Kingston owes its earliest developments to a far more modest watercourse than the Thames, according to the town’s archaeologists who want to set the record straight.

Thanks to a £28,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Kingston Upon Thames Archaeological Society (Kutas) will be excavating the site to reveal the Hogsmill’s influence on the town over the centuries.

The river, which stretches six miles from its source in Ewell, is now largely found in conduits and often disappears underground, but investigations show its original channels played an important role in determining the shape of human settlement in the Middle Ages.

Pat McKenna, honorary secretary of Kutas, said: “Local archaeologists have always been intrigued by what secrets the Hogsmill might hold about Kingston’s past.

“We are absolutely delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund is giving us the opportunity to investigate, and perhaps solve, some of the mysteries.”

Records show that at various times no fewer than 13 mills, some of them producing gunpowder, existed along the Hogsmill’s length.

The site of most of them is unknown, but it is hoped that the project, will be able to identify others.

Kutas will use test pits and a network of boreholes, to delve all the way back to prehistoric times at a site alongside the Hogsmill at Tolworth. They will also work with palaeoecologists from Reading University to investigate how plant life has changed there over thousands of years, and the impact that human beings have had upon it.

Flint tools used by Stone Age men, or signs of the Romans, who are thought to have used the Hogsmill valley to move livestock from their encampment at Ewell to the meadows around Kingston, could be among the finds.

The project will give scouts in the area the chance to gain hands-on experience of archaeology.

Throughout the week-long dig in August, as many scouts as possible, selected by their leaders, will have the chance to become junior Time Teamers and help out with the work.

And they will earn heritage badges at the end of it.

Results of the project will be displayed at a Kingston Museum exhibition in spring next year.