John Williams Close, KT2

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He may not have been particularly appreciated in his lifetime but there is little doubting that John Williams’s legacy in saving all he could of Fairfield for public use has been truly recognised by civic leaders since. Fairfield was a large public field used for grazing and agriculture but by 1834 developers had begun to encroach on the land. They were stopped – at least in part by entrepreneur John Williams. Williams had taken over the failing Griffin Hotel in 1851 turning it into such a success that it even attracted the patronage of royalty. Having established the business he turned his attentions to the wider area, becoming a councillor in 1855 and later three times mayor of Kingston upon Thames in1864, 1868 and 1869. Chief among his concerns was saving Fairfield for future generations. After a good start the public’s support wained, unhelped by Williams’s enemies running him down. Despite his best efforts he was only able to save 12 acres largely due to his own donations. In 1889 the Fairfield Recreation Ground was laid out and opened. But the man who did so much to save it was not there to see it however as he had died 12 years earlier.

 

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