June 23, 2004

For the businesses of what became Old London Road, the arrival of Kingston’s most talked-about piece of public art - the toppling phone boxes - spelled a 10-year decline in business.

Its unveiling in 1989 coincided with the street, then simply called London Road, closing to traffic at one end, and the buses which formerly ferried shoppers past its facades using the new one-way system.

Traders experienced a decline in business as fewer people used the street to get into town and the sculpture, they say, obscured the view to their shops from the town centre.

But 10 years ago last week, four years after the traders sat down in a pub to discuss how to revitalise business, a remarkable renaissance was completed with the official unveiling of the now-familiar cast iron archway declaring "Old London Road Shopping".

Surrey Comet: Kingston Working Men's Club in Old London Road will be hosting the soul club on March 15

The now familiar archway welcoming shoppers to Old London Road

The ceremony, held by Kingston’s mayor Ed Naylor, was a time for celebration for the traders, who had successfully lobbied for a series of improvements in the street, including its 2002 renaming and the addition of a large mosaic proclaiming the fact.

Other successes included securing better paving and lighting from Kingston Council, plus installing CCTV and flower beds.

There was even an attempt to have the Out of Order sculpture moved to outside Guildhall. Instead it was cleaned, repaired and repainted.

Mark Field, deputy chairman of the Old London Road Traders’ Association, said: "After the road was closed off it became this forgotten street which no one ever went down. It was absolutely terrible for us.

"People couldn’t see down the street and we would hear comments like, ‘There’s nothing down there, it’s just a building site’.

But in May 2000 we decided enough was enough. We wanted to get our street back on the map so we set up our committee and on we went."

10 Years Ago

June 23, 2004: The Wood, the small part in Oakhill Grove, Surbiton, was to be made more user-friendly after residents raised fears over its safety.

The patch of land was said to be used as a latrine by unsavoury characters - but a Kingston Council ecologist said a bit of pruning and work on the footpaths could turn it around.

25 years ago

June 23, 1989: Two thousand students had to vflee after a potentially-lethal cocktail of chemicals exploded in the science laboratories at Kingston Polytechnic.

Two explosions started a fire in an unattended lab, and was only spotted by a passing lecturer.

The main building in Penrhyn Road was closed off for some hours.

50 years ago

June 24, 1964:  Nine-year-old Ian Newman, of Portchester Road, Kingston, made a painful catch while fishing from the bank of the Thames at Town End Wharf 50 years ago.

As he cast his line the hook caught in his right cheek. He was taken to Kingston Hospital, where the hook was removed and the wound dressed before he was sent home.