June 2001 – Bulletin 138
Recent Work on the Site of Merton Priory – P J Hopkins
The Industrial School in Mitcham – R A M Scott
Ralph de Cahaigns & the Keynes’ Beneficence – L E Green
John Donne in Mitcham – E N Montague
Abraham Goldsmid of Morden Lodge – J A Goodman
The Statute of Merton – L E Green
and much more
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PRESIDENT: J Scott McCracken BA FSA MIFA
VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Lionel Green and William Rudd
BULLETIN NO. 138 JUNE 2001
PROGRAMME JUNE – SEPTEMBER
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. (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 Beddington Lane
Saturday 21 July
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Merton College 1675
Coach trip to Oxford
Now fully booked!
Saturday 18 August 2.30pm Eric Montague: Ravensbury Park walk
A guided walk, led by the expert, exploring the history of the park – the people, the buildings
and present) and the industries that once belonged here. Meet at the Mitcham Bridge entrance.
(Bus routes 118, 280; close to Mitcham Tramlink stop.)
Thursday 13 September 11.30am Day visit to Addington
Addington was a country home for the Archbishops of Canterbury in the 19th century.
Meet at Church of St Mary the Blessed
Virgin, Addington Village – 11th-century
in origin, with many interesting memorials
and windows. Pub or picnic lunch. Then
Addington Palace at 2.30pm. Travel by
Tramlink, changing to New Addington line
at East Croydon, and alighting at the
Addington Vllage stop.
Illustrations from Coombe, Shirley & Addington – Living History Publications 1974
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The Society’s events are open to the general public, unless otherwise stated.
MHS 50th ANNIVERSARY EXHIBITION 20th-25th February 2001
The idea of an exhibition at The Canons to celebrate the Society’s activities during its first
50 years came
originally from Merton’s Heritage Officer, Sarah Gould. The timing was as near as possible to
day of 28 February, and also usefully coincided with most of the half-term break. The project
was put into effect
by a special committee chaired by Bill Rudd, our knowledgeable keeper of the store. The other
talents included design, layout and publicity as well as the ability to work well under
pressure (!), were Ellen
Eames, Margaret Groves, Peter Hopkins and Tony Scott.
In the entrance hall some memorabilia of the Society’s early days were on view, including
methodically kept, and
beautifully written, membership lists and cash books – how small the sums of money seem now!
Also there to be
browsed through was a complete run of the Bulletin – 136 issues. It was begun in April 1965,
when the Society
was still the Merton and Morden Historical Society (a vote at the AGM that year changed the
name), and cost
permitted only one or two foolscap sheets laboriously duplicated from stencils.
Images of events included some lecturers in costume (Parliamentary soldiers from the Civil War
Society, and a
Roman legionary); a performance by the popular, if short-lived, MHS Players; and the Society
.float. from the
Coronation Carnival in 1953. A key occasion was the dedication of the commemorative stone at
the Priory site
Screens, provided by Steve Turner, with display tables, divided the large ground floor room to
the left of the
entrance into a number of sections with different themes. An impressive range of archaeological
organised by the Society, and all involving members, was illustrated with photographs, maps,
artefacts and even
human bones. There was a .guess what this is. collection too, which aroused interest and
amusement. Bill Rudd,
dedicated recorder of the changing scene in Morden that he is, mounted a fine photographic
survey of some of
its vanished shops, factories and horse-drawn vehicles.
Workshop topics illustrated included studies of early Merton and Morden (Peter Hopkins), and
Montague), which are being undertaken as part of Surrey Archaeological Society’s Millennium
Surrey village origins. From Rosemary Turner came a selection from her detailed analysis of
Merton Priory, and
her husband Steve contributed his map and survey ‘snapshot. of Mitcham in 1838. A small display
De Morgan’s .Merton Abbey. pottery at Colliers Wood was contributed by this reviewer. Over the
particularly recently – thanks to Peter Hopkins, the Society has produced an impressive number
A few are now out of print, but all were on display (and most for sale). Illustrations from
Eric Montague’s new
The Cricket Green were projected continuously onto a small screen throughout the opening hours.
Rutter family of Merton, Mitcham and Morden was the subject of another of Bill’s displays, made
up of family
trees, memorial inscriptions and pictures of Rutter residences. On view too were some of the
rescued objects – from Morden the old Crown inn sign, now handsomely supported on a wrought-
commissioned by Bill; catalogues from Carters Tested Seeds of Merton; price-lists and packaging
Gutteridge’s seed and corn merchant premises in Mitcham, demolished in 1970.
Our thanks are due above all to the exhibition committee for an outstanding effort; also to
Sarah Gould for her
support and enthusiasm; to those who lent photos and other material (especially Bill Rudd); to
the 19 volunteer
custodians, and to the more than 100 non-member visitors, many of whom contributed handsomely
to the donations
box. The special guest at a buffet lunch on the Saturday, kindly laid on by Sarah and her
volunteers, was the
Mayor, Councillor Ian Munn, who enjoyed his visit to the exhibition and expressed his
appreciation of the Society’s
MHS 50th ANNIVERSARY DINNER
Thirty-seven members and guests attended the Society’s 50th Anniversary Dinner on Wednesday
at Morden Hall Beefeater restaurant pub. The Mayor and Mayoress of Merton, Councillor Ian and
Munn, and Sarah Gould, Merton’s Heritage Officer, were our guests of honour, but we were also
welcome several of our members’ partners.
The meal was excellent, as was the celebration cake made by Mary Hart of the Wandle Industrial
who also provided the floral decorations. The evening closed with speeches from Chairman and
Lionel Green and from the Mayor.
Many thanks to Sheila Harris, Eric Montague and Tony Scott for organising everything for us. It
suggested that an anniversary dinner might become an annual event.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 2
THE WILDLIFE OF MITCHAM COMMON
A talk by Martin Boyle at Mill House Ecology Centre, Mitcham, on Saturday 17 March
Some 30 or so members gathered at the Mill House Ecology Centre in the centre of Mitcham
soon forgot the grey, damp afternoon, as Martin (who is the Common Warden) introduced us to
some of the
delights of what is the largest wildlife site in the Borough.
The Ecology Centre, owned by the Borough Council, was built at no cost to the community by
when the former Mill House was converted into the present restaurant. It now forms an important
centre, much used by local schools. Martin explained how management of the Common is the
the Board of Conservators, composed of members representing the Boroughs of Merton, Croydon and
Merton acts as the Conservators. agents, and four full-time staff plus an education officer and
a part-time clerk
are employed. The Conservators have no power to levy a rate (as in the case of Wimbledon
funding is by grants from the local authorities, augmented by income from the golf club and
The ecological importance of Mitcham Common has been recognised by its designation as a Site of
Importance for Nature Conservation, and within a relatively small area of 160 hectares (400
acres) it has a
unique diversity of habitats. Each supports its own distinctive flora and wildlife, and
requires special management
if its character is to be preserved.
With the aid of some excellent colour slides Martin took us across acid heathland, over
undulating chalk downland,
around ponds, through hay meadows and past wetlands. En route he regaled us with fascinating
amusing stories of how he and his colleagues grapple not only with such .natural. problems as
the tendency for
dense woodland to develop, and periodic invasions by geese, but also those arising from the
of an urban environment and, sad to say, abuse of the Common by the general public for whose
enjoyment it was
saved by Parliament 110 years ago.
For those who missed Martin’s talk, there is a second chance to become acquainted with the
Saturday 16 June next, meeting at the Ecology Centre at 2.30pm. Bring cameras, binoculars,
sunglasses, and you should be ready for anything!
Merton Heritage Centre, at The Canons, Madeira Road, Mitcham (tel: 020
8640 9387). From 8 May to 28 July the main exhibition illustrates the early
20th-century struggle for Votes for Women, in Cat & Mouse: the Women’s
Suffrage Campaign in Merton. From 14 August to 27 October, Poetry &
Prose: Literature and the Theatre in Merton, will pay tribute to the many
writers and actors for whom Merton has been home. And upstairs, from 31
July to 14 August, will be a reprise of Angels and Tearaways, a historical
look at childhood in Merton. The Centre is open: Tues, Wed, Thurs 10-4; Fri,
Sat 10-5; Sun 2-5; Mon, closed. Admission free.
Just a few miles down the A217, Reigate Priory Museum, Bell Street,
Reigate (tel: 01737 222550) has an exhibition Priory Children Through the
Ages, open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons 2-4.30pm.
Eighty Years of Wimbledon Labour Hall 1921-2001, recently out, is an
account, by Heidi Topman, of the ups and downs in the last 80 years of radical
politics in Wimbledon, forming a useful sequel to Gillian Hawtin’s Early Radical
Wimbledon 1880-1931 (1993). While the best-known figure was Tom
Braddock, there were many other notable characters, both men and women.
A delightful group picture of the Wimbledon Marxist Socialist Society on
Wimbledon Common is only one of the varied illustrations. 64 pages. £3 from
the William Morris Meeting Rooms, 267 The Broadway, or from Fielders in
Wimbledon Hill Road.
It has been pointed out that the MHS publication, The Ravensbury Mills, lost
a line of text between pages 9 and 10, when last reprinted. If you have one of
the 50 defective copies, please return it to our Publications Secretary, who
will replace the page with a corrected one. Many apologies!
Rose Lamartine Yates of Merton Park
and her son Paul, wearing Suffragette
courtesy John Innes Society
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 3
RECENT WORK ON THE SITE OF MERTON PRIORY
With some 14 years. experience of excavating in Merton, mostly on the priory site, Dave Saxby
of the Museum
of London Archaeological Service was supremely qualified to address us on this subject on
Saturday 21st April.
Our usual meeting room at the Snuff Mill Environmental Centre was packed with members and
to learn all they could of this our most important archaeological site.
Dave led us first through the various phases of excavation during his time at the site,
beginning with the main
excavation of the priory church and chapter house, between 1986 and 1990. Further excavations
followed on the
Christchurch Road site, and on the William Morris site and Mill Road. Then, last year, the
site was excavated, prior to redevelopment. Recently, work has been taking place on the car
park/car boot sale
area, as part of the application for planning permission for the proposed development there.
This most recent work has been more concerned with topographical information rather than more
archaeological activity. A radar search combined with a bore-hole survey has yielded good
gravel deposits and areas of naturally high and low ground. This has enabled the experts to
predict the original
courses of the river Wandle, which in pre-medieval times flowed along the route now known as
Evidence has also been found of various millponds. Not surprisingly, the high ground was
selected for Roman
Stane Street and for the priory church.
The 1997 work on the Christchurch Road site also found prehistoric river channels in the 12
but in two of the trenches the line of Stane Street was identified. This has enabled the
alignment of the road to
be defined more precisely. The bandstand at Merton Abbey Mills lies directly on the line of the
Two phases of Stane Street have been established. The first was around AD50, when the road was
metres wide between two ditches. The road was generally constructed of local river gravels and
sands over the
original gravel surface, though occasionally chalk from the Downs was also used.
Towards the end of the 2nd century the road was recut and resurfaced, and this road surface
survived quite well
under the factories, a metre and a half below the present ground level. This second phase was
wider, up to 16
metres. Approaching the ford there was evidence of two banks each side of the 14 metre road,
presence of pedestrian walkways. This ford was presumably the Bradenford of the Saxon charter
Some 30 coins from the 2nd to 4th centuries were found here, together with a few brooches.
This section of Stane Street had gone out of use by Saxon times, probably because of the
flooding of the area, for
which there is considerable evidence. Some 10th-century Saxon ivory brooches and metalwork have
elsewhere on the site, possibly in the vicinity of the Saxon mill. The precinct wall cut across
the old line of the
road, but the earliest datable medieval activity was around 1200/1250, when a major phase of
development at the
priory necessitated the recutting of ditches and river.
In 1992 the northern section of the William Morris site was excavated. Old photographs record
buildings of Halfhide and Son, dating from around 1752, and offcuts of weatherboard were found
in a backfilled
ditch, together with paintbrushes, still caked with whitewash, and various pots, marked with
initials. The foundations
of other 16th- and 17th-century buildings were found, which had reused Reigate stone from
priory buildings. Oak
trestles from around the 16th century may have been part of a bridge. A cesspit from the Morris
wine bottles, some still containing wine.
Last year the former Furnitureland
site was excavated. Perhaps better
known to older residents as the
Palais, this had been the site of the
gatehouse to the priory. An early
ditch, running east-west may be
Roman, and some fire-cracked flint
is of prehistoric date. A narrow
evaluation trench picked up
evidence of a structure which, when
opened up, proved to be a late-
medieval tile kiln. It was well-built,
some 7 metres wide, and had been
truncated by the later cellar walls
of the gatehouse and later buildings.
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
Cleaning the kiln structure – photo courtesy of Dave Saxby, MoLAS
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 4
There were three furnace chambers, originally arched, built onto an earlier structure. The
Roman tile and brick as well as Reigate stone from a 12th-century phase of the priory, similar
in style to the arch
now rebuilt in St Mary’s churchyard.
Some over-fired roof tiles were also incorporated in the structure. These were of the style
1480, a period of further building work at Merton Priory, when church, infirmary and reredorter
The kiln was probably rebuilt to produce roofing tiles for this phase. The underlying kiln
structure was 11 metres
by 1 metre, with an area behind for fuel and rake-out deposits. Very little debris survived
from this phase, though
a .Westminster. tile suggests it may have dated from the 13th century. Below the kiln structure
were found lines
of stakeholes, possibly from a forming shed, where the unbaked tiles had been formed. This was
the only area
of clay within the precinct, with deposits of brick-earth overlying London Clay.
Photographs from the early years of the
20th century show the house known as
Abbey Gatehouse, with twin towers each
side of a central structure. The
excavation revealed the chalk foundation
wall of part of the medieval building,
which post-dated the second phase of
the tile kiln, and was probably 15thcentury.
However, much of the building
is now under the road, which is
considerably wider than heretofore. The
excavated remains may belong to a 15thcentury
rear extension to the main
building. The building was further
extended, to east and west, in the 18th
The full report on the excavations is in
its final stages, and may well be ready
for publication later in the year. It will be
the biggest MoLAS publication to date,
of around 200,000 words. It will include
earlier work on the site, including that of
our first President, Colonel Bidder in the
1920s and of our present President, Scott
McCracken in the 1970s.
The publication has taken several years
to prepare, two to three years. work being required just to evaluate the human bones found on
the site. Some 700
human skeletons were uncovered, and these have been examined for age, gender, burial patterns
Many suffered from the disease now known as DISH, from eating too much fatty food. One
discovery was of
a leather and cloth hernia belt, only the second to be found in the UK. 20,000 fragments of
animal bone were
found, the largest quantity of any site. A mid-12th century food preparation area was uncovered
infirmary hall, itself dating from the 1220s. Here were found trellises (for vines?), ditches,
planting pits, fruit
stones (apple, grape, etc. though fruit is not found on the site after the 12th century),
hatched chicken and goose
eggs, as well as ladles, pots, etc. Evidence was also found for timber and daub structures.
In the hearths of the infirmary kitchen, the burnt ash deposits included seeds from both fruit
and grain, and
remains of conger eel, dolphin, oyster, herring, dove and red deer.
We eagerly await publication of this mammoth report, though it was disturbing to learn that our
own expert on
Merton Priory, our Chairman Lionel Green, has not been consulted on the historical details.
Hopefully this will
not result in the wholesale repetition of the many unfounded myths that have attached
themselves to Merton
Priory over the years, as was the case with the interim report.
We thank Dave Saxby, not only for his presentation to the Society, but for all the work he has
put in over the
years to reveal more of our rich historical heritage.
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
The ‘Gatehouse’ looking east. In the foreground is one of the 18th-century brick
extensions. The chalk medieval walls are in the centre of the picture (just in front
and to the right of the brick drains). Courtesy Dave Saxby, MoLAS.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 5
LOCAL HISTORY WORKSHOPS
Friday 23 March 2001: Lionel Green in the chair. Eight persons present.
Sheila Harris spoke of the proposed development at Merton Abbey Mills, which has caused much
After discussion we agreed to sign a petition from the Polka Theatre against the proposal.
Sheila also informed
us that the David Evans silk works at Crayford was closing (relocation to Macclesfield),
including their museum
Steve Turner mentioned references to several local pubs, including the Six Bells in 1838. This
of Mitcham’s Francis Merritt, licensed victualler, who may possibly have made .champagne. in
the 18th century
[see Bulletin No.129].
Bill Rudd has seen the writing on the wall. Haven’t we all, Bill? In Bill’s case it was
store in Wimbledon, and by the Dolphin pub in Sutton High Street [see items on painted
advertising in Bulletins
No.136 page 4, and No.137 page 8]. He also showed us a miniature pipe (a donation to the
Society), in its case,
which Christies declared to be 150 years old, with a value of £45.
Peter Hopkins has been looking at some abstracts from local wills of 1480-1649,
published on microfiche by West Surrey Family History Society. He has come across
representatives of many old local families: Otwaye, Locke, Stondon and Whitinge. One
particularly interesting will was that of Nicholas Smythe of Morden, yeoman, who in
1559 left five shillings to the church of Morden towards weatherboarding the steeple. A
map or ‘plott’ of Morden, dating from Edward VI’s reign, depicts Morden parish church
complete with steeple.
Peter also reported that he had managed to decipher the footnote to the 1225 document,
illustrated in the last
Bulletin, as: “Morden – The same William de Mara was lord of Ravesbury”. He had often wondered
Lysons, and all local historians since, cited this document as the first reference to the manor
of Ravensbury, in
1250. [He has since written to the British Library, who have informed him that the document
appears to have
been copied into the Merton Priory Cartulary during the mid or later 13th century, but that the
to be in a hand of the later 14th or early 15th century.]
Don Fleming had noticed that with the refurbishing of South Wimbledon station the new platform
no longer mention .(Merton).. Don continues with his work on the wards of the City. In the 13th
dialect of London changed from East Saxon to East Midlands, due to the growing population of
Judith Goodman continues to search for local artists, and spoke of G A Storey RA (educated at
Academy), active from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, and of Evelyn Dunbar, official
war artist, of
whom Josephine Davis (then of Merton Park) wrote in 1971 in a memoir, held at the Imperial War
life as a land girl.
[PS: Thanks to the efforts of Doris Green, and the Merton Park intelligence network, the
Imperial War Museum
has subsequently been able to contact Josephine Loosemore (formerly Davis), now living in
Eric Montague is researching aspects of the 17th century – in particular life between 1640 and
1660, and how
Mitcham people fared under the Commonwealth, including transfer of lands and administration of
Madeline Healey showed us a dictionary and a Catholic bible, both from the 18th century, which
to her ancestor, Elizabeth Soane of Morden, born 1770.
Lionel Green informed us that the Mayor of Merton had asked him, at the 50th anniversary
dinner, about the
Statute of Merton (see pages 14-16).
The meeting ended at 9.45 pm.
Workshop dates: Fridays 13 July and 24 August at 7.30 pm at Wandle Industrial Museum.
All are welcome.
Look out for A History of Mitcham Common by E N Montague. This copiously illustrated hardback
(ideal gift!) published by Phillimore & Co Ltd for Mitcham Common Preservation Society, to be
launched on 11 July, should be available ahead of that date. Price £14.95, but at a discount
through the Society.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 6
TONY SCOTT has been investigating a local example of a largely forgotten chapter in the history
education: THE INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL IN MITCHAM
Eagle House in Mitcham, the fine Queen Anne house in London Road, was built in 1705 as a
private house, and is
now slightly forlorn office premises looking for a buyer. For much of its life it was used to
accommodate a school
of one kind or another.
James Dempster opened his academy there in 1825, and it remained Dempster’s Academy (known
as Eagle House Academy) until the early 1850s. As can be imagined, Dempster’s Academy was a
school which educated the sons of the reasonably wealthy, with an occasional sprinkling of
aristocracy mixed in
with them. In 1855, after Dempster had closed his school, probably due to retirement, Eagle
House and surrounding
land were bought by the Guardians of the Poor of the parish of St George the Martyr, Southwark,
in order to
establish an Industrial School there. St George the Martyr church still stands today as a large
porticoed building in
Borough High Street, near its junction with Great Dover Street. I was intrigued by the name
and decided to find out more about them.
The principle of Industrial Schools was established by John Pounds, a poor shoemaker of
Portsmouth, who died in
1839. For 20 years before that he had gathered the ragged children of the district around him
as he sat at work.
They came freely and were taught gratuitously. The success of his pioneering work led to many
more people in
similar circumstances providing the foundations of a trade to orphans and children of the poor.
Initially these were
called Ragged Schools, the first of which in London started in 1838. Eventually, in about 1850,
the Ragged Schools
became officially recognized; they were given the name Industrial Schools, and were given a
grant, for maintenance
only, from the Treasury. The finding of suitable buildings, equipment etc was still left to
voluntary effort. The
schools were put under the supervision of the Home Office, and it was only in 1921 that they
came under the
Board of Education in England.
Before the introduction of universal elementary education by the Education Act of 1870
(compulsory to the age of
ten in 1880), poor children were encouraged to attend an Industrial School, usually as
boarders, by the Guardians
of the Poor of the local parish. After this date, children were sent to Industrial Schools by
the courts because they
were not under .proper guardianship.. This could be due to the death or imprisonment of their
parents, or because
they had been convicted by the courts for a petty offence, or they had been .frequenting the
company of a known
criminal.. Gradually Industrial Schools became known as Reformatory Schools, and I suppose
their successor is
today’s ‘secure accommodation. for young offenders, run by the Local Education Authority.
The clientele of the new St George’s Industrial School at Eagle House was clearly quite
different from that of
James Dempster’s Academy. In 1855/6 large blocks of buildings were erected next to Eagle House
Road which, in plan, formed a large H with its ends almost enclosed to form two quadrangles.
Boys were transferred
from the Southwark parish’s school in Lewisham on 2 August 1855 and the girls transferred in
July 1857 when the
Lewisham school closed. In 1870, when St George’s Industrial School accommodated 400 boys,
girls and infants,
and had a superintendent, matron and 80 other staff, it was decided to move the school and sell
the new buildings
with Eagle House to the Guardians of the Poor of the Holborn Union of Parishes.
Eagle House remained part of the school, which was now used for the Holborn Union workhouse
Holborn Union workhouse was not transferred to Mitcham until 1886, after the Guardians had
buildings at the rear of the site towards Bond Road. The school building which survives today
in London Road to
the south-west of Eagle House was built as a classroom block in 1892. Probably at that time,
Eagle House became
a convalescent home for the workhouse children.
In 1930 the Poor Law Unions were abolished. Powers
and responsibilities were transferred to County Councils,
and Eagle House came under the ownership of the London
County Council. In 1932 it was sold to Surrey County
Council for use as a day nursery. After World War II
Eagle House became a special school annex for children
with (what we now call) learning difficulties. The
Workhouse buildings were demolished and Monarch
Parade replaced those along London Road. In 1965 Eagle
House was transferred from Surrey County Council to
the London Borough of Merton as part of Local
Government reorganisation, and in 1971 the special school
was closed. The building was restored as a Teachers.
Centre in 1976 and was sold by the Council in 1987.
from 1867 OS map
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 7
LIONEL GREEN traces some more Merton connections:
RALPH DE CAHAIGNS (d.1174) AND THE KEYNES. BENEFICENCE
Some of the possessions of Merton priory came from the Maminot family who had received them
the Conqueror as part of their reward for supporting him in England.
Land in Peckham which had belonged to Hugh Maminot was given at the request of his wife Emma to
Cahaigns on his marriage to their daughter Alice. Ralph then gave the land to Merton priory at
his wife’s desire.
Both Emma and Alice were buried in .the church belonging to the convent. at Merton.1
Other properties that came to Ralph from the Maminot family included the manors of Coombe, East
and Tarrant (all in Dorset), Somerford (Glos.) and Barton (Camb.), the churches of which he
gave to Merton
Priory about 1173.
On the death of his grandfather, Ralph took possession of the Cahaigns inheritance, which
included a cell
(church and estate) at Cahaigns in Normandy. The manors of Flore and Greatworth (Northants.)
went to his
brother Hugh, but even the churches of these two manors were given to Merton.
The name of Ralph de Cahaigns was entered in the annals of Merton,2 and the name of Keynes is
today in the villages of Coombe Keynes, Tarrant Kaines3 (Dorset), Somerford Kaynes (Glos.),
Poole Keynes (Wilts.), Horsted Keynes (Sussex) and Milton Keynes (Bucks.).
Barton south-west of Cambridge.
In 1202 a collateral descendant of the Cahaigns claimed that the right of presentation of the
priest of Barton did
not belong to the priory.4 The prior maintained that the present incumbent, Eborad, had been
there for 30 years,
having been presented by Ralph de Cahaigns. William de Caham (d.1217) argued that his
(brother of Ralph) had presented Savaric, who had died. It would seem that when Savaric was too
perform his duties, he put his son Eborad into the office, and when his father died the son
continued to act.5
Apparently Savaric was priest at Barton for 40 years, with William de Caham acting as patron,
and the right of
presentation descended to Elias, his son, and from Elias to Roese and Maud his daughters.
Following the death of William de Caham in 1217, the prior of Merton sought to settle the
matter, and sued Alan
de Berton and Roese his wife, and Maud, sister of Roese. The prior produced a charter of
Ralph’s granting the
advowson to take effect after the death of Hugh his son, the rector thereof, and also charters
of William de
Cahaigns (d.1222), grandson of Ralph, who came to court and warranted the charters.
The church here was also given to Merton priory by Ralph, but, in order to placate a descendant
of the family,
the priory ceded the church to William de Caham about 1203. The cartulary records that the
canons of Merton,
.moved by the affection which we have for our dear friend William de Kaaines (Caham), son of
to him and his heirs. the advowson of the church of Tureworth (Greatworth) so that when a
he, or they, should present to them a suitable person whom they would present to the bishop of
Lincoln.6 On his
death in 1217 his widow Gunnora renounced the right of presentation.7
This church, or cell, between Caen and Vire, was also given to Merton priory by Ralph. Some
land in Cahaigns
belonged to the church, and about 1150 a homicide caused the lessee to be disinherited. The
Postell, took a female relative of the lessee, who gave birth to four daughters, and he
continued to take an annual
rent for the land. Robert de Curwandun., a relative, sued the parson at the court of Ralph,
which ruled that the
land belonged to the church, and this was confirmed in the king’s court.
Heinous behaviour was rife, as Ralph de Grenvil, a knight, whose wife was ill, had an affair
with one of the
daughters of Postell, which produced two sons. The woman was excommunicated for adultery and
sons of the dead mother, Robert and Ralph, later brought a plea before Henry II for the
inheritance from their
father, and claimed right of patronage of the church at Cahaigns. A further action in the
king’s court led to a fine
payable by all parties, including the canons of Merton.
When King John lost the dukedom of Normandy in 1203, descendants of the daughters of William
complained to the French king that Merton priory had deprived them of their rights. The case
was heard in the
court of the Count of Boulogne, who at the instance of Robert de Geldeford, canon of Merton,
sent his seneschal
Peter Leschaut. No adversary to the canons appeared, and the claim was dismissed. Henry, bishop
(1164-1205), had written to the prior informing him that a jury had established that William
Postell was a deacon,
son of Hervey a priest, son of Ambobert a priest.8 The bishop also mentioned that the estate
involved .the old
iron mine. in his deanery.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 8
Whilst all the litigation over the church at Cahaigns continued, Merton priory sought an
arrangement with a
monastery in Normandy to exchange foreign properties in each others. countries. An agreement
was drawn up
for the church at Cahaigns to be transferred to the abbey of St Fromond. In return, Merton
priory would receive
the tithes of Stamford castle and five churches in the town, as well as two churches further
north in Lincolnshire.9
Pope Lucius III (d.1185) had issued indulgence, and King John confirmed the charter in 1200,10
but the exchange
was never put into effect.
Merton priory continued to hold the cell at Cahaigns until 1267, when a fresh exchange took
place. This gave
Merton the possession of two tourist attractions of today, viz. a church in Somerset which
after 600 years
became the setting of a shooting in R.D.Blackmore’s Lorna Doone (1869), and what is claimed to
highest waterfall in England.11 This exchange of properties will be the subject of a further
1. BL Cott. Cleop. C VII 20
2. Surrey Archaeological Collections 36 (1925) p.42
Now Tarrant Crawford
4 . A.Heales The Records of Merton Priory London 1898 p.58
5. Sussex Archaeological Collections 63 (1922) p.189
Heales op.cit. p.53 but with the name Talworth Surrey given in error; SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922)
Heales op.cit. p.94; BL Cott.Cleop. C VII 20 No.248 fol.cxx
SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922) pp.191/2; Heales op.cit. p.56
St John the Baptist, St Paul, St Michael Cornstall, St George, All Saints in the Market (with a
pension of two silver marks), and the churches
of All Saints, Saxby and St Andrew, Bonby
10. Charter Rolls 17th Feb 1200 I John m.25: SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922) p.192
11. A small competition for members (excluding Committee members please), to mark the Society’s
50th birthday. Can
you identify these two sites? Answers, with name and address, by post to Lionel Green
The sender of the first correct pair of answers opened on 1 August will receive
Society publication(s) of his/her choice up to value £12. (Don’t forget the new publications.)
FOOTNOTE by PETER HOPKINS
The scandalous activities of chaplain William Postell have frequently been attributed to a more
rather than across the Channel in Normandy. Manning and Bray, in their History and Antiquities
of the County
of Surrey (1804), mistakenly identified Cahaigns as Cheam! This error was repeated by Heales in
of Merton Priory (1898) and, more recently, by C J Marshall in his A History of the Old
Villages of Cheam
and Sutton (1936) p11. Hopefully future historians of Cheam will set the record straight. Thank
FROM THE POSTBAG
21st March 2001
My sister, Jeanette White (née Want), who lives in Nelson, New Zealand, has asked me to pass on
congratulations to the Society for its Fiftieth Birthday. Unfortunately she is unable to write
to you herself.
Both she and my mother were founder members, my mother also being an early committee member. At
9 years old I became the youngest member shortly after.
Jeanette says she had fun helping to arrange the Pageant and was very involved with the plays.
family we looked forward to the Rambles, which were ably led by Arthur Turner.
We wish the Society every success in its activities for the next 50 years.
With best wishes
[Mrs Nethersole, still a member, enclosed a photocopy of an article in The Nelson Mail of 2
1995 about her sister, Jeanette White, whose second book on the history of South Street in
just been published. Jeanette’s scrapbook of MHS events was displayed at our anniversary
We congratulate both sisters on their enduring enthusiasm for local history.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 9
By request of the editor, in another extract from his magnus opus, ERIC MONTAGUE describes the
exile of one of our great poets. JOHN DONNE IN MITCHAM
John Donne, the Elizabethan adventurer, gallant and poet, who, at the wish of James I, entered
into holy orders
and became dean of St Paul’s in 1921, spent six years of his life in Mitcham, renting a house
in the village from
1605 until 1611. Lysons1 recounts how
‘sir George More of Losely, whose daughter he had
privately married, was so exasperated, that he not only
refused to forgive, but employed his utmost endeavours to
ruin him: and actually procured his removal from the family
of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to whom he was secretary.
At this juncture Sir Francis Wolley took compassion on
him, and received him and his family into his house at
Pyrford, where they continued as long as Sir Francis lived.
At his death, being left destitute of an asylum, Donne took
a small house at Mitcham, .a place as his biographers
observe, noted for good air and choice company…
Brief as Donne’s sojourn may have been, it has never been
forgotten, and is enshrined in virtually every guide and history
of the village published during the last 200 years. In addition to
a collection of metaphysical poetry notable for its wit, he left
to posterity some of the finest sermons ever delivered in the
English language. Furthermore, a large number of his letters,
many written whilst at Mitcham, have escaped destruction and
provide not only a valuable insight into his character, but also a
vivid picture of his home life. To quote Lysons again
.Being very learned in the civil law, he was occasionally
consulted by persons of the first rank, who paid him liberally for his advice; but this yielded
precarious support, and he was sometimes reduced to great distress, as may be seen by the
extract from a letter to a friend dated from this place.
.The reason why I did not send an answer to your last week’s letter was, because it then found
under too great a sadness; and at present it is thus with me. There is not one person well but
of my family; I have already lost half a child, and with that mischance of her’s, my wife has
into such a discomposure as would afflict her too extremely, but that the sickness of all her
children stupifies her, one of which in good faith I have not much hopes of, and these meet
fortune so ill provided for physic and such relief, that if God should ease us with burials, I
how to perform even that; but I flatter myself with this hope – that I am dying too – for I
waste faster than by such griefs.
From my hospital at Mitcham
Unfortunately, knowledge of the exact location of Donne’s house has been lost, although it
survived into the mid1840s.
The late Tom Francis, an authority on life in the village during the latter half of the 19th
century, and an
assiduous compiler of notes on local folklore, much of it handed down through his father, used
to say that the
house overlooked the Three Kings Pond,2 but this view is not shared by another authority on old
Emma Bartley. The author of Mitcham in Days Gone By, Emma Bartley certainly might have been
remember the last days of the house from her early childhood, and was in no doubt that .the
Donne. resided in a house in or near Whitford Lane, between the Upper and Lower Greens.3
Black, compiling his guide to Surrey, published in 1864, was .unable to fix upon the exact
locality. of the house.4
Donne himself described the house disparagingly as .little. and .thin..5 He mentioned a
parlour, and bedchambers
on the first floor, and also a cellar or .vault. beneath the room he used as a study, from
whence, he complained
bitterly, .raw vapours. arose. Although Lysons would have us believe that Donne .became so
attached to his
situation that he would have stayed there for life., the impression Donne has left of his stay
in Mitcham is one of
deep depression and frustration – he referred to the house in his correspondence as his .little
.prison., .dungeon. and .grave.. It has to be remembered, however, that Donne was a Londoner,
the son of an
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
Dr John Donne Painting by R T Bone, engraved by W Bromley
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 10
ironmonger, and aspiring to a place at court. To him, life in the bucolic tranquillity of
Mitcham must have been an
anathema, and though he could ill afford the expense, he maintained lodgings near Whitehall
until 1607 in an
endeavour to retain contact with the wealthy and influential in whom lay his main hopes for
Donne’s life in Mitcham was marked by illness, acute depression and melancholy, heightened by
his remorse at
the suffering he inflicted on his devoted wife Anne. Writing to Sir Henry Goodyer from Mitcham
in 1608, he
confided that he wrote
.by the side of her, whom because I have transplanted into a wretched fortune, I must labour to
that from her by all such honest devices, as giving her my company and discourse, therefore I
her all the time which I give this letter..6
Anne was the third daughter of Sir George More of Loseley, and had been used to a life of
comfort and luxury.
Both her sisters married well, Mary to Sir Nicholas Carew of Beddington, and Margaret to Sir
of Peckham. The contrast between her life and theirs was marked, and yet Anne seems to have
lot for the most part with a stoicism and patience that is remarkable. Children arrived at
yearly intervals, and died
almost as regularly. She herself was to die in 1617, aged only 34, seven days after her twelfth
With the belated recognition of the marriage by Sir George More, and the commencement of annual
in 1608, the family’s penury ended, and Donne was able to devote his time to writing and the
friends, whose patronage proved invaluable in the years to come. The Donnes left Mitcham in
1611, having been
offered more commodious and congenial accommodation by Sir Robert Drury in a wing of Drury
palatial mansion near Temple Bar.
Shortly before its demolition Donne’s house was sketched by
Richard Simpson, vicar of Mitcham from 1844 until 1846,
whose father is said to have owned the property at one
time. Simpson’s drawing confirms that the house
was small, but also shows that to modern eyes it
would appear picturesque and very attractive.8
With its gable and latticed windows, and a
jettied first floor above the front entrance door,
it is undeniably .Tudor. in style, but in the
cross-wing just visible at the rear there is a
hint of an earlier ancestry, perhaps in a little
open .hall house. of the late Middle Ages.
Guided by Simpson’s sketch, and allowing for
artistic licence, a tolerable ground plan can
be drawn, but this does little to advance the
quest for its site. Various maps of Mitcham
survive from the latter half of the 18th century
and the first part of the 19th, but, being produced
for travellers, they are deficient in the detail necessary
Drawing by Rev
to identify anything but the larger houses. At 22 chains to
the inch the tithe map of 1847 is the first reliable large-scale
map of the parish, and, had Donne’s house been still standing at the
time of the survey, it should have been possible to identify it. Unfortunately this has proved
a hopeless task.
Simpson resigned the vicarage in 1846, and left Mitcham, so his sketch must predate the
commencement of the
survey. From the absence of any house in the register or on the tithe map which could remotely
be considered as
a candidate for the distinction of having been Dr Donne’s house, one is obliged to conclude
that it had been
demolished before the Tithe Commissioners commenced their work.
D.Lysons Environs of London I (1792) 354-5
See also Izaak Walton The Life of Dr John Donne (1640) in Walton’s Lives edited by S.B.Carter
(1951) 18. It was Walton who described
Mitcham as .noted for good air and choice company..
Merton Local Studies Centre. Tom Francis Lecture Notes. 65,141
E.J.Bartley Rural Mitcham (nd) 8, and Mitcham in Days Gone By (1909) 16
Black’s Guide to the History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Surrey (1864) 84
E.Gosse The Life and Letters of John Donne (1899) I 223-4
Gosse op.cit. I 214
O.Manning and W.Bray History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey (1804) I 96
Reproduced in A.Jessop John Donne (1897) 59-60 and N.Clive Jack and the Doctor (1966) 70
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 11
JUDITH GOODMAN on a tragedy of long ago:
.HIS FORTUNE’s PRINCELY AND HE HAS THE HEART OF A PRINCE.1
For a small quiet village Morden saw some startling events in the 19th century. The fatal fire
at the Crown in
1839 has been dealt with in an earlier issue (Bulletin No.119, September 1996), but 21 years
before that a tragic
death beside the Wandle brought not only grief to family and friends, but confusion to the
From The Times of Monday 1 October 1810:
An Inquisition was held on Saturday on the body of the late Mr Abraham Goldsmid, at his house
Morden. Among the Jury were some of the most respectable and intelligent persons of the
proceedings lasted but a few minutes when the following verdict was returned – .Died by his own
but not in his senses at the time.. There was but one evidence [ie witness] examined, and he
but as to
fact of the suicide. Some of the Jury had been witnesses, in the course of the preceding
unequivocal proofs of mental derangement in this lamented gentleman. They had consequently no
in coming to the conclusion they did.
It was proved before the inquest, that about six o.clock Mr Goldsmid left his house, and coming
doors he desired the watchman to tie his shoes (his usual custom). He remarked to the watchman
was a fine morning; and after walking a few yards from the house, he returned and went in
Goldsmid, alarmed by his restlessness through the night, immediately dressed herself, and came
stairs, inquiring of everybody she saw if they had seen Mr Goldsmid? Getting no information
a search was immediately set on foot, and about seven o.clock the house carpenter found him in
closet in the Wilderness, sitting with his head reclined on his right shoulder, a pistol in his
left hand, and
apparently dead. A surgeon being sent for, on examining him, found the ball had gone through
The pistol, it appeared, had been put in the mouth of the deceased.
Soon after the Jury had returned their verdict, the body was conveyed to town, to be placed at
disposal of the Elders of the religious community to which Mr Goldsmid belonged. Mrs Goldsmid
leave Morden yesterday on a visit to the house of a friend.
The date of the death was Friday 28 September 1810.
Abraham Goldsmid2 was Dutch by birth. His parents were Aaron Goldsmid, a merchant, and his wife
de Vries. Abraham was born c.1756, the youngest of four sons, and there were also four
daughters. In about
1763 the family left Holland to settle in London, and, one by one, all the brothers entered the
field of trading and/
In particular, Abraham and the next youngest, Benjamin, who were the closest two among the
as merchants, went on to become bill-brokers (acting as middle-men between merchants and the
houses), and finally operated as what we now call merchant bankers. This was at 6, Capel Court
in the City.3
Both brothers prospered and became rich. Benjamin built one of the grandest houses in the
fashionable village of
Roehampton (Thackeray called it the .banking colony.). Abraham, whose town address was 27
built himself a country villa at Morden, which he called Morden Lodge. Close to the site of
Growtes, this was on
the site of, though
larger than, the
Lodge was intended
for summer living and
entertaining, and was
with the main salon
rising to the full height
of the house. The
decor of all the
principal rooms was
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
‘The Seat of Abraham Goldsmid Esqr’ (1806) courtesy of Merton Local Studies Centre
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 12
and Frederick Crace, members of the most important firm of interior decorators in the 19th
century, and creators
of some of the rooms at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.5 Access to the house was by way of a
drive on the west,
and it is probable that the small but distinctive Ivy Lodge, in Morden Hall Road, was the lodge
prints show exotic plants in tubs ornamenting the grounds, and there were tropical
conservatories and aviaries.
Goldsmid hosted spectacular garden soirées, with musicians in the groves between house and
river, and thousands
of lanterns in the trees. (Presumably the water closet that figured in the inquest report was
for the convenience
of guests on these occasions.)
Increasingly the brothers were concerned in negotiating loans for a cash-strapped government.
The sums were
enormous, the risks difficult to predict and the stress relentless. In 1808 Benjamin hanged
himself with a cord
attached to the tester of his bed.
Grief for this much-loved brother was now added to Abraham’s anxiety about his own affairs. In
with Sir Francis Baring he set up yet another government loan, for the huge sum of £13,400,000,
but was badly
shaken when Baring died suddenly on 10 September 1810. This death caused a dangerous fall in
the value of
stocks. There may have been also some kind of concerted manoeuvre, directed against Goldsmid
the money market, that crucially drove the interest rate down further. It was said too that the
East India Company,
which had lent him £500,000 on ample security, had asked for redemption on that fatal Friday
It was reported that friends had joined Goldsmid at Morden Lodge for the Thursday evening.
cards with them .his mind seemed totally absorbed in the thought of other subjects.. However he
to go into town as usual the following morning, and an early report said that it was his
coachman who found him
.weltering in his blood..6,7
The news of the death, and its manner, caused consternation in the City and in Government
circles. It was
assumed that the Goldsmid house of business would be unable to pay its debts, and as they were
principal loan contractors this was a serious situation. After a rocky period however matters
settled down, and
in time all debts were paid. Morden Lodge was never again occupied, and was pulled down a few
years later, to
be replaced with a more conventional Regency house.
Goldsmid was buried in an early morning ceremony at the Jewish Burial Ground off Whitechapel
were 13 mourning coaches, and the high priest and elders from the synagogue attended. .Though
was shown there were no funeral rites..7
Most of the obituaries were adulatory and credited Goldsmid with exceptional integrity,
generosity, high-mindedness and so on. A memoir in the European Magazine8 is unusually full of
capital letters even for that time, and also includes a specially written poem:
…. Pure and expansive as the noontide ray,
Mild as the genial breath of blooming May ….
A notable exception was a piece by William Cobbett8, in which the radical writer damages a
assessment of Goldsmid and his world by some anti-Semitic ranting.
To modern ideas it is strange that the inquest was held in the dead man’s house (but then there
was no public
building in Morden), and on only the day following the death. It would be interesting to know
the names of the
.respectable and intelligent persons of the vicinity.. The local surgeon called was probably Mr
Parrott of Mitcham,
a respected practitioner. Parrott and Goldsmid knew each other, as frequent guests at Merton
Place, both during
Nelson’s lifetime and later, when Emma Hamilton continued to use it for entertaining. So, a sad
and shocking call
for this medical man to make.
Description of Abraham Goldsmid by George Matcham, Nelson’s nephew, quoted in M.Eyre Matcham
The Nelsons of Burnham Thorpe 1911
Biographical details (which are not always consistent) are taken from:
Dictionary of National Biography
Annual Register 1810 pp279-80
Burke’s Landed Gentry 1898
L.Alexander Memoirs of the Life and Commercial Transactions of the late Benjamin Goldsmid Esq.
P.H.Emden .The Brothers Goldsmid and the Financing of the Napoleonic Wars. Jewish Historical
Society Transactions 14 (1935-30) pp225-246
P.H.Emden Jews of Britain London 1944 pp.83-107
J.Picciotto Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History London 1875 pp249-56
Emden 1944 op.cit. pp84-6
Information from Peter Hopkins, Bill Rudd and the late John Wallace.
Cuttings FC45,1; FC45,2; FC46; FC47 in the Crace Collection at the Archive of Art and Design,
Blythe House, Blythe Road, London W14
M.Aldrich (ed.) The Craces: royal decorators 1768-1899 John Murray and The Royal Pavilion,
The Times 29 September 1810
Unattributed cuttings in the extra-illustrated Manning and Bray History of the County of Surrey
at the British Library, shelf-mark
Crach.1.Tab.1.b.1 vol XII at p488
8. European Magazine 1810 pp244-47
Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register vol XVIII No.16 (3 October 1810) pp513-34
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 13
LIONEL GREEN, responding to a request from the Mayor, explains
THE STATUTE OF MERTON.
On January 20th 1235/6 Henry III married Eleanor, daughter of the Count
of Provence, at Canterbury Cathedral. The wedding had brought together
the greater part of the nobility and high clerics of the land, and all left
Canterbury for Surrey where .a great council [was] called at Merton
after the festivities were over..1
Normally such a meeting would have taken place in London, probably
using Westminster Hall, but the winter of 1235/6 was severe and the
Thames at Westminster had overflowed the banks .and in the great
Palace of Westminster men did row with wherries in the midst of the
Hall, being forced to ride to their chambers..2 The complex of buildings
within the large precinct of Merton Priory was probably the nearest
There must have been great confusion in the outer court of the priory
with men-at-arms, pages, scriveners, clerks. Each of the great men
attending would have brought horses and carts. Stabling would have
been intimidating with additional work for the farriers. Fires were probably
lit in the open to supplement the kitchen. Over these fires would have
hung the cauldrons for boiling meats and other food. Emergency storage
areas would contain piles of faggots and wood for the fires.
At this Great Council was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Rich, no stranger to Merton,
having lived here
as a canon 1213/4 (see Bulletin No. 137 p.13). He had officiated at the royal wedding and would
later crown the
queen. Also present was Ralph Neville, Chancellor of Henry III.
The political event at Merton was the culmination of fears by the barons that the king was
relying on foreign
advisors and disregarding the traditional right of counsel of the barons. The result was
incompetent rule. They
were also fearful of the influence of the Poitevins, Bretons and Provençals who had been
invited to occupy
royal castles and fill administrative posts forming an extravagant Court. They could see the
influence of canon
law as practised on the continent and were alarmed that the king might abolish the common
council of the realm
and introduce a French-type court of 12 lords only – a distinct possibility now that the king
had married Eleanor
In the crowded chapter house of Merton Priory there would have been no direct representation of
for it was to be another 18 years before elected knights of the shires would be summoned, or
burgesses from the
towns were eligible to attend. Consequently this Parliament was limited to what we now call the
Lords. It is noteworthy that in spite of the fact that the common people had no say in the
passing of this Statute,
it remained in part on the Statute Book of Parliament for over 700 years. The enactments passed
by the .Lords.
were naturally for the gain of themselves and to the detriment of the people.
The Statute consists of eleven chapters but the term ‘statute of Merton. is usually reserved
for chapter 4
because of its importance throughout British history.
Chapter Summary of measures.
1 Safeguarding widow’s share of her late husband’s estate.
2 Giving the right of widows to bequeath the crops of their own dower lands.
3 Redisseisin – i.e. the second attempt to repossess.
Where a plaintiff had legally secured repossession of land but the .disseisor. (dispossessed)
taken it back again, the sheriff was authorised to arrange a site meeting with twelve knights
men of the shire and hold an inquest with the coroner. If they found that the second
had taken place, the disseisor was to be imprisoned and the plaintiff given lawful possession.
4 Giving the right of lords of the manor to enclose commons and waste lands, provided that
land is available to satisfy customary tenants. rights. (See Appendix).
5 Safeguarding minors against proceedings for interest on father’s debts.
6 Giving the right of a guardian for recompense if a ward marries without his consent. The
may retain the estate until he pays himself double the value of the marriage, .as one would
fide have given for such an alliance.. The law was already in existence for female wards but
statute extended the rights over male wards.
Henry III, from Cassell’s IllustratedHistory of England I (c.1860)
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 14
7 The guardian’s right to dispose of his infant ward in marriage was clarified. He might tender
match that was not disparaging or unequal, which if he or she unreasonably refused, they
the value of the marriage -viz. ‘so much as a jury would assess or anyone would bona fide have
given for such an alliance..
8 The time of prescription in several official Writs was reduced.
9 This was a failed attempt to legitimise children born before their parents. marriage. (See
10 Giving the right for all free men to be represented by an attorney at the county court.
personal attendance was essential and the passing of this Chapter proved beneficial to heads of
11 The nobles wished to assert their rights on convicted offenders of disturbing the peace on
private estates. They wished to imprison those held for poaching in parks and fishponds but the
claimed jurisdiction and withheld assent.
The Importance of the Statute.
The purpose of the Council of Merton was not to obtain concessions from the king but to set
down points of law
suggested by experiences.3 Some were accepted and others (Ch. 9 & 11) not agreed.
Magna Carta had formulated some fundamental freedoms for all subjects but written parliamentary
law had to
wait for the Statute of Merton (1235/6), the Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of
(1259). The laws made at Merton remain the first item in the printed Statutes of the Realm.
Magna Carta was
not entered in the Statute Book until the Confirmatis cartorum of 1297.
The proceedings at Merton were carefully reported to the Irish government and the Statute was
Ireland by Letters Patent.4 There was a need to keep Irish feudal practice in line with English
common law. The
Statute was abolished in the U.K. under the Statute Law Revision Act of 1948.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON CHAPTERS 4 AND 9.
Chapter 4 – Commons
At a time when most of England was common land, that is land held in common by local
availability was an important factor in supporting the local economy. All who possessed arable
rights of common on the manor waste. But these common rights made it difficult for the acreage
of plough land
to be increased, since any individual commoner could bring an action against any man who did
this. Early in the
13th century there was land .hunger. and the landlords found it profitable to lease land for a
money rent, often
to men already occupying customary holdings. These were small assarts carved from the waste and
to the peasant’s main holding. There was also the need to increase acreage under corn to feed a
Under this Chapter, lords of the manor were allowed to enclose (anciently .approve.) parts of
the waste lands
providing that .on complaint of the free tenants that there was left, a sufficiency of the
common to satisfy their
rights with free access thereto..
This enactment was of benefit to all lords of the manor and this included monasteries and other
bodies. By the terms, simple proof that sufficient pasture for tenants was available would be
defence to actions
of unlawful dispossession of common land. But this referred to pasture for his own tenants and
failed to protect
others with pasture rights. The anomaly was corrected in the Statute of Westminster in 1285.
The Statute of Merton was operative throughout the medieval period and hotly debated. At the
there was a tendency to return arable land to pasture and on 1st May 1551 a proclamation
expressed anxiety at
the decay of tillage. When the Duke of Northumberland took over from Protector Somerset in
1552, a Tillage
Act made reference to the Statute of Merton. Any land that had been tilled for four or more
years since 1509
could not be converted to pasture.
Due to the rapid expansion of London around 1845 advantage was taken of the Statute, and common
took place for development by lords of the manor. In 1864 Earl Spencer, lord of the manor of
to set apart a portion of Wimbledon Common for his own use. In the following year George Shaw-
Lord Eversley) formulated plans to resist the enclosures, and the Common was handed over to the
close by, in perpetuity. This led to the passing of the Commons Acts of 1876 and 1899 which
reduced the danger
of encroachment. In the early 1890s attempts were made to repeal the Statute but a compromise
whereby common land could only be enclosed under the Statute if agreed by the government
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 15
Chapter 9 – Bastardy.
The Church had always provided for children born before the marriage of their parents to be
They were brought to church and at a ceremony were covered by the nuptial cloth like a woman’s
become .mantlechildren. and henceforth legitimate. In the Anglo-Saxon laws no distinction was
the duties to God and obligations to society. The law of the Church was the law of the land.
followed feudal practice and held that such children were bastards. To them the right of
succession to land often
depended upon legitimacy (seemingly forgetting that the Conqueror was illegitimate). In the
early 1230s many
cases of legitimacy were being referred to the bishops rather than the manorial courts. Henry
III desired to
remove the ambiguity of canon law and the English common law. He held a parliament at
Tewkesbury on 12th
October 1234 where it was decided to ask all bishops to rule on the matter, Unfortunately the
question on the
form of inquisition was not whether such a person was legitimate but whether the person was
born in wedlock.
The bishops refused to answer the question as being contrary to the common form of the Church.
At Merton, the bishops asked the barons to consent to such children being regarded as
legitimate because the
Church held them so. Led by a royal judge, William de Ralegh,5 they replied with one voice
Angliae mutare – we are unwilling to change the laws of England. In a report of the discussion
sent to Ireland,
the king added that the bishops had washed their hands of the affair and had left the matter to
the secular law.6
For the next 689 years no change was made on this issue.
The bishops and barons stayed at Merton from 20th to 27th January and the Statute was dated
January 1235/6. Seven other charters were issued, attested by 30 witnesses. The Statute
involved the drafting of
new writs and some were worded by William de Ralegh.7 The chancellor, Ralph Neville, followed
the king on his
journeys accompanied by the clerks who made out the writs. Frequently a strong horse was
the nearest monastery to carry the rolls.8 Acts of Parliament were sent to important monastic
houses to be
recorded as there were no national archives. The Statute of Merton was entered fully into the
annals of Burton
and mentioned in those of Waverley and Dunstable.9
On Sunday 27th January, all departed for London where Queen Eleanor was crowned in Westminster
The Prior returned to his duties with thoughts of a memorable occasion … assisted in his
reveries by the gift,
made at Merton, of a tun of Gascony wine from the king.11
1 W’stubbs Constitutional History 1875 Vol. 2 p.53.
2 J’stow A Survey of London 1598 (C.L.Kingsford 1908 II p.1 1415)
3 F M Powicke The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307 1962 p.69.
4 Pat.Roll 20 Hen III m. 13 d.
5 A.Harding England in the Thirteenth Century 1993 p.177.
6 F M Powicke 1962 p.71.
7 F M Powicke 1962 p.70.
8 F.Palgrave Original authority of the King’s Council p. 1 1 5.
9 Annales Monast. (Rec. Pub.No.36) I pp.249-51 (Burton), II p.xxxi (Waverley) and 111 p. 144
1 0 The Red Book of the Exchequer (p.755) quotes .on the Sunday before Purification.. Matthew
Paris’s chronicle gives the date as 20th
January. The Red Book contains the oldest surviving official record of a coronation.
1 1 Close Roll 20 Hen III m.18.
MUSIC IN THE LIFE OF ST THOMAS BECKET
Regrettably, few members of Merton Historical Society were among the 70-strong audience at the
House of Merton Priory on 7th May for a unique and fascinating experience, when Mary Remnant, a
renowned expert on medieval music, gave her lecture-recital. Supported by the Choir of the
Confraternity of St
James, Mary performed a selection of medieval music from England and the Continent, playing a
instruments – harp, psaltery, rebec, fiddle, organistrum, pipe, shawm, horn, chimebells and
Although, of necessity, modern reproductions, these were all based on surviving instruments or
on evidence from
illustrated manuscripts or sculptures of the period, many of which were shown as part of the
which accompanied the performance. The 25 musical items were linked by a commentary on the life
from childhood in London, schooldays at Merton, service in the household of Archbishop Theobald
promotion as Henry II’s Chancellor, appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, and eventual
martyrdom. At key
points in the narrative, Mary introduced us to music that Becket would have experienced at that
Congratulations to Sheila Fairbanks and the Friends of Merton Priory for arranging a memorable
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 138 – JUNE 2001 – PAGE 16