Contact us: Got a photo? Text 'SLPICS' to 80360. Got a story? Call the newsdesk: 020 8744 4244
Kingston road names hint at Royal past
Feminism at its best is an admirable force, that over the decades has achieved long overdue equality and rights for women. At its worst it’s a pain, obsessively seeking reasons to present women as martyrs.
The latest example of this concerns road names. Why, demand the militants, are countless thoroughfares named in honour of men, but scarcely any for women? The question prompted me to embark on a borough-wide recce to see if this form of sex discrimination applies to Kingston. My findings so far suggest it does not.
My first “sightings” were in the Kingston Hill area, where Alexandra Road, Dagmar Road and Wolverton Avenue recall three prominent women.
The first was named in honour of Alexandra of Denmark, the beautiful princess who captivated the nation when she married the future King Edward VII in 1863, and who was dazzling both as Princess of Wales and, following her husband’s accession in 1901, as Queen-Empress.
An equally glamorous figure was Alexandra’s younger sister, Princess Dagmar of Denmark, who combined charm and beauty with a life as dramatic as any work of fiction.
In 1864 she became engaged to the Russian heir, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich. Said to be a true love match, it ended a few months later when Nicholas died from meningitis, his last wish being that Dagmar would marry his younger brother, the future Tsar Alexander III.
Dagmar returned to Denmark so heartbroken there were fears for her health. But she rallied, and in 1866 married Alexander Nicholas. Her life changed suddenly in 1881, when her father-in-law was assassinated, she became Empress Consort of Russia, and took the name Maria Feodorovna Romanova.
Her beauty, charm and humanitarian work made her a much-loved Czarina until her husband died prematurely from kidney failure at 49 and was succeeded as Tsar by their son, the tragic Nicholas II.
In the following years she worked courageously for the Red Cross during the First World War and the Russian Revolution until forced to flee to the comparative safety of the Crimea with fellow royal family refugees.
There she heard that the Russian monarchy had been overthrown, and that her two sons – the Tsar and his younger brother Grand Duke Michael – had been murdered along with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Still she refused to leave Russia until 1919, when her sister, Queen Alexandra, persuaded her to flee on board a British warship.
She died in Copenhagen 1928, hoping to the end that her sons and grandchildren had managed, against all the odds, to survive the revolution.
She had always wanted to be buried alongside her husband, and 78 years after her death her wish came true when Queen Margrethe of Denmark and President Putin of Russia agreed her remains could be returned to St Petersburg, and reinterred with her husband.
The beautiful Danish sisters were making world headlines just as Kingston Hill was taking shape as a high-class residential area, so naming two roads after them would have been a popular move.
Similar sentiments led to the naming of another Alexandra Road in central Kingston (though this was altered to Denmark Road in 1880 to avoid confusion) and the handsome, but now defunct, Alexandra pub in Queens Road.
And what of Wolverton Avenue? That was named as a tribute to Lady Georgiana Wolverton who, as the wife, and later widow of the 2nd Baron Wolverton, was noted for her good works in helping the sick and the poor. For example, she founded the Needlework Guild to make and distribute clothing to orphanages, hospitals and impoverished families; and in Kingston, where she lived in the Coombe Hill mansion, Warren House, her bounty included adding a lofty clock spire to St Luke’s Church – a much needed amenity at a time when many parishioners were too poor to own a timepiece of their own.
The young Danish princess Alexandra, right, and Dagmar before their husbands became, respectively, King of England and Tsar of Russia
Lady Wolverton deserved to have a road named in her honour, but it was done in a shameful way.
The story began in 1876, when the Looker family gave Kingston Council land for a new road on the south side of Kingston Hill, and paid all the costs of constructing it.
Their only proviso was that it be named in memory of their mother, whose maiden surname was Ellis.
The road was duly built, and named Ellis Road. But it ended in a cul-de-sac, which became a problem as housing development rapidly took shape up Kingston Hill, and residents were aggrieved by the circuitous route – down Kingston Hill and up Manorgate Road – needed to reach Norbiton station, which had opened amid the fields on the south side of Coombe Road in 1869.
Thus the Ellis Road Construction Committee was formed to extend the road to Coombe Road, so giving direct access to the station.
The Lookers expected that, as they had provided the road in the first place, the extended version would continue to bear the name Ellis. No chance. At its opening in January 1895 Ellis Road was scrapped in favour of Wolverton Avenue, and at the celebration dinner councillors openly ridiculed the Lookers for objecting. So it was that a memorial to one woman was heartlessly scrapped to provide one for another, more aristocratic, one.
q These are just three of the local roads named after women. I hope to detail others in the weeks ahead.
Comments are closed on this article.