Lower Green West
Although it is 40 years since Mitcham was finally engulfed by the expansion of London, becoming part of the London Borough of Merton, it still has the good fortune to retain two ‘village’ greens, the Upper or Fair Green, and the much larger and visually more attractive Lower Green. Both are remnants of the broad sweep of heath and rough grazing land which in the Middle Ages extended beyond the parish boundary of Mitcham into Croydon and Beddington.
At the time of the Norman Conquest the Lower Green formed a wedge of common land separating what were then regarded as two distinct ‘vills’ – Whitford and Mitcham. The names are Anglo-Saxon in origin, and there is documentary reference to Mitcham early in the eighth century, but widespread archaeological evidence shows the locality to have been settled extensively throughout much of the Roman occupation. Examination of early maps, supported by the evidence from limited excavations carried out off Benedict Road, suggests a possible nucleus of settlement to the south of the parish church, occupied during both the second and third centuries AD and again in the late Saxon period. Nothing further is known of the area until the tenth century, by which time the boundary between Mitcham and the neighbouring royal estate at Merton was well established, and Mitcham and Whitford lay for administrative purposes in the Hundred of Wallington.
Both were to be embraced by the emerging ecclesiastical parish of Mitcham by the mid-12th century, and Whitford gradually lost its separate identity during the later Middle Ages, becoming known as Lower Mitcham. The two separate portions of green lying either side of the London Road were known jointly as Lower Mitcham Green by the middle of the 18th century. Well into the 19th century, however, the term ‘Whitford Green’ continued to be used, both by local people and in the formal proceedings of the manor of Vauxhall by which, through their courts baron and leet, the dean and chapter of Canterbury exercised jurisdiction over this part of Mitcham.
By the late 19th century the two halves of the green, Lower Green West and the Cricket Green, lay at the geographical and administrative centre of the developing township of Mitcham, a fact to which emphasis was given by the opening of the Vestry Hall on Lower Green West in 1887.
Today Lower Green West and the Cricket Green, together with Cranmer Green and Three Kings Piece, form part of a Conservation Area extending from the parish church to Commonside East.