06 Mitcham Bridge, The Watermeads and the Wandle Mills

Mitcham Histories 6

by Eric Montague

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.


  4. THE MILL COTTAGES (Nos. 475-479, London Road)

APPENDIX I: Extracts from The Story of Lyxhayr by E B Hedger
APPENDIX II: The Fire at Lyxhayr Ltd, Grove Mill, Mitcham 1907
APPENDIX III: Public Meeting concerning the Wandle Pollution Incident in October 1995

Annotated extract from 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1894
Published by
© E N Montague 2005
ISBN 1 903899 50 8
Printed by intypelibra,
Units 3/4, Elm Grove Industrial Estate, Elm Grove,
Wimbledon, SW19 4HE
Cover Illustration: Mitcham Bridge from Glover’s Snuff Mill
(print c.1800) reproduced courtesy of J A Goodman
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
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.
The need to preserve open spaces for public enjoyment was recognised
by the mid-19th century, but it was the growing momentum of
urbanisation, apparent even in Mitcham before the end of the Victorian
era, that added urgency to efforts to save for posterity what remained
of the rural Wandle. Largely inspired by the enthusiasm of Octavia
Hill, one of the three co-founders of the National Trust, the River Wandle
Open Spaces Committee came into being, and it was through their efforts
that the Watermeads passed into the care of the Trust shortly before the
outbreak of war in 1914.
Since then, the surrounding area has changed almost beyond recognition.
With one exception the prestige houses of the past have gone, but
miraculously substantial portions of their grounds abutting the river
escaped redevelopment and remain as parkland to which the public
have access. National Trust land and municipal parks alike are now
linked by a new concept, the Wandle Trail, which provides pedestrian
access to the riverside through what, happily, remains one of the most
attractive corners of urban Surrey.

Detail from a modern street map, showing the area covered by this book
outlined with a dotted line. Reproduced by permission of Merton Design
Unit, London Borough of Merton
London Borough of Sutton
1 MITCHAM BRIDGE …………………………………………………………………… 1
2 THE WANDLE FISHERY……………………………………………………………. 3
Acquisition by the National Trust ……………………………………………………… 11
The Early History of the Watermeads …………………………………………………14
The Mill Sites ………………………………………………………………………………….15
The ‘Jack Pond’ ……………………………………………………………………………….16
Inter-war Planting …………………………………………………………………………….17
Current Management Policy ………………………………………………………………20
4 THE MILL COTTAGES (Nos. 475-479, London Road) …………………23
Early History …………………………………………………………………………………..29
Copper Milling (1698-c.1748) …………………………………………………………..34
The Flour Mills (1765-1795) …………………………………………………………….37
The Snuff Mills (1772-1845) …………………………………………………………….41
The Paper Mill…………………………………………………………………………………47
The Surrey Iron Railway …………………………………………………………………..50
John Glover, flour miller, (1833-1855) ……………………………………………….52
The Grove and Crown Mills (1850-1900): Felt and flour ……………………..54
Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills (1903-1955) ………………………………………..56
The Recent Past: 1960–…………………………………………………………………….59
AND THE BROOKFIELDS ESTATE…………………………………………..61
7 THE SURREY BREWERY …………………………………………………………75
APPENDIX I: Extracts from The Story of Lyxhayr: Service to the
Bedding and Upholstery Trades by Mitcham Hair and Fibre
Mills Ltd by E B Hedger …………………………………………………………….7 9
APPENDIX II: The Fire at Lyxhayr Ltd, Grove Mill, Mitcham 1907
(Biographical notes on members of the Mitcham Fire Brigade in
attendance, by E B Hedger) ………………………………………………………..8 7
APPENDIX III: Notes of the Main Points made at a Public Meeting
held on 10 January 1996, concerning the Wandle Pollution Incident
in October 1995. (Report to Wandle Heritage Ltd, by Phil Ryder,
Company Secretary) …………………………………………………………………..89
NOTES AND REFERENCES …………………………………………………………..93
INDEX………………………………………………………………………………………… 109
‘Mitcham Bridge from Glover’s Snuff Mill’ (print c.1800) ……………… Cover
Annotated extract from 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1894 ……………… ii
Detail from a modern street map, showing the area covered by this book …vi
Mitcham Bridge and the Wandle ford from the south, early 20th century….. x
View of Mitcham Bridge and the ford, looking south, c.1910 …………………. x
Mitcham Bridge and the ford, c.1910 ……………………………………………………2
The Wandle upstream from the Watermeads, c.1905 ………………………………9
The former ‘Fisheries Cottage’, seen from Mitcham Bridge in 1967 ……….10
‘Paper Mill Cut’ in the Watermeads c.1990 …………………………………………10
The site of Glover’s snuff mill seen from Morden Meadow, May 1967 …..13
The south side of Nos 475–479 London Road, May 1967 ……………………..22
No 475 London Road in 1910 and in the 1930s ……………………………………25
No 479 London Road – the front of the cottage – May 1967 ………………….26
No 479 London Road from the east, in the 1930s …………………………………26
Grove Mill, Crown Mill and 475 London Road, shortly before 1907 ………28
Crown Mill, 475 London Road and Morden snuff mill, c.1906 ………………29
Detail from Ordnance Survey 25-inch map of 1867 ………………………………33
Charles Perry’s mill, shown by John Rocque in a map of 1741-5 ……………36
Morden Snuff Mill c.1906 …………………………………………………………………46
‘Paper Mill Cut in the Watermeads seen from the south c.1990………………48
Watermark and countermark traced from paper made at Morden Mill …….49
Detail from 1st Edition OS map of 1816, showing Surrey Iron Railway ….51
Wagon wheel from the Surrey Iron Railway salvaged from the Wandle …..52
The Grove Flour Mill, occupied by the Ashby Brothers until 1902 …………55
The Crown Mill seen from the Watermeads, from a 19th-century drawing 57
Morden Mill c.1910 ………………………………………………………………………….57
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, Mitcham, in 1961 ………………………….62
Brookfields Cottage, Mitcham, May 1840 (copy of a watercolour) …………66
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, Mitcham, in 1961 ………………………….68
Typical 1930s’ housing in Brookfields Avenue, 1970 ……………………………70
Advertisement for Howards of Mitcham, published in 1937 ………………….71
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, following the adaptation of 1966 …….72
The former Surrey Brewery building in 1959……………………………………….74
Mitcham Brewery delivery cart, probably 1920s ………………………………….76
The last buildings of the brewery to survive, 1975 ………………………………..77
The Grove Mill in the mid-1960s ……………………………………………………….85
Mitcham Fire Brigade and others outside the gutted Grove Mill in 1907 …86
Early 20th-century postcard of Mitcham Bridge …………………………………..92
Mitcham Bridge, London Road, Summer 1971 …………………………………….92
‘Wandle, Mitcham’ – postcard showing Crown Felt Mill …………………….108
‘Millstream, Mitcham ……………………………………………………………………..108
Material for this book was gathered over a period of almost 40
years in a quest which was both fascinating and challenging, and
proved a pleasurable exercise with help and encouragement from
numerous archivists and librarians. As always, staff of the Surrey
Record Office and Merton Central Reference Library (my main
sources) were particularly helpful – a tradition now followed in
exemplary manner by their successors in the Surrey History Centre
and Merton Local Studies Centre. To them I owe many thanks,
and trust they will forgive my not mentioning them by name.
Finally, I would also like, once again, to express my sincere
gratitude to the editorial subcommittee of Merton Historical Society,
Judith Goodman, Peter Hopkins and Tony Scott, for their meticulous
checking and tactful corrections of early drafts without which some
embarrassing slips might well have become enshrined in print.
Sutton 2004
Imperial Measures are used throughout this book
1 acre = 4 roods = 160 square rods, poles or perches = 0.4047 hectares
1 mile = 1.6093 km
1 yard = 3 feet = 0.9144 metres
1 ton = 2240 lb (pounds) = 1.016 tonnes
1 lb (pound) = 0.4536 kg
1 gallon = 4.546 litres
£1 = 20s (shillings) = 240d (pence)
Mitcham Bridge and the Wandle ford from the South.
Early 20th-century post card
View of Mitcham Bridge and the ford looking south
(Photograph c.1910 from the Tom Francis collection, reproduced by
courtesy of Merton Library Service)
Chapter 1
From time immemorial, travellers on the high road south from Mitcham
to Sutton have been obliged to cross the river Wandle, which here was
used to define the ancient boundary between the parishes of Mitcham
and Morden and, until 1965, the southern limits of the Borough of
Mitcham. Long before either of the two communities could afford the
luxury of a bridge the crossing would have been via a ford, which older
residents can still remember as a watersplash at the side of Mitcham
In the 13th century, and for much of the later Middle Ages, Lower
Mitcham was known as Wicford or Wickford, a placename prompting
speculation that it might be translated as the ‘ford of the vicus’, the
latter being a word of Latin derivation commonly used to denote a
settlement.1 Traces of occupation during the Romano-British period
have been found at several sites in Lower Mitcham, and the evidence
of the large ‘Dark Age’cemetery between the Wandle and Morden Road,
which was in use for 150 years or so from about AD450, demonstrates
that a not insignificant population continued in the area into the fifth
and sixth centuries.2 The ford remained visible at the side of the bridge
until the 1940s, although no longer used by vehicles and wired off to
deter access. As part of the measures to defend the bridge during the
anti-invasion preparations of 1940 the roadway was narrowed with large
concrete blocks, and the ford was rendered impassable to traffic by
iron girders driven into the river bed, creating what were optimistically
dubbed ‘tank traps’. They had all been removed by 1945, and within a
few years the roadway was widened and the bridge extended over the
old ford to provide a footpath for pedestrians.
If the bridge is noticed at all today by the passing motorist, it is as a
slightly inconvenient restriction in the otherwise wide road south of
the former Mitcham station, (now the Tramlink stop). It might appear
to be relatively modern, but a metal parish boundary plate fixed to the
western parapet bears the date 1882 and shows that, at least in part, the
structure is already well past its centenary.
Over 300 years ago, when James II was still on the throne, another
Mitcham bridge spanned the Wandle at this point.3 Expenditure on
bridge maintenance, a burden on the highway rates, was commonly
avoided by parochial authorities if at all possible, and in 1725, when
repairs were necessary, Lt Gen Daniel Harvey, Governor of the State
of Guernsey, who was resident at Mitcham Hall, Lower Mitcham, and
presumably had influence in such matters, undertook to “use his best
endeavours” to secure the cost did not fall on the parish of Mitcham.4
In 1759 the bridge again needed attention, and Mitcham and Morden
were formally ‘presented’ to the magistrates of the county for neglecting
to keep the bridge in a proper state of repair.5 The procedure was a
well-established one, and in default of the parishes it was customary
for the works to be carried out by the county. Local records do not tell
whether the bridge was of wood or more durable material, but by 1789
it was certainly of brick and the fact sufficiently impressed Edwards,
the topographical writer, for him to comment on it in his Companion
from London to Brighthelmston.6 An early 19th-century engraving
depicts the bridge as having three semi-circular arches (see cover), as
does a watercolour by Hassell, dated 1823. These arches can be seen in
photographs and postcards of a century later, and are still visible from
Morden meadow today.
Mitcham Bridge and the ford. Postcard c.1910
Chapter 2
For centuries the Wandle, fed by springs emerging from the chalk along
the dip slope of the North Downs between Croydon and Carshalton,
was a trout stream of deserved repute. Camden, writing in 1586, referred
to the “clear little river Wandle, full of excellent trouts”,1 and early in
the 17th century sport on the section between Merton and Wandsworth
was so good that it was necessary to safeguard what was then regarded
as a ‘Royal Preserve’.
Thus in 1606 a Sampson Calvert was charged with the protection of
the king’s game below Merton Abbey, and there is record of the frequent
granting of similar warrants throughout the century. Hobson, in his
Book of the Wandle, tells how in 1623 Sir Edward Cecil, later Viscount
Wimbledon, was given responsibility for the conservation of “riverfish”
in the Wandle as far as Mitcham, his authority reinforced with the
power to offer a 20 shillings reward for the apprehension of offenders.
The warrant was renewed two years later. At least one poacher, Thomas
Barker by name, is recorded as being caught and taken into custody for
poaching fish between Croydon and Wandsworth in 1640, and one
imagines that there were many others whose activities escaped
Between Mitcham and Beddington trout up to three pounds in weight
were commonplace at the beginning of Victoria’s reign, the Revd
Herbert Randolph, for instance, when a curate at Mitcham, recording
in his diary for May 1st 1838 that whilst fishing “at York’s mill” (at the
end of Willow Lane) he “caught 3lb., 2½lb. and 1½lb. trout”.3 Sir
Humphrey Davy, according to whom the grannum, brown fly and the
blue dun were the principal flies used at this time, fondly recalled
delightful days angling “in the shady green meadows by the bright
clear streams of the Wandle”.4 The author Cecil Torre, remembering
his boyhood, also described the fishing on the Wandle in the mid-19th
“From 1866 until his death in 1878 my father had some fishing on
the Wandle a little way from Mitcham, which was then a quiet
country village with fields of lavender and roses for making scented
waters …” Fish a pound or less “were thrown back in the Wandle to
let them have a chance of growing bigger. There were trout of two
or three pounds there, and a few such fish make a good catch. As a
matter of fact, the catch depended much more on the landing-net
than on the rod and fly. I had to take the landing-net, while my
father played his fish; and that cured me of what little love I had for
As late as the 1880s when, according to Tom Francis, there were some
20 varieties of fish to be found in the Wandle, it was not uncommon
when looking over the parapet of Mitcham bridge to see trout lying on
the bottom of the crystal clear stream, their speckled backs blending
with the stony bed of the river.6
Although we are now only too well aware of its effects, pollution of
our environment is nothing new, and as long ago as the 1860s a number
of people, including local landowners and anglers, were seriously
concerned at the deteriorating condition of the river. In January 1861 a
paper by Frederick Braithwaite entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of the River
Wandle’ was presented at a meeting of the Institution of Civil Engineers
under the chairmanship of George Parker Bidder.7 The reading of the
paper was followed by a long and earnest discussion in which Sir John
Rennie and other distinguished members took part. Bidder, himself an
eminent civil engineer and president of the Institution, was then living
at Mitcham Hall, and owned a large estate in Mitcham and Morden,
either side of the Wandle below Mitcham bridge. Sharing his
neighbours’ fears that the river would soon become unable to support
the excellent trout which still abounded in its upper reaches, he deplored
the uncaring attitude of the proprietors of the tanneries and textile
printing works who used the Wandle as a sewer, and daily allowed the
discharge of large quantities of partially decomposed organic waste
and harmful chemicals into the very river upon which they themselves
were so dependent.
Paradoxically, one of the principal agents of pollution was the Croydon
Local Board of Health which, whilst providing a main drainage system
for the benefit of the rapidly growing town of Croydon, in the 1860s
discharged into the Wandle effluent from its newly opened sewage farm
at Beddington after only minimal treatment. Incensed at the death of
fish in his section of the Wandle, Bidder took legal action against the
Croydon authority in an effort to force the adoption of more effective
measures to prevent the nuisance recurring. This had little lasting effect,
and in 1877 the newly created Croydon Rural Sanitary Authority found
itself facing censure for the poor quality of the effluent it was allowing
to pass from its sewage farm at Beddington into the Wandle at Mill
Green. Further proceedings, this time initiated by Bidder’s son, a
Queen’s Counsel, resulted in a permanent injunction being granted,
restraining the authority from polluting the river. Regrettably the
improved sewage treatment measures which were functioning towards
the end of the century proved too little and too late. The industrial
effluents which Bidder senior had deprecated in the 1860s declined for
reasons totally unconnected with any wish to save the fishing, but any
trend towards improvement in the state of the river was soon nullified
by the discharge of waste from the new factories gradually spreading
throughout the upper Wandle Valley, as well as the steadily increasing
volume of effluent from the sewage works.
Despite local agitation and the efforts of the authorities, the Wandle
was therefore never to regain its pristine condition, although towards
the turn of the century there seems to have been some confidence that
the deterioration had at least been halted. At this time the exclusive
fishing rights in the river from Willow Lane to Ravensbury Mill were
owned by William F J Simpson of Park Place, Mitcham, Sir Frederick
Ferrars Conant Fowke of Lowesley Hall in Leicestershire, and George
Parker Bidder QC of Ravensbury Park, who became the owner of the
family estate shortly before the death of his father in 1878. Together
they decided to form the ‘Wandle Fisheries Association’, with the object
of conserving fish stocks and improving the sport. By 1895, Henry
Bourne, whom they appointed as their bailiff, had been installed in the
weatherboarded Wandle Cottage, now No. 475 London Road,8 and a
trout hatchery was established in the security of the Watermeads.9
In 1906, for reasons which are not clear, the Wandle Fisheries were
leased for five years to Croydon Corporation (the town achieved county
borough status in 1889). Harry Bourne vacated what had by then become
known as ‘Fisheries Cottage’ the following year10 to become
groundsman and umpire for Mitcham Cricket Club, and after ten years
or so of careful husbandry his former charges were left to their fate. On
termination of the lease disputes arose over the condition of the river,
and in particular continuing pollution by effluent from Croydon’s
Beddington works. Eventually a settlement was reached, and in
December 1912 the corporation agreed to pay William Simpson, Sir
Frederick and Captain Harold Bidder (who had inherited part of the
Ravensbury estate on the death of his father, George Parker Bidder II
in 1896) damages totalling £1,500 over a period of 10 years, and further
undertook to double the damages to the aggrieved parties if, after the
expiration of the agreed period, the pollution had increased.11
Shortly after moving to ‘Ravensbury Manor’, the fine neo-Georgian
house he had built for himself on the banks of the Wandle in 1912,
Harold Bidder made a further attempt to restore trout to the Wandle,
introducing young fish to the water running through what is now
Ravensbury Park. Once again, the bid failed, this time, it was commonly
believed, due to pollution of the river by surface water drainage from
the newly tarred roads.12 Although a few fish were to survive into the
late 1920s, the dissolved oxygen levels were too low to support trout,
and the efforts at restocking can now be seen as forlorn rearguard actions.
Bidder rejoined his regiment on the outbreak of war in 1914, and served
with distinction, being awarded the DSO and rising to the rank of
lieutenant-colonel.13 He had left a village Mitcham in which squire and
gentry still held sway, but returned to an urban district soon to be
changed almost beyond recognition by its expansion into a London
dormitory suburb. William Simpson, no longer interested in fishing,
moved away from Mitcham before the Armistice,14 and Ravensbury
Manor was soon to be demolished to make way for new housing. A
fraction of the Bidders’ once extensive estate was purchased by the
urban district council of Mitcham, acting jointly with that of Merton
and Morden, and opened as a public park in 1930, but all hope of
reviving the fisheries had obviously vanished.
By the 1930s depletion of the springs by heavy and widespread
extraction of water from the chalk aquifer, increasing pollution from
industry on the river banks upstream from the Watermeads, plus the
effluent from the sewage disposal works at Beddington were, regrettably,
combining to reduce the river to little more than an open sewer, and
very little fish life survived.
The next four decades witnessed the final descent of the middle and
lower reaches of the Wandle to a dark murkiness, devoid in many
sections of all but the most tenacious forms of aquatic life. At Mill
Green, where the still relatively unsullied water issuing from the springs
between Croydon and Carshalton was joined by the effluent from the
Beddington works a dramatic change in the condition of the river was
obvious to the most casual observer. By the 1950s 90% of the normal
dry weather flow in the river below Mill Green was, in fact, treated
sewage. This was a period during which synthetic detergents were
making their appearance and, the foaming agents being nonbiodegradable,
they passed through the treatment works without
destruction. As a result, by the late 1960s the Wandle was often
disfigured by masses of floating foam, the river at times completely
disappearing from view beneath a blanket of froth several feet deep
where the water was turbulent. The situation was particularly bad
between Mitcham Bridge and a new automatic level control gate and
weir installed by Surrey County Council in the Watermeads.
It was, however, an unprecedented discharge of partially digested sludge
from the Beddington works in the summer of 1969 which brought about
the temporary eclipse of the Wandle as an amenity, giving rise to a
spate of complaints not only from the general public but also from the
National Trust at the stench emitted by the evil-looking water. Merton
health department reacted by recommending the termination of
children’s boating on a stretch of the river flowing through Ravensbury
Park, and in the summer of 1970 a notice was erected by the Greater
London Council warning of the danger of allowing children to paddle
in the polluted water below the Beddington outfall, for which the
authority was then responsible.
A new activated sludge treatment plant became operative at the works
in 1970, but two years passed before some improvement became
apparent in the Wandle. Scoured by the run-off from unseasonal
rainstorms, the debris-strewn gravel of the river bed was then once
more dimly visible through the cloudy water. There was also a steady
decline in the foam, due to the co-operation of the manufacturers and
the increasing use of ‘soft’ detergents, capable of being broken down
by bacterial action in the filter beds. Gaily painted paddle boats again
became available for hire in the park, albeit only temporarily, and a
few sticklebacks miraculously reappeared to encourage the hope that
the Wandle was perhaps on the way to recovery.
By the mid-1970s experimental restocking of the upper reaches of the
river with trout by the Thames Water Authority, and the re-introduction
of coarse fish to the lower reaches, conveyed the impression of official
optimism that improved pollution control measures were becoming
effective. In July 1973 it was demonstrated that trout were capable of
surviving in the Wandle for several months, a few specimens in a cage
having been immersed experimentally in the Watermeads downstream
from the sewer outfall. Machines were brought in to clear the ‘Jack
Pond’ of silt and weeds, and in May 1977 arrangements were made
with the Mitcham Angling Club for its members to take over
management of the pond under licence granted by the National Trust.
Stocking was undertaken by the National Rivers Authority, and the
pond soon contained a good variety of coarse fish including the three
common species of carp, plus tench, roach, bream and perch.
Current management policy is directed towards maintaining the fishery,
with judicious restocking, following routine silt removal and weed
clearance. Given the improved state of the river, it is hoped that pollution
will not present a serious problem, and the vigilance of the anglers,
who have an obvious interest in excluding unwanted intruders, should
prove a valuable reinforcement to the efforts of the Trust to protect the
Watermeads from abuse and vandalism.
Accidental, rather than deliberate, discharge of oil and toxic wastes
from the riverside factories via the surface water sewers, and heavy
metals which remain in the effluent from the sewage treatment works,
now present the major risk to wild life in and on the river itself. One
such discharge, in September 1973, was of cyanide, accidentally
released into the river by a Beddington firm, and resulted in the loss of
a large proportion of the fish recently introduced into the main river. A
year later a heavy discharge of diesel oil from a fractured pipe at the
Central Electricity Generating Board’s power station at Croydon killed
fish and waterfowl downstream as far as Morden Hall Park. A further
example of the river’s vulnerability to pollution occurred more recently,
when over a period of several days in October 1995 the discharge of a
large volume of only partially treated sewage from the Beddington
treatment works killed the entire fish stock, not only in the Jack Pond
but also in virtually the whole of the Wandle downstream from Mill
Green.15 Continuing improvements by Thames Water at the Beddington
works have enabled the ecology of the Wandle to recover, and by the
turn of the century the water quality was declared ‘good’ by the
Environment Agency. However, it would be naive to imagine accidents
such as these will not recur.
With responsibility for management of the river today firmly in the
hands of the Environment Agency, and an expressed commitment on
the part of the London Boroughs concerned to ensure that the full
amenity potential of the river is achieved and maintained, the layman
can only trust that their joint efforts will succeed when in the past
attempts have all too often failed.
The Wandle upstream from the Watermeads. Postcard c.1905
(The site of the future Willow Lane industrial estate lies to the left, and what
was to become Poulter Park is to the right. )
The former ‘Fisheries Cottage’, seen from Mitcham Bridge in 1967 (ENM)
‘Paper Mill Cut’ in the Watermeads c.1990 (ENM)
Chapter 3
Acquisition by the National Trust
The Watermeads and ‘Happy Valley’, lying either side of Mitcham
Bridge on the A217 from Mitcham to Sutton, are part of the 139 acres
of riverside land which comprise the National Trust’s Wandle
Properties, and are situated almost entirely within the London Borough
of Merton.1
The original 12 acres forming the heart of the Watermeads are to be
found upstream from the bridge, mainly on the south bank of the river
but also including a small island and strip of woodland on the north
bank adjoining the private roadway leading to the Grove Mill. This
also gives access to three former mill cottages, numbered 475-479
(inclusive) London Road and the site of the Crown Mill. Planning
consent for redevelopment of land behind the mills for housing purposes
having been granted by the local authority, building work commenced
in 2004.
The Watermeads have the interesting historical distinction of being
amongst the first properties to be acquired by the Trust, and were
purchased from Sir Frederick Fowke with £1,050 raised by the River
Wandle Open Spaces Committee, completion of the conveyance taking
place in November 1913.2 It is said the appeal for funds, the last with
which Octavia Hill, one of the Trust’s founders, was to be involved,
was largely inspired by her enthusiasm after having seen holiday makers
on the river banks and children paddling at the water’s edge.3 Octavia
Hill, who died in 1912, unfortunately did not live to witness the formal
presentation of the Watermeads to the Trust by the committee the
following year. Miranda, her sister and fellow worker in efforts to
improve the housing of the poor, had died in May 1910, and a red
stone seat donated by her pupils and inscribed to her memory can be
seen overlooking the mill-cut in the Watermeads.4
The so-called ‘Happy Valley’, two acres on the south bank of the river
downstream from the bridge had, like the Watermeads themselves, once
formed part of the extensive Mitcham Grove estate owned by banker
Henry Hoare in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The estate was
bought by Sir John Lubbock, another banker, after Henry Hoare’s death
in 1828 and eventually Happy Valley was purchased from the Lubbock
family in 1846, together with much of the adjoining land, by George
Parker Bidder.5 Following the death in 1896 of his son, George Parker
Bidder QC, the dismembering commenced of what had become known
as Ravensbury Park (embracing much of the land to the south of the
river towards Rose Hill), and a substantial portion was divided up and
offered for sale as building plots. The two acres lying alongside the
river were donated to the Trust in 1915 in memory of Octavia Hill by
Richardson Evans,1 who in 1903 had founded the John Evelyn Club of
Wimbledon – since 1982 the Wimbledon Society and still one of
Merton’s premier amenity societies.
Happy Valley is now part of a green corridor linking the Watermeads
with Ravensbury Park and, although not accessible to the general
public,6 has an important role in preserving the attractiveness of this
stretch of the river by screening from view the rear of houses in Wandle
Road on the south bank. Since the outbreak of Dutch elm disease in the
early-1970s, as a consequence of which many trees had to be felled,
and the devastation caused by the great storm of October 1987, Happy
Valley has lost some of its unkempt charm. Natural regeneration is,
however, gradually making good the damage. Redevelopment by the
London Borough of Merton of the former grounds of Mitcham Grove
as a housing estate in the late 1970s altered dramatically the appearance
of the north bank of this stretch of the river, but the creation of a lake (a
flood alleviation measure), combined with replanting and landscaping
and a new riverside path, has formed what is, in effect, a linear park
following the river downstream from Mitcham bridge through
Ravensbury Park to the Trust’s Morden Hall estate.
The wrought-iron Gaston Gate, through which keyholders once gained
access to Happy Valley from Bishopsford Road, is now used only for
maintenance purposes. It commemorates Alderman S L Gaston, who
was ‘father’ of Mitcham Corporation in the mid-1930s, and chairman
of Mitcham Urban District Council when what remained of the grounds
of Ravensbury Manor was formally opened to the public by George
Lansbury MP in 1930. Alderman Gaston became mayor of Mitcham in
1937, and for many years was chairman of the Mitcham Civic Society,
actively lending his support to efforts at conserving and enhancing the
surviving open land on the banks of the river.
An additional acre of land on the south bank of the river, known
as Morden Meadow and lying between Bishopsford Road and the actual
Watermeads, was donated to the Trust by the Urban District Council of
Merton and Morden in 1965, following completion of flood control
work by Surrey County Council. The meadow now forms an integral
part of the Watermeads, to which it gives access, and is the first part of
the property to be seen by visitors entering from the Bishopsford Road
gate. At the water’s edge one can find an edge-runner mill stone and
see the brick revetments and sill in the river bed marking the position
of Richard Glover’s Morden snuff mill. This seems to have been built
in about 1804. (Its history is dealt with on pages 43-5). The picturesque
slate-roofed and weatherboarded building survived long after it had
fallen into disuse, and the undershot wheel was not completely
dismantled until the mill was demolished for safety reasons in 1922.7
The site of Glover’s snuff mill seen from Morden Meadow, May 1967 (ENM)
The Early History of the Watermeads
The origins and early history of what today are known as the
Watermeads are obscure, but it seems that in the 13th and 14th centuries
the waterside meadows formed part of the extensive estate in Mitcham,
Morden and Carshalton of the de la Mare, or de Mara, family who then
held the lordship of the manor of Ravensbury. In 1362 William “Mareys”
(the spelling varies considerably) of Mitcham granted “his capital
messuage with houses over, gardens, crofts, meadows, pastures, woods,
trees, hedges, hays and ditches as enclosed, together with two water
mills and a piece of moor [i.e. waste or marshland] adjoining as enclosed
by the water towards Beneytesfeld and all appurtenances in Wykeford”
at 100 shillings per annum to Sir Richard Porter, perpetual vicar of
Mitcham and Sir John de Scaldewell, perpetual vicar of “Westmorden”.8
The site of William Mareys’ house is unknown, but one landmark,
‘Bennett’s Hole’ or ‘Hollow’, is still marked at a bend in the Wandle
upstream from the Watermeads on OS maps. Beneytesfeld is thus
identifiable with part of today’s Poulter Park, and there is little doubt
that some, if not all, of the land we now know as the Watermeads was
included in William Mareys’ gift to the Church. The precise nature and
significance of this conveyance is not fully understood at the present
time, but it may be more than a coincidence that the transfer occurred
when the Black Death was at its peak. Not only was the economic base
of the country at this time severely affected, but men’s minds were
increasingly preoccupied with their mortality, and the perceived need
to make their peace with God. By the middle of the 16th century,
following the Dissolution of the monasteries, ownership of the property
was once more in lay hands.
It is to be assumed from the name and the location of the Watermeads
that, together with other marshy land on the Mitcham side of the river,
they would have been managed in the Middle Ages as an important
resource, providing winter fodder and rich summer pasture. Every winter
the land would have been flooded, either naturally or by the
manipulation of sluices, the silt deposited by the river water enriching
the soil. Each spring, once the water had drained off, the lush growth
of fresh grass and herbage would be gathered for hay, after which the
meadow would have been grazed by cattle, their dung adding further
enrichment to the soil. Alternatively, the land could have been allowed
to flood again, and a second fodder crop removed in late summer. What
could be evidence of this regime can be seen in the artificial channels
which still conduct water through the low-lying area between Paper
Mill Cut and the main river.
The Mill Sites
The Domesday survey of 1086 shows that even before the Norman
Conquest the power of the Wandle had been harnessed to grind corn,
and by the mid-19th century, when the general availability of steam
power was weakening the bonds tying industry to the waterside, the
river was used virtually to the limit of its potential. James Malcolm, in
an often misquoted comment in his Compendium of Modern Husbandry
of Surrey, published in 1805, speculated that “for its length and size,
perhaps no river in the world does at this time furnish so many valuable
and various manufactories …”.9
The sites of two watermills operating in the early 19th century can be
found within the National Trust’s Watermeads property. One, known
as Morden Mill, was used for the grinding of snuff, and stood close to
the bridge where, as we have remarked earlier, a millstone can be found
beneath a tree on the river bank. The second was located further
upstream, where a prominent feature confronting the visitor is the
tumbling-bay and tailrace at the end of what is still known as ‘Paper
Mill Cut’. The site of the paper mill buildings, which disappeared well
over a century and a half ago, is now the rectangular grass-covered plot
separated from Morden Meadow by a hedge. The history of both mills
will be dealt with in more detail later, together with an account of other
mills on the opposite bank of the Wandle, in Mitcham parish.
Like the Watermeads, Paper Mill Cut lies wholly within what was the
parish of Morden, the present course taken by the main stream of the
Wandle following roughly the old parish boundary. Maps show the
course of the river to have been diverted from time to time, but since
the completion of flood control works by Surrey County Council in the
early 1960s, when the present automatic gates were installed and a
millpond on the north bank was filled in, the Wandle has returned to its
ancient channel. During the engineering works one of two old castiron
parish boundary posts, marked on the OS maps, seems to have
been displaced and buried. The other re-emerged in 2004 during site
clearance prior to redevelopment of the land behind the Grove Mill
The ‘Jack Pond’
Abutting the west bank of the mill cut, within the Watermeads, lies
what was known in the late 19th century as the ‘Jack Pond’, presumably
because it once contained pike. The date it was dug and by whom is a
little uncertain, but it seems more than likely that it was created to
provide an additional reservoir of water for the paper mill. An assured
head and volume of water was vital for prolonged operation, and other
examples are known, one upstream in Mitcham and two at Merton,
where 18th-century mill owners constructed similar large ponds to
augment existing millheads, thereby reducing dependency on the river
itself when their mills were working.
In the harsh winters around the end of the 19th century the Jack Pond
acquired popularity with local ‘society’ as a place for skating, and Tom
Francis remembered Bourne, when he was water bailiff, hanging
Chinese lanterns in the trees to give light for parties from the big houses.
“Presumably”, observed Tom, he “augmented his income and kept
himself busy when other work was frozen out.”10 During the inter-war
years the pond was allowed to become much overgrown, and
degenerated into “a mere swamp”. In 1943 the National Trust began
reclamation work, removing decayed willows and other overhanging
trees and partially cleaning the pond to secure its return to some
semblance of its former state.
As we have seen, following further clearance of vegetation and
accumulated silt in 1977, the pond was restocked with coarse fish, and
for nearly 20 years provided members of Mitcham Angling Club with
sport in near-idyllic surroundings. Today the level in the Jack Pond is
maintained by a sluice in the bank of the cut, near the point at which it
leaves the main river. The sluice itself is fitted with a movable grill to
arrest floating debris, and slats to control the level of water. Duckweed
presents a major problem, to combat which, by increasing the flow of
water, both inlet and outlet channels to the pond were widened and
deepened in 2003. Dredging of the pond – the first time since the
1970s – is scheduled for 2005.
Inter-War Planting
For the quarter century following donation of the Watermeads to the
Trust their care would appear to have been in the hands of a voluntary
local committee, whose policy seems to have been very much one of
laissez faire in the belief that, in the main, nature was best left to care
for itself. The wisdom of this policy is questionable, and the damp
woodland typifying the Watermeads today bears no resemblance to the
open meadows dotted with clumps of mature trees glimpsed in
Edwardian postcards. In the early years of the 20th century, part of the
Watermeads was planted as an osier bed. There were, as Tom Francis,
writing in 1946, recalled:
“two plantations of the Cricket Bat Willow – Salix Coerulea – [and]
also several old trees growing on the river bank – these are all the
property of a firm of bat makers and some are now ready for felling.
During the war it was reported that a bomb had dropped in the
plantation among the willows. Last year (1945) soldiers took the
matter in hand, built a Bailey bridge over the Wandle to carry their
lorries and tackle. The bomb proved to be a dud shell.”11
The nearby Morden Hall estate was left to the National Trust in 1941
under the terms of the will of Gilliat Edward Hatfeild, and the
Watermeads came under the care of Thomas Moore, the Trust’s
superintendent, who was based at Morden Hall. Access was restricted
to keyholders, who were charged a nominal fee. This remained the
situation until 2002, since when keys have been more widely available
on individual application to the Trust’s Morden Hall office.
During the 1940s there developed an interest not only in protecting
existing bird life and encouraging nesting, but also in increasing the
visual attractions of the Watermeads by introducing ornamental trees
and shrubs, and others which, by their berries or foliage, it was hoped
would add to the autumn colour. To these ends a number of new varieties
were planted, including non-indigenous species and others not normally
found in a wetland environment. A leading light in this activity was
Tom Francis, a member of the original River Wandle Open Spaces
Committee, who was to remain an active member of the Trust until
shortly before his death in 1953 at the age of 80. His lecture notes, left
to the Borough Council with his collection of lantern slides on ‘Old
Mitcham’, afford a revealing insight into the aspirations shared by many
of his contemporaries, as the following excerpts show:
“Hobson in ‘The Book of the Wandle’ gives a most interesting list
of birds which have been noted in the Wandle Valley – over 80.
And it is especially interesting to Mitcham people to learn that no
less than 75 of these have been spotted in the Wandle area of
Mitcham. J. N. Cheshire, who ran nurseries at Brooklands, near the
river, was a bird photographer, … gave me this information. His
observations covered the five years 1928 – 1933. I hope that the
National Trust – Watermeads property will still be maintained as a
bird sanctuary and as a home for many wild flowers and that in
years to come many more interesting trees will grow in this area.
The local Committee is doing a bit and hopes, with monetary help
from the public, to be able to do a lot more.
“On Saturday last, [Nov. 13th 1943] the Mitcham Civic Society, led
by Alderman Gaston (Chairman) planted 17 trees in Watermeads.
The trees and their sites had been selected by Thos. Francis (Chairman)
of the Local Committee of the National Trust, Mitcham Properties,
and Thomas Moore, the Superintendent of Morden Hall Park and
Watermeads. The first tree was planted by the Mayoress, Mrs. Jeffery,
assisted by the Deputy Mayoress. Alderman Gaston planted a Beech,
and Walter Hunt, a veteran sailor of 85, planted an Oak. I planted a
Poplar and my wife, a Maple. The other trees were: Purple Beech,
Birch, Mountain Ash, Red Chestnut, Tuliptree, Wild Cherry, Catalpa,
Red Thorn, Viburnum, Prunus, Common Broom, Hazel and Sumach,
to give colour to the hedges. They were paid for by some members of
the Civic Society, and by audiences at “Talks on Old Mitcham”. I
supplied last winter, a Hawthorn Hedge and standard coloured Thorns,
Planes and some Taxodium ditischum (Swamp Cypress). There is a
fine one in Happy Valley and also some good gnarled Oaks. About a
dozen Poplars in Happy Valley were also supplied by me. Six of
them are now growing well and likewise a Hawthorn Hedge near
them. Other Poplars were destroyed.
“[Jan. 9th, 1946.] Watermead Trees.
This afternoon, Miss Milnes and 7 Senior Boys from the Boys
County School, Lilleshall Road, St. Helier, planted 8 trees (6 in
Watermeads and 2 in Happy Valley.) J. H. Moore selected the
position. I told the boys that after 6 years of destruction it was a
good thing to add a little beauty to the world. We wanted Watermeads
to become a home for wild birds, trees and flowers and as they had
planted trees today they should be their guardians and discourage
wanton destruction.
Larch was planted by R. Hobbs.
White Mulberry by T. Staton and D. Edwards.
Red Oak by T. Horton and D. Clements.
Honey Locust by A. Collins and W. Morgan.
Laburnum (purple) Miss Milnes.
“Jan. 1947. Watermeads Committee again planted trees on the Trust
Miss Farewell Jones Lime
T. Francis Prunus
F. Blackstone Other trees.
H. H. Dance Maples.
F. S. Buck (Hon. Sec.) Lime.
S. Beven Prunus
T. W. Moore Staphylea
T.W.M. said Kingfishers were still there. Shoals of minnows were
in the river. A swan and moorhens were seen. Photo of planting
published in Advertiser.” 12
Current Management Policy13
Today the Watermeads are managed by the National Trust as a nature
reserve, and in order to minimise disturbance of breeding birds, and to
protect the somewhat fragile ecosystem, public access to the Watermeads
is restricted. No ball games, dogs, vehicles, radios etc. are allowed.
There is generally a greater awareness now than in the past of the special
nature of the wetland environment provided by the Watermeads, and
opinions as to what species of trees are appropriate when replanting have
altered radically in the last 60 years. A few of the specimens planted in the
1940s may still be found, notably around the glade which marks the site of
the paper mill, but over much of the area self-sown sycamores predominate,
with willow and Italian black poplar two other prominent species. There
is also a dense undergrowth of bramble and scrub.
Like much of southern England, the Trust’s Wandle properties suffered
considerable damage during the great storm of October 1987. Many old
and mature trees were toppled and several others damaged. Clearance of
fallen timber from the Watermeads took several years. Management is
now directed towards routine scrub clearance, leaving behind much of the
fallen timber, smaller branches and brushwood to provide useful habitats
for fungi and insects, as well as cover for small mammals. Inevitably, soil
disturbance and the removal of former tree cover has encouraged a rampant
growth of willow herb and thistle, together with invasive exotics such as
Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed, all of which need to be
controlled, or in some cases eradicated where they threaten to dominate
indigenous vegetation or distort the ecological balance to an unacceptable
degree. A recent addition to the list of ‘undesirables’ is the native marsh
Whereas in the south-eastern part of the Watermeads regeneration of the
natural cover of alder and willow carr is encouraged, in 1993 it was jointly
agreed by the National Rivers Authority and the Trust that in the low-lying
area between the mill cut and the main river an attempt should be made to
recreate a watermeadow-type habitat. This policy continues, with the
Environment Agency (successor to the NRA) supporting the Trust’s
objectives. With a naturally high water table the land still supports a variety
of wetland plants, including several species now relatively uncommon in
the London area. Reliance has been placed on the seed bank remaining in
the soil for re-colonisation.
Since 1998, when an influx of ‘travellers’ with their caravans caused
considerable nuisance, security against unauthorised entry to the
Watermeads has perforce become an important element in the Trust’s
management strategy. Partly for economic reasons, annual mowing of
Morden Meadow to produce a hay crop has ceased, and grass cutting is
kept to a minimum consistent with providing authorised access, preferably
after the seeds have ripened and been shed. The resultant stand of tall
grasses and wild flowers does seem to have proved less inviting to unwanted
For many years the paths along the bank of the river, beside Paper Mill
Cut, and leading to the ‘Jack Pond’, were kept mown for the benefit of
visitors. During the spring of 1993 a new meandering path was cut through
the taller vegetation by volunteers from the London Wildlife Trust, to give
improved access through the centre of the property. This, it was intended,
would be kept open, to develop eventually into a grassy ride widening to
small open areas of grassland attractive to small mammals and their
predators. Recently this plan has been modified in favour of creating a
circular walk, and to this end a bridge erected over Paper Mill Cut during
the winter of 1994/5 was overhauled and repaired. By coincidence, the
bridge occupies the site of a far earlier bridge, marked on the 1894 Ordnance
Survey map.
An ancient sluice gate in the northern bank of the mill cut was repaired by
the National Rivers Authority in 1994, making it possible once more to
control flooding of the wetland between the cut and the main river. Old
channels were cleared out, and at the southern end of the area, where a
small pond already existed, a reed bed of phragmites communis, the tallest
of our native perennial grasses, has been encouraged to develop. In addition
to creating a special habitat attractive to wetland species of birds, this rush
bed also traps suspended particulate matter in the water flowing into the
area, assisting in its purification and contributing to the enhancement of
the river quality downstream. Maintenance is essential to the success of
this regime, and currently the Trust is working with the Environment Agency
clearing the channels of ten years’ accumulation of sediment and vegetation.
The south side of Nos 475–479 London Road, seen from Morden Meadow
May 1967 (ENM)
Chapter 4
THE MILL COTTAGES (Nos. 475 – 479 London Road)
In a picturesque setting to the east of Mitcham Bridge, upstream from
where the road crosses the river Wandle, there stands a group of three
weatherboarded houses. By the 1980s they were sadly dilapidated, but
they survived, and now have a potential for becoming attractive
properties. The site they occupy was once an island, created by the
diversion of the Wandle to serve precursors of what were known latterly
as the Grove and Crown mills. The river ceased to be used for power
over half a century ago, and the mill pond and various channels have
been filled in, leaving the Wandle today to follow a course not so very
different from that which existed in the Middle Ages.
The double-fronted house facing the bridge is a comparative newcomer,
built shortly after 1851, but its companions date in part to the middle
of the 18th century, and on this account are increasingly rare survivals
in this part of Greater London of a style of vernacular architecture
once common throughout north-eastern Surrey and Kent. Each was
built of timber-framing clad externally in overlapping deal weatherboarding,
a remarkably durable and resilient form of construction much
in vogue between about 1750 and 1800, and persisting locally until
about 1850. The internal finish was in lath and plaster or tongue-andgroove
boarding. A simple concave canopy in the ‘chinoiserie’ style of
the late Regency period covers the front door to the central cottage,
whilst the oldest of the group is symmetrically double-fronted in the
Georgian fashion and enjoys the added distinction of possessing bow
windows with sliding boxed sashes to the original pattern. The roofs
are covered either with slates, plain tiles or pantiles which, with a medley
of outbuildings and extensions, serve to underline the ad hoc nature of
development on the site.
Two cottages are recorded in the earliest surviving Mitcham poor rate
book, which dates from 1755,1 and although much altered since then,
the two houses, numbered 477 and 479, today probably incorporate
within their structure parts of these early buildings. Whereas it has not
been confirmed, the erection of the third of the houses, numbered 475
London Road, can probably be attributed to Richard Jones, a felt
manufacturer who, around the middle of the 19th century, acquired the
then empty Crown snuff mill and adapted it for his own use.2 Despite
their somewhat ramshackle appearance, the importance of the two older
houses from an architectural and historical point of view was first
recognised by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1952,
and they were afforded a Grade III listing. The value of the group as a
screen obscuring what was, until recently, an unsightly collection of
sheds and industrial buildings from the view of visitors to the National
Trust’s Watermeads property, has also long been recognised by the
local planning authorities. With the addition of No. 475 the three former
mill cottages now have a listing of Grade II on the statutory list.3 They
are also within the London Borough of Merton’s Wandle Valley
Conservation Area.
Until the close of the 19th century all three cottages were occupied by
mill owners, managers or mill workers. As we have noted earlier, from
about 1895 No 475 – Wandle Cottage – was tenanted for a few years
by Henry Bourne, bailiff of a short-lived private angling association.
By 1907 it had become the residence of a Mr Seager, who had taken
over part of the Crown Mill for manufacturing purposes, and by the
insertion of a door in the party wall with No. 477 he converted the two
houses into one. Seager’s stay in Britain ended with the outbreak of
war in 1914, and he returned to his native Holland. No. 477 reverted to
being a separate dwelling, occupied by a Mr Eilers, and he was followed
by the Gibb family, who made the house their home for some 40 years.
No. 475 also reverted to its original role as a separate dwelling, and
became for a while the residence of a Mr Cooper, the proprietor of a
corn and coal business in the London Road opposite the former Kings
Head (now the Burn Bullock).4 Until quite recently it had a succession
of tenants, most of them connected with the mills. Like the other houses,
it is now owner-occupied.
The building of No. 479 London Road may be attributable to Edward
Nash, who held the lease of the flour mill in the mid-18th century. It
continued to be occupied either by the proprietor or manager of the
Grove Mill until Ashby Brothers’ lease expired in 1902 and the long
history of corn milling in Mitcham came to an end. The mill building
itself was soon taken over by the expanding Patent Horse Hair Company
No 475 London Road in 1910 (above) and in the 1930s (below)
(Photographs reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
No 479 London Road, the oldest of the three mill cottages, May 1967
This view is the front of the cottage which faces north. (ENM)
No 479 London Road from the east, as seen from the Crown Mill in the 1930s
(Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
from the nearby Crown Mill, and for many years No. 479 was used
partly as an office and partly as the residence of the firm’s foreman,
John Smith, and afterwards by his successor, a Mr Kemp.4
In view of their individual character as well as their group value, in
1954 all three houses were placed on the Ministry of Housing and Local
Government’s Supplementary List of buildings of special architectural
or historic interest. When the firm of C S Walker (Sacks) Ltd purchased
the vacant Crown Mill at auction 1959 it was not immediately
appreciated that the property included three occupied houses, let at
controlled rents. Whilst their quaint appearance and historic interest
were appreciated, the company did not intend to spend money on their
maintenance, apart from what was received in rent, and as a consequence
the condition of all three properties steadily deteriorated. Eventually
No. 479, occupied by an elderly woman with an unauthorised subtenant
– a young woman with a baby, in 1966 attracted the attention of
a health visitor from the Borough Council. By now the house was in
such a state of disrepair that it was unfit, and on the criteria then used
by local authorities could not be considered repairable at reasonable
expense. On the recommendation of its public health committee in July
1967 Merton Council placed a closing order on the property, and rehoused
the tenant and sub-tenant.
By virtue of the listing the owners were deterred from considering
demolition as an option, and for several years No. 479, affected by dry
rot and its condition steadily worsening, was merely used for the storage
of sacking. With vacant possession however, the building had acquired
a much enhanced value, despite the need for substantial repairs, and it
was finally purchased for owner-occupation, the new owner embarking
on a programme of extensive rehabilitation which, in the event, resulted
virtually in a complete rebuilding. In 1993 the much improved house
was offered for sale at £150,000 as ‘Fisheries Cottage’ – a name for
which there is no historical justification – and now, once more owneroccupied,
it is an attractive member of the group. No. 477 also became
owner-occupied and has been renovated, but No. 475 remained in the
possession of C S Walker Ltd, and was tenanted by one of the firm’s
employees. It, too, was redecorated externally after substantial repairs
by the company in 1993, and was sold in 1997. The new owners were
confronted with extensive decay in the structural timbers, and embarked
on a long programme of rehabilitation.
Probably more film and artists’ canvas has been expended on recording
the mill houses than any other buildings in the Borough. Aesthetically
charming, and intimately connected with the Wandle and the industries
which once depended on the river, they have survived to provide an
important thread of continuity through over two and a half centuries of
change. With the protection of statutory listing their future seems a
little more secure and, given owners appreciative of their unique
character and able to keep them in good repair, it is to be hoped they
will continue to occupy the site for a good many years to come.
Grove Mill, Crown Mill and 475 London Road viewed from Mitcham Bridge
shortly before 1907, when fire severely damaged Grove Mill
(Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
Chapter 5
Early History
The Domesday survey recorded two mills in Mitcham in 1086, both of
which were working at the time of King Edward the Confessor.1 One
was described as being in ‘Whitford’, or Lower Mitcham, and the other
appears to have been located downstream at Phipps Bridge. The majority
of mills at this period were used for the grinding of cereals, and the
evidence points to the Wandle, which in the half mile between Willow
Lane and Mitcham bridge has a fall of about six feet, having been
exploited as a source of power well before the Norman Conquest. Since
then numerous industries have come and gone along this stretch of
river, one of the last to survive being that of corn milling. Other activities
included the bleaching and printing of linen and cotton fabrics, colour
or ‘drug’ milling, copper working, paper making, snuff milling, the
manufacture of felt and, most recently, of materials for use in upholstery.
Crown Mill, 475 London Road and Morden snuff mill, c.1906
(Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
During the 1960s infilling of the large mill pond behind the Grove and
Crown mills on the north bank of the river upstream from Mitcham
bridge finally ended this long history of industrial use, and within a
few years only the Grove mill building survived, although its occupiers
no longer relied upon the Wandle for power, and none of the milling
machinery remained. Planning consent for conversion of the mill to
create flats, and redevelopment of vacant land to the rear for housing,
was approved by the local authority, and work commenced with site
clearance in 2004.
The Grove mill building, its name derived from the mill’s having become
part of the Mitcham Grove estate by the 17th century, probably stands
close to the site of Whitford mill. In King Edward’s time this was owned
by a Saxon called Lank but, following the Conquest, it passed into the
hands of William FitzAnsculf, one of the great Norman landlords, and
subsequently to the de Mara family. By the mid-12th century Whitford
mill was in the possession of the de Whitford family, to whom part of
FitzAnsculf’s Domesday holding in Lower Mitcham had been granted.
Members of the de Whitford, or ‘Witford’, family, who were prominent
in Lower Mitcham during the 12th and 13th centuries, made several
bequests to the newly established priory of St Mary at Southwark.
Amongst them was Alexander de Witford who, between 1200 and 1230,
confirmed the presentation of the tithes of his mill to the prior and
canons “for the love of God and the salvation of my soul and of my
ancestors and descendants”.2
The de Witfords held part of their lands in Mitcham as feudal tenants
of the de Mara, or Mareys, family,3 and what may be assumed to be the
Whitford mill was one of the two mills included in the estate in
‘Wickford’ which William Mareys conveyed to the Church in 1362.4
The prior of Merton was said to be holding the ‘manor’ of Wickford
when an inquiry was held in 1380,5 and Malden suggested that Mareys’s
gift may have been in trust for the priory.6 This could well have been
the case, and land known variously as ‘Mareyslond’, ‘Mareshlandes’,
‘Marish’ or ‘Marshfee’, lying partly in Lower Mitcham and extending
south of the Wandle into Carshalton, was amongst the possessions of
Merton priory at the time of the Dissolution.
During the later Middle Ages it became common practice for property
belonging to the great monastic houses to be leased or ‘farmed’ to
tenants. The estate of Westminster Abbey at Morden was managed in
this way,7 and records surviving from before the Dissolution show the
same policy being followed by Merton priory.8 Thus in his will dated
January 1529/30 William Standon, or Stondon, ‘Yeoman of the Crown’,
mentioned “all my lease from Merton Priory in Mitcham called
Marrisfeeland” and his ‘capital messuage’ called ‘Mares Garden’ in
Mitcham.9 At the Dissolution, according to the Victoria County History
the prior was in receipt of £3 1s 8d “as the farm of land called
Maresland”,10 and in the account of John Bowland, collector of rents
in 1538, “certain land called Mareshlandes in Micham and Carshalton”
held by Merton Priory were yielding £3 11s 8d.11 No records seem to
have survived to show what happened to Whitford mill during the 15th
and early 16th centuries, but both the Grove Mill and its neighbour the
Crown Mill, occupying the site in the 19th century, were recorded as
‘tithe free’ in the survey conducted for the tithe commissioners in 1846,
which is consistent with the early mills having been in the tenure of the
Church during the Middle Ages.12
In 1544 Robert Wylford, or Wilford, a merchant in the City of London,
was granted ‘in fee-farm’ several estates formerly belonging to Merton
Priory including the ‘Mareslondes’, or ‘Mares-fee’ land in Mitcham
“late in the occupation of William Standon”.13 Following Wilford’s
death the following year this freehold property passed to his heirs and
was subsequently sold. Amongst those buying portions of the former
Wilford estate was Thomas Smythe, to whom reference as a resident
of Mitcham first occurs in 1564.14 Smythe was a high-ranking official
in Queen Elizabeth’s government, and the owner of extensive estates,
including land in Mitcham and Wandsworth, where he held the lordship
of the manor of Dunsford, and another manor in Wiltshire.15 A “Micham
mille” finds mention in 1572 when maintenance work on the river was
called for by the Surrey and Kent Sewer Commissioners, but its precise
location is not made clear in the published minutes.16 From later records,
however, it would appear to have been a forerunner of the Grove mill
and was, presumably, then in Smythe’s possession. In his will, dated
1575, he left the major portion of his estate, including his “choice house
and Landes” in Mitcham, to his wife Elenor (sic) and their son George,
then aged 14.17 The boy duly inherited much of his father’s property,
including the “howse by the Watersyd”, which in later years became
known as Mitcham Grove.15 As a young man George Smythe set about
enlarging his estate, purchasing various freehold properties in Lower
Mitcham and elsewhere,18 and by the reign of James I he had become a
major landowner and a prominent local figure.19
In 1610 George Smythe was recorded as owning three mills on the
Wandle.20 Exactly where they were is not stated, but one of them must
have been the “Micham mille” mentioned 40 years previously. It is also
likely to have been the “Cornmill” which was referred to as “Micham
Mill alias Wickford Mill alias Marris Mill” in an indenture dated 1645
detailing lands offered as security when Thomas Smythe, George’s son,
was raising a loan.21 The mill was described as having a “high drying
room or loft adjoining and two closes of marsh ground” and, most
importantly, it was made clear that it was “all in the parish of Mitcham”.
This places the mill building north of the river, which in the vicinity of
Mitcham bridge defined the boundary between Mitcham and the
adjoining parishes of Morden and Carshalton.
In 1584, during George Smythe’s minority and when the family estates
were in the care of his mother and her second husband, Dr Bartholomew
Clerk, two water mills and 30 acres called the ‘Marish’ in Mitcham
featured in a dispute over manorial rights between Sir Francis Carew
of Beddington (who had been granted lordship of the manor of
Ravensbury in 1554) and Charles Howard, Baron Howard of Effingham
(Elizabeth I’s Lord High Admiral at the time of the Armada), who held
the manor of Reigate.22 Exactly where these mills stood is not known
for certain but, since as late as 1940 a quit rent of 20 shillings per
annum was still being claimed by the manor of Reigate from Mitcham
Hair and Fibre Mills, then the owners of the Grove Mill and the
adjoining Crown Mill, it is a reasonable assumption that one or both of
them occupied the site of one of the 16th century mills. Reigate’s claim
was probably well-founded but in September 1940 the Battle of Britain
was at its height, and the manor steward was politely informed by the
managing director of the Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills that
Detail from Ordnance Survey 25-inch map of 1867
consideration of the claim would have to be deferred. In the event, the
matter was never resolved.23
Over the succeeding centuries the mills were enlarged, burned down,
rebuilt and extended. The peak of industrial activity was reached at the
beginning of the 19th century, but then, with the gradual adoption of
steam power, industry was no longer restricted to riverside sites and
steadily migrated to other locations. The end came very slowly in
Mitcham, however, and in the short stretch of the Wandle between
Willow Lane and Ravensbury four large mills continued working until
after the 1914-18 war. The great iron wheel of the Grove Mill was one
of the last to see service, and proved invaluable during the harsh winter
of 1947 when a power crisis forced many other works to suspend
production. In the mid-1960s diversion of the Wandle by Surrey County
Council rendered the wheel redundant, and it was dismantled. By the
1980s only the Grove mill building remained, its yellow stock bricks
regrettably disfigured by the ill-advised application of white paint. Of
the nearby Crown Mill, which was destroyed by fire in 1964, nothing
survived to be seen above ground.
Copper Milling (1698-c.1748)
Surveys of the manor of Reigate conducted in the 17th century continued
to list amongst properties within the manor’s jurisdiction a tenement
and water mill and 30 acres of ‘marsh ground’ at Mitcham, for which a
yearly rent of 20 shillings was paid by the freeholders, the Smythes.1
Its location is not made clear but, as already stated, a case may be made
for the property to have included the site of either the Grove or Crown
mills. In the list of freeholders compiled during surveys dated c.1701-
1707 is the entry “Smith of Mitcham, widow, claimeth to hold of this
manor one messuage or tenement with a water mill now used for the
working of copper, and a parcel of marsh ground thereunto belonging,
situate and being at Mitcham, conteining 30 acres 1 rood 9 perches, at
£1 quit rent”.2 Clearly, the same property was involved in both cases
and, with its associated land, buildings and appurtenances, it remained
a distinct holding until 1768, when it was sold by William Myers, by
whom it had been inherited.3
The water mill held by Mrs Smith early in the 17th century seems to
have been the copper works at Mitcham known as the Tower Mills,
which Thomas Cletscher, a Swedish traveller, noted in 1698. The works
comprised a small re-melting furnace, a rolling mill and a forge, and it
was a condition of its licence that only native copper should be used.4
A monopoly in copper manufacture which had existed in this country
collapsed during the Civil War, and after the formation of the English
Copper Company in 1691 the industry expanded. A number of new
battery and rolling mills, for which water power was the only practicable
source of energy, were established in England in the late 17th century,
often employing the skills of Dutch metalworkers, and copper mills
began to proliferate along the Wandle valley at this time. A change in
use of one of the Mitcham mills from corn milling to the working of
copper, or its alloys bronze and brass, could well be ascribed to the
same period.
The name of the actual proprietor of the copper mill at Mitcham was
not given by Cletscher, nor was it recorded in the court rolls, but it was
most probably Charles Perry (or Parry) who is said to have obtained
(or renewed) a licence to manufacture copper coins (or more likely
blanks) at the Tower Mills in 1712. A Francis Parry was a partner at a
copper smelting works established by the English Copper Company on
the river Wye at Redbrook in about 1691, and it is reasonable to assume
the two men were related. The family’s Mitcham roots may go back to
the mid-17th century, when a James Perry, who died in 1659 and was
described as a ‘whitster’, citizen and leather-seller of London, held the
position of high constable for Wallington during the Commonwealth.5
It is understood that, according to the records of St Paul’s Cathedral,
the original ball and cross were made at “Andrew Niblett’s copper mill
at Mitcham” in 1708, but this mill has not been identified and there
seems to be no mention of Niblett in Mitcham parish records. Niblett
died in August 1736, and all one can conclude is that his presence in
Mitcham was of short duration, and that he was buried elsewhere. Niblett
is said to have been paid £1,538 1s 6d “for ye Balle and Crosse for ye
lantern”. It withstood the atmosphere of London for about 100 years,
and was taken down in 1821 and replaced with the present ball and
Charles Perry’s mill, shown by John Rocque in a map of the environs of
London 1741-5
cross.6 By the mid-1720s copper working had evidently declined at
Mitcham, for Henrich Karlmeter, another Swede, did not see fit to
include the Tower Mills amongst the six he listed, merely referring to a
“works of former importance at Mitcham”.4
Ownership of Perry’s mill and the rest of the estate had passed to William
Myers in 1725 under the terms of Susannah Smythe’s will, and remained
in the ownership of his family throughout the second quarter of the
18th century.7 On the evidence of a ledgerstone inscribed to the memory
of a Charles “Parry” in the central aisle of Mitcham parish church,
Perry seems to have died in 1748. On his map of the environs of London,
dated 1741-5, John Rocque had marked “Perry’s Mill” close by Mitcham
Bridge, and in an indenture dated March 1764, when the mill and
associated buildings and land were being sold, reference was made to
“ground on (the) south side of buildings with the three small messuages/
tenements and a barn thereon standing all in Mitcham, … late in the
occupation of Charles Perry deceased”.8 There is also mention of a
house and garden with three acres of land, which could well have been
his residence. A deed of sale was completed four years later, when the
former Smythe property was purchased by Rowland Frye of Wallington.
By this time the old Tower Mill building seems to have been either
converted or, more likely, demolished and completely rebuilt, for it is
described in the deeds as “a millhouse and 3 water corn mills therein”.3
As “Mitcham Mill” this is shown in a later map produced by Rocque,
published in the mid-1760s.
The Flour Mills (1765-1795)
In 1765, prior to completion of sale of the freehold of Mitcham Mill to
Rowland Frye, a fresh lease was granted to the existing lessee, Edward
Nash.1 A miller, he was already in occupation of what the indenture
makes clear were three cornmills “within one building”. As we have
seen, in addition to the “millhouse” or mill building, which we can
assume occupied the site of the later Grove Mill, the lease included
cottages, a barn and land formerly leased by Perry. The earliest Mitcham
poor rate books to survive show Nash assessed for rates in respect of a
mill near Mitcham Bridge as far back as 1756, but whether this was
Perry’s mill, or a new building, it is impossible to say.2 It does,
nevertheless, seem likely Nash had taken over the lease of the premises,
perhaps a decade or so earlier and soon after Perry’s retirement. The
deeds also mention a house, with a garden and yard, plus two closes of
land, but apart from making it clear the premises were in Mitcham,
there is nothing to show exactly where they stood, nor anything to
suggest this was where Nash lived. (It is tempting, however, to believe
it was close to the mill, perhaps on the site in Riverside Drive now
occupied by Wandle House.) By 1765, Nash was evidently on the point
of vacating the premises, for they were then described as “now or late
Edward Nash”.3
William Myers, who was selling the property, was a graduate of Lincoln
College, Oxford, and had been born in about 1713. His father, an
attorney, died in 1742 and, like him, William also followed a career in
law.4 The sale of the freehold title provides an interesting example of
the tortuous conveyancing procedure customary in the 18th century
and, it might be said, of the means by which many members of the
legal profession secured a comfortable living. Disposal of the property
commenced in March 1764 with the sale by Archibald Stewart and
William Myers of a year’s lease to Robert Cochran, an apothecary of
Scottish birth then living in a house overlooking Mitcham’s Cricket
Green.5 Stewart, a London wine merchant and former MP for
Edinburgh, was resident at ‘Mitcham Grove’, the impressive mansion
on the banks of the Wandle which had been in the ownership of the
Smythes since the late 16th century. His involvement in the transaction
probably stemmed from his holding a sub-lease of the Grove estate
from Myers. In August 1765 Cochran and John Marlar, another London
merchant, granted Nash two “leases” (probably sub-leases) of land and
mills for a period of 99 years.6 The freehold of the land (in this case
only part seems to have been involved) was conveyed by Cochran to
Rowland Frye in October 1768 by the grant of a year’s lease, followed
shortly afterwards by the sale of the reversionary interest.7 Marlar’s
father, a “citizen and haberdasher of London”, had been a prominent
calico printer early in the century, and was buried at Beddington. John,
who was styled “of Beddington, Cheapside and Mitcham”, was living
in another of Myers’s properties, a substantial house, previously the
residence of William Myers himself, in Lower Mitcham.8 There is no
evidence to suggest that either Cochran or Marlar were in any way
concerned with the actual processes at the mill, and their involvement
in the transactions is likely to have been entirely as intermediaries.
It so happens that a considerable number of documents, both private
and public, survive from the latter part of the 18th century recording
the various changes of tenure of the mills by Mitcham bridge. It has to
be admitted, however, that they can be somewhat baffling, since it is
not always obvious to which premises they referred. An added difficulty
is that a mill building may have contained more than one mill, or set of
stones, a subtlety not always made clear. This applies particularly to
the earliest continuous and reasonably detailed local government records
to have survived for Mitcham – the parochial rate books and, from
1780, the land tax records – which, although quite adequate for their
original purposes, can confuse the unwary researcher.
From the rate books one finds that John Chesterman, a flour miller,
was in occupation of a house and one of the three mills by Mitcham
bridge in the late 1760s.9 In 1772 Edward Nash, whose name is recorded
in the 1756 rate book, granted to a Lionel Gregory, who was also
described as “of Mitcham, miller,” a sub-lease for 91 years at £85 per
quarter of the upper part of his “corn mill near Mitcham bridge”.10 The
lease included a second house and land, a conduit and water-gate, and
specific mention was made of the right of access to and from the
Mitcham high road. (The private roadway giving access to the Grove
Mill building and the former mill cottages still exists.) Detailed
conditions were laid down regarding future maintenance of the mill
and, most importantly, control and use of water. The schedule to
Gregory’s lease is of additional interest, for it refers to “that part of the
mills now or late used as a snuff mill” – the first mention we have of
snuff milling at this locality – and describes the wheels and milling
machinery in some detail. Gregory’s tenure was of short duration,
however, and within two years his lease was assigned by his executors
to Richard Glover, who was described as a “mealman”.
From valuations made by Mitcham parish officers for rating purposes
it can be deduced (somewhat tentatively) that Nash sub-leased the largest
and most valuable of the three mills to Gregory and Chesterman,
retaining what seems to have been only a small part of the premises for
his own use. The easternmost of the three houses standing today, No.
479 London Road, seems to have been his residence until about 1776,
when he appears to have retired from milling, and in 1780 he is to be
found in the land tax records as living at Tamworth Lodge, a more
substantial house overlooking Mitcham Common.11 Next to Richard
Glover, who had moved into Nash’s former house, were John
Chesterman and his family, who remained there until the early 1790s.
Research into insurance policies has disclosed that Chesterman was
also involved in brewing, and from 1774 until 1784 he was in partnership
with William Hughes of the nearby Globe Brewery.12
Edward Nash had married Mary, a daughter of John and Ann Glover of
Norwood, members of the influential Glover family.13 A branch of the
Glovers had been living in Mitcham for many years, and a Gabriel
Glover, described as “of London, linen draper”, was resident with his
wife and children in a large house in Lower Mitcham (later known as
Baron House) from the 1680s until about 1720. Various members of
the family are buried in the parish church, where at least one memorial
to them remains visible in the south aisle.14
Mary Nash predeceased Edward by some 30 years,15 and when he died
tenure of the smaller mill passed to Richard Glover, who seems to have
been Edward Nash’s nephew.16 The precise relationship has not been
verified, but an older Richard Glover, who may have been Mary’s
brother, is recorded in the court rolls of the manor of Carshalton as
having died between 1765 and 1769. Richard Glover junior, who was
described as a “mealman” in one document, had been in the flour milling
business at Mitcham since about 1774, when he took over the sublease
of Gregory’s mill. He evidently set about enlarging or rebuilding
Nash’s mill soon after acquiring possession, for within a few years his
assessment for land tax increased four-fold. In July 1789 Glover insured
his “brick, timber and tiled dwelling house” (No. 479 London Road)
with the Sun Insurance Co., for £300, and his “Water Corn Millhouse”
nearby for £700. Its contents, stock and utensils were covered for a like
amount. The millhouse was built of brick and timber and, rather
surprisingly for a concern so vulnerable to fire, was “cover’d with Tarr’d
Paper and Gravel”.17 As might be expected, given his business interests
and family connections, Richard Glover was regarded as a man of some
standing in the community, and was an active member of Mitcham
vestry for many years. He was elected overseer of the poor for the year
1777-1778, and in 1781 was one of the gentlemen whose names were
put forward by the vestry to serve as surveyors of highways.18 In the
same year he secured appointment as an assessor for the land tax.
Richard Glover’s neighbour, John Chesterman, died in 1784 and tenure
of his mill passed to his widow.19 By his will, proved in February 1784,
Chesterman left his share in the brewery to his executors in trust for his
son Caleb, who was still a minor.20 Four years later, when the occupier
is given in one source as Samuel Chesterman, their timber and tiled
“Mitcham Corn Mill”, which seems to have been on the site of the
present Grove Mill, was destroyed by fire.21 Rebuilding took place
almost immediately, but Mrs Chesterman and her family must have
been left in financial straits, for in 1789 we find the vestry pressing
them for non-payment of rates.18 At this time the three mills and the
land on which they stood were owned by Samuel Frye, who had
inherited the estate in Mitcham and Carshalton purchased by Rowland
Frye in 1774.
It is evident that within a short while the Chestermans’ lease was
surrendered to Richard Glover, who by 1795 was in possession of all
three mills, two used for the grinding of corn and one for snuff, valued
together for land tax purposes at £293 per annum – a not inconsiderable
sum in those days. This was the situation in 1805, when James Malcolm
duly included “Mr. Glover’s flour mill” as one of the Wandle mills
listed in his Compendium of Modern Husbandry, published that year.
Malcolm does, however, imply that Glover had sub-leased part of the
premises, for immediately following the flour mill he also listed “Mr.
Stevenson’s snuff mills, all in Mitcham parish”.22
The Snuff Mills (1772-1845)
The fact that Sir Walter Raleigh and his wife had owned land in
Mitcham, and that he is popularly (if erroneously) credited with the
introduction of tobacco into this country, gave rise to a belief locally
that it was Sir Walter himself who had brought snuff milling to the
Wandle valley. The truth is that in the 16th century tobacco, either for
smoking or snuffing, was carried back to Europe by many of the
explorers and adventurers returning from the New World. Furthermore,
the taking of snuff, although already widespread on the Continent by
the end of the century, did not become fashionable in England for another
100 years, long after Sir Walter’s death, and seems to have been
introduced via Ireland and Scotland. It is puzzling, therefore, that
Morden Mill, a little weatherboarded snuff mill which stood on the
southern bank of the Wandle above Mitcham Bridge until 1922, should
be referred to in some local history notes as “Raleigh’s mill” or even,
more specifically, “Caleb Raleigh’s mill” without, so far as can be
ascertained, any justification whatsoever.1
As we have seen, there is reference to snuff milling having taken place
in one of the mills at Mitcham in the sub-lease granted by Edward
Nash to Lionel Gregory in 1772,2 and Edwards, in about 1789, noted
Richard Glover’s corn and snuff mills lying to the east of Mitcham
bridge.3 The early snuff mill was in the lower part of the building leased
by Nash, but in view of Edwards’ assertion that Chesterman’s corn
mill was destroyed by fire in 1788, it has to be assumed that Glover’s
snuff mill was in a structually separate part of the millhouse, and
survived. Nothing in Edwards’ account suggests that another mill stood
on the Morden side of the river by 1790, but it would perhaps be better
not to rely overmuch on his observations on whatwas a complex
arrangement. It is also clear that around the turn of the century
considerable changes were taking place, but at this distance in time
they appear impossible to unravel.
Henry Hoare had acquired a leasehold interest in the property by 1809,
presumably on the termination of Stevenson’s tenure, for the records
of the Royal Exchange Insurance Co. show that in March a fire insurance
policy was taken out by Hoare on the snuff mill on the north bank, then
in the occupation of Richard Glover.4 This may have been newly erected,
and the precaution of ensuring adequate cover was eminently sensible
for, as recent experience at the flour mill had demonstrated, given the
right conditions the dust raised in the milling processes was potentially
explosive. Furthermore, Glover’s snuff mill was a timber-built structure,
“covered with a composition of paper, pitch and gravel” and therefore
highly inflammable. For insurance purposes the mill building itself
was valued at £1200, and the “standing and going gear, millstones,
machinery and utensils therein” were covered for £1000.
Morden poor rate books for the period are of little help in the quest to
discover when the snuff mill on the south bank was built, and the Morden
land tax records from 1780 until 18315 contain no entry at all which
specifically relates to a mill, but “Land” valued at £19 p.a., described
as “late Nash” under the heading of “Proprietor” and “Richard Glover”
under “Occupier”, finds a place in the tax book for 1793. Before that
an assessment of £19 was listed, but it was not ascribed to land, or
anything else. Particulars of tenure given over the 24 years from 1780
to 1804 can be summarised as follows:
Proprietor Occupier
1780-1784 Edward Nash Edward Nash
1785 ” ” Richard Glover
1786-1793 Late Nash ” ”
1795-1798 Henry Hoare ” ”
1799-1803 – Fry ” ”
Then, in 1804, with no change in ownership or occupation being
recorded, the assessment increased to £63 per annum, and was sustained
at this level until the records ceased in 1831. No reason is given, but
the sudden increase in valuation is what one would expect to see if
some new development, such as the construction of a mill, had taken
place on the land shortly before 1804.
The first positive reference to what in later years was known as ‘Morden
Mill’, is contained in another Royal Exchange Fire Insurance Policy,
also dated March 8th 1809, taken out by “Henry Hoare of Fleet Steet,
London, Esq.” Hoare was the senior partner of the bank of that name,
and lived at Mitcham Grove, immediately downstream from Mitcham
bridge. The policy was on a “Snuff Millhouse timber and slated situate
in the parish of Morden Co. of Surrey, in the occupation of Richard
Glover” valued at £300.6 Cover for the “standing and going gears,
millstones and utensils therein” was for £380. The mill is shown on
Henry Hoare’s estate map of 1812,7 which would suggest that by this
time he held the head-lease of the property. As a leasehold property it
was similarly included in a later map, prepared by Edwin Chart, a local
surveyor, to accompany the sale particulars of Henry Hoare’s estate
when it was auctioned as a leasehold property shortly after his death in
1828.8 In the prospectus the “Paddock by Morden Snuff Mills” was
listed and is identifiable as the meadow now owned by the National
Trust. The “mills” (the reference is definitely in the plural in the sale
particulars, implying that the building contained at least two sets of
stones), with two cottages on the Mitcham, or north bank, and stabling,
kilns, millwright’s shop, piggery and cowsheds, were in the occupation
of Richard Glover.
In an account of a perambulation of the bounds of Mitcham by the
parish officers in 1833, Chart noted “Morden Mill” as a land mark, and
described the land adjoining as “Morden Mill Meadow”.9 The following
year the mill was stated to be empty.10 The records of the Morden tithe
commutation survey conducted in 1837/8 list the landowner as Mrs
Spencer “(late Fry)”, and a Richard Glover as the occupier.11 In addition
to the snuff mill, Glover held the lease of three paddocks in Morden,
two “strips”, a pond and mill tail, totalling in all three and a half acres.
Access to his house on the northern, or Mitcham, bank was by a wooden
bridge. Also on the Morden side of the river, and in the hands of John
Glover, were a further seven acres, including a “large building” – a
disused paper mill to which we will return later.
A draft consignment note for snuff signed by Richard Glover junior
for his father, dated February 1835,12 implies that father and son were
in partnership at this time. Glover senior must have been well into his
80s, and we can assume that the Richard Glover whose name was noted
in Crawter’s survey conducted in 1838 as the occupier of a snuff mill
on the northern side of the river was the son, and then running the
business.13 He continued to be listed in the commercial directories for
Mitcham from 1839 until 1845, either as a snuff grinder or a snuff and
tobacco merchant.14 The position is not completely clear, however, for
by the 1840s a grandson, also named Richard, would have been old
enough to have joined the family business. Braithwaite, studying the
mills working on the Wandle in the spring of 1853,15 noted a “small
snuff mill” on the south bank, but did not describe its machinery, perhaps
because it was no longer in use. It certainly seems a reasonable
assumption that from the mid-1830s onwards the Glovers’ snuff milling
activity was largely, if not entirely, confined to the mill on the Mitcham
side of the river. There is no further record of snuff milling at the Morden
mill, and it would seem to have been empty and increasingly derelict
until demolished in 1922.16
Hillier observed in 1951
“On the opposite bank to the Grove Mills was a snuff-mill pulled
down within the memory of the fibre-works foreman, who in fact
dismantled the wheel, an old wooden one, as it was becoming
dangerous to the children who played about it. Lying athwart the
grassy bank are the snuff-miller’s discarded stones, one entire, the
other in pieces, and forming, in the manner of the old engravers’
imbroglios of skulls, a sort of memento mori of water-milling on
the Wandle.”17
The site of the old Morden snuff mill is now owned by the National
Trust, the land having been given to the Trust by the Urban District
Council of Merton and Morden shortly before it was abolished in the
reorganisation of London Government in 1965. The brick retaining
walls at the side of the tailrace, and a sill in the bed of the river still
survive to mark the approximate position of the wheel, and the complete
edge-runner stone Hillier noted lies beneath a tree on the river bank.
Richard Glover II’s younger brother John also followed in their father’s
footsteps, and the two, with their own sons, maintained the family’s
connections with milling and Mitcham until the middle of the 19th
century. Richard junior lived at No. 477 until about 1845, and was in
charge of the snuff and tobacco manufactory, holding the mills on leases
from the Fry family and their descendants, the Spencers.
Like his father, Richard Glover II was a Mitcham vestryman, and in
1833 served as a churchwarden. Sad to relate, financial difficulties
were ahead for the family, and in May 1835 one of the Richard Glovers
was declared bankrupt, but since three generations bore the same
Christian name, it is not clear which one was involved, or which Richard
Glover was the occupant of the Mitcham snuff mill in 1838. 13 Whoever
Morden Snuff Mill c.1906. By this time the mill was disused.
(Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
it was, two years later the bankruptcy remained undischarged. “Richard
Glover” was recorded at the mills in 1841,18 but he seems to have ceased
business shortly afterwards, and by the mid-1840s the former snuff
mills, with their kiln house, yard and buildings on the north bank of the
river were unoccupied and, presumably, disused.19
Whereas the retirement of the Glovers from the scene saw the end of
snuff milling in the vicinity of Mitcham bridge, the industry was to
continue downstream at Ravensbury and Morden Hall for many years.
Richard Glover II died in 1858 at the age of 68 and his headstone stands
in Mitcham churchyard, marking also the grave of his wife Sarah and
their son Richard, who died only three years after his father.
The Paper Mill
The canal-like watercourse in the Watermeads known today as ‘Paper
Mill Cut’ is clearly marked on the plan produced from a survey of the
estate of Henry Hoare conducted in 1827. This accompanied the sale
particulars prepared when his freehold and leasehold estate was
auctioned in 1828, and also shows a large building, L-shaped in plan,
standing at the head of the cut, near the present weir.1
This building was the paper mill referred to in the sale particulars and
which, with ‘Paper Mill Cut’, fishponds and various parcels of land
now incorporated in the Watermeads, was held by Richard Glover under
an 85-year lease which commenced at Midsummer 1778. It has not
been possible to find a precise date for the construction of the building,
nor for the digging of the cut, which ensured the retention of a substantial
volume of water with a working head of some four feet. The amount of
work involved in its excavation was considerable, and the expectation
of profit obviously substantial. Rather unexpectedly, neither the mill
building nor the cut is identifiable on the first edition Ordnance Survey
map of 1816, but the scale is such that many smaller details must, of
necessity, have been omitted. They are similarly missing from both
Bryant’s and the Greenwoods’ maps of 1823, produced on a much larger
scale. Bryant makes the specific claim that his map was surveyed in
1822 and 1823, and comparison with the OS map shows considerable
additions. On the cartographical evidence, therefore, Paper Mill Cut as
it exists today has to be dated to the period 1824-27 but, as we shall see
below, it may have been constructed a decade or so earlier.
The circumstances under which the lease came to be in Henry Hoare’s
possession are not known, nor the date when the transfer occurred, but
the land tax records suggest that his interest in the property commenced
around 1795. As the senior partner of Hoare’s Bank since 1782, and
having known Glover as a neighbour for a number of years, Hoare
might well have arranged both for the initial financing of the paper
mill, and also working capital, taking the lease as collateral security.
Further research, for instance in the archives of Hoare’s Bank, might
well clarify the situation.
Work by Alan Crocker shows that Richard Glover, in addition to his
other milling activities, was manufacturing paper at his mill “at Morden”
between 1782 and 1814,2 and that he employed a variant of the popular
Britannia watermark, to be seen, for instance, in the paper used for the
Mitcham land tax books for 1795 and 1798. Glover was an established
figure in the industry, and at the General Meeting of the Master Paper
Makers in 1799 was represented by Thomas Curteis of Carshalton and
Charles Ball of Chilworth, both paper makers.
‘Paper Mill Cut’ in the Watermeads seen from the south c.1990 (ENM)
According to Crocker, around 1810-1820 a number of Surrey paper
makers producing hand-made paper became bankrupt, but in most
instances after a lapse of a year or so the mills re-opened to produce
machine-made paper.3 It seems that about this time changes were also
occurring at Morden, with enlargement of the mill and perhaps
construction of the cut and the digging of a millpond – the so-called
‘Jack Pond’ – but much more evidence is needed before one can be
sure. It may, however, be significant that in 1814 Richard Glover, “paper
maker of Mitcham”, insured his paper mill at Morden near Mitcham
bridge with the Sun Insurance Company.4
According to Crocker, Glover’s activity as a paper manufacturer at
Morden ceased around 1828 – another significant date, for this was
when Henry Hoare died and the remaining portion of the lease of the
paper mill and land was sold.1 Mention of “the paper mill” in the record
kept of a perambulation of the bounds of Mitcham in 1833 shows that
even if no longer in use for paper making, the building was still standing
at that time.5 In 1834 what seems to have been the mill building was
recorded as “empty”.6 Three years later, when the tithe commissioners
Watermark and countermark traced from paper made by Richard Glover at
Morden Mill. Shown about half-size. Reproduced by courtesy of A Crocker.
were conducting a survey in the parish of Morden, Richard Glover’s
second son, John, was found to be leasing or renting a garden, “a large
building”, probably his father’s old paper mill, and six acres of meadow
now within the Watermeads. The land owner appears in their register
as “Mrs Spencer (late Fry)”.7
It is not known when the old paper mill building was demolished, but it
had gone by the time the second edition of the 25 inch OS map was
surveyed in 1894. Today its site is a level plot of greensward in the
Watermeads at the head of Paper Mill Cut. Here the brickwork of the
mill race can still be seen, and the mill tail through which the water
held in the cut flows to rejoin the main river.
The Surrey Iron Railway
Both Hillier and Francis have claimed 1 that for a time early in the 19th
century part of the Crown Mill or, more likely, separate buildings at
the rear,2 were workshops in which the horse-drawn trucks, used on the
Surrey Iron Railway, were repaired. From 1803 to the early 1840s the
railway passed 300 yards to the north of the mill site along what is
today called Tramway Path. Corn and coal were two of the main
commodities carried, a steady supply of which would have been required
either at the mills or the nearby Globe Brewery.
Factories and other customers used their own trucks, which might well
have been repaired on their premises. There is no direct evidence of
any of the various buildings associated with the Wandle mills being
used for this purpose, but the idea is given support by the discovery of
large cast-iron wheels, which had been embedded in the sides of the
river bank to act as a reinforcement. Several of these wheels were
dislodged by the current after heavy rainfall and flooding in January
1936, and were discovered in the bed of the tailrace of the Crown Mill,
where they remained visible in the 1940s.
Two of the wheels were salvaged in 1969 by National Trust staff and
taken as curios to the snuff mills at Morden Hall. The least damaged,
three feet in diameter, unflanged and having nine spokes, was
subsequently offered by the Trust to Surrey Archaeological Society on
Detail from 1st edition OS map of 1816, showing ‘Iron Road Way’, or Surrey Iron Railway
extended loan, and was transported to the Castle Arch Museum at
Guildford in 1972 by the writer. The other is now in the custody of the
Wandle Industrial Museum, where it is on display with an iron plate
rail, and two stone sleeper pads loaned by Merton Historical Society.
Both wheels are of a type known to have been fitted to trucks used on
the railway and it quite possible for them to have come from wagons
owned by the Glovers or the brewery and used to transport goods to
and from the railhead at Wandsworth Creek.
John Glover, Flour Miller (1833-1855)
What the sale particulars of the late Henry Hoare’s estate described as
“Two capital Water Corn Mills … With a powerful head of water, well
supplied from the River Wandle, working Five Pair of Stone, Four
Stories high” were both in the occupation of John Glover. The fourstorey
millhouse (presumably the fore-runner of the Grove Mill), with
its associated buildings, was held on a 91-year lease from Midsummer
Wagon wheel from the Surrey Iron Railway, salvaged from the bed of the
Wandle above Mitcham bridge. It is now in Guildford Museum. (ENM 1972)
1772, and was clearly the successor to that which Richard Glover had
taken over from Lionel Gregory in 1774. The other mill was held under
a lease for 21 years from Lady-Day 1814, and is shown on the
accompanying plan to have been behind and at an angle to the older
building, but supplied from the same mill head.1 The sale of the leasehold
property was conducted by Robins, the auctioneer, in the summer of
1828 at Garroway’s Coffee House in Cornhill, the lot comprising the
two watermills also including a ‘Cottage Residence’, offices and
John, Richard Glover’s second son, was a flour miller all his life. He
seems to have followed his father at the Grove Mill, although in a
review of Wandle mills conducted in 1834 Richard and John were
recorded jointly as lessees and occupiers of the corn mill, whilst the
owners were said, somewhat enigmatically, to be “Crockfords”.2 John
Glover first appeared as a miller in his own right in the commercial
directories in 1839,3 and by the 1840s had attained the status of a master
miller, employing two men.4 The Mitcham tithe survey records show
him occupying the flour mills, and the miller’s house and gardens on
the north bank of the river, with land ownership remaining in the hands
of the Spencers,5 and he, his wife and son John are also listed, as might
be expected, in the census returns.
Late 19th-century photographs portray the Grove Mill as a long,
rectangular building, occupying roughly the same area as the present
structure, but of four storeys rather than three. Behind the mill there
was a large mill pond, created by a diversion of the Wandle and
impounding a considerable volume of water. By 1853 this powered not
only the 24 hp wheel of Glover’s corn mill, but also another of 20 hp
serving Ashby’s corn mills. Both, it seems, were housed within the
Grove Mill building. Another wheel, of 23 hp and once driving the
snuff mill, now served “Mr. Jones’s felt mill”.7 The tailrace of the flour
mills passed under Grove Mill and discharged below the bridge which
gave access to the front and rear of the building, whilst the tail from the
felt mill passed round the south of the mill cottages, following the
parish boundary and what one therefore assumes to have been the course
of the Wandle during the Middle Ages.
John Glover’s name last appears in the Post Office directory for 1855,
and was replaced in the 1862 edition by that of Joshua Ashby of Brixton.
Glover and his family seem to have vacated the miller’s house at about
the same time. The mid-19th century in fact marks a watershed not
only in the story of the Glover family, but also in the history of the
mills and the houses so intimately associated with them.
The Crown and Grove Mills (1850-1900): Felt and Flour
During the late 1840s what had been the Glovers’ snuff mill on the
Mitcham side of the river was acquired and adapted by Richard Jones,
a felt manufacturer. A newcomer to the district, by 1846 Jones and his
family had taken up residence at Mitcham House, overlooking the Upper
Green.1 John Edmunds, his manager, had moved into No. 477 with his
family between 1846 and 1851,2 and by 1855 the Mitcham Felt Mills
were busily producing boots and jerkins for British troops engaged in
the Crimean War.3 No. 475 London Road, the last of the three houses
to be built and the one to be seen facing the road bridge, dates from
shortly after 1851, and it is likely it was erected at the behest of Richard
Jones, but this has not been confirmed.
Power for the felt mill came from a single great wheel, generating 23
horsepower.4 Under R R Whitehead Bros Ltd, the firm which had
absorbed Jones’s business by the early 1860s,5 the manufacture of felt
goods continued for nearly 50 years at the Crown Mill. In 1870 a fire at
the ‘Wandle Felt Works’, as it was commonly known, necessitated
rebuilding, but the damage was made good in six weeks, and production
was hardly affected. However, since, like the building it replaced, the
new mill was not parallel to the wheel, which had survived the fire,
special gears had to be cut to transmit the drive to the machinery. The
wheel is understood to have remained in working order until the 1960s.6
The Ashbys, the new occupiers of the Grove flour mill, were a Quaker
family of Irish descent, who became prominent millers in south-eastern
London in the 19th century. The business had been founded by John
Ashby, who died in the early 1840s, and the smock windmill he erected
in 1816 at Brixton Hill still stands.7 John Robert Ashby was listed in
the 1845 directory for Mitcham as a maltster, and six years later the
“Ashby Brothers” appear as “millers, Lower Mitcham”.8 Increasing
urbanisation of the Brixton area eventually induced John Ashby’s son
Joshua to transfer the business to the mills at Lower Mitcham, where
the river Wandle offered a reliable source of power for their milling
The Ashbys’ lease of the Grove Mill expired in August 1902 7 and the
900-year history of flour milling by Mitcham bridge came to an end. A
new era was to begin, however, with the arrival in 1903 of fresh tenants,
the Patent Horse Hair Co Ltd.10 At this time horse hair, used very widely
for upholstery, was often adulterated by the addition of hogs’ hair to
reduce the price, and consequently the quality suffered. Concurrently
there was emerging a growing public awareness of the need for better
hygienic standards in filling materials generally, which were often of
questionable cleanliness. To meet the demand for material which had
the toughness and resilience of curled horsehair, but lacked its
disadvantages, a new synthetic filling was developed by a chemist
named Holmes. Recognising the advantages of a vegetable fibre free
from animal contaminants, which would not support bacterial or fungal
The Grove Flour Mill, occupied by the Ashby Brothers until 1902
(Photograph reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
growth, he selected fibres like coir and ‘Algerian fibre’, both possessing
good tensile strength and capable of being sterilised and then treated
with a synthetic coating. Holmes succeeded in producing an impregnated
fibre to which a curl could be imparted, and which provided the tough,
resilient and rot-resistant fibre needed for mattresses and furniture.
Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills (1903-1955)
William Wright Thompson, one-time managing director of R R
Whitehead Brothers Ltd, was well known locally as an outstanding
cricketer.1 He was associated with Holmes in the development of the
new filling material (it was Thompson’s idea to call it ‘Lyxhayr’), which
they patented. Lyxhayr was an immediate success when placed on the
market, and in 1905 the Patent Horse Hair Company changed its name
to Lyxhayr Ltd. Two years later the new firm suffered a temporary
setback when another serious fire gutted the Grove Mill. The building
was virtually destroyed, but fortunately during rebuilding it was possible
for production to be continued in the nearby Crown Mill, then vacant
and largely disused since the departure of Whiteheads.2 By 1907 part
of the Crown Mill was used by a Mr Seager for making what one of my
informants 3 referred to as “furniture polish”, but another,4 probably
more accurately, described as “gin”. Seager, a Dutchman, returned to
Holland in 1914.
Ashby’s former corn mill is visible in various photographs taken around
the turn of the century as a large building of three storeys, built of
stock brick. The roof was of slate, and projecting from the centre of the
top floor was the usual gabled sack hoist. When rebuilt after the fire
(by local builder Charles Sayers & Son) the top storey was not renewed,
resulting in the two-storeyed building which survives today.5 The lower
part of the walls and the ground plan were retained, but a small extension
was added to the west. In 1910 a new wheel, with an output of 100 hp
was supplied by A & C Jenner Ltd, engineers of Fair Green, Mitcham.
who had installed the replacement machinery after the fire.6 Hillier
observed that the new wheel was all metal, cast in the traditional manner,
but somewhat unusual in his view in that it had a width greater than its
Morden Mill, c.1910. (Photograph, believed to have been taken by
Tom Francis, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
The Crown Mill seen from the Watermeads, from a drawing by
Dewey-Bates, The English Illustrated Magazine 1888-1889
By 1910 the demand for Lyxhayr had increased to such an extent that a
lease of the Crown Mill was taken on by Lyxhayr Ltd.8 Fresh capital
was introduced, and the firm reformed under the name of Lyxhayr
Manufacturers Ltd with W A Dickinson as managing director. Dickinson
was an active participant in the move towards better hygienic standards
in the furniture and bedding industry, and was one of the founders of
the Bedding Federation. He was also instrumental in securing the
passage of the Rag Flock Act 1911, the first legislative attempt to raise
the hygienic quality of filling materials. Locally, Dickinson was a
staunch supporter of residents seeking to improve the quality of the
Wandle, and to conserve riverside amenities. He was one of the original
members of the River Wandle Open Spaces Committee, and played a
prominent part in the effort which resulted in ownership of the
Watermeads and Happy Valley being transferred to the National Trust.8
The history of the next 40 years at the Grove and Crown Mills has been
dealt with by E B Hedger,6 who joined the firm of Lyxhayr Ltd as an
office boy in 1915, and spent the whole of his working life in the
business, retiring as managing director of the Mitcham Hair and Fibre
Mills Ltd. During his time the variety of products and the volume of
output increased phenomenally, and the firm achieved a worldwide
reputation. Two World Wars boosted production to meet the needs of
the armed services and in particular the hospitals. A direct hit on the
Grove Mill during an air raid in November 1940 failed to halt
production, and the power crisis of 1947 was overcome by recourse to
the waterwheel, still able to fulfil its original function of keeping
machinery in motion.
The freehold of the mills, already held on a long lease, had been
purchased by the Mitcham Fibre Mills Ltd from Sir Frederick Fowke
in 1919.8 During the summer of 1940, at the height of the Battle of
Britain, Alfred Smith, the steward of the manor of Reigate, saw fit to
write to Hedger, then company secretary and manager of the mills,
drawing attention to the payment of the quit rent of £1 due annually
since the change of ownership of Crown Mill 20 years previously. He
suggested the situation might be resolved by extinguishment of the
“manorial incidents” by voluntary agreement under the provisions of
the Law of Property Act 1922. The steward’s timing could have been
better chosen, for Hedger was then somewhat preoccupied with the
difficulties of maintaining production under war conditions.
Understandably he was not inclined to go into the matter at the time,
and the question of back rent due to the lord of the manor seems to
have been left unresolved.
It was with expressions of confidence in the future of Mitcham Hair
and Fibre Mills that Hedger concluded his review of its first half century
in 1953. Events were to prove him wrong, however, for within a few
years of the 50th anniversary of its foundation, Mitcham Hair and Fibres
Mills Ltd was bought out by a firm in High Wycombe. At the same
time the Grove Mill was sold to R F White and Co Ltd, a firm of toilet
soap manufacturers and perfumiers whose products were marketed
under the brand name ‘Jean Sorelle’, and to whom part of the premises
had been leased in 1930.8
The Recent Past: 1960–
As we have seen, the pond behind the Grove Mill was filled in during
the course of flood prevention work by Surrey County Council in the
early 1960s. A flow of water was maintained beneath the mill by an
18-inch pipe laid from near the new weir in the Watermeads and
discharging into the tailrace in front of the building, but by this time
the great waterwheel was completely obsolete, and it was removed to
release more floor space. The building itself is, nevertheless, recognised
as being of some interest, and is included in the local list of buildings
of historical or architectural significance held by the London Borough
of Merton. When the premises were visited by the writer in July 1966,
one of the company directors – a Mr Gauntlet, who had worked on the
premises for 35 years – confirmed that all traces of the old mill
machinery had then gone from inside the building. Although completely
dry, the inlet flume through which water from the mill pond had once
been directed beneath the building could still be seen at the rear as late
as 2004.
The Crown Mill, erected by Whiteheads after Glover’s former snuff
mill had been burned down in 1870, was acquired by C S Walker (Sacks)
Ltd and the Associated Jute Co. Ltd in 1959. The massive 18-foot
diameter wheel, 10 feet broad, and giving an impression of great power,
was still in working order at this time and was actually put to use
experimentally in 1962 or 1963 by the Walkers, driving machinery to
beat the dust out of used sacks which were being renovated for resale.
In 1964 the Crown Mill was destroyed by fire, and was not rebuilt. The
wheel, which had been positioned between the Crown Mill and the
adjoining Grove Mill, was rendered useless and was dismantled. All
trace of it sadly vanished, together with the mill gates and the tumblingbay,
slight changes in the ground level and the paving of the works
yard being the only indications of where the wheel might have been.
In February 1975 the local press reported that R F White & Co Ltd, by
this time owned by the Dunbee Combex Marx Group, was closing down
the Mitcham works and moving to Peterborough. The fine quality soaps
produced by White and Company were exported all over the world,
and one of their specialities was the manufacture of soap bars for
children, moulded into likenesses of television and Disney characters.
For the 70 or so workers, most of them local women and many parttime,
the loss of employment by White and Co. was a severe blow.
‘For Sale’ boards were soon in evidence, and two years later the Grove
Mill was purchased by Footman and Co Ltd, a firm founded in 1948 by
Arthur Footman and two assistants to serve the growing needs of postwar
chiropody healthcare. Dedicated solely to the manufacture and
marketing of chiropody supplies and podological equipment, by 1993
the firm was the largest organisation of its kind in the United Kingdom,
and had developed an export trade with over 40 countries. The history
of the building and the site it occupied was not overlooked by the
owners, and their trade literature made mention of the possibility that
here, or close by, a watermill was working over 900 years ago.
A decade later the situation had changed again, Footman & Co Ltd had
left, and the Grove Mill, a locally listed building, awaited conversion
into apartments by Bewley Homes plc.
Chapter 6
Through the medium of a large number of deeds surviving from the
Tudor period onwards it is possible to follow in some detail the history
of the land on which the houses in Riverside Drive and Brookfields
Avenue were built in the 1930s. With a little less assurance the story of
this corner of Lower Mitcham can be traced back to the 14th century
and the de la Mare family, and before them the Anglo-Norman de
Whitfords. As we have already noted, in 1362 William Mareys presented
to the Church his estate in “Wykford”, consisting of a substantial house,
with “gardens, crofts, meadows, pastures, woods, trees, hedges, hays
and ditches …”, two watermills and an adjoining ” piece of moor”, or
marshy ground on the banks of the river. The property extended from
just south of the Cricket Green to as far as Green Wrythe Lane, and for
nearly 200 years what became known as ‘Maresland’ producd an income
for Merton priory.
In 1544, following the dissolution of the priory, a substantial portion of
the estate came into the possession of Robert Wilford, a London
merchant, and thereafter tenure passed through various hands but,
remarkably, although subdivided, sold, leased and sub-leased over the
centuries, its constituent parts can still be identified, albeit tentatively,
and the old boundaries indicated on a modern map. By the early 17th
century the Brookfields estate seems to have been part of the 30 acres
of marsh ground held of the manor of Reigate by George Smythe. In
1645, what appears to have been the same parcel of “marsh ground”,
by then “enclosed with pales”, was included in the property at Mitcham
offered as security for a loan by Thomas Smythe, George’s brother.
The impressive Wandle Grove or, to give it its modern name, Wandle
House, No. 10 Riverside Drive, Mitcham, was first listed as a building
of architectural and historic importance in 1954, with the comment
“Grade II c. 1780. The house bears a considerable resemblance to ‘The
Wick’ on Richmond Hill, which is listed Grade I.”1 Nairn and Pevsner,2
commenting that “Robert Mylne, in reviving Palladian detail, achieved
a new delicacy of touch”, were of the view that The Wick, built in
1775, is “one of his most handsome villas”. They also expressed the
opinion that Wandle House, built as was then fashionable in yellow
stock bricks, with its ground floor windows under blank arches, and an
intermittently balustraded parapet, is so similar that it is probably his
also. We have nothing to support this assumption, and the identity of
Mylne’s client at Mitcham (if, indeed, he was the architect) is not known.
One feels bound to remark on the similarity between much of the
detailing of Wandle House and that of Mitcham Grove, which stood on
the opposite side of the main road and had been the property of the
London banker, Henry Hoare, since 1786. Did he, perhaps, finance the
building of the new house, having leased the land from the Frye family,
the freeholders, and might not the appearance of Mitcham Grove, which
had been substantially ‘modernised’ in the 18th century, have influenced
the design of Wandle House?
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, Mitcham
Photographed in 1961 by Surrey County Council Planning Department.
Copyright Surrey County Council (R18B). Reproduced by permission.
In 1768 two ‘closes’ of land. which can be identified by subsequent
deeds as providing the sites on which Wandle House and the later
Brookfields housing estate were built, were part of a property sold to
Rowland Frye of Wallington.3 There is mention of “a messuage, garden
and yard adjoining”, and the vendor was William Myers, whose
ancestors, the Smythes, had owned the property since the end of the
16th century. The first hint of a new house likely to have been Wandle
House (guided by its assessment of £70 p.a. and its position in the
records) is in the land tax book for 1795,4 It is also in Edwards’s map
produced in about 1801.5 The freeholder at this time was William Fry(e),
who owned other property in Lower Mitcham and Carshalton, and the
occupier of the new house was Thomas Hinchcliffe who, if the above
supposition is correct, was Hoare’s tenant or a sub-lessee. Hinchcliffe,
about whom very little is known by the writer at the present time, died
in 1802 and was buried at Mitcham. The vestry minutes for 1805
mention his widow, Elizabeth Hinchcliffe, as customarily occupying
part of the gallery across the north aisle of the parish church, and William
Monson recalled from his schooldays at the Revd Roberts’s Academy
in Mitcham the Hinchcliffe family, and particularly one of the daughters,
“a pretty lively girl”. She was Mrs Roberts’s “greatest friend”, and
sometimes accompanied the boys on their walks. Another frequent
visitor to the Hinchliffe household was the Abbé Le Taillot, an emigré
who taught French and geography at Roberts’s Academy. Wandle Grove
(as the house now seems to have been known) appears to have remained
Elizabeth Hinchcliffe’s home until around 1821, after which it stood
vacant for about a year.4 For six years thereafter the tax books refer to
the house as “late Hinchcliffe”, without naming the occupier.
The phenomenon of a large house standing empty for several years
was not at all uncommon in Mitcham at this time, and can perhaps be
seen as a consequence of the economic depression following the end
of the Napoleonic Wars. It does appear, however, that for a period during
the mid-1820s, Wandle Grove was used by Henry Hoare, for the
Greenwoods, who described it as a “spacious mansion”, stated that it
was “the property of Henry Hoare, banker, temporarily occupied by
members of Mr. Hoare’s family”.6 This cannot be confirmed from the
land tax records which, as we have seen, from 1823 to 1828 merely
describe the house and land as “late Hinchcliffe”. The truth probably is
that at this time Henry Hoare, a widower in his mid-70s, took Wandle
Grove to accommodate six of his many grandchildren who, with their
governess and nurses, came to live with him at Mitcham Grove in 1819
following the death of their parents. Great as his attachment undoubtedly
was to his family, there must have been times when Mitcham Grove,
despite its size, could not afford the old gentleman the peace and privacy
he needed, and the use of Wandle Grove for the growing children would
seem to have been an ideal solution.
On Henry Hoare’s death in 1828, his large estate of freehold and
leasehold property was sold by auction and the family’s connection
with Mitcham Grove was severed. Wandle Grove was described in the
sale particulars as leasehold, and
” … placed on a beautiful Lawn, surrounded by fine thriving
Plantations and Evergreens, Shrubbery, Cedar and stately Timber
Trees, delightful Walks by the Side of the River Wandle.”7
The house was approached from the turnpike road by a “handsome
Carriage Drive”. A “bowed Drawing Room” with marble chimney piece
was the principal room on the slightly raised ground floor, entered from
the inner hall, off which there were also a dining parlour and “neat
Library”, as well as the usual domestic offices comprising kitchen,
housekeeper’s room, china closet, scullery etc. On the first floor, reached
by a “Commodious staircase”, were four “excellent Bed Chambers”, a
dressing room and water closet. All the rooms were papered. The upper
floor contained three further bedrooms and the housemaids’ closet,
whilst in the basement were the butler’s pantry, dairy, larder, “knife
hole” and the wine and beer cellars.7
Outside were to be found the usual accompaniments of the typical small
farmstead supporting a house of this character, including piggery,
mushroom shed, cow house, a four-stall stable with loft over, and a
coach house. The “Excellent Kitchen Garden” was said to be wellstocked,
cropped and planted with choice fruit trees, and there was
also a hot house.7
Wandle Grove, with its 12 acres of gardens and meadowland, was sold
for £2,440. The following year the tax assessors once again recorded
the house as ’empty’, but it was not long before the new owners arrived,
and the house became the home of John Wilson and his wife Mary.8
Wilson, a farmer’s son from Nottinghamshire, had completed his
apprenticeship with a Newark linen-draper when, at the age of 19, he
made his way to London in 1793 and found employment with Jasper
Capper of Gracechurch Street. Within a short time he was offered a
partnership, and in 1802 opened his own shop at Covent Garden. Two
years later he married Mary Jones, the daughter of Martha Jones, the
widowed Vauxhall potter who with John Watts and John Doulton was
to found the famous Lambeth potteries bearing the latter’s name. John
and Mary Wilson had four sons and two daughters. The family business
prospered and William, the eldest son, was the first of the three Wilson
boys who were ultimately to join their father in the new shop he had
established in fashionable Old Bond Street. By 1829 John Wilson’s
health was failing. The owner of the farm they leased at Greenhill,
Hampstead, had asked the Wilsons to leave, and, after a search in
Hammersmith and Wandsworth they found Wandle Grove, delightfully
situated in a wooded riverside setting, and with its own small farm. It
was here that John Wilson spent his last years, and where he died in
February 1835 at the age of 60. His tomb is in Mitcham churchyard,
beneath the east window of the chancel. Anne, his eldest daughter, was
an accomplished watercolour artist, and whilst staying with her parents
she painted a number of charming views of the house and grounds. In
1838 Mary was obliged to leave Wandle Grove, which was to be sold,
and moved to Chester Terrace. She died the same year, after a short
visit to Paris, and was buried beside her husband at Mitcham.9
Later that year, when Crawter and Nash were surveying Mitcham for
the Poor Law Commissioners, Brookfields Cottage, a villa built nearby
in the grounds of Wandle Grove, was occupied by the curate of Mitcham,
the Revd Herbert Randolph, and his wife Martha, whom he married
the previous September. She, sadly, died in January 1839 very shortly
after the birth of their daughter Martha Jane. Randolph left Mitcham
later that year, having secured an appointment as vicar at Abbotsley,
The Wilson family connection with Mitcham was not severed with the
mother’s death, however, for in about 1839 William Wilson and his
wife Emily moved into Brookfield Cottage, where they lived with their
little son Arthur throughout the 1840s. Brookfield(s) Cottage, a
leasehold property, had also featured in the sale of Henry Hoare’s estate.
The accommodation was quite modest, comprising a “Dining Parlour”,
walls papered and “with a veined marble chimneypiece,” a breakfast
parlour and usual offices, whilst on the first floor were four bedrooms
with closets etc. Outside, there was a “Capital Kitchen Garden and
Pleasure Ground.” In 1828 the whole had been let to a Mrs Beecher
“aged Eighty-six, for her Life” at a rental of 19 guineas per annum.7
William Wilson and his brother Henry managed the family shop in
town until they died in the 1850s, whilst John, the youngest brother,
was the proprietor of the Globe Brewery at Mitcham. In 1847,
accompanied by John, the two sisters, neither of whom married,
undertook a nine-month tour of Europe, returning to Brookfields Cottage
in October. Mary’s dairy of the journey formed the basis for a book,
copiously illustrated with Anne’s watercolours, from which much of
the foregoing information has been extracted.9
The Mitcham tithe register confirms William Wilson as the occupier
of Brookfields Cottage, and Richard Spencer as the landowner. The
cottage, the appearance of which Anne captured in a watercolour dated
1836, can be seen to the north of Wandle Grove in the Ordnance Survey
maps of 1867 and 1895. The last occupant of note appears to have been
S P Torr(e), father of the author C Torre, who is listed as resident at
Brookfields Cottage in Green’s South London Directory published in
1869. The name was perpetuated in Brookfields Farm, which seems to
have survived the cottage, and then much later by Brookfields Avenue
which, with Riverside Drive, serves the 1930s housing estate which
covers the meadows and gardens of Wandle Grove. William Wilson is
remembered in the parish church as the donor of two silver cups, bearing
the inscription “The Gift of William Wilson Esq., of Wandle Grove,
Mitcham, 1848”.11
In 1841 Wandle Grove was occupied by a William Loraine, described
as of independent means in the census of that year, his wife and family
of nine children. The household included three other adults, presumably
relatives, and five servants living-in. Six years later Wandle Grove,
with its lodge, gardens and shrubberies, and the meadows which
extended to the banks of the Wandle – in all totalling a little over 11
acres – was in the tenure of Henry Hopkins, presumably on a lease
from Richard Spencer, the owner.12 One is obliged to admit that nothing
is known of these two families, and much the same has to be said for
the majority of their successors.13 William Beebe, a hide and skin broker,
and his wife were recorded as residents at Wandle Grove in 1851.14
They evidently enjoyed a position in the local social hierachy in keeping
with the rather fine house they occupied, and Beebe’s name appears in
the section of the local Mitcham directories devoted to ‘The Gentry’,
where he was deferentially afforded the style of ‘esquire’.15
Opposite: Brookfields Cottage, Mitcham, May 1840, viewed from the west.
Wandle Grove is just visible to the right. Copy of a watercolour by Anne Wilson,
published in A European Journal: Two Sisters Abroad in 1847, by Mary Wilson
(1987). Attempts to trace the copyright owner have proved unsuccessful.
So the story of Wandle Grove continues throughout the second half of
the 19th century, with quite frequent changes of occupancy. Green’s
Directory records a Frederick John Duckworth there in 1869 16 and the
following year, when his address was given as Brabant Court, Philpot
Lane, London, he was granted a 14½ years lease of the property by a
Robert Green and others of Milford House, Derbyshire.17 Duckworth
thereafter disappears from the local scene, and within a year or so we
find references to Mr and Mrs William Stair Mitchell being in
residence.18 Mrs Mitchell is mentioned in the Revd Wilson’s pastoral
letters, and like many middle-class ladies of her time was obviously
active in church affairs. In 1888, following the death of her husband,
Mrs Mitchell presented Mitcham parish church with a new pulpit in
his memory.
At the turn of the century Wandle Grove was occupied by a Mr Jenner,
a trotting enthusiast who is said to have indulged his love of the sport
by laying out a track encircling the lawns of nearby Mitcham Grove,
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, Mitcham
Photographed in 1961 by Surrey County Council Planning Department.
Copyright Surrey County Council (R18A). Reproduced by permission.
which had been demolished 50 years previously.19 The estate was at
this time being sold off in lots, and in 1901 the old walled garden of
Mitcham Grove and some of the outbuildings surviving from Henry
Hoare’s time were taken over by the silent film company of Cricks and
Sharp. Comic shorts were a speciality, and many of the sequences were
filmed ‘on location’ on (or in) the Wandle nearby. Extras for the crowd
scenes were often recruited locally, the inducements (if any were
needed) ranging from the price of a couple of pints of beer to as much
as half-a-crown a day. Stars had scarcely begun to emerge in those
early days, and Jenner’s daughter would sometimes play the heroine,
strapped to the rails of the local branch line, or locked by the villain in
the old snuff mill in Morden Meadow to await ‘a fate worse than death’.
After being occupied by a Major Wyndham Quinn for a few years at
the beginning of the 20th century, Wandle Grove (by this time the house
seems to have been renamed ‘Wandle House’) was taken over by Mrs
Collier, who purchased the freehold from Sir Frederick Fowke in 1919.
She was the sister of Sir Cato Worsfold of Hall Place, Church Road,
Mitcham, and a member of a family associated with the village since
the early 18th century. Sir Frederick also owned Deeds Mill, the Grove
and Crown Mills, the river bed between Willow Lane and Mitcham
Bridge, the Watermeads and land as far south as the ‘Hilly Fields’ (now
known as Poulter Park). He had been disposing of the estate gradually
for several years, selling the Watermeads to the National Trust in 1913,
and the Grove and Crown Mills to the Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills
Ltd in 1919.20
The part of the estate known as Grove Farm, on which watercress had
been grown for many years, was taken over by E James and Son in
1920. Each year the farm produced hundreds of tons of watercress for
the London area, marketed under the trade name of ‘Vitacress’. Water
had been drawn originally from the Wandle but, very conscious of the
increasing danger of pollution, which had been demonstrated by an
outbreak of typhoid in Croydon in the 1930s, the proprietors sank a
300-foot bore into the chalk from which water of great bacteriological
purity was drawn by pump. E James and Son were the last commercial
growers of watercress in Mitcham, and ceased production in 1960,
moving to Hampshire.21
In 1937 the executors of the Collier estate disposed of Wandle House
to Howard (Mitcham) Ltd, in whose hands the old house remained
until 1968. Howard’s business was property development, and within
a short time of completing acquisition their proposals for the new
Brookfields Estate, covering the five acres of meadowland once
belonging to Wandle Grove, had received the approval of Mitcham
Borough Council, and building works commenced.
The development brought to an end the extensive Brookfields Nurseries
of J N Cheshire, which had supplied the garden needs of the new housing
estates then spreading across the fields of Mitcham and Morden during
the phenomenal suburban expansion that marked the late 1920s and
1930s. Howard’s proposals also brought them into conflict with E James
and Son over the operation of a sluice gate on a mill leet running from
an old calico printing works in Willow Lane.20 This watercourse flowed
through the grounds of Wandle House after traversing the James’s
watercress beds, and discharged into a backwater of the Wandle which
had once formed part of the ornamental waters surrounding Henry
Typical 1930s’ housing in Brookfields Avenue (ENM 1970)
Advertisement from the official guide to Mitcham published in 1937
Hoare’s house. The stream was visible until the mid-1960s in a culvert
at the rear of 62-74 Riverside Drive, before disappearing into a surface
water sewer. It re-appeared in the grounds of Locomotors Ltd on the
opposite side of the London Road, but was finally banished underground
during the building of the London Borough of Merton’s ‘Watermeads’
housing estate in the 1970s. Development of the Brookfields housing
estate was halted by the outbreak of war in 1939, but was completed by
Mitcham Corporation in the late 1940s. In compliance with post-war
policy, the new units were not let or sold on the open market, but
allocated to nominees selected from the Council’s housing list in
accordance with a points system.
Howard (Mitcham) Ltd expanded in the post-war years into a large
organisation undertaking both contract work and private developments,
and employing over 500 people. As the company grew the need for
improved accommodation became more pressing and, in 1966,
following demolition of early Victorian extensions to Wandle House,
the original building was adapted to form part of a new head office
Wandle House, 10 Riverside Drive, following the adaptation of 1966 (ENM)
building. It was apparent that alterations to the house in about 1848
had been responsible for the removal of the original staircase and some
of the contemporary joinery. Eighteenth-century panelled doors and
doorcases, window jambs and soffit linings survived, however, and
lent grace to several of the rooms. The Victorian staircase was in the
extension which had to be removed to make way for the new office
block. Two hundred years separate the constituent parts of the present
building, and although they were in such contrastingly different styles,
the marriage is not an unhappy one. The 18th-century house is rightly
given pride of place, and is the first to meet the eye of the visitor. The
extension is sympathetic in mass and form, and being linked to the old
with a careful use of glass, avoids too harsh a contrast. The new offices
were officially opened in April 1966, the directors of M Howard
(Mitcham) Ltd holding a cocktail party for the architects, representatives
of local organisations and others connected with the building industry.22
Within less than three years, Howard (Mitcham) Ltd had been obliged
for financial reasons to cease trading and Wandle House had been sold,
the new owners being L Mince and Son. The new tenants, Coppas
International (UK) Ltd, had been founded in 1957 to provide a specialist
consultant service in systems, automation and operation for the oil,
petrochemical and process industries. The company expanded rapidly
at a time when increasing developments in the Third World were
creating a shortage of skilled personnel to run and maintain complex
processing installations, as a result of which Britain began to emerge
as a leading exporter of technical skills. Wandle House became the
company’s London headquarters, linked to offices in Aberdeen, Bristol,
Dublin, Houston, Toronto and Benghazi. By the early 1980s Coppas
International could pride itself on its unique ability to train staff, operate
and maintain a refinery or process plant from scratch. Through its
operations in over 60 countries it had gained a world-wide reputation
as a supplier of sophisticated technical and management services. Seeing
its role as one of service and not competition, the company was
deservedly proud of the contribution it was making to a new British
enterprise which it saw as being of great significance for the future.23
By May 1985 Coppas International had moved away and in 2005
Wandle House is occupied by Ian Williams Building and Property.
The former Surrey Brewery building
Photographed in 1958 by Surrey County Council Planning Department.
Copyright Surrey County Council. Reproduced by permission.
Chapter 7
In the late 1950s widening of the London Road south of Mitcham Station
to form a dual carriageway unfortunately necessitated the demolition
of a fine group of late 18th- and early 19th-century brick and
weatherboard buildings which had survived to form a link with a rural
Mitcham and a local industry which is now passing beyond living
Nearest to the station was a pair of semi-detached ‘two up and two
down’ stock-brick cottages with slate roofs. Dating from the early part
of Victoria’s reign, they were erected in a style which, until recently,
was common throughout Mitcham. Lacking modern amenities (a ground
floor back addition contained the kitchen/scullery and, entered from
outside, the water closet) and in any case standing unacceptably beyond
the road widening line established by the highway engineers since before
the 1939/45 war, it was obvious they would not be retained.
To the immediate south of the cottages was the factory of Lactagol
Ltd, manufacturers of a patent food which a large sign at the works
gate proclaimed was needed by “expectant and nursing mothers”. Here,
in buildings dating back a century or more, had been the ‘Mitcham
Brewery’ run by Attlees, and after them Thunder and Little, famous in
the neighbourhood for their Mitcham Ales.1 The land upon which the
brewery stood featured in a sale of 1770 when Crown Field, a six-acre
enclosure partially fronting the turnpike road to Sutton, was sold by
William Myers to Rowland Frye for £400.2 The first topographical
writer to mention the brewery was Edwards,3 towards the close of the
18th century, when the premises were occupied by William Hughes, in
whose hands the business remained until 1805.4
Research by Peter McGow into the records of the Hand in Hand
insurance company have disclosed that the brewery was already in
existence in January 1767, when the premises were insured by Edward
Bond and Thomas Butt.5 The policy was renewed in January 1774, by
which time John Chesterman, the miller, had replaced Butt as a partner.6
Following Bond’s death in 1775, his widow Mary assigned her share
in the brewery to William Hughes “of Mitcham, Brewer” in 1776.7
Evidence of considerable enlargement of the brewery between 1774
and 1781 is provided by an increase in valuation for insurance purposes
from £350 to £800.8 John Chesterman’s partnership with Hughes ceased
with his death in 1784, and passed to his executors,9 from whom it was
purchased in 1800 by Hughes.10
In Hughes’s hands the brewery was further enlarged, the valuation being
raised to £1450.11 Coal was available in quantity once the Surrey Iron
Railway was opened in 1803, and the two events are probably linked.
Hughes remained the sole owner of the brewery until his death in 1805.12
“William Hughes, brewer, late of this parish” was buried in Mitcham
churchyard, where his brick and sandstone altar tomb can still be seen.
Here he was joined by his wife Hannah, who died in 1826, aged 83.
The head lease was still in the hands of Mr Hughes’s executors when a
map of Henry Hoare’s Mitcham Grove estate was prepared in 1812,13
and what would appear to have been a sub-lease of the ‘Globe Brewery’
was auctioned in 1817.14 Bull and Peck, the only brewers having an
entry in the Mitcham section of a commercial directory of 1824/5,15
were presumably successors to a man called Marker Gaze, who had
held the lease since Hughes’s death, but was declared bankrupt in 1817.16
Mitcham Brewery delivery cart, probably 1920s
(reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service)
Nothing more can be told of the history of the Globe Brewery until
1841, when the resident brewer and maltster was Thomas Edwards.17
Four years later the proprietor was John Wilson of Wandle Grove,18
and in 1846 we find the “Brewhouse, yard and buildings” owned (or
leased) by John Birkett and occupied by Mr I C Dear, assignee of
By 1853 the name had changed to the ‘Wandle Grove Brewery’,20 and
14 years later it was ‘The Surrey Brewery’.21 The changes were almost
certainly instigated by new owners, each proprietor seeking to project
a fresh image (and a new, improved product?) to influence and attract
the drinking public. The name ‘Surrey Brewery’ endured for well over
half a century, for it was certainly current until shortly before the
outbreak of the 1914/18 War.
Since the immediate pre-war period water for the brewing process had
been obtained from a sub-artesian well, driven 187 feet through the
Wandle gravels and the London Clay, and a further 164 feet into the
underlying chalk. The water level stood at 38 feet above Ordnance
In the background are the last buildings of the brewery to survive (ENM 1975)
datum, or 30 feet below ground level, and had to be raised to the brewery
cisterns with pumps. Although chemically hard, the water was of
excellent bacteriological purity, and the well was capable of supplying
2,000 gallons per hour. As to the quality of the beer, the records are
unfortunately silent.22
The brewery house, the residence of brewer Robert Gilbertson in 1851,23
and many others before and after, is likely to have been the original
late 18th-century house occupied by Hughes. Known as ‘The Beeches’,
big and rambling, weatherboarded and multi-gabled, by the late 1950s
it was in a dilapidated condition, no doubt having suffered from blast
and neglect of maintenance during the war. In the inter-war years the
house had been used as a little private preparatory school – the
‘Ravensbury School’ – but this had closed by the outbreak of war in
Although the house had been recognised as of historical and
architectural interest, and was awarded a Grade III listing, it was pulled
down in 1959, only the magnificent copper beech tree which had stood
in the back garden being retained. Sadly, disease finally took hold, and
the tree was felled as a safety measure in 1975. The name ‘The Beeches’
was tranferred to the block of maisonettes erected on the site by Mitcham
Borough Council. These, too, seemed to have been ‘jinxed’ and,
although so newly built, were soon looking shabby through neglect
and vandalism. One particular target of the wreckers was an attractive
panel of slate cladding on the lower part of the front elevation, which
was gradually loosened and detached. The slate has now been removed
and replaced with colour-washed rendering.
The old brewery buildings, derelict and also vandalised, survived for
some 20 years after Lactagol’s departure. In part they were used for a
time by Shead Brothers, a potato packing and wholesaling firm, but
they too were demolished by the end of the 20th century, and the yard
was used for vehicle storage by Funnells of Sutton, the removal
Extracts from
“50 Years at Grove Mills Mitcham. – The Story of Lyxhayr and Service
to the Bedding and Upholstery Trades by Mitcham Hair and Fibres
Mills Ltd.”
(Written by Mr E B Hedger, Managing Director in 1953, and transcribed
in 1967)
” … less than 10 miles from the heart of London the Wandle runs through
Grove Mills. Altogether it is only 9 miles long, it falls no fewer than
one hundred and twenty four feet over this short course, an average of
fourteen feet to the mile … In 1086, at the time of the Domesday Survey,
there were at least thirteen corn mills on the Wandle.
“Many centuries later a corn mill still operated where Grove Mills
stand today. … it is reputed that felt was manufactured at Grove Mills
in 1855 for the boots and jerkins of British Troops engaged in the
Crimean War.
” … Water was expensive for industrial purposes in 1903 and power
quite an item, but at Mitcham thanks to the Wandle, it was already
‘laid on’ for both purposes. Here was an abundance of water for boiling,
cleansing, sterilisation, and sufficient power to drive two water wheels
each with a capacity of 100 h.p..
“‘Lyxhayr’ was first manufactured in 1903 by a company called ‘The
Patent Horse Hair Co. Ltd.’ The product was and, of course, still is a
unique curled fibre of vegetable origin for many upholstery filling
purposes. It was originated by a Mr. Holmes, a chemist, and the process
was patented. Also associated with the venture was an important local
man, a Mr. W. W. Thompson”, [“at one time the owner or manager of
the felt factory in the Crown Mill” – Mr Hedger, in a letter to The
Advertiser 22. 9. 1949] “better known for his connection with the Surrey
County Cricket Club. Mr. Thompson coined the trade name ‘Lyxhayr’,
its significance being obvious beneath the disguised spelling.
“Mr. Holmes realised the advantages to be gained by using a vegetable
fibre free from animal fat or any matter on which life or germs could
subsist. He selected a vegetable fibre of great strength and his process
of manufacture expelled the woody matter or tissue in the fibre, refilling
the cylinder or elongated tube of the fibre thus emptied with a chemically
prepared composition. The material was sterilised, then dyed, and in
the last or sealing vat it received a special solution which sealed the
pores of the fibre. In its changed condition it became impervious to
damp and innocuous as a disease generator.
“There were however several stages to go before Lyxhayr reached its
final or marketable stage. The treated fibres were carded and spun into
a rope form to impart a curl. The ‘ropes’ were afterwards untwisted
and carded resulting in a hygienic resilient material ideal as a filling
for mattresses and furniture.
“Basically the process of manufacture remains the same now as in 1903
although naturally there have been changes in detail and every
mechanical device brought to bear to save manual labour.
“The first Lyxhayr ‘rope’ to be made was recently found in a damp
cellar and it is interesting to see that the material still fully retains its
curl and that the tensile strength of the fibres remained unimpaired.
“In 1903 no ready-made machinery existed for the manufacture of
Lyxhayr and the process had to be improvised. For example, curling
the fibre into ‘ropes’ was, in the experimental stages, undertaken with
a domestic type spinning wheel. Some of the necessary machinery was
developed by the firm itself. Lyxhayr enjoyed considerable success
almost from the first because there was a demand for something better
than the then current brand of curled hair. In 1903 horse hair was often
adulterated with hog hair to reduce the price and the quality
consequently suffered. Lyxhayr had all the advantages of the best curled
horse hair besides important qualities of its own. It was used extensively
in tropical climates because it was proof against insect attack, even of
the White Ant.
“In 1905 the Company changed its name to Lyxhayr Ltd., and by 1907
had made sufficient progress to make new capital necessary and this
was provided by Mr. W. A. Dickinson who became Managing Director
of the Company.
“Besides expanding Lyxhayr Ltd. very considerably, Mr. Dickinson
made his presence felt throughout the industry. For one thing, he was
keenly interested in the movement to improve the hygienic standards
of those days. As a matter of fact, only since the last war has anything
like a proper standard been made compulsory but in 1906 public
consciousness had begun to stir in this matter. Before 1911 there was
nothing to stop manufacturers from filling mattresses and furniture with
most unhygienic materals and so the fillings were often of very
questionable origin. Mr. Dickinson was one of those who helped to
secure the passing of the Rag Flock Act, 1911, the first attempt to
regulate the worst abuses.
“Preserving the amenities of the Wandle was another of Mr. Dickinson’s
interests and he invariably took up the fight against any threat to the
river.” [Mr Hedger, in his letter to The Advertiser 22. 9. 1949, said Mr.
Dickinson was one of the original members of the Watermeads
Committee, and had taken an active part in the handing over of the
Watermeads and Happy Valley to the National Trust.] “The following
year saw the formation of the Bedding Federation, a body of
manufacturers and suppliers of materials which has always worked to
improve standards of quality and hygiene. Mr. Dickinson helped in the
formation of the Federation.
“It may be mentioned here that Lyxhayr was in advance of its time in
that it set a standard of cleanliness long before legislation made this
compulsory, and when the law did step in no changes in the
manufacturing process of Lyxhayr were necessary.
“A big demand for Lyxhayr came from hospitals, especially mental
hospitals and infirmaries making up their own bedding. Many old
testimonials exist showing how well regarded Lyxhayr was even in
those early days. Today, under the new conditions imposed by the
National Health Acts, the connection is even stronger.
“In 1907 Lyxhayr Ltd. sustained a serious fire but even this could not
upset the Company’s steady progress. By 1910 the demands for Lxyhayr
had so increased that it became necessary to take over the adjoining
Crown Mill, [shown on the 1910 OS map as ‘disused’] additional capital
was introduced and Lyxhayr Manufacturers Ltd. was formed with Mr.
W. A. Dickinson as Managing Director.
“From 1914 until 1918 the entire output had to be devoted to war
purposes. being used largely for hospital mattresses needed to
accommodate the hundreds of thousands of battle casualties. Many
shipments were also sent abroad for use by allied governments.
“During the early years consignments of Lyxhayr were delivered to
London bedding manufacturers at a smart pace by paired horse vans.
On several occasions drivers incurred the indignation of passers-by
and active intervention by the police for their supposed cruelty to the
horses. The bulky loads looked far too heavy for two horses, but the
material being so light really imposed no strain on the animals.
“In 1915, one E. B. Hedger, a native of Mitcham, joined the firm as an
office boy … The whole of his business life has been spent on the banks
of the Wandle, although he had little time for fishing at Grove Mills …”
[The booklet had contained a reference to fishing on its first page]
“At the end of the War, in 1919, ‘Lyxhayr Manufacturers Ltd.’ became
‘Mitcham Fibre Mills Ltd.’ and the freehold of their premises was
purchased. Coinciding with this change came further expansion and
the introduction of new products.
“One of these was the extraction of coir fibre from coconut husks.
Huge piles of husks were treated in specially constructed soaking tanks
and then passed to crushing and extractor machines which produced,
among other things, fibes for the brush trade and cheaper grades of
bedding. This section of the business continued until 1926 by which
time the cheaper imported fibres made the Mitcham variety uneconomic.
“Mr. Dickinson retired in 1932 because of illness and Mr. Hedger took
over the management. This particular year also saw all-round
improvements in Lyxhayr manufacture, expecially in fixing the curl by
more modern plant. In 1932 also, the use of one of the waterwheels
was discontinued in favour of electric motors. By now the list of products
being made included curled hair and fibre mixtures and also better
qualities of curled hair. The demand for all these products rose from
year to year despite the general slump in trade in the ‘thirties and went
on doing so up to 1939.
“When war came again Lyxhayr in particular soon went on service, the
entire output being used for hospital bedding and mattresses in hospital
ships and troop transports.
“In the Far Eastern War Lyxhayr solved quite a pressing problem. Few
materials needed in this campaign could withstand the ravages of the
tropical climate and insect attack without special ‘Tropic-proofing’.
The Ministry of Supply tested Lyxhayr under actual jungle conditions,
confirmed that it was resistant to attack by insects, fungi etc., as well
as rot-proof, and specified Lyxhayr as a material for upholstery in
fighting vehicles which could be used without special ‘Tropic-proofing’
“In November 1940 Grove Mills received a direct bomb hit which
knocked a corner off one of the principal buildings erected only in
1938 and blasted many tons of debris into the tail race of the water
mill. Army pioneers cleared all this in a week and the wheel itself ran
as well as ever. Deliveries were not held up and it was a proud boast of
the staff at Grove Mills that they managed to meet all demands in spite
of the many handicaps imposed by war.
“After the war the tremendous demand for furniture and bedding fillings
kept Grove Mills at full stretch month after month not only on Lyxhayr
but also on the other products of the company. Not even the winter of
1947 was allowed to reduce the scale of activity very greatly.
“Many of our manufacturing friends will remember the great power
shut down during the freeze-up in that year. No factories were allowed
electric current for machines or lighting, which meant suspending
operations in almost every case. At Grove Mills, however, the water
wheel kept going all the time, and so enabled supplies of fillings to be
kept up to firms still able to make upholstery by hand. The demand
was, in fact, so brisk as to necessitate overtime working. The difficulty
at Grove Mills was that the regulations precluded the use of electric
power for lighting the factory. A telegram to the Ministry of Fuel and
Power elicited the reply “Permission Granted” and so Grove Mills ‘still
kept going when the rest had stopped’.
“About this time the sound of the water wheel was recorded by Ludwig
Koch for inclusion in a B.B.C. Third Programme broadcast of pleasant
“In 1948 further expansion at Grove Mills made necessary the formation
of another company ‘Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills Ltd.’ with Mr.
Harold T. Turnbull as Chairman and Mr. E. B. Hedger as Managing
“So it has gone on; each year has seen a growth in the business,
extensions to the works, new machinery, more workers. Even today we
have the builders in adding to our facilities and outbuildings to serve
the needs of the bedding and furnishing industries.
“Between 1903 and 1953 Mitcham itself has changed enormously. The
once tiny village surrounded by gardens and farms has become the
largest industrial town in Surrey. Yet even today Grove Mills itself is
still a pleasant spot with part of the adjoining land preserved by the
National Trust and much of the remainder set out as playing fields.
“This modest story of the fifty years development of Grove Mills thus
comes to an end, but it is not the end of this company’s story. No doubt
it will go on increasing its usefulness to industry. Perhaps Lyxhayr and
the other fillings made at Grove Mills will be used in the future more
for helicopters and jet-propelled airliners than for motor cars and lorries.
But it seems very probable that Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills will still
be going strong in another fifty years from now.”
(The products listed on the back of the booklet were:
“Lyxhayr, Curled M.M.Fibre, Curlifill, Curled Hair and Fibre Mixtures
and Curled Hair.” E.N.M.)
The Grove Mill in the mid-1960s (ENM)
At this time water from the Wandle was still flowing beneath the building.
The Fire at Lyxhayr Ltd, Grove Mill, Mitcham 1907
Notes supplied by Mr E B Hedger on the members of the Mitcham Fire
Brigade and others to be seen standing outside the gutted Grove Mill
in the photograph reproduced opposite (reading from left to right):
“Jack Schneider Local turncock for the Metropolitan Water Board.
Lived in Clarendon Grove.
Charlie Jordan Employed by John S. Deed & Sons. Lived in one
of the old timber ‘Blue House'” cottages by the
‘Ravensbury Arms’ on Mitcham Common.
Herbert Sayers Brother of Charles Sayers, founder of Charles
Sayers & Son, the Mitcham builders. Herbert, I
believe, was employed by Whiteheads the builders
of Clapham. He lived in Edmund Road.
Walter Tapping Lived in Benedict Road. I think he worked for
Parsons. Later he was employed by the Council on
the roads adjacent to the Fire Station, and was a
part-time fireman.
Fred Harris A well-known local sportsman and caddymaster at
the Princes Golf Club on the Common. Lived in
Edmund Road.
Jack Thomson His father kept cows which grazed on the Common.
Lived close to the ‘Windmill’. His father used to
take the milk round in two large milk pails
suspended from a yoke across his shoulders. I
remember seeing Jack helping his father, but cannot
say whether he had any other occupation.
Walter Jordan Then a sub-officer. Later to become Station Officer.
At that time caretaker of St. Marks (Upper Mitcham)
School. In later life worked for Thomas Parsons.
Mick Jordan Worked for Lancaster. Lived in Church Place (Bull
George Chester Worked for A. & C. Jenner
Charlie Skillern Worked for livery stables adjoining the ‘King’s
Head.’ They provided the two horses to pull the
steam fire engine in use at that time. Skillern drove
them. Lived in one of the cottages adjoining the
Council’s depot in Church Road. At that time it was
Guyatt’s gravel pit.
John Smith Foreman for Lyxhayr Ltd. Lived at 479 London
W. A. Dickinson Managing Director, Lyxhayr Ltd.
Mr. Seager Lived in 475/477 London Road. He had a very small
part of Crown Mill, in which he manufacturered or
factored furniture polish.
Alfred Jenner Of A. C. Jenner, the engineers. Also Superintendant
of the Mitcham Fire Brigade.
Mr. Holmes The chemist who first put on the market the patent
horsehair. Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Holmes are both
mentioned in my booklet Fifty Years at Grove Mills,
The boy Alfred Jenner’s son.”
At the meeting the National Rivers Authority was represented by
Rachael Pennell, and Thames Water was represented by Helen Newman
and by Jim Stacey (Manager at Beddington Works). This paper is a
summary of the main points which emerged in the meeting.
The Beddington Works has a 3 hour storm water capacity. This capacity
is provided so that the works can cope with short periods of very high
rainfall. In “normal” conditions this capacity can be used to hold back
contaminated liquids from entering the River Wandle.
The Wandle is especially vulnerable to pollution as 95% of the volume
of the Wandle is made up of sewage effluent from the works, and there
is therefore very little dilution effect possible. This is not the case
with most rivers and most sewage works, where dilution occurs to a
far greater extent.
The current discharge consent standard consists of two parameters.
Firstly ammoniacal nitrogen (to be not more that 25 milligrams per
litre), and secondly biological oxygen demand (to be not more that 12
milligrams per litre). The ammoniacal nitrogen standard would be
enough to kill the fish in the river. There is a “voluntary standard”
agreed between the NRA and TW of between 5 and 10 milligrams per
litre for ammoniacal nitrogen.
The 95 percentile standard means that 95% of samples taken should
comply with the requirements laid down in the discharge consent given
by the NRA. There is no purity standard at all for the other 5% of the
samples. Compliance is measured using spot samples on a weekly basis,
per year. Five sample failures are therefore permitted in any one year.
The consent given to TW therefore offers no guarantee that fish can
survive in the Wandle, as periodic pollution will not contravene the
The NRA confirmed that the 95% standard was laid down by statute,
and not by common practice.
The water quality standard referred to in the Catchment Management
Plan is rather academic, as this referred to a river quality objective for
the Wandle of RE4 (suitable for coarse fish populations).
TW were unable to explain why fish were dying in the river before the
ammonium levels had risen. TW took the view that the incident occurred
in Sunday 22 October. The NRA were trying to find out why fish were
dying before that date.
The NRA were surprised that there had been no automatic alarm system
operating at Beddington to detect ammonium. TW had also failed to
inform the Trade Effluent Officer.
The lack of notification given to the riparian landowners meant that
possible closing off of sections of the river, to exclude polluted water,
could not be implemented. Closing off sections of the river might have
allowed some fish to survive, for example in the various arms of the
river at Morden Hall Park.
TW had installed a toxicity meter at the intake to the works, which
should detect any similar threat to the digesters in the sewage treatment
works. This was new technology, and was not proven. Its installation
at Beddington is on trial.
Ammonium monitoring of the effluent had been improved, and was
now on a continuous monitoring basis. An alarm system had been
installed linked to the ammonium monitor, and this would alert the
control room of any high readings. The continuous monitoring of
ammonium at Beddington was one of only a few known examples of
this practice in the country.
The internal communications system, which had not worked during
the incident, had been improved, and staff training had been given.
Monitoring would in future be carried out by TW, and they indicated
that the results would be provided to all interested parties, if requested.
This ought to include the NRA. Results would be available for past
periods of time.
There was criticism that the NRA ought to do the monitoring themselves,
rather than to rely on a potential culprit for the results of monitoring.
Untreated or polluted effluent can only be held back from the river for
a limited period, and this limitation was governed by the storage capacity
on the site. .
TW were asked to consider increasing the storage capacity on the
Beddington site, so as to increase the chances of being able to prevent
pollutants from entering the sewage works or the river. They indicated
that it was not worth while doing this in view of the cost and the low
risk of a similar pollution incident. This did not sit well with their
ready admission that a similar pollution incident could occur at any
time. TW confirmed that it was for the NRA to “give guidance” on the
storage capacity which should be provided.
The measurement of biological oxygen demand involved a 5 day test,
and it could not therefore be done on a continuous basis. The point was
put to TW that continuous monitoring was possible for a number of
different parameters.
Consultation forums were in place in some areas, to allow TW to bring
in the local people to a discussion as to how their investment programme
should be directed. There was no such forum in this area.
Phil Ryder
Wandle Heritage Ltd.
(Reproduced by permission)
Mitcham Bridge, London Road, looking south towards Bishopsford Road
Mitcham News and Mercury, Summer 1971
‘The Wandle, Mitcham’ – early 20th-century postcard of Mitcham Bridge
Abbreviations Used
Braithwaite Braithwaite F, ‘On the Rise and Fall of the River Wandle; its
Springs, Tributaries and Pollution’, Proceedings of the Institution
of Civil Engineers 20 (1861)
CLSL Croydon Local Studies Library
Edwards Edwards J, Companion from London to Brighthelmston (1801)
Francis Francis T, ‘Old Mitcham’ (Notes on a collection of Lantern
Slides) (MLSC)
Hedger E B Hedger, former managing director of Mitcham Hair and
Fibre Mills Ltd, interviewed in 1967
Hoare MLSC. Sale Particulars of the Estate of the late Henry Hoare.
(Copies also in Sutton and Croydon local studies collections)
Malcolm Malcolm J, A Compendium of Modern Husbandry of Surrey I
M & B Manning O and Bray W, The History and Antiquities of the
County of Surrey
MC Copies of Mitcham Census Returns (MLSC)
MLSC London Borough of Merton Local Studies Centre
MPR Mitcham Poor Rate Books, (SHC)
MLT Mitcham Land Tax Records, (SHC)
MoLT Morden Land Tax records (SHC)
MoTS Morden Tithe Commutation Survey (SHC). See also
Morden in 1838: The Tithe Apportionment Map, Merton
Historical Society Local History Notes 13 (1998)
MTS Mitcham Tithe Commutation Survey Register 1846 & Map 1847
(MLSC). See also
Mitcham in 1846: The Tithe Apportionment Map, Merton
Historical Society Local History Notes 22 (2002)
Rice Rice R Garraway, ‘On the Parish Registers of Ss Peter and Paul,
Mitcham’, in The Reliquary (1877) (Copy in MLSC)
SHC Surrey History Centre
VCH Victoria County History of Surrey
1 This hypothesis is explored more fully in the chapter on Wickford in
Volume 4 in the Mitcham Histories Series Lower Mitcham (2003) 135-6
2 Montague E N The Archaeology of Mitcham (1991) 14-22
Many of the burials may, in fact, have been of the indigenous Romano-
British people
3 CLSL William Marr’s map of 1685. ‘Mitcham Bridge’ is clearly marked.
(Map believed to have been transferred to SHC)
4 SHC Mitcham Vestry Minutes
5 M & B III (1814) Appendix xxvii.
6 Edwards Pt II 18
1 Gough’s translation (Camden wrote in Latin)
Although it has often been asserted that Izaak Walton, that doyen of
anglers, mentioned the Wandle in The Compleat Angler this is not so,
and it is only in notes to two of the later editions of his work that
references to the river can be found. (Note by Judith Goodman, pers.
com., 18 January 1996)
2 Hobson J, Book of the Wandle (1924) 93/4
3 MLSC Revd Herbert Randolph’s notebook. See also
Parishioners of Mitcham 1837/38: The Revd Herbert Randolph’s
Notebook, Merton Historical Society Local History Notes 20 (2002) 6
4 Davy H, Salmonia; or Days of Dry Fly Fishing (edition of 1869) 50, 52
5 Torre C, Small Talk at Wreyland (1970) 30
S P Torre is listed in Green’s South London Directory (1869) 124 as
resident at Brookfields Cottage, Wandle Grove.
6 Francis 28
7 Braithwaite 199 –
8 Kelly’s Directory 1895
9 E B Hedger assured me in an interview in 1967 that Bourne kept his
trays of fry in an old wooden building upstream in the Watermeads, and
not in the derelict snuff mill in Morden meadow as stated by Tom Francis
in his lecture notes and in the captions to several photographs in Mitcham
10 E B Hedger confirmed Bourne’s date of leaving with an old lady who
once lived at No. 479.
11 SHC Agreement between the Corporation of Croydon and Capt H F
Bidder and others as to the Wandle Fisheries.
12 Francis 29
13 Lt Col Harold F Bidder DSO, MA, FSA, is remembered for his
excavation of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ cemetery at Mitcham, and his work
on the site of Merton Priory. He was first President of Merton and
Morden Historical Society (now the Merton Historical Society).
14 In 1922 William Simpson sold his house, Park Place, Commonside
West, to the News of the World, who converted the surrounding land
into a sports ground, and used the building as a club house. It is now
(2004) occupied as a restaurant.
15 See Appendix III
Acquisition by the National Trust
1 Properties of the National Trust (1973) 143
2 Wimbledon Society’s Museum. Report of the Wandle Open Spaces
Committee 1914
3 Upcott J, ‘Octavia Never Looked Sideways’ in National Trust Newsletter
No. 8 June 1970, 6
4 Inscribed “This seat is placed on land part of which was given in memory
of Miranda Hill by some of her grateful and affectionate pupils. Born
January lst 1836, died May 31st 1910.”
5 Clark E F, George Parker Bidder. The Calculating Boy (1983) 62
There may have been further purchases after the passing of the Carew
Estate Act 1857
6 To minimise disturbance to wild life and limit vandalism the Trust’s
policy (2004) is to limit access, but keys are obtainable on loan, from
the Estate Manager at Morden Hall Park.
7 MoLT
The Early History of the Watermeads
8 M & B II (1809) 499, quoting Claus. 35 Edw. III m.3, dors.
See also Calendar of Close Rolls Edw. III, XI (1908) 302
The Mill Sites
9 Malcolm 6
The ‘Jack’ Pond
10 Francis 39
Inter-War Perspectives
11 Francis 132
12 Francis 29-31
Current Management Policy
13 Outlined by Rachel Thomkins, Manager of the National Trust’s Wandle
Properties, in a conversation with the writer in January 2004
THE MILL COTTAGES (Nos. 475-479 London Road)
2 There is no entry in the 1851 census records which can be related to
this house.
3 They are included in the 33rd List of Buildings of Special Architectural
or Historic Interest as at 2nd September 1988, compiled by the Secretary
of State for the Environment under the Town and Contry Planning Act
1971 with the comment:
“TQ 26 NE London Road, Mitcham (East side)
Serial No. 4/87. Nos. 475 to 479 (odd) (Mill Cottages)
Date first listed: 11. 10. ’74. Grade II.”
4 Information from E B Hedger in 1967.
Early History
1 Morris J, Domesday Book: Surrey (1975) 21 1 and 2
2 British Library. MS Add. 6040 f1 No. 20
(Transcription by John Blair supplied in personal communication).
3 VCH IV (1912) 233 quoting Anct.D. (National Archives/PRO) A 9189
4 M & B II (1809) 499, quoting Claus. 35 Edw. III h.3. dors. See also
Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward III XI (1908) 302
5 VCH IV (1912) 233 quoting Inq. a.g.d. 395, no.28
6 VCH IV (1912) 233
7 Hopkins P, ‘Morden Hall before Morden Hall’ in Merton Historical
Society Bulletin 143 (2003) 6
8 SHC 212/73/1
9 Will dated 1. 1. 1529/30, proved 23. 2. 1529/30
Ref. Archdeaconry of Surrey, Mychell Register, LMA: DW/PA/7/3 fol.
125r & 129v WSFHS MW3:73
10 VCH IV (1912) 233, quoting Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com), ii, 48
11 Heales A, The Records of Merton Priory (1898) p.cxxv.
Ministers Accounts, Co. Surrey, 29-30 Henry VIII, No.115, Mem. 7
12 MTS
13 SHC 599/219 a-b
14 SHC Mitcham Baptismal Registers. Baptism of Thomas Smythe’s
natural son Edward
15 Rice R G, ‘On the Parish Registers of Ss. Peter and Paul, Mitcham’ The
Reliquary (1877) 22/3 Note 49
16 London County Council Court Minutes of the Surrey and Kent Sewer
Commissioners (1909) 120
17 Rice R G, ‘On the Parish Registers of Ss. Peter and Paul, Mitcham’ The
Reliquary (1877) 141 Note 28. Will dated 6 Jan. 1575/6 SHC 212/73/
18 SHC 77/4/1
19 In 1593 he had been appointed High Collector of the Lay Subsidy in
the Hundred of Wallington.
20 Guiseppi H S, ‘The River Wandle in 1610′ in Surrey Archaeological
Collections 21 (1908) 170-191
SHC 212/113/18: During a survey of the manor of Reigate in 1623 it
was noted that as a freeholder
“George Smyth, gent., holdeth also of this Mannor one Tenement and
water Milne and 30 acres of marsh ground lyinge at Mitcham for which
he payeth the yearly Rent of xxs.”
21 SHC 212/113/18a
22 VCH IV (1912) 232, quoting Chan. Proc. Hh, 17 Eliz. no.3; also Pat.30
Eliz. pt. vi, m.14
23 Correspondence in September 1940 between the steward of the manor
of Reigate and E B Hedger.
Copper Milling (1698-c.1748)
1 SHC 3537/1/21 p.50 entry 63
2 SHC 3537/1/23 p.23
3 SHC 303/21/4/4
4 Day J and Tylecote R F (editors), The Industrial Revolution in Metals
(1991), and Michael Wilks (pers. comm. 20 Jan. ’95)
5 Milward R, Wimbledon in the Time of the Civil War (1976) 75
6 MLSC Tom Francis Scrapbook. Undated cutting from Mitcham
Advertiser: Letter from G A Hannaford, 11 Raleigh Gardens, Mitcham.
7 SHC 145/26
At a court baron of the manor of Reigate held in June 1726 the death
was announced of widow Smith, seized of a water mill at Mitcham and
messuage. ” – Miers, gent.”, was named as her heir.
(This would have been the “Sussanah Smyth” of Mitcham who in her
will dated 13 Feb. 1724, probate 30 July 1725, left her Mitcham estate
to “her kinsman” William Myers of King Street, London. Prob 11 604
At another court baron of the same manor, held in July 1742, William
Myers Esq. was announced as having held of the manor as a freehold
tenant a watermill and 30 acres of marsh ground at a yearly rental of
20s. The property passed to his son.
(In his will dated 13 Oct 1739 proved at London 29 July 1742, William
Myers, after various small bequests, left to his son William “all real
estate copyhold as well as freehold by virtue of Will or settlement of
Sussana Smith late of Mitcham”. Prob 11 719 226)
8 SHC 303/21/4/1
The Flour Mills (1765-1795)
1 SHC 303/21/4/2
3 SHC 303/21/4/3
4 Montague E, Lower Mitcham (2003) 62-5
5 Montague E, The Cricket Green (2001) 76
6 SHC 303/21/4/2 7 August 1765 and 303/21/4/3 8 August 1765
7 SHC 303/21/4/4
8 Montague E, Lower Mitcham (2003) 68
In 1768, for instance, John Chesterman was occupying a house and
mill with a combined rateable value of £93.
10 SHC Counterpart of lease dated 16 September 1772, 303/21/4/5
11 MLT and
Montague E, Pollards Hill, Commonside East and Lonesome (2002)
12 MS 8674/115 p.173, and National Archives 11/1113 q 70, quoted by
Peter McGow in pers. comm. 5. 9. ’01
13 Berry W, Pedigrees of Surrey (1837) 110.
Valentine A, The British Establishment I (1970) 363 – 4 has the following
note on another, presumably related, Richard Glover (1712 – 85):
“Of Exchange Alley, London: son of Richard Glover (Hamburg
merchant of London). He entered his father’s business c.1728 and also
wrote and published verse. In 1737 he married Hannah Nunn, “a lady
of property”, but in 1756 he divorced her for the usual reason. His
opposition to Sir Robert Walpole won him in 1744 a legacy of £500
from the Duchess of Marlborough. He was supported for election to
Parliament by Bubb Doddington, who largely controlled the seat he
secured (Weymouth and Melcombe Regis). As a merchant-banker he
secured a share in government loans and several times addressed the
House on behalf of merchant interests. Though a verbose speaker, some
thought he had boldness and energy, and he was “a popular leader at
elections”. He was listed as a Tory in 1761. He supported Bute but
opposed the cider tax in 1763, and was thereafter classed as “doubtful”
in the various lists compiled by both parties of members of the House
… He wrote and collected verse and plays and also acted, on occasions
at the Drury Lane Theatre.”
14 Several members of the Glover family are commemorated by ledger
stones in the paving of the south aisle of Mitcham parish church, but
these are now covered by a raised floor:
Sarah Glover, d.1703 daughter of Gabriel and Bridget Glover
Gabriel Glover, d.1706 son of Gabriel and Bridget Glover
Bridget Glover, d.1709 aged 36, wife of Gabriel Glover Esq.
Mary Glover, d.1717 aged 18, daughter of Gabriel and Bridget
Gabriel Glover, d.1723 aged 61, and
Ann Glover, d.1751 aged 50, daughter of Gabriel and Bridget.
15 She died at Mitcham, but is buried at Warlingham.
Berry, op. cit..
16 MLT:
Two mills: Proprietor, Samuel Fry, occupiers Richard Glover and John
17 Guildhall Library, Sun Fire Insurance Policy 505278 1/6/85
18 SHC Mitcham vestry minutes, Vol. 2 1763-1793.
19 SHC (Ex. Guildford Muniment Room) 51/10/7 (1) – (18).
Will and Probate of John Chesterman 31 Jan. 1784. Proved 19 Feb.
Another John Chesterman, a miller and maltster, and presumably his
son, is referred to after the death of Chesterman in 1784. The collection
of family papers also includes doctors’ bills for attending to “Debbie”
20 PRO 11/1113 q 70 Quoted by McGow
21 Edwards II 18:
“About half a furlong to the left” (i.e. of the main road) “is Mitcham
corn-mill. It was burnt down in the year 1788; and it is now rebuilding.
It is the property of W. Fry Esq., and was lately occupied by Samuel
22 Malcolm J, I (1805) 7
The Snuff Mills (1772 – 1845)
1 MLSC Notes by Tom Francis to Miss Farewell Jones, dated 1932. He
referred to the mill as “Caleb Raleigh’s mill” as though this was the
name by which it had been generally known in his youth in the latter
part of the 19th century.
2 SHC 303/21/4/5
3 Edwards II 18
4 Guildhall Library, Royal Exchance Fire Insurance Policy No. 244523
8 March 1809
5 MoLT
6 Guildhall Library, Royal Exchange Fire Insurance Policy No. 244523.
It was noted that there was no steam engine in this mill.
7 MLSC Local history collection
8 MLSC Local history collection
Unfortunately details of the lot which included the mills are missing
from the MLSC collection. (Copies of the sale particulars are also in
Sutton and Croydon local studies collections)
9 MLSC MSS account of the ‘Perambulation of theBoundary Line of
the Parish of Mitcham … 16th May 1833″
(Book last seen when in the Merton Chief Executive’s Department.
Present whereabouts now unknown)
10 SHC ‘Book of Reference’ dated 29 November 1834. Listing “Names
of Owners etc. of Property taken under authority of Act of Parliament
for the extraction of water from the Wandle at Waddon Mills.”
11 MoTS (Dated 5 August 1837):
Mrs Spencer (late Fry) – landowner; Richard Glover – occupier:
Ref: 303A Garden
304 Paddock
305 Paddock and snuff mill
Hopkins P, Morden in 1838, Merton Historical Society Local History
Notes 13 (1998)
12 Surrey Archaelogical Society Library Mitcham folder
13 Hopkins P & Turner S, Mitcham in 1838, Merton Historical Society
Local History Notes 21 (2002)
14 Robson’s Commercial Directory 1839:
“Richard Glover, Lower Mitcham. Snuff and Tobacco Merchant.”
Pigot and Co.’s Directory 1839 – ditto,
Post Office Directory 1845:
“Glover, Richard, snuff grinder, Lower Mitcham.” and
The Post Office Directory of 1845, which is the last to list Richard
Glover as a snuff grinder.
15 Braithwaite 200
16 Francis
17 Hillier J, Old Surrey Water-Mills (1951) 178/9
Unfortunately, as a source of historical fact, Hillier is not entirely reliable.
18 MC 1841
19 MTS:
1292 Meadow ) Glover, Richard
1289 House, gardens and buildings) ) ”
1291 Kiln House, yard and buildings ) Unoccupied
1294 Snuff mills ) ”
Hopkins P, Mitcham in 1846 Merton Historical Society Local History
Notes 22 (2002)
The Paper Mill
1 MLSC Hoare
2 Crocker A, ‘Watermarks in Surrey Hand-made Paper’ in Surrey History
III No.1, (1984/5), 7
3 Information from Alan Crocker, in a personal communication, quoting
SHC 5/10/79 and 10/11/19, Shorter A H, ‘Paper Mills and paper makers
in England’ (1957) and ‘Paper Making in the British Isles’ (1971) 236.
4 Guildhall Library, Sun Fire Insurance Policy No. 890986
5 MLSC ? MS. account by Edwin Chart of Beating of the Bounds of
Mitcham in 1833.
6 SHC ‘Book of Reference’ dated 29th November 1834
7 MoTS
The Surrey Iron Railway
1 Hillier J, Old Surrey Water-Mills (1951) 177 and
Francis 32
Whether Tom Francis knew this as a fact, or was relying on Hillier, is
not clear.
2 This was the view expressed to the writer by E B Hedger.
John Glover, Flour Miller (1833 – 1855)
1 MLSC Hoare
2 SHC Book of Reference 1834
3 Robson’s Commercial Directory 1839: “John Glover, Lower Mitcham,
Pigot’s Directory of Surrey 1839.
4 MC 1841 and 1851.
5 MTS:
Richard Spencer – landowner; John Glover – occupier:
1290 House, garden & buildings
1293 Garden
1295 Flour Mills
6 Braithwaite 200
7 MLSC Festival Brochure of 1951, produced by Mitcham Borough
Council. A photograph of the mill wheel is captioned “Potential 90 h.p.
Actual 25 h.p.”.
The Crown and Grove Mills (1850 – 1900) Felt and Flour
2 MC 1841 and 1851
3 Hillier J, Old Surrey Water-Mills (1951) 178/9
Unfortunately, as a source of historical facts, Hillier is not entirely
4 Braithwaite 200
5 Post Office Directory 1862. “Whitehead & Co., Felt Manufacturers”
6 Information from E B Hedger [He was grandson of Benjamin Slater,
lavender grower, whose ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ were published
in Old Mitcham (1923), general editor H F Bidder.]
Hedger pointed out that in his lecture notes (MLSC) Tom Francis is
incorrect on page 31 when he implies that this waterwheel, portrayed in
one of his slides, belonged to the Grove flour mill.
7 Short M, Windmills in Lambeth (1971) 60.
8 Post Office Directories, 1845 and 1851.
9 Kelly’s Directory 1890;
“Ashby, Joseph and Sons, millers (water), Wandlemills, Lower
Kelly’s Directory 1899:
“Ashby, Joshua and Sons, millers (water), Wandle Mills, Sutton Road,
Lower Mitcham.
(Not in 1903 Directory)
10 Hedger E B, 50 Years at Grove Mills, Mitcham. The Story of Lyxhayr
and Service to the Bedding and Upholstery Trades by Mitcham Hair
and Fibre Mills Ltd. (1953).
(Copy donated to Mitcham Library in 1967, but stated to have been
‘lost’ on enquiry in 1993). For extracts, see Appendix I)
Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills (1903–1955)
1 Higgs T, 300 Years of Mitcham Cricket (1985) 14 and
Hitchen W E Surrey at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (1906)
“William Wright Thompson J.P. of Mitcham, born South Africa 1846.
Director of R.R.Whitehead Brothers Ltd. of Greenfield, Yorkshire and
Mitcham. Late member of Surrey County Council for Carshalton. One
of the first members of the Board of Conservators, Mitcham Common;
on the Committee of Surrey County Cricket Club; Captain and Hon.
Sec. of Mitcham Cricket Club; Founder and first Treasurer of Mitcham
Freemasons’ Lodge.”
In the 1870s Thompson was living at Tamworth Lodge, Commonside
2 The 1910 Ordnance Survey map shows the mill as ‘disused’.
Kelly’s Directory for 1905 contains the last reference to Whiteheads:
“Whitehead R. R. and Bros. Ltd. Wandle Felt Works, Sutton
Road, Lower Mitcham.”
The 1905 Kelly’s also lists Lyxhayr Ltd., (W A Dickinson, sec.),
horsehair substitute manufacturers (patent), Grove Mills.
3 This, at least, is what E B Hedger had been told as a lad. He joined
Lyxhayr after Seager had left the Crown Mill, and one wonders if
‘furniture polish’ was what the workmen at the fibre mills told him
Seager had been making when, in fact, it was Dutch gin. There is no
corroborative evidence from contemporary directories.
4 The occupier of No. 475. (Henry Smith) in a conversation in 1994.
5 MLSC Various old post cards survive showing the mill before and after
the fire.
6 Hedger E B op cit
7 Hillier J, Old Surrey Water Mills (1951) 178/9
8 Hedger E B op cit
1 33rd List, dated 2nd September 1988, compiled under the Town and
Country Planning Act 1971, section 54;
TQ 25 NE. Serial number 4/116. First listed 16. 1. 54. Grade II.
“Detached house now offices. Circa 1795. Attributed to Robert Mylne,
Brown brick, tuck pointed. Slate mansard roof to parapet. 2 storeys.
Western elevation of 3 windows wide. Square gauged headed windows,
sashes, glazing bars. Ground floor windows in semi-circular headed
reveals. Stucco band between storeys. Cornice above first floor. Parapet
with panels on balustrading. South facade with 2 storey segmental bay
window. East return to road also of architectural interest. Present
entrance through adjoining office block of 1963, which is not of special
The house was also listed in Antiquities of Surrey (1965) with comment:
“No. 1888/ No.10 (Wandle House) Riverside Drive. (c.1780)”.
2 Nairn I and Pevsner N, Buildings of Surrey (1971). 56 and 372.
3 SHC 303/21/4/4
It was suggested in a local paper in the 1960s that Lady Hamilton had
slept at ‘Wandle Grove’. The house was certainly standing during her
lifetime, but without corroborative evidence, the story has to be treated
as journalistic speculation.
5 Edwards.
Significantly, ‘Wandle Grove’ receives no mention in the text, which
from its general content seems to have been compiled around 1789.
Edward’s map, however, dated c. 1801 indicates a house on the site of
‘Wandle Grove’, approached by a drive.
6 Greenwood, C & J, Surrey Described (1823) 294.
7 MLSC Hoare
8 They were recorded in the census return in 1841, William Wilson being
described as of ‘independent means’.
9 Wilson, Mary (Editor, Jennifer Simpson) A European Journal – Two
Sisters Abroad in 1847 (1987) 12-14
10 Alumni Oxiensus, Alumni Cantabrigensus, and Crockford’s Clerical
Directory (1865), also
MLSC Revd Herbert Randolph’s Notebook published as Parishioners
of Mitcham 1837/38: The Revd Herbert Randolph’s Notebook, Merton
Historical Society Local History Notes 20 (2002)
11 VCH IV (1912) 234.
12 MTS:
Reference 1298 House, garden and building )
1299 Orchard )
1300 Shrubbery ) 11 acres 1r.11p
1301 Field Meadow )
1302 Lodge Meadow. )
13 Henry Hopkins’ stay at ‘Wandle Grove’ could have been only of short
duration, for he was not mentioned in the local directory for 1845, and
must have moved away by 1848, when William Wilson was said to be
in residence (See reference 11).
14 MC 1851.
15 Post Office Directory entry for Mitcham, 1851.
16 Green’s South London Directory 1869.
17 SHC (Ex Guildford Muniment Room) 303/21/4/7/
A detailed inventory of fixtures and fittings survives.
18 Kelly’s Directory, 1882.
19 Mr Daniels, former groundsman to Hovis Ltd, interviewed in 1967.
20 Hedger
21 Mitcham News 11 March 1960.
22 Mitcham News and Mercury 29 April 1966.
23 Information kindly supplied by A H Armstrong, Director of Coppas
International (UK) Ltd, in December 1979.
By May 1985 Coppas International had moved away, and Wandle House
was vacant.
1 Francis p.89. No. 185.
2 MLSC Document of release in local history collection L2(347.2).
3 Edwards, Pt. II, 18
4 MLSC Map of Henry Hoare’s estate, dated 1812. The site of the brewery
is marked “The Exors. of the Late Mr. Hughes”
5 MS 8674/105 p. 144, quoted by Peter McGow in pers. comm., 5. 9.
6 MS 8674/115 p.173 (McGow)
7 PROB 11/1012 q.405 (McGow)
8 MS 8674/124 p.9 (McGow)
9 PROB 11/1113 q 70 (McGow)
10 MS 8674/135 p.252 (McGow)
11 MS 8674/139 p.285 (McGow)
12 Hughes bequeathed all his leashold properties in Mitcham and Cheam
to his wife Harriet. PROB 11/1430 q 589 (McGow)
13 MLSC Hoare
14 The Times 27 March 1817 (McGow)
15 Pigot’s Directory of Surrey (1824/5)
16 The London Gazette 1 March 1817 (McGow)
17 MC 1841
18 Post Office Directory 1845 “Wilson, John, brewer, Globe Brewery,
Lower Mitcham”
19 MTS
20 Shown as such on plan dated 1853, prepared for the private Bill
presented to Parliament to enable the Wimbledon to Croydon railway
to be built. SHC
21 Ordnance Survey map 1867
22 MLSC Mss. notes by John Lucas filed at LP 994 L2 (628.1) LUC,
quoting London Wells (1913)
23 MC 1851
‘Millstream, Mitcham’ – Frith postcard
‘Wandle, Mitcham’ – Postcard by Jenn
Crown Felt Mill on right.
Stream in bottom right hand corner is tail race of Crown Mill.
Angling 3-9, 16
Anglo-Saxon cemetery 1
Anti-invasion measures 1
Artesian wells 69, 77-8
Ashby Bros 24, 54-5
John 54
John Robert 54
Joshua 54, 55
Associated Jute Co Ltd 60
Barker, Thomas, poacher 3
Beddington Sewage Works 4, 6-7, 89-91
Beebe, William 67
Beecher, Mrs 66
Beeches, The 78
Beneytesfeld 14
Bennett’s Hole 14
George P, local landowner 4, 5, 12
George P, QC 5, 6, 12
Harold F 6, 95
Birkett, John 77
Bond, Edward 75
Bourne, Harry (Henry), water bailiff 5, 16, 24, 94-5
Brewery 75-8
Bridge, repair 2
Bridge – see also Mitcham Bridge 1-2
Brookfields Cottage 66-7
Brookfields Estate 67, 70
Brookfields Nurseries 70
Bull and Peck, brewers 76
Butt, Thomas 75
Calvert, Sampson, gamekeeper 3
Carew, Sir Francis of Beddington 32
Cecil, Sir Edward 3
Cheshire, J N, market gardener 70
Chester, George, volunteer fireman 87
Debbie 100
John 39, 40, 41, 75, 76
Samuel 41, 100
Chesterman’s Mitcham Corn Mill 41, 42
Clerk, Dr Bartholomew 32
Cletscher, Thomas 35
Closing Order by Borough Council 27
Cochran, Robert 38-9
Coins, manufacture of 35
Collier, Mrs 69
Cooper, 24
Coppas International (UK) Ltd 73
Copper milling 34-7
Cricket, the Surrey County Club 79, 104
Cricks and Sharp, film-makers 69
Crimean War, boots & jerkins for troops in 54
Crockfords, described as owner of Mitcham Mill 53
Crown Field sold for brewery 75
Crown Mill 23, 24, 30, 32, 34, 54-60
access to 11
fire 60
Croydon Board of Health 4
Croydon Corporation 5-6
Croydon Rural Sanitary Authority 5
Curteis, Thomas, master paper-maker 48
Dear, I C, at Globe Brewery 77
Dickinson, W A 58, 88
Domesday mills 15, 29
Duckworth, Frederick J 68
Dunbee Combex Marx Group 60
Ecology of the Watermeads 17-20
Edmunds, John, manager of Mitcham Felt Mills 54
Edwards, Thomas, brewer/maltster 77
Effluent, sewage 4-8
Eilers 24
English Copper Co 35
Environment Agency 9, 20, 21
Evans, Richardson, donor of part of Happy Valley 12
Felt manufacturer 53-4
Fish, re-stocking 8
‘Fisheries Cottage’ 5, 27
Fishery – see Angling
FitzAnsculf, William 30
Footman & Co Ltd 60
Ford, through Wandle 1
Fowke, Sir Frederick F C 5-6, 11, 58, 69
Francis, Thomas 4, 16, 17, 18-19, 50
Fry(e) 50
Rowland 37, 38, 41, 63, 75
Samuel 41
William 63
Funnells of Sutton 78
Gaston, Alderman S L 12-13
Gaston Gate 12
Gaze, Marker 76
Gibb, family 24
Gilbertson, Robert, brewer 78
Globe Brewery 50, 76-7
Ann 40
Gabriel 40
John, 40
John junior 40, 45, 52-4
Mary 40
Richard 13, 39, 41, 42, 43-5, 47, 48, 53, 99
Richard junior 44-7
Sarah 47
Glovers of Mitcham 39-47
Glover’s corn and snuff mills 39-47
Glover’s Paper Mill 47-50
Gregory, Lionel 39, 40, 42
Grove Mill, alias Micham, or Wickford mill 30
Domesday site 29-30
fire at 41, 56
listed building 59
mill pond abolished 59
Mitcham Hair & Fibre Mills Ltd 56-59
Grove Mill,
rebuilt 56
tithe free 31
wheel 56, 58
Guildford Museum – Surrey Iron Railway wheel 52
Hair and Fibre Mills 56-9
Happy Valley 11-12, 58
Harris, Fred, sportsman & volunteer fireman 87
Harvey, Lt Gen Daniel 2
Hatfeild, Gilliat E, will of 17
Hedger, E B, managing director of Mitcham Hair & Fibre Mill 58-9, 79-88
Hill, Miranda 11, 95
Octavia 11
Hinchcliffe, Thomas 63
Elizabeth 63
Hoare, Henry 12, 42, 43, 44, 48, 49, 52, 62, 63, 64
Holmes, Mr, chemist at Grove Mill 55-6, 88
Hopkins, Henry, of Wandle Grove 67
Howard, (Charles), Baron of Effingham 32
Howard (Mitcham) Ltd, builders 70-73
Hughes, William, brewer 40, 75-6
Hygiene of filling materials 58
Industrial effluents 5, 8-9
Industries 29 (and other references)
‘Jack Pond’, the 8, 9, 16, 21, 49
James, E & Sons, watercress growers 69, 70
Jenner, A & C Ltd, engineers 56
Alfred, superintendent, Mitcham Fire Brigade 88
Mr, horse trotting enthusiast 68-9
Jones, Richard, felt manufacturer 23, 54
Mick, volunteer fireman 87
Walter, Mitcham fireman 87
Karlmeter, Henrich 37
Kemp 27
Lactagol Ltd 75
Lank, Saxon landowner 30
Lansbury, George 12-13
London Wildlife Trust 21
Loraine, William, of Wandle Grove 67
Lubbock, Sir John 12
Lyxhayr Ltd 56-8
fire at 86-8
story of 79-84
Mara de 14, 30
Mare, de la 14, 61
Mares, William, medieval landowner 14, 30
Marlar, John 38-9
Marris mill, see also ‘Micham mille’ or Grove Mill 32
Merton priory 30-1, 61
‘Micham mille’ 31, 32
Mill cottages 23-8
Mill sites 15
Mills, the, early history of 29-30
Mitcham Angling Club 8, 16
Mitcham Brewery 75-6
Mitcham Bridge 1-2, 4
repair 2
Mitcham Felt Mills 54
Mitcham Fibre Mills Ltd 56-9
Mitcham Grove 11-12, 30, 32, 38, 62, 64
Mitcham Hair and Fibre Mills 32, 56-9, 69
Mitcham Hall, Lower Mitcham 2, 4
Mitcham House, Upper Green 54
Mitchell, William S, of Wandle Grove 68
Morden Hall 17
Morden Meadow 2, 13, 21, 44, 69
Morden snuff mill 13, 15, 42-5
Moore, Thomas (National Trust superintendent) 17
Myers, William 34, 37, 38, 63, 75, 98
Mylne, Robert, architect 61
Nash, Edward 24, 37-9, 40, 42, 43
Mary 40
Nash’s mill 38-9
National Rivers Authority 8, 20, 21
National Trust 7, 11, 16, 20, 21, 45, 50, 58, 69
Niblett, Andrew, copper miller 35
Paper mill, Richard Glover’s 15, 47-50
Paper Mill Cut 15, 47, 50
Parish boundary plate, post and stones 1, 16
Parry (see Perry)
Patent Horse Hair Co 24, 55-6
Perry, Charles 35, 37
Francis 35
Perry’s mill 37
Poachers 3
Pollution of Wandle 4-9, 89-91
Porter, Sir Richard 14
Poulter Park – ‘Hilly Fields’ 14, 69
Quinn, Major Wyndham 69
Rag Flock Act 58
Randolph, Rev Herbert, curate 3, 65
‘Ravensbury Manor’ 6
Ravensbury, manor of 14, 32
Ravensbury Park 6, 7, 12
Ravensbury School 78
Raleigh, Sir Walter 41–2
‘Raleigh’s mill’ 42, 100
Reigate, manor of 32, 34, 58
Rennie, Sir John 4
River Wandle Open Space Committee 11, 18, 58
Romano-British burials 1, 94
St Paul’s Cathedral 35
Sayers, Charles & Sons, builders 56
Sayers, Herbert 87
Scaldewell, Sir John de 14
Schneider, Jack 87
Seager, Mr 24, 56, 88, 104
Sewage effluent 5-8
Shead Brothers, potato merchants 78
Simpson, W F J 5-6, 95
Skating on the Jack Pond 16
Skillern, Charles, volunteer fireman 88
Smith, John, volunteer fireman 27, 88
Smith, Widow 34
Smythe, George 32
Susannah 37, 98
Thomas 31, 32
Snuff mill, in Morden meadow 13
Snuff milling 13, 41-7
Soap manufacture 59, 60
Southwark, priory of St Mary at 30
Spencer, Mrs 44, 50, 53
Richard 67
Stevenson’s snuff mills 41-2
Stewart, Archibald 38
Surrey and Kent Sewer Commissioners 31
Surrey Brewery 77-8
Surrey County Council, flood control work 7, 59
Surrey Iron Railway 50-2, 76
Tamworth Lodge 40
Tapping, Walter, part-time fireman 87
Thames Water Authority 8-9
Thompson, William W 56, 104
Thomson, Jack 87
Thunder and Little, brewers 75
Torre, Cecil, angling reminiscences 3, 67
Tower Mills, 35, 37
Tramway Path 50
Trout 3, 4, 6, 94
Vernacular architecture 23
Walker, C S (Sacks) Ltd 27, 60
Walton, Izaak 94
Wandle 1
a royal preserve 3
Cottage 5, 24
Felt Works 54
Fisheries Association 5
fishery – see Angling
pollution of 4-9
springs 6
Wandle Grove 38, 61-73
Wandle Grove Brewery 77-8
Wandle House (see Wandle Grove)
Wandle Industrial Museum 52
Wartime at Grove Mills 58-9
Watercress 69-70
Watermeads 5, 7, 11-21, 69
early history 14-15
management 17, 20-21
Watermeads housing estate 12, 72
Weatherboarding 13, 23, 42, 75, 78
Wheels, from Surrey Iron Railway 52
White, R F & Co Ltd 59-60
Whitehead, R R, Bros Ltd 54, 56, 60
Whitford 29-30
Wickford (Wicford) 1, 61
Wickford Mill 26-31
Wilford, Robert 61
Williams, Ian, Building and Property 73
Willow plantation 17
Willows print works, leat from 70
Anne 65, 66-7
Arthur 66
Emily 66
family 66
Henry 66
John 65, 66, 77
Mary 65, 66
William 65, 66, 67
Witford, Alexander de 30
Wykeford (see also Wickford) 14
Wylford, or Wilford, Robert 31
York’s Mill, fishing at 3