07 The Upper or Fair Green, Mitcham

Mitcham Histories  7

by Eric Montague

Although no buildings survive predating the close of the 18th century, the road pattern suggests that from the earliest times this must have been a primary focus of settlement in what became the parish and later the Borough of Mitcham. If we cannot describe the Upper Green as the actual village centre, it was clearly the commercial heart of the community for a very long period. As such, it provides a fascinating study in local history, telling us much of the evolution of the township.

The Upper Green was the site of Mitcham Fair until 1923.


  11. THE HOSTELRIES: The Nag’s Head; The King’s Arms; The White Lion of Mortimer (formerly the Buck’s Head); The Lord Napier
  12. FROM WESTERN ROAD TO COMMONSIDE EAST: The Western Side of the Green; The Eastern Side of the Green: Majestic Way and St Mark’s Road; Upper Green East

APPENDIX: Sir Ambrose Crowley (1658-1713)



Detail from 25-inch to 1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1895



E N Montague



Published by

© E N Montague 2005

ISBN 1 903899 51 6

Printed by intypelibra,
Units 3/4, Elm Grove Industrial Estate, Elm Grove
Wimbledon, SW19 4HE

Cover Illustration: ‘Durham House, Upper Green, Mitcham, Surrey
The Residence of Abel Garraway Esq.’
Engraving c.1856
(Reproduced courtesy of Merton Library Service)


The essays brought together in this volume are devoted to various
aspects of the history of Mitcham’s Upper, or Fair, Green. Although no
buildings survive predating the close of the 18th century, the road pattern
suggests that from the earliest times this must have been a primary
focus of settlement in what became the parish and later the Borough of
Mitcham. If we cannot describe the Upper Green as the actual village
centre, it was clearly the commercial heart of the community for a very
long period. As such, it provides a fascinating study in local history,
telling us much of the evolution of the township.

Chapter 9 contains the essence of my articles on Durham House
published in the Merton Borough News in February 1971 and November
1972, whilst Chapter 7, ‘Mitcham Fair’ is virtually as serialised by the
paper in July 1972. Chapter 8 enlarges on my article ‘Raleigh House’,
also published in 1972; Chapter 5 is basically my article on The Firs,
which appeared in the News in April 1974.


July 2005

Please note:
Imperial Measures are used throughout this book
1 acre = 4 roods = 160 square rods, poles or perches = 0.4047 hectares
1 yard = 3 feet = 0.9144 metres
1 ton = 20 cwt (hundredweight) = 2240 lb (pounds) = 1.016 tonnes
£1 = 20s (shillings) = 240d (pence)
1 guinea = 21s
1 half-crown = 2s 6d
1 gallon = 4.546 litres
1 horsepower = 745 watts



Material for this study has been gathered piecemeal over the space of
some 40 years. Much has been gleaned from published sources, as can
be seen in the Notes and References at the end of this book. Similarly
listed are the locations of documents consulted and information kindly
supplied by friends. The assistance and encouragement I received in
my quest from staff of the various local history centres and archive
offices, too numerous to mention by name I am afraid, proved
invaluable, and to them collectively I express my sincere thanks. Without
the help I received over the last year from friends in Merton Historical
Society – Peter Hopkins, Judith Goodman, Tony Scott and Elizabeth
Crisp – who carefully read and ‘vetted’ the text, many inconsistencies
and slips, both factual and grammatical, would undoubtably have passed
into print. For saving my blushes I thank them all. Finally, my special
gratitude is due to Peter Hopkins for the time and skill he has devoted
to the preparation for the printers of the text and illustrations of this,
the seventh of the Society’s Mitcham Histories.

Detail from a modern street map, showing the area covered by this book.
Reproduced by permission of Merton Design Unit, London Borough of Merton


INTRODUCTION …………………………………………………………………………….. v
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ……………………………………………………………… vi
CONTENTS ………………………………………………………………………………….. vii
MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS ……………………………………………………… viii
2 THE MANORS …………………………………………………………………………… 7
3 OLD BEDLAM …………………………………………………………………………… 9
4 29–31 UPPER GREEN EAST ……………………………………………………..23
5 THE FIRS, OR ELMWOOD ……………………………………………………….29
Origins of the Estate ……………………………………………………………………29
Cold Blows (1680–1736) …………………………………………………………….34
Clues to the tenure of the house on the site of The Firs? ……………..34
The Du Bois Family (1736–1769) ………………………………………………..35
John Pollard and the Langdales (c. 1779–1822)……………………………..39
Victorian Gentry …………………………………………………………………………44
The Last Days of The Firs ……………………………………………………………47
7 MITCHAM FAIR ……………………………………………………………………….53
9 DURHAM HOUSE …………………………………………………………………….77
10 MITCHAM HOUSE……………………………………………………………………91
11 THE HOSTELRIES ……………………………………………………………………95
The Nag’s Head ………………………………………………………………………….95
The King’s Arms…………………………………………………………………………98
The White Lion of Mortimer (formerly the Buck’s Head)…………….. 100
The Lord Napier ……………………………………………………………………… 102
The Western Side of the Green ………………………………………………….. 104
The Eastern Side of the Green:………………………………………………….. 108
Majestic Way and St Mark’s Road ………………………………………… 108
Upper Green East …………………………………………………………………. 114
13 PARISH PUMP AND VILLAGE GREEN …………………………………. 129
APPENDIX I: SIR AMBROSE CROWLEY (1658–1713) ……………….. 139
NOTES AND REFERENCES ……………………………………………………….. 145
INDEX………………………………………………………………………………………… 161



‘Durham House, Upper Green, Mitcham, Surrey c.1856 Cover
Detail from 25-inch to 1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1895 ii
Detail from a modern street map, showing the area covered by this book. vi
Old Bedlam, Mitcham. Watercolour by J C Buckler, c.1827 10
Old Bedlam, Mitcham, south-east elevation of the northern wing 11
Old Bedlam, Mitcham, viewed from the north-west 13
Old Bedlam, Mitcham, viewed from the Green 15
Plan accompanying sale particulars of 1846 16
The Majestic Cinema and St Mark’s Road, 1970s 19
P Gutteridge and Sons’ shop 22
Medieval finds from Gutteridge excavations 1970 24
Mid-18th-century finds from Gutteridge excavations 1970 25
29 Upper Green East, c.1960 27
Section of 1867 25 inch to 1 mile Ordnance Survey map 33
The Firs, c.1900. 40
Rev J H Blamey launches the Rebuilding Fund, September 1940 48
The Wesleyan Methodist Church, c.1925. 51
Langdale Walk, c.1970. 52
Mitcham Fair, c.1910 59
‘A Visit to Mitcham Fair, Monday August 14th 1882’ 63
Mitcham Fair, 1923. 67
Mitcham Fair, 1936 – opening ceremony 68
Raleigh House, c.1825 73
Rear of Durham House, c.1952 87
Durham House, c.1906, with Mitcham Fair in the foreground 89
Durham House, 1971, when occupied by Mitcham Conservative Club 90
Upper Green, with the Nag’s Head on the left, c.1905 94
Upper Green West from the eastern side of the Green, c.1900 97
The old King’s Arms and The Buck’s Head, c.1865 99
The new King’s Arms and the Buck’s Head c.1910 99
“Mitcham – Near the Nag’s Head” – 19th-century watercolour 105
Shops and houses overlooking the Upper Green, c.1870. 106
‘A Corner of Old Mitcham’ c.1890 107
The Buck’s Head and York Place, c.1905 109
York Place, 1–7 St Mark’s Road, 1975 109
St Mark’s church hall, c.1980. 110
St Mark’s Church, c.1980 111
St Mark’s School, 1983 113
The Majestic Cinema, c.1975 114
Upper Mitcham Green, 1904 115
Mitcham – Upper Green East, 1910 116
Village shops, Upper Green East, c.1900 117
“Smith’s Stores and Mr Samson’s old house”, c.1870 119
The interior of a party wall at 55 Upper Green East 125
John Chart’s shop, with Three King’s Pond in the distance. 126
The Parish Pump, Mitcham Fair Green, c.1870. 128
The opening of the Jubilee Clocktower, November 1899 129
Mitcham Fair Green – 1930s landscaping 130
Fair Green, 1953 131
Sir Ambrose and Lady Crowley’s monument 140
Upper Green, Mitcham, from the Majestic Cinema 1972 145

Chapter 1


The first documentary reference to ‘Micham’ is to be found in a
medieval version of a charter of AD727, listing estates in north-east
Surrey allegedly in the possession of Chertsey abbey as early as the
late seventh century.1 The abbey’s Mitcham property can be argued
to have been in the north of the parish, on the borders with Tooting,2
and belongs to a group of similar holdings in the Wandle valley located
on agriculturally rewarding riverside land. Several of these estates
were to flourish and become nucleated villages by the later Middle
Ages, but this does not, however, apply to Chertsey’s land in north
Mitcham, which is best seen as part of the abbey’s larger holding
lying beyond the river Graveney in Tooting.

Whereas the name Mitcham evidently dates from the so-called ‘Dark
Ages’, widespread archaeological evidence from the late first to
perhaps the early fifth centuries3 shows that the district south and
west of the Upper Green was not only populated throughout the Roman
period, but also indicates that it probably supported a scatter of native
farmsteads well before the Claudian invasion of AD43. The large
‘Anglo-Saxon’ cemetery in Lower Mitcham, excavated early in the
20th century,4 demonstrated moreover that this part of the Wandle
valley continued to have a sizeable, albeit scattered, population
throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, and the inclusion of items of
late Romano-British origin in a significant number of the graves raises
interesting and difficult questions concerning the relationships
between the first Germanic migrants and the indigenous population.
Modern theory holds that, at least initially, the newcomers were few
in number, their arrival being spread over many years. Intermarriage
in the course of time must be assumed, leading eventually to cultural
fusion and the emergence of a people of diverse ethnic origins,
although still essentially ‘British’.

To the west of the Upper Green lay one of the two large open fields
of Mitcham, tilled in long unfenced strips grouped in furlongs – a
very ancient form of land tenure which survived largely unchanged
until the 18th century. The origins of this system, in which the villagers
worked a number of scattered strips, divided according to tradition,


is unknown, but communal open field agriculture is generally accepted
to pre-date the Norman Conquest. It may be of significance that in
Mitcham the West Field was also known as ‘The Blacklands’ – a
term which elsewhere in the country has often been demonstrated to
apply to farmland associated with Romano-British settlement.

In the case of Mitcham it is possible the term could have been merely
descriptive, for this part of the parish was noted for its rich dark loam.
Easily worked and highly productive soils would always have attracted
early farming communities, and it is therefore not surprising that on
the borders of the Blacklands, during the construction of a new gas
holder at the Western Road works in 1882, a well was discovered,
containing a fine pitcher dated to the late first or early second century.5
Since for obvious reasons wells are seldom dug far from the
settlements they are intended to serve, it is a reasonable assumption
that here, to the west of the Upper Green, there was a thriving
community in the early years of the Roman period. Unfortunately
nothing more was recorded from the old gasworks site, and we have
no evidence to indicate that the settlement persisted into the Dark
Ages and beyond.

Weapons, jewellery and other grave goods recovered when the Morden
Road cemetery was excavated enabled many of the burials to be dated
to between about AD450 and 600.4 With the exception of a possible
habitation site to the south of the parish church, the actual location of
the settlements or farmsteads whence these people came has not been
identified, but it is quite feasible for the burials to be from a scattered
population living not only in Mitcham but also over the Wandle in
Merton, where at least one major Romano-British site is known.6

Mitcham’s Upper Green lies at the intersection of roads leading to
and from Merton, Tooting, Streatham, Croydon, Beddington and
Sutton – all having Old English place-names which, quite apart from
the documentary evidence, show they were in existence at least as
early as the seventh or eighth centuries. It is difficult to believe that
such a network of routes did not have its origins in a far older system
of tracks and bridleways in use long before the end of the Roman


There is no archaeological evidence to support the supposition that
centuries before the Norman Conquest a cluster of dwellings was to
be found at the cross roads in the centre of Mitcham. The outline of
any early medieval house plots around the Upper Green has today
been obscured and distorted by centuries of development, but on the
northern and north-eastern margins they can still be detected in 19thcentury
maps. The existence of a small hamlet here is difficult to
demonstrate from the documentary evidence, but there is one estate
in Mitcham, recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086, which it can
be argued (after excluding others the general location of which is
reasonably certain), to have been in the vicinity of the Upper Green.
In 1066, at the time of Edward the Confessor, this was in the tenure
of two men holding the property directly of the king. It was not
particularly large, being assessed for taxation purposes on the basis
of two and a half hides, or a little less than 300 acres, but the land
was productive, if we are to be guided by the valuation of 20 shillings.
Twenty years later, the holding had passed into the hands of the canons
of Bayeux, and formed part of the substantial estate in Mitcham they
held as tenants of Bishop Odo, the Conqueror’s half-brother. There
was arable sufficient to warrant one plough and its team of oxen being
maintained by the canons’ steward on the demesne farm, which formed
the nucleus of the holding, and there was further arable worked by
the peasantry. The 12 acres of meadow recorded were permanent
grassland, probably on the banks of a stream by which they were
often flooded. The inhabitants of the hamlet comprised four
households, the head of one family being classified as a villein, and
therefore likely to have been of some modest standing. Two others
were categorised as smallholders, whereas the fourth was described
as a ‘slave’ – a landless labourer tied by service to his landlord.7

Examination of the underlying physical features of the Upper Green,
still discernible on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey sheets of 1867 and
1895, discloses a number of interesting clues to what could have
influenced the pattern of early settlement around the perimeter. The
difference between the highest and lowest points may only be a little
over a metre, with the ground sloping slightly from north-east to southwest,
but this was important, for it was the higher land away from the


area of marsh to the south of the Green (created by a watercourse
flowing westwards from the Common), and enjoying a southerly
aspect, that provided the most congenial sites for settlement. Not
unexpectedly, it was on the northern and north-eastern sides of the
Green, that the houses and shops were most closely packed. It is thus
probably no coincidence that here, on a choice site overlooking the
Green, stood ‘Old Bedlam’ or ‘Old Bethlehem’, a house of medieval
origin with a first-floor hall, demolished in 1854.8 We will return to
its history in more detail in a later chapter. Suffice it to say that this,
the largest of the early houses around the Green of which we have
knowledge, must once have been the home of a person of local

The spacing of the contours one can extrapolate from the spot heights
on the 1894-96 OS map shows that the stream to the south of the
Green would almost certainly have been slow-flowing. During the
course of building works on the south-western side of the Green in
1971 a deep stratum of fine sandy silt was exposed on the line of this
watercourse.9 A little further downstream a similar sandy deposit was
observed off Western Road by the Museum of London Archaeology
Service (MoLAS) during site watching in 1994.10 The implication is
that in prehistory the area immediately south of the Green was
permanently under water, perhaps even the site of a small mere, and
that with a persistently high water table it survived as wetland prone
to seasonal flooding until possibly well into the Middle Ages. The
land would have afforded good grazing – we have seen the Domesday
survey noted that there were 12 acres of meadow on the estate held
by the two men during Edward the Confessor’s reign – but it would
have remained unsuitable for house-building until the flow of water
had been controlled and the land drained. This seems to have occurred
by the 17th century, but even then the area to the south of the Green
remained largely gardens and orchards until the early 20th century.

The line of the stream can be traced quite easily on the 25-inch
Ordnance Survey maps of 1867 and 1894-96, on which three ponds
are shown, two of them forming ornamental features in the grounds


of large private houses since demolished. The third, Three Kings Pond,
is indicated on a 17th-century map11 and of course still remains to the
south-east of the Green. Until quite recently it was fed by an open
ditch running alongside Commonside East, but this is now confined
in a culvert and is out of sight. When the pond is full the overflow
disappears into pipes under Commonside West to enter another culvert
beneath the housing estates south of the Green. The watercourse
finally joins the surface water sewer – the so-called ‘Western Ditch’

– parallel with Western Road. In the 19th century this was a deep
roadside ditch at the side of ‘Merton Lane’, flowing westwards to
join the ‘Pickle Ditch’ and eventually the river Wandle at Merton
In the mid-18th century the stream through Upper Mitcham was said
to have formed a ‘wash-way’, but by the early 19th century it had
been “confined in a channel and partly covered over”.13 Although the
watercourse has long since disappeared from view, the natural
movement of ground water persists, and when Deseret House and the
Tesco supermarket were built in London Road to the south of the
Green in the mid-1960s the high water table made special precautions
necessary to ensure the basement storerooms remained dry. To combat
the risk of flooding, sumps were constructed below basement floor
level, and fitted with float-activated electric pumps.

Upper Mitcham in the mid-19th century still presented many of the
features of a typical English medieval village. In the centre of the
Green was a well, fitted with a pump and still an important source of
public drinking water, as it had probably been since the Middle Ages.
The Common itself, an expanse of unenclosed heathland stretching
from the Upper Green as far as Croydon and Beddington, provided
rough grazing for those able to claim rights to pasturage, and was
also a valued source of fuel. To the east of the Green lay Mitcham’s
second open common field, the East Field. As with the West Field,
its origins are unknown, and the ancient pattern of strip-holdings
survived until the 1860s. Access was by a lane, (now Majestic Way
and St Mark’s Road), leading from the north-east corner of the Green,
gated near where St Mark’s church now stands to prevent cattle


straying onto the crops, but thrown open for the aftermath to be grazed
once the harvest was gathered in.

As we have noted already, in the 19th century many of the boundaries
of properties around the northern and eastern sides of the Green retained
the typical form of medieval house plots or tofts, long and narrow,
extending back from their frontages. There is no hint of this development
having been planned, and the erection of houses overlooking the Green
seems to have been the result of organic growth, with the best sites
being occupied first. It is thus a reasonable assumption that, if it exists
at all, evidence of the earliest occupation lies on the highest ground
where these ‘medieval’ house plots were most closely grouped.
Furthermore, archaeological work so far indicates that it is unlikely to
be found far back from the road frontages.

Little controlled excavation has been possible so far, but when 29/31
Upper Green East was demolished in 1970 prior to the erection of
Barclays Bank, exploratory trenches in the yard immediately behind
the early 18th-century building uncovered a pit containing pottery and
other domestic waste refuse from the 12th or 13th centuries.14 In contrast,
but perhaps not surprisingly in view of what has been said about the
site, excavations to the rear of Durham House on the south side of the
Green produced nothing earlier than the 18th century, apart from one
or two very abraded sherds of possible Romano-British origin in the
top soil. A further opportunity, taken by MoLAS in 1991, was to
excavate the land off Baker Lane in advance of new building on the
site of the Mizen family’s former greenhouses.15 The land here was
once occupied by the gardens and orchards associated with Old Bedlam,
and might have yielded medieval evidence. As it was, the site failed to
live up to expectations, for having been largely excavated for gravel in
the 19th century it produced nothing informative. Site watching by
MoLAS of an area to the rear of buildings on the northern side of
Upper Green, in advance of the construction of the public car park off
Holborn Way in 1992, similarly disclosed nothing of significance.16

Chapter 2


At the time of the sale of the Mitcham manor of Biggin and Tamworth
in 1853 jurisdiction over the Upper Green itself, as far as the franchise
of Mitcham Fair was concerned, was exercised by the lord of the manor
through his steward. Tolls collected “at trifling cost” amounted to an
average of £19 13s 10d annually.1 Several properties fronting the
western half of the Green, including the Nag’s Head inn2 and Durham
House,3 were held by copyhold tenants of the same manor. The eastern
part of the Green, or at least the buildings standing on its periphery,
including Old Bedlam,4 the corn and forage merchants premises later
numbered 29/31 Upper Green East5 and Turner’s bakery shop, number
33,6 were all copyhold of the manor of Ravensbury.

Unlike the descent of the lordships of these two manors, which is well
documented, the original extent and nature of their jurisdiction would
now be difficult to define with any certainty. No custumals, maps or
terriers are known to exist, but the court rolls survive in the care of
Surrey History Centre, and with careful and probably lengthy research
these might cast a little more light on the position.7

The manor of Biggin and Tamworth is mentioned for the first time in
documents prepared at the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s,
and seems to have originated in an estate in north Mitcham held by
Merton priory throughout the Middle Ages. It appears likely that the
farmstead at Biggin, which lay at the heart of this estate, had come into
the priory’s possession soon after its foundation in 1117, possibly as a
gift from the duke of Gloucester, son of Henry I. Following the demise
of Merton priory in 1538, the manor reverted briefly to the Crown, but
with other property formerly belonging to the priory it was soon placed
on the market. In 1544 the manor was granted by Henry VIII to Robert
Wilford, a merchant of the City of London, and lordship subsequently
passed through the hands of various families, including the Carews of
Beddington and the Thurlands of Reigate. In 1804 the manor was
purchased from the son of the late John Manship by James Moore,
principal of the firm of Potter and Moore, then one of the main growers
of the medicinal and aromatic herbs for which Mitcham had become
famous.8 The manor was inherited by Moore’s natural son, James


Bridger, after whose death in 1885 the franchise of the fair was sold to
a showman for £100.9 The lordship of the manor itself had passed into
the hands of the Princes Golf Club Ltd when, by virtue of the
Metropolitan Commons (Mitcham) Supplemental Act 1891, it was
transferred to the newly created Board of Conservators who thereafter
exercised control over the Green and other common lands in the parish
of Mitcham. The Board acquired the franchise of the fair separately in

Differences of opinion which emerged between appointees of Mitcham
Parish Council and other members of the Board over management of
the Mitcham greens were brought to an end by the passing of the
Mitcham Urban District Council Act in 1923, under which the one and
a half acres of the Upper Green, together with a substantial part of the
common lands of the former civil parish lying to the north of the
Streatham to Mitcham Junction railway line, became vested in the newly
created local authority.

Although it is not until the late 14th century that the name Ravensbury
or its variants (Rasebury, Ravesbury and Ravenesbury) first appears in
extant documents,10 tenure of that part of the manorial estate lying in
Lower Mitcham or Whitford, can be traced to just before the Conquest,
when it seems to have been held by a Saxon called Ledmer. Following
the defeat of Harold the property was granted to one of the great Norman
landlords, Ansculf de Pinchengi, sheriff of Surrey, and by 1086 it was
in the hands of his son William Fitz Ansculf. In the early 13th century
the estate was in the possession of the De Mara or de la Mare family.11
Lordship of the manor changed hands many times during the 14th and
15th centuries, and it was eventually sold to Sir Nicholas Carew by
Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, in 1531. Ravensbury remained in
the possession of the Carew family until 1907, when the last vestiges
of the estate were sold off for building purposes, and the remaining
manorial rights were purchased by the Princes Golf Club with a view
to safeguarding the newly constructed golf course on Mitcham
Common. From the club they were acquired by the Common

Chapter 3


Until it was pulled down in 1854, Old Bedlam, occupying a site on the
corner of what was then known as Killick’s Lane (now Majestic Way),
was one of the largest, and certainly the most picturesque, of the houses
overlooking the Upper Green.1 Early in the 19th century its appearance
attracted the attention of several topographical writers, one of the first
of whom, Edwards, describing what he called “Mitcham Green” as it
appeared to the traveller arriving from the direction of Tooting, remarked

“A small distance to the left, at the south corner formed by a
lane leading in to the common fields, is a large antique building,
called Old Bedlam.”2

Manning and Bray, commenting on the same house in 1814, provided
a few more details:

“There is another large ancient house at Mitcham, called Old
Bethlehem or Bedlam, now lett in tenements to poor people; the
rooms are good, with large ancient windows; no account is
obtained of it. It belongs to William Plumer Esq., late member
for Herts.”3

Irregular in plan, half-timbered and jettied with a multitude of chimneys
and gables, Old Bedlam had clearly evolved over several centuries, its
additions and alterations reflecting the changes occurring in vernacular
architecture over a period of perhaps as much as 600 years. By reason
of the attraction the building had for artists its appearance is better
known to the local historian than that of almost any other Mitcham
house demolished prior to the advent of the cheap camera. With only a
modicum of artistic licence, each elevation of the building was thus
faithfully recorded, both in watercolour and pen and wash sketches. It
is to Buckler and Yates in particular, sketching and painting in the 1820s,
that we owe a special debt of gratitude, and from their work we can not
only form an excellent impression of the house as it survived at that
time, but can also attempt to identify the main phases of its


Old Bedlam, Mitcham. Watercolour by J C Buckler, c.1827
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

What would appear to have been the oldest part of the house, constructed
with its gable end towards the Green, echoed the orientation dictated
by London’s first building regulations, laid down in the late 12th century
by mayor Henry fitz Ailwin. Furthermore, in the style of many of the
more important houses of the period, the core of Old Bedlam also seems
to have included a first floor hall, above an undercroft at street level. A
date of erection sometime in the early 13th century would therefore
appear to be a justifiable assumption. A jettied extension at the northeastern
end of the hall, visible in several illustrations, probably contained
a solar or with-drawing room on the upper floor above a further
undercroft. The drawings give no indication that by the beginning of
the 19th century there were still standing any of the ancillary buildings
like kitchen, brewhouse, dairy etc. normally associated with medieval
buildings of this size, and presumably these had been cleared away
many years before.

The undercrofts were lit by small windows, stone mullioned in the
older part of the building, and set high in the walls – a necessary


precaution, particularly on the northern side of the building, for here it
abutted the public bridleway leading to the common fields. On the southeastern
side of the hall there was an inner courtyard, from which one
doorway gave access to the undercroft, and another, in the eastern
extension, to what may have been a stable. There is nothing to indicate
if an external staircase had existed, but this could well have been
removed, the evidence of any early entrance to the first floor having
been obscured by later work. Above the undercroft which, typically,
would have been used for storage, the elevation of the hall overlooking
the courtyard was heavily timbered and embellished with a pair of
elaborately corner-braced projecting windows carried on transverse
beams with moulded fascias. Between the two, beneath the same tiled
lean-to roof, was a single oriel window with moulded mullions and
tramsoms. There were massive, multi-flued external chimney breasts
on the lane frontage and, on the same elevation, further oriel windows
supported by carved console brackets, all indicative of continuing
improvement as the Middle Ages progressed.

Old Bedlam, Mitcham. Unsigned and undated watercolour of south-east
elevation of the northern wing, viewed from the courtyard
Reproduced by courtesy of Surrey Archaeological Society – PD/Mit/13


Two jettied, gable-ended additions, possibly of late 15th or early 16th
century date, overlooked the Green on the south-west elevation, the
ends of the floor joists being tenoned into richly moulded fascia-timbers.
Yates, in a watercolour dated 1825, indicated that the ground floor of
one of these additions may have been of close-set studding, the size of
the timbers suggesting a late medieval, rather than early Tudor date.
Manning and Bray observed that Old Bedlam had good rooms with
large ancient windows, and pen and ink-wash drawings survive of two
impressive fireplace overmantels, heavily carved in the manner of the
16th century. The appearance of several of the ‘chambers’ can be seen
from surviving drawings to have been further enhanced by richly-
moulded ceilings. Overall, the general impression one gains is of
progressive enlargement and modernisation, perhaps extending over
several generations, to meet the needs and tastes of an affluent family
or a succession of wealthy tenants.

The late 17th or possibly early 18th century saw a two-storeyed wing
erected on the frontage of Old Bedlam overlooking the Green, complete
with a modest canopied doorcase and sliding boxed-sash windows.
Here and there similar pattern sashes were inserted in the earlier jettied
extensions, no doubt to improve the lighting as well as to ‘modernise’
the external appearance. For or by whom this work was carried out we
have no evidence.

Roofing of the main hall and crosswing, as in the case of the rest of the
building, was in plain red tiles. The plinth of the undercroft, visible on
the north-east elevation, seems to have been a typical local combination
of flint and Merstham stone – a mixture most likely recurring throughout
the older parts of the building. The only brickwork shown in the various
illustrations is in the clustered upper portions of the massive chimney
stacks; the walls, apart from where structural timbers were deliberately
left exposed for decorative effect, were rendered and colour-washed,
thus obscuring what was probably either a mixture of chalk blocks,
flint and stone rubble set in mortar, or infill panels of plastered wattling.
Drewett described Old Bedlam as “a very old Tudor house of brick and
timber”,5 but this could not have been from first-hand knowledge, for
it was demolished before he was born and, in any case, was probably
only true of the front part of the building facing the Green.


Old Bedlam, Mitcham, viewed from the north-west.
Unsigned and undated watercolour
Reproduced by courtesy of Surrey Archaeological Society – PD/Mit/15

Old Bedlam was clearly no ordinary house. The wealth of
embellishment, both inside and out, and the almost lavish use of good
structural timber when competing claims were making wood of quality
an expensive commodity in north-east Surrey, indicates owners of
above-average means and social standing. Sadly, who they were the
records do not disclose.

The land tax records show that in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
Old Bedlam, together with several other houses in Upper Mitcham,
belonged to William Plumer (or Plummer) of Hertfordshire. Old Bedlam
itself was copyhold of the manor of Ravensbury, lordship of which had
been in the hands of the Carew family of Beddington since early in the
reign of Henry VIII. Plumer’s ownership provides a pointer to the earlier
history of Old Bedlam, for it was to a Thomas “Plummer”, citizen and
merchant taylor of London, that in 1616 Sir Walter Ralegh and his
wife Elizabeth sold a house and land in Mitcham for £2,500 when raising
funds for his Orinoco expedition. Lady Ralegh, to whom the property


had belonged before her marriage, was related to the Carews, and from
entries in the Ravensbury court rolls part of the land she and Sir Walter
sold can be identified as the site in Upper Mitcham on which Eagle
House was to be built early in the 18th century. Other properties owned
by the Plumer or Plummer family in the 19th century were, like Old
Bedlam, copyhold of the manor of Ravensbury, and are shown ranged
along the north-eastern side of the Upper Green in a map produced in
1846. Although it appears unlikely ever to be verified, it seems a
reasonable assumption that the house purchased by Thomas Plummer
from the Raleghs in 1616 might, in fact, have been Old Bedlam. Whose
residence it had been in the 16th century is not known, but lordship of
the manor was in the hands of the Carews from 1531 onwards, and the
court rolls may yet yield the information we need to close the gap in
our knowledge.

Thomas Plummer died in June 1639 at Mitcham, and was buried in the
City of London at St Swithin’s church. In his will of the previous year
he is described as ‘of Mitcham’, and left a bequest of money to the
vicar and churchwardens to be distributed to the poor in the form of
bread. He was succeeded by his only son, Walter, who paid militia tax
on his house in Mitcham in 1655/6, and was styled ‘of Mitcham’ when
he was created a baronet in 1660/1. He died in 1697, whilst resident in
the parish of St Andrew, Holborn, although his will, dated 1692, refers
to him as “Sir Walter Plummer of Mitcham”.7

A hint of the name of a possible tenant of Old Bedlam in the mid-17th
century is to be found in the militia levy records for Mitcham for the
period 1655-1678.8 Here a relatively large house, if we are to judge by
its assessment, owned by Sir Walter Plomer (sic) of Esher, sheriff of
Surrey in 1663,9 was the residence of a Lady Haven. In 1664 the hearth
tax on Lady Haven’s house was levied on the basis of 13 hearths, which
confirms it to have been amongst the largest in the village.10
Unfortunately there is nothing in either of these records to indicate
precisely where in Mitcham the house stood, but since no other property
of this size was owned by Plumer, there seems sufficient justification
for assuming that it was Old Bedlam, which he had leased to Lady


Old Bedlam remained in the possession of the Plumer family for close
on 200 years, but of the occupants of the house from 1680 until 1755
we can say nothing definite. Local records offer no explanation for its
being known as Old Bedlam or Old Bethlehem, names which tend to
give credence to the belief current in the late 18th century that it had
once been used as an asylum. A search in the archives of the Bethlem
Royal Hospital has, however, failed to disclose any link between that
establishment and Mitcham.11 It is possible that the house was at one
time run as a small asylum for the insane by a lessee of the Plumers,
but this has yet to be confirmed. When Henry Potter, a local herb grower,
was buried in 1737, he was described as “a lunatic from Bedlam”, but
no clue was given as to where that Bedlam might have been.12 Some
years after Old Bedlam had been demolished, human skeletons were
unearthed during the course of work on what had been vacant land to
the rear of the house, but although the discovery excited local curiosity
at the time, no opinion seems to have been expressed as to who might
have been buried there.13 It does seem a possibility that the remains
may have been those of former inmates of Old Bedlam such as suicides,

Old Bedlam, Mitcham, viewed from the Green
(Copy of watercolour signed ‘Yates 1825′)
Reproduced by courtesy of Surrey Archaeological Society – PD/Mit/14


Plan accompanying the sale particulars of 1846
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service.
(Old Bedlam is lot 28; Eagle House is lot 8)


who would, of course, have been barred from burial in consecrated

The earliest surviving poor rate books for the parish of Mitcham, dating
from the mid-18th century, show Old Bedlam to have been in the tenure
of Ann Ford, a widow. Her occupancy extended from 1755 until
sometime between 1765 and 1768, after which the house was used by
Samuel Killick, a local building contractor.14 Between 1769 and 1771
the assessment for poor rate purposes was altered from £22 p.a. for one
property to three separate assessments, one of £8 for the part occupied
by Killick himself, and two tenements of £2 each, one of which was
occupied by a widow. This change in assessment probably coincided
with the house becoming “lett in tenements to poor people”. Killick,
who gave his name to the lane at the side of the house, later called St
Mark’s Road and now Majestic Way, remained in occupation of Old
Bedlam until 1810, after which date, and until 1816, Mrs Bridget Killick
continued the tenancy. Although, as we have said, Old Bedlam’s
appearance was beginning to attract the attention of writers and
antiquaries, their curiosity diminished once they discovered the lowly
status of the inmates and that nothing was known of its history.

In 1817 Old Bedlam was taken over by a new lessee, William Newman,
a farmer and grower of medicinal and aromatic herbs, then in his thirties.
A plan of the estate produced in 1825, when the owner was Jane Plumer,
shows Newman’s holding to have included the house, a cottage, barns
and stables, together with a little over 17 acres of land.15 In November
1834, after the death of Jane Plumer, the lease was renewed for a period
of 21 years at £65 p.a., with William Newman, described as a “farmer”,
being confirmed in occupation. The lessor was Robert Plumer Ward of
Gilston Park, Hertfordshire, Jane’s husband.16 With the property went
four acres of pasture to the rear of the house, a piece of common field,
and several plots of land off the lane to Merton. In Newman’s time
there is said to have been a small herbal distillery on the premises,17
and from census returns and the tithe records we know that following
his death sometime between 1841 and 1846 the business of herb growing
was continued by the family. The Newmans’ farm was not large,
totalling 30 acres in all, and was run by Newman’s son William John,


aided by his elderly mother, Bridget, her widowed daughter Mrs Savage,
and five labourers.

In November 1846 Old Bedlam was offered at an auction of the
copyhold estates of the late Mrs Plumer Ward,18 but the immediate
outcome of the sale has not been ascertained. The Newmans’ occupancy
continued for a few more years and then, regrettably, in 1854 this
interesting old building was pulled down.19 The Ordnance Survey map
of 1867 shows its site to have been incorporated into the gardens of
another house fronting Killick’s Lane, and this probably remained the
situation until early in the 20th century.

One of the daughters of the Newman family married a James D Drewett
of Vine Cottage, Commonside East, and in this way possession of the
site of Old Bedlam passed into Drewett’s hands. Here, shortly before
1900, he built his house Ravensbury, a rather gloomy and not very
attractive mock-Tudor house which was to overlook the Upper Green
for some 40 years. The yard from which Drewett conducted his building
business was at the rear.

James Drewett, justice of the peace, an alderman of Surrey County
Council, chairman of Mitcham Urban District Council in 1916, parish
councillor, churchwarden, and chairman of the War Relief Committee
(later the War Pensions Committee) during the 1914/18 War, was also
a keen local historian, an enthusiastic bellringer and a member of the
Ancient Society of College Youths. Two of his sons served in the forces,
the elder, Douglas Walter, being killed in action near St Quentin in
October 1918 whilst serving with the 1st Cameron Highlanders. His
memorial can be seen today at the west end of the nave of Mitcham
parish church. After demobilisation the other son, Donald S Drewett,
returned to Mitcham and took over the funeral undertaking business
belonging to his uncle, John R Chart, at 49/51 Upper Green East. On
his father’s death Donald acquired the building business as well. The
firm of Donald S Drewett and Sons, funeral directors and monumental
masons, is now part of W A Truelove and Sons Ltd who, although
there are no longer any Drewetts on the board, still trade under the
name of Drewett from the original premises at the Upper Green. The
business is still presented to the public in its advertisements as having


been established in 1761, when it was founded by William Chart, John
Chart’s great grandfather.

In 1933 James Drewett’s ‘Ravensbury’ was demolished to make way
for the Majestic Cinema, built by Joseph Owen, another local councillor
and a building contractor responsible for erecting many hundreds of
houses in the Mitcham area between the wars. In the early days of
films there had been a small cinema in Whitford Lane, to the south of
the Upper Green, but the Majestic was the first and only proper ‘picture
palace’ to be erected in Mitcham. Twenty years elapsed, during which
the Majestic was the main provider of entertainment in Mitcham and
then, with the decline in cinema attendances which accompanied the
growth of television as a form of national entertainment in the 1950s,
the takings became no longer sufficient to justify the building’s
continued existence as a picture theatre. The passing of the Betting Act
in 1960, and relaxation of the laws governing gambling, gave the
building a new lease of life after the cinema closed down in 1961, and
the Majestic re-opened as ‘Caesar’s’, a bingo hall and casino.

The Majestic Cinema and St Mark’s Road, from Upper Green, Mitcham,
photographed in the mid-1970s


For 14 years the sessions held here produced a modest profit for
Enterdale, an associate company of the massive gambling concern
Victoria Sporting Holdings. A planning application for a five-storey
office block, submitted to Merton Borough Council in 1971, was
rejected by the planning and development committee as premature in
view of schemes then under consideration for the Green as a whole.
Next, in January 1975, it was announced in the local press that the site
had been sold by D A Investments (Southern) for the building of a new
shopping precinct. ‘Caesar’s’ closed the following Easter, but the former
Majestic was not demolished until 1978. The possibility of there being
anything of archaeological significance on the site seems not to have
been raised when the redevelopment was under consideration, but the
extent of the excavations and site disturbance which had accompanied
the building of the cinema was such that very little relating to Old
Bedlam is likely to have remained.

Throughout 1978 the local press reported on proposals for building a
new Sainsbury’s ‘Superstore’ on the site of the cinema, and on the
Council’s hopes that regeneration of the Upper Green might ensue,
with other well-known retailers being attracted to Mitcham. In
November 1978 the town planning officer was quoted as saying that
there was a possibility the developers building the Sainsbury’s store
would also be involved in the new St Mark’s complex, plans for which
included a new swimming pool and sports facilities. These never

Sainsbury’s new store duly opened in 1980, but the company’s presence
in Mitcham was only of short duration, for by 1990 it had moved to its
new Savacentre at Merton Abbey, and after a period during which the
building stood empty and boarded the Upper Green supermarket was
taken over as a Kwik Save food store. The shoppers’ car park at the
rear now covers the site of the builder’s yard used by Killick, the
Drewetts and finally by another building firm, W W Jenner (Mitcham)

By the early 19th century the idea had gained acceptance locally that
Old Bedlam was the house at which Elizabeth I was entertained by Dr
Julius Caesar, a high-ranking member of the judiciary, in 1598. The


account of this royal visit was part of the folklore of Mitcham, and the
location of Julius Caesar’s house, then forgotten, understandably became
the subject of speculation. With no justification, apart from the obvious
antiquity of Old Bedlam and a proprietorial interest in the property,
James Drewett seems to have believed (and probably encouraged) the
misconception that his house, Ravensbury, stood on the site of the Tudor
mansion. The idea first appeared in print in 1909, when Emma Bartley
published her little book Mitcham in Days Gone By. She remembered
from her childhood in the 1840s that there was still standing “a house
called Bedlam (having been used at one time as an asylum), which was
formerly the residence of Sir Julius Caesar, who entertained Queen
Elizabeth there”.20 Unfortunately, in 1912 the story acquired the status
of fact when it was repeated by the compilers of the Victoria County
History of Surrey without qualification other than an acknowledgement
of “Miss Bartley of Mitcham Green” as the source.21

In defence of Emma Bartley one must, in all fairness, recognise the
very great debt owed to her by all who find the history of Mitcham
fascinating. Of particular value are her reminiscences of the village of
the mid-19th century, and she was at her best when drawing upon her
own vivid memories. It is only when repeating local folklore that she
has to be treated with caution. The shortcomings of the little book are
not, of course, unique amongst local histories written before the
development of public libraries and county record offices. Many family
documents and official records formerly inaccessible to the researcher
have since become available, and the historian is now far better able to
avoid repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. Although Old Bedlam
was undoubtedly standing when Queen Elizabeth visited Mitcham,
recent research has shown that James Drewett and Emma Bartley were
misled in their belief that it had once belonged to Julius Caesar. The
site of his house – a far grander affair than Old Bedlam and pulled
down many years before Emma Bartley was born – has now been
reliably located to the south of the Lower Green, on land now covered
by the houses of Baron Grove and Mitcham Park.22



P Gutteridge and Sons’ shop,
photographed in 1969 by The South London News Group
The rear of the shop, photographed in 1969 by E N Montague

Chapter 4


Before the erection of the new branch premises for Barclays Bank at
Upper Green East in the early 1970s the site1 had been occupied by a
picturesque two-storeyed building part of which, at least for 150 years,
had been a corn and forage merchant’s shop. Damage to the front
roof by blast from a parachute mine dropped during a German air
raid in September 1940 had resulted in the original pantiles being
replaced with tiles of the plain variety, and also abolition of the dormer
windows, but the general appearance of the building had probably
changed little since it was erected sometime around the beginning of
the 18th century. This is especially true of the rear, and it was evident
when viewed from the backyard that the premises had once been two
distinct properties. Although their original uses had been forgotten
and are not recorded, it is clear that for well over 100 years the main
building, fronting the Green, had been divided to form two separate
shops. Throughout much of the 1939/45 War the right-hand shop was
used by the Women’s Voluntary Service, whilst P Gutteridgeand Son,
corn and forage merchants, conducted their business from the
remainder. By the 1960s the rear yard was taken up largely by various
outbuildings, including a two-storeyed weatherboarded and pantiled
barn, and a detached stable with a hay loft.

Exploratory trenches excavated in the rear yard by members of Merton
Historical Society in 1969 shortly before demolition produced, not
unexpectedly, pottery, glassware (including a group of 18th-century
medicine bottles) and other household refuse of the period. Several
cats and dogs had been buried in what had once formed a small back
garden, but apart from the robbed-out base of a brick wall (judged by
its insubstantial nature to have been either part of another outbuilding
or a garden boundary), there was no evidence of structures. From
beneath the top soil, which contained fragments of 18th-century
ceramics and had presumably been cultivated as a garden, came sherds
of pottery from the Middle Ages. At the bottom of a pit, dug six feet
deep into the gravel subsoil, there was found a substantial portion of
a large unglazed pitcher of 13th/14th century date in reddish/buff
fabric with a slashed strap handle. This was accompanied by a frament


of a quern, or corn-grinding stone, of imported Niedermendig lava,
sherds of Surrey white-ware and also the skull of a small horned sheep.
No signs of buildings were recognised, and it was concluded that any
structures on the site must have been located nearer to the Green,
towards the front of the plot. Unfortunately any evidence which might
have survived beneath the 18th-century building was completely
destroyed by the contractors reponsible for the erection of the new
bank and construction of its vaults. With the permission of the new
owners, site watching was attempted by the writer during the early
stages of demolition and also whilst the footings were being removed,
but the use of machinery, and the depth of the excavations in an
unstable gravel subsoil, coupled with the overall speed of the operation
in what was a very restricted area, precluded any effective
archaeological surveillance.

The earliest information on the history of the land, but not of the
actual building, is to be found in deeds in the possession of Barclays

Fragment of a medieval pitcher and the skull of a horned sheep, from excavations
conducted in 1970 to the rear of P Gutteridge and Sons’ former shop.


Bank, which contain a reference to an indenture of sale between Ralph
Sherwood and John Wight in 1689. In the same document, a
conveyance of 1807, there is mention of a subsequent sale, this time
in September 1761, when Joseph and Sarah Potter disposed of the
property to Richard Norfolk. Since the building demolished in 1969
was very much in the local vernacular, and lacked any stylistic
pretensions, it is impossible to date it with any great accuracy, although
it would certainly appear likely that it was erected well before the
sale to Norfolk. As for the Potters, there were several branches of the
extensive Potter family in Mitcham at this time, and it is difficult to
identify Joseph and Sarah with any degree of assurance. There is,
however, mention of a “Joseph Potter Esq., diamond merchant,” living
in “a high brick house” on the southern side of Upper Green West in
about 1789,2 and he seems to be the most likely candidate for being a
party to the sale in 1761. He may even have been the former occupier
of the house sold to Richard Norfolk.

Mid-18th-century pottery from the excavations at the rear of P Gutteridge
and Sons’ premises in 1970.


The deeds show that in January 1783 Norfolk, by then the owner of
three freehold premises in Mitcham, died, leaving them in part to Anne
Dukes, John Muggeridge a stationer, and Joseph Fowle. Both the latter,
like Norfolk, were described as ‘of Southwark’. The following year,
on her marriage to a Thomas Smith, Anne Dukes conveyed her interest
in the property to Muggeridge and Fowle, who were to act as her trustees.

The history of the premises over the following 20 years cannot be traced
from the deeds, but the land tax records3 show that by the early 1780s
the building already comprised two ‘houses’, the larger one occupied
by a George Podmore and the other by “Widow Benton”. The smaller
unit was possibly the shallower, northern part of the building which
years later was the shop familiar to the Gutteridges’ customers. (The
remainder of the ground floor was taken up with an office, store rooms
and domestic accommodation.) The tax records make no distinction
between shops and houses in the 18th century, and it may be that the
premises were already in part commercial. John Doll, a corn merchant,
had taken over from Podmore by 1793, and within a couple of years
William Harwood replaced Mrs Benton. Ownership passed to “William
Smith & Co.” in about 1796 and in March 1801 we find Thomas Smith
granting a lease of the property, which included stables and outhouses,
to Harwood, who was described in the lease as a ‘mealman and baker’.
Doll was still in occupation of part of the premises at this time. As a
condition of his lease Harwood was obliged to thoroughly repair the
buildings (a schedule of works survives appended to the lease), and
probably some of the bricks and other debris found during the Historical
Society’s excavations dated from this period. In 1807 Harwood
purchased the entire premises from Smith, and the deeds thereafter
indicate that he continued to lease part or parts of the building to William
Buckland, a confectioner, then to Charles Hams in 1823, and finally to
William Chart in 1832. Unfortunately, in the absence of a clear
description of the portion of the premises so assigned, it is not possible
to be more specific as to who occupied which part. A John Harwood,
presumably William’s son, followed in occupation of what seems to
have been the shop itself, being listed in the local directories variously
as a baker and flour dealer, baker and corn chandler, and a baker and
coal merchant.4 In accordance with common practice at the time, he


and his family no doubt lived on the premises. In June 1831, following
the death of William Harwood, the “Three Freehold Dwelling Houses
(Now converted into two) with baker’s shop, yards and gardens” were
offered for sale by auction.

By 1850, although John Harwood continued to be listed with an Upper
Green address in the directories, a newcomer, Joseph Rhodes, grocer
and cheesemonger, seems to have taken over the main shop, and in
1853 the two shops and outbuildings are shown in the deeds as being
occupied entirely by Rhodes. It is interesting to see that part of the
premises was used by Rhodes in connection with another business
activity of his – that of local agent for the Legal and Commercial Fire
and Life Office. Although changes in tenure were to continue, the shop
retained its importance in the life of the village, for in the days when
Mitcham was still a country village and road transport and the farms
were dependent on the ubiquitous horse, corn and forage, as well as
seeds and horticultural supplies, were essential commodities. In 1875
Rhodes ceased trading, tenure passing to W H Gateswell, described

29 Upper Green East c.1960


briefly in the deeds as a corn chandler, but no doubt dealing in other
goods as well. In a faded photograph of the premises in 1880 the shop
can be seen trading under the names of Tarrant and Newell, with its
staples of “corn, flour, hay, straw etc.” emblazoned across the facade.6
Leased to Merton Granaries in 1907, and in 1914 to Robert Alexander,
corn, seed and flour factor of 99 High Street Colliers Wood, the Upper
Green premises were assigned by Alexander to Percy Gutteridge in
1919. Albert Clout, who held the reversionary interest, died in 1921
and the opportunity was taken by Mrs Caroline Gutteridge, Percy’s
wife, to acquire the freehold.

Local directories7 show Percy Gutteridge trading as a corn and flour
merchant both from the Colliers Wood premises and Upper Green East
in the 1920s and ’30s, and the family was resident at Colliers Wood
until about 1936.8 The Gutteridges’ corn and forage shop at Upper
Green East remained a familiar and well-loved part of the Mitcham
scene until 1969, when it was sold by Percy’s son, Leslie John
Gutteridge, on his retirement. The shop had changed little in the hands
of ‘Jack’ and his father, and with its low ceilings, corn bins, and rows
of labelled wooden seed drawers behind the massive mahogany counter,
it retained an old-world atmosphere. Off to the right was the office,
and in the former back kitchen an impressive iron range survived to
conjure visions of Victorian family life and times gone by. The centuries-
old barn and stable at the rear were crammed with the stock-in-trade of
the seed merchant and gardeners’ sundriesman, smelling evocatively
of things musty and earthy, like seed potatoes and sacking, bonemeal
and peat. Although shaken by bomb-blast during the war, the timber
framework of the barns had proved remarkably resilient, and with repair
were to serve a further 30 years. Regrettably Barclays, the new owners,
having no use for the old buildings, quaint as they might be, demolished
everything on the site to make way for the new bank. This now confronts
the passer-by, stark and discordant in its alien bright red brick, the
antithesis of sensitive town planning, a complete break with tradition,
and totally out of keeping with the rest of the buildings on the eastern
side of the Green.

Chapter 5


Origins of the Estate

The Firs, Upper Mitcham Green, a large late 18th-century house
renamed Elmwood towards the close of the Victorian era, was
demolished nearly 100 years ago, and although it is perhaps one of the
lesser known of the gentleman’s residences once numerous in Mitcham,
it had a long history which is not without interest, and certainly worth
recording. Whereas the house itself stood close to the southern margin
of the Upper Green, the gardens and lawns extended southwards,
opening on to meadows which, in their turn, were bounded by tall trees
along the side of the public footpath known as ‘Cold Blows’, linking
the Cricket Green with Commonside West. Today these once extensive
grounds are covered by the terraces of mainly Edwardian houses which
form Whitford Gardens, Albert Road, Langdale Avenue and Elmwood
Road. The London Road frontage of the estate extended northwards
from the present telephone exchange as far as Upper Green, and
consisted of more tall trees, a solid wooden fence, and a substantial
brick wall. A further length of brick walling, in which there was a
blocked doorway bearing the date 1664 in the brick pediment,1 enclosed
the estate to the north and east, rendering the house itself virtually
invisible from the road. Built into this wall, and rising above it, there
was a gazebo or summerhouse, giving views south-eastwards across
Three Kings Pond towards the hills of Upper Norwood and, beyond
the open expanse of Mitcham Common, to the North Downs. The date
on the boundary wall is interesting and provides a clue to the early
history of the site. A wall is mentioned repeatedly in the court rolls of
the manor of Ravensbury from as early as 1687,2 and is described as
being of ‘stone’, which in the local context can be taken to mean a
mixture of flint and either hard chalk or greystone rubble. If so, it must
have been substantially rebuilt, for the wall which survived until the
site was cleared for redevelopment shortly after 1907 seems to have
been of brick.

The date the site was first occupied is unknown, and there has been no
archaeological work or reported finds which might have afforded some


evidence. From its position on the edge of the Upper Green it would
not be unreasonable to assume that, at least in part, there had been a
habitation site here from an early period.3 As we have seen, however, it
was traversed by a stream flowing westwards from the Common, and
this could well have rendered much of the land marshy. Gravel digging,
land drainage work4 and landscaping had, by the l9th century, left a
chain of ponds along the line of the stream – ‘Heathernderry’, ‘Great’
or ‘Three Kings’ pond at the lowest point of the Common; an ornamental
pond in the grounds of The Firs; and several small ponds to the west of
the London Road, notably to the rear of two more large 18th-century
houses, Durham House and Mitcham House. We have also already noted
that the lane nearby was described as a ‘wash-way’5 in the 18th century,
no doubt because of its tendency to flood, and the depth of fine silty
deposits exposed during the redevelopment of the Durham House site6
at Upper Green in 1971 is an obvious indication that for long periods
in the past land on the southern margins of the Green had been almost
permanently under water.

Although the early history of the estate is by no means clear, it is evident
that the freehold parcel of land on which The Firs was erected in 1788
or 1789 had originally been part of 18 acres of copyhold land known
variously as ‘Blowers’ or ‘Colde Blow(er)s’ and lying within the manor
of Ravensbury. An indirect reference to a possible early owner of the
land is to be found in the record of a view of frankpledge, or an enquiry,
held in October 1498 by the lord of another Mitcham manor, Vauxhall.
At that time a William Rothwell was said to be holding land to the
north of a croft called ‘Almonds’, until recently in the tenure of the late
John Perrys.7 Almonds lay within the jurisdiction of the manor of
Vauxhall and was situated near the junction of today’s Madeira Road
with Commonside West. It is now occupied by Park Place, and the
name, which is a corruption of Allmannesland, implies that it had once
been common land. Use of the term ‘croft’, normally applied to enclosed
land adjoining a house, indicates there was a dwelling nearby, but it is
not clear if this was occupied by Rothwell or Perrys. The first direct
reference to Cold Blows is in the record of the admission of Thomas
Hedge to the tenancy of the manor of Ravensbury in 1620 on the death


of his father John, who had previously held the land.8 The Hedges were
an old Mitcham family, with land in Colliers Wood and elsewhere in
the parish. The site of their house is not known.

In 1623 Richard Broughton, a London merchant, purchased a ‘capital
mansion house’ in Mitcham9, standing a little back from the road to
Sutton to the south of the Lower Green, and in 1628, presumably as the
new owner of ‘Colde Blowers’, he was admitted to the tenancy of the
manor of Ravensbury on the surrender of Thomas Hedge. That same
year he was granted licence at a court baron to let for 21 years “all and
singular parcels called Colde Blowers containing 3 acres” to William
Berefoote.10 Broughton’s house was bought by Robert Cranmer, another
City merchant, in 1654,11 and in March the same year the court rolls of
Ravensbury record the admission of Cranmer to the customary tenancy
of the manor on his acquisition of ‘Blowers’. The 18 acres were
described as divided into four closes, and to have been previously in
the tenure of Thomas Hopkins, a citizen and cutler of London.12 These
last two transactions took place during the Commonwealth, when
Cranmer was busily acquiring not only a substantial estate in Lower
Mitcham, but also the lordship of the manor of Mitcham, the rectory,
and the advowson of the parish church.13 Cranmer subsequently installed
his family at a newly-built house in Lower Mitcham which he had
purchased in 1652, and for the next 13 years this seems to have been
their country home.

The date 1664 cut into the wall enclosing the former ‘Blowers’ was,
presumably, commemorating the year of its original construction. Since
a stone wall is most unlikely to have been erected around farmland in
an area like Mitcham, where even flint is not readily available and
building stone was an expensive commodity, the wall must have been
associated with a house of some importance. The site adjoining the
Upper Green, with open heath, park or farmland on three sides, well
watered and unencumbered with existing buildings as far as we know,
had a considerable potential for development. If Cranmer was
contemplating the erection of a fine new house in Mitcham for himself
and his growing family, this was a site which could hardly have been


Attractive as the position may have been, there is still no evidence for
a house on ‘Blowers’ at this time. If a large property had been standing
here in 1664, it would have been assessed for the hearth tax imposed
that year,14 and it, or any dwelling erected within the next 15 years,
would certainly appear as an entry in the militia tax records, which
survive for Mitcham from the Commonwealth until 1680.15
Tantalisingly, these records were compiled in a manner which only
occasionally allows the researcher to locate a particular house with
certainty, and there is nothing which can be identified positively as the
building we are seeking. One is led to conclude that the land and
whatever structure survived on it remained vacant for perhaps 25 years
after it was sold to Cranmer. There are several references to the “18
acres called Blowers” in the court rolls from 1654 and later, but it is
not until 1676 that one finds a mention of a “stone wall”. In this year
Henry Minchard, guardian of Charles Cranmer, a minor, was granted
licence to lease Blowers, and four years later houses – two messuages
and three tenements enclosed by the wall – are referred to for the first

For an explanation which carries a degree of plausibility, we now have
to turn to a tragedy that beset the Cranmer family in 1665, the year of
the plague of London. In February Robert Cranmer died, aged 48, and
was buried in the chancel of Mitcham church.17 Two months later his
wife Mary, some 16 years his junior, was buried beside him. The cause
of their untimely deaths is not known (the winter that year was
particularly harsh, but plague is a possibility). They left seven little
boys, the eldest of whom was only 13 years of age, and the youngest
barely five. Inheritance of the estate, at least in part, seems to have
been by Borough English, the custom whereby the youngest son
inherited, and administration of the family affairs was to rest in the
hands of trustees until one of the surviving sons reached maturity. Under
these circumstances any proposals their father may once have had for
building on Blowers must assuredly have been abandoned. James, the
youngest son, was admitted to the customary tenancy of Blowers in
1666/7, but died shortly afterwards. Charles, the sixth son, was admitted
in his brother’s place, but he, too died before reaching manhood.18 The
frequent changes taking place subsequently in the tenure of the two


Section of the 25-inch to 1 mile Ordnance Survey map published in 1867


closes which, for the next century and a half, remained copyhold of the
manor of Ravensbury, can be followed fairly readily through the medium
of the court rolls from the late 1660s throughout the rest of the 17th
century. Of precisely what happened to the remaining two closes, we
can be less sure.

Cold Blows (1680–1736)
Clues to the tenure of the house on the site of The Firs?

In 1676 the fifth of Cranmer’s sons, Benjamin, came into possession of
part of the family property on the death of his brother Charles,19 and
four years later he sold two closes “at Cold Blows”, in the tenure of
Mary Browne and comprising eight acres, to Mrs Ellinor Lambe.20
Ellinor was the widow of Samuel Lambe, a gentleman who had been
resident in Mitcham for some 16 years or more. She died in 1680, soon
after the purchase, whereupon her estate passed to her three children,
Samuel, Mary and Abigail.21 At the court baron held on 23 July 1680
Benjamin Cranmer formally surrendered the eight acres to the lord of
the manor, Samuel Lambe was admitted to the customary tenancy in
his place, and was also granted licence to lease “two messuages and
three tenements inclosed with a stone wall.” As we have observed above,
this is the point at which, for the first time, we have mention of houses
on the site, in addition to a reference to the wall. Furthermore, it is
evident that a clear distinction was now being made between the two
southern enclosures which remained meadow until the end of the 19th
century, and the eight acres to the north on which The Firs was standing
by the late 18th century.

Samuel Lambe died in 1687,22 and Mary and Abigail were admitted to
the customary tenancy of the manor in his place.23 They were also given
leave to mortgage the eight acres, which were occupied by a Richard
Hamond, who owned land overlooking the Lower Green, to Theophilus
Deacon, an innkeeper of Lambeth.24 Mary Lambe never married, but
Abigail became the wife of James Ellis, a citizen and ‘plaisterer’ of the
City of London.25 On her death in 1722 ownership of her “messuage
enclosed by a stone wall” and also the two closes of eight acres called
‘Cold Blowes’ passed to James, who was admitted to the customary
tenancy at a court baron held on 3 January 1722/3.26 He died at the age


of 68 in 1737 and was buried in Mitcham church, where his tomb slab
lies beneath the raised wooden floor in the central aisle of the nave.
The fact that James Ellis’s grave occupies a position of some prestige
points to his social standing in the parish as a landowner, but we have
no evidence that he actually lived in Mitcham.

Ownership of the southern ten acres of ‘Blowers alias Cold Blowers’
had passed from Benjamin Cranmer to Peter Batt, yeoman of Morden,
in 1690.27 The land was actually occupied by Thomas Timberlake, and
in an entry in the court roll of 1699 it is described as being part of
Henman’s Farm.28 This was another Cranmer property, bordering the
South Field, off Carshalton Road. In 1708, when in the occupation of
Philip Gardner, ownership of the ten copyhold acres passed from Peter
to Mary Batt of Morden.29 Like the Lambe family, the Batts had been
prominant landowners in the parish at the time of the Restoration,15
and they continued to own land in the neighbourhood until early in the
19th century. (Batts Farm, comprising 132 acres of mixed arable and
pasture, lay off Wrythe Lane in Carshalton parish, and was leased by
Henry Hoare of Mitcham Grove, in 1798.30 )

The Du Bois Family (1736–1769)

Before her death in 1736 Mary Batt leased the “two parcels of customary
land containing by estimation 10 acres more or less called Blowers or
Cold Blows formerly in the occupation of Philip Gardner” to Charles
Du Bois (or du Bois), who thus brought the 18 acres together again to
form one estate. John Du Bois, Charles’ father, had bequeathed to him in
1684 “my house and land in Micham in Surrey with all the appurtenances
thereunto belonging except the furniture in the best chamber there which
I give and leave to the disposal of my Executor”.31 Although the position
of John Du Bois’ house was not made clear, it seems reasonable to assume
that it was, in fact, the house that had been in the possession of Samuel
Lambe and later James Ellis, was held on lease by Du Bois, and was to
the south of Upper Green. There is certainly no doubt that it was here, on
the site of the future ‘Firs’, that Charles was to create a fine botanical
garden during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and that members
of the family continued to live here until the 1760s.


Even after the passage of over 200 years we are still able to glean from
various sources a surprising amount of information about the Du Bois
family, and Charles in particular. Peter Du Bois, a wealthy merchant of
London who lived at Battersea from 1624 to 1638 and owned a large
estate in Surrey, traced his descent from Jacques Du Bois of Lille, who
fled to England during the persecution of Protestants in France in the
late 16th century.32 The Du Bois of Mitcham were most probably of the
same line, and were themselves related by marriage to another emigré
family, the Waldos of The Elms, Upper Mitcham.33 Both families were
staunch supporters of the Church of England and the Protestant
succession, and with their Mitcham neighbours the Haultains, the de
St Eloys of Colliers Wood, and the Mauvillains of Morden, comprised
an interesting little group of prosperous families of Huguenot origins.

A Robert Dubois (sic) was assessed for militia taxes in Mitcham in the
1670s, but the baptisms of Edward and Samuel Dubois in 1693 and
1698 are two of the earliest references to the Du Bois family in the
Mitcham parish registers.34 Edward and Samuel were sons of an Edward
Du Bois, about whom nothing is known at the present time. In 1716 the
court baron of the Mitcham manor of Biggin and Tamworth was
formally notified of the death of Mary Du Bois, and approved the
admission of her ‘son’ (or grandson?) Charles as a tenant of the manor
holding land in “the Commonfield of Mitcham called the Blacklands”,
which lay to the west of the Upper Green, off what is now Western

Charles Du Bois, born c.1658, the son of John Du Bois, citizen and
mercer of the City of London, and Anne Herle, his first wife, receives
mention in the Mitcham vestry minutes of 18 June 1738 as being entitled,
in his own right, to a pew in the north side of the parish church which
the owners and occupiers of his house are said to have enjoyed “since
time immemorial”.36 As we have seen, Charles had inherited the house
and land from his father who, after the death of Charles’s mother in or
before 1662, married Sarah Waldo of All Hallows, London, and
Mitcham. With Thomas Papillon, a fellow Whig, John Du Bois had
been elected as a city sheriff in 1682, but this was fiercely opposed by
the Tory faction. The ensuing dispute, during which John Du Bois was
party to the service of writs which secured the brief imprisonment of


the Lord Mayor, was finally settled in favour of the Tories by Judge
Jeffreys. By this time John Du Bois senior was dead, and thus avoided
the financial penalty suffered by Papillon for unsuccessfully confronting
the Establishment. In politics a Whig, like his father, Charles Du Bois
inherited a share in his father’s silk trading business, and in 1684
succeeded his step-brother John as Cashier-General, or Treasurer, of
the East India Company, serving in this capacity from 1702 until 1737.37

In Mitcham Charles Du Bois was remembered years after his death for
his generosity in giving £200 in 1735 for the purchase of Queen Anne’s
Bounty to augment the meagre income of the vicarage.38 Nationally, he
acquired a reputation as a naturalist and collector of exotic plants, with
a noted botanical garden at Mitcham, where he had a large collection
of ‘stove’ plants in a hot house. He was particularly proud of having
supplied seeds of long-grained Indian rice to a Carolina merchant in
1696, thus being instrumental in introducing the cereal to North
America. Du Bois attended meetings of the Temple Coffee House
Botany Club, a small group of gentlemen who formed an informal
natural history society around the turn of the 17th century and included
amongst its members distinguished entomologists like Plukenet and
Dandridge. He also shared an interest in natural history with Sir Hans
Sloane, with whom he was a frequent correspondent,39 and his work
was recognised by admission to fellowship of the Royal Society in
1700. Charles Du Bois’ collection of shells also received contemporary
acclaim,40 and his herbarium, which is preserved at Oxford, is said to
contain specimens collected from Mitcham Common and the
surrounding countryside. His entomological notebook, with
biographical and other notes by Leslie Jessup, was published in 1989
by the then British Museum (Natural History).

In a collection of unpublished notes compiled by the Society of
Gardeners to accompany a catalogue of exotic species there is the
following charming reference to Charles Du Bois, who was a member:

“But to none of the before-mentioned persons” (referred to in an
earlier part of the catalogue) “is England more indebted for
introducing trees, plants, flowers and fruits, than to the learned
and ingenious Charles Dubois, Esq., of Mitcham, who has not


only been very industrious to procure plants from abroad, but
also as generous in communicating whatever his garden would
afford, as also many useful observations relating both to their
culture and uses, to all delighters in planting and gardening; and
it is to him that we are greatly indebted for many valuable trees
and plants which enrich this catalogue.”41

Charles Du Bois, who never married, died in October 1740, in his 83rd
year, and in his will left several bequests to people in Mitcham.42 He
asked to be buried on the side of the churchyard “where the fewest
graves are” and lies in the family grave, close by that of the Waldos on
the north side of the church. His tomb slab, now barely legible, once
also bore the names of his nephew Waldo “Du bois”, and step-brother
Ebenezer “Du bois”, who died in 1746.43 The earliest surviving Mitcham
poor rate book refers to a “Mdme. Du Bois” as the resident occupier of
the house in 1755, and this would appear to have been one of Charles
Du Bois’ nieces, Sarah Charlotte, who died in 1757 aged 59. She also
never married, and devoted her life to charitable works, leaving bequests
of £500 each to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the
Foundling Hospital and Protestant schools in Ireland. “Mdme. Du Bois”
is followed in the poor rate books by “John Du Bois”,44 but the Du Bois
family seem to have severed their connections with Mitcham in the
1760s, probably shortly after the death of John Du Bois in 1767. For
the three years following 1764 a Mr Eden paid the poor rate, by which
time the house by the Upper Green had passed into the possession of
Henry Allcraft, whose name occurs in the list of Mitcham freeholders
for the first time in 1766.45

Allcraft (1713–1779) was related by the marriage of his sister Martha
(1715–1762) to Benjamin Tate, whose family had been prominent in
Mitcham since the early part of the 18th century. An older Martha
Allcraft (1685–1757), who was presumably their mother, was buried
between the pews of William Tate and Charles du Bois in the old parish
church. The ledger slab covering her grave in the north aisle was left in
position when the church was rebuilt between 1819 and 1822, but is
today obscured beneath the raised wooden floor installed in 1988. It is
evident that Henry Allcraft had no use for the whole of the estate, for at


a court baron of Ravensbury in 1767 ten acres of ‘Blowers or Cold
Blows’, formerly in the occupation of Charles “Dubois” and before
that of Phillip Gardner, and until a short time before of David Robert
Cochran, surgeon, were granted to the latter’s brother Robert Cochran,
who lived in a house overlooking the Lower Green.46

Some 12 years or so after settling in Mitcham Henry Allcraft died, and
was buried in the parish church. A marble memorial tablet, originally
in the north aisle,47 reads

“Near this place lie the remains of Henry Allcraft Esq. whose
kind heart and benevolent spirit his friends were deprived of on
the X day of February MDCCLXXIX in the LXVII year of his
age. His nephews and nieces, as a testimony of their gratitude
and regard, and to cherish the dear remembrance of that worthy
they so highly honoured, have caused this monument to be

After the rebuilding of the church in 1819 the monument was refixed
in the wall of the south aisle, where it can still be seen.

John Pollard and the Langdales (c. 1779–1822)

When Edwards, attempting to compile his Companion from London to
Brighthelmston, revisited Mitcham in about 1789, he observed

“At the … left hand corner [i.e. of Whitford Lane – now London
Road] is a seat late belonging to John Pollard Esq., who has just
built a handsome villa at Ewell … This [the Mitcham house]is an
indifferent low building, almost concealed from sight of the road
by a high wall, and the stables appear large in proportion to the
house. I have some idea of the beauties of a little lawn on the
south, which Mr. Pollard once shewed me; but Mr. Langdale,
the present possessor, after I had repeatedly waited on him,
refused me the least information, as well as the favour of
inspecting the description which I had prepared for that

The “indifferent low building” recalled by Edwards was almost certainly
the Du Bois’ old home. Edwards was normally quite effusive in his
descriptions of the larger houses to be glimpsed by the traveller en


route to Brighton, no doubt wishing to gratify their proprietors, who he
hoped would purchase copies of the finished Companion. Photographs
show that Langdale’s house would undoubtedly have merited
description in Edwards’ more usual terms as “a very good one, and
built in the modern taste”, or “a handsome house, built of grey stock-
bricks, and finished in the present taste”. Edwards’ inadequate treatment
of the property is obviously the consequence of Langdale’s rejection
of his request to view what was evidently a new house and his
consequent inability to up-date his notes.

The Firs , photographed by Tom Francis c.1900.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

The house vacated by John Pollard was, if the assumptions made above
are correct, that which had been owned by the Lambes in the late 17th
century and subsequently by John Du Bois and Henry Allcraft. What
Edwards remembered as the “beauties of a little lawn on the south”
were the handiwork of Charles Du Bois, many of whose trees, some of
exotic origins, were still to be admired as late as 1838. (The last to
survive was destroyed during an air raid in 1940).


John Pollard was the brother of William Pollard, a London wine
merchant, the owner and occupier of the nearby Park Place from 1784
to 1808, but we know relatively little about him.49 John Pollard had
been assessed for poor rate on the property at Upper Green since 1779,
and was admitted to the tenancy of the manor of Ravensbury in 1784
as the occupier, and presumably the owner, of the two copyhold closes
at Cold Blows. Pollard must have acquired the land on which the house
stood from Henry Allcraft or his heirs in the late ’70s, but title to the
copyhold closes seems to have come into his hands via Francis Gregg,
an attorney who owned Park Place prior to William Pollard.50 The last
reference to John Pollard linking him with the Upper Green house is in
the land tax book for 1788, and the following year the ‘proprietor’ of
what was obviously a new house on the site, with a greatly increased
assessment, is given as “George Brooksbank Esq”. The brothers Pollard
had clearly made an impact on village minds, for nearly a century later
old men still referred to this part of Mitcham as ‘Pollards’ Corner’.

Langdale, whose refusal to see Edwards so piqued the topographer,
was Marmaduke Langdale, born in London on 2 March 1751, the eldest
child (the first of 15) of Thomas Langdale and his wife Dorothy née
Witham.51 Both parents came from staunch Catholic families.
Langdale’s seemingly discourteous refusal to assist Edwards in any
way, which at first sight appears almost to have amounted to rudeness,
contrasts sharply with the generally helpful attitude of his neighbours,
but it was not perhaps without good reason, for the Langdale family
had for two centuries suffered for their recusancy.

Marmaduke’s godfather was Marmaduke, fourth Baron Langdale of
Holme, a great-grandson of the Sir Marmaduke Langdale (later the
first Lord Langdale) who commanded the cavalry on the left wing of
the King’s forces at the battle of Naseby in 1645. The peerage lapsed
with the death of the fifth baron in 1778. Thomas Langdale was a
prosperous distiller, with premises at No. 26 Holborn Hill. He was a
prominent member of the Catholic community and one of the 200-odd
signatories of the address presented to George III in 1778 by the Catholic
Peers and Commoners asking for relief from the laws which penalised
them for their faith. In 1780 the people of London and the Home


Counties were shocked by the violence of the mobs led by the notorious
Lord George Gordon. Rallying to the cry of “No Popery!”, they had
stormed the Houses of Parliament, burned and pillaged the homes and
businesses of those suspected of being Catholics or sympathisers wih
their cause, and in the absence of any effective police force were only
dispersed by the use of the military. Thomas Langdale became one of
the principal targets of the rioters, and the destruction of his distillery
was vividly described by Dickens in Barnaby Rudge. His losses were
estimated at the time to be in the region of £50,000.

Probably apprehensive of a resurgence of anti-Catholic feeling, and
certainly a newcomer to the village, Marmaduke Langdale obviously
wished to avoid publicity as much as possible and to preserve the
seclusion offered by his new home, “almost concealed from sight of the
road by a high wall”. Very little is known about his life in Mitcham, and
the surviving records make few references to his participation in local
affairs. He was, however, one of the committee of parishioners formed
in 1789 to implement recommendations for the raising of money needed
for enlarging the parish church, but his service seems to have been brief.52
On the death of his father in 1790 he inherited the distillery, and carried
on the family business, which is listed in Holden’s Directory of 1802–3
as “Langdale, Marmaduke and Thomas, 26 Holborn Hill”. A second
entry is for “… Langdale, Marmaduke, broker”, of 17 Ormond Street.

Marmaduke Langdale married Frances, daughter of Joseph Brooksbank,
who brought as her dowry a substantial estate at Elland in Yorkshire.
Although childless, the marriage was evidently a happy one, and the
grateful recollection of the “elegant and hospitable entertainment”
enjoyed at the hands of the “Amiable and Respectable Proprietors of
Mitcham House” moved a friend to write of Mitcham

“Here Langdales hospitable Roof ascends
The worthiest, – best, – of Brothers, Husbands, Friends –
And Frances here, adorns the happy Grove;
Whom all the Muses, all the Graces love;
Whom all the polished, all the good revere,
Lovely, yet wise: Enchanting, yet sincere:
‘Tis her’s, to close the helpless Orphans Grief!


To wants sad call afford a kind relief!
With pious hand a Strangers woes assuage!
To soothe a parents venerable age!
In Dutys sphere, as firm, as meek to move,
As Heaven’s own Angels in the Orbs above.”51

Marmaduke Langdale was probably related to Robert Kelham Langdale,
a partner in the firm of Newton, Langdale & Co, which was conducting
a calico printing manufactory at Merton Abbey in 1811.53 Whereas the
industry enjoyed a considerable degree of prosperity in the closing
years of the 18th century, at least one Mitcham calico printing firm
suffered bankruptcy in 1812, and the trade was in a very depressed
state by the time the post-war depression of the 1820s hit the country.
How far Marmaduke Langdale’s financial fortunes suffered through
his involvement (if any) with the print works at Merton Abbey we
cannot say, but by 1820 he had accumulated debts which amounted to
over £34,000. His brother James, whom Marmaduke had helped to
become a partner in the firm of Leader, Attlee and Langdale, the
proprietors of the York House distillery at Wandsworth, came to his
rescue and generously sacrificed the greater part of his fortune to save
Marmaduke from the debtors’ prison. It was probably as a consequence
of these difficulties that the Mitcham house was offered for sale by
auction in June 1822,54 following which the impoverished Marmaduke
settled in Brighton, where he died on 29 May 1827. He was buried in
the Langdale family vault which still exists in the graveyard of St
Pancras Old Church, the burial ground used by London Catholics in
penal times.

At the time of the sale of the Langdale estate, which included nine
acres of freehold land and seven acres held copyhold of the manor of
Ravensbury, the house was described as “the Capital and very
Substantial Residence … erected by the present M. Langdale Esq.”. A
photograph of The Firs, as it was soon to become known,55 shows that
the house was considerably taller than its predecessor seems to have
been. From the increase in the assessment for land tax from £35 to £60
from 1788 to 1789 when, as we have seen above, the ‘proprietor’ was
stated to be George Brooksbank (presumably a relative of Langdale’s


wife), its erection can be ascribed with confidence to late 1788 or early
1789. It was also in July 1789, at the general court baron of the manor
of Ravensbury, that Marmaduke Langdale was admitted a tenant of
two closes of customary land on the surrender of John Pollard. The
central, original, part of the house, was a well-proportioned brick-built
residence of five bays, with a slated mansard roof with dormers, and
two principal floors, plus attics and basement. The front entrance
doorway was surmounted by a simple pediment and plain entablature
supported on Tuscan columns. The effect was severe but not unpleasant,
and the general style of the house was very much of the late 18th century,
and can be seen echoed in several contemporary Mitcham houses. In
addition to the coach-houses and stabling, and what in a gentleman’s
residence of this period was the almost inevitable billiards room,
Langdale’s house also contained a private chapel in which Mass would
have been celebrated for the family and their friends by a visiting priest.56

Victorian Gentry

It is from the time of the next occupant of the house, Thomas Leverton
‘a magistrate of the County’, that we have a reference to it as “Fir-
Grove”, an “elegant mansion”.57 Leverton’s residence in Mitcham was
of short duration, for he had died by 1825, but the property continued
in the occupation of his widow for some six or seven years. By 1834,
however, it had become the home of Thomas and Mary Beckford58
and, still known as Fir-Grove, and located at what the enumerator in
1841 called Beckford’s Corner, it was occupied at the time of the census
of that year by Mrs Beckford, then an elderly lady, and her staff of six
living-in servants. In January 1835, when the grounds of Fir-Grove
were visited by the Society of Gardeners, many of the trees planted by
Charles Du Bois a century previously had reached maturity and were
of impressive size.59 Their maintenance was in the care of a resident
gardener, assisted by a general labourer.

Within the next ten years the house, now re-named The Firs, changed
hands again, being leased by George Smith Hayter from the owner,
John Blake, who was an auctioneer at Croydon.60 Hayter himself was a
man of property, described in the 1851 Census as a “proprietor of land
and houses”. The tithe commutation survey of 1846 had shown the 17


acres 3 rods 6 poles of the Firs estate to include extensive lawns and
secluded gardens, plus meadowland – Cold Blows.61 This was, clearly,
still a most desirable property, and the large Hayter family, comprising
George and his wife Alice, their four sons and three daughters, were to
remain in Mitcham for a further ten years or so. Their standard of living
was obviously high, for there were four women domestic servants, plus
a coachman and a footman living in. In the Firs Lodge there resided Mr
and Mrs Welfare, the gardener and his wife, who was responsible for
the laundry at the house.

By 1861 the Hayter family had left, and The Firs had become the
residence of Charles Coles, a colonial broker, and his wife Elizabeth.
Her unmarried sister Margaret Daun was either resident, or a guest, on
census night that year. The Coles also kept a large staff, comprising a
‘ladies’ attendant’, a housekeeper and a housemaid, a butler, a coach
and a groom. The coachman lived in the lodge with his wife and
daughter. The Coles’ tenure of the house was relatively short, and from
local directories one can deduce that The Firs became the home of
John Francis Carter in the late ’60s. Carter, a bachelor, was an East
India merchant, and may have been the only man in the house, for the
enumerator in 1871 recorded the household as comprising Carter’s aunt,
Mary Davies, his two sisters Ann and Margaret, the cook, housemaid
and kitchen-maid. Tansley, the Carters’ coachman, lived at the lodge
with his wife and son. In the fashion of their time the ladies of the
house were active in the affairs of the parish church, and we find, for
instance, a Miss Carter mentioned in the vicar’s annual report on
charitable work during 1869 as being a member of the Ladies’ Visiting
Society, busily engaged in what we today would call social welfare
work amongst the poor and elderly.

Again using the local directories, one finds that a further change must
have taken place in the 1870s, an Edward Daun having taken up
residence at The Firs by 1878, and that after his death in 1883 at the
age of 58 his widow Rose contined to occupy the house until 1889. She
died 20 years later, and was buried beside her husband at Tooting, where
their tombstone is to be seen in the parish churchyard.62 Edward Daun
had lived at Tooting before moving to Mitcham, serving as a


churchwarden in 1863/4, after taking an active part in church affairs
for many years. Tom Francis recalled in his lectures on ‘Old Mitcham’
that in the 1880s school treats were held regularly in the meadow
adjoining the house. Music was provided by the boys of the Holborn
Union Workhouse School band, balloons by Chippendales, and races
and scrambles for sweets kept the children happily engaged until the
outdoor tea was ready.63 These popular festivities, which formed one
of the highlights in the village year, were often brought to a close with
a display of fireworks provided by James Pain and Sons of Mitcham.
Tom Francis also told an amusing anecdote about Edward Daun and
his coachman, who held opposing political views. The coachman
supported the Liberals, and at the time of an election Daun, who was a
Tory, brought out the party’s ribbons and decorated the horse, then the
whip, and finally produced a Tory rosette for the coachman. “No,” said
the man, “the horse is yours, sir, and so is the whip, but I am not.” How
long the coachman retained his job thereafter, Tom Francis did not say.

Mitcham was now changing in many ways, and the old order was fast
coming to an end. On Wednesday 15 May 1889 Farebrother, Ellis Clark
& Co. offered the freehold property of about 17 acres for sale by auction,
together with what they described as an

“excellent old-fashioned family residence called The Firs most
pleasantly situated overlooking the Common and placed within
beautifully timbered grounds with walled-in kitchen garden,
greenhouse, detached stabling for 6 horses, farm and outbuildings
and enclosures of productive meadow land suitable for residential
purposes or building development.”

The accessibility of the property to the stations of the London, Brighton
and South Coast railway at Mitcham and Mitcham Junction “both within
about ten minutes’ walk” were stressed by the auctioneers, who saw
the estate as “eminently suitable for a Professional or Business Man
seeking retirement in a Country Home in the Neighbourhood of the
Metropolis”.64 Three years later the Firs estate was put up for auction
again, this time by Blake, Haddock and Carpenter who, ominously,
saw fit to emphasise its potential for redevelopment.65


The Last Days of The Firs

As it happened, the time had still not come for the demolition of the
house, with its 15 bedrooms and dressing rooms, five principal reception
rooms on the ground floor, and its ‘convenient domestic offices’, which
included a servants’ hall and lofty stone-paved kitchen. Renamed
‘Elmwood’, it secured a reprieve in the occupation of Frederick Cowlin
and survived into the early years of the Edwardian era, but succumbed
finally to the developers in the wave of speculative building which
gained momentum with the prospect of the extension of the electric
tramway to the village of Mitcham in 1906.

James Harding of Mitcham Lane, Streatham, would appear to have
been the final instigator of the development of the ‘Elmwood Estate’,
and deposited plans of his proposals with the Croydon Rural Distict
Council in 1903.66 In deference to the memory of this fine house, two
new estate roads were named Elmwood and Langdale. A third was
named Whitford Gardens to commemorate the Domesday vill of Witford
or Wickford, which had long since lost its separate identity, to become
Lower Mitcham. The character of Mitcham was now changing rapidly.
and the population of 15,000 in 1901 was to virtually double by 1911.
Colliers Wood House, stripped of its surrounding parkland and meadows
in the 1870s and ’80s, was demolished in 1904 to make way for housing
estates. Gorringe Park House, no longer a private residence, had become
a Jewish orphanage and its outbuildings a home for sick horses. It too,
was destined to be pulled down before the outbreak of war in 1914.
Although he would have recognised the challenge offered to the Church
by the rapid influx of new lower middle class parishioners, the vicar,
Canon Wilson, in his pastoral letter for 1905, was undoubtedly echoing
the feelings of many of the older families when he expressed his sadness
at seeing the disappearance of so many of what he regarded as Mitcham’s
‘manor’ houses.

Elmwood was demolished around 1905,67 but although the roads of the
new development were completely laid out by 1907, only a proportion
of the plots (mostly in Whitford Gardens and Elmwood Road) had
then been sold, and building was not completed until the 1930s. Around
1908 a substantial part of the old wall along the Upper Green frontage


of the estate was cleared away. It had extended from the small alleyway
next to Newton House on Commonside West, opposite the Three Kings
Pond, and continued right round to the corner of London Road. With
the demolition went the gazebo, and the lodge to the estate, which
stood where Strowgers the ironmongers is now. On the cleared land a
new Methodist church, the third in Mitcham, was erected in 1908 on a
site very close to that of the old house. Built to the plans of Sir Alfred
Gelder and L Kitchen, the church remained a conspicuous feature of
the environs of the Upper Green for some 30-odd years, but was
demolished after being severely damaged by a parachute mine dropped
from a German aircraft during the ‘Blitz’ in September 1940. The church
was never rebuilt, and the site is now occupied by Mitcham’s Post
Office and the row of post-war shops known as Langdale Parade.

Rev J H Blamey
launches the
Rebuilding Fund
amid the ruins of the
bombed church,
September 1940.
Reproduced by
courtesy of Merton
Library Service

Chapter 6


(Extract from Methodism in Mitcham 1764–1944by Douglas S Hubery)

“In the year 1906, three young men met together in Mitcham to share a
concern for the evangelical work which they felt was needed in the
town. Mitcham was growing rapidly and would grow even more in the
future. The churches already in existence could scarcely reach the
numbers of people entering the town, and it was felt that a church was
needed in the shopping centre at Fair Green. It is interesting to remember
that the first Wesleyans should choose the historic Cricket Green for
their centre, while the later Wesleyans should choose an almost equally
famous site for theirs. The annual Mitcham Fair may not be as widely
known as the Widdicombe Fair, but it goes back into history almost as
far, and is certainly known throughout the London area and the Southern
Home Counties. Perhaps if someone had written a song about it the
position would have been somewhat different. At any rate, these three
young men felt that a church should be built at, or near to, the Fair
Green, Mitcham.

“The three young men were Mr. F. C. Miller (in whose house they
met), Mr. J. W. Gillespie amd Mr. (now Rev.) J. H. Martin, and they
decided to hold a special Service in the Boys’ School, Upper Mitcham,
on Sunday, September 9th. The Streatham Wesleyan Brass Band was
to play, and Mr. H. Stephenson, of the Central London Mission, and
Mr. J. H. Martin were to speak. Unfortunately, however, this scheme
was not carried out. Instead a series of open-air meetings was held, and
these continued every Sunday evening until the winter weather drove
them indoors. Meetings were then held in Mr. Miller’s shop in the
High Street until the following summer. Neighbouring circuits were
approached with a view to establishing a Wesleyan church in Mitcham,
but none felt able to undertake such a venture, and it seemed that the
enterprise of the “three pioneers” would remain unrewarded.

“It was in a spirit of desperation that they met one evening for prayer
on Tooting Bec Common, and as a result decided to appeal to Mr. Joseph
Rank and Mr. Henry Holloway. Immediately the whole situation was


altered. Their appeal was sympathetically considered, and Mr. Rank’s
influence in Wesleyan Methodism began to be felt. A group of Methodist
ministers came to Mitcham, reviewed the conditions and needs, and
made their report. The matter was placed in the hands of the Home
Mission Committee and a Synod Committee, a site at the Fair Green
was obtained, and the scheme went forward. The actions of Messrs. J.
Rank and H. Holloway had undoubtedly ‘turned the scales’, and three
years of prayer and evangelical enterprise had borne fruit.

“In September, 1908, the first Wesleyan minister was appointed to
Mitcham, and meetings were held in the Mitcham Vestry Hall. The
Stone-laying Ceremony took place in the same month, and it was learned
that the architect of the church was Sir A. Gelder, of Hull, and the
building itself was to be erected by Mr. G. E. Everitt, of Croydon, at an
estimated cost of £4,500. The first stone was laid by Mrs. F. C. Miller,
on behalf of “The Mitcham Wesleyan Methodist Society”, and others
were laid by Mesdames Holloway, Rank, Read and Everitt. Many
notable Wesleyans were present, including the Rev. Dr. Pope (Home
Mission Secretary) and the Rev. J. Ingram (Chairman of the Third
London District), and Messrs. J. Rank, H. Holloway, A. E. Reed and F.

C. Miller. The Rev. Dr. Waller (Chairman of the District, presided over
the evening meeting, and in his address referred to Methodist history
in Mitcham. He spoke of the breakaway in 1838 by Mitcham Methodists
from the Wesleyan church, and stated that the Wesleyans were returning
to Mitcham ‘in no spirit of antagonism. They had come,’ he continued,
‘to do the work of their common Master.’
“The church was officially opened on March 3rd. 1909, the ceremony
being performed by Sir Horace Marshall, acting on behalf of his wife.
Once more, an impressive array of ministers and laymen was to be
seen for the occasion. It was reported that during the two years in which
time preparations for the church had been going forward, £2,447 9s.
6d. had been raised towards the £4,500 needed, and those responsible
for Wesleyan Methodism in Mitcham looked forward to the future with
confidence. Mr. J. Rank continued to take an active interest in the
church, and for many years was happy to advise and help financially as
the needs arose.


“So for thirty years the Fair Green Church exercised its influence for
good in Mitcham, and maintained an effective witness to the Good
News of God’s Love, until in 1939 war broke out once more throughout
the world. The first twelve months passed by without untoward incident,
and in September, 1940, the Rev. J. H. Blamey, M.A., was appointed to
become minister of the church. In the same September began that
dreadful onslaught upon London from the air which we shall always
know as the Blitz. Night after night raiders filled the skies, and night
after night death and destruction followed in their path. After three
weeks of this Blitz, the Fair Green church was hit. In the very early
hours of Thursday, September 19th, a land-mine floated from the skies
and descended upon the church, and in less time than it takes to read
these words the church and school were wiped out. Walls that had
echoed to the prayers of humble people; walls that had resounded to
the songs and laughter of innocent children; walls that had sheltered
the weary and depressed; these walls, built at so much cost and so

The Wesleyan Methodist Church at the Fair Green, photographed c.1925.
Opened in 1909. Destroyed during an air raid in 1940.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


much pride, lay forever shattered and ruined. There are men that are
not ashamed to tell me that tears came to their eyes as, in daylight, they
scrambled over the shambles. The living witness of the Kingdom of
God had become a gaunt memorial to the Sin of Man. Yet another
chapter in the history of Methodism in Mitcham had come to an end.”


Over the weeks and months that followed the bombing of the Fair Green
church the congregation joined with the Methodists for worship in their
church overlooking the Cricket Green. From this communion came the
reunion of the two branches of Methodism in Mitcham and eventually
plans for the erection of a new church on a site overlooking the Green
where John Wesley had first preached to the people of the village in
January 1764.

Langdale Walk, the site of the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Fair Green,
photographed for East Surrey/South London News Group, Redhill, c.1970.

Chapter 7


The custom of holding an annual fair at Mitcham in August is a very
old one – of that there can be little doubt. The question really is, how
old? A great number of our surviving English fairs date from the early
Middle Ages, when much of the internal trade of the country depended
on the opportunities for commerce presented by seasonal or festive
gatherings. In those days and, indeed, for centuries to follow, the
population was small and scattered, road transport was invariably
difficult and even hazardous, and shops as we know them non-existent.
The right to hold a fair was usually a jealously guarded privilege. In
many cases it had been granted by the ecclesiastical authorities, and
often such fairs were associated with religious festivals, or the dedication
of the parish church. Others might be held by a royal charter, which
carried with it the coveted right to charge tolls.

Typical was Croydon Fair which, until the 19th century, was held on 5
July and 2 October, primarily for the sale of horses, cattle, sheep and
‘toys’ – knick-knacks and trinkets beloved of simple farming people.
Croydon had for long been the most important market town in northeast
Surrey, and when a charter was obtained by Archbishop Kilwardby
in 1276, he was probably seeking to regularise and obtain revenue from
a fair which was already very ancient. Even as late as the mid-19th
century the approach of fair time was heralded in Mitcham by the
appearance of great herds of cattle and horses, or flocks of sheep, which
were grazed temporarily on the Common under the care of drovers –
rough men who spoke with strange accents showing they came from
far beyond the Surrey borders. The impact all this had on Mitcham can
be judged from an entry in the National Schools register for 5 October
1864, which reads:

“Attendance smaller than usual, many children having gone with
parents to Croydon Fair.”

Croydon Fair declined towards the end of the 19th century, having lost
its economic significance as the character of the surrounding countryside
changed, and became increasingly suburban.


Kingston was described as the “best market town in all Surry” by Leland
in 1535, and in 1628 Charles I, by Letters Patent, gave the town
protection against competition, ruling that no other markets were to be
held within seven miles. This had a great effect on the establishment of
other markets and fairs from this date on. Mitcham, although only six
miles east of Kingston town centre as the crow flies, is more by road,
and lay beyond the area of prohibition. In the 18th and 19th centuries
Kingston had three great fairs, the first at Whitsun, the second on St
Mary Magdalen day, 22 July, and known as ‘Black Cherry Fair’, and
the third at Allhallows-tide, in November. Each was primarily
commercial in purpose, although the usual fringe amusements were

Mitcham Fair can hardly claim to have been in the same category as
either Croydon or Kingston Fairs. Although its temporary disruptive
influence on normal village life was much greater, its purpose seems to
have been purely pleasure, and the market element is missing. Old it
certainly was, but despite the endeavours of its more romantically-
minded supporters at the beginning of the 20th century to prove its
traditional origins in a charter granted by Elizabeth I, its true genesis
has never been established.

Until the passing of the Mitcham Urban District Council Act in 1923
the Fair was always held on Upper Mitcham Green. Common waste of
the parish, this lay within the jurisdiction of the manor of Biggin and
Tamworth which, as we have noted earlier, was granted by Henry VIII
to Robert Wilford, a merchant taylor, after the dissolution of the
monasteries. The claim for an origin of the Fair in the 16th century is
an interesting one, but only seems to have gained currency early in the
20th century when the future of the Fair was threatened. It was said
that the Fair had its beginnings in the festivities which accompanied
one of Queen Elizabeth I’s several visits to the village towards the end
of her reign, and that she was so enchanted at the sight of the people
disporting themselves on the Green that she had promised they should
enjoy a fair every year. Although the year was variously quoted as
1598 and 1599, the exact date is immaterial – Elizabeth is known to
have paid at least five visits to Mitcham between 1591 and 1598, and


the event could have occurred at any one of them.1 On at least one of
these occasions, when in 1598 she was the guest of Sir Julius Caesar,
we know that she was entertained at considerable expense, and
continued her progress to Nonsuch “with exceeding good contentment”.2
It is quite possible that in 1598 Sir Francis Carew, then holding the
lordship of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth and hoping to secure
royal favour, agreed to an annual fair on waste land in his manor on
learning of the Queen’s wish. There is certainly no reference to the
Fair in the Patent Roll relating to the grant of the manor to Wilford, and
the Ministers’ Accounts for the period immediately following the
Dissolution are silent on the matter. Three Elizabethan charters, dated
1563, 1590 and 1598, relate to the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, and
survive in the care of the British Library. All have been examined,
unfortunately with negative results. The tradition of the charter, for
such it has become, is nevertheless a charming one and, like much of
our national folklore, need not be dismissed merely for lack of
documentary corroboration.

What is possibly the earliest surviving documentary reference to the
Fair is one of 1732, which records that

“Christopher Halstead, a Fiddler, that came to the Fair (as usual)
… died at Mr. Merretts.”3

“Mr. Merrett” was probably Francis Merrit, a victualler whose name
appears in the Freeholders List for 1764-5 and who, until the 1780s
when tenure passed to his son, was the innkeeper at The Old Nags
Head. The old Georgian building, which overlooked the Fair Green
and was held on a copyhold tenure of the manor of Biggin and
Tamworth, was demolished early in the 20th century.4

It is sometimes said that Mitcham Fair was declared illegal between
the years 1770 and 1775,5 but in reality it was the curbing of riotous
behaviour, rather than the outright suppression of the Fair, that had
been the initial objective of those in authority. Occurrences at Mitcham
and elsewhere in the county led to an order being made at the Christmas
quarter sessions in 1770 requiring justices of the peace to take steps for
“the prevention of nuisance caused by late night drinking and the
erection of booths and sheds where were acted plays and drolls and


unlawfull gaming …” which “encouraged vice and immorality and the
ruining and debauching of servants, apprentices and others”. As the
time for the 1771 Mitcham Fair approached the justices, meeting at the
King’s Head, Lower Mitcham, arranged for the printing and exhibiting
of notices, ordered local publicans to ensure that good order and decency
were maintained, and instructed the village headborough and constables
in their duties. The measures adopted met with a degree of success in
1771, but the following year Mitcham Fair was marred by a riot in
which several constables were injured, and as a consequence at the
next quarter sessions an order was made that the Fair be stopped. There
seems to be no record of the Fair’s being a matter of concern to the
justices after 1775, which suggests that the major nuisances had then
been brought under control.6

Rocque’s map of the Environs of London 1741–5 marks the Upper
Green at Mitcham as ‘The Fair Place’. Topographical guides, which
abound from the end of the 18th century, almost invariably mention
Mitcham Fair, describing it as held annually on 12 August, “on a small
triangular area of waste land”, and being for the sale of cattle and “toys”.7
Whatever the true reason behind the attempt to suppress it, 50 years
later Mitcham Fair seems to have been above reproach. The Morning
Post of Thursday 14 August 1823, reported

“Yesterday being the second day of Mitcham Fair, the road
leading thither presented a pleasingly animated scene. The crowd
was not great, but the attendance was singularly respectable.

Richardson’s show and a number of other booths were there,
with the usual varieties of roundabouts, pony riding, together
with refreshment stalls.”

In the same year an itinerant preacher at the Fair, calling upon his hearers
to repent, awoke the indignation of the reporter from John Bull, who
vigorously defended the heritage of fairs and the innocent pleasure
they gave.8

In the 19th century the approach of the Fair was heralded by the arrival
of large encampments of showmen and gypsies on Mitcham Common,
the vanguard appearing a week or more before 12 August. For the village


children, who needed no reminding that money played an essential
part in the enjoyment of the Fair, the arrival of the caravans marked the
time for the building of grottoes. With scant appreciation of the real
significance of the custom, they built little caves and gardens of earth,
oyster and scallop shells at the roadsides, decorating them with flowers
and illuminating them with candles. A piece of mirror to simulate water,
broken pottery, and a small doll might be included in the more elaborate
constructions. Then, with grubby faces glowing with pride in their
handiwork, they would plead with passers-by to “remember the grotter”
and to “spare a copper” for its builders. The custom of building grottoes
on the feast day of St James the Apostle, 5 August according to the old
Julian calendar, and now 25 July, was at one time as widespread amongst
London children as the building of bonfires on 5 November. Although
he was beheaded in Jerusalem, the saint’s mortal remains were,
according to Spanish tradition, removed to Galicia and then to
Compostela, where his shrine became a famous place of pilgrimage in
the Middle Ages. He became the patron saint of Spain, and tradition
holds that his appearance during the battle between the Spaniards and
the Moors decided the outcome of the struggle for Spanish independence
in the 15th century.9 One of the saint’s emblems is a scallop shell, and
the shell featured in the little leaden hat badges worn by the returning
pilgrims to show that they had visited his shrine. With a persistence
owing more to the expectation of financial reward than any religious
motivation, Mitcham children kept alive the folk memory of the shrine
of St James of Compostela, and since by happy coincidence the
beginning of August marked the commencement of the oyster season
in London, their grottoes were never to suffer for lack of suitable
building materials.

The attractions of Mitcham Fair in the middle of Victoria’s reign were
vividly preserved for future generations in the reminiscences of several
old residents, recorded for the most part over 80 years ago. All agreed
that in the days of their youth, during the 1860s and 1870s, the opening
of the Fair was attended by little or no ceremony. The steward of the
manor of Biggin and Tamworth met the leading showmen at the King’s
Arms a short time before 11 August, and the rent was paid. The
disposition of the stalls, swings and roundabouts was settled by the


showmen, who by custom were allowed to draw onto the Green one
whole day before the opening of the Fair. Some traditionalists held the
view that a horse or horses had to be sold at the time of the opening, but
the rule, if it existed at all, does not appear to have been observed very
seriously. Robert Masters Chart, who by the early 1930s could remember
nearly 80 Fairs, was quite definite that in his youth there was never any
formal opening, and all Tom Francis had to say of the start of the Fair
in the 1880s was that “there was little or no ceremony; at 12 noon the
organ of the roundabout let go, the whistle blew and that was that.”10
Neither of them mentions a golden key, now so prominent at the opening
ceremony, to which with dubious justification a date of 1853 has
sometimes been attributed. A large key definitely featured at the opening
of the Fair in the late Edwardian period, when it was once more under
threat, but there may be some significance in the coincidence that it
was in 1853 that the franchise of the Fair, then producing from tolls an
annual income of £19 13s 10d “(subject to trifling cost of collection)”,
was to be included amongst the assets of the lordship of the manor of
Biggin and Tamworth, offered for sale by auction by Messrs Crawters
at Garraway’s Coffee House, Cornhill, as part of the estate of the late
James Moore.11

Major attractions at Mitcham Fair in the 1860s were Frederick’s
travelling circus and the dancing booths. Three in number, the latter
were housed in large tents, measuring about 20 feet wide and perhaps
60 feet long, standing side by side. Down the middle of each were laid
boards to form the dance floor, and on either side were tables and seats
where the revellers could sit and enjoy refreshments. Dancing
commenced at six in the evening, and lasted until 11, closing time.
Each dance cost threepence, but the energetic, if they wished, could
obtain a ticket for a shilling which entitled them to dance for the whole
evening. The booths were highly popular – “jolly fun – plenty of Toe
Treading and occasionally naughty words” remembered old Ben Slater,
and they were packed from the time they opened until they closed.12

At the entrance to each dancing booth was a refeshment bar, serving
ham and beef, or bread and cheese, and draught or bottled beers. The
undisputed hallmark of Mitcham Fair was, however, the oyster.


Ubiquitous as the modern hamburger or ice cream cone, oysters were
sold from stalls to be found all round the Green, tucked in every nook
and corner. Incredibly to us, a dozen natives of the best quality sold for
only threepence (old money), and those that were not consumed on the
spot were carried away as ‘fairings’ for the people at home. Cartloads
of oysters were consumed during the three days of the Fair, and at its
conclusion the lord of the manor, James Bridger, sent his men to clear
away the shells, to be used as manure in his fields and physic gardens.

That food should loom large in the recorded impressions of the Fair is
easily explained by the youth of the writers at the time they were calling
to mind. Besides his memory of oysters, Ben Slater seems to have
cherished an enduring recollection of pickled salmon. It was sold at
the oyster stalls from small tubs called ‘kits’, made like the old-time
butcher’s pickling tub, wider at the bottom than at the top. Each kit
held 12 pounds of salmon, pickled in vinegar. Slices weighing a pound
were sold for a shilling, and found a ready market. ‘Gingerbread nuts’
were also a favourite amongst the Fair goers, and stall holders did a
brisk trade selling them at a shilling a pound. Young Ben and his cronies
considered they hadn’t been to the Fair unless they contrived to take a
supply home with them.

Mitcham Fair c.1910 (Copy of postcard)


Of the other attractions of the Fair their memories were equally rich. The
more elaborate mechanised amusements with which we are so familiar
had not yet arrived. James Drewett recalled that the first roundabout ever
to come to Mitcham was introduced by James Wethered, and stood
opposite the Conservative Club.13 He was almost certainly referring to a
steam roundabout, early examples of which, although power driven, often
still relied on the operator to supply the music by hand. Tom Francis
described the earlier, more primitive roundabouts, the small ones being
sent twirling by gears worked with a handle by the proprietor, and the
larger examples set going by the owner assisted by boys who, having
pushed the cars and horses round till a good speed was worked up, jumped
aboard themselves.10

In the 1860s and ’70s dioramas were popular, as were marionettes and
peepshows. Drewett mentions ‘shooting tubes’, and penny shows,
principally for children, featuring white mice, tame rats, or such novelties
as a snake in a box. The circus-like character of many of the Fair’s
attractions impressed itself on the memories of our old residents. In one
regular circus attending the Fair there were performing dogs and monkeys,
sword swallowers and fire-eaters, tightrope walkers, tumblers, jugglers
and acrobats. Young Slater was fascinated by “a performing pony who
went round the audience and picked out the boy who ate his mother’s
sugar, and the girl who put her fingers in the treacle pot etc”. Monstrosities
were always exhibited, and fat women, living skeletons, dwarfs and fat
boys turned up every year, but sometimes there were special attractions,
like the famous Tom Thumb and his wife who, it was claimed, had been
introduced to all the crowned heads of Europe. Tom Francis recalled that
“Mitcham lads were always fascinated by the boxing shows, where in
the glare of naphtha lamps the fighting men would be introduced by the
proprietor extolling their prowess and announcing their willingness to
‘take on’ anybody in the crowd”.10 Gloves were thrown to the challengers,
who more often than not were members of the boxing team distributed as
stooges among the crowd. Outside, the booths were decorated with
wonderful pictures of famous fighters to stir the imagination and encourage
spectators to part with their entrance money. As a counter attraction to
more traditional pugilism, there were other tents where the programme
included the more bizarre attraction of fighting or wrestling females.10


The only fairground ‘toys’ specifically remembered from their childhood
by our stalwarts were crackers and ‘penny scratchers’, devices which,
according to Ben Slater, “they drew down your back”. Cheap Jack, he
recalled, always did a good business, but of his stock-in-trade Ben was
silent. If Sunday intervened during the three days, the Fair was toned
down appreciably, becoming a far more decorous affair. Drewett recalled
donkey and horse riding, and coconut shies which on Sundays, he said,
“were freely carried on to a large community of people”.13

One final attraction of the Victorian fair demands further mention, and
that is the famous Frederick’s Show, a travelling theatre at which,
remembered Slater, one could see performed ‘Maria Martin in the Red
Barn’. For him and his contemporaries, however, there was much more
to the show than the actual performance, and Drewett recalled “with
what delight the children would peep through holes in the canvas dressing
room and watch the actors prepare for their part! Can you imagine,” he
asked his readers, “an actor making up as a bird of gorgeous plumes, a
long and trailing tail being hooked on behind (which the mischief-loving
boys, ever peeping, with a stick promptly unhooked)? The actor is called
on and strutting across the stage to show his plumage exclaims ‘Why do
I wear this gaudy train?’, turns round to look at it, and finds it not there.”
The obvious relish with which he described this prank suggests that young
James was no mere onlooker. Frederick’s Show, a far more ambitious
affair than the general run of amusements offered at the Fair, would on
occasion stay on in Mitcham after the rest of the showpeople had moved
on, pitching their tents on the Common, or in some private field, where
they continued their performances before enthralled audiences.

In his Sketches by Boz Charles Dickens described Greenwich Fair of the
1830s as “a periodic breaking out, we suppose, a sort of spring-rash; a
three days’ fever, which cools the blood for six months afterwards, and at
the expiration of which London is restored to its old habits of plodding
industry, as suddenly and completely as if nothing had ever happened to
disturb them”. Mitcham Fair served much the same purpose, providing
the working population with a precious interlude in a life which offered
few opportunities for a real holiday. Thanks to the incomparable genius
of Dickens, Greenwich Fair lives for posterity in a delicious wealth of


detail and humour. Readers of his Sketches will recognise immediately
the essential elements of Mitcham Fair. The latter, seen through the
eyes of four young scamps, is happily preserved for us in the memoirs
of four old men.

Whereas the origins of Mitcham Fair might be obscure, Robert Masters
Chart, an authority on old Mitcham, was quite adamant that it never
had a royal charter, and declared that to his knowledge there had never
been a horse or cattle fair associated with it. Chart, a professional
architect and surveyor, partner in the firm of Chart, Son and Reading,
served as vestry clerk for many years, following in the footsteps of his
father, grandfather and great-grandfather. During the course of his long
life he held an amazing number of public offices on local boards and
councils, culminating in that of the charter mayor of the newly-
incorporated Borough of Mitcham when in his eighties. His knowledge
of parish affairs was unrivalled, and when reviewing the legal standing
of Mitcham Fair shortly after Mitcham achieved borough status he
observed that although he had had in his possession many deeds, briefs,
counsel’s opinions etc, concerning the manors of Mitcham, in none of
them had he seen any allusion to the Fair. He had never heard of its
being a chartered fair, nor, until the 20th century, any pronounced
statements of its being so, whilst on the other hand he was aware that
the lords of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, the last three of whom
he had known, had regarded it only as a customary fair held on the
waste land of the manor.

James Bridger, one of the last lords of the manor, died in 1885, and over
the course of the next five years his various properties were submitted
for sale by auction. Edwin Chart and his son Robert, who acted as
surveyors and agents for Bridger during his lifetime, were intimately
involved in winding up his estate. With the manor, auctioned in 1888,
went the right to hold a fair on 12, 13 and 14 of August each year, for
which a rent of £5 was paid annually by one of the regular showmen, by
the name of Sweetlove. Since it would have affected materially the
value of the right to hold the Fair if it could have been proved that a
charter had been granted to the manor, an “expert examiner of ancient
records” was engaged to make a search of the archives at the British
Museum and the Public Record Office. Nothing, however, was found.3


‘A Visit to Mitcham Fair
Monday August 14th 1882′

Plan reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


Although, seen in retrospect, the pleasures of Mitcham Fair in the mid19th
century seem innocent enough, it was far from popular with the
ruling classes of the parish, and in particular those who felt entrusted
with a duty to safeguard the morals of the people. The situation was
well summarised by the Revd Daniel Wilson, the newly instituted vicar
of Mitcham, in his pastoral letter of 1861:

“It will be known to all who read this letter that an attempt has
been made to suppress the Fair which is held every year on the
Upper Green. While unwilling to infringe in any way on the
legitimate and innocent amusements of the people, we feel it led
many to drunkenness and other forms of vice, and introduced a
very low set of people into our village. The lord of the manor
met our views in the most friendly manner, and agreed to its
abolition. A difficulty has arisen in the fact that it can only be
indicted as a nuisance, and that so few police charges have been
made, that the magistrates of Croydon refuse to attach that
description to it, and at present no solution of the difficulty has
presented itself.”

While general disapproval of the Fair may have been expressed in high
places, the annual invasion was feared and detested by shopkeepers
and others occupying property bordering the Green. Shops had to be
boarded up, since undesirable and rowdy elements were attracted from
miles around, and for the duration of the Fair normal life in that part of
the village was brought almost to a standstill. Although the local police
force preferred few charges, it was hard pressed in its attempts to
maintain order, and trouble invariably occurred when the time came
for the Green to be cleared. By custom the showmen were allowed to
remain one day after the Fair, but often force had to be used to secure
complete removal of the booths and vans. On one occasion, when James
Bridger sent a team of horses and some men to remove one of the more
obdurate showmen, considerable damage was done to the van and its
contents, for which Bridger had to pay.3

The effect of the Fair upon the occupants of domestic property around
the Green can be judged if we consider the example of The Firs and
Durham House. The former, very prudently, was surrounded by a high


brick wall in the 17th century, rendering the house and grounds invisible
from the Green. Durham House, until 1972 the headquarters of the
Mitcham Conservative and Unionist Association and subsequently
demolished to provide a site for shops and offices, was built
speculatively in 1722 as a residence for families of some standing, but
descended in the social scale until between 1850 and 1890 it was
occupied by a succession of tenants, none of whom stayed for more
than four years.

According to Robert Chart, attempts were made from time to time to
obtain an Order from the Home Secretary to abolish the holding of the
Fair under the provisions of the Fair Act 1871 and the Local Government
Act 1894,3 one of the most notable occasions being in 1906. The manor
of Biggin and Tamworth, with its rights and privileges, had been
purchased in 1889 by Beaumont and Son, solicitors of Coggeshall,
Essex, who let the right to hold the Fair to John Sweetlove at a rent of
£25 per annum and then, in 1905, sold the franchise for £950 to four
trustees, who were acting for the newly appointed Board of Conservators
of Mitcham Common.14 £657 5s 6d of the purchase money was provided
by Mitcham Parish Council and public subscription, and the balance
of £292 14s 6d by the Conservators themselves.15 There was at this
time general agreement amongst the conservators and the parish
councillors that it had become necessary to abolish the Fair completely.
The situation had been brought to crisis point by the extension of the
London tramway system to Mitcham in 1906, and to the normal chaos
caused by the showmen and the crowds of revellers there was now
added the hazard of increasing road traffic, and a real risk of serious
injury. Furthermore, nothing could be done to improve the appearance
of the Green when every year it was occupied by the Fair. Accordingly,
whilst the franchise was temporarily vested in their hands, the trustees,
Alderman Foss, representing the Board of Conservators, and Messrs R
M Chart, A E Cubison and A Mizen, representing the parish of Mitcham,
resolved to issue a public notice to the effect that henceforth no person
would be permitted to erect a stand on the Green, and formally petitioned
the Home Secretary, seeking his consent to the permanent closing of
the Fair.


The Conservators’ notices were ignored by the showmen, who moved
their stalls and caravans onto the Fair Green as usual, watched and
encouraged by the onlookers. The threat to the livelihood of their
members also provoked a strong reaction from the Showmen’s Guild
of Great Britain, who organised a public protest meeting. A huge crowd
assembled on the Fair Green on 12 August 190616 to hear speeches by
officers of the Guild, including the solicitor, who gave the gathering to
understand that the franchise had been granted by the lord of the manor
on the distinct understanding that a fair was to be held once every year,
and that it had been held on the same spot since 1599. Quoting extracts
from various acts of Parliament, he convinced many in his audience of
the strength of the showmen’s case, and went on to emphasise that,
being reasonable men, they appreciated the growing need to locate the
‘people’s fair’ elsewhere than in the centre of the village.17 The obvious
site, he submitted, was somewhere on ‘the people’s Common’. The
Home Secretary, a cautious man, would not give an immediate decision,
and deferred a final settlement until after one more Fair had been held.
It was about this time, or a little later, that the large golden key appeared.
Claimed to be of great antiquity, and inscribed ‘Mitcham Charter Fair’,
it has been an essential ‘prop’ at the opening ceremony ever since.

Chart comments in his notes on the Fair that “after considerable agitation
by the supporters of the Fair and consideration by the Home Secretary,
the continuance of the Fair was upheld, with certain recommendations
for its removal to a more convenient spot”.3 Whatever proposals might
have been submitted for relocating the Fair prior to World War I, they
were deferred by the outbreak of hostilities, and it was not until 1922
that steps were taken to resolve the problem which once more was
demanding attention.

Matters had certainly not improved in the intervening years, and the
Conservators, who were not prepared to leave the matter of the Fair in
abeyance any longer, decided to exercise their authority and to issue a
general public notice prohibiting the erection of stalls on the Upper
Green or, indeed, on any other part of the Common under their control.
Once again, there was an outcry, and the Showmen’s Guild organised a
public protest meeting on the Fair Green on 27 June.18 They announced,


quite reasonably, that it was appreciated road traffic had increased to
such a degree that the congestion caused by holding the Fair on its
traditional site could not continue. In the circumstances, it was suggested
that Three Kings Piece would be a more suitable site for the Fair in

Seven years previously the parish of Mitcham had achieved Urban
District status and with it a new sense of civic pride. In view of the
very considerable increase in population and traffic since the Common
and greens were vested in the Board of Conservators in 1891, and
conscious of the fact that the ancient greens of Mitcham fell within the
Urban District, the new Council promoted a private bill vesting in their
hands both control of the various greens and the franchise of the Fair.
Once again there was a search for the elusive charter; the Showmen’s
Guild was invited to produce it, if it were in their possession, but were
unable to do so, and the Bill received Royal Assent on 3l July 1923. A
fortnight later the last Fair to be held on the Upper Green was in full

Mitcham Fair 1923.
This was the last time the Fair was held on the Upper Green.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


The new Act prescribed 12, 13 and 14 August, excepting Sundays, as
the days for the Fair, and whilst allowing up to 18 months for the Fair
to be held on the Upper Green, stipulated that the Council must, after
the expiration of 18 months, relocate the Fair to a new site, on which
they were empowered to provide the requisite fences, drainage and
other facilities, to make byelaws, and to require the payment of tolls.
The site chosen was the 17 acres of common land on the northern side
of the Streatham to Mitcham Junction railway line, known as the Three
Kings Piece. The Act also extinguished all existing rights with respect
to Mitcham Fair, and any other fairs within the manor of Biggin and

Under the management and regulation of first the Urban District
Council, and later the Borough Council, Mitcham Fair was held on the
Three Kings Piece for 16 years, acquiring respectability and an assured
place in the life of the township. August 1939 saw the last of the prewar
Mitcham Fairs, and in view of the threat of invasion and air raids
the Fair was cancelled in 1940. Eight years passed before it was able to
return to its now customary site on Three Kings Piece.

Mitcham Fair 1936 – opening ceremony by the Mayor, Cllr J M Davies.
By this time the Golden Key played an important role in the proceedings.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

Chapter 8


Sir Walter Ralegh is unquestionably the best known and certainly the
most romantic figure amongst that little group of courtiers and statesmen
who, either as residents or landowners, had connections with the village
of Mitcham during the reign of Elizabeth I.1 His alleged association
with the introduction of snuff milling to the area is best ignored as
historically implausible, but the documentary record leaves us in no
doubt that he and his wife were in possession of a house and land in the
centre of the village early in the 17th century.2 There is no evidence,
however, that either of them ever lived in Mitcham.

It must be admitted that at this distance in time there is some uncertainty
as to whether the property was inherited by Sir Walter from a Sir John
Ralegh, whose widow is said to have held lands in the parish,3 or had
come into his hands following his secret marriage to Elizabeth (‘Bess’)
Throgmorton, maid-of-honour to Queen Elizabeth and daughter of Sir
Nicholas Throgmorton, the former ambassador to France and Scotland.
Possibly the estate derived from both sources, but we know that Bess’s
family, whose seat was at Beddington, owned considerable property in
Surrey, and that Sir Walter himself referred to part of the Ralegh estate,
a house at Mitcham, as belonging to his wife. There is, however, no
doubt as to the location of at least part of their Mitcham estate, for this
is clearly identified by the court rolls of the manor of Ravensbury as
embracing the 60 acres which formed the grounds, as well as the site,
of Eagle House which was built in London Road a century later.4

When, in 1616, Sir Walter was fitting out his new ship the Destiny in
preparation for his ill-fated last expedition to Guiana and the Orinoco,
the house and land in Mitcham was sold to Thomas Plumer (or Plummer)
for £2,500. A receipt for part of this sum came to light in 1855, and
was reproduced in Notes and Queries”:

“Decimo Septimo die Februarii Anno 1616.

“Received, the day and yeare above written, in part

payment of a greater som, for a certeyne tenement with

the appurtenance lyinge in Micham, in the countye of

Surrey, from Thomas Plummer, Esquire, the som of six

hundred pounds of lawfull English monye …


Witnes our hands,

E. Ralegh
The contributor of this item submitted the following observations:

“The case no doubt is this: Ralegh exhausted his own personal
means in fitting out his fleet, and then resorted to his wife’s
property. The Mitcham property was sold, and Lady Ralegh
joined in the sale. The eldest son, Walter, who felt, no doubt, as
much interest as his father in the adventure, joined in the sale.
The money was wanted, and an arrangement made for the sale
to the Plummer family, and this money was obtained upon a
simple receipt, leaving it to the lawyers employed to prepare at
their leisure the deed, and fine and recovery necessary to vest
the property legally in the purchaser”.5

It is understandable that the association of a national hero of Ralegh’s
stature with Mitcham should evoke local pride and interest, and for 200
years topographical writers and local historians have sought to identify
the exact location of the Raleghs’ house. Unfortunately in the late 18th
century an element of confusion was introduced into the quest, probably
unwittingly, when a refurbished house in Whitford Lane was re-occupied
as a private boarding academy and named ‘Raleigh House’. Edwards,
who visited the village in about 1789 when compiling his guide to places
of interest on the Brighton road, noted that a “white boarded house”,
kept by a Mr. Dempster as an academy for young gentlemen, was “said
to be once the residence of the unfortunate Sir Walter Raleigh”.6 The
building in question stood at the corner of what was then Whitford
Lane and the Upper Green, on a site which until recently was known as
Francis’s Field,7 and is now occupied by Fair Green Court. There is no
documentary evidence whatever to support the story recounted by
Edwards, who is normally a reliable source, and his use of the word
“said” implies that he entertained doubts as to the reliability of the
information. Nothing in the appearance of the house (a drawing of about
1826 survives) suggests that it was Elizabethan in origin, and it now
seems likely that the name given to it shortly before 1789 (there is no


record of its being in use before then) reflected nothing more than
Dempster’s wish to confer on his establishment an air of distinction.

The earliest record traced so far of the building “abutting Whitford
Lane”, which became known as ‘Raleigh’ House is in a batch of Oxtoby
family documents now held by the Surrey History Centre.8 Since 1720,
if not before, Samuel ‘Gillbrand’ (or Gillebrand) had owned a house,
described as lying between Whitford Lane to the east and another
property, identifiable as the land on which Durham House, was built in
1722. At one time a white tomb could be seen in the graveyard on the
south side of Mitcham church, bearing an inscription to the memory of
John Gellibrand, “late citizen and stationer of London”, who died on
28 October 1713 aged 61,9 and it was probably from him that the
property was inherited by Samuel.

By Samuel Gillebrand’s will, dated 1758, the Whitford Lane property
passed to his widow, Mary, who leased it to Sidney Rance. Rance, in
1775, sub-leased the western part of the house to Richard Eastland, a
broker. The sub-lease included use of the garden, and “the long walk
on the south-west of the house”, and describes the part to be used by
Eastland as comprising a wainscoted parlour, a kitchen, pantry and
cellars with beer-house adjoining, four rooms on the first floor, two
garrets, and three unceiled rooms together with a wainscoted room
over the porch, a yard on the west side of the house, and outbuildings.8
Such sub-division of a large house is, of course, not unusual during the
last years of its life. Mary Gillebrand eventually disposed of her interest
in the property, and from the land tax records it is apparent that for
several years prior to 1785 it had been owned by a Henry Johnson. It
still comprised two distinct parts, one occupied by Johnson himself,
and the other continuing in the occupation of Richard Eastland.

Johnson vacated his part of the house in 1784, and a year later both
dwellings were acquired by Samuel Oxtoby, a local builder who owned
several houses and plots of land in the village.10 For three years the
property remained empty, Eastland having moved away the year after
the sale. During this period the building seems to have been altered
considerably by Oxtoby, before letting or leasing it to James Dempster
in or about 1789.


Spurious as it now seems, the association of the house with the Raleghs
was destined to become a local tradition, accepted by many and
embellished by various writers as the years passed. Manning and Bray,
in theirHistory of Surrey, published in 1814, give the following account:

“There is a house on the right hand side of the road from London
to Sutton, at the corner of Whitford Lane, now called Ralegh
House, kept as an academy by Mrs. Hodgson, as it had been
before by Mr. Dempster. From the following circumstances
communicated by the the Revd Mr. Cranmer, there is every reason
to believe this was Sir Walter’s house. The house has been much
altered, and possibly curtailed. There is a spacious staircase
supported by a round piece of timber, which tradition says is
part of a mast of a Spanish ship taken by Sir Walter; in another
part of the house, now used as a dairy, is a similar post, which
also formerly supported a staircase, as is evident from one of the
stairs being accidentally left at the top of the room, under the
present ceiling. In several rooms the wainscot bears evident marks
of antiquity. Ancient windows were taken away by Mr. Oxteby
(sic) of Mitcham, the present owner. Previous to the occupation
by Mr. Dempster, it is said that in the house was a picture of Sir
Walter represented as smoking a pipe, and a servant supposing
his master to be on fire, throwing water on him to extinguish it.

“In addition to this, the garden is now very extensive, and has
been much more so. Part of it was sold to the Governors of Queen
Anne’s Bounty for the augmentation of the vicarage, and some
houses in Whitford Lane have been built on other part of it. In
the garden a terrace walk remains with a row of trees on each
side; these trees are not ancient, but have probably been planted
in the room of original ones cut down.”11

The Revd Richard Cranmer, from whom Manning and Bray must have
obtained much of their information, was the grandson of the lord of the
manor of Mitcham. He obviously took considerable interest in local
history, but unfortunately the ‘evidence’ he submitted to justify his
assertion that Ralegh House had been Sir Walter’s residence is less
than convincing. With such a respected work as the History of Surrey


from which to quote, however, it is hardly surprising that subsequent
writers repeated the tradition recounted by Manning and Bray, each
adding their own embellishments. C and J Greenwood in 1823, for
instance, referred to Raleigh House unequivocally as “formerly the
seat of Sir Walter Raleigh, now the property of J. Oxtoby Esq. and the
present residence of Mr. Giles”12 and Samuel Lewis gave the house an
implied grandeur it never possessed, describing it without any
reservation as Sir Walter Ralegh’s “ancient mansion on the Green”.13
He also repeated the account of the ship’s masts in a garbled form,
describing the timbers as being from one of the ships in Sir Walter’s
fleet, but supporting one staircase only.

According to Lewis, several of whose statements about Mitcham are
best treated with caution, the house had been ‘taken down’ in 1833. It
still found mention in one of the census books of 1841 as ‘Old Raleigh
House’, however, but this may have been merely as a landmark on an
enumeration district, rather than the address of an actual dwelling. If it
was still standing in 1841, it was certainly unoccupied. The map
produced in conjunction with the tithe apportionment survey conducted
in 1846 confirms that by then there was no house on the site, and for a

Raleigh House c.1825
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


century afterwards the land remained largely undeveloped. The Plumer
family retained an estate in Mitcham until the middle of the 19th century,
but no evidence survives to show that the so-called Raleigh House or
the land on which it stood had ever been in their possession. Raleigh
Gardens, which skirted the site of the house to the south and west, was
laid out in the early 1920s, but the corner site survived as allotment
gardens until the shops and flats of Fair Green Court were built 30
years later.

The supposed association of Sir Walter with Raleigh House did not go
unchallenged for long. Daniel Lysons, in his edition of the Environs of
London published in 1792, had merely observed that “A house, in the
occupation of Mr. Dempster, who keeps an academy there, is still called
Raleigh House”.1 When revising the text for the 1796 edition he was
assured by Charles Weston, steward of the manor of Ravensbury, that
Sir Walter’s former house was not the building then occupied by
Dempster’s academy, but another in the tenure of John Bond and owned
by William Plumer, a descendant of Thomas Plumer, the original
purchaser of the Raleghs’ estate. Thomas Plumer died early in 163914
but, as we have seen, the old Ralegh estate was to remain in the hands
of his heirs for over 200 years. The court rolls of the manor of Ravensbury
for the 18th century, with which Weston was well acquainted, contain
various references to a particular part of the estate which lay within the
manor. Typical is the entry recording the general court baron held on 9
March 1770, when William Plumer of Hertfordshire (1736–1822) was
admitted, on the death of his father, William Plumer MP, of Blakesware
and Gilston Park, Herfordshire, (1687–1767) as a copyhold tenant of
the manor, holding an estate which included

“… all that Capital Messuage or Tenement formerly in the
occupation of Lady Dolliffe and now John Bond Esquire and
Sixty acres of Land thereunto belonging … in Mitcham … which
premises were heretofore the Estate of Sir Walter Raleigh and
Elizabeth his wife”

together with five messuages or cottages.2

The house occupied by Lady Dolliffe, and subsequently John Bond, a
London banker, was Eagle House, which still stands in London Road,


Mitcham. Unfortunately, in his desire to rectify the situation, Weston
inadvertently added to the confusion, for he seems to have misinterpreted
the entries to mean that the house occupied by Bond had once actually
belonged to the Raleghs. Eagle House is of the Queen Anne period,
and was erected early in the 18th century, the date 1705 on the rainwater
heads usually being taken as a reasonably reliable guide to its
completion. It was certainly not standing in Ralegh’s lifetime, as Weston
seems to have assumed. The wording used in the court rolls is,
admittedly, a little ambiguous, but unless he was misquoted by Lysons,
we must assume that in declaring so emphatically that Eagle House
was formerly Sir Walter’s residence, Weston was rather surprisingly
not only unable to distinguish Elizabethan architecture from that of the
Queen Anne period, but was also unaware of the dated rainwater heads.
The error was perpetuated by Lysons when writing the supplement to
his book in 1811,15 but this can be attributed to his uncritical acceptance
of Weston’s statement, and a lack of research.

Following his fall from royal favour after his marriage to Elizabeth
Throgmorton in 1591, Ralegh made his home at Sherborne, although
for over 20 years he retained substantial apartments at Durham House,
on the site of the Adelphi, in London. In 1603 he was imprisoned in the
Tower for alleged treason, but eventually obtained his release in order
that he might organise and lead a treasure hunting expedition to South
America. The venture ended in failure, Sir Walter was re-imprisoned
on his return to England and, on the orders of James I, was executed in
Old Palace Yard in 1618. Lady Ralegh turned for solace to her brother,
Sir Nicholas Carew, and may have secured the interment of Ralegh’s
decapitated body in the Carew family vault in the parish church of St
Mary the Virgin at Beddington, although it is usually claimed that he
lies in St Margaret’s, Westminster. Whereas it is possible that Lady
Ralegh occupied her Mitcham house from time to time during the
difficult years of her husband’s first imprisonment (which would explain
the tradition of actual residence in the village) the family’s connections
with Mitcham ceased, as far as we are aware, with the sale in 1616.

As we have seen in the previous chapter, Old Bedlam, another house in
Mitcham owned by the Plumers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and quite


possibly part of the Ralegh estate, has never been linked with Sir Walter.
From its architectural style the house was quite obviously extant during
Ralegh’s life time, but no-one has attempted to make the connection
although, as we have already argued, the case is a plausible one.

To sum up, the actual location of any house in Mitcham owned by the
Raleghs has yet to be determined. Of the three possibilities, the site of
Raleigh House, despite the alleged ships’ masts and the name, seems
the least likely since there appears to be no trace of the property ever
having been owned by the Plumer family, although they may have sold
it after purchase from the Raleghs. Eagle House quite definitely stands
on land once part of the Ralegh estate, but was built a century after the
sale. Finally, we have Old Bedlam, certainly old enough to have been
owned by the Raleghs, but lacking even the faintest shred of folk
memory to support its association with them.

Fair Green Court, a three-storey block of shops and flats in light brown
brickwork, was erected at the corner of the Upper Green and London
Road in the 1950s. The plot had, for many years previously, been
surrounded by a low brick wall topped with iron railings, and was used
as allotment gardens throughout the 1939/45 War. To the rear was the
site of James Dempster’s Raleigh House Academy, recorded in the
tithe survey of 1846 as “Garden and building land” in the ownership of
Samuel Oxtoby, the Mitcham builder and land owner. It was rented to
George Pitt, the proprietor of the nearby London House stores. This
shop passed eventually into the hands of the Francis family, and in the
writer’s memory the land was usually referred to as ‘Francis’s Field’.

It had long been hoped that the London Underground Group’s City &
South London Line, which had reached Clapham Common in 1900,
might be extended from Tooting Broadway to Mitcham and eventually
Sutton. This prime corner site, in the centre of Mitcham, seemed the
obvious place for a station. The project never materialised, however, it
being alleged that difficulties likely to be encountered with the high
water table at this point played a part in the decision. The main reason
was the agreement reached with the Southern Railway that the
Underground’s line would terminate at Morden.

Chapter 9


For over 80 years Durham House was occupied by the Mitcham Unionist
and Conservative Club. It was one of the last remaining early 18thcentury
houses in Mitcham, and dominated the southern side of Upper
Green West from the time of its erection in the reign of George I until
its demolition in 1971. Early in the 20th century Durham House attracted
the attention of the compilers of the Victoria County History of Surrey,
who described it as “a fine red brick building, three stories high, with a
dentil cornice and a Doric porch with a hood supported on brackets”.1
Unfortunately, tasteless alterations carried out in later years destroyed
much of the original character of the house, a ground floor extension
with metal-framed windows being constructed to reach forward to the
pavement, whilst side-hung casements with top-hung lights were fitted
to the window openings of the first- and second-floor rooms, replacing
the original Georgian boxed sliding sashes. Almost by way of a
concession to potential critics, what appeared to have been parts of the
original doorcase, with fluted pilasters, curved console brackets and
flat hood, were retained and re-fixed somewhat incongruously to the
front of the new extension, framing the club entrance. At the time of
demolition the mellowed stock-brick façade of the upper floors, with
its contrasting red brick window dressings and string courses, was
virtually the only part of the exterior of the house that would have been
recognisable to its original inhabitants. Alterations to the interior had
been similarly disastrous, and at the end of its days the early 18thcentury
balusters to the staircase leading to the upper floor, and a cheap
cast-iron fire surround of dubious antiquity in a first-floor room were
the only details of interest. They escaped the attention of the club’s
officials in their efforts to ‘improve’ and ‘modernise’ the facilities for
the benefit of members, amongst whom was no less a person than the
Borough Engineer and Surveyor.

Evidence for the occupation of the Durham House site before the 18th
century is very scanty. Shortly before its demolition, permission was
obtained for a small exploratory excavation by members of Merton
Historical Society during the summer of 1971, in what had been part of
the back garden. The top soil produced a few fragments of black


Romano-British coarseware, and a handful of abraded sherds from
medieval cooking pots and decorated pitchers. Within the small area
examined the quantity of material recovered did not indicate a habitation
site nearby, and the scatter of unrelated pot sherds, animal bone and
ferrous fragments was consistent with either sporadic manuring of the
land prior to cultivation, or merely the discarding of domestic refuse.

In one of the trenches opened, below the garden soil, the remains were
uncovered of what would have been known in the 18th century as a
‘necessary house’ or privy. Measuring roughly seven feet by seven feet
overall, it had been built above a cesspit, and the ten-inch thick walls
were of a mixture of dressed chalk blocks, Merstham stone rubble and
brick-bats set in lime mortar, all apparently salvaged from other
buildings. The interior was finished to a fair face, but the same care
had not been taken with the exterior, where it abutted the gravel subsoil.
The walls of the cesspit still stood two feet six inches high, and the
uppermost course when discovered was two feet four inches below
ground level. Inside, sealed by a demolition layer of broken roofing
tile, decayed timber and brick-bats, lay a deposit of domestic waste
from which it was possible to recover an interesting group of mid-
18th-century tableware, including a fine combed slipware dish or
charger, Lambeth tin-glazed blue-on-white dinner plates, early
Wedgwood pearlware items, wine bottles and glasses, fragments of
earthenware and stoneware, and numerous clay pipes. The whole
assemblage was roughly contemporary, and the demolition of the privy
could be ascribed to a change of occupancy that took place in the 1760s,
to which we will return later.2

Somewhat more revealing from an archaeological point of view were
the far more extensive excavations conducted by the developers during
the winter of 1971/2 to the west of Durham House itself, on the adjoining
site of Mitcham House, which was demolished shortly after the end of
the 1914/18 war. Here, following clearance of a terrace of houses built
in the 1920s and forming the eastern side of Raleigh Gardens, wall
footings of roughly-dressed chalk blocks were uncovered and severed.
In the absence of any other evidence, it is probably safe to assume the
footings had supported a boundary wall, the date of which is conjectural.


No other building material was found, but across much of the site a
conspicuous stratum of fine, homogeneous, sandy silt, a metre or more
in thickness, was exposed. This contained nothing visible by which it
could be dated, and it was concluded the silt had been deposited over a
considerable period in an area of standing water.3 As we have noted in
the opening chapter, a similar stratum was found further to the west in
1994, when the Museum of London Archaeology Service observed
pre-development site preparations in the vicinity of Dearn Gardens.4
The conclusion reached by the excavators was that here, too, the area
had been subject to seasonal flooding, or was permanently under water
over a long period.

The earliest identifiable references to specific occupiers of land in the
vicinity of Durham House come from a collection of documents in the
possession of Surrey Archaeological Society.5 From these it appears
that a narrow strip of land 35 feet long by one foot wide, lying beneath
a wall separating an orchard owned by Miss Elizabeth Arnold from the
house of Mr Gillebrand, was acquired by her in 1720. Little else is
known of the history of the site of Durham House prior to 1722, except
that in 1720 it was occupied by one of three ‘customary messuages or
tenements’ owned by William Smith, described in the court rolls of the
manor of Biggin and Tamworth as ‘a yeoman of Mitcham’.6 The three
houses were let or leased to Thomas Fairclough, Mary Goldsmith, a
widow, and John Tagg, but in 1720 all three were sold to Elizabeth

In 1722, having acquired two further tenements, presumably in the
vicinity of the first three, Elizabeth Arnold received formal licence
from the manor court to “demise, farm or lett to any fit person” all her
customary messuages etc. A year later she was granted formal leave to
lease or let what was described as her “New Erected Customary
Messuage or Tenement” – the property later to be known as Durham
House – which seems to have been built on the site of the house formerly
leased to Thomas Fairclough. So little is known of Elizabeth Arnold
that the scraps are tantalising. She was baptised at Mitcham as “a grown
person” in 1726.7 In 1736 she and her nephew Edward Clarke, a
carpenter of Wimbledon, mortgaged Durham House and the four other


customary tenements for £272 to John Brewer of Putney. A year later,
when she sold the five houses, with “barns, stables, edifices, buildings,
yards, garden and orchard” to Nathaniel Pettit of London, they were
described as “now or late” in the several tenures of Lady Dolliffe,
William Puplett, a local builder, Mrs Mary Goldsmith, John Tagg and
Miss Arnold herself.8

Mary Dolliffe was an interesting newcomer to the Upper Green about
whom a little is known. The court rolls unfortunately contain nothing
to indicate exactly when she moved into Durham House, but there is at
least a strong possibility that she was its first occupant. The widow of
Sir James Dolliffe, a founder director of the South Sea Company, she
had, so far as we know, been living at Eagle House, Mitcham since her
husband’s death in 1715.9 Sir James had subscribed over £10,000 of
the original capital of the company, the collapse of which in 1720 caused
a financial crisis that shook the government. The directors were
prosecuted, and their estates confiscated and applied to the benefit of
the sufferers. We have no knowledge of Lady Dolliffe’s involvement
in the company’s affairs, but it is more than likely that her finances
were dealt a severe blow in the crash which brought ruin to thousands
of investors. Eagle House must have been an expensive establishment
to run, and in reduced circumstances Lady Dolliffe may well have been
attracted by the more modest house overlooking the Upper Green, “new
erected” by Elizabeth Arnold.

The parish registers of Mitcham record the marriages of Lady Dolliffe’s
two daughters, Mary in 1714 to John Tyrell Esq, afterwards third baronet
of Springfield, Essex, and Elizabeth in 1722/3 to Charles Gore, a
merchant of London and later of Horkstow, Lincolnshire. It seems a
reasonable assumption that once the second marriage had taken place
Lady Dolliffe moved to Durham House. Her departure can, in fact, be
dated to late 1722 or early the following year, for in 1723 a new
insurance policy was taken out on Eagle House and its contents by
James Mendez, the owner and new occupier.10 In 1737 Lady Dolliffe’s
son James acquired Busbridge Hall, a large house near Godalming,
and it seems likely that she left Mitcham soon afterwards to join him at
his new home.11


At a court baron of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth held in August
1742 the death of Nathaniel Pettit was formally reported. His son John
being only nine years of age, tenancy of the manor was granted to the
boy’s uncle and guardian Pearson Pettit, ‘gentleman’, who was to receive
the rents of the Mitcham properties and be responsible for repairs until
John’s coming of age. Of the early tenants of the five houses only
William Puplett the builder remained by 1742, and Lady Dolliffe’s
former home was occupied by Mary Allcraft, who was probably related
to a Martha Allcraft, who died in 1757 at the age of 72 and whose
grave is marked by a ledger slab in the floor of the north aisle of Mitcham
parish church. The court rolls do not provide the exact date for the end
of Mary Allcraft’s tenure of Durham House, although they indicate
that she had left by 1754.

Durham House next became the residence of Martha Haultain, the
widow of James Haultain, a calico printer whose family’s firm, Haultain
et Cie, was employing 49 men at their ‘Mitcham’ works in 1714.12 The
Haultains were French Protestants, and several members of the family
are interred at Mount Nod, the old Huguenot burial ground on East
Hill, Wandsworth.13 The name was recorded in England as early as
1569, for an entry of January that year in the Lansdowne manuscript
included one Adrian Haultain amongst “les noms de ceux qui sont rangez
de eglize francoize, natifzez pais du Roy Philippe”.14 The Haultain
business seems to have been flourishing throughout the first half of the
18th century but, tantalisingly, the exact locations of the family’s house
and the factory have not been identified. Four children, a girl and three
boys, are known to have been born to Martha and her husband James;
Mary in 1743, followed by James, the eldest son, and lastly twins Francis
and Charles in 1747. All the children were baptised in Mitcham parish
church, but James and Martha must have removed to Banstead soon
afterwards, for when James died in 1753 at the age of 50, he was buried
as a resident of the latter parish. His residence, Yewlands, built in 1731
in Park Road, Banstead, survived until the 1930s.15 The altar tomb
covering the family grave can still be seen to the south of Banstead
parish church. Martha, a widow of 41, moved back to Mitcham with
their young family shortly after her husband’s death, John Lambert, a
Banstead farmer, noting in his accounts that in 1754 he carried “2 loads


of Goods to Mitcham for Madam Haltien”.16 Charles, one of the twins,
died at Mitcham in 1761 and was buried at Banstead, but his brother
Francis matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1764 and went
on to obtain his doctorate in divinity. He became vicar of East Ham in
1776, and held the rectory of Elstree from 1787 until 1799. Finally, he
was inducted vicar of Weybridge in 1794, a position he was to hold
until his death in 1827.17

In 1758 John Pettit decided to sell Durham House. Although still only
in his mid-20s, he had evidently made his mark in the world, for he is
described in the court rolls as a merchant of the City of London and as
“late of the Colony of Virginia”. The purchaser was another John Pettit,
presumably a relation, of St Martin’s Street, St Martin’s in the Fields.
As the new owner of Durham House he was admitted to the customary
tenancy of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, and he then almost
immediately mortgaged what the court rolls call the “two Customary
Messuages or Tenements late five several Messuages or Tenements
with … appurtenances thereunto belonging … and late in the occupation
of Mary Alcraft” (sic) “and William Puplett, and now in the several
tenures of Mrs. Haultain, widow and the said William Puplett …” to
Samuel Newton of the Minories. The year 1760 saw yet another transfer
of ownership, this time to a George Patterson, a peruke manufacturer
of St Martin’s and East Sheen, who in his turn sold to a Robert Fleming
of Cheam six years later. None of these gentlemen lived in Mitcham,
and no hint of the reasons for the repeated transfers of title is contained
in the rolls. One suspects that an interest in the property, be it the freehold
or merely possession of a long lease, was being used as security to
obtain capital for business ventures or to settle debts. From a local
history viewpoint, it is of course the occupants of the property that are
of more interest.

Mary Haultain married William Porter of Shepperton in 1767, and by
1769 her mother had left Mitcham, perhaps to join the Revd Francis
Haultain at East Ham. It was this change in the occupancy of Durham
House that seems to have been reflected in demolition of the outside
privy and the use of the cesspit as a dump for household rubbish,
revealed by the excavations conducted by Merton Historical Society in


1971. George Stainforth, Martha Haultain’s successor at Durham House,
purchased the property as a sitting tenant in 1769, and is to be found
listed in the register of Mitcham Freeholders for the first time the
following year. Described as a ‘wine merchant’,18 he is the first owner-
occupier of the house of whom we have knowledge, making it his home
until 1782. The two families were united in 1775 by the marriage of
Sophia Stainforth and Francis Haultain, who is described in the Mitcham
parish register as “of Weybridge” and, significantly, it was to Weybridge
that George Stainforth moved in 1782. Thereafter nothing is known of
their fortunes, and the two families disappear from the Mitcham scene.

The history of Durham House appears to have continued uneventfully
for the next 100 years. Changes in ownership and tenure occurred with
varying frequency, and although the names of many of the people
connected with the house can be recited, little of real consequence is
known of their lives and occupations. Perhaps expressing a desire for
commemoration, three of them inserted initialled limestone blocks in
the boundary walls of the garden; George Stainforth in the late 18th
century, Abel Garraway in 1809, and an enignmatic ‘G.I.B.’ who left
two, dated 1859, The stones were salvaged by the writer from the
contractors’ skips during demolition work in 1971 and were
subsequently incorporated in the walls surrounding the car park of the
new building.

Durham House was let by George Stainforth to a gentleman called
John Lodge from about 1782 until 1786, and then, together with
Puplett’s old house, by then empty, the property was sold to the Revd
Thomas Horne.19 To the east of Durham House at this time lay the
grounds of what was soon to become the Raleigh House Academy, the
preparatory boarding school for boys run by James Dempster. A large
three-storeyed weatherboarded structure, it was renovated by its owner,
Samuel Oxtoby, a local landowner and builder, who had acquired it in
or about 1785.20 On its southerly and western boundaries the garden of
Durham House abutted the grounds of another house, belonging to Mrs
Elizabeth Gascoigne, which at about this time became a girls’ school
under the proprietorship of Mrs Fowkes.21 By coincidence, Horne, a
fellow of Trinity College, was also a schoolmaster, and from 1788 to


1824 was master of the Manor House School at Chiswick. His second
son, Sir William Horne MP, was for many years a distinguished leader
in the court of Chancery, and in 1830 became Solicitor General.22

The first published reference to Durham House dates to just after the
French Revolution when Edwards, engaged in the compilation of his
guide for travellers on the road to Brighton, visited Mitcham and,
overlooking the Green, noted “a high brick house, the property and
residence of Joseph Potter Esq., diamond merchant”.21 In fact, Edwards
seems to have been slightly mistaken over the name, for the court rolls
and the land tax records show the owner of the house to have been a
Thomas Potter. What Edwards described as the “neat house” of Mrs
Pierpoint stood to the east, presumably that formerly in the possession
of Mr Gillebrand, whilst on the other side of Durham House was Mrs
Fowkes’ boarding school either in, or standing on the site of, what was
later to become known as Mitcham House. The name Potter is best
remembered in Mitcham for its long association with the distillation of
the oils of peppermint and lavender, an industry the foundation of which
can be traced back to 1749 and an Ephraim Potter who, according to
tradition, was the first to produce the essences on a commercial scale.
Thomas Potter, presumably a member of the large Potter clan in
Mitcham, had been admitted as a tenant of the manor of Biggin and
Tamworth in 1788, and seems to have lived at Durham House for about
four years. He obtained manorial licence to let in 1792, and surrendered
his tenancy to the court in 1799, when Giles Hibbert (sic) was admitted
in his place.

From the poor rate and land tax books it is possible to piece together a
reasonably coherent history of the ownership and ocupancy of Durham
House for the next 30 years, although it must be admitted that the entries
are at times confusing, spelling is erratic, and in the absence of numbered
addresses (a much later innovation) the house cannot always be
identified with absolute certainty. Furthermore, the names of the rate
or taxpayers are often at variance with those recorded as tenants of the
manor – a discrepancy which can usually be attributed to changes in
the identity of the actual occupiers, who may or may not have been
required by the terms of their tenure to pay the rates and taxes.


From 1788 until 1804 land tax was paid by Thomas Potter, described
as ‘the proprietor’. Then a change occurred, and a “General Stibbard”
paid the tax from 1806 until 1808. The new taxpayer can be identified
as Giles Stibbart, Lieutenant-General of Infantry in the Bengal Army,
and former provincial Commander-in-Chief, Bengal. A native of Kent,
Stibbart had a remarkable career, rising from obscurity in the ranks to
attain the highest office in the service of the East India Company. He
went to sea as captain’s servant, enlisted in the ranks of the Company’s
army under the patronage of Robert Clive in about 1756, and is believed
to have fought in the battle of Plassey and in the storming of
Masulipatam in 1759. Thereafter he saw constant action, was
commissioned in the 6th Sepoys, and was major commanding the force
engaged in the capture of Chunar in 1765. Holding the rank of Brigadier-
General, Giles Stibbart was Commander-in-Chief from 1777–1779, and
again between 1783 and 1785. After 30 years service in India he finally
embarked for home in the battleship Rodney in January 1786.23

Giles Stibbart died in 1809, and his name is replaced in the land tax
records by that of ‘A. Garraway’, who occupied the house and let
another, unidentified, property nearby, to William Pollard, formerly of
Park Place, Commonside West, Mitcham. It is believed that in or about
1800 Potter’s interest in the property, which was partly freehold and
partly leasehold, had been bought by Abel Garraway who local tradition
credits with naming it.24 Garraway is listed in the court rolls as paying
a quit rent from 1804 until 1823. A Daniel Garraway, who paid land
tax for Durham House in the early 1820s, was followed in his turn by
Abel Garraway himself in 1830.25

Upper Mitcham Green at this time presented a very different picture
from that of today. Open and bare, its sparse grass criss-crossed with
paths worn bare by many feet, it still formed part of the ancient waste
or common pasture of the village, although by the early 19th century it
provided grazing for nothing more than a few geese or the occasional
donkey. The Green was, however, a popular venue for village games
and festivities of all kinds, and, as we have seen in an earlier chapter,
Edwards commented on the maypole, which in the late 18th century
appears to have been a permanent feature of the Green in front of
Durham House.


Of the buildings around the Green described by Edwards, Durham
House was the last survivor. Three old public houses, the Nag’s Head,
the King’s Arms, and the Buck’s Head, were replaced by their Victorian
or Edwardian counterparts and, as we have seen earlier, Old Bedlam
was pulled down in about 1853. Marmaduke Langdale’s 18th-century
mansion on the south-eastern side of the Green, hidden from public
view by a long brick wall, was demolished in 1905, some 60 years
after the removal of Raleigh House, its neighbour on the opposite side
of ‘Whitford Lane’, the road leading south towards the Cricket Green.

Durham House would probably not have been erected had modern town
planning concepts existed in the early 18th century, for it was completely
out of scale and character with the rest of the buildings around the
Green, and when completed must have looked startlingly ‘modern’. A
century later, the tall ‘Queen Anne’ building still contrasted sharply
with a small weatherboarded cottage that had been built next door, and
to village wags the two dissimilar structures were known as ‘Dignity’
and ‘Impudence’.26

The Garraway family retained ownership of Durham House for well
over 50 years. Abel Garraway, who was probably a son or grandson of
the earlier owner, and was described as a “citizen and painter stainer of
London”, made it his home in 1841. In 1849 he moved to Glebe House

– later known as Glebelands – in Love Lane where he died in 1860.27
For much of the latter half of the 19th century Durham House had a
succession of tenants. In the early 1850s it was the home of an elderly
widow, Kezia Riddle,28 about whom nothing more is known. Then, in
August 1862 the ‘Durham House Estate’, with three adjoining cottages,
stables, and ‘premises’, was offered for sale by auction. The
accommodation afforded by the house itself – “a capital private
residence” with a “handsome brick front” – is described in detail in the
sale particulars now in the local history collection of Merton Local
Studies Centre. The virtues of the “productive garden”, planted with
fruit trees and walled on the east side and partly on the west, are extolled.
Durham House at this time was occupied by Mrs Hester East at a rental
of £60 p.a. The three adjoining cottages were let on weekly tenancies
varying from two shillings and sixpence to five shillings per week each.


The auctioneers were at pains to stress to potential buyers that the eastern
wall of the house, standing on land 35 feet long by one foot six inches
in width, was freehold, whereas the remainder was copyhold of the
manor of Biggin and Tamworth. (It will be recalled that the strip of
land in question had been purchased by Elizabeth Arnold in 1720).

The outcome of the auction is not known, but some interest in Durham
House was obviously retained by the Garraway family, for in 1864 the
property was leased to M H Johnson Esq by Miss Ursula Garraway
and Mrs Elizabeth Foreman.29 The Garraways remained intimately
associated with Mitcham throughout the 19th century, and several of
their graves can be seen in the parish churchyard in Church Road. In
1851 Robert Rice, a clothier and draper who appears to have married
into the family, acquired shops and other premises on the northern side
of the Upper Green. It is to a son of this union, Robert Garraway Rice,
a barrister at law, who died in January 1933, that local historians will
for ever be indebted. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable antiquarian,
and member of both Surrey and Sussex Archaeological Societies, his
measured drawings of Durham House are preserved in the Merton Local

Rear of Durham House c.1952


Studies Centre.30 Probably his greatest contribution to local history
commenced when he undertook the monumental task of transcribing
and annotating the parish registers of Mitcham, from their beginning
in the 16th century. Lack of financial backing seems to have prevented
all but a fragment of his labour appearing in print,31 and for the remainder
we are left merely with the indexed manuscript copy of his transcriptions
he left in the care of the librarian of Surrey Archaeological Society.
Unfortunately this copy lacks the rich biographical detail which, as
footnotes to the extracts published in The Reliquary, renders them of
unique value.

Kelly’s Directories mention no fewer than four separate occupants of
Durham House between 1874 and 1890, when it became the
headquarters of the Mitcham and Morden Conservative Association
under the secretaryship of A R Harwood. None of these residents stayed
more than four years, and there seems to have been a similar reluctance
to remain on the part of their immediate predecessors. At first sight
this is somewhat strange, for although Durham House was no longer
new, it was compact and elegant, had a pleasant garden, and was within
easy reach of town. The explanation for its apparent unpopularity may
lie in its position overlooking the Upper Green which, for virtually a
week every summer, disappeared under the sea of tents, caravans and
booths that housed Mitcham Fair. Although loved by the common
people, there can be little doubt that this annual invasion was both
feared and detested by shopkeepers and others occupying property in
the vicinity.

Unfortunately the annual torment suffered by the residents of Durham
House was not alleviated by 11 months of relative peace for the small
patch of open land it overlooked remained what it had always been – a
village green. One old resident, recalling his boyhood in the 1860s,
said of the Upper Green, “we played hockey on it, and tipcat, and many
another larky game. It was the village playground for a set quite different
from the players on the Cricket Green. When the Fair was not howling
there, we were, or Sanger’s Circus, or Wombwell’s Menagerie.”32 On
reflection, it is perhaps amazing that Durham House was tolerated as a
private residence by so many for so long.


Durham House, with Mitcham Fair in the foreground, c.1906.
Tom Francis Collection, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

Although Durham House had been listed in the Surrey County Council’s
publication The Antiquities of Surrey,33 and was included in the Ministry
of Housing and Local Government’s list of buildings of architectural
and historic importance,34 it had been so altered by 1971 that it was not
considered worth preserving when proposals for its demolition and
replacement with a block of shops, offices and flats were submitted to
the Planning Committee of Merton Council in 1970. The demise of
Durham House was regretted by many lovers of old houses and of Old
Mitcham in particular, but the local press was strangely indifferent,
restricting its comment to observing that the proposal was “the biggest
thing to hit Fair Green for a long time”. Viewed purely in the harsh
light of practical economics, the decision by the local Conservative
Association to demolish and release the valuable site for redevelopment
required little justification, however, for their old headquarters was
inconvenient and costly to maintain, and the proposed new building, it


was said, would include a “luxury suite on the first floor” and good car
parking below. While the works were in progress it was intended that
the Association and club would move to the British Legion headquarters
in St Mark’s Road.

Demolition of Durham House took place in October 1971. The buildings
that arose in its stead are three-storeyed and flat roofed, in cast concrete
and to a very basic design, lacking any worthwhile detailing. To provide
off-street parking, roughly half the new structure is raised on concrete
stilts. As intended, the Mitcham Conservative Club took over the first
floor, and a caretaker was installed in the self-contained flat above. In
June 1993 the Borough News noted that although the ground floor had
been opened as a Macfisheries supermarket, the new offices were still
unlet. Within a short while Macfisheries had gone, to be replaced by a
Bejam freezer centre and subsequently by Iceland, another self-service
store specialising in frozen food. The office suite was eventually taken
by Gough Brothers, and subsequently Barclays Bank.

Durham House 1971, when occupied by Mitcham Conservative Club.
Photographed for Mitcham News and Mercury

Chapter 10


Mitcham House has now passed beyond living memory, for it was pulled
down in the early 1920s prior to the building of the Raleigh Gardens
housing estate. The site of the house and part of its grounds, which
originally extended south to Glebelands and west to Love Lane, was
soon covered with small houses. In their turn, a terrace of these houses,
standing on the eastern side of Raleigh Gardens running south from
Upper Green West, was demolished in 1971 and their sites are now
beneath the car park of the new Durham House.

A large cedar of Lebanon, which stood in the front garden of Mitcham
House, survived at the junction of Raleigh Gardens with the Upper
Green until it was felled during roadworks in the 1980s. Mitcham House
itself, a substantial residence as far as one can judge from its plan, is
shown on the 25-inch to one mile Ordnance Survey maps produced in
1867 and 1894. Little could be glimpsed of it from the Upper Green,
for the house was secluded behind a six-foot high brick wall, and was
further sheltered by tall trees. Facing north, it would not have been an
easy subject for the camera, which probably explains why no
photographs of the house have found their way into the Merton Local
Studies Centre’s illustrations collection.

The early history of Mitcham House is somewhat uncertain, but in his
Companion, Edwards confirms that there was a building here around
1790, for he mentions briefly “Mrs. Fowkes’ boarding-school” to the
west of what was to became known as Durham House.1 The land tax
records for the mid-1780s also list a house occupied by a Mr or Mrs
Fowkes and owned by Mrs Elizabeth Gascoigne.2 Elizabeth Gascoigne
was presumably the widow of “James Cloberry Gascoigne, gent.”, who
died on 16 June 1776 and was commemorated in the old parish church
by a small white marble tablet set against the wall of the south side of
the chancel.3 Deeds of Little Glebelands, in Love Lane, confirm
Gascoigne to have been the owner of land abutting to the north in 1762.4

The rest has to be conjecture, but there are indications that there was a
connection between the Gascoigne family and that of Sir Ambrose


Crowley, the 18th-century ironmaster, who is commemorated by an
elaborate monument now in the baptistry of the parish church, although
strangely we have no evidence that he lived in Mitcham. The relationship
is suggested by the marriage of John Crowley, Sir Ambrose’s son, and
a Theodosia Gascoigne of Enfield.5 The Gascoignes seem to have been
related to Mrs Sarah Chandler, widow of a merchant of Mile End, who
owned Hall Place, a large house off Lower Green West. Sarah Chandler,
who lived at Sunbury, had inherited a not inconsiderable estate in
Mitcham on the death of her first husband, Thomas Selby, a member of
a prosperous local family engaged in the bleaching of textiles. She was
long remembered in Mitcham for her gift to the parish of part of the
Hall Place estate, overlooking Lower Green West, on which the village’s
first Sunday School was built. In 1789, when she died, Sarah Chandler
left several pecuniary legacies and all her freehold land and copyhold
estates in Britain, including Hall Place, and all her plantations in
Jamaica, to George Gascoigne on condition he changed his name to
Chandler.6 The Mitcham property included the north chancel of the old
parish church, where the Crowley memorial was first placed.7 (See
Appendix I)

Between 1804 and 1809 Mitcham House accommodated a seminary
for young ladies aged from 8 to 13 years, kept by Mrs Carter, formerly
of Baron House, in Lower Mitcham. By 1846 the property was owned
by a Thomas Russell, and occupied by a Richard Jones. Part of the
garden and the meadow to the south of the house were also owned by
Russell and in Jones’s tenure. The remainder of the grounds Jones either
rented or held on lease from Samuel Oxtoby.8 These included what
was described as a “walk”, a feature which can be seen on the 1847
tithe map, separating Jones’s meadow from the glebe land to the east,
purchased by the Governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty in 1762 to
augment the income of Mitcham vicarage.9 This was the “terrace walk”
mentioned by Manning and Bray in 1814 as being part of the once
extensive grounds of Raleigh House. Some of the trees survived until
the latter half of the 19th century, and are marked on the 1867 Ordnance
Survey map.


Richard Jones was the proprietor of the Mitcham Felt Mills, occupying
the Crown Mill building (formerly a snuff mill), on the north bank of
the Wandle above Mitcham Bridge. He seems to have established the
business here in the mid-1840s,10 and by 1855 the Crimean War had
added to his normal range of products (which included hats, and felting
for pianos) winter jerkins and boots for the British troops.11 At Mitcham
House Jones, his wife and five children (three sons and two daughters)
lived in a style appropriate to a moderately prosperous mid-Victorian
industrialist, with a living-in staff of nurse, cook and housemaid. Little
is known of the fortunes of the family after 1851, when Richard Jones
was aged 52.12 The Post Office Directory lists only Mrs Jones as the
resident in 1851, but she was not included in the edition of 1855. The
assumption has to be that Richard Jones died late in 1851, and that the
family moved away from Mitcham within the next four years. The
business at the Crown Mill was taken over by R & R Whitehead Ltd in
the early 1860s, and as the Mitcham Hair and Fibres Mills continued
operating in Mitcham until the 1960s.13

Following the Jones family’s departure, Mitcham House was occupied
by a succession of people about whom little can be said. There was a
Mrs Grove there in 1866, a Mrs Barclay between 1869 and 1874, and a
Francis Hornby Birley in 1882.14 Careful study of the local directories,
published at two or three-yearly intervals, would add to the list, and
the census returns would of course add biographical information. This
remains to be done, but although of possible interest to family historians,
is unlikely to add much to the history of the Upper Green itself.

Mitcham House was sold in 1922,15 and after demolition of the old
house and its outbuildings the cleared site was redeveloped as Raleigh
Gardens, an estate of terraced working-class houses built somewhat
unusually in parti-coloured fletton bricks. Only the cedar, which had
occupied the centre of the front lawn, remained as a hint that the site
had once been occupied by a house of some pretentions. Eventually
the tree itself, and most of the remaining 1920s houses in Raleigh
Gardens, were removed to make way for a car park and the much-
widened road now taking north-bound traffic away from the Upper


In November 1971, during preparation of the cleared site of Durham
House and the houses in Raleigh Gardens, the building contractors
uncovered an old well. Four feet in diameter and over 25 feet deep,
with water standing at four feet below ground level, the well was lined
with yellow stock bricks corbelled over towards the top. The brickwork
suggested a date of construction sometime in the late 18th century, and
it was surmised from the well’s position, close by the junction of Raleigh
Gardens and Upper Green West, that it had been dug to serve Mitcham
House. It was claimed by one elderly resident to have been still in use
around 1900. Since the old well presented an obvious hazard it was
filled with concrete and covered by the contractors.

As part of the final landscaping following completion of the highways
works in the 1990s, a raised bed was created at the junction of the new
Raleigh Gardens and Upper Green West. Amongst the planting of trees
and shrubs there is a cedar – not a Cedrus libani, since this would
eventually become too big for the location, but what seems to be a
variety of Cedrus atlantica, smaller than the cedar of Lebanon and
able to thrive in very dry conditions, but a cedar nevertheless.

Upper Green, with the Nag’s Head on the left
Postcard c.1905

Chapter 11


Crossroads and village greens have always offered the prospect of profit
for those in the business of providing refreshment, especially of the
liquid variety, and it therefore comes as no surprise to find that at one
time Mitcham’s Upper Green could boast no fewer than four hostelries,
the Old Nag’s Head, the King’s Arms, the Buck’s Head and the Lord
Napier, all vying with each other both to attract the passing trade and
to retain the patronage of their regulars. The history of one, the Buck’s
Head (now the White Lion of Mortimer), can be followed back to the
mid-17th century, and the inn was probably in existence during the
time of Elizabeth I. Lack of records prevents the Nag’s Head and the
King’s Arms being traced beyond the 18th century, whilst the fourth,
the Lord Napier or Roaring Donkey, seems to have been a 19th-century
beer house and a relative newcomer. Only two now survive, in buildings
barely a century old.


The Nag’s Head

The ‘Old Nag’s Head’ demolished in 1991 during the course of the
remodelling of the Upper Green by the London Borough of Merton,
had replaced a much older public house, originally known simply as
the Nag’s Head, kept in the mid-18th century by Francis Merritt and
his wife Ann. The Merritts were customary tenants of the manor of
Biggin and Tamworth, and the family would seem to have been in the
inn-keeping business for some time. There is mention, as we have seen
in a previous chapter, to ‘Mr. Merrett’s’ premises in 1732, and also,
from 1765, to his being connected with another inn, the fore-runner of
the Ravensbury Arms, on Mitcham Common. Francis Merritt’s name
is on the freeholders’ list for 1764–5, and he is shown by deeds in the
Surrey History Centre to have had an interest in two houses near Figges
Marsh.1 His son Richard inherited the business in 1784, but the premises
at the Upper Green seem to have passed into the hands of a Richard
Bradford in 1797. Several members of the Merritt family were buried
in Mitcham churchyard, where their tombstones can still be found.


A little after the Merritts’ time the Nag’s Head became the official
meeting place of the Hope Friendly Society, instituted in 1817 with the
object of providing contributing members with sickness and disability
insurance cover.2 In all, ten friendly societies were registered in Mitcham
between 1794 and 1829, each of them founded with the intention of
fostering self-reliance in one form or another at a time when all the
parish authorities could offer those in need was either very meagre
out-relief under the poor law, or the ultimate humiliation of
accommodation in the local workhouse.

The Old Nag’s Head, occupied by William Lowman on a 21-year
repairing lease from September 1843 at a rental of £92 4s. per annum,
“holden of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth”, was auctioned in May
1847. It was described as a bow-windowed, compo-fronted house, with
bar and tap-room, two parlours and a kitchen (with a pump of good
water), and six rooms on its chamber floor. In addition, it boasted a
“capital” club-room, approximately 36 feet long, approached by a
separate staircase. The spacious yard, in which there were “convenient
buildings” affording stalled and other stabling, standing for vehicles,
lofts, wood and poultry sheds together with a “productive and neatly
planted garden”, completed what sounds to have been a traditional
country ‘pub’.3 As we have already noted, in the late 18th century the
maypole seems to have been a permanent feature on the Green opposite.
How long it had stood there, and when it was removed, is not recorded.
Less attractive perhaps, but certainly of equal interest to the social
historian, was the inn’s cockpit, in which it is said some of the last
cockfights in the London area were staged.4

The building, which from the front had the appearance of dating to the
early 18th century (although behind the symmetrical three-bay façade
there may have been an older building), can be seen in a few photographs
surviving from around 1900. Its specialities at that time seem to have
been Thorne’s Entire and Grey Horse brand bottled beers, the names
of which were emblazoned across the front elevation. Together with
other property in Mitcham comprising the estate of the late Robert
Russell, to whom they had passed in a marriage settlement of May
1844, the Old Nag’s Head was sold to a firm of brewers in December


1903.5 Demolition and rebuilding had taken place by the 1930s. Unlike
many of the local public houses rebuilt between the wars. the new
building was not in the ‘mock-Tudor’ style favoured by brewers of the
period, but reflected the 18th-century tradition of a symmetrical cement-
rendered façade beneath a tiled mansard roof. Boxed-framed sliding
sashes on the first floor were fitted with decorative louvred shutters,
and the whole three-bay building was set back from the frontage line to
form a small front court.

In common with adjoining properties, the relatively new Old Nag’s
Head was included in the demolitions proposed in the Mitcham town
centre development scheme adopted in the 1980s. Election of a Labour
council in 1990 resulted in the scheme’s being shelved, at least
temporarily, and in September 1990 the Mitcham Herald carried an
article on the difficulties the uncertain future hanging over the pub was
causing its tenants. By the end of 1991, however, the Old Nag’s Head
had been demolished, and in March the following year a new road,

Distant view of Upper Green West from the eastern side of the Green
Postcard c.1900


Holborn Way, was opened, completing the diversion of through traffic
away from the centre of the Upper Green. Before the scheme was
completed, cleared land to the rear of the public house, where a new
public car park was eventually constructed, offered the opportunity for
exploratory archaeological examination by the Museum of London
Archaeology Service. Several trenches were excavated by machine and
finished by hand, as close as possible to the rear boundaries of the then
still standing buildings on the Upper Green frontage and also further
back on the cleared land, but the topsoil was found to have been much
disturbed and provided nothing of archaeological significance.6

The King’s Arms

Young & Co’s King’s Arms, re-built in 1900, is an example of what
was emerging as the newly fashionable ‘Tudor’ style for public houses,
with its evocation of Merrie England. It replaced another old inn, this
time a three-bay weatherboarded building of mid-18th century date,
which stood roughly on the same site as the present building. This was
mentioned in vestry minutes in 1787, and around 1790 was in the
possession of Thomas Bowyer,7 father of one of Mitcham’s best-known
cricketers. It was first leased in 1837.

The old King’s Arms in the High Street, together with an adjacent
slaughterhouse and butcher’s shop fronting the Upper Green, was
offered for sale freehold by auction in March 1885 by the trustees of
the late John Oxtoby. The accommodation was described as comprising
“private and public bars, Bar Parlour, Smoking Room … Yard in the
rear with detached Stable Building for two Horses, Coach House and
Loft Over”.8 At this time the inn was held on a 21-year lease,
commencing September 1879, by Young and Bainbridge, the
Wandsworth brewers. The licensee was a Mr Gould, and it was Young
and Company who purchased the premises.9


The old King’s Arms (on the left) and The Buck’s Head,
photographed c.1865, probably by John R Chart.
Tom Francis Collection reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

Copy of postcard of c.1910,
showing the new King’s Arms and Buck’s Head


The White Lion of Mortimer (formerly the Buck’s Head)

On the opposite corner of the London Road, now a pedestrianised precinct
leading north from the Upper Green, there stands what, until 1990, was
Charrington’s Buck’s Head. Predating the King’s Head by a decade or
so, and itself a replacement of an earlier public house, the erstwhile Buck’s
Head was erected in contrasting red and yellow brick with stone dressings,
and provides an interesting contrast in architectural style.

The old Buck’s Head, demolished around 1880, was a three-storeyed
18th-century building which stood some four feet further to the west
than the present house, and accordingly reduced the width of what was
then the High Street even more than the present structure. In 1801, when
it was in the occupation of William Mansell,7 it was described as “a
small public house”, but it obviously offered facilities which could not
be equalled by its competitor opposite, for the Buck’s Head was one of
the regular meeting places of the parish vestry in the 18th and early 19th
centuries, as well of various friendly societies, including the United
Friends, the Cumberland, and the Union and Benefit Societies, around
the time of the Napoleonic Wars.2

The sign of the inn is believed to have been inspired by the armorial crest
of George Smythe of Mitcham Grove, who owned “le Buck’s Head” at
the time of his death in 1638.10 An important local land-owning family
(Thomas Smythe, his father, was ‘Clerk to theGreenclothe’ in Elizabeth
I’s civil service), the Smythes first appear in Mitcham records in 1564.11
This suggests that an inn bearing the same name had occupied the site at
Upper Green for some 400 years) and was perhaps standing at the time
of the Armada. Little imagination is required to visualise toasts being
drunk at the sign of the Buck’s Head to Drake’s success as the beacons
blazed across the country in 1588, and preparations were being put in
hand to repel the Spanish should they attempt to land in England.

A century later, shortly after the end of the Commonwealth and the
restoration of the monarchy, small change was not always sufficiently
plentiful to meet demand, and it was not uncommon for traders to mint
their own ‘coinage’ in the form of tokens. It is thus from this period we
have a halfpenny token of about 1665, issued by David Morgan of the
Buck’s Head, and used in local transactions. Morgan would have been a


tenant or lessee of the Smythes, and shares with one other Mitcham
innkeeper the distinction of being the only person in the village known
with certainty to have augmented the coinage in this way.12

The Smythes were still in possession of the Buck’s Head in July 1669,
when another George Smythe, styled ‘of Wandsworth’, leased what
amounted to a farmstead with barn and outbuildings to Matthew Bowman
(or “Bowan”), a ‘husbandman’ of Mitcham, for 21 years at 15 guineas
per annum. With the house went 21 acres, comprising four parcels of
enclosed land, totalling 12 acres, and eight other parcels in the common
fields known as the ‘Blacklands,’ off Merton Lane, and in the East Field.13

In November 1775, following the death of William Myers, a descendant
of Smythe, the Buck’s Head was offered for sale by auction. It was
described as a freehold dwelling house with five bedchambers, two
parlours, tap room, cellar, wash house, two gardens, two stables for eight
horses, a barn and a large yard. A Mr Day held the lease at £15 per
annum. Two adjoining freehold properties leased or let to tenants, and
also owned by the late William Myers, were offered for sale at the same
time.14 The names of numerous subsequent licensees or occupiers of the
Buck’s Head have come down to us through the medium of local records,
including that of William Mansell (c.1790),7 James Bridger (1838/9),15
Thomas Baker (1841),16 John Sutton (1845)17 and Francis Newman
(1851).18 Bridger was the natural son of James Moore, the lord of the
manor of Biggin and Tamworth and proprietor of the firm of Potter and
Moore, growers and distillers of medicinal and aromatic herbs. Newman
was probably related to another of Mitcham’s ‘physick gardeners’,
William Newman, who at the time occupied Old Bedlam, the large Tudor
house that is the subject of an earlier chapter in this book.

In May 1973 the local press announced that Bass Charrington, the owners
of the Buck’s Head, had decided to evict the tenants and put in a manager.
The inn now entered a difficult period, and in 1978 it was badly damaged
by fire and temporarily closed. The cause of the fire is not known, but for
several years the pub continued to attract an undesirable clientele and in
the 1980s acquired a bad reputation. Eventually, in 1990, the premises
were acquired by J D Wetherspoon plc, owners of a chain of free houses,
who set about complete refurbishment. As a way of demonstrating that


the pub had acquired a new identity, Wetherspoons were persuaded that
the name should be changed, and when the house reopened for custom in
December 1990 it was as The White Lion of Mortimer. The name has no
connection with Mitcham whatsoever, and was merely chosen because,
in the words of Wetherspoon’s design consultants, “we already had a
successful ‘White Lion of Mortimer’ in North London … and it was felt
that this name had a similarly dignified and heraldic feel as did ‘Buck’s
Head'”.19 The reasons are understandable, but Wetherspoon plc was
presumably ignorant of the fact that in changing the name they were
destroying a unique link with the past, and with it the ability to claim that
a Buck’s Head had occupied this corner of Mitcham continuously for
nearly 400 years.

The Lord Napier

This, the shortest-lived of the four public houses overlooking the Upper
Green, was in York Place, a small two-storeyed terrace of eight shops
with living accommodation above, standing at the corner of Killick’s
Lane or, as it was known for much of the 20th century, St Mark’s Road.20
The terrace was in the style of the early 19th century, and No. 3, the Lord
Napier (another name with no obvious connection with Mitcham), was
possibly spawned of the Beerhouse Act of 1830. This was passed in the
hope of weaning the drinking public away from gin and encouraging the
consumption of the more wholesome and traditional English ales by
allowing a householder, on payment of a fee of two guineas, to retail
beer from his own house.

The Lord Napier was also known as ‘The Roaring Donkey’, but for what
reason is not clear, and the joke, if there was one, is lost. The cause and
date of the pub’s closure is also unknown, and it finished its days as a
funeral parlour, occupied by George York. Half the terrace had gone by
the late 1940s, and the remainder was demolished in 1986/7 as part of
the redevelopment of this corner of the Upper Green. The site is now
occupied by a three-storeyed block of shops with offices above, standing
at the entrance to Majestic Way, a pedestrianised shopping precinct.

Chapter 12


The following brief review of the history of the remaining buildings
and their sites around the Upper Green begins at the new major traffic
intersection to the west of the Green. Here Western Road, the former
Merton Lane, is met by Holborn Way, opened in the late 1980s as part
of a scheme to remove through traffic from the centre of the Green, and
is crossed by north-bound traffic diverted through a much widened
Raleigh Gardens. Centuries ago the intersection of several major routes
had led to the growth of a small settlement around the northern margins
of what became the Upper Green. This gradually emerged as the
commercial centre of the village and later township of Mitcham. Traffic
presented no problem until the extension of the electric tramway from
Tooting to Croydon in 1906 hastened the southward expansion of the
London suburbs and the eventual absorption of Mitcham into the

Schemes for by-passing what was then known as the Fair Green were
already under discussion during the 1930s, but a solution which was
both economically and politically acceptable proved elusive, and the
problem was shelved on the outbreak of War in 1939. With the
phenomenal increase in road traffic in the 1950s and 1960s a solution
became a matter of increasing urgency, but the intervening years had
seen not only the loss of housing due to enemy activity, but also an
increase in population. Destruction of sound houses for road
construction was therefore a controversial subject. Added to the adverse
public reaction to the acquisition of the land needed were the multiplicity
of governmental authorities involved and conflicting political attitudes.
Eventually, following the reorganisation of London government and a
prolonged period of public consultation, the present road pattern and
traffic management system was adopted as the least objectionable of
several alternatives, and finally came into operation in 1992.


The Western Side of the Green

Beyond Mitcham House which, as we have seen, was demolished in
the early 1920s prior to the development of the Raleigh Gardens housing
estate, was the “pleasant and ample” site chosen in 1818 for the erection
of Zion Chapel, opened with due ceremony in April 1819 by Rowland
Hill as an independent place of worship for the growing body of
Congregationalists in Mitcham.1 The building remained until the 1980s,
but was no longer used as a chapel having been closed in 1932 on the
dedication of a new Congregational church in London Road, south of
the Cricket Green. The old chapel, in the front wall of which could still
be seen the foundation stone laid in September 1818 by the deacon,
Thomas Pratt, was for many years used by Malex Ltd and Machin
Kingsley Ltd, box factors, as offices and a warehouse for cardboard.

A more complete history of Zion Chapel, which became a well-
patronised and much loved place of worship during the mid-19th
century, with a reputation far beyond the parish of Mitcham, forms a
separate study, to be published in a later book, Upper Mitcham and
Western Road, in this series of Mitcham Histories. (The history of the
Congregational church in Lower Mitcham is to be found on pages
124–126 of Lower Mitcham – Mitcham Histories 4.)

To the right of and adjoining the former Zion Chapel was the old sunday
school building, also erected in 1819. Enlarged in 1842, it was further
extended in 1857 to provide accommodation for the British Day Schools,
newly founded by the non-Conformists under the auspices of the British
and Foreign Schools Society.2 The day school was closed down towards
the end of the 19th century, once adequate provision for primary
education had been made by the local school board, appointed under
the Education Act of 1870.

Both the former Zion Chapel and the British Schools building were
demolished in the late 1980s, and their sites are now mainly occupied
by a flat-roofed three-storey commercial block, the bright blue cladding
of which relates badly to the rest of the buildings around the Green.
Blockbuster Video have one half of the premises, whilst the remainder
accommodates the Netto self-service food store.


On the northern side of Upper Green, to the west of the Old Nag’s
Head on the site once occupied by the Fair Green covered market and
after that by Davis’s Coaches, there stood in late Victorian times the
Broadway Stores, selling groceries, oils and colours, brooms, brushes
and general domestic hardware and ironmongery.3 The building had
the appearance of having been built in the early 18th century, and
originally comprised a pair of identical houses of three bays each, with
central doorways. The front above the shop fascia was adorned with
large earthenware oil jars cut in half – the traditional sign for an oil and
colour merchant’s store, and now rarely seen.

Until the early years of the 20th century there was an assortment of
small shops in buildings of varying age between the Old Nag’s Head
and the King’s Arms. The truth no doubt is that, like the boundaries of
the sites they occupied, most of the properties on this side of the Green
had their origins in the Middle Ages, since when there had been many
phases of building, demolition and rebuilding. The first of note was
depicted in a watercolour painted in about 1825.4 Captioned “Near the

‘Mitcham – Near the Nag’s Head’ – an early 19th-century watercolour
of an old building overlooking the Upper Green.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


Nag’s Head”, it shows an interesting building constructed of a typical
old Surrey mixture of hard chalk or greensand blocks interspersed with
roughly knapped flints. Even in the 1820s the building was considered
‘ancient’. As a bakery and tea shop, it can be seen in a photograph of
around 1870 and seems to have survived until about 1910, but was
eventually demolished to provide a site for the three inter-war ‘mock-
Tudor’ shops still standing. Another old building, pictured in the Tom
Francis slide collection, was Currell’s sweet and grocery shop. Its
rendered ‘compo’ front façade probably hid a timber frame, and the
general form of the building suggests the original structure may have
been of the 16th or 17th century in date. A photograph taken in about
1860 shows a large tree standing on the Green opposite Currell’s shop.5
When this fell down, damaging the shop, Currell is said to have taken
it as evidence of divine disapproval of his opening for trade on Sundays,
and thereafter the shop was closed.

View of shops and houses overlooking the western side of the Upper Green,
photographed c.1870.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


The oldest building on this side of the Upper Green today is the terrace
of shops numbered 4–7 Upper Green West, slate-roofed and built of
stock bricks and dating from the mid-Victorian period. Nos. 2–3, which
many old Mitcham residents remember as Hutton’s fish shop, was
another 18th-century building, badly damaged during an air raid in the
1940s. It had been occupied as three shops in the 1870s, one of which
bore the words ‘Nothing over 6d.’ painted across the front. After
temporary repairs Huttons continued their business in a single-storey
building, selling wet and smoked fish, and fish and chips. By the 1980s
they had left, and the shop became Bunters, still selling fried fish and
also pies and eels. A decade later the business had gone, and the building
was boarded up and empty.

Right at the corner of the Green, next to Huttons, old photographs show
Edward (‘Neddie’) Colbran’s slaughterhouse.5 Together with his
butcher’s shop, and the adjoining King’s Arms, Colbran’s premises
were sold at auction in 1885 by the trustees of the late John Oxtoby.6
Shop and shambles were demolished in 1899, and for nearly 90 years
the site was an open yard, used by stallholders selling fruit and

‘A Corner of Old Mitcham’ – sketch by Tom Francis c.1890
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service
Colbran’s butcher’s shop is on the left.


vegetables etc. Until the mid-1990s, when the north side of the Green
was pedestrianised, the yard was still paved in places with the blue
Staffordshire bricks which had floored the slaughterhouse. Also until
about 15 years ago there remained standing to the rear an interesting
stable building with a slate-covered mansard roof, probably dating to
the early part of the 19th century.

The Eastern Side of the Green:
Majestic Way and St Mark’s Road

York Place has already been mentioned briefly in connection with the
Lord Napier. Originally a terrace of eight cottages or shops with gardens,
yards and sheds at the rear, it occupied the corner of St Mark’s Road,
renamed Majestic Way in the late 1980s.7 There is a record of No. 4
York Place having been leased in 1828 to William Hills, a local builder,8
who was the last parish beadle. The terrace may have been relatively
new at this time, for it cannot be identified readily on maps of c.1800,9
and the date of erection has therefore to be placed tentatively in the
first two decades of the 19th century. No. 1 was a chemist’s shop for
nearly a century before it was finally closed and, as we have already
noted, No. 3 was for a while the Lord Napier beer shop before becoming
the funeral parlour of George York, undertaker (‘Founded 1897’).
No. 4, before the 1914/18 War, was James Shepherd’s, a cartage and
haulage contractor, who also sold corn, hay, straw and forage. Nos. 5
to 8 had disappeared by 1945, and the remainder of the terrace was
demolished in the 1980s as part of the ‘St Mark’s development’. A
comprehensive scheme, this involved demolition of Mitcham’s early
1930s art deco baths hall in London Road, the mid-Victorian St Mark’s
church hall and two terraces of houses, mostly Edwardian, in St Mark’s
Road. In their place was built a multi-storey car park to serve Mitcham
town centre, and a three-storey block of shops with offices above
fronting a new pedestrianised shopping precinct. Although relatively
plain, the block on the site of York Place relates fairly well to its
neighbours, and has been described as “the most sensitively designed
of the recent developments in the Fair Green area”.10 This is faint praise
however, for little complimentary can be said of the rest of the new
buildings around the Green.


The Buck’s Head and York Place
Postcard c.1905

York Place, 1–7 St Mark’s Road, Mitcham, June 1975


St Mark’s church hall, which stood away to the east, on the northern
side of St Mark’s Road, had been erected on land which until the mid19th
century was part of the grounds of The Elms, a large mainly 18thcentury
house fronting London Road. The site was given for the purpose
of building a new Sunday school room for Upper Mitcham by the Revd
Humphrey Waldo Sibthorpe, rector of Washingborough, Lincolnshire,
whose family had owned the Elms estate since the middle of the 18th
century. A straightforward little building in the mid-Victorian gothic
style, it was built at the cost of £1,200 and opened in May 1865. The
school room was also used as a working men’s institute, and towards
the end of the 19th century it was pressed into service as a soup kitchen.
This, and other charitable enterprises, were initiated by the parish church
with the aim of alleviating the stress of chronic poverty which beset
many Mitcham people at that time. In 1891 the Revd F J Lansdell was
appointed mission clergyman in the ‘School Church’, as the new church
district of St Mark was being formed. The Elms, which ended its days
as a children’s home, was destroyed by fire in December 1896.

St Mark’s church hall c.1980, soon to be demolished in the St Mark’s
Development. Erected in 1865 as a Sunday School room, this
building had many uses over the next 120 years.


Further to the east, and on the opposite side of the road, is St Mark’s
church itself, built by Stewart and Sons of Croydon to the designs of
Robert Masters Chart.11 The style was claimed to be “approximately
that of the 13th century”12 despite the fact the building is in red brick –
a material not in general use until at least three centuries later! The
land was given by Edward Mizen, work commenced in December 1897,
and the foundation stone was laid in February 1898 by the Rt Hon
Lord Ashcombe. The nave and aisles were finished in 1899.13 The
church was dedicated in March of that year by Bishop Tate and
consecrated in January 1901. The chancel, north transept and south
chapel were added in 1910. The new parish of St Mark, formerly a
district of the Anglican parish of St Peter and St Paul, embraced much
of Mitcham’s east ward. The boundaries were fixed in 1893 and the
parish, which was to serve the then new housing estates being developed
between Figges Marsh and the Upper Green and extending away
towards the Streatham borders, was brought into being by Order in
Council in 1905.

St Mark’s Church c.1980


On the night of the 18 September 1940 the church was badly damaged
by a ‘land mine’ or parachute bomb dropped by a German aircraft, and
for six years the building lay derelict. First aid repairs were put in hand
early in 1946, and by May the church was usable for services once more
and was reopened by the bishop of Southwark.11 In 1979 the Borough
News announced that a start had been made on a ten-year-old £100,000
plan to adapt the church to meet the requirements of the parish and the
community at large. Roof repairs and the need to upgrade the heating
had long been urgent, and, funded by money raised by a public appeal
and the sale of the church hall, the work had at last become possible.

Until the building of the new church, St Mark’s Road was merely a
lane, named after Samuel Killick, the local builder whose yard opened
off the lane in the late 18th century. Killick could well have laid claim
to being the ‘Principal Building Contractor to the Vestry’, on his bill
heads (if he had any), for he was responsible for erecting the new parish
workhouse on Mitcham Common in 1782, and the Sunday school on
Lower Green West in 1788. In his memories of Mitcham in the 1860s,14
James Drewett recalled that Killick’s Lane was then a narrow road
with a ditch on one side and a line of elms. At the point where the road
is now joined by Baker Lane there was a field gate, giving access to the
east common field, and erected to prevent cattle straying into the crops.
Opposite the gate stood a row of cottages known as ‘South Place’, long
since removed, and there was also a large open meadow where
generations of village children were taken for Sunday school treats.
Lammas Avenue derives its name from the ancient practice followed
by commoners ‘turning out’ their livestock to forage on the old open
fields at Lammas time, once the crops had been harvested.

One further building in St Mark’s Road deserves comment, and that is
St Mark’s Primary School, originally the Mitcham School Board
Elementary Schools, built in 1884. This was one of the first school
buildings to be erected by the Mitcham Local School Board under the
great Forster Education Act of 1870, when the provision of primary
education for every child became the responsibility of the state in areas
not already served by the ecclesiastical authorities and other voluntary
bodies. The school building was enlarged to take older boys in 1896.15


Locally, the market gardens established by Edward Mizen in the mid19th
century, and particularly the large-scale use of glasshouses for the
more intensive cultivation of vegetables and late flowers, gave much-
welcomed work to local people, many of whom were to see long service
with Mizen Brothers. The Mizens’ land was mostly in the Eastfields,
off Grove Road, but some of their gardens and greenhouses extended
towards Lammas Avenue and St Mark’s Road. The family were
committed Church people, and were actively involved in the life of St
Mark’s parish from its beginnings in 1898. All three brothers and their
wives were Sunday school teachers, both at St Mark’s church and at
the Lonesome mission. The three brothers also took an active part in
civic affairs, giving much of their time in what were important formative
years for the local community. The history of the family and their
association with Mitcham is dealt with more fully in Mitcham Histories

3: Pollards Hill, Commonside East and Lonesome.
St Mark’s School, built 1884 by Mitcham Local School Board
Photograph 1983


Upper Green East

The early history of the southern corner of St Mark’s Road – the site of
Old Bedlam – is the subject of an earlier chapter, and need not be
recounted here. Although, as we have seen, when planning approval
was given in 1978 great confidence was placed on the incentive it was
expected the presence of the new Sainsbury’s supermarket would give
to other retailers, leading to a revival of the Upper Green as a major
shopping centre, the anticipated response did not materialise. The pattern
of retail shopping was changing rapidly, and within a few years the
opening of the new Savacentre at Merton called for an overhaul in
marketing strategy, and Sainsburys withdrew from Mitcham.

Unlike the spendid art deco Majestic cinema which it replaced, the red
brick building erected for Sainsburys did nothing to improve the visual
appearance of this corner of the Upper Green, its height and bulk being
such that it dominates the skyline and relates poorly to the smaller
buildings to the south.

The Majestic Cinema, photographed c.1975 for The South London News Group


Next to the supermarket stands a very different building, that of Lloyds
Bank, built in the mid-1920s. Photographs from the early 1900s show
a pair of shops here, one of which was run by a Mrs Mills. The two
buildings are difficult to date now, but with their boxed-frame sash
windows set in brick fronts they might have dated from the early 19th
century, which tends to be confirmed by a stone tablet bearing the date
1819 and the initials ‘W.R.’ set in a boundary wall at the bank.16 The
gable ends of the shops faced the Green, and from what one can see of
the two roofs, unequal in height, there is a hint that the structures behind
the façades may have been much older. Both are shown on the plan
produced in 1846 at the time of the sale of the estate of Mrs Plumer
Ward, and from the way in which the plots protrude forward beyond
the building line established by Old Bedlam next door, it looks very
much as if the land on which they, and the adjacent row of shops, were
built was once common waste and part of the Green.

Upper Mitcham Green shown in a postcard dated 1904

Mrs Mills was the wife of the “village policeman with a gingery beard”
according to Tom Francis, recalling the days of his youth in the 1880s
and 1890s. Mrs Mills sold greengrocery, and sprays of herbs like sage
and thyme, which gave “a lovely refreshing smell in the shop”. She
also kept all the old-fashioned sweets – blackjacks, peppermints, aniseed


balls, sugar candy, coltsfoot rock, sugar sticks, sweet almonds, burnt
almonds, peardrops, carraway comfits, mottoes, stickjaw, hundreds and
thousands and so on, in glass jars.17By about 1914 the two shops were
occupied by Searles, removal contractors and second-hand furniture
dealers, who were probably the last occupants of the premises before
they were demolished to provide a site for the bank.

From Lloyds Bank southwards towards Montrose Gardens there is a
row of what were originally four small shops, possibly surviving from
the late 18th century. Despite drastic rebuilding of the front elevations
to make good war damage, the loss of the original sliding sash windows
and the installation of modern shop fronts, they would probably still be
just recognisable to a visitor from Edwardian Mitcham. Around the
turn of the century Upper Green and the High Street, leading away to
the north, comprised the commercial centre of the village, and from
Tom Francis’s notes one can gather something not only of the diversity
of these small businesses, but also of the fascinating characters who
ran them.

Upper Green East – post card c.1910


Andrews and Partners, the estate agents, now occupy what in the late
19th and early 20th centuries was H J Petit’s The Little Wonder dining
rooms – an early ‘take-away’ selling pea soup by the jug as well as
serving meals at the tables. It remained a coffee house until the end of
the Edwardian period, and can be seen in several contemporary

Next to The Little Wonder was George Bennett’s confectionery, pipe
and tobacco shop.18 He also sold newspapers and song sheets – “crude,
rude and bawdy” – and boat race favours and Valentines in season.
George was born on 18 November 1851, and entered the postal service
at 5.30 am on his 18th birthday. He served for 48 years, retiring in
1917. Known to his friends as ‘Activity Bennett’, he lived until well
into his 90s, playing many parts in the course of a busy life. In addition
to being a postman, he ran his shop, caned chairs, dabbled in
photography, and repaired bicycles. Bennett also found time to serve
in the local Volunteers, reaching the rank of sergeant, and was an
enthusiastic participant in village sports, running being his forte. At
the age of 95 he was still keeping bees (a hobby he had taken up after

Village shops, Upper Green East, c.1900
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


retiring from the post office, having heard that bee stings were a cure
for rheumatism), and was still exhibiting his honey, wax and bee material
at local horticultural shows during World War II.19 The shop became
Thorpe’s Record Bar after the demolition of the former cinema, Thorpes
having previously been accommodated in part of the old Majestic

Next to George Bennett’s stood the shop of Alf Ruff, the village boot
and shoe maker. It is understood that Ruff bought both properties in
1900 and let his parents-in-law have the sweet shop nearest St Mark’s
Road, with its living accommodation to the rear and on the floor above.20
One old photograph, presumably post-1900, shows the name ‘F. Woods’
on the fascia of one and ‘A. Ruff’ on the other. The fourth shop in the
row before the outbreak of World War I was R Munday’s, a tailor and
gentleman’s outfitters. After Ruff’s father-in-law died the confectionery
business was sold to Miss Kilby, and then to Mrs Gluckstein. Tom,
Ruff’s son, continued to trade from his father’s old shop as a cobbler
until his death whilst mayor of Mitcham in 1962. A well-loved character,
Tom was a strong supporter of the Mitcham Cricket Club, and captained
the Wednesday side for many years. He is commemorated by a simple
stone memorial at the corner of the Cricket Green. The slogan ‘Ruff’s
Stuff’s Tuff’ painted on the rendering above the shop front has now
gone, and after having been incorporated in David Roger’s gentlemen’s
outfitters shop, it is at present a charity shop.

Prior to the erection of Nos. 13 & 15 Upper Green East, (now the
British Red Cross charity shop), the site was occupied by a double-
fronted building, two-storeyed and pantile-roofed, with a dentilled brick
cornice beneath the eaves. Impossible to date precisely now it has gone,
the building might have been erected in the mid-18th century. The left-
hand shop had a bow-window, and in the early 1900s was occupied by
Oscar Collins, a taxidermist and naturalist. The shop to the right was
that of Abner Lane, leather merchant and harness-maker, who
customarily festooned his doorway with what Tom Francis described
as “a remarkable display of horse collars and harness”.

For many years the offices of estate agents Leonard Davey and Hart,
numbered 17–19 Upper Green East (now Ladbrokes the bookmakers),


stood on the site of Samuel Love’s shop, which was selling ladies’
outfits and drapery in the latter part of the 19th century. This had
formerly been three separate shops in a three-storey block, possibly of
early 19th century date. Before Love it was owned by Robert Rice,
who was also a draper and had purchased “shops and other property”
on Upper Mitcham Green in 1851.21 For the latter half of the 19th century
this was the drapery store for Mitcham, and could boast of having
many ‘carriage customers’. Love acted with Cubison and others as
collector of funds for the purchase and erection of the Jubilee Clock
Tower in 1897–8. When he retired from the drapery trade Love became
the Mitcham rate collector, and moved to No. 12 Glebe Villas, one of
several large late-Victorian houses opposite the London Road telephone
exchange. Like its neighbours, Love’s house was badly damaged by a
flying bomb in 1944, and subsequently demolished.22

The next block on Upper Green East, three storeys high and numbered
21 and 23, is prominent in old photographs, and seems to differ little
now from how it appeared over a century ago. Probably also dating
from the earlier part of the 19th century, like Love’s, the building follows
a style which originated in the Georgian period. As might be expected,

‘Upper Mitcham Fair Green showing [on the right] Smith’s Stores and Mr Samson’s
old house’. Photographed c.1870, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


it has had many occupants, possibly one of the best known in recent
times being T G Craig, confectioner and tobacconist. Next door,
Mitcham News the newsagent’s (also formerly occupied by Craig’s)
and the Golden Lake Chinese Restaurant are accommodated in premises
erected on what was the front garden of ‘Montrose’. This red brick
house had been built in the latter part of the 19th century for Frederick
George (‘Squeaker’) Samson, veterinary surgeon, to replace a much
earlier house, in the front of which in the 1870s there had been Smith’s
grocery shop.

Frederick Samson was born in 1849 at Totteridge, Hertfordshire, the
son of Philip Samson of Colchester, whose name was well known in
coaching circles in Essex. For many years Philip was a stage coach
driver on the road between Colchester and London. Having acquired
the Mitcham omnibus business from the Holdens, who had been running
regular horse buses to and from the City and West End since the late
18th century, Philip Samson maintained the service until the end of the
Victorian era, operating from his yard at the rear of the White Hart, off
the Lower Green. One of his sons, Walter, drove the buses; another,
named Philip, was for a time the licensee of the Kings Head, now the
Burn Bullock, and proprietor of the cab yard at the rear.23

Frederick Samson was educated at Mr Wyatt’s school, Malden, Essex,
obtained his RCVS diploma in 1871, and worked with various veterinary
practices before purchasing that of Thomas Jennings of Mitcham in
about 1876. Possibly the best known of all the Samsons, Frederick,
who had married Hilma née Tröger of Dresden, was a freemason, and
permanent steward of the Mitcham Lodge. He was veterinary surgeon
to various local authorities, and was the proprietor of one of the village
forges. Among the buildings behind Montrose was a horse
slaughterhouse, the yard of which was entered by a gateway topped
with an arched notice board and – a macabre touch which enthralled
village children – a horse’s skull. Until about 1914 much of the land
behind Montrose, lying between Drewett’s builders yard and Chart’s
carpentry workshop, was owned by Samson. There was a large paddock
at the rear extending to Clarendon Grove where sickly animals could
graze, and a smaller enclosure with a ten-foot high mound in the centre
upon which Samson would stand, whip in hand, while horses being


broken in trotted around him.23 A keen rider, Frederick Samson was an
ardent huntsman, well known with the Surrey Stag and Fox Hunt which
on occasions pursued their quarry through the heart of the village. In
winter, if the snow was thick enough, he drove a sleigh on his rounds.
Like his brothers, Frederick was a member of the local volunteer fire
brigade, driving the horse-drawn fire engine at times and, of course,
acted as honorary veterinary officer.24

Samson’s yard had once contained a number of very old cottages in
what was known as ‘Jennings’ Yard’. Miss Bartley, in her Mitcham in
Days Gone By, remembered them “as dwellings in which, despite their
small size, large families were brought up”. One old building in
Samson’s yard, she believed, “dated to Queen Anne’s reign, if not
before”. By the early 20th century the cottages were used as store places.

On the other side of Montrose Gardens, the building erected for Barclays
Bank plc and opened in 1973 stands on the site of 29–31 Upper Green
East, occupied for half a century by P Gutteridge & Sons, the village
corn, forage and horticultural merchants. The loss of this attractive
18th century building, with its weatherboarded barn and outbuildings
to the rear, was bad enough, but its replacement with the present harsh
red brick structure, totally out of keeping with the rest of the buildings
around the Upper Green, was a tragedy. The history of Gutteridge’s
site has been dealt with separately in Chapter 4.
A collection of counterparts of leases, admissions to the tenancy of the
manor of Ravensbury, assignments, extracts of manor court rolls etc.,
relating to shops and other premises on the eastern side of ‘Upper
Mitcham Green’ was presented to Surrey Archaeological Society by
Robert Garraway Rice. Dating from the early 18th century until the
end of the 19th, they are a valuable and fascinating source of information
on the history of several shops on Upper Green East (although it is not
always easy to identify the premises today), most of them copyhold of
the manor. Typically, the tenure of the former baker’s shop owned by
A W Turner (Bakers) Ltd, 33 Upper Green East, can be traced from
Thomas Whately, who in 1847 conveyed it to Alfred Sims.25 In
November the previous year, as lot 9, it had been offered at the auction
of the copyhold estate of the late Mrs Plumer Ward, whose family, as
we have seen earlier, had owned property in Mitcham since the


beginning of the 17th century.26 John Harwood, a baker, acquired the
weatherboarded shop with its bakehouse at the rear in 1855, and in
June 1879 licence was granted to Harwood by Alfred Mortimer, on
behalf of the lord of the manor of Ravensbury, to demise and lease his
bakehouse and other premises to the east of the Green to William Turner,
baker. The business, which was claimed on the front of the shop to
have been founded in 1792, remained in the hands of the Turner family
until the 1980s. In addition to the Upper Green shop there were two
other Turner’s shops in the district, and a horse-drawn delivery service,
of which Ken Turner was justly proud, was maintained over a large
part of Mitcham until 1973.

The genesis of the Baptist Church in Mitcham dates from 1882, when
the village is said to have been ‘discovered’ by the great C H Spurgeon.
His first reactions were not favourable, and it is claimed he once rather
unkindly declared of the village that it was “the most God-forsaken
place” he knew. Working in conjunction with Messrs E A and Frederick
Carter and the Revd C Ingram of Wimbledon he was nevertheless
instrumental in establishing a church which met in a prefabricated
corrugated-iron building at Fair Green, opened in December 1895. This
originally occupied a site a little to the north of Clarendon Grove,
roughly where for many years the South Suburban Co-operative
Society’s stores stood.27 An unpretentious and uninviting building, it
was dismantled and transferred to another site on the left-hand side of
Clarendon Grove a few years later, and here a succession of ministers
endeavoured with some success to develop a flourishing congregation.
The iron chapel building was moved to its final site in London Road
(just north of where the Baths Hall was to stand later) sometime between
1905 and 1910, and became redundant on completion of a permanent
chapel in 1912.28

The old Mitcham firm of Donald S Drewett and Son, funeral directors
and monumental masons, still maintains a presence at 49/51 Upper
Green East although the business is now part of W A Truelove and
Sons Ltd. It was formerly owned by Drewett’s uncle, John Robert Chart.
The pair of semi-detached houses the firm now uses as offices was
built some time between 1847 and 1865, the detailing providing a rare
example in Mitcham of the Italianate style which became fashionable


for a while in the mid-19th century, having been adopted by Prince
Albert in his designs for Osborne House, the royal villa on the Isle of

The undertaking business had been established in 1761 by John R
Chart’s great-grandfather William, who was a master builder and part-
time clerk to the parish vestry. John Chart’s grandfather, also named
John, in addition to having the distinction of holding office as parish
clerk for 41 years from his appointment in 1805 to his death at the age
of 80 in 1846, was responsible for the rebuilding of Mitcham parish
church between 1819 and 1822. His yard was to the rear of 55 Upper
Green East, roughly on a site occupied until recently by the Clarendon
Grove works of A & C Jenner Ltd, engineers. It was here that much of
the preparatory work on the timbers for the new church was undertaken.
The normal sawpit proved too cramped for the massive timbers
supporting the north gallery, and Chart had to construct a much larger
one on the northern side of the land, later bisected by Clarendon Grove.
In what would now be regarded as an unwise, if not improper,
combination of public service and private business, John Chart was
also deputy registrar of deaths. He died in 1846, and the family building
and undertaking business passed to his son, another John and the father
of John Robert.

Clarendon Grove did not exist in the late 1840s, but is shown, without
a name, on the Ordnance Survey map of 1867. Although it was
presumably laid out with house-building in mind, development did not
take place for another 50 years, and as late as 1895 virtually the only
building in the road was the Baptist chapel at the rear of Drewett’s.
Houses were erected on both sides before the 1914/18 war, those on
the one side being owned by the Drewetts and the others by the Chart
family. In view of the landlords’ connections with the Mitcham and
Wandsworth District Gas Works it is hardly surprising that the houses
on this little estate were amongst the last in Mitcham to be supplied
with electricity, and the writer can recall visiting at least one resident
on the northern side of the road who still relied on town gas for artificial
lighting in the late 1940s. Progress comes slowly in this backwater of
Mitcham, and the road remained unmade and unadopted, its gravel
surface cratered with pot-holes until 2005.


At the corner of Clarendon Grove, where the Formula One Autocentre
is today, two pantile-roofed weatherboarded cottages stood throughout
the 19th century. Set back from the road behind white picket fences, a
row of lime trees and small front gardens, they were typical of many to
be seen around Mitcham at that time. Weatherboarding on a timber frame,
a remarkably durable form of construction, came into vogue during the
middle of the 18th century, probably partly as a means of avoiding
payment of the brick tax. Many examples survive after 200 years, but
they are now unfortunately becoming a rarity in north-east Surrey.

Number 55 Upper Green East, at one time the home of John and
Elizabeth Chart and the birthplace of John Robert Chart, is one of the
few timber and part-weatherboarded buildings still remaining in
Mitcham. It could date from as early as 1800, or as late as 1840; almost
certainly it would have been built by the Charts themselves. The roof
was originally pantiled – a feature one can see in old photographs, and
which is hinted at by the near-45° pitch of the timbers. For many years
it was slated but, when the building was renovated in the 1990s, the
opportunity was taken to renew the roof with pantiles. Structurally much
of the building is an important survival from pre-byelaw days, with
low ceilings and, until recently, at least one internal wall of papered
hessian stretched between the timber studding. On the first floor an
original fireplace recess cupboard adds interest to the front room, and
in one of the bedrooms there remains a gem of an early cast iron firegrate
with a semi-circular fire basket and side hobs, dating from the erection
of the building.

For some 20 years around the turn of the 19th century John Robert
Chart and his wife Mary (‘Polly’) kept a corn and seed shop in the
ground floor front room at No. 55 Upper Green East. They seem to
have lived on the premises until John’s parents died, when they moved
into Clarendon House, No. 5 Commonside East. John took over the
family undertaking business, but such was his respect for the memory
of his parents that 30 years later the trade advertisement continued to
announce that he “still carries on the business of his late father”.

The inside of Chart’s shop as it appeared in the 1880s and 1890s was
described in his lecture notes by Tom Francis, who knew John and


Timber framing and boarding. The interior of a party wall at
55 Upper Green East exposed during renovations in 1991


Polly well.29 The entrance door had a tinkling bell, and within there
were bins of oats, chaff and dog biscuits. The atmosphere, he recalled,
was distinctly “mousey”. In the left-hand window were displayed sprays
of millet, gaily coloured packets of seed, china eggs and a white plaster
of Paris horse. The other window contained miniature trusses of hay,
paper bags of flour and a frame of photographs announcing that John R
Chart was also a professional photographer. The sitting room at the
rear of the shop was extraordinary. The mirror on the mantleshelf was
surrounded by scores of letters and other documents tucked behind it.
The piano (or was it a small organ?) could barely be seen for the piles
of newspapers and magazines, years out of date, which were heaped on
the keyboard and on top of the case. The couch was also piled high
with its collection of papers, and for the visitor to sit down a few square
inches had first to be cleared.

“These good people”, wrote Tom Francis, “had no family of their own,
but they lived as foster or God parents to hundreds of Mitcham
youngsters.” John was a preacher of local repute, and “did not stand on
ceremony.” He had a mission for adults in his workshop in Clarendon
Grove, and Mary (after serving as a Sunday School teacher for 20 years)

John Chart’s shop, with Three Kings Pond in the distance.
Photograph c.1900 from the Tom Francis Collection,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service.


conducted a Bible class for young women. Together they ran a Band of
Hope for the young people of the village. Concerts organised by the
Charts during the winter months (tickets twopence and fourpence,
printed by John himself) raised money to take the children of the village
to Brighton free of charge each year. Parents and friends could buy
tickets for the special excursion train from Mitcham Junction for half a
crown, and the Charts’ excursion became an eagerly awaited event in
the Mitcham calendar. Tom Francis commented “For how many years
I don’t know, but generation after generation passed through the Band
of Hope and John and Mary’s influence went with them, or some of
them, to the ‘uttermost ends of the Earth'”.

John Robert Chart’s popularity and kindliness put him at the top of the
poll in early parish council elections, and one year he was elected
chairman. Although amongst his specialities were the regulations
concerning burials, as might have been expected in view of one of his
professional interests, he was also fascinated by the technological
innovations of his age. One of the first people in the village to possess
a phonograph, and a pioneer photographer in the old ‘wet plate’ days,
he was frequently in demand as a lanternist, making his own oxygen for
the limelight projector. ‘Old Mitcham’ was his favourite subject, and a
number of his slides, showing Mitcham in the 1860s and 1870s, survive
in the Tom Francis collection, bequeathed to Mitcham Library after the
latter’s death in 1953. As a recognised authority on the village which,
at the turn of the century, was about to become submerged by the outward
expansion of London, John Robert Chart was an obvious choice for
membership of a committee nominated by the parish council in 1901 to
compile a pictorial record of Mitcham in the 19th century.30 The resultant
collection of photographs was originally in a portfolio with
accompanying notes. In 1935 the pictures were transferred from the
Town Hall to the Library and were mounted on card. They are now part
of the local illustrations collection held by Merton Local Studies Centre.

No.55 Upper Green East subsequently became a boot and shoe repairer’s
shop. In 1932 the business was acquired by Alfred Crisp and, trading
as A Crisp and Son, it flourished in the hands of his son Dennis until
the latter’s retirement in 1990. In 1991 the premises were converted to
become a private house.


The Parish Pump, Mitcham Fair Green.
Photograph taken c.1870.
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service

Chapter 13


The village pump is a picturesque feature of many photographs of the
Upper Green in the late 19th century. It had replaced an earlier one in
1865, and drew water from a well under the road. Gas lighting had
come to Mitcham in 1849 with the opening of the Mitcham Gas Light
and Coke Company’s works in Western Road, and the new pump was
soon topped with a lamp lit by an open gas jet. On Sundays the Salvation
Army made the pump its regular rendezvous. It was also beloved of
loafers, and the pump served as a rallying point for open air orators,
evangelists, local politicians and any discontent who wished to ‘get
something off his chest’. In 1898, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee
of Queen Victoria the previous year, the pump was replaced by an ornate
cast-iron column incorporating in its base a drinking fountain supplied
with mains water, and supporting a clock lit by four gas lamps. The
whole edifice was topped with a weathervane. The cost was borne by

The opening of the Jubilee Clocktower at the Upper Green in November 1899
Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


public subscription, and the opening ceremony was performed in
November 1899 by James Salter White, chairman of the Croydon Rural
District Council.1

The Jubilee Clock appears not to have functioned too reliably in its
early years due, it was alleged, to the moist air from the well in which
the weights were hung rising to condense on the clock mechanism and
causing it to rust. At times all four faces are said to have shown a
different time, and the clock reached the peak of notoriety when the
mechanism went into reverse and was the subject of ribald comment in
Parliament. During the 1914/18 War the clock stopped, and remained
at twenty to eleven for a considerable period. The black-out of the
1939/45 War forced the clock into darkness, but the lights returned
with peace in Europe. By this time the drinking fountains were no longer
working but, lit and powered by electricity, the old clock was able to
perform its original function with an accuracy the Edwardians would
have found remarkable.

For centuries the congestion caused each August by the annual fair on
the Upper Green had been accepted as a fact of village life. With the

Mitcham Fair Green
Landscaping carried out by Mitcham Borough Council in the 1930s


arrival of the electric trams and the steady increase in the volume of
general traffic passing through Mitcham the situation became dangerous
and, in the view of many, intolerable. The solution had already become
a matter for heated debate before the outbreak of war in 1914, with
many parish councillors feeling the fair should be abolished completely.
There was strong opposition to such a drastic remedy, however, and a
decision was shelved until the end of hostilities. In 1916 Mitcham
acquired Urban District status, and the new authority, acting under
powers obtained by the private Urban District Council Act of 1923,
took steps to relocate the fair on the Three Kings Piece. The same Act
also removed Mitcham’s various greens from the management of the
Common Conservators and, invested with new powers, the Urban
District Council set about improving the appearance of Upper Green,
laying it out as public gardens.

The renewed outbreak of war in 1939 inevitably brought about changed
priorities, and the Green soon became disfigured with surface air raid
shelters and static water tanks. Regrettably the immediate post-war
period was to see restoration and improvement become a political issue.
One side of Mitcham Corporation sought to return the Green to its pre-

Fair Green, 1953, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library Service


war appearance, and laid out the eastern half as an attactive garden in
the late 1940s. The Opposition, bitterly opposing what it considered to
be a waste of ratepayers’ money at a time of financial stringency,
declined to extend improvements to the western half of the Green when
they were returned with a majority in the next local election. It was not
until the re-election of the Labour party that the Fair Green Gardens
project was finally completed. During the course of these works the
public shelter erected before the War to the memory of James Drewett
JP was removed to the western part of the Green where it commanded
a view across the new lawns and flowerbeds.

For the next ten years the Upper Green continued to provide a touch of
colour in the centre of an increasingly urbanised Mitcham. With some
justification, but perhaps a little unkindly, Nairn and Pevsner observed
in their Buildings of England: Surrey, published in 1962 that the Green
had “disappeared under more items of street furniture than one would
think possible, even in outer London”,2 and although the overhead wires
and their supporting pylons were removed after the withdrawal of the
trolley bus service by London Transport, the situation did not improve
appreciably. The effects of continuing restrictions on local government
expenditure gradually became ever more noticeable following the
absorption of Mitcham into the London Borough of Merton in 1965. A
marked decline in the standards of maintenance of the Borough’s open
spaces soon became evident, and sadly the magnificent floral displays
provided every year by the Parks Department of the old Borough of
Mitcham became but a memory. The Fair Green Gardens suffered
particularly badly, with vandalised seats being left unrepaired and the
beds neglected. The dilapidated and graffiti-covered Drewett memorial
shelter, its dedicatory inscription lost, epitomised the depths to which
the heart of Mitcham was allowed to sink as the new authority
endeavoured to identify solutions to what had become a complex of

Chapter 14


In 1965 the councillors of the new London Borough of Merton had the
misfortune to inherit difficulties the solution to which had defied the
burghers of Mitcham for decades. Mitcham’s Upper Green – the ‘Fair
Green’ – lay at a crossroads which, as the intersection of routes from
neighbouring villages, had probably been in existence for at least 1,500
years. There had certainly been a settlement nearby since the second
century AD, and the potential for commerce where the highways met
must have been exploited from an equally early period. By the late
19th century the hamlet which developed around the Green, first on
the northern and eastern margins and later along its southern side, had
evolved into Upper Mitcham, the commercial and entertainment centre
of the emerging township. The long history of the ‘Fair Green’, sensed
rather than understood in any detail, lay deep in the collective pysche
of those who considered themselves ‘Old Mitchamers’ and was
absorbed by newcomers moving to the new housing estates of the inter-
war period. Its visual attractiveness may not have been great – one of
the conductors on London Transport’s 80 bus route through Mitcham
during the 1950s used to bring a smile to his passengers faces by
announcing “Fair Green!” and then adding in an undertone “What’s
fair about it, I don’t know!” – but for many Fair Green was Mitcham,
and anyone who proposed altering it did so at their peril.

Until the advent of mechanised transport at the beginning of the 20th
century traffic was no problem, and as late as the 1950s vehicular
movement was easily controlled with traffic lights. In the 1930s there
were still alive many who remembered a rural Mitcham, where the
roads around the Upper Green presented little risk to pedestrians.
Nostalgia for times past was strong. and change was viewed with
suspicion. Road safety was, however, already becoming a campaigning
issue attracting national and local politicians when the Borough of
Mitcham received its charter of incorporation in 1934, and in the years
leading up to the outbreak of war in 1939 various town centre schemes
were produced, incorporating measures to divert through traffic away
from the Upper Green by the construction of one or more by-passes.


Immediately post-war, petrol rationing and long waiting lists for new
private cars secured a brief respite for the Council, whose priorities were
war-damage repairs and the provision of new housing. However, the
need to alleviate the inevitable congestion which it was foreseen would
occur around the Upper Green was acknowledged, and by 1950 the
Borough Council had reached an agreement with Surrey County Council
and the ministries concerned with transport and town and country planning
to have a loop road on the eastern side of Mitcham, extending from near
Figges Marsh to Mitcham Common and the Lower Green. This had been
the traffic engineers’ ‘preferred option’ since the 1930s, and land was
set aside for the road during the planning of the Council’s post-war Elm
Nursery estate. Unfortunately, to the south demolition of a swathe of
perfectly sound housing would have been necessary, which proved more
than the majority of ratepayers would accept, and the plan met opposition
immediately the public became aware of what was proposed. Clearly,
the problem was one without an easy solution.

A second, and for many an equally pressing question, was how to halt
the decline of the Upper Green as a local shopping centre, whilst at the
same time ensuring that its essential character was preserved. Over the
next 12 years detailed studies were undertaken by the Council’s officers
not only in connection with the eastern loop road but also for the
improvement of the Upper Green and the widening of subsidiary roads.
By 1962 the Council was able to lay down basic criteria for the future
development of the town centre. A firm of planning consultants was
engaged, and the following year what the press styled an ‘Outline Master
Plan’ was ready. This included a pedestrianised shopping precinct at the
Fair Green with surrounding service roads and, like the earlier plan,
received the approval of Surrey County Council.

Following the reorganisation of London government in 1965 the plans
for Mitcham Town Centre were endorsed by the London Borough of
Merton, and were then submitted to the Greater London Council for
consultation, the latter authority having been given responsibility for
overall strategic planning, including traffic management, in the whole of
the Greater London area.


Unforeseen delays were to ensue. In 1967 the GLC decided, very wisely,
that all road proposals should be held back until the route of the proposed
and highly controversial M23 motorway through Mitcham was
established and its local impact assessed. Two years later, in March 1969,
the GLC published the Greater London Development Plan, in which
Mitcham Town Centre was included as an ‘Action Area’ needing attention
over the next ten years to remedy the problems of traffic congestion,
poor housing and the effects of ill-conceived industrial development in
the past. Having reappraised their earlier schemes, the borough surveyor
and engineer’s department produced a plan incorporating a modified
eastern loop road, but uncertainty as to the effect of the M23 remained.
A public enquiry into the motorway proposals was held in the summer of
1970, but it was not until September 1978 that the announcement was
finally made by the Minister for Transport that plans for the extension
through Mitcham to Streatham Vale had been abandoned, and ten years
of uncertainty were ended.

Meantime, the services of the consultants engaged by Mitcham Corporation
to prepare a scheme for the Upper Green area were dispensed with by
Merton Borough Council in 1972, and work proceeded thereafter ‘in
house’. A study of shopping needs had been conducted in 1970, and with
the results in its possession the Council decided that the time had come
for four options to be submitted to the people of Mitcham for comment.
As a basis for public consultation, proposals for a draft ‘Mitcham Action
Plan’ were ready in the summer of 1972. A booklet was distributed
throughout the district, and was followed by a public exhibition of the
plans in the electricity showrooms at Fair Green. The whole exercise
culminated in a major public meeting in Mitcham’s Vestry Hall. This
proved to be a stormy affair, the 250 or so people attending demonstrating
in no uncertain terms the unpopularity of all four schemes put before
them. In view of the public outcry the Council was forced to withdraw
their proposals. Six months later representatives of Mitcham associations
were invited to meet the Council and officers to examine the issues involved
and the problems identified. On the basis of these discussions the Council
felt able to proceed with the drafting of a new ‘Mitcham Action Area
Plan’ which, it was hoped, would meet with public approval and also
satisfy the requirements of the Greater London Development Plan.


In the local elections of 1974 the Conservatives were returned with a
majority, and the new leader of the Council, Alderman Talbot, was
soon voicing his doubts as to the wisdom of pressing ahead with
redevelopment schemes for Mitcham Town Centre that did not have
the full support of residents. By October 1974 he was warning that
many cherished schemes were likely to be delayed through lack of
money. His caution proved timely, and in January 1975, on the eve of
the release of a revised plan on which staff had been working for the
previous two years, headlines in the local press announced that the
“£10m. town centre plan” was in danger of being shelved because its
implementation was unaffordable.

The leader’s warning notwithstanding, an approved town centre scheme
was needed as a guide to future planning, and preparations continued
for an exhibition in the Spring. The long-awaited plan was revealed
that May. It still involved the demolition of some 15 shops and small
businesses, and 40 houses and flats, some of which were already in
Council ownership, but had taken into account residents’ criticisms of
earlier proposals. The objective of removing traffic, except buses and
service vehicles, from the centre of the Green was to be achieved by a
new by-pass to the west. Three main areas of redevelopment were
identified; Mitcham baths hall and the land behind, the vicinity of St
Mark’s Road, and the Majestic cinema site. Public car parks were
promised, pedestrianisation of roads to the north of the Green was
proposed, and the Fair Green itself was to be landscaped.

It was the officers’ hope that after one more round of exhibitions and
public consultation, the final plan would be adopted by the Council.
With the intention of stimulating public interest and involvement the
Merton Borough News in July 1975 produced a double-page feature on
“The Fight to Plan Mitcham Town Centre of Tomorrow”. This time
the effort to bring the residents into the planning process met with
success, and although some still questioned the need for any change at
all, 80% of those responding to the questionnaires sent out by the
Council expressed themselves generally in favour of the amended
scheme. The proposals, based to a large extent on previous schemes, at
least offered some hope that future development might at long last


proceed in a more sympathetic and orderly manner. Retailers and
proprietors of other small businesses in particular welcomed an end to
uncertainty, and the prospect of the area being upgraded. Despite the
commitment of the Council, however, there was to be heavy reliance
on the investment of private rather than public finance, which gave
sceptics grounds for withholding comment until the plan showed
convincing evidence of actually materialising.

As the Council’s ‘preferred plan’ the amended scheme was formally
submitted to County Hall in March 1976 – a necessary step, since not
only was the Greater London Council’s concurrence necessary, but with
its commitment most of the new road works would be funded by the
central authority. A year later the question of the amount of the GLC’s
contribution was still to be settled – “Town Centre Battle is Under
Way” proclaimed the Borough News in a somewhat alarmist headline
in May 1977 – but the matter was eventually resolved by compromise.

With the threat of the motorway finally removed in September 1978
one might imagine the problems of Mitcham town centre had been
solved, but by October 1978 opposition was mounting to new proposals
from Merton planning department for a dual carriageway linking
Commonside West with Western Road, a multi-million pound complex
with shops and a public hall or sports centre, and landscaping of the
area around the Three Kings pond. The new road required the demolition
of 68 houses in Langdale Avenue and Raleigh Gardens, and the prospect
of a four-lane east-west highway “cutting Mitcham in half” was viewed
with horror by residents, not only those whose homes would be pulled
down, but also by many who felt the new scheme was unnecessarily
drastic and of no benefit to local people.

By April 1979 the Mitcham Society – a relatively new group, formed
to co-ordinate the often disparate views being expressed about the Town
Centre scheme – had the support of several thousand people opposed
to the new proposal. Packed public meetings demonstrated the strength
of feeling generated by the latest plans, produced, it was claimed, by
people who knew nothing of the area and were out of touch with reality.
Assurances by the planning department that objectors would have an
opportunity to voice their objections to the secretary of state once the


Council had come to a decision did not placate the protesters. Mitcham’s
member for Parliament, Bruce Douglas-Mann, called for a public
enquiry, and in June the local press reported that at a joint meeting of
the town planning and development committee and the highways and
works committee it had been decided to defer any decision for three
months to enable the objections to be considered. In September it was
announced that five different schemes were before the Council,
including one submitted by the Society, and that it was hoped a final
decision would be reached in December.

In February 1980 the local press reported on the outcome of the further
round of public meetings conducted that winter, and with the proposals
for a major east-west route abandoned and most of the remaining
objections met, Merton Council agreed a detailed ‘Mitcham Action
Area Plan’ the following July. A ‘Written Statement’ was released,
and the final stage, scheduled for the end of September 1980, was the
invitation to the public to make comments on the Action Plan, described
as a “more modest scheme which will have less environmental impact
than earlier schemes considered … preserving the scale and character
of Mitcham … and striking a balance between the needs of conservation
and controlled change necessary to stimulate further economic activity.”

The approval by the GLC’s South Area Planning Committee to the
new road by-passing the Upper Green to the west – now known as
Holborn Way – was made known in August 1980, and the overall
scheme, with a few minor alterations on which the public’s views were
obtained in 1992, was finally completed in 1994. The event was marked
in May that year when the mayor, Marie-Louise de Villiers, formally
unveiled the fully restored 1898 Jubilee Clock Tower, which had been
re-sited (not without further public objections) in the centre of the
pedestrianised shopping precinct on the northern side of the newly
landscaped Green.1


(First published in Merton Historical Society BulletinNo. 131 (September 1999))


By the late 15th century, when it was the last resting-place of Alice, the
wife of Ralph Illingworth of Hall Place, the north chancel of Mitcham
parish church had become popular as the burial place of several families
prominent in the life of the parish.1 Successive owners of the Hall Place
estate retained a proprietorial interest in the north chancel until the
early 19th century, and in Manning and Bray one can find described
monuments to the memory of a number of Mitcham’s leading
parishioners interred here in the 18th century when, with the house,
the chancel was held on lease by William Heath and subsequently his
son Thomas.2

One of the families whose members were buried here was that of a
remarkable character, Sir Ambrose Crowley, a wealthy ironmaster,
whose large marble memorial can now be seen in the baptistry. Quite
apart from seeking to demonstrate a relationship between the Crowleys
and either the owners or lessees of the north chancel, it is the natural
instinct of the local historian to attempt to locate their residence in the
village. Frustratingly, so far the quest has not borne fruit, and there is
in fact very little evidence to associate Sir Ambrose with any particular
house in Mitcham, and his will makes no reference at all to his being in
possession of property in the village. There are however several entries
in the burial register to associate him, his wife and two of his sons with
Mitcham, the volume for the latter part of the 17th century recording
the burial in April 1696 and April 1698 respectively of Ambrose and
Owen, young sons of “Mr Ambrose Crowley”. In 1713 we find recorded
the interment of “Sir Ambrose Crowley Kt. Alderman of London”
himself, and finally “Dame Mary Crowley, relict of Sir Ambrose
Crowley”, who was buried beside her husband in 1727.3

The Crowley grave was marked by a ledger slab set in the floor of the
north aisle, its inscription drawing attention to the monument to their
memory, affixed to the north wall of the chancel nearby. This, one of
the most impressive memorials to be seen in the old church, was
executed by John Michael Rysbrack, one of the best sculptors of the


18th century. It bears the profile portraits of Sir Ambrose and Dame
Mary Crowley in a medallion, and was fortunately preserved for re-
erection in the new church, when the medieval building was demolished
in 1819. For over half a century the memorial was a conspicuous feature
to be seen in the west porch as one entered the church, but when the
present baptistry was formed in 1875 the monument was relocated.
The inscription reads:

Near this place are deposited the Remains of Sir Ambrose
Crowley Knight, Citizen and Alderman of London, whose
numerous Family and great estate were the present rewards of
an Indefatigable Industry and Application to Business, an
unblemished probity, and a sincere belief and practice of true
Christianity, and particularly a boundless Liberality towards the
Poor, many Hundreds of whom he constantly employed. Near
him lies ye Body of Dame Mary his wife, ye daughter of Charles
Owen Esq, a Younger Son of ye Family of Condor. She buried
seven Children Infants, and saw one Son, John Crowley Esq,
and five Daughters married. John was married to Theodosia
Gascoign of Enfield; Mary to James Hallett Esq of Essex; Lettice

Sir Ambrose and Lady
Crowley’s monument in
Mitcham parish church


to Sir John Hind Cotton of Cambridgeshire Bart; Sarah to
Humphrey Parsons Esq of Surrey; Anna to Richard Fleming Esq
of Hants; and Elizabeth to the Right Hon.Lord St John of Bletsoe.
Sir Ambrose died Oct.11 1713, aged 54 years; His Lady in the
63rd year of her age, 1727.

Provision for the erection of this memorial had been made by Mary
Crowley in her will, £300 being left for the monument to be erected in
Mitcham church. For much of his life Sir Ambrose seems to have lived
in the City (he was living in Thames Street when he married Mary at
the church of St Bartholomew the Less) and his children were baptised
either at St Giles, Cripplegate, or in the parish of All Hallows the Less
in Thames Street, where he held various parochial offices from 1690
until 1695. In 1704 the family moved to Greenwich, where Sir Ambrose
died in October 1713.4 The reason for his burial at Mitcham can best
be explained by the ruinous state of Greenwich church, which had
collapsed in 1710 after years of neglect, his wife’s family connections
with Mitcham through her father Charles Owen, and the fact that two
of the Crowley children were already buried there.5

All five Crowley daughters evidently secured wealthy husbands, two
at least of whom were to be nationally well-known. Sir John Hind Cotton
became a prominent Tory politician, whilst Humphrey Parsons was
Lord Mayor of London in 1730–1 and again in 1740.6 It now seems
more likely that it was Parsons, and not Sir Ambrose, as stated by
Lysons,7 who was characterised in The Tatler No.73 as “Sir Humphrey
Greenhat”.8 A Mrs Frances Parsons, who died in 1742 aged 43 and is
commemorated by an oval memorial tablet now in the north vestibule
of Mitcham church (in the old building it was on the wall of the north
chancel, near the memorial to the Heath family) was almost certainly a

It is the marriage of John Crowley to Theodosia Gascoign(e) that
provides the second major link between the Crowleys and Mitcham,
for the Gascoigne family retained a connection with the parish
throughout the 18th century. In the mid-1780s a substantial house on
the south-western side of the Upper Green, described by Edwards as
being used as a girls’ school under the proprietorship of Mrs Fowkes,9


was listed in the Land Tax records as belonging to Mrs Elizabeth
Gascoigne.10 The name is not common in the parish, and it seems likely
that she was the widow of “James Cloberry Gascoigne gent.”, who
died in June 1796 and was commemorated in the parish church by a
small white marble tablet against the wall of the chancel.11 James
Gascoigne, who owned land to the south of the Green in 1762,12 appears
to have been related to Sarah Chandler (formerly Selby), widow of
George Chandler, a merchant of Mile End, for we are told that on her
death in 1789 she gave several pecuniary legacies and all her freehold
land and copyhold estates in Britain (including Hall Place, Mitcham)
and all her plantations in Jamaica, to a George Gascoigne, on condition
that he changed his name to Chandler.13

With these links, imperfectly understood, it must be admitted, we have
found a connection between the Crowleys and Mitcham, although the
actual location of the Crowleys’ residence in the 1690s, when two of
their young sons were buried in the parish church has yet to be
established with any certainty. There is however circumstantial evidence
to support the belief that the house might have occupied a site to the
south-west of the Upper Green.

Ambrose Crowley was born in 1658, the son of Ambrose Crowley, a
blacksmith of Stourbridge, Worcestershire, and Mary Hall of
Bromsgrove, his wife.14 Young Ambrose began his career in commerce
in 1671, when he was apprenticed to Clement Plumstead of the Drapers’
Company. His marriage to Mary Owen (whose mother’s family, the
Knights, are understood to have been long domiciled in Mitcham5)
took place in 1681 at St Bartholomew the Less. Crowley seems by this
time to have set himself up in business as an ironmonger in London,
for in 1682 he was in dispute with his suppliers in the Midlands, and by
1684 he had established a nail manufactory at Sunderland. Before long
he had become the owner of slitting mills (in which iron bars or plates
are slit into nail-rods etc) and steel furnaces at Winlaton, near Newcastle
upon Tyne, and of foundries and forges at Swalwell, where he made
anchors, chains and other heavy goods.15 As his interests expanded he
acquired large warehouses in London and at Greenwich, and smaller
depots at Blackwell, Ware, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Stourbridge.


Transport was vital to the successful conduct of the enterprise, and
Crowley owned a small fleet of vessels plying between the Tyne and
the Thames. A Quaker, Ambrose applied his immense natural energy
unsparingly to his business interests, and expected his employees to do
the same. It is said, for instance, that in the early years of the 18th
century he required his men to labour for 13½ hours a day, for six days
a week.16

The Crowley family was living at 151 Thames Street in 1686/7, and
from 1690 until 1695 Ambrose held various offices in the parish of All
Hallows the Less. His sons John and Ambrose (the second to bear the
name) and daughters Lettice, Ann and Elizabeth were baptised as of
the parish of All Hallows the Less in 1688 and 1701, and 1692, 1698
and 1702 respectively. In 1792 the Crowleys moved to Greenwich.4

Abraham Crowley received a knighthood from Queen Anne in January
1707 whilst holding office as Sheriff for the City of London.17 Although
he had risen so far in the society of his time, he seems never to have
attempted to disguise his origins, and is said to have kept his Midlands
accent throughout his life. A member of the Drapers’ Company, of
which he was Master in 1708/9, his political career had begun with
election to the Court of Common Council in 1697, representing the
Dowgate Ward of the City. He was sworn as an Alderman for Dowgate
in May 1711, the same year that he became a director of the South Sea
Company, of which he was a major shareholder.18 In 1712/13 he was
deputy governor of the Company, and, at the height of his career, was
returned as Member of Parliament for Andover in 1713, ready to take
advantage of the position in which he would have found himself under
the Tory government of Harley and St John. Fate however determined
otherwise, for on 11 October 1713 Sir Ambrose Crowley died at
Greenwich, aged 54.

Crowley’s will,19 in which he is described as of East Greenwich, names
his son John as the principal beneficiary, receiving all his father’s houses,
lands, and other premises in Durham, Worcestershire and Kent. Like
his father, John Crowley (who was satirised by Swift in The Spectator
[No.299] as “Sir John Anvil”) was a member of the Drapers’ Company.6
He too was elected as Alderman for the Dowgate Ward, in 1727, after


serving six years in the Court of Common Council. He was Member of
Parliament for Okehampton from 1722 until 1727, and for
Queenborough from 1727 until his death the following year.20

Sir Ambrose Crowley, one of Britain’s first industrial entrepreneurs,
owed his financial success to sheer hard-headedness, business acumen
and organising ability. He built up a highly articulated structure; he
appointed managers and supervisors to each of his establishments, drew
up an elaborate code of company ‘laws’, and exercised direction not
only of policy, but also of day-to-day operations through a continuous
flow of correspondence from London. In 1728, after the death of John,
the estate was valued at nearly £250,000.14 This did not consist wholly
of industrial assets, but it is clear that by this time the business
organisation Sir Ambrose had founded had grown to an incredible size.

After John’s death the works were run by Sir Ambrose’s grandsons
Ambrose (d.1754) and John (d.1755), and thereafter by their mother
Theodosia, who was a widow for 54 years. The head office, principal
warehouse and family residence were firstly at Thames Street, and after
1704 at Greenwich. The business, which collapsed in about 1863, was
considered to be the most extensive in the country, and at one time
controlled the largest ironworks in England.21

As we have seen, Dame Mary Crowley, daughter of Charles Owen Esq
of Mitcham, survived her husband for nearly 14 years, and was laid to
rest beside him in Mitcham church on 5 July 1727 at the age of 62. In
addition to the money set aside for the memorial to Sir Ambrose and
herself, she also left £50 for the poor of the parish. Her mother was the
sister and sole heir of John Knight of Mitcham,22 and her grandfather
was probably the Francis Knight Esq whose name appears in the Hearth
Tax records of 1664, paying tax on what, with its eight hearths, was
one of the larger houses in the parish.23 There was also a connection
with the Cranmer family through the marriage to a member of the Owens
by Anne Cranmer, sister of Robert Cranmer the East India merchant,
who purchased a large estate in Mitcham and lordship of the manor
during the Commonwealth.24 More work on the parish registers of
Mitcham and the various wills is needed before the precise relationships
of these interesting families can be clarified.


Abbreviations used

Bidder Bidder H F, (Gen. Editor) Old Mitcham
CLSL Croydon Local Studies Library
Edwards Edwards J, Companion from London to Brighthelmston
LA London Borough of Lambeth Archives
M & B Manning O and Bray W, The History and Antiquities of the

County of Surrey

MHS Merton Historical Society

MLSC London Borough of Merton Local Studies Centre

MoLAS Museum of London Archaeology Service

MTS Mitcham Tithe Commutation Survey Register 1846 and Map
1847 (MLSC). See also
Mitcham in 1846: The Tithe Apportionment Map, MHS Local
History Notes 22 (2002)

NGR National Grid Reference

SAC Surrey Archaeological Collections

SHC Surrey History Centre

VCH Victoria County History of Surrey

Upper Green, Mitcham, from the Majestic Cinema 1972
Photo: Mitcham News and Mercury

1 Sawyer P H Anglo Saxon Charters (1968) 347. (Authorities disagree
on the reliability of the various copies of the early Chertsey charters,
but the existence of Mitcham in the 7th century is not disputed.)
2 This thesis is explored fully in my North Mitcham MHS (2001).
3 Montague E N, The Archaeology of Mitcham MHS (1992) 14-22
4 Bidder H F and Morris J, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Mitcham’ in
SAC 56 (1959) 51-131
5 SAC 39 (1931) 146
6 Bidder H F, SAC 42 (1934) 23-24
7 Morris J, Domesday: Surrey (1975) 5.6
8 Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 8
9 Witnessed by the writer
10 MoLAS, Watching Brief: Land adjoining 42-44 Dearn Gardens,
Mitcham (1995)
11 SHC. William Marr’s ‘Projection’ 1685
12 Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 3
13 M & B II (1809) 495
14 Excavation by the writer and members of MHS. Finds were deposited
with Museum of London in 2005
15 MoLAS, Evaluation: St Marks Road/Baker Lane (1992)
16 MoLAS, Watching Brief: London Road Diversion, Mitcham (1992)
1 British Library. Sale Particulars. Auction at Garraway’s Coffee House,
Cornhill, August 1853; Lot 81: Manor of Biggin and Tamworth
2 MLSC. Sale Particulars: Nag’s Head. September 1843 Box B
3 SHC. Court Rolls, manor of Biggin and Tamnworth.
4 SHC. Plan of Estates in the manor of Ravensbury. 1825
5 Title deeds in possession of Barclays Bank plc.
6 SHC. Counterparts of Leases etc., deposited by R Garraway Rice
7 SHC. Manor Court Rolls; Ravensbury, and Biggin and Tamworth
8 VCH IV (1912) 232
9 Mizen A, ‘From 1866 to 1934’ in Mitcham News and Mercury Charter
Day Souvenir (21 September 1934) 7
10 Surrey Fines (Surrey Archaeological Society 1894) pp 146, 149, 195;
British Library Cotton MS Cleopatra C.vii f.cxj.v-cxij (91.v-92) –
late 14th-century footnote to a copy of a document of 1225
11 British Library Cotton MS Cleopatra C.vii f.cxj.v-cxij (91.v-92)



1 NGR TQ 2785 6905

2 Edwards Pt. II (1801) 16

3 M & B III (1814) Appendix clii

4 Surrey Archaeological Society Library:
‘North View, Old Bedlam, Mitcham’– Watercolour signed “Yates 1825”
Ref. 23/7
‘East Wing, Old Bedlam, Mitcham’ – Watercolour signed “Yates” and
dated 1825 Ref. 23/8 and
An undated and unsigned watercolour showing Old Bedlam from the
east. Ref. 23/9

Watercolour (un-named) similar to number 5226 in Volume IV of an

extra-illustrated copy of M & B in LA Minet Library (see below).
‘North-west View of Ancient House on East side of the Road at Mitcham,
Surrey’. A drawing signed “J.C.B.” and dated “1827” in extra-illustrated
copy of E W Brayley’s History of Surrey Vol. III, Part III, in Wimbledon

‘South-east View of an Ancient House on the East side of the Road at
Mitcham, Surrey’. A drawing signed “J.C.B. 1827″ also in Brayley.
Three drawings of chimney pieces in Old Bedlam, two signed by Yates
and dated 1826, also in Brayley.

LA, Minet Library:
Watercolour (un-named) numbered 003104 in Volume III of the Phillips
‘Old Bedlam’, a watercolour of the south-east elevation, numbered
003103 in Vol. III of the Phillips Collection
‘Old Bethlem, Mitcham’, a drawing numbered 5226 in Volume IV of
an extra-illustrated copy of M & B
and another drawing, un-named and anonymous, but similar to 003103,
numbered 5228 in Volume IV of M & B.

5 Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 8

6 M & B II (1809) 499, Calendar of Close Rolls XI (1908) 302, and
VCH IV (1912) 233

7 Notes and Queries 1st Series, XI (1855) 262, and also East Surrey

Family History Society Vol. 22 (1999) 33-5

8 SHC. LA/5/8/1–2

9 Burns D, Sheriffs of Surrey (1992) 66

10 Surrey Record Society, Surrey Hearth Tax 1664


11 Patricia Allderidge, late archivist, The Bethlem Royal Hospital, in pers.
comm., 1976. The Visitors’ Minute Books from 1774–1813 kept under
the Act for Regulating Mad Houses, 1774 (SHC QS5/5/4) similarly
contain no references to Old Bedlam at Mitcham.

12 SHC. Hatfeild Papers K80/4

13 MLSC. Tom Francis lecture notes, p.45, No. 103.

14 SHC. Poor rate books, Mitcham.

15 SHC. Plans of estate in the manor of Ravenbury, 1825

16 SHC. 599/380

17 Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 4

18 MLSC. Sale map RMC 388, Lot 28

19 Neither Newman nor Old Bedlam appear in the Post Office Directory
for 1855 or 1862. Drewett (note 5 above) gives the date of demolition
as 1854

20 Bartley E J, Mitcham in Days Gone By (1909) 8

21 VCH IV (1912) 229

22 Montague E N and Turner W A, ‘The Residence of Sir Julius Caesar
Adelmare in Mitcham’, SAC LXVII (1970) 85 – 94


1 NGR TQ 2788 6898
2 Edwards Pt. II (1801) p.16
3 SHC. Mitcham Land Tax Records 1780 – 1830
4 MLSC. Post Office and Kelly’s Directories

5. MLSC. Sale Particulars L2/728
6 MLSC. Local Illustrations Collection
7 Wimbledon Library. Kelly’s Directories 1922 – 1938
8 Ibid. Voters Lists 1932-3

1. Bartley E J, Mitcham in Days Gone By (1909) 14
MLSC. Tom Francis’s Slide Collection and Notes: There is a photograph
of the date inscribed on the wall, with a comment in the accompanying
notes stating that it was carved into the brickwork.
(Reproduced as plate 97 in Montague E N (Ed.) Old Mitcham” (1993)

2. SHC. 174/2/2

3. Excavations conducted by MHS during 1969 at the rear of No. 29 Upper
Green East (NGR 2788 6898), for instance, produced a few fragments
of pottery from the late 2nd century AD, and more from the l2th and
13th centuries. Finds deposited at Museum of London in 2005.


4. The stream is now part of the surface water sewerage system, flowing
underground from Three Kings pond, south of Lower Green to Western
Road (where in the 19th century it could be seen as an open roadside
ditch) and joins the Wandle at Merton.
5. M & B II (1809) 495.
“The run of water from the Common about fifty years ago formed a
wash-way through that part of the village to Merton, but is now confined
in a channel, and partly covered over.”
In 1822 the sale particulars of what was later to become known as The
Firs estate mentioned ‘a canal’ in the grounds, and site works in 1971
in preparation for the erection of the present Iceland Freezer Centre at
Upper Green uncovered a section of a large brick-built culvert on the
line of the stream.

6. NGR 2767 6900. Now occupied by the Iceland Freezer Centre.
7. SHC. Collection of Deeds relating to Mitcham and
Copy of Court Rolls (Exchequer Court of Augmentations) Portfolio 12
8. LA 2137
9. LA 3112

10. LA 1138 and SHC 599/306
In addition to the 18 acres of ‘Colde Blowers’, Broughton was also
admitted to the tenancy of 4 acres known as ‘Chaffe Hawes’, now part
of the site of the Cranmer Primary School, Cranmer Road, Mitcham
11. SHC. Collection of Deeds relating to Mitcham. 599
12. SHC. Court rolls of the manor of Ravensbury. 320/1/1
13. M & B II (1809) 497 and 499
14. Surrey Hearth Tax 1664, Surrey Record Society XVII (1940)
15. SHC. Mitcham Civil Parish Records.
Militia Assessments LA 5/8/1-2
16. For much of my information on the tenure of ‘Blowers’ and ‘Cold
Blowers’ from 1676 to 1722 I am indebted to Anne McCormack of the
SHC, who kindly distilled the essential facts from the Ravensbury court
rolls which, for this period, are in Latin.
17. SHC. Court roll 31 July 1666: Death of Robert Cranmer presented. He
possessed, inter alia, 18 acres called ‘Blowers’.
18. SHC. Court roll 4 Dec. 1668.
19. SHC. Court roll 2 May 1676: Death of Charles Cranmer presented.
Admission of Benjamin Cranmer (brother) to, inter alia, ‘Blowers’


20. SHC. Court roll 23 July 1680: Surrender by Benjamin Cranmer of “2
closes of customary land called ‘Cold Blowers’, 8 acres, in the
occupation of Mary Browne, widow” to the use of Ellinor Lambe
21. SHC. Will of Ellinor Lambe, dated 17.4.1680, proved 25.6.1680. 174/2/1
22. Holman J, and Herridge M, MS ‘Index of Surrey Probate Inventories
16th to 19th Centuries’ (Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin 214.)
Family Records Centre PCC PROB 4/3970
23. SHC. Court roll 12 April 1687. One messuage and three tenements enclosed
by a stone wall in the tenure of John Joyce and Richard Hamond mentioned.
24. SHC. Copy of court roll. 174/2/3
25. SHC. Copy of court roll. 174/2/4
26. SHC. Court roll 3 Jan. 1722/3. Death of Abigail Ellis (née Lambe) recorded.
She had a messuage enclosed by a stone wall and also two closes called
‘Cold Blowes’ (8 acres) to which James Ellis was admitted.
27. SHC. Court roll 16 Oct. 1690
28. SHC. Court roll 25 Oct. 1699. Blowers, totalling 20 acres with other land
known as ‘Brewers’, had recently been in the tenure of William Sheldon.
He was a citizen and draper of London, who died in possession of
‘Almonds’ (the site of the present Park Place, to the south of Cold
Blows Lane) which he held of the manor of Vauxhall. In 1704 his son
William and Elizabeth Sheldon were admitted to the tenancy of the
manor in his place. (SHC. 298/3/13)

29. SHC. Court roll 29 April 1708.
Following the death of William Batt, probate (31/135/816) was granted
Nov. 1734 (see 28 above).
30. Jones A E, An Illustrated Directory of Old Carshalton.
31. Family Records Centre Will, 11/378 (169 Hare) quoted by Jessop – see
45 below
32. SAC LXIV (1967) 101-104

33. Montague E N, The Elms, Mitcham MHS (1969)
34. SHC. Mitcham Baptismal Registers.
35. SHC. Court rolls of the Manor of Biggin and Tamworth
36. SHC. Mitcham Vestry Minutes 1699–1763. The term is commonly
understood to mean something in excess of 25 years.
37. Foster William, The East India House, its History and Associations
(1924) 114-116
See also file L2(920)DJB LP1735 in MLSC local history collection for
biographical details of Charles Du Bois (1656–1740) in an article on
his herbarium at Oxford by G Claridge Druce.


38. Brayley E W, A Topographical History of Surrey IV (1841) 91
39. Jessop L, ‘Notes on Insects, 1692 & 1695 by Charles du Bois’Bulletin,
British Museum (Natural History) Vol.17 No.1 (1989) 2–13
40. Jones M C, Notes Respecting the Family of Waldo (1863) 19–20
(Seen in Battersea Library) and The Gentleman’s Magazine 82 207
41. Loudon J C, ‘Arboretum et Fructicetum Britannicum’ Society of
Gardeners I (1838) 62–3
There is a further reference to Du Bois experimenting with the growing
of garden peas out of season in The Monthly Register of Experiments
and Observations in Husbandry and Gardening (April 1722) 34/5
42. Family Records Centre Will 11/705 (264 Browne), quoted by Jessop
43. Lysons D, Environs of London I (1792) 358
44. SHC. Mitcham Poor Ratebooks. Also Foster, W 123
45. SHC. List of Freeholders, Mitcham.
Allcraft’s sister Martha (1685–1757) was Benjamin Tate’s first wife.
46. SHC 320/1/3

47. M & B II (1809) 501
48. Edwards Part II (1789) 16
49. Willis C S, Short History of Ewell and Nonsuch (1969) 57
“John Pollard removed from Mitcham to Ewell Grove House, which he
had erected for him. It was demolished in 1962. His elegant mural
monument can be seen in Ewell church.”
(I am grateful to Miss Walsh, of Ewell Library, for kindly supplying
this information.)
50. SHC. Mitcham Land Tax and Poor Rate Books.
51. For much of the biographical details of the Langdale family, I am
indebted to James Langdale, of Wembley Park, Middlesex, the great
grandnephew of Marmaduke Langdale. I was also assisted by the
Catholic Record Society.
52. SHC. Mitcham Vestry Minutes 1763-1793
53. VCH II (1905) 375
54. SHC. Catalogue of Deeds etc. relating to Mitcham.
Particulars of Sale of Mr Langdale’s Property.
55. MLSC. Tom Francis Collection of Slides of Old Mitcham.
56. The chapel does not, however, appear to have been granted a certificate
by the Clerk of the Peace under the Catholic Emancipation Act 1791,
for there is no reference to it in the Surrey Quarter Sessions Records.
(SHC 6/13)
57. Greenwood C & J, Surrey Described (1823) 105


58. Pigot and Co.’s Directories of Surrey, 1832-4 and 1839
It was Maria Beckford, a cousin of Elizabeth, William and Ann Tate,
who erected the fine memorial by Westmacott to their memory which is
to be seen in the north aisle of Mitcham church.
59. Loudon J C, op. cit., 63:
“The grounds at Mitcham, which belonged to Mr. Dubois, are now [Jan.
1835] the property of Mr. Blake, an auctioneer at Croydon. Dubois’s
house has been long since pulled down; but another has been built, which
is occupied by Mrs. Beckford. In the grounds a number of the trees planted
by Mr. Dubois still remain. Among these are a very large weeping willow;
a nettle tree, with branches covering a space 50ft. in diameter, and with a
trunk 6ft.8in. in circumference. The extremities of its branches hang down
nearly to the ground; and on Jan 10. 1835, when we had the tree examined,
the spray was still covered with dark purple berries, rather larger than
those of the common hawthorn. There is a pinaster, with a clear trunk
about 40 ft high; the girth, about 3ft. from the ground, 9ft.; and the total
height 60ft. The cracks in the bark of this tree are from 6in. to 8in. deep.
There is a very old, large and handsome mulberry tree, the branches of
which cover a space of 60 ft. in diameter; it bears abundantly every year.
Besides these, there are very large and old Scotch pines; a large old stone
pine; large Prunus Mahaleb; a fine Ptelea trifoliata; a stag’s horn sumach,
with a trunk 6ft. in girt; an old Bignonia radicans; a large arbutus, and
some other fine specimens.”

60. CLSC. Harold Williams Collection of Sale Particulars includes a
notebook (ref. N.609) entitled ‘The Firs’, Mitcham, which is said to be
an inventory of fixtures and fittings prepared for Mrs Beckford,
presumably at the time of sale.
61. MTS Refs. 848–853
62. Tooting Parish Church. Two tombstones to the Daun family, one illegible,
but the other records Edward Daun 18.2.1825–15.2.1883, and Rose
Anne, his wife, 8.4.1823–12.7.1909. (Transcribed by Gerald Morris)
63. MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture notes, 114
Montague E, (ed.) Old Mitcham (1993) plates 94 to 96, reproduced
from the Tom Francis collection, are of The Firs at this time.
64. British Library, Map Room. Map 137 c5 (30)
65. MLSC. Sale Particulars in Box B:
The Firs estate, embracing c.17 acres, was offered as one lot in 1892 by
Blake, Haddock and Carpenter, who emphasised its potential for
development for building. In all, the house had 15 bed and dressing
rooms, and with its fine reception rooms, billiards room etc. offered all
the essential assets of a small country estate with one exception – income.


66. London Borough of Merton. Surveyor’s Office. Deposited Plans.
(Discarded and destroyed when the records were computerised in the
67. VCH II (1905) 375 and R M Chart, quoted by Foster W, op. cit. 123

1. Montague E N and Turner W A, ‘The Residence of Sir Julius Caesar
Adelmare in Mitcham’ in SAC LXVII (1970) 85–94
2. This particular visit occurred 12–13 September
3. CLSC. ‘Mitcham Fair’ Typescript Notes by R M Chart
Ref. pf. S.89 (394.6) CHA
4. SHC. 577/11/1

5. Muncey R W, Our Old English Fairs (1935) 169
6. SHC. Surrey Quarter Sessions Records (See Appendix)
7. Sanders R, (pseudonym Spencer, N) The Complete English Traveller
(1771) 138: “Mitcham has a fair on the twelfth of August for cattle and
‘Toys’ was the term used for novelties and other trifles bought at fairs.
Edwards Pt II (c.1789) 16 and
MLSC. Local Collection, Cutting dated 1791 L2 (907) LP 263

8. John Bull 18 August 1823, quoting extract from The Morning Post
9. MLSC. Tom Francis’s Lecture Notes p.115 No. 50
10. Ibid. p.32
11. CLSL. Harold Williams Collection, Ref. S243
12. Slater Ben, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder I (1923) 26
13. Drewett James D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 11
14. SHC 2327/1/31. In 1893 the franchise of the Fair was offered for sale
by auction. A bid of £350 from Francis Bailey was accepted, but although
searches were conducted, and a draft conveyance drawn up, there is no
evidence of completion.
15. Mitcham Urban District Council Act 1923, preamble.
16. CLSC. Photograph captioned “12.8.1906. 3.15 p.m. Meeting on Fair
Green to protest against abolition of Fair” in Photographic Record and
Survey of Surrey Ref. No. 2317
17. MLSC. Tom Francis’s Scrap Book. Undated newspaper cutting.
It must be said that some of the solicitor’s reported assertions would
not stand up to examination.
18. Ibid, also Notice Proclaiming Meeting



1. Lysons D, Environs of London I (1792) 354
2. SHC. Court rolls of the manor of Ravensbury
3. M & B II (1809) 495
4. Montague E N, Eagle House, Mitcham MHS (1974)
5. Notes and Queries, 1st Series XI (1855) 262
6. Edwards Pt. II (1801) 16
7. NGR TQ 2775 6895.T Francis & Son’s general stores stood nearby.
8. SHC. 413/8/18
9. M & B II (1809) 503
10. The Oxtoby family were prominent in parish affairs for many years.
“Mrs. Rosamond Oxtoby by her will, proved 1792, gave to the parish
of Mitcham £2.12s. per annum, payable from an estate at Mitcham, to
be laid out in bread, and distributed at the Church every Sunday mornimg
by the Churchwardens to the poor of the parish.”
M & B II (1809) 503
11. M & B III (1814) clii
12. Greenwood C and J, Surrey Described (1823) 232
13. Lewis S, A Topographical Dictionary of England III (4th edn) (1840) 287
Brayley E W, in Topographical History of Surrey IV (1841) 90 states
that Sir Walter’s mansion was “at the corner of Wykford-lane” but he
was almost certainly relying on Lewis and others.

14. “Thomas Plummer Esq., by his last will, proved Jan. 25, 1639, gave to the
parish of Mitcham £4. per annum, payable out of the rent of an estate in
Basinghall-Lane, London, which is laid out in bread, and given at the Church
every Sunday morning by the Churchwardens to the poor of the parish.”
M & B II (1809) 503

15. Lysons D, Environs of London (1811) Supplement, 47

1 VCH IV (1912) 230

2 The finds were deposited in the Museum of London in 2005.

3 Mr Dimes of the Geological Museum, South Kensington, to whom a
sample was taken in 1971, expressed the opinion that it was a natural
water-deposited silt.

4 MoLAS. Watching Brief: Land adjoining 42–44 Dearn Gardens,
Mitcham (1995)

5 SHC. Collection of Deeds etc. (Probably originally deposited with
Surrey Archaeological Society by R Garraway Rice).

SHC. Court rolls, manor of Biggin and Tamworth.


7 SHC. Mitcham parish baptismal register

8 SHC. Durham House deeds. Acc 557

9 Montague E N, Eagle House, Mitcham MHS (1974) 5

10 Guildhall, London. London Assurance records. Fire Mark 2672

11 In her will, dated August 1739, proved in September 1749, Lady Dolliffe
is described as “Mary Dollyff of Horkstow in the County of Lincoln,
Widow,” where she was probably buried. East Surrey Family History
Society Vol. 22 No.1 (March 1999) 35.

12 Haultain’s father was amongst those who petitioned Parliament in 1714
against the Act “Prohibiting the Use of all Printed, Painted and Dyed
Calicoes”. Turnbull G, History of Calico Printing in Great Britain
(1951) 21

13 Squire J T, Mount Nod (1887)

14 Huguenot Society of London Publications, No. 10

15 Information from Barbara Rough of Banstead History Research Group,
in pers. comm., Oct. 1988.

16 Lambert H C M, History of Banstead in Surrey II (1931) 69

17 Alumni Oxoniensis II (1888) 626

18 SHC. 413/8/18

19 SHC. Land Tax records, Mitcham

20 See Chapter VIII

21 Edwards Pt. II (1801) 16

22 Alumni Oxoniensis II (1888) 692

23 Hodson V C P, Officers of the Bengal Army 1758 – 1834 194/5. (Extract

supplied by the Assistant Keeper, India Office Library, in 1973)

24 “Mr. Garraway Rice’s grandfather bought it about 1800 and named it
Durham House”: Miss Farewell Jones, in notes deposited at Mitcham
Library in the 1930s, now at SHC. She may have been quoting from the
deeds of Durham House, SHC Acc. 557.
(The name Durham House was no doubt inspired by the association with
Mitcham of Ralegh, whose residence in the Strand was Durham House.)

25 “Wm. Garraway (1811–1891) lived here in 1841. His father, Abel
Garraway, died at Glebelands in 1860 having left Durham House a few
years previously.”

MLSC. Notes in file L2 (902) ‘Mitcham History 1937’ LP 460
The writer had presumably consulted the deeds of Durham House (see
note 24 above), the will of Daniel Garraway (d. 1832), with its references
to ‘messuages and lands’ SHC 18/4/4, or the will of Abel Garraway,

1860, which mentions Glebe Villa on Upper or Fair Green SHC 18/4/7.

26 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture notes
27 Local Directories
Durham House is depicted in an engraving dated 1850 captioned
‘Residence of Abel Garraway Esq. 1841–1849’, printed March 1891
by Robert Garraway Rice FSA. Copies in MLSC local illustrations
collection, and in Surrey Archaeological Society’s folio on Mitcham
Robert Garraway Rice – Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, member
of Surrey Archaeological Society and of Sussex Archaeological Society,
barrister-at-law. Died January 1933.
28 Census return, Mitcham, 1851
29 Surrey Archaeological Society library. Collection of Deeds deposited
by R Garraway Rice or
SHC. Deeds of Durham House Ref. Acc. 557?
Green’s South London Directory (1869) 124 lists “W. Johnson” as
resident at Durham House.
30 MLSC. Measured drawings of Durham House.
31 Garraway Rice R, ‘On the Parish Registers of Ss. Peter and Paul,
Mitcham’ The Reliquary (1877)
32 MLSC. Local History Collection. Memories of an old resident.
33 ‘No. 1894. Conservative Club, Upper Green (early 18th Century)’
Antiquities of Surrey (1965) 87
34 Grade III on the Supplementary List compiled by Mitcham Corporation
under the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 sec. 30. “Ground floor
built out, and original doorcase with fluted pilasters, carved brackets,
and flat hood refixed.”
1 Edwards Pt. II (1801) 16
2 SHC. Land Tax records, Mitcham
3 M & B II (1809) 501
4 Surrey Archaeological Society library.
5 M & B II (1809) 500
6 VCH II (1905) 372
7 Montague E N,Mitcham Histories 5: Lower Green West, Mitcham MHS
9 M & B III (1814) clii
10 His manager, John Edmunds, was in residence at one of the mill houses
in 1846.


11 Hillier J, Old Surrey Water Mills (1951) 177
12 Census return, Mitcham 1851
13 Post Office Directory 1862
14 Kelly’s Directories
15 Streatham News 10 February 1922

The Old Nag’s Head

1 SHC. Court rolls of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, and also of the

manor of Ravensbury 413/8/19-20
The name Merritt or Merrett is not a common one and, given the family’s
prominence as licensed victuallers in Mitcham for much of the 18th
century, it is tempting to believe there may have been a connection with
Christopher Merrett who, in December 1662, presented a paper to the
Royal Society on the induction of secondary fermentation in a finished
wine by the addition of sugar. Merrett has been accredited with the
invention of sparkling wine, or champagne, 20 years before the legendary
Dom Pérignon. Stevenson T, World Encyclopedia of Champagne and
Sparkling Wine (1998)

2 SHC. Register of Friendly Societies
3 MLSC. Mitcham Collection. Sale Particulars Box B
4 Information from Sgt Flint, formerly of Mitcham Police.
5 SHC. 507/11/26
6 MoLAS, Watching Brief, London Road, Mitcham (1992)

The King’s Arms

7 Edwards Pt. II (1801) 16
8 MLSC. Mitcham Collection. Map and Sale Particulars RMC 416
9 Osborn H, Inn and Around London (1991) 75

The Buck’s Head

10 Rice R G, ‘On the Parish Registers of Ss. Peter and Paul, Mitcham’ in
The Reliquary XIX (1877) 22/3 Note 49

11 SHC. Mitcham parish baptismal register
12 SAC 56 (1959) 40
13 LA Minet Library. Mitcham Deeds 2614

14 SHC. Sale Particulars 599/254
15 MLSC. Revd H Randolph’s Notebook, published by MHS as Local
History Notes 20: Parishioners of Mitcham 1837/38 (2002)

16 Census return, Mitcham 1841


17 Post Office Directory 1845
18 Census return, Mitcham 1851
19 Shuna Le Moine, design consultant for J D Wetherspoon plc., in pers.

comm. August 1996.

The Lord Napier

20 The name can be seen above the premises in a postcard c.1910

The Western Side of the Green

1 MLSC. Undated newspaper article in Tom Francis’s scrapbook.
A collection of account books, a baptismal register, the early history of
the chapel etc. were, in 1977, in the care of the Revd Michael P Dilly,

2 VCH IV (1912) 230
3 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture notes
4 MLSC. Extra-illustrated copy of Brayley E W, History of Surrey in

Wimbledon Library
5 MLSC. Local Illustrations Collection
6 MLSC. Sale Particulars, RMC 416

The Eastern Side of the Green
St Mark’s Road

7 MTS. Register Nos 376-383
8 LA Minet Library. Collection of Mitcham deeds.
9 Typically Edwards map of c. 1801, and the first edition OS map, 1816.
10 Comments by the Town Planning Officer, London Borough of Merton

in 1991, when assessing the Green as a potential Conservation Area.
11 MLSC. St Mark’s, Mitcham. Jubilee Birthday 1899–1949. L2(283)SAI
See also Outlook, the parish magazine of St Mark’s, Vol. 12 No. 6,

February 1979.
12 VCH IV (1912) 234
13 SHC. Plans of St Mark’s church and vicarage 1910–1932 ref. 50
14 Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Mitcham’ in Bidder II (1926) 8
15 VCH IV (1912) 230

Upper Green East

16 Information from R G Hobgen, manager, Lloyds Bank, Mitcham, in a
pers. comm. December 1976.

17 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture notes 106, p. 47


18 According to Tom Francis’s notes George Bennett’s shop was called
‘The Little Wonder’, but Edwardian postcards show the first shop in
the row to have been a coffee shop, with an un-named tobacconist and
confectioner’s shop next door. Many years later, and within living
memory, there was another ‘Little Wonder’ confectionery and tobacco
shop where Preedy’s shop was later.

19 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture note 60, p. 18

20 Information from my friend and fellow-member of MHS, the late Dennis

21 SHC. M.R. Book 8

22 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture note 61, p. 20

23 Ibid, note 105, pp. 46/7, also recollections of the late Mr H Siviour of

Edgehill Road, recounted by Dr R A M Scott of MHS

24 Hitchin W E, Surrey at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (1906) 252

25 SHC. Book 8

26 MLSC. Sale Map RMC 388

27 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture note 104, p. 46

28 Stockwell AH, The Baptist Churches of Surrey (c.1909) 138/9

29 MLSC. Tom Francis’s notes 13, p. 6, and 114, p. 46

30 The other members of the Committee were Robert Masters Chart, Tom

Francis and Alfred Mizen.


1 MLSC. Tom Francis’s lecture note 102, p. 44
2 Nairn I and Pevsner N, The Buildings of England. Surrey (1971) 369


1 Following submission of a proposal that Mitcham’s Cricket Green
Conservation Area should be extended northwards to include the Fair Green
area, Merton Council gave consideration to various reports during the winter
of 1991/92. It was finally decided that, although the character of the area
was quite varied and had some interest, it failed to meet the criteria set out
in the Planning Act 1990, and the proposal was not proceeded with.

Sir Ambrose Crowley

1 Something of the prestige attaching to a grave in the north chancel can be
read into the entry in the parish burial register, which records that on 23
March 1737 Mary, wife of Mr Joseph Baly from Hertfordshire was interred
in Mr Heath’s chancel, “the burial place of the late Sir Ambrose Crowley”.

2 M & B II (1809) 500
3 Ms. copies in possession of Surrey Archaeological Society (Ref:
Cockayne MS. Vol.III). Originals are at SHC.
4 For detailed biographical information on the Crowley family I am
indebted to my friend and fellow-member of MHS, the late Jack Bailey.
5 Flinn M W, Men of Iron: The Crowleys in the Early Iron Industry (1962)
6 Beaven A B ,The Aldermen of the City of London II (1908) 195
7 Lysons D, The Environs of London I (1792) 356
8 Gentleman’s Magazine (1803) 1004
Correspondent ‘Q’, referring to Lysons, argues the case convincingly
for Humphrey Parsons.
9 Edwards Pt.II (1801) 16
10 SHC. Land Tax Records – Mitcham
11 M & B II (1809) 501
12 Deeds of Glebelands, seen in the Chief Executive’s Department, London
Borough of Merton, in the 1980s
13 VCH II (1905) 372
14 Le Neve Pedigrees of Knights;quoted by Beaven, op. cit. I (1908)
15 Ashton T S, An Economic History of England: The 18th Century (1955)
164–5, quoting Flinn M W ‘Sir Ambrose Crowley, Ironmonger, 1658–
1713’ in Explorations in Entrepreneurial History Vol.V No.3 120
16 Ashton, op. cit. 212
17 Beaven, op. cit. I 258
18 Beaven, op. cit. II 122 and I 142
19 Family Records Centre. PCC 22 Leeds June 10. Proved 19 October
20 Beaven, op. cit. II 126
21 Crowley’s Winlaton Ironworks, where he harnessed the waters of the
Derwent for power, was Europe’s first integrated manufacturing plant,
taking in raw materials and producing the finished articles. The once
beautiful valley was still attractive enough to be painted by Turner in
1817, but it was desecrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by
steel mills and the massive Derwenthaugh Cokeworks. The plant closed
in 1985, and in the early 1990s the valley was reclaimed, and is now
parkland. Williams P, ‘Paradise Regained in Turner’s Rural Idyll’, The
Times 6 August 1998
22 Professor M F H Rose, in a personal communication 17 March 1993
23 Surrey Record Society Surrey Hearth Tax XLI and XLII Vol.XVIII (1964)
24 M & B II (1803) 497

Air-raid damage 23, 40, 48, 51, 107, 112, 119
Alexander, Robert 28
Henry 38-41
Martha 38, 81
Mary 81, 82
Allmannesland 30
‘Almonds’ – see Allmannesland
considerations 1-6
excavations 2
Durham House 77-79, 82
Gutteridge’s shop 23-24, 26
Holborn Way 98
Arnold, Elizabeth 79-80
Baker, Thomas 101
Baptist chapel 122-123
Barclay, Mrs —— 93
Barclays Bank 6, 23, 24-25, 28, 90 121
Bartley, Emma 21
Baths Hall 108
Batt family 35
Batts Farm 35
Bayeux, canons of 3
Beckford family 44
Benefit societies – see Friendly societies
Bennett, George, tobacconist 117
Benton, ‘Widow’ 26
Berefoote, William 31
Biggin and Tamworth, manor of 7, 36, 54, 55, 57, 58, 62, 65,
68, 79, 81, 82, 84, 87, 95-96
Birley, Francis H 93
‘Blacklands’ 2, 36
Blake, John 44
Blockbuster 104
‘Blowers’ – see Cold Blows
Board School – see Schools
Bois, du – see Du Bois
Bowman, Matthew 101
Bowyer, Thomas 98
Bradford, Richard 95


Brewer, John
Bridger, James
British School – see Schools
Broadway Stores
Brooksbank family
Broughton, Richard
Browne, Mary
Buck’s Head
Buckland, William
Bunters fish-and-chip shop

Caesar, Sir (Dr) Julius
Caesar’s bingo hall
Carew family
Carter family
Carter, Mrs – see Schools
Catholics, Roman
Cemetery, 5th/6th century
Chandler, Sarah
Chart family

John R
Robert M

Chertsey abbey
Clarendon Grove
Clarke, Edward
Clout, Albert
Cochran family
Colbran’s butcher shop
Cold Blows

Coles family
Collins, Oscar, taxidermist
Common Conservators
Common fields
Congregational church,

Zion Chapel
Sunday school – see Schools

7-8, 59, 62, 101

31, 149
86, 100-102

20-21, 55
7, 8, 13, 14, 55

41-42, 44
123, 124
18, 122-123, 124, 126, 127
58, 62, 111
19, 26, 123
122, 123-124, 126
119, 129-130
98, 107-108
29, 30, 31-35, 39
8, 65, 67, 131


Conservation Area, proposed extension


Conservative Association (Club)
Cowlin, Frederick
Craig, T G, tobacconist
Cranmer family
Crisp, A & Son, boot and shoe repairers

Sir Ambrose

Cumberland Friendly Society – see Friendly societies
Currell’s shop

Daun family
Davies, Mary
Davis’s Coaches
Day, ——
Deacon, Theophilus
De Mara / de la Mare
Dempster, James – see Schools
Doll, John
Dolliffe family
Domesday settlement
Drewett family
Du Bois,


Dukes, Anne
Durham House

East, Hester
East India Company
Eastland, Richard
Eden, ——
Ellis, James
Elmwood – see The Firs
Excavations – see Archaeological

Fair – see Mitcham Fair
Fair Green Court
Fair Green covered market
Fair Green Gardens
Fairclough, Thomas


31, 32, 34, 144

91-92, 139-144
92, 141





74, 80, 81
18-19, 20, 122, 132

35-38, 44, 152
6, 7, 64-65, 71, 77-90


74, 76
131, 132


Field systems
Fields, open
Firs, The
Fitz Ansculf, William
Fleming, Robert
Ford, Ann
Foreman, Elizabeth
Fowkes, Mrs – see Schools
Fowle, Joseph
Francis’s Field
Friendly societies,

Cumberland Friendly Society
Hope Friendly Society
Union and Benefit Society
United Friends Society

Gardeners, Society of
Gardner, Philip
Garraway family
Gas lighting
Gascoigne family
Gateswell, W H, corn chandler
Giles, ——
Gill(e)brand family
Glebelands / Glebe House
Gluckstein, Mrs ——
Goldsmith, Mary
Gordon Riots
Gore, Charles
Great Pond – see Three Kings Pond
Gregg, Francis
Grove, Mrs ——


Hamond, Richard
Hams, Charles
Harding, James


87, 91

70, 76


35, 39
83, 85-87
83, 91-92, 140-142
71, 79
86, 91


23, 28, 121


26-27, 122


Haultain family
Haven, Lady
Hayter family
Heathernderry Pond – see Three Kings Pond
Hedge family
Henman’s Farm
Herle, Anne
‘Hibbert’ – see Stibbart
Hills, William
Hodgson, Mrs – see Schools
Holborn Way
Holden’s coaches
Hope Friendly Society – see Friendly societies
Hopkins, Thomas
Horne family
Hutton’s fish shop

Jenner, A & C Ltd

Jenner, W W (Mitcham) Ltd


Jones, Richard

Jubilee clock – see Clocktower

Kilby, Miss ——
Killick’s Lane
King’s Arms
Kwik Save

Lammas Avenue
Lane, Abner
Langdale family
Lansdell, Revd F J
Leader, Attlee and Langdale
Legal & Commercial Fire and Life Office
Leonard Davey and Hart

36, 81-83



6, 97-98, 103

83, 84



17, 20, 112
9, 17, 102, 112
86, 98



Leverton, Thomas 44
Lloyds Bank 115, 116
Lodge, John 83
London Underground station proposed 76
Lord Napier public house 95, 102, 108
Love, Samuel, Draper 119
Lowman, William 96
Machin, Kingsley Ltd 104
Majestic Cinema 19-20, 114
Majestic Way 5, 9, 17, 102, 108-113
Malex Ltd 104
Manor House School, Chiswick – see Schools
extent of 7-8
lordship of 7-8
Mansell, William 100-101
Manship, John 7
Market, covered – see Fair Green
Mauvillain family 36
Maypole, village 85, 96
Merrett / Merritt family 55, 95, 157
Merton Granaries 28
Merton priory 7
Methodist churches 47-52
Miller, F C 49-50
Mills, Mrs —— 115
Minchard, Henry 32

Mitcham & Morden Conservative Association – see Conservative Association
Mitcham Fair 7, 53-68, 131
Mitcham Gas Light & Coke Co 2, 129
Mitcham House 91-94
Mizen Bros 6, 113
Mizen, Edward 111, 113
Montrose 120
Moore, James 7, 58
Morgan, David 100-101
Muggeridge, John 26
Munday, R 118
Myers, William 101


Nag’s Head 7, 55, 86, 95-98
Netto foodstore 104
Newman family 17, 18, 101
Newton, Langdale & Co 43
Norfolk, Richard 25

Old Bedlam 4, 6, 7, 9-21
Odo, Bishop 3
Old Nag’s Head – see Nag’s Head
Open field system 1-2, 5-6
Owen family 141, 144

Joseph 19
Oxtoby family 71-72, 73, 92, 98, 107, 154

Papillon, Thomas 36-37
Parsons family 141
Patterson, George 82
Perrys, John 30
Pettit family 80, 81, 82
Pierpoint, Mrs —— 84
Plumer / Plummer family 9, 13, 14, 15, 17, 69, 74, 75, 154
Podmore, George 26
Pollard family 39-41, 44, 85, 151
Pollards’ Corner 41
Porter, William 82
Potter family 15, 25, 84-85
Pratt, Thomas 104
Princes Golf Club Ltd 8
Public houses 95-102
Puplett, William 80, 81, 82

Queen Anne’s Bounty 37, 92

Ralegh / Raleigh family 13-14, 69-76
Raleigh Gardens 93-94
Raleigh House – see Schools
Rance, Sidney 71
Ravensbury, manor of 7-8, 13-14, 29, 30, 31, 41, 43, 44, 69, 74, 122
Ravensbury, house 18, 19, 21

Rhodes, Joseph


Robert Garraway

Riddle, Kezia
‘Roaring Donkey’
Roman well
Romano-British settlement
Rothwell, William
Royal Society, the
Ruff family
Russell family

Sainsbury’s supermarket
St Eloy family
St Mark’s church
St Mark’s Primary School – see Schools
St Mark’s Road
Samson family
Savage, Mrs ——

British School
Carter, Mrs ——
Congregational Sunday school
Dempster, James/Raleigh House
Fowkes, Mrs ——
Hodgson, Mrs ——
Manor House School, Chiswick
St Mark’s Primary School
Mitcham School Board
Sunday school

Searles, furniture stores/removals
Selby, Thomas
Settlement, pattern of early
Sheldon family
Shepherd, James

Upper Green East

Upper Green West
Sibthorpe, Revd H W


87, 119
87, 121, 156
92, 96

20, 114
5, 108, 110-112

5, 17, 102, 108-113


70, 71-72, 74, 83, 92, 141
83-84, 91, 141




Smythe, George
Snuff milling
South Place
Stainforth family
Stibbart / Stibbard, General Giles
Sunday school – see Schools
Sutton, John
Sweetlove, John

Tagg, John
Tansley, ——
Tarrant & Newell
Temple Coffee House Botany Club
Thorpe’s Record Bar
Three Kings Pond
Thurland family
Timberlake, Thomas
Town planning
Trade tokens
Traffic management
Tramway extension to Mitcham
Truelove, W A & Sons
Turner family
Tyrell, John

Union and Benefit Society – see Friendly Societies
United Friends Society – see Friendly Societies
Upper Green East

Nos 29-31
Upper Green landscaping
Upper Green West
Urban District Council Act 1923

Vauxhall, manor of
Village pump

Waldo family
Ward, Plumer family



62, 65

5, 30
103, 133, 136-137
65, 103
18, 122
7, 121-122


6, 7, 23-28

8, 131


17, 18, 36, 115, 121-122
4-5, 30, 149

Welfare family


Roman, on gasworks site 2
on Green 5
on site of Mitcham House 94
Wesleyan Methodist church – see Methodist churches
Western Ditch 5, 149
White Lion of Mortimer 100-102
Wight, John 25
Wilford, Robert 7, 54

York, George, undertaker 102, 108
York Place 102, 108
Young & Bainbridge 98

Zion Chapel 104