Upper Mitcham and Western Road

Upper Mitcham and Western Road, the final volume in the Mitcham Histories series, is concerned with a relatively small area of Mitcham, and yet one of the most fascinating, with evidence of continuity over 2000 years. Archaeology indicates a farming community here well before the Roman period. The place name is early Saxon, and eighth-century title deeds survive. A pattern of land tenure had evolved long before the Norman conquest, and the influence of medieval strip holdings can be detected in Victorian street patterns. The last medieval farmhouse was not demolished until the late 19th century. By the reign of Elizabeth government officials and city merchants saw Mitcham as an attractive place to live, and one of their mansions can still be seen. New inns and beer houses attest to increasing traffic and industrialisation proceeded apace. By the early Victorian period the character of Upper Mitcham had changed dramatically, with a gas works, a large workhouse and orphanage, and workers’ cottages crammed onto the smallest of vacant lots. Virtually all have now been swept away, to be replaced by new housing estates and light industry. One major feature of old Mitcham remains, the tract of common land known as Figgs Marsh, which separates Upper Mitcham from South London suburbs to the north, and is now in municipal hands, managed as public open space.