Walk 19: MOTSPUR PARK walk to CHESSINGTON SOUTH
The train line opened much later than most suburban lines in the London area, namely in 1938 to Tolworth and in 1939 to Chessington. The train company had been operating a train line between London and the Channel resorts via Dorking since 1859, but it used tracks laid by a competitor between Epsom and Leatherhead and this caused frequent disputes. Due to real estate development, new suburbs had grown south of Kingston and a new train line therefore appeared to combine both sufficient traffic and a solution to the Epsom line disputes.
Because of discussions about the route through the commons between Chessington and Leatherhead, construction had not started by the outbreak of World War II and urban planning prevented development in the area afterwards, so that the company had no motivation to finish the train line, leaving it as a suburban stub. The same situation had happened in the 19th century with the Shepperton line.
Routing note: This walk connects in Motspur Park with walk 18. A section after Tolworth may be muddy after heavy rain.
The station was opened in 1925 on an existing train line because of real estate development in the area. The junction towards Chessington opened in 1938.
Like most stations built at a later point on an existing line, there was no room for a large building and the platform was inserted between the tracks. The building is therefore an elongated clapboard shed on the platform. The one interesting feature is the unusual shape of the footbridge. It looks a little like bat wings.
Leaving the station, go to the level crossing
R Motspur Park (a road)
Motspur Park was not really a defined area until the 1930s and the real estate developments actually saw it as part of New Malden, a new suburb built out of scratch when an estate was finally brought on the market. Because of the very good train connection in New Malden, the suburb was completed in a very short period of time and this explains why many roads look like catalogues with houses looking all alike.
New Malden lies close to the residences of influential people around Richmond Park and those realised that catalogue developments, called ribbon developments, created soulless suburbs that were completely empty during working hours and had left too little space for public amenities and particularly for open green spaces. As long as these developments affected less aflluent suburbs like Wembley and Dagenham, the worthies did not bother much, but New Malden made them think again. This led to Parliament passing an Act in 1935 restricting ribbon development. Urban planners advocated instead “garden suburbs”.
On the picture, you also see the steel structures of former gas works. The tanks were dismantled in the 1990s, but the structures are more cumbersome, partly because of the vicinity of railway lines. There is a scary Internet report by a young daredevil who climbed the structure illegally at night; he does mention that he did not feel too well, possibly due to seepage from the polluted ground.
The road passes on the right extensive sports grounds. They were bought by the University of London in the 1920s at a time when there was still no talk of suburban development (BBC owns similar grounds nearby), but they are fenced and therefore contribute little to providing open spaces for the suburb. The sizeable club house is used also by Fulham F.C. and is influenced by Bauhaus architecture, but is not readily visible from the road.
L Chilmark Gardens
R Portland Avenue
L into Manor Park towards the bowling green
The park is a green open space with a few sports facilities but it is not really a park, having neither flower beds nor landscaped areas with benches. It is the only public green space within a large radius.
R across the park to the exit near the railway underpass
Ahead South Lane
Ahead and L Sheephouse Way
This road is different from the previous suburban roads, being much wider. It is the one road in Malden Manor reminding of a garden suburb. I know the one similar avenue in Dagenham owes its existence to having carried a construction railway during the development of the suburb, but I don’t think a similar story would apply in Malden Manor where the suburb is not large enough to justify transporting building materials on a dedicated railway.
L Manor Drive North passing
The station opened in 1938 together with the train line.
As you will notice later on, all stations on this line were built on the same design. They are in line with the Art Déco aesthetics stressing horizontal lines. This was often compensated by a square tower, meant here to house the lift although the train company never built the lift as it preferred to pay dividends. The third typical Art Déco element is rounding off the one or other of the building corners.
The material of choice was concrete for two reasons: it needed fewer masons than bricks and masons were in short supply in the 1930s after World War I, and concrete was expected to be pretty eternal (it was later discovered that it does crack, particularly if the steel rods inside are not well insulated). Although the stations on this line are not beautiful, they are interesting.
R Church Road
You are here at the core of the ancien village of Old Malden, of which there is not much left. There was a church here in Saxon times but the present church is a mix of sections built in the 17th, 19th and 21st century. The oldest part is easy to recognise because it is built in flint stones, the typical material for the 1600s. The church is apparently closed except for services, but I saw no references about something remarkable Inside anyway.
The lychgate looks very Victorian; the word is interesting as it is very close to the German “Leiche” for corpse. Part of the funeral service was held at the gate of the churchyard, a little like we use funerary chapels in cemeteries since Victorian times.
You will find older buildings near the church. They overlook the river Hogsmill and all belonged to the manor of Malden. The manor house from the 18th century is still standing, but it is difficult to see because of the trees and I don’t see a point in recommending a detour. Although the area is called Old Malden, it has become customary to use the name of the station, the train company having apparently thought that “Malden Manor’ sounded nicer than “Old Malden”.
R on the track behind the church, leads down to a footbridge over the Hogsmill River
There was indeed a mill here and Mr Hog was a landowner in Kingston in the Middle Ages. If you are interesting in Victorian paintings; you problably know Millais’ painting of Ophelia drowned in a pond. The pond used for inspiration is probably that of the manor of Malden. Obviously, the model was in a bath and not in the actual pond when being painted.
R along the river under the railway tracks
L Knollmead (a road)
Ahead Alpine Avenue
Ahead passage towards Donald Woos Gardens
Cross the main avenue at the traffic lights
Further up the road on the right, you can see the distinctive shape of Tolworth Tower, a surprising building for a suburb so far away from central London. It marks an important motorway exit and was probably meant as an anchor building supposed to bring more activity in the southern part of Surbiton along the motorway. It is therefore not a housing estate as you might expect but an office building and it was built in the typical style of 1963, square, large, convenient and a bit boring.
The style goes back to a reaction against Art Déco, with some young architects wanting to avoid unnecessary decoration and artificial shapes. ‘Form follows function” was the idea; applied by Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe to private homes and exhibition halls, this was a novelty with a new openness to light and the environment. Applied to giant office centres, it is plain boring.
The station was a temporary terminal during the construction of the train line in 1938.
The building is a nearly exact copy of Malden Manor station. My picture shows how quickly concrete can look shabby if it is not repainted very regularly.
R under the railway tracks along Kingston Road (A240)
Pass Jubilee Way, then R into Tolworth Court Farm Fields
Originally, the area had been bought by the borough of Lambeth who wanted to open here a cemetery for World War I and II soldiers. The project was never completed and Lambeth sold the fields to the borough of Kinston in 1989. But the borough did little and the fields ended up being used by travellers and later by illegal music festival organisers, so that it turned into something of a rubbish dump. Action was finally taken in 2001 such as setting up barriers preventing access by vehicles. It is now a nature reserve.
Keep parallel to Kingston Road until you find the obvious public footpath leading R across the open grounds
The whole fields look pleasantly rural with many hedges that are of particular importance to the nature reserve status. Some details such as ditches along the hedges show that the landscape has changed little since the 17th century as 18th and 19th century hedges very rarely have ditches. The reason is that old hedges separated fields and drained the ground while newer hedges were primarily property boundaries.
On reaching a track, turn R and soon again L on the continuation of the previous footpath
The footpath merges into Chantry Road
When the road turns L, continue
Ahead public footpath
Soon R along the playing field, turn L at the end around the school building
This is a rather unattractive footpath as the school gronds are fenced, but it avoids walking along the roads.
R again to a large crossroad
Take the dual carriageway, Bridge Road
The station opened in 1939 when the train line was extended beyond Tolworth to Chessington South. This is a very minor station because of the vicinity of Chessington South terminal.
The train building is nearly an exact copy of the Malden Manor design, but concrete had apparently fallen out of fashion or turned too expensive and only the platforms were built in concrete while the station building itself was built this time in dull dark bricks. The lift shaft is crowned here by an array of antennas that make it look a little threatening.
L on a footpath directly along the railway tracks before crossing them
Ahead across Churchfields Recreation Ground (this is a public footpath)
The open space is a typical suburban park with grass, sports facilities and little else of interest.
Exit the grounds between the tennis courts and the railway
R Bransby Road
The type of construction in this area of Chessington is far from the mock-Tudor popular in Old Malden. Chessington is actually little known as a residential suburb, most people associate the name with a large attraction located in the vicinity and called the Chessington World of Adventures. The attraction is of particular interest to families and these travel by car so that it has little impact on the station or suburb.
R Crayke Hill
L York Way
R to the bridge over the railway
The station was built as a temporary terminal for the new train line in 1939 but World War II led to the train company not building the planned link with Leatherhead.
This remains a very minor station as the area south and east of the station was never developed for housing. The platform towards Leatherhead was built but is abandoned and looks the part on my picture. The station building is the nearly exact copy of that at Chessington North, the main difference being that it has no tower as the train line is in a cutting here.