Bulletin 182

Download Bulletin 182

June 2012 Bulletin 182
That Other Diamond Jubilee J A Goodman
The Nelson Hospital 1912-2012 J A Goodman
A Hero from Mitcham R E Kilsby
Spital/Lodge Farm, Morden R Turner
Child Evacuees of World War II – Part 2: Memories D Haunton
The Old Oako I Bain

and much more


VICE PRESIDENTS: Viscountess Hanworth, Eric Montague and William Rudd
CHAIR: David Haunton
Invitation card to children’s events at Merton’s celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. (JG) See page 9CONTENTS
Programme June – October 2
Bill Rudd’s Morden 2
Reports: ‘Merton’s Railways’ 3
‘The Crown Jewels’ 5
‘The National Archives, and Some of its Holdings’ 6
‘Calico Printing: the Cray, Wandle and Lea Triangle’ 7Local History Workshops:
27 January: boundaries of Morden; images of Morden; The Lodge, Morden; Mertons and Mordens
elsewhere; a cook at the Holborn Union workhouse; the priory chapter house; ‘Merton mill’ 8
16 March: cycling reminiscences; wartime memories; the Morden tithe map; a Mitcham photo;
Abbey House, Merton; the Abbey House Norman arch 9
That Other Diamond Jubilee – Judith Goodman 9
The Nelson Hospital 1912-2012 – Judith Goodman 10
A Hero from Mitcham – Ray Kilsby 11
Spital/Lodge Farm, Morden – Rosemary Turner 12
Child Evacuees of World War Two – Part 2: Memories – David Haunton 13
The Old Oako – Irene Bain 15
Tuesday 19 June 11am Visit to the House of Commons
courtesy of Siobhain McDonagh MP
Meet outside the House of Commons entrance.
Free but restricted numbers. Please book with David Haunton.
Thursday 5 July 2.30pm A walk around the Liberty’s site
Our guide will be David Luff, who worked for Liberty’s here for many years.
Meet outside the Kiss Me Hardy in High Street, Colliers Wood.
No visit in August in case of any Olympics transport disruption.
Saturday 22 September 2.30pm St Martin’s Church, Camborne Rd, Morden
‘Memories of Morden between the Wars’
A ‘Chat Show’ hosted by Peter Hopkins, with guests who grew up in Morden in the 1930s
and whose families lived in Morden before suburban development here.
Free to all! St Martin’s Church is at the junction of Camborne Road and Queen Mary Avenue. Buses 163
and 293 stop in Hillcross Avenue opposite a footpath at the side of the church. 163 and 413 stop in Grand
Drive near the Co-op, with access along a short stretch of Queen Mary Avenue. Limited parking.
Thursday 11 October at 11am Visit to Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street
Free but restricted numbers. Please book with Bea Oliver.
Tuesday 19 June 11am Visit to the House of Commons
courtesy of Siobhain McDonagh MP
Meet outside the House of Commons entrance.
Free but restricted numbers. Please book with David Haunton.
Thursday 5 July 2.30pm A walk around the Liberty’s site
Our guide will be David Luff, who worked for Liberty’s here for many years.
Meet outside the Kiss Me Hardy in High Street, Colliers Wood.
No visit in August in case of any Olympics transport disruption.
Saturday 22 September 2.30pm St Martin’s Church, Camborne Rd, Morden
‘Memories of Morden between the Wars’
A ‘Chat Show’ hosted by Peter Hopkins, with guests who grew up in Morden in the 1930s
and whose families lived in Morden before suburban development here.
Free to all! St Martin’s Church is at the junction of Camborne Road and Queen Mary Avenue. Buses 163
and 293 stop in Hillcross Avenue opposite a footpath at the side of the church. 163 and 413 stop in Grand
Drive near the Co-op, with access along a short stretch of Queen Mary Avenue. Limited parking.
Thursday 11 October at 11am Visit to Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street
Free but restricted numbers. Please book with Bea Oliver.

Peter Walker OBE of Merton Talking Newspaper would like the newspaper to be able to offer a weekly 10-15
minute recorded local history slot for the visually impaired of Merton.


The Odeon in 1970.
Opened in 1932 as the independent Morden Cinema, it was part of the Odeon group by 1937. The site is now occupied by Iceland.
Our speaker in January was our long-time member and committee member, David Luff. David gave his own
introduction saying that he had been a railway enthusiast and train spotter all his life and had taken plenty of

photographs of trains and had even made a ciné film of the local railways. He said he had been a member of

the Railway Preservation Society since 1967 and one of his early memories of it was the great sadness caused
by the closure of the Great Central Railway at Loughborough. This has now been re-opened as one of our
heritage railway lines.

The Borough of Merton is very well served with railways, with 23 stations in the borough including tram-
stops. Not only is there the South West Trains line through Wimbledon, there is also the First Capital Connect
line from Blackfriars to Wimbledon and also to Sutton and the connecting line between them. There is also
the Southern service from Victoria to Sutton passing through the borough via Mitcham as well as the District
line to Wimbledon and the Croydon Tramlink. The only line to have been closed last century was the Merton
Abbey loop.

David then explained that the early railways were all associated with quarries or mines and the Surrey Iron

Railway from Wandsworth to Croydon and Godstone was the first line not to be associated in that way. The
Act of Parliament establishing the first railway in the world was in 1758 when a railway (or plateway as they

were called then) was authorised in Leeds.

In 1801 an Act of Parliament authorised the Surrey Iron Railway (SIR), which was the first documented line

south of the Thames. This was a public railway in the sense that the railway company owned the line but not
the trucks. Other companies owned the horse-drawn trucks and paid a toll for the use of the line or plateway.
The original plan was to build a canal from Wandsworth to Croydon using water derived from the Wandle, but
this was strenuously opposed by the mill owners on the Wandle who feared a considerable loss of water if such
a project were approved. Their objections won the day.

William Jessop built the railway as a plateway, which is regarded as being unusual because at that time Jessop
was credited with perfecting the cast iron rails as used on our railways today. He was commissioned to build a
plateway for the SIR and used heavy cast iron plates. The plateway only really came to its own when it became

possible to cast the rails in iron (such as were used on the SIR) by which time they had become obsolete. A

swathe of land 20 yards wide for a double-track line was purchased along the whole route of the railway except

where it was necessary to construct passing loops, cripple sidings (a term still in use), yards, warehouses and

dock facilities.

The Surrey Iron Railway never made a profit and shares in the company never paid a dividend. There was at

one time a proposal to build a plateway from Wandsworth to Portsmouth at an estimated cost of £400,000, which
compared favourably with the estimated cost of £800,000 for a canal to cover the same route. It is thought that
use of the Surrey Iron Railway ceased before 1846, but in that year an Act of Parliament was passed authorising
the closure of the railway and the sale of the track-bed.

The steam railway came to Wimbledon in 1838 as part of the Nine Elms to Woking Common line. This was

the first in the borough. The original intention was to run the line on through Kingston but this was strongly

opposed by the coaching interests on the Portsmouth road and by Baron Cottenham who objected to a line across
his land. As a result, the line was diverted via Surbiton and a branch line did not come to Kingston until very
much later. A serious drawback to this main

line is that it did not (and does not today) go to

the commercial heart of London. The terminus

at Nine Elms was in open fields and although

the line was later extended to North Lambeth
with the terminus named Waterloo Station,
that is still some distance from either central
London or the City.

In 1868 a direct line from Ludgate Hill to
Sutton and also to Wimbledon came through
the borough and the Mitcham branch of this
was later used by a line from Victoria Station
to Sutton. In 1917 the lines to Streatham via
Haydons Road and Merton Abbey along with

Merton Park station on the Merton Abbey line in 1977

the West Croydon line were closed as a war

D Luff
Merton Park signal box and level crossing on the Kingston Road in 1977
D Luff
time economy measure. They were reopened
in 1923 and the line from Wimbledon to
Sutton was constructed and was given
electric power. Only the Haydons Road part

of the loop was electrified and the Merton

Abbey loop lost it passenger trains forever

in 1929 but remained open for goods traffic

until 1975. In 1916 the main line through
Wimbledon was electrified using the
Southern Railways 600v third rail system.

The extension of the City and South London
Underground line from Clapham Common
to Morden was opened on 13th September
1926. This line, renamed the Northern Line
in 1933, became so popular that a proposal
was made to bore “fast lines” under the
existing tunnels where trains would travel

non-stop from the outer suburbs to the centre of London. Tunnelling was started from nine shafts between
Clapham and Euston but work was stopped because of the outbreak of war in 1939 and the very short lengths
of tunnels that were constructed were used as deep shelters. They still remain today.

The Metropolitan District Railway was extended from Putney Bridge to Wimbledon in June 1889 and was

operated as a joint venture with the London South Western Railway Co. The line to Wimbledon was electrified

in 1905 and renamed the District Line in 1933 when it was taken over by the newly formed London Passenger
Transport Board.
The Wimbledon to West Croydon line was opened in 1855, using the route of the Surrey Iron Railway from

Mitcham to West Croydon and was electrified in July 1930. In addition to a regular two-coach passenger service

there were various freight trains mostly at the West Croydon end to the gas and electric generating works. The
line was closed on 31st May 1997 to permit the construction of the Croydon Tramlink, which opened on 30th
May 2000.

David concluded his talk by showing a number of slides of trains at Wimbledon Station and shots of sections of

the Wimbledon to West Croydon line and then finally, a ciné film of trains arriving and leaving stations along

the Wimbledon to West Croydon Line.

Tony Scott


Church Street and Whitford Lane by E N Montague has just been published as vol.12 of the Mitcham Histories.
This book has a slightly unusual title, for neither road can be found on a modern map. The area covered is
bounded by three streets – the original part of Church Road, eastwards from St Peter and St Paul to the Cricket

Green, Love Lane north-east from the church to Western Road, and the shortish run of London Road from
Cricket Green to Upper Green.
We are not offered a continuous history of the area so much as a series of snapshots, several based on previous

papers by Monty – archaeological evidence, an interesting reconstruction of Mitcham in 1291, the church itself,
lovingly described, and the court records of the Manor of Vauxhall, as well as an Appendix showing who owned
and who occupied what in the Surveys of 1838 and 1846. Thereafter, Monty takes us on a Perambulation of
‘Church Street’, along the southern side from Green to church, then northern side from church to, er, the Bull
pub. We then hop up to the Western Road end of Love Lane and stroll gently down, noting interesting cottages

and the Glebelands mansion, speculating on the name of ‘Taffy’s How’, and meeting the ‘final surprise’of three

tiny country cottages round the last bend. ‘Whitford Lane’ gets a similar but more cursory treatment, but full
attention is paid to the London House and the Pitt family of energetic and philanthropic drapers. We even get a
poem of 40 quatrains on the retirement travels of the last Pitt, showing just how energetic he was.

So, not a continuous read, but all in all, a nice family album of a book.

David Haunton

Available from Publications Secretary.

Our speaker on 18 February at Christ Church Hall, Colliers Wood, was Garry Wykes, a retired Jewel House
Warden at the Tower of London. Wardens, who wear a distinctive uniform and top hat, are civil servants, unlike
the Yeomen, who are drawn from the military. The Jewels belong to the nation, in trust from the Queen, and
are very much part of the history of the Tower, having been kept at one time in the White Tower itself. They
were in the Martin Tower in 1671 when Colonel Thomas Blood tried to steal them. Today they are housed in a
purpose-built space, and since 1994 a travelator wafts the visitor past the main display.

Most of the regalia date from the 17th century. After the execution of Charles I in 1649 the existing crowns and
sceptres were destroyed by order of the Parliamentary party, and new ones had to be made for the coronation of
Charles II. However there are some later pieces, and a few which go back to the Middle Ages. There are about
25,000 separate gems ornamenting these remarkable treasures, though some are not what they seem.

Garry had some wonderful images to illustrate his talk. We were shown ceremonial trumpets, each with a banner,

and ceremonial swords, which, with the Golden Spurs, are attributes of knighthood, and reflect the role of the

monarch, since Henry VIII, as ‘defender of the faith’. The jewelled sword now used at coronations, was made

for George IV. Ten of the 13 surviving royal maces are here (two are with the House of Lords and one with the

Commons). Derived from a rather nasty weapon, the ceremonial mace is a symbol of authority.
St Edward’s crown of 1661 is the one that is used to crown the monarch, though it is too heavy to be worn for
more than a short time. Its name harks back to Edward the Confessor. It is unusual in that front and back are
identical. Not all its stones are precious, and some are foil-backed to sparkle more.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre is adorned with the diamond known as the First Star of Africa, which was found in
1905 and weighs 530 carats. It is the largest of the stones cut from the Cullinan diamond, which weighed 3106
carats originally, and was cut up into nine large and 96 smaller gems.
The Imperial Crown of India was made for the Delhi Durbar of 1911 by Garrards, who for many years were
the crown jewellers (that position we were told is now held by a jeweller in Tunbridge Wells).

The Ampulla is an early piece, the eagle at the head being 14th-century, and the rest 16th-century. The Anointing

Spoon is from the 12th century. These two are the oldest pieces in the regalia.
The crown made for Queen Elizabeth, consort to George VI, for the coronation in 1937 is made of platinum
and bears the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
The Prince of Wales’s Crown was made for Frederick, son of George II, and was worn more recently by
Prince George, later George V. When the Queen opens Parliament she wears the Imperial State Crown, which
incorporates the Black Prince’s ‘ruby’ (actually a spinel).
There are gold chalices and patens, for communion, altar dishes, flagons, an ornate punchbowl of 1829, weighing
more than 500 pounds, and a font that saw the baptisms of George III’s children. Of the salts there is a fine one

from Exeter in the form of a castle.
Reminding us that the Tower’s history goes right back to the Conquest, Garry recited to us ‘Rhyming Monarchs
from 1066 to the present’. By request from members it is reproduced here:
Judith Goodman .
Ampulla; Prince of Wales’s crown;
Annointing Spoon
Illustrations from T Miller Picturesque
Sketches of London Past and Present
(1852) London pp.115,117
Willie, Willie, Henry, Steve
Henry, Dick, John, Henry Three.
One, two, three Neds, Richard Two,
Henrys Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edwards Four, Five, Dick the Bad
Henrys twain, then Ned the lad.
Mary, Bessie, James the vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary, Anne Gloria,
Four Georges, William, then Victoria.
Ned, George, Ned, George,
Now it’s seen,
A second Bessie is our Queen.

On 18 March we welcomed Dr Melinda Haunton (daughter of our chair) to Christ Church Hall, Colliers Wood,

to speak to us about The National Archives (TNA), where she is a Programme Manager (Accreditation).
Melinda explained the three constituents of TNA: the Public Record Office (PRO), which looks after government
records for England, Wales and the United Kingdom; the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (RCHM),
which supports other archives wherever they are in the UK; and the Office of Public Sector Information.

What is an archive? Answer: It can be defined as evidence of transactions, decisions, even medical advancements,

fashion changes and so on, quite as much as of politics or wars. Such by-product material, where appropriate,
is selected for permanent retention after its original use is ended. Archives can take many forms – parchment,

paper, film, digital records, even objects, but not often publications. They belong in libraries.

So, what was the origin of TNA?
In the Middle Ages the sovereign and court frequently moved about the country, taking documents with them in
special chests. Records proliferated and copies were made, on rolls, for safekeeping. A Master of the Rolls was

appointed, with a house and chapel off Chancery Lane (convenient for storing Chancery records). Chronicler
Matthew Paris (c.1200-1259), an early searcher in the records, drew this appealing little sketch of the Rolls
chapel. This accommodation sufficed for a while, but by the beginning of the

19th century records were scattered among at least 200 sites, including the Tower
of London and Westminster Abbey. Storage conditions were often deplorable,

and damp and vermin wreaked damage. (A mummified rat is a treasured item at

TNA.) At last, in 1858, a purpose-built repository and reading room was begun,
in Chancery Lane. To this mock-Tudor building government departments and
the courts could transfer records. But there was no requirement for them to do
so, and at the same time many records were duplicated. The Public Records Act
of 1877 regularised matters and authorised the destruction of unwanted records.

However it was obvious that there were many other sorts of records kept by bodies of all kinds – businesses,

charities, colleges, societies and indeed individuals. They needed to be identified. So in 1869 the Royal

Commission on Historical Manuscripts was set up, and, as the second oldest Royal Commission, it is still going.
In the 20th century most manorial courts became defunct, but it was realised that their records of copyhold
tenancies were irreplaceable, and a national register of manorial documents was set up.

The PRO building survived the last war, though many records had been dispersed for safekeeping. Belvoir
Castle and Haddon Hall were used, for instance. Elsewhere there had been much destruction – often salvage
rather than enemy action was the culprit. So in 1945 the National Register of Archives was set up: today its
indexes are online on the TNA website.

In 1976 the new building (now Q1) at Kew opened, and 20

years later the Chancery Lane building closed, to bring the entire

collection together, with a second building (Q2) constructed

at Kew. In 2003-2006 the PRO merged with the RCHM, Her

Majesty’s Stationery Office and the new Office of Public Sector

Information to form The National Archives.
Melinda went on to give us a taste of some of the sorts of
holdings TNA has: government records from medieval times

onwards (including Domesday Book); wills from before 1858;
census returns (but not births, marriages and deaths); prison

records; personal papers of two Prime Ministers; and Crown
estate records; to say nothing of oddities such as lottery tickets,
banned books and the aforementioned rat. Kew is physically
virtually full, but many archives are housed in a Cheshire salt
mine, where conditions for storage are ideal.

A particularly rewarding part of Melinda’s job is advising organisations throughout the country on housing and
looking after their archives. Most of TNA’s staff are concerned with managing the archives and supporting the

public. Others work with government (the 30-year rule for release of government papers is soon to be shortened

to 20 years), with the wider archives sector, with IT, or with teachers and schools.
This was a most interesting talk, and Melinda received warm applause.

Judith Goodman
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
23/05/2017 15:51:05
Photo: J Goodman 2012

After a slightly delayed start because the key-holder forgot to open the hall, 42 members and visitors settled
down to enjoy an interesting talk at Christ Church Hall, Colliers Wood, on Saturday 14 April. Our speaker was

David Cufley, an engineer by profession, and a family historian by enthusiasm.
David had discovered that an ancestor, Edward Cuffley, had been a partner in
a calico printworks at Wimbledon in the 1770s. Edward first appears in extant

records in 1764 when, aged 32, he appeared as a witness in a case before the Court
of Chancery. At that time he was described as a ‘servant of David Morrer of West
Ham in the County of Essex, calico printer’, working at the Temple Mill printworks
on the river Lea. By 1776 he had entered into partnership with the defendant in the
case in which he had been a witness, Robert Coleman, and another printer, James
Newton. The Wimbledon Vestry Minute Book reveals that in May 1776 ‘Messrs

Coleman, Newton and Cuffley, calico printers near the Copper Mill Company’s

bridge at Wimbledon … proposed and agreed to allow a temporary bridge to be
thrown from ‘South Sea Barn Field’ over the river Wandle into ‘Iron Mill Field’
belonging to the said calico printers, and to allow passage from this bridge through

their field into ‘Potters Field’, the nearest way to ‘Garrett Green’ for the carts to

go backwards and forwards carrying gravel for repairing ‘Durnsfords Lane’ …’.1
According to Peter McGow, who has produced a mammoth on-line survey of
the industries on the river Wandle, ‘These works were situated on the east bank
of the Wandle, just north of the end of the present Riverside Road running from
Summerstown. They were established in Wimbledon parish, but were later extended
eastwards into Wandsworth parish, and the associated bleaching grounds were in
both parishes’.2 The London Gazette reported that Newton left the partnership in
November 1778, moving to a printworks in Wallington before joining John Leach
and others in partnership at Merton Abbey. The Wimbledon Poor Rate Assessment
and Collection Book 1780 recorded ‘Messrs Coleman & Co’ as ratepayers that year.3

Edward Cuffley left Wimbledon in 1782, moving to a farm in Banstead, but in his
will of 1791, proved 1794, he described himself as ‘Edward Cuffley, gentleman,
of Mitcham’. (He is not mentioned in any of Eric Montague’s Mitcham Histories.)

Having discovered his ancestor’s involvement in calico printing, David determined
to discover all he could about the industry. He was particularly intrigued by the
move from West Ham to Wimbledon, but soon realised it was rather a move from
the river Lea to the river Wandle, as calico printing required clean water. Another
centre was Crayford in Kent, on the river Cray, and David discovered that, of the
49 calico printers and whitsters recorded in the published Mitcham Settlement
Examinations, four had links with Crayford.4 (Three copies left in stock at a mere
£1 plus postage!!) Hence the title of David’s talk! But another triangle was of trade,
English printed calicos being exported to Africa and traded for slaves who were
shipped to the American plantations to produce cotton and sugar imported by Britain.

David had also investigated the processes involved in transforming the naturally
greyish cloth into the final printed product so essential to 18th-century fashion.
He was particularly delighted to find a collection of 19th-century published prints
illustrating these processes in an on-line database from New York Public Library,
and some of these illustrations are reproduced here.5

David has also discovered ancestors who were rat-catchers and brickmakers, so we
can hope that one day we will enjoy another fascinating talk from him!

Peter Hopkins

‘Bleaching-ground at Glasgow’

from The pictorial gallery of arts

(C Knight and Co, 1845-1847)

1 Wimbledon Vestry Minutes 1736, 1743-1788 (Surrey Record Society XXV (1964) 303 (p.62)
2 http://www.wandle.org.uk/mills/millsindex.html (last accessed 16 April 2012)
3 Wimbledon Vestry Minutes 1736, 1743-1788 (Surrey Record Society XXV (1964) p.130
4 Mitcham Settlement Examinations 1784-1814 (Surrey Record Society XXVII (1973)
5 http://digitalgallery.nypl.org (accessed 14 April 2012)

‘Calico printer’ from The book
of trades, or library of the
useful arts (Tabart, 1805)
‘Calico-printing by the block’ from The pictorial gallery
of arts (C Knight and Co,
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
23/05/2017 15:51:54
‘Calico-printing by cylinder’:
print in Mid-Manhattan
Library / Picture Collection

Friday 27 January 2012 – six present. Cyril Maidment in the chair

Peter Hopkins had been looking at the boundaries of Morden, in the light of suggestions that boundaries
in the Motspur Park area might have been due to division of former common pasture among adjoining
parishes. Peter wondered whether the unusual boundaries at Rose Hill originated in the division of part of
a once larger Sutton Common among Morden, Carshalton and Sutton. Could the extension of the Morden
boundary eastward to include the Watermeads area also reflect inter-commoning of the riverside meadows?
From a Christmas present (Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London by Arnold Fitz-Thedmar
(translated by H T Riley 1863, facsimile reprint by Bibliobazaar) pp.1-4) Peter had discovered that a ‘Richard
de Wymbeldon’ had served as sheriff of London in 1219. A ‘Richard de Winnelendune’ held 2½ virgates in
Morden c.1225. Another sheriff, in 1191 and 1196, Nicholas Duket, also held land in Morden in 1220.

Bill Rudd brought along more of his photographs of Morden,
including this 1973 view of Morden Press, a property that still stands
in London Road opposite Morden Court Parade. At one time vehicles
belonging to the Express Dairy, across the road, were kept at the rear.
(Madeline Healey remembered the horses there in her childhood.)

Bill also showed two photos of a corrugated-iron church hall that stood
in Sutton Court Road, Sutton, until 1982. He wondered whether it had
been built by Mr North, who had a works in Morden, and lived near
Morden Press (see Bulletin 180). Another photo was of the Morden
Tavern in 1969, a building still under threat.
Rosemary Turner is continuing to investigate the site of Merton
priory’s Spital Farm, on the site of The Lodge, which stood in the
present Morden Recreation Ground (see page 12).

Rosemary was pleased to discover that medieval tiles from St
Catherine’s Chapel, now embedded in a wall within the cloisters of
Westminster Abbey, included some that have not yet been published.
Ian Betts, tile specialist at Museum of London, has shown an interest.
David Haunton had been investigating a WW2 archive on the BBC website, and had discovered some
relating to Merton and Morden (see page 13).
He had also been investigating occurrences of the names Merton and Morden in other parts of the UK,
including a Morden Terrace School in Lewisham, a Merton Road in Bootle and a Merton Hotel in Hereford.

He had discovered a Merton in Oxfordshire, another in Norfolk, and a third in Devon, five miles from his
holiday destination two years ago! East Morden and West Morden are in Dorset, and Guilden (pronounced

Gidden) Morden and Steeple Morden in Cambridgeshire, the latter often confused with our Morden by past
historians! Merton is also a Christian name favoured by Americans, and there was a German WWII captain
called Commander Karl-Friedrich Merton, commanding submarine U-68!

Madeline Healey continued to delight us with tales of her ancestors. Her great-grandmother, Sarah Utton,
came from Newmarket to work at Mitcham at the Holborn Union orphanage, probably through the influence
of a relative who was connected with the workhouse at Croydon. She started as scullery woman in 1875, at the
age of 15. She was pantry woman by March 1878, when she was promoted to cook. She was the only cook
listed there in the 1881 census. When she left in July 1881 to marry Madeline’s great-grandfather, Abraham
Clark, a local butcher, she received a glowing letter of recommendation from the clerk to the Guardians,
and Madeline brought along a photocopy, which we hope to include in Eric Montague’s Mitcham Histories
volume covering the Holborn Union site. Abraham died of TB, leaving a 16-month-old son, at whose birth
a peal of bells had been rung, Abraham being captain of bellringers!

Cyril Maidment found a 1981 photograph of the memorial garden and plaque erected on the supposed site of
the high altar of Merton priory. He superimposed the priory outline on a map of the period, which suggested
that the memorial was on the site of the Lady Chapel. The broken plaque is now in the Chapter House.
He is researching Wimbledon’s ‘Merton Mill’ and had discovered an 1885 watercolour by Evelina Druce. He
hoped this would be one of the watercolours on show in the newly-opened gallery at Wimbledon Museum.
Cyril also brought along A3 enlargements of some early postcards of Wimbledon.

Peter Hopkins

Friday 16 March – Seven present. Peter Hopkins in the chair

Bill Rudd recounted his experiences as a Civil Defence Messenger on his bicycle, from April 1942 to
November 1943, after which time he was called up for the army. He had to cover a large area, including
Morden Road, Grand Drive and Middleton Road. After the war his bicycle enabled him to visit every religious
establishment that had given its name to the roads of the St Helier Estate, staying at Youth Hostels. Later he
took his bike abroad.
David Haunton had been looking at the evolution of the Bulletin. (An article for the next issue)
Judy Goodman had come across a ‘conservation issue’ from 100 years ago. (Another article for the next

Rosemary Turner has been mapping the various properties recorded in the 1910 valuation of Morden. She
has found a few references in the documents to plot numbers from the 1838 Morden Tithe Apportionment,
which has helped her to pursue further her investigations.
Celia Bailey produced a fine photograph c.1900 of a grocer’s shop, ‘W Jessup’, in Church Road, Mitcham.
The building incorporated a mail box, and beside it on the north side was a signpost to Phipps Bridge.
She is also interested in the (Isaac) Wilson family of Mitcham and their properties.

Cyril Maidment had a spare copy of the Council’s Draft Sites and Policies DPD, which was currently open
for public comment. It included details of many site proposals and a list of the Borough’s listed buildings.
It was agreed that David Haunton, MHS chair, should have the copy.
Cyril had noticed that in the Wimbledon Museum collection were five photos listed as Liberty silk printing
works, but which were in fact new views of (Merton) Abbey House. He had established that the site of the

original location of the Norman arch, now at St Mary’s, Merton, was the southern end of the pedestrian
crossing linking Station Road to Merton Abbey Mills.

Peter Hopkins had researched a carefully prepared 1539 will of Alice Lord, owner of Growtes (a Tudor
predecessor of Morden Lodge) and other properties, to provide for her six sons, and copies were circulated.

Cyril Maidment
Dates of next Workshops: Fridays 22 June, 3 August and 14 September at 2.30pm
At Wandle Industrial Museum. All are welcome.


On Wednesday 23 June 1897 Merton was en fête for the ‘Commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Sixty Years’
Reign’. There had been much discussion, mutating into heated argument, about how to mark this momentous,
indeed unprecedented, occasion. The headmaster, Mr Pillinger, wanted a clocktower for the school, or, if not, a
swimming pool near the Wandle. The vicar held out for improvements to the church. All however were agreed
that at least the children and the aged poor of the parish should be given a treat.

The local newspapers of 26 June reported that 130 (Wimbledon News) or perhaps 160 (Surrey Independent)
people over 60 had been entertained at a meat and plum pudding dinner, in the old Church House, opposite the

church – courtesy of lord of the manor John Innes, who owned the (empty) house. A ‘bountiful cold collation’

consisting of mutton, beef, ham, vegetables and pickles, washed down with beer or soft drink, was followed by
plum pudding and ‘other comestibles’. Miss Kempson, the vicar’s daughter, and 20 other young ladies waited
on the tables, assisted by a number of male parishioners. After a short service there were sports for the children

in Church House meadow (today’s Church Lane playing field). John Innes presented the prizes, and the children
then enjoyed meat pies, rolls and butter, cake and tea. Festivities continued with a fife-and-drum band, dancing
and games (kiss-in-the-ring was popular) and a huge bonfire. The old people were given a ‘meat tea’; the men

were presented with a pipe of tobacco, the women with four ounces of tea, and the children with Jubilee mugs.
All the children invited were pupils at the school and/or at the Sunday school. Sybil Forrester presumably treasured

her invitation card (see page 1), which has survived for 115 years, and which I was able to buy from a collector.

It was announced that money left over from the celebrations would be added to the collection for the Elizabeth

Simon almshouses (‘Widows’ Cottages’ as it was known) at No.180 Kingston Road, to be used for repairs and

And the vicar got his way. No clocktower, no swimming pool. In May a faculty for improvements to the west
end of the church had been approved, and before the end of the year the gallery had been pulled down and the
new belfry opened. John Innes paid for new stained glass windows as a Jubilee gift.

On 14 June 1912 HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, formally opened
the Nelson Hospital for Wimbledon, Merton and District, in Kingston Road, Merton. It was to replace the South
Wimbledon, Merton & District Cottage Hospital at 178 Merton Road, which had rapidly proved too small for
a district that was growing fast.

The site and this, the first, part of the building – the three ‘pavilions’, had cost £12000. This sum had been partly

raised by intense local fundraising, including substantial donations from trade and business, as well as from the
general public. The balance had come from the King Edward’s Hospital Fund. The architect was Francis Hatch
of Queen’s Road, Wimbledon, and the builders were James Burges & Sons of Wycliffe Road, Wimbledon, who
also undertook to contribute an annual sum towards the maintenance of the building.

There were wards for men, women and children, and four single-bed wards for ‘special case’ patients, or paying

patients – 28 beds in all (though it would not be long before another seven were found to be needed). There
was an operating theatre, a mortuary, a nurses’ home, including the matron’s flat, an office, a ‘receiving room’,

a committee room, store-rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, sluice rooms and so on. There was radiator heating from
a boiler, and electric lighting and gas supplied to every room. A thoroughly up-to-date facility.

The ducal/royal couple were greeted by a guard of honour and band of Territorials, flanked by boy scouts.
Then, while the thousand guests (only half of whom apparently had RSVP’d!) waited in two large marquees
and whiled away the (rather long) time by admiring a display of naval signal flags which read ‘England expects

every man to do his duty’ the matron, Miss des Forges, conducted the duchess on a tour of the hospital, where
she spoke ‘sympathetically’ to all four of the patients. After that there were a lot of speeches, and proceedings
were rounded off with the national anthem.

A hundred years later, and after many additions and alterations to the original building, plans are well in hand to

rebuild the Nelson (though keeping at least the façade of the original pavilions) as a Local Health Care Centre,

to incorporate two local GP practices as well as diagnostic and treatment facilities.

Sources: Wimbledon Borough News 22 July 1911 and 22 June 1912

C D Waltham-Weeks The Nelson Hospital in “Paradise Merton” (?1994) privately printed

F Deas Origin, Growth and Development of the Nelson Hospital, Merton (1981) Merton Library Service
Sketch (JG) based on the architect’s drawing as published in the Wimbledon Borough News of 22 July 1911



We were delighted to hear that Merton Heritage Officer Sarah Gould’s excellent Heritage Lottery Fund bid for

a £50,000 ‘Your Heritage’ grant has been successful. Sarah says, ‘In addition to staging photography themed
exhibitions, events and school activities we will now be able to digitise the Library photographic archive, making
thousands of historic photographs available to the public both at Merton libraries and online. We will also be
working to provide links to other photographic archives in the borough and digitising images supplied by the
public.’ Sarah looks forward to working with this society and other bodies on this exciting project.

RAy KILSBy has discovered


Sydney George Rogerson was born in Mitcham on 14 May 1915. The middle child of three, he attended Gorringe
Park School, Mitcham. As a youngster he was a boy scout, and later he became a scoutmaster. Before the second
World War he worked for Horne Brothers in Hackney, a company that made army greatcoats. He married in
1937, had two daughters, and joined the RAOC in 1941.

On 2/3 January 1946 he and Major Kenneth Alfred Biggs were completing the loading of a train with surplus
American and German ammunition in Savernake Forest, close to Marlborough, Wiltshire. In the same siding
was a train loaded with British ammunition. Also present were men from the RAOC, the Pioneer Corps and the
RASC. In all there were 96 ammunition wagons.

At 2.50pm on 2 January, without warning, a blinding flash and loud explosion blew to pieces two railway wagons

and a three-ton lorry. Eight lives were lost in the explosion, and six more men were seriously injured. Fierce

flames swept the area, igniting more wagons. The fear was that if the fire spread to other wagons further huge

explosions might occur. The 5000 or so residents of Marlborough, plus the army personnel, would be in danger.
Soon, 27 wagons had blown up, plus two lorries loaded with shells, mines and other ammunition.

Rogerson was one of the first on the scene, and began directing operations, since he was the most senior NCO

present. He rescued two badly injured men from under a burning truck. When Major Biggs arrived, he and

Rogerson uncoupled a burning wagon and extinguished the flames.
The servicemen and firemen, who worked through the afternoon, evening and night, prevented any more
ammunition wagons igniting.
The calmness, leadership and gallantry of both Biggs and Rogerson were recognised, when each was awarded
a George Cross on 11 October 1946, for ‘most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very
brave manner’. The two men were invested by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 10 December 1946.
Sydney Rogerson was demobbed in June 1946 and became a London

Transport bus conductor. He later joined the East Kent Road Car
Company, and became Chief Inspector. He also worked at Ramsgate
and Lanthorne Hospitals, both in Thanet, East Kent. He was a kind
and gentle man, but poor health forced him into early retirement, and
he died on 23 September 1993, aged 78.

On 23 September 1940 George VI had announced the creation of
the George Cross. It was instituted on the 24th. Whereas the Victoria

Cross (‘For Valour’) recognises supreme gallantry during the heat of

battle, the George Cross would be for supreme gallantry behind the
front line and in civilian situations. Hence it would rank alongside
the Victoria Cross.

The king decided that it should be a plain silver cross with four equal
limbs. In the centre is a medallion bearing an image of St George and
the Dragon, with the inscription ‘For Gallantry’ around it. The royal
cipher ‘G VI’ appears at each angle formed by the limbs. On the reverse
is the name of the recipient and the date the award was announced in
the London Gazette, the government’s journal of record. The cross is
suspended by a ring from a bar decorated with laurel leaves, on a dark
blue ribbon one-and-a-half inches wide. It is worn on the left breast
before all other decorations except the VC.

* Most of the information in this article comes from M Ashcroft George Cross Heroes (2010)
Headline Review.

The V&A’s current exhibition British Design 1948-2012 includes an ingenious (and attractive) self-
assembly chair made out of cardboard. Called Chair Thing by its designer, Perspective Designs, it

was manufactured in 1968 by New Merton Board Mills (whose Merton Abbey site is now occupied
by Sainsbury’s and M&S). In the first six months more than 76,000 were sold, at less than £1 each.

The exhibition is on until 12 August.
ROSEMARy TURNER continues her investigation of

As part of my continuing research into The Lodge and its estate I have been attempting to relate it to existing

roads and features.
At Christmas I downloaded two images from Google Earth which show the woodland in Morden Recreation
Ground. One was dated 2010, and the other was taken in the 1940s. I have known for some time that the
woodland had diminished considerably since I lived in Faversham Road in the 1960/70s.The only place where

always bought things for the garden.
The woodland was a bird sanctuary and
had iron railings all round it. Nowadays
there is some wire fencing in places, but
in one place there is a gap where the park-

keeper drives a tractor into the woodland
to deposit green waste.
Originally the woodland and the park

pathways followed the shape of The
Lodge and its gardens, even including the
right-angled indent near the Faversham
Road park entrance. Originally this
square followed around behind the farm
buildings which existed at that time.

Faversham Road starts by following the
line of Farm Lane, which was the drive to
The Lodge, and a footpath which ended

at Sutton Road (now Bishopsford Road).

The footpath went through the farmyard,
and Faversham Road left this on the other
side of the farmyard.

The adventure playground built in 1975
is no longer there, but the present-day
Google Earth view shows a lighter area
in the trees which covers the area where I
think the playground was. There is a bare
area in the 1940s view in approximately
the same place. I did wonder if this could
have been the site of the gun battery
mentioned by Vincent Lines in 1929. Of
the farm building he wrote: ‘In recent
years a gun battery was stationed close
at hand, but the stoutness of the structure

defied the frequent shocks’.*

I converted the two images into same-
scale sketch maps to work out if the
reduction in the woodland had affected
the foundations of The Lodge mansion
house. So far they are still within the
wooded area, but part may have been
removed during the building of the
adventure playground.

*Vincent Lines Merton, Morden and Wimbledon:
drawings and notes from the Wimbledon Borough
News 1928-1931 (2009) Wimbledon Society
Museum Press, p.54

it has increased is towards the back gardens; it now goes up to the fences. There used to be allotments between
the ends of the gardens and the woods, and a hut run by the local horticultural association, where my father
DAVID HAUNTON concludes his look at the BBC archive:1

Reminder: ‘WW2 People’s War’ is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and
gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.

Schooling – or not

Most respondents were children of school age at the time, and their memories reflect their varied experiences

of schooling – and not only of schooling.

By far the happiest was William Henry Ives (in Lurgashall, Sussex, 1939). ‘At first we attended school in the
village hall with our teachers from Colliers Wood, but within the first year most children had gone home; those
of us who stayed joined the village school… I have happy memories of my time there, fishing with a cork and
goose quill [float] and helping at the pheasant shoots when “posh” people came … As far as I was concerned
being evacuated was the best thing that could have happened to me, [as I realised that] I just wanted to farm. I

am happy to say that I have done so for the last 60 years.’

George Gillingham (in Finsbury, Luton and Morden, 1939-45) thought that schooling was quite different then

– ‘we had elderly teachers who stood in for the regular teachers who had to school the army, and this made it
easier to play truant.’
Derek Weeks (in Bishops Hull, Somerset, 1940-1) stayed in a house with an alleyway at the rear, in which stood
an old fashioned hand pump (apparently the only local water supply). The school was just around the corner,

by the alley, and was held in a small hall that was possibly a disused chapel. ‘I can’t remember much about
the schooling, but I can remember helping to whitewash the walls inside. I am sure I never learned too much
there…. Our days in the village with its cobbled pavements and the smell of fresh bread were always exciting.
It was all so new to us as we had never been in the countryside before.’ Three years later in 1944, evacuated
again, to Pentre-bach, ‘schooling is not a thing I remember while in Wales, I was having too much fun.’

Similar reactions were recalled by Philip Wheeler (4) (in Wem, Shropshire, 1944): ‘I revelled in the freedom

and space of the countryside – such a contrast to a terraced house in Merton Park.’

Miss X (in Embsay, Yorkshire, 1944) found that the Yorkshire ‘village children seemed to be well ahead of us

but some of them were older too.’ Unusually, and rather shockingly, ‘our teacher didn’t like evacuees and she
would call us lazy and said we were cowards for running away.’ These comments stopped eventually, once the
headmistress had spoken to the teacher.

Albert Dunning (in Carlton, Nottingham, 1944) did not go to school for quite some time and had a great time

exploring new places, especially down by the river Trent. But eventually ‘my sister kept on about school, so
my mum took her one day. They were surprised to see her, they had no trace of us and thought we had all been
killed in the bombing. End of our carefree days, we all had to go to school straight away.’ But in contrast to

Miss X, ‘we were put top of the class, our London education seeming to be way ahead of Nottingham. At the

end of the war, back at our schools in Colliers Wood, we ended up in the bottom of the class as our educational
standard had dropped.’
Some children were not evacuated, but stayed at home in Merton or Morden. School shelters loom large in their

memories. The Board of Education had produced a circular (no.1467 ‘Air Raid Precautions in Schools’, 27 April

1939, price 2d.) which rather vaguely recommended that shelters could be built, each one to accommodate a

group of ‘not more than 50’, and suggested a trench design (long and thin, with a bench on each side, allowing

15 inches per pupil, lined with corrugated iron and covered with the excavated earth).2 Many local education

authorities provided brick-built surface shelters for schools without playing fields. However, it appears that no

shelters were built, of either design, anywhere, before the outbreak
of war. One boy’s main recollection is of having some weeks off
school from ‘St Mary’s, Merton’, while brick shelters were built in

the playground. Ronald Standen (Garth Road) remembered very

little of school, possibly due to his fractured education, but he did
recall the damp and musty smell in the school’s brick shelter with

its long rows of bench seats. ‘Teacher used desperately to try to find

an educational subject to keep us occupied.’ The beginning of Miss

X’s (Merton) school days, before she was evacuated, were not too

happy. She felt she received a very scanty education, as school days
were much disrupted. ‘A lot of the time we sat in brick shelters in
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
23/05/2017 15:53:27
School shelter in use
(Picture ‘borrowed’ from BBC Schools Web Pages
– Google Images accessed 31.3.2012)
the playground when a siren went, and of course the nights were very noisy.’ Shelters were also remembered

by Alan Craney (Middleton Road) ‘when I was at school our teacher was quite a school marm, all tweeds.

She tried to get us singing in the shelter – “She’ll be coming round the mountain”, “We’ll have no vulgarity
here!” and “Khaki bloomers”.’3
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
23/05/2017 15:53:57
(Rectangle comment XPMUser
23/05/2017 15:53:47
The adult respirator above (Home Office Air Raid Precautions, 1938,
reprinted 2007 by Tempus Publishing) and child’s ‘not-threatening’ Mickey
Mouse gas mask (Peter Doyle and Paul Evans The Home Front 1939-1945,
The Crowood Press 2007)

However, for many of the stay-at-homes, it was their gas masks that made the most indelible impression. (They
are always referred to in these memories as ‘gas masks’ – never the official ‘respirator’, which rather fits with
my own very junior recollection.) Marie Lanham (Morden) recalled that ‘in1940 we had to put the gas masks

on in school during maths for practice, and sat like that through the whole lesson. – I can still smell the rubber’.

At the beginning of the war, Edna (‘Meg’) Russ (11) was not evacuated, as her mother did not want her to go,

but most of her school was evacuated. She did not attend school full-time for three months. She would go in
once a week, collect homework, do it at home and take it back the following week. After a few months, Morden
Farm Central School opened4 and she was transferred there because it was nearer to her house. Getting fitted
for a gas mask was something Meg found exciting, but her brother (only seven) could not agree with her, as he

found it quite frightening. They used to practise whilst sitting around the table until they could wear their gas
masks for at least half an hour.

Valerie Edwards (5) (Morden) was not evacuated and started school in 1942, when there were not many children

as most had been evacuated. ‘If the siren went on my way to school I used to knock at the nearest door and
dive into their shelter. We spent months at school in the underground shelters having all lessons, food and games
down there.’ Valerie carried her Mickey Mouse gas mask to school every day, while in the Anderson shelter
at night, her brother had a small cot in which to sleep with his baby gas mask nearby. This was a ‘baby-length

black coffin-like contraption’ in which the baby would be enclosed in the event of a gas attack.


At the end of the war in Europe, Meg Russ (now 16) celebrated at a huge street party, while Valerie Edwards
also remembered the street parties, with everybody waving flags, and red, white and blue banners everywhere.
Miss X, living near the Board Mills, recalled that for the VE celebrations ‘our little community of half-a-dozen
streets decided to have a party in Adnams, a coach firm in Merton.5 This was like a bus garage so there was
plenty of room … for competitions and fancy dress.’ In interesting contrast, one unnamed boy noted ‘on VE

Day we put out a couple of flags our dad had, and in the evening went up to the West End to celebrate.’
Ronald Standen (now 13) recalled a later street party in September 1945, to celebrate VJ Day, and the true end

of the war. ‘Tables were loaded with as much food as shortages allowed and with long hoarded special treats

[and] plenty of beer and the like. Everyone smiled, laughed, sung and danced. There were also tears in the light
of the bonfire, until the last couples drifted away at a scandalous four o’clock [in the morning].’


A regular leitmotif was the absence of bananas – curiously, no other fruit are mentioned. Meg Russ (11 in
1939) loved them, so she didn’t think very highly of rationing. Since only children aged five or under were

allowed bananas, Meg could not enjoy them until long after the war. Food rations also stuck in Dave Wilgoss’

memory, not only the exotics (his word) like margarine, spam, corned beef and dried egg, but also, he recalled

mournfully, ‘no fruit – the only bananas I saw were the false hand on display at the greengrocers’. On the other

hand, Ronald Standen (7 in 1939) recalled a war-time raffle in which he won a ‘very valuable prize, half of a

small banana’. Finally, poor little Valerie Edwards did remember ‘longing and longing for a banana. I never
had one and I remember … my aunt once saying to me “Guess what you have got” – I shouted “A banana, a
banana!”. I was so disappointed when it turned out to be a baby brother…’

1 David would be delighted to hear from anyone mentioned in these articles, or their relatives, or contemporaries (phone 0208-542-7079).
2 The National Archives (TNA) ref. ED 138/8
3 ‘Khaki Bloomers’ was a risqué version of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’ , beginning ‘She’ll be wearing khaki bloomers…’, (usually sung

at, rather than to, ATS girls) which presumably young schoolchildren would not fully appreciate. Or, possibly, tweedy school marms.
I have not traced ‘We’ll have no vulgarity here’ earlier than an American reference in 1953. Was it perhaps a comic song or catchphrase from ITMA,
or the Crazy Gang ? Can anyone help ?
The newly-built Morden Farm Schools, Aragon Road, had two buildings: one (the Central School) intended for 480 senior pupils, the other for
432 juniors and 432 infants. The Central School officially opened for the first time on 20 September 1939. The Junior and Infants building could
not be used for teaching, as it was taken for an ARP first-aid station, so the Central building was used by all three Departments, operating in shifts
under one head teacher. (TNA ref. E21/61772) I suspect this was only for staff and a limited number of pupils, as the Wimbledon Borough News

for 29 September reported that men were still hard at work completing the construction of eighteen shelters, for 50 children apiece, and we know
that pupils were not allowed back to school until shelters had been provided. The News reported, by experiment, that one shelter could easily hold
54 children and two adults, so some pupils had re-started at school.

Lewis Adnams Ltd started life in 1925 as ‘haulage contractors’ on what was then an empty plot at 17 Pincott Road. They later built a garage for

their coaches on the site, which is where the party was held in 1945. In 1930 the firm added offices as ‘motor coach proprietors’ at 69 Merton High

Street, sharing the site with Blunts Market. They were still there in 1970.

The recent death of IRENE BAIN’s brother has triggered some more reminiscences

In the 1930s when I was a child living in New Barns Avenue, Mitcham, life was very quiet. Children were
able to play in the street quite freely without fear of cars continually passing up and down. Also, we had the
whole Common to roam in. There was a pond on the corner of Watneys Road near the end of the Avenue and
a huge tree stood sentinel on its edge. This tree was known as the Old Oako by all the local children and was
a focal point for us.

We didn’t have many visitors, so when my Auntie Alice and cousin Dennis came over all the way from Barking
in Essex, it was a very special day. My brother and I would look out of the front room window for ages, hoping
to catch sight of them coming up the road. Dennis and Peter were about the same age and they got on like a

house on fire. As soon as they met they started laughing and the merriment didn’t stop until it was time for our

visitors to go home.
Cousin Dennis had a wonderful sense of humour, and Auntie Alice herself always had amusing anecdotes to
relate, like when she was served a dishcloth dipped in batter in the fish shop by mistake, or the time she got a

toffee stuck between her front false teeth in the cinema and couldn’t make herself understood when she wanted
to get out to remove it!
On one of their visits we even managed a trip to the Majestic Cinema in Mitcham to see The Three Musketeers.
As soon as we were home again the boys were pretending to be musketeers. So Dad went into his shed and in
no time at all produced two wooden swords for them to play with. Soon they were parrying swords all over
the garden.
Dad was a dab hand at knocking things up out of wood in his shed, which stood at the end of the garden near
the back gate. He would often make us windmills (carved propellers fixed onto a piece of wood), which

whizzed around in the wind. He made me a dolls house. He constructed a wooden trellis fence and made an
arch over the garden path, so that our roses could climb over it. Nor must I forget the substantial hutch he

made to accommodate our pet white rabbit which a kindly neighbour (being a biochemist) had saved from

experimentation and given to me.
Often the boys went off to play on the common to explore or climb trees. My brother was a great one for
climbing trees. I think he viewed most trees as a challenge. To Dennis this was not so. I was quite happy to
remain at home with the grown-ups.
The most outstanding visit was the day my brother decided to climb the Old Oako! For Peter climbed the huge
tree – but couldn’t get down! Cousin Dennis had to run back to New Barns to ask my father for help. Uncle
Walter was not amused at having to stop whatever he was doing to haul out the long ladder and somehow
to balance it on his bicycle, then trundle the awkward load all the way down to the pond in front of curious
onlookers! – and, of course, back again!
In Spring we would visit the Seven Islands Pond to see the baby frogs making their journey from the water onto
the land. We also caught tadpoles and took them home in jamjars with string tied to the necks of the pots for
carrying. We liked to see them grow legs and turn into little frogs.
In the hot summers we children would head for the Common. Our next-door-but-one neighbours would do it
in style, carrying their deckchairs and picnic bags and everything else they needed to spend the day there or
even go as far as the Seven Islands Pond, which was like being at the seaside then.

Mother also used to take us to the Seven Islands Pond to paddle, when we would attempt to get to as many
islands as possible. Some islands could only be reached by boat though as the water was too deep, so we
couldn’t explore these.

One day when Peter and I went paddling in the One Island Pond, we ventured up to the deep end, which we
hadn’t dared to do before because it was full of thick black mud – and discovered oyster shells! There must
have been hundreds of them in there. We thought the Romans had left them and that we had discovered a secret!
I recently read an article about the old Mitcham Fair which was held in the centre of town, which stated that
oysters were sold there. So that solved the mystery of how the shells were disposed of.

I have memories of lying on my back on the Common and watching the clouds sailing slowly along overhead.
This would often be accompanied by the magic of the skylark’s song. Around me at eye level would be harebells

(fairy things – so delicate) and all the various beautiful grasses that covered the Common.

In autumn Dad would take us blackberrying. We had our jamjars to hold the berries in and were pleased to

present them to Mum when we got home, so that she could make a blackberry and apple pie. (Not the same

jars as for the frogs!)
There were sloe bushes on the common with their bitter blue berries, which we left alone and, strangely, in
season, near the windmill were raspberry canes. We had pleasure in eating the raspberries as we picked them,
for there were not enough to take home.
With so many trees, large and small, and all sorts of shrubs on the common there were lots of places to hide in
or play house in. On a certain day I stepped into a known place where trees stretched high above and hawthorn
bushes gathered around to make a secret bower. The floor was of flattened sandy soil.
As I stooped and entered I was taken aback to find a young soldier in khaki battledress sitting quietly in there.
I sensed something which I didn’t understand and that there was danger. I was quite near him and he stretched
out his arm and began very gently to stroke my bare arm. I knew I must get away, but didn’t know what from.
Suddenly, in the canopy of tall trees high above something was moving? There was a crackling and snapping
of branches and leaves began to fall, although it wasn’t autumn. Something strange was happening above.

Then, slipping and sliding down in a shower of leaves, my brother Peter dropped to the sandy floor. Without

a word we both ran out of the bower and all the way home. Neither of us ever mentioned this incident to our
parents and neither did we ever talk about it ourselves.

9th February 2012
One day when I was a young woman and I got home from work, my Mother told me, ‘There was an accident
in Mitcham this morning when I went down there shopping. Nobody knew what to do and everything came
to a standstill with cars all backed up and people just standing about staring. Then someone ran to the police
station to tell the police.

‘Soon, around the corner, striding along steadily and showing no signs of panic, strode a lone policeman.

Quietly and efficiently he took control of the situation. He tended to the injured and directed the traffic and got

it moving again until the ambulance arrived.’
My brother didn’t know that Mother was quietly watching and feeling proud.
11th March 2012

[The Old Oako has gone, alas. There are oaks near the pond, but they are mere youngsters – JG]


‘The Wandle and Its Links to the World’ opens at Wandle Industrial Museum, Vestry Hall Annexe, Mitcham,
from Sunday 17 June. Ring 020 8648 0127 or visit www.wandle.org for further details.

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.
website: www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk email: mhs@mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk
Printed by Peter Hopkins