled by tourists mingling around.

I had reached my goal and walked under Kingston Bridge, where there were fewer tourists and less noise. But feeding the birds remains a common activity when by the water. So what is enjoyable about throwing food at a gathering of mixed water birds and then scurrying away as the gathering grows as the birds demand more food from you? But we all do it.

Art around Surbiton and Kingston

As a regular reader, you will know that I have showcased art in its many guises over the years. So my day in Surbiton and Kingston wasn’t disappointing, as I came across the splendid work of many artists. Here are a few examples included in my earlier Instagram postings where you can see the entire set.

Surbiton – cut through between St Phillip’s Road and Victoria Road.

Kingston Upon Thames – Water Lane

When is wall art not graffiti? My definition, which I accept is open to challenge, is that wall art is permitted, whilst graffiti isn’t. So I end my blog with a piece of graffiti I found under the northern side of Kingston Bridge. 

But you decide and post your thoughts.

Picture of the Day – Waiting

This photo is one of a sequence of shots I took on Platform 1 as the London-bound train approached. I wanted to catch the sense of waiting and anticipation as the train neared the station. Therefore, I focused on the passenger in the foreground so that the train and other passengers were of secondary consideration.

I’ve cropped the original photo to tighten the final image so that the rails leave the image in the bottom right-hand corner, which makes you want to see it progress down the platform. Some filtering in black and white also helps to heighten the contrast too. 

  • Location: Surbiton Station Platform 1
  • Date/Time: Thursday, 4th August 2022, 10:46 AM
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture -f/7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO800

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  1. Nice to hear about the town I grew up in. Whilst I lived near to Tolworth, Surbiton Station was the start and end of all my journeys. Remembering Bullied Pacifics roaring through on their way to Bournemouth, Weymouth, Salisbury, Exeter and beyond. School was up the road from the station in Avenue Elmers and evening classes in Hollyfield road secondary school.
    The Model shop in the lower Brighton road had a regular visit on Saturday mornings and folk singing in the Assembly Rooms.
    Trolley Bus routes separated outside the station, 601 to Tolworth Broadway, 603 to Tolworth Red Lion, and 602 to the Dittons.
    Thanks for the memories.
    John Barcy.


      1. The trolley busses were replaced by brand new Routemasters put of Fulwell depot.
        Did you know that Surbiton tennis club also hosted international.games in the 1930’s. Tolworth tower was the first outer London ‘Skyscraper’ and had one of the first Tesco supermarkets below.
        Surbiton station was the terminus of the car carrier service to Okehampton.
        John Barcy.


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