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Coombe Conduit House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Kingston upon Thames, London

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Latitude: 51.4148 / 51°24'53"N

Longitude: -0.2687 / 0°16'7"W

OS Eastings: 520494

OS Northings: 169841

OS Grid: TQ204698

Mapcode National: GBR 8Y.NXR

Mapcode Global: VHGR9.9P9S

Entry Name: Coombe Conduit House

Listing Date: 30 May 1951

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1080099

English Heritage Legacy ID: 203103

Location: Kingston upon Thames, London, KT2

County: London

District: Kingston upon Thames

Electoral Ward/Division: Coombe Hill

Built-Up Area: Kingston upon Thames

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Norbiton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Listing Text


05-NOV-10 (North side)

Conduit house. 1538-40 with C17 and C18 additions.

MATERIALS: Red brick and stone.

PLAN: Two separate buildings, an upper and lower chamber, connected by an underground tunnel or passage.

The lower chamber is a rectangular single-storey building on a brick plinth with stone dressings and a crow-stepped gable-ended roof. It is built of C16 red brick except for stone quoins and the front (west) elevation, which is of squared random rubble below window-head level. The entrance has a tiled porch containing an arched doorway, above which is a two-light mullioned window. The side walls have inserted round-headed windows and the rear (east) elevation has a large sloping brick buttress. The upper chamber which is to the east of the lower chamber is now ruinous with brick courses surviving to window level.

The lower chamber is four steps below ground level and has arched recesses. In the floor are an oval lead-lined cistern and a smaller square cistern under a flagstone to the south. A 25m long subterranean connecting passage links the upper and lower chambers. It has a four-centred brick vault. The upper chamber contains three separate compartments with lead water tanks flush with the floor. The central room has recesses on three sides and the access to the underground passage at the west. In the floor is an oval cistern with a stone cill. To the north and south are compartments added in the C17 and C18.

Coombe Conduit House was constructed in 1538-40 as part of a new conduit to provide Hampton Court Palace with water from springs at Coombe about 5km to the north-east. An existing conduit had been established at Hampton village by one of the previous owners, Sir Giles Daubeney or Thomas Wolsey. However following the acquisition of Hampton Court by King Henry VIII, there was need for a greater supply of water, maintained at a higher pressure. After the suppression of Merton Priory in 1538, land was set aside in upper Kingston for a new water supply system. A summary account covering the period 1538 to 1545, mentions 'charges of the condyte from Combhill' and also a sum of £100 spent on the construction. The water was collected at the head of the springs in Coombe, in water tanks covered by secure brick buildings known as conduit houses. There were three conduit houses; Coombe Conduit, Gallows Conduit, and Ivy Conduit, all of which survive. The water flowed, under gravity in underground lead pipes, to the Palace. The route of the pipes passed under the rivers Hogsmill and Thames via four tamkin houses. These were small brick buildings with stopcocks and expansion tanks that allowed part of the pipe to be isolated so leaks could be identified and repaired. One of these tamkin houses, Gallows Tamkin, is still standing.

There are records of repair work to the conduit in the early C17 and early C18. In 1742 the Office of Works ordered a survey of the conduit and undertook a major overhaul to increase its efficiency. It continued to supply Hampton Court until 1876.

Coombe Conduit House comprises an upper and lower chamber connected by an underground passage. Water flowed into a tank in the upper chamber where sediment was allowed to settle. A pipe towards the top of the tank then carried it down to the lower chamber. It was filtered in the same way through a further tank before it flowed out in a lead pipe to Hampton Court. In the C17 and C18 two further tanks were added beside the upper chamber, as the surrounding water-table fell. The upper chamber was hit by a bomb during the Second World War and then suffered major damage in 1943 when two trees fell upon it during a storm.

Lindus Forge, J, Coombe Hill Conduit Houses and the Water Supply System of Hampton Court Palace (1959), In Surrey Archaeological Collections, Vol 56, 3-14
Thurley, S, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (1993), 163-170
Thurley, S, Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History (2003), 73-4, 112, 285, 322-3
Panizzo, P and Lown, S, The Conduit Houses of Coombe - the ancient water supply to Hampton Court Palace (2006), pamphlet
Gordon, D, Coombe Conduit House (2009), In Subterranea, Vol 20, 71-2

Coombe Conduit House is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: as a rare surviving mid-C16 conduit house that retains a substantial amount of original fabric;
* Historic interest: as a conduit house forming part of a Tudor water supply system to Hampton Court Palace;
* Group value: with Gallows Conduit House, Ivy Conduit House and Gallows Tamkin, buildings that formed part of the same water supply system, and Hampton Court, the palace which the conduit supplied.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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