Inventory Site Record

Canbury Gardens (Kingston)

Brief Description

The creation of a public garden here was first proposed by Samuel Gray, who was then elected to the local council and work began in 1889. The first section was completed in 1890 and continued in stages during the 1890s and early 1900s. A bandstand was erected in 1891, donated by a former Mayor of Kingston, and Canbury Gardens became one of the most popular amenities in the town with weekly concerts and beautiful planting displays. By 1933 a pavilion, second bowling green and further tennis grounds were added, infilling the remaining areas of land bordering the Corporation Depot and sewage works, and this remains the extent of the gardens today.

Practical Information
Site location:
Lower Ham Road/King's Walk/Thames Side, Kingston
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Children's playground, tennis courts. Boaters Inn public house
Various events such as summer band concerts. Green Fair event, Dragon Boat and other regattas
Public transport:
Rail: Kingston. Bus: 65.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.kingston.gov.uk/browse/environment/parks/recreation_sites

Full Site Description

This area along the Surrey bank of the Thames was marshland and osier beds with one riverside cottage by the towing path called Barge Walk Cottage until the arrival of the railway to Kingston in 1863. It then became the site of a tar factory and rubbish dump and the area was known as Corporation Eyot. On 9 June 1884, Samuel Gray of a family of prosperous Kingston maltsters and lightermen since the C18th and himself a founder of the Canbury Ratepayers' Association in the early 1880s, proposed the laying out of a public garden here. This was agreed following his election to the Council and plans were drawn up by Henry Macaulay, the Borough Surveyor, work commencing in August 1889. The first section of 1,000 feet from the new Downs Hall Road was completed in February 1890, costing £404 10s and further extensions, plus turfing and landscaping and two riverside walks, continued in stages throughout the 1890s.

As originally laid out, the gardens occupied a narrow area adjoining the towing path, bordered originally on the landward side by sewage works and areas of open land. The gardens were raised above the level of the towing path and a row of London plane trees was planted between the Barge Walk and the raised riverside walk. A network of paths was created following the boundaries of the gardens and linking with access points from Lower Ham Road. An ornate cast iron bandstand was erected in 1891, a gift from Alderman Charles Nuthall, a former Mayor of Kingston. This cost between £200 - £300, a large sum at the time, and was a copy of one in Hamburg, Germany. Musical events became popular but the bandstand was later removed to provide metal for munitions in WWII. Other features were an octagonal shelter, benches and lamp columns. In the early 1900s the gardens were extended to the east and a bowling green and tennis grounds were laid out on raised ground adjoining Lower Ham Road.

By 1933 a pavilion, second bowling green and further tennis grounds were added, infilling the remaining areas of land bordering the Corporation Depot and sewage works, and this remains the extent of the gardens today. The southern section of the gardens was formerly bordered on its eastern side by Kingston Power Station, now demolished, with a line of Lombardy Poplars to reduce the impact. The southern entrance to the gardens has also since been improved by demolition of buildings. The gardens lie alongside the river and the towpath, which is part of the park, is marked by its mature plane trees. The northern area has wide, open grassed areas with specimen trees and the formal recreation area is partly screened by trees and shrubberies on the boundaries of this raised area. By the mid 1990s the bandstand and railings were gone and the planting was reduced to shrubs and grass, although there was a refreshment pavilion. The park has been improved by the removal of the power station, but it hardly does justice to its location next to the river. A Canbury Gardens Bandstand Project Committee was set up and a new bandstand has now been erected.

A number of private clubs are associated with Canbury Gardens, including Kingston Rowingn Club, Sigi Cornish Tennis Club, and Canbury Gardens Tennis Club, the latter open to the public

Sources consulted:

RB Kingston notes for EH listing submission; M Bellus 'Kingston Then and Now', London, 1977; Shaan Butter ‘The Book of Kingston’, Baron Birch, 1995; Tim Everson ‘Kingston, Surbiton and Malden’, Budding Books, 1995.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ179702 (517890,170030)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
RB Kingston
Site management:
Grounds maintenance contractor: Quadron Services Ltd
1890s; 1933
Henry Macaulay, Kingston Borough Surveyor
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance (riverside)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area; Strategic Area of Special Character
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.