A booklet on Morden Park, by former Borough librarian Evelyn Jowett, was published by Merton Historical Society in 1977, but has long been out of print. Since then further information has come to light, not least during the survey undertaken prior to the renovation and conversion of the house for use as Merton’s Register Office. This new edition has been prepared by William Rudd and Peter Hopkins of Merton Historical Society.
Extract from a review in MHS Bulletin 143 (Sept 2002)
Merton Library Service
on behalf of
Merton Historical Society
ISBN 0 905174 40 2
Further information on Merton Historical Society can be obtained from
Merton Library & Heritage Service, Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden, Surrey. SM4 5DX
MERTON LIBRARY SERVICE
on behalf of
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PREFACE TO REVISED EDITION
Evelyn Jowett, former Librarian of Merton and Morden, and founding Secretary to Merton Historical Society,
wrote her excellent booklet on Morden Park in 1977, but it has long been out of print.
Since 1977 further information has come to light, not least during the survey undertaken prior to the recent
renovation and conversion of the house for use as Merton’s Register Office.
To celebrate a new lease of life for this historic building, Merton Historical Society offered to update Miss
Jowett’s booklet. The task has been undertaken by William Rudd and Peter Hopkins, with considerable
assistance from Judith Goodman, Eric Montague and Tony Scott. None of the photographs from the original
booklet has been used in this revised edition, but several new photographs have been taken from a similar
The Society would like to thank:
Merton Library and Heritage Service for agreeing to publish this book, and also for giving permission to
reproduce the photograph on p. 24 and the drawings from the report commissioned by the London Borough
of Merton in 1997.
Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson Architects for permission to reproduce illustrations from the 1997 report.
These illustrations are conjectural reconstructions based on the physical and documentary evidence
available at the time the report was prepared. Also for directing us to the watercolours at Guildhall Library,
which were located after the report had been completed.
Guildhall Library, Corporation of London, for permission to reproduce the watercolours by Stokes and Yates.
Surrey History Service for permission to reproduce the prints of the house from the sale particulars of 1873.
The Senior Registrar at Morden Park for permission to photograph the interior of the house, to William Rudd
for commissioning these photographs, and to Colin Smith LMPA of Stonecot Studios for taking them.
William Rudd for permission to use his photographs of the Mound and elsewhere in the park.
Dennis Turner for permission to use his photographs of the exploration of the well.
Norman Plastow for permission to reproduce the map of the park, which he drew for the 1977 edition of
the booklet, albeit with updated captions.
Judith Goodman for permission to reproduce the main section of her article in Merton Historical Society’s
Bulletin 117 (March 1996) – ‘Morden Park House – An Inventory of 1867’.
Published by Merton Library Service
on behalf of
Merton Historical Society
ISBN 0 905174 40 2
Printed by Intype London Ltd
Cover illustration: Watercolour by J Stokes entitled ‘Mordon – The House of Mr. Riches’ (1820)
Copyright of Guildhall Library, Corporation of London. Reproduced by permission.
29 The editors are grateful to Judith Goodman for permission to reproduce here the main section of her
article in Merton Historical Society’s Bulletin 117 (March 1996) – ‘Morden Park House – An
Inventory of 1867’.
30 SHC K/85/2/68–70
31 C Price (ed.)The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan(3 vols) Oxford University Press, Oxford 1966
vol.1, letter 30 and footnote
32 Manning and Bray, Vol. 1, p. 319
33 SHC Land Tax Returns 1781
34 SHC Surrey Freeholders, 1783
35 SHC Surrey Freeholders, 1776
36 SHC K/85/2/302/3
37 SHC K/85/2/192
38 Montague, E N, The Elms, Mitcham, Merton Historical Society, 1969
39 Morden Parish Registers, Ed., F Clayton, 1901, p. xlvi
40 Robson’s Directory of Surrey, 1839
41 Abbey Lodge was in fact in Wimbledon parish. It stood in good-sized grounds, set well back from
the road, on the north side of Merton High Street, approximately opposite Abbey Gate House. Grove
Road and Laburnum Road represent the site.
42 Kelly’s P.O. Directory of Surrey, 1845
43 Kelly’s P.O. Directory of Surrey, 1851
44 All Souls, St Marylebone (Langham Place)
45 St Lawrence, Morden
46 Ralph Robinson, Coutts, 1929
47 Kelly’s P.O. London Suburban Directory, 1866
48 Ditto, 1872
49 Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 3, p. 21
50 Kelly’s P.O. Directory of Surrey, 1876
51 Personal communication from a descendant of John Wormald to W J Rudd (28 September 1980).
52 Wimbledon Borough News, 1 July 1932
53 Wimbledon Borough News, 23 March 1934
54 Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, Morden Park House, London Road, Morden – A
conservation proposal for adaptive re-use, March 1997, commissioned by the London Borough of
55 Hadfield, M,A History of British Gardening, (Hamlyn 1960, Penguin Edition 1985 p.242)
56 Loudon, J C, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening, 1830 (1st ed. 1824) p.1067
57 Symes, M, A Glossary of Garden History (2nd. edition 2000) p.63
58 SHC K/85/2/16; SHC 2575 box 2 bundle H; SHC G/1/1/48; SHC K/85/2/51; SHC K/85/2/71–73.
59 Cambridge University Library Kk 5.29 f.39v.
60 Full accounts are in The London Naturalist, Nos. 38 and 39
61 Rudd, W J, Stane Street in Upper Morden, Merton Historical Society Local History Notes:3, 1991
62 SHC K/85/2/115
63 SHC K/85/2/77
64 SHC K/85/2/116
65 Facsimile in Merton Local Studies Centre; transcript and maps published as Morden in 1838 – The
Tithe Apportionment Map, Merton Historical Society Local History Notes:13, 1998
66 Merton and Morden Official Guide, 1948
1 Grade II: ‘Buildings of special interest, which warrant every effort being made to preserve them’.
From Protecting our Historic Buildings HMSO, 1969
2 The list for the London Borough of Merton, as at 2 September 1988, compiled in connection with
the Town & Country Planning Act 1971, Section 54, may be consulted in the Merton Local Studies
3 As most measurements are quoted from old documents, Imperial measure has been retained
throughout this booklet:– 1 acre = 0.405 hectares; 1 foot = 30.5 centimetres.
4 The main source of information is the unpublished Hatfeild MSS in the Surrey History Centre,
hereafter referred to as SHC K/85/Printed
references are in:
Victoria History of the County of Surrey, 1902–14. Four vols.
Manning, O, and Bray, W, History and Antiquities of Surrey, 1804. Three vols.
Brayley, E W, The History of Surrey, 1844
Cherry, B, and Pevsner, N, London 2:South (Buildings of England) 1983.
5 Manning and Bray. Vol. 1, p. 319
6 SHC K/85/2/71
7 SHC K/85/2/72
8 SHC K/85/2/16
9 SHC 2575 box 2 bundle H
10 SHC 2575 box 3 bundle G
11 SHC K/85/2/51
12 SHC K/85/2/73; K/85/2/303
13 SHC K/85/2/74; K/85/2/303
14 SHC K/85/2/46
15 Rainwater heads on the northern and southern sides of the house bore the date 1770. These have
been stolen within recent times, but a replica is now in place on the south side of the house.
16 Morden Park House, London Road, Merton (London Borough of Merton) – An Archaeological
Watching Brief, Museum of London Archaeology Service, October 1999 (Site code: MPH99)
17 Hudson, K, Building materials, Longman, 1972; Brunskill, R W, Brick Buildings in Britain, 1990
18 SHC K/85/7/28
19 May be consulted in Merton Local Studies Centre.
20 Ref. N872, Harold Williams Collection of Sales Particulars, Croydon Local Studies Library and
21 Evening Standard, 18.3.1964
22 The Borough News, 3.4.1964
23 Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, Morden Park House, London Road, Morden – A
conservation proposal for adaptive re-use, March 1997, commissioned by the London Borough of
24 Guildhall Library, Corporation of London
25 SHC K/85/379–380
26 Count Rumford (Sir Benjamin Thompson) (1753–1814) was well ahead of his time, when late in the
18th century he applied scientific principles to the design of domestic stoves and ranges. An
American by birth, he was widely honoured in Britain and Germany, as well as his own country. It
was more than a century before some of his ideas were developed, but by the 1860s there were
numerous other makes of stove. (see Wright, L, Home Fires Burning, 1964, chap. 15)
27 This was not an unusual arrangement. See Wright, L, Clean and Decent, 1960 (1966 ed.), chap. 14.
28 Smoke-jacks, otherwise known as chimney-wheels or draft-mills, used the rising hot current to drive
a fan in the neck of the flue, and so power the roasting spit. They were in use from at least the 17th
century, replacing the human or canine turnspit of earlier days. (see Wright as in 26 above, chap.
Morden Park is one of the largest of over 40 public parks and open spaces in the Borough. It contains a
fine Georgian mansion meriting Grade II1 in the Statutory List2 of Buildings of Special Architectural
Interest. Its grounds contain, besides over 90 acres3 of open parkland, two archaeological features: a
stretch of the Roman Road, Stane Street (not visible), and a possible burial mound of the same period. The
park lies in the parish of Morden on the west side of the A24 London to Epsom road, its entrance now serving
not only the park, but also Merton College, Merton Register Office and the Morden Park Swimming Baths.
FORMATION OF THE ESTATE 4
The estate was created in the late 18th century and was never the site of the local manor house. The land
forming the park belonged to Westminster Abbey during the Middle Ages and was purchased as part of
Morden manor by the Garth family in 1554. Although the Garths remained lords of the manor of Morden
until 1884, the family had a somewhat perilous descent, their estates twice passing through the female line,
their heirs adopting the name of Garth. To protect family interests, therefore, safeguards came to be
imposed on the use of the estates and, in particular, leases of more than 21 years could not be made. This
policy long prevented at Morden the country house developments by wealthy citizens of London and the
nobility and gentry, which became so widespread in the rest of the district, particularly from the mid-17th
century onwards. Indeed, eventually it actually prevented income growth rather than protecting it.
This dilemma was resolved in 1768, when Richard Garth, the lord of the manor, and John Ewart, a merchant
of Thames Street, London, ‘an eminent distiller’,5 came together to make plans for longer leases. It is not
known how they met, but it seems probable that John Ewart took the initiative. The problem was so difficult
that eventually in May 1768 they had to enter into an agreement6 to procure a private Act of Parliament,
to enable Garth to grant Ewart two leases of land for 99 and 87 years respectively. The latter lease was
to come into effect a few years later than the former, so that eventually they would expire together. Shortly
after this agreement, the Act was passed, entitled ‘An act to impower Richard Garth, Esq., to make leases
of his settled estates in Surrey, for building upon and improving the same’.7 Under this Act, John Ewart
then obtained leases long enough to justify a major capital development.
The site and extent of the estate had been determined in the previous agreement, which the formal leases
confirmed. The estate was to consist of 156 acres lying west of the parish church. It lay near an ancient
nucleus of the village, where formerly had been the gallows, and where still the pound, the old George Inn,
the village school and a number of cottages all flanked the recently turnpiked road to London.
Many of the field names mentioned in the leases appear in a list of the demesne lands of the manor in a
document from 1567 – Longhills, Churchefield, Galloesfield and Great Hobalfield.8 In 1594 these fields
became the core of a farm leased to Thomas Leysdon of Morden, yeoman, together with ‘all that his new
builded messuage or tenement with 1 barn, stable, orchard and garden in Morden next adjoining the
Churchyard’, and two small closes nearby.9 Only 24 acres of woodland on Longhill was retained among
the demesne lands, and this was leased to a tenant in 1616, with other parcels of woodland.10
By 1745 the former Longhill Wood had been, or was about to be, ‘grubbed up’, and the land added to the
farm, then in the tenure of Joseph Burnell.11 In the years prior to 1768, the farm had been in the occupation
of Edward Martin,12 apart from 24 acres known as Great Hobalds and Hobalds Mead, leased to John
Warrington, a major local landholder, until 1780,13 when John Ewart’s 87-year lease came into effect.
In November 1769, John Ewart also acquired the lease of a 7½-acre close, formerly called Grubs Close,
east of Long Hill Wood, but then called the Seven Acres. This had previously been part of the adjoining
Bryons Farm, later known as Peacock Farm (now a garden centre), in Lower Morden Lane.14
The building of the house began as soon as the leases were completed.15 Certain covenants in the leases
throw light on the building process, though it is sad that the builder-architect is not known and that the building
accounts have not been found. John Ewart undertook to spend £200 within two years in erecting one or
more substantial houses on his new estate. He was empowered to dig on the estate or on Morden Common
for earth and clay and to convert these into bricks and tiles for the buildings. He could also take sand or
gravel from the pits belonging to the Turnpike Trustees if they agreed. The turnpike road formed the eastern
boundary of the estate, and Richard Garth was a trustee.
An archaeological watching brief on the site was conducted by the Museum of London Archaeological
Service (MoLAS) from May to September 1999 while renovation work on the house was taking place.16
This revealed the construction method used for the foundations of the house to have been in the form of
a timber raft that lay under the footings exposed in various parts of the building. Samples of timber retrieved
from the footings have been identified as timber-yard offcuts and re-used ship timbers of oak. It appears
that the entire floor plan of the house was originally excavated to the cellar level, even though the cellar
took up only two-thirds of the building. The MoLAS report suggested that this may have been to provide
raw material for the construction of the bricks used in the building.
The making of bricks and tiles on site, where suitable materials were available, was common practice until
the mid-19th century. Transport from afar for such heavy and easily broken materials was too difficult
before the building of railways and canals, since roads were so poor. So, at Morden Park, clay dug the
previous winter, weathered, watered and trodden, would have been hand-moulded into bricks and then
fired, probably in clamps. These consisted of a floor of already fired bricks, brought here for the purpose,
covered with fine coal or other fuel. Several layers of ‘green’ bricks interspersed with fuel followed. Green
bricks were arranged above in a stack, so that the hot gases could pass over and between them. In turn,
they were then covered with partly burnt bricks and earth, leaving a vent hole at the top. Once ignited, the
clamp was left to burn itself out, often some weeks later.17 Alternatively, John Ewart could have had his
bricks fired in some local kiln, but the great variation in colour of the bricks used, indicates the low variable
and uncontrolled firing temperature of the clamp method. The majority of the bricks are red but there are
also many orange, yellow and blue ones. This variation in colour gives a most agreeable appearance to the
building, even though the bricks are of a very rough texture compared with the smooth bricks of today. The
bonding is irregular, but approximates for the most part to the Flemish bond characteristic of the period,
with stretchers and headers laid alternately in each course.
The house is set back from the main road, finely positioned on the high dry eminence of Morden hill, from
which views of Wimbledon and Epsom Downs could be obtained.
View of Morden Park from the south, from a print in the sale particulars of 1873
Copyright of Surrey History Service. Reproduced by permission.
1913–1925 Misses Isabella and Helena Collinge. Isabella (b.1867) and Helena (b.1879) were
daughters of Richard Scott Collinge, JP, master cotton spinner, and his wife, Sarah Ann
née Thomas. Mr Collinge was a cotton manufacturer in Oldham, Lancashire, employing
1050 hands in 1881.
1927–1930 Lady Eva Cecilia Margaret Wemyss. Daughter of William Henry Wellesley, 2nd Earl
Cowley. Married 23.11.1898 to Randolph Gordon Erskine-Wemyss of Wemyss Castle,
Deputy Lt. as his second wife. Moved to Woodcote Grove, Chalk Lane, Epsom, and died
1934 House taken over and converted for use as a Golf Club House by Merton Park Golf Club
(founded 1912), renamed Morden Park Golf Club.
1935–1939 Morden Park Golf Club. Park converted to 18-hole golf course.
1939–1945 Second World War. Parts of the Park were turned over for food production. North
section of the Little Park became allotments.
1945–1965 Freehold acquired by Merton & Morden UDC from the Hatfeild family. (Gilliat Edward
Hatfeild, son of Gilliat Hatfeild (d.1906), died 9 February 194l). The House was used for
social functions. The main Park still contained some of the bunkers and tees of the former
Golf Club. The whole of the Little Park was levelled and in May 1953 was cut with a
herringbone drainage system in preparation for conversion to playing fields which survive
1965–1985 Morden Park came under the control of the London Borough of Merton, who used the
House as offices for the Parks, Allotments and Cemeteries Department, which in 1985
moved to Crown House, now the Civic Centre.
1985–1998 House was vacant, and suffered decay and vandalism. Recorded by English Heritage as
“a house at risk”.
1997 Report by Architects Lawrence & Wrightson concerning restoration, refurbishment and
a conservation proposal for adaptive re-use.
1998 Refurbishment started in the summer of 1998. At the same time an Archaeological
Watching Brief was carried out by the Museum of London Archaeological Service.
2000 11 October. Celebration of the transformation of Morden Park House.
2000 13 November. Opened as the London Borough of Merton Register Office on transfer
from Morden Hall.
MORDEN PARK – A CHRONOLOGY OF OCCUPATION
1770–1780 House built for John Ewart, Esq. a distiller, on land leased by Richard Garth (V). Ewart
moved to Bysshe Court, Horne, Surrey.
1781–c.l785 Thomas Conway, Esq., Commissioner for Excise. Wife, Sophia (died 24.1.1785) and
mother-in-law, Mrs Magdalan Rachel Schromm (died 31.7.1784) buried in the parish
churchyard (monument now demolished).
c.l789–c.l802 Edward Polhill, Esq. Proprietor of Morden Hall snuff mills. Moved to ‘The Elms’
Mitcham c.l804; Lower Green West c.1808/9. Died 1826.
1803–1807 John Calvert Clarke, Esq. Listed: Cary’s New Itinerary, 1806; Lysons Environs of
London, 2nd edition, 1811; Lineage: Clarke of Achareidh.
1808–1824 George Ridge, Esq. Partner in the firm of bankers – Biddulph, Cocks & Co. from 1792.
(Ancestor was Paymaster General to the Parliamentary Army). Died 16.10.1824 and
buried with wife, Elizabeth, (died 18.2.1824) at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster.
1824–1842 George Cooper Ridge, Esq. Son of George and Elizabeth Ridge (née Holman). Formerly
a Captain of the 4th or King’s Own Regiment. Described in 1838 as a farmer. Died
24.3.1842 and buried in the parish churchyard. Widow, Eleanor Martha (née Chamberlain),
remained in occupation with her son.
1842–1845 George Chamberlain Ridge, Esq. B.A. Moved to Abbey Lodge, Merton (Register of
1845–1855 Edward Majoribanks, partner in Coutts Bank, and John Loch (Lock), father-in-law, East
India Director. Described as of ‘Morden Park and Cavendish Square’, and alternating
between the two. Edward Majoribanks married Marion Fenella Loch. Three children
born and baptised in Morden, three more at Cavendish Square baptised at All Souls, St
1859–1867 Charles Smith Mortimer, Esq, of the Stock Exchange. Married Harriet Fuller. Their
second son was Percy Mortimer, J.P. of Ricards Lodge, Wimbledon. Lineage: John
Mortimer of Eastbourne Sussex (late 17th century), later of Wigmore, Holmwood,
1871–1875 Major-Gen. Sir William Erskine Baker, K.C.B. Served with Royal (Bengal) Engineers;
Military Secretary at the India Office; Member of the Council of India. Son of Capt.
Joseph Baker, R.N. Died at Banwell in 1881.
1876–1911 John Wormald, Esq. A partner in Child and Co. Bank. Died 25.11.1911 and buried in
Morden parish churchyard. Lineage: Thomas Wormald of Gomersal, Yorks (early 18th
century), later of Heathfield, Dereham, Norfolk. (monument now demolished)
Morden Park is a medium-sized,
double-fronted brick house,
consisting of two storeys at the
front and sides, surmounted by a
stone cornice and brick parapet.
At the rear, parts are of three
The main elevation faces east and
consists of three bays with five
sash windows and an impressive
entrance with a columned stone
doorcase surmounted by a
pediment. Above this, the centre
first floor window has an
ornamented casing with a
pediment above and a balustrade
below the glazing. The ground floor
windows are round-headed and
set in round-headed recesses.
The north and south fronts each
have two bay windows of which
the easterly ones are topped with
balustrades. In 1934, when the
house was occupied by Morden
Park Golf Club, the westerly south
bay was raised to two storeys, but
has been restored to its former
height as part of the recent
The east front and
south side of the
Colin Smith, 2001
The doorcase. Colin Smith, 2001
side is the drawing-room with a
boundary tree belt
doorway into the garden, and the library
or study. This library has a marble
Entered by the mahogany front door
with its ornamental fanlight, lies the
marble paved entrance hall. This is
divided into two compartments by a
pair of Ionic columns. Beyond them,
rises the stone staircase with its fine
wrought iron balustrades.
The staircase is in the form known as
a stag’s head, as it divides at the rear
mezzanine floor, called the ‘half
space’,18into two branches which
return parallel to each other to reach
the top landing.
The entrance hall, which has a delicately
corniced ceiling, gives access to the
main ground floor rooms. On the south
fireplace on the east wall. Facing it milestone
there is a half-domed recess supported
by columns and on either side of it, FIELDS
alcoves fitted with glazed bookcases
of a later period.
The staircase. Colin Smith, 2001 The entrance hall. Colin Smith, 2001 wood
On the north side are the dining-room and the
kitchen beyond. In the principal rooms there are well
some fine cornices and the beautiful mahogany
doors have brass fittings, a few of which may be
original. Some of the original marble fireplaces PARK
suffered damage while the house was unoccupied
in the late 1980s/1990s, and have now been
restored. The windows are fitted with wooden
shutters as originally designed. FARM
Proceeding up the staircase to the ‘half-space’,
the principal drawing-room is entered, placed
importantly at the stair head. This is a large room
overlooking the rear courtyard, its main feature
being a large bow window.
Five principal bedrooms originally faced the
east, south and north, and in addition, there were
four servants’ rooms reached by a rear staircase.
John Ewart was a good example of the kind of
London businessman to whom we owe the
building of so many fine Georgian houses in the
countryside round London. He had wealth
accumulated in trade and sought investment for
some of it in land and property development.
Plan of the present Morden Park, showing features of earlier periods.
© N Plastow
In the 19th century the Garth family attempted to develop part of the park and other lands for building
suburban villas but were unsuccessful. So, in 1879 they decided to sell the freehold rather than develop it
themselves. At one auction, John Innes of Merton Park raised his bid ten times to obtain the mansion, park
and neighbouring properties, but failed to reach the reserve, the estates finally being purchased by the
Hatfeilds in 1884. Between 1936 and 1945 Gilliat Edward Hatfeild conveyed the freehold of Morden Park
and other properties to the local council.66 It was a very near thing that this happened in spite of Mr
Hatfeild’s very generous terms. Morden Park had come under the consideration of the London County
Council as an extension of the nearby St Helier Estate. The park was only spared following a visit to it by
Herbert Morrison, leader of the London County Council at that time and later Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
He is said to have been so impressed by the beauty of the park that he declared that it must be preserved
rather than used for building land.
The Merton and Morden Urban District Council then agreed to acquire the estate, at that time consisting
of 185 acres, of which 80 were later taken over by the London County Council for playing fields. Here
children came by coach from inner London areas where such facilities were lacking. This land is leased to
the London Playing Fields Association, but is vacant at the time of writing. Fifteen acres were also reserved
for civic developments. Originally they were thought a possible site for a civic centre but since the creation
of the London Borough of Merton in 1965 they have been used instead for the erection of swimming baths
in 1967, and a Technical College in 1972. The local Council also laid out attractive flower beds near the
house and made provision in the park for sporting activities including cricket, putting, korfball and a
children’s paddling pool. In the summer, band concerts were arranged. Since 1975 the bandstand enclosure
has been the focus for the annual Morden Park Holiday Club for children, run by the local churches during
a week of the summer holidays.
With the conversion of the house for use as a Register Office, the grounds surrounding the house are being
landscaped, particularly the area between the house and the swimming baths.
In their purchase of the park the local council was assisted by the Surrey County Council, the arrangement
being that it was to be an open space for ever, apart from the exempted 15 acres. So John Ewart’s park
has been spared for future generations and now has become one of the borough’s most beautiful public
A view across the Park, from the south. W J Rudd, 1971
Colin Smith, 2001
Colin Smith, 2001
John Ewart later moved away from Morden and built himself another house at Horne, Surrey, which may
indicate a personal interest in building. No doubt he could utilise London building expertise to which he
had ready access. Whatever the source of his inspiration, he provided Morden with perhaps the finest
Georgian house in the present borough. It shows taste in relieving the characteristically gaunt exterior
of such a house, with just sufficient embellishment. The interior is equally restrained, with nothing
pompous or grandiose and no attempt at ‘state apartments’. By using materials and workmanship of
quality and simple functional design, he created a mansion of considerable style. His use of mahogany
for the doors for instance, is locally unique. Morden Hall, built some years earlier, does not use mahogany
and F G Price in his thesis19 on ‘Eighteenth Century Mitcham Architecture’ states that no mahogany
was used in Mitcham at this time either, as it was too expensive.
Country houses of those days were of necessity virtually self-supporting and the servants’ quarters at
Morden Park showed this. By the 19th century there was provision for servants to live in the house and
also round the courtyard. The kitchen quarters include a spacious kitchen, a scullery approached by steps,
a tiled larder, a butler’s pantry and a good sized servants’ hall within the house. There were also two wine
cellars, beer and coal cellars and other store rooms.18
The courtyard has undergone radical reorganisation in recent years and it is hardly possible to visualise here
the day-to-day functioning of the mansion. The stables, coach houses and lofts over them for further
servants’ quarters have been demolished, together with the brew house with two coppers, the laundry with
its washing bins, and two bedrooms and an apple loft over it.18 The greater part of the enclosing wall
remains, however, within which can be seen eight fine chestnut trees, six of them mature specimens, and
two recent replacements. These would have originally been planted to enhance the view from the principal
drawing-room which overlooks them. Fitted between short sections of ‘crinkle-crankle’ wall are the two
round houses, originally lined with attractive blue and white tiles. Such outhouses were a usual feature of
mansions of this period, providing cool rooms before the invention of refrigerators. A record of
1879 describes them as then being used, one as a dairy and the other as a knife and boot room.18 Later
traditions have ascribed more unusual uses for them: as hanging rooms for venison, for holding prisoner
live deer before hunts and for affording them shelter in winter. The two roundhouses still survive, though
they have been adapted.
In addition the 1867 Inventory had mentioned a gardener’s cottage, the two lodges at the end of the Avenue,
and ‘two Cottages in the Fields, pulled down by Mr Garth’.20
In the 1841 census return, three male and five female servants were listed, together with two gardeners.
A governess completed the household. In 1851 the family was not in residence but a housekeeper,
housemaid and seamstress were listed. In 1861, Charles Smith Mortimer’s family enjoyed the services of
a butler, a female servant, two housemaids, a cook, a kitchen maid and a groom.
closet / wc?
coach coach dairy
tubs’ or enclosed brewhouse
yard two bedrooms and fruit room over ‘with two
BY A HORSE store
CHESTNUT TREES COMPLETE” servants’
garden hall store
67 8 ?
two bedrooms and hayloft over
stall stall stall stall stall stall
cow house room 1 2 3 4 5 6 knife &
“A CONSERVATORY AND A
“ITALIAN FLOWER GARDEN
TASTEFULLY LAIDOUTIN BEDSANDWANDERINGPATHS”
A conjectural reconstruction of the courtyard, based on the 1879 sale particulars.
© Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, and the London Borough of Merton.
It is not known when the formal garden was laid out, but it was probably during the long tenure of the Ridge
family. The Tithe Award 1837–39 mentions the house, yard, garden and shrubbery as occupying six acres
and more, and these lay between the ha-ha and the avenue from the Great Gate to the house. Various
paddocks, plantations and new plantings are also listed, as are another kitchen garden and greenhouses of
over one acre lying east of two paddocks near the avenue. South of these and just west of the church lay
a farmyard, rickyard, cottage and other buildings also belonging to Morden Park, and near here also, later,
an orchard was developed.
Some 40 years later, when the Garths attempted to sell the freehold of much of the property, Morden Park
house is described as having a well-timbered park and pleasure grounds. The pleasure grounds or formal
garden are described as of a ‘highly enjoyable character being adorned with fine forest trees, shrubs and
Portugal laurels, yews and coniferae’. There were also ‘lawns, fernery, wilderness and extensive
To the south of the mansion lay ‘an
Italian flower garden, tastefully laid
out in beds and wandering paths, with
a conservatory and a vinery 53 feet
long’. There were also a ‘capital
walled kitchen garden’, west of the
mansion, and another ‘entered from
the road by folding and single gates’
well stocked and containing another
vinery of three compartments, heated
by hot water pipes, together with
forcing pits, a stove house, potting Detail from the plan accompanying the 1879 sale particulars.
sheds and two water tanks.18 Copyright of Surrey History Service
This elaborate and mature layout may have been made or begun by the Mortimer family in the 1860s, but
no doubt it reached its peak of Victorian beauty post-1875 under Mr Wormald. After his death in 1911 the
decline set in, accelerated by the manpower shortage of two world wars. When the local council took over
the property in 1945 little remained, except the footpaths, lawns, shrubberies, forest trees and the avenue
of this once magnificent garden. In 1973 some brick foundations of the later farm and vineries were
unearthed and aroused considerable speculation, so completely had the gardens and work areas been
The gardens only occupied some nine acres of the extensive Ewart estate. The rest of this also has a history.
The 24 acres called Great Hobalds and Hobalds Mead were only leased to Ewart on condition that he
‘ploughed, manured, sowed with corn and pulse, in due and regular course of husbandry according to the
custom of the country’, so for many years these remained arable. Furthermore, he was not to take more
than three crops without summer fallowing or dunging, under a heavy penalty (for those days) of £20 per
acre. The rest of the estate remained as it had been before his tenancy, as arable, grassland and woods.
The Tithe Award of 1837–39 records 111 acres of arable land, 77 acres of grassland and 7¾ acres of
woods. It shows two areas of ‘park’: 38 acres just called ‘Park’ south of the ha-ha and another 27 acres
called ‘Little Park’ north of the entrance avenue. A farmyard, rickyard and cottage and other buildings
located near the church are also mentioned. By 1879 these had been excluded from the estate. The farm
remained, however, in other ownership and supplied milk within living memory, though eventually these
buildings were developed for other purposes, including the recording studios of R G Jones. The fringe of
cottages also survived, two of them, Morden Park Cottages, being rebuilt in the late 19th century and only
pulled down in 1972 for the building of Merton College. The other cottages fringing the eastern part of the
grounds were demolished earlier for road widening. The 1879 sale prospectus also shows that, with the
sale of Morden Park Farm separately from the estate, another home farm was built near and just south
of the lodge. This consisted of an ‘enclosed yard, with timber and slated cow house for four head, hay and
straw loft, two calves’ pens, and four pigsties’18 which have also long since gone, their foundations lying
beneath the modern road and the college complex.
The story of the grounds now returns to 1783, when Thomas Conway was in residence and rounded off
the estate by taking long leases of further land on John Ewart’s original boundary. In November 1783 he
was granted an 84-year lease of ‘a close of eight acres adjoining the Turnpike near the tenth milestone’
and of cottages and a blacksmith’s shop, ‘situated betwixt the church and the Great Gate, leading from the
turnpike to the messuage of Thomas Conway’.62 The cottages remained part of the estate until the late
19th century. In December 1783 he leased, for 84 years, a further 35¼ acres that had formerly been part
of Bryons Farm (i.e. Peacock Farm).63 Then in August 1784 he leased, for 83 years, a 3-acre ‘parcel of
wood ground called Cumberstrode Ruffit with the wood now standing and being or which may hereafter
grow upon the premises, and the right to cut down for his own use, late in the tenure or occupation of William
Taylor Esq. but now of the said Thomas Conway’.64 This was the woodland now known as Cherry Wood.
General William Taylor was the owner of the adjoining Cannon Hill estate. By the time of the Tithe
Apportionment survey of 1837–39,65 the Morden Park estate covered almost 210 acres.
Detail from 1st Edition 6″:1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1865, with the Morden Park estate, as shown
by the Tithe Apportionment map of 1838, highlighted.
The well in the courtyard provided the house with a water supply for over 100 years. In 1879 it was still
described as a ‘capital well, worked by a horse, with gear complete’.18 With the coming of a piped water
supply the well fell into disuse and in March 1964, Merton and Morden Urban District Council decided to
seal it off to prevent accidents. The Council first offered the Merton Historical Society the opportunity to
explore it. It was believed to be about 90 feet deep and dry, and so it offered the possibility of retrieving
domestic debris of historical interest. Dennis Turner offered to descend by rope ladder. Eventually, through
a feature article in the Evening Standard,21 the famous firm of R F Sturges and Co., of Sydenham, lent
a steel rope ladder down which Mr Turner descended only to return to report that the well was much deeper
than supposed and that the ladder only reached as far as the obstruction caused by the winding and pumping
gear, collapsed inside the well. The firm then returned with Bill Caton, their leading steeplejack supervisor,
who made another descent in a bosun’s chair. Over 100 feet down he reached a supporting platform and
below this, the water level. Here he dropped a plumb line which showed 125 feet of water in the well. The
Borough News were present and reported22 that the well was thus at least 234 feet deep, 68 feet more
than the height of Crown House (now the Civic Centre), Morden. Final calculations later estimated the
depth of the well at 266 feet. Mr Turner, who had descended with a torch, reported that the shaft was a
five-foot diameter circular construction, brick lined, and a considerable engineering feat when constructed
for John Ewart. The depth of water in the well prevented the Society from finding any objects of historical
interest in it.
Exploring the well at Morden Park in March 1964:
top left: The site of the well
bottom left: The interior, looking up
Dennis Turner, 1964
Most of John Ewart’s clay tiles were discarded when the roof was slated, probably in the late 19th century,
and in turn most of the slates have been renewed. The demolition of buildings in the yard is the most
regrettable as most of the buildings which belonged to the credible environment of the house were
destroyed. Much remains of the original setting of the house that supported the grand life, but the living and
working conditions of the ordinary people, whose services made this life possible, were equally worthy of
preservation. Strong representations by the Merton Historical Society did secure preservation of the two
round houses, but in 1974 a small bell turret of unknown date was also removed from the roof of the main
A survey of the house was undertaken in March 1997 before its restoration and conversion for use as a
Register Office.23 It was observed that, whereas the eastern two-thirds of the house, the family living
quarters, had remained largely untouched, the western third had been extensively remodelled over the 230
years of its existence. The various stages of development are depicted in the series of conjectural
reconstruction diagrams on pages 11 and 13, based on physical and documentary evidence available in 1997.
The original building of 1770 had a columned rectangular loggia at the western end, giving access to the
rear courtyard. There was access to the loggia roof from the mezzanine landing. Within a short space of
time this loggia was replaced by a two-storey structure, comprising a bow-fronted principal drawing-room
over a semicircular columned porch. The mouldings of this room are consistent with the main body of the
house, suggesting it was an early addition, probably before John Ewart left Morden in the 1780s. The
ground-floor porch was soon enclosed, the similarity of the window details on both floors, and the early style
of the fanlight over the rear entrance door, both suggest that the open porch was a short-lived feature.
The western end of the house after the removal of the weatherboarded extension
over the principal drawing-room and the extension to the south-west bay.
Colin Smith, 2001
An alternative explanation of the Mound was suggested by two archaeological experts. In the 1950s the
late Dr Crawford of the Ordnance Survey thought its appearance warranted its marking as an ancient burial
mound on Ordnance Survey maps. At the same time, Professor Sheppard Frere inspected it and gave his
opinion that it was a native British pagan burial mound probably erected shortly after the Roman Conquest
of Britain when native Iron Age customs still persisted. He noted in particular its large size and steep sides,
characteristic of burial mounds of that period. The spiral path and pagoda were later and common additions
to such existing mounds. Opinions of such eminence must be accepted, but proof could only be obtained
by excavation, which would not be appropriate.
However, other evidence may support the theory that the Mound already existed before the formation of
the estate in the late 18th century. Early 18th-century maps do not show this feature, but local field names
may provide some clues to its earlier existence. From Tudor times onwards, one of the large fields here
was called ‘Gallowsfield’,58 and there are a number of instances in Surrey of such a name being associated
with burial mounds. Again an ‘Extent’ or valuation of Westminster Abbey’s manor of Morden, taken in
1312, includes land called ‘Dedemanforlonges’ in a list of the demesne lands, which were mostly in the
area either side of London Road between Morden Park and Morden Hall.59 The name may possibly refer
to a burial mound, though it may merely refer to a memorable death in the area.
Morden Park also contains evidence of a stretch of the Roman road, later called Stane Street. This route,
linking London and Chichester, was constructed about 76 AD and passed through the area of the present
borough from Stonecot Hill, through Morden Park, past Morden Town Centre and Lyon Tower at Colliers
Wood and then through Tooting and on to London. Although the modern A24 road closely follows the
course of the Roman road, through Morden it lies east of it, an old deviation which was probably made to
give an easier gradient up George Hill. In the 1930s S E Winbolt investigated sections across the road at
a number of points along its route outside our area.
Then in 1958 and 1959 the Merton Historical Society, under the direction of Dennis Turner, decided to try
to discover the course of the road through Morden.60 Five cuts were made along the line conjectured by
Winbolt, his route was slightly corrected and the road found in four places. The first and fifth cuts were
the most interesting. The first just north of Lower Morden Lane was located where undulations in the park
turf had long indicated the presence of the road. Here was found a layer of loamy gravel some 26 feet wide
and about one foot thick in the centre with traces of flint capping, some stones being about three inches
in diameter. The surface was cambered and lay about one foot below the park turf. The fifth cut, north
of the church, revealed a layer of flints resting on gravel with a well-defined rut in it.
In the Autumn of 1963 a deep
excavation for a telephone service
chamber was made in the pavement
outside Morden Park Lodge.
Merton Historical Society member,
William Rudd, took the opportunity
to investigate, and discovered, four
feet below the surface, a flint-chalk-
flint sandwich. About two feet thick,
though very irregular, it is a positive
identifiable section of the Roman
road.61 All the cuts are now filled in
and the road is not visible.
The former Morden Park Lodge by the
entrance to the drive. Evidence for
Stane Street was exposed here in 1963.
W J Rudd, 1963
John Ewart may also have been responsible for another feature in the park which can still be seen today,
the Mound. This had a spiral pathway round it to the summit (now wearing away) which was once crowned
with a summer house surrounded by trees, called the Pagoda Plantation in early maps. The summer house
fell down long ago, and only a flat area remains. The Mound therefore could have been a typical 18thcentury
creation although, as we have noted earlier, it may be much older.
There has been speculation as to where the earth for it was obtained. One idea was that it was produced
by digging out the cellar space in the house, but the Mound contains many times the volume of the mansion’s
A more likely explanation is that it consists of earth dug out when forming the ha-ha which divided the house
and formal grounds from the outer parkland. The ha-ha was a garden feature probably introduced into
England by Charles Bridgeman, who died in 1738, and widely used by him and others.57 As Superintendent
of Royal Gardens he used this form of ditch to replace garden walls and so enable residents to have long
uninterrupted views over both their gardens and parklands. It is said that it derives its name ha-ha from the
involuntary exclamation given by strangers encountering one unexpectedly as they walked round an estate.
Bridgeman’s most famous ha-ha was the ditch dividing Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens, the earth
from which was in fact used to build the Mount near Rotten Row. It also had a summer house on top. His
ha-ha here was widely imitated by the country gentry.
At Morden Park, the ha-ha extended from the estate boundary in the east at the George Inn yard in an
almost straight course until it reached the fishpond on the west. It provided an extensive view to the south
and also kept deer and cattle in the park from straying near the house. It has long since been filled in so
its original dimensions are not known. Other ha-has can still be seen today at Manresa House, Roehampton,
at Pishiobury House, Hertfordshire, and beside Ha-ha Road across Woolwich Common in south-east
The Mound, Morden Park – W J Rudd, 1971
1: The house as originally
designed with a loggia
at the western end.
2: The house after the upper
drawing-room and open
porch replaced the
Conjectural reconstructions of the earliest stages
of the remodelling of the western end of the house.
© Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects,
and the London Borough of Merton.
3: The ground-floor porch
has been enclosed
Further remodelling, of the service quarters, may have taken place at this time. The set of four watercolours
by G Yates, dated 1825, indicate that the western third of the house had already been adapted to three storeys
instead of the original two.24 This was presumably to allow additional servants’ bedrooms to be added on a
second floor. The ground floor rooms each side of the bow-fronted central area had also been extended
westward. The earliest 1:2500 (25-inch) Ordnance Survey maps show that by 1865 the south-western corner
had also been filled in, the ground plan of the house then being the same as it was in 1997. The western
extension ultimately included all three floors. These extensions may have been to accommodate greater
numbers of servants, or those servants no longer content to live in the courtyard in rooms over the coach-house,
stables, laundry and brewhouse. A further two rooms, of a lightweight timber construction with external
weatherboarding, were added above the principal drawing-room. These rooms may have been added after
the westward extension was completed, but the fact that six servants’ bedrooms are mentioned in the 1873
sale particulars suggests that these two rooms were in place by that date.25 They were removed during the
recent renovation, as was the 1934 second-storey addition to the south-west bay, mentioned above.
The 1873 sale
Copyright of Surrey
It must be remembered that during its long history, the grounds of the house have been added to and
diminished on several occasions. Yet it is surprising that, so near London, the estate survives today virtually
unspoilt as the gentleman’s park formed in the 18th century, surrounding the highest part of Morden, which
is over 100 feet above sea level.
John Ewart, who formed the estate, seems to have made little attempt to landscape the grounds in the
contemporary fashion. Writing less than 30 years later, after he had left Morden, Manning and Bray state
that ‘He built a handsome house and formed a paddock there’, that is, a small turfed area. It seems certain
that they would have mentioned any garden or landscape features if in fact they had been there at that time,
for they describe with some detail the kitchen garden he made at his next residence, Bysshe Court. It is
possible that Ewart planted trees in the avenue leading from the entrance gates to the house, eventually
such a beautiful feature of the park. He and his successors may have made further plantations, to produce
the belt of trees round the perimeter of the estate. It may here be mentioned that the park was never
surrounded by a wall, fencing outside the tree belt having to suffice until the present day. Miles Hadfield55
quotes Doctor Johnson as saying in 1783 that ‘we compute in England, a park wall at a £1000 a mile’.
Although the cost would not have deterred John Ewart if he had remained at Morden long enough, it seems
certain that successive leaseholders would not have found it a justifiable capital outlay.
Certain other embellishments of the park may also be John Ewart’s work. The 1837–39 Tithe Awards
mentions two ponds called later in the sale prospectus of 1879, an ornamental lake and a fishpond
respectively.18 J C Loudon, in his 1830 An Encyclopaedia of Gardening,56 refers to them in his
description of the estate:
‘Morden Park – near Morden; G. Ridge, Esq. A handsome quadrangular house, on a rising ground,
agreeably diversified with extensive plantations of shrubs and flowers, and embellished by two sheets
Both of these were also mentioned by Vincent Lines in the local News in 1930 and their sites can be traced
from old maps. The lake was situated just north of the East Pyl Brook, quite near the London Road, but was
filled in by the Parks Department as being a danger to children. The fishpond survives in an enclosed piece
of woodland to the west of the house beyond the courtyard. Their position is too random to be due to
landscaping. Probably they were formed naturally in the pits from which John Ewart extracted materials
for the bricks and tiles for building the house, afterwards being artificially shaped into rectangular sheets
of ornamental water.
Extract from 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1893 (surveyed 1865 & 1866) showing the
location of the fishpond (plot 55) in relation to the house, courtyard and immediate environs.
Until 1884 the Garth family had retained the freehold of the estate, and it was then purchased by the Hatfeild
family. In 1936 the Merton and Morden Urban District Council began negotiations with Gilliat Edward
Hatfeild to acquire the freehold from him. After the war they used the house both as offices for the Parks
Department (although their nurseries were then at Morden Hall) and for social purposes. There was a café
in the former dining room on the ground floor. Several local clubs enjoyed the privilege of holding their
meetings in other rooms. Countless local families have held memorable wedding receptions in the large top
floor suite. In 1965 the whole building became the administrative centre for the new Borough’s Parks,
Cemeteries and Allotments Department, who remained in occupation for 20 years until, with other council
departments, they moved to Crown House, now the Civic Centre, on 1 April 1985.
The house remained empty for 13 years and, in spite of being boarded up to discourage vandals and
squatters, suffered substantial damage and decay. In 1991 the Morden Park & Playing Fields Association
was formed by local residents in response to concern at the state of the house. The Association continues
to represent local interests regarding the use of the vacant sports grounds within the park. Plans were put
forward for the house to be leased to a commercial golf club, with a floodlit driving range on the vacant
grounds, but this was strongly opposed by local residents not wanting to see any of the park closed to public
Finally, the London Borough of Merton commissioned architects Lawrence & Wrightson to survey the
property and to produce a conservation proposal for re-use of the building as a Register Office. Their
report54 was submitted in March 1997 and, in the late summer of 1998, the work of refurbishment started.
The main part of the house has been restored as befits its new role, and the modernisation required for
access and circulation of visitors has been restricted to the former servants’ quarters at the rear of the
house, which had already undergone considerable alteration and adaptation over the centuries. The work
was completed in 2000, and the house was opened on 11 October 2000 for a celebration of the
transformation of the building. The Register Office was transferred from Morden Cottage on 13 November
The house in 1950 – Copyright of Merton Library and Heritage Services. Reproduced by permission
4: The house after
completion of the
and the filling in of
5: Two extra
6: The south bay has been
increased in height.
Conjectural reconstructions of the later stages of
the remodelling of the western end of the house.
© Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects,
and the London Borough of Merton.
Conjectural reconstructions of the main stages of the remodelling of the western end of the house.
© Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, and the London Borough of Merton.
A: The 1770 west elevation
with a loggia at the
B: Early 19th-century west
elevation, with upper
drawing-room over the
enclosed former porch.
C: Pre-1873 west elevation,
showing the westward
extension and the filled-in
The early 19th century brings into residence the Ridge family, with three generations of them living at
Morden Park. The first was George Ridge, who came there in 1808. He was a banker39 and eventually
both he and his wife were buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, near his business. His family came to be
associated with Morden Park longer than any other family, for he was succeeded there in 1824 by his son,
Captain George Cooper Ridge. Captain Ridge is described as a farmer,40 and both he and his son George
Chamberlain Ridge were country gentlemen, rather than commuters like the grandfather. After Captain
Ridge’s death in 1842 his widow, Eleanor Martha (née Chamberlain), stayed on at Morden with her son
George Chamberlain Ridge, until he moved to Abbey Lodge, Merton, in 1845.41 Only a series of family
hatchments in the church, a family vault in the churchyard, and entries in the parish registers bear witness
to their local residence, though the watercolours by Stokes and Yates date to the time of their occupancy.
Although no longer resident at Morden Park, Mrs Ridge continued to hold the lease until its expiry at
Michaelmas 1867, when the inventory referred to above was taken.20
Following the departure of the Ridge family in 1845 the house was taken over by John Loch,42 an East India
director, and his son-in-law, Edward Marjoribanks,43 banker, who had married his daughter, Marion
Fenella. Of the six children that followed, the sequence of baptisms in both London44 and Morden45 parish
churches, show that the growing family was constantly alternating between their London and Morden
residences. Edward Marjoribanks’ father, also Edward, was one of the four partners of Thomas Coutts
Bank46 and was on speaking terms with Queen Victoria. His brother Captain Marjoribanks was described
as ‘the India Director’. Following a vacancy, Edward Marjoribanks junior served as a director from 1838
until his retirement in 1877. He remained at Morden Park until 1855.
Most of the later residents took the house for only comparatively short periods. Never again was it the
centre of a country estate where a family might have settled down permanently. These residents included,
in the 1860s, Charles Smith Mortimer,47 who with his brother Henry was in the Stock Exchange. He
married Harriet Fuller and their better-known son Percy Mortimer built Ricards Lodge, Wimbledon. Then
for a short period from 1871 to 1875 General Sir William Erskine Baker,48 one of the most distinguished
residents of the locality, lived at the Park. He had served in India49 from 1826 in the Bengal Engineers and
fought with distinction in the First Sikh War, but he is remembered principally as a civil engineer who
devoted most of his life to public engineering works in India. He had been Superintendent of the Delhi
Canals, and of the Forests and Canals of Sind, a director of the Ganges Canal, and an early consultant for
Indian Railways. He was also considered one of the greatest authorities on irrigation and his work in India
in this field was said to have ‘made the desert blossom like the rose’. He came to Morden Park after
becoming the chief adviser to the home government on Indian engineering matters. He had been knighted
on his return to England. Morden Park was within reasonable travelling distance of his work at the India
Office, but in 1875 he retired to Somerset.
John Wormald,50 another London banker, succeeded him at Morden Park. He died in 1911 and was one
of the few people associated with the house to be buried at Morden. Although he held the property for 35
years, he rarely used the house.51 Then came the sisters Isabella and Helena Collinge, who donated the
money for gas-lighting St Lawrence church. They are said to have bred thoroughbred horses.
The last resident at the house was Lady Eva Wemyss. She was born Eva Wellesley, a daughter of the
second Earl Cowley. The Wellesleys had had some connections with the area already, for one branch of
the family, that of the second Duke of Wellington had acquired Cottenham Park, Wimbledon, in about 1851,
but did not reside there. Col. the Hon. Frederick Wellesley, Lady Eva’s uncle, had lived at Abbey Gate
House, Merton High Street, from 1884 until c.1893 with his second wife, the actress Kate Vaughan. Lady
Eva was at Morden Park from 1927 until 1930, when she moved to Epsom, although she retained the lease
for a few more years, letting the property to short-term tenants, such as Sir Oswald Mosley, who spent
July 1932 in residence there.52 However, the house soon ceased to be a private residence, being taken over
by the Merton Park Golf Club for their newly-formed Morden Park Golf Club in 1934. Play started at
Morden Park on the fourth week-end of March 1934,53 and the Golf Club remained tenants until the second
Morden Park in the 20th century Morden Park in 1825
Photographs by W J Rudd Watercolours by G Yates, labelled ‘Morden Hall, Surrey – G Ridge Esq.’
Copyright of Guildhall Library, Corporation of London. Reproduced by permission
East View in 1964 South-east View
South-east View in 1984 North-west View
This view seems to represent the situation between stages B and C opposite.
Morden Park in 1825 Morden Park in 1873
Watercolours by G Yates, labelled ‘Morden Hall, Surrey – G Ridge Esq.’ From the prints accompanying the sales particulars
Copyright of Guildhall Library, Corporation of London. Reproduced by permission Copyright of Surrey History Service. Reproduced by permission
South-west View East View
North-east View Detail from the South View
The first resident was John Ewart, who had planned the house as a healthy retreat for his family at a time
when London was considered unhealthy and the air was much polluted. At the same time, his London business
and his home were within reasonable travelling distance of each other. Indeed not far from his lodge gates
at Morden was, and still is, the milestone stating ’10 miles to Whitehall’. His route to London was by the
Dorking–Southwark turnpike, one of the best maintained roads out of south London. At about the time the
house was built, John Ewart’s son and heir, Simon, married Ann, the heiress of John Manship, an East India
Company director of Queen Square, London. The Manships probably introduced John Ewart to Morden, for
they knew the district. John’s father had been John Manship of Mitcham, and he himself had in 1763 leased
from the Garths a farm in Lower Morden.30 Beverley Cottages, New Cottages and Nos.154–170 Lower
Morden Lane now occupy the site of his farmstead. By 1780 Manship was leasing the farm to successive
owners of the Cannon Hill estate, and it is tempting to imagine that this farm may have provided the Morden
Park household with fresh foods. Four of Simon and Ann’s children, including John Manship Ewart, the heir
of both families, and one of their surviving daughters, were baptised at Morden.
Simon Ewart’s closest friend was Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816), who while still in his twenties
would join the ranks of our greatest playwrights with such enduring works as The Rivals and The School
for Scandal. Both young men, as it happens, began married life by eloping with their intended brides.
Moreover Ewart supported Sheridan in the two farcical duels arising from the latter’s courtship of Elizabeth
Linley of Bath, famous equally for her beauty and her singing. Sheridan and she were finally married at
Marylebone on 13 April 1773, and, although, according to the Bath Journal of 19 April, they were then
driven to “a gentleman’s house in Mitcham, to consummate their nuptials”,31 we can be pretty certain that
they went in fact to Morden Park, the home of his best friend’s indulgent father. The greater part of the
honeymoon was spent at East Burnham in Buckinghamshire, and from there Sheridan wrote to his father-
in-law Thomas Linley, saying, “yours of the 3rd instant did not reach me till yesterday [11 May], by reason
of its missing us at Morden”.31 Presumably the Bath Journal’s location of the snippet of gossip at Mitcham,
which was much better known than Morden, was accurate enough for its readers (and writers).
All seemed set for another local dynasty in Morden like the Garths, and then suddenly it was all over. Manning
and Bray state32 that Morden Park was sold in 1788 when John Ewart bought Bysshe Court in Horne, Surrey,
which he rebuilt. His motive in leaving Morden may have been dissatisfaction with a lease and the desire for
a freehold property. He may also have retired and become free to move farther away from the metropolis.
At any rate he moved up considerably in status by becoming a lord of the manor at Horne.
In spite of the date 1788 quoted above, it seems certain that John
Ewart had left Morden some years before. Records33 show
that a Thomas Conway was in residence in 1781. He was a
Commissioner for Excise34 and, as such, could have been an
acquaintance of John Ewart, ‘the brandy merchant’,35 as he
was known locally. Conway obviously intended a long residence
in Morden as shown by certain 84-year leases36 which he
obtained to extend the estate. In fact his stay was short and sad:
in 1784 his mother-in-law, Mrs Magdalen Schromm, died, and
in the following year his wife Sophia also died, aged only 42
years. Their grave in Morden churchyard and Mrs Conway’s
hatchment, hanging on the south wall of the parish church, are
the only reminders today of the family’s short tenure.
In 1787 the Land Tax returns mention an occupier whose name is illegible, but next year Edward Polhill
is given as living there. He was the proprietor of the snuff mills on the Morden Hall estate, and an eventual
benefactor of Morden, leaving £1000 for the local Sunday School in his will of 1826. At some time he had
placed ‘a moveable workshop’ or sawpit on part of the manorial waste near the church.37 He left Morden
Park in 1802, possibly to live at The Elms, Mitcham.38 Then, according to the Land Tax returns, John
Calvert Clarke resided at the house from 1803 to 1807.
The Conway grave – W J Rudd, 1971
An inventory and valuation of the fixtures of the house, taken in November 1867, gives details of the
interior.20 The original 99-year lease expired at Michaelmas of that year, and the leaseholder, Mrs Eleanor
Ridge, would have arranged for this inventory to be taken to enable her to claim the current value of the
fixtures from the lord of the manor, Richard Garth, who held the freehold of the property, when he regained
possession. The inventory specifies the use of each room listed, sheds some light on 19th-century
‘improvements’ and hence indicates something of the mode of life in a gentleman’s country residence of
Only rooms with fixtures for which Mrs Ridge could claim are mentioned. The cellars, for instance, do not
appear, nor the second-storey servants’ bedrooms. As there is no mention of water piped to the upper floor,
nor any reference to sanitary fittings, it is probable that chamber pots and earth closets had to suffice. There
was a rainwater cistern outside the scullery, and otherwise water from the well would have been used to
supply the domestic quarters and outbuildings. On the upper floor there were five bedrooms; north, northeast,
south-east, south, and north-west, the principal (north and south) ones having dressing-rooms. All the
bedrooms had stoves, the sizes being specified, and one being named as a Romford [sic].26 The same floor
held a billiard-room, which had a large stove. Next to this was a room which was probably a bathroom, as
it contained a ‘bath stove’ –presumably filled by hand, with the hot water then run off into a fixed or portable
bath.27 There was also a store-room, a housemaid’s room, a servants’ bedroom, and a corner room on this
floor, all with stoves. Shelves, cupboard fronts, bell-cranks, ‘night-bolts’, drawers, rails, pegs and finger-
plates were noted, as well as a spring alarm on the back staircase.
Downstairs, in the entrance hall, was the ‘alarm with springs and cranks etc’ to all the ground floor windows,
as well as the bell-pull and crank to the front door. There was also a ‘hot water apparatus by Bruhaw with
bronzed pedestal enclosure, black & gold marble top, pipes, boiler & furnace in kitchen’.
The principal rooms consisted of a drawing-room, dining-room and library, all with stoves and bells. In the
library there were glazed bookcases on either side of a sideboard fitted in a recess.
The back hall had a ‘hot plate and broiling stove’ by Bruhaw, and a 5′ 4″ open range, with ‘wrought iron
boiler, oven, copper supply cistern, & pipe from cistern in scullery’, a Bruhaw smoke-jack,28 and a towel-
roller. Though the inventory does not say so, the range at least must have been off the back hall, in the kitchen,
with the Bruhaw furnace described above. The hot plate could have been separately sited, conveniently
for the dining-room.
There was a butler’s closet; a back entrance hall, with seven spring-bells; the scullery with cistern and lead-
lined sink; and a butler’s pantry, with shelves and drawers. Immediately outside the house there was a large
alarm bell. Outbuildings consisted of dairy, laundry – with four ‘washing-troughs’ and two ironing boards,
brewhouse – with cistern, copper, furnace and cooler, and a coach house with a large cider-press.
In the yard was the lead rainwater cistern outside the scullery; a ‘boiling house’ with an iron boiler; a stable
with seven stalls; a harness room; and a loft with a meal mill and corn bin. Over the stable door was a
wrought-iron weather-vane, with gilt letters. There were lead-lined cisterns in the walled kitchen garden and
the greenhouse. In the vineries were staging, shelving and training wires, as well as a slate cistern and heating
apparatus by Weeks & Co. This last, at £25, was the highest valued item in the whole inventory.
The gardener’s cottage, lodges and farmhouses had stoves, coppers and shelves. In the stockyard was a
woodstack frame and an ironstack frame. At the main iron gates ‘at the end of the Avenue’ was a spring
bell valued at ten shillings.
Mention is also made of ‘two Cottages in the Fields pulled down by Mr Garth’, for the fixtures in which
Mrs Ridge also sought compensation.
The total valuation for the estate’s fixtures was £214 19s 0d.29
By 1879, according to sale records,18 further improvements included ‘hot and cold water laid on’ to a
bathroom, w.c., a maid’s sink and elsewhere. There was also a lamp room, probably set up in the service
quarters some time after 1831, when the candle tax, which had included the prohibition of oil lamps except
those using noisome fish oil, was abolished.
First Floor Plan 1:200 scale
First Floor Plan 1:200 scale
Ground Floor Plan 1:200 scale
Ground and Lower Ground Floor Plan 1:200 scale
Conjectural reconstruction of the internal layout of the house in 1770. Conjectural reconstruction of the internal layout of the house in the mid-19th century.
© Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, and the London Borough of Merton. © Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson, Architects, and the London Borough of Merton.
Second Floor Plan 1:200 scale First and Mezzanine Floor Plan 1:200 scale