Inventory Site Record

Kingston University, Kingston Hill Campus (Kingston)

Brief Description

Kingston University's Kingston Hill campus is in the grounds of two former grand houses built in the 1830s on Kingston Hill, Kenry House and Coombe Hurst. The land of both houses formerly belonged to Earl Spencer, and was once part of the ancient Coombe Wood. The 1837 Coombe Estate map shows parkland surrounding the houses. In 1948 Gipsy Hill Training College acquired Coombe Hurst, unoccupied since 1940, and then in 1950 expanded further when it purchased Kenry House, which had been empty since 1933. Gipsy Hill amalgamated with Kingston Polytechnic in 1975, which became Kingston University in 1992. The University grounds contain remnants of the ancient woodland with mature oak trees pre-dating the 1830s, together with fragments of the C19th landscaped gardens and parkland planting.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Kenry House / Coombe Hurst
Site location:
Kingston Hill
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Institutional Grounds
Open to public?
By appointment only
Opening times:
private - visits by arrangement
Took part in Open Garden Squares Weekend in 2017.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Norbiton then bus. Bus: 85, 485.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.kingston.ac.uk

Full Site Description

In 1832 Earl Spencer had granted a 99 year lease to William Ogle Hunt who built Kenry House, at first called Coombe Wood, 'a minor Gothic villa' (Nikolaus Pevsner) but it was later extended and much altered, particularly from the 1860s. The name Kenry House dates from 1874 when ownership passed to the 4th Earl of Dunraven, son of Baron Kenry. The massive brick retaining wall dating from the late C18th/early C19th and 3 to 4 metres high still survives today. It once supported the garden front of Kenry House and has sloping brick buttresses each c.1m wide. From 1933 the house was empty until 1950 when house and grounds became part of the Gipsy Hill Training College. To the west of the house are the former brick stables, and on the east wall a stone relief, possibly Coade, of a reclining female figure. A gothic lodge remains by the road.

In 1835 Earl Spencer granted a 999 year lease to barrister Samuel Smith, uncle to Florence Nightingale, who built Coombe Hurst to the south west and lived here until 1881. Between 1885 and 1914 Captain R C de Grey Vyner owned Coombe Hurst, and among his visitors was the Prime Minister William Gladstone. The house was then empty until 1923 before Baron de Forest, a baron of the old Austrian Empire and Liberal MP, came to live here. It was saved from demolition in 1933 when the Chairman of Wandsworth Greyhound Stadium, Mr Parkes, bought and modernised the house, living here until 1940. Empty again until 1948, Gipsy Hill Training College then acquired the property and in 1950 expanded further when it purchased Kenry House.

Gipsy Hill Training College was established as a teacher training college in 1917; it amalgamated with Kingston Polytechnic in 1975. The polytechnic had started life as Kingston Technical Institute in 1899, becoming a Regional College of Technology in 1957, Kingston Polytechnic in 1970 when it merged with Kingston College of Art, later becoming Kingston University in 1992. The University grounds at Kingston Hill contain remnants of the ancient woodland with fine mature oak trees pre-dating the 1830s, together with trees planted in the C19th such as beech, sweet chestnut, larch, Scots pine and whitebeam. To the west the grounds of Coombe Hurst consist of a fine lawn leading down to a small pond at the bottom. A small stream flows under a rustic bridge towards a grove of rhododendrons, which are pervasive in areas of the site. The Kingston Hill Campus now houses the Business, Law, Education, Music and Health and Social Care Studies faculties, and modern buildings have been added over recent years, such as the Nightingale Learning Resources Centre in 2008 and a 300-seat lecture theatre, as well as new green spaces and meeting areas. A new teaching building is due to open in 2012.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Sue Swales, Ian Yarham, Bob Britton, 'Nature Conservation in Kingston upon Thames', Ecology Handbook 18 (London Ecology Unit) 1992. See History on Kingston University website.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ207714 (520710,171440)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Kingston University
Site management:
Kingston University
1830s; 1950s on
Listed structures:
LBII: Kenry House retaining wall/ Local list: Coombe Hurst, Kenry House, former Kenry House stable block
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:
Conservation Area name:
Kingston Hill
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Strategic Area of Special Character
Other LA designation:
Local Open Space; Proposal Site

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