September 2023 – Bulletin 227
A letter to a trustee of Mary Tate’s Almshouses – Karen Ip
An incident in the Battle of Britain – Dave Haunton
Dorset Hall’s Secrets (2): fabric and garden – Hugh Morgan
The factory of Reid and Sigrist Ltd at Shannon Corner – Norma Cox
and much more
CHAiR: Peter Hopkins
BULLETiN No. 227 SEPTEMBER 2023
Christine Pittman’s photo of the refurbished Canons (see p.7)
A message from the Chair 2
Programme September – December 2023 2
‘Antony Sadler and the goings-on in Mitcham Parish’ 4
‘History of Wimbledon Salvation Army’ 5
‘Worcester Park gunpowder mills’ 6
Visit to The Canons house & grounds 7
Book Reviews: The Deptford Show Ground; London Borough of Merton: 200 things to do 7
Local History Workshop – 19 May 2023: Mary Tate almshouses; Google search;
Devonshire Dining Rooms; Mitcham in Poland; Eyre Smelting 8
A letter to a trustee of Mary Tate’s Almshouses – Karen Ip 9
Archaeology in Merton 2021 9
An incident in the Battle of Britain – Dave Haunton 10
Book Review: A History of Fry’s Metal Foundries and The Tandem Works 11
Dorset Hall’s secrets (2): fabric and garden – Hugh Morgan 12
The factory of Reid and Sigrist Ltd at Shannon Corner – Norma Cox 14
‘Sindy’s friend Gayle’ 16
Mick Ferrari has left us 16
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHAiR
I hope those of you who have access to email will have received, and enjoyed, the first three editions of
our new monthly e-newsletter, Merton Mail. We are very grateful to our Southsea member San Ward for
taking on this responsibility, something that we first discussed in 2017 but which has taken five years to
materialise! If you have told us your email address but have not received these newsletters, do let San
know on firstname.lastname@example.org – though do check your Spam or Junk folder first,
in case your email system is not as discerning as you had hoped! And if you have an email address but
have not told us, again contact San to get added to our mailing list.
San has also set up and maintains our X (formerly known as Twitter) account – https://twitter.com/
Merton_Hist_Soc while our Vice Chair, Christine Pittman, has done the same with our Facebook account
– https://www.facebook.com/people/Merton-Historical-Society/100093456290475/ If you use either of
these platforms, do follow us – and like us as well, so that the word gets around!
You will see from the Programme below that our Annual General Meeting will be held on 11 November.
I am taking this opportunity to remind you that I will be standing down as Chair on that occasion. None
of your present Committee members feels able to add this responsibility to their existing tasks, so the
Society is looking for someone to take on that role, which is open to anyone who has been a member for at
least two years. We also have vacancies on the Committee, which means that current members have been
overworked! Please offer to share the load! And please do offer to give a short talk to follow the AGM.
A Membership Renewal form is enclosed with this Bulletin, as well as the AGM Agenda and also the
minutes of last year’s AGM, for approval at the meeting. You will also find our new Brochure enclosed
– a copy to keep and another to pass on to a friend.
PROGRAMME SEPTEMBER – DECEMBER 2023
Friday 15 September 11am Wimbledon Society Museum
A private visit to the newly-reopened museum with its new exhibits
22 Ridgeway, SW19 4QN
Please book with Bea beforehand
Saturday 14 October at 2.30pm ‘The Wandle Portrayed’
A talk by Alison Cousins of the Wandle Industrial Museum & MHS member
Saturday 11 November at 2.30pm AGM
followed by short talks by members
We are looking for volunteers among our members to give us a short talk!
Saturday 9 December at 2.30pm ‘The History of Wandsworth Prison’
A talk by Stewart McLaughlin, historian and curator of the prison museum
Meetings are held in St James’s Church Hall in Martin Way, next to the church.
Buses 164 and 413 stop in Martin Way (in both directions) immediately outside.
Parking in adjacent streets is free.
Local History Workshops: Fridays 29 September and 17 November from 2.30pm
at the Wandle industrial Museum, next door to the Vestry Hall, Mitcham.
Do join us. You don’t have to share any research unless you wish to.
Visitors are very welcome to attend any of our events.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 2
One of us: JUDiTH AiDNEY GOODMAN (1938-2023) (née Bosson) was born and
initially raised in Brighton, but the family moved to Sydney, Australia, in 1947, when
her father was appointed as a Lecturer in Maths at the newly-founded University of
New South Wales (later becoming the Professor). In 1961 Judy graduated from Sydney
with a degree in Chemistry. She always felt a stranger in Australia, and, at the age of
23, was delighted to be offered a job back home in London as a forensic scientist in
the Metropolitan Police lab at Scotland Yard. She met young Michael Goodman in
Caterham, while delivering family gifts from an English friend in Australia. Marriage
and three children in four years put a stop to her working. In the late 1980s the Goodman
family moved to Merton Park, where Judy developed an interest in local history.
Judy was much involved with our Society – she served as Chair for three years (2005-08), and then for
a further two as Vice Chair. She became our Vice-President (2015-2021) reluctantly, as she had ‘not done
enough original research’. Previously she had served on our Committee from 1990-91 to (officially) 2004-05,
but was frequently co-opted thereafter. In addition, Judy was our highly competent Bulletin Editor for 18
years (no.120 December 1996 – no.192 December 2014). She confirmed the Bulletin size at 16 pages, and,
with no.166 June 2008, introduced what is still our standard format of picture and contents for the front page.
Her own articles included The Wandle in Literature, an occasional series, which she began with a book by
Sir Humphry Davy in no.149, and later discussed figures such as Kipling, Ruskin, John Betjeman and Carol
Rumens. She took particular satisfaction in exposing the 19th-century editor who inserted a spurious mention
of ‘spotted Wandle trout’ into later editions of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler. Her frequent articles, long and
short, covered widespread subjects (eg. parish voting, an Anglo-Saxon Ealdorman), usually of people rather
than architecture. She enjoyed picking up odd sources of information (such as Gertrude Jekyll’s garden notes,
and a poem a reader had saved from a local newspaper), and bringing out their local significance. Her work
in transcribing Bill Rudd’s original script for Abbey Roads from his awkward capital letters and interesting
spelling and grammar into readable electronic form should be more widely known. Her major publications
include Merton & Morden, A Pictorial History (1995, Phillimore) and Coal and Calico: Letters and Papers of
the Bennett and Leach families of Merton and Wandsworth (2008, MHS), as well as numerous contributions
to the John Innes Society, notably Merton Park – The Expanding Suburb (1998) and Dorset Hall 1906-1935
(nd.), about Rose Lamartine Yates.
Four Committee members attended her funeral on 28 July. We remember, in John Hawks’ words, ‘a lovely,
gentle and kind lady, whose expertise was both unrivalled and unassuming. She will be greatly missed.’
One of our politicians: MARGARET McDONAGH (1961-2023) was raised in, and lived in, Colliers
Wood. As a life-long member of the Labour Party, Margaret rose within the Party to become its first female
General Secretary. She was created a life peer in 2004, taking the title of Baroness McDonagh of Mitcham and
of Morden, perhaps the first peer to refer to either place (and certainly the first to mention both). We offer our
condolences to her sister Siobhain, MP for Mitcham and Morden since 1997, and a member of our Society.
One of our novelists: MAViS CHEEK (1948-2023) was born Mavis Mary Wilson in Wimbledon, but
her father (whom she met only once, when she was aged 7) was a bigamist who deserted her mother. The
Wimbledon house was lost, she grew up in a home almost completely devoid of books, failed her 11-plus,
and left her Raynes Park school at 16 with just one O-level. She got a job with Editions Alecto, a print dealer,
which led her into artistic circles and wild parties throughout the 60s and 70s. She met Chris Cheek at the
Young Communist League in New Malden and married him at 21 (a marriage that lasted only three years). She
graduated from Hillcroft College, Richmond, in 1979 and started writing. Her first novel, Pause between Acts
(1988), was followed by 15 others, characterised by observation of a broad social spectrum, irony and satire.
One reviewer described her as ‘Jane Austen in modern dress’.
One of our fashion designers: JANiCE WAiNWRiGHT (1940-2023) was born in Doe Lea, Derbyshire,
but grew up in a series of council houses in Wimbledon. She was so eager to be a fashion designer that, aged
12, she signed up for a drawing class in London where most of the students were pensioners. After Willows
school in Morden, she was accepted by Wimbledon School of Art at age 15, and then went to Kingston School
of Art, and then the Royal College of Art under the influential Janey Ironside. Regarding her designs as works
of art, she first worked for Simon Massey in the 1960s, and then set up a firm under her own name in 1970. She
was hugely successful as designer and exporter.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 3
‘ANTONY SADLER AND THE GOiNGS-ON iN MiTCHAM PARiSH’
On 11 February 2023 Dr Ed Legon, a past-resident of Colliers Wood and subsequently Mitcham itself, who has
now abandoned us for Streatham, spoke to no fewer than 36 members and guests. He commented that we were ‘a
rather larger audience than my usual’, somewhat apprehensively, after having had a heavy cold. There was no need
to worry – he gave us a fascinating talk on local events following the Restoration of 1660.
But first, to remind us of the national background, Ed swiftly reviewed the Civil War (officially 1642-49) as generally
agreed by modern historians. Causes were not just constitutional (the king ruling by decree, without Parliament),
but also religious, as developments within the Church of England increasingly provoked and radicalised those with
more Puritan leanings. So the single War developed several side-wars of religion, not just in England, but involving
Scotland (mostly Calvinist) and Ireland (pro Roman Catholicism). A startling statistic is that more deaths per head of
the British population occurred in the Civil War than during the First World War. In 1642 King Charles I raised his
standard at Nottingham against the supporters of Parliament, but by 1646 Parliament had won, and were faced with
the problem of what they were to do with Charles. In 1648-49 royalist rebellions failed, making the execution of
the King inevitable. The Commonwealth was then established but, subject to internal tensions, unravelled in 1658,
leading to the Restoration of Charles II 1660. The Church of England remained much the same as before, but the
peace was restless, with much discussion on what to do with non-Royalists. Many people thought there was ‘too
much mercy’, and a desire for recrimination cast a long shadow on post-Commonwealth society.
Mitcham parish gives us an example. In the early 1660s the Royalist vicar Antony Sadler prosecuted in the church
courts Robert Cranmer, the lay-rector of Mitcham, who was also his patron, for not paying him his rightful portion
of the parish tithes, and for allowing the vicarage house to become dilapidated. At the height of these proceedings, in
November 1664, he also accused Cranmer of being a non-conformist, upon which Cranmer had Sadler arrested and
committed to Southwark prison. He offered him his freedom in return for signing a bond for £500 to leave the parish.
Sadler duly signed and, following his release, was restored to amicable relations with his patron and parishioners,
and was allowed to remain in post until April 1665. However, this apparent peace was short-lived.
While in prison Sadler had penned a petition to the Bishop of Winchester, which he published early in 1666 in a
publicly printed pamphlet Strange News Indeed: From Mitcham in Surry [sic]. A supporter of Cranmer, probably
his friend Henry Hampson, a local land-owner, responded with his own pamphlet Mr Sadler Sadled [sic, again], a
refutation of all Sadler’s accusations. What went wrong? These two pamphlets are not our only direct evidence of
anything noteworthy from Mitcham in the 1660s. We have other sources to examine – in this case proceedings in the
Court of Arches, the ecclesiastical Court of Appeal for Canterbury province (there is a different one for York). From
appeals and counter-appeals we learn that Cranmer was a loyal Anglican, but with friends who were Dissenters.
Mitcham BMB register shows that at this time about three-quarters of baptisms were performed outside the church,
perhaps indicating that the vicar was a High-Church man but many of his parishioners were unwilling for their
infants to be baptised actually inside the church, probably as ‘delicately balanced’ non-conformists. It appears that
Cranmer had friends across the spectrum of Puritanism. Into this situation came Sadler to upset the balance. He was
keen on preferment within the Church – by 1665 he had become a chaplain of Charles II and was strongly against
Covenanters and Presbyterians. He publicly accused some locals, in their church pews (!), of being Puritans and of
having supported the Parliamentary war effort (whether willingly or unwillingly is unknown).
Cranmer died in February 1666, probably of the plague, and, during the minority of his heirs, the patronage of
Mitcham passed to his executor Hampson. Sadler started a new suit to recover his tithes, but Hampson counter-
sued on the grounds that Sadler had still not resigned. In June 1666, Sadler was bound over in court not to repeat an
alleged assault (upon a neighbouring clergyman), Hampson himself being one of the Justices! In 1667 Sadler was
accused of slander against Hampson, which he then threatened to publish (but apparently did not). Eventually, by
1670, Antony Sadler had departed from the parish of Mitcham.
Dr Legon concluded by remarking that this dispute was not merely local, but a reflection of a national uncertainty,
that the Restoration did not mark a clear watershed, and that the Civil War continued to affect local communities,
leaving some more religiously divided than before. There were several thoughtful questions – one brought out that,
while the Mitcham parishioners seemed to be generally against Sadler the Royalist, they had been solidly in support
of their Church of England vicar a century earlier in his conflict with the Italian artist Anthony Toto of Ravensbury
(see Bulletins 194 and 195), and another that both Sadler and Cranmer, provincial gentry, thought it worthwhile
getting wider publicity for their causes by issuing public publications. Ed was roundly applauded, both for his talk
and for his clear responses to a couple of questions which required the answer ‘we don’t know – it could be A, but it
might be B’. Dave Haunton
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 4
‘HiSTORY OF WiMBLEDON SALVATiON ARMY’
On 11 March, Richard Smart started by asking his audience what the phrase ‘Salvation Army’ brought to
mind, with our responses including: ‘tea; fire and incident
catering; church; charity; bands’, and the greatest
of these, of course, was ‘bands’. Catherine (1829-1890) and William (1829-1912) Booth were evangelical
preachers in the east end of London who attracted great crowds of people. On 2 July 1865 they founded
their ‘Christian Revival Association’ at Whitechapel, which in 1878 was renamed the ‘Salvation Army’, with
William Booth as the General. He particularly championed the degraded poor in great cities. The Salvation
Army is now a worldwide (143 countries) evangelical Christian church, offering practical help for people
without discrimination, standing up for those who are vulnerable, and fighting against injustice, and being
particularly interested in slavery, refugees, and the homeless.
The organisation rapidly expanded. In 1885 the Surrey Comet noted ‘The Salvation Army has invaded
Wimbledon and carry on theirattack with great vigour. Their visitation had the effect of living in the Broadway
almost intolerable as crowds of roughs congregate there and molest them with the usual horseplay and jeering.
The nuisance is certainly one that ought not to exist.’ A supporter of the Salvation Army, Josephine Butler
(1828-1906), an early champion of women’s rights, was involved in 1885 with the infamous ‘Maiden Tribute
of Modern Babylon’ case which started as a series of articles by William Stead, editor of The Pall Mall
Gazette. These depicted the horrors of child prostitution in London which Stead substantiated by staging the
abduction of a thirteen-year-old girl, Eliza Armstrong, who was ‘procured’ from her mother by an accomplice
supplied by The Salvation Army (in the persons of Catherine Booth and her son Bramwell). The ensuing public
tumult resulted in the age of consent for a child being raised from 12 to 16. Both Stead and Butler lived locally.
On 22 August 1887 the Wimbledon Corps HQ at 109 Kingston
Road (right, in its prime) was opened by General Booth,
who spoke to a crowd of such numbers that the hall was
‘overfull’. Some time before 1914, a uniform was adopted
for status, giving a militaristic appearance. A formal band
was formed in 1916. In 1917, Booth’s daughter Evangeline
(previously sent to the USA), despite the differences between
her and US General Pershing, commander of the American
Forces, sent 250 Salvationists from New York for the front
line of the Great War in France, where they soon won the
confidence of the troops. She then returned to Wimbledon.
Fred Clemons was a young bugler who served in Afghanistan
in WW1, and when he returned to Wimbledon re-formed the Young People’s Band, later writing a history of it.
WW2 was marked by prosaic duties such as providing tea, etc, to people sheltering from the bombs in South
Wimbledon tube station – 12 gallons of tea morning and evening. More seriously, in the Balham tube station
disaster of 1940 (when a bomb hit a water main which flooded the station), ‘Brother Rundle, trapped below,
stayed on the phone calmly giving information to those responding to the emergency on the other side of the
blocked tunnel. As the flood waters rose he must have known that he would not be rescued, but his actions
would have helped others to be saved. He was a true Salvationist’. There is a plaque on the station wall
commemorating him. A
flying bomb on 10 July 1944 seriously damaged the hall, but the CO, Major Ough
(pronounced Oh!), made arrangements for Salvationists to worship in the upstairs floor of Haddon Hall in
Broadway Court, Wimbledon. The Corps celebrated on 24 June 1946 when the new General, Albert Onstorn,
visited and the Mayor gave a civic reception for him. The 75th anniversary on 25 November 1962 saw a visit
from the international leader, General Wilfred Kitching, while on the 100th anniversary the Wimbledon band
stopped all traffic in the High Street.
Current activities include the Faith in Action homelessness project, provision of a Merton winter night shelter,
and supporting abused women. Recycling is new – there is a big central depot, given to the Army free (to avoid
publicity unwelcome to the donor), with collection points all over the Borough. Change is a constant – recently
the Covid 19 epidemic introduced prayer over Zoom. An interfaith outreach Partnership ensures guardians
(counsellors, volunteers) are widespread, including in mosques, temple and major churches. The Kingston
Road HQ has been supplanted by accommodation in Crown Lane, shared with the (Korean) New Malden
Corps. Captains used to change every year – continuity was provided by the Corps, now it is the Officer. As a
final note, Richard remarked that, despite appearances, playing the tambourine is a complex skill.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 5
‘WORCESTER PARK GUNPOWDER MiLLS’
On 15 April Matt Nicoll of Cotswold Archaeology gave us a swift history of the mills, followed by a review of the
results of his lengthy excavation of the site. The outbreak of Covid-19 forced digging to be delayed, which meant
that, unusually for an archaeologist, Matt was diverted into historical research in paper records.
The 11.5-hectare site lies close to the Hogsmill river and Old Malden Lane, and was once part of the 1100-acre
Great Park. The 1841 tithe map showed some buildings, but much of the land was most recently used as a waste tip.
Documents show that, between c.1720 and 1854, it was used for the manufacture of explosives from the components
of black powder (usually sulphur 10%, charcoal 15% and saltpetre 75%). These ingredients were processed by first
mixing them, then milling into cake (using an edge-mill), pressing, and corning into small pellets, which were dried
and then were dangerous. The last phase of the 24/7 operation packed the powder into barrels containing 100 pounds
weight. To avoid sparks, iron was not used in the buildings (eg. windows were glazed using lead-only bars).
Gunpowder milling at Worcester Park was begun in 1720 by William Taylor, a businessman who by 1743 owned
another mill site. The process was hazardous – in 1742 some 40 barrels (nearly 2 tons) of powder were lost in a
single explosion. In 1755 William was still in charge and prosperous – he is also listed as a gun-maker in Wapping
and Wandsworth, and as a ship’s chandler. He had an office at 6 Birchin Lane. During 1756-63 Worcester Park was
one of only 10 official gunpowder mills in the country. William died in 1764, aged 64, leaving £4000 (c.£390,000
today) for the gunpowder business, which was taken over in 1774 by his son, William Taylor, junior, at the age of
21. In 1771-72, during the inter-Taylor period, the famous engineer John Smeaton (designer of the Eddystone Lighthouse)
was commissioned to design a new waterwheel (right) to
drive the mill stones, while in 1788 James Watt apparently worked
on a practical steam pump for the works. The business flourished,
sufficiently that in 1797 the family residence at Worcester Park
House could be rebuilt. In 1802 Frederick Taylor, son of William
junior, succeeded, during the Napoleonic Wars, a period when
the firm could supply 430 barrels in one year (for £892 in 1806).
Frederick was made bankrupt in 1832, due to speculation on
silver mines and railways. The company continued, though with a
notable explosion in 1844. An official statistic is that in 1850 there
were 24 gunpowder mills in operation, including three at Malden
and eight in Ewell, but when in 1854 two mills suffered explosions the business was closed, partly due to the risk to
the increasing traffic along Old Malden Lane. Thereafter the site history is vague, supporting, among other activities,
watercress growing, photographed in 1907, and Burley’s flour mill 1874-2019.
Archaeological survey and trial trenches during November and December 2019 identified the sites of two mills, plus
a canal and water management system, and minor buildings, possibly houses for workers. Demolition of the flour mill
had left concrete floors, and walls within vaults. Digging began in November 2020, and was hampered by frequent
flooding and the need to be careful of UXO (Unexploded Ordnance!). The new owners required the subsequent
demolition of any archaeological remains above a certain depth (another unusual task for an archaeologist).
The two mills, some tens of metres apart, appear to have used the same layout. Only one was fully excavated.
Substantial remains of thick brick walls divided several rectangular rooms, mostly of uncertain function. One would
have been a steam-powered drying ‘house’ (possibly designed by John Smeaton) and one certainly housed the
massive waterwheel, some 9 feet in diameter according to Smeaton’s drawings. The wheel was driven by water
from the Hogsmill river, led via a shallow brick culvert from a canal containing a sluice gate to regulate a constant
water supply onto the wheel. There was a silt trap to remove extraneous material from the incoming water, to avoid
damage to the wheel. Water was led out of the wheelhouse through a second brick culvert (passing under the ‘input’
culvert) back to the Hogsmill, further downstream. These culverts were of shallow D-shape section, with floors of
brick or tile, though the first stretch of the lower culvert in the excavated mill was floored with timber. The lowest
point of the ‘output’ culvert was some 4.5 metres below present ground level.
One find was a large portion of a broken millstone, originally 2½-m (ie. 10-ft) diameter, the stone coming from
Derby, the Mendips or even Belgium. Other finds included the metal loops from barrels, and evidence for some
massive explosions, which probably forced the closure of the Worcester Park gunpowder mills. Quite a lot of the
mill structures survive below the modern building. Some materials from the mills were reused in the flour mill,
which also used the water drainage system, perhaps for a nineteenth-century turbine, parts of which were found
post-archaeology. Dave Haunton
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 6
ViSiT TO THE CANONS HOUSE & GROUNDS
On 21 June our first visit for the summer was to see The Canons,
newly-renovated with financing from The Lottery Heritage
Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. The house is
a Grade II* listed building, with the oldest part dating to 1680.
However, the aim was not to create a static museum or restore a
private house, but to spirit from it a community centre of benefit
to locals, whether as visitors, creative participants, or people
using it as a workspace. Believed to be named for the Canons
of Southwark Priory who once owned the site, the house passed
into the ownership of the Cranmer family, staying within this
dynasty until 1939, when it was sold to the local Council.
The project began with the unfurnished shell of a dilapidated building, and
certain features have been restored – the Lincrusta ceiling (left) was repaired
and restored, even though the original mould had been melted down for the
war effort in the Second World War. Other original features include fireplaces,
doors, shutters and floorboards. Strong colours decorate the freshly-painted
walls. With a strong bias towards sustainability, work tables have been created
from timber joists and cupboards from recycled ply, and there are stores
of fabric for The Wheel textile upcycling projects. Recent activities have
included Mitcham reminiscences, a community archaeology dig, planting of
the walled garden, restoration of the Obelisk and the Dovecote, and creation of a play area for children. We
also visited the nearby running track and heard how the News of The World aimed to foster sports in the 1920s.
Thanks to Bea Oliver for arranging the visit, and to Amy Keen for being such an enthusiastic tour guide.
www.thecanonsmitcham.co.uk Christine Pittman
Angela Catherine Cain, The Deptford Show Ground: the last permanent fairground in London (Grosvenor
House, 2022) £8.99 Online and at The Word Bookshop,314, New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF.
This book follows the life of the author’s predecessors who ran their own show, living in their wagons, and
eventually settling into the permanent base in Deptford. While being mainly about Deptford this discusses the
links between Deptford Show Ground and Mitcham Fair: the ceremonial key to open Mitcham Fair was kept at
Deptford. The Showman’s Guild involvement over the moving of Mitcham Fair in the early 1920s is covered,
as is the First World War requisitioning of traction engines.
Gabriel Whitehead, London Borough of Merton: 200 things to do (April 2023) £3.99
Purchase via: email@example.com. An e-book / digital guide is also available online.
This guidebook to Merton, by a life-long resident, is a first-of-its-kind, with the aim of getting more people
active and outdoors, as well as highlighting the history of the area. Over half of the sites, sights and activities
mentioned within are free. A
huge range is covered, described in 24 different categories, from Breweries,
Seasonal Events and Parks to Volunteering and Cemeteries, by way of Allotments and the Home Visits Library
Service. There is a list of many of Merton’s numerous past sporting and cultural achievements.
The blue plaques list seems quite up to date; it includes Francis Kitz, who was
so honoured less than two years ago. I enjoyed the mix thrown up by the ‘Fellow
Mertonians’ listed alphabetically by full name or title, so ‘H’ gives us successively
Henry Wood (conductor), Herbert Lom (actor), Herbert Strudwick (wicket-keeper),
and Hetty King (entertainer), while Horatio Nelson is far away under ‘A’ (for
Admiral). Less pleasing is the misquotation of Samuel Johnson’s ‘when a man is
tired of London’ right at the start, and the failure to mention early on that most
addresses and post-codes appear on the last few pages. So, a little amateurish, but the
author’s heart is in the right place. Recommended.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 7
LOCAL HiSTORY WORKSHOP
19 May 2023 Seven present, Christine Pittman in the Chair
Karen Ip was welcomed as she was joining us for the first time.
♦ Dave Haunton has doubts about a plaque in Merton College describing an RAF plane crash in 1940, also
mentioned in LHN 30 Memories of a Morden Lad 1932-1957 by Ronald Read. (See p.10)
♦ Rosemary Turner had noticed that another of the Mizen cottages in Manor Road was undergoing extensive
♦ Karen ip is searching records relating to the Mary Tate almshouses
in Mitcham. She is interested in the people that had lived there as
well as the founder. She will write an article for the Bulletin, and
hopes eventually to publish a book. She read us her transcription
of an amusing letter found amongst the Simpson Papers in Merton
Local Studies Centre (see p.9). Karen also showed us a photograph
of a mystery box with three locks found in the almshouses (right).
After some discussion, we concluded this was a chest for the storage
of almshouse documents.
♦ Mick Taylor showed us how to post a photograph
into Google and search for comparable pictures. This
helped us identify a picture shown at the Workshop.
To do this yourself, click on the camera icon on the
Google search bar – see image, where the camera icon
is circled. This brings up a box into which you can
upload an image. Google then searches and brings
up the same picture or similar ones. Rosemary said
she uses it to identify plants.
♦ Christine Pittman has been researching the date of a photograph and
the location of the Devonshire Dining Rooms (right), found on Merton
Memories. She knew that the location quoted was incorrect, so has been
trying to find the correct one using information from the photograph,
unsuccessfully so far. She will be writing an article about how she went
about her investigation.
♦ Peter Hopkins had received an enquiry, via Keith Penny, from Keith
Wood. His family had lived in Mitcham since the 18th century. His
ancestor Stephen Bennett, born in Mitcham c.1788, was apprenticed in
1801 to Thomas Taylor to learn the trade of engraver. He later moved
to London but after he married moved back to Mitcham. He and wife
had seven children baptised in the parish church. The baptism entry for
the second child, George, reads ‘baptism Dec 8 1822, born Dec 9 1820
Warsaw in Poland’. Keith had asked his uncle if he knew about this
but he knew nothing. George gives this as his birth-place on the 1851
census. Keith had looked into the possibility of adoption but thinks it
is unlikely unless there was a Polish presence in Mitcham at the time.
Dave wondered if Stephen had been in Poland engraving plates for
their currency. [Unlikely, as Poland was not then independent, Dave
discovered subsequently.] Other suggestions were put forward
for Peter to pass on.
♦ David Luff had come across an advertisement for Eyre
Smelting, Tandem Works, Merton Abbey, in his archives
(right). See book review on p.11.
He also reported on ongoing problems with the Priory wall.
Next Workshops Fridays 29 September and 17 November
at 2.30pm at Wandle industrial Museum. All welcome.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 8
KAREN iP has transcribed
A LETTER TO A TRUSTEE OF MARY TATE’S ALMSHOUSES
14 13/4 Mrs Simpson from Frederick Lindsay Cole, dated 12.9.1838
5 Bolton Place, Chelsea
My Dear Madam
I am about to write to you concerning our servant Mrs Meredith, whose infirm state of health and
great age compels us to part with – although we were much disappointed in her, both as a cook and
housekeeper (as she could not write, and cooking she knew little about). Yet we have become attached
to her from her uniform good conduct and great willingness to please, and are therefore very loath to
send her away until we could see her in some almshouse or elsewhere where she might pass the rest of
her days in comfort.
I understood from Charlotte at the time we engaged her that as soon as a vacancy occurred, Mrs Miller
and other ladies of Mitcham intended to present her with such in your almshouses at Mitcham – I shall
be very glad to hear if you could interest yourself for her as she seems to wish to return to Mitcham, even
should she be unable to gain an appointment.
She has saved about £25 and this I believe to be all the poor old woman has to live upon. I assure you
my dear Madam we have kept her much to our inconvenience and discomfort, and as she suffers so very
much from her legs, I cannot venture on another winter with her, as it would impose so much on Mrs
Cole who herself is naturally delicate. I have written all this to excite your sympathy and influence, and
if I had the pleasure of knowing Mrs Miller I should take the liberty of writing a long expostulating letter
upon her sending me a very useless servant but a very deserving and excellent woman.
I trust Mrs Simpson and your family are quite well, to whom Mrs Cole and myself present our best
compliments and with our kind love to my cousin Laura.
Believe me, my dear Madam, yours very truly
Fred Lindsay Cole.
[Karen would be interested to learn if anyone knows anything about poor Mrs Meredith and where she ended
up after leaving her employment.]
ARCHAEOLOGY iN MERTON 2021
Each note is a précis from: Dan Nesbitt and Bruce Watson London Fieldwork and Publication Round-up 2021
published as London Archaeologist Volume 16, Supplement 3 (2022)
159 Commonside East, Mitcham, CR4: Three trenches showed natural sandy gravel with an undated ditch.
190 London Road, Mitcham, CR4: Taplow Terrace Gravel, overlaid by made ground and modern foundations.
8 Preshaw Crescent, Mitcham, CR4: Taplow Terrace Gravel with a N-S ditch, overlaid by subsoil, and capped
by a topsoil formed due to the use of the land as allotment gardens.
Ravensbury Estate, Land to the West of Ravensbury Grove, Mitcham, CR4: 17th-19th-century occupation
shown by a NW-SE leat and two brick pads, 2m apart, constructed 1775-1825, probably foundation pads to
support a timber-framed building. All are consistent with features shown on historic maps as parts of Ravensbury
Former Abbey Wall Works, Station Road, Colliers Wood, SW19: Machine excavation of nine trenches
across the site found several sections of flint, ragstone, Reigate stone and chalk walls, which were taken to be
associated with outbuildings of Merton Priory. All were overlain by thick deposits of alluvial silt, containing
pottery predominantly of mid 16th-mid 17th centuries. The silt seems to have formed after the demolition of
the Priory, neglect of the water-management systems having resulted in (at least intermittent) flooding. It was
overlain by made ground deposits – the site seems to have remained open ground until the 20th century.
Asubsequent programme found, under the silt, a flint and stone rubble foundation, part of a rectangular building
with a hearth, probably a small outbuilding of the Priory, and a N-S boundary wall. Finds indicate a date for the
building of late 14th-early 15th century; it was short-lived and was demolished in the mid-16th century.
Gasholder at Western Road, Mitcham, CR4: Historic Building Record personnel found only a single gasholder
remaining of the former gasworks, all associated buildings having been demolished. The surviving gasholder,
with its standardised Type 37 lattice steel guide-frame, was the largest on the site, and was probably built in 1906.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 9
DAViD HAUNTON does some ‘forensics’ on
AN iNCiDENT iN THE BATTLE OF BRiTAiN
A plaque in Merton College reads (punctuation modified):
‘This plaque has been erected by public subscription to honour the memory of No.819018 Sgt P K Walley,
Battle of Britain pilot, 615 Squadron, RAuxAF, who, when he was 20 years of age, was killed when his
Hurricane crashed near this spot on 18th August 1940, having been shot down by enemy raiders.
It is recalled with pride that, knowing he was about to crash, Sgt Walley bravely managed to guide his
badly damaged aircraft over nearby houses, thereby safeguarding the lives of the residents.’
It is my contention that, while most of the first sentence is true, most of the second is not. Sergeant Walley’s
Hurricane did crash in Morden Park, but the reason why has been the subject of much local rumour (‘he
purposely missed St Lawrence church’, ‘he was injured’) and misconception (‘his radio failed’). Indeed, in the
early 1950s Merton and Morden Council applied for the award of a posthumous medal, receiving no real reply,
only a formal ‘Thank You’ letter.
Unusually for a wartime combat, we have some details of both beginning and end of that final segment of
his flight. At the start, the squadron was on patrol, orbiting their base at Kenley airfield while awaiting direct
orders. They were flying at 25,000 feet, a height at which the controls of a Hurricane Mark I started to become
a little soggy and require more attention than usual, especially in the tight V-formations used by RAF Fighter
Command at the time. The flight leader noted in his Combat Report (now in The National Archives) that ‘we
were bounced from above by [Messerschmitt Bf] 109s. The first I knew of the attack was the sight of Peter
Walley’s aircraft falling in flames.’
Towards the end of the flight, two witnesses in Central Road noted the roar of the engine. At least one person
noted that the Hurricane flew low across the St Helier estate, turned steeply near London Road, then dipped
and crashed. Another described it as flying straight, then tipping sideways before crashing. Athird said it ‘lifted
a little then canted a bit to the left’. After the crash, we have only the statements of two 11-year-old boys who
later visited the site. One was Ronald Read (author of LHN 30, Memories of a Morden Lad), who could not
remember any details or how they had heard of the crash. His friend Harry was in his 80s when I spoke to
him on the phone, but could recall that ‘you could easily see it was a Hurricane’, that there was ‘quite a small
crater’, and that the undercarriage was still up. They were late visitors to the site, as ‘Sandy Macpherson had
already removed the guns’. The boys were more impressed by the numbers of cartridges scattered around, that
they could gather up and later throw on a fire.
Possible causes of a WW2 fighter aircraft falling immediately after being shot at include serious damage to the
controls, to the engine or to the pilot. Damage to the controls can be excluded here as being very unlikely: the
wire cables on a Hurricane would normally be bent rather than broken by the impact of a projectile. There does
not seem to have been damage to the engine, as it was still roaring shortly before the crash. This leaves us with
damage to the pilot, who must have been, at the very least, seriously injured. He was not then in control, as the
aircraft headed north, towards built-up areas, rather than south to the more open green fields around Croydon
where a crash-landing might be attempted, or an escape by parachute less hazardous.
The aircraft was on fire, having been hit in one or more of the four petrol tanks (two in the wings, one in the
fuselage behind the pilot, and the small tank in front of the pilot’s dashboard). In such a situation, most pilots
would bail out immediately, with ‘no thought as to the destination of the valuable piece of HM property I was
abandoning’to quote Al Deere, ace fighter pilot and a famous survivor. Peter Walley did not – he stayed in
the aircraft until it crashed. This was for a lengthy period: the distance from Kenley to Morden Park is some
8-9 miles, while 25,000 feet is 5 miles, so the minimum flight path of his Hurricane was about 10 miles, a
distance which it would cover in two minutes at its maximum speed of 300mph. Would anyone choose to stay
in a burning aircraft for that length of time? Furthermore, the undercarriage had not been lowered ready for
landing, and the last few seconds of flight (‘dipping’, ‘tipping’, ‘canting’) exhibited the classic behaviour of
an aircraft flying in a fugoid curve (a series of J-shapes), which together argue that it was not under control.
We can only conclude that Peter Walley had already died five miles above and nine miles away from the point
where his burning Hurricane finally flew itself into the ground. As some 35% of Merton and Morden was open
land at the time, it was by random chance the aircraft came down on grassland.
Sergeant Peter Walley died in the defence of our country, which is quite reason enough to honour his memory,
without adding fanciful speculation. Dave Haunton
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 10
JOHN SHERiDAN reviews
A History of Fry’s Metal Foundries and the
Studies in Merton History 12 (2023)
by Michael J Finch (£4 to members, £5 non-members)
This recently published booklet is a welcome addition to our
knowledge of the industries of the Wandle valley. It is a substantial
piece of work, 59 pages in A4 format, well organised and well
illustrated. The author notes in the introduction that a work of this
kind is a demanding challenge: indeed so, as press coverage is
sparse and few industrial companies seem to have kept historical
archives. One suspects that when companies merge or close, the
contents of filing cabinets are usually lost or discarded because
there is no profit in cataloguing and storing them. An honourable
exception was Young’s Brewery, who employed an archivist, and
whose charitable foundation, the William Allen Young Charitable
Trust, paid for a comprehensive archive to be catalogued by
Wandsworth Heritage Service, where it is now available.
In this case the author was well placed to collect information from his own and several family members’ time
at the Tandem works; from others whose contributions are acknowledged – including longstanding Wandle
Industrial Museum volunteer Eric Shaw (see WIM Bulletin 114, Spring 2022, Volunteer Focus; also Eric’s brief
history of the works, written in 2000 for the WIM: https://wandle.org/news/issue31/briefhist.htm); and from
the monthly magazine The Fry Record. Presumably old editions were forthcoming from contributors’ attics.
The booklet sets out the histories of Fry’s, the Eyre Smelting Co Ltd, the Tandem works from 1907 to closure in
1991, and a bewildering sequence of mergers, demergers and acquisitions. The Tandem works were established
in 1907 by a German metallurgist who specialised in smelting and recycling scrap non-ferrous metals. John
Horace Fry left Hallet and Fry and set up in business on his own account, initially in Rotherhithe, as a maker of
type metal for the printing and newspaper industries. Eyre Francis Wall was a locomotive engineer who moved
to the Tandem works around 1918 to make bearings, solder, type metal and other products. The amalgamation
of the Eyre and Fry companies on the five-acre Tandem site was complete by 1930, and by 1963 the Fry group
had over 1,000 employees at the Tandem works and at other sites.
The narrative includes old and new processes and products, wartime work, key people, and anecdotes. The
history of the Tandem works reflects the development of technology, industry and the economy since the late
19th century. This emerges from time to time in the booklet, in for example, new printing technology requiring
new kinds of high quality printing metals to replace manual typesetting using moveable metal type; the arrival
of the motor car and the consequent growth of demand for lead alloys for car batteries; the development of
diecasting to make components other than type metal, such as washing machine parts; and new methods of
mass-producing circuit boards. Identifying new markets and developing new products would have required
corporate agility and research and development, and may help explain the many company restructurings that
are set out comprehensively in Appendix B. The Fry name was lost in the group’s company titles in 2012, but
the author proudly asserts that the name remains as a brand name.
The closure of the Tandem works in 1991 followed the cessation of smelting in 1986, due, the booklet tells us
(page 40), ‘to a reduction in the amount of raw material available’. A pollution incident shortly before closure
is also mentioned, although that is not cited as a reason for closure. Appendix A (branch foundries and others
in the Fry group) goes on to explain (pages 46-47) the growth of smelting in India and South Africa, though
without giving that as a reason for the cessation of smelting at the Tandem works. Manufacturing industry was
of course already moving away from urban London for a variety of reasons.
One minor quibble is that the story launches straightaway into technical language which is only partly explained
in the glossary at the back. In its defence, this is what it says on the tin, not a wider history of technology. The
extra effort of looking up elsewhere the development of the printing industry, or anti-friction metals, or the
properties of antimony, is worthwhile for a deeper understanding of the history of the Tandem works.
Available at talks or from firstname.lastname@example.org
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 11
HUGH MORGAN of the Dorset Hall Group writes on
DORSET HALL’S SECRETS (2): FABRiC AND GARDEN
Why is Dorset Hall (right)1 one of the very few remaining
18th-century small country houses that proliferated round
London’s outskirts? These small estates took advantage of
the ready market of the metropolis. Merton village alone had
two others of some merit: Merton Place the ‘paradise’ home
of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and closer to Dorset Hall,
Grove House, the home of the founder of Bognor Regis. It
took an enlightened developer like John Innes to realise that,
in his vision of a garden suburb, an existing small ‘Georgian’
country house with an adequate garden would bring a certain
dignity and attract customers to Merton Park, his surrounding
garden suburb of detached and semi-detached villas.
Since its construction in the first decade of the 18th century, Dorset Hall’s evolution can be read from its bricks
and mortar and the changes in construction techniques. The façade has the brick parapet walls and the hidden
roof construction of an elegant Georgian small country house. The wooden roof rafters are hidden behind the
brickwork due to a rule established after the 1666 Great Fire of London which became an Act of Parliament in
1707. Recessed window frames were also a requirement after the Great Fire, enacted in 1709. These changes
that converted London to the Georgian facades of Gower Street were to deter fire from jumping across a street.
The frontages of buildings became as non-combustible as possible, given the construction techniques of the
But the windows tell a different story, as their frames are not hidden behind the brickwork. So the secret of
Dorset Hall’s first incarnation
is revealed by the pre-1709 or ‘Queen Anne’windows. The Georgian parapet
wall was in fact added as late as 1830. By that time perhaps the ‘Queen Anne’ timber cornice fronting the
second floor sloping roof and its dormer windows (above, left), were showing the ravages of time and a simple
elegant Georgian frontage (above, right) was preferred. It was also probably the cheapest option.
The internal layout
The changes to Dorset Hall’s layout reflect the changes in society. For two and a half centuries following its
construction most of the formal occupiers of Dorset Hall brought with them four or five servants. Clues such
as bricked-up doorways give hints of the two unobtrusive servant passageways that served the first and ground
floor from the eastern ‘working’wing of the house (on the left in the drawings above). These narrow passages
led servants to a central position in the main house without having to use the main stairs or main entrances,
allowing them to discreetly see to the needs of the master and mistress of the house, their family and their guests.
But a truly secret passage is hidden within the wall between the west wing and the rest of the house. Rubble
has settled on its floor but under the rubble there are supposed to be steps leading downwards. As this is on the
ground floor, and there is no known basement, is this the start of the legendary tunnel to St Mary’s Church?
The Sitting Room Ceiling
The family who occupied Dorset Hall for the longest period (1727-1794) were the Medcalfes, whose grandchildren
were baptised in St Mary’s church. George and Anne Medcalfe’s eldest son was also a George and he
in turn also married an Anne. By 1735 both George junior’s parents had died, so with his Anne he inherited
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 12
the house. She was a Huguenot whose emigré parents lived
at Southside in Wimbledon. Her main influence on the
house was to commission the French Rococo ceiling in the
drawing room of the west wing (left & right). This one has
a boldness unlike the endless intricacies of ceilings later
in the century. It is composed of only five large patterns
of a scale almost too dominant for the scale of the room.
It suggests that Anne’s presumably French craftsman may
have used them as part of a grander commission and made
good creative use at Dorset Hall of these available moulds.
Is there a ceiling in Southside that gives a clue? Or are
the patterns repeated in some much grander house? The
patterns may well hold the secret.
The gradual reduction of the grounds of Dorset Hall can be followed on early and relatively recent maps, but
what remains is composed of two distinct early elements. ‘My lady’s garden’ was sited beside the west wing
drawing room. This was a formal arrangement of box-hedged rose beds, which is captured in Edwardian
photos and on maps from the middle of the 19th century.
There is also a photo of what had become to be known as ‘Nelson’s Mulberry Tree’
(right),2 on the lawn beyond, a few yards from the rose beds. Why it should be so
named is lost in the mists of time. But we may speculate. In the period before his
death at the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton lived at Merton
Place, where, he said, he ‘wanted to live retired’. To reach their preferred church,
St Mary’s, where their pew is preserved, they had to pass Dorset Hall’s grounds,
either on the Kingston Road or by the footpath to the south. During this period
Dorset Hall was the residence of a City linen draper called Robert Harris. The
photo of the mulberry tree suggests from its age that it was a mature tree in Harris’s
time. Nelson was also quoted as saying ‘we shall employ the tradespeople of our
village in preference to any others’.
adopted in turn by each subsequent owner of the tree? Today
An impression of Lady Hamilton and Nelson meeting
draper Robert Harris under the Mulberry Tree
The idea that a wholesale draper was at hand
to discuss the weave for a new rural retirement
suit may well have had the pair one summer’s
day sitting under the mulberry tree comparing
cloth samples. With the huge national impact of
the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death, did
Harris take to calling it ‘Nelson’s Mulberry Tree’
in homage to the great man who had visited his
garden at Dorset Hall? And was the name then
we are left with just the location of the tree, established from
its photograph and the plan of Dorset Hall’s grounds (right).3
Illustrations, other than footnoted items, are by Hugh Morgan
(both photos and drawings).
Note that the website of the Dorset Hall Group (dorsethall.
org) is being brought up to date. Our previous description of
the Dorset Hall Group’s position was unfortunately erroneous.
1 Photo Dave Haunton
2 Photo courtesy Merton Memories https://photoarchive.merton.
3 Extract from the full plan in Judy Goodman Dorset Hall 1906-1935 (nd. John Innes Society) p.10, a booklet produced
with the aid of Paul, the son of Dorset Hall’s last owner of the Mulberry Tree, Rose Lamartine Yates.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 13
NORMA COX disentangles Decca and solves a conundrum:
THE FACTORY OF REiD AND SiGRiST LTD AT SHANNON CORNER
Reid and Sigrist Ltd was a private company set up by Squadron Leader (ret) George Hancock Reid DFC and
Frederick Sigrist, a joint Managing Director of H G Hawker Ltd (a company which would later become Hawker
Siddeley Aircraft Ltd). The company made aircraft equipment and aircraft-training equipment, and later cameras.
It was initially at the Athenaeum Works, The Vale, Hampstead, before moving to Canbury Park Road, Kingston on
Thames. In 1935 the company moved to a new purpose-built factory at Shannon Corner, New Malden. I was asked
by a colleague, who knew that the firm moved to Desford, Leics., in the 1950s, to determine the exact location of
this factory, and to describe the work it did at Shannon Corner.
The task in hand was not straightforward, for the name ‘Shannon Corner’ had not always been there. It derives
from Shannon Ltd, an Office Equipment Factory which started in 1920,1 and that the author had studied previously.
Kelly’s Directory for Surrey for 1930, Kingston section, gave the address of Shannon Ltd as Burlington Road
(p.272), so Shannon Corner was not there in 1930. Later, in Kelly’s Directory of Malden & Coombe 1938 (p.760)
the address of Shannon Ltd was ‘Shannon Corner, Burlington Road’. The O/S map of the area for 1935 showed the
name of Shannon Corner, which is probably when it became current.
In addition, the colleague had suggested to the author that ‘Decca took over the Reid and Sigrist factory in New
Malden but they also had the Racal works in Burlington Road, so there is some confusion’. In fact, at different times
there were five buildings belonging to Decca in the Burlington Road / Bushey Road area. The A3, or Kingston
Bypass, a major trunk road which opened in 1927, was and still is a valuable asset for the businesses of Burlington
Road. Today there is a roundabout where A3 slip roads meet Burlington Road (while the A3 itself is on a flyover).
Decca consisted of three sections: Decca Records which had a factory in Burlington Road, New Malden, Decca
Navigator Co, founded in 1945, and finally Decca Radar, founded
in 1947. Originally the Decca Records factory had belonged to
Rapsone Ltd, a motor-car manufacturer from 1922 to 1925. The
Rapson factory later became Duophone, a record company, and in
1929 Duophone was bought by Decca.2 There was access to the A3
from Albert Road, a small street located beside the Decca Record
Factory, still existing in 1982 and possibly as late as 1990, when the
Decca factory was demolished and B&Q (formerly Shannon Ltd)
arrived.3 The Decca Record Factory is seen here (right).4
The Decca Navigator Co Factory at 247 Burlington Road was in the Shannon Corner area and was in use from 1948,
when the firm was formed at the end of WW2 as a subsidiary of Decca Records. The Decca Navigator Co produced
equipment for ship navigation, offering better accuracy than the Loran system, and was acquired by Racal in 1980.5
The date of the Decca Navigator factory’s construction at 247 Burlington Road was at this stage of my research
uncertain. There was an engineering works on the site from 1933 and by 1938 another building was added to the site
and is seen on the 1938 O/S map (revised 1944), with one building shaded and
the other unshaded. These shading details suggested that perhaps one building
had a pitched roof and the other had a flat roof.6 These roof details correlated
with the appearance of the two derelict buildings seen on the site in 2019, as
shown here (right).7 These buildings of Decca Navigator Co were demolished
in December 2022, and appear to have been built around 1938.
There was another Decca building close to Shannon Corner in nearby Bushey Road, which opened in 1965. The
factory became Racal in 2000 and ceased in 2006 when the assets of Racal/Thompson CSF were acquired by Thales.
In 2012 the building was demolished for the construction of a Next outlet store.8 In addition there was another Decca
Records building, the Shannon Corner Odeon Cinema (1936-1960). The cinema was demolished in 1985. Finally,
Burlington House in Burlington Road, built in 1969, was a building initially for Decca Records and Decca Radar,
later used for marine radar, sales support and navigator systems.9
Therefore only one of these Decca factories, the record factory, was in use before 1935. Could this be the possible
site of the Reid and Sigrist Ltd factory which started in 1935 in Shannon Corner? Yet why was Reid and Sigrist Ltd
not acknowledged as the previous occupants of this Decca factory? Perhaps the answer to that question was that the
record factory was not the site of Reid and Sigrist Ltd. More information about the factory sites at Shannon Corner
was obtained from Kelly’s Directories for Wimbledon (containing Merton’s details) for 1936, 1938, 1939 and 1940.
The result was clear and simple, for the name of Reid and Sigrist Ltd, aeronautical engineers, was seen in Kingston
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 14
Bypass, New Malden, on the north side of the road after
Burlington Road and before the Venners Timeswitch
factory, as on 1949 OS map at foot of this page. Right
& left are adverts for Reid and Sigrist Ltd instruments
showing that address, from Grace’s Guide.10
There were changes afoot, for in 1947 the top floor of
the Decca Record’s building in Brixton was occupied
by the newly-formed Decca Radar Company, which expanded rapidly and outgrew the
space allocated, so that Decca Radar Ltd made its first expansion into the Reid and
Sigrist Ltd premises at Shannon Corner, New Malden (which Decca bought in 1954).11
In 1953 Decca Radar had taken over the building of Young Accumulator/Crompton
Parkinson Motor Company on the A3 at Shannon Corner.12
What was the history of Reid and Sigrist’s Ltd manufacturing business? Grace’s Guide said that before WW1 Fred
Sigrist started aircraft construction in a shed in Brooklands, Surrey, and then moved to a disused ice-rink in Canbury
Park Road, Kingston on Thames. He was responsible for constructing a biplane and his Tabloid won the Schneider
Trophy race in 1914.13 Reid and Sigrist Ltd had acquired the right to the designs of Reid’s previous company, Reid
Manufacturing and Construction Company Ltd, which designed and made precision aircraft instrumentation such as
aircraft turn and slip indicators. In 1935 Reid and Sigrist applied to run a new civilian Flying Training School created
by the RAF and the firm purchased Desford Aerodrome14 and a factory site in Braunstone, Leicestershire. Reid
and Sigrist Ltd had an aviation division in New Malden from
1937. Work carried out by Reid and Sigrist in early 1939 was
the construction of the prototype of the New Malden-built R.S.1
Snargasher (left), a twin-engined three-seat advanced training
aircraft, which first flew at Desford Aerodrome. Another WW2
task for Reid and
Sigrist was that they undertook the assembly and repair of aircraft.
Post-war the firm designed and built a smaller, two-seat, trainer, the
R.S.3 Desford, but neither design was ordered by the RAF. The R.S.3
was later modified, as the R.S.4 Bobsleigh (right), to investigate the
problems of prone piloting for the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine.
After WW2, Reid and Sigrist were approached by the British Government with suggestions
that the firm should make a British Leica camera. Plans of the German Leica cameras had
been seized by the Allies in WW215: in the post WW2 era all German patents were under
the Control Council Law of October and were subsequently made freely available. The
proposition was instigated by a lack of available UK-made 35 mm cameras, both during
and after WW2. The first British Leica camera by Reid and Sigrist Ltd went on sale in 1951
and the company continued making cameras until 1964.16 Right is a British Leica camera
advert, from Grace’s Guide.17 The company ceased to exist as a separate entity when it was
bought by Decca at the end of 1954.18
The search for the factory site of Reid and Sigrist Ltd at Shannon Corner had become a conundrum, for none of five
Decca factories in New Malden were the location of this aeronautical company. Only the Decca Record Company
which was formed in 1929, when it took over the Duophone factory in New Malden was old enough to be the site of
Reid and Sigrist Ltd, but it was not the correct site. Only by looking at Kelly’s Directories
for Wimbledon including Merton, for the years when Reid and Sigrist Ltd first started
in New Malden, was the actual site found, on the Kingston Bypass Road at the newly
named Shannon Corner. At this time the factory did not belong to Decca. After WW2
Decca Radar Ltd expanded and acquired the Reid and Sigrist Ltd premises at Shannon
Corner and in 1954 when the factory belonged to Decca, Reid and Sigrist Ltd moved out
to Braunstone, Leicestershire.
Thanks to Merton Local Studies, to Grace’s Guide, and to Mick Taylor for his comments
about the Decca Record Factory.
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 15
1 Cox, Norma. Shannon Corner & Shannon Limited:A Surrey 8 As note 7, 2019: 24
Factory Site, SIHG Newsletter 2012 No186:11-12 9 As note 7, 2019: 25-26
2 Cox, Norma. Rapson, Duophone, Decca and Venners, 10 www.gracesguide.co.uk/Reid-and-Sigrist
Industrial History in New Malden, SIHG Newsletter 2018 11 As note 2
No227:4-10 12 www.wootonbridgeiow.org.uk/decca-legacy/chapter3.php
3 Pers. comm. Mick Taylor of Wandle Industrial Museum 22 13 www.gracesguide.co.uk/Frederick_Sigrist
January 2023 14 (and the rest of this paragraph) https://en.wikipedia.org.uk/
4 Decca Ltd from https://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk. wiki/Reid_and_Sigrist
Permission of the London Borough of Merton 15 As note 14
5 Decca Navigator Ltd. https://ietarchivesblog.org/2015/11/04/ 16 As note 10
the-archives-of-the-decca-navigator-company/ 17 Image from www.gracesguide.co.uk/Reid-and-Sigrist
6 https:// maps.nls.uk/view 101725226 18 www.gracesguide.co.uk/Decca_Record_Co
7 Photo from Cox, Norma. Decca Limited- Four Factory Sites
around Shannon Corner, SIHG Newsletter 2019 No221:1
‘SiNDY’S FRiEND GAYLE’
A black lady brought along this doll to the Antiques Road Show (BBC1) at Powis Castle,
broadcast on 28 May 2023. She said that she had only recently heard of a black Sindy doll,
and had bought this one via the Internet because, as a child, she had never had a black doll
herself. The vendor was based in North Carolina, and the lady had paid about $20 for the doll
and its original box, plus the same amount for transport.
Gayle wears a large-flowered summer dress over a short-sleeved white blouse, and a small
flat pill-box hat. She stayed in her box for the programme and, alas, screen-shots are marred
by reflections on the box Cellophane, so we show here a picture from a catalogue (courtesy
David Luff). Printing on the box boasts ‘Sindy – a whole world to share’, while a heart-
shaped sticker gave us our title, with ‘Gayle’ printed as large as the ‘Sindy’ elsewhere. The
manufacturer is claimed as ‘Marx Toys’ (who took Sindy designs to the United States).
However, small print admits that both the doll and her accessories were made in Hong Kong, while printing
and packaging was done in the USA. Ronnie Archer-Morgan, a valuation expert on the programme, estimated
the doll was manufactured in the late 1970s [our expert, David Luff, reckons 1978] and valued it at £200-£300.
MiCK FERRARi HAS LEFT US
Vegetarians, vegans and fruitarians will be sorry to learn that Mick Ferrari has finally retired. For many years
he ran the fruit and vegetable stall outside Wimbledon Library, attending New Covent Garden markets at 5
o’clock most mornings to pick up fresh stock. He took over the stall from M V Powell in about 1985. (The
stall itself was originally smaller, located on the wide pavement opposite Wimbledon Station, as part of a
greengrocery shop.) As time wore on, Mick was assisted by sons Bob (regularly) and Colin (on Saturdays,
until he emigrated to Spain), and by various relations (grandsons, cousins) and friends (one at least while on
a visit here from Thailand). In 2019, Mick needed a serious operation,
and the stall closed ‘temporarily’ during his convalescence. He and it
returned briefly, but unfortunately no-one could be found to take over
the business, and, needing a second (unrelated) operation he has now
fully retired to the west country, where we wish him well. According to
Mick’s cheerful grumble, the accompanying photo was taken without
his permission, reproduced by Merton Council without his permission,
and used during the initial Covid-19 worries ‘without paying me
anything – but it’s all free advertising isn’t it’?
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Printed by Peter Hopkins
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY – BULLETIN 227 – SEPTEMBER 2023 – PAGE 16