Mitcham Bridge, The Watermeads and the Wandle Mills

The Wandle, probably already in use as a convenient territorial boundary before the Roman period, was crossed by a ford from which, by the Norman Conquest, Lower Mitcham had derived its alternative name of Wicford.

It was here, long before the Domesday survey was conducted in 1086, that a watermill had been built – on a site which, over the next 1,000 years, saw many mills come and go. Until the advent of steam power presaged the demise of the humble watermill, this was the industrial heart of Mitcham, its output ranging from flour and copper goods, through paper and snuff, to felt and upholstery fillings. Even now, one mill building survives, until recently occupied by a firm specialising in chiropody products. Planning consent was obtained in 2003 for converting the building into flats, and the development of the land to the rear for residential purposes.

Remarkably, for it might well have evolved into a factory estate, the vicinity of the mill remained one of the most picturesque in the whole of Mitcham. In no small measure this is attributable to the Wandle itself, for since the Middle Ages the river’s banks provided sites for several large houses, the grounds of which were to survive, substantially intact, until the social upheavals of the early 20th century.