The meaning of the name of Kingswood is self explanatory. It was once a detached part of the manor of Ewell, recorded as a royal holding in the Domesday Survey of 1086. Kingswood was granted to Merton Priory by Henry II (1154-1189) but it reverted to the Crown when the priory was dissolved in the late 1530s.
In 1563 Elizabeth I granted it to Lord Howard of Effingham, who later found fame as the commander of the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Situated high on the Downs, until the 19th century Kingswood was a sparsely populated place, where the traveller on the old road to Brighton, which passes through the area, might meet only the occasional shepherd or, if they were unlucky, a footpad or highwayman.
A few houses were built around Kingswood for those seeking a neighbourhood 'singularly sequestered and rural', as the Victoria County History described it, and gradually the population began to grow. As a result of the increase Kingswood was created a separate ecclesiastical district in 1838 and ten years later the church of St Andrew was consecrated.
In 1897 a station was opened at Kingswood on the South Eastern and Chatham Railway's branch which was eventually completed to the terminus at Tattenham Corner Station in 1901.
The church of St Sophia at Lower Kingswood was consecrated in 1891. Built by Sir Cosmo Bonsor, who lived nearby at the castellated mansion of Kingswood Warren, and Dr Edwin Freshfield, another local resident, it is a fascinating Byzantine style church. It incorporates nine capitals brought back from ancient sites in Turkey. Two in the nave arcades are 4th century and came from Ephesus and another is 6th century from the same source. Other capitals and a frieze in the church are from Constantinople and are 5th to 11th century in date. This is undoubtedly the most unusual church in Surrey and well worth a visit.