December 2019 – Bulletin 212
A drug store in Merton in the early twentieth century – Norma Cox
The Wandle in Literature (9) Carol Rumens – Judy Goodman
Beating the bounds in 2019 – Rosemary Turner
From our postbag – John W Brown
The post-war camp on Prince George’s Playing Fields – David Haunton
and much more
VICE PRESIDENT: Judith Goodman
CHAIR: Keith Penny
BULLETIN No. 212
‘Season of Mists’ – Michael Harris’ evocative photograph of South Merton Station, taken on 13 December 1991,
showing the over painted BR covered entrance from street level to platform which was subsequently demolished.
Programme December 2019-April 2020 2
Walk in Morden Park – trees and history 3
Visit to the Post Office Museum and Mail Rail
Visit to the ‘Secret Rivers’ exhibition, Museum of London Docklands 5
Local History Workshops
2 August: Spittal Farm; 1919 Housing Act; Mitcham vicarage; Merton Abbey railway ticket;
Wandle poems 6
13 September: Gentleman’s Magazine; Wimbledon Chase flood 1968; 25in OS drainage dots;
hand colouring postcards
A drug store in Merton in the early twentieth century – Norma Cox 10
The Wandle in Literature (9) Carol Rumens – Judy Goodman 11
Beating the bounds in 2019 – Rosemary Turner 12
From our postbag – John W Brown 13
The post-war camp on Prince George’s Playing Fields – David Haunton 14
Book reviews 9, 16
PROGRAMME DECEMBER 2019-APRIL 2020
Saturday 14 December 2.30pm
St James’ Church Hall, Merton
‘The Story of the Huguenots’
An illustrated talk by historian and author Joyce Hampton
Saturday 11 January 2020 2.30pm St James’ Church Hall, Merton
Short talks by various members
Saturday 8 February 2.30pm St James’ Church Hall, Merton
‘History of Croydon airport’
An illustrated talk by local historian Graeme Roy
A Thursday Mid-March (tba)
Gino’s Restaurant, 6-8 Upper Green East,
Mitcham CR4 2PA
If you would like to attend this event, please let Janet Holdsworth know ASAP, either
by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by letter with SAE to 126 Queens Road,
London SW19 8LS
Saturday 14 March 2.30pm
St James’ Church Hall, Merton
‘More Than 300 Years of Cricket on the Mitcham Cricket Green’
An illustrated talk by Adrian Gault
Saturday 11 April 2.30pm
St James’ Church Hall, Merton
‘Wimbledon Salvation Army’
A talk by Richard Smart, an Executive of the Army
Note also our Local History Workshops at Wandle Industrial Museum, London Road
2.30pm on Fridays 6 December 2019, 24 January, 27 March 2020.
All Members are welcome.
St James’ Church Hall is in
Martin Way, next to the church
(officially in Beaford Grove).
Buses 164 and 413 stop in
Martin Way (in both directions)
The church has a tiny car park,
but parking in adjacent streets
MAR TIN W A Y
Visitors are welcome to attend our talks. Entry £2.
HAVE YOU PAID?
2019-2020 are now overdue. Please note that this will be the last issue to reach you
if we do not receive your payment before the March Bulletin. A membership form was enclosed with the
Current rates are: Individual member £12, Additional member in same household £5
Full-time Student £5, Overseas member £15
Cheques are payable to Merton Historical Society and should be sent with completed forms to our
Membership Secretary at 27 Burley Close, LONDON SW16 4QQ.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 2
WALK IN MORDEN PARK – TREES AND HISTORY
On 15 August
Hopkins and Dave
Arboricultural Officer) led a party of more than 30 people round part
of the Park. We were joined by members of the Friends of Morden
Park (who have their own notice board) (right), and cheerfully
sold them some of our publications. Peter distributed to everyone
copies of our free short guides to the house and the Park (‘excellent
photographs’ said someone).
Peter led off, with a comprehensive look at all four sides of
Morden Park, the house, now a Register Office. He summarised
the ownership and leasing history and pointed out architectural
features and changes. One of the now missing features he mentioned was the bell turret on the roof, demolished
in 1975. Some of his audience had seen the building before that date, but several commented to me that they
did not remember the turret. During his talk, Peter passed around large laminated copies of several of the early
paintings of the house, which were very favourably commented upon.
Then Dave Lofthouse took over, mentioning that there are a few imported specimen trees close to the house,
including a gingko, several deodars and a magnificent swamp cypress (about 25m tall and 1.4m diameter, or
c.83by 4.7ft). However, the majority of the trees in the park were and are native species, mostly oak with quite
a few walnut. All replanting will be of similar species. Dave explained that small fences around some groups
of trees were to deter lots of visitors (especially at large ‘events’) from compressing the soil – and lighting
barbecues and fireworks – to the detriment of the trees, and to allow dead branches to fall, without detriment
to the visitors. Deliberately not mowing under some individual trees allows high-growing plants and grasses to
flourish, with the same effect, at less cost.
Thereafter, we strolled around a clockwise circle in the southern
half of the Park, while Peter informed us of Stane Street, which
we probably crossed, the George Inn and its changes of name, the
‘Manor House’, which is no such thing, the puzzling history of some
medieval crofts that once lay alongside Epsom Road – which Peter
thinks were the location of the Saxo-Norman settlement recorded
in Domesday Book – and the curious Mound (left), of uncertain
origin, but which one expert has suggested was a Romano-British
Beside a dead tree trunk lying on the ground, Dave emphasised that oak trees are home to a vast diversity of
bird, animal, insect and fungal life, and that, as they rot after falling, they support a different but nearly as
numerous diversity, so the Park policy is to leave major trunks on the ground to ‘return to the soil’. He picked
up and showed us a bracket fungus of at least 15 inches diameter and several years’ growth as an illustration.
We later saw evidence on many chestnut trees of the leaf-miner moth infestation (which apparently reached the
UK from Bosnia!), and the results on acorns of the knoppa-gall, a
similar infestation on oak trees. Beside a line of mature oaks, one of
several remains of agricultural hedge-lines, Dave (right) mentioned
that the grassland of the Park is mowed only once a year, partly to
keep down the very young oaks. Apparently oak seedlings do not
flourish in the shade, so the edge of an oak wood is mobile, as each
generation moves a little further from its parents. ‘Mobile’ is a relative
term here – perhaps a mile in 1000 years. As Dave reiterated more
than once: ‘You don’t need a Five Year Plan for trees, you need a
Fifty Year Plan.’
The Park has seen major changes over the centuries: formerly arable, some field boundary hedges still remain
from before the park was created (after the building of the house), while much of the estate was still a farm at
the end of the 19th century. There are still two patches of woodland, which were shown on mid-19th century
maps and which probably developed on arable land abandoned after the Black Death, reverting via furze and
‘ruffet’ to full woodland by the 18th century, but the newest patch is the Jubilee Wood, thickly planted on the old
cycle track with young hawthorn in a community event only a few years ago, and now an almost impenetrable
living carbon capture and storage site.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 3
VISITTO THE POST OFFICE MUSEUM AND MAIL RAIL
For some of the eight members and guests who assembled at the Post Office Museum on 12 September 2019,
near to the sorting office at Mount Pleasant, the day began and ended in the excellent café. The tickets allowed
a choice of which attraction to sample first, and most elected to walk down the street to the entrance to Mail
Rail (otherwise the museum of the Post Office
began just before the First World War, but
wartime shortages prevented completion until
1927. It used the technology of the earlier deep
tube lines in London – iron-ringed tunnels and
DC traction current – but added driverless trains
controlled from centralised signal panels. The
purpose was to convey mail quickly east-west
across central London in the days when letter
post was the main or only means of transacting
business or keeping in touch with friends
and relations. The ride through part of the system that survives under Mount Pleasant is perhaps not to be
recommended for the tall or those who are troubled by noise or confined spaces; the narrow-gauge trains and
small tunnels were not, of course, designed for passengers. The sound and visual effects en route conveyed much
of the atmosphere of a working life underground, physically demanding and all subjected to the schedule of the
mail trains, fifteen an hour in either direction, twenty-two hours a day, except Sundays. As a compensation for
the hard work, there was a strong feeling of pride in the job and of being friends within a team. The museum
section after the train ride included a section on the railway Travelling Post Office and was full of equipment
and excellent descriptive panels, as well as challenging interactive installations where visitors could test their
skills at signalling trains or sorting mail – though one member of the party thought there was an emphasis on
The general museum is not large and really comes to life with the twentieth century, long after the introduction
of the Rowland Hill postage stamp system in 1840. It is mostly about mail, even though the Post Office was the
national provider of telephones. Officials of the Royal Mail had had uniforms since 1793, and a display of these
(with an option to try some on) led to illustrated panels
that showed sections of the workforce, including the
telegram messenger boys and the women who took up
sorting work in both World Wars and who monopolised
telephone operator work. From 1933 public relations
became important, with the commissioning of posters
and a logo and the establishment of the Film Unit,
whose best-known creation, Night Mail, was showing
(compare (left)). The 1930s staff magazine included
high-quality photographs of Post Office staff at work
corners of the
exhibits ended with ‘new’
stamp designs and the
beginnings of automated sorting.
Also near the
was an ‘Ironhenge’
postboxes (see Bulletin 209, p.8) (right). I enjoyed
not just the hardware but the photographs and
posters, as well as the emphasis on the hidden
workers underground. Not
the strong feeling of a world overtake by modern
electronics, perhaps demonstrated in pictures of
game birds and rabbits being sent by mail, all
permitted by regulations, provided the rabbits were
not leaking liquids.
All pictures from website www.postalmuseum.org
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 4
VISITTO THE ‘SECRET RIVERS’ EXHIBITION,
MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS
On 18 July, a group of us assembled to see this together, in advance of the October talk to the Society by Thomas
Ardill. The exhibition reveals something of the history of the many small rivers of London which are now lost
to view, having been mostly converted into sewers. The exhibition aims to use ‘archaeological artefacts, art,
photography and film to reveal stories of life by London’s rivers, streams, and brooks’, while ‘historic and
contemporary artworks … show how London’s rivers have played an important role in the city’s imaginations’.
claims broader themes, such as poverty, development, manipulation, effluence, activism and
restoration, but these passed me by, perhaps being too ambitious an aim for a smallish space.
We are greeted
by a quote from the Latin of Seneca (4BC-65AD, historian and tutor of emperors) ‘Where a
spring or river flows, there should we build altars and offer sacrifices’. It was evident from the sheer variety
of objects found in the Thames and its subsidiary streams that many people have taken this thought seriously
over the millennia. And in quantity – more than 20% of all the Late Bronze Age swords found in the UK have
been discovered in watery contexts in West London. An impressive number of recovered objects is on display
– mostly metal (especially weapons), pottery
medieval three-place communal loo seat (right)
emphasises the use of the streams both for
sanitation and for rubbish disposal.
The exhibition’s emphasis is on the natural
drainage, now covered over, channelled as
sewers, or even lost. The Wandle gets a mention, as part has been ‘recently uncovered'(actually a stretch of
banks was cleaned up). There is no exhibition catalogue, but a truly excellent map (free), carefully distinguishes
the buried and the visible parts of rivers. It also shows the many sources of some quite small streams -the Peck
(of Peckham) has only one, but the Tyburn has three, and the Effra five, while the Walbrook has at least eight
now known, found by archaeologists on digs in the many re-development sites in the City.
Information panels on some rivers are mounted rather low (for children?), and give basic facts (length, name
and probable derivation, etc.). I was fascinated by the names, such as the Neckinger, Warple (not Worple),
Quaggy, Effra (which is Anglo-Saxon), and some others betraying ownership (eg. Earl’s Sluice, Parr’s Ditch).
A fine collection of pictures – prints, drawings,
paintings (almost all watercolours), photographs
-show small rivers in existence or just after being
covered over, in all sorts of neighbourhoods. A
good example is Jacob’s Island, Rotherhythe,
1887, by James Lawson Stewart (left). A
group of three drawings by Anthony Crosby
c.1803 show the progress of excavations to
divert or replace a river by a sensible sewer.
I noticed only a couple of contemporary
artworks: a changing multi-coloured light panel
was intriguing, its display depending on the size,
speed and motion of persons passing across a
small area nearby: a short tunnel which emits sounds, rather like whale song, as you walk through it is perhaps
more effective. (NB. In the bookshop, I purchased the not entirely irrelevant Privies and Water Closets (2008,
Shire Books, £7-99).)
On 12 October Thomas Ardill, a curator at the Museum of London, spoke to us mostly about the pictures in the
exhibition, but also about aspects not fully covered there; basically the seedier side of the subject. For example,
he described the lives of the 18th- and 19th-century Mudlarkers, both young and old, who scavenged on the
foreshore for a living, recovering for recycling all sorts of material – animal, vegetable and mineral. A fairly
appalling trade. Interestingly, and rarely mentioned, the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 resulted not only in our Joseph
Bazalgette’s new interceptor sewer system, but also in many of the Secret Rivers becoming covered; in many
cases they are still used as sewers, though no longer emptying directly into the Thames.
Both pictures: Copyright Museum of London
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 5
Friday 2 August 2019 – Five present. David Haunton in the Chair
. Rosemary Turner had been given by Peter Hopkins a copy of the local entries in James Edwards’ Companion
from London to Brighthelmston (1789-1801), from photocopies found among Eric Montague’s papers. She
was particularly interested in the entry for Spittal Farm, which Edwards passed on his journey along the
turnpike road from Mitcham towards Cheam (the present A217), rather than from Central Road, Morden.
Rosemary had plotted his route, starting with his mention of Mitcham Grove then ‘Cross the river Wandle by
a bridge built with brick'[that is the one in Bishopsford Road that has recently collapsed]. ‘On the east side
of this bridge Mr Glover has corn and snuff mills. A gradual ascent, and on the left is the X  mile stone
from the standard in Cornhill [this is Hillfield]. About a quarter of a mile to the right is Spittal-farm. The
house appears of a modern erection, built with red brick and sashed [or perhaps lathed?] in front.'[The 1910
valuation (entry 52) says ‘built of brick distempered & slate part cement faced’.] Edwards continues, ‘On
the top is a turret containing a bell [this isn’t mentioned anywhere else]. It is the property of Joseph Wright,
Esq. [Joseph appears in the Morden Land Tax records from 1789 to 1792.] He then mentions ‘A farm house
on the left'[of Bishopsford Road]. Edwards goes on to refer to ‘Cross roads and a gradual descent begin,
and continue to the XI  mile stone from the standard in Cornhill. Enter Sutton Common.’
a copy of a map from a later edition of the book, which differs from the copy found among Monty’s papers.
On her copy the property is called ‘Mordon Lodge’ and is shown in approximately the correct position and
with the site land reaching ‘Moordon Lane’, now Central Road, whereas Monty’s copy labels it ‘Spittal’ with
a drive coming from ‘Sutton Lane’, now Bishopsford Road. This drive remained as a footpath until c.1920
and went through the farm yard and continued to Central Road.
. Keith Penny
had been to a conference in London on the 1919 Housing Act. At first preference was given to
men who had served in the War. He noted that so much depended on the attitude of local councillors. Two
local authorities in Hinckley, Leics, had approached it in completely different ways, one enthusiastically
because local councillors wanted to house workers in the local hosiery industry, the other unwilling to be
ordered by the government – although they had built housing under the voluntary system introduced by the
1894 Act. In our own area, Mitcham councillors were competent and energetic, whereas the response was
more modest in Merton and Morden, probably because there was less demand as the area was less developed.
had purchased from Hampshire Record Office a set of 5 DVDs containing images from all
the Registers of the Bishops of Winchester from 1282 to 1684. Hoping to find some information on the 17thcentury
building work at St Lawrence’s Church, Morden, he started by looking at the later registers, but so
far had not found any new information. However, he did come across some entries relating to building work
at Mitcham vicarage in March 1670/71 [HRO 21M65/A1/35 pp.24-29]. The vicar, John Berrow, appointed
in 1669, petitioned the bishop ‘to have licence to make some addition of building to the vicaridge house
there’. ‘Having suffered much disadvantage and trouble through the want of a convenient study and another
room necessary for the orations of his familie in his vicaridge house’, he had ‘represented his case to sundry
gentlemen and others, inhabitants in his parish who … by a voluntary promise of a generous contribution,
incouraged him to procure his relief by building’. He then went on at some length in humbly beseeching the
bishop to ‘vouchsafe him a licence legally impowering him and authorising him to build or cause to be built
and add and adjoine to the vicaridge house … over and above those which are already built and standing,
two other roomes with one chimney and firehearth for his and his successors’ better accommodation and in
order thereunto to pull or cause to be pulled down so much of the present building as shall be needful.’
On 21 March the bishop issued a commission(in Latin) to investigate the matter
to Morden worthies Richard
Garth, Daniel Ballowe and rector Edward Booth and to Richard Bickley the rector of Tooting, who three days
later, having ‘taken a viewe of the mansion house of the vicaridge … doe report and certifie that it appeareth
to us very needfull and much conducing to the comfort and well being not only of the now incumbent but of
his successors, that two more roomes, the one upper the other lower (neither exceeding eighteen foot square)
with one chimney and firehearth, one stair case or frame of stairs of stone or wood, convenient doores, glasse
windowes (in number nor exceeding three in each roome) and other such ordinary and usuall appurtenances,
should be built or caused to be built, over and above those which are already standing and now belonging
to the said house’, reporting ‘that soe much of the present fabric or edifice may safely and without damage
be pulled downe … as the workmen to be employed shall judge necessary for the making of a convenient
passage or entercourse betweene those roomes and parts of the said house which are already built and those
which shall be built and for the better uniting or joyning of the same together.’ The bishop duly issued his
licence 6 days later, on 30 March 1671.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 6
The question arises, to which vicarage house does this refer? Monty, who doesn’t mention these documents,
says in Mitcham Histories 12 p.56, that the Parsonage House mentioned in documents up to the mid-17th
century was on the site of The Canons, which replaced it in 1680, and so concludes ‘Other accommodation
must therefore have been provided for the vicar in the late 17th century’. Monty includes a Hassell watercolour
of the vicarage
in 1823, captioned ‘pulled down 1826′, and quotes Edwards’ description c.1789 as ‘a low
white building’, commenting that it ‘would certainly not have been out of place in the 1680s’. In vol. 11
p.82, he suggested it was built for Berrow’s successor, John Payne, appointed in 1675, also noting that the
Parsonage House had been occupied by laymen from at least 1619, being used as a maltster’s brewhouse in
1659! When Berrow’s predecessor, Anthony Sadler, appointed vicar in 1661, learned that parishioners had
subscribed some £40 towards the expense of repairing and rebuilding the vicarage, he sued his patron, Robert
Cranmer, for dilapidations [Vol
11 p.36], so he was presumably living in the old building. Thus it seems
likely that Berrow’s new rooms were intended to be added to the old vicarage on the site of The Canons.
Were they built, or was it decided to build a new vicarage, thus releasing The Canons’ site for development?
Peter had also had an enquiry about Wimbledon WSPU Treasurer Bertha Lorsignol, from her great-
granddaughter. Does anyone know anything about her? Peter suggested she contact Wimbledon Society
Museum and John Innes Society. She has already contacted Sarah.
He had also heard from a group hoping to create a replica of a Merton Abbey workshop of William Morris.
Peter suggested contacting Wandle Industrial Museum.
. David Luff brought along a railway ticket that he had recently bought
on eBay, apparently the last ticket (no.0999) for the last passenger
service from Merton Abbey Station to Wimbledon, when it closed in
March 1929. The third-class ticket (right), which had been clipped
and used, had originally cost 2½d – David didn’t disclose how much
he had paid for it!
David had been helping at Merton Priory Chapter House during its open days, and brought along a photograph
of the most popular attraction on the site, bringing visitors back to the Chapter House again and again -John
Hawks’ dog, Toby! (See previous Bulletin p.9.)
. David Haunton had sought publication details of the two poems mentioned by Judy Goodman at the previous
Workshop. That by U A Fanthorpe was easily found, but the one by Carol Rumens (see Bulletin 211 p.6)
was not. Some of her publishers were approached, without result, but one of them forwarded the enquiry to
Ms Rumens (whose website does not include contact details). She very kindly replied, so we now believe
The River Wandle, Beddington to have appeared in the Croydon Advertiser in the early 1970s. The search
continues. (See article on p.11)
The effect of the ‘Little Blitz’ of 1944 on Mitcham had been raised at that same Workshop by Keith Penny.
Dave found that all six deaths, at three separate addresses, were probably the result of a single bomb, and
continues his research.
Dave had been approached
by the editor of Local History News as one of four societies whose newsletters
mention something ‘slightly different’, ours being our Workshops. She requested a short article on our
procedures, and Dave obliged. Intrigued, he looked up when and why workshops began: it was an idea from
Eric Montague, partly to remove history discussions from Committee meetings. The first ever workshop fell
on Friday 13 (!) January 1995, when Peter Hopkins was Chair, and included contributions from Peter, Lionel
Green, Judy Goodman, Bill Rudd, Eric Trim, Peter Harris, Tony Scott and Monty himself. Workshops have
continued in the same informal vein ever since.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS 2019-2020
Chair: Mr Keith Penny
Vice Chair: Dr Tony Scott
Hon Secretary: Mrs Rosemary Turner (& Membership)
Hon Treasurer: Mrs Janet Holdsworth
Elected Members: Mr David Haunton (Bulletin Editor), Mr Peter Hopkins (Publications Secretary),
Mr David Luff (Safety & Membership), Mrs Bea Oliver (Programme), Mr Stephen Wright
Hon Examiner: Mr Robin Darbyshire.
The minutes of the AGM and the statement of accounts will be enclosed with the September Bulletin.
The Chair’s Report 2018-2019 will be printed in full in the March Bulletin.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 7
Friday 13 September 2019. Four present and two correspondents – Keith Penny in the Chair
. David Luff brought
photographs of special passenger excursion
trains (‘Rail Tours’) at Merton Park
Station. One was en route to Sutton, the
other (right) to Merton Abbey on Sunday
3 January 1965.
. Judy Goodman showed us a bound
volume of the Gentleman’s Magazine.
This one holds the issues between July and
December 1808, and contains a remarkable
range of topics, including essays (‘where
do swallows go in winter?’), engravings,
usually of church subjects, death notices
of prominent citizens, ‘Domestic
Occurrences’ and an ‘Abstract of Foreign
Occurrences'(wars, famines etc.). The back page of each issue was devoted to the current prices of farm
produce, with emphasis on the average price of corn, later
used as the basis for the commutation of tithes.
Evidently the ‘Gentleman’ was expected to be one of leisure, with farming as a principal interest. Judy had
been delighted to note a reference to our local Dr Parrott pulling a tooth.
. Charles Toase had given Dave Haunton some photographs of a flooded Kingston Road, near Wimbledon
Chase (overlapped below), and requested the date. (Note the police box.)
This was in August 1968, when two inches
of rain fell during thunder-storms and
caused flooding throughout
Wimbledon Chase had two feet of water,
but Raynes Park Bridge was blocked by five
feet of water and Clifton Park Avenue was
impassable. In 1969, the Council appointed
engineers to report, and by 1971 had decided
to spend £1 million on drainage in the Raynes
Park – West Barnes area. Charles also gave
us this photo(right)ofano.77bus ploughing
through the flood-water along Kingston Road
between Wimbledon Chase and The Downs,
a view kindly identified by Cyril Maidment.
Charles emailed to correct Rosemary Turner’s note on the bakery in Worple Mews (Bulletin 211, p.4): when
Johnston’s (1887, at the Bank Buildings in Wimbledon Hill Road), merged with the Carlton Bakery (with a
history back to 1780 or earlier), the new name was Johnston-Carlton (Bakers) Ltd., not Johnston and Carlton.
. Dave Haunton reported on progress made (much by member Malcolm Claridge) on the history of the ‘Hutted
Camp’ in Prince George’s Playing Fields. We had appealed
for help with this in the previous Bulletin, and
were very pleased by the responses we received. (See article p.14)
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 8
. Keith Penny
pondered the detail in an 1896 25 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map of the north-east
corner of Mitcham (the Greyhound Lane / Marian Road area). This led to a discussion on the exact meaning
of some lines of dots, evidently connected with drainage, alongside or within the boundaries of the various
paths and roads. Usually single but occasionally double, did they show ditch or stream? Man-made or natural?
Among some complaints to Mitcham Council in the 1930s were of vehicles speeding (1932) (we presumed
at more than 30 mph), and an objection to a surprisingly early example of houses being converted into flats
in Longthornton (1937). Plus ça change!
. Mick Taylor emailed a response to Keith’s
query about how postcards were coloured when
the original photo would have been in black and
white. Mick had to do hand colouring for his
photographic qualification a few years ago. It is
not an easy job and the people who do it get well
paid. He did some himself and used a pocket
sized palette that Eric Shaw had given him (right).
The section on guides on this website has some
excellent information and should answer all your questions: http://www.metropostcard.com/index.html
Dates of next Workshops: Fridays 6 December 2019, 24 January, 27 March 2020
2.30pm at Wandle Industrial Museum. All are welcome.
JEFF BROOKS is disappointed with
The Glass Bulldog
by Alison Huntingford (see Bulletin 211 p.16) There is an interesting concept to this book – the use of actual
family history to create a novel. As the author says ‘Did the events described within actually happen ? I do not
know. I merely suggest that they could have happened.’
The narrative starts in Exeter in 1833 with the death from cholera of the young sister of the main character,
Tom Finimore. As a sixteen year old, he steals six chickens from a local farmer when drunk. Sentenced to seven
years’ transportation to New South Wales, he is incarcerated in a prison hulk ship off Devonport Docks. After
an appeal to the Prime Minister, the sentence is commuted to confinement rather than transportation, which he
serves in Milbank Penitentiary in London. The story then follows Tom’s life, working in tanneries, marrying,
becoming a father, separating from his wife, her death and Tom’s second marriage. Tom and his new wife have
children of their own and later become grandparents. The narrative ends with Tom reflecting that, although his
life had ‘had episodes of great emotional difficulty and distress’ it had been a good life.
Although very readable, this is a lightweight story with little depth or character development, and stilted
dialogue. There are some historical insights, such as those relating to the justice system, prison life and working
conditions in the leather industry, but those relating to Mitcham and Godalming are disappointing. The references
to Mitcham are predictable, almost obligatory: only ‘the cricket field’ and ‘the smell of lavender’. In summary,
a good concept for a novel but lacking in literary substance .
NB. Jeff is the author of We Woz Robbed in ’59 (see Bulletin 210 p.5)
We regret to announce the recent death of Janet Morris after a short period in hospital. Janet was a
leading figure in the Friends of Mitcham Common and was the editor of their newsletter Magpie. Her
late husband Gerald Morris also had a keen interest in local history and was also a member of MHS.
Sarah Gould commented ‘She was a lovely lady and so dedicated and informative on the subject of
Mitcham Common. I am fortunate to have benefited from her help and support when researching the
topic for Heritage Centre exhibitions and events in previous years – it is good that she was able to
enjoy walks on her beloved Common right up to the end of her life. I am sure she will be sadly missed.’
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 9
NORMA COX is intrigued by
A DRUG STORE IN MERTON IN THE EARLYTWENTIETH CENTURY
At a workshop in 2018 I mentioned that I had come across a drug store in a Merton street-listing. I confessed
that I did not know that there were drug stores before our present time and that I would research it.
In Great Britain drug stores were businesses which were not run by chemists. Adrug store proprietor would not
have been able to sell poisons or have the title to do so. The stores would have sold non-poisonous medicines
and chemist’s sundries such as toothpastes, soaps, flannels, hair-brushes and all other non-pharmacy items that a
chemist’s shop would sell, probably at a cheaper price. A drug store proprietor of ‘over 25 years’ wrote in 1897
that patent medicines were the reason why drug stores were so successful. He explained that selling products
cheaply allowed drug stores to compete with pharmacies; he suggested writing directly to two drug houses to
negotiate good prices. He commented that drug stores tended not to dispense items as this was time consuming
and not as profitable as sales. The writer also stressed the advantage of having a mature man doing the sales
and not a young person. However the editor of the Chemist and Druggist, the weekly trade magazine, was not
impressed by this hard sell and wrote of the romance of dispensing and the benefit of enjoying the personal
friendship of the drug representative who called regularly for an order.
The patent medicines mentioned by the drug store proprietor were well advertised in newspapers. If the patent
medicine did not contain a poison then it could be sold in retail outlets other than pharmacies. Some of these
patent medicines exist to this day, such as Andrews Liver Salts.
A drug store proprietor would probably have served an apprenticeship in a chemist’s shop. An Association of
Drug Store Proprietors formed around 1906 and later it set down the entry requirements necessary to join the
association. They became powerful and sought registered Chemists and Druggists to join them. The Association
ultimately wanted to get the Drug Store Proprietors Bill passed in Parliament to allow its members to be put
on the register of Chemists and Druggists. The Pharmaceutical Society Council commented that ‘The Bill was
subversive to all the principles of the 1868 Pharmacy Act’ and dismissed it. A Council member asked ‘What if
the Bill ever became an actual fact?’, to which the President replied ‘The Council of the Pharmaceutical Society
would resist it with everything in its power: that goes without saying’.
With the shortage of basic raw materials for medicines caused by WW1, the thinking regarding medicines
changed after the war. The search for new medications became logical and rational, as pharmaceutical companies
developed their research and development departments. They looked for the pharmacological basis of drugs
which enabled them to develop more potent treatments.
The Merton drug store was trading as Noel’s Drug Store at 278 Haydon’s Road, SW19, and was listed in the
1912/13 Kelly’s Directory. This is the first mention of a drug store in Haydon’s Road. The previous year the
shop at no.278 had been a chemist’s named W
F Ennis & Co, listed in the Kelly’s Directory for 1910/11, but
it lasted for one year only. There was no entry for the drug store in the 1913/14 Kelly’s Directory, though this
directory had a page missing for Haydon’s Road. There was no entry for the drug store in the 1915/16, 1916/17
or 1918 Kelly’s Directories.
However, a drug storeatno.278 is listed in the 1919 Kelly’s Directory, with proprietor John Stephenson. Similarly
in the 1920 and 1922 directories the drug store was run by John Stephenson, and there was an entry for the drug
store at no.278 in the directory for 1924 with no proprietor. There were entries for John Stephenson’s drug store
at 278 Haydon’s Road for 1925 and 1926.
In 1927 the Commercial section of Kelly’s Directory listed a new proprietor for the drug store at no.278, called
Joseph Cobb. Similarly, in the directories for 1928, 1929 and 1930 the drug store at no.278 had Joseph Cobb
as proprietor, as he was again for the years 1931 and 1932. However, in the 1933 directory the drug store had
become a chemist’s shop again, run by a qualified chemist, Mr W Wharton MPS Pharmacist. The drug store
did not re-appear in Haydon’s Road after 1933.
The location of the drug store at the northwest end of Haydon’s Road would have been optimum for business
and beneficial for the residents. There was Doctor Harold Bevis, Physician and Surgeon, nearby at 298 Haydon’s
Road. The business was also close to Queen’s Road, Haydon’s Road Railway Station and the crossroads at Gap
Road and Plough Lane.
APPENDIX – TWO MORE DRUG STORES
I subsequently found two more drug stores in the London Borough of Merton area in the early 20th-century.
The first, which had the longer history, was Parkes Drug Store at 14 Wimbledon Hill Road. It was there in
business continuously in the years 1900-1929, as recorded firstly in Trim’s Directories (1900 – 1908/9) and
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 10
then in Kelly’s Directories (1909/10-1929). In 1930 it became Parkes Chemist Ltd, continuing as such in 1931
and 1932, which was as far as I wanted to study the chemist’s business.
The second drug store was in business as Cooper Price Chemist at 183 Kingston Road, Merton, in 1905/6. It
became a drug store called Coopers Drug Store, with its address at no.183, continuously in the years 1910/11-
1927. In 1928, 1929 and 1930 the store was called Harry Cooper Drug Store, but in 1931 the business had
reverted to being a chemist’s shop, continuing in 1932, still with the address at 183 Kingston Road, Merton.
1 Bulletin 208, Merton Historical Society, December 2018 p.9
2 Chemist and Druggist 1897, 2nd January p.13
3 Chemist and Druggist 1897, 9th January p.54
5 Chemist and Druggist 1909, 6th November p.719
6 Chemist and Druggist 1920, 22nd May p.690
7 Chemist and Druggist 1920, 29th May p.721
References 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7 can be viewed online at https:// wellcomelibrary.org/search-the-catalogues/
8 https:// www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qmgq6/
9 Kelly’s Directory: the local issues covered varying local authorities in different years, as follows:
1905/6 – 1913/14 Wimbledon, Merton, Mitcham and Sutton
1915/16 – 1923, 1931, 1932, 1934 – 1939 Wimbledon
1924 Wimbledon and Merton
1925 – 1930, 1933, 1937 Wimbledon, Merton and Morden
10 Trim’s Directory for Wimbledon and Merton 1900 – 1908/9
THE WANDLE IN LITERATURE – an occasional series
(9) CAROL RUMENS
Carol Rumens (née Lumley) was born in 1944 in Forest Hill in South London. She read philosophy at London
University, though without taking a degree. Later she gained a diploma, with distinction, in writing for the stage.
She has published 14 collections of poetry, taught at many universities and has been awarded a number of prizes.
She is a member of the Society of Authors, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984.
As it happens Rumens does not remember composing her sonnet to the Wandle, but she suspects it was written
in about 1970, when she, Jerry Orpwood and Brian Dann were members of the PICK group of Croydon poets.
Around that time the Croydon Advertiser would sometimes give over a page to works by young poets. (Those
were the days!) She suspects that that newspaper is the source of the photocopy of a cutting in the Sutton
archives. At that time she was living in New Addington, an isolated and relatively deprived part of Croydon
Borough (though improved since then with the coming of the trams), about which she wrote a number of poems.
Her sonnet about the Wandle does not paint a romantic picture of the river, but is remarkably vivid. We present
it here, with Carol Rumens’ permission, in probably its first appearance in print for 40-odd years.
The River Wandle, Beddington
It roars beneath the pavement, then appears
suddenly at your side, a guttersnipe,
sparkling and larking, chuckling out of pipes,
busy as brass, though unemployed for years,
its mills dismantled, glossy cresses stripped.
A sunken hem of railway glinting past
Lego-neat thirties factories into rust
and worn cement, is not more derelict.
It races for the parkland, anyway,
and now you think you’ve understood its ruse
– just to lie willow-kissed, to please the day
with mirrors, smiles. Instead, tin cans and newsprint
wink from scum, permission to decay
granted to beauty now, as, once, to use.
LOCAL HISTORY SALE
Merton Heritage Centre, 2nd floor, Morden Library until 18 December -books, maps, postcards, souvenirs, …
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 11
BEATING THE BOUNDS IN 2019
Mitcham Parish Church is having a year of events commemorating the laying of the new church foundation
stone in 1819. They are collecting memorabilia relating to this and the early years of the church and had a small
exhibition at a wine and cheese event the day before a ‘Beating the Bounds’ walk, led by the Vicar, Fr David
Pennells. We gathered in the church on Saturday 3rd August; Fr David gave a short introduction and assured us
that we would not be walking the ancient parish as shown in MHS Local History Notes 26: Beating the Bounds
Montague. I had given him a copy and hoped it hadn’t given him ideas. Fr David explained how the
parish had been divided up as the area became more densely populated. It is now covered by five additional
parishes, Christchurch Colliers Wood, St Barnabas, St Marks, St Olave and The Ascension. About twelve of us
left at 11.00 to the sound of a quarter peal being rung by visiting bell-ringers.
Fr David read a collect and said that we would stop as we encountered the boundaries of the other churches,
and he would read a collect that represented their dedication. St Barnabas and my own church, St Olave, would
be too far away. We started by walking through the churchyard to Miles Road then Field Gate Lane which
came out on to Western Road opposite Asda. We walked through the centre of Mitcham, keeping on the parish
side and stopped at Three Kings Piece for a collect for St Mark. It was good to see a family of swans back on
the pond. We then went up Commonside East passing the 118 bus stop which was the first escape route for
people having second thoughts. We paused at the junction
of Manor Road where we passed the boundary for
The Ascension. Then we went right on to Windmill Road past the site of the Mitcham Workhouse, the land of
which is now covered in flats. We stopped for a comfort and drinks stop at the Miller and Carter, which has
the remains of the old windmill in its grounds.
We walked along to Beddington Road tram stop using the new pedestrian/cycle pavement. The original path
which went through the woods parallel with the original narrow pavement is now blocked off. We went along a
footpath alongside the tram tracks and then the golf course. We then had to climb over a stile and venture onto
the golf course to continue our route -you just have to listen out for FORE! Then we turned left and walked to
the Mitcham Golf Club. A couple of us were members, so we had been invited to eat our picnic there. Fr David
bought the ladies a drink and I had a very nice real ale there called Sticky Wicket.
After our well-earned rest we walked on to Carshalton Road. We were going to go down Willow Lane, but we
were not sure of the route, so we went along to the Goat public house (it is no longer called this). We stopped
here, not for a drink but a collect for All Saints, Beddington. Then we went down Goat Road to the Wandle and
followed the Wandle walk to the National Trust Watermeads in Bishopsford Road. This comes out just by the
Wandle bridge that has collapsed, so we looked through the awnings to see the damage. The next stage was
through Ravensbury Park to Morden Road, then along Morden Road to Belgrave Road tram stop where we cut
through along a footpath that came out in Benedict Road which is opposite the church.
Some people drifted away as they got to a convenient place for their homes. I really enjoyed it, though I was
disappointed that we didn’t get to go down Willow Lane; that it is still on my list for exploration. I was in good
company which always makes for a good walk.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OFARCHAEOLOGY IN CARSHALTON AND DISTRICT
One of Surrey’s oldest local archaeological societies, the Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society,
will celebrate its Centenary in 2020. Formed as the Beddington, Carshalton and Wallington Archaeological
Society in November 1920, it expanded its catchment area in 2006 to include the whole of the London Borough
of Sutton, while remaining focussed around Carshalton (the geographical centre of the Borough). The year will
be marked by a Centenary Tea for members in October 2020, as well as other events for the public throughout
the year. A Heritage Treasure Hunt (with prizes) will be held in July/August, coinciding with the start of the
national Festival of Archaeology, and other events are planned. To keep up with their plans for the year, visit
the society’s website, cadhas.org.uk.
JOHN SHARP (1923-2019) (Times obituary)
John Sharp (SOE radio operator) was born in Merton, son of Walter Sharp, a detective at Scotland Yard, and his
wife Grace. Educated locally, he joined the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942 and trained as a radio operator. He
volunteered for the ‘Jedburghs’, three-man teams parachuted into occupied France to arm and organise French
Resistance Groups, and was mentioned in dispatches for his work there. He then volunteered for similar work
in Burma, where his team twice parachuted into the Arakan, to gather intelligence, directing successful RAF
bombing raids, and reporting Japanese army movements. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. Post-War
he worked for oil companies in the Middle East, and then for British Steel.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 12
FROM OUR POSTBAG
JOHN W BROWN writes (slightly edited)
I was fascinated to see the picture of the ‘Tooting’
the cover. I too have a small collection of such train
photographs, and enclose one of ‘Mitcham’, No.633
I also have a collection of photographs of boats named after
local places. There was a series of ocean-going cargo boats
named after London hills, including the Tulse Hill, the
Denmark Hill, and the most famous of them, the Streatham
Hill, which in the months leading up to the Cuban Missile
Crisis in 1962 found itself in the midst of USA and USSR tensions. Some of its cargo of 80,000 sacks of Cuban
sugar, bound for the Soviet Union, was off-loaded into store at Puerto Rico while the boat underwent brief
maintenance. It is reported that while in store, some 14,135 bags of sugar were poisoned by the CIA.
Mitcham has no hills, so no vessel of this name formed
part of the fleet. However, there was a boat operated by
the South Eastern Gas Board on the Thames called the
Mitcham (left) together with others such as the Brixton
and the Wandsworth. These were all colliers transporting
coal or coke to the Board’s gas works.
Finally, I was fascinated to see the photograph of the
Pollard’s Hill Home Guard. Few such photos of war-time
units have survived. It is likely that not many more copies of the picture were made than 31, the number of men
in the group, and with the passing of three-quarters of a century since 1944 one wonders how many of these
I recently acquired a similar such photograph showing members of the Anti-Aircraft gun crew
which operated a 4.5-inch AA gun in Mitcham during 1942/43, probably situated in the gun emplacement on
Mitcham Common. The photo shows 48 members of the Royal Artillery and the ATS who operated the gun,
including the unit’s chaplain, seated in the centre of the group. I would be interested to hear from anyone who
may be able to supply additional information concerning the group. [Please do so via the Editor.]
David Haunton adds:
From the useful www.mariners-list.com website, we learn that the owners of the Hill fleet were Counties Ship
Management (CSM), of London, and that the Streatham Hill was built in 1943 as Fort Mingan for the Ministry of
Works and Transport, sold in 1948 to Acadia Overseas Freighters, Halifax, Nova Scotia, renamed the Haligonian
King, purchased by CSM in 1950, renamed Streatham Hill, and finally scrapped in 1966.
As well as the Mitcham, the South East Gas Board at one time or another owned a total of 22 ships, all locally-
named, among them SS Wandle, Wimbledon, Effra, Croydon and Kingston. David Luff has heard that one of
the fleet members had sunk in the Thames estuary, at an uncertain date [does anyone know about this?]. The
SS Mitcham had an interesting life. She was built in 1946 for the Wandsworth & District Gas Co, transferred
to the South East Gas Board in 1949, sold in 1966 to Matthew Shipping, London, who renamed her Tortugas,
sold again to Pyrgi Chios Shipping, Cayman Islands, in 1974, and on 3 July 1975 sank 30 miles south-west of
Santorini in the Mediterranean.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 13
DAVID HAUNTON follows up
THE POST-WAR CAMP ON PRINCE GEORGE’S PLAYING FIELDS
We asked for feedback in Bulletin 211, and we got a lot! Malcolm Claridge recalled visiting a school friend
at the camp in the early 1950s, while Ann Partleton (née Hartlebury) was only four years old when she and
her family lived in the camp
for a while. Ann has kindly supplied us with some photographs and two very
useful newspaper cuttings, one from the Wimbledon Boro’ News in May 1947, the other of uncertain later date,
probably 1954. Peter Hopkins has discovered that the 1951 Ordnance Survey map of the area not only shows
the individual huts, but also gives some of their number-addresses, while your scribe has perused the voter lists
for 1947-1956/7, and the Merton and Morden Council minutes for the period. These varied sources enable us
to give an updated account of the camp.
Prince George’s Playing Fields were requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) early in the Second World
War, and used as a heavy anti-aircraft gun site. Post-War, the guns and gunners were replaced by prisoners of
war. The last of the prisoners left early in 1947, leaving the site empty apart from several gun-pits and many
huts. The MoD having no immediate use for the site, the huts were made ‘uninhabitable’.
We know that there were at least
57 huts, as that is the highest
number recorded by the Electoral
Registration Officer as an address
in any subsequent Voters List.
1951 OS map places 31
huts (nos.1-18, 24, 27-32, 35,
37, 9a, 9b, 12a, 27a) enclosed
within a boundary in the north
east corner of the Playing Fields,
next to the Merton Mansions
flats, extending westwards along
Bushey Road for about one-third
of the width of the Fields (right,
north at bottom). The area is
now approximately covered by
the David Lloyd building and its
carpark. The map also shows two
strings of widely-spaced and unnumbered
rectangular blocks, shaded like the numbered huts. One is in a north-south line towards the west of
the Fields (interspersed with trees on the same line), and the other lies in an east-west line along the south side
of the existing footpath between Grand Drive and Whatley Avenue. Since there are about 20 of these blocks,
we assume that they represent the ‘missing’
20-odd huts, presumably not numbered because they were not
inhabitable, when surveyed in spring 1951 (perhaps only concrete hard-standings). The entrance to the group
of huts was from Bushey Road, where the modern David Lloyd access road lies. Malcolm recalls using the
cycle track along Bushey Road in 1950/51 (it’s still there, showing its age).
In the spring of 1947, Merton and Morden Urban District
Council was struggling with the problem of (re-)
housing a lot of their population. The repair and replacement of war-damaged property was proceeding slowly
(much war damage having been only sketchily repaired) and large numbers of ‘de-mobbed’servicemen were
now returning to their homes. Thus it was not surprising that the Boro’ News should report that a group of some
18 families had taken up ‘unauthorised residence’ in the abandoned structures in the Playing Fields, known
locally as ‘The Camp’. This was an organised group, with an elected Camp Committee to represent them, and
a ready-prepared Press statement. Their spokesman, Mr P L Andrews, with his wife and two sons, aged 6 and
4, was typical. He claimed that all the men were ex-servicemen who had served overseas during the war, and
who had been on the housing waiting list of Merton and Morden Council for as much as five years. In fact, at
least one squatter was a woman (with a family) whose husband was still overseas.
The first notice of the presence of ‘unauthorised persons on the gunsite’ is in a minute of the Council’s Housing
Committee (HC) of 6 May 1947. The first official reaction was to consider legal eviction, but following a united
plea by a couple of charities, two Trades Unions, the Labour Party and the Communist Party on behalf of the
squatters, and following a meeting with the Camp Committee, the Council decided to allow them to stay. The
fact that the group included at least 30 voters, with others soon arriving, may have had some bearing on this
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 14
decision. In July the Council
approached the MoD for possible transfer of responsibility for the site, but the
reply was ‘not yet’. However, the Ministry of Health (MoH), with its wide powers of entry and inspection,
then got involved and announced a full transfer as from 29 September 1947.
The Council took their responsibilities seriously;HC7October1947discusses rates and electricity bills, dustbins
and refuse collection, the provision of improved cooking and adequate sanitary facilities and the cost of installing
fencing. (NB. This implies the boundary shown on the 1951 OS map is recent.) The Council announced that
any further squatters would be evicted, and that Council would control the future allocation of huts when any
are vacated. HC 4 November confirms a properly connected electricity supply, while on 11 December 1947
there is a scheme to provide sanitary and kitchen facilities
at the 29 huts lacking these, and another to supply
gas to 48 huts. It is noted that the outside doors and windows removed from the huts have been recovered
from the War Department, and they are being fixed by the occupiers. (The winter of 1947 was long and cold,
with snow lying on the ground until May, so the pioneers’ first actions must have been to weather-proof the
doors and windows.) We have little information on the facilities inside the huts, though it transpires from later
Council minutes that at least some huts had kitchen and sanitary facilities when first occupied. Rebecca reports
a memory that hot food was prepared in the ‘cookhouse’. This may well have been no.30 (from its large size,
its odd shape, and the fact that only one person lived in it). There was certainly a separate ‘ablutions’ block,
presumably containing showers and toilets.
Squatter numbers rose rapidly at the start: the Voters List 30 June 1947 gives, in alphabetical order, but without
hut ‘addresses’, the names of 44 people (in 24 families) in ‘The Huts’, but the Camp Committee tells HC 7
October 1947 that there are 56 families in residence, with 106 adults and 65 children, in 52 huts and three gun-
pits. For a while, population varied; over the next few months a number of people left, but the White family
were joined by their relatives, the Ebers and the Hartleburys. Things then stabilised, as the Voters List 30 June
1948 shows 82 voters in 46 huts, with similar numbers on 10 June 1949, 20 November 1949 and 20 November
1950. There was then a steady reduction in the number of people in the Voters Lists as the Council re-housed
the occupiers. The Voters List 20 November 1951 shows 60 voters in 30 huts, 1 October 1953 53 voters in 27
huts, 10 October 1954 26 voters in 14 huts and 10 October 1955 8 voters in 5 huts.
Some Council notes: HC 6 September 1949 records unauthorised occupation of hut no.1, but the family are
allowed to stay because of ‘special circumstances’. HC 3 January 1950 MoH requests two strands of barbed
wire (!) be installed atop the fence. HC 5 December 1950 mentions flooding in some areas. HC 17 July 1951
Council agreed to release the westernmost part of the camp to London Playing Fields Association (LPFA, the
owners), and to release some more when the last two occupied western huts are vacated. HC 4 April 1952 further
land released to the LPFA. HC 3 June 1952 refuses to repair no.30, but accepts the occupier’s offer to repair it
himself. HC 12 January 1954 authorises demolition of any huts becoming vacant, before a Ministry of Housing
demand of 20 April that ‘All occupants of requisitioned property should be rehoused by 10 December 1955’.
HC 21 February 1956 reports occupiers remaining in four huts and on 30 May 1956 with a well-nigh audible
sigh of relief ‘remaining occupants have been rehoused, huts demolished and the site released from requisition
on 24 May’. Some families had endured a length of stay of seven or eight years.
It appears that most squatters were respectable married couples; some single, apparently unrelated, men joined
later, but generally stayed for only one year (perhaps they had married vote-less (ie. under-21) daughters ??).
There were several single women. We know at least one woman became a widow during her stay with her
children. Some children must have been teenagers when they joined the camp, as one boy became an adult while
resident (registered as ‘J’= ‘Junior’ in the Voter List). HC 4 October 1948 approves a petition from occupiers
that the name of the site be changed to ‘The Close’, which was accepted by the Post Office.
Rebecca Riley’s photos of her home (Bulletin 211) are of an untypical
dwelling. The rather poor newspaper pictures show that most of the
buildings were very different
from those I had previously assumed.
Some were Nissen huts, but most were rectangular wooden structures
with sloping roofs (right). Also, the Riley home, no.9b, was not part
of a larger structure, but was a completely separate building, as were
nos.9 and 9a. Some huts were dilapidated in 1947 (nos. 19, 22, 52 and
20)and were soon demolished, others were demolished over the years
as they became vacant (including nos.27a, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 47).
Most families remained in one hut for the length of their stay, but some
did not. In 1951 no fewer than seven families weremoved between huts
in the one year, presumably as part of a Council tidying-up exercise.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 15
BOOKS OF INTEREST
Lights, Camera, Merton! The Films of Merton Park Studios by Clive Whichelow (2019, 176pp.) £9.99,
from Enigma Publishing.
A huge amount of research has gone into this book by our local
historian. The Introduction gives a careful account of the different
companies that have used the Studios, and is followed by an
exhaustive list of the known films produced by Merton Park Studios
between 1934 and 1972, complete with title (and alternatives),
producer, director, screen-writer(s), stars and plot. (There may be
a few pre-War documentaries, advertising shorts or government
information films that he has missed, but I suspect these will be
very few.) Clive has reproduced some publicity posters and even
recorded two pages of ‘Merton Park Myths’. The delights
book lie in the detailed notes that feature in almost all the entries.
Clive has clearly watched every film on which he comments,
probably several times – including the complete runs of the
Scotland Yard crime series, the Scales of Justice crime series,
and the Edgar Wallace mysteries. He records whether a film is
entirely or partly shot in the studios, and the location of most
external scenes. For the short crime films, the streets in the Merton
Park area around the studios were frequently used – the Nelson
Hospital appears several times, as do Merton Park railway station,
the Leather Bottle pub, South Wimbledon station and the front
of the Studios building in Kingston Road (as on the book cover). Pseudonyms of directors and screen-writers
are noted, as well as their (non-Merton Park) careers. Did you know that J Arthur Rank directed a religious
film at the Studios? Actors are fully treated, famous, obscure or indeed uncredited (a most laudable effort by
Clive), including who was married to whom. I had much fun noting the appearance in minor roles of the likes
of Jill Bennett,
Diana Dors, John Thaw, Harry H Corbett, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Lee, Peter Sellers,
and a host of others. I particularly enjoyed Clive’s occasional personal comments on the films, such as ‘a nice
unexpected twist at the end'(A Position of Trust), ‘a lot of fun'(Company of Fools), ‘shades of Hitchcock’
(Payment in Kind), ‘quite a spectacular ending'(Partners in Crime) and ‘a taut thriller'(To Have and to Hold).
I can recommend this book unreservedly.
Morden and other Tourist Destinations by Amy Deakin (2017, 48pp) London
Poetry Books £12.00
This is a slim volume of short poems by a young Morden resident, very varied in
tone: from the mordant – ‘Morden Civic Centre towers over the skyline like the
inevitability of death’- to the humorous – ‘When aliens landed in Lidl, / things
did not go as planned…’
fine mixture of the curious, the thoughtful and the
We are delighted to announce that Keith Penny’s Our
Convict Son has received the £100 LAMAS award for
the best single topic local history publication of 2019.
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Printed by Peter Hopkins
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 212 – DECEMBER 2019 – PAGE 16