December 2021 – Bulletin 220
Merton Priory – Chapter House developments
Merton Priory’s Gatehouse and Guesthouse: Part 2 – Katie Hawks
A Roman well in Mitcham – Christine Pittman & David Bird
The funeral of Mr. Fenton – Mick Taylor
Some memories of 1951 – John Pile, Eric Shaw & Rosemary Turner
Two Mr Pooleys and the car in the stained glass window – Norma Cox
and much more
Detail from an early 19th-century watercolour of Abbey House, Merton (see p.10), reproduced courtesy of Merton Library Service.
CONTENTS Message from the Chairman 2 Programme December 2021-March 2022 2 ‘Textile connections – Linen, Liberty and beyond’3 Merton Heritage Discovery Day 4 Merton Priory-Chapter House developments 4 Call for ex-Wrens of the Women’s Royal Naval Service 4 Two Mr Pooleys and the car in the stained glass window – Norma Cox 5 Looking for a Roman well in Mitcham -Christine Pittman 6 A Roman well in Mitcham – David Bird 7 The funeral of Mr. Fenton – Mick Taylor 9 Merton Priory’s gatehouse and guesthouse: part 2 -Katie Hawks 10 Book Review: Evacustes Phipson: his life and utopian views and…the Croydon paintings 13 Virtual Workshop: Co-op fascia, ARP Warden, Road sign 14 Some memories of 1951 are recorded – John Pile, Eric Shaw & Rosemary Turner 15 Royal Female Orphanage, Beddington 16
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN Dear Members I see that a year ago I wrote that our meetings were to resume with an AGM in April 2020 and a programme of visits from June to September, an incorrect prediction produced entirely without help from the computer modellers who advise SAGE. This year we have indeed had an AGM, and talks have resumed; membership renewals are again at a high level; workshops will return in one form or another. Last year I recommended our publications, and do so again, now that we have another award-winner (Medieval Morden vol.1) on our list, weightier in all senses than the previous one. In expectation of a nearer-normal life in 2022, perhaps one with fewer voice-muffling masks, I hope there will therefore be no need for a special message in the next Bulletin. A happy Christmas and New Year to you all, and thank you for your continued support of the Society. Keith Penny
PROGRAMME DECEMBER 2021 – MARCH 2022
Saturday 11 December 2.30pm St James’s Church Hall, Merton ‘Anthony Sadler and the goings-on in Mitcham Parish’ An illustrated talk by Dr Edward Legon, Queen Mary University of London
Saturday 8 January 2.30pm St James’s Church Hall, Merton ‘William Morris and his Workers at Merton Abbey’ An illustrated talk by local MOLA archaeologist Dave Saxby
Saturday 12 February 2.30pm St James’s Church Hall, Merton ‘History and Current Aims of the National Churches Trust’ An illustrated talk by Claire Walker, CEO National Churches Trust
Saturday 12 March 2.30pm St James’s Church Hall, Merton ‘Surrey in the Gentleman’s Magazine’ An illustrated talk by Julian Pooley of Surrey History Centre
Visitors are welcome to attend our talks. Entry £2.
St James’s 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) immediately outside. The church has a tiny car park, but parking in adjacent streets is free.
Note also our Local History Workshops are still in abeyance. If you would like an invitation, should they be reinstated, email email@example.com.
HAVE YOU PAID? Subscriptions for 2021-2022 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 September Bulletin. Current rates are: Individual member £12, Additional member in same household £5, Full-time Student £5. Cheques are payable to Merton Historical Society and should be sent with completed forms to our Membership Secretary. MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 2
TEXTILE CONNECTIONS – LINEN, LIBERTY AND BEYOND
We were very pleased to welcome 31 members and guests to our first Society meeting of the 2021-22 season. Fiona McKelvie, a textiles expert, gave us an eye-opening survey of the production and uses, past and present, of linen.
Flax, the source plant of linen, has the scientific designation of Linum Usitatissimum, meaning ‘most useful’. It has a beautiful blue flower atop long stalks, so a field of flax plants in full bloom can look like a pool of water from ground level. From higher up, as well, apparently – Fiona’s grandfather told her of seeing swans trying to land on a field of blue. The useful fibre lies on the outside of the plant stalk, rather than the inside.
Processing nowadays requires several stages, each with its own long-established vocabulary. This starts with pulling, harvesting in bunches by hand, as the useful stalks stretch under ground for several inches, followed by retting (or rotting) by exposing it to moisture, rippling with a special comb to clear any seeds, scutching or beating with rotary-propelled hammers, hackling or combing to remove tangles, and spreading and rowing. The fibres are spun into threads, either fine or heavy, to make string and ropes and fishing nets, or they may be woven, after which the cloth is treated by bleaching in sunlight, and possibly beetling with hammers to give a lustrous finish.
The range of fabrics is large, ranging from a very fine one for handkerchiefs, etc, to a very firm textile used to reinforce and define jacket shoulders and lapels. In the 18th century, copper plates could be used to print finely detailed designs on linen, known as ‘Toile de Joury’. Damask denotes uncoloured linen, with a pattern woven into it, fashionably for tablecloths and napkins. By the early 19th century coloured patterns appeared, as Jacquard punched cards began to be used to control the weaving of coloured threads on a Hattersley loom.
Historically, of course, linen has been used for fabrics from ancient Egyptian times, including the unexpected one of armour (as used by Alexander the Great). Recently, researchers at the University of Wisconsin have performed a trial of such and were interested to note that multiple layers of heavy linen worked well as a defence against slashing blows.
Flax cultivation ideally needs a damp climate and in Europe grows best in Holland, Belgium, northern France and Britain. In Britain it became concentrated in Northern Ireland, where the trade came to be dominated by the Andrews family, who found that by 1895 it was worth-while to register trade marks abroad in many countries. Arthur Liberty became the sole importer to England from the Andrews, primarily to replace textiles from the Far East, which were much in demand but whose colours faded, whereas linen stayed colourfast. Littler’s were soon printing much of their output for Liberty, whose Art Deco patterns became a great influence. The first World War brought a great increase in the British demand for linen to cover military aircraft wings, as the primary Continental sources were not available. Typically 180 yards of fabric were required to cover a single aircraft, possibly requiring replacement every twelve flights, so much investment resulted.
Fiona emphasised the many current uses of linen, for clothing, napery, bank notes, long lasting paper for certificates, animal feed and bedding, She brought samples of hackled thread and beetled cloth, which we were allowed to touch and feel, and which provoked much interested discussion.
Linen Handkerchief ‘The Medley’ by William Gilpin, printed from a copper plate c.1795
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 3
MERTON HERITAGE DISCOVERY DAY
At our first public appearance for 18 months, our stall for Heritage Discovery Day, 21 August 2012, showed many of our publications and displayed a series of local slides on a laptop. Our stall was just outside the Council Chamber where short talks were being held, so we benefitted from audiences awaiting the next talk. We also benefitted from being strategically placed before a large window, wide open for added ventilation on a warm day. No sooner had we carefully organised our table, than the open window allowed in strong gusts of wind, and a hasty not to say panicky reorganisation ensued, to weigh down all our light Local History Notes, without covering their titles. We could then present a falsely calm face to our first visitors, as they arrived very shortly thereafter. Overall, we did rather well, selling £56-worth of publications, including a copy of Medieval Morden Vol I, receiving 80p in donations and enjoying a lot of visitor discussions.
This was despite a smaller public attendance at the event than in previous years (perhaps 900 visitors in total), understandable because of Covid-19 restrictions. Safe circulation was much assisted by a multitude of direction signs placed by Library staff and volunteers. Our congratulations to Sarah Gould for stimulating a cheerful atmosphere throughout the afternoon.
MERTON PRIORY – CHAPTER HOUSE DEVELOPMENTS
Some Committee members attended a small gathering on 31 October to celebrate another season’s opening to the public. (Even shortened by the pandemic, the season attracted over 1500 visitors and £1500 in donations.) Designed by Marcus Beale, a wooden stage for performances has been inserted, covering much of the actual Chapter House area, floating within the archaeological remains without touching them, and with excellent acoustics. High quality toilets have been installed, but are not yet useable as there are still technical problems connecting to Sainsbury’s sewer. A new attraction is an interactive computer model of the entire Priory site, allowing visitors, especially children, to take a virtual wander over the premises. Written using teenage talent (under Katie Hawks’ supervision) and the MineCraft modelling software, this is still a work in progress. The scene is not static: some activity is visible – random peasants appear, the dovecot features a chicken as there are no dove avatars available, and, when visiting the canons’ loos, do not be surprised by the bats.
CALL FOR EX-WRENS of the WOMEN’S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE
Dauntless Divisional Photos, a nationwide project with the Association of Wrens, is gathering divisional photographs and memories of ladies who joined up between 1946 and 1981 and did their basic training at Training Depot / HMTE Burghfield or HMTE / HMS Dauntless or at Reading.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 4
NORMA COX disentangles TWO MR POOLEYS AND THE CAR IN THE STAINED GLASS WINDOW
In 2016 I was researching Mr John Dingley Stephens Pooley, a Wimbledon Chemist of the Victorian era.
I found in the card system at the Local Studies Centre (LSC), Morden, information about a Mr J D Pooley whose car was shown in a stained glass window at St Mary’s Church, Merton Park, where Mr Pooley had been a churchwarden. I made a note to find out if Mr J D Pooley and Mr J D S Pooley were related, and in 2021 I returned to this research.
I contacted two colleagues who might help me discover more information about Mr Pooley and the church window. The first was Dave Haunton of MHS because he lived near St Mary’s. He knew neither the car or J D Pooley, but asked Hazel Abbott, a former churchwarden of St Mary’s. She replied that ‘by all accounts the car did belong to Denis Pooley who was churchwarden when the window was put in’, but did not know any other details. She attached a copy of the page about the East Window, written by David Cowie, taken from the Church Guide written by members of the congregation in 2019. This included a colour photograph of the window, with the car in the bottom right-hand corner. The description beside the photograph describes the scene as ‘A modern church. A modern industrial scene with a church and parish hall beside it. A family group of two adults, two children and a dog, with a Volkswagen car to the right’ (facing page, photo D Haunton). It also notes that ‘the Volkswagen with its number plate1 is reputed to be that of Denis Pooley, churchwarden at the time’. The description notes that the East Window dates from about 1400 AD and is in Perpendicular style. It has three cinquefoil leaded lights in a depressed three centred head with six tracery lights. In 1865, the glass within the original stonework was replaced with new stained glass as a memorial to Richard Thornton of Cannon Hill Park (1776-1865), a notable benefactor of St Mary’s. However, on 10 July 1944 a flying bomb exploded nearby and blew out the Thornton window glass, which was replaced in 1950.
My second contact was Sarah Gould, Head of LSC, who confirmed the information that I had seen on the card about Mr Pooley and the car, and noted that the new stained glass was designed by Alfred Wilkinson (1899-1983),2 and dedicated on 10 September 1950. She further reported that J D Pooley, churchwarden of St Mary’s April 1948 – April 1952, had been asked to stay on for the new vicar, but Pooley declined as he was due to emigrate to Australia. Sarah noted that Jack D Pooley (as he was shown on the Electoral Register) had married Margaret (who came from Lancashire) in 1934, and both were living at 6 Mayfield Road, Merton Park, in 1950. (It is of interest that he had a car in 1950.) Sarah also sent a copy of a letter from The Crossing, St Mary’s parish magazine. Dated July 1995, this was written by Mr Graham Hawkes, who stated that the car in the stained glass window was Mr Pooley’s and a Volkswagen. He also said that Mr Pooley was the pharmacist in Wimbledon Village.
Many people confirmed that the car shown in the stained glass window of St Mary’s Merton belonged to Denis Pooley. I don’t think that the adults, children and dog shown in the stained-glass represent his family as no-one names them as such. However, Jack Denis Pooley, the churchwarden, was not the pharmacist in Wimbledon Village in the twentieth century, as suggested by Mr Hawkes, as the name Pooley does not appear in the Register of Pharmaceutical Chemists, Chemists and Druggists and Registered Premises for 1937, 1946 and 1949, ie. the years between his marriage and the window’s replacement. The pharmacist living and practising in Wimbledon Village from 1866-1901 was John Dingley Stephens Pooley (1848-1926), as recorded in a recent research publication.3 J D S Pooley was married but had no children (known from a family tree in www.familysearch. org, confirmed by Census data of 1881 and 1891, and wills, kindly supplied by Susan Stanforth), so he and J D Pooley were not related. It is interesting that the name Pooley occurred twice near-simultaneously in South London, for it is not a common surname in the south-east of the UK.
Thanks to Dave Haunton, Hazel Abbott, Susan Stanforth and Sarah Gould, and to the Library of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, East Smithfield, London E1W 1AW for the Register information.
1 The number plate reads as a single misty character followed by KH973. Can anyone complete this? 2 Honorary Secretary of the British Society of Master Glass Painters in the 1950s 3 Cox, Norma and Anderson, Stuart ‘The emergence of chemist shops in Wimbledon South London 1837-1901: using
trade directories and Registers to track local pharmacies’ in Pharmaceutical Historian 48 (2) June 2018
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 5
CHRISTINE PITTMAN persists through a complex of research possibilities LOOKING FOR A ROMAN WELL IN MITCHAM
In 2019, I volunteered my research services at a Surrey Archaeological Society (SyAS) Council meeting, and Dr David Bird asked if I would be willing to help him with his research on Roman settlement in Merton. I began by Googling various terms, then moved on to the Society’s publications: the Collections (SyAC) and the Bulletin, using the indexes for guidance.
Soon, I realised I was ready to read hard copy archaeological reports – I listed those available at Surrey Archaeological Society’s library in Abinger, but thought I would first try Merton Local Studies Centre in Morden library. I made notes and took photos on my iPad as I worked through the documents there.
Towards the end of February 2020, Dr Bird emailed Peter Hopkins and myself, asking if we knew anything about a well, discovered in Mitcham in 1882, that might have dated from Roman times. He quoted this reference: ”A fine earthenware Romano-British urn found in a Roman well at the Mitcham Gas Works (centred on TQ275691) in 1882′, letter of R Garraway Rice, FSA, to Col. Bidder, 10 Sept. 1921. Now in the British Museum.’ I knew about the well: I had found a few mentions of it myself, but I had no understanding of its significance. My notes were confusing, but suggested a new lead: ‘Croydon Advertiser 1883 J Harwood + R Garraway Rice’.
In order to track down this lead, I first went back to the internet. The Croydon Advertiser has been digitised 1885-1889, but not 1883. So I went back to the Local Studies Centre. Without any guarantee that I’d find what I was looking for, I looked through the old hand-written and typed catalogue cards. There are three sets of drawers, containing many different runs, and I looked through most of them, under R for Romans, W for Well, M for Mitcham, G for Gas, G for Garraway, R for Rice, H for Harwood, U for Urn…with no success.
Finally, I found the card I wanted, listed under C for Croydon Advertiser! It read: ‘Cuttings relating to discovery of an ancient earthen vessel, etc. on the premises of the Mitcham and District Gas, Light and Coke Co., by Robert Garraway Rice and J Harwood.’ No Romans, Well or Urn were mentioned.
Where were the newspaper cuttings it mentioned? Shelved at L2(283)MIT ‘1883’ LP74. Luckily Sarah Gould was working nearby, and pointed me to some filing cabinets. Finding L2(283), which corresponds to churches (!), I searched though the drawer for folder no.74. Right at the back, in an un-numbered folder inside an unlabelled file, I found correspondence between George Bidder and WR Harwood in the Croydon Advertiser in 1883, about the theft of a chalice from a church in Mitcham. But also pasted into this folder were cuttings of the two letters from Garroway Rice and J Harwood, dated 4 & 8 July 1882, under the heading of ‘An interesting discovery at Mitcham’.
The letter by Garraway Rice contained much detail which had not been recorded elsewhere. It took nearly 140 years, but finally, thanks to the anonymous librarians who cut, pasted, catalogued, filed and carefully curated those documents, two archaeologists have been able to communicate their ideas.
* LocationofGasWorkssiteonamodernstreetmap, ReproducedbypermissionofMertonDesignUnit, LondonBoroughofMerton
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 6
An edited summary of Dr David Bird’s paper published in SyAS Bulletin 486 (June 2021) pp.9-13, with kind permission:
A ROMAN WELL IN MITCHAM
Dr Bird, distinguished former Archaeologist for Surrey, was completing a report on an excavation at Mitcham Grove and gathering information relevant to its earlier history, ‘with much assistance from Peter Hopkins and Christine Pittman’, when he came upon a reference to a report of a Roman well in Mitcham. The Mitcham Grove site is adjacent to the western side of Mitcham Bridge. Somewhere in the general area is a suggested Roman ‘posting station’ usually said to be at Merton (Bidder and Morris 1959, 51-2; Bird 2004, 43).
Dr Bird asked Christine to find the original reference (facing page). ‘Thanks to Christine’s tenacity’ we can add very useful details about the discovery. Garraway Rice heard that an ‘urn of black ware had been discovered, enclosed within oak planks and several feet beneath the surface’, and visited the site. He spoke to Benjamin Green, the secretary and manager of the company, who told him that men excavating a tank for a large gasholder had ‘found in the clay, about 20 feet from the surface, some rough oak planks forming an enclosure filled with clay’, within which was the urn, which Mr Green secured. It was said that the bones and skull of a dog, and the horns of a goat, were found with the vessel, but these were unfortunately thrown away. The ten oak planks were in a fairly good state of preservation, and measured about 3 feet 6 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 2½ inches in thickness, halved at each end in the shape of the letter L, to fit into one another and thus form a square wooden chest.
Dr Bird notes that Garraway Rice thought ‘that the planks once formed part of the steining of an ancient well’. He described the pot as complete, with ‘no other damage than two small holes made by the workman’s pick’ and ‘two small pieces broken off the rim’. ‘The vessel is made of a very hard, highly burnt, dark slaty-coloured clay; … it is unglazed, … of spherical shape but flat at the bottom, and … has been carefully ‘thrown’ on the wheel. … It is entirely devoid of ornamentation’. J Harwood (of 5, Broad-green [sic], Croydon) responded to say he had ‘inspected the vase,… a fine specimen of the Romano-British Upchurch (Kent) Pottery.’ He added that ‘the planks were very probably the lining of an ancient well’. This gentleman was perhaps related to W R Harwood, the SyAS local secretary for Mitcham around 1882. Garraway Rice is to be archaeologically trusted; Monty has demonstrated that he had a strong Mitcham connection, and described him as ‘an enthusiastic and knowledgeable antiquarian’ (Montague 2005, 86-8). He accepted that the vessel was Roman and in 1933 he bequeathed it to the British Museum. The pot is not easy to parallel exactly: Paul Tyers thought a date in the earlier Roman period was likely and noted (from the photograph) a similarity to a vessel from Ospringe (Pollard 1988, 143). He also pointed out that the ‘two small holes made by the workman’s pick’ in the original report could be deliberate and ancient. It is reasonable to accept that a workman’s pick would have shattered the Mitcham pot rather than making two small holes, so deliberate piercing in the Roman period must be the most likely explanation.
Dr Bird suggests that the well at Mitcham could be very significant in terms of understanding the nature of the associated settlement. A well at the Beddington villa (Howell 2005, 42-4) had complete and semi-complete pots and a horse’s skull in the lower fill. That well had three courses of timber in situ at the bottom and then a round stone-built structure above. Very similar wells are also known in Southwark and at Culver (eg Bird 2004, 68, fig 26 and Millum 2018, 78-82). The oak frame at Culver seems to have been set on large blocks at the bottom with a circular stone lining resting on the planks, as at Beddington. This evidence suggests that there may have been a stone lining above the box frame at Mitcham. Given that the area lacks building stone, could it be that the well was robbed of its lining? The upper levels of the lining at Culver were apparently removed by stone robbers. It seems that wells of this type are more likely to have been associated with higher status ‘Roman’ settlements. We might rule out a villa, as there is no hint of stone foundations nearby; a well in a roadside settlement would seem more likely, especially as most buildings in such settlements in our area are likely to have been surface-built wooden structures without tiled roofs, leaving little archaeological trace (Bird 2004, 67-8). Although there should still be pits and pottery scatters, these were rarely recorded until recently.
Dr Bird postulates that we should be looking for a roadside settlement in this area. There are scraps of limited evidence (noted in Miller and Saxby 2007, 10-11), including ditches, burials, pottery and a perhaps significant number of coins (500-600 ranging across the Roman period), with a few extra discoveries of residual Roman pottery (as at Mitcham Grove). Three inhumations at Short Batsworth, east of the current course of the Wandle, have recently been published (Montague 2017), but a nearby set of 12 unfortunately have not (lying some 700m south of Merton Priory and 500m west of the well). More than ten inhumations is noteworthy, and not common in Surrey. They might well be taken to imply the presence of a larger settlement.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 7
Dr Bird points out that the main course of the Wandle should have been well to the west at this time, cutting outwards along the outside of the great bend, which could place most of the known finds to the east of the Roman- period river, at least of its principal course. A ‘Blacklands’ field name may also imply the former presence of a long-lasting settlement (Montague 2008, 3) and we also have the place-name Wicford, which Gelling is happy to accept as derived from a (Roman-period) vicus site (1997, 247; but see Hopkins 2020, 10-11). There is even a hint of a bath-house from finds of ‘Roman brick, tile, wall plaster, [and] opus signinum … in later features at Merton Priory’ and a ditch with 2nd-3rd century pottery that might hint at an enclosure. This also raises thoughts about the proximity of the early Anglo-Saxon cemetery (with its Roman objects) and the course of Stane Street, strangely absent from the results of the Merton Priory excavations. This must all be speculative, but it is possible that our well might be an important clue to the location of a missing Roman posting station.
Detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1894-6. One of the circles must represent the new gas-holder where the workmen were digging the foundations. Sources
Bidder, H F, and Morris, J, 1959. ‘The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Mitcham’, SyAC 56, 51-131 Bird, D, 2004. Roman Surrey Gelling, M, 1997 (3rd ed). Signposts to the past, Batsford Hopkins, P, 2020. ‘An ancient enclosure in Morden?’, Bull SyAS 479, 7-12 Howell, I (ed), 2005. Prehistoric landscape to Roman villa. Excavations at Beddington, Surrey, 1981-7, MoLAS Monograph Series 26 Miller, P and Saxby, D, 2007. The Augustinian priory of St Mary Merton, Surrey: excavations 1976-90. MoLAS Monograph Series 34 Millum, D H, 2018. Bridge Farm: the excavation of a Romano-British riverside settlement. Part 1 2011-2017. Available on www.culverproiect.co.uk/publications Montague, E N, 2005. The Upper or Fair Green, Mitcham. Mitcham Histories: 7, Merton Historical Society Montague, E N, 2008. Ravensbury. Mitcham Histories: 10, Merton Historical Society Montague, E N, 2017. Excavation of a Romano-British site at Short Batsworth, Mitcham 1966-1968, Studies in Merton History: 7, Merton Historical Society Pollard, R J, 1988. The Roman pottery of Kent, Kent Archaeological Society
DAVE HAUNTON adds a remembered two-pennorth:
Long ago I attended a training dig, just east of Cambridge, run for students of the London University Diploma in Archaeology. Investigating some crop-marks, we found a minor 2nd-3rd century Romano-British villa. During the 1965 season I discovered, and began the excavation of, a Roman well, and in 1966 helped to retrieve its timbers. As I remember them, these were rather thicker and longer (perhaps 7ft long) than the Mitcham examples, with a single tenon or a mortice at each end. They formed a square box frame, of which the three lowest courses were well preserved, while a fourth was only partially so. There was no sign of stone-work above the remaining wood, whose top was only some three feet or so below the modern surface. The site was on gravel, level, with no trace of rigg and furrow (growing barley at the time). The gap between the sides of the well pit and the timbers was filled with small lumps of chalk packed in an intensely sticky pale grey clay, presumably as a defence against burrowing animals. The bottom of the well contained no packing, but showed a smooth gravel surface, still admitting an inflow of clear water after 1800 years. The timbers were taken to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.
Publication seems to have been only as a paper booklet: Excavations in Cambridge 1969. A Preliminary Report on Excavations at Arbury Road, by David Trump et al (ie. John Alexander and Ray Farrar) (1969)
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 8
MICK TAYLOR is distracted by a mention of THE FUNERAL OF MR. FENTON
Working in the Heritage Centre at the Civic Centre one day I was looking for some information, and as is always the case when looking through newspapers, became distracted by something else that I saw. The newspaper in question was the Mitcham Advertiser of 24 March 1911. The particular paragraph I saw was headed ‘Funeral of Mr. Fenton’. This was below another paragraph headed ‘Birch’s Celebrated Home-Made Sausages’. Hopefully the sausages didn’t lead to Mr Fenton’s passing! His funeral, it was recorded, took place in the bleakest and wettest of weather. There was only a small attendance, just two relations, both nephews, and Mr and Mrs Pratt with whom he had lodged for eight years. I asked myself who was Ferrar Fenton?
He was born in Waltham, Lincolnshire in December 1832 to Richard Fenton and Anne (Oliver) Fenton. He had nine siblings. He married Letitia Cleaver in October 1866. They did not have children and Letitia died on 29 October 1901. It was shortly after this that he moved to Mitcham, where he died on 14 March 1911.
In Mitcham he lived at 8 King’s Road where he had two partly furnished rooms on one floor. The property belonged to Thomas Pratt and his wife Mercy. According to the Electoral Roll of 1904 he was paying 10s (50p) a week rent for the Ground Floor. According to the Electoral Roll of 1911, this rent had dropped to 5s (25p). There may be a good reason why he occupied the ground floor of the property. In 1906 he took a trip to Chicago in the USA, the reason for which was recorded on the ship’s list as ‘To Scientifically Instruct the National Co. of Chicago in a new industry’. It doesn’t record what that new industry was, but does record that, while his health was good, he had been crippled by a severe accident.
Fenton seems to have had a varied working career. In the 1861 census he is shown as ‘Printer’, in 1881 a ‘Manure Manufacturer’ and in 1891 a ‘Land and Share Broker’. In the 1895 Street Directory he was now a ‘House Agent’and by 1902 he was listed as a journalist. I did question if these were all the same person but checks showed they were. In 1862 he travelled to South Africa and, in his will, left property and land there. He had a number of commercial patents in England, Canada and the United States. These included patents for the manufacture of Artificial Rubber that was worked by the National Company of Chicago. This must have been the ‘new industry’ shown on the 1906 ship list.
It is on that list that we get a clue to his lasting legacy. His occupation is given as ‘Professor of Oriental Literature’. An extract from Who was Who 1916-1928 has him as an author, as well as listing many other occupations. Once more we visit his will where he bequeathed to his great nephew all his rights and interests of his literary productions, which included, amongst others: The New Testament in Modern English, The
Book of Job in Modern English, The Five Books of Moses, The Six Historical Books of the Old Testament, and The Complete Bible in Modern English. His publications are still available. Whilst Ferrar Fenton may have lived in Mitcham for only eight years his contribution through his writing to the Christian faith cannot be ignored.
Fenton spent approximately 50 years working on his translation of the complete Bible, with the aim of studying the Bible ‘absolutely in its original languages, to ascertain what its writers actually said and thought’. He had acquired ancient Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew and Latin through being a distinguished member of the Royal Asiatic Society. Ferrar Fenton was also a British Israelite and he dedicated his translation to ‘all those nations who have sprung from the race of the British Isles’.
But Note. Wikipedia says he died in 1920, which Mick’s article clearly demonstrates is wrong.]
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 9
KATIE HAWKS considers potential Guesthouses
MERTON PRIORY’S GATEHOUSE AND GUESTHOUSE: PART 2 Abbey House
This was described in the 1802/1805 survey as:
‘The Callico Grounds & Premises lett to Messrs Newton, Leach, Greaves & Hodgson: The Part occupied by Mr Newton
Part of the Abbey House, consisting of a Kitchen, Pantry, Cellar, Hall, Nursery, 2 Parlours, Drawing Room, 5 Bedrooms & 2 Garrets, the walls of batten & lath & plaister.
The Part occupied by Mr Leach
Part of the Abbey House, consisting of a Kitchen, Pantry, 2 Parlours, Cellar, 5 Bedrooms, 2 Garrets & laundry, the walls of batten & lath & plaister, with workshops detached.’
This was a considerable building, with two substantial wings or halves. The western half was demolished sometime between 1805 and 1870. The house lay where the river path and waste ground are now, but the presence of a gas main below precludes any archaeological activity and has probably destroyed any evidence. The house itself was bought by a house-breaker and consequently broken. Luckily, Rev. Jagger, the local vicar, was horrified and rushed to Sir Arthur Liberty, who – although unable to stop the destruction – called in various authorities to document it and preserve any further finds. One of these authorities was the architectural historian Philip Mainwaring Johnston, who wrote that the house-breaker ‘disposed at once of sundry encaustic tiles, coins, and other small articles, as well as the heavy oak timbers, and an 18th-century staircase. When the men commenced to strip a number of heavy coatings of stucco from the front, they were found to be on lathing and battens, and to cover a fine late-Norman arch.’1 This Norman arch will be discussed below, but it was saved and much later removed to the churchyard of St Mary, Merton.2
There is a water-colour from the 1820s or 30s showing Abbey House next to the calico mill (fig.1, see p.1)3 by what is now Merton Abbey Mills. This house is a hodge-podge of styles: the two gable ends with mullioned windows are sixteenth or seventeenth-century; the tower affair looks later, but may not be. The flint-and-brick shed in front again looks later, but the flint and its stone quoins suggest an earlier, possibly mediæval, wall. The
plan on the 1894 map shows an essentially square building with a wing to the left, which led to the other half of the building, shown on the 1805 map (left). The light-coloured lines, centre and left, show the division between Newton and Leach, rather than a water-course; the Wandle is the wider, darker areas to the right. (The dotted lines above are the High Path walls; the gateway in the north wall is evident.) The building at bottom right is the calico mill.
Left is the 1894 plan (again with the river in darker colouring). The western wing is slightly recessed; the eastern, that crosses the Wandle in 1805, has been truncated. The back profile is not inconsistent with the water
colour. While Abbey House was being demolished in 1914, a rather beautiful late-Norman arch was uncovered. Although they are variously described in the Merton Memories Photo Archive, there are a number of photographs of this arch and the building it was in.4 In addition, Edward Walford included a drawing of the building in volume 2 of his Greater London (fig.2 right).
It is clear that we have a house altered and added to over the years. The two gable ends on the right of the watercolour have transom and mullion windows, and, together with the pitch of the roof, suggest the 16th century. A third gable end peeps to its left; again this could be 16th century. The brick-and-flint building at the front has a shallower pitch to the roof, pantiles and a gable on the right. All this suggests that it was a recent alteration; however, the flints with stone quoins hint at a much older wall. The tower to the left is more difficult to explain. Half a century after this watercolour, the east gable, fronting the water, has been demolished and replaced by a single-storey extension. The tower has gone, and the west side has been squared-off with a Roman cement facade and a verandah. The front has also been given a regular facade. Philip Johnston, who saw the building itself, concluded that the Norman arch was ‘part of a range of mediaeval buildings of more than one date, altered and added to in the sixteenth and subsequent centuries.’5
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 10
As noted by Miller and Saxby, the Norman arch revealed during the demolition is similar to processional arches at Lilleshall and Norton, and also to Haughmond.6 It is possible that the arch was from elsewhere in the priory and was moved either during the priory’s lifetime or at its dissolution. However, it is much more probable that it is in its original location, an in situ arch – as Johnston himself thought.7 This may explain its survival, for Abbey House could have been in continuous use throughout the demolition of the priory. With such an arch, the original building must have been high-status – the guesthouse or possibly the prior’s lodgings (or a combination of the two). The Jew’s House in Lincoln has an example of an elaborate Norman arch, with very much the same decoration, in a domestic building, and ornate arches are a feature of gatehouses, such as that at St Augustine’s, Bristol. The prior’s lodgings at Thetford and Castle Acre both have grand arches. In the centuries following the Dissolution, as the house became more domestic, the archway was subsumed by the wall as the doorway became less grand; this would explain the patchwork of bricks as well as stone. The internal floor levels were altered, and a first floor was constructed below the top of the arch (fig.3 right).8 By the 19th century, it was covered with lath and render. Although it is difficult from the pictorial evidence to find traces of the medieval building at the heart of Abbey House, it is clear that at least some of it was built in stone. At the end of the gable wall by the glasshouse on fig.4 (below left),9 it looks very much like stone under the render eroded by damp; moreover fig.5 (below right)10 shows a large amount of stone amongst the demolition rubble.
Johnston’s comments are very helpful here:
‘It was evident to me that the internal splays of the archway or doorway, as it almost certainly was, had been hacked away to reduce the thickness of the wall when this fragment was turned so sordidly to account by the Georgian builders. Half the wall-thickness must thus have been removed… It is quite likely that more of these beautiful stones are either packed into blockings or buried in the 18thcentury foundations. Many might be recovered with careful research.’ [If only!] ‘The backing of the front wall, where it remains, appears to be stone rubble: the return and internal walls are largely of flint, with some traces of 12th-century openings and quoins in a return wall. There were also (in June 1914) part of an oak partition wall, and various relics of an Elizabethan adaptation of the house. I also saw two pieces of the head of a Tudor fire-place of the usual flat four-centred form, still showing traces of blue-black colour and gilding in some heraldic device. Many wrought and moulded blocks of chalk and firestone had been built up roughly into the re-constructed walls, among which I noted a singularly beautiful Early-English capital’.11 (fig.6 right)12
If Abbey Gatehouse was a forgery, Abbey House seems to have been the real thing. Its function is still hypothetical, but Miller & Saxby’s suggestion, following Johnston, that it was the priory guesthouse seems reasonable. The Abbey House that we have pictures of was a sizeable house – and this was only half the building. Merton Priory, on the main road south from London and on the road to Kingston, would certainly have needed considerable guest accommodation. If we are correct in placing our gatehouse on High Path, it is a reasonable guess that the guest quarters were near it. Whether the fishponds marked on the 1805 map went as far back in time as the monastery is another question, but it is likely that this area, west of the main priory complex and just south of the gatehouse, was not just the site of one large guesthouse but of what we might
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 11
think of as a guest village, with service buildings and possibly also the king’s own quarters, if they were not part of Abbey House itself. There is room for conjecture!
There are descriptions of Abbey House from the turn of the eighteenth century. In 1680, The Protestant (Domestick) Intelligence announced that it had ‘several large Rooms, with Orchards, Gardens, Fish-ponds, Dove-house, Stabling, Coach-house, Brew-house, Wood-House, and other Out-housing, with a very fine Chapple, with many other necessary Conveniences, as a fine River just by the House, which house will be Lett either Furnished or unfurnished, as you shall please, as also what Pasture Land shall be required, all being incompassed with a StoneWall.’ 13 In 1701, the Post Boy advertised it as a ‘Large House’, ‘fit for any Gentleman, or Merchant, with Gardens, Orchard and Fish Ponds; also 9 or more Acres of Pasture Land with Out-Houses, Stables, Coach-house, and other Conveniences’, and in 1709 The Daily Courant carried an advertisement for its lease, ‘with Garden, Stables, Coach houses, Brewhouse, and other Conveniences… 6 or 7 Acres of Meadow Ground inclos’d with a good Wall, the Ground well water’d with a Trout River and a Canal in the middle stockt with Carpe, &c. and Rows of Trees planted by it’.14 This is a picture of verdant loveliness, as shown vividly in this detail from a watercolour of a ‘white cottage’:15 this could be Littler’s, or White, Cottage, but it could possibly be Abbey House (or, indeed, another house entirely).
The years between 1538 and 1680 had been turbulent and full of structural alteration on the priory site, but if Abbey House had been in continuous or near-continuous occupation, then it is possible that the grounds, buildings and out-houses at least echoed what had been there before: sites tend to have similar functions over generations, as witnessed, for example, by the mills on the Wandle.
What Abbey House, as the guesthouse, looked like requires much guesswork, as neither the ground plans as shown in the 1805, 1870 and 1894 maps nor the 1820s water-colour are much help. The 1894 map accords almost exactly with the eastern wing of the 1805 map, and, in addition, 1805 shows an extension over the Wandle which was absent by 1894. The 1870 map shows a partition of the north-east corner, which is something of a puzzle. If we assume that the Norman archway was the door into a guest hall, and that this hall ran (roughly) east-west, then we can try a few hypotheses for the original hall. All measurements are approximate. Astandard ratio for length to width in halls of the period was 2:1 which gives us two possibilities:
Either: the oblong here outlined with heavy dashes, which presumes that this eastern wing was originally a detached building, that a small chunk was taken out of the western end of its facade, and that the wings in the watercolour painting were added onto the back, rather than onto the sides;
Or the oblong here outlined in white, slightly smaller, which presumes that the western wing, the bit that includes the weird tower in the water-colour, was added as a cross-wing, and the gable-ended wings as extensions on the back.
The first of these puts the position of the Norman arch in the middle of the front wall, the second puts it two- thirds towards the western end. There are precedents for both – entrances two-thirds along were common in aisled halls such as Purton Green, while the ground-floor hall of St Mary’s Guildhall in Lincoln has a central door.16 The ornate decoration of our doorway could suggest a ground-floor hall. Such a hall would have been a place for formal convening – for eating or for business. It might have had chambers at one end, as at St John’s House in Warnford, or, more probably, it had a separate chamber block.17 The Museum of Wales has just reconstructed such a complex at its St Fagans site.18 The layout of halls and chamber blocks is still a matter of much discussion and some disagreement amongst archaeologists and architectural historians, and our conclusions can only be tentative.19 If this were a hall-and-chamber-block arrangement, the western wing of Abbey House could have been a chamber block – either for a similarly-proportioned rectangular building, starting from the west wall (as here outlined in grey diamonds) or from the east, or for a square building, such as those found in the guest complex at Furness Abbey and Bishop Burnell’s castle at Acton Burnell.20 The chamber block might have had an undercroft with first floor guest-rooms. They could have been joined by a passage or by service rooms (pantry, buttery, scullery), or both.
Acknowledgement: It will be evident that this article benefits greatly from the constantly growing picture collection of Merton Heritage and Local Studies. ‘Merton Memories’ photographs are the copyright of the London Borough of Merton, to whom we are grateful for permission to reproduce them. More historic images can be viewed at http://www.photoarchive.merton.gov.uk.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 12
1 P. M. Johnston, ‘A discovery at Merton Priory’, Surrey Archaeological Collections, 27 (1914), pp.136-141
2 Presumably it was the same committee of 1912 that decided to save the arch in the wall now on Station Road, and whose minutes are printed in MHS Bulletin 183, p.10. Unhappily, their best intentions were confounded when the council lost the bits. The Rev. Jagger was a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge and a keen antiquarian.
3 Original watercolour held by Merton Local Studies Centre.
4 See https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/buildings/34443-abbey-house-merton?; and /34828-liberty-print-works-rear-view-of-a-house-on-themerton- site?; /34825-liberty-print-works-demolition-of-a-house-on-near-the-site?; /34830-liberty-print-works-colliers-wood-a-norman-arch-found-near-thesite?; /34824-liberty-print-works-demolition-of-a-house-near-the-site?; /30710-norman-arch-merton-abbey?; https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/ places-of-worship/30180-norman-archway-found-when-demolishing-libertys-print-works?; Chapel see Miller & Saxby
5 Johnston, p.137 6 P. Miller and D. Saxby, The Augustinian Priory of St Mary Merton, Surrey (London, 2007), p.122. Johnston noted similarities with Shere, Merstham and several Sussex churches., p.138. 7 There is, he wrote, ‘no doubt that the archway that has been brought to light… is (1) in situ, and (2) has been the entrance to an important building’, suggesting the hospitium, p.138. My thanks to Edmund Harris for a valuable discussion on this aspect of the archway. 8 https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/buildings/34443-abbey-house-merton? See also https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/places
of-worship/30180-norman-archway-found-when-demolishing-libertys-print-works?; and Chapel in Miller & Saxby 9 https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/work-and-industry/34832-the-liberty-print-works-merton-abbey? 10 https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/buildings/34449-abbey-house-merton-front-view? 11 Johnston, p.140 12 https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/buildings/30698-carved-foliage-from-the-top-of-a-norman-arch? 13 Quoted by E. Legon ‘Heritage Before Modernity: The Afterlife of a Dissolved Priory’, International Journal of Heritage Studies (2021), DOI:
10.1080/13527258.2021.1941199 14 Ibid. 15 https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/buildings/48730-white-cottage? A photograph of White Cottage, Colliers Wood, also on the site, looks
nothing like this. 16 Some halls had doors at one end, but perhaps these tend to be first floor halls – such as as Aydon Castle, Boothby Pagnell or Canterbury Cathedral (the Aula
Nova). 17 P. Faulkner, ‘Castle Planning in the Fourteenth Century’, in Late Medieval Castles, ed. R. Liddiard (Woodbridge, 2016), p.79 18 https://museum.wales/stfagans/buildings/llys-llywellyn/ 19 See, for example, J. Blair, ‘Hall and chamber: English domestic planning 1000-1250’, in R. Liddiard (ed.), Anglo-Norman Castles (Woodbridge, 2003), pp.307
328; A. Quiney, ‘Hall or Chamber? That Is the Question. The Use of Rooms in Post-Conquest Houses,’ Architectural History, 42 (1999), pp.24-46; N. Hill, ‘Hall and chambers: Oakham Castle reconsidered’, Antiquaries Journal, 93 (2013), pp.163-216
John Hickman, Carole Roberts, John W Brown and Stephen Williams,
Evacustes Phipson: his life and utopian views and an introduction to the Croydon paintings, Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Ltd, 2020, price £12. A4 Softback, 108 pp, many b&w and colour illus. ISBN 978 0 906047 347
Evacustes Phipson (1854-1931) was, until the publication of this book, undeservedly and unfortunately very little known to local historians. Born into a prosperous family of engineers, members of the Carr’s Lane Independent Church in Birmingham, Edward Arthur Phipson could look forward to a successful career in the family business. Developing views of a radical socialist kind, it soon became clear that he would not fit in and, in his own words: ‘soon incurred hostility of relations on account of ‘eccentric’ opinions’. In
his paintings and newspaper articles, the earliest known example being on a signed picture of Hertford dated 1880. ‘Paid off’ in 1881 with the then considerable sum of £16,000, presumably on condition that he would have no further call on the family business or its fortune, he set off around the world in search of a suitable location for his Communal Utopia, based on socialist principles. When that idea failed and his money had all but run out some nine years later, he took to painting watercolours of local scenes around England which he sold to museums and art galleries, presumably on prior commission, at very reasonable rates. Phipson’s output was prodigious and the complete catalogue of his known paintings, printed in the book, lists some 1400 views covering about 30 English counties. Some places are better served than others, depending, apparently, on individual museums’ willingness to invest in his work. Fortunately, Surrey is very well represented with some 340 views of its towns and villages. Unfortunately, only a single view of Merton – Merton Abbey – exists and there are none of Morden, but Mitcham fares better with a dozen pictures (dated between 1916 and 1927); the surrounding villages of Beddington, Carshalton, Cheam and Sutton are also well represented. Croydon has the lion’s share however, with 66 views to its credit and, if Waddon and South Croydon are added, the total is 102, most of which are reproduced here in full colour with detailed notes and maps of their locations. As well as a list of known paintings, there is a whole chapter on paintings of Croydon, and another on those of Streatham, Tooting, Thornton Heath and Norbury. John Pile
contemporary artistic fashion, he informally adopted an alias, Evacustes (‘ready listener’), with which to sign MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 13
Wimbledon Chase Co-op fascia: Cllr. Anthony Fairclough, leader of the Lib Dem group on the Council, published his photographs (below) on Twitter on 31 May. They show the preserved old Co-op fascia, recently briefly revealed in renovations, and now covered up again, undamaged. The lettering is cream on a rather dull sage green. The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society was absorbed by the Co-op Wholesale Society in 1985. ♦ Janet Lock relates her grandfather’s wartime experience: In 1939, my Grandfather, Harry Taylor, aged 50, was quick to sign up as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden, operating from his home, 29 Richmond Avenue in Merton Park as a District Warden. In the first few months after war was declared he helped distribute gas masks and helped the public prepare for the bombing to come. All windows had to be covered with light-proof material at dusk, and he would walk through the streets looking for chinks of light, knocking on the front doors of offenders and shouting for people to ‘put that light out’. Not everyone appreciated that. At the peak of the Luftwaffe bombing raids he seldom managed to get a full night’s sleep, and I am told that his face took on a grey pallor from prolonged tiredness. He never missed an air raid. A pacifist by conviction, and not wanting to take life, he had served in the Royal Medical Corps during the Great War of 1914-18, dealing with the horrific injuries suffered by frontline troops, horses injured by machine gun bullets, and crawling into No-Man’s land, taking samples of water to test if the wells had been poisoned by the retreating enemy. Now he was tackling the horrors of war within his local community. The Luftwaffe dropped many incendiary bombs on the Merton area – a local rumour said they were lighting a fiery path to the city of London to guide the next wave of bombers. But these incendiary bombs caused their own horrors, setting many houses on fire. At 29 Richmond Avenue a bucket was kept permanently filled with water, and a stirrup pump to spray on any fires. But Harry’s family had strict instructions never to get water directly on the phosphorus (incendiary) bombs, which would make them burn even more, but to encircle the flames to stop the fire spreading. In the back garden, as in all back gardens in these roads, there was an Anderson shelter: half dug into the ground, half protruding above, with corrugated steel sides and roof, covered with the excavated soil. When the air raid siren started to wail everyone headed for cover in their air raid shelter, but not the ARP Wardens. They headed out into the danger, looking for ways to help injured civilians, to put out fires alongside the fire brigade, to search for anyone who might be buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings. On one occasion my grandfather broke down and was inconsolable. He had spent all night digging people out from the rubble of their homes, and finally managed to retrieve a small girl. But then she died in his arms. This was the worst memory I heard about, and it affected him deeply. He had a more enjoyable memory from when the local pub, the Leather Bottle, was set on fire by incendiary bombs. The wardens and fire brigade worked through the night and managed to save the pub. He was proud of that. I am glad to see it is still going strong today.
A District Warden was a senior officer who would normally be in charge of four or five Warden’s Posts.
♦ Dave Haunton notes that with his stately cruising speed of two-and a- half mph (or 4kph for younger readers) he has not yet disobeyed this notice, which has been instructing pedestrians in Hartfield Road for nearly a year. MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 14
OUR MEMBERS ensure that
SOME MEMORIES OF 1951 ARE RECORDED
John Pile recalls Evelyn Jowett:
Not wishing to diminish Miss Jowett’s achievement in producing her pioneering book in time for the opening of the Festival of Britain, I think it should be said that it was the work of several authors. Miss Jowett was in fact responsible for about three-quarters of the total text.
In 1951 I was a precocious teenaged schoolboy, and I was already writing my own history of Morden when Evelyn Jowett’s appeared. It was then that I contacted her, and we met at the Morden branch library in Morden Road. No doubt she offered advice, and it was then that she gave me a copy of the current Merton & Morden Historical Society’s programme, including details of Sheppard Frere’s talk. I seem to remember this was given in Merton public library in Kingston Road. I have that programme – somewhere
– and will send you a copy if it turns up. I did not join the Historical Society at that time, but I did become a member of the Beddington, Carshalton & Wallington Archaeological Society where, as its youngest member, I received a good deal of attention and encouragement from its adult members on its local field meetings. Eric Shaw recalls a post-script to the Festival:
In 1951 I was serving an apprenticeship with George Cohen, Sons & Co Ltd (The 600 Group) at Wood Lane, near the White City in West London. My interest in industrial history was formed, in a small way, by the time that I spent in their Drawing Office during the demolition of both the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon. I was given the task of drawing up a device shaped like a partially-clenched fist. The ‘fingers’ were of steel rod formed to fit in some of the fixing holes in the aluminium sheets that formed the roof of the Dome. After the fixings had been removed from part of the sheet, the ‘fingers’ were inserted in the exposed holes and a crane hook was attached; the sheet was then torn off the roof without having to remove the rest of the fixings.
I half expected to read in your article that the Skylon was broken up and thrown into the River Lea. I was pleasantly surprised that you had not mentioned it. I have an article somewhere, from The Times, no less, that this was its fate. Over the years I have read similar stories, and people believe such stories because ‘it was in the papers’? Some time ago the BBC put out a television programme, One Foot in the Past with Dan Cruikshank. During it he visited an ex-director of Cohen’s, Mr Percy Levy, who confirmed that Cohen’s contract was to dismantle both the Dome and the Skylon and scrap them. Mr Levy kept a small piece of the Skylon as a souvenir. Some of the aluminium from both structures was turned into paper knives as an advertising item. I took some pictures of them at an exhibition. (below) The lettering on the back of the blade reads: ‘MADE FROM THE ALUMINIUM ROOF SHEETS WHICH COVERED THE DOME OF DISCOVERY AT THE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN SOUTH BANK SITE’, while on the back of the handle is: ‘THE DOME, SKYLON AND TEN OTHER BUILDINGS ON THE SITE WERE DISMANTLED BY GEORGE COHEN SONS AND CO. LTD. DURING SIX MONTHS OF 1952’.
I estimate the length of a paper knife at about eight inches, and I think they were manufactured by casting, rather than pressing.
What Mr Levy didn’t mention, and I know because I have seen it, was that the anemometer from the Skylon was put on display in the reception area of the main office in Wood Lane. What happened to it subsequently I don’t know, as the ‘600’ site was taken over by the BBC after I left the company.
Rosemary Turner has a copy of the publication written by Ian Cox, The South Bank Exhibition: a Guide to the Story it tells (1951), price 2s.6d (about £5 today). The front cover bears the Festival symbol in colour, while the 96 pages of essays and maps, frequently high-lighted with a single colour, are sandwiched between two blocks, each of 32 full page colour advertisements on Art paper.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 15
The advertisements are a curious mixture, with a number of serious engineering firms (12), looking for contracts, in contrast to producers of consumer goods (10), branded foods (8), cars (6), clothing (5), smoking (5), drink (5), and fuels (4), etc. looking for sales. There are none for culture (cinema, theatre, orchestra or art gallery). Styles are very mixed, from impressionistic (clockwise from top left A, B) to wordy and mundane, from history (C) to future times (D), from stark (E) to self-indulgent (F). The whole collection is very insular. Punch has the only humorous one, EMI the only one with outside interest (via text in French and Spanish), while Sperry is almost the only one to mention the word ‘future’, as well as honourably crediting the artist (here Chesley Bonestell).
ROYAL FEMALE ORPHANAGE, BEDDINGTON
An HLF-supported oral history project is looking for people to share their memories of the Royal Female Orphanage, whether as orphan, worker or local resident, when it was open in High Wycombe (1943-1968) or locally in Beddington. Please contact the coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Please see the MHS website regarding how this concerns your personal data.
Letters and contributions for the Bulletin should be sent to the Hon. Editor, by email to email@example.com. The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the contributors concerned and not necessarily those of the Society or its Officers.
website: www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed by Peter Hopkins
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 220 – DECEMBER 2021 – PAGE 16