Bulletin 138

Download Bulletin 138

June 2001 – Bulletin 138
Recent Work on the Site of Merton Priory – P J Hopkins
The Industrial School in Mitcham – R A M Scott
Ralph de Cahaigns & the Keynes’ Beneficence – L E Green
John Donne in Mitcham – E N Montague
Abraham Goldsmid of Morden Lodge – J A Goodman
The Statute of Merton – L E Green

and much more

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VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Lionel Green and William Rudd



Saturday 16 June 2.30pm Martin Boyle: Mitcham Common walk

This guided walk, led by the Warden of Mitcham Common, is a sequel to March’s lecture. Meet at
the Mill House Ecology Centre. (The Mill House Ecology Centre is in Windmill Road, Mitcham,
next to the Mill House pub. It is close to bus routes 118 and 264, and to the Beddington Lane
Tramlink stop.)

Saturday 21 July

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Merton College 1675
by Loggan
Coach trip to Oxford

Now fully booked!

Saturday 18 August 2.30pm Eric Montague: Ravensbury Park walk

A guided walk, led by the expert, exploring the history of the park – the people, the buildings

and present) and the industries that once belonged here. Meet at the Mitcham Bridge entrance.
(Bus routes 118, 280; close to Mitcham Tramlink stop.)

Thursday 13 September 11.30am Day visit to Addington

Addington was a country home for the Archbishops of Canterbury in the 19th century.
Meet at Church of St Mary the Blessed
Virgin, Addington Village – 11th-century
in origin, with many interesting memorials
and windows. Pub or picnic lunch. Then
Addington Palace at 2.30pm. Travel by
Tramlink, changing to New Addington line
at East Croydon, and alighting at the
Addington Vllage stop.

Illustrations from Coombe, Shirley & Addington – Living History Publications 1974
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The Society’s events are open to the general public, unless otherwise stated.

MHS 50th ANNIVERSARY EXHIBITION 20th-25th February 2001

The idea of an exhibition at The Canons to celebrate the Society’s activities during its first

50 years came
originally from Merton’s Heritage Officer, Sarah Gould. The timing was as near as possible to

the anniversary
day of 28 February, and also usefully coincided with most of the half-term break. The project

was put into effect
by a special committee chaired by Bill Rudd, our knowledgeable keeper of the store. The other

members, whose
talents included design, layout and publicity as well as the ability to work well under

pressure (!), were Ellen
Eames, Margaret Groves, Peter Hopkins and Tony Scott.

In the entrance hall some memorabilia of the Society’s early days were on view, including

methodically kept, and
beautifully written, membership lists and cash books – how small the sums of money seem now!

Also there to be
browsed through was a complete run of the Bulletin – 136 issues. It was begun in April 1965,

when the Society
was still the Merton and Morden Historical Society (a vote at the AGM that year changed the

name), and cost
permitted only one or two foolscap sheets laboriously duplicated from stencils.

Images of events included some lecturers in costume (Parliamentary soldiers from the Civil War

Society, and a
Roman legionary); a performance by the popular, if short-lived, MHS Players; and the Society

.float. from the
Coronation Carnival in 1953. A key occasion was the dedication of the commemorative stone at

the Priory site
in 1959.

Screens, provided by Steve Turner, with display tables, divided the large ground floor room to

the left of the
entrance into a number of sections with different themes. An impressive range of archaeological

.digs., mostly
organised by the Society, and all involving members, was illustrated with photographs, maps,

artefacts and even
human bones. There was a .guess what this is. collection too, which aroused interest and

amusement. Bill Rudd,
dedicated recorder of the changing scene in Morden that he is, mounted a fine photographic

survey of some of
its vanished shops, factories and horse-drawn vehicles.

Workshop topics illustrated included studies of early Merton and Morden (Peter Hopkins), and

Mitcham (Eric
Montague), which are being undertaken as part of Surrey Archaeological Society’s Millennium

Project on
Surrey village origins. From Rosemary Turner came a selection from her detailed analysis of

Merton Priory, and
her husband Steve contributed his map and survey ‘snapshot. of Mitcham in 1838. A small display

on William
De Morgan’s .Merton Abbey. pottery at Colliers Wood was contributed by this reviewer. Over the

particularly recently – thanks to Peter Hopkins, the Society has produced an impressive number

of publications.
A few are now out of print, but all were on display (and most for sale). Illustrations from

Eric Montague’s new
The Cricket Green were projected continuously onto a small screen throughout the opening hours.

The complex
Rutter family of Merton, Mitcham and Morden was the subject of another of Bill’s displays, made

up of family
trees, memorial inscriptions and pictures of Rutter residences. On view too were some of the

Society’s precious
rescued objects – from Morden the old Crown inn sign, now handsomely supported on a wrought-

iron stand
commissioned by Bill; catalogues from Carters Tested Seeds of Merton; price-lists and packaging

Gutteridge’s seed and corn merchant premises in Mitcham, demolished in 1970.

Our thanks are due above all to the exhibition committee for an outstanding effort; also to

Sarah Gould for her
support and enthusiasm; to those who lent photos and other material (especially Bill Rudd); to

the 19 volunteer
custodians, and to the more than 100 non-member visitors, many of whom contributed handsomely

to the donations
box. The special guest at a buffet lunch on the Saturday, kindly laid on by Sarah and her

volunteers, was the
Mayor, Councillor Ian Munn, who enjoyed his visit to the exhibition and expressed his

appreciation of the Society’s

Judith Goodman


Thirty-seven members and guests attended the Society’s 50th Anniversary Dinner on Wednesday

29th February
at Morden Hall Beefeater restaurant pub. The Mayor and Mayoress of Merton, Councillor Ian and

Mrs Carol
Munn, and Sarah Gould, Merton’s Heritage Officer, were our guests of honour, but we were also

glad to
welcome several of our members’ partners.

The meal was excellent, as was the celebration cake made by Mary Hart of the Wandle Industrial

who also provided the floral decorations. The evening closed with speeches from Chairman and

Lionel Green and from the Mayor.

Many thanks to Sheila Harris, Eric Montague and Tony Scott for organising everything for us. It

has been
suggested that an anniversary dinner might become an annual event.

Peter Hopkins


A talk by Martin Boyle at Mill House Ecology Centre, Mitcham, on Saturday 17 March

Some 30 or so members gathered at the Mill House Ecology Centre in the centre of Mitcham

Common, and
soon forgot the grey, damp afternoon, as Martin (who is the Common Warden) introduced us to

some of the
delights of what is the largest wildlife site in the Borough.

The Ecology Centre, owned by the Borough Council, was built at no cost to the community by

Whitbread plc,
when the former Mill House was converted into the present restaurant. It now forms an important

centre, much used by local schools. Martin explained how management of the Common is the

responsibility of
the Board of Conservators, composed of members representing the Boroughs of Merton, Croydon and

Merton acts as the Conservators. agents, and four full-time staff plus an education officer and

a part-time clerk
are employed. The Conservators have no power to levy a rate (as in the case of Wimbledon

Common), and
funding is by grants from the local authorities, augmented by income from the golf club and


The ecological importance of Mitcham Common has been recognised by its designation as a Site of

Importance for Nature Conservation, and within a relatively small area of 160 hectares (400

acres) it has a
unique diversity of habitats. Each supports its own distinctive flora and wildlife, and

requires special management
if its character is to be preserved.

With the aid of some excellent colour slides Martin took us across acid heathland, over

undulating chalk downland,
around ponds, through hay meadows and past wetlands. En route he regaled us with fascinating

and often
amusing stories of how he and his colleagues grapple not only with such .natural. problems as

the tendency for
dense woodland to develop, and periodic invasions by geese, but also those arising from the

increasing pressures
of an urban environment and, sad to say, abuse of the Common by the general public for whose

enjoyment it was
saved by Parliament 110 years ago.

For those who missed Martin’s talk, there is a second chance to become acquainted with the

Common on,
Saturday 16 June next, meeting at the Ecology Centre at 2.30pm. Bring cameras, binoculars,

raincoats and
sunglasses, and you should be ready for anything!

Eric Montague


Merton Heritage Centre, at The Canons, Madeira Road, Mitcham (tel: 020
8640 9387). From 8 May to 28 July the main exhibition illustrates the early
20th-century struggle for Votes for Women, in Cat & Mouse: the Women’s
Suffrage Campaign in Merton. From 14 August to 27 October, Poetry &
Prose: Literature and the Theatre in Merton, will pay tribute to the many
writers and actors for whom Merton has been home. And upstairs, from 31
July to 14 August, will be a reprise of Angels and Tearaways, a historical
look at childhood in Merton. The Centre is open: Tues, Wed, Thurs 10-4; Fri,
Sat 10-5; Sun 2-5; Mon, closed. Admission free.

Just a few miles down the A217, Reigate Priory Museum, Bell Street,
Reigate (tel: 01737 222550) has an exhibition Priory Children Through the
Ages, open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons 2-4.30pm.

Eighty Years of Wimbledon Labour Hall 1921-2001, recently out, is an
account, by Heidi Topman, of the ups and downs in the last 80 years of radical
politics in Wimbledon, forming a useful sequel to Gillian Hawtin’s Early Radical
Wimbledon 1880-1931 (1993). While the best-known figure was Tom
Braddock, there were many other notable characters, both men and women.
A delightful group picture of the Wimbledon Marxist Socialist Society on
Wimbledon Common is only one of the varied illustrations. 64 pages. £3 from
the William Morris Meeting Rooms, 267 The Broadway, or from Fielders in
Wimbledon Hill Road.

It has been pointed out that the MHS publication, The Ravensbury Mills, lost
a line of text between pages 9 and 10, when last reprinted. If you have one of
the 50 defective copies, please return it to our Publications Secretary, who
will replace the page with a corrected one. Many apologies!

Rose Lamartine Yates of Merton Park
and her son Paul, wearing Suffragette

courtesy John Innes Society



With some 14 years. experience of excavating in Merton, mostly on the priory site, Dave Saxby

of the Museum
of London Archaeological Service was supremely qualified to address us on this subject on

Saturday 21st April.
Our usual meeting room at the Snuff Mill Environmental Centre was packed with members and

visitors, eager
to learn all they could of this our most important archaeological site.

Dave led us first through the various phases of excavation during his time at the site,

beginning with the main
excavation of the priory church and chapter house, between 1986 and 1990. Further excavations

followed on the
Christchurch Road site, and on the William Morris site and Mill Road. Then, last year, the

former Furnitureland
site was excavated, prior to redevelopment. Recently, work has been taking place on the car

park/car boot sale
area, as part of the application for planning permission for the proposed development there.

This most recent work has been more concerned with topographical information rather than more

archaeological activity. A radar search combined with a bore-hole survey has yielded good

results, identifying
gravel deposits and areas of naturally high and low ground. This has enabled the experts to

predict the original
courses of the river Wandle, which in pre-medieval times flowed along the route now known as

Bennett’s Ditch.
Evidence has also been found of various millponds. Not surprisingly, the high ground was

selected for Roman
Stane Street and for the priory church.

The 1997 work on the Christchurch Road site also found prehistoric river channels in the 12

evaluation trenches,
but in two of the trenches the line of Stane Street was identified. This has enabled the

alignment of the road to
be defined more precisely. The bandstand at Merton Abbey Mills lies directly on the line of the

Roman road.

Two phases of Stane Street have been established. The first was around AD50, when the road was

some 12
metres wide between two ditches. The road was generally constructed of local river gravels and

sands over the
original gravel surface, though occasionally chalk from the Downs was also used.

Towards the end of the 2nd century the road was recut and resurfaced, and this road surface

survived quite well
under the factories, a metre and a half below the present ground level. This second phase was

wider, up to 16
metres. Approaching the ford there was evidence of two banks each side of the 14 metre road,

suggesting the
presence of pedestrian walkways. This ford was presumably the Bradenford of the Saxon charter

of AD967.
Some 30 coins from the 2nd to 4th centuries were found here, together with a few brooches.

This section of Stane Street had gone out of use by Saxon times, probably because of the

flooding of the area, for
which there is considerable evidence. Some 10th-century Saxon ivory brooches and metalwork have

been found
elsewhere on the site, possibly in the vicinity of the Saxon mill. The precinct wall cut across

the old line of the
road, but the earliest datable medieval activity was around 1200/1250, when a major phase of

development at the
priory necessitated the recutting of ditches and river.

In 1992 the northern section of the William Morris site was excavated. Old photographs record

the weatherboarded
buildings of Halfhide and Son, dating from around 1752, and offcuts of weatherboard were found

in a backfilled
ditch, together with paintbrushes, still caked with whitewash, and various pots, marked with

initials. The foundations
of other 16th- and 17th-century buildings were found, which had reused Reigate stone from

priory buildings. Oak
trestles from around the 16th century may have been part of a bridge. A cesspit from the Morris

period included
wine bottles, some still containing wine.

Last year the former Furnitureland
site was excavated. Perhaps better
known to older residents as the
Palais, this had been the site of the
gatehouse to the priory. An early
ditch, running east-west may be
Roman, and some fire-cracked flint
is of prehistoric date. A narrow
evaluation trench picked up
evidence of a structure which, when
opened up, proved to be a late-
medieval tile kiln. It was well-built,
some 7 metres wide, and had been
truncated by the later cellar walls
of the gatehouse and later buildings.

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Cleaning the kiln structure – photo courtesy of Dave Saxby, MoLAS

There were three furnace chambers, originally arched, built onto an earlier structure. The

construction used
Roman tile and brick as well as Reigate stone from a 12th-century phase of the priory, similar

in style to the arch
now rebuilt in St Mary’s churchyard.

Some over-fired roof tiles were also incorporated in the structure. These were of the style

prevalent around
1480, a period of further building work at Merton Priory, when church, infirmary and reredorter

were buttressed.
The kiln was probably rebuilt to produce roofing tiles for this phase. The underlying kiln

structure was 11 metres
by 1 metre, with an area behind for fuel and rake-out deposits. Very little debris survived

from this phase, though
a .Westminster. tile suggests it may have dated from the 13th century. Below the kiln structure

were found lines
of stakeholes, possibly from a forming shed, where the unbaked tiles had been formed. This was

the only area
of clay within the precinct, with deposits of brick-earth overlying London Clay.

Photographs from the early years of the
20th century show the house known as
Abbey Gatehouse, with twin towers each
side of a central structure. The
excavation revealed the chalk foundation
wall of part of the medieval building,
which post-dated the second phase of
the tile kiln, and was probably 15thcentury.
However, much of the building
is now under the road, which is
considerably wider than heretofore. The
excavated remains may belong to a 15thcentury
rear extension to the main
building. The building was further
extended, to east and west, in the 18th

The full report on the excavations is in
its final stages, and may well be ready
for publication later in the year. It will be
the biggest MoLAS publication to date,
of around 200,000 words. It will include
earlier work on the site, including that of
our first President, Colonel Bidder in the
1920s and of our present President, Scott
McCracken in the 1970s.

The publication has taken several years
to prepare, two to three years. work being required just to evaluate the human bones found on

the site. Some 700
human skeletons were uncovered, and these have been examined for age, gender, burial patterns

and disease.
Many suffered from the disease now known as DISH, from eating too much fatty food. One

discovery was of
a leather and cloth hernia belt, only the second to be found in the UK. 20,000 fragments of

animal bone were
found, the largest quantity of any site. A mid-12th century food preparation area was uncovered

beneath the
infirmary hall, itself dating from the 1220s. Here were found trellises (for vines?), ditches,

planting pits, fruit
stones (apple, grape, etc. though fruit is not found on the site after the 12th century),

hatched chicken and goose
eggs, as well as ladles, pots, etc. Evidence was also found for timber and daub structures.

In the hearths of the infirmary kitchen, the burnt ash deposits included seeds from both fruit

and grain, and

remains of conger eel, dolphin, oyster, herring, dove and red deer.
We eagerly await publication of this mammoth report, though it was disturbing to learn that our

own expert on
Merton Priory, our Chairman Lionel Green, has not been consulted on the historical details.

Hopefully this will
not result in the wholesale repetition of the many unfounded myths that have attached

themselves to Merton
Priory over the years, as was the case with the interim report.

We thank Dave Saxby, not only for his presentation to the Society, but for all the work he has

put in over the
years to reveal more of our rich historical heritage.

Peter Hopkins

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The ‘Gatehouse’ looking east. In the foreground is one of the 18th-century brick
extensions. The chalk medieval walls are in the centre of the picture (just in front
and to the right of the brick drains). Courtesy Dave Saxby, MoLAS.


Friday 23 March 2001: Lionel Green in the chair. Eight persons present.
Sheila Harris spoke of the proposed development at Merton Abbey Mills, which has caused much

After discussion we agreed to sign a petition from the Polka Theatre against the proposal.

Sheila also informed
us that the David Evans silk works at Crayford was closing (relocation to Macclesfield),

including their museum
of silk-printing.
Steve Turner mentioned references to several local pubs, including the Six Bells in 1838. This

reminded Eric
of Mitcham’s Francis Merritt, licensed victualler, who may possibly have made .champagne. in

the 18th century
[see Bulletin No.129].
Bill Rudd has seen the writing on the wall. Haven’t we all, Bill? In Bill’s case it was

Herrington’s furniture
store in Wimbledon, and by the Dolphin pub in Sutton High Street [see items on painted

advertising in Bulletins
No.136 page 4, and No.137 page 8]. He also showed us a miniature pipe (a donation to the

Society), in its case,
which Christies declared to be 150 years old, with a value of £45.

Peter Hopkins has been looking at some abstracts from local wills of 1480-1649,
published on microfiche by West Surrey Family History Society. He has come across
representatives of many old local families: Otwaye, Locke, Stondon and Whitinge. One
particularly interesting will was that of Nicholas Smythe of Morden, yeoman, who in
1559 left five shillings to the church of Morden towards weatherboarding the steeple. A
map or ‘plott’ of Morden, dating from Edward VI’s reign, depicts Morden parish church
complete with steeple.

Peter also reported that he had managed to decipher the footnote to the 1225 document,

illustrated in the last
Bulletin, as: “Morden – The same William de Mara was lord of Ravesbury”. He had often wondered

Lysons, and all local historians since, cited this document as the first reference to the manor

of Ravensbury, in
1250. [He has since written to the British Library, who have informed him that the document

appears to have
been copied into the Merton Priory Cartulary during the mid or later 13th century, but that the

footnote appears
to be in a hand of the later 14th or early 15th century.]

Don Fleming had noticed that with the refurbishing of South Wimbledon station the new platform

name signs
no longer mention .(Merton).. Don continues with his work on the wards of the City. In the 13th

century the
dialect of London changed from East Saxon to East Midlands, due to the growing population of

the City.

Judith Goodman continues to search for local artists, and spoke of G A Storey RA (educated at

Morden Hall
Academy), active from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, and of Evelyn Dunbar, official

war artist, of
whom Josephine Davis (then of Merton Park) wrote in 1971 in a memoir, held at the Imperial War

Museum, of
life as a land girl.

[PS: Thanks to the efforts of Doris Green, and the Merton Park intelligence network, the

Imperial War Museum
has subsequently been able to contact Josephine Loosemore (formerly Davis), now living in

Sussex. JG]

Eric Montague is researching aspects of the 17th century – in particular life between 1640 and

1660, and how
Mitcham people fared under the Commonwealth, including transfer of lands and administration of

the Poor

Madeline Healey showed us a dictionary and a Catholic bible, both from the 18th century, which

had belonged
to her ancestor, Elizabeth Soane of Morden, born 1770.

Lionel Green informed us that the Mayor of Merton had asked him, at the 50th anniversary

dinner, about the
Statute of Merton (see pages 14-16).
The meeting ended at 9.45 pm.

Don Fleming
Workshop dates: Fridays 13 July and 24 August at 7.30 pm at Wandle Industrial Museum.
All are welcome.


Look out for A History of Mitcham Common by E N Montague. This copiously illustrated hardback

(ideal gift!) published by Phillimore & Co Ltd for Mitcham Common Preservation Society, to be

launched on 11 July, should be available ahead of that date. Price £14.95, but at a discount

through the Society.


TONY SCOTT has been investigating a local example of a largely forgotten chapter in the history


Eagle House in Mitcham, the fine Queen Anne house in London Road, was built in 1705 as a

private house, and is
now slightly forlorn office premises looking for a buyer. For much of its life it was used to

accommodate a school
of one kind or another.

James Dempster opened his academy there in 1825, and it remained Dempster’s Academy (known

as Eagle House Academy) until the early 1850s. As can be imagined, Dempster’s Academy was a

school which educated the sons of the reasonably wealthy, with an occasional sprinkling of

aristocracy mixed in
with them. In 1855, after Dempster had closed his school, probably due to retirement, Eagle

House and surrounding
land were bought by the Guardians of the Poor of the parish of St George the Martyr, Southwark,

in order to
establish an Industrial School there. St George the Martyr church still stands today as a large

porticoed building in
Borough High Street, near its junction with Great Dover Street. I was intrigued by the name

.Industrial School.
and decided to find out more about them.

The principle of Industrial Schools was established by John Pounds, a poor shoemaker of

Portsmouth, who died in
1839. For 20 years before that he had gathered the ragged children of the district around him

as he sat at work.
They came freely and were taught gratuitously. The success of his pioneering work led to many

more people in
similar circumstances providing the foundations of a trade to orphans and children of the poor.

Initially these were
called Ragged Schools, the first of which in London started in 1838. Eventually, in about 1850,

the Ragged Schools
became officially recognized; they were given the name Industrial Schools, and were given a

grant, for maintenance
only, from the Treasury. The finding of suitable buildings, equipment etc was still left to

voluntary effort. The
schools were put under the supervision of the Home Office, and it was only in 1921 that they

came under the
Board of Education in England.

Before the introduction of universal elementary education by the Education Act of 1870

(compulsory to the age of
ten in 1880), poor children were encouraged to attend an Industrial School, usually as

boarders, by the Guardians
of the Poor of the local parish. After this date, children were sent to Industrial Schools by

the courts because they
were not under .proper guardianship.. This could be due to the death or imprisonment of their

parents, or because
they had been convicted by the courts for a petty offence, or they had been .frequenting the

company of a known
criminal.. Gradually Industrial Schools became known as Reformatory Schools, and I suppose

their successor is
today’s ‘secure accommodation. for young offenders, run by the Local Education Authority.

The clientele of the new St George’s Industrial School at Eagle House was clearly quite

different from that of
James Dempster’s Academy. In 1855/6 large blocks of buildings were erected next to Eagle House

in London
Road which, in plan, formed a large H with its ends almost enclosed to form two quadrangles.

Boys were transferred
from the Southwark parish’s school in Lewisham on 2 August 1855 and the girls transferred in

July 1857 when the
Lewisham school closed. In 1870, when St George’s Industrial School accommodated 400 boys,

girls and infants,
and had a superintendent, matron and 80 other staff, it was decided to move the school and sell

the new buildings
with Eagle House to the Guardians of the Poor of the Holborn Union of Parishes.

Eagle House remained part of the school, which was now used for the Holborn Union workhouse

children. The
Holborn Union workhouse was not transferred to Mitcham until 1886, after the Guardians had

constructed more
buildings at the rear of the site towards Bond Road. The school building which survives today

in London Road to
the south-west of Eagle House was built as a classroom block in 1892. Probably at that time,

Eagle House became
a convalescent home for the workhouse children.

In 1930 the Poor Law Unions were abolished. Powers
and responsibilities were transferred to County Councils,
and Eagle House came under the ownership of the London
County Council. In 1932 it was sold to Surrey County
Council for use as a day nursery. After World War II
Eagle House became a special school annex for children
with (what we now call) learning difficulties. The
Workhouse buildings were demolished and Monarch
Parade replaced those along London Road. In 1965 Eagle
House was transferred from Surrey County Council to
the London Borough of Merton as part of Local
Government reorganisation, and in 1971 the special school
was closed. The building was restored as a Teachers.
Centre in 1976 and was sold by the Council in 1987.

from 1867 OS map
1:2500 (reduced)

LIONEL GREEN traces some more Merton connections:

Some of the possessions of Merton priory came from the Maminot family who had received them

from William

the Conqueror as part of their reward for supporting him in England.
Land in Peckham which had belonged to Hugh Maminot was given at the request of his wife Emma to

Ralph de
Cahaigns on his marriage to their daughter Alice. Ralph then gave the land to Merton priory at

his wife’s desire.
Both Emma and Alice were buried in .the church belonging to the convent. at Merton.1

Other properties that came to Ralph from the Maminot family included the manors of Coombe, East

and Tarrant (all in Dorset), Somerford (Glos.) and Barton (Camb.), the churches of which he

gave to Merton
Priory about 1173.

On the death of his grandfather, Ralph took possession of the Cahaigns inheritance, which

included a cell
(church and estate) at Cahaigns in Normandy. The manors of Flore and Greatworth (Northants.)

went to his
brother Hugh, but even the churches of these two manors were given to Merton.

The name of Ralph de Cahaigns was entered in the annals of Merton,2 and the name of Keynes is

kept alive
today in the villages of Coombe Keynes, Tarrant Kaines3 (Dorset), Somerford Kaynes (Glos.),

Ashton Keynes,
Poole Keynes (Wilts.), Horsted Keynes (Sussex) and Milton Keynes (Bucks.).

Barton south-west of Cambridge.
In 1202 a collateral descendant of the Cahaigns claimed that the right of presentation of the

priest of Barton did
not belong to the priory.4 The prior maintained that the present incumbent, Eborad, had been

there for 30 years,
having been presented by Ralph de Cahaigns. William de Caham (d.1217) argued that his

grandfather Hugh

(brother of Ralph) had presented Savaric, who had died. It would seem that when Savaric was too

old to
perform his duties, he put his son Eborad into the office, and when his father died the son

continued to act.5
Apparently Savaric was priest at Barton for 40 years, with William de Caham acting as patron,

and the right of

presentation descended to Elias, his son, and from Elias to Roese and Maud his daughters.
Following the death of William de Caham in 1217, the prior of Merton sought to settle the

matter, and sued Alan
de Berton and Roese his wife, and Maud, sister of Roese. The prior produced a charter of

Ralph’s granting the

advowson to take effect after the death of Hugh his son, the rector thereof, and also charters

of William de
Cahaigns (d.1222), grandson of Ralph, who came to court and warranted the charters.
Greatworth, Northamptonshire.
The church here was also given to Merton priory by Ralph, but, in order to placate a descendant

of the family,

the priory ceded the church to William de Caham about 1203. The cartulary records that the

canons of Merton,
.moved by the affection which we have for our dear friend William de Kaaines (Caham), son of

Richard, grant
to him and his heirs. the advowson of the church of Tureworth (Greatworth) so that when a

vacancy occurred,
he, or they, should present to them a suitable person whom they would present to the bishop of

Lincoln.6 On his
death in 1217 his widow Gunnora renounced the right of presentation.7

Cahaigns, Normandy.
This church, or cell, between Caen and Vire, was also given to Merton priory by Ralph. Some

land in Cahaigns
belonged to the church, and about 1150 a homicide caused the lessee to be disinherited. The

chaplain, William
Postell, took a female relative of the lessee, who gave birth to four daughters, and he

continued to take an annual

rent for the land. Robert de Curwandun., a relative, sued the parson at the court of Ralph,

which ruled that the
land belonged to the church, and this was confirmed in the king’s court.
Heinous behaviour was rife, as Ralph de Grenvil, a knight, whose wife was ill, had an affair

with one of the

daughters of Postell, which produced two sons. The woman was excommunicated for adultery and

died. The
sons of the dead mother, Robert and Ralph, later brought a plea before Henry II for the

inheritance from their
father, and claimed right of patronage of the church at Cahaigns. A further action in the

king’s court led to a fine
payable by all parties, including the canons of Merton.

When King John lost the dukedom of Normandy in 1203, descendants of the daughters of William

complained to the French king that Merton priory had deprived them of their rights. The case

was heard in the
court of the Count of Boulogne, who at the instance of Robert de Geldeford, canon of Merton,

sent his seneschal
Peter Leschaut. No adversary to the canons appeared, and the claim was dismissed. Henry, bishop

of Bayeux
(1164-1205), had written to the prior informing him that a jury had established that William

Postell was a deacon,
son of Hervey a priest, son of Ambobert a priest.8 The bishop also mentioned that the estate

involved .the old
iron mine. in his deanery.


Whilst all the litigation over the church at Cahaigns continued, Merton priory sought an

arrangement with a
monastery in Normandy to exchange foreign properties in each others. countries. An agreement

was drawn up
for the church at Cahaigns to be transferred to the abbey of St Fromond. In return, Merton

priory would receive
the tithes of Stamford castle and five churches in the town, as well as two churches further

north in Lincolnshire.9
Pope Lucius III (d.1185) had issued indulgence, and King John confirmed the charter in 1200,10

but the exchange
was never put into effect.

Merton priory continued to hold the cell at Cahaigns until 1267, when a fresh exchange took

place. This gave
Merton the possession of two tourist attractions of today, viz. a church in Somerset which

after 600 years
became the setting of a shooting in R.D.Blackmore’s Lorna Doone (1869), and what is claimed to

be the
highest waterfall in England.11 This exchange of properties will be the subject of a further


1. BL Cott. Cleop. C VII 20
2. Surrey Archaeological Collections 36 (1925) p.42
3 .
Now Tarrant Crawford
4 . A.Heales The Records of Merton Priory London 1898 p.58
5. Sussex Archaeological Collections 63 (1922) p.189
Heales op.cit. p.53 but with the name Talworth Surrey given in error; SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922)

7 .
Heales op.cit. p.94; BL Cott.Cleop. C VII 20 No.248 fol.cxx
SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922) pp.191/2; Heales op.cit. p.56
St John the Baptist, St Paul, St Michael Cornstall, St George, All Saints in the Market (with a

pension of two silver marks), and the churches
of All Saints, Saxby and St Andrew, Bonby
10. Charter Rolls 17th Feb 1200 I John m.25: SxAC op.cit. 63 (1922) p.192
11. A small competition for members (excluding Committee members please), to mark the Society’s

50th birthday. Can
you identify these two sites? Answers, with name and address, by post to Lionel Green
The sender of the first correct pair of answers opened on 1 August will receive
Society publication(s) of his/her choice up to value £12. (Don’t forget the new publications.)


The scandalous activities of chaplain William Postell have frequently been attributed to a more

local parish,
rather than across the Channel in Normandy. Manning and Bray, in their History and Antiquities

of the County
of Surrey (1804), mistakenly identified Cahaigns as Cheam! This error was repeated by Heales in

his Records
of Merton Priory (1898) and, more recently, by C J Marshall in his A History of the Old

Villages of Cheam
and Sutton (1936) p11. Hopefully future historians of Cheam will set the record straight. Thank

you, Lionel.


21st March 2001

Dear Editor

My sister, Jeanette White (née Want), who lives in Nelson, New Zealand, has asked me to pass on

congratulations to the Society for its Fiftieth Birthday. Unfortunately she is unable to write

to you herself.
Both she and my mother were founder members, my mother also being an early committee member. At

9 years old I became the youngest member shortly after.

Jeanette says she had fun helping to arrange the Pageant and was very involved with the plays.

As a
family we looked forward to the Rambles, which were ably led by Arthur Turner.
We wish the Society every success in its activities for the next 50 years.
With best wishes

Hilary Nethersole

[Mrs Nethersole, still a member, enclosed a photocopy of an article in The Nelson Mail of 2

1995 about her sister, Jeanette White, whose second book on the history of South Street in

Nelson had
just been published. Jeanette’s scrapbook of MHS events was displayed at our anniversary

We congratulate both sisters on their enduring enthusiasm for local history.



By request of the editor, in another extract from his magnus opus, ERIC MONTAGUE describes the
exile of one of our great poets. JOHN DONNE IN MITCHAM

John Donne, the Elizabethan adventurer, gallant and poet, who, at the wish of James I, entered

into holy orders
and became dean of St Paul’s in 1921, spent six years of his life in Mitcham, renting a house

in the village from

1605 until 1611. Lysons1 recounts how
‘sir George More of Losely, whose daughter he had
privately married, was so exasperated, that he not only
refused to forgive, but employed his utmost endeavours to
ruin him: and actually procured his removal from the family
of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to whom he was secretary.
At this juncture Sir Francis Wolley took compassion on
him, and received him and his family into his house at
Pyrford, where they continued as long as Sir Francis lived.
At his death, being left destitute of an asylum, Donne took
a small house at Mitcham, .a place as his biographers
observe, noted for good air and choice company…
Brief as Donne’s sojourn may have been, it has never been
forgotten, and is enshrined in virtually every guide and history
of the village published during the last 200 years. In addition to
a collection of metaphysical poetry notable for its wit, he left
to posterity some of the finest sermons ever delivered in the
English language. Furthermore, a large number of his letters,
many written whilst at Mitcham, have escaped destruction and
provide not only a valuable insight into his character, but also a
vivid picture of his home life. To quote Lysons again
.Being very learned in the civil law, he was occasionally
consulted by persons of the first rank, who paid him liberally for his advice; but this yielded

only a
precarious support, and he was sometimes reduced to great distress, as may be seen by the

extract from a letter to a friend dated from this place.
.The reason why I did not send an answer to your last week’s letter was, because it then found

under too great a sadness; and at present it is thus with me. There is not one person well but

of my family; I have already lost half a child, and with that mischance of her’s, my wife has

into such a discomposure as would afflict her too extremely, but that the sickness of all her

children stupifies her, one of which in good faith I have not much hopes of, and these meet

with a
fortune so ill provided for physic and such relief, that if God should ease us with burials, I

know not
how to perform even that; but I flatter myself with this hope – that I am dying too – for I

waste faster than by such griefs.
From my hospital at Mitcham
John Donne..
Unfortunately, knowledge of the exact location of Donne’s house has been lost, although it

survived into the mid1840s.
The late Tom Francis, an authority on life in the village during the latter half of the 19th

century, and an
assiduous compiler of notes on local folklore, much of it handed down through his father, used

to say that the
house overlooked the Three Kings Pond,2 but this view is not shared by another authority on old

Mitcham, Miss
Emma Bartley. The author of Mitcham in Days Gone By, Emma Bartley certainly might have been

able to
remember the last days of the house from her early childhood, and was in no doubt that .the

learned Doctor

Donne. resided in a house in or near Whitford Lane, between the Upper and Lower Greens.3

Black, compiling his guide to Surrey, published in 1864, was .unable to fix upon the exact

locality. of the house.4
Donne himself described the house disparagingly as .little. and .thin..5 He mentioned a

parlour, and bedchambers
on the first floor, and also a cellar or .vault. beneath the room he used as a study, from

whence, he complained
bitterly, .raw vapours. arose. Although Lysons would have us believe that Donne .became so

attached to his
situation that he would have stayed there for life., the impression Donne has left of his stay

in Mitcham is one of
deep depression and frustration – he referred to the house in his correspondence as his .little

hospital., his
.prison., .dungeon. and .grave.. It has to be remembered, however, that Donne was a Londoner,

the son of an

(Rectangle comment XPMUser
24/05/2017 22:39:56
Dr John Donne Painting by R T Bone, engraved by W Bromley


ironmonger, and aspiring to a place at court. To him, life in the bucolic tranquillity of

Mitcham must have been an
anathema, and though he could ill afford the expense, he maintained lodgings near Whitehall

until 1607 in an
endeavour to retain contact with the wealthy and influential in whom lay his main hopes for

future preferment
and patronage.

Donne’s life in Mitcham was marked by illness, acute depression and melancholy, heightened by

his remorse at
the suffering he inflicted on his devoted wife Anne. Writing to Sir Henry Goodyer from Mitcham

in 1608, he
confided that he wrote

.by the side of her, whom because I have transplanted into a wretched fortune, I must labour to

that from her by all such honest devices, as giving her my company and discourse, therefore I

steal from
her all the time which I give this letter..6

Anne was the third daughter of Sir George More of Loseley, and had been used to a life of

comfort and luxury.
Both her sisters married well, Mary to Sir Nicholas Carew of Beddington, and Margaret to Sir

Thomas Grymes
of Peckham. The contrast between her life and theirs was marked, and yet Anne seems to have

accepted her
lot for the most part with a stoicism and patience that is remarkable. Children arrived at

yearly intervals, and died
almost as regularly. She herself was to die in 1617, aged only 34, seven days after her twelfth


With the belated recognition of the marriage by Sir George More, and the commencement of annual

in 1608, the family’s penury ended, and Donne was able to devote his time to writing and the

cultivation of
friends, whose patronage proved invaluable in the years to come. The Donnes left Mitcham in

1611, having been
offered more commodious and congenial accommodation by Sir Robert Drury in a wing of Drury

House, his
palatial mansion near Temple Bar.

Shortly before its demolition Donne’s house was sketched by
Richard Simpson, vicar of Mitcham from 1844 until 1846,
whose father is said to have owned the property at one
time. Simpson’s drawing confirms that the house
was small, but also shows that to modern eyes it
would appear picturesque and very attractive.8
With its gable and latticed windows, and a
jettied first floor above the front entrance door,
it is undeniably .Tudor. in style, but in the
cross-wing just visible at the rear there is a
hint of an earlier ancestry, perhaps in a little
open .hall house. of the late Middle Ages.
Guided by Simpson’s sketch, and allowing for
artistic licence, a tolerable ground plan can
be drawn, but this does little to advance the
quest for its site. Various maps of Mitcham
survive from the latter half of the 18th century
and the first part of the 19th, but, being produced
for travellers, they are deficient in the detail necessary

Drawing by Rev

to identify anything but the larger houses. At 22 chains to

Richard Simpson

the inch the tithe map of 1847 is the first reliable large-scale
map of the parish, and, had Donne’s house been still standing at the
time of the survey, it should have been possible to identify it. Unfortunately this has proved

a hopeless task.
Simpson resigned the vicarage in 1846, and left Mitcham, so his sketch must predate the

commencement of the
survey. From the absence of any house in the register or on the tithe map which could remotely

be considered as
a candidate for the distinction of having been Dr Donne’s house, one is obliged to conclude

that it had been
demolished before the Tithe Commissioners commenced their work.

D.Lysons Environs of London I (1792) 354-5
See also Izaak Walton The Life of Dr John Donne (1640) in Walton’s Lives edited by S.B.Carter

(1951) 18. It was Walton who described
Mitcham as .noted for good air and choice company..
Merton Local Studies Centre. Tom Francis Lecture Notes. 65,141
E.J.Bartley Rural Mitcham (nd) 8, and Mitcham in Days Gone By (1909) 16
4 .
Black’s Guide to the History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Surrey (1864) 84
E.Gosse The Life and Letters of John Donne (1899) I 223-4
6 .
Gosse op.cit. I 214
O.Manning and W.Bray History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey (1804) I 96
Reproduced in A.Jessop John Donne (1897) 59-60 and N.Clive Jack and the Doctor (1966) 70

JUDITH GOODMAN on a tragedy of long ago:

For a small quiet village Morden saw some startling events in the 19th century. The fatal fire

at the Crown in
1839 has been dealt with in an earlier issue (Bulletin No.119, September 1996), but 21 years

before that a tragic
death beside the Wandle brought not only grief to family and friends, but confusion to the

money market.

From The Times of Monday 1 October 1810:


An Inquisition was held on Saturday on the body of the late Mr Abraham Goldsmid, at his house

Morden. Among the Jury were some of the most respectable and intelligent persons of the

vicinity. The
proceedings lasted but a few minutes when the following verdict was returned – .Died by his own

but not in his senses at the time.. There was but one evidence [ie witness] examined, and he

but as to
fact of the suicide. Some of the Jury had been witnesses, in the course of the preceding

fortnight, to
unequivocal proofs of mental derangement in this lamented gentleman. They had consequently no

in coming to the conclusion they did.

It was proved before the inquest, that about six o.clock Mr Goldsmid left his house, and coming

out of
doors he desired the watchman to tie his shoes (his usual custom). He remarked to the watchman

that it
was a fine morning; and after walking a few yards from the house, he returned and went in

doors. Mrs
Goldsmid, alarmed by his restlessness through the night, immediately dressed herself, and came

stairs, inquiring of everybody she saw if they had seen Mr Goldsmid? Getting no information

from anyone,
a search was immediately set on foot, and about seven o.clock the house carpenter found him in

a water-
closet in the Wilderness, sitting with his head reclined on his right shoulder, a pistol in his

left hand, and
apparently dead. A surgeon being sent for, on examining him, found the ball had gone through

the brain.
The pistol, it appeared, had been put in the mouth of the deceased.

Soon after the Jury had returned their verdict, the body was conveyed to town, to be placed at

disposal of the Elders of the religious community to which Mr Goldsmid belonged. Mrs Goldsmid

was to
leave Morden yesterday on a visit to the house of a friend.

The date of the death was Friday 28 September 1810.
Abraham Goldsmid2 was Dutch by birth. His parents were Aaron Goldsmid, a merchant, and his wife

de Vries. Abraham was born c.1756, the youngest of four sons, and there were also four

daughters. In about

1763 the family left Holland to settle in London, and, one by one, all the brothers entered the

field of trading and/
or broking.
In particular, Abraham and the next youngest, Benjamin, who were the closest two among the

brothers, began

as merchants, went on to become bill-brokers (acting as middle-men between merchants and the

houses), and finally operated as what we now call merchant bankers. This was at 6, Capel Court

in the City.3
Both brothers prospered and became rich. Benjamin built one of the grandest houses in the

fashionable village of
Roehampton (Thackeray called it the .banking colony.). Abraham, whose town address was 27

Finsbury Square,
built himself a country villa at Morden, which he called Morden Lodge. Close to the site of

Morden’s medieval
manor house,
Growtes, this was on
the site of, though
larger than, the
present Morden

Goldsmid’s Morden
Lodge was intended
for summer living and
entertaining, and was
strikingly designed,
with the main salon
rising to the full height
of the house. The
decor of all the
principal rooms was
by John

(Rectangle comment XPMUser
24/05/2017 22:40:30
‘The Seat of Abraham Goldsmid Esqr’ (1806) courtesy of Merton Local Studies Centre


and Frederick Crace, members of the most important firm of interior decorators in the 19th

century, and creators
of some of the rooms at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.5 Access to the house was by way of a

drive on the west,
and it is probable that the small but distinctive Ivy Lodge, in Morden Hall Road, was the lodge

cottage. Contemporary
prints show exotic plants in tubs ornamenting the grounds, and there were tropical

conservatories and aviaries.
Goldsmid hosted spectacular garden soirées, with musicians in the groves between house and

river, and thousands
of lanterns in the trees. (Presumably the water closet that figured in the inquest report was

for the convenience
of guests on these occasions.)

Increasingly the brothers were concerned in negotiating loans for a cash-strapped government.

The sums were
enormous, the risks difficult to predict and the stress relentless. In 1808 Benjamin hanged

himself with a cord
attached to the tester of his bed.

Grief for this much-loved brother was now added to Abraham’s anxiety about his own affairs. In

with Sir Francis Baring he set up yet another government loan, for the huge sum of £13,400,000,

but was badly
shaken when Baring died suddenly on 10 September 1810. This death caused a dangerous fall in

the value of
stocks. There may have been also some kind of concerted manoeuvre, directed against Goldsmid

personally, in
the money market, that crucially drove the interest rate down further. It was said too that the

East India Company,
which had lent him £500,000 on ample security, had asked for redemption on that fatal Friday

the 28th.

It was reported that friends had joined Goldsmid at Morden Lodge for the Thursday evening.

While playing
cards with them .his mind seemed totally absorbed in the thought of other subjects.. However he

was expected
to go into town as usual the following morning, and an early report said that it was his

coachman who found him
.weltering in his blood..6,7

The news of the death, and its manner, caused consternation in the City and in Government

circles. It was
assumed that the Goldsmid house of business would be unable to pay its debts, and as they were

the nation’s
principal loan contractors this was a serious situation. After a rocky period however matters

settled down, and
in time all debts were paid. Morden Lodge was never again occupied, and was pulled down a few

years later, to
be replaced with a more conventional Regency house.

Goldsmid was buried in an early morning ceremony at the Jewish Burial Ground off Whitechapel

Road. There
were 13 mourning coaches, and the high priest and elders from the synagogue attended. .Though

every respect
was shown there were no funeral rites..7

Most of the obituaries were adulatory and credited Goldsmid with exceptional integrity,

charity, patriotism,
generosity, high-mindedness and so on. A memoir in the European Magazine8 is unusually full of

italics and
capital letters even for that time, and also includes a specially written poem:

…. Pure and expansive as the noontide ray,

Mild as the genial breath of blooming May ….
A notable exception was a piece by William Cobbett8, in which the radical writer damages a

vigorously critical
assessment of Goldsmid and his world by some anti-Semitic ranting.
To modern ideas it is strange that the inquest was held in the dead man’s house (but then there

was no public
building in Morden), and on only the day following the death. It would be interesting to know

the names of the
.respectable and intelligent persons of the vicinity.. The local surgeon called was probably Mr

Parrott of Mitcham,
a respected practitioner. Parrott and Goldsmid knew each other, as frequent guests at Merton

Place, both during
Nelson’s lifetime and later, when Emma Hamilton continued to use it for entertaining. So, a sad

and shocking call
for this medical man to make.

Description of Abraham Goldsmid by George Matcham, Nelson’s nephew, quoted in M.Eyre Matcham

The Nelsons of Burnham Thorpe 1911
2 .
Biographical details (which are not always consistent) are taken from:
Dictionary of National Biography
Annual Register 1810 pp279-80
Burke’s Landed Gentry 1898
L.Alexander Memoirs of the Life and Commercial Transactions of the late Benjamin Goldsmid Esq.

London 1808
P.H.Emden .The Brothers Goldsmid and the Financing of the Napoleonic Wars. Jewish Historical

Society Transactions 14 (1935-30) pp225-246
P.H.Emden Jews of Britain London 1944 pp.83-107
J.Picciotto Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History London 1875 pp249-56

3 .
Emden 1944 op.cit. pp84-6
4 .
Information from Peter Hopkins, Bill Rudd and the late John Wallace.
5 .
Cuttings FC45,1; FC45,2; FC46; FC47 in the Crace Collection at the Archive of Art and Design,

Blythe House, Blythe Road, London W14
M.Aldrich (ed.) The Craces: royal decorators 1768-1899 John Murray and The Royal Pavilion,

Brighton 1990
The Times 29 September 1810
7 .
Unattributed cuttings in the extra-illustrated Manning and Bray History of the County of Surrey

at the British Library, shelf-mark
Crach.1.Tab.1.b.1 vol XII at p488
8. European Magazine 1810 pp244-47

Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register vol XVIII No.16 (3 October 1810) pp513-34

LIONEL GREEN, responding to a request from the Mayor, explains

On January 20th 1235/6 Henry III married Eleanor, daughter of the Count
of Provence, at Canterbury Cathedral. The wedding had brought together
the greater part of the nobility and high clerics of the land, and all left
Canterbury for Surrey where .a great council [was] called at Merton
after the festivities were over..1

Normally such a meeting would have taken place in London, probably
using Westminster Hall, but the winter of 1235/6 was severe and the
Thames at Westminster had overflowed the banks .and in the great
Palace of Westminster men did row with wherries in the midst of the
Hall, being forced to ride to their chambers..2 The complex of buildings
within the large precinct of Merton Priory was probably the nearest

There must have been great confusion in the outer court of the priory
with men-at-arms, pages, scriveners, clerks. Each of the great men
attending would have brought horses and carts. Stabling would have
been intimidating with additional work for the farriers. Fires were probably
lit in the open to supplement the kitchen. Over these fires would have
hung the cauldrons for boiling meats and other food. Emergency storage
areas would contain piles of faggots and wood for the fires.

At this Great Council was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Rich, no stranger to Merton,

having lived here
as a canon 1213/4 (see Bulletin No. 137 p.13). He had officiated at the royal wedding and would

later crown the
queen. Also present was Ralph Neville, Chancellor of Henry III.

The political event at Merton was the culmination of fears by the barons that the king was

relying on foreign
advisors and disregarding the traditional right of counsel of the barons. The result was

incompetent rule. They
were also fearful of the influence of the Poitevins, Bretons and Provençals who had been

invited to occupy
royal castles and fill administrative posts forming an extravagant Court. They could see the

influence of canon
law as practised on the continent and were alarmed that the king might abolish the common

council of the realm
and introduce a French-type court of 12 lords only – a distinct possibility now that the king

had married Eleanor
of Provence.

In the crowded chapter house of Merton Priory there would have been no direct representation of

the people,
for it was to be another 18 years before elected knights of the shires would be summoned, or

burgesses from the
towns were eligible to attend. Consequently this Parliament was limited to what we now call the

House of
Lords. It is noteworthy that in spite of the fact that the common people had no say in the

passing of this Statute,
it remained in part on the Statute Book of Parliament for over 700 years. The enactments passed

by the .Lords.
were naturally for the gain of themselves and to the detriment of the people.

The Statute consists of eleven chapters but the term ‘statute of Merton. is usually reserved

for chapter 4
because of its importance throughout British history.

Chapter Summary of measures.

1 Safeguarding widow’s share of her late husband’s estate.

2 Giving the right of widows to bequeath the crops of their own dower lands.

3 Redisseisin – i.e. the second attempt to repossess.

Where a plaintiff had legally secured repossession of land but the .disseisor. (dispossessed)


taken it back again, the sheriff was authorised to arrange a site meeting with twelve knights

or free

men of the shire and hold an inquest with the coroner. If they found that the second


had taken place, the disseisor was to be imprisoned and the plaintiff given lawful possession.

4 Giving the right of lords of the manor to enclose commons and waste lands, provided that


land is available to satisfy customary tenants. rights. (See Appendix).

5 Safeguarding minors against proceedings for interest on father’s debts.

6 Giving the right of a guardian for recompense if a ward marries without his consent. The


may retain the estate until he pays himself double the value of the marriage, .as one would


fide have given for such an alliance.. The law was already in existence for female wards but


statute extended the rights over male wards.

Henry III, from Cassell’s IllustratedHistory of England I (c.1860)


7 The guardian’s right to dispose of his infant ward in marriage was clarified. He might tender


match that was not disparaging or unequal, which if he or she unreasonably refused, they


the value of the marriage -viz. ‘so much as a jury would assess or anyone would bona fide have

given for such an alliance..

8 The time of prescription in several official Writs was reduced.

9 This was a failed attempt to legitimise children born before their parents. marriage. (See


10 Giving the right for all free men to be represented by an attorney at the county court.


personal attendance was essential and the passing of this Chapter proved beneficial to heads of


11 The nobles wished to assert their rights on convicted offenders of disturbing the peace on


private estates. They wished to imprison those held for poaching in parks and fishponds but the


claimed jurisdiction and withheld assent.

The Importance of the Statute.

The purpose of the Council of Merton was not to obtain concessions from the king but to set

down points of law

suggested by experiences.3 Some were accepted and others (Ch. 9 & 11) not agreed.
Magna Carta had formulated some fundamental freedoms for all subjects but written parliamentary

law had to
wait for the Statute of Merton (1235/6), the Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of

(1259). The laws made at Merton remain the first item in the printed Statutes of the Realm.

Magna Carta was
not entered in the Statute Book until the Confirmatis cartorum of 1297.

The proceedings at Merton were carefully reported to the Irish government and the Statute was

extended to
Ireland by Letters Patent.4 There was a need to keep Irish feudal practice in line with English

common law. The
Statute was abolished in the U.K. under the Statute Law Revision Act of 1948.

Chapter 4 – Commons

At a time when most of England was common land, that is land held in common by local

freeholders, its
availability was an important factor in supporting the local economy. All who possessed arable

land enjoyed
rights of common on the manor waste. But these common rights made it difficult for the acreage

of plough land
to be increased, since any individual commoner could bring an action against any man who did

this. Early in the
13th century there was land .hunger. and the landlords found it profitable to lease land for a

money rent, often
to men already occupying customary holdings. These were small assarts carved from the waste and

to the peasant’s main holding. There was also the need to increase acreage under corn to feed a


Under this Chapter, lords of the manor were allowed to enclose (anciently .approve.) parts of

the waste lands
providing that .on complaint of the free tenants that there was left, a sufficiency of the

common to satisfy their
rights with free access thereto..

This enactment was of benefit to all lords of the manor and this included monasteries and other

bodies. By the terms, simple proof that sufficient pasture for tenants was available would be

defence to actions
of unlawful dispossession of common land. But this referred to pasture for his own tenants and

failed to protect
others with pasture rights. The anomaly was corrected in the Statute of Westminster in 1285.

The Statute of Merton was operative throughout the medieval period and hotly debated. At the

there was a tendency to return arable land to pasture and on 1st May 1551 a proclamation

expressed anxiety at
the decay of tillage. When the Duke of Northumberland took over from Protector Somerset in

1552, a Tillage
Act made reference to the Statute of Merton. Any land that had been tilled for four or more

years since 1509
could not be converted to pasture.

Due to the rapid expansion of London around 1845 advantage was taken of the Statute, and common

took place for development by lords of the manor. In 1864 Earl Spencer, lord of the manor of

Wimbledon wished
to set apart a portion of Wimbledon Common for his own use. In the following year George Shaw-

Lefeyre (later
Lord Eversley) formulated plans to resist the enclosures, and the Common was handed over to the

public living
close by, in perpetuity. This led to the passing of the Commons Acts of 1876 and 1899 which

reduced the danger
of encroachment. In the early 1890s attempts were made to repeal the Statute but a compromise

was made
whereby common land could only be enclosed under the Statute if agreed by the government



Chapter 9 – Bastardy.

The Church had always provided for children born before the marriage of their parents to be

made legitimate.
They were brought to church and at a ceremony were covered by the nuptial cloth like a woman’s

mantle to
become .mantlechildren. and henceforth legitimate. In the Anglo-Saxon laws no distinction was

made between
the duties to God and obligations to society. The law of the Church was the law of the land.

The Plantagenets
followed feudal practice and held that such children were bastards. To them the right of

succession to land often
depended upon legitimacy (seemingly forgetting that the Conqueror was illegitimate). In the

early 1230s many
cases of legitimacy were being referred to the bishops rather than the manorial courts. Henry

III desired to
remove the ambiguity of canon law and the English common law. He held a parliament at

Tewkesbury on 12th
October 1234 where it was decided to ask all bishops to rule on the matter, Unfortunately the

question on the
form of inquisition was not whether such a person was legitimate but whether the person was

born in wedlock.
The bishops refused to answer the question as being contrary to the common form of the Church.

At Merton, the bishops asked the barons to consent to such children being regarded as

legitimate because the
Church held them so. Led by a royal judge, William de Ralegh,5 they replied with one voice

Nolumus leges
Angliae mutare – we are unwilling to change the laws of England. In a report of the discussion

sent to Ireland,
the king added that the bishops had washed their hands of the affair and had left the matter to

the secular law.6
For the next 689 years no change was made on this issue.

Post script.

The bishops and barons stayed at Merton from 20th to 27th January and the Statute was dated

Wednesday 23rd
January 1235/6. Seven other charters were issued, attested by 30 witnesses. The Statute

involved the drafting of
new writs and some were worded by William de Ralegh.7 The chancellor, Ralph Neville, followed

the king on his
journeys accompanied by the clerks who made out the writs. Frequently a strong horse was

requisitioned from
the nearest monastery to carry the rolls.8 Acts of Parliament were sent to important monastic

houses to be
recorded as there were no national archives. The Statute of Merton was entered fully into the

annals of Burton
and mentioned in those of Waverley and Dunstable.9

On Sunday 27th January, all departed for London where Queen Eleanor was crowned in Westminster

The Prior returned to his duties with thoughts of a memorable occasion … assisted in his

reveries by the gift,
made at Merton, of a tun of Gascony wine from the king.11

1 W’stubbs Constitutional History 1875 Vol. 2 p.53.
2 J’stow A Survey of London 1598 (C.L.Kingsford 1908 II p.1 1415)
3 F M Powicke The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307 1962 p.69.
4 Pat.Roll 20 Hen III m. 13 d.
5 A.Harding England in the Thirteenth Century 1993 p.177.
6 F M Powicke 1962 p.71.
7 F M Powicke 1962 p.70.
8 F.Palgrave Original authority of the King’s Council p. 1 1 5.
9 Annales Monast. (Rec. Pub.No.36) I pp.249-51 (Burton), II p.xxxi (Waverley) and 111 p. 144

1 0 The Red Book of the Exchequer (p.755) quotes .on the Sunday before Purification.. Matthew

Paris’s chronicle gives the date as 20th

January. The Red Book contains the oldest surviving official record of a coronation.
1 1 Close Roll 20 Hen III m.18.


Regrettably, few members of Merton Historical Society were among the 70-strong audience at the

House of Merton Priory on 7th May for a unique and fascinating experience, when Mary Remnant, a

renowned expert on medieval music, gave her lecture-recital. Supported by the Choir of the

Confraternity of St
James, Mary performed a selection of medieval music from England and the Continent, playing a

range of
instruments – harp, psaltery, rebec, fiddle, organistrum, pipe, shawm, horn, chimebells and

percussion instruments.
Although, of necessity, modern reproductions, these were all based on surviving instruments or

on evidence from
illustrated manuscripts or sculptures of the period, many of which were shown as part of the

slide presentation
which accompanied the performance. The 25 musical items were linked by a commentary on the life

of Becket,
from childhood in London, schooldays at Merton, service in the household of Archbishop Theobald

of Canterbury,
promotion as Henry II’s Chancellor, appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, and eventual

martyrdom. At key
points in the narrative, Mary introduced us to music that Becket would have experienced at that

Congratulations to Sheila Fairbanks and the Friends of Merton Priory for arranging a memorable


Peter Hopkins

Letters and contributions for the Bulletin should be sent to the Hon. Editor.
The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the contributors concerned and not

necessarily those of the Society or its Officers.

Printed by Peter Hopkins