Kingston upon Thames » About Conservation Areas

CA17: Coombe Wood

Designation date: January 1990

No of properties: 113

Area: 40.6 hectares


image source: Conservation Area leaflet, 2002.

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Designation summary

The special architectural and historic interest of this area can be summarised as: Large Victorian, Edwardian, and 20th century properties set in a semi-rural street scene around the open space occupied by Coombe Wood Golf Course.

Historic development

Coombe Wood conservation area is unique in that it includes a very large area of open space, with the Victorian and early 20th century layout of roads and properties within the triangle of open land enclosed by Kingston Hill, George Road and Warren Road which has produced a semi-rural enclave.

After the occupation of Coombe by the Romans, centuries passed when the wooded valley, The Coombe, remained a natural wildlife habitat. Coombe became Crown Land when it was confiscated from Merton Priory as monastic property by King Henry VIII. Coombe Manor and its estate of 1300 acres then passed from Queen Elizabeth I to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Earls of Spencer. In 1837 the estate was sold to the 1st Duke of Cambridge, son of George III.

The land now bounded by Kingston Hill, George Road and Warren Road was owned by the Duke of Cambridge and used as arable land, rough pasture and meadows with small pockets of woodland. The only buildings which existed at this point were The George Inn (now Kingston lodge), Coombury Cottage (now demolished) both at the junction of Kingston Hill and George Road and Telegraph Cottage (also now demolished) on a track which is now Warren Road.

In 1850 the Coombe Estate was inherited by George, the second Duke of Cambridge from his father. This began a period of change in this part of Coombe as the 2nd Duke of Cambridge began leasing out land for building. One of the first people to recognise the possibilities of building on this near to London rural site was John Galsworthy, the father of the author of the Forsyte Saga and other notable books. He bought 93 acres of Coombe Hill fronting George Road occupying what is now the upper section of the Coombe Hood Golf Course. He proceeded to build three fine mansions, which were his family's homes for a few years each, before the Galsworthy family left Coombe in 1886.

Coombe Harren

(now Robin Hall Cottage set in the grounds of Holy Cross Preparatory School) By 1867 the first mansion known as "Coombe Harren" and later "Coombe Court" was completed but was unfortunately demolished in 1931. This mansion was very grand comprising 17 bedrooms and lodges, set in 22 acres of landscaped gardens. The house had a distinguished history during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the owners Lord and Lady Ripon and subsequently their daughter Lady Juliet Duff engaged in entertaining great artists, and aristocrats including Nijinsky, the Russian dancer, and Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The grounds, particularly the pond, were also one of the principal settings for the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy junior. Today although the site of the mansion and grounds is occupied by a number of 1930's detached dwellings, most of the fine boundary walls along George Road including the gate pillars, the original lodge, now known as Robin Hill Cottage and much of the original landscape (set in the grounds of Holy Cross Preparatory School) are still preserved.

Coombe Ridge House (now Holy Cross Convent School)

By 1874 Galsworthy had finished his next mansion in George Road, immediately adjacent to "Coombe Harren'', known as "Coombe Leigh" and later "Coombe Ridge House". The family lived here until 1884. The house and lodge and much of the landscaping are well preserved as the Holy Cross Convent School. The mansion is Victorian Gothic in style, of an irregular composition, in red brick with stone dressings.

Coombe Croft (now Rokeby School)

Galsworthy's third and last house in George Road was Coombe Croft finished in 1884 and now occupied by Rokeby School. The house design, which is well preserved, is much livelier than ''Coombe Leigh" with extensive diapered brickwork and decorative bargeboards.

There are two other properties still standing in George Road which also reflect the style of the period after Coombe Manor was divided. "Ballard Coombe" was erected in 1906 by the Rt. Hon. William, Earl of Listowell but much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1927 and the present building was reconstructed on the same site. The house was also occupied by the Guinness family in its early days. The mansion now Marymount International School, is of red brick with tile hanging with deep sprocketed eaves and many gables in an asymmetrical composition. Similarly Fouracres, of a grand mock Tudor design, built in the first part of this century, also reflects the qualities of a rural mansion protected by two lodge buildings. Fouracres was built in 1929 in the Vernacular Revival Style by George Warren. Commander Hollbrook VC and the Allied Armed Forces used the headquarters during World War II, including where the plans for the invasion of Normandy were directed. It is now used as a Management Training Centre by Unilever International.

The land to the west of the gravel pits, now the golf course, was being developed in a similar manner to George Road during the second half of the nineteenth century. The large detached dwellings, often set well back from the highway, which once lined much of Kingston Hill are not typical of todays developments. However two examples are well preserved at "Tankerville", and "Henleighs" which has a Regency style canopy.

Renfrew Road was laid out in 1908 and is lined with smaller scale detached dwellings. This development is comparable with Stokes Road laid out a few years later. The properties are of varied designs typical of the Domestic Revival style of domestic architecture which incorporates elements of the Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts and early vernacular styles.

Warren House on the north side of Warren Road, was built in 1865 and is a good example of a Victorian purpose built country house. The original house with its additions of 1884 and later by George Devey, is of an asymmetrical composition in red brick with a variety of late Gothic and Tudor motifs. The historical growth of the building is portrayed in the complex roof form, and many gables, chimneys, towers and bay windows. The house, like those in George Road was another favourite haunt of Royal and famous visitors, visiting the various families in ownership. This part of the estate also contains the famous Japanese Water Garden laid out in 1863 by James Veitch, the noted horticulturist, as part of his Coombe Wood Nursery to the north of Warren House. He created a series of lakes, linked by a stream fed from one of Coombe's underground springs, and enhanced by Japanese style bridges, sculptures, summerhouses and rare trees and shrubs which have matured into a creation of breathtaking beauty. The garden was inspired by the plate design of willow pattern china and was the first Japanese garden created in Britain. The remaining properties in this conservation area include Fairlawn, a late Victorian Mansion where Fare Lodge and Pen Lodge, were the original lodges to Fairlawn, and Warren Cottage and Warren Lodge, early Victorian small dwellings probably associated with the now demolished Harren House.

Listed Buildings

Buildings of Townscape Merit

  • Warren Lodge, Warren Road
  • Warren Cottage, Warren Road
  • Stable block to Warren House, Warren Road
  • Fairlawn, Warren Road
  • 1, 2, 11 and 12 Ravenswood Court (the lodge)
  • Henleighs, Kingston Hill
  • Tankerville, Kingston Hill
  • Tankerville Cottage, Kingston Hill
  • White Rose Cottage, George Road
  • Hampton Spring, George Road
  • Robin Hill Cottage George Road
  • Marymount School (Ballard Coombe) George Road
  • Rokeby School (Coombe Croft), George Road
  • Holy Cross Convent Sch (Coombe Ridge House Lodge)
  • Holy Cross Prep School (Coombe Ridge House)
  • Boundary Wall Coombe Crest/Stonegarth George Road

Scheduled Ancient Monuments

  • Gallows Conduit
  • Ivy Conduit

Adjacent Conservation Areas (CAS) /Local Areas of Special Character (LASC)

The Drive LASC

Archaeological Priority Area


Article 4 Directions


Further Information

Coombe Wood Conservation Area Designation Report


If you have any questions about this conservation area or would like to find out whether you need planning permission before carrying out works to your property, please contact the Duty Planning Officer on 020 8547 5002.

Documents available to download:

Link Description Source Published
CA 17 Planning Information Conservation Area 17 - Planning Information (A5 size leaflet, fold out to A3) RBK Director of Environmental Services 2002

General information
Information applying to all Conservation Areas