December 2000 – Bulletin 136
Fifty years of Merton Historical Society – L E Green
The Scandinavian impact on Surrey – E N Montague
The Odways or Otways of Mitcham – E N Montague
Christina Steevens – J A Goodman
and much more
PRESIDENT: J Scott McCracken BA FSA MIFA
VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Arthur Turner, Lionel Green and William Rudd
BULLETIN NO. 136 DECEMBER 2000
Tuesday 12 December 2.30pm British Library, guided tour
Meet at 2.20 at the information desk. The Library is at 96 Euston Road. Nearest station St
Cost £5/£3.50. (Fully booked).
Coffee shop and restaurant available.
Saturday 20 January 2.30pm Snuff Mill Centre
Peter Tilley: .The Kingston Project.
This project, based at Kingston University, extracts details from censuses, parish registers,
directories and similar sources for Kingston town in the second half of the 19th century. The
information is being used to build up a picture of local families and life-cycles. The speaker
illustrate his talk.
(Drivers should use the Morden Hall Garden Centre car-park. Take the path across the bridge;
go through the gateway towards Morden Cottage. The Snuff Mill is straight ahead.
Bus routes 118,157,164)
Saturday 17 February 2.30pm The Canons
John and Jo Brewster: .The Story of Southwark Cathedral.
The speakers are .Working Friends. of the Cathedral, who give their active support as regular
guides. Their talk will be illustrated with slides. We have booked a visit on 26 May, when the
Brewsters hope to be our guides.
(The Canons is in Madeira Road, Mitcham, close to bus routes 118 and 152 and the Mitcham
Tramlink stop. Use the leisure centre car-park.)
Saturday 17 March 2.30pm Mill House Ecology Centre, Mitcham
Martin Boyle: .The Wildlife of Mitcham Common.
Martin Boyle is Warden of Mitcham Common. The 185ha (460 acre) site is of particular interest
for natural history conservation, supporting a number of different habitats. This is an
(The Mill House Ecology Centre is in Windmill Road, Mitcham, next to the Mill House pub. It
is close to bus routes 118 and 264, and to the Tramlink stop at Beddington Lane.
There is a car-park.)
The Society’s events are open to the general public, unless otherwise stated.
Merton Historical Society will be 50 years old on 28 February 2001. Our Chairman LIONEL GREEN,
who is a founder member, looks back, with
FIFTY YEARS OF REMINISCENCES
In writing these reminiscences of Merton Historical Society I find the memory plays ingenious
events I remember so clearly and think I know when they took place, only to find that the
Society records are at
variance by several years. Even the locations change. I thought that the symposium where Miss
about Literary Associations of Merton, and Eric Montague on the Mitcham Workhouse and I
Recollections of Old Merton must have been at the old library building in Kingston Road; but
the records say it
was at the Central Library in Morden Road on 22 March 1967.
It all began with the Festival of Britain in 1951. The former Merton & Morden Urban District
Council set up a
committee to organise events to celebrate the Festival. The District Librarian, Miss Evelyn
Jowett, was asked to
produce a history of the district. Coincidentally the WEA planned a series of lectures for the
winter of 1950/1 by
Mrs J’saynor on local history. This brought together a band of like-minded people who were made
aware of the
rich heritage we enjoy, and, at the conclusion of the series, wished to continue the studies.
Stimulated by support from several District Councillors, and encouraged by the Clerk of the
Council, Mr Harry
May, the Merton and Morden History Society was founded on Wednesday 28 February 1951.
was elected Chairman, with Cllr’s.H.Reeves Vice-Chairman. The WEA evening class provided our
Miss E.M.Jowett, and our Treasurer, Mr S.E.Cobbett. The Committee consisted of our tutor, Mrs
a student, Mr L.E.Green. Cllr.E.W.Warren was also elected to the Committee. Our first auditors
Cllr.G’s.Whitmee and Mr E.F.Dakin.
During the first year (1 March 1951) we had a talk by Dr Sheppard Frere about the mound in
Morden Park, which
he had inspected. He felt that it could well be a burial mound before being made into a garden
feature, but only
an archaeological dig would determine its age.
The first AGM took place on 2 November 1951 before the first anniversary, which is why the 50th
place before the 50th birthday of the Society. Income consisted of 58 subscriptions at 2/6d
(12½p) = £7.5s.0d,
and expenditure on paper and postage was £3.8s.2d, leaving cash in hand of £3.16s.10d. I
remember the Treasurer
remarking that he thought we could afford to buy a spade to begin a dig in Morden Park. Mr
Cobbett served the
Society for 15 years as Treasurer, and then as Auditor.
There were 42 members at the first AGM, and the records state that after the business meeting
Lionel Green gave
an illustrated lecture on the Priory site, using an epidiascope. I have to confess that I do
not recall this.
I do however remember the float that the Society organised in connection with the Coronation
Carnival on 6 June
1953. This was a presentation of the marriage of Queen Eleanor to Henry III, and we won the
first prize of ten
guineas (see Bulletin No.118 June 1996). In 1955 the Society helped with the exhibition held to
150th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
We had better summer weather in the 1950s, and went on long rambles in the heart of Surrey,
historic sites, making full use of party rates on the railway.
Archaeological excavations began with Stane Street in Morden Park under Dennis Turner in the
autumn of 1958
and the spring of 1959. I wasn’t on Eric Montague’s digs in Mitcham, but was thrilled to be
present with Scott
McCracken in 1976-8 as the foundations of the chapter house were uncovered. There seemed to be
figure at all the Society’s excavations – Bill Rudd!
However, no reminiscences would be complete without reference to
failures and disappointments. When Colonel Bidder revealed the outline
of the priory church in 1922, Gilliat Hatfeild generously purchased the
site of the high altar and conveyed it to the Urban District Council, to
preserve it for all time. In 1958 this Society commissioned and paid
for a commemorative stone to mark the site. This was sculpted by Mr
Blackwell, and showed a ground plan based on Colonel Bidder’s
findings. The UDC erected the stone and laid out the surrounding
garden. Colonel Bidder, then our President, came and unveiled the site
on 25 July 1959. I recall the efforts made by Miss Jowett and Harry
May and many District Councillors, who knew what was meant by
.for all time.. In 1986 the Borough Councillors made other
arrangements, and this important historical site is now under
Savacentre’s car park. A bitter disappointment.
The memorial plaque in the priory gardens,
Station Road, shortly after it was unveiled.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 2
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 1999-2000
First of all I would like to offer my personal thanks to Eric Montague for handing over the
chairmanship of this
Society so painlessly having maintained it in such good shape over the previous years. And I
member of the Committee for their support and encouragement over the past year.
Committee: This has met on seven occasions dealing with wide ranging topics. Events included
Mitcham Cricket Green, Daughter Houses of Merton Priory, Early Croydon, the Hogsmill River,
VC, and we even followed in the steps of Charles Darwin. The summer visits took us to
Old Battersea House, Kensal Green Cemetery and we beat our bounds, east and west with walks
Wandle and the Beverley. On your behalf, I thank our Secretary, Sheila Harris, for the
efficient way she runs the
affairs of the Society. Arranging speakers and guides. Booking venues for public meetings as
well as for the
Committee and workshops. Providing refreshments. Thanking everyone. When Sheila rings me about
she tells me how she has dealt with it and says, .Is that all right?.
Next year many of the committee members will be standing down having served for the maximum of
years. We have three vacancies to fill today and I hope that some of you will want to meet the
challenges of the
next three years.
Bulletin: The success of the Society is known far and wide and is spreading as other societies
note the high standard of our quarterly bulletins. You will have noticed that each edition
consists of sixteen
pages. This is the vehicle for all members to publicise their interests and knowledge. Don’t be
put off with
thoughts that others know more than you. We are all amateurs and we are all learning how much
more there is
to know. Our bulletin editor, Judith Goodman will help and advise if you need guidance.
If you enjoy the talks and visits which we arrange and if the subject or place is of particular
interest to you,
please offer to write up the event for the bulletin. Many hands make light work – but make the
offer to Judith
before the event.
Publications: I regard our publications as a very important part of the Society’s activities
and we are indeed
fortunate in having our own .in house. publisher with Peter Hopkins who not only prints our
publishes booklets on Merton’s history after checking by the Editorial Panel. The list of
publications is long
and varied with new titles added each year. There will be an opportunity for you to select your
in the coffee break!
Workshops: The idea of having informal gatherings for members to float ideas and interests was
I find these meetings stimulating. They give a spur to original research and provide a place to
and gain encouragement. Later this afternoon you will hear of some of the subjects discussed.
Subscriptions: I must not steal our Treasurer’s thunder but I would like to say a few words
levels. There has been no increase for several years and as costs steadily increase we have to
rely on income
from publication sales etc. to cover them. If however, the number of members increases so will
our income. In
a Borough the size of Merton there should be at least 500 members. Speak to your neighbours! If
you agree that
the subscription is good value for the money, don’t keep the good news to yourself. Meanwhile
subscription will remain at £6.
Membership: Bill Sole has relinquished his duties after many years as Membership Secretary and
Mr and Mrs.
Ron Davis nobly .volunteered. to take on this. It would assist them if you would use the
form for subscriptions which will save them having to write names addresses etc. We greatly
miss those members
who have died and in particular this year, one of our Life Members – Miss Winifred Mould who
was active for
95 years. She served this Society as Treasurer for many years until 1994 and then as Auditor.
She died in June
this year and the Society made a donation to charity.
Storage: We had to vacate our store at Morden Park Library when the building was closed in the
Spring, but we
have been offered space at The Canons, Mitcham. Our thanks go to one of our vice-presidents,
for overseeing the move and overcoming inevitable problems.
Other Organisations: It has been an eye-opener to me to find that the Society is represented on
organisations both local and national. They range from the Wandle Group to the Buildings and
Trust and from the Surrey Archaeological Society to the S W London Archaeological Liaison
Group. We are
involved in Town Trail updates and regular planning enquiries, and giving talks to other
societies. It would help
to spread the load if more members offered to be our representatives. We support our Heritage
Gould, in every way possible and supply items for her special exhibitions. We take as much as
we give, to the
Wandle Industrial Museum who provide the venue for our committee meetings and workshops. Many
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 3
GOLDEN JUBILEE DINNER
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Society on 28 February we plan to
together that evening, at historic Morden Hall, now a Beefeater restaurant pub. Partners are
We shall have an upstairs room, and the evening will begin at 7pm. The menu will be the £8.99
.Emerald. one, which offers three courses with plenty of choice. If you have an Emerald Card
age 55 and over), you may wish to bring it, but we are being offered the discounted menu in any
case. We shall be placing our orders individually at the table, and drinks will be extra.
telephone as soon as possible with your name, and number of places required.
VISIT TO OXFORD
Don’t forget to tell Pat and Ray Kilsby if you plan to join the visit to Oxford, including
College, on Saturday 21 July 2001.
!!!!!Merton Local Studies Centre, at Morden Library, is now open during longer hours. New times
to Friday 9.30am-7pm; Saturday 9.30am-5pm; Sunday closed.
Effective from 1 January 2001, the Sutton Archive & Local Studies Searchroom will have new
hours. These are: Tuesday 2-5pm; Thursday 9.30am-7.30pm; Friday 9.30am-12.30pm; 1st & 3rd
9.30am-1pm, 2-4.45pm; 1st & 3rd Sunday 2-5pm; Monday, Wednesday closed. The Searchroom is at
Central Library, St Nicholas Way. Tel: 020 8770 4745. Web address:
Following Lionel Green’s article on the telephone service in Bulletin No.135, Bill Rudd has
VIGilant number still displayed over the door of F.J.Meadows Ltd of Greenford Road, Sutton.
Congratulations on your vigilance, Bill!
The refurbishment of Morden Park House is at last complete. It has emerged from its plastic
opened as the Borough’s new Register Office, in place of Morden Cottage. John Ewart’s fine
house of 1770
looks wonderful, inside and out, and the outbuildings and walled garden have been spruced up
from: An Encyclopaedia of Gardening -J. C. Loudon 1830 (1st ed. 1824) p.1067
Work has begun at theMerton Park station site, where Crest Homes are already advertising new
Part of the planning agreement was that the old station building be restored as a dwelling. We
At The Canons the current Merton Heritage Centre exhibition is .The Glorious and the
in Georgian Merton., which is on till 27 January. It will be followed by .Chalkdust and
looks at schooldays in Merton, and runs from 6 February to 21 April. A reprise of .Poverty and
Tudor Merton, will be on display upstairs from 22 January to 11 February.
LAMAS Transactions for 1999 has an article about painted advertisements in Islington, that is
advertisements painted directly onto the fabric of buildings. The writers have recorded 50 in
Hackney apparently has more. Do we know of any in Merton? Such relics should be photographed
documented before the developers destroy them.
Just out! A Historical Guide to Merton Abbey Mills has been written by Kevin Leyden and
The Wandle Industrial Museum. Large format, well illustrated. £3.95.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 4
Some ideas for Christmas presents – to give, or receive:
Discovering the Past 2: West Barnes & Cannon Hill by Peter Hopkins
Like its predecessor this large booklet devotes a double spread to each separate theme. After
of four key periods in the early history of the district, and an explanation of Merton Priory’s
estates at the
Dissolution, there are lucid histories of each farm and other piece of land that together made
up the western part
of Merton parish and the immediately surrounding area. For each there is at least one map, and
are nicely varied illustrations. The narrative is clear, and this reader finds it particularly
helpful that the outline
of each land-holding is superimposed on a modern map.
Peter is modest about his own research, but no one else could have produced such an
authoritative account. It
will become an indispensable work of reference for historians of Merton and neighbouring
The booklet, which is published by New Malden Evangelical Church, can be obtained by post for
postage) from Peter Hopkins or for £2 at the Society’s indoor meetings or Merton Local Studies
The Bridges and Roads of Mitcham by E.N.Montague, Merton Historical Society 2000 pp60.
above, £1.60 (members), £2 (non-members), postage extra.
Mitcham Gardens of the 18th Century by E.N.Montague, Merton Historical Society 2000 pp28.
as above, £1.20 (members), £1.50 (non-members), postage extra.
.Monty. has distilled his notes accumulated over some years on both these subjects into these
which are illustrated with maps and pictures, and fully annotated. Bridges and Roads deals
first with the
construction and maintenance over the centuries of Mitcham’s bridges over the Wandle and the
then with the history of its turnpike highways and its parish roads. The last section looks at
some of the more
romantic aspects of road travel in the past. There is a useful index.
In Mitcham Gardens he explores the surprisingly rich history of 18th-century horticulture in
by plantations, shrubberies, walled gardens, glasshouses and gravel walks, as local gentlemen
vied with each
other in this fashionable craze.
Clive Whichelow (see also note at the bottom of this page) has produced three new titles this
Local Highwaymen (£3.25) looks at the colourful story of highwaymen in south London and Surrey.
stories, varied illustrations, a bibliography and a glossary to the language of the folk who
used to .ding the culls
on the poll. and hope to dodge the .nubbing cove..
The Local Mystery of Robin Hood (£2.95) explores another area where myth and history meet. Why
use of the name Robin Hood, and when did it begin? Entertaining, thought-provoking and well
including a map.
In Secrets of Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath (£3.25) the author examines lesser-known
this large open space, such as the 19th-century tramway, the .other. windmill, the horse races,
the lost ponds,
and many more. A map, plenty of pictures and a bibliography.
In Carlo Gébler’s Father & I (Little Brown & Co £16.99 hardback) Father was Ernest Gébler;
Edna O.Brien; the two sons were Carlo (officially Karl, after Marx) and Sasha. In 1958 they
Dublin to 257 Cannon Hill Lane, Merton (not Morden, as it says in the book). In 1960 Edna
international fame with her first novel The Country Girls. Ernest, who had written one
successful novel long
before, struggled fiercely to produce his prose, while ideas and words poured from Edna. The
little boys went
to Hillcross School and played on Cannon Hill Common. This is a vivid, sometimes painful, but
wryly amusing memoir. Carlo Gébler is a novelist, and currently writer-in-residence at a prison
Clive Whichelow, a member of this Society, has pointed out that David Harrison, who led a walk
for us under
the above title (see Bulletin No.135), used information specially given him for this purpose by
as well as much material from books written by the latter and Ruth Murphy. These titles are as
Mysterious Wimbledon by Ruth Murphy and Clive Whichelow
More Mysterious Wimbledon by Ruth Murphy and Clive Whichelow
Pubs of Wimbledon Village (Past & Present) by Clive Whichelow
The books are available from local bookshops and libraries. See also Book Review above.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 5
LOCAL HISTORY WORKSHOPS
Friday 1 September 2000: Don Fleming in the chair. Five members present, and one visitor.
It was a warm evening, and something of a summer holiday atmosphere pervaded a particularly
!!!!!Nicholas Hart, a member of Wandle Industrial Museum, struggled in with a collection of his
papers going back to the early years of the 20th century. They included research notes on the
Pilgrim’s Way in
Surrey, and material relating to Caterham, as well as family photographs and ephemera. We were
browse through them, knowing they would soon be going off to be deposited at Surrey History
reminder that we should all be glad that some people never throw anything away!
!!!!!Sheila Harris had an attractive oil-painting of the mill cottages at Watermeads to show
us. The view, dating
from 1952, is from the Grove Mill direction. The artist was a Clive Abbott, of whom nothing
more is known
as yet (can anyone help?). The picture was presented some years ago to the Wimbledon Society
passed it on to Wandle Industrial Museum, as a more appropriate home for it.
Lord Monson’s memoirs were still occupying much of Judith Goodman’s time. She had obtained two
of him to use as illustrations – one as a child and one as a young man – and was now waiting
information from Eton and from the Society of Antiquaries to complete the biographical notes.
!!!!!Peter Hopkins brought along the second volume in his splendid Discovering the Past series
REVIEW on page 5). This one, West Barnes and Cannon Hill, was to accompany an exhibition which
staging for a church in Seaforth Avenue, and which was then to be displayed at West Barnes
The six court rolls and 104 accounts rolls relating to Morden, held at Westminster Abbey
now been microfilmed (cost £210.92). Of the two transcriber/translators he had first found one
had been ill
and the other had changed jobs. A new one was proving very slow (and hence expensive), but
hopeful that he would speed up as he became familiar with the script. Barbara Harvey, author of
a book on the
Abbey and its estates, was to be lecturing there on 13 September. Peter would attend. He also
reported that he
had received the microfilm reel from the Bodleian that he had been waiting for.
!!!!!Don Fleming floated the idea of a Society outing combining a visit to Dr Johnson’s house
with a walk around
Covent Garden. He went on to recommend Liza Picard’s recent book on the London of Dr Johnson.
reminisced entertainingly about his years in the removals business – all human life is there!
The mother of a friend of Lionel Green had written recollections of her young life in the west
in the 20th century, which he thought very well written, and valuable – altogether the sort of
thing that should
He had been to see Fanny Burney’s A Busy Day at the Lyric and much enjoyed it. As a Dorking
resident he has
a special affection for Miss Burney and recounted the tale of how the play’s text had
disappeared for decades
(generations?) before turning up in an American university library.
The task of writing a report on the Beverley Brook walk (see page 8) had particularly impressed
him with the
complexity of the pattern of parishes and hundreds and their boundaries.
Friday 20 October 2000: Judith Goodman in the chair. Six members present, and one visitor.
Don Fleming commented on the unusual plaque depicting Henry VII to be seen on the King’s Head
High Street, and wondered whether it was by William Morris. He wrote to the brewery, and had a
the Chairman but, although they were also curious, they had no information. Judy said that the
plaque is not
mentioned in the guidebook to Youngs’ pubs, Inn and Out of London. The present structure dates
replacing an early 19th-century building. The tile pictures on the Nelson Arms nearby were made
in 1910 at
Bill Rudd brought along a selection from his Monasteries project, including pamphlets and
has collected from the various sites, as well as his own photographs. Many of the black and
white negatives he
is now having printed have never been printed before. He intended to display a selection at the
Rosemary Turner was congratulated on achieving a B in her GCSE, which involved a project on
Stephen Turner has completed his transcription of Crawter’s survey of Mitcham dating from 1838.
tithe apportionment was based on this survey, but the owners and occupiers of many of the
listed in the 1838 survey, are omitted in 1846, being lumped together under “sundry owners and
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 6
Steve also drew our attention to the fact that 1st Edition 25″ Ordnance Survey maps can be
from the web, and printed to a variety of sizes. See www.old-maps.co.uk. He planned to have
copies of the
Mitcham map among the various research aids at the East Surrey Family History Research Day at
Canons on 18th November.
Peter Hopkins brought along the latest copies of the translations being made of medieval
other documents in the Muniment Room at Westminster Abbey, in the Bodleian Library Oxford and
University Library. Another 100 or so rolls remain to be translated, but an initial glance
through the documents
suggest that it may be possible to follow some tenancies over a period of two centuries.
Details are also
given of which crops were sown in which fields, and which were uncultivated or lay fallow, for
each side of the Black Death. He hoped to bring some of the material to the AGM.
Judith Goodman brought along a couple of books she had recently bought. The Story of
in Surrey, published in 1908, describes the congregations in chronological order of founding,
Merton church in Morden Road. (The memorial inscriptions recorded by the Society of
been published in the Journal of East Surrey Family History Society). The Gentleman’s Magazine
October 1808 reported the tragic story of the three daughters of William Attwood, print-cutter
who died of mushroom poisoning.
Workshop dates: Fridays 8 December, 26 January, 23 March at 7.30 pm at Wandle Industrial
All are welcome
ERIC MONTAGUE again takes up the theme of the Scandinavian impact on Surrey, following a
response from John Pile in the last issue to his article on the subject in Bulletin No.134.
I was pleased to see (Bulletin No.135 pp10-11) that my note published in the previous issue, in
which I attempted
an overview of the evidence for Scandinavian raids and subsequent settlement in our part of
Surrey, had prompted
a contribution from John Pile. I recall from correspondence with him several years ago that he
also had attempted
to identify signs of Viking presence in Merton (without, I must say, convincing me!).
Admittedly, hard evidence in our corner of Surrey is sparse, and yet what we do know from the
of incursions during the ninth and tenth centuries makes it inconceivable that communities in
the vicinity of
Merton would have escaped the attention of Viking marauders. With this in mind, the reported
the Wandle crossing in the late 18th century of broken weapons, human bones and .other exuviæ
of a battle.
cannot be dismissed as just another Saxon cemetery.
Far from being .tantalisingly vague as to the exact site., as John asserts, Edwards, a reliable
authority, makes it
quite clear the discovery was in the vicinity of Merton Abbey, to the east of Haydons Road.
None of the
material was dated and, wisely, Edwards did not speculate as to the origin apart from seeing it
as evidence of a
.battle.. John asserts that the Saxon origin of the remains .cannot be doubted., but in the
absence of further
evidence I think it is unwise to go this far. He also refers to .graves., which implies formal
burial and leads him
to speculate on Saxon settlement in the vicinity. Significantly, Edwards does not use the term
.graves., and I
think he was correct in his assumption that the discovery was of the scattered aftermath of a
John digressed somewhat in his observations on the location and origin of Saxon settlements,
but I would agree
(and join issue) with him on a number of the points he makes. My intention, however, was to
directing attention to the question of the Scandinavian element in the local populace by the
early 11th century.
Given the presence in London of merchants and others from across the North Sea, and the fact
that for a time
England was under Danish rule, it does seem to me that a degree of peaceful settlement of the
Wandle valley by
migrants of Scandinavian ancestry prior to the Norman Conquest is not an unreasonable
I agree the evidence to support this contention, at least in our area, seems virtually non-
existent – hence my
resort in the Bulletin article to the tentative suggestions that the Sweyns/Swains of Tooting,
Morden might have been of Norse stock, and that the place names Biggin and Tamworth could have
brought south by immigrants from the Danelaw.
John’s contribution to the discussion is most welcome, and I look forward to further comment
Further contributions would indeed be welcome, from John Pile or from anyone else with a point
on this subject. – Editor
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 7
A WALK ALONG THE BEVERLEY BROOK
This river is not known for being the source of inspiration for poets, but down the ages it
features as an ancient
boundary which warrants attention from such societies as ours. The Beverley Brook formed the
limits of the
hundreds of Brixton, Kingston, Copthorne and Wallington. And of the ancient parishes, those of
Wimbledon, Putney, Barnes, Mortlake, Kingston, Malden, Cuddington and Cheam. For this reason
decided to mark the Millennium year with a walk along the Merton boundary from Cuddington
Wimbledon. Twenty-one members and friends set out on 12th August, a glorious summer day, from
Park station. At numerous points along the way walkers were regaled with detailed historical
information on the
area by Judy Goodman and Peter Hopkins.
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
An old postcard view:
probably Beverley Meads
courtesy Robin Gill
The earliest mention of the stream is in a charter of AD 693,1 interpolated with relevant
bounds in the mid- to late
tenth century, which lists Beferithi; whilst another charter of 9572 shows Bæverithe (beaver
streamlet). A further
charter of AD 9673 specifically refers to an estate in Merton with a western boundary defined
or .along the stream..
We stood opposite the Huntsman’s Hall, formerly the headquarters of the Worcester Park Hunt,
1886. Any hopes for sight of a babbling brook were ditched(!), but nevertheless it was here
that the stream once
marked the boundary of Malden and Cuddington. Green Lane connects Malden with Morden, and the
flows beside it part of the way. We followed the bends of the brook as far as the water
treatment plant (now
closed) in Cheam on the Morden boundary. A large common to the south-east of Green Lane was
Sparrowfield, and served the parishes of Ewell, Cheam, Morden, Malden and Cuddington. The
enhanced flow of
the Beverley turned north and the walkers pursued it on a parallel path east of the stream,
although on Malden
land known as Hyde Hill. This was part of Hobbalds Farm whose fields extended into Merton and
large estate was given to Merton Priory by William de Watton about 1230.
Walking northwards we crossed a boundary ditch into the Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields
for another glimpse of the brook. This is part of a rectangular tract of land attached to the
parish of Merton but
surrounded on the south and west by Malden and on the east by Morden. Near here according to
the bounds listed
in the 967 charter was Benanberwe, suggesting .barrow of Benna. close to the stream. The
earlier charter of 957
lists the bounds of a Battersea estate with the name Bæncesbyri close to Bæverithe (beaver
It is difficult to walk near Motspur Park railway station without being in some part of West
Barnes Lane. Walkers
heard about the 500-acre grange of Merton Priory, the West Barns, and of ‘squire. Blake, who
House Farm from about 1850 and laid out Motspur Park road in 1865 as part of a grand plan. The
of West Barnes Lane runs alongside the Beverley Brook as far as Blakes Lane. Mots Furze Farm is
to an early 14th-century owner named Henry Mott, but it is tempting to link the site earlier
with gemot, or
The walk proceeded to the Kingston Bypass (A3) built 1924-27, where the stream disappears in a
briefly before passing under Burlington Road (B282). A large stretch of land between the river
Common took the name Appledore (OE apuldor .apple tree.) and was owned by Merton Priory. The
section, all in Malden or Coombe (Kingston), became part of Hoppingwood Farm (referred to
became a section of Blagdon Farm, together with lands to the east of the Beverley which are now
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 8
In 1654 Rowland Wilson left money for the poor of Merton .out of my lands called Blackdens in
Kingston and Malden.. We had glimpses of the old farmhouse through the summer foliage.
Beverley Road reminds residents of its presence, and the pleasant Beverley Park enables all to
see a more noble
brook, as the Pyl Brook joins the Beverley just south of the London & Southampton Railway main
Old English word pyll suggests a tidal stream, and even today the volume of water of the Pyl
more than matches
that of the Beverley. The combined streams pass under the railway and through the southern part
of the Malden
Golf Course. We feared that the golfers would not brook our intrusion and made a diversion
Avenue. This did enable us to see an original rail over-bridge built to straddle five huge
water mains and four
railway tracks. The building of the railway in 1836 bisected Hoppingwood Farm, which required
of this bridge. The land is now occupied by the golf course, Beverley Park and many houses. The
of 967 confirms the ancient origin of this land called Hoppingge. It denotes a cultivated plot
where wild hopshoots would have provided a palatable boiled vegetable.
We approached the Kingston Bypass again, via a public footpath across the golf course, where
have been built for the brook and walkers close to Coombe Lane (A238). The walk finished by
where we bade farewell to the Beverley Brook, leaving it to be escorted on either side by
Malden to Kingston Vale, across Richmond Park to Barn Elms Park. It’s good to leave some cake
1 W. de G.Birch Cartularium Saxonicum 1885-92 I No.82
2 Ibid No.994
3 Ibid No.1196
BEVERLEY BROOK WALK
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 9
RIVER WANDLE WALK
About 24 members and others met Eric Montague at Merton Abbey Mills on Saturday 9 September.
weather was pleasant for our second .beating the bounds. walk to mark the Millennium. Though we
following today’s main stream of the Wandle, an earlier course came down to modern times as the
boundary between Merton and Mitcham. And more than a thousand years ago the Hidebourne (as it
marked the border of At Mertone at Michamingemerke.
Monty spoke briefly about the Wandle Trail, part of which we would be following. Construction
began in the 1970s and there is now a clearly marked path from Waddon (and Carshalton) to
the four Boroughs involved, Merton had taken the lead. It was a pity that some of Merton’s
had been vandalised.
The millwheel at Merton Abbey Mills is one of only five left on the Wandle, and in 1853 was
said to generate
15hp. The building is described as 18th century (though altered in the late 19th century) and
is Grade II listed.
When the site belonged to Liberty & Co the wheelhouse was used for rinsing textiles.
The stretch of river between Merantun Way and Windsor Avenue has seen many changes. Its first
works was established in 1724. Ancell’s .Great Bleaching Field. now lies under part of Merton
Bennett’s innovative roller-printing mill of 1810 was followed in 1833 by the first of the
Littler dynasty, whose
fine silk-printing works was acquired by Liberty in 1904.
Fragments of the southern extent of the precinct walls of Merton Priory can still be seen near
The Priory must certainly have modified the river’s course, for drainage at least. But who
created the canalised
stretch above Windsor Avenue? Perhaps one of the 18th-century industrialists with Wandle
The Lombard Industrial Estate which abuts the river here was once the site of gravel-digging.
Clay from the
City & South London Railway extension in the 1920s was used as landfill, and development
in the 1960s.
Close to the east bank at Phipps Bridge once stood Homefield, a large house built by Robert
Harland of W.Harland
& Sons, manufacturer of paint and varnish from the 1850s to 1967. The housing of Homefield
Gardens, laid out
in the 1930s, marks the site of the house.
On the west bank was the japan works of Paul Addington, which in 1892 became Hadfields (Merton)
makers of paints. That site too has disappeared.
This area, close to the river crossing of the Roman road, has yielded important archaeological
as the Romano-British burials at the Haslemere School site. There was a bridge here by 1535,
but how much
earlier? There was a print-works at Phipps Bridge, where Francis Nixon worked for a time in the
moving to Merton. An Irishman, he had developed copper-plate printing for textiles.
The straight channel upstream from the bridge was cut by John Anthony Rucker, who then had to
pay £1 a year
penalty. A City merchant with Wandle interests, he lived for a time at Wandle Villa, whose
grounds adjoin the
Here, on the east bank, the over-ambitious .Patent Steam Washing Factory. enjoyed its short
career early in the
The .Phipps Mill. that once stood somewhere here was half-owned by the Priory in the 13th
disappeared some time in the following century. .Pip. in various spellings is Old English for
small stream, and
a small stream does indeed join the Wandle near here, from Mitcham. .Pyppes Mead. was bought by
Garth in 1564, and acquired by Gilliat Hatfeild from the Richard Garth of his time in 1874, so
that it now forms
part of the Morden Hall Park estate. Deen City Farm has been relocated to .Bunce’s Meadow.,
once a notorious
spot for prize-fights and illegal gambling.
Tramlink’s new level footpath crossing has replaced the 100-year-old footbridge that crossed
the railway line
The 124 acres (50ha) of Morden Hall Park was left to the National Trust in 1941 by Gilliat
with the stipulation that the public should have free access to it. The low-lying northern
part, grazed by cattle as
late as the 1950s, is now managed as wetland and provides an area of flood relief. This is a
good spot for
wildlife. In particular, an island not accessible to the public, is managed as a reserve.
The main path led us past what may have been the location of Nicholas Davison’s Merton mill,
recorded in the
17th century and gone without trace. Near here is the point where the old parishes of Merton,
Mitcham touch. The boundaries between Morden and Mitcham, and Merton and Mitcham, follow the
winding stream that represents an early course of the river. Metal posts survive from a
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 10
crossing where channels meet, and a romantic Gothick bridge in burr-brick makes a pretty
picture. The two
white-painted iron bridges were made by Robert Legg of London late in the 19th century.
Morden Hall dates from c.1750 and may be a re-build. It served for many years as a school, a
hospital annex and
as council offices, and is now a restaurant pub. The curving avenue of limes and chestnuts from
to the house was planted by Gilliat Hatfeild around 1870. What is now the park is made up of
small parcels of
land that each once had a name, such as the field once called Small Profits. Monty reminded us
that the estate
had too rich a history to be covered in an afternoon walk. He has deposited detailed notes with
Trust and the Wandle Industrial Museum.
At the conclusion of the walk Lionel Green, the Chairman, thanked Monty for a fascinating
account of one
stretch of our historic river.
(The Society has produced several booklets which relate to this stretch of the Wandle,
Bridge, Phipps Mill and Bunce’s Meadow; The Patent Steam Washing Factory; andMorden Hall.
at meetings, from libraries, or from Peter Hopkins.)
JACK DIMMER V.C.
the Evelyn Jowett Memorial Lecture for 2000, given by David Harrison at Merton Civic Centre on
Thursday 12 October 2000
In his introduction our President, Scott McCracken, paid a tribute to Evelyn Jowett, librarian
who was a gracious lady. He went on to remind us of the horrifying statistics of World War I,
dead, World War II with over 53,000,000, and the Spanish Flu epidemic that killed 19,000,000 in
Wimbledon Roll of Honour had 9000 names of those who served in the first World War, of whom
killed, or died of their wounds.
part of p15 of A Record of the
Honoured Men of Wimbledon &
Merton who fell in the Great
War 1914-1918 London 1921
David set the scene for his talk by showing us slides of old Wimbledon, from 1865 to 1910. My
of Ely’s and Russell’s premises, with groups standing in the middle of the road having a
relaxed gossip in the
sunshine in 1905. Don’t try this on your way home today, children!
Jack Dimmer was born at Lambeth in 1883, the son of a railway labourer, and later the family
Griffiths Road, Wimbledon. He was a shy, retiring boy, but still joined clubs and various
societies, and he
attended Rutlish School. He went on to join the army in 1901. With a talent for surveying and
he may have spent time in the Royal Engineers.
In November 1914 he was a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Forces, serving with
Royal Rifle Corps.
Whilst in action he was wounded three times, but he fought on despite his wounds until finally
his machine gun
was struck. Only then did he retire from the battle-line to seek medical aid. It was for his
courage on this
occasion that he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Promotion soon followed.
While recovering from his wounds in England he resumed his interest in the Boy Scouts movement
During further service he won the Military Cross and was twice mentioned in dispatches.
Early in 1918 he married May Bayley-Parker, widow of the man who owned the Axminster Carpet
(The marriage was childless.) Three months later, back in France, as Lieutenant-Colonel in the
Regiment, he was killed at St Quentin leading his troops into action on horseback. He was 34
years of age.
Our thanks to David for an interesting and entertaining evening.
We should also like to thank Sarah Gould, Merton Heritage Officer, for allowing us to use the
for David’s lecture, and for all her support.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 11
ERIC MONTAGUE has untangled another strand of Mitcham’s history:
THE ODWAYS, OR OTWAYS, OF MITCHAM – A MILITARY FAMILY
Until recently I knew very little about the Odway family, who seemed to have arrived in Mitcham
1660, and apparently left the parish some 25 years later. In fact, this assumption is now known
to be very far
from the truth, and in the Odways, or Otways, as they are also known, we have an interesting
family who not
only made their home in Mitcham, but for over half a century played their part in the formative
years of the
The first Odway of whom I had become aware from consulting the more readily available local
Francis, who the militia levy assessments for Mitcham show to have followed a .Mr Shelton.
around the time
of the Restoration as the occupant (probably the leaseholder) of a large house at Colliers
Wood.1 This we can
identify as the Tudor mansion which replaced or incorporated the house known as
.Jenkingranger., of which
there are records going back to the late 15th century.2 During the 16th century the house had
been the residence
of the Rutland family, but in or about 1619 it passed into the hands of Theophilus Brereton.
The Breretons seem
to have moved away from Mitcham after Theophilus’s death in 1638, but they retained ownership,
house at Colliers Wood to a succession of tenants until some time during the reign of Charles
Within a few years of Charles’s accession the name of Francis Odway, as the person liable to
pay the militia
levy, was replaced by that of Alexander Odway (who we can assume was a son). Unfortunately the
records (now at Surrey History Centre) cease in 1680, and nothing is known of the occupation of
messuage. at Colliers Wood for the next 60 years. In 1664, while it was still the residence of
the house was assessed for tax on the basis of seven hearths, which places it amongst the more
properties in Mitcham (it was certainly the largest in the north-west of the parish) and one of
a group of a dozen
or so of comparable size occupied in the main by London merchants, lawyers or professional
The second Odway of whom I was aware was John, to whom in November 1680 John Cranmer, lord of
manor of Mitcham, a major local landowner and a merchant in the City of London, granted a
building lease of
the .parcel of Ground called Cannons (heretofore .The Grove.) with the Orchard, Gardens, fish-
house and appurtenances containing together 12 acres.. The lease was for 51 years commencing
Lady Day at a rental of £12 per annum, and Odway, who covenanted to lay out £250 in rebuilding
House called the Parsonage., agreed to vacate on the expiration of the lease.4
The new house is readily identifiable today as the southernmost part of The Canons, off Madeira
Road. In the
Cranmer estate records from the early part of the 18th century it is frequently referred to as
.the house that
Odway built., which might be taken to mean that he was merely responsible for its construction.
is unlikely in view of Odway’s willingness to expend £250 on the redevelopment and his taking a
long lease. It
is almost certainly not the correct interpretation, as we shall see below.
Locally records from the late 17th and early 18th centuries are not plentiful, and give no
indication as to who
actually lived at The Canons in the years immediately following its completion. Nearly 40 years
John Cranmer’s son James noted in his estate book that in 1717 the property was in the tenure
of a widowed
lady, Mrs Cross, paying an annual ground rent of £12 – significantly, the same as that paid by
John Odway. It
was she, presumably, who had acquired the unexpired portion of the original lease from the
John (as we know) having died in 1702.
Research conducted recently by Daphne Bradbury, a descendant of the Westmorland/Irish branch of
has provided us with much more information, and whilst questions both old and new remain
individual members are beginning to emerge as real people rather than mere names. The spelling
surname has varied, but .Otway. is to be found in documents from as early as the 13th century,
and is now
preferred by their descendants.5 For consistency this is the spelling used from now on.
Contrary to my original assumption, the family was not entirely new to Mitcham, and a Thomas
described as a .husbandman., or tenant farmer, is mentioned in several wills during the latter
part of Henry
VIII’s reign. Furthermore, an Otway marriage and two burials were recorded in the Mitcham
registers early in
the reign of Elizabeth I. The surname .Ottye. or .Ottway. occurs in two instances in Tooting
early in the 17th
century, but although there may be a connection – the name, after all, is not all that common –
nothing has come
to light to show conclusively that they were related to the Otways of Colliers Wood.
The baptisms of three daughters born to Audrey (or .Audriel.), wife of Francis Otway, are
recorded as taking
place at Mitcham between 1655 and 1663. The couple were married in 1640 at West Hoathly, in
Sussex, and on
the evidence of their son John being baptised at the church of St Dunstan, Stepney, in 1647, we
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 12
that they had moved to Colliers Wood from an address in London during the early years of the
When the Otways. second daughter was christened, in 1657, the parish clerk of Mitcham
merited being styled .gent.. In 1661/2 (i.e. early in 1662 by our calendar) Francis .Ottway. of
as .Innholder., contributed five shillings as a .Free and Voluntary Present. to the sum being
collected in Surrey
as a gift to Charles II.6 As we have seen, Francis paid hearth tax in 1664, and presumably
spent the remainder of
his life in Mitcham. He died in September 1680, and his burial is recorded in the parish
No indication is given in the local records as to where precisely Francis Otway lived, but it
would be perverse to
place him anywhere than at Colliers Wood. We have seen there is evidence that he resided in the
parish as early
as 1655, but unfortunately this conflicts somewhat with the militia levy assessments, which do
not list him as
taxpayer until the early 1660s. An explanation could be that in the 1650s he was occupying
Shelton’s house (or
perhaps merely part of it) on a sub-lease, and did not take over the property in its entirety
(and hence acquire
liability for tax) until about 1663. However, the transition to owner or lessee-occupation had
place by 1664 when the assessments for hearth tax were made. Otway’s description as an
.innholder. is 1662 is
interesting. Was he at one time using the rambling old house (or part of it) as an inn?
Jenkingranger was of course
situated on the major highway out of London leading to Epsom, which Pepys tells us was already
resort by the 1660s, on account of its mineral well and other attractions. Unfortunately the
records of the Surrey
licensing magistrates are incomplete, so, once again, we are left to theorize.
Before turning to what Daphne Bradbury’s work can tell us about John Otway and The Canons,
to be made of Ensign Charles Otway of the Duke of Monmouth’s Regiment of Foot. He saw service
during the war between France and Spain for control of the Netherlands, and in November 1678
to the rank of lieutenant. The connection (if any) with the Mitcham Otways has yet to be
Charles is of interest in that many of John Otway’s sons and grandsons, like him, followed
careers in the army as
John Otway was said to be .of Mitcham. when, in about 1670, he married Auria James. She was the
daughter of Walter James, a member of a Kentish land-owning family whose alleged recusancy had
under threat of sequestration by 1610. In 1575 an ancestor, Martin James, Remembrancer of the
Court of Exchequer,
had acquired Romden Place (now known as Romden Castle), at Smarden in Kent, and on the death of
in 1664 Auria, an only child and heiress to the family estate, inherited what remained of their
houses and lands.7
Title to Romden passed eventually to her son James, and successive Otways retained possession
of the estate
until 1786. The background to John and Auria’s betrothal is not known, but her age and social
standing, and the
property she most likely brought with her, causes one to suspect that the marriage might have
been arranged, as
was so often the case, rather than purely the outcome of a romantic liaison.
The union was certainly fruitful, for Auria, who died in about 1698 whilst still in her mid-
40s, gave birth over the
space of less than 30 years to no fewer than 20 children. Thirteen of them, seven boys and six
girls, survived her,
and 12 were living when John’s will was proved in 1702. With the exception of the eldest son,
James, who was
born in about 1672, and a daughter named Margaret, the names of all the children appear in the
registers. We are thus led to conclude that John and his family were resident in the parish
from 1675 until at least
1698, when his youngest daughter, Hester, was born. This raises the question as to whether John
and Auria, with
their numerous small children, were living at Colliers Wood until about 1681, when the Canons
would have been
ready for occupation. There seems a strong possibility that John was prompted to negotiate the
with Cranmer as his father became increasingly frail, and termination of the latter’s tenure of
the Colliers Wood
house could be foreseen.
Following the detection early in 1696 of a Jacobite conspiracy against the throne and life of
William III, Parliament
passed an Act of Association requiring holders of civil and military posts and all .citizens of
substance. to sign
a pledge of allegiance to His Majesty. John Otway’s name was among the 182 signatures collected
This is not only an indication of his standing in the community, but also confirmation that the
Otways were still
resident in Mitcham, presumably at The Canons, at least until the closing years of the 17th
century. The fact that
in Mitcham there were so many persons of ‘substance. affirming their loyalty to the King is
Cox, writing in 1700, described Mitcham as .a Village well inhabited and much frequented by the
London..9 His observations certainly seem justified. Tax assessments made 30 years earlier show
the parish had
approximately 230 houses, from which we can postulate a population of a little over 1000. The
182 names on the
oath roll would of course have included more than one signatory from many of the larger
households, of which
there were evidently several at the time – according to the Index Villaris, compiled a few
years before the Act,
.Micham. contained the seats of one baronet, one knight, and more than three .gentlemen
authorised to bear
arms.. Living in the vicinity of Mitcham Common, we are told, were .three more gentlemen of the
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 13
In 1693 James Otway married Elizabeth Lightfoot at the church of St James, Duke’s Place, in
London. Three of
their children were buried at Mitcham between 1696 and 1699, and two sons, Richard and Francis,
at the parish church in 1700 and 1702 respectively. This suggests that even before his mother’s
death in 1698
James, with Elizabeth and their own growing brood, may have moved into the family home at
Mitcham. By this
time James had probably already purchased a commission in the army, for in 1699, when his
was buried at Mitcham, he was described by the parish clerk as .Capt.James Otway.. The
following year his
servant James Whitehall was interred at Mitcham. James’s career undoubtedly necessitated
from home, and we can imagine Elizabeth taking charge of the household at The Canons after her
died. A picture of a close-knit extended family thus emerges, the house enlivened with children
generations, plus parents, grandparents and their servants. Death, sadly, was not an uncommon
we have seen, several of the children died in infancy, and John Otway, James’s father, died in
June 1702. There
is also an entry in the parish register recording the burial in February 1708 of .Widow Otway.
we cannot be sure of the relationship, could conceivably have been Audrey, the wife of Francis
Colliers Wood, and James’s grandmother.
In all, six of John Otway’s sons, five of them baptised in Mitcham, secured Commissions in the
the eldest, appears likely to have seen service in the War of the Spanish Succession. He rose
to become Colonel
of the 9th (Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, and in 1725 was stationed in Minorca, where he died. He
was buried in
Smarden church. Francis, who was born in 1676 and died in 1701 (he was buried at Mitcham)
position of ensign to a Captain Sediere in 1697, serving in Col. Edward Dutton Colt’s Regiment
of Foot in the
West Indies. He became second lieutenant 18 months later. John, the third son to live to
manhood and who was
born in 1682, held a lieutenancy in the 2nd Dragoon Guards from 1702 until 1706, when he became
in Lord Lovelace’s newly raised Regiment of Foot. Charles, who was baptised at Mitcham in 1686,
was probably the most colourful career of the five, serving in the North American colonies.11
He was appointed
colonel of Lord Mohun’s Regiment of Foot in 1717, and retained the rank until his death in
regiment, the 35th Foot, garrisoned Fort William Henry on Lake George (in what became New York
1757, and two years later was on General Wolfe’s right flank in the assault on the Heights of
Quebec. Stephen, John’s fifth son to survive childhood, was 18 when he first appeared in the
army lists as a
second lieutenant in Colonel Charles Churchill’s Regiment of Marines. He became a major in his
Regiment of Foot in 1743, and was still serving in the same corps five years later. Finally,
Thomas, who was
born in 1695, held the rank of first lieutenant, also in the 35th Foot, by 1721, and had been
promoted to captain
three years later, when he was stationed at Fort St Philip.
In 1717 James became the sole possessor of Romden, having bought out his brothers. By this time
portion of the lease of The Canons had been relinquished, and the Otways had severed their
Daphne Bradbury has traced the fortunes of the Westmorland branch of the family from c.1480 to
day, following a trail that leads to Ireland, Canada, the West Indies, Australia and New
Zealand. For her, the
Mitcham research was only part of her quest, but it has provided us with invaluable information
on the early
occupancy of one of Mitcham’s best-known .heritage. houses.
1 Surrey History Centre. Mitcham Militia Levy Assessments 1655-80 LA5/8/1-2
2 Surrey History Centre. Court Rolls, Manor of Ravensbury
3 Surrey Hearth Tax 1664 Surrey Record Society Vol.XVII (1940)
4 Surrey History Centre. James Cranmer’s Rent and Memorandum Book 1717-49 3 470/5
Research notes compiled by Daphne Bradbury, 25 Forest Dene Court, Cedar Road, Sutton. November
6 Transcribed by C.Webb and published by West Surrey Family History Society (quoted by Daphne
7 W.B.Worsfold .Romden Place and its Restoration. Archæologia Cantiana (Transactions of the
Kent Archaeological Society) XLIII (1931) pp.73
84 (quoted by Daphne Bradbury)
8 C.Webb .The Association of Oath Rolls 1695. Genealogists. Magazine 21:4 (December 1983)
(quoted by Daphne Bradbury)
9 T.Cox A Topographical, Ecclesiastical and Natural History of Surrey 1700 p.380
10 Quoted in E.Walford Greater London – A Narrative of its History, its people and its Places
II 1884 p.528
11 G.D.Martineau A History of the Old Belfast Regiment and the Regiment of Sussex 1701-1953
(quoted by Daphne Bradbury)
Some of the dates of death of the canons of Merton Priory at the Dissolution shown on page 7 of
No.135 were incorrect.
Those of John Hayward and John Martyn are not known, and the dates shown should be deleted.
died in 1569, and Richard Benese in 1546. Please amend your Bulletin accordingly. The mistakes
editor’s, and she apologises to Lionel Green, who was the author, and to readers.
On page 15 of Bulletin No.134 for .Middleton Hall. please read .Middleton Road..
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 14
JUDITH GOODMAN wonders at the life and career of .a clever liberal woman“
For Bulletin No.122 (June 1997) I wrote about George Warrington Steevens, brilliant war
correspondent for the
Daily Mail, and author of With Kitchener to Khartum, who died of fever at the age of 30 during
the siege of
Ladysmith in January 1900. Steevens and his wife lived at Abbey Gate House, which used to stand
on the site
of the Wimbledon Palais building – which has itself been pulled down this year. All I knew then
of Mrs Steevens
was that the poet W.E.Henley, a close friend of Steevens, described the marriage as .a thing
apart from the
ordinary course of human life, [which] was in the event as fortunate as in the beginning it had
It is quite an odd story.
Christina Adelaide Ethel Athanasia Stewart was born (it is thought) in 1839, which makes her 30
than Steevens. Her mother, Mrs Duncan Stewart, when widowed in 1869 established herself as a
hostess. In her circle were society people (the .Gore House set.), stage people (Kean,
McReady), artists (Landseer,
Whistler), and writers such as Washington Irving and Henry James. The latter described her as
picturesque & agreeable old lady.. Christina had her own salon along the same lines, and to
James she was .a
clever, liberal woman who invites me to dinner every four or five days.. She had married in
Alexander Rogerson of Wamphray, an elderly alcoholic Scotsman, who died in the same year as her
In the following year Christina became a key figure in the scandalous divorce case in which Sir
MP was cited as co-respondent by Donald Crawford, a lawyer and politician. Christina was a
close friend of
Mrs Crawford, and also of Dilke, whom she warned ahead of the event that Crawford would file a
before the trial she broke down and was unable to give evidence. The bizarre outcome of this
trial was that
though Mrs Crawford was found to have committed adultery with Dilke, the judge ruled that he
had not committed
adultery with her. Dilke finally invoked the Queen’s Proctor to re-open the case. However the
verdict stood. In
this second trial Christina was Crawford’s most important witness. (Christina’s lawyer brother
acted for Crawford.)
Despite the fact that no-one can be judged to have given reliable evidence, a great deal of
among the country’s rulers was revealed. Modern biographers have been hard on Christina and
suggest that she
acted as she did out of spite, as a discarded mistress of Dilke. Henry James took a more
charitable view. .I am
sorry to say that my old friend Mrs Rogerson has been much mixed up with the whole business,
by her misfortune than by her fault.. In any case the career of Sir Charles Dilke, once
expected to become Prime
Minister, was over.
Christina now devoted herself to good works, taking a house in the woods near Hindhead and
running it as a
holiday home for deprived children from the London slums. The publisher Grant Richards went to
a party there:
.I was told that my hostess was as clever as she was eccentric, that she was old, and that she
wore her hair short
like a man.. By now she was writing for the Pall Mall Gazette, which was how she met Steevens,
who was then
with that paper. They married in 1894, when he was 24. She gave her age as 45, but was probably
to Richards, .[I]n spite of her years she possessed still a fascination that made most young
men her slaves.
Indeed George Steevens would be more than her slave … Her husband he became. A remarkably
and capable wife he must have found her. She did away with his shyness. The young Oxford Fellow
college became a man of the world, a scholar who wore his learning with spirit and gallantry.
They used to say
at the time that Mrs Rogerson could have had any other of the clever young Pall Mall men as a
husband had she
not accepted Steevens. I could quite believe it to be true.“
They lived at Russell Mansions, Bloomsbury, briefly, before moving to the Gate House at Merton.
This was an
enormous house for a couple without family to occupy, but they entertained a lot. Richards went
Steevens from Merton Abbey to call on H.G.Wells at 41 The Avenue, Worcester Park, and Mr and
returned the call, on their new tandem bicycle.
After George Steevens. death Richards went to stay with Christina at Merton. She introduced her
Jim to him. ..George died in Jim’s arms, Grant.’
.Later I found Jim unpacking my things: ‘so you knew Mr Steevens well, Jim? Did you serve right
..Lor bless you, Sir, I never set eyes on the gentleman as far as I know. That’s only Mrs
W.H.Chamberlain who calls George Steevens .Charles Stephens. says the widow .kept up the
and turned it into a convalescent hospital for soldiers., but the latter statement is not true.
She published a book
called A Motley Crew in 1901, which did not sell, and stayed on in Merton for a few years,
probably until the
house was bought for development around 1905. She died in 1911.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 15
Let the last word be with Grant Richards. .Dear Mrs George! … When I knew her and delighted
in her society
she was already of considerable age. It was, say, thirty-five years ago. Personally, I am not
convinced that she
is dead to-day. I don’t see how she could die ….
W.H.Chamberlain Reminiscences of Old Merton London 1925
Augustus J.C.Hare Biographical Sketches London 1895
Philip Horne (ed.) Henry James: A Life in Letters London 1999
Roy Jenkins Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy London 1965
D.Nicholls Sir Charles Dilke: The Lost Prime Minister Hambledon Press 1995
Grant Richards Author Hunting London 1934
Grant Richards Memories of a Misspent Youth London 1932
W.R.Trotter The Hilltop Writers: a Victorian Colony among the Surrey Hills Lewes 1996
I am grateful to John Pile for directing me to W.R.Trotter’s interesting book, which contains a
summary and bibliography of Christina’s career.
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MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 136 – DECEMBER 2000 – PAGE 16