Bulletin 163

Download Bulletin 163

September 2007 Bulletin 163
Lines Bros’ Wartime Pilotless Aircraft D Haunton
Merton Abbey Mills: heritage site or commercial tat? D Luff
Searchlight Cottages W J Rudd
Probate Inventories for Local Residents P J Hopkins
Merton Priory and the ‘Curse’: is it about to strike again? D Luff

and much more

PRESIDENT: Lionel Green PRESIDENT: Lionel Green
VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Eric Montague and William Rudd
BULLETIN NO. 163 CHAIR: Judith Goodman SEPTEMBER 2007


Thursday 20 September 2.00pm Visit to the London Fire Brigade Museum

Meet outside the Museum. Cost £3 /£2 concession, to pay on the day.
Book your place by ringing Sheila on 020 8540 6656.

Saturday 29 September 2.15 for 2.30pm Meet at Vestry Hall, London Road
Tony Scott will continue his guided walk around Mitcham Cricket Green. See page 5.

Saturday 13 October 2.30pm Raynes Park Library Hall
The topic of this year’s Evelyn Jowett Memorial Lecture is
.Literary Connections of Merton and Morden., to be given by Judith Goodman.

The library is on or close to several bus routes, and very near Raynes Park station.
Please enter the hall from the Aston Road entrance.

Saturday 24 November 2.30pm Snuff Mill Centre, Morden Hall Park
Annual General Meeting

After the business part of the meeting there will be a presentation of

.Untold Stories of Morden Hall Park..

To reach the Snuff Mill Environmental Centre from Morden Hall Garden Centre car-park,
cross the bridge between the café and the garden centre, go through the gateway in the wall,
turn right and follow the main pathway to the right, which leads to the Snuff Mill Centre.
Please note that numbers are limited at this venue.
The bus stop near the car-park is served by many routes.

Saturday 8 December 2.30pm St Mark’s Church Centre, Mitcham
.Remembering the Mizens.

A speaker from Groundwork Merton will give an illustrated talk on this important family of
Mitcham market gardeners.

The Centre is in St Mark’s Road, Mitcham, close to the town centre and bus routes.

The Society’s events are open to the general public, but entry to lectures for
non-members is £2 per head, towards our running costs.

At Wandle Industrial Museum on Friday 19 October at 7.30pm
and Friday 30 November at 2.30pm. All are welcome.


Those of you who couldn’t make this visit on 5 May missed a treat, as the guided tour at Park Hill was excellent, and
the walk which preceded it, led by Judy Goodman, proved interesting and informative. The weather was kind to us
and the Common was looking its best in the spring sunshine, causing many members to reach for their cameras.

Most of the group met at Sainsbury’s café housed in the original building of Streatham silk mill, builtc.1820 for
Stephen Wilson, famed for his use of the Jacquard loom in Britain, with 18 silk weavers working there in 1831.
Later the building was sold to P B Cow and became a rubber factory, continuing until 1986. Many of the group
remembered the large chimney and the pungent smell of the rubber. The chimney was demolished in 1987 and
Sainsbury’s restored the main building when they built the store in the .90s. It is now a listed building. We also
noted the building opposite . built as the Beehive Coffee House for the temperance movement in 1878, and
now also a listed building.

We crossed over the busy main road to the Common, bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1883,
transferred to the LCC in 1888 and to the GLC in 1965. The 70 acres are now managed by the London Borough
of Lambeth and are for everyone to enjoy. Judy led us up the hill to Rookery Gardens, which local man Stenton
Covington saved from being built on. The site was that of Streatham Wells. The grounds were opened to the
public in 1913, after the house was demolished. We saw the one remaining well of the three that formed the spa.
The original spring was discovered in 1659 by some ploughmen, and was developed as a spa in the 18th century.
The waters were similar to Epsom waters, but stronger. The spa was in decline by the 1760s.

After viewing the attractive park we walked on to Norwood Grove, an early 19th-century stuccoed villa on
rising ground, with beautiful gardens, from which one has an excellent view of Norwood, Croydon and out to the
hills beyond. From 1878 to 1913 this was the home of Frederick Nettlefold, manufacturer of screws, nuts and
bolts. It became a public park (Covington was again involved), opened by the Prince of Wales in 1926, in the
ownership of Croydon Council.

After enjoying a rest here we walked through woodland and rejoined the path on Streatham Common, from
where we crossed to the main gates of Park Hill, or Tate Mews, which is its name today, where we met other
members of our group, who had joined us for the guided tour.

Members may remember a talk we had last year by Brian Bloice of the Streatham Society, who spoke about
famous houses of south London. We were pleased to find that Brian was to be our guide round the grounds of
Park Hill. The house was built in 1839, on the site of Hill House, for the family of William Leaf, a soft-goods
merchant, and was designed by J B Papworth. From 1880 to 1899 it was the home of industrialist and benefactor
Sir Henry Tate, of Tate & Lyle sugar, and founder of the Tate Gallery and various libraries, including that of
Streatham. He built additions to the house, including a carriage porch, and a gallery for his collection of paintings,
later donated to form an important part of the Tate Gallery collection at Millbank. He also beautified the grounds
with bridges, an ornamental lake, grottoes and follies.

After his death it was sold to the Congregation of the
Poor Servants of the Mother of God, and became St
Joseph’s Convent, with the nuns remaining in occupancy
until the late 1990s. They provided a home for young
women who needed support, funded by running a
commercial laundry. Subsequently Park Hill was sold
for redevelopment to Barratt and CPS.

The Grade II* listing of the mansion as a building of
special architectural and historical interest means that it
had to be extensively renovated and refurbished. The
chapel . built by the nuns . has been adapted for
residential use, as has the art gallery. Additional
townhouses have been built in sympathy with the original
architecture, plus a small development of social housing. All residents have a share of the beautiful and extensive
grounds, which are still in the process of being restored to their original condition.

As part of their planning agreement Park Hill grounds have to be open to the public twice a year. Our tour of the
grounds was an experience not to be missed. It is an oasis of peace and tranquillity just minutes away from the
noise and bustle of Streatham High Road. I urge you not to miss the next Open Day, which is on Saturday 13
October. Tours are at 2.30 and 3.30 pm and are free.

Sheila Harris

Terrace at Park Hill 2007 JG



Our trip to the south coast on 17 May was blessed with good weather, and trouble-free travel. Sylvia Endacott,
who entertained us last year with a lively lecture about Bognor, was not kept waiting at the station. (Why does
Bognor greet its visitors with a collection of garden gnomes near the buffers?)

The link between Merton and Bognor is of course Sir Richard Hotham (1722-1799), hatter, speculator, self-
publicist and MP, who lived some years in the former place and founded the latter as a resort. Just a short walk
from the station Sylvia pointed out the boundary wall, built of Bognor rock, of Hotham’s estate. His icehouse
stands close by, a brick structure from the 1790s, once covered with earth, where ice gathered in the winter
months was stored in straw, to preserve food and to make chilled desserts. As we entered Hotham Park we
crossed the fishermen’s footpath that still connects the seashore with the church in South Bersted. Here, in the
old village that predates the resort, Hotham is buried, but not forgotten. An annual service commemorates him.

In the park, large, with many mature trees and
unexpectedly wild in parts, which was once Sir
Richard’s private grounds, there is a pond, a
miniature railway, and a rose garden. In the middle
is Hotham’s own house, which has undergone many
changes of name, and of fortune, since Sir Richard
built it in 1793. Now known as Hotham Park House,
and privately occupied as several expensive
apartments, it is a graceful building, with bay
windows, a balcony, a verandah and a small tower.

After a pleasant lunch at the friendly park café
Sylvia escorted us the short distance to the Bognor
campus of the University of Chichester and
introduced Janet Carter, the university’s archivist.
We learned that the campus’s three principal
buildings, now known as Mordington, The Dome and St Michael’s, were originally built by Hotham as seven
large handsome houses, intended to attract rich and grand families to Bognor for the summer season. Mordington
and St Michael’s, symmetrical, stuccoed, and bay-windowed, each consisted of two dwellings. In the centre,
The Dome, a larger, brick building, with stone ornament and small central dome, was once divided into three. It
bears a stone plaque carved with the coat of arms used by Hotham. The three buildings were collectively known
as Nos 1-7 The Crescent.

Hotham Park House
17 June 2007 JG

The Dome, Bognor
17 June 2007 JG

Though Princess Charlotte did once stay at The
Dome Bognor never quite became the aristocratic
resort hoped for by Hotham, and no more houses
on the same scale appeared. The Crescent in its
later years was occupied by a girls. boarding school,
and after the last war it was purchased as an
.Emergency Training College. for teachers. More
recently it was first an Institute of Higher Education,
and then a university college, before becoming a
full part of Chichester University in 2005. Janet
gave us an interesting slide show about the history
before taking us on a little tour of some of the
campus. There are buildings of many styles and
periods, including an attractive chapel, and we all
admired an old .crinkle-crankle. wall.

There was time for some of our group to have a quick look at the sea, while the rest had a cup of tea at the
station before we all caught our train home. We had had a most interesting visit, thanks to both Sylvia and Janet.
We were tickled to see that in one of her regular articles for the local paper the previous week Sylvia had written
that a group from Merton were coming to Bognor. The following week a photograph of the Merton visitors
appeared in the paper.

Judith Goodman



About 20 seekers of knowledge, including several
visitors, turned up on the warm afternoon of 9 June
for Tony Scott’s guided walk. He began by
reminding us that at the time of the Domesday
survey there were two distinct settlements .
Michelham and Witford, and where we had
assembled was then in Witford. Earlier the Romans
and their immediate successors had left a few traces
of their presence, and mentions of .Micham.
appeared in the records of Chertsey Abbey in the
eighth century. Over time the two communities
merged into one, but their two greens survived .
the Upper or Fair Green and the Lower Green. The
eastern half of the latter is more familiarly known
as Cricket Green.

Mitcham’s Vestry Hall is what Tony called an example of Victorian civic pride. Not lovely, perhaps, but certainly
noticeable. The design was by no London architect, but by Mitcham’s very own Robert Masters Chart, local
surveyor, and son and grandson of vestry clerks to the village. The building opened in 1887, the year of the Queen’s
Golden Jubilee, and originally housed not only offices and meeting-rooms but also Mitcham’s new fire appliance, its
steam pump. Close by on this part of the Green once also stood the lock-up, the stocks and the pound.

Now rather isolated by swirling traffic, Mitcham’s war memorial is often passed by. When it was unveiled
neither the large rear extension to the Vestry Hall nor the fire station of 1927 had been built. Its setting would
have been both more open and more accessible.

Across the road in Lower Green are three charming late 18th-century cottages, Kingdene, Ivy Cottage and
Elm Cottage and, of a similar date, the building that housed Mitcham’s first Sunday school and dates from 1788,
though its little bell turret was not added till three years later. Later enlarged as the National Schools, it went on
to serve as the parish rooms. Finally, redundant in that role, and Grade II listed, it was converted into apartments
and survives, renamed School House, as an attractive feature of Lower Green.

We then crossed over to Cricket Green, where a
match was going on. We heard how the old King’s
Head had been renamed after mid-20th-century
licensee Burnal (.Burn.) Bullock who was also a
fine cricketer. The main building, which was
refurbished in the Edwardian period, is 18th-century,
but the back is earlier. Across the road stands the
attractive White Hart, rebuilt in the mid-18th century,
but incorporating some earlier fabric. It is now
burdened, only temporarily one hopes, with the
name Hooden on the Green.

Nos 8 and 10 date from 1838 and housed the
master and mistress of the then new infants. school
at the rear, which was an offshoot of the National
Schools. A lettered panel used to be visible between
the upstairs windows.

The pretty Tate almshouses, now known as Mary Tate Cottages, were founded in 1829 by a member of a
family who had had long connections with Mitcham. Originally for 12 poor women, widows or unmarried, of
good character, who had not received parish relief, they provided decent but spartan accommodation. They have
now been refurbished as seven comfortable self-contained dwellings.

Having by now somewhat overrun his planned time of 1½ hours, Tony briefly mentioned the 1960s police
station, further on, which replaced a Victorian one, and agreed to offer another walk at a later date, to cover the
rest of the Cricket Green. He was thanked for a very enjoyable afternoon.

Judith Goodman
Date of second walk: Saturday 29 September 2.15 for 2.30pm. Meet at Vestry Hall, London Road

Cricket at Mitcham
9 June 2007 JG

The White Hart
9 June 2007 JG



Pat Kilsby worked her usual magic with the weather and Saturday 14 July was fine and not too hot for sightseeing.
More than half the party consisted of MHS members, and our compensation for an early start was first choice
of seats on the coach, ahead of Pat and Ray’s WEA contingent at Sanderstead.

We had a trouble-free journey to our morning stop, the Cecil Rhodes Museum at the agreeable Hertfordshire
town of Bishops Stortford. The empire builder and diamond magnate’s birthplace is a plain early 19th-century
house with a Tuscan porch. Behind it now is an impressive new arts centre, housing an enlarged museum, hall,
temporary exhibition space, café, shop and so on . an enviable facility for the town. Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902)
was the son of the local vicar, and his upbringing, we were told, was very rigid. The enthusiastic young curator
explained how, in the displays, she tries to set the man and his career, controversial even in his lifetime, within the
context of 19th-century society and attitudes. Next door to the museum is a large 18th- and 19th-century maltings
complex with well-maintained buildings, which now house a big mail-order business.

Our lunch stop was the Harlow Mill, Old Harlow, a pleasant old pub by a lock, with waterfowl.
Then to Cambridge, where we met our three guides
at the Backs. The group I was in was led by a very
knowledgeable and amusing Wokingham-born Scot.
Queens. College (note the placing of the apostrophe,
unlike King’s) had two royal patronesses, and for a
time played host to Erasmus, who complained a lot,
especially about the beer, but admired the local young
girls. The pretty .mathematical. bridge, we heard,
was not designed by Newton, nor was it ever

(certainly not now) built without nails, screws or
It was interesting to learn that some Cambridge

buildings are not quite so grand as they look. A back
view of one range of buildings at Peterhouse for
instance revealed it to be built of chalk (clunch),
while the frontage is faced with finely cut stone.

We admired the monumental façade of the Fitzwilliam Museum (by Basevi, a pupil of Soane, opened 1840) and,
opposite it, the old Addenbrooke’s Hospital building, now, with alterations and interesting additions by John
Outram, adapted to other purposes.

Cambridge Punts at Mathematical Bridge Queens. College14 July 2007 JG

Pembroke and Corpus Christi Colleges have typically complicated
architectural histories, and in this part of the walk we also saw
the church of St Botolph (once the patron saint of travellers) and
a modern community centre for families of postgraduate students.
Then King’s and its wonderful chapel (not open that day, sadly).
We were reminded that much of the college, as distinct from the
chapel, is 19th-century work by Wilkins. It impresses, even so.

Cambridge on a sunny Saturday in July is packed with visitors,

but we had a wonderful taster of one of the great cities of England.
The journey back was complicated by an accident and long
tailback on the M25. Our driver took evasive action by staying
on the M11 and taking the A13 to the Dartford Crossing . a
journey that this participant found very interesting. It was
disturbing to see the weeds growing at what was Ford Dagenham

Many thanks again to the Kilsbys for their planning, and to the
driver for his resourcefulness.

Judith Goodman

Cambridge . King’s College Chapel 14 July 2007 JG


DAVID HAUNTON has been investigating an aspect of Merton’s war effort:


I have always had an interest in aeroplanes, and was much intrigued by claims about a jet-propelled aircraft made
by Walter Lines in his history of Lines Bros.1 My digging has revealed some details of four wartime pilotless
aircraft projects from Lines Bros, though in truth two of the .aircraft. are only model gliders. I apologise for all the

There were actually two firms involved. Lines Bros established their Triang Works on Morden Road, Merton, in
1924, where they made prams and toys (particularly model cars) and built a reputation for high-quality products.
Lines Bros founded International Model Aircraft (IMA) in 1931, together with Joe Mansour, an expert modeller
and an innovator in plastic and paper moulding. IMA made model aircraft, particularly the FROG (.Flies Right Off
the Ground.) range of flying models. Their works lay immediately to the east of the Triang factory sports field.

Admiralty Glider Target

The model gliders are not mentioned by Walter Lines, so these notes are based mainly on information in The
National Archives (TNA)2 at Kew, and in a book by Gerald Pawle,3 a member of the wartime Admiralty Department
of Miscellaneous Weapons Development (DMWD). The project originated in 1941. A cheap way was needed to
train the civilian seamen on Defensively-Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) to aim their anti-aircraft guns accurately.
DMWD proposed that the trainees should fire light guns at model aircraft, the idea being that shooting slow bullets
at a slow aircraft would give the gunner a good idea of just how far in front of a fast enemy aircraft he should aim
his own .real. bullets.

The officer in charge of the project, Lieutenant-Commander N S Norway (alias Nevil Shute the novelist), consulted
Joe Mansour, whom he had met previously. The first model was a 3½-lb glider of 6-ft span, designed by A A
(.Bert.) Judge of IMA4 and constructed mainly of balsa wood and silk. It was winched up to a height of 200 feet
by a long cord slipped onto a hook under the nose, and then circled down in free flight. It was used on several UK
DEMS firing ranges, but launching a reasonable number of targets in a short time involved too many people making
too many adjustments for wind speed and direction, etc. In addition, the government Controller of Timber forbade
further supply of balsa wood for the project. DMWD decided to modify the design and add rocket power.

Rocket Glider Target (see Illustrations 1 & 2)

The new requirement was issued in January 1942. In a very short time (legend says overnight) several IMA
designers each produced a sample model, and a single design evolved from these over the next few days. The new
model was soon placed in production, now officially as the Rocket Glider Target, and it was issued to DEMS firing
ranges .throughout the British Isles..5

(Rectangle comment XPMUser
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1. Rocket Glider Target: Cutaway diagram showing construction
The National Archives, ref. ADM277/11

We know quite a lot about these little aircraft, as a copy of the .Instructions for Use. survives in TNA. The new
glider itself resembled a large toy, some 43 inches long, with a wingspan of 45 inches, weighing about 6½ lbs. It was
mostly made of moulded paper, impregnated with glue or size, with some local strengthening of plastic and wood. A
fitting under the nose held a small solid-fuel rocket, which produced a 2-lb thrust for 40 seconds, really no more than
a firework. This was sufficient for sustained flight, but not for take-off, so the glider was launched from a catapult.
Each glider was composed of six parts . fuselage, left wing, right wing, .left and right tailplanes (interchangeable).
and fin . which were assembled by the operator, using small nuts and bolts. Wings, fins and tailplanes were fully
interchangeable between gliders.

The .Instructions for Use. list the contents of a target set, which consisted of 100 gliders and rocket cases, 1000
rocket charges, a catapult, and a maintenance kit. They also state that the gliders are .immensely strong. and
should each last for ten flights on average (hence the provision of ten rocket charges for each glider). One photograph
of a catapult, an open framework bench equipped with bungee elastic, shows a WRNS rating standing beside it, a
reminder that Wrens were the usual operators.

Once assembled, a rocket charge was
placed in the nose fitting, the glider placed
on the catapult, and the rocket charge
lit. With the rocket burning well, the
operator triggered the catapult, and the
Target Rocket Glider climbed away on
its short mission, reaching some 80-90
mph and 250-ft altitude, circling gently
down once the rocket had burnt out.
Meanwhile, of course, the trainee gunners
blazed away at it. They had Sten submachine
guns, fitted with sights from the
Vickers heavy machine gun they would
later use in anger. Lines Bros produced
Sten guns later in the war, so it is entirely
possible that some sailors used one Lines
Bros product to try to destroy another.

Destruction was quite difficult, as .0.303 bullets do not cause much damage. and the operator could repair any holes
with the orange cellulose tape supplied. .Discard a part if it is flexing or if one of the plastic members is hit. say the
Instructions. They warn that left and right wings .are not interchangeable., but assure us that it is perfectly safe to
handle the glider when the rocket is burning, provided that .the jet of flame is kept pointing away from the operator..

The number built is unknown, but, as Target Gliders were supplied for two or three years to about ten DEMS
ranges in Britain, to at least one in Egypt, and to five or six in Canada,6 we can estimate that Lines Bros made a total
of at least 5000 of the two versions (and possibly twice that number). Of all these, the sole .rocket. survivor that I
have traced resides in the Tangmere Aviation Museum, West Sussex, still in its original bright orange finish, but with
a sadly misleading label. The Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, has an example of the original winch-launched
version, but this is not yet on display.7 Found by a Devon farmer in his field in the 1950s, it was given to his son as
a toy, despite the label on it saying .Admiralty Property. If found, please return to …

Project Swallow

This was another Admiralty project from DMWD, again led by Nevil Shute and involving Joe Mansour, and I have
again used a TNA document8 and Pawle9 as principal sources. Dated June 1942, the requirement was to lay a
quarter-mile-long smokescreen at a distance from a ship, with a demand for 1000 units to be ready by April 1943.
The need was to obscure invasion landing beaches, after analysis of the disastrous Dieppe raid. The Swallow was
a real aircraft, not a model. It was designed by IMA in consultation with RAE Farnborough and Stanley Hansel (a
consulting aerodynamics engineer), and built in an officially .restricted. area in the Triang factory.

The design was mostly of wood, with a steel centre section on which were hung the 19-ft-span wings,10 the close-
set twin booms that supported the tailplane, and a nacelle. The overall length was 12ft, the wings could be folded for
storage aboard ship, and the whole thing weighed about 820 lbs when ready for flight. The nacelle contained a
gyroscope, a standard naval smoke generator and four 50-lb thrust rockets. The generator weighed about 300 lbs,
but when .making smoke. it added a 130-lb thrust of its own to that of the rockets. Flight was controlled by an
ingenious clockwork-driven camshaft, which commanded the various actions required in the correct sequence.
Launch must have been spectacular, as it was powered by no fewer than 20 50-lb thrust rockets.

(Rectangle comment XPMUser
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2. Rocket Glider Target: Glider on catapult, ready for launch
The National Archives, ref. ADM277/11


Development was rapid, with the first flight of the prototype on 19 December 1942. The initial trials were completed
by 25 March 1943, all within the naval field at Worthy Down, Winchester, to preserve secrecy. There was much
unexplained delay with sea trials, which faced and overcame numerous technical problems, but sadly the Swallow
project was eventually cancelled in July 1944.

It would appear that only 20 or so of these interesting aircraft were built. After the full set of 32 officially observed
trials .two Swallows were left over., so Nevil Shute fired them anyway, getting near-perfect results, but ensuring
that none now survive. Pawle notes that data collected during the Swallow trials helped to produce some of
Britain’s earliest guided missiles. It is pleasant to record that Shute states in his formal report .the [Lines] team
cooperated with enthusiasm throughout the development..

Walter Lines claimed this as the .first rocket jet-propelled aircraft . in 1941 . that preceded Jet Aeroplanes by
many years.. Well, as managing director he should enthuse about his products, but I am afraid he got the year
wrong, and the Swallow was neither the first jet-propelled nor the first rocket-powered aircraft.11 However, I
contend it must be the only aircraft ever powered by a smoke generator.

Towed Target Glider (see Illustration 3)

The main historical source for this aircraft is the RAF handling manual.12 Apparently the glider was built to satisfy
a joint RAF/Admiralty need for a full-size target. It was used for gunnery training, .being towed by an aircraft
(some considerable distance in front) while being shot at by a fighter pilot, or anti-aircraft gunner on the ground..13
A glider target was more realistic than a traditional sleeve target, both in appearance, and because it could be towed
at much higher speeds.

Again designed by IMA, and built in the Triang factory, the Target Glider was a simple aircraft, 26 ft long, with a 32ft
wingspan and a fixed undercarriage with a nose-wheel . most unusual for those days when aircraft normally had
tail-wheels. One simple but ingenious feature forced a nose-up attitude for efficient take-off, but a nose-down one
during landing, ensuring that the glider stayed on the ground once it had landed. Another neat device released the
tow cable on landing, and turned the nose-wheel a few degrees to one side, so the glider would be steered gently off
the runway, to avoid any potential collision with the towing aircraft. Though wood was used in some areas, notably
the wing structure,14 much of the glider was built of duralumin. This material was carefully controlled in wartime, so
its allocation in quantity to Lines Bros shows the toy-makers were well reputed in Whitehall.

Walter Lines published several pictures of these gliders under construction. I worked for some years in the aircraft
industry, and the factory floors in these photos appear suspiciously clean and uncluttered. I imagine the photos were
specially posed, soon after the start of production. Helpfully, one picture appears elsewhere,15 where it is labelled
.about 1942.. We know that production continued for some time after the war, and I see no reason to doubt
Walter Lines’s total of 3500 Target Gliders built. In February 1944 Lines Bros were making an average of 39
‘sets of wings. per week.16 This indicates that Lines supplied separate fuselages and sets of wings, to be finally

(Rectangle comment XPMUser
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3. Towed Target Glider: Cutaway diagram showing assembly
Air Publication AP1492A (1947) Crown Copyright
Courtesy RAF Museum, Hendon


assembled and test-flown elsewhere (certainly at Thame airfield in Oxfordshire,17 and possibly at Beaulieu in
Hampshire,18 where IMA later had small factories). A minor point: Walter Lines made a curious claim about a
very tight tolerance (.0.022 ins in 32 ft.) in manufacture: I think he meant the product ‘should not deviate from
the required profile by more than 0.022 ins anywhere along the 32-ft length..

There seem to have been three service versions: the wartime 32-ft span glider19 with partly-wooden wings; the
post-war 32-ft span Mark 2, with metal wing structure,20 and a subsequent version with reduced wingspan,
which was not designated Mark 3, but known as the .25-ft Target Glider..21 Gliders were normally towed by
powerful machines such as the Bristol Beaufighter Mk10 and the Gloster Meteor Mk7, either using a fixed tow
rope 1000 ft long, or a winch that payed out a cable up to 6000 ft long.22 There is an Internet tale of a near-
disastrous attempt to tow one using a low-powered Miles Martinet trainer,23 but this was not typical. The Target
Glider remained in use until about 1955.

If you want to see one, you will need to travel some way; the only one in captivity that I know about is a Mark
2 hanging from the ceiling of the Queensland Air Museum in Australia, in all the yellow and black glory of its
.Beware . Danger!. paint scheme. The location is itself a tribute to the quality of the design, as HM Forces do
not ship useless items halfway around the world. This was certainly the largest product Lines Bros ever made .
the size of a Spitfire, it was far too big to fit in the average Merton front garden. And this from a company whose
largest manufactured item pre-war was a baby carriage! All in all, the Target Glider must be accounted a most
serious and successful spot of engineering.

Now . Over To You

1) Where did Nevil Shute meet Joe Mansour? From 1931 Shute was in York and then Portsmouth,24 while
Mansour was in Merton. Prior to that, Shute worked for Vickers on the R100 airship. Did Mansour also work
for Vickers?
2) I have seen mentions of a 16-ft span glider. Was this an early Target Glider?
3) Has anyone got a photograph of any of these aircraft? Or any other information?

My thanks to the staff of the Reading Room, Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, who were extremely helpful in
discussing possible sources for my research.

All references to .Walter Lines. are to the brief details about the company’s wartime activities in Lines, Walter Lines Brothers: Looking
Backwards, Looking Forwards (1958) private publication (reference copies available in Merton Local Studies Centre).
TNA ADM277/11 DMWD Gliders, Pt 2 Project 38 Rocket Glider Target (1 October 1945) and BR 1204 (Restricted) Instructions for Use
Pawle, Gerald The Secret War 1939-45 (1956) George Harrap, London pp.178-82
4 .
Website nevilshute.org: interview with Bert Judge, IMA modeller, 2006 Newsletter
5 .
So ADM277/11, contra ADM 277/1 History of DMWD, where a brief project summary implies the rocket glider was abandoned in mid-1943
TNA ADM1/12919 Inspection of DEMS Gunnery Training, Canada (September 1943)
Pers. comm. Richard Noyce, Curator of Artefacts, RN Museum, 11 June 2007
8 .
TNA ADM277/11 DMWD Gliders, Pt 1 Project 59 Swallow Report (8 October 1945)
9 .
Pawle op. cit.
10. For this measurement I follow a dimensioned drawing in the TNA file, contra Walter Lines’s 18 feet.
11. Swallow was preceded by the turbojet-powered Heinkel He 178 (1939), the Caproni-Campini SS.1 ducted-impellor (1938), the Heinkel He
176 rocket (1939), and the Gloster-Whittle E.28/39 turbojet (1941) (all research aircraft), while the Heinkel He 280, Messerschmidt Me
262 and Bell XP-59A jet fighters all first flew in spring or summer 1942. The Soviet Union experimented with ram-jets and rockets on
aircraft in the period 1934-40. Claims are also made for the Coanda ducted-impellor biplane of 1910. (Serious historians discount the harebrained
RAK rocket-boosted gliders of publicist Fritz von Opel (1929).)
12. Vol 1, Section 2, Chapter 6 25 Ft (or 32 Ft)
Winged Target in Air Publication AP 1492A Airborne Towed Targets, Winches and Ancillary
Equipment (various dates) Air Ministry, London
13. Letter from RAF Museum to author 2 January 2007
14. TNA HO 192/1524 Bomb damage investigation, Lines Bros 19/20 February 1944 [The bomb landed on and destroyed the special
woodworking machine tool used to produce the wing spars.]
15. Lines, Richard and Hellström, Leif FROG model aircraft 1932-1976 (1989) New Cavendish Books
16. TNA HO 192/1524 op. cit.
17. Lines and Hellström op. cit.
18. Website Jetex.org [Seems mostly oral tradition, variable reliability in author’s opinion]
19. ? Perhaps .Mark 1. was only used as a retrospective designation?
20. AP1492A 32 Ft Winged Target Mk.2 (1947, modified 1950) [No reference to 25-footer]
21. AP1492A 25 Ft Winged Target (1950, modified 1953) [No reference to 32-footer. Apart from wingspan, the technical drawings and
wording are identical in the two issues of this document.]
22. Evans, Don The Long Drag: A short history of British target towing (2004) Flight Recorder Publications, Ottringham, E. Yorks
23. Website qam.org.au, Queensland Air Museum
24. Shute, Nevil Slide Rule (1954) William Heinemann (reprinted 2000, House of Stratus) [Autobiography, stopping in 1938. Annoyingly. DJH]

DAVID LUFF has strong views on

A couple of years back Merton Abbey Mills acquired a new owner and management team. They promptly

announced in our local newspaper that they intended to revamp the site and remove all forms of tat.
Far from implementing this bold statement, they have in my
opinion totally endorsed the .tat. with the erection of their
mural, or graffiti, hoarding. This is in bright primary colours,
with black outlined drawings depicting local historical and
present-day events. It has been placed alongside Merantun
Way precisely between a busy roundabout and a pedestrian
crossing . surely not the most suitable location.

Its purpose I find rather obscure, as very few visitors pass
this way, with the vast majority coming from the Mills car
park or the free Sainsbury’s one. The Mills car park would
be a far better site, or was it considered too tatty for such a
prominent location? Personally I think it would be of little consequence, as the whole site has now become
commercially tatty. Advertising boards cover most of the heritage workshops, and they are also indiscriminately
prominent along the access road.

No consideration has been given to the positioning of the service
areas, add-on structures and style of the food/sale stands with
regard to the environs of the heritage workshops. The open
space is a car-park Monday to Friday and a market at the
weekends. The architectural splendour of the workshops, such
as the Long Shop [left, photographed in 1989], can now no
longer be viewed due to the clutter around it.

Countryside Properties, as I predicted, did not build Merton
a museum, but, to be fair to them, I very much doubt if they
ever intended to do so. It should have been part of their
planning acceptance, and built on the land to the south of the
Abbey Mills, along with a leisure complex. The leisure
complex has been built, although elsewhere on the site, but,
being realistic, did anyone expect to see a museum? No
matter what planning obligations had been agreed, no one
was ever going to enforce them, and is Merton Abbey Mills
an appropriate location? Would it not spend a good deal of its
time, like the Chapter House, as an annexe to some theatre
or cottage pottery industry?

Very little of the site’s history is on display for the visitors,
with just a token in the mill and alongside. The workshops.
history plaques range from the inaccurate William Morris
public house to the ivy-covered Coles Shop [right], now
always referred to as .The. Coles Shop. The .The. was
added when the Mills complex opened in 1989 and was never
used in my 18 years at Liberty’s.

The ‘showhouse. proudly displays its name for all to see, so is it not time for a plaque to be placed here
commemorating Joan Mills, who in 1983 gave this building its name, along with a new history? It is the only
workshop on site where the complete history of the name is known.

Heritage site or commercial tat? There are no prizes for correctly guessing my view. I would suggest you take
a look for yourself, and remember that some of these workshops, with their add-on clutter, are Grade 2 listed.

photographs by David Luff



Eric Montague’s latest study is a bumper volume at 240 pages with 70 maps and photographs . and still at the

same price as the other volumes . a bargain indeed!
Colliers Wood owes its existence to its position straddling the old Roman road to London and its industrial
development to its proximity to the River Wandle. Eric follows the history of a Saxon estate on which was later
built a substantial medieval house, the final successor to which survived until 1904 when it succumbed to the
encroachment of suburban villas. A period of neglect and decline preceded the present thriving residential area
with a strong retail component, enhanced by Wandle Park and Wandle Meadow Nature Park.

The book is obtainable from our Publications Secretary at £5.95 (£4.80 to members + 90p p&p)
cheques payable to Merton Historical Society.


Museum of London Archaeology Service (2007) ISBN 798-1-901992-70-0 pp296 £27.95
This new Museum of London Archaeology Service monograph deals with the excavations at Merton priory 1976 to
1990. The early .digs. were carried out by our former president, Scott McCracken, and the most recent by Dave Saxby.

The principal authors are Pat Miller and Dave Saxby who are to be congratulated on bringing such diverse contributions
together to produce this volume of almost 300 pages. It covers every aspect of the excavations and is well illustrated.
The monograph describes four building periods and each section begins with the documentary evidence provided by

Tony Dyson. This is extensive, revealing new information and giving clear documentary sources. Errors are inevitable
in such a comprehensive publication. It is wrong to say that the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 failed to include the
London properties of the priory (pp.145, 156), as the London income of £57 is included in the £961 total.

A conclusion of the report is that excavations revealed a stone church begun about 1170 and completed by 1200.
The foundations unearthed by Col. Bidder in 1922 are not now considered to be the church of the founder. Fragments
of an earlier stone church were found, but not the foundations. A large infirmary and cloister was constructed
c.1230-50, which .formed a self-contained complex where servants, corrodians (pensioners) and other laity might
sometimes be admitted, with buildings paralleling the functions of the main claustral complex. (p. xvii).

The eastward extension of the priory church was such, that the building ‘should be considered.as a major lost

work of the Decorated period in south-east England. (pp. xvii, 119).
Information gained from the 721 burials will be a rich source for students, not only for archaeology but for medicine,
hygiene, diet, demography, burial practice and cemetery use.

A number of thematic essays are contained in one chapter, with new ideas which raise additional questions requiring

further answers. Here are a few:

The location of the first stone church of 1125 may have been built on higher, drier ground (p.111).

There is little evidence of a stone cloister arcade, although there is of the intention to build it (pp.111, 112).

Evidence found that domestic buildings of the twelfth century were situated well south of the church (p.112).

There may have been no access from the cloister to the south aisle of the nave (p.113), which would mean an

absence of processional doorways.

Conceivably the only access from the cloister to the church may have been through the south transept via a slype

(passageway) (p.112).

The large infirmary cloister may have been used by healthy canons, as well as the infirm (p.113).

An aisled hall, discovered between the claustral buildings and the monastic mill to the south, could be part of

the prior’s dwelling (p.114).

There are excellent plans throughout the book, all carefully drawn. However, the water management plan (p.115),
in the view of the reviewer, is incomplete. There were normally two sources of supply; one for domestic purposes
and the other for flushing the sewer drain. No attempt has been made to show the former. Was no well discovered
anywhere in the precinct? Traces of a lead waterpipe supplying the infirmary kitchen were found (figs.34, 62),
but not shown on the plan. There was a .possible laver (washplace) or storage cistern in the infirmary cloister
garth. (pp. 50, 116). The plan fails to show the drainage ditch across the infirmary cloister (fig.61), which was
found to contain possible kitchen waste (p.54). It is difficult to believe that the unwholesome latrine sewer .finally
exited east, enriching fishponds.. (p.114).

The new information on design, construction, materials, tiles, pottery, mills, plant and pollen analysis will stimulate
further reports.

Lionel Green


BILL RUDD responds to a query about THE SEARCHLIGHT COTTAGES

Early last December Peter Hopkins sent me a letter in which a lady had asked him about the Searchlight
Cottages, as her daughter, a leader of the 1st Morden Scouts, was writing a history of the group. Apparently the

We are delighted to have had a letter from Hilary Nethersole, a long-time member who now lives near

Reading. She says:

I am writing with reference to the photograph of the summer ramble group . in the Bulletin for June 2007.

In fact my whole family were there . my father Mr Want . 2nd from left on back row; my mother Mrs

Want (a founder member) 2nd from left on 2nd row front. Next to her on the end is my sister Jeanette

Want (also a founder member). On the front right is my sister Frances (age 10 years) and next to her

myself (13 years). Also in the photograph is Norman Black, next to Lionel Green.

When this was taken who would have guessed the Society would turn out to be such a marriage bureau!

Hilary Nethersole (née Want)


One of our members, Jane Smith of Portsea, but once of Mitcham, has researched and written an interesting
account of this important structure . a monument that not only celebrates the memory of Nelson but also serves
as a seamark. Thomas Fremantle, who commanded the Neptune at Trafalgar, was the driving force behind the
construction. The monument’s design, surprisingly, is based on Ethiopian obelisks or stelae. The architect was
John Thomas Groves (c.1761-1811), who held various posts such as architect to the Post Office and Clerk of
Works at Whitehall, Westminster and St James’s. He also designed Abraham Goldsmid’s house at Morden
(demolished before 1820)!

Jane’s booklet is published jointly by the Nelson Society and is obtainable for £2 including postage (cheques
payable to the Nelson Society) from their sales manager.

group first met at the cottages.
My vague remembrance of them was that they were on a piece of ground sandwiched
between the Southern Railway station, Morden South, and the entrance to the London
Transport Northern Line depot, in London Road.
Research showed that on the OS Revision 1932 Surrey sheet XIII.3 there were three
buildings . two rectangular and a narrow one. Clearly a part of the Great War (WW1),
later converted into cottages.
In the Merton and Morden UDC Council Minutes a letter dated 12 January 1920 was
received from Mr J H Rewcastle about their possible use as dwellings. At a meeting
on 4 February they were considered for human occupation, subject to the surveyor’s Hatherleigh
report on being roofed with fire-resisting material, which suggests that the buildings
were of wooden construction on brick and concrete foundations. The buildings were
licensed for human habitation for a period of three years from 22 March 1920,
presumably subject to renewal. The electoral registers show the names of the occupants
up to 1934, when they cease. Was this when the 1st Morden Scouts took over?
At the time the buildings were constructed, in wartime haste, they were in an open
field. The nearest building was across the road, a house called Hatherleigh, which
was unoccupied during the war.
Searchligh tCottages
In their rundown state after World War 2 the buildings were demolished when the
Express Dairy built their bottling plant. Since then, after they left, the site has been
developed as a mosque by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK.
On Friday 2 February 2007 on BBC2, as part of the documentary Timewatch series
The First Blitz, the programme showed the full horror of aerial bombardment on
British cities, when we were totally unprepared in every way. The German Zeppelin
airships were out of the range of hastily converted guns and the Royal Flying Corps.
The Morden searchlight must have played a part. Improved fighters plus the invention of Annotated extract from
the incendiary bullets put a literally fiery end to it, as the airships contained hydrogen gas. OS 1:2500 map of 1933


Following on from his article in Bulletin 157, PETER HOPKINS has found more about

As well as transcribing the Elizabethan Probate Inventories for Surrey, Marion Herridge also collaborated with
Joan Holman to produce an Index of Surrey Probate Inventories 16th.19th Centuries, published by the
Domestic Buildings Research Group (Surrey) in 1986. The local entries are reproduced overleaf.

One of these was transcribed by our member, John Pile, some years ago.1 In the full transcription below, original

spellings have been retained but values have been changed from Roman to Arabic notation.
George Garth had been lord of the manor of Morden since 1613, the second son of the Richard Garth who
purchased the manor in 1553/4. It is not known where in Morden George lived. The first Tudor lord, Edward
Whitchurche, had occupied a .new builded mansion house called Growtes. on a former copyhold property now
known as Morden Lodge,2 because the medieval manorial centre, on the site of the present Morden Hall, was
leased to tenants until 1568.3 In 1588 and again in 1598 Richard Garth granted new 10-year leases of the former
manorial centre, but he reserved to himself .all the new Parlor behynde the hall and the Chamber on the same,
with free ingress, egress and regress unto the same when and as often as need shall require., which suggests
that he was not normally resident in Morden.4 In 1590 Richard leased what became Lower Morden Farm (on
the site now occupied by Hatfeild School) to his son George, but it was in other occupation by 1615.5 The
probability is that George then occupied Growtes, which remained in the family until 1682.6

An Inventory of all and singular the goods, chatlis, debtis, and ready money of George Garth late of
Moredon in the County of Surrey Esquier deceased which were found at his house at Moredon and
valued and prized by Richard Ferrand, Alexander Garth and Robert Greenwell gent the nineteenth of
July anno Dni 1627.

Imprimis in ready money £245
Item his wearing apparell £20
Item linnen and yarnis £25
Item carpetts, coverings, hangings, cupboard clothis, cushions, and stoolis of tapestrie and

upholsterers worke valued at £100
Item bedds, bolsters, pillowes, blanketts, ruggis, coverletts, curtens and other furniture £70 11s 8d
Item bedstedds great and small valued at £8 3s 4d
Item tablis, stoolis, chairis, cupboardis, formis, deskis and cabbinet valued at £6 13s 4d
Item chestis and other lumber valued at £6 12s 4d
Item bookis and picturis valued at £4
Item armour and weapons valued at £3
Item brass and ironworke £10
Item lead, tynn and pewter valued at £6 13s 4d
Item earthen potts and pannis wooden vessells and leather bucketts valued at £1 13s 4d
Item butter and cheese valued at 15s
Item six hoggs valued together at £2 10s
Item eleven horses & coltis £40
Item twenty eight cowis, twelve calvis and twoe oxen att £85
Item cartis, ploughis & harrenis with other furniture for husbandry £6 13s
Item wood, timber and other lumber £10
Item six quarters of wheate and five of barley £12 13s 4d
Item greene corn growing on the ground £30
Item coach harnis and bridlis and saddlis £15
Item soyle in the yard valued at £2
Item a clocke and bees together £1 10s
Item poultry about the house 10s
Item plate 378 oz 1/4
1/8 at 5s per ounce £94 11s 10d
Item new bricks valued at £8
Item in good debtis the some of £1036
Item in desperate debtis the some of £250
Item hay and strawe in the barne valued at £8

The some of all the goodis at Moredon is £2110 10s 10d *

More goodis of the said deceased remaining at his mannor of Kenton in the County of Southhampton
valued and prized by Robert Greenwell, Alexander Garth and Lawrence Fledger as followeth viz
[not transcribed] The some of all the goods at Kenton is £385 2s 10d
More goodis of the said deceased remaining at Lurgeshall in ye County of Bucks
valued & prized by Robert Greenwell, John Greenwell & John Rigson as followeth, viz
Item one cocke of hay at £1

Suma tottis huius Inventory [Sum total of this Inventory] £2496 13s 8d

!!!!! These figures only total £2110 10s 6d.

BLANKER David 1739* PR Prob3/38/59
COLLINS James Widower 1676 PR Prob4/10244
COX Anthony 1666 PR Prob4/25541
HERDSON Anne Widow 1668/9 PR Prob4/12484
MORRELL Thomas Tailor 1565* HW B #
PHILLIPS Oliver Gentleman 1681 PR Prob4/2917
SUTTON William Yeoman 1679 PR Prob4/17943
ANDREW John Widower 1793 PR Prob31/842/760
BATT William 1734 PR Prob3/33/149
PR Prob31/135/816
BENIFOLD Roger ?Grocer 1766 GL Ac 73.79
BOWMAN Matthew 1669 PR Prob4/3049
BROWN Peter Nail Shopkeeper 1753 PR Prob3/52/32
PR Prob31/358/580
BUSICK William Bachelor 1769 PR Prob31/546/187
PR Prob31/546/192
COLEMAN Richard Butcher 1835 PR Prob31/1344/1407
COOPER Matthew Widower 1786 GL DW/PC/6/1786/2
CRANMER Anne 1673 PR Prob4/1950
CRANMER Rebecca Widow 1816 PR Prob31/1111/376
CRANMORE Robert 1667 PR Prob5/2160
DENNYER John ?Whitster 1696 PR Prob4/1596
GARTH Richard 166(4) PR Prob4/21100
HANNIM Owen PR Prob5/2183
INWOOD John 1733 PR Prob3/32/163
PR Prob31/121/612
PR Prob31/122/696
LAMBE (Samuell) Gentleman 1687 PR Prob4/3970
LATTER Thomas 1757 PR Prob31/405/308
LATTER Thomas 1760 PR Prob31/439/259
LYNCH John F Esquire 1807 PR Prob31/1002/402
MIDDLETON Benjamin 1724 PR Prob3/23/64
OXTOBY William 1812 PR Prob31/1068/786
PAYNE Joane 1716 PR Prob5/2135
PEACOCK Thomas 1756 PR Prob31/398/764
PIKE Edward Chandler 1755 PR Prob3/54/49
POLLARD William Esquire 1816 PR Prob31/1111/388
SANDERS Samuel Victualler 1799 PR Prob31/911/675
SEITH Robert Yeoman 1592 HW B #
STEDALL John Farmer 1767* GL DW/PA/5/1767/43
STEVENS Edward Gardener 1800 GL DW/PA/5/1800/30
STYLE Henry Mercer 1675 PR Prob4/4651
WALTER William Husbandman 1585 HW B #
WATTS Elizabeth Widow 1664 PR Prob4/7571
WEBB Thomas Clerk Bachelor 1799 PR Prob31/905/186
WHITE Thomas Innholder 1772 PR Prob31/590/812
WOODS Thomas 1734 PR Prob31/130/436
BISHOP John Farmer 1742 GL DW/OP/1742/1
BOOTH William Clerk 1671 PR Prob4/3024
FRYSBEE John Husbandman 1558 GL DW/PA/5/1559/117 #
GARTH George 1627 LA I/264 $
GORYNG Nycholas 1558 GL DW/PA/5/Oct 1557 #
GL DW/PA/5/Mar 1558



ARNOLD Frances 1676 PR Prob4/275
BACON Robert 1668 PR Prob4/1948
BARNES James 1684 LP VH96/154
BEEKE Samuel Victualler 1686 LP VH96/201
CARTER Philip Gardener 1709 LP VH96/478
COOPER Daniel 1666 LP VH96/634
COTTERELL Jonas 1674 LP VH96/660
DOWNES Grace Widow 1689 LP VH96/773
FELLER Alice 1686 LP VH96/916
FIELDER Samuel Mariner 1698 PR Prob4/1911

PR Prob5/2182
GANSTON William 1803 PR Prob31/956/583
GARRETT Margaret Widow 1712 LP VH96/1448
GONSTON William Gardener 1831 PR Prob31/1298/1845
HORTON Jarvas 1686 LP VH96/1362
LISTER Thomas 1673 PR Prob4/22029
LOCK Susanna Gent’s Widow 1674 LP VH96/1653 §
MAYBANCKE Phanuel Bachelor 1684 LP VH96/1740
MITCHELL Frances Widow 1732 PR Prob31/108/521
MORLAND Jane Spinster 1689/90 PR Prob4/2505
MORRIS Elizabeth 1662 PR Prob4/4623
MURFITT John Victualler 1755 PR Prob31/376/31
OSBORNE Hugh 1668 LP VH96/1899
OSBORNE Joseph 1668 LP VH96/1900
PACK Robert Husbandman 1683 PR Prob4/16905
PACKE Elizabeth Widow 1673 PR Prob4/15052
PELLHAM Abraham 1677 PR Prob4/4054
PITT Thomas 1699 PR Prob4/11505
RUSSELL Robert Yeoman 1717 LP VH96/2238
SHORTER John Husbandman 1693 LP VH96/2328
STEVENS Edward 1681 LP VH96/2464
TANNER William Yeoman 1684 PR Prob4/17063
THACKSTON Lancelott Yeoman 1714 LP VH96/2570
THACKSTON William Yeoman 1678 LP VH96/2569
WEST Edward Bachelor 1680 LP VH96/2762

1 Lambeth Archives I/264
2 SHC K85/2/12
3 SHC K85/2/6-8
4 SHC K85/2/21-22
5 SHC G1/1/47; G6/1/39(1)
6 SHC K85/2/12; K85/2/36

Abbreviations and symbols used in this article:

SHC Surrey History Centre
# Transcribed in Surrey Record Society volume XXXIX and in MHS Bulletin 159
$ Transcribed in this article
§ Summarised by Richard Milward in Wimbledon in the Time of the Civil War (1976) p.127

Abbreviations used in the Index:

Adm. Administration
GL Greater London Record Office, now The Metropolitan Archives
H W Hampshire County Record Office (Winchester Diocesan Records)
LA London Borough of Lambeth Archives, the Minet Library, Camberwell
L P Lambeth Palace Archives
PR Public Record Office, now The National Archives
Prob. Probate
REP Repository
SG Surrey Record Office, Guildford Muniment Room, now part of Surrey History Centre, Woking (SHC)
SK Surrey Record Office, Kingston, now part of Surrey History Centre, Woking (SHC)

* Rooms separately indicated in the inventory, or the inventory is of special interest

DAVID LUFF reflects on

Some years ago I had a long discussion with Richard Alexander, who was Merton’s local history librarian then,

about the Merton Priory curse.
This alleged curse is said to affect the families of those owning land of the former priory, in that they would not
have a direct descendant that would inherit. Richard’s research had confirmed this, going back as far as he could
to the dissolution of the priory in 1538.

He could give no explanation as to the origin of the curse, and I have never heard of any. It could predate the
priory. The Romans are thought to have had a settlement of some kind at the river crossing, and who knows
what might have taken place even earlier? Folklore tales do get passed on from one generation to the next, and
on the way events and locations can be changed.

The reason I am referring to it once again is the possibility that the Sainsbury family may be about to relinquish
their ownership of their brand-named stores. If this comes to be then the Sainsburys will be another former
priory landowner that does not have a direct family inheritance.

At the public enquiry in February 1986 I met and spoke to one of the family, and, if my memory serves me, it was
David Sainsbury. I asked him if he knew that the land he was purchasing had a curse on it. He replied that he did,
and, with a laugh in his voice, said, .It will be death to the owner.. I informed him that it was not so terminal, and all
that may happen would be that no member of his family would inherit the Merton Abbey store. As you would expect,
he took neither explanation with any seriousness. Yet, if it does come to be, then it will be another strange coincidence.

The curse, true or false? I will leave the reader to consider for him or herself the evidence, both historical and
futuristic . if it happens. You will come to your own conclusions, but there is one point that interests me. If such
a concept as a curse could exist, what sort of mechanism could keep it alive and functioning over the centuries?

David Luff has photographed two stretches of the priory wall in Station Road that have recently been repaired
and made safe.


The current exhibition, until 27 October, is Bless ‘Em All: Merton During World War II.
From 6 November Life Through a Lens: Tom Francis’s Mitcham looks at life in Mitcham from 1870 to the 1920s.
The Canons, Madeira Road, Mitcham Admission free. Open: Tues & Wed 10-4, Fri & Sat 10-4.30.
Tel: 020 8640 9387. www.merton.gov.uk/heritagecentre
Look out too for the events the Heritage Centre are putting on for Merton’s Celebrating Age Festival 2007 in


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