March 2001 – Bulletin 137
The Swan Inn – E N Montague
Mitcham in AD 1000 – E N Montague
The Mitcham Home Guard Memorial Plaque – R Turner
Saxon Merton, or ‘Battles Long Ago’ – J Pile
Merton Priory: Some 13th Century Episodes – L E Green
The Artists of Queensland Avenue – J A Goodman
and much more
PRESIDENT: J Scott McCracken BA FSA MIFA
VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Lionel Green and William Rudd
BULLETIN NO. 137 MARCH 2001
Saturday 17 March 2.30pm Mill House Ecology Centre, Mitcham
Martin Boyle: .The Wildlife of Mitcham Common.
Martin Boyle is Warden of Mitcham Common. This 185ha (460 acre) site is of particular interest
for natural history conservation, as it supports a number of different habitats. An illustrated
(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.)
Saturday 21 April 2.30pm Snuff Mill Environmental Centre
David Saxby: .Recent Work on the site of Merton Priory.
The speaker is an archaeologist with MoLAS, the Museum of London Archaeological Service. He
will bring us up to date with interpretation of this important medieval site. An illustrated
(The Snuff Mill Centre, in Morden Hall Park, is on bus routes 118, 157 and 164. Drivers use the
car-park. Take the path across the bridge; go through the gateway and turn right. The Snuff
Mill is straight
Saturday 12 May 10.45am Barbara Webb: .A Millais Walk.
Barbara Webb is kindly offering us this guided walk as a sequel to her lecture in March 2000.
details see page 16.
Saturday 26 May 2.00pm Visit to Southwark Cathedral
John and Jo Brewster
Following on from their talk about the Cathedral on 17 February, the Brewsters offer us a
tour. Meet at the Cathedral entrance.
(Southwark Cathedral is off Borough High Street, opposite London Bridge station.)
Saturday 16 June 2.30pm Martin Boyle: Mitcham Common walk
This guided walk, led by the Warden of Mitcham Common, is a sequel to March’s lecture. Meet at
the Mill House Ecology Centre, Windmill Road (see above).
The Society’s events are open to the general public, unless otherwise stated.
To mark the departure from the scene of a local landmark ERIC MONTAGUE has composed this
for a Mitcham pub: THE SWAN INN
A Swan inn at Mitcham is said to have been mentioned in the court rolls of the manor of Biggin
in 1695,1 but its location is uncertain and its subsequent history is unknown. Another Swan,
occupying the site
of the present Cricketers on Lower Green, and therefore within the jurisdiction of the manor of
described in a guide published around 1800.2 John Rocque indicated an unnamed building in the
position of the
present Swan near Figges Marsh in his map of 1741-5, but this was most likely a private house,
demolished by the time the inn (an early 19th-century building) was built.3
The last Swan inn appears by name in the land tax records for 1817, but 1808 is the first year
in which the books
carry an assessment which can be identified without question as the building demolished in
inn’s first landlord of note was George Smith, who presided over the establishment for a
quarter of a century.5
The building of the Swan at Figges Marsh could well have been an enterprise encouraged by the
profit to be
made from the phenomenal increase in road traffic which was a feature of the late 18th and
early 19th centuries.
Mitcham lay on one of the main turnpikes from London to Epsom and Brighton, and the site of the
new inn, at
the junction of roads from Streatham and Tooting, was well chosen, for it ensured that the
hostelry became the
first to be encountered by travellers approaching the village from the north.
From the time it was erected, i.e around 1807, the owner of the Swan was James Moore, lord of
the manor of
Biggin and Tamworth, but by 1846 he had evidently relinquished part of his interest to Anthony
also owned, or held on lease, the Six Bells at Colliers Wood.6 Moore lived at the manor house,
the north of the inn, and was a major landowner in the village. On the far side of the house
were the farm
buildings and herbal distillery which, by this time, had won for the firm of Potter and Moore
for the excellence of its essences of peppermint and lavender, as well as for a dozen or more
other herbs grown
for use in medicaments and toilet preparations. Summer visitors to Mitcham seldom failed to be
the sight and scents of whole fields of roses, lavender and camomile, and the constant activity
to be witnessed in
Potter and Moore’s yard was a source of fascination to travellers breaking journey at the Swan.
The end of the great era of coaching came with the development of the railway network in the
1840s and 1850s,
and the steady decline in regular through traffic during the latter part of the 19th century
would certainly have
resulted in a gradual change in the Swan’s clientele. An old photograph,7 probably taken in the
late 1860s when
the licensee was a Francis Foster,8 shows the Swan to have been a stopping place for carriers.
waggons – a far cry
from the stagecoaches half a century before, with their affluent passengers. On a few days each
the inn was once more the scene of great activity, and for countless London families on their
annual outing to the
Epsom races the Swan was a familiar landmark and place of refreshment. For much of the year,
however, it must
have been what was, until recently, a .local., patronised mainly by working people living close
James Moore died in 1851 and the bulk of his property was inherited by James Bridger, his
During Bridger’s time much of the estate was sold, and it was probably in the 1860s or 1870s
that the Swan was
acquired by Nalder and Collyer, the Croydon brewers. One of their boundary markers, a limestone
.N.&C.. inscribed on one side and .1890. on the other, was incorporated in the wall on the
northern side of the
Swan, separating the forecourt from the adjoining alleyway.
Not unexpectedly, the structure of the Swan was much altered over the years, although the
building which formed the heart of the house could still be identified quite easily from the
outside. Around 1890
Henry Vickers became the landlord, and it is almost certainly to his time that
the ground floor extension of the bars might be dated. This necessitated
abolition of the flight of stone steps which originally led up to the front door
(and no doubt for some could prove very tricky to negotiate on the way down).
The inn was closed for a short period in the early 1990s following the temporary
suspension of the licence occasioned by its having become the haunt of drug-
dealers, but after refurbishment it was re-opened within a few years, under
new management. Few patrons were now arriving by horse-drawn transport,
and the old water trough by the inn sign had long since disappeared. The beer,
moreover, was no longer from a local brewery, and it was many years since
the floors were strewn with fresh sawdust before each opening time.
Nevertheless the inn still contrived to retain something of its old atmosphere,
and, as its second centenary approached, began to enjoy the loyalty of a growing
band of .regulars..
The Swan Inn – from an old postcard
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 2
Sadly, the inevitability of change could not be withstood, and early in 1998 application was
received by Merton
Borough Council for planning consent to change of use. Demolition was proposed, followed by
of the site, in plans submitted in May 1996, and, with approval being given, the inn soon
disappeared from view
behind the contractor’s hoarding. An archaeological assessment concluded that, in view of what
was known of
the history of the site, little of significance was likely to be disturbed within the
.footprint. of the proposed new
buildings, and all signs of the Swan above ground have now disappeared.
Surrey History Centre. Court rolls of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth.
Merton Local Studies Centre. F.G.Price (ms) Eagle House and Georgian Architecture in Mitcham
J.Edwards Companion from London to Brighthelmston II (c.1789) 17
J.Rocque Environs of London 1741-45. This map is not accurate to the degree of detail needed to
identify smaller properties.
Surrey History Centre. Land Tax records. Mitcham.
Merton Local Studies Centre. Copies of local directories (Pigot etc) 1823-55
Tithe commutation register and map 1846-7. Reference 80.
Merton Local Studies Centre. Tom Francis collection of local illustrations.
Numerous licensees can be identified from local records, e.g. William Puddick, recorded as a
licensed victualler in the 1851 census; Francis Foster
(1862-78); Samuel R.Bishop (1878-90); Henry A.Vickery (1890- ); Mrs Alice Vickery (1895- );
Frank C.Whittle (1918- ); etc. All from the Post
Office and Kelly’s Directories.
A VISIT TO THE BRITISH LIBRARY
The British Library stands next to St Pancras station – two very different buildings. The
Entrance Hall of the
Library is full of light and space, something few libraries can boast. Although a British
Library Reader’s Ticket
is needed for the 11 Reading Rooms, there is much of interest that needs no ticket.
Off the Entrance Hall are the Bookshop, the Ritblat Gallery showing treasures such as the Magna
Carta and the
Gutenberg Bible, other exhibitions, and – for me, the glory of the British Library – the King’s
Library. This is a
hollow tower, glass-fronted on all four sides, containing George III’s books, donated by George
IV, for public use
forever. The tower contains a loft and a stair for staff to retrieve any book; and is artfully
lit to display the
bindings and gold lettering on the books. The whole is 17 metres tall.
Our guide provided many statistics. The Library receives over 8000
items per day, and holds over 150,000,000 separate items. There is
also a sound archive and a large stamp collection. We were shown a
terminal of the trackway which delivers items from the basements
to the reader – all done by barcodes.
To end we were shown .Turning the Pages.. The room contains VDU
screens, each with images of four .treasures.. I chose the Lindisfarne
Gospels. By stroking a finger across the screen from right to left one
opens the book; stroke again and the first page turns. A .zoom. square
in the corner enlarges a piece of text or an illustration. To close the
book, stroke from left to right. My childish mind was enchanted …
MERTON HERITAGE CENTRE
The current exhibition, Chalkdust and Satchels, continues until 21 April, and will be followed
Cat and Mouse, the story of Women’s Suffrage in Merton, which runs from May until late July.
The Heritage Centre is at The Canons, Madeira Road, Mitcham (020 8640 9387).
NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
Surrey History Centre, Woking, is holding an exhibition on tracing your house history until 28
Admission free. For further information telephone 01483 594594.
The Wandsworth Museum has an exhibition of William De Morgan ceramics from 7 April to 3 June.
Admission free. For further information telephone 020 8871 7074
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 3
As ERIC MONTAGUE was unfortunately prevented by illness from speaking at our meeting in
last year (last millennium!), the text he had prepared appears below: A guest speaker from 1086
MITCHAM IN AD 1000
For my brief offering today I am adopting as my viewpoint the winter of 1086, and will tell
what I have heard tell
of my village 86 years ago, and what it is like today.
Early this year (1086) William of Normandy’s commissioners came to Mitcham, having summoned the
and six elders (I was one of them) to a meeting. We had to give evidence as to who held the
land in the time of
King Edward, and who holds it now. They wanted to know how many heads of households there were,
into villeins (farmers and craftsmen), and cottars (cottagers and smallholders). We had to give
the hidal assessments
and value of the holdings, then and now, the number of ploughs (an indication of the amount of
much meadow and woodland there was, and how many mills. Talk about bureaucracy, but I suppose
worse now we’re in Europe!!
Of course, we didn’t exactly volunteer the information, and kept our answers to the questions
put. None of us,
except the inevitable crawler, saw why we should tell these busybodies all our business,
despite the presence of
some men-at-arms. (The oafs probably couldn’t understand what we were saying, but did look a
The French clerics wrote it all down. Of course, they made mistakes (they couldn’t even spell
the names of our
vills properly, but then I must admit our Surrey accent is a bit difficult to understand). The
draft was checked later
by a separate group, so there can’t have been any obvious errors. The whole lot has been sent
to William at
Winchester. All in one year! Of course, they couldn’t have done it so quickly if the country
hadn’t been organised
into our English system of counties, hundreds and tithings. The final account – .Domesday Book.
we are calling
it – presumably meets the Conqueror’s requirements. It had to be a summary – it’ll be called
Domesday, but I bet it stands as a record for all time – folks are already saying it’s the only
one of its kind in the
But I must now go back to the year 1000. It was beyond my time (I believe I was born in 1010).
I do remember
when we had a Danish king – Cnut was his name – and for 25 years under him and his son England
kingdom with Denmark and Norway. Danish merchants have long been familiar in London, and in
there was a lot of shipping passing between us and the Scandinavians. Some Danish families were
living in parts
of Surrey, and on the whole we got on well enough. I think the Sweyne family, who are big
Tooting, came from across the North Sea.
Perhaps I should also ask if there are any Frenchies in the audience? Individually they are all
right, but they take
some understanding, in more ways than one. No? Then I can speak freely.
My people claimed to be ENGLISH through and through, although I must admit when I used to ask
grandfather, he said his people were Middle Saxons from north of the Thames, and my mother’s
folk were from
Wessex – near Athelney where Alfred sheltered from the Vikings. There was certainly some
British and Irish
blood further back. Mongrels, I suppose you might call us – the French do, but who are they to
But I am still digressing.
My grandfather could of course remember the year of Our Lord 1000, when the World was to come
to an end.
Folks had been told Christ the Saviour would return to claim his own, but it didn’t happen.
Instead we suffered
from weak kings, squabbling between Wessex and Mercia, and with the Scots causing trouble, not
fresh Viking raids. Being near the Thames we saw more than our share of looting – mostly by big
blond louts out
for anything they could lay their hands on. Hopefully things will now settle down under William
and his Normans,
who are partly Viking anyway. I must say they are a brutal crowd, but efficient for all that.
In the year 1000, as now, Mitcham and the adjoining vill of Wicford (as we call your Lower
Mitcham) lay in the
Hundred of Wallington. The hundreds are divisions of the county for various government and
and were, I.ve heard tell, set up by Alfred the Great (but they may go back before that).
includes 13 townships and villages, including Cheam, Sutton, Beddington, Carshalton and Morden
Merton, which is in Brixton Hundred). Our meeting-place is at Wallington, and here trials and
other legal matters
are settled, and the tithing men from the vills around are accustomed to assemble and debate.
Place-names tell something of our beginnings. Literally, Mitcham, Michelham or Mic Ham is Old
English for .a
big place., but here probably refers to the large area of fertile land to the west, within the
bend of the Wandle.
Wicford (or Whitford, as the Norman scribes wrote it) means the ford serving the place, the Wic
from the Latin Vicus. Sutton is the south farm, and Wallington comes from the farm of the
.Welsh., as the early
Saxon settlers called the British already living here. .Ing. is an early place-name element, so
I reckon Wallington
must go back a long way.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 4
We have no village centre in Mitcham that you would recognise, and the various homesteads and
scattered over the whole area from north to south and westwards to Merton (the .farm by the
boundary between Mitcham and Merton – the .Michamingemerke. – is marked by the Hlidaburnan (you
the Wandle) and has been recognised for hundreds of years.
For local matters we elders of Mitcham and Wicford still meet at the old folkmoot site in
Mitcham. Many paths
lead to this spot, and it is said that this is the burial place of one of the leaders long ago,
who rallied the people,
British and Saxon alike, to defend themselves in times of danger. Overlooking the moot site,
which is surrounded
by a low bank and ditch, stands the cross erected, I think, by the Holy Fathers from Chertsey
Abbey. They have
held lands in North Mitcham and in Tooting, either side of the Graveney, for well over 300
years. There is also
a church at Tooting.
This brings me to the land-holdings in Mitcham. I cannot remember the names of any of the
around 1000, but it is recorded that in the time of the saintly King Edward of blessed memory
there were some
half a dozen men holding land direct of the King. None of these estates was particularly large,
and there was no
manor as such. You can work out roughly where these were from the hidal assessments and values,
regard to the good and bad land.
Brictric, with the biggest holding, ranked as a minor thegn and held his land direct of the
King. It included most
of north Mitcham to the Streatham and Croydon borders. Aelmer held much of central Mitcham, but
reason the scribes merely put it down as in Wallington hundred. He also held the land direct
from the King, and
had other estates in Surrey. Edmer and Lank held estates in Wicford, along the banks of the
Wandle. These were
less extensive, but more valuable, because they were on rich alluvial soils. The other lesser
Alfward (Colliers Wood), Wolfward (Biggin), Ledmer and some other men whose names I have
In all, our two communities were made up of ten villeins, 16 or so cottagers and five ‘slaves.
or bonded men.
With their families we totalled perhaps 150 – men, women and children.
What befell Britric, Aelmer and the other landowners, I do not know, but they are no longer
with us. Several of
them, I suspect, took up arms and joined the fyrd when Harold Godwinson and his Anglo-Danish
south from defeating Tostig and Hardrada at Stamford Bridge. The new threat that autumn of 1066
William of Normandy – the Bastard, we call him, when there are no French around. They had
landed on the
beach at Pevensey with hundreds of heavily armed horsemen and swarms of hangers-on, all hoping
for a share
of the spoils. Harold’s troops were tired out, and I imagine our lords with a few others from
hereabouts fell with
Harold and his housecarls on the slopes of Senlac Hill.
Except for Odbert, who held a mortgage on part of Britric’s land, and was free .to go where he
of our English landlords are with us now, and we have Normans in charge. Mostly they are
been granted extensive estates all over the kingdom by William, and we only know of them by
holdings in Mitcham are either managed by bailiffs, or sub-let to other Frenchmen.
Life goes on, however, very much as it did in my grandfather’s time, and with good arable and
pasture we are
kept busy. There are two large commonfields, east and west, and the south field near Beddington
is mostly meadow. The demesne farms of the landlords have enclosures and also strips in the
which we, the villeins and cottars, are required to work as part of our .rent.. Other dues and
taxes are paid in
produce and livestock from the small garden plots or tofts we have attached to our houses, as
well as strips
scattered amongst the various furlongs in the open fields. Some of the villeins also have small
assarts or enclosures.
Cottars are the poorest in the vill, having no lands of their own worth speaking of, and are
Some are little better off than slaves. Villeins, even, can no longer go where they wish, as
was the case in King
Edward’s time. Those who can, make a bit on the side part-time, following trades like
or rough potting. Many of our womenfolk, apart from household chores and helping out in the
fields, can spin
and weave. We all rally round to help with building new dwellings, and in re-thatching.
In the time of King Edward, and presumably in the year 1000, there were water-powered corn
mills, one at
Wicford and the other on the Pipp brook, near the bridge you call Phipps Bridge. Both belong to
the lords. They
fell into disrepair after the Conquest, but have since been put back into working order, and
are valuable assets
to their owners.
Finally, a great boon to those of us with common rights, is the vast amount of rough grazing we
jealously guard against trespassers. Situated mainly on the poorer land to the east, this
provides fodder for our
cattle, geese and other livestock. Turf and brushwood are our main fuels, gathered from the
waste by those with
rights of turbary, plus what we may take .by hook or by crook. from the lords. woodland, when
granted by the reeves.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 5
THE KINGSTON PROJECT -a talk by PETER TILLEY on 20 January 2001
Peter Tilley came to the Snuff Mill to tell us about the Kingston Project. The aims of the
Project are to build a
comprehensive database containing information about people and buildings of Kingston between
1900, to re-create the life-cycles of the residents of the town, disseminate the data to the
and colleges and to publish the results to reach a wider audience.
The Project came about from a feasibility study Peter carried out as part of his degree course.
then offered to provide accommodation and computing facilities. Volunteers had to be found to
do the work.
Peter, having owned a software company before retiring, wrote the software for input and to
produce the reports
from the data.
At this stage the information from the available censuses has been entered and work is
progressing with the
parish registers. Eventually extractions from directories, newspapers, cemeteries, and other
records will be
One of the first slides Peter showed us was of a map of 1863 which was mainly open fields with
in Kingston, Surbiton and New Malden. The census indicated the growth in the population over
being researched: 12,144 in 1851 to 44,237 in 1891. Examples of the Enumerators Books showed
data came from. One of the problems was the 19th century handwriting; confusion between the
long ‘s. and an
.f., also between double .l. and double .t. where the later were not crossed.
Peter talked about the information that could be obtained by analysing the data in different
ways. Amongst the
examples of occupations is an .Ankle Beater.. This was a young boy who helped drive cattle to
main occupation of single women was domestic service, over 70% in 1851, which figure rose
steadily over the
period. An interesting point came from some graphs showing the numbers of men and women against
ages. Whilst there were roughly the same number of both sexes there were many more females than
males in the
15 . 30 age group in the years 1861 . 1891, this was caused by the number in service. Some of
the large houses
had 8, 10 or more servants, Peter gave examples of the Duke de Charteris and Charlotte Finch.
Many of these
were not born in the area. Looking at contemporary advertisements for domestic staff general
for .country girls..
There were a number of lodging houses in Kingston recorded in the census, many in relatively
Peter showed us pictures of Water Lane (1895) and Harrow Passage (1897) illustrating the areas.
In 1851 and
1861 20 or more lodgers were recorded in one dwelling, in one case 53. The numbers were over 40
and 1881. Interesting happenings occurred in 1891, “26 men, 9 women and 10 children went and
information”, at 44 Thames Street and buildings at the back 76 single men also went away
In the earlier years of the census many of the children in the 7 to 11 age group had
occupations, but in 1891 the
lower age was then 10 years old. Peter suggested that this was probably due to the Education
Act. He felt that
younger children were still being employed but the parents were not declaring it to the
occupations seen included errand boy, farmer’s boy, apprentice, page boy, servant and one
occurrence of Drummer
for 3rd Surrey Militia. In 1851 the most popular names were William, then John, for males and
Elizabeth, for females. This continued during the period to 1891 although the percentages
reduced each time.
Peter then talked about the Benson family showing the changes in the household.
1851 Head, wife and 4 children
1861 Head, (no wife) and 5 children
Sarah Fisher (housekeeper) and 2 children
1871 Head, housekeeper (Sarah Fisher) and 5 children
1881 Head, wife (Sarah) and now all children have the name of Benson
Peter suggested that the wife originally went away between 1851 and 1861 and a housekeeper was
The wife then died between 1871 and 1881 which made a new marriage possible to the housekeeper.
A pilot study of Bletchingley was carried out which incorporated extracts from the parish
registers with the
census. The life cycles generated from the data detail all the known events, from baptism to
burial, in chronological
order. Peter displayed some examples. Elizabeth Fielder, who had 4 different birth-places from
1851 to 1891.
John Walter, aged 77, who re-married after his first wife died to a 20 year old girl. Two
Collisters who only aged
just over 30 years during the 50 years between 1841 and 1891, Mary giving ages of 9, 19, 25,
30, 35, 44 and
Sarah 2, 11, 19, 26, 34, 39. Indented family trees may also be produced, at this time only for
the male line as
female change their name on marriage.
At the completion of the talk a number of the audience asked questions to which Peter
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 6
A lecture by John and Jo Brewster at The Canons on Saturday 17 February
This was a most professional presentation, packed with information, but lively, amusing and
brisk. By the end
we felt we couldn’t wait to go on the Brewsters. guided tour in May!
In contrast to the serenity of Winchester or Salisbury, Southwark Cathedral is in the very
midst of noise and
bustle, with commercial London right at its doors. And it has been so for many centuries.
There was a nunnery on the site in the 9th century, built with the proceeds of a ferry across
the river. The story
of the founding of the nunnery as told to John Stow by the last prior is somewhat macabre and
Overs, who made a fortune from running the ferry, was extremely mean. He thought that if he
pretended to be
dead, his servants would fast until after his funeral, so saving money. He laid himself out,
but the servants
decided to celebrate instead. When he rose in his wrath they were terrified; one promptly hit
him over the head,
and killed him. His grieving daughter retired to a nunnery and used his money to found the
church of St Mary,
later renamed St Mary Overy (over the water), and bequeathed to it the income from the ferry.
Later it was a priory of Augustinian canons, as well as the parish church. Rebuilt after a fire
in 1206, it was
London’s first Gothic church. By the 19th century the nave was in ruins and open to the sky.
remains from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and the nave was rebuilt 100 years ago. With the
creation of the
new diocese it became a cathedral in 1905, and is dedicated to St Mary and St Saviour.
(Previously it had been
in Winchester diocese, and then briefly in that of Rochester.)
After the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the priory buildings and surroundings
were used for
many purposes, such as a Delft pottery, linen starching and monumental masonry. Southwark was
control of the City, and hence was also the site of bear-baiting, brothels and theatres.
There are many marvels to be seen inside. As you look down the long nave you see at the
crossing the magnificent
brass chandelier of 1680. Behind the high altar is the screen installed by Bishop Fox in 1520.
The statues are
The 13th-century retrochoir is the oldest complete part of the cathedral. Here several
Protestant martyrs were
tried in the reign of Mary Tudor. Of the four chapels, one is a Lady chapel; the others are
dedicated to St
Christopher, St Frances of Assisi with St Elizabeth of Hungary, and St Andrew. This latter
chapel is now
dedicated to prayer for those with HIV and AIDS. Another focus of modern thought is the
memorial at the back
of the nave to the victims of the Marchioness disaster in 1989.
Most tourists probably head for the Shakespeare memorial and the Harvard chapel. With the Globe
theatres nearby, St Saviour’s was the actors. church. Shakespeare’s brother Edmond was buried
here, as were
John Fletcher and Philip Massinger. The Shakespeare memorial, by Henry McCarthy, dates from
Harvard chapel (Blomfield 1907) commemorates John Harvard, founder of the university, who was
here in 1607.
We were told about the windows by C.E.Kempe, a later follower of the pre-Raphaelites, who
always put his
trademark of a wheatsheaf in a corner. His fondness for borders of .ecclesiastical seaweed. was
When we visit the cathedral we shall see many other interesting things, such as the .Nonsuch.
memorials to a diversity of people, including Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, who
the King James Bible, Wenceslas Hollar, who did a prospect of the Thames from the tower, Lionel
.quack., and Abraham Newland of the Bank of England.
This lecture was given at The Canons, which stands on land given to the priory of St Mary Overy
parishioners of Mitcham, and was farmed to provide revenue – so another connection with the
canons in the present Borough of Merton. This meeting was very well attended, and we all had an
and informative afternoon.
MERTON PRIORY CHAPTER HOUSE
Service of Nones on Sunday 6 May at 3pm to celebrate the foundation of the Priory by the Wandle
in May 1117.
All are welcome.
and “Music, Minstrels & Instruments in the age of St Thomas a Becket”
lecture recital by MARY REMNANT, on Monday 7 May at 7.30pm – £10 (£5 concessions)
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 7
LOCAL HISTORY WORKSHOPS
Friday 8 December 2000: Ten members attended.
!!!!!Lionel Green began, with some events in the history of Merton Priory 1200-1240. When, in
bishop of London tried to conduct a visitation at Westminster Abbey the matter went to
arbitration. One of
the panel was the prior of Merton, and another had been a deacon here. St Edmund Rich (d.1240)
time at the priory. (see Lionel’s text on page 13)
Merton: The Twentieth Century has a picture of a bus in Hartfield Road on page 49.Bill Rudd
the actual date that the photograph would have been taken. He referred to the make and model of
but particularly to the advert for Wild Justice, a play at the Haymarket Theatre, and had
written for information.
This came from the Theatre Museum, who were able to say when the play had been presented.
Bill then mentioned the LAMAS item on page 4 of December’s Bulletin about painted
buildings. By standing on the steps of Wimbledon Theatre one for Sears could be seen across the
There was one for a cinema on the William Morris Hall in the Broadway. Members would keep a
!!!!!Rosemary Turner showed her Merton Priory project to the meeting, which included many
maps. She was asked to consider depositing a copy with Merton Local Studies Centre.
!!!!!Tony Scott wondered why Sir Arthur Bliss Court in Mitcham was so named, as there did not
seem to be any
connection between him and this area. A plaque in the entrance had been unveiled by Lady Bliss,
Investigations would be made. This led on to the renaming of the White Hart, a few yards from
here, as the
Hooden on the Green. A hooden is evidently a Kentish hobby-horse. Displays relating to the
history of the
building have been retained in a back room.
!!!!!Don Fleming had attended a talk in Sutton given by a policeman, who referred to people
living in Wards. He
wondered when the usage for the term for an area of a town came about. Don will research this.
discussion on the police usage of .manor. and .patch.. [Ward: a division of the four northern
England and in some of the southern counties of Scotland. The Oxford Companion to Local and
History 1996. Ward: district of a town. Nuttall’s Pronouncing Dictionary c1900]
Continuing on a previous theme (Bulletins 134 p.12, 135 p.15)
Judith Goodman showed us copies of pictures by Harry Bush
and his wife (see p.14). She then read an extract from the
Merton & Morden News (1943) about pictures by John Piper
for the British Restaurant in the Congregational Chapel,
Morden Road, Merton (illustrated right). The pictures are
believed to have been destroyed when the chapel was
demolished to make way for a block of flats.
Eric Montague showed an architectural report on the Canons,
and said he hoped there would be an archaeological survey
carried out on the grounds. There was a picture in the Local
Studies Centre showing a number of outbuildings. Could this
be done in conjunction with the Archaeology Weekend in July next? Eric then said that deeds
Hopkins was working on gave details of the Mitcham Park Estate area, which enabled the history
traced from medieval times. Following an enquiry Eric had discovered that the iron gate to
had been rescued by Jim Berry, one-time Director of Parks, and was now at Cannizaro. He showed
of it. Jim Berry’s slides and notes have been deposited at Surrey History Centre.
Continuing on from Judith’s talk on 2 December, Peter Hopkins wondered if the area near St Mary
Virgin, Merton (tithe plot 80, refer to MHS Local History Notes No.12) may have been the
site before it moved to the banks of the Wandle. He also speculated that the .circular. area
(tithe plots 83-91)
may have been a very early enclosure, with the church being located nearby. Peter said that
many of the
roads were mentioned in medieval documents, and read out a list of some 30 names.
The Workshop discussed the new building taking place at schools in the Borough, and wondered if
planning permission included the requirement for an archaeological survey to be carried out, as
many of the
sites could have been in occupation for hundreds of years. The Chairman would write to the
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 8
Friday 26 January 2001: Don Fleming in the chair.
!!!!!Peter Hopkins produced a printout, from a microfilm acquired from the British Library, of
document in the Merton Priory Cartulary referring to the
construction of a new .common way. through Morden in 1225,
to which William de Mara and the prior of Merton had
appended their seals. Peter was having difficulties deciphering
this marginal comment referring to William de Mara.
!!!!!Bill Rudd reported on progress with the forthcoming exhibition, and drew attention to new
Morden Underground station, for which the name Garth House had been chosen.
!!!!!ENM, writing up research notes for a thesis on the Civil War and its aftermath, had found
mention of two
.mysteries. in Mitcham – the reported discovery of the body of a .Parliamentary officer., and
finding of the ‘swords of Mercy and Grace. in a back garden. Both will be written up for the
In Rosemary Turner’s absence, he also reported that she has located the Home Guard memorial
missing from the former Mitcham Creameries building (about which we had an enquiry). It is now
at the British Legion headquarters at Mitcham (see below).
!!!!!Judith Goodman has found a reference in a book on Charles Darwin to the Rev. Wharton’s
Mitcham in the 1850s. This will be the subject of a note in a future Bulletin.
At an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of portraits by the Dighton family she had
learnt more about
Robert Dighton (17?-1814), who painted Abraham Goldsmid of Morden in 1803, and Richard Dighton
(1795-1880), who painted Richard Thornton of Cannon Hill in 1818. Joshua Dighton (1831/2-1908),
three artist sons of Richard, was said to have lived and worked in Wimbledon and Merton in his
She had found him at various Wimbledon addresses – none in Merton, however – from 1880 to 1902.
paintings of his (mainly equestrian) are known from as late as 1893, he was listed in local
directories not as
an artist, but a photographer. He died in Kingston workhouse.
!!!!!Don Fleming recounted the cautionary tale of a local history society in Wales, entrusted
with a dresser,
which was subsequently found by its owner to be a valuable antique. Sad to relate, when she
asked for it
back, it had been lost. In law, acceptance on temporary loan incurs responsibility, and the
carried no insurance) is now faced with a claim for compensation it cannot meet.
Don also described the results of recent research into the origins of .wards. and, inter alia,
of their importance
in the provision of public services in 16th-century London. For those interested Don strongly
book on London by John Schofield.
Workshop dates: Fridays 23 March & 18 May at 7.30 pm at Wandle Industrial Museum.
All are welcome
THE MITCHAM HOME GUARD MEMORIAL PLAQUE
The Society recently received an enquiry about the present whereabouts of the plaque dedicated
to the members
of the Home Guard who were killed by a parachute mine in 1941 at the Tower Creameries, Mitcham
At the January meeting Eric Montague asked if anyone present had any information.
Responses soon came in, and I have been able to confirm that the plaque now hangs in the Royal
St Mark’s Road, Mitcham.
The names on it are:
ANDREWS Frederick Percy LANGBEIN Harold Francis
APLIN William Richard MARRIOTT Aubrey Edgar
BRANCH Charles Albert NEWSTEAD Frederick Albert
HENSON James William Thomas O’BRIEN Frederick Thomas
JONES William PEACEY Walter Joseph
KILBEE Joseph Stanley SHARMAN Richard John
LABRUM Charles James TAVERNER George Stephen
WHITE Arthur Frederick
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 9
ARTHUR TURNER, Vice President
We have had to say farewell to another giant of the Merton Historical Society. On 2nd January
Turner died aged 92. He was happily involved with the MHS and its activities for over forty
years, and became
the longest serving Chairman, from 1961 to 1977 and again from 1982 to 1985.
Always cheerful, with a great sense of humour and an inexhaustible supply of anecdotes, he
guided the affairs of
the Society along many channels, from walks to talks, and bulletins to books.
Sadly, events relating to old age and infirmity became his lot, first affecting his wife, who
died two years ago.
The Society was represented at his funeral, when he was laid to rest with Madge. The view from
the cemetery on
the hillside at Stroud, Gloucestershire, is stunning. Opposite are the hills known as The
I joined the then Merton and Morden Historical Society at an exhibition .Footpath to Pavement.,
put on by the
Society as their contribution to the Merton and Morden Week, 19-26 May 1962.
At the AGM in November that year I enquired as to who were on the Committee, and found myself
have been stuck with it almost ever since.
This was when I met Arthur Turner, who was chairman. From what I remember of him he was
authority, but kindly and encouraging. He could be very persuasive to get members involved in
the architectural survey of the Urban District in 1963, but particularly in getting what he
called .new blood. on
the Committee. He was full of praise for someone who had carried out some research or other
which enhanced the Society. Always cheerful and very friendly. He certainly had an influence on
me, and I
gained in confidence as a speaker, to advantage.
Goodbye, Arthur, and thank you.
A Historical Guide to Merton Abbey Mills … but not the former Liberty Print Works.
On purchasing a copy of this guide I was most disappointed in finding the section of the former
here to be historically very inaccurate. This section – and I am only referring to this part of
the guide – contains
numerous mistakes. To list them all would end up as a rewrite, but I will give some examples.
The Long Shop is described as the first workshop built by Liberty’s, in 1906, whereas a Wash
House was built in
The guide states that the Apprentice Shop, or as it was more commonly known, the 1926 Shop, was
workshop converted to screen-printing. Not so, as the Screen Shop was specially built for
screen some 12 years
previously, and planned some ten years before that.
Block-printing was not taking place in the Coles Shop in 1965, having ceased in 1957.
The Showhouse, a name invented to complement a false history in 1983, was in fact built for
the side external staircase was a fire exit.
The section on screen-printing, on page 14, I am informed was not intended to represent the
works of Liberty. So just in passing, as I would assume that the vast majority of readers would
never have seen the
printing machine in the works, I would point out that these photographs were not taken at
On the whole the guide is a well laid-out book, but the reader must take into account that the
section on the former
Liberty Printing Works is not historically accurate, contains many mistakes, and is not an
historical guide to the
former Liberty Print Works.
[The guide, which is widely available, costs £3.95.
David Luff, our trenchant reviewer, worked for Liberty’s for many years, and has written his
own account of the print works,
which will shortly be published by the Society.]
MHS HAS JUST BROUGHT OUT THREE NEW PUBLICATIONS:The Cricket Green
– No.1 of Mitcham Histories by E N Montague – £5.95 (members £4.80) + p&p £
Lord Monson’s Schooldays: Reminiscences of Mitcham 1804-1809, with notes by E N Montague and
Goodman – £2.95 (members £2.40) + p&p £.
Merton Town Trails 7: The Canons to Eagle House (revised version 2001) – 15p + p&p 25p.
Available at meetings, Libraries or from our Publications Secretary.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 10
JOHN PILE replies to Eric Montague’s item in the last Bulletin, and calls his article
SAXON MERTON, OR .BATTLES LONG AGO..
My intention in replying at some length (MHS Bulletin No.135 pp10-12) to Eric Montague’s
Scandinavian influences in Surrey (Bulletin No.134 pp13-15) was to show that each item of
by Eric in support of a Scandinavian presence could have an equally probable explanation that
did not rely on
direct Scandinavian intervention.
The only question about which I feel there remains any real uncertainty concerns Edwards.
reference in his
Companion from London to Brighthelmston (1801) to ‘several pieces of spears, swords, human
other exuviae of a battle.. Eric is, I acknowledge, correct in locating this discovery in the
vicinity of Merton
Priory, although the exact location is not known. However, I must continue to question Edwards.
of the find as evidence of a battle. Eric stresses the fact that Edwards does not use the term
.graves., and insists
that the remains were .the scattered aftermath of a skirmish.. Having checked the quotation
book, it is clear that he was describing a discovery made about 20 years earlier, and probably
on the basis of a
second-hand report. Under these circumstances I think we must be allowed some doubt as to the
the remains at the time of their disclosure. Edwards also tells us that the relics were
discovered .in removing
the ground to erect some buildings., so there is the added possibility that they were scattered
by the workmen
before they were brought to the attention of someone with sufficient interest to record them.
In view of these
doubts I consider it unwise to conclude that the remains were originally scattered on the field
of battle rather
than deliberately placed in a grave or graves.
It should also be remembered that Edwards was writing during the period of the .Romantic
Revival. in art and
literature, when the chance discovery in the soil of weapons and human bones would be much more
suggest a glorious battle than a commonplace burial. Considering the evidence – such that it is
– I remain
convinced that Edwards. exuviae of a battle were the remains of a pagan Saxon inhumation,
perhaps in an
isolated grave or in a cemetery.
Far from feeling disappointment at (in Eric’s words) .just another Saxon cemetery., I would be
excited by the
implications of such a discovery for the study both of the origins of Merton and for the siting
of the 12thcentury
Augustinian priory. It is now generally accepted1 that settlement in southern England during
Saxon period was generally dispersed and did not coalesce into the more familiar pattern of
with their open-field systems until later Saxon times. In Merton this may have meant a movement
number of small sites scattered across the historic parish to form an enlarged settlement,
itself, I would suggest,
of early Saxon origin, in the vicinity of the present parish church of St Mary. The siting of
is usually assumed to have been determined by purely practical considerations, but if Merton
Priory were built
close to a Saxon burial ground, is it not possible that the early discovery of some human
remains, a memory, or
perhaps a place-name indicative of a cemetery, could have influenced the 12th-century builders?
It is a commonplace that archaeology rarely provides the evidence to support specific events in
record, and I was therefore pleased to note that Eric is now less inclined to associate the
Merton Priory find
with either the murder of King Cynewulf of Wessex at .Merantun. in 768, or the battle of
.Meretun. in 870/1
than he was in 1969.2 Perhaps our research should now be directed towards the problems of Saxon
Merton rather than to romantic visions of
.Old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago..
Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper 1806
1. D.Hooke, in D.Hooke and S.Burnell (eds), Landscape and Settlement in Britain AD 400-1066
University of Exeter Press (1995) pp95-114
2. Surrey Arch. Soc. Bulletin No.54, extracted in Surrey Arch. Coll. vol.67 (1970) p108
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Judith Goodman’s help in narrowing down
the site of the
Church Path burials, and to correct the date of the reference to ‘Merantun’ in the Anglo-Saxon
should be 786 and not 755 , (MHS Bulletin No.135 p10).
[Many thanks to Eric Montague and John Pile for their scholarly and courteously conducted
must now however come to an end.
There will be further contributions from Monty on the .peopling of Merton. in future issues.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 11
LIONEL GREEN reports on the first conference devoted to Surrey Archaeological Society’s
VILLAGE STUDY PROJECT
A successful conference was held at Leatherhead on 25/26 November last year, organised by the
Archaeological Society and devoted to the presentation of the work of various groups on the
origin of villages
in the county. Our Society was well represented, and Eric Montague launched proceedings with an
early Mitcham. The name suggests an area of rich soil on a bend in the
river. Evidence of Romano-British occupation close to the River Wandle
to the west of the parish has been found, as well as the early Saxon
cemetery. An 1853 estate map reveals a circular feature near the parish
church: a focal point for at least six tracks. Excavations in 1989 uncovered
segments of a possible encircling ditch with fragments of Roman, Saxon
and early medieval pottery. A church existed from the early 12th century,
presumably where the present church stands. Other maps suggest that
the layout of house-plots east of the church overlaid an earlier field system.
This could be part of a planned development which was never completed.
Peter Hopkins then spoke of early Merton and Morden, first describing their locations. The
Merton would seem to have been along the road to Kingston. A large island site between the
church and the
road was never developed, remaining arable land throughout the centuries. Peter wondered if
this freehold site
could have been the manorial centre which Gilbert the Sheriff had assigned to his new religious
when he rebuilt the church in 1115.
In Morden the presence of the abbot of Westminster’s court in the east of the parish may have
settlement by the Wandle. A cluster of properties around Morden church had rectangular
the modern route of the London Road. The talk was illustrated with an o.h.p., and by the use of
Peter was able to regress a modern map by removing the road, 16th-century farm buildings and
changes, to reveal early tenement holdings. The open-field system continued until about 1650. A
settlement at Westmorden was established by the 13th century around a green, with a back lane
southern tenements and the Southfield. On the north side a 12-acre croft had presumably once
between the three tenements there, though by Tudor times it all belonged to the central
Another member, Cyril Maidment, brought us firmly into the 21st century by means of a laptop
projector, pointing out features of Wimbledon with a magic pen. He was able to ring circles
round the itinerant
manor house and remove them without a squeak from any mouse. He reminded us that Wimbledon
still had a
village, and proceeded to show early maps .computer corrected. to OS 1:5000.
Other villages examined included Nutfield (no village, but three commons taken into farms),
Capel (a capella
of Dorking), Shere (extensive parish between hills and the Weald), Ewhurst (began with a Roman
villa, later small isolated farms1), Hambledon (complex of north-south tracks, suggesting
Thorpe (settlement restricted by flood-plain).
The second day was equally enlightening. Southwark did not flourish in Saxon times. All the
around the bridgehead fell out of use and were not reconnected until Norman times. At Ewell
also no Saxon
settlement was evident (though burials had been found). Horley consisted of countless parts
owned by other
parishes. The common was enclosed in 1812 and the railway arrived in 1850, fortunately close to
and the Brighton road.
Dennis Turner, former President of the Surrey Archaeological Society and a long-standing member
Society, summarised the findings. Rural settlement took many forms at different times and in
Dispersed farms often preceded the village and often remained so throughout the medieval
period. Where an
open-field system operated, it was normally associated with a village. Some villages clustered
around a feature,
whilst others were built either side of a main street. Often there were several centres
separated by common
The landscape had an important bearing on settlements throughout the centuries. An Anglo-Saxon
suggest some settlement of that period, but not necessarily a village. The suffix for Croydon,
Wimbledon refers to hills (the landscape), whereas Merton and Carshalton reflect some
with .town.). Tooting, Beddington and Wallington may refer to settlements of followers of an
This was an interim conference, for the work of the Village Study Project goes on.
There was little early medieval settlement at Ewhurst, but it possessed a church of c.1080, the
advowson of which was granted to Merton Priory in
the 12th century.
From sale plan of James Moore’s estates 1853
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 12
LIONEL GREEN has some more episodes to recount from the story of MERTON PRIORY:
Westminster turns to Merton
When Eustace de Fauconberg was made bishop of London in the spring of 1221 he tried to assert
over Westminster Abbey. The claim was rejected by Abbot William de Humez (or Hommet) on the
the royal palace of Westminster included the abbey and was outside normal diocesan control.
The bishop appealed to the veteran archbishop, Stephan Langton (the first signature on the
Magna Carta), and the
matter went to arbitration. The bishops of Winchester and Salisbury were natural choices, but
in addition two
further prelates were chosen with the agreement of both parties. These were the prior of Merton
and the prior of
Dunstable, who was a former canon of Merton. The selection of two Augustinians to support or
reject a claim
involving the royal foundation of the Benedictine abbey of Westminster suggests great respect
The result of arbitration was total exemption from the jurisdiction of the bishop of London for
abbey and the parish and church of St Margaret. There was a sop for the bishop in that he was
to have the manor
of Sunbury and its church.1 The success of the arbitration award soon turned to sorrow for
Abbot William died on 20th April 1222, and Prior Thomas of Merton died in ?August 1222.
The chosen arbitrators were Thomas Wllst who became prior of Merton in 1218, and Richard de
Morins who left Merton to become prior of Dunstable in 1202. It says something for the high
standard of education
of Augustinian canons, for de Mores, like Becket, went to Bologna to study canon law. He wrote
before entering Merton as a deacon in 1201.2 In the following year he was elected prior of
Dunstable and priested
on 21st September 1202.
The Annals of Dunstable
In 1210, Richard de Mores followed the example of Merton, and began writing annals to record a
history of the
times. It is from these annals that we learn that the priory buildings at Dunstable were
completed in October 1213
and that there were severe storms in April and December 1222. The latter destroyed the
presbytery and western
towers at Dunstable, and the annals add further that in the same storm .the tower of Merton was
blown down, and
many buildings throughout England, a large number of persons losing their lives and much harm
being done by
lightning..3 The annals often refer to Merton and to the promotions of canons at Merton.
St Edmund Rich
In 1234 Edmund Rich was appointed archbishop, and it was as if Thomas Becket lived again.
Edmund was born
in the year of the martyrdom of Becket and baptised in St Mary Colechurch, London, the same
church as Becket.
Like Becket he studied at Paris. Edmund Rich also spent time at Merton in retreat for a year
1213/4, .going in and
out as one of the canons themselves.. Here he prepared for his lectures at Oxford. St Edmund
Hall marks the site
of his residence. Like Becket, the appointment to archbishop changed his life. But whilst
Becket was transformed
from a life of enjoyment of riches and hunting to a penitent servant of the Lord, Rich changed
from a frail humble
person into a bold uncompromising leader ready to fight both king and pope, at the same time
being revered for
his austerity and purity. Rich went into voluntary exile and tried to follow the examples of
both Thomas Beckett
and Stephan Langton living at Pontigny. Unfortunately Rich died at Soissy and his body was
carried to Pontigny
for burial. Even before his death, Richard de Mores at Dunstable was writing a Life of Edmund
After his death in 1240 the canons of Merton petitioned the pope for canonisation. Rich was
speedily made a
saint, only six years after his death. At that time he rivalled Beckett as the most popular
saint in England.
John Flete The History of Westminster Abbey 1909 pp.101-2
A charter of Hubert Walter, archbishop, dated 1200/1 was witnessed by .Master Richard de
Mores., with no indication that he was a regular canon.
(Acta S.Langton ed. K.Major, Canterbury and York Soc. 1950 p.50)
Annales Monastici (Rec.Pub.No.36) Rev.H.R.Luard (Ed.) Vol.3 1866. The dates in the annals were
one year out. Luard has corrected them, and in this
article they are corrected.
… ANOTHER PERSON’s TREASURE
Bill Rudd, who is in charge of the Society’s collection, has a plea to make. When spring-
cleaning, or sorting your
possessions for a move, or clearing out the house of an elderly friend or relative, don’t rush
to throw away all
those items everyone accumulates that seem of no immediate value or interest. They may not be
rubbish after all!
Photographs, postcards, estate agents. brochures, newspaper cuttings, event programmes, church
school prospectuses, souvenirs, locally manufactured goods … There is a huge range of
material which has local
interest and importance. No matter if it is .recent. – it won’t always be. And if everyone
chucks it out it will soon
be rare. If you don’t want to keep such objects or haven’t the room to house them, please
remember the Society
and also Merton Heritage Centre (Sarah Gould 020 8640 9387). Your .rubbish. could be very
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 13
JUDITH GOODMAN pays tribute to THE ARTISTS OF QUEENSLAND AVENUE.
Although these days estate agents irritatingly call the area in SW19 enclosed by Melbourne Road
Road .Old Merton Park. (it actually post-dates Merton Park), it was developed before the first
World War as the
‘station Estate., and mainly by speculative builders. The west side of Queensland Avenue
however, an attractive
terrace of ten houses, was designed by the local Arts-and-Crafts architect J’sydney Brocklesby.
houses at each end, No.1 and No.19, have an extra storey added, which consists in each case of
a studio floor,
with large windows on the north aspects.
From 1914 until the 1950s No.19 was the home of two very different artists, Harry Bush and his
Harry Bush was born in 1883 in Kemp Town, Brighton, the seventh child of eight. His parents,
Jane Bush, had been in the service of the Duke of Fife, who had then set Thomas up as a
jobmaster, hiring out
horses and carriages.
Noel Laura Nisbet was the youngest of six children of Hume Nisbet (1849-1923), Scottish artist,
and traveller, and his first wife Helen, daughter of a sculptor. The Nisbets left Scotland in
1887 to settle in
Harrow, where Noel was born that year. In 1888 they moved to Clapham. Hume Nisbet had been Art
the Watt Institute and School of Art, the fore-runner of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He
daughter, after schooldays at the Convent of Notre Dame, Clapham Common, to go on to the
of Art, where she won many medals and a scholarship.
Harry Bush was educated at York Place, Brighton, probably at what became the Technical College.
1898, his family too moved to Clapham. Harry entered the Victualling Department of the
Admiralty in 1900,
but left in 1904 to join the Carlton Studios, which produced posters. A colleague there
encouraged him to enrol
for art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic. At an exhibition of student work he saw
pictures by Noel and
her elder sister Margaret, and decided to enrol at the Clapham School of Art where both young
In 1910 Harry and Noel were married, settling first in Battersea Park Road,
and then in Walham Green. But, in 1914, Hume Nisbet set up both his artist
daughters in Queensland Avenue, Merton, where a row of houses was under
construction. Studio floors were added at an extra cost of £50 each. Apart
from three years during the first World War, when Harry was in the army, and
Noel with daughter Hazel, born in 1916, lived at Speen, near Newbury, the
Bushes stayed at 19 Queensland Avenue for the rest of their lives. Their second
daughter, Janet, was born in 1922. Meanwhile, at No.1, the other studio house,
was Margaret Nisbet, who became quite well known as a portrait painter.
Noel had 25 works hung at the Royal Academy between 1914 and 1938, and
Harry had 27 hung between 1922 and 1954. They both also exhibited regularly
in the provinces and Scotland, and both had works purchased by public
collections. Noel was elected to the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painters
and to the British Watercolour Society, and Harry to the Royal Institute of Oil
Harry was quiet, retiring and thoughtful. Noel was extrovert, energetic and charming. Harry
became known as
.the painter of the suburbs.; Noel’s taste was for legend, myth and fairy tale. But they were
devoted to each
other. As a Catholic family, they worshipped at St Winefride’s, Wimbledon. Their elder daughter
order of the Teachers of the Holy Cross, taking the name Sister Anthony. Janet, the younger,
Many of Noel’s paintings were medieval in atmosphere, with titles such as The Dressing of the
Bride and With
Hound and Spear. Typically frieze-like in composition, they have been described as ambiguous,
fascinating, repellent, obsessive. For a time she turned, successfully, to illustrating books
of fairy and folk tales.
Quite different in mood is an affectionate portrait she did of Harry Bush mending Dolls.
Harry was obviously good with his hands, as he also made models of sailing ships, one of which
is at the
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He made some paintings of sailing ships as well. Other
included landscapes painted on holiday in Sussex and the west country, a view of a barracks
interior from the
first World War, now at the Imperial War Museum, and some still lifes. But what he is best
known for are his
pictures of suburbia, and the suburbs of south-west London were his area. There were some
scenes at and near
Bracken Avenue, Clapham Common, where his sister Ivy and her husband Ernest Kent lived at
No.23, in an
19 Queensland Avenue
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 14
attractive Arts-and-Crafts-type terrace not too unlike Queensland Avenue. And he painted a few
Wimbledon Common and the Beverley Brook. However, most of his pictures are views from, and of,
Queensland Avenue. Intriguingly, however, he is on record as having done a sketch for a mural
Palace, for the King’s Cinema in Wimbledon Broadway. Did that ever materialise?
What is perhaps his best known image, A Corner of Merton, 16 August, 1940, was included in my
book on Merton and Morden (1995). This picture is in the Imperial War Museum, to whom it was
Janet (Bush) Locke, and is often on display. A large oil painting, it shows a bomb crater in
the back gardens of
houses in Brisbane and Queensland Avenues.
As well as two preliminary sketches for A Corner of Merton
the museum also has another, smaller, oil painting (Catalogue
No. IWM:ART 15662), which shows the back of an end-ofterrace
house which has been bombed – the crater is clearly
visible. Though Bush called it simply Bombed House, Merton,
it is easily identifiable as No.2 The Path, seen from the back,
as it would have been from the artist’s studio. The houses in
the background are early 19th-century ones in Morden Road,
now replaced by the World of Leather warehouse. The distant
trees are those of Nelson Gardens. No.2 The Path was never
rebuilt. The original terrace now begins with No.4, and a postwar
row occupies the site of No.2, together with some garden
space. The view was one which Bush painted several times, at
different seasons, before the war.
The Museum of London has two paintings, December Sunshine
and Laggard Leaves, both probably from 1925 and both views
from Bush’s studio towards Morden Road. He did many views,
painted at different seasons, of Queensland Avenue and of
Bathurst Avenue (Clement and Muriel Newton at No.12 were friends), and some delightful
interiors of his own
house, such as The Workbasket, The Christmas Tree and The Tiled Kitchen. The last-named, which
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
HARRY BUSH, Bombed House, Merton.
Reproduced courtesy Imperial War Museum.
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
The Kitchen Garden in October -oil painting by Harry Bush
Bush in the kitchen at No.19, was reproduced in a book
on English domestic architecture, brought out to tie in with
a television series.1 A particularly attractive painting, The
Builders, of c.1933, which was used as an auction
catalogue cover picture in 1993,2 shows the construction
of Nos 23 and 25 Milner Road, as seen from Bush’s studio.
The earlier Milner Road houses form the background; a
tree in spring blossom partly shields the construction site,
where a horse-drawn dray has just brought some more
bricks. This picture, which sold for £23,000 (twice the
estimate) at the auction, has recently been used as an
illustration in a book on London’s suburbs.3 Another
painting, of back gardens, titled The Kitchen Garden in
October, was used in a book called The Englishman’s
Noel suffered a series of strokes from 1947, but struggled
on, teaching herself to paint with her left hand when her
right one failed her. She died in 1956. Harry, who also
painted until almost the end, died of cancer in the autumn
Much of the information in this article came from the Bush and Nisbet files at the Witt Library
of the Cortauld Institute, especially a Christie’s catalogue
of the studio sale on 28 September 1984.5 I am also very grateful to Angela Weight of the
Imperial War Museum, and to Dr Lucy Peltz and Emily Stone
of the Museum of London, for access to the two collections. Bush files and to pictures not on
J.Chambers The English House Thames Methuen, London 1985
Modern British and Irish Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture, Christie’s, London 14
A’saint (intr.) London Suburbs Merrell Holberton/English Heritage, London 1999
H.Roberts .English Gardens. in W.J.Turner (ed.) The Englishman’s Country Collins, London 1945
Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours from the Studios of the late Harry Bush ROI (1883-1957)
and the late Noel Laura Nisbet (Mrs Harry Bush)
RI (1887-1956) Christie’s, London 28 September 1984
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 15
THE SOCIETY’s FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY
The next issue of the Bulletin will contain a report on the celebratory dinner on 28 February
at Morden Hall.
Too late for the December Bulletin was the announcement of the Society’s exhibition at The
Canons from 2025
February. Members were sent a separate mailing about this, with the Programme for 2001. The
consisting of Ellen Eames, Margaret Groves, Peter Hopkins, Bill Rudd (Chair) and Tony Scott,
worked extremely hard and to brilliant effect. Full report next time.
FIFTY YEARS AGO
On Wednesday 28 February 1951 a public meeting was held at the old Merton & Morden Central
Kingston Road .to consider the foundation of a local history society..
Four councillors attended, together with members of a WEA local history class, their tutor Mrs
interested members of the public. Miss E.M.Jowett, District Librarian, proposed that:
A local history society be founded and that it be called the Merton and Morden Historical
This was approved. She then proposed that:
The public meeting constitute itself the inaugural meeting of the newly founded society and
[sic] to adopt a constitution and elect officers for the ensuing year.
This was also approved. The first committee was as follows:
Chairman: Councillor V. Talbot Vice Chairman: Councillor S.H. Reeves
Hon.Treasurer: Mr S.E.C obbett Hon Secretary: Miss E.M. Jowett
Members: Mrs J Saynor Councillor E.W. Warren
and Mr L. Green
By the time of the first AGM, on Friday 2 November 1951, there were 58 paid-up members, whose
of 2/6d a head had yielded an income of £7.5s.0d. Expenses – stationery and postage – came to
a healthy balance of £3.16s.10d to take forward. Five meetings had been held, and a full
planned for 1952.
The rest is history …
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.
Printed by Peter Hopkins
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 137 – MARCH 2001 – PAGE 16