Motspur Park and West Barnes Memories 1920 to 1947: Collections & Recollections
Local History Notes 37: by Bruce S Bendell, with further memories by his friends Douglas Headley and Fred Gilden
Written in 1988, these memoirs were lodged with Merton Local Studies Centre. They recall Mr Bendell’s memories of first visiting grandparents in the West Barnes area of Merton, and then moving there as a child until his marriage in 1940. His recollections of walks with his brothers in what was then countryside are especially vivid. He particularly remembers his work at the knitting factory of Boulanger, in Seaforth Avenue. He also details the development of the local housing estates between the Wars. His memoirs are supplemented by contributions by childhood friends Douglas Headley and Fred Gilden, which are included as an appendix.
We are grateful to Toby Ewin for bringing these memoirs to our notice, and for retyping them in dogital format. We are also grateful to Sarah Gould, Merton’s Heritage Officer, for arranging the scanning of Bruce Bendell’s photographs and for allowing us to use them in this publication.
Click here to explore the early history of this area
LOCAL HISTORY NOTES – 37
Motspur Park and West Barnes Memories 1920 to 1947: Collections & Recollections
by Bruce S Bendell
with further memories by his friends
Douglas Headley and Fred Gilden
FOREWORD BY BRUCE BENDELL IN 1988
In all sincerity this collection of childhood and boyhood
memories is not intended to try to be a masterpiece of literature;
it is purely genuine memories of a small district which suddenly
became dramatically changed by a man who had the foresight
and drive to get things done quickly and efficiently. It needs
to be read by those who wish to know what the area was like.
Additional memories and notes have been supplied by Eric
MacFarlane, Douglas Vincent Headley, and Fred Gilden. In
addition my thanks also go to Mr John Wallace riba for the
interest and help given, and to the Hudnotts for their interest
and help. Read with the correct object in view, it may give
some historian in years to come a very truthful and honest
picture of a pleasant little district and how it quickly changed.
Editors’ Preface p.2
Memories of Bruce Stirling Bendell p.3
Memories of Douglas V Headley p.35
Memories of Fred Gilden p.38
In April 1988 Bruce Bendell, then living in Kingsteignton, Devon, sent copies of his collection
of memories and memorabilia to both Kingston and Merton Local Studies Centres ‘for possible
full or part publication’. He sent an expanded copy to the same two institutions at another date,
though exactly when is unclear.
The written material consisted of a typescript of his own Memoirs and various Appendices, all
apparently typed on the same machine, probably by Bendell himself. Other material comprised
various photographs, press cuttings and postcards. His friend Douglas Headley passed over
some memories from the 1930s which included specific responses to statements in Bendell’s
typescript, while Fred Gilden wrote a long letter on request. Three of the Appendices have not
been reproduced here, but are identified in footnotes to his text.
The editors of the present publication are Toby Ewin, Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King’s
College, London, and committee member of Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society, and Peter
Hopkins, Chairman of Merton Historical Society. Our booklet is based on a transcript by Toby
Ewin of the text in the Kingston copy, with photographs scanned from originals in the Merton
copy. Additional illustrations and maps have been sourced by Peter Hopkins. The captions to
the photographs are mostly those of Bruce Bendell.
A few changes have been made in Bruce Bendell’s proposed layout, to avoid overmuch
repetition. Changes in his text have been mainly restricted to punctuation, grammar and clarity
of expression. A paragraph by Douglas Headley about trams and trolleybuses has been silently
expanded to enhance understanding of a subject that was familiar to the writer but probably not
to most of his new readers.
Otherwise, additional information supplied by the editors appears in footnotes. Bruce Bendell
did not use footnotes, but occasionally inserted his own comments into his other sources. The
editors have moved these comments to footnotes, and also condensed some material from
Bendell’s original Appendices into others. All such are labelled as by [BSB].
We are grateful to Sarah Gould of Merton Local Studies Centre for permission to reproduce
some of the photographs included in one of the copies of Bruce Bendell’s typescripts in her
care, identified as (MLSC), and for the extracts from Ordnance Survey maps of 1919. The map
extract from 1933/1935 is reproduced by courtesy of Surrey History Centre. Judith Goodman
and Malcolm Claridge, both members of Merton Historical Society, kindly provided other
photographs, as identified in the captions.
MEMORIES OF BRUCE STIRLING BENDELL (1915-1991)
Outings in a childhood from Lambeth
As the youngest in a family of all boys, I was often taken by one or
the other to the district we knew then as Raynes Park, within the
ancient parish of Merton though in the postal area of New Malden.
It was later to be loosely named after the station which came along
in 1925 and took the name of a once private road, Motspur Park.
The surrounding fields stretched across to Worcester Park, Sutton
and Cheam, and it was usually this area we made for, to experience
the supreme joy that huge fields of daisies, buttercups, other wild
flowers and knee-high grasses, to say nothing of rows of crab apple
trees, that other kiddies like ourselves never had much chance to
enjoy. It was a joy to hear perhaps a cuckoo, and very definitely the
skylark soaring away above, singing as if nothing else mattered. It
was even a treat to hear in the distance some church bells ringing
out merrily, and hearing one of my brothers put words to the tune
that came across that vast open area; it used to make me smile, or
giggle I suppose, when I heard the words he was singing. The words he sang were :
Why don’t you leave my wife alone,
She is so drunk she can’t get home.
This particular peal of bells is, I believe, a very popular one among bell ringers.
But going back to the start of our day’s outing, usually with Roy and Syd, my next oldest brothers.
We would catch the tram from Vauxhall, and the fare in those days was tuppence all the way
to the Grove Hotel at Merton,1 and from there we would walk almost direct along footpaths
and across fields until, crossing Grand Drive, we would cross what was the Raynes Park Golf
Course, eventually coming out by the Pyl Brook that flows along the north-east side of West
Barnes Lane, though now it passes beneath the houses.
1 At the South Wimbledon crossroads.
The Bendell family (MLSC)
Golf Links, West Barnes Lane (MLSC)
Beverley Brook >
200% enlarged extract from the Ordnance Survey 6-inch map published 1919,
reproduced courtesy of Merton Library Service
From this point, which was at the bottom of our grandparents’ road, Seaforth Avenue, we would
start to really enjoy the district. Leaving West Barnes Crossing, the northern one of the two,
which was on our right-hand side, and the few small cottages facing us,2 we turned left to make
our way along West Barnes Lane, which was very wooded with long front-garden houses set
right back to give the owners privacy. The brook wavered along just a few feet or sometimes
yards away with a few large and small trees on each bank, and it had a rail for protection when
the road was close to the brook.
2 Labelled West Barnes Terrace on Ordnance Survey maps
Early 20th-century postcard (MLSC)
West Barnes Lane near Estella Avenue, showing protective railings by Pyl Brook (MLSC)
There were just three roads at that time leading off the lane and, after Seaforth Avenue and
the first few large well-set-back houses behind the trees, came Estella Avenue – named, I was
to learn later, after the daughter of one of the builders, Mr Palmer of Twilley & Palmer.3 The
houses that came after that road were not quite so large, were nearer the lane with shorter front
gardens, and the trees on that side of the lane were fewer, ceasing completely before the lane
reached Adela Avenue.
On the other side of the lane, the Pyl Brook wavered well back along the rear edge of a lovely
cottage4 where the man kept a row of beehives against the far hedge of his lovely garden. His
garden stretched right along until the lane turned sharply right to continue past the hedge-lined
meadow that backed onto Adela Avenue.5
The southern side of this section of the lane had a double row of trees, which continued up until
there was a break in the trees, which faced a corresponding break in the hedge on the opposite side
of the lane. The fields at this point were used for cricket during the summer. There was sometimes
a small marquee at the opposite opening where refreshments and sweets could be obtained, and I
was to learn many years later that one of the houses in Adela Avenue, with the garden backing on
to the meadow, sometimes served tea to the sportsmen from an opening in the fence.
3 For more information on the Palmer family and the housing development in this area see Beryl Friend
Named after my ancestors: a family history (privately published, 1984)
4 The Ordnance Survey maps show it as Concrete Cottage, but an alternative name was Chestnut Cottage.
According to John Wallace’s unpublished manuscript, A walk around West-Barnes including Motspur Park
(1986, 1987), it was one of several properties built c.1855 by Charles Blake, ‘a solicitor with a penchant for
land development’, on some of his Blue House Farm estate. This entailed the moving of the southern section
of the historic lane from a line backing on to the present Adela Avenue to its present route towards Motspur
Park level crossing (originally called Blue House Crossing). He also owned and developed the Motspur Park
estate in adjoining Malden parish.
5 This meadow was later developed as Phyllis Avenue.
Chestnut/Concrete Cottage, West Barnes Lane, almost opposite the present Phyllis Avenue (MLSC)
Thinking of those days makes me almost believe I can still hear the sharp click as the bat hit
the ball, and also the clapping when the batsmen were caught out by one of those clever show-
off types that made sure they slid through or along the fresh-cut grass – that was a sight to give
their poor long-suffering wives such heartaches when they had to get rid of those awful stains
in the days before Tide and the biological powders that appeared in later years. How those good
ladies did not resist the urge to slosh the poor fool across the head each time he came home with
grass-stained ‘whites’, I shall never understand; it was always to the wives’ credit that the men
were able to look so cool and resplendent in their white flannels.
The cricket meadow continued until it reached Dudley Lodge, while the double line of trees
went up to where a footpath to Morden, tree lined with oaks and chestnut, led to a wicket gate
by a pond which lay on the right of the path.6 Ponds such as this were in other fields, and it was
real joy to catch tadpoles, if spawn time had been missed, and somehow those sunny days never
seemed to lack the presence of the dragonfly with its beautiful colours, shimmering in the rays,
dreamingly flying to and fro, never seeming to want to go anywhere but hover over that patch
of water. Of course it may not have been the same dragonfly I saw each time I visited that pond,
it could have been a different one.
Along that same path that led from the lane, was the double-planked white fence of the polo
field – the game was very popular in the district and it is often said that the Prince of Wales had
played on that and other fields in Motspur Park. There seemed always to be old polo balls lying
about on the short grass whenever I saw that field.
Retracing our steps back to West Barnes Lane, opposite stood another very large house similar
to Dudley Lodge. This one was called Ivy House. It was set well back, with wide double gates
set well apart and a drive going round to rejoin the lane having circled a beautifully kept lawn.
6 We learn later that this path was developed as Arthur Road.
Ivy House, West Barnes Lane, from Merton Historical Society archives
Hedges continued on that side as far as Blue House crossing, and the polo fence continued along
the opposite side until it reached the railway. The gates of the crossing in those days were operated
by a huge hand-turned wheel which could be seen up at the open window of the signal box.
It was from this level crossing, directly ahead, that the huge white gate and small wicket gate
were seen just about two hundred yards ahead, over the bridge that crossed the Beverley Brook.
Immediately was the crossing keeper’s cottage on the left-hand side, and this, with a small clump
of trees and bushes, screened more cottages behind,7 which were approached by a track which
ran alongside the brook.
West Barnes Lane continued round with hedged field on the right and tree-lined brook along to
the next bridge where it joined Blakes Lane. The only buildings facing the brook belonged to
Mr Rich who owned Blue House Stables and bred Polo ponies, and his own place, Blue House,
stood at the rear of these buildings.
7 Blue House Cottages, built by Blake. Two survive, but two were demolished in 1963, having been
condemned as unfit for occupation.
Blue House crossing, West Barnes Lane (MLSC)
One of the Blue House Cottages – August 2000. Photo M A Claridge
Going back to the dragonfly pond, we can continue through the gate. Another dragonfly is flying
to and fro, so I must gather that there is more than one. Stepping through that wicket gate into
that first field, it was possible to turn off to the left and go along behind what is now Archbishop
Tenison’s School sports ground, to eventually connect up with the path from another side gate
of Battersea Cemetery and the path connecting the Grand Drive cinder track near Bijou Villas.
But back at the wicket gates a long pleasant walk awaits.
The writer regrets his inability to conjure up a really vivid word picture from the pleasurable
memories, but just remembering the walk from where Arthur Road becomes just a wicket gate to
the footpath leading in that direction, is rather nostalgic even today. Instead of seeing the number
of alterations all around, just imagine a much wider field with tall elm trees and hedgerows
bordering the side that is now a recreation ground. The mind goes back to 1924 when a very
large elm had toppled and it was fun to clamber among the branches while it lay invitingly for
us youngsters. The pathway in those days ran straight up through the centre of the field; there
were no haphazard buildings marring the beginning of that pleasant walk across to Worcester
Park, Sutton and Cheam.8
Admittedly, the Battersea Cemetery (as it was then known)9 had not spread further into that
field, and the small entrance lay along a short path through a wicket gate, so that it could be
approached from West Barnes. There was a small row of hedge and small trees through which
the wicket gate led into what was a very long cornfield stretching right over to Green Lane, as
well as branching off to the left to the cemetery wicket gate. It was considered a very pleasant
walk in those days by those who liked a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Even today, 64 years later, the boyish pleasure is still remembered of finding a child’s small
tied-up hanky with fourpence ha’penny in it – silly little memories – but that walk across those
fields has only ever had nice memories of sunny days and pleasant walks.
There is no denying that at times there was some apprehension when horses or cattle in that
first field turned their heads to look enquiringly at passers-by, especially as, having just moved
from Lambeth where a cow was only something one knew of, we had no immediate knowledge
apart from the milk we drank. It wasn’t until a real bull had been actually seen, that the writer
was really convinced and his mind set at rest that those looks from the cattle did not mean that
the animal was about to charge across the field, intending to toss anyone near, high into the
sky. This was all part of a townie growing up and adapting to country life, never regretting the
change of scenery from grim and grimy Vauxhall.
Just inside the cemetery near the allotments was a large dump, probably an old pond, where
numerous wreaths that were finished with were dumped, but behind that was a small wooded
part adjoining the allotments where often the chorus of hundreds of birds would be heard. In
later years this was to remind me of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds.
Right across the field on the other side of Green Lane was where the few houses and the rubbish
dump were the main buildings in Garth Road. I believe there was a glue factory there, or at least
that was where the strong smell was reputed to come from; it was not a place I felt like visiting,
so I accepted the glue factory story.
8 This path still leads from near the southern end of Marina Avenue, southward along the parish boundary
between Morden on the east and first Merton and then Malden on the west, into Trafalgar Avenue.
9 Now known as North East Surrey Crematorium and Battersea New (Morden) Cemetery.
In the year 1988, it is hard to imagine, as one walks along the unmade track between the two
cemeteries which has always been known as Green Lane, that the newer one10 was once a wide
space of grassland that gave immense pleasure to some of us youngsters as we would wander
over through the tall grasses, daisies, buttercups and other greenery, and be astounded at the
enormous quantity of little blue butterflies, moths and other insects which rose in great clouds
as they were disturbed. Surprisingly, Green Lane, although made into a proper road from the
Worcester Park end down to where it turns right by the sewage depot and school, has remained
untouched except for the railings that now line the Garth Road side of the unmade track.11 Plovers
and skylarks were always to be seen and heard in those summer days, but it is hard to imagine
those pleasant birdsongs and nature sounds are as noticeable today.
Crab Apples, Blackberries and Conkers
I always believe the elder of my two brothers was the instigator of our trips to the country, and
always knew the right time for these visits, when the different offerings of nature were just
ready for gathering.
On one of these occasions we had been across the far side of Green Lane to the row of crab apple
trees that lay between the first two fields along the path to Sutton, gathering the fruit to take back
and share with the kids on our street, and Roy, in his element, was swinging about among the
sturdier branches, and must have lost our sixpence fare for the tram home. What happened to
further plans, I have no idea, but the main thing I remember was mother meeting three very tired
boys and scolding Roy, the oldest, for not having the sense to call in at grandmother’s for help.
That area must have been our favourite, because on another occasion, after we had collected in
the basket we had brought with us a good few blackberries, and had also discovered and picked
a quantity of lovely damsons growing in the hedge, we were in Green Lane when a pack of
beagle hounds swarmed round us. The master of hounds made no attempt to call those dogs
away and, in a panic, Roy tossed the basketful of fruit among the dogs. Then, and only then,
were the dogs called to order. I have felt disgusted at such ignorant behaviour every time I think
about a being one is supposed to respect and even admire, when that person must have had a
fair amount of intelligence to handle hounds.
My early days before living in the district have always remained clear in my memory, and I can
only assume it was an August Bank Holiday when an older brother, Cyril, had taken me on the
crossbar of his bicycle and we went to Plough Green at Worcester Park where a small fair by Mr
Saitch was being held.12 It was only a small affair with some coconut shies, a small roundabout
and a few stalls, but the sun was glorious and it must have made an impression on me. It was
after I heard the post horn sounding away along a road that I saw the Berkeley stagecoach and
it drew slowly into the water-splash by the Green. In the past, Dick Turpin and the Bow Street
Runners must have done this too, and it is reputed that Dick Turpin hid in the chimney of that
10 Merton and Sutton Joint Cemetery
11 It has now been tarmacked to enable access to the stables.
12 Plough Green is actually in Old Malden rather than Worcester Park.
13 According to Kenneth Ross’ A History of Malden (Vizetelly& Co, 1947, p.93), ‘tradition’ connected Turpin
and other highwaymen to the Plough inn, and there were hidden rooms in both the inn and a nearby cottage.
The inn’s hidden room was found in 1928 but appeared to have been built c.250 years earlier, i.e. somewhat
before Turpin’s time – see David Rymill, Worcester Park, Old Malden and North Cheam: history at our
feet (Buckwheat Press, 2012), pp.40-41. Turpin (1705-39) was active as a highwayman in 1735-37 (Clive
Whichelow, Local highwaymen (Enigma Publishing, 2000), pp.34-35).
When we were starting for home, Cyril had paused in West Barnes Lane near the polo field to
look across to Seaforth Avenue and consider if he would make his way round up Adela Avenue
and call on our grandparents. When we reached 186 Seaforth, Grandad – John Thomas Newnham
Simmons – was sitting in the wide porch, comfortably enjoying the warm sun. The pleasure
and joy in his face were equally warm as he greeted us, I couldn’t help feeling his lovely old
beard as he hugged me. Mother had told me in the past he had been mistaken for W G Grace
the famous cricketer.
There was always something very cosy and lovely about that house: the outside looked so inviting
with its wide upstairs and downstairs front windows, its pathway of black and white tiles that
shone so welcomingly, and tall fuchsias on the windowsill in boxes. The image of that cosy old
house with its rich red stair carpet, gleaming brass stair rods and white-sided stairs is firmly
imprinted on my mind, as are the bright glass cases containing stuffed birds and the enormous
gilt clock which stood under the huge glass dome in the front room.
There was a young lady visitor there that day, and I believe she was a relation from Dulwich
where an uncle was toll gate keeper. In 1936, on the night of the Crystal Palace fire, they would
be in the news because hundreds of people had rushed through to watch the fire, and the Daily
Chronicle reported this the next day. We left with bunches of flowers and made our way home.
Grand Drive, Raynes Park
I visited my dear grandparents while they were house-minding for someone at one of the top
houses in Grand Drive, which stood next to the last one.14 It was as grandad was showing me
round the orchard and garden that he drew my attention to the old place next door which was
in a very poor state with broken windows and swinging-open doors, and told me it was reputed
to be haunted (he didn’t give any details, but it did look spooky), and he also pointed up to a
children’s tree house with ladder set high above; this fired my young imagination as I thought
of the fun those lucky children must have had playing up there,
It was also in Grand Drive on one occasion with my brothers that, feeling thirsty, they decided
to ask for a drink of water at one of the houses. Two ladies, one much younger than the other,
kindly gave us the drink, and to this day, I believe it was a case of forthcoming events casting
their shadows before, because, some time later, those two ladies were to become my headmistress
and teacher when later I was living in the area. The house was named ‘Westward Ho’, and was
almost opposite the Church of St Saviour where many years later, at the beginning of wartime,
I was to get married.
In those days it was a private road and had a barrier bar which swung across just where the
houses began. Below that, towards Raynes Park Station, was a large open piece of ground with
a small cabin-like tuck shop, and the ground was used on occasions by a travelling fair. At
the top, shortly after the derelict house, Grand Drive became just a rough old cart track with
a cinder path along the cemetery side, and apart from a small group, of which Bijou Cottages
were part,15 there was nothing but the rough ground right on to the main gates of the cemetery,
and some cottages where flowers could be bought. A large pond lay over to one side, and there
was the entrance of a farm nearby.
14 The road ended at what is now the junction with Heath Drive, and then became a rough track, as described
15 Houses which still exist in Grand Drive. For their history see Evelyn M Jowett, Raynes Park: a Social
History (Merton Historical Society, 1987) p.122.
200% enlarged extract from the Ordnance Survey 6-inch map published 1919,
reproduced courtesy of Merton Library Service
Aston Road School
On 8 January 1923 my grandmother passed away and, a short time after, when Grandfather
went to live with his son and family in the next road, our family moved from Vauxhall to live at
186 Seaforth Avenue. We had been there just a few days, when a tall man on a bicycle stopped
and wanted to know why my brother and I were not at school. He directed us to Aston Road
School, Raynes Park, where the Headmistress was Mrs Smith, Syd’s teacher, and Miss Brett,
our teacher, and at this school we wished out our schooling until fourteen years of age. The
building was a long, corrugated-iron, five-classroomed building, with just a small office and
store room at the Aston Road end; stretching along the rear to widen out at the other end was
a playground overlooked by the main railway lines on the high embankment opposite. Clifton
Road ran along the other end of the playground, while at the back of the playground were the
toilets, a corrugated iron affair where the girls used the left-hand side and the boys the right.
The big classrooms, gaslit, were heated by enormous black stoves which had large protective
rails where they were set, over in a corner to the right hand of the teacher’s desk. With a door
to enter from the full-length corridor, there was also another door in the opposite corner at
the rear of the class, out to the playground. The rooms all had wooden partitioned walls with
large glass panels set well above our heads, and in my mind even now I can see someone’s
artistic drawing of a corncrake; I always had the impression that the artist was Miss Brett. I
always felt a strong affection for these teachers and find them easy to remember clearly.
From here on a Friday, the boys had to go for woodwork lessons at another school, and I knew
the school under different names so have never been certain of the correct one; first I thought
it was called the Field School, then I heard it was called Botsford Road School, and have also
known it as Whatley Avenue, so take your choice. Whatever it was called, it meant an extra
trek that took us further from home, though in decent weather, it did give us the opportunity
to go across Cannon Hill Common by the lake and across the Prince George’s Playing Fields
to Grand Drive and on then across Raynes Park Golf course to Seaforth Avenue, almost a
direct route home.
Aston Road School, Raynes Park, after it became Raynes Park Library c.1934 (MLSC)
In 1923, coming home from school, our only transport was the open-topped tramcar with its
overhead wires of the London United Tramways, which ran between Wimbledon and Hampton
Court, with the depot at Fulwell, and it was almost a luxury for us youngsters at first, riding
mostly on the top deck, heedless of the weather. Going to school in the mornings, it was more
a necessity because time was important, but home-time in decent weather was when our fare
would be spent in the little cabin sweetshop on the corner of Grand Drive and Approach Road,
and that meant walking home.
Passing under the small railway arch, which was mainly used for the coal carts, or for Carters
vehicles to collect sacks of seeds, we were now in Coombe Lane facing Prewetts Dairy and
Roberts Bakery, where daily in all weathers and seasons huge bakers’ barrows were pulled and
milk barrows with churn and cans were pushed in different directions to serve the customers.
In really wintry weather this must have been almost backbreaking at times, but it was no doubt
thoughtlessly taken for granted.
As the trams rattled along past us we would make our way along the first part of Coombe Lane,
which was partly tree-lined along a small ditch, until we had to turn sharp left into the northern
end of West Barnes Lane.
The main line of the railway crossed over the bridge just a short way in front and, with the
squeal of the tram wheels turning the sharp corner, or the scrape of the overhead wires as the
tram went under the bridge, plus the rattle of a steam train if it happened to be passing above
at that moment, all tended to make one realise that civilisation was slowly awakening, but it
made one appreciate the other side of that bridge where, stretching away on the right, were the
testing grounds of Carters.
Setting off this immaculate front was a huge circle of grass wedge shapes displaying the many
different shades of green for lawns, and this was set off with a stately dovecot standing proudly
Carters Tested Seeds (1988) (MLSC)
in the centre. These, together with the attractive long building that graced those beautiful grounds
for so many years, sadly now all gone, must have given pleasure to thousands of travellers who
travelled along the side or front of the site. We just had to go into the wide circular drive and
peer into the magnificent ornamental pond to see the enormous goldfish as they swam lazily
among the elegant water lilies.
Just across the road was the blacksmith’s shop, and not far along was Raynes Crossing.16 This
led onto the golf course, the pumping station, and some farm buildings. There was a large house
set back slightly on the right-hand side of West Barnes Lane,17 and until three cottages18 backing
closely onto the railway, there was nothing before the level crossing. At this point, West Barnes
Lane takes a sharp left turn over the crossing.
Burlington Road, New Malden
However, continuing on from this point, the road is very curvy and it twists sharply, the trams
protesting loudly as the wheels in the lines squeal round the sharp bends at Potts Corner19 until
they get on the straight road heading for New Malden.
Immediately in front of West Barnes Crossing are the spread-out buildings of the not unsightly
banknote factory of Bradbury Wilkinsons, covering a number of acres of ground.20 The Pyl Brook,
passing beneath the railway, flows along the right-hand side of Bradbury’s. Facing the factory
on a patch of ground, with the railway behind, is an old shack-like building where someone is
trying to find a way to recycle some material or other, while opposite, leading round along the
side of the banknote factory, is a bridle path known as the Blagdon.
16 The crossing was reduced to a footpath in December 1965 and is now served by a footbridge – Vic Mitchell
& Keith Smith London Suburban Railways: Wimbledon to Epsom (Middleton Press, 1995) pp.30-31.
17 William Harriott’s new West Barnes Farm house.
18 Dickson’s Cottages. George Dickson farmed the old West Barnes/Moat Farm c.1858-83.
19 John Wallace A Walk around West Barnes (1986, 1987) p.9 notes ‘Houses by Potts c.1905’ in Burlington
Road. The only houses on the 1913 OS map were 266-272 Burlington Road on the corner with Cavendish
Avenue. An advert for the sale of the machinery and stock of a polish factory at the Albany Works, Potts
Corner, appeared in Surrey Mirror of 28 June 1946 p.1 (courtesy British Newspaper Archive).
20 Demolished and replaced by a Tesco supermarket in 1987.
London United Tram at Dickson’s Cottages, c.1923 (MLSC)
Original sized extract from the Ordnance Survey 6-inch map published 1919,
reproduced courtesy of Merton Library Service
In my early years, before the main development, only three roads led off Burlington Road. These
were Claremont Avenue, a shorter Cavendish Avenue with a dairy shop on the corner,21 and an
even shorter unfinished road called Belmont Avenue.
Burlington Road School was just past Beverley Road, and opposite this road was Rapson Tyre
Company, who had a small ex-Army armoured car running about the district. The field that lay
alongside Beverley Brook was where a large travelling fair pitched, and the music could be
heard right across the fields to my home, and the tops seen during the day.
The police station faced the Fountain public house where Burlington Road met Malden Road,
the local shopping area that has always been known as ‘The Village’. We had a cinema (later
burnt down22), Sainsbury’s, Sisley’s home made sweets, and also a small single-fronted Tesco’s.
It was here that I used to see the boxes of eggs in a row outside, with a sign offering them at one
shilling a dozen, with thirteen eggs to the dozen.
Turning south from New Malden station and going across by the Fountain, and continuing
along Malden Road towards Worcester Park, the first turning on the left concerning this story
was Blakes Lane. Woodfield, a huge house that was later to be known as Woodfield Hotel stood
on the corner, facing, on the other side of Malden Road, the entrance to what was then a tennis
club known as Courtlands. Looking into Blakes Lane, we saw just a tree-lined road that wound
its way to meet West Barnes Lane at the small bridge over Beverley Brook.
But it was from the old private road that the newly-built station adopted the name Motspur Park
in 1925. Looking down to where this road curved just out of sight, it was a rough gravelled way
with a verge of grass along the right-hand side, which was only broken by the first entrance which
was Broadlands, the home of Mr Paddy and family. There was a wall with fruit trees hanging
over, and fallen apples littered the grass below. The big rambling house set back along a driveway
was where, in just a few short years’ time, I was to deliver goods each week, but would have to
approach via Blakes Lane because of the gate at the other end.
21 Cavendish Dairy was the corner shop, now 266 Burlington Road.
22 The cinema in what was then Malden Road (now the High Street), on a site now occupied by a branch of
McDonald’s, burnt down on 27 December 1936. See Robin Gill, ‘Every picture tells a story,’ New Malden
history website (https://www.maldenmedia.com/nm-history.html).
Opposite was also a large house, Voewood, set back out of sight behind trees, and I would deliver
at the same time to the caretaker of this house. From the wall of Broadlands there was a hedge
along a large polo field to the only other house on that side after Voewood, still well concealed
by trees – Firgrove, of which little is known.23
23 Voewood was about where the present Voewood Close is situated, and Broadlands was where Broadlands
Way is today. Firgrove was on about the site of the present no.15 Blakes Avenue, and its driveway was
roughly where Wendover Drive now is.
‘Woodfield’, Blakes Lane, New Malden (MLSC)
Blakes Lane from Woodfields and Malden Road (MLSC)
The footpath was a rough gravel and narrow path, rather weed- and grass-grown on both sides,
and it was like this the whole length of Motspur Park right from Malden Road, with no path on
the opposite side, just a grassy weed-strewn verge where, lower down the road, were also bushes
and small trees, right down to the gate. After Firgrove, a track along the side of the large field led
off towards Blakes Lane, and was one day to be a connecting road;24 this field was railed and,
nearer the other end of that railing, was a water trough that always seemed to be overflowing
slightly, and on occasions there was lovely tasty watercress.
There now remained two large houses: the one on the left, The Rookery, was one day to become
the London University Sports Ground, thankfully preserving the green aspect for a few more
years.25 This house had a wide band of trees and smaller bushes screening it from the road,
although The Rookery could still be seen standing proudly when viewed from the gate.
At the last house, known as Old Farm, Mr Sidney Parkes lived with his first wife, Almeida Ada,
son Arthur Cotsford and daughter Phyllis.26 He was the man who soon developed the whole district,
caused a station to be built, and changed the appearance of West Barnes. He went on to become
a millionaire, doing considerable good for hospitals in south London as well as constructing
and running greyhound stadiums and, finally, owning and living in a castle at Strancally, Co.
Waterford, Eire.27 Old Farm was later taken over by the BBC, firstly as the sports ground but,
when a pavilion was built nearby, the house became the valve depot of the BBC.
Stretching from the Old Farm was a very bushy and wooded, grassy weed-grown patch that
went right up to the large white gate (normally locked) with the tall white wicket gate enabling
walkers to enjoy that lovely old road, known to the local residents only as Private Road for so
many years, with the Beverley Brook just a few yards away, running beneath the bridge; the
24 The road in question then being named Motspur Park Avenue and subsequently Blakes Avenue.
25 The Rookery became an office building of the London University (and subsequently Fulham Football Club
practice) ground. During World War II it was used as the HQ for the Malden Battalion of the Home Guard.
26 Later known as The White House – see MHS Bulletin 207.
27 Between the Wars Mr Parkes was a property developer whose firm, Modern Homes & Estates, built many
houses in the West Barnes and Motspur Park area. Mr Bendell included in an Appendix photocopies of
several press cuttings about Sidney Parkes which can be consulted at Merton Local Studies Centre.
The Rookery, Motspur Park (1988) (MLSC)
parapet low enough for a twelve year-old boy to easily look over and photograph a very pretty
little stream which immediately became one of the very few postcard-sized view-cards sold all
around the district.
Visiting one’s grandparents from babyhood, and then moving from London to a lovely peaceful
area which consisted of three and a tiny bit of roads, approached mainly by train from the nearest
station at Raynes Park or the clankety tram which stopped at West Barnes Crossing, it seemed
that a world that had been dangling tantalisingly and enticingly for what seemed untold numbers
of years had suddenly materialised.
Born on 1 April 1915, I grew up in a small cul-de-sac off Kennington Lane in a house that at
first backed onto the New London Brewery, whose boiler house warmth penetrated the walls
of our living room, and from which, at times, huge masses of beer-froth would float down and
land outside the house. Not very long after, the brewery was taken over by Marmite, which so
many people spread on their sandwiches to take on picnics to places like Raynes Park – though
its rich, health-giving aroma hardly improved the stuffy London atmosphere.
The White House, formerly the Old Farm or Motspur Farm, August 2000. Photo M A Claridge
Where Blakes Lane meets West Barnes Lane at bridge over Beverley Brook (MLSC)
That small road – Kennington Grove, as it is still named, even though it is just an open storage
depot for Lambeth – is now bereft of inhabitants, making me wonder which high-rise block of
unsightly flats those last people ended up in. When father retired from the City Police in 1925,
he set his mind on moving eventually to Hampshire and the open land he had grown up on.
Now, here I was, at eight years of age, in the place I had known
and loved – at last it was my home, even if it was almost one
of the last houses just visible before the tree-lined skyline I
could see in the distance. No ugly gasometer yet, not even the
smallest of the three that were to come. It was a peaceful road
with a few pollarded lime trees at intervals each side of the
road. The houses were varied, and many, although terraced in
some cases, were still for the main part quite pleasant to look at.
There were at least six large empty plots of land that had been used in the past as allotments:
the evidence of this seemed to lie in the three-foot high mounds of earth, overgrown with grass
that bordered the footpath. These long grassy heaps were an enticement for the children to race
along the tops, which always seemed a good way to negotiate the long road ahead. They also
gave the opportunity to see the occasional steam train as it passed at the rear of these plots of
ground. As few as those trains were, it was surprising how quickly they were missed if for
some reason they did not pass, and even the long goods trains seemed to be there just to give a
peaceful pleasure, especially sometimes when shunting was taking place, which springs to mind
when Reginald Gardiner’s radio talk ‘Trains’ is sometimes played and he describes shunting.28
28 see https://monologues.co.uk/Sketches/Trains.htm or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgZlT1IA8-U
186 Seaforth Avenue (MLSC)
Seaforth Avenue from West Barnes Lane (1988) (MLSC)
In those early days the users of the three roads that made up West Barnes as we naturally called
it (historians will tell me that the name comes from farmers who had east and west barns, and I
am willing to accept these facts),29 were very few and were mostly everyday tradesmen. At that
time there were two milkmen who trundled their three-wheeled milk barrows, with the small
churn, numerous small pint and half-pint cans hanging along the brass rails each side, and the
large oval can which they carried over to the doorways to measure out with the long-handled
half-pint or pint measure the required amount of milk into the customer’s jug, can, or whatever
was put out. Not much fun really, on those icy wintry dark mornings, or in the pouring rain;
unsung heroes, without doubt.
Bakers’ roundsmen trundled heavily loaded, tall barrows from either Burlington Road, New
Malden, or from Roberts of Raynes Park. Writing this at Easter time, reminds me of those
luscious hot cross buns, and sadly realise that the things that are sold today have very little
resemblance to the tasty, mouth-watering ones of those days. On Good Friday morning in 1924,
I can remember one of those roundsmen with his barrow full to the high roof, delivering nothing
but these lovely buns; oh, happy days! Before passing away from bakers, there was one who
came from the top of Wimbledon Hill, a very good-class baker named Johnson, and the delivery
man with his horse and cart often used to let us lads ride up beside him.
After milkmen and bakers, the postman has to be of real importance, and in those days people were
very fond of this tall character whose name was Mr Trump… Yes, it did cause me to smile… He
was a lovely, happy, very tall man, and I remember, shortly after our family moved there, when
traditionally tradesmen called for Christmas Boxes, he had evidently been pressed to drink the
health of many who considered this postman their friend. I think he might have been fairly popular.
A greengrocer with his horse and cart would come once a week, but along the shops at the beginning
of the road our greengrocer was also the coal merchant, with a chap named Pym delivering the
coal at two shillings and three pence a hundredweight… how expensive things were!
29 The name referred to the western barns of Merton Priory’s estate of Merton, the eastern barns being
immediately outside the western gate of the priory.
The northern end of Seaforth Avenue; the wooded area in the background is now Linkway. Early
20th-century postcard, reproduced courtesy of Judith Goodman
Occasionally we would see the large green van of Carter Paterson, who were the national carriers
of those days, and occasionally a taxi might bring someone from Raynes Park Station.
It was a very peaceful road, and it goes without saying that the other roads which formed this little
cluster were possibly even more so. At one time, after an elder brother married one of the girls
next door, there were so many of the three families of Bendells, Simmons and Burgesses scattered
round the three roads of West Barnes, that it closely resembled the television Coronation Street.
In those days there was a time to be thoughtful and realise that all was not ‘beer and skittles’,
when occasionally I used to see a dear old couple of street singers make their way slowly up the
avenue, singing in their wavery voices one of the popular old-time drawing room ballads about a
soldier boy who gave his life to rescue the country’s flag, and sending his dying message home
by his father, the colonel, who just happened to see this brave deed, not realising his young son
was not safely home with mother. Those two lovely people that, in my mind and heart, I can
still see as clearly as if only yesterday, would no longer have to pluck up that sort of courage
to get a few coppers.
At the beginning of our road, there were the shops we needed for daily shopping, with Dedman
Bros the grocers, managed by Frank Bowrey with a couple of friendly assistants; the Post Office,
with the only public telephone facing the door; and confectioners and newsagents, run by Mr
Bell and his charming and very happy niece, Connie. It was always a pleasure to be served by
her; she seemed to be specially nice whenever I went there.
The oil-shop, as I always called it, was run by Mr Armitage and his son, Arthur. Next door was
our drapers, run by Mrs Tarryer. Two small half-shops were next – one was A J Riggs, the builder
who was erecting houses in Adela Avenue, while the other half-shop was a tailor’s.
A large Scotsman, Mr Thomson, greengrocer and coalman, had the last shop before the wide
alleyway. Douglas Headley, who lives at 40 Seaforth Avenue, tells me that Mr Thomson had
been a member of the Cape Mounted Police.30 I have a recollection of seeing a kilted Scot by
those shops, and think it was probably Mr Thomson celebrating some special event like Burns
Day, as many Scotsmen are sometimes wont to do. It is fondly believed that Scottish people are
fond of music, and it is thanks to a few famous singers from over the border that this belief, in
spite of the bagpipes, still remains with us! Joking apart, I think the sight of a kilted Scotsman
playing that wonderful instrument is something worth seeing and hearing. Across the wide
alleyway for many years was Seaforth Laundry with one tall van.
About half-way up on the left-hand side, just before Douglas Avenue, were two houses belonging
to the church – the curate, the Revd Dredge, lived in the corner house, while his housekeeper
lived in the other.
The opposite corner was unused land for a very long time, and the houses continued from 95 on
that side. Only recently a lady who lived at 101 in those days, Mrs Beatrice Steel, had reached
her hundredth birthday and was full of the joys of spring when the local paper was interviewing
her. Her son Dudley had been a friend of my cousins.
Almost opposite, at one of the nice wide-porched houses, was a placard notice inviting anyone
to Gospel services – a chapel was to be built lower down the road in 1925.31 At 162 lived the
Murray family, with very good-looking son Victor and equally lovely, with dark eyes and hair,
sister Joan. Victor at one time was learning to play bagpipes.
30 See page 35 for Douglas’s additional memories.
31 A booklet celebrating its 50th anniversary was produced by the church in 1975.
The houses from here on had a more open aspect, though only two up and two down, plus
small box room. There was still a wide open space in front, for just a large corner of old unused
allotments stood across the first part of the road, and Adela Avenue had still a long way to
continue before coming opposite these houses.
The large corner plot that had once been my grandfather’s allotment was not well tended, with
many flowering weeds and grasses, and I think it was on this plot of land that I saw the fascinating
little scarlet pimpernel growing. My father was already cultivating the end plots opposite our
home, having taken over another large piece right to the end of the road.
After the Murrays, the younger people were Kenneth Airie, then Phyllis Lomond, then Dorothy
Francis; Miss Jeffs came to live at 189 soon after our family had come there, and is one of the
few still there. Across the alley, number 180 was the first in our block, and the Gooch family
had Ruth, and also living there was a Mr Pilgrim, a charming man whose invalid wife was being
cared for in the last house; she had contracted some illness while nursing overseas.
The Thompson family lived at 182 and had son Rawdon and daughter Joyce who was being
courted by Jack Collie who lived in the last house, 196. It would appear that the good lady
imagined I was rather simple, for on one occasion when Jack and Joyce had gone off for a
quiet walk as sometimes lovers do, she suggested that I would like to go after them and keep
them company. It was a marvellous suggestion, but I thought it time to do a disappearing
act. When that good lady moved soon after to West Barnes Lane, a CID man, Mr Crisp, and
his wife came to live there, and apart from a small fox terrier which barked incessantly, they
were really nice people.
Next door lived Mr and Mrs Halls with family, daughter Winnie and son of my age Frank. They
moved away shortly after we arrived and I like to think it was nothing to do with our arrival;
possibly he was moved to another police station. Mrs Webb, the Gooches’ daughter with baby
Sylvia, who I was to see grow into a lovely young woman, came to live next door to us then,
while on the other side was a large family, mainly of girls. My brother Len was to marry one of
these, Hilda, and have two children, Betty and Victor. Betty, almost like a sister to me, writes
regularly from Canada.
Across the alley the last block of houses had Mr Warner, the Sweetlands, and Mrs Davis, who
was grandmother to William, inventor of the Davis Life Saving and Diving Apparatus, a lovely
lady, who gave me many books about her William. In the last house were Mr and Mrs Collie
and son Jack; it was in their front room I used to see Mrs Pilgrim as she lay so helpless.
Behind these last four houses lay some
old farm buildings which only stored old
building material for the owner, Mr Treversh,
a builder from Wandsworth who, it is said,
built the shops at the beginning of the road.
It was in the high opening in the gable end
that the barn owl would be perched before
going off each night to fly low round the
fields for his food.
Old Farm buildings at rear of 190-198
Seaforth Avenue (1988) (MLSC)
[In 2023 these refurbished buildings are
occupied by Angel Interiors Ltd, as 196A
A wire-netting fence closed the end of the avenue where Mr Towse kept his goat, and with
never a smile or word, came every day with his can to get the milk. He was also the sexton at
Adela, Estella and Douglas Avenues
These three roads were the quieter section of our small district on this side of the railway, or at
least it always seemed that way, but the Holy Cross church and the mission hall, that was always
talked of as the ‘Iron Hall’, were the real centre of any activities in the local community, and
dances, whist drives, fêtes and other events like wedding receptions, and Cub, Scout and Guide
movements, played a prominent part from that hall.
In fact it was the Scouts’ log kept by Douglas Vincent Headley that was able to pinpoint the
actual date the hall was bombed out of existence after thirty-two years of community service –
28 September 1940. I feel certain that my wedding reception held on 24 August 1940 was the
last to be held there. (My cousin, Cyril Simmons, recently sent me a copy of the church history,
which says more than I can about this much-loved church.)
In those early days of first living in the district, I remember a fête held there. The weather
was fine, and along the side of the hall, on the ten-foot wide stretch of grass, Frank Bowrey
ran the coconut shies, while round the hall inside and out were various games which always
gave lots of pleasure and helped to raise the church funds. I only mention Frank because,
apart from possibly my aunt and Mrs Bowrey, I had not got to know others in the district.
The fêtes were always enjoyable, though one year, just before Marina Avenue was built, the
field that had been at that time a football pitch, was that year used for the fête, and on that
occasion Frank was in charge of a melon which had been hung from the goalpost, and the
blindfolded contestant had to make his or her way to the posts and hopefully poke the melon
in the shortest time, if at all. It was opposite the hall that we used an unofficial way between 39
and 41 to go down the alley and cross the meadow that was to become Phyllis Avenue one day.
Mrs MacFarlane, a teacher at Burlington Road School, lived at number 39 Adela with Eric her
son, who has given so much help in compiling this, together with Douglas Headley, while the
Godfrey family were at 41. That particular area during wartime seemed to get excessive bombing,
the house and the church all suffering.
Number 59 was the home of the local shoe repairer, Billy Williams, who was always whistling
as he went round collecting or delivering repairs. My brother Syd, from about twelve, started to
work for him in his shed at the back, and with the very skilful teaching became as expert as Billy.
Next to the church at number 52, the Boyfields, with Jack and Nora, was where on one occasion
the children gathered together for a sing-song with a new movement similar to the Scouts. It
was called Young Britons,32 but it was short-lived and faded away after a short time.
Just past the church on each side of the road was open ground. On one side were allotments,
and after came the remaining few plots that led up to the corner plot where Seaforth Avenue
met. At that time building was going on, but was nowhere finished. Douglas Avenue had just
one house on one side and only a few between Seaforth and Estella.
32 ‘By 1965, one third smaller than at its peak, it [the Young Conservatives] had double the number of Labour
Party Young Socialist (YS) branches and each branch (averaging 80 members) double the members. Even
the Young Britons, the organization for those younger than the YCs, starting age of fifteen, formed in 1925
to counter Socialist Sunday Schools and re-started in 1947, reached 8,000 members in 1956 (at which point
there was no official Labour youth movement).’ Lawrence Black, ‘The Lost World of Young Conservatism’,
The Historical Journal 51:4 (December 2008), p.993.
This short road was where my grandfather had gone to live with his son and family, and I
remember spending my first Christmas there, a really old-style family affair where someone
sang and the general atmosphere was cosy. At 28a Mr Fred Baker, jobbing builder, with wife
and son Eric, were a very likeable family, and Fred, as were most of the lads, including my
two cousins Cyril and Sidney Simmons, were very staunch members of the Scout movement.
Even in this short road there were wide plots of open ground, one, opposite my relations, with
a solitary plum tree, I remember.
A neighbouring family, the Comptons, came in to join the Christmas gathering at the Simmons’
house a short time before leaving for Australia. I remember the big policeman singing ‘Killarney’
in the good old style before the days of TV and a tenth repeat of High Noon; perhaps somewhere
in Australia someone of that family, now about my age, still remembers that last Yuletide
gathering. I have always thought it was the nicest Christmas I have known, even that morning
when Cyril and Sidney came up to 186 to bring their newly-arrived cousins, Bruce and Sydney,
presents of a mouth-organ each. Lovely memories that make me glow.
The changing scene – 1925
The last of the houses had been built up to 113 Adela Avenue, and a small factory had been
built, to open as F May and Son Knitwear Manufacturers. Opposite, on the corner plot, a shop,
intended to be an off-licence, complete with sunken floor as a cellar, failed to obtain a licence
and became a small general store run by a Mr Pittam, who was very proud of his collection of
cacti. He had served in various services and was drawing pensions from three, he told me.
Different plots down the old roads
were being built on by this time,
filling the gaps, and a new station
on the newly electrified line was
part of the changing scene.33
My father had opened the end of his allotment to give passageway to travellers, and with the
field now thrown open, and the new Phyllis Avenue, named after the daughter of Mr Sidney
Parkes, the developer, having been rapidly constructed up as far as 118 on one side and 103 on
the other, the road building halted for the present at the demolished Dudley Lodge.
Across West Barnes Lane, three more roads were under construction, and these were Arthur
Road, named after Parkes’s son, and Tennyson, probably misspelt though it bordered Archbishop
Tenison’s School sports ground.34 At the far end, and rejoining West Barnes Lane, was Kingsway,
with just a few houses at that time.
33 Motspur Park station, opened 12 July 1925.
34 Thomas Tenison (29 September 1636-14 December 1715) was an English church leader, Archbishop of
Canterbury from 1694 until his death. He apparently founded various schools, including one in Croydon and
one in Lambeth, moved in 1928 to opposite The Oval cricket ground, which still bear his name.
Motspur Park’s signal box
in 1988 (MLSC).
The box survived until 1990.
Mr Parkes, trading as Modern Homes & Estates, was very busy, also constructing another estate
of low-priced houses on the other side of the railway, as well as two blocks of shops called
Station Parade which were to serve this new estate Sidney Parkes had created.
The station was named after the road he was living in, the original Motspur Park, and the level
crossing name was changed from Blue House to adopt the same name. The private road which
was Motspur Park still retained the big white gate and wicket gate, though now not kept closed
all the time.
Six of the shops were occupied and, starting from where the wall of Ivy House still protruded,
was William Griffiths M.P.S. [Member of the Pharmaceutical Society]. This dapper Welshman
one Christmas, when giving a grand display of goods, adopted the slogan ‘W Griffiths – The man
who put the Spur into Motspur’. It was he who, when he developed and printed my photograph
of the Beverley Brook from the bridge by the gates of Motspur Park, asked where the view
was, and two weeks later postcard views were on sale all round the district. Some time after,
I went to see him meeting his future wife as he stood on the railway bridge (at that time the
bridge linked the island platform to only one side of the tracks), and she proved to be as nice
as everybody hoped.
The dairy belonged to Marshalls of New Malden, and was managed by Miss Clayton, who lived
away, whilst the flat above was occupied by Mrs Beverley, a keen tennis player at Courtlands at
the top of Blakes Lane. The Motspur Park off-licence belonging to Mr Sidney Parkes was licensed
in the name of J W Rowe, but was managed by Mrs Parkes’s brother, Alfred Thewel Pollett. The
two big corner shops stood empty and boarded up for a very long time, but next on the far side
was the post office and confectioners run by Mr Hewitt. The grocer’s next door changed hands
fairly rapidly from Lee and Tadd to Clarke, who had a business in Raynes Park. The last shop
was divided into two, one a laundry receiving office for Bolivia Laundry, the other a tobacconist
which Mr Davies and his wife ran. The rest of the land stood unused, except for a huge pile of
rusty girders that were there right up to when eventually the Earl Beatty pub was built.
It was shortly after the shops became established, when I was about 12 years old, that I commenced
being delivery boy for the off-licence in off-school hours, riding, and often pushing, along the
unmade roads the green tricycle, delivering the orders all round the district. I remember Mrs
Pollett telling me at a later date how she wondered how I could reach the pedals on that enormous
trike, so I was very young. Exact dates for everyday happenings are too vague in the author’s
memory, and from 1923 to 1925 are only roughly assessed, and it has to be either late 1925 or
spring of 1926 when I started deliveries.
Mr Alfred Thewell Pollett died not long after and Mrs Minnie Pollett took over the management.
At the funeral, as the bugler from his old regiment, the Royal Garrison Artillery, played the Last
Post, one of the nieces fainted. He had been an RSM. I was also at the wedding of Evelyn to
Harold Gurteen and that was just four months after I was fourteen. I remained with Mrs Minnie
Pollett until 1932, and was delivering all round to the new houses on both sides of the railway
and, on occasion, to Kingston Hill when Mr Sidney Parkes moved to Coombe Hurst.
With the opening of the end of our allotments, the field came into wider use for us youngsters
and we were able to build enormous bonfires in November for grand firework nights. The second
year the field was open was extremely foggy, and though it was a real pea-souper it had seemed
fun to us youngsters, but my brother Len, groping his way home from the station, found a disused
well or water-hole, and the ground caved in beneath him. It can’t have been too deep and I have
no idea how he managed to get out, but the new navy blue overcoat issued by the Swiss Bank
Corporation was never the same again.
Living in Ivy House at this time was Mr Lyle of Tate & Lyle sugar fame, and one evening, as I
stood at my gate, a young lady named Pansy Thorn, who was in service there, stopped to speak
to me and asked if I’d like to accompany her to the fair which was being held in Beverley Road,
New Malden. Although not very tidy, I went with her to the big fair and on reaching there she
pressed sixpence in my hand for me to enjoy myself and went off round the various options
by herself. After going on some amusements, and even managing to win a large box of chocs,
not feeling needed any longer, I made my way home. The next day, I went across to the wall
and waited beneath the huge horse chestnut tree that overhung by the window and, when she
appeared, I was able to thank her and give her the box with a few chocs still left in it. She really
was a nice young lady but I never knew where they went to from Ivy House.
When it was haymaking time in that field, it was so lovely, I asked permission from my mother
to go to Vauxhall and bring a young friend I had left behind, so that he could enjoy the same
pleasures that I was getting. After a rather lovely day romping in the hay together and showing
all the surrounding countryside, it was a very tired little boy I took back to Kennington Grove;
I was too happy to feel tired, but I imagine I needed no rocking that night.
In one corner facing the railway there was an enormous hoarding, advertising houses for sale
by Modern Homes & Estates. At that time I was sleeping out under canvas the whole of the
summer and was often joined by my friend Charlie Holland who came to stay with his Aunt
Rose at 196. We did this for some long time and it gave us so much freedom. It was shortly
after we had moved to the district that Mrs Collie née Holland became firm friends with my
mother, and when her nephew visited her, she introduced us and there commenced a lifelong
friendship with several generations of the Hollands. At one time, before the days of Dr Scholls,
Hollands had been the first inventors of foot and arch preservers, and many of their inventions
are used today by chiropodists. They were also the inventors of the mixer tap now so widely
used in homes. Only recently a hundred-year history of the family was passed to me by my
friend’s 88-year-old eldest brother.35 Quite often I was asked to go to number 10 Mansel Road,
Wimbledon, on some errand for his Aunt Rose, where I saw her piano-teaching sister, Muriel
Mary Holland, and also met on one occasion her twin sister, who was a Sister of Mercy and
had suffered hardships abroad.
In those early days, when Claremont Avenue ended opposite the end of our road, it was possible
to go down the steep railway bank, up the far side, and cross the Hundred Acres as I believe it
was known, to reach Burlington Road and New Malden.36
The new estate constructed 1925 by Mr Sidney Edward Parkes’s Modern Homes & Estates
Mr Parkes had been building in outlying areas before 1925, but Phyllis Avenue was my first
knowledge of the company, and that was when I first saw the long foundation channel of this
road as it lay very deep in water like a very long canal. Soon after this the buildings sprang up
with an amazing speed even though in those times the roads were left very rough until the whole
project was finished, and only the footpaths were passably fit to move along.
I had first-hand knowledge of this with a laden tricycle, pushing it instead of being able to ride.
When eventually loads of rubble, possibly from the demolished Dudley Lodge, were dumped as
the base for the finishing, the last few yards of the road were left unfinished, and one newcomer
at number 54 used to give me sixpence each time I took a small two-wheeled barrow load for
his path or rockery in his back garden.
35 Mr Bendell included a long extract from this in his typescript, as well as an obituary of Muriel Holland.
These have not been included in this publication.
36 This was presumably before the arrival of the live rail in 1925.
During those months the road was filling with newcomers, I was getting to know more and
more of the residents, and one lad, as old as myself, was Laurence Bruce-Smith. His father was
a scenic artist at Drury Lane Theatre, and his grandfather, a very clever artist, was the early
creator of stage disaster scenes like shipwrecks, airship and train crashes. There is a grand book
all about this by Laurence’s cousin, Dennis Castle, called Sensation Smith of Drury Lane,37 and
this gripping biography of the grandfather is dedicated to Laurence, his sister, and Arthur Askey.
The friendship which sprang up between us all that time ago still exists, and only weeks ago in
1988 I spent a lovely holiday in his Hampshire home. The family has always been one of the
homeliest I have ever known.
Lower down the road, I was to get to know Ken Mounter, who charged accumulators for wireless
sets, and when he explained how easily he had learnt to play the mandolin, which he had acquired
for half a crown, I jokingly said I had a piano he could have for seven shillings and sixpence.
When next I saw them, his mother asked if I was serious and, because it was in the way where it
was, I told her I was. The bargain was then made, and a receipt given, and together we trundled
the black rosewood piano, originally belonging to the Holland family, round to number 25.
About a fortnight later, when I went to the house again, I was invited in and shown a beautiful
new piano for which the old one had been part exchanged. Ken sat down and without any
fumbling started to play a current hit so well that I was really impressed. As he played, his
mother pointed to a large portrait of a man and told me it was Ken’s great-grandfather, Fritz
Kreisler;38 to this day I have no idea if she was pulling my leg.
This short road ran alongside the old polo field, which now had slightly more select houses but
still had the boundary line of oak trees leading to the wicket gates and footpath to the cemetery
and Worcester Park. It was in number 28 that the young Lord Ronay lived when it was first
built, and the house was always bustling with activity and lots of young people whenever I
had to make a delivery. But it was the opposite side of the road that was first built, and the
Johnsons approached my father to get their waterlogged, rubble-strewn garden in some sort
of order. Having transformed that, much more work followed on both sides of the railway, in
the first place in Tennyson and Stanley Avenues.
I was to know many of the occupants of this long road, and traversing it was just as difficult
at first, before the road was ready for proper use. I saw the newcomers arrive, ex-Navy at
32, Underground driver at 14, landscape gardener at 52, whose son Norman became another
good friend and for whom I was later best man when he married Marjorie Hatton when her
people took over from Hewitt as postmaster. Also Mr Smith, later to marry Mrs Stevens at 152
Seaforth Avenue. One family, the Junipers, was then known only from a distance, but many
years later, with a war between, I contacted my cousin Cyril Simmons and discovered he had
married Queenie, now a very lovely lady, and both are still involved closely with church, just
as they were in West Barnes. There was Mr Brown, considerably older than I, who, years
before me, had gone to my first school in Kennington Lane: even now, in my mind I can still
see the ‘Fisherman’s prayer’ as it hung just inside the front door.
A great friend of the Burgess family, next door to my home, was Arthur Mumford, a dapper,
smart young chap, full of fun, who was a dental mechanic, and lived at 57 Tennyson Avenue.
I once bought a Webley air pistol from Archie, as we all knew him, but when I learnt that he
37 Published by Charles Skilton Ltd; 280 pages; 1st edition, June 1984.
38 Austrian-born American violinist and composer, Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Kreisler, 2 February 1875-29 January 1962.
had got rid of it because he had been shooting pellets at the lady next door’s knickers as they
hung on the line, I decided it was not for me, and parted with it. Sadly, he died very young,
but only recently, in 1987, Pat, his widow, was looking wonderfully young on her eightieth
birthday when she was given a surprise party by her good neighbours. She is now living in
Arthur Road, where the dragonfly used to hover over the pond by the wicket gate.
For a time this was hardly built on, and had just a few houses up to number 9. The rest of the
land skirting the Pyl Brook, which ran at the rear of the other homes after it had left Chestnut
Cottage in the lane, remained empty for a time, but when the new houses were added, one of
them, I was led to believe, was presented to Captain Willis, the hero of the Thetis submarine.39
Of the other few, the second house was taken by an ex-army family just returned from India,
a really nice lively family, Colonel and Mrs Clive, one son and five daughters, Peggy, Esme,
Dorothy and two younger girls. One was called Pip but I can’t bring to mind the last one – which
isn’t bad for a memory nearly sixty years before.
The other two ladies I remember quite clearly both had young daughters. Mrs Buck was at number
5 and next door the Chapman family and she and her neighbour were invariably together. I heard
39 HMS Thetis was a Royal Navy T-class submarine which served under two names. As HMS Thetis, she began sea
trials on 4 March 1939. She sank during trials on 1 June 1939 with the loss of 99 lives. She was salvaged, repaired
and recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt, serving in the Atlantic and Mediterranean until she was lost with all
hands on 14 March 1943. There were no heroes in the sinking of the Thetis, and no ‘Captain Willis’ gets a mention
online. However, Petty Officer Willis was a hero when Royal Navy submarine HMS Poseidon sank in collision with
a freighter during routine exercises in 1931 off the Chinese coast. He was awarded the Albert Medal and became
Chief Petty Officer. He married Mary Deacon, and they had a son and a daughter. Following his retirement from the
Royal Navy, he became a Chief Electrician at Merton Park Studios in Surrey and died 27/11/1953 at Morden. See
http://www.vconline.org.uk/patrick-h-willis-am/4594944650.html and The London Gazette 24/07/1931.
West Barnes Lane looking towards where Crossway would be built (MLSC)
Mrs Chapman, a Scottish lady, quite tall, telling Mrs Pollett that her house had been burgled and
that the thief had stolen what was thought to be a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky, but it was
a display bottle that had been taken, and behind the label it had embossed lettering, Dummy.
West Barnes Lane, 1930s
Large houses with garages were built at the same time as Phyllis Avenue and the corner one
was occupied by a doctor, at first Drs Davidson and England, but they were soon followed by
Dr Roberts, who remained until the end. The few big houses that followed ceased for a while
on both sides of the lane, but higher up, just before a bungalow that Fred Baker had built on the
corner of Arthur Road, one large solitary house was built, and only much later was it joined by
others in the lane.
Ivy House was now cared for by Bernard Pryce for Modern Homes, and he was quite a clever man
with an inventive mind as well as a keen sense of humour. He had built himself a car that looked
like a long sardine tin, which caused lots of amusement when he drove proudly out in it; it hardly
matched up with Sidney Parkes’s shining black Bentley, or even Arthur’s older-type racy job. From
his first appearance in the district, he was a noticeable character and all the lads seemed to like him.
It was probably about this time that Arthur came to live above the off-licence, while, I assume, his
own place was being prepared at the top of Traps Lane, New Malden. He had the smaller room
just above the shop, and when on occasions I saw in that room, there was his small hand gun on
the table by his bed. Often I saw him go off resplendent in evening dress while he lived there.
Not long after this Mrs Pollett left to live at Aylesbury, and Harold and Evelyn Gurteen with
baby Eric Cotsford still in his pram, came to take over management, and I felt it was time to
move on. At first I helped my eldest brother, Eric, who had just come out of the Welsh Guards,
and was repairing footwear in a small hut by the Modern Homes offices. After a few weeks,
I was asked to help Bernard Pryce and, not being very bright, when one day he passed a red-
hot piece of metal to me with tongs, and told me to take it outside and wave it about until it
got icicles on it, I very nearly went to do this.
The knitting factory, Seaforth Avenue, built c.1929, about to be demolished (1988) (MLSC)
[now replaced by 115-119 Adela Avenue]
It was while I was helping Bernard Pryce that he left me to do a small job on my own at the
knitting factory opposite my home, and it was as I was working that Mr Boulanger, the boss,
stood watching me quietly for some time, and then at last asked me if I would like to work
for him. When I said I did not like to let Mr Pryce down, he convinced me to accept the job,
so here I was with a new job 20 yards across the road from home, and I hadn’t even had to
look for it. I started off learning to parcel up goods for despatch, was sent to the bank in New
Malden, and each morning on his tall bike I would go to 108 West Barnes Lane for the two
partners’ coffee, because they didn’t like ours.
I was thoroughly enjoying this new work when one day Louis Desburbieux, the big stolid
French partner, asked if I would like to learn dyeing. When I expressed my doubts as to my
ability, he brushed away any qualms I had and almost immediately we began to practise with
small lots of fine matt silk, dyeing beautiful pastel shades. In no time at all we had installed,
firstly, a 40-lb vat and large boiler and were dyeing bouclette yarn in hanks; this firm actually
introduced this yarn to England from France. We had a girl, Gladys Clarke, who lived at 100
Phyllis Avenue, who did all the drying and packing.
When we were really under way, Louis asked me how much I was being paid, and when I told
him, he snorted and went off to see Mr B, as we all called the boss. That week I received six
shillings extra, which seemed very nice. On the Monday he asked the question again, how
much? Again he went off to the office and an extra pound followed in my next pay packet.
Almost unbelievably this happened for six weeks in all, and by this time I was the highest
paid in our family and, I must hasten to add, the most blind and stupid.
By now we had installed a huge 120-lb stainless steel vat, with girder and lifting tackle to raise
the lid, that held 24 rods, each containing five pounds of wet wool or bouclette, and swung
it across to be unloaded and hydro-extracted (spin dried), ready for Gladys to handle in the
drying room. I was also bleaching large batches of bouclette to a lovely white that gleamed
and seemed to shimmer with a faintest of greenish hue.
During this time at the factory, the district had continued to develop, with a whole parade of
new shops and, opposite the chemists, a new road called Marina Avenue, which went up to
and along the row of trees that had bordered our mushroom field, which was now Sir Joseph
Hood memorial recreational ground. The name of the road was of our new royal lady, Princess
Marina of Kent, who had won all hearts, and at that time I was dyeing a shade with the same
‘Private Road’ was now a public road with the BBC sports ground, and Phyllis Avenue had
been continued to meet Seaforth Avenue, which was also extended to join West Barnes Lane
opposite Arthur Road. On the large corner-piece of land opposite the station was now the
Earl Beatty, and the off-licence had changed hands completely. The bridge now crossed both
tracks with a path to Claremont Avenue, and much was happening on that side of the railway.
The houses both sides of the lane had come right up to Arthur Road and Seaforth Avenue,
and houses had completed most of our old West Barnes and the new parts of Seaforth and
The new Seaforth Avenue, 1934
Things were going along very nicely, and now, living on my own as my parents had moved
down to Chilbolton, near Stockbridge, Hampshire, and with getting good hot meals from the
Cornerways shop opposite the factory, I was very free, but alone as I had never had the pluck
to date anyone.
My dyeing was going along very nicely, for I had a marvellous teacher and, in Gladys Clarke,
a wonderful help. One day I was standing by my boiler and I saw a young girl alone in a room
opposite, and she was doing what all newcomers did for the first days and, plucking up courage,
I put my head in at the door and said something like her being a poor lonely girl. After she had
snapped my head off for such a stupid remark, the ice was broken and I found I could talk to her
quite easily. From then on I could not get Gwen out of my mind, and was looking forward to
each day when she would arrive for work. We were getting along fairly well and I was enjoying
talking to her whenever I could.
One evening, some few days later, I was standing at my gate when I saw a girl in pale blue dress
and wide floppy summery hat. Then I saw it was her, and when I asked her what she was doing
in that area, she told me she lived just six doors away in the second new house. From then on I
chased as hard as I could, but she played hard to get, and I just kept on trying. Just about then,
the firm was organising an outing to La Panne in Belgium, and when we actually all got to the
hotel, I was put as far away from Gwen as was possible, and I wondered what was in some
people’s minds. I was to have to try really hard to win Gwen, but we did have outings together
and I eventually succeeded.
Sadly, on 15 September 1935, Louis died suddenly, and a few days after the funeral I was
called to the office while it was decided if I was sufficiently capable of carrying on as dyer on
my own. They – that is FLB and his son Pierre – thought I could, so from then on I was on my
own. During that time I had one mishap when I over-bleached 120 lbs of bouclette yarn, which
meant it was harsh and smelt as if it were a well-baked biscuit. It was left for a very long time
in my sight to remind me constantly not to be careless again.
About this time, war clouds were gathering and all the men were filling sandbags to turn the
huge mess room into a large air raid shelter and it was not very long before I was called up to
report to Bedford and the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.
Exactly two months later, I obtained leave for 48 hours to get married, and on the Saturday
morning, as my brother Len and I were going across the golf links to Grand Drive to inform
the Vicar that I was home and the wedding would take place, the sirens went off, but I was so
happy I just didn’t care. After the ceremony on 24 August 1940, when my boots had squeaked
so loud I thought they could be heard by everyone, we went back to the ‘Iron Hall’ in Adela
Avenue, and were just about to cut the cake when the sirens sounded again. With a show of
bravado I assured everyone we weren’t likely to get hit, and the all clear sounded. Exactly five
weeks later, the ‘Iron Hall’ was wiped out. Our wedding night was spent in the air raid shelter
with 50 other people and I returned to my unit the next day.
Soon after I had returned for good, I felt restless and began to work in many parts of the
country, west to Falmouth, then north to Lichfield, west to Port Talbot and Cardiff, a short stay
in Luxembourg, then back to Hereford, Wincanton, Devizes, Peacehaven, Yeovil and finally
Devon. But my heart will always be in Motspur Park.
Reduced extract from the Ordnance Survey 25-inch map revised 1933, published 1935,
reproduced courtesy of Surrey History Centre
FURTHER MEMORIES FROM DOUGLAS V HEADLEY (1923-2001)
West Barnes and Motspur Park – 1934
The following is a transcript of a typescript document attached to Bruce S Bendell’s 1988 memoir.
The date ‘1934’ seems to refer to his early childhood memories. The paragraph divisions have
been amended slightly for clarity.
From the railway bridge over West Barnes Lane at Raynes Park on the Coombe Lane side, you
could walk along a footpath beside the railway, under the Kingston Bypass, past Malden Golf
Links and come out at New Malden Station.1
I’d forgotten about Aston Road School.2 In the 1930s the buildings were used as a library and
dental clinic. I remember being dragged to the dentist by my father, sitting on hard chairs in the
brown wooden-walled waiting room, and then in the surgery having a large rubber bag whacked
over my face for gas.3
As an inducement and reward I was promised a ride back on one of the new wonderful 604
trolleybuses which were taking over from the old number 71 London United Trams.4 Trolleybuses
had a hooked pole for repositioning the trolley arms when they, not infrequently, became
detached from the overhead power lines; it was a trial of expertise and strength for the conductor
to hook them and heave them back onto the wires. When the London United trams reversed at
Hampton Court the arm was pulled down and walked around to face the opposite direction, but
the trolleybuses ran round a turning circle.
The LCC trams only came through West Barnes on summer Saturdays and Sundays when they
ran to Hampton Court, as excursions from London. Trolleybuses required two power cables,
whereas trams only needed one, as the current return was through the steel wheel and the lines.
LCC trams were fitted with two pick-up arms, one at each end, which could be lowered or allowed
to spring up to engage on the appropriate power line. Once back inside the LCC boundary, at
Merton High Street, the overhead power lines ceased and the trams accessed an underground
current conductor via a slot in the road surface. This pick-up device was slid under the tram,
and both overhead arms were tied down.
I was always told that Shannon Corner, before the land was drained and the Kingston Bypass
built, often used to be flooded with two feet of water in winter time.5 To cope with this and
keep electric motors out of the water, LUT had a special flood tram on a raised chassis to run
a shuttle service across this stretch between Cavendish Avenue and Beverley Road. I am not
sure whether this was first hand knowledge or hearsay. I do remember regular flooding of West
Barnes Lane and the golf links by the Pyl Brook in the 1930s.
1 This footpath has been reopened as the New Malden to Raynes Park Link for cyclists and pedestrians.
2 In Raynes Park.
3 He may have been luckier than he knew: not every dentist in the 1930s used anaesthetic!
4 The trolleybuses were in process of taking over from trams from August 1931, and the full trolleybus service
began on 02/09/1931. The through trams from London ceased on the preceding weekend, so that would seem
to date the visit to the dentist to that period. The route number from 1931 was London United Tramways 4,
and 604 only became the number in summer 1935, after the formation of the London Passenger Transport
5 And often since – see Jowett (1987) pp.9, 190-2 and MHS Bulletins 213, 214 and 216. See also Robert J
Hartley London United Electric Tramways (2010), p.46.
There was a little bridge at the bottom of Seaforth Avenue that the water just swirled around and
over, but when it came to the railway there was only one little brick tunnel and no way round.
The railway line made an efficient dam. Later this tunnel was supplemented with one, and then
two, large concrete tubes. These can still be seen from West Barnes Lane, over the crossing.
They cut down the flooding but the brook was still a torrent after heavy rain.
One of my school chums, John Harris, from 98 Seaforth Avenue, ignoring the usual warnings to
keep away from the brook, slipped and fell in. Tragically he was swept away and carried right
through to the far side of the lane and was drowned. Mr and Mrs Harris with twins Issie and
Maurice moved to Worcester Park.
On happier occasions the golf links provided us with a wonderful playground. In the 1930s,
Westway had only reached about to Greenway, and Linkway reached only to the bend at the
top of the hill. It is only now I realise that all the names were from the previous use of the land
as a golf course.
On the side of the Pyl Brook was another line of elms ideal for climbing and doing a Tarzan act by
swinging across the brook from the lower branches. Towards the end of Estella Avenue was one
magnificent tree we called ‘Old Epsom’. This was because bolder spirits who had climbed to the
top boasted they could clearly see the Epsom grandstand.
Branching away from near Estella was an overflow ditch, shut off from the main brook by a
wooden sluice, and running towards Raynes Crossing. This ditch normally had just stagnant
muddy water in the bottom, and was crossed at one point by a narrow wooden plank. A pal and
I were having great fun riding our new bikes down one bank, shooting across the plank and up
the other side, until he came off the plank and landed up, sat in the mud with his bike. He was
too scared to go home in his wet and sticky state, so he came home with me to Seaforth where
my mother cleaned him up and made him more presentable to report back to base. I can reveal
that my pal was Peter Hudnott of 32 Adela Avenue.
This little ditch is now piped in, but it ran at the back of Westway Close, past the pumping
station, under the Merton Spur (Bushey Road) and railway tracks and one can see where it comes
through a little brick tunnel opposite Carters. It then runs between the road and railway until it
disappears down a grating by the old corrugated-iron taxi garage; I think it must then be piped
to rejoin the Beverley Brook down Coombe Lane.
I remember the crossing gatekeeper’s house with its garden surrounded by a hedge and the brook
at the back. I once did a pencil sketch of this little house for art class at school. Early maps show
‘Blake’s Lodge’ at this point, though I can find no other reference to it; ‘Blake’ refers to Squire Blake
of the Malden area.6 At the side of this garden a short track led down to the bridge over the brook.
This bridge has always intrigued me, as to who built it and why, and where it led to. It must have
been very old, for all the parapet had gone, and only the sturdy arch of worn red bricks remained.
It was too wide and well built to have been for just a footpath. However, looking again at an
ordnance map of 1817, it is clear there were two sets of buildings at West Barnes: West Barnes
Farm, where Raynes Park Secondary Schools now stand, and ‘West Barnes Park’ standing at
what is now the end of Westway near Blenheim Road, each place being on its own road.
6 Lawyer and landowner Charles Blake built and owned several villas in the Motspur Park/West Barnes area. He
also built ten villas in Streatham Vale in the 1860s, structurally complete but never finished inside; these were
never occupied. See Keith Penny, ‘Notes on ‘Down Lonesome Way’ in Merton Historical Society’s Bulletin 190,
June 2014, page 9. John Wallace (1986, 1987) p.13 explains that Blake built a small ornamental gatehouse here
at the entrance to his estate, which he sold in 1864 to LSWR as a residence for the crossing gateman.
Before the railways came (1838 and 1859) it appears that West Barnes Lane, starting from its
junction with Coombe Lane, followed the same path as it does today until it reached the site of
Raynes Crossing then divided into two parallel arms about 60 yards apart. The right-hand arm
continued on to the entrance of West Barnes Farm, opposite the three farm cottages which still stand
there backing onto the railway. It then crossed the Pyl Brook to a junction where the lane proper
turned left to follow the brook as now. But also at this junction, long before LUT built Burlington
Road in 1906, a lane continued to Potts Corner and then curved right to lead to Blagdon Farm
backing on the Beverley Brook near the end of Blagdon Road. Part of this last section is all that
remains of the original lane, and it has been known for many years as the Bridle Path. Blagdon
farmhouse, stables and barn are still there, occupied by the Old Emanuel Association, part of
the Emanuel School sports grounds.7 The buildings can also be seen from the Kingston Bypass.
From the division at the site of Raynes Crossing, the left-hand arm ran parallel and through
more farm buildings which were later replaced by West Barnes Park. This lane then had its own
crossing over the Pyl Brook and linked up again with West Barnes Lane between what is now
Seaforth Avenue and the railway.
This crossing of the brook, I am convinced was the origin of our little red brick bridge. Then,
about 1820, the Rayne family developed their new residence and park, their entrance drive,
flanked by trees, diverging slightly away from Raynes Crossing towards Westway. Around 1930
I clearly remember seeing a well-made 5ft-wide gravel path leading from Raynes Crossing towards
Westway and thought it was something to do with the old golf links – now I know it was the
entrance drive up to Rayne’s house in West Barnes Park. Also I was told that Raynes Crossing
was a private access to farm land. In fact I now see it was to maintain a right of way when the
new railway cut across the branch of West Barnes Lane which gave access to West Barnes Park.
It is recorded that Raynes Park Station was so named in recognition of Mr Rayne giving land
for the railway.8 What is not recorded is where he lived or where the ‘Park’ was. Now we know
– his house and estate was where Westway now runs.
One curiosity is the way the three farm cottages are now boxed in between the road and railway;
I’m sure they must have had much longer gardens, and I doubt if they appreciated Mr Rayne’s
generosity to the railway when they had their back gardens sliced off, and belching steam trains
passed just outside their back windows. No planning permission and appeals in those days. Later
road-widening and pavement-making took away any front garden.
The other feature which has disappeared is the footpath to Merton. Before being diverted to West
Barnes Crossing by the railway, it must have started by the farm cottages, to come straight out
where the second wicket gate was, and where Blenheim Road is now. Here even in the 1930s
it went up behind the gardens and out at Grand Drive opposite the entrance to Prince George
Playing Fields, then over a stile and on in a direct line to Whatley Avenue and Merton Park.9
The entry between 112 and 114 Grand Drive is a full plot, so originally it may have been a much
wider track. It follows the high ground and would have been a most useful road in wintertime
when Bushey Mead was often flooded.
7 The outbuildings have gone but the 1826 house still stands, though currently (2023) boarded up while the
school is expanding and enhancing its sports facility at Blagdon’s. The Old Emanuel Association sports clubs
have moved to a new location in Raynes Park.
8 For more about the Rayne family and their property in the Raynes Park/West Barnes area, see Jowett,
Raynes Park: a social history (Merton Historical Society, 1987). The Rayne family allowed the Wimbledon
& Dorking line to cross 2 acres of their land for £200 per acre + £500 compensation to enable a new access
road to be constructed. The station was opened in 1871, long after the Rayne family left the area, and was
paid for by the new owner, Richard Garth (pp.66, 80-2, 113-4).
9 One can still walk such a path between Grand Drive and Whatley Avenue.
To return to more recent times, the big event of the year, of course, was Guy Fawkes’ night when
the older boys built a huge bonfire on the links. There was always competition with the one at
the top of Seaforth and sometimes open warfare when each group tried to burn down the other’s
bonfire before the night; often sentries had to be maintained to save the fire for November 5th.
The sad end to our golf links came when the brook was culverted about 1936. We were very
interested to watch the reinforced concrete work going in and didn’t realise what a loss it would
all be to the boys who were to come after us; I often wonder if the people in those houses realise
what runs under them.
The only local open space was Cannon Hill Common and large lake, and when we were small,
in about 1932, we used to go there fishing for ‘tiddlers’, newts and tadpoles with a sixpenny
fishing net from Brewers and a jam jar.
Brewer’s in Burlington Road was a real Aladdin’s cave of wonderful toys, Meccano, and Hornby
trains. A new truck for your railway came in a magical dark red box and cost about two shillings
and sixpence, which meant 2 or 3 weeks’ savings out of your pocket money.
FURTHER MEMORIES FROM FRED GILDEN (1923-1989)
a resident of 15 Seaforth Avenue in the 1920s and 1930s
Approach Road was not a made-up road in the 1920s, and commenced at the Junction Tavern,
Raynes Park, where the London buses would turn round for the return journey and, in the summer,
bring people to picnic and walk in the then countryside.
Here at the commencement of the road was a large wooden hut which contained the fire appliances.
Continuing along the road on the right-hand side was a ditch at the foot of the railway embankment,
Aston Road School being on the left-hand side, and at that time Gore Road was the last road
before a field where Approach Road curves and joins up with Grand Drive.
This field was the venue for a fair which seemed to arrive every year. I do not remember a barrier
at the junction of Grand Drive and Approach Road.10 However, there was a five-barred gate at
the other end of Grand Drive, which then ended by the so-called haunted house – the last of the
big houses, which was then derelict.
From then on it was a cart track and cinder path, leading to Lower Morden. Here, near where
the Beverley11 now stands, were some cottages where people could buy cut flowers from the
garden, to take when visiting Battersea Cemetery.
On the right-hand side of the track were fields, often with sheep grazing, and one could look
across and see the roofs of the houses at West Barnes. On the left-hand side surrounding Bijou
Villas were acres and acres of cornfields and a footpath leading to Cannon Hill and of course
Beyond the lake, on the right-hand side of Cannon Hill Lane going towards Martin Way, was a
cottage which I believe had some connection with the Water Board. Then there were allotments
and a pig farm before coming to the few shops at the junction with Martin Way. These are still
10 This barrier was where the houses began [BSB]
11 Now the Morden Brook
Returning to Grand Drive, just beyond St Saviour’s Church and before the footpath to West
Barnes, there was a football field surrounded by a hedge, beyond which lay the golf links
bordering on West Barnes Lane.
Crazy golf was the vogue in the early 1930s and at the junction of Approach Road with Grand
Drive, where now are traffic lights, such a course was laid out, with a high trellis fence surrounding
it; some of this fence still remains and forms part of the garden on the corner house.12
Carters Tested Seeds indeed was a lovely building, and one could sit in one’s garden in Seaforth
Avenue and hear their clock strike, such was the quiet.
Mention of the field which bordered the gardens of Adela Avenue to West Barnes Lane reminded
me of a cricket match once played there by West Barnes Cricket Club, when Mr Kingsnorth,
who lived (approx.) opposite the church in Adela Avenue, number 51, opened a way through the
hedge at the bottom of his garden to provide tea for the club members. He was the President of
the club, the Secretary being Mr W E Moore who lived at 54 by the church, my father H F Gilden
being the Treasurer. My father was a fast bowler for the cricket team, and it was always a joy to
go with them and see them play at the country clubs of Effingham, Bookham and Chessington
– a fine day on the coach or the old steam train.
Reverting to the cricket field as I remember in the 20s, on the opposite side of West Barnes Lane
was a double line of chestnut trees, behind which at that time was a cornfield. The remaining
chestnut tree still stands (its trunk in a sorry condition) on the corner of Arthur Road.
Mention of Billy Williams [see p.25] reminds me of seeing him riding on his bicycle with a sack of
boots/shoes on his back and whistling – perhaps this was his method of advertising. Billy was a member
of the club. When a football team was formed, he was a fast runner and played in a wing position.
Frank Knight, who lived in Estella Avenue, was also a member of the West Barnes Club football team
and I believe he was the captain. Incidentally, this was a very strong team, and in consecutive seasons
progressed from 3rd Division to 2nd, then 1st and became Premier in the Wimbledon League. I also
remember them playing in the City’s game at Plough Lane. The home ground for the football section
was Graham Spicer’s, a field which lay off Traps Lane, in what was still largely open country.13
The club was also a social one and held whist drives in the ‘Iron Hall’ and also dances. As a
youngster I remember going along early with my parents, and the old large black radiators being
lighted to warm the hall, for it was very cold there in the winter. I was also pleased to put down
‘French chalk’ on the floor – and slide about – when a dance was to be held. These dances were
always convivial affairs, and when a carnival dance was held, prizes were given for games and
dances, and, to my delight, balloons.
Mr Fletcher who lived at 127 Tennyson Avenue was a member of the cricket club. He was
married to one of the Kingsworthy daughters. Len, their son who lived in Claremont Avenue,
was also in the team, and had a daughter Betty. The remaining daughter, Vera, was a very pretty
girl who worked at Carters Seeds, and she was also very much in demand at the club’s dances. I
remember going with my mother and father together with Mr and Mrs Fletcher to Vera’s wedding
and after the reception going on to that grand cinema – the Granada at Tooting which had just
opened,14 and being astounded by the ornate grandeur one found within.
12 I am reminded that there was a miniature golf layout in front of Doctor Bradley’s house. [BSB]
13 In the latter years of his relatively short life, paper-maker and philanthropist Graham Spicer (1881-1918)
lived in the villa Voewood, off Motspur Park road.
14 Now a bingo club, this Grade 1 listed art deco building opened on 7 September 1931 (https://
Mr Bowrey of Dedman Bros was very good to the club, and at Christmas whist drives donated
a parcel of groceries, as did Mr Thompson the greengrocer, with baskets of fruit; I believe other
traders helped in this way.
It may be of interest that the first house in this road, backing onto Seaforth Avenue, was a double-
fronted house and in those early days was occupied by a Frenchman who used the extensive
grounds as a small market garden. The ground had to be well ditched, as in the winter it tended
to become flooded, due I suppose to the wet condition at the bottom of our garden (15 Seaforth
Avenue). A large willow tree flourished and was the home of a pair of owls. I did not like going
to the end of the garden when they were there, for they would sit on a branch (even in daylight)
and just stare at one. This house has now been pulled down and a short road (Estella Avenue)
with houses built on the land.
Other than Mr and Mrs Simmons, the only names that comes to mind are Mr and Mrs Hancock
who lived at number 38, Mrs Pratt, a teacher at Whatley Avenue School, and Mr Diacon who was
also a teacher at the same school. In the 1920s he was choirmaster and organist at Holy Cross
Church. He acted as music master at school, and had rather a short temper, due, we thought as
youngsters, to having spent many years in India, and if one was caught not paying attention, the
blackboard chalk would whizz across the classroom, just missing the offending pupil. He did,
however, show us some very good slides of his time in India. It is very nostalgic to look back
on the times when West Barnes was quite a little community on its own.
I have recently been reading a book on Surbiton, Kingston and New Malden in the nineteenth
century and learned many interesting facts – such as that Queen Victoria would never alight at
New Malden station owing to its bad state, but would go on to Norbiton when visiting friends
What changes time has wrought!
Published by Merton Historical Society – April 2023
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