June 1995 – Bulletin 114
Stane Street in Historic Surrey – C E Sole
and much more
PRESIDENT: The Viscountess Hanworth. F.S.A
VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. Arthur Turner
BULLETIN NO. 114 JUNE 1995
FORTHCOMING PROGRAMME 1995 Saturday 17th June 2.00 pm Guided Tour of Painshill Park
Details of transport arrangements will be sent to those who have booked
Saturday 15th July 2.00 pm Lumley Chapel & Whitehall, Cheam
Meet at Lumley Chapel by 1.45 pm. Closing Date: 31st May 1995
Saturday 12th August 2.00 pm Visit to Richmond on Thames
Richmond Museum (free) followed by
Guided Tour of Town Centre (£2)
Meet at the Museum by 1.45 pm.
Closing Date: 15th July 1995
Refreshments available in the Riverside
Coffee Room on the Ground Floor
Friday 15th September 8.00 pm Snuff Mill Environmental Centre 100 Years of the National Trust
Evelyn Jowett Memorial Lecture
(Park in Garden Centre Car Park for Snuff Mill Environmental Centre, Morden Hall Park)
Streatham Society Pumps 111 & 112 are now available from Tony Scott. Meetings are on Monday
evenings at 8.00 in Small Hall, St. Leonards Church Hall:
19th June A Day in the Life of a Commons Man Keith Hill MP
17th July Twenty-One Today: The Streatham Society Comes of Age Brenda Hargreaves
4th September There’s a Hole in the Ground & I’m Looking Into It Bob Jenner
Best wishes on your special day 22nd June 1995 Winifred Mould
Winifred was born on 22nd June in the year 1905. She first attended a MHS lecture in early 1968
and spoke to Eric Montague after the lecture, about Ravensbury Mill and the Rutters, as she was
doing a local research project in connection with a class she was attending. His help, and that
the local and other librarians meant that she learned more about Merton in three months than
had ever known about anywhere else in her life. Eric Montague tells me that his recent
on The Ravensbury Mills owes a great deal to the information he received from Winifred.
Winifred has been a member of the Society ever since, and has enjoyed the lectures (when she
could fit them in) and the outings (in the days when you had to be quick to book or else the
was full!). She first acted as Auditor when Raymond Craske was Treasurer in the early 1980s,
and continued in this role when Audrey Thomas and her successor were Treasurers.
In December 1987 the Society had difficulty in forming a Committee, and in March 1988 Winifred
became the Hon. Treasurer, continuing in that post until 1991, though she carried on for
year in an acting capacity as no-one else was prepared to take on the job. Since then she has
of great help to her successor, and is at the moment acting as Auditor once again.
Once again, a very happy day to you Winifred, and congratulations on reaching this 90th
May you continue to flourish!
For the September Bulletin I would really like to receive from members their recollections of
the peace that came about in 1945 after the surrender of Japan and VJ Day.
The formal re-opening of the renovated Wimbledon Library was attended by Bill Sole and Eric
Trim, representing the Society. Nigel Williams, local author of ‘The Wimbledon Poisoner’,
officiated at the ceremony and the Mayor and other notable dignitaries were also present.
Wandle Heritage is establishing a permanent exhibition in the Merton Abbey Mills Wheelhouse.
It will illustrate our area of London’s historical past. Various displays and exhibits will
activities in the buildings which were along the banks of the River Wandle in times past. The
Wandle Conservation Centre will be based here and have plans for practical conservation and
improvements. Volunteers will be welcome. The exhibition opens to the public for the first time
on 27th May at 10.00 am.
As Mitcham Carnival came to a close, all the helpers felt that congratulations were in order.
After a slow start the publications sold amounted to £76.80. The Treasure Hunt was
only £13 worth of tickets sold, but the square where the £10 is hidden is still undiscovered,
hunt will be continued at the Green Fair. However, Eric Montague’s gift copy of Mitcham, A
Pictorial History, was won by Dorrie Warburton. Thank you to Madeleine Healey, Marjorie
Ledgerton, Dorrie Warburton, Peter Hopkins, David Luff, Bill Sole and Eric Trim. Also to Judy
Goodman and Eric Trim for the loan of their materials relating to the Morden Hall Farm ‘dig’
which interested a number of people, especially the children.
We shall be at The Green Fair at the London Playing Fields, Mitcham on Sunday 25th June
from 1.00 to 5.00 pm. Volunteers are required. Please contact Eric Trim. The theme will be
‘The Other Mitcham & William Slater’. If anyone can supply any herbs or herb
cuttings please contact Madeleine Healey or Marjorie Ledgerton.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 2
THE AUSTRALIAN CONNECTION GROWS STRONGER
My trip to Australia proved to be the holiday of a lifetime. I think I saw more of this huge
country in 5½ weeks than some of its inhabitants. Albany, in Western Australia, is indeed a
place (in a way similar to Torquay but larger). The whole of Western Australia is very British
orientated and Albany has a Local History Society whose members man the local gaol (the
original convicts built one in the 19th century) and also the Patrick Taylor Cottage (one of
early settlers). I shall be contacting them and also the Plantagenet Historical Society out at
Barker, Western Australia. Whilst in Sydney I was taken to Captain Cook’s landing place and
saw replicas of the Endeavour and the Bounty, and I also visited Canberra on a day trip. When
all my films are developed (12 rolls of 24 prints and 3 rolls of 24 slides), I hope to have
material to give a slide lecture. There are sufficient, if slight, connections locally to give
reason – an Admiral under Lord Nelson became Governor of Albany and established the first
farm, “Strawberry Hill” (now National Trust) while the present gardener there used to live in
Ewell, four doors from the Organ Inn! Also I am told by Eric Montague that the windows in the
Anglican Church in Albany were made by William Morris. I’m sending away for their guide
book, as none were available at the time of my visit. The Society’s programme is booked to
1996 so that will give me time to get some research in.
While on the subject of Australia, we have received a copy of the newsletter of the Nunawading
Historical Society Inc., which is based in the other Mitcham, near Melbourne. A report on Eric
Montague’s discoveries while on a visit there was in a recent Bulletin, and we sent a copy to
them. Their Assistant Secretary, Beryl Gray, wrote back in February.
“Thank you for your copy of the newsletter of Merton Society. I told the Society at our last
meeting of Eric’s talk on his visit to Mitcham.
(She then writes about Marjorie’s proposed visit to Albany and Sydney, which unfortunately are
both a long distance from Melbourne).
“I am very busy with the archives and in April we will be holding an ‘Open Day’ at Schwerkolt
Cottage for Heritage Week.
“In April to August Australia will be holding various functions celebrating “Australia
1939-45”. The Federal Government has allocated money to many Councils.
“I note by your newsletter that Eric will be speaking on the Mitcham Parish Church. Our
Church in Mitcham is 107 years old.”
The Newsletter will be available from Tony Scott from the September meeting.
The Nunawading Historical Society logo
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 3
A lot of time and effort has been put in by the reporters on the three meetings in February,
and April, and I feel compelled to include their full text. This means we have a bumper issue
THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR
On Saturday February 25th 1995, Gavin Barlow, David Diston and Declan Canning of the English
Civil War Society, gave a lecture to 27 members and 22 visitors at the Merton Heritage Centre,
The Canons, Mitcham. The Society comprises two sections, the King’s Army and the Roundhead
Association. They came together for administrative convenience when presenting events to the
public. It was found that people still enthusiastically support the party which held sway in
region some 350 years ago. Now, as then, the North and West are predominantly Royalist
supporting King Charles, and the South and East support Parliament. Yorkshire is split almost
evenly, and London is a hotbed of opinions, politics and feuds.
We were told that the object of the Association is to promote greater understanding of the
War period. A secondary but very important aim is to raise charitable sums through the
of members so that Oxfam and Cancer Research are supported, together with local charities
through branches of Round Table or the Lions Clubs. Activities involving members dressed in
period uniforms and carrying muskets, pikes, swords, etc., range from one-day appearances at
fetes and carnivals to re-enactments of major battles.
The causes of the Civil War were many and complex. Surprisingly, most people had learned to
read by the time of the Civil War. Their attendance at Church provided the opportunity to
and printing had arrived at an advanced stage. Hence, the opportunity was taken by interested
parties to utilise the written word for propaganda purposes. Stories were spread to the effect
Charles was being influenced by his Catholic wife, who, in turn, would be subject to the views
the Pope. For example, in one instance, Charles was blamed for 3,000 deaths in Ireland,
he was in no way involved. There were also stories that during a siege people had been eating
babies. This story was based on an incident which occurred elsewhere.
Suffice it to say, the fighting commenced at Edgehill on October 23rd 1642, mostly involving
only civilians, and the outcome was inconclusive. There were numerous battles and skirmishes
but by June 14th 1645 at the Battle of Naseby, the Royalist army was crushed and this
ended the war, although further incidents did occur leading up to the execution of Charles I on
January 30th 1649.
Our three lecturers were dressed in typical Civil War uniforms and they emphasised that the
distinctive images of Roundheads and Cavaliers as depicted by Hollywood were very far from the
truth. Clothes and uniforms worn during the Civil War were so similar that, during fighting, it
was frequently found to be difficult to identify the enemy. Further, the terms “Roundheads” and
“Cavaliers” are not favoured by the Association who prefer to use “Royalists” and
“Parliamentarians”. Examples of the uniforms of a Royalist (Sir Thos. Blackwell’s Regiment of
Foote) and a Parliamentarian (Sir John Fox’s Regiment) were displayed and represented soldiers
of this period. During the earlier years most uniforms and armour were black. It appears that
much of the Royalist clothing was acquired at Oxford, where gowns, etc., were of this colour.
Later, when a Parliamentary army was being kitted out, nearby warehouses contained sufficient
red material for their purposes and, hence, this became the standard colour used by the army
the South African wars.
The fighting men were divided, on both sides, into four groups: viz. cavalry, pikemen,
and musketeers. Only the Royalty and richest people could afford horses and these men made up
the cavalry. Next in descending order of wealth came landlords and business people, who formed
the pikemen. The artillery acted virtually as sub-contractors and fought for whoever hired
The remainder were musketeers.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 4
Armour was worn by most troops but those with the most money had the best equipment and a
complete suit of armour gave almost total protection against the weapons of the time. Since
the richest people could afford rust-free armour, black paint was used to protect standard
from rusting. For those who could not afford armour, leather garments were used since they
provided protection against glancing blows. The most recent fighting prior to the Civil War had
been in Spain and hence there is a Spanish influence in the helmets and armour that was in use
When it became necessary to form an army, the gentry were given the title of Colonel regardless
of their military knowledge, which was frequently nil. Such armies would not normally go beyond
the boundaries of their county. It was only when the new model army was formed in 1645 that
the Earl of Essex trained his men to fight anywhere. Regiments formed in this way took the name
and colours of the men who raised them. If the Colonel was lost in battle, he was replaced and
fresh colours introduced. This frequently led to two lots of colours and consequent confusion,
particularly when several regiments were fighting as one army.
The pikes were of ash or elm and chiefly had metal spiked ends. They varied between 12 and 18
feet in length. A square was frequently formed, comprising lines of twenty by twenty and
musketeers would often stand beside the pikemen to gain the protection of the pikes.
The muskets used fine and coarse gunpowder and lead balls which were often too big to fit into
the musket barrel. To reduce them in size, they were sucked by the musketeers, who were
thereby fatally poisoned. The loading of a musket comprised, when done correctly, some 48
movements. These included putting coarse gunpowder in the barrel and fine in a hollow on the
outside of the musket, to which would be applied a glowing “match”, a wick-type taper. A tube
connects the two lots of gunpowder. The coarse gunpowder and the lead ball were rammed into
the barrel by means of a rod. Pulling the trigger thrust the match into the fine gunpowder,
exploded. This, by way of the tube, caused the explosion of the coarse gunpowder inside the
barrel. These arrangements were extremely hazardous and caused the musketeers many injuries,
such as burned faces and lost fingers. Since pure water was not available, the troops’ liquid
comprised mainly beer, which no doubt led to more accidents when firing muskets. It is
to note that during the early days of the Civil War there were, on average, two pikemen to
musketeer, but these figures were reversed towards the end. Artillery men were seldom attacked.
It was preferable to capture them and then apply pressure for them to change sides at an agreed
price. However, those who manoeuvred the artillery were often put to the sword.
Another feature of fighting was the dipping of weapons in urine and cowpats, so that, when a
superficial wound was caused to an opponent, the presence of infection would often later prove
In addition to the hazards of utilising muskets, their accuracy was poor and their
amounted to little more than 35 feet. A secondary use of the musket was as a club where the
barrel was held and the butt applied to the opponent’s head, most effectively.
On display were muskets, pikes, swords, living history equipment such as plates, cloths and
personal effects, and a drum, etc.
A musket was discharged in the Heritage Centre grounds (compaction of the gunpowder being
by paper rather than a lead ball). A display of pike drill was given, and the hazards of using
muskets, swords and pikes were fully explained. A number of questions were asked; in particular
a lady enquired as to the status of women at this time. The reply was that husbands were lords
and masters so that the status of women rested between the husband and the animals! This
answer from our panel, and many others, illustrated their exceptional infectious enthusiasm for
the English Civil War Society. Our thanks are due to David, Gavin and Declan for a most
informative and amusing afternoon.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 5
MITCHAM PARISH CHURCH AND PEOPLE
On a fine evening on Thursday, 16th March, we had a well attended visit by over 40 members of
the Society together with other visitors to the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul. Our talk
was given by Eric Montague, mainly dealing with the period 1750-1900.
He first gave us an historical introduction to the Mitcham area (his patch) when the parish was
recognised around 1150 and a simple Church constructed of chalk and flint. A later medieval
Church was built around 1250 on the site where the Parish Church now stands in Church Road.
The first recorded Vicar of Mitcham was Hugo de Guldeford in 1291. At the dissolution of the
monastic houses, 1536-39, the Vicarage of Mitcham fell into private hands. Robert Cranmer, a
City Merchant, purchased the ‘Lordship of the Manor of Mitcham’.
In 1637 the Church was struck by lightning and set on fire during the great storm – the heat
melting four of its brass bells, the spire and the chancel roof were destroyed. The rebuilding
completed in 1640.
By the end of the 18th century the Church was deteriorating, part of the wall and roof
so an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1819 for the old church to be demolished. The estimated
cost being £8000 and a new larger building was built in 1820 to the design of George Smith,
FSA, FIBP. John Chart, a master builder, who worked as a Parish Clerk, undertook the building
using mostly local labour. The new Church was completed and re-opened in April 1822.
After about 45 minutes or so we had a refreshment break with home-made cakes! and were
given time to wander around the Church. My eye caught the brass plate on the wall which read
“The interior was redecorated, the pews removed, and the nave floor levelled and carpeted in 57
hours as part of the BBC series of ‘Challenge Anneka'”.
Eric continued his talk on the present day Church and its features. The Church consists of a
nave and two aisles, a chancel, north transept, Chapel and Tower, the whole being mainly of
local brick, cemented outside with sham joints. The tower is in three stories with octagonal
buttresses to form four turret corners. The east window of the chancel has beautiful stained
glass windows, while most of the other windows are of plain glass.
The old 15th century font was replaced in 1877 as a gift of Sydney Gedge (1829-1923) of Mill
House, Mitcham Common. The font is octagonal as in the Middle Ages. The Baptistry window
was dedicated by Joseph and Blanche Watson also of Mill House. The pair of wrought iron
gates 1934, opposite the Watson window, are in memory of Alfred and Emily Mizen, who were
market gardeners in Eastfields.
The Early-English arches can be seen from the old structure from the 13th century, 22 feet high
and made from flint and stone. In the tower room is a medieval stone basin and drain, also
several holes can be seen where builders inserted the scaffold poles during the building.
In the 19th century gifts were made to the Church from the congregation. £400 from George
Parker Bidder for the east window. Also gifts from William Simpson, Lord of the Manor of
Mitcham, and William Harris of Gorringe Park and Lord of the Manor of Biggin and Tamworth.
Other gifts were made by Isaac Rutter, owner of the tobacco and snuff mill at Ravensbury.
During the Second World War, Mitcham suffered damage in the 40s, but fortunately the Parish
Church survived. However in 1943 the organ was destroyed and serious damage was done to
the interior by fire, believed started by a boy! Repair work was carried out after the War and
Church redecorated in time for the Festival of Britain in 1951, the bells were re-cast and
by the famous Whitechapel Foundry. There are a number of plaques in memory of local people.
This Church is well worth a visit. More information can be found in the Guide to the Church by
Eric Montague, who I would, on behalf of the Members and visitors, thank for a very informative
evening and for all the research he has done to make this possible. Also to the Reverend John
Shephard for making us welcome. Over £100 was raised for the Restoration Fund.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 6
THE STORY OF WEST NORWOOD CEMETERY
Although attendance was low, we had a fascinating slide lecture on 7th April from Jill Dudman,
Secretary of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery. The Cemetery was opened in 1837 by a
private company, the South Metropolitan Co., to meet the desperate need for burial places in
London area in the wake of the population explosion of the Industrial Revolution.
The Company employed the architect, Sir William Tite, to create a country park setting for the
cemetery, on 40 acres of the former Lord Chancellor’s estate. It was focused on a central hill,
which were built an Episcopalian chapel and a Dissenters. chapel, neither of which is still
The gates and walls remain and are listed Grade II. Sir William chose to be interred in the
catacombs beneath the chapels, and these too remain, complete with hydraulic lift.
Other burials include:
Sir Henry Tate, sugar magnate and founder of the Tate Gallery
Sir Henry Doulton who made a fortune from sanitary pipes before moving on to Royal
Mrs. Beeton and her publisher husband who literally made her a .household name. – she
died aged 29
Paul Julius Reuter, founder of Reuters News Agency
Dr. William Marsden, founder of the Royal Free Hospital and the Royal Marsden
Sir Hiram Maxim, American inventor of light bulbs, machine guns, flying machines and
Sir Henry Bessemer, inventor of the Bessemer process for making steel
John Lawson Johnston, dietitian and millionaire inventor of Bovril
Arthur Anderson, founder of P&O Lines
Charles Spurgeon, the Baptist preacher
Dr. Gideon Mantell, the founder of the study of Palaeontology
Horace Jones, architect of Tower Bridge
Members of the Oakey family, famous for knife polish and black lead
Thomas Cubitt, builder
William Higgs, builder
Ben Coles, builder
Tom Spring, bare-knuckle fighter
A unique feature is the Greek enclosure within the cemetery, with its own Grade II* listed
in classical design, serving the Greek community in London. Monuments include a number of
mausoleums, mosaics and statues.
By the end of the 1950s the cemetery was, in its turn, virtually full. The offices had been hit
flying bomb. The two chapels had been demolished as there were insufficient funds for their
upkeep. In the mid-1960s it was purchased by London Borough of Lambeth, and thousands of
tombstones were cleared to allow for further burials and open spaces. In 1989/1990 the Friends
of West Norwood Cemetery were set up, and together with other interested bodies, took Lambeth
Council to a Consistory Court of the Diocese of Southwark to prevent further clearance. It was
discovered that the appropriate permission to clear consecrated ground had not been obtained,
and the Council were ordered to stop further clearance and to restore the damage.
Much restoration work is being carried out, and a total of 64 listed structures remain. The
essence of the Victorian garden cemetery can still be appreciated, especially on one of the 2
guided tours organised by the Friends.
I know many were disappointed that the Huguenot lecture had to be cancelled. However, I am
sure that no one was disappointed with Gill Dudman’s lecture, and we do thank her for stepping
into the breach.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 7
LOCAL HISTORY WORKSHOP
The Local History Workshop has met on two occasions since the last Bulletin and, as at the
inaugural meeting, discussion ranged over a fascinating medley of subjects.
The question of where the Abbot of Westminster’s court at Morden actually was, and the
course of the road diversion agreed in 1225 is an on-going theme, with translations of the
original texts now awaited. (Lionel Green, Peter Hopkins and Tony Scott collaborating).
The career of Lt. Col. Edward Kelly of the 1st Life Guards (son-in-law of James Moore)
during the Napoleonic War has been studied (along with the strange family history of the
Moore clan) by Jack Bailey who is now hoping to cast some light on another local notable,
the 18th century industrialist, Sir Ambrose Crowley.
Judith Goodman’s further researches into the elaborate decor and entertainments at Abraham
Goldsmid’s Morden villa c.1806 proved equally enthralling, whilst her current involvement
with an exhibition on the first George Parker Bidder has awoken interest in the whole
Bidder story which could, we hope, result in a talk on our first President and his ancestors
at a future Society meeting.
Bill Sole is making New Wimbledon an area of study, prompted by a family history enquiry.
Eric Trim’s own family history researches have produced photographs of his father as a
P.O.W. in Germany in World War I and a letter received from King George V.
Bill Rudd’s alertness led to the retrieval of medieval pottery from a newly exposed ditch in
the vicinity of Morden parish church.
The site of Asprey’s of Bond Street’s early beginnings at Phipps Bridge has been identified
and is to be the venue of a group visit.
Tony Scott’s knowledge of hydrodynamics is, we hope, to be applied to a study of mill
wheels in our stretch of the Wandle resulting, perhaps, in another Society talk.
The Workshop next meets at 7.30 pm on Friday 23rd June at the Wandle Industrial Museum, and
anyone, either contributing or merely listening, is welcome.
Two more titles have been published in our popular Local History Notes series.
9 – Memories of Service with the LDV/Home Guard, Mitcham 1940-42
We have all laughed at ‘Dad’s Army’, but behind the mishaps and jokes was a very serious
These notes give a clear, factual account of the formation, arming and training of the Mitcham
Home Guard, formed to protect Mitcham against the threatened German invasion or any other
hazard. A timely reminder of desperate measures needed in desperate times.
Price 25p to members, and 30p to non-members. Postage 25p.
10 – The Story of the Long Thornton and District Improvement Society
This Association was formed in 1927 by people who were buying houses on a new privately-built
estate with only temporary road surfaces which had to be repaired by the residents at week-
poor street lighting, no buses or schools and few shops. By electing a politically independent
councillor and constantly pushing the authorities hard, they achieved the local facilities and
This is a piece of social history and a very warming account of what ordinary people can
when banding together for a common good.
Price 80p to members, and £1 to non-members. Postage 40p.
Both publications are available by post from Peter Harris.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 8
STANE STREET AND THE ROMAN INVASION
Some questions about Stane Street in southern and central Surrey have remained unanswered,
but this article considers the mysteries of the stretch of Stane Street lying in historic
between Ewell and Colliers Wood. Winbolt and Margary are agreed that the agger of Stane
Street lies inside Nonsuch Park along its western boundary on the London Road, therefore the
southernmost point (opposite Briarwood Road) can be pinpointed with the National Grid Reference
TQ 22610/63670. But if the alignment from Newington Butts through Colliers Wood is produced
to Nonsuch Park, it passes through N.G.R. TQ 22530/63620, that is 93 metres off line, therefore
there must be at least one small defection of line.
Published information concurs that there is a straight from Ewell Old Church to the summit of
Stonecot Hill including the crossing of the Pyl Brook at Pylford. This seems to have been
substantiated when the L.T.E. sports ground was being developed, and the milestone, with the
legend XII miles to legend, was removed in September 1992 whilst a new boundary fence was
being installed. Just to the southwest of the mile stone position could be seen a chalk layer
apparently extending under the public pavement, at a depth of about one metre. This could not
be natural because several metres of London clay overlies the chalk strata, and therefore, in
probability was Roman. Later road builders such as Telford and Macadam were not using this
In 1934 the Sutton Water Company were trenching by the west side of London Road past the
Lord Nelson Inn towards Pylford Bridge, when they dug into hard metal in the dip by the brook.
This was not laid in modern cement, said the foreman, but in lime mortar; this was Roman Stane
Street. Few lengths of Roman Road are mortared, this was the bed of the ford. If the bed has a
flat surface, four or five metres wide and maybe twenty metres along the stream, water will
evenly with a depth of a few centimetres and be fordable in almost all seasons. Certainly this
the Roman crossing, but the centre line of the street cannot be pin-pointed with absolute
Stane Street has been revealed in Morden Park but not in the adjacent playing field near Morden
South Station. After leaving the summit of Stonecot Hill, the A24 main road diverts four
east of the parish boundary, to the south of St. Lawrence Church, probably because of the
clay geology; again travellers seem to be adverse to passing north of a church in medieval
There is a terrace of cottages from Camrose Close to Crown Road whose alignment is parallel to
the alignment of Stane Street, probably London Road A24 west-side carriageway is coincident
with Stane Street on this stretch.
About 150 yards north of the roundabout, there is a diagonal ridge in Morden Road A24 (photo/
sketch overleaf) precisely on the line assumed by O.G.S. Crawford and printed on some Ordnance
Survey maps. Even more remarkably, the fence of Morden Hall Park rises to this shoulder and
then falls again. Behind the fence, in the park, there is a distinct hollow which indicates an
extraction of material. Extraction of gravel in 1965 was reported, but there was no gravel
hereabouts; robbery of Stane Street material is strongly suspected. This area is now reserved
a Wandle flood plain. In 1942, traces of Stane Street were observed in a ditch cut obliquely
across its line, near Morden Hall (Sheppard Frere, Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. XXXIII page
75, 1943). This is the last location of Stane Street while proceeding down this stretch until
reaching Miller’s Mead in Colliers Wood High Street.
There is not an impeccable alignment of Stane Street from North Cheam to Morden Hall Park,
minor deviations are perceptible. Extrapolation of any known stretch takes a line into Morden
Park, less than seventy yards north of the Crawford line where it crosses Morden Road, but one
thousand two hundred yards south of the road junction at South Wimbledon.
Between the line from Ewell to Morden Hall Park and the line to Colliers Wood and Newington
Butts, there is an anti-clockwise nett defection of fifty minutes of arc, an understandable
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 9
Gravel or Stane Street material was apparently being removed by the cartload from near the
L.B.& S.C. Railway in 1921 and 1922. Three hundred Roman coins of all periods were collected
(T.R.S. 11, 1921 page 22 and Bidder Sy. A. C.. Collection XXXV, 1922, page 123).
Stane Street is the one and only long-distance Roman road in Britannia to be envisaged, devised
and installed for military requirements exclusively.
That thesis is the major theme of this essay, but Belloc must be accredited with that nougat of
insight and wisdom. Belloc adds that that fact made Stane Street appear to be an incredible
enigma and is the source of its lasting fascination for so many people.
Roman roads were built in straights from one strategical or salient points to the next. Routes
taken by an advancing Roman army can be deduced from the roads that they built to enable their
rapid retreat or communications with base. Almost invariably they followed closely to old
trackways. One typical example is their fundamental route from Richborough via Canterbury
and Rochester to Hyde Park. Stane Street was not built behind an advancing army but was built
from one established centre to another some twenty years after the primary invasion, to
rapid deployment of troops in an emergency situation such as had happened previously (but never
recurred). Another set of Roman roads were cross country, such as the Fosse Way, built to link
up advanced positions like Cirencester and Leicester and thereby strengthen the then current
boundary; Stane Street does not fit into that pattern either.
Belloc dwells on the difficulty of crossing the Wandle whose flat and marshy valley lies
the straight and he therefore postulates an “elbow” which gets round the marshes. This elbow
strikes off to the north past Morden Station (L.B.S.C.R.), the Prince of Wales public-house,
Congregational Church and turns to the east at the corner of Grove House (i.e. South Wimbledon
Underground Station). The ‘alignment’ is recovered after the crossing of the Wandle by the
bridge. Merton High Street is certainly on a ridge about six feet above the level of the
that is London Clay and anathema to early road builders; probably the track was used in Saxon
and medieval times, but was in shocking condition until being turnpiked in mid-eighteenth
In fact, during its meanderings over the millennia, the Wandle has deposited a fairly firm
on the floor of the valley, offering little hindrance to any road builder; the watercourse must
crossed, either by bridge or ford, whichever route is chosen. No archaeological evidence
the “elbow” route.
Crossing the Wandle is not so difficult as the lower crossing of the Arun, as Belloc himself
said, nor more difficult than a hundred river crossings up and down England which the Romans
created to serve their military needs. Southwark tidal marshes had been dealt with already.
Street was a military road, again as Belloc himself had said. Military brass prefer straight
and expense is no object. If the “elbow” route theory was tenable, it would throw doubts on
Belloc’s own military theory. His quite unwarranted “elbow” assumption caused confusion that
has persisted for eighty years. His book was read but his sin was scarlet.
C E Sole (This article is reprinted from the KUTAS newsletter of May 1993, with permission.)
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 10
MORE FROM OUR POSTBAG
We have been approached recently by a Mr Bob Lewis of Aultnager, Cammachmore, Stonehaven,
AB3 2NR, seeking information about his grandfather who, he believes, was a member of the
Mitcham Town Guard after his retirement from the Metropolitan Police in 1904.
Whilst in the police force grandfather Lewis was stationed at the Tooting Police Station, Amen
Corner, which was also the headquarters of the Mitcham Town Guard. This auxiliary force
became the Tooting Special Constabulary Division W, Section 3 in 1914. A photograph of Mr
Lewis, in uniform and with a medal, has been supplied.
Mr Lewis was also a member of the Tooting, Balham, Merton and Mitcham Horticultural Society,
and judging from another photograph which survives of him and his eldest son, he was a
grower of fine chrysanthemums. His daughter-in-law won several ‘firsts’ in a show in November
1915 after her husband joined up. That year Mr Lewis senior won a prize for leeks, which was
very fitting, for the family originated in Welsh Wales!
Mr Lewis (the one from Scotland) also tells us that in reading The Sporting Life for the years
either side of the Great (i.e. 1914/18) War he discovered that his father was active in the
country and middle distance world”. Rugby was being played in Merton in 1911, and the Merton
AA was running cross-country races from the Church Hall, Church Lane, with a course that took
them over Merton Park Golf Links, Prince George’s Playing Fields, Raynes Park Golf Club and
Green Lane, Merton (sic). The father’s club, Tooting Athletic Club, ran from the Leather
and in the club journals for 1908 and 1909 one reads of them enjoying “smokers” and concerts
after their races.
As with many of the letters we receive, Bob Lewis’s note gives some interesting little “tit-
Merton history – not in themselves great event, but affording glimpses of the lives of people
since dead and, possibly, inspiring one of our readers to dig a little into local records and
with something more. If anyone has any information they think would help Bob Lewis in his
family researches, he would be delighted to hear from them.
(And please let me know – it might interest other members! Editor)
We have also received a letter from Mrs Daphne Neech, who now lives in Peterborough.
“I have enjoyed receiving the bulletins very much. However, a friend has shown me some
photographs of Mitcham today and it is SO different from the Mitcham of my girlhood (1928 to
1943). I am now housebound and apart from little sorties into East Anglia, I shall not be able
get “home” now. Still, I have very happy memories of growing up in what was a very pleasant
A special word of thanks to Bill Rudd and Eric Montague for their ‘Conducted Tour’ of the
Society’s Archives at Morden Park Library on 29th April. They even managed to find enough
seats! Monty mentioned the possibility of recording more detail about each item in the
which could then be typed up. If anyone is interested in helping out in some little way with
project, please talk to Monty. The Society is very grateful for all the work that Monty, Bill
Bill Sole have done with the archives. Bill Rudd has put in many hours organising the storage.
Bill would like some help himself. Some months ago he took to one of our meetings a large roll
of paper on which he had recorded the family tree of the Rutter family of Ravensbury Mills.
Someone asked to borrow it and has not yet returned it. Please do so soon, as it represents
years of research. Thank you!
Letters and contributions for the bulletin should be sent to the Hon. Editor.
The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the contributors concerned and not
necessarily those of the Society or its Officers.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 114 – JUNE 1995 – PAGE 12