Surbiton – the Queen of the London Suburbs

In the 1830s, when the railway was starting to expand across Britain, it made its way towards the south west of London and was to be developed into and beyond Kingston.  But the town was concerned that the railway would have a negative impact on the coaching trade, and so the council refused the train line. Kingston New Town or Kingston-on-Railway was created, on a farm south of Kingston – ‘southern homestead’ (Surbiton)- to take on the Victorian railway – the main line between London and Southampton and the south west.

Today the Surbiton Station is a beautiful art deco building, but the original station opened in 1838 and with investment of land and money from Coutts & Co, Surbiton fast became a fashionable and desirable place to live.  It became independent of Kingston in 1855 and gained its London borough status in 1936.

Surbiton has been recognised on the small and big screen and was referred to in:

–          The 1972 episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus

–          The 1963 James Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

–          A 2012 episode of EastEnders

More notably Surbiton Station has appeared in:

–          A scene of the 2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Blood Prince

–          The first episode of the 1989 ITV TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Clapham Cook

–          The much loved 1970s BBC sit-com, The Good Life was of course also set in Surbiton

The famous guitarist and singer-songwriter Eric Clapton bought one of his first guitars from Bells in Surbiton (which is no longer) and many other celebrity figures lived in Surbiton, even if only briefly. I have listed only a few:

–          Alfred Bestall (1892-1986) – author and illustrator of Rupert Bear

–          Donald Wood settled in Surbiton in 1977 after fleeing apartheid South Africa

–          Helen Sharman – first Briton in space and the first woman to visit Mir space station

–          George Best – footballer and pundit

–          David Essex – singer

–          Thomas Hardy – author (while working on Far from the Maddening Crowd)

–          Roy Hodgson – football manager

–          John McCririck – horse racing pundit

–          Andy Parsons – comedian

The name Surbiton comes from the Old English for south buritum or granary, and there is evidence of a settlement in this area from the late 1100s, but today Surbiton is celebrated as the ‘Queen on the London suburbs’.