14 Upper Mitcham and Western Road

Mitcham Histories  14

by Eric Montague

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



1 The Waldenses
2 Inscriptions concerning Peter and Hannah Waldo in Worting church
3 Farms and enclosures in Mitcham
4 ‘Hay Furlongs to Lavender Park’



Detail from a 1930s map issued with The Official Guide to Mitcham by the Homeland Association Ltd, London WC2 Detail from a 1930s map issued with The Official Guide to Mitcham by the Homeland Association Ltd, London WC2




(with series index)



Published by


© E N Montague 2013

In Memory of June (1926-2004)
whose help in preparing these Mitcham Histories was invaluable.


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

Cover Illustration: ‘Farm House, Mitcham, Surrey – (Mr Weston)’,
watercolour of Pound Farm by Yates c.1825,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


In 2001 Merton Historical Society published The Cricket Green, the
first in what was to be a series of topographical studies covering the
whole of the former Borough of Mitcham. Now, with the publication
of volume No. 14 -Upper Mitcham and Western Road – the project
is completed.

As in the case of several books in the series, the boundaries of Upper
Mitcham and Western Road are somewhat arbitrary and have arisen
from the need to consider under one cover several buildings and sites
of local historic interest and importance. For the purposes of this study
therefore, Upper Mitcham extends as far north as, but does not include,
Figges Marsh, and excludes Fair Green to the south, both areas having
been dealt with in separate volumes in this series. An important length
of London Road through Upper Mitchamis thus dealtwith herein some
detail. However, to confine the study to London Road itself would be
too restrictive, and so it seems justifiable to include not only the estate
developed in the19th century by theBoard of Guardians of theHolborn
Union, extending from London Road to Western Road, but also other
premises fronting what was once known as Merton Lane.

Two of the houses dealt with at some length in this volume, The Elms
and Eagle House, were the subjects of articles published in booklet form
by Merton Historical Society
in 1969 and 1974. In each case further
information has come to hand since publication, and accordingly has
been incorporated in the new text. Pound Farm was the subject of an
article of mine published in 1976 by the Merton Borough News in its
series ‘The Merton Story’, and is reproduced here verbatim.

Material for this study has been accumulated piecemealover the period
of some fifty years, much being gleaned from published sources,
as will be seen in the notes and references at the end of this book.
Similarly listed
should be the locations of all documents
and information kindly supplied by correspondents, but due to the
lapse of time there may well be omissions. To those concerned, I offer
apologies. The assistance and advice which, as a novice many years


ago, I received from staff of the various local history centres and
archive offices certainly proved invaluable, and to them collectively I
also express my sincere thanks. In the preparation of the text for this
book I have fortunately been able to rely, as with others in this series,
on fellow members of Merton Historical Society – the ‘editorial subcommittee’as
I regarded them –to point out errors and inconsistencies
in early drafts. Judith Goodman, David Haunton, John Pile and Tony
Scott, in particular have spent much time on their notes and comments.
Finally, I must give special thanks to Peter Hopkins for the work, time
and skill he has devoted to the selection of illustrations and maps and
in preparation of the final text for the printers.

Please note that the character and appearance of Upper Mitcham
and Western Road have changed dramatically in recent years,
and inevitably development will continue. (Many roads have been
demolished, and in this volume should be located using the 1930s
map on page ii.)

E N Montague (2013)

Imperial Measures are used in most sections of this book
1 acre = 4 roods = 160 square rods, poles or perches = 0.4047 hectares
1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches = 0.9144 metres
1 mile = 80 chains = 1.61 kilometres
1 ton = 20 cwt = 80 quarters = 2240 lb (pounds) = 1.016 tonnes
£1 = 20s (shillings) = 240d (pence)1 gallon = 4.5 litres


2 LONDON ROAD…………………………………………………………………………5
3 THE SWAN INN ………………………………………………………………………..17
4 POUND FARM, UPPER MITCHAM…………………………………………21
5 EAGLE HOUSE, MITCHAM ……………………………………………………27


The Dolliffe Family (1711 – 1722)………………………………………………..30

James and Moses Mendez (1722 – 1756)……………………………………….31

Sundry Occupiers (1756 – 1824)…………………………………………………..34

School Days (1824 – 1855)…………………………………………………………..35

A Poor Law Institution (1855 – 1930)……………………………………………37

Eagle House in its new role (1930 – present)…………………………………..38

An Architectural Appraisal……………………………………………………………43
6 THE HOLBORN SCHOOLS……………………………………………………..49
7 THE ELMS ……………………………………………………………………………….55


The Waldos of Mitcham (c.1725 – 1804)………………………………………..60

The Polhills and Other Leaseholders (1804 – c.1826)………………………66

School, Orphanage and Children’s Home –

The Last Days of The Elms (1826 – 1891)………………………………..67
9 ZION CHAPEL…………………………………………………………………………81
10 THE GASWORKS…………………………………………………………………….87
12 THE VARNISH FACTORIES…………………………………………………….99
13 WESTERN ROAD IN THE MID-1960s ……………………………………103
I The Waldenses…………………………………………………………………………..111
Inscriptions concerning Peter & Hannah Waldo in Worting church….112
III Farms and enclosures in Mitcham……………………………………………….114
‘Hay Furlongs to Lavender Park’…………………………………………………116
NOTES AND REFERENCES………………………………………………………..118
INDEx TO VOLUME 14 ………………………………………………………………133
SERIES INDEx …………………………………………………………………………. 141


E N Montague
Photo by Ashley Lenton 2012


Watercolour of Pound Farm by Yates c.1825 …………………………………Cover
Detail from a 1930s map…………………………………………………………………….ii
The Author…………………………………………………………………………………….viii
map, showing area covered by this book …….x
London Road Upper Mitcham – postcard c.1960 ………………………………….4
Nos. 109–111 London Road, Mitcham, c.1974 …………………………………….6
Mitcham Public Baths, London Road, 1937………………………………………….9
Sir Arthur Bliss Court, Spring 1990……………………………………………………10
Annotated detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1867……………………………..12
Terrace housing of the late 19th century in Sibthorp Road, c.1969…………13
‘Mitcham – the High Street’ looking south – postcard c.1910 ………………14
‘High Street, Mitcham’ looking north – postcard c.1910………………………15
‘Mitcham – The Swan Inn, London Road’ – postcard c.1910 ……………….19
Watercolour of Pound Farm by Yates c.1825 ………………………………………20
Wrought-iron gates to Eagle House, July 1974……………………………………26
Eagle House, London Road, Mitcham, Spring 1971…………………………….27
Annotated detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1894-6………………………….40
Eagle House, rear entrance, June 1977……………………………………………….46
‘Mitcham – Holborn Schools’ – postcard c.1910 ………………………………..49
Gateway to the Holborn Schools in London Road, c.1910…………………….50
‘Band of the Holborn Schools, Bandmaster Mr J F Beeson’, 1922 ………..52
‘Union School Children’, 27 September 1913……………………………………..53
Remnants of the lodge to Holborn Union Industrial Schools, 1965………..54
The Elms, Mitcham, c.1830………………………………………………………………55
‘Chimney Piece in the Chamber of an ancient Mansion …’…………………..57
‘South East View of Elms House, Mitcham, … 1834 by I D Aquilar’
The Elms, photographed shortly after the fire in 1891………………………….70
Romano-British urn, found on the site of Mitcham Gasworks in 1882……74
Swing Yard, Western Road, Mitcham, June 1966…………………………………77
Western Road, looking north-west from Fair Green c.1910…………………..79
The former Zion Chapel, Western Road, June 1975……………………………..80
Gleam Machine works (former Zion Chapel), August 1984………………….85
Detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1894-6…………………………………………86
Holborn Union Workhouse, Mitcham, The Builder 23 October 1886……..90
‘Dining-Hall, Holborn Union Workhouse, Mitcham’, 23 October 1886….96
Detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1911…………………………………………….98
Cottage in Merton Lane c.1970……………………………………………………….100
William Latham & Co’s varnish house in 1965 …………………………………101
Parade with ‘Camwal’ horse and cart, 1901………………………………………104
Raven Spring Works, 37–39 Western Road, May 1977……………………….105
Reduced copy of 1847 Tithe Map annotated to show location of farms…..115
Quadrant estate, Western Road, July 1990…………………………………………132

Site of Zion Chapel, July 1990………………………………………………………..132


Detail from a modern street map, showing the area covered by this book.
Reproduced by permission of Merton Design Unit, London Borough of Merton
1. The Swan Inn (site)
2. Pound Farm (site)
3. Eagle House4. The Elms (site)
5. Zion Chapel (site)
6. Gasworks7. Holborn Workhouse

Chapter 1


map of around 1789, published with his Companion from
London to Brighthelmston, shows Lock’s Lane, un-named, leading
away from the southern tip of Figges Marsh in a south-easterly direction
towards ‘Mitcham Common Field’, the open field then covering the
area known today as Eastfields. The field itself, largely unenclosed and
divided into long narrow plots, as it had been since the Middle Ages,
commenced at a point where the present Carew Road meets Lock’s Lane.
Here a gate across the road barred cattle from straying on or off the
field, which extended from Sandy Lane in the north-east to Baker Lane
in the south, and as far as Meopham Road in the east. Remarkably, one
fragment of this relic of the ancient field still remains under cultivation
today, in the guise of the Eastfields allotment gardens.

Lock’s Lane is marked by name on the 1867 Ordnance Survey map,
and is said to have been so called after Lock’s Farm, which stood near
the beginning of the lane at the Figges Marsh end.1 When the tithe
survey was conducted in 1846 the somewhat humble farm buildings
were recorded ascomprising a yard and buildings, located on the south-
westernsideof thelane.Thesiteis now occupiedbyablockofflats,The
Keys, 12 Lock’s Lane, and a small office block, the Blenheim Business
Centre, numbered 14-24 Lock’s Lane. The ‘farmhouse’
itself seems
from the map to have been quite small, either standing at the end of a
short terrace of cottages which abutted the farmyard, or else comprising
part of what had once been a slightly larger house. Whatever the exact
situation in the mid-1840s, the rest of this building was separately
occupied. In reality, the ‘farm’comprised a smallholding of some 13
acres of predominantly arableland worked by Thomas Craig, a tenant
of Samuel Oxtoby. Thomas may have taken over the tenancy as recently
as 1846, for the Post Office directory for Mitcham in 1845 only lists a
James Craig, described as a ‘farmer’, and unfortunately does not give
a precise address. Six of Thomas Craig’s fields were unenclosed strips
lying either in the common field itself or the adjoining Short Bolstead,
another large open field. In addition, he rented an enclosure known
as ‘The Five Acres’, later to be occupied by John F Renshaw & Co’s
factory, together with ameadow extending along the south-western side
of Lock’s Lane as far as the field gate.


Craig’s tenure of Lock’s Farm proved of short duration, and he is not
listed in the 1851 directory. James Drewett, writing of his memories of
Mitchamin the1860s,recalledwhathedescribedas “theoldfarmhouse”
in Lock’s Lane, then in the occupation of a Mr Tilley,1 but said nothing
of its history. The Craig family appear not to have left Mitcham, for the
name recurs in various contexts over the next 100 years or so, and at
least two members of the Craig family worked at the firework factory
established by James Pain at Eastfields in 1872. (An AJ D Craig was
factory manager from the 1890s until after the 1914/18 war).

The corner plot opposite Lock’s Farm and fronting Streatham Road had
been occupied by three houses, now known collectively as ‘Renshaws
Corner’, since they were erected in the mid-18th century, probably by
an earlier Samuel Oxtoby, who was a local builder and landowner. The
property, which included gardens, a tennis lawn and paddock extending
back down the north-eastern side of the lane, was offered for sale by
auction in 1898.2 The new owners were James Pain and Sons, who used
the houses partly for residential purposes and partly as offices. Shortly
after the end of the 1914/18 war the former tennis lawn and the paddock
were sold to John F Renshaw and Co Ltd, manufacturers of marzipan
and baker’s confectionery.

Founded in 1898 by John F Renshaw, the company had started life in a
small office and storeroom at Great Portland Street. Steady expansion
of the business soon dictated removal, first to larger premises in
Fenchurch Street in 1906, and then again in 1912 to an old disused
factory at Battersea.3 In 1920, when trade was once more in full swing,
yet another move became necessary and eventually, on finding a site
in Lock’s Lane then occupied by an old laundry and a few cottages,
the firm built what was to become by the early 1950s a large modern
factory, world famous for its marzipan and almond products. When, as
Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen was married in 1947 Renshaws
wereproud to be chosen to manufacture one of her eightwedding cakes,
and three years later they were granted the Royal Warrant of Approval
to supply almond products to His Majesty King George VI. Sadly, for
after 70 years Renshaws seemed very much a permanent feature of the
Mitcham scene, the local press announced in 1990 that a decision had


been taken by the company to close down the Mitcham factory, and to
relocate production elsewhere. After standing vacant for several years,
the site was re-developed by Wimpey in 1995/6 as the Wordsworth
Place estate of houses and flats comprising Proctor Close, Kennedy
Close and Pearce Close.

Afew further minor points of interest are perhaps worth noting before
turning our attention away from Lock’s Lane and Eastfields Road. In
1868 construction of the South London, Tooting and Sutton branch of
the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway cut a swathe through
Mitcham, severing several farm tracks and bridleways leading from
the Streatham Road to the East Field and the hamlet of Lonesome,
compelling all vehicular traffic and animals thereafter to converge on
the new Eastfields level crossing.

By the end of the 19th century Lock’s Lane, a public bridleway since
time immemorial, was lit and maintained by the local highway authority,
Croydon Rural District Council, as far as the bend where it is now joined
by LansdellRoad. Althoughwhenlaying its watermaintheCouncilhad
followed the lane beyond the point where the old field gate
had hung,
they declined to accept any responsibility for its maintenance, and
the surface of the track eastwards was in an atrocious condition right
across the fields as far as Lonesome Farm and Streatham Vale. In 1897,
following the receipt of many petitions and individual letters of protest,
together with a formal complaint from Mitcham Parish Council at the
refusal of Croydon to maintain the roadway, Surrey County Council
decided to hold a local public enquiry to determine responsibility for
repair. At the enquiry, which was held at the Vestry Hall in May 1897,
numerous witnesses were
long as it could be remembered, the lane between Figges Marsh and
Lonesome had been in use as a public highway, with no-one being
denied passage. Thewitnesses also gaveevidenceof theappalling state
of the lane, which became rutted to a depth of 12 inches in winter and
thick with mud, rendering it dangerous to women and children. The
evidence makes fascinating reading, many of the witnesses being old
men who could recall their youth working in the unfenced open fields,
ploughing and tending the crops.4


Opposite today’s Eastfields allotments is the early 1960s housing estate
of Roper Way, Ormerod Gardens etc, built on the site of a late-19thcentury
gravel pit, backfilled with domestic refuse in the inter-war years
and used, after levelling and the erection of stands for spectators, as the
Mitcham Stadium. In the 1930s and for a number of years after the end
of World War II this was a popular venue not only for sports events, but
also for carnivals, firework displays and fêtes of all kinds. The houses
in Rialto Road, between the stadium and the railway line, were erected
in the 1930s after the clearance of a piggery and a dilapidated terrace
of 19th-century labourers’cottages. Another gravel pit, and a further
row of workers’dwellings, Allen’s Cottages, stood to the south of the
crossing, and are now the site of the cottages forming part of Mitcham
Borough Council’s Laburnum Estate, built in the early 1950s.

London Road, Upper Mitcham, looking north towards Figges Marsh
postcard c.1960, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service

Chapter 2


‘Laing’s Corner’, occupying the junction of Lock’s Lane with London
Road, is a
three-storey block of seven shops and offices with flats
above built in 1934 and named after William Frederick Laing, a former
chairman of the Urban District Council and a Surrey JP. By profession
an auctioneer and estate agent, his experience was invaluable to the
emerging municipality during the early post-war years. He also served
as a member of the Wandle Valley Sewerage Board and the Mitcham
Common Conservators.1 Under the
of Seymour Laing and
Company the firm of estate agents he founded maintained offices at
No. 6 Laing’s Corner both before and after World War II.

James Drewett recalled that in his boyhood the corner had been occupied
by the remains of “an old wayside inn”,2 afterwards used as a cottage,
but of this no trace remains. By 1890 the land had been cleared of
buildings and, laid out as a garden, was offered for sale by auction with
theadjoining property, asemi-detached brick and slatehousewith shop
premises fronting Lock’s Lane.3 The later widening of London Road at
this point was facilitated by there once having been a triangular portion
of common land or parish wasteon theeastern sideof theroad, abutting
Laing’s Corner. On the evidence of the court rolls a grant of enclosure
was under consideration by the manor of Biggin and Tamworth in
November 1858,4
but nothing seems to have come of it. No particular
use was made of the land, and it remained as a wide grassy verge until
taken for road improvements, presumably some time between the wars.

Drewett also recalled in his reminiscences of old Mitcham
that in the
mid-19th century, extending from the corner southwards towards the
Upper Green as far as Pound Farm, there was a row of small wooden
houses known as Dixon’s Cottages. They were recorded in the tithe
survey of 1846 as ‘houses and gardens’, with tenure in the hands of
“sundry occupiers and owners”,5 and the group nearest Figges Marsh, a
terrace of six, is also shown on the plan produced at the manor court in
1858. The land at the rear was in the possession of ‘the heirs of Dixon’.
The terrace can just be made out in a photograph from the Tom Francis
collection dating from about 1865, their small front gardens separated
from the public footpath and roadside waste by a low picketfence. The


cottages seem to have dated from the late 18th century, and a record
survives of the land on which they stand being leased by Ann Edser
to Samuel Oxtoby in 1796. The accompanying plan shows the terrace
of six fronting the London Road, and seven more (in two groups of
three and four), facing Lock’s Lane.6By 1890 three of the Lock’s Lane
properties had been demolished and replaced with a pair of freehold
shops with living accommodation at the rear, but the group of four,
weatherboarded and tiled, were still there, and were also offered for
sale at the auction in June of that year.3

of six cottages in London Road had by this time
replaced by Grove Terrace, the row of small shops with living
accommodation above, numbered 87–97 London Road. These are now
gone and in the early years of the 21st century Pathway Lodge, 91–95
London Road, has taken their place. Beyond Grove Terracethere were
four pairs of semi-detached weatherboarded cottages of which one pair,
numbers 109 and 111 London Road, can still be seen. The 1851 census
and contemporary directories list Archelaus Dodd, builder and carpenter,

Nos. 109–111 London Road, Mitcham, c.1974 (ENM)


living at the end of the row, presumably in what is now No. 111, near
which Drewett remembered “an old-fashioned builder’s yard”. Until it
was sold in 1976 the yard and adjacent offices remained occupied by
a building firm – that of Stanley Dale and Sons, founded in 1904. The
writer has not established any connection between the two, but it would
appear likely that Dodd’s business was, in fact, taken over by Dale.

Stanley PDale’s name first occurs in a conveyance of 1897, in which he
acquired an interestin theGardeners’ Arms, and again in a lease granted
1902 by Truman, Hanbury and Buxton, in which Dale is described as
“of the Gardeners’Arms, beer retailer”.7
The Gardeners’Arms occupies
the site of a pair of cottages, and was styled the Jolly Gardeners beer
shop in the census of 1851. William Cresswell, the occupier, is described
as a ‘beer retailer’
in the Post Office directory of that year, but since
he was not listed in the 1845 edition, we can assume he, and probably
the beer shop as well, were relatively new on the scene. The census
enumerator also recorded Cresswell as a ‘lodging house keeper’
noted that there were two lodgers at the time, both agricultural labourers.
Drewett, recalling that the public house was kept by a Mr Lewis, said
that it had first been opened in what was one of Dixon’s Cottages, and
could remember a large sycamore tree which stood in the front garden.
This can be seen in the photograph of c.1865 mentioned above.

Samuel J Oxtoby, who must have been a relative (possibly the son) of
the Oxtoby we met earlier, was evidently the owner of the premises
in 1866, for he granted a seven-year lease of the ‘two messuages’to a
brewer, ‘JohnChandlertheyoungerofEpsom’. Afurtherleaseof seven
years was granted by Oxtoby in 1873, when John Beard, a beer retailer,
took over the property, still described as ‘two messuages’. This lease
had not run its full term when, in 1878, a new lease for 16 years was
agreed and signed by Oxtoby and Beard. The
Gardeners’ Arms tavern
is mentioned by name in the records for the first time in 1881, when
Beard negotiated a mortgage
with Charles Hanbury, a brewer, and
this must have been about the time the two cottages were demolished
and the present public house erected in their place. Anew leaseholder,
Thomas Lex, took over in 1883, and it was from a George Cook that
Dale acquired the tenure in 1897.7


Beyond the
Gardeners’ Arms, between what was for many years
Anderson &Co’s timber yard and thepresentcar park (thesiteof Pound
Farm, which we shall discuss later), one comes to a footpath, at one
time an old bridle track known as Green Lane, leading to the Eastfield.
Land to the rear, including that now occupied by Feltham
Road, was
part of the estate of Andrew Feltham surveyed in 1827 by Edwin Chart,
a local land agent, for a Revd J Turner.8
The history of Pound Farm
itself, and the subsequent use of the land, is the subject of Chapter 4.

Two further buildingson thisside of London Road, standing to the south
of Armfield Crescent (which was constructed when the Elm Nursery
housing estate was developed by Mitcham Borough Council in the
1950s), require mention in this account. The first is MitchamLibrary, the
oldest part of which was erected by the Urban District Council in 1933
to the design of Chart, Son and Reading of Mitcham. The building’s
quality was recognised in 1993 by its inclusion by Merton Council in
the local list of buildings of historical or architectural importance. The
land had formed part of Pound Field, and was presented to the people
George’s Road. Much of the cost of building was also borne by Joseph
Owen, who had been chairman of the Urban District Council in 1923.9
Managing director of the Tamworth Park Construction Company, a
local firm of building contractors and estate developers, he practically
gave his services as clerk of works. Appropriately, his public spirit
and generosity were recorded in a plaque unveiled by his wife at the
official opening in May 1933. It can still be seen above the door to the
former reference library, facing another commemorating the opening
of an extension in 1966 by Sir Cyril Black, mayor of the newly created
London Borough of Merton.

Fortunately the elegant library still survives, but a second municipal
building, also dating to the period when the township of Mitcham was
about to become a borough and was proud of its civic achievements,
was demolished in the mid-1980s. This was Mitcham’s art deco baths
hall, opened in 1932. For half a century it provided during the summer
months the town’s only indoor swimming facility and, during the winter,
when the pool was drained and floored over, an excellent public hall for
dances and concerts. The public slipper baths (much appreciated in the


days when few working class homes enjoyed the luxury of a bathroom)
were open all the year round. With a new swimming pool planned for
the Canons sports centre but not yet open, the old baths were closed in
1978, and Mitcham was to be without any local swimming facilities
for five years. The baths were then demolished to provide a route for
the diverted St Mark’s Road. In a shocking act of offically condoned
vandalism, a fine art deco window, with its coloured glass still intact,
was destroyed, with the architect’s knowledge, during the demolition.

Hidden behind numbers 189–191 London Road is the Baptist church,
completed in 1912. The church originally had a frontage to London
Road but in the 1960s the church sold the land at the front and the
present building facing London Road was constructed. Mitcham had
been ‘discovered’
in 1882 by the great C H Spurgeon who, working
in conjunction with Messrs E Aand Frederick Carter and the Revd C
Ingram of Wimbledon, was instrumental in establishing a congregation
which metin atemporary corrugated iron building in Clarendon Grove.
Of Mitcham, Spurgeon allegedly once despairingly declared “It is the
most God-forsaken place I know!” but the hard work and devotion

Mitcham Public Baths, London Road, 1937,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


of a succession of ministers eventually resulted in the emergence of
a flourishing little Church.10 As is so often the case the ‘temporary’
building stood far longer than was originally expected, but in 1909
thoughts turned to the building of a new church on the nearby site in
London Road which had been vacant since the demolition of The Elms
following the fire of 1893 (See Chapter 7 below).

Opposite the Gardeners’ Arms a row of properties numbered 190–200
London Road (their site was later occupied by the Mitcham Garden
Centre) formed a group of slate-roofed houses and shops erected
around the 1830s in place of an earlier building shown on Edwards’
map of c.1789. At the end of the row, on the corner of Bond Road, was
The Sign of the Ship, a small beer house kept by Lucas and Mary Barr
in the 1840s and ’50s.11 Mary took in lodgers, whilst Lucas was also
a wheelwright and custodian of the key of the Figges Marsh pound,
which stood on the opposite side of the main road, near Pound Farm.
The Ship seems to have been pulled down before the rest of the terrace,
the ground floors of which, used as shops, served a variety of traders
until they too were demolished in the 1970s.

Sir Arthur Bliss Court, Spring 1990 (ENM)


To the south of Bond Road stands Sir Arthur Bliss Court, a block of
sheltered housing that was opened in 1989. Beyond this is Monarch
Parade, two large blocks of shops and flats built in the 1930s on land
formerly part of the Holborn Union Schools site. Both this site and
Eagle House adjacent to it are subjects of later chapters in this book.
Next to Eagle House is the former Board of Guardians’school, known
as the London Road School whilst in the hands of Surrey County
Council. It was transferred to the London Borough of Merton in 1965,
and for a number of years the building was used as Mitcham Evening
Institute and the Youth Employment Bureau. (Subsequently it became
the Merton Care and Education Centre.) In appearance somewhat grim
andugly, itcaughttheattention of Nairn and Pevsner, whoweremisled
into thinking it dated to before 1855.12 Aglance at the 1865 Ordnance
Survey map, however, shows that this is incorrect, for the land was still
vacant at that time, and the school is said to have been finished in 1892.13

The land beyond the school, which as late as the mid-19th century
was still copyhold of the manor of Ravensbury, had comprised part
of the Mitcham estate of the late Mrs Plumer Ward, sold in 1846.
On it, amongst various small premises, was Gray’s Yard, No. 230
London Road, for nearly half a century the winter quarters of Harry
Gray and his family, travelling showmen. or, as they preferred to
be known, ‘Amusement Caterers’. The site is now roughly in the
middle of the road junction where London Road has been diverted to
become Holborn Way. Before World War II there was also a Walls
ice cream depot here and, before that, the site had been occupied by
a house of ‘Georgian’
appearance. In the late 19th century this was
known as Mitcham Lodge College, a day and boarding school for
boys run by a Dr William Smith PhD, MA, FSSC,14
and it was here
that several of the sons of Mitcham’s more affluent tradesmen and
shopkeepers, including Tom Francis (b.1873), historian of Mitcham,
were sent to receive an education.15 Facing the school was Douglas
House, a brick-built detached house tenanted until June 1888 by the
Revd Robert Richman, pastor of the Zion Congregational Chapel in
Western Road.16It was offered for sale by auction shortly afterwards,
and the site is now occupied by Abinger House, a block of shops with
flats above, erected in the 1930s.

London Road
Merton Lane (Western Road)
Killick’ s Lane (St Mark’ s Road )
London Road
Merton Lane (Western Road)
Killick’ s Lane (St Mark’ s Road )
Annotated detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1867, showing London Road to the north of Upper Green


Proceeding south along the now pedestrianised part of London Road
towards Upper Green one comes to a very short section of road on the
right, leading to a municipal car park. This is what remains of Sibthorp
Road, named after the Sibthorpe family who owned an extensive estate
in Upper Mitcham during the 19th century, and was typical of a group
of late-Victorian back streets in this part of Mitcham. This included
Gladstone Road, in which stood a mission hall of the same name (since
replaced by a new building in nearby Love Lane) and Fountain Road
(named after the public house on the corner with Western Road). The
terrace cottagesand small houses, which comprised the majority of the
buildings in the three roads, dated from the 1870s through to about 1900,
and were interspersed with coal merchants’and totters’yards (one yard
had been Kent’s, a long-established blacksmiths), and stables used by
hawkers and itinerant traders. Fountain Road contained no fewer than
four such yards in the 1960s, incuding Trott’s, Gray’s, and Gale’s, which
wereoccupied bycaravans ownedbyshowmenandothertravellers.By
the 1960s the original domestic properties, built on cramped sites and
almost all let to tenants at controlled rents fixed at 1939 levels, were in
poor repair and past their useful life. They were accordingly included
in a slum clearance programme by the Borough’s environmental health

Terrace housing of the late 19th century in Sibthorp Road
The South London News Group c.1969


department in 1968. In all, some 60 or so dwellings, plus various plots
of land, were the subject of a compulsory purchase order in 1969, and
following confirmation the whole area was cleared by 1972 to make
way for the construction of the Quadrant housing estate, now known
as the Sadler Close Estate. This had been planned by Merton Borough
Council as part of its new town centre proposals for Mitcham, and
included 287 new dwellings completed in 1975.

In the late Victorian and Edwardian periods London Road from Mitcham
LodgeCollege to the Upper or Fair Green was known as the High Street.
In his Memories of Mitcham Drewett recalled that the present King’s
Arms and what for centuries had been known as the Buck’s Head (for
marketing reasons it was renamed The White Lion of Mortimer after
refurbishment in 1990), had each replaced much older structures. The
main road at this point was none too wide even when Drewett was
writing, but the 18th-century Buck’s Head had projected a further four
feet into the carriageway than its Victorian successor. Postcards of the
early 1900s have preserved the scene in the Edwardian period, and
show that several very old buildings then survived, including one with
a jettied
first floor, which suggests it was probably of timber-framed
construction and late medieval or Tudor in date. The ground floors
of these buildings were in the main converted to shops – “a large set

‘Mitcham – the High Street’ looking south – postcard c.1910,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


of wheelwrights’and farriers’shops etc., were situated where Buck’s
Head Parade now stands, and a similar set on the land of Elm Gardens,
including the village smithy,” said Drewett.17
In the 1920s, when he
was writing, he could also comment that “one of the two chestnut trees
is stillstandinginthis oncebusy andfashionablepart”.On theopposite
side of the road a butcher’s (with a small slaughterhouse at the rear),
Woolworths, a pawnbroker’s and other shops of the 1920s and ’30s
remained until the close of the century.

The road remained absurdly narrow until 1993, when traffic was diverted
along Holborn Way and the old carriageway was pedestrianised. With
public houses on both corners, one of which would have needed to be
purchased atgreatexpense if widening of London Road was to proceed,
the local authorities were confronted with a difficult and apparently
insoluble problem that had existed for virtually the last 100 years. The
imminent extension of London’s tramways from Tooting to Croydon
first prompted urgent consideration of the desirability of widening the
London Road in 1905, but Croydon Rural District Council, the highway
authority atthetime, decided againstit, and nothing was done.18Various
schemes wereconsideredover thenext50 years,including demolition of
theBuck’s Head (the latter by Councillor Maurice Heddon, a member of

‘High Street, Mitcham’ looking north – postcard c.1910,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


the Mitcham Society) as recently as 1979, after the inn had been gutted
by fire, but the renovated building remains, together with the adjacent
London Road properties.

The pedestrianisation of the former High Street was one element in
a package of solutions proposed in the Mitcham Action Area Plan
prepared for public consultation by Merton Borough Council in 1980
and adopted, with substantial modifications, as the Town Centre Plan.
The final scheme included the construction of a new four-lane highway
to the west of the Upper, or Fair, Green from the junction of Raleigh
Gardens with Western Road, joining London Road to the south of Eagle
House.This necessitatedrelocationofthetravellingshowmenfromtheir
site at Gray’s Yard and, since the new route would be a Metropolitan
road, it was originally envisaged that implementation of the proposal
(to be substantially completed in 1991) would be the responsibility of
the Greater London Council.

On the abolition of the GLC under reorganisation of London government
approved by Parliament in 1984, its highway functions passed to Merton
Borough Council in April 1985. Municipal elections in May 1990
resultedinanew administration,favouringalower prioritybeing given
to major road construction works. The resultant re-examination of the
Borough’s transportpolicy in thesummer of 1990 delayed invitation of
tenders for the last stages of the Mitcham Centre roadworks proposals,
with the resultant risk that, due to inflation, the eventual costs would
be higher than originally estimated. Alarm was expressed in various
quarters lest, once again, improvements to Mitcham’s Upper Green
would be shelved, but eventually works on the new road conducting
London Road traffic away from the town centre were commenced in
1991, and Holborn Way was opened to traffic in March 1992.

Relocating the caravans from what was left of Gray’s yard proved even
less easy to achieve. By 1980 the tenants were making it clear that
they were implacably opposed to moving to an alternative site in the
Phipps Bridge area, suggested by Merton Council, and 16 years later
what remained of the original yard was still occupied by a few vans.
In 2010 the aptly named Harry Gray Building, 19 Holborn Way, was
built on the rear part of the yard.

Chapter 3


For some 200 years the Swan public house was a feature of the western
side of London Road close to its junction with Streatham Road. It was
closed and demolished around 2000, and Churchill House, 177–188
London Road, which houses Figges Marsh surgery and the flats above
it, now covers the site. A
Swan inn
at Mitcham is said to have been
mentioned in the court rolls of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth
in 16951, but its
location is
uncertain and its
subsequent history is
unknown. Another Swan, occupying the site of the present Cricketers
on Lower Green, and therefore within the jurisdiction of the manor
of Vauxhall, was described in a guide published around 1800.2 John
Rocque indicated an unnamed building in the position of the Swan
near Figges Marsh in his map of 1741-5, but this was mostly likely
a private house, presumably demolished by the time the inn (an early
19th-century building) was built.3

This latter Swan innappears by name in the land tax records for 1817, but
1808 is the first year in which the books carry an assessment which can
be identified without question as the building standing until recently.4
The inn’s first landlord of note was George Smith, who presided over
the establishment for a quarter of a century.5

The building of the Swan at Figges Marsh could well have been an
enterprise encouraged by the profit to be made from the phenomenal
increase in road traffic which was a feature of the late 18th and early
19th centuries. Mitcham lay on one of the main turnpikes from London
to Epsom and Brighton, and the site of the new inn, at the junction of
roads from Streatham and Tooting, was well chosen, for it ensured that
thehostelry becamethefirst to beencountered by travellers approaching
the village from the north.

From the time it was built, i.e. around 1807, the owner of the Swan was
James Moore, lord of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, but by 1846
he had evidently relinquished part of his interest to Anthony Harman,
who also owned, or held on lease, theSix Bells atColliers Wood.6Moore
lived at the manor house, immediately to the north of the inn, and was
a major landowner in the village. On the far side of the house were the
farm buildings and herbal distillery which, by this time, had won for


the firm of Potter and Moore world-wide acclaim for the excellence
of its essences of peppermint
and lavender, as well as for a dozen or
more other herbs grown for use in medicaments and toilet preparations.
Summer visitors to Mitcham seldom failed to be impressed by the
sight and smell of whole fields of roses, lavender and camomile, and
the constant activity to be witnessed in Potter and Moore’s yard was a
source of fascination to travellers breaking their journey at the Swan.

The end of the great era of coaching came with the development of the
railway network in the 1840s and ’50s, and the steady decline in regular
through traffic during the latter part of the 19th century would certainly
have resulted in a gradual change in the Swan’s clientele. Aphotograph,7
probably taken in the late 1860s when the licensee wasa FrancisFoster8,
shows the Swan to have been a stopping placefor carriers’waggons –
a far cry from the stage coaches half a century before. On a few days
each year, however, the inn was once more the scene of great activity,
and for countless London families on their annual outing to the Epsom
races the Swan was a familar
landmark and place of refreshment. For
much of theyear, however, itmusthavebeen a mere ‘local’, patronised
mainly by working people living close by.

James Moore died in 1851 and the bulk of his property was inherited
by James Bridger, his son. During Bridger’s time much of the estate
was sold, and it was probably in the ’60s or ’70s that the Swan was
acquired by Nalder and Collyer, the Croydon brewers. One of their
boundary markers, a limestone block with ‘N. & C.’inscribed on one
side and ‘1890’on the other, incorporated in the wall on the northern
side of the Swan separating the forecourt from the adjoining alleyway,
could still be found a century later

Not unexpectedly, the structure of the Swan was much altered over the
years, although the original 1807 building which formed the heart of
the house could still be identified quite easily from the outside. Around
1890 Henry Vickers became the landlord, and it is almost certainly to
his time that the ground floor extension of the bars could be dated. This
necessitated removal of the flight of stone steps which originally led
up to the front door (and no doubt for some could prove very tricky to
negotiate on the way down).


The inn was closed for a short period in the early 1990s following the
temporary suspension of its licence occasioned by its having become
of drug-dealers, but
after refurbishment
was re-opened
under new management. By this time few patrons arrived by horse-
drawn transport, and the old water trough by the inn sign had long since
disappeared. Moreover, the beer was no longer from a local brewery, and
it was many years since the floors had been strewn with fresh sawdust
before each opening time. Nevertheless the inn retained something of
its old atmosphere and, with its second centenary approaching, began
to enjoy the loyalty of a growing band of ‘regulars’.

Sadly, the inevitability of change could not be withstood, and early
was received
planning consent to change of use. Demolition was proposed, followed
by redevelopment of the site in plans submitted in May 1998, and, with
approval being given, the inn soon disappeared from view behind the
contractor’s hoarding. An initial archaeological assessment concluded
that, in view of what was known of the history of the site, little of

‘Mitcham – The Swan Inn, London Road’ – postcard c.1910,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


was likely to be
within the
proposed new buildings, and all signs of the Swan above ground soon

Ltd followed in 2002, but little of significance was found, the only
datable feature being a 10th-12th-century roadside ditch running across
the eastern limits of the site. A possible 12th-century wall foundation,
composed of a plinth of large flint nodules beneath green sandstone
blocks, overlaythe ditch, representing building activity along London
Road. Cutting this wall was a large 13th-14th-century pit, containing
domestic waste. Another pit, dating between 1580 and 1700, cut the
natural layers in one trench, suggesting that this area was to the rear of
properties fronting London Road. Afurther pit contained pottery dating
to between 1740 and 1880.9

‘Farm House, Mitcham, Surrey – (Mr Weston)’,
watercolour of Pound Farm by Yates c.1825,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service

Chapter 4


Pound Farm, which stood to the north of the site now occupied by
Mitcham library, well back from London Road, probably belonged to
an early period of expansion of Mitcham northwards from the Upper,
or Fair, Green (see
map on page
115). Its neighbour, The
Elms, a
substantial house situated to the south of the farm until demolished in
1894, was claimed to have dated from the reign of Edward II, whilst
Biggin Farm, which lay further to the north, off what is now Streatham
Road, was mentioned in a document of 1309. Both might well have had
their origins in the 12th or 13th centuries, when Merton Priory came
into possession of much of the land in North Mitcham.

Pound Farm obviously derived its name from a pound which, until about
125 years ago, stood between thehouseand themain road.1 Thepractice
was an
elementin land managementunder theregimeof communalagriculture
practised in the Middle Ages, for the extensive open fields were largely
unfenced, and grazing on thevillagewasteand common pasturewas of
necessitystrictlyregulated.Inall,threepounds areknowntohavebeen
used in Mitcham, and two werequitedefinitely under manorialcontrol,
managed by a pinder or poundkeeper appointed by the manorial court.
One, near the Ravensbury Arms in the middle of Mitcham Common,
lay within the jurisdiction of the manor of Ravensbury. Builtof timbers
blackened with coats of preservative tar, it survived until about 1900.
Another, known as Lower Mitcham pound, occupied a site behind the
Cricketers on the Lower Green. This was within the manor of Vauxhall,
and the key of the pound, which was in use until the middle of the 19th
century, was held by the innkeeper.

The pound by Pound Farm seems likely to have been considerably
older than the
other two, dating from
early 12th century when
Robert, son of Wolfward, and Robert le Poure held lands in Mitcham
in return for services rendered to King Henry I.2 The latter entailed,
amongst other obligations, the maintenance of a pound in which to
keep ‘distresses’– livestock and other chattels – seized by the sheriff
on behalf of the sovereign. Asimilar duty was placed on William Figge
who, in 1326, held “one messuage and 16 acres” directly from King


Edward III for an annual rent of five shillings and, as a condition, had
the responsibility of providing a pound. His son, also named William,
inherited this responsibility and retained the farm until his death in
1370/71. Figges Marsh obviously took its name from the family and
Figges Marsh Pound, as the latter came to be known, was still in
regular use for the detention of straying cattle until the middle of the
19th century. The key was kept by the landlord of the Ship, the small
beer house we have mentioned earlier, standing opposite the farm at
the corner of Bond Road.

The house at Pound Farm, a fascinating and picturesque old building,
was unfortunately pulled down by Mizens, the market
towards the end of the 19th century.3 Two illustrations survive,4which
show that it probably had its origin in a simple medieval hall house,
by the insertion of a chimney and a first floor perhaps
towardtheendof the16thcentury. This was agreatperiodofrebuilding
during which many yeoman farmhouses were enlarged and improved.
At Pound Farm there was the usual massive central chimney cluster in
which, typically, one might expect to find on the ground floor an oven
and an inglenook serving the parlour, and above, a small recess for the
curing of bacon. To the right of the entrance door would have been the
parlour and living room, with stairs to the solar or bed chambers. An
irregularity in the roof line above this part of the house, clearly seen
in the watercolour painted by Yates in 1825 (see page 20), shows the
position of the roof truss separating the original open hall from the
bay containing the sleeping rooms. At the opposite ‘service’end, in a
position where in the medieval house one would find the pantry and
buttery, there was evidently the kitchen, with its own entrance door
and an outshot or lean-to covering a scullery and washhouse. The main
roof of the farmhouse was of hand-made plain tiles, rich red-brown in
colour, and almost certainly from a local kiln. The walls of the northwestern
elevation, facing the London Road, were part-plastered and part-
weatherboarded –the latter probably being an 18th-century expedient to
combat the penetration of dampness. Aporch, encasing the front door
and extending to the eaves, had a small ‘Gothick’window at first floor
level, and could have dated to any time between about 1760 to 1850.
In Surrey and elsewhere in south-east England surviving houses of this


type, several of which are from as early as 1300, are found invariably
to have been much altered and often partially rebuilt during their long
lives. Therein lies much of the interest in unravelling their history, and
we can only regret that Pound Farm did not survive until
a detailed
survey was possible and the house could be recorded properly.

During the late18th and early 19th centuries Pound Farm, the property
of David Felton and later William East, was occupied by Edward
Stevens,5 followed by Jasper Burchett, whose father farmed land off
Streatham Road. Both were tenants, renting the land they tilled from
several local landlords. Jasper Burchett might have been a casualty
of the severe depression in agriculture which followed the end of
the Napoleonic wars, or merely retired for reasons of age, for he
relinquished the tenancy of Pound Farm in about 1824.

James Weston, the new occupant of Pound Farm, appears in the land
tax books for the first time in 1825.5 He seems to have been in his early
40s when he took over the tenancy, and paid a rent of £52 per annum
to William East for the house, the associated buildings and the 14 acres
of land which went with the farm.6Afurther £95 per annum was paid
to three other landowners. Weston may have been a northerner, for we
know that his wife was a native of Lancashire, having been born at
The name Weston does, however, occur several times in the
Mitcham burial register shortly before 1825, and in 1823 there seems to
have been theintention thatJames Weston should takeTheElms on lease
fromMrs Waldo,8so itwould seem he and his wifemightnot havebeen
complete newcomers to the parish. In the event The Elms was leased to
John England Rudd, and the Westons took Pound Farm. This was the
period when the ‘cottage ornée’ was much in vogue, and it could well
have been at this time that the front porch, with its Gothick window, was
added to the farmhouse. The Westons were Dissenters,9
and therefore
not active in the affairs of the Anglican church, but James neverthless
soon became much involved in the work of the parish vestry, and served
as overseer of the poor in the 1830s.10 He also seems to have prospered
at Pound Farm, and retained the occupancy well into the 1850s.

Thelate1830s saw arecovery in agriculturalprosperity generally, and by
184611 we find Weston farming a little over 80 acres, mostly arable. Thirty


eight acres were rented from a Charles Shebbeare, and the farmhouse
itself, together with the outbuildings, rickyard and 14 acres of land, was
still in the possession of the East family, now represented by Edwin East,
presumably William’s heir.
Whereas the
old system
agriculture practised in the Middle Ages had died out in much of the
country, the field pattern and even the tenure of many of the Mitcham
farms in the 1840s remained essentially medieval, the various parcels
comprising one farmer’s holding being scattered widely throughout the
parish and even beyond its borders. In their long narrow shape many of
the Mitcham fields betrayed an origin in the selions or lands into which
the old open fields had been divided. Weston’s land was typical in this
respect, and the 14 acres he rented appurtenant to Pound Farm included
ten strips in the Eastfield, which survived virtually unenclosed until the

Although,likemostofhis contemporaries,Westonwouldhaveretained
some permanent pasture, and grown fodder crops for his horses, by
the late
1840s he had 40 acres of his arable land laid out as ‘physic
gardens’, with camomile being one of his staple crops.3 In 1851 his
comprised six
men and two boys, working
under the supervision of his farm manager Jasper, a third generation
Burchett who, with his family, lodged with James and Elizabeth Weston
at Pound Farm.7
During the summer this work force would have been
augmented many times over by women and children hired for harvesting
the camomile blossoms, which needed to be picked by hand. Weston
also employed two boys whose main task was to watch over the dozen
or so cows he grazed on Figges Marsh, and to ensure they were kept
from straying into the adjoining enclosures or parkland.3 The fact that,
as a tenant of Pound Farm, Weston exercised rights of grazing on the
Marsh, which was part of the common pasture of the village, is in
itself significant and lends further support to the supposition that the
farmstead, and presumably a significant
proportion of the land that
went with it, was held in accordance with terms of tenure going back
to the Middle Ages.

Weston was followed at Pound Farm by James Briggs, whose name
continues to appear in the local directories from 1862 until 1878, first


as a ‘farmer’and then, in 1870 more specifically as a ‘market gardener’.
Here again one can see evidence of yet another change in the pattern
of local husbandry as farmers responded to the growing demands
of the expanding London markets and turned from herb growing to
the more profitable cultivation of flowers and vegetables. During the
1880s and ’90s the brothers Edward and Walter Mizen had become
established as market gardeners in Streatham Vale and Eastfields, and
eventually they took over much, if not all, of Briggs’s farm. A
farmhouse – Eastfields Farm – was built in Grove Road, and by 1896
the old farmhouse and outbuildings in London Road had gone. The
Ordnance Survey map of that year shows merely a vacant plot, soon to
be occupied by the greenhouses and nurseries belonging to Edward’s
three sons, who continued the family business in partnership as Mizen
Brothers.12 The Mizens farmed land in Eastfields until the middle of the
20th century, using it for a wide variety of produce, including mustard
and cress, salad vegetables and mushrooms, and the raising of pansies,
wallflowers and other bedding plants. One of the last herb crops to be
grown was tarragon, a field of which could be seen between Hammond
Avenue and Pain’s fireworks factory off Acacia Road in the 1950s.

The glasshouses of Mizens’Elm Nurseries suffered considerable damage
during the air raids of the 1939/45 war, and were never completely
rebuilt.13 One was repaired sufficiently to serve as a retail shop for fruit
and vegetables, cut flowers, house and bedding plants and horticultural
sundries until the early 1950s, when the land was bought by Mitcham
Borough Council for its Elm
Nursery Housing Estate, and Armfield
Crescent was laid down across the site of the greenhouses. Land at the
rear of the council flats, reserved for a long-discussed loop road from
London Road to Commonside East, was retained as allotment gardens
until developed
to provide housing in Bedfont Close and the western
side of Feltham Road in the early 1990s. The old field path leading from
the main road to Feltham Road and a car park on the actual site of the
pound, are the last links with Pound Farm to survive to the present day.


Wrought-iron gates to Eagle House, July 1974 (ENM)

Chapter 5



Eagle House, an imposing structurestanding wellback fromthe London
north of the
Upper Green,
is probably the
striking and
certainly one of the oldest surviving buildings in Mitcham. Over the
years it has attracted the attention of many architectural writers,1 and
its obvious merit received official recognition when, in 1954, together
with its forecourt, railings and gate, Eagle House was first listed by the
Minister of Housing and Local Government as a building
of special
architectural and historic interest under the provisions of the Town and
Country Planning Act 1947. It is currently listed Grade I.2

EagleHousehas been described as probably thefinestsurviving Queen
AnnehouseoftheDutch,as distinctfromtheBaroque,style.3 Ithas also
been said of the house that “though distinguished by a somewhat severe
formality it has undoubted architectural merit and is in fact one of the

Eagle House, London Road, Mitcham
photograph by Mitcham News and Mercury Spring 1971


best preserved examples in Surrey of the style which prevailed in the
beginning of the 18th century”.4Nairn and Pevsner commented however
that “In spite of its noble and elegant composition it is a decidedly
conservative house. If it were not for the slenderer windows one might
mistake it for a building of 1650-60, of the school of Roger Pratt”.5 Old
Battersea House (c.1699) and Fenton House (c.1693) at Hampstead,
both roughly contemporary with Eagle House, are remarkably similar
in their general external appearance.

The land on which Eagle House was erected early in the 18th century
was within the manor of Ravensbury, and various references in the
court rolls show that it once formed part of the estate of Sir Walter
and Lady Raleigh. Thus, typically, when at a general court baron
held on 9 March 1770 William
Plumer of Hertfordshire was admitted
as a copyhold tenant of the manor on the death of his father, he was
described as holding an estate which included “all that Capital Messuage
or Tenement formerly in the occupation of Lady Dolliffe and now of
John Bond Esquire and Sixty Acres of Land thereunto belonging ….in
Mitcham …. which premises were hereto-fore the Estate of Sir Walter
and Elizabeth his wife”.6The “capital messuage” was Eagle House itself.

The site where, nearly a century after Raleigh’s execution, Eagle House
was to be built was part of the property sold in 1616 to Thomas Plumer
(or Plummer) for £2,500 when Sir Walter was fitting out his last, ill-
fated, expedition to Guiana. Plumer, a citizen and Merchant Taylor of
London, died in 1639,7
leaving an extensive estate in Mitcham which
was to remain in the possession of his family for some 230 years,8and
included part, if not all, of the 60 acres formerly owned by the Raleighs.
As was customary, he made provision in his will for a bequest of alms
to the poor, directing that £5 per annum be distributed every Sunday
in the form of bread.9The Raleighs’Mitcham property probably came
into Sir Walter’s hands on his secret marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of
Sir Nicholas Throgmorton of Beddington and maid of honour to Queen
Elizabeth I,10 although it is possible that it was partly an inheritance
from a Sir John Raleigh, whose widow is said to have held land in the
parish.11 SirWaltercertainlyreferred to”mywife’s house”inhis letters,
but the question of exactly where this particular property was situated
has never been resolved. It was certainly not Eagle House itself, and


there is nothing in the court rolls to suggest that the house standing
today replaced
an earlier building on the site, owned at one time by
the Raleighs.12

Nairn and Pevsner, commenting on the remarkable number of houses
built in the northern part of Surrey during the period 1690-1730, of
which Eagle House was typical, felt they could not be attributed solely
to the activity of country yeoman farmers. “What produced them can
only be described as suburbanisation, and on a bigger scale than has
so far been realised … all the manifestations can be fairly ascribed to a
true flight from London rather than a straightforward expansion of its
edges; in 1700 there were several miles of country between the present
Surrey boundary and the edge of built-up London.” Epsom had become
a fashionable spa by c.1670, and “when Defoe was writing he could
already speak of gentlemen driving themselves to town every day –
the very first commuters in England. The gentlemen in the big houses
around surely did the same ….”. Nairn and Pevsner observed that houses
at Wanstead and Carshalton, contemporary with Eagle House, were
connected with city financiers and directorsof the South Sea Company,
and thattheend of thebuilding wavewith which they can beassociated
coincides very nearly with the collapse of the company in 1719.13

The figures 1705 which can be seen on the rainwater heads of Eagle
House are
usually taken to indicate the date of its erection. The
accompanying initials FPM, and the association of the house 20 years
later with the Mendez family, have given rise to the further conjecture
thatEagleHousemighthavebeen builtfor, or with financeprovided by,
Fernando Mendez who was one of the entourage which accompanied
Catherine of Braganza from Portugal in 1662. Mendez was appointed
physician-in-ordinary to the Queen in 1669 and created a fellow of the
College of Physicians by charter granted by James II in 1687.14 The
significance of the letter Phas not been resolved, Price’s supposition2
that it might stand for Fernando’s wife having been dismissed, by a
reliable authority, as without foundation.15

An alternative theory, which seems plausible enough, is that the Pstands
for Plumer, the copyholder of the land, who perhaps granted Mendez
the building lease, whilst retaining an interest in the property. In the


early 18th century English law, whilst not actually barring foreign-born
Jews from acquiring land and houses, did not permit them to will such
property to their heirs, and it has been submitted by an authority on
the early history of Jewry in England that Fernando Mendez may well
have had EagleHouse built with its bequest to one of his sons in mind,
having arrived at an understanding with Plumer. This theory is supported
by the fact that, unlike his brother-in-law Alvaro da Costa, who was
already investing in land, Fernando did not obtain naturalisation. He
also seems never to have lived at Eagle House, preferring to reside
with his children in Hampstead, where he shared Cromwell House with
Alvaro and his large family. All this, of course, must remain largely
speculation, but there is no doubt that the Mitcham house was in the
possession of a member of the Mendez family a year before Fernando’s
death, for we find his English-born son James insuring the house and
its contents with the London Assurance in 1723.16
The date is not
without significance, for by an Act passed in that year native-born and,
by implication, naturalised Jews acquired a modicum of rights to buy
and sell house property, although areas of uncertainty remained until
removed by further legislation towards the end of the 19th century.

The Dolliffe Family (1711 – 1722)

Guided by circumstantial evidence, it seems that in 1711 or shortly
before, Eagle House was leased to James Dolliffe, a prominent London
merchant, for in June 1711 he signed the Mitcham vestry minutes as
a parishioner, and in the following December a pew was assigned to
him and his family “during his stay in this parish”. In September 1711
the South Sea Company was granted a Royal Charter, and shortly
afterwards Dolliffe, having subscribed at least £10,000 towards the
capital, became one of the 30 founder directors. In February 1714 he
was granted arms, and in October received a knighthood at St James’s,17
but he died the following year. It is quite conceivable that during Sir
James’s residence at Eagle House the wrought-iron entrance gateway
bearing the intertwined initials JMD (the M standing for Mary, his wife)
replaced an earlier, smaller, gate.

The final crash of the South Sea Company in 1720 caused a financial
scandal which shook the government. The directors were prosecuted,


and their estates confiscated and applied to the benefit of the sufferers.
The extent of Lady Dolliffe’s involvement in the company’s affairs
is not known, but it is more than likely that her finances were dealt a
severe blow in the crisis which brought ruin to thousands of investors.
Eagle House must in any case have been an expensive establishment
to run, and in her reduced circumstances of widowhood, crash of the
South Sea Company notwithstanding, Lady Dolliffe may well have
been attracted by the more modest Durham House “newly erected”
in 1722 on the southern side of Mitcham’s Upper Green.18
We know
that the landowner, Elizabeth
Arnold, was given formal leave by the
court baron of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth to lease or let the
new “Customary Messuage or Tenement” in 1723 and the court rolls
show Lady Dolliffe to have been living at Durham House until about
1737, when her son James acquired Busbridge Hall, a large house near
Godalming. It seems quite likely that she left Mitcham at about this
time to join him and his family at their new home.

The parish registers of Mitcham record the marriage of a Mary Dolliffe
in 1714 to John Tyrell and of Elizabeth Dolliffe to Charles Gore in
Although local records are silent on the matter, presumably
the two brides were Lady Dolliffe’s daughters, and after the second
ceremony was over the removal to Durham House cannot have been
long delayed. It could, in fact, have taken place early in 1723 for, as
we have observed, in that year an insurance policy was taken out on
Eagle House and/or its contents by James Mendez, who was to become
the new occupier.

James and Moses Mendez (1722 – 1756)

James (or Jacob) Mendez was presumably one of the two Jews found
to be residing in Mitcham when the Bishop of Winchester conducted
an enquiry into the parishes of his diocese in 1724/5.20 The other, one
assumes, was James’s brother-in-law John Mendes da Costa, who in
as Baron House. In 1708 James had married Hannah, daughter of Alvaro
da Costa, who is said to have been the first Jew to own landed property
in this country after the Resettlement, having bought the copyhold of
Cromwell House, now 104 Highgate Hill, in 1675.21 James would seem


to have converted to Christianity soon after settling in Mitcham, for
in June 1728, as the relatively new resident-leaseholder of the house
on Richard Plumer’s land, he was allotted a pew in the north aisle of
Mitcham parish church. This privilege, it was noted,22 had been enjoyed
since time immemorial by the owners and occupiers of the property
and had been exercised by the Dolliffes.

EagleHousewas restored and redecorated in theearly 1990s, and under
the watchful eye of English Heritage and the guidance of Dr Bristow,
house was returned, albeit unfurnished, to very much its appearance
when the Mendez family were in residence. With imagination one
can visualise the walls hung with James’s fine collection of paintings,
amongst which were thirteen by Zurbaran in the series known as The
Patriarch Jacob and his Sons.Twelve of these were sold by auction on
25 February 1756 to the Bishop of Durham and are still at Auckland
Castle; the Benjamin was acquired by Lord Willoughby de Eresby and
is now at Grimsthorpe Castle. Another painting belonging to Mendez,
the Murillo Flight into Egypt now at Detroit, was bought by Sampson
Gideon at the same sale.23

One other fragment has come down that gives a glimpse of what
was evidently another of James’s interests whilst at Mitcham – that
of enhancing the setting of the house: the evidence is a letter dated 4
November 1749 written by Solomon da Costa Athias to Sir Nicholas
Carew, lord of the manor of Ravensbury, and is worth reproduction in full:

Honble Sr,

I was last Sunday at Mr Martin’s House at Clapham, in Order
to ask a Favour of you: but not having had the good Fortune of
finding you there, am obliged to give you this Trouble.

The Case is: That my worthy and much esteemed Friend Mr James
Mendez, who has lived upwards of 20 years in the Terrett House
at Mitcham (whereof Mr Plumer is Landlord) is about making an
Opening at the Lower End of his Garden; but finds that there are
some Trees (perhaps 50 or so of very little or no value) as well
to the right as to the left, that greatly Obstruct his Prospect; and


is therefore desirous to have them cutt down. And Whereas he is
informed that he ought not to fell them without your consent as
Lord of the Mannor, he desired I would write to you upon this
Subject and request the said favour of you: and adds that if you
please to take his House in your way when you come to Town
or to Clapham, and call in to view what it is he does request, the
Gardiners will show it you: And that he is very sorry that he and
his Familly are all come to Town for the Winter, before he had
the honour of waiting upon you as He and his son intended, but
was prevented by the unfortunate accident which happened in
Mr Chetwynd’s Family; and therefore thought it more proper to
postpone their visit till next Summer. I humbly conceive that the
inclosed Paper or something to that amount will be sufficient.
In granting of which Favour, you will not only oblige the said
Gentleman and his Familly, but also in the most acceptable

Honble Sr,

Yr Most Obedt. Servt.

Solomon da Costa24

The letter is doubly interesting in that it also gives the name by which
the house was then known –the “Terrett” obviously being the turret or
belvedere which is still such a prominent feature of the building. Sir
Nicholas Carew lived at Beddington House, and he would therefore
have passed James Mendez’s house on his way to and from London.
It is also helpful to have in Solomon’s letter confirmation of Mendez’s
tenure, and an indication of when it commenced.

James, who was by profession a stockbroker, died late in 1748 or early
in 1749,25 leaving a widow, Anne (or Hannah), daughters Leonora and
Tabitha, and a son, Moses. The latter was educated at St Mary Hall,
Oxford, under a Dr King,26
and was created master of arts in 1750. A
bon vivant and wit, Moses was described by a contemporary as “of an
agreeablebehaviour, entertaining inconversation,andhadaverypretty
turn for poetry.” He was also the author of many dramatic
pieces and
songs, and in one of his poems, published in 1751 and entitled The


Seasons, a Poem in Imitation of Spenser, he mourns the death of his
friend and fellowpoet JamesThomson, who had been a frequent visitor
to Mendez’s house at Mitcham. Moses followed his father’s profession,
becoming a most successful stockbroker, and acquired a large estate at
Old Buckenham, in Norfolk. He is reputed to have been worth £100,000
on hisdeath in 1758.25 MosesMendez had married the co-heiressof the
Revd Sir Francis Head, Bt, of Higham in Kent, and took his father-inlaw’s
surname. His widow and his three sons were authorised to take
the name Head in lieu of Mendez by royal licence in 1770, and his
grandson, Francis Bond Head, was created a baronet in 1838.27

Sundry Occupiers (1756 – 1824)

Mendez’s residence at Eagle House actually ceased in about 1756, and
for the next decade or so it was occupied by a Thomas le Blanc.28Local
records have little to tell of le Blanc, except that he took part in vestry
affairs and served as a parish overseer of the poor in the year 1763/4.
One can only assume that, like other occupants of Eagle House in the
18th century, he too derived his income from business connections in
the City of London.

merchant banker in the City, with offices near French Ordinary Court in
Crutched Friars. Elizabeth Bond, who may have been his mother, died in
Decemberthatyear,inher58thyear,andwas buriedinMitchamparish
churchyard. John Bond, her husband, described as “of Richmond”,
lived on until 1796 when he, too, was buried at Mitcham, aged 84.
Eagle House remained the residence of John Bond junior for another
15 years or so, presumably holding it on a sub-lease from the George
Chamberlaine who, we are told by Edwards,30 was the owner of the
property. From the land tax records, however, it is clear that the land
itself remained in the ownership of the Plumer family, in the person of
William Plumer of Blakesware and Gilston Park, Hertfordshire.31 Bond
died towards the close of 1810 or early the following year, for the tax
returns record his widow Sarah as theoccupier for thefirsttimein 1811.
Sarah Bond lived at Eagle House for a further seven years or so, but by
1821 the house stood empty, and seems to have remained thus for the
following three or four years.32


School Days (1824 – 1855)

The next recorded occupant of Eagle House was James Dempster, son
of another James Dempster who had, since 1803, been the master of a
highly regarded ‘classical boarding academy’at Baron House, Lower
Mitcham, specialising in the preparation of young men for entry to the
universities, or for careers in the army and commerce. Dempster senior
died in 1821 (a white marble
tablet to his memory can be seen in the
north transept of Mitcham parish church), and it would appear his son
succeeded him as master of Baron House Academy, where he had been
teaching for a number of years. The actual date James Dempster junior
moved his school to Eagle House would seem to have been in 1824 or
1825, for Baron House was sold around 1824, and Dempster is shown
as the occupierof Eagle House in a map of properties within the manor
of Ravensbury drawn the following year. This
also illustrates
clearly the extent of the grounds of the house which, totalling some 18
acres in all, comprised lawns and formal gardens and an orchard and
meadow extending southwest as far as Merton Lane (now known as
Western Road) and northwards to the lane which became Bond Road.33
The ground landlord by this time was Jane Plumer, widow of William
Plumer who had died several years previously.

Whilst in Dempster’s occupation, Eagle House was evidently known
as ‘Baron House Academy’. In his Memories of Fifty Years, published
in 1889, Lester Wallack, the celebrated American actor manager, who
was born on 15 January 1820, wrote:

My first experience on any stage was at an establishment at
Mitcham at Surrey, called Baron House Academy, a fine old
mansion which had become a private school. Coleman’s Heir
at Law was produced immediately before the beginning of the
summer holidays, upon an improvised stage in the school-room.
As the son of the celebrated Mr Wallack it was felt proper,
naturally, that I should take part and between the actsI wasbilled
for the speech from Home’s tragedy Douglas – “My name is
Norval …” though I was only ten years of age.”34

James Dempster, who was still resident in 1831 – the last year for
which the land tax records are available –was following in his father’s


footsteps, but the first local documentary reference to the house being
used as a school comes from Robson’s Commercial Directory, which
confirms that
by 1839 Eagle
was an ‘Academy for Young
Gentlemen’, although the compiler was uncertain as to the identity of
the principal, merely giving hisname as”Darnell –”. The censusrecords
of 1841 and 1851 clarify the position, and show that ‘Eagle House
Academy’was run by Daniel
Roberts, a native of Cardiganshire, who
had graduated as a doctor of civil law. His not inconsiderable household
then included, in addition to his wife Georgiana, their six children, Mrs
Roberts’s two sisters, four servants, and Richard Giles, who taught
French. Thirty-four pupils were listed in 1841, their ages ranging from
seven to fifteen years. None of them was born in Mitcham.35 Ten years
later, only 18 boys were in residence on census night, three of whom
had been born in Calcutta, and one in “the Bahama Islands” where,
presumably, their parents were still living. Their school fellows all
hailed from London or the Home Counties.36

The copyhold estates of the late Mrs Plumer Ward were offered for
sale by auction
in November 1846, Eagle House being lot 1.37
details are missing, and the outcome of the auction is not known, but
Roberts was destined to be the last private occupier of Eagle House,
and his academy vanished from the Mitcham scene in the early 1850s.
The demise of no fewer than three other private boarding academies in
Mitchambetween1845and1851is atfirstsightasomewhatremarkable
coincidence. The Revd John Hurnall’s school at Glebelands in Love
Lane closed between 1845 and 1847, and both the Revd Hyam Burn’s
academy at Park Place, Commonside East, and Philip Prince’s ‘Elms
Boarding Academy for Young Gentlemen’ceased between 1845 and
The closing of these establishments was, however, but a local
manifestation of the nationwide changes in education which became a
feature of the mid-19th century. Under the reforming zeal of Dr Thomas
Arnold, Rugby was to be the model upon which the transformation
of many English public schools was based, and through the works of
Dickens and others there was a growing awareness of the inadequacies
and abuses of many establishments run by poorly-qualified and often ill-
suited principals. Private preparatory academies, far too long adhering
to a totally inadequate curriculum based on classical studies, were either


reformed or withered in the same wind of change which, after bitter
controversy and debate, ultimately achieved the foundation of a state
system of elementary education in 1870.

A Poor Law Institution (1855 – 1930)

By 1853 The Elms, a large 18th-century house which stood opposite
Eagle House, had become a school of a very different character from
that run by Philip Prince. As the ‘Infant Poor Establishment of St
George-in-the-East’ithoused 104 boys and 94 girls aged between 5 and
16 years from the Wapping area of London. Orphans or paupers, these
children had been left by fate in the hands of the Poor Law authorities,
and at Mitcham received food, shelter and the rudiments of education.
Whereas Glebelands and Park Place reverted to private residential use
after vacation by the academies, Eagle House, like The Elms, passed
into public ownership.

“On 27th June 1855, the Guardians of St George the Martyr (Southwark)
Union resolved that their common seal be affixed to the assignment of
the lease of Eagle House and premises at Mitcham from Mr Penfold to
the Guardians” and that the deed be forwarded to the Poor Law Board for
registration.39On 4 July 1855, a Mr Jarvis was ordered to prepare a plan
of the “Estate lately purchased at Mitcham”,40
and by 22 August 1855
boys had been installed in the school at Mitcham, having been removed
from the Guardians’school at Lewisham. Girls in the Guardians’care
remained at the old Lewishamschool until July 1857, when they were
also transferred to Mitcham; the Lewisham school was then closed.41
The new buildings of ‘St George the Martyr (Southwark) Industrial
Schools’, built in 1856 on land to the north of Eagle House, are shown
on the1867 edition oftheOrdnanceSurveymap formingalargeblock,
H in plan, fronting London Road – the ‘High Street’.

On 18 March 1870, the Holborn Guardians wrote to the temporary
Guardians of St George to inquire whether the Mitcham schools would
be on the market.42The Holborn Union was possibly prompted to take
fresh school premises
in view
of typhus
at its
After a certain amount of negotiation the Holborn Union
agreed to purchase the Mitcham school for £30,000 on 23 June 1870.44


On 26 September 1870 the Poor Law Board issued an order requiring a
parochial meeting to be held in St George’s, Southwark, for “obtaining
the consent of such meeting to the proposed sale …. of the premises at
Mitcham at Eagle House”.45The Holborn Union entered into possession
of the premises on 29 September 1870,46but final authority for the sale
was not received from the Poor Law Board until January 1871.47

In 1886 the Guardians of the Holborn Union completed their new
workhouse in Western Road, to the rear of Eagle House. The latter
thereafter formed an integral part of the Guardians’extensive Mitcham
estate, and during the early part of the 20th century the house was used as
aconvalescenthomefor children fromtheadjoining Holborn Industrial
Schools. In July 1922 the still relatively new boys’school, which the
Holborn Union had built on land to the south of Eagle House in 1892,
was leased to Surrey County Council for 21 years, and two years later
the Guardians signed an agreement leasing Eagle House itself to the
Surrey Voluntary Association for Mental and Physical Welfare.48Eagle
House then became a girls’hostel. In 1930 the old Poor Law unions
weredissolved,andtheirpowers weretransferredtothecountycouncils.
Ownership of Eagle House thus passed to the London County Council,
and two years later the house, with considerably less land than in 1870,
was sold to Surrey County Council for £11,000.49
Within a few years
the old industrial school buildings to the north of Eagle House were
demolished to make way for theshops and flats of Monarch Paradeand
the estate of Church Army housing in Sunshine Way.

Eagle House in its new role (1930 – present)

Surrey County Council were to use Eagle House for various purposes,
including a day nursery and as a school, until, by virtue of the London
Government Act 1963, responsibility for education in Mitcham was
transferred to the new London Borough of Merton, which came into
existence in 1965. For a few years Eagle House was retained by the
Education Department as a school for children with learning difficulties,
but on completion of new premises elsewhere in 1971 the house was
vacated. Uses such as a museum or art gallery were proposed by local
groups, but all would have incurred heavy on-going expenditure, quite


apart from the initial capital cost of restoration, estimates for which, by
October 1973, were causing alarm.

The future of Eagle House was thus in the balance. Shuttered against
vandals, lead already stolen from the roof and its garden a wilderness,
the house seemed to many residents of Mitcham to be in danger of
slowly decaying whilst a decision was awaited from the Council.

The dilemma faced by the local authority at this time was described in
a booklet prepared by the Education Committee to commemorate the
reopening in September 1976 of a partially restored Eagle House as an
Adult Education Centre:

In 1970 the Council commissioned Messrs. Thomas Ford and
Partners, Chartered Architects and Surveyors, in collaboration
with theBorough Architect, to report on the feasibility of putting
the building into a state of repair consistent with the historical
interest and adapting it for use for Adult Education purposes.50
Subsequently, it was decided to proceed with the project but some
time elapsed before work could start due to difficulties of securing
planning consents, government grant and financial approvals.
Eventually the main contractor, Messrs. Falkus Bros., started
work in February, 1975 and the contract was completed in July,
1976. At the tender stage, insufficient finance was available to
carry out the whole of the specified works. Some omissions had
to be made, the main one being the internal work to the second
floor which remains to be done at a future date.

It is known by the interest expressed by so many people that
the passer-by will derive pleasure from the restoration of the
front elevation and the gate and railings on the frontage. The
use of the building as an adult education centre will afford the
opportunity for the public to enjoy the pursuit of formal and
informal education activities in an environment of historical and
architectural interest.

Thehouse itself would havebeen insufficientfor thedevelopment
of an adult centre so it was decided to retain the later extensions
to the north and to the south at lower ground floor level. The


Annotated detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1894-6
Eagle House


hall to the south has separate external access and has associated
main cloak and toilet facilities. It leads through the basement of
the house which accommodates a lounge, kitchen, boiler-room
and stores, to the large craft room which comprises the north

On the ground floor the main entrance opens into an exhibition
foyer, off which is the Centre’s office and access to two teaching
rooms and to the basement and first floors. Five more teaching
rooms are sited on the first floor. In due course it is proposed to
convert the second floor to accommodate a caretaker’s flat and
two or three teaching areas.

The opening of the Centre will, in particular, help to satisfy the
need in this part of the Borough for day-time accommodation for
adult education and will complement The Downs Adult Education
Centre in the Wimbledon area.

It transpired that Eagle House was to serve only a few years as an adult
education centre before reorganisation of this branch of the Borough’s
education services made the Mitcham centre redundant, and it became
the Merton Teachers’Centre. This role was of similarly short duration,
and early in 1987 a decision had been reached to sell Eagle House, by
then surplus to requirements following further relocation of several of
the Council’s educational activities. Vulnerable as ever to attacks by
vandals, Eagle House was once again boarded against unauthorised
entry whilst the Council debated its future.

Whereas many would have preferred Eagle House to have remained
in publicownership and been putto someother community use, there
was a need for financial retrenchment, and the majority of Council
members saw the property as a saleable asset with a potential as
the prestigious headquarters building of a commercial organisation.
has for long
image, and with the Town Centre scheme yet to be fully
implemented, and the route of a new relief road still hotly debated, it
was hardly a propitious moment to seek a buyer of the right calibre.
In addition to full planning consent for office use, Eagle House also


had consent for non-residential institutional use as well as for living
accommodation. In order, however, to present
more attractive
package to would-be purchasers, and thereby to maximise the market
value of the property, the Council embarked on the procedure for
obtaining ‘deemed planning consent’to redevelopment within certain
criteria prior to releasing it for sale.

The importance of Eagle House as a Grade I listed building necessitated
consultation with English Heritage before any proposals involving
redevelopment of the site could be considered, but eventually it was
seen fit to give detailed planning consent for the erection of 3,320 sq.ft.
of new office accommodation
to the rear of the building on a plot of
disused scrub adjacent to the existing car park.

particulars were
duly prepared, stressing the
history and
architectural quality of the house as well as
the convenience of its
location and the development potential, and by July Edward Erdman
of Grosvenor Street W1 were under instructions from the Director of
Development of the London Borough of Merton to seek offers in excess
of £650,000 for the benefit of the Council’s freehold interest. Eventually
the Council was recommended to accept an offer submitted by Sheridan
Estates, a local firm experienced in the sympathetic development and
subsequent marketing of property, which included listed buildings.

Discussions took place in December 1989 between the Council’s
officers, representatives of English Heritage, and Dr Bristow, adviser
to the new owners, with a view to agreeing details of new proposals to
be submitted to the Council for approval. These included a departure
from the original Council scheme for office development, involving the
erection of a building in the style of a stable or mews block of the 18th
century. Whilstthis proposalreduced theareaavailablefor carparking at
the rear, the new building is much more in keeping with the house itself.
Also discussed and approved was removal of side wings built to north
and south of the house in the latter half of the 19th century, which had
destroyed the symmetry of the original composition. Afurther proposal,
with which much sympathy was expressed, envisaged the demolition
of the large Victorian school room or assembly hall to the south of the
house which would have been difficult to adapt for office use.


In 1990, completion of the restoration, executed to a very fine standard,
together with the erection of the new annex, unfortunately coincided
with a slump in the property market and the house was not let until
1995 when it was used as prestigious offices. This occupancy ceased in
2001 and EagleHouseagain stood empty. In 2003 work on the building
was undertakento enable the house to be used by an organisation who
contract to various local authorities to provide specialist education for
children on the autistic spectrum and it remains in this use at present
(2013). Eagle House has provided a home for educational establishments
in one form or another for 159 of its 308 years in existence.

An Architectural Appraisal

Like many visitors to Mitcham, young F G Price, preparing his RIBA
thesis,51 found Eagle House in 1954 “a most unexpected sight amid its
surroundings of
flats and
its “retiring
him “of former and more spacious days when it must have been a
landmark for miles around. Even now” he continued, warming to his
theme, “the view from its crowning lead flat is extensive, overlooking
many of its immediate neighbours.” Then, as today, the front garden
was enclosed by brick walls, dwarf at the front where they are topped
by iron railings. These are flanked by tall brick piers bearing the name
of the house, each capped with a cornice and surmounted by a stone
eagle clutching
a rabbit in its talons. Only one bird survives from the
18th century – the
other is a
copy manufactured in 1990. The
front is approached through a handsome 18th-century wrought iron
gate, whose overthrow bears the monogram J.M.D. above the central
opening leaf. It remains a fine example of the smith’s craft, although
much of the original ornamentation, including acanthus leaves and
rosettes, has disappeared. When the house was substantiallyrenovated
by the London Borough of Merton in the mid-1970s the skills of a
achieve a satisfactory restoration. The wide forecourt, originally a
formal garden, is enclosed by high brick walls on either side. It was
partially reconstructed by the borough parks department in 1977 in
an attempt to recreate an 18th-century garden, but was neglected and
allowed to become overgrown again whilst the Council sought a buyer.


The house itself is of yellow stock brick with red brick dressings to
the windows and quoins, the contrasting colours distinguishable once
again after removal of the grime of two and a half centuries during the
renovations in 1990.

The eastern façade of the house is severely symmetrical and not that
of a more typical piece of 18th-century domestic architecture. Price
found his eyes

inevitably drawn upwards by tall windows towards the roof,
where the essential vitality of the composition is found. Here is
a central pediment spanning three out of a total of five bays; to
each side, set in the steep-pitched slate roof, is a dormer window;
above runs a finely judged timber balustrade, behind which rises
the dominating
central lantern. But all this would be rendered
ineffectual if it were not for the support of the great flanking
chimney stacks. So tall and acutely proportioned are these, that
they themselves now need support, but they lend a strength and
‘movement’which is vital to the design. The whole house seems
to reach towards the sky, a goal it is denied only by the stabilising
weight of the bold modillioned cornice.

Theentrance, firmly marked by pedimentand lantern, is raised on a
flight of six stone steps and emphasised by the wider spacing of the
adjacent windows. Although externally these are grouped under
thepediment, they do in factbelongto therooms which contain the
outermost windows, a fact which is suggested by consideration of
the bay spacing. In the doorway itself is vested the only ornament
which the exterior affords, and even here it is scanty, being found
only in the carved scrolls and cherubic grotesques which support
the ovoid canopy, from which the customary shell pattern is
absent …The glazing bars in both door and fanlight are different
in section from others in the house; which may indicate that they
were not incorporated in the original conception.

Price commented that “The west elevation, more reticent than the
east though still symmetrical, has no central pediment, but in its place
a pedimented dormer”. An ugly external escape system, which was
removed during restoration in 1975/6, obscured the large staircase


window, marred by internal alterations, and completely obliterated all
trace of the flight of steps which once led from the house down into a
large garden. During the extensive renovation carried out in the 1990s
the staircase window, the doorway and garden steps were reconstructed
in a commendable evocation of the original 18th-century façade (see
photograph overleaf). Until1975 additions also spoilt the side elevations
which Price felt, nevertheless, to be worthy of attention:

The openings, narrower than those on the other façades, are
disposed symmetrically on either side of the rising chimney flues,
but, owing to the fact that the western stacks are broader than the
eastern ones, the symmetry of the attic dormers is imperfect. …
On the north side the ground floor openings are not fenestrated
but merely recessed as panels in the brickwork. Whereas it is
possible that this represents an evasion of the window tax, it
is more reasonable to suppose that the recesses were formed
as a concession to aesthetics, for north-facing windows in the
principal living rooms would be more of a burden than a benefit.
On the south side, three of the corresponding windows
definitely suffered alteration due to the addition of nineteenth-
century outbuildings, [demolished in 1990] and, although it is
impossible to judge visually their original state, it is confidently
suggested that, since one remains glazed, all were glazed. The
only remaining
features of interest on these two elevations are
the four square rain-water pipes which serve to drain the roof
and cornice. The cast metal rainwater heads which crown them
bear in ornate characters the figures 1705 and the initials FPM.

Demolition of the outbuildings in 1990 necessitated extensive works
to the south elevation, during the course of which what was believed
to have been the original fenestration, including a ‘bull’s eye window’,
was replicated.

Before turning to the interior, Price considered that three criticisms
might be levelled at the exterior:

Firstly, that, despite the general feeling for good proportion, the
elevations lack
variety in the heights of the two main storeys.
They are both twelve feet from floor to ceiling, a fact which


Eagle House, rear entrance, June 1977 (ENM)


is emphasised by the scrupulously honest positioning of the
plinth, string and cornice lines. Secondly, that the entrance is
slightly underframed: the opening measures eleven feet by four,
a proportion of 2.75:1. This is extremely narrow, especially
when the further height of the canopy is considered, and even
the use of the architrave plus pilaster strip is not sufficient to
provide that extra strength which an extrance door should not
only have, but be seen to have. Thirdly, it is worth noting that
none of the principal windows have any form of projecting sill,
a failing which has no doubt occasioned the evident repointing
of the adjacent brickwork, and affords an adequate warning to
all future heretics.

One’s first impression on stepping inside the entrance hall is
one of height and space. The storey height is 12’0”; the doors
in sympathy reach 8’2”. Here is a house eminently suited to the
days of the lofty powdered periwig.

Although the architect’s brief in the mid-1970s restoration called for
extensive modifications to enable the house to be used as an adult
education centre, and further work was carried
in the
was found possible on both occasions to retain much of the surviving
plan and detailing. Price’s description of the interior as it was in 1954
is therefore both of historical interest and substantially valid at the
present time:

is compact,
direction by a stout wall which runs slightly to the east of the
longer axis. This wall helps to take the loads from binders which
carry the floor joists. Through a three-centred ‘elliptical’arch,
the entrance hall flows easily into the staircase hall from which
access to the garden must formerly have been gained. To either
side lie the principal rooms, and on the south the servants’stairs
which run the entire height of the house through four floors.
The main staircase, on the other hand, serves only the ground
and first floor, and the turret can only be reached from the attic
storey by a
separate spiral
of nineteen steps. With
regard to the two larger staircases, it should be noted how each


radiates from the central circulation area, the hub of the plan
from which any room can be reached easily, and a hall-mark of
practicality in design. This feeling for centrality, which alone
justifies such an impractical turret, is best appreciated at first
floor level, where five rooms and two staircases are disposed
neatly around in a manner worthy of our highest praise.

Throughout the upper three floors, the walls are lined with
woodpanellingofthreealternativepatterns,finishedalways by
a cornice, dado rail and skirting. The most extravagant, raised
and bolection-moulded, is reserved for the two northern rooms
on the ground floor, which would thus appear to be the main
living spaces. Of these two, the western one is exactly square.
The other presents a problem: the wall which divides it from
the entrance hall is at the present time no more than a wood
partition broken in the centre by a slender pier. That this room
was originally open to the hall is a distinct possibility, but the
pier and its responding pilasters are so devoid of detail, and the
panelling of the room differs so much from that of the hall, that
this solution must rather be discounted. The alternative which
suggests itself is that originally a solid wall stood there. This
was removed to open up the space, only to be later reinstated
in a lighter form.

The principal doors are eight-fielded and hung on wrought iron
hinges with twelve-inch leaves which are fixed with hand-made
nails. Their panelling is similar to the ‘raised and fielded’type
which is employed in the remainder of the family rooms. The
third pattern of panelling, seen in the entrance hall, the upper
part of the stair well, and throughout the attic storey, is simple
and unmoulded.

Fireplaces are various, only a few of which can be regarded as
original;itis evidentthattheywerealldesigned toaccommodate
log fires butwere soon converted to coal. Thechimney breasts are
set wellforward in each room, in such a way as to provide each
side the capacious recesses and closets beloved of 18th-century

Chapter 6


The map produced in conjunction with the tithe commutation survey
undertaken in 1846 shows Eagle House surrounded by its gardens and,
to the north and west, an area of enclosed pasture and orchard which
formed part of the grounds of the house.1 The property, most of which
was copyhold of the manor of Ravensbury, was recorded as still owned
by Mrs Plumer Ward, and much, if not all, of it had, in fact,been in the
possession of the Plumer (or Plummer) family since 1616, when it had
been purchased from Sir Walter and Lady Raleigh.2 MrsWard evidently
died around the time of the survey, for on 16 November 1846 ‘The
estates of the late Mrs Plumer Ward’were offered for sale by auction.3
Abrief account of the subsequent acquisition by the Guardians of the
Poor of St George the Martyr in Southwark of Eagle House itself, and
the property fronting London Road, has already been given.

The impressive new buildings of what were to be styled the ‘St George
the Martyr (Southwark) Industrial Schools’, were built on the land to
the north of Eagle House in 1856-7,4and can be seen on the Ordnance
Survey map of 1867. In plan they formed a large ‘H’, with the ends
almost enclosed to form two quadrangles, whilst at the rear an area was

‘Mitcham – Holborn Schools’ – postcard c.1910,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


left undeveloped, no doubt with possible future requirements in mind.
An infirmary was built in 1882,5 and by 18946
the whole of the plot
extending back to Bond Road was occupied by buildings, interspersed
with spacious lawns and roadways. The Industrial Schools were
separated from Eagle House by an area of open grassland, which was
probably used as a playing field, and on the other side of Bond Road
farmland extended for a mile or so in the direction of Colliers Wood
until after the end of World War I.

As soon as practicable after completion of the new buildings at Mitcham
the Guardians moved the girls under their charge from the premises
they were occupying at Lewisham. In 1870 the Mitcham schools, which
had accommodation for some 400 boys, girls and infants and were
administered by a superintendent, matron and 80 staff,5 were purchased
by the Guardiansof the Holborn Union. Almost immediately there wasa
reduction in the staff to 66,7of whom the census returns of 1871 record

One of several gateways to the Holborn Schools in London Road,
postcard c.1910, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


33 actually in residence, the rest presumably being either local people
or living in lodgings in the village.

Tom Francis, who in the 1870s and ’80s attended a private academy
for boys close to the Holborn Schools, recalled that

In the early days the children were dressed in uniform, the girls
in cloaks and the boys in cords and peaked caps. They attended
Mitcham Church and walked in a long crocodile. One of the two
Superintendents, C. Morrell, was a keen cricketer. The school
had a small swimming bath.5

This bath, and the rest of the schools, were supplied with water of very
high purity from a sub-artesian well 350 feet deep, terminating in Thanet
sand. In 1907 the borewas capable of delivering 8,000 gallons of water
an hour, the water level standing at 34 feet below ground level, or 36
feet above Ordnance datum.8

Having been demolished in the
early 1930s, the Holborn Schools
are rapidly passing beyond living memory, but a few local residents’
reminiscences have been recorded. (Unfortunately so far nothing written
by any of the children in the Guardians’care has found its way into the
local history collection at Merton Heritage & Local Studies Centre).
Writing in 1980 a Miss Higgs of Carew Road, Mitcham, remembered
the Holborn Schools as

… avery largebuilding facing themain London Road, buthidden
by tall trees, and housed boy and girl orphans. It extended to
‘Eagle House’, which was used for the smaller children,
the building next to this was the school for the boys and girls.
Incidentally, the girls always attended St. Mark’s church of a
Sunday evening, dressed in dark grey and navy coats – walking
in crocodile lines along St. Mark’s Road – then Killick’s Lane.
The boys, similarly, walked to the Parish Church and attended
the evening service there.9

(This must
have been post 1905, when St Mark’s church was

A Mr Harris, of Wimbourne in Dorset, wrote in 1981


… The only time I went in the schools was when Upper Mitcham
Boys School
Schools at
Schools also had a very fine brass band and played at many fetes
and sports days. There were also the Eagle House girls, these
were older girls who were being trained for domestic service, the
good old stand-by for girls in those days, and they were marched
to St. Mark’s church for evening service.10

Understandably the band made a considerable impression, and Tom
Francis used to say in his lantern slide lectures on Old Mitcham

The bandmaster was a small rosy-faced man, who wore a top
hat and frock coat. He and his band were much in request at
celebrations and school treats. My vision is of the important little
bandmaster proudly leading his boys, some quite small, carrying
instruments of quite disproportionate size and producing sounds
of amazing volume. It was a proud moment for the bandmaster
when he led his band in procession.5

Ivy York, writing in 1978, also remembered the band, and the church
parades, which certainly ensured that St Mark’s had a good congregation:

‘Band of the Holborn Schools, Bandmaster Mr J F Beeson’,
postcard 1922, in the grounds of St Benedict’s Hospital Tooting,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


The schools had a nice brass band, and they used (in the period
c.1912-17) to play on the band stand at Fair Green. Every Sunday
evening all the children marched to St. Mark’s.11

Theold Poor Law Unions weredissolved in1930, and their powers and
responsibilities passed to the County Councils. With this reorganisation
ownership of Eagle House and the Holborn Schools was transferred to
the London County Council. Two years later Eagle House was sold to
Surrey County Council, by which time the Industrial School buildings
had been demolished. Part of the London Road frontage was used in
the mid 1930s for the erection of the two blocks of privately owned
shops and flats named Monarch Parade.

Astrip of land fronting Bond Road near its junction with London Road
had been used on which to build a terrace of villas in about 1870, and
following demolition of the Holborn Schools, a further plot of land
abutting Bond Road was used by the Church Army for housing purposes
in the 1930s. Sunshine Way dates from this period. Building of Surrey
County Council’s Bond Road primary school on the former sports field

‘Union School Children’ – photograph 27 September 1913,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


of the Holborn Schools, to the rear of Eagle House, had commenced
before the outbreak of war in 1939, and was completed in 1940.

For some reason No. 218 London Road, the yellow stock brick and
slate-roofed lodge of the Holborn Schools (standing by the former north
gate) was not demolished until the 1970s. To the north of the lodge, and
extendingas far as thecorner of Bond Road, therewas an advertisement
hoarding in the 1960s. The land behind had been occupied by a terrace
of mid-Victorian houses, probably contemporary with and similar in
style to those in Bond Road. These had been demolished before 1939,
but the clearance of the Bond Road houses was halted by the outbreak of
hostilities, and did not take place until some 40 years later. Between the
school lodge and the northernmost block of Monarch Parade, there was
asmallestateof ‘Portal’prefabricated bungalows, erected as temporary
housing by the London County Council towards the end of the 1939/45
war, and managed by them until the 1960s. They were demolished and
the land cleared in 1970. The site, and that of the school lodge, is now
occupied by Sir Arthur Bliss Court, a block of flats for the elderly built
by the Anchor Housing Association and opened 12 September 1989 by
Lady Bliss (see photograph on page 10). Sir Arthur was Master of the
Queen’s Musick from 1953 to 1975.

Remnants of the lodge to Holborn Union Industrial Schools, 1965 (ENM)

Chapter 7



Until it was demolished in 1894 following a disastrous fire, there stood
on the eastern side of London Road, roughly opposite Eagle House,
a large and somewhat forbidding house known as The Elms, or Elm
Hall. Very few Mitcham residents today are even aware of its former
existence. Also largely forgotten are its various occupants, including
Peter Waldo, whose work and writing were certainly not without impact
on the lives and thoughts of his contemporaries in the latter part of the
18th century.

house had certainly stood on the site for a very long time, but
unfortunately there is no evidence now, either documentary or otherwise,
to give support to the claim made by Lewis1 that parts of what he called
an ‘ancient mansion’
dated from the reign of Edward II in the early
14th century. For parts to have survived the intervening five centuries
they would have needed to be of sturdy construction and, assuming

‘The Residence of Mr Prince at Mitcham, Surrey’ – The Elms, Mitcham,
c.1830, from an extra-illustrated copy of Brayley’s History of Surrey,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


Lewis had not been misinformed or misled by the obvious antiquity of
the house, it must originally have belonged to people of at least local
importance. We know that at the beginning of the 19th century The
Elms, like Eagle House, was a copyhold property within the manor of
Ravensbury, the history of which can be traced back to the 13th century.
For much of the Middle Ages lordship of the manor had been vested in
the wealthy de la Mare, or de Mara, family whose estate included, in
addition to a considerable acreage of land in Mitcham, nine ‘messuages’,
or houses with their associated outbuildings.2 One of these, therefore,
might well have been the precursor of The Elms but this is, of course,
pure conjecture.

More reliable is the evidence that, at least in part, The Elms dated to
the 16th century. An extra-illustrated edition of Brayley’s History of
Surrey in Merton Heritage & Local
Studies Centre contains several
illustrations of the house. including a sepia tint dated 1827 showing
a “Chimney piece in the drawing room of an ancient mansion now
occupied by Mr Prince, Mitcham” which bears the caption “Anno
Domino M578”.3 Jones, the biographer of the Waldo family, writing
in the 1860s, commented

In a house belonging to one of the representatives of the Waldo
family, situate at Mitcham, in Surrey, there still exists a handsome
curious oak
cornice of the wainscotting being a board of oak, richly carved
withacorns,oakleaves andgrapes.Thename’PeterWaldo’is cut,
with a date 1575, or 3, the last figure being difficult to decipher.4

Finally, Garraway Rice, a most reputable local historian who would
have been speaking from personal knowledge, wrote of The Elms:

In it is a room panelled with oak, containing also a handsome
oak chimney piece, and on the panelling over the entrance to the
room is carved ANNO DOMINO MD 78.5

In addition to the drawing room chimneypiece the Merton Brayley also
contains illustrations of two others, each drawing being dated 1827 and
bearing the initials of John Chessell Buckler, a prolific architectural
illustrator.6The fireplaces are described as being in the hall and chamber


of the house, and both were obviously embellished with fine examples
of the richly carved two-stage chimney pieces typical of the late 16th
and early 17th centuries.

As wellas mentioning “someexcellentcarvings of thetimeof Elizabeth”,
Lewis asserted that the house contained “others by Grinlin [sic] Gibbons,
… still in excellent preservation”. If this latter observation is correct, and
we have to admit some reservations as to Lewis’s reliability, the work
must be dated to the late 17th or early 18th century and could have been
commissioned during a period of rebuilding or refurbishment of The
Elms – of which, unfortunately, there is no record. Whether or not the
carvings were actually executed by Gibbons himself, or were merely
in his style, it is now, of course, impossible to say.

‘Chimney Piece in the Chamber of an ancient Mansion
(now the residence of Mr Prince) in Mitcham, Surrey’,
from an extra-illustrated copy of Brayley’s History of Surrey,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


The Waldo family traced their descent from Thomas Waldo, brother
of Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyon who, in 1170, was moved
by religious conviction to sell all his goods and to give the proceeds
to the poor. Teaching a life of poverty and simplicity, he founded an
evangelical sect which had a large following in southern France and
northern Italy (see
Appendix I). For six centuries the Waldenses, as
the members came to be known, were viciously persecutedas heretics
by the Church of Rome, but despite the appalling cruelty and hardship
inflicted upon them, their doctrines
were not suppressed, and the
Waldensian church survives today in Italy and America. According to
Jones, one of the family “in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, to escape
the persecutions of the Duke D’Alva, came over from the Netherlands
to England, where his descendants afterwards settled”. Jones held the
opinion that the Peter Waldo whose name was to be seen in The Elms
might have been one of the first members of the family to have come
to England. However, although the Lay Subsidy records of 1593 or ’94
list a number of ‘strangers’resident in Mitcham, including several with
obviously Dutch or Flemish names, the name Waldo does not appear
amongst them.7
This of course does not invalidate Jones’s theory, for
theWaldos may havealready been assimilated into thelocalcommunity
or else moved away from the parish before the 1590s and let or leased
their property. We are therefore left with another supposition relating
to the house, which at present seems incapable of substantiation.

In the early parish registers of Mitcham (which are similarly lacking
in support for Jones’s theory) Garraway Rice noted a reference to the
death in 1597 of William Fitzwilliam aged 86 “att his howse att the
great Elme”, and wondered if this might possibly be identified with
The Elms. Whether or not one accepts Rice’s speculation, all that can
be said of him is that he was probably the William ‘Fitzwilliams’who
was assessed for tax on lands in Mitcham worth £12 in 1593. Only
two landowners in the parish were assessed higher at this time, and
with the style of ‘esquire’and heading the list of Mitcham
‘Fitzwilliams’was obviously a man of some considerable standing in
the village.

has not
property in Mitcham, and nothing else about him has been discovered


inthe parish records. Although resident for a time in the village, and
certainly dying there, William Fitzwilliam was buried beside his wife
Elizabeth, who had predeceased him, in the parish church of St Nicholas,
Tooting, wherethey areboth commemorated by abrass plaqueerected
by their daughter Anne. This certainly suggests they were resident in
the northern part of Mitcham. Whereas it is quite possible for the Waldo
family to have leased their Mitcham property to Fitzwilliam, Rice’s
hypothesis rested solely on the name by which he knew The Elms in the
19th century. However, two centuries after William Fitzwilliam’s death,
Edwards8was to comment on the remarkable size of the elms in front
of Peter Waldo’s house. The elm was, until the devastation caused by
disease in the 1970s, an extremely common tree in Mitcham. It can also
survive to a great age but, nevertheless, it would seem a little unwise
to do more than note Edwards’s remarks and Rice’s interesting theory.

Rice was not the only local historian for whom The Elms presented
a challenge and a temptation. A
columnist in the Sutton and Epsom
Advertiser, reporting the fire in 1891 which preceded its demolition,
expressed surprise that nothing had been written about so interesting
a house, a sentiment which perhaps prompted Emma Bartley to claim
that Queen Elizabeth had visited The Elms.9(Five visits by the Queen
to Mitcham have been recorded, and the two houses at which she was
a guest have been identified, but neither of them was anywhere near
The Elms).10 Miss Bartley gave no authority for her statement, nor
did she qualify it in any way, and it is therefore best ignored. She was
probably merely relying on local hearsay, for which there seems to
have been no explanation apart from the age of the property, and the
common urge to embellish the known history of a large house with a
colourful, albeit fictitious, past.

Similarly one has to treat
with considerable
caution the caption to
a surviving photograph of The Elms in which the house was said
to have stood on land which once belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh.11
Nowhere else is this assertion made, and it, too, is questionable. The
idea could, however, have arisen from the knowledge that The Elms
had once lain within the jurisdiction of Ravensbury, lordship of which
was in the hands of Elizabeth Raleigh’s relations, the Carews, since
the 16th century.


The Waldos of Mitcham (c.1725 – 1804)

It must be admitted that so far this account has contained rather more
supposition than fact. All that
can be said with reasonable certainty is
that in part The Elms dated from the late 16th century. With justification,
itattracted theinterestof 19th-century antiquaries and, in themanner of
old houses, generated a degree of romantic speculation. Happily, reliable
local records surviving from the close of the 18th century onwards have
now become far more accessible, and enable the researcherto compile
at least the later history of The Elms with less guesswork.

After settling in England the Waldo family prospered and multiplied, and
in the 17th and 18th centuriesincluded not only several citymerchants
but also naval officers, and there were flourishing North American offshoots
in Boston and in Maine.5 where there is actually a town called
Waldoboro, and a Mount Waldo near Bangor in Waldo County, Maine.
Like many with business interests in London, the Waldos established
homes for themselves and their families in the villages of north-east
Surrey. In the mid-18th century, for instance, a branch of the family
owned a large mansion in Clapham, half hidden from the high road
behind a wall and tall wooden gates.12 Peter Waldo, said to have been
the last lineal descendant of the Waldo family in this country, was
born to Peter Waldo of Mitcham (1689-1762) and his cousin, Mary
Dubois (1696-1773), who married at Tooting in August 1729. Mary’s
mother, Sarah Waldo, was the second wife of John Dubois of St Mary
Aldermanbury, a citizen and mercer of the City of London, whom she
married at the Huguenot L’Eglise de Londres, Threadneedle Street.13
The Dubois family was already established in Mitcham at this time, a
Robert Dubois paying militia
tax in the 1670s,14
whilst John owned a
substantial house to the south of the Upper Green, which was inherited
by his son Charles. Charles Dubois, who was Mary’s half-brother,
was for many years treasurer to the East India Company. He enjoyed
considerable repute as an amateur naturalist, and maintained a noted
botanical collection in the grounds of the Mitcham house, where he
lived until his death in 1740.15 The family graves were to be seen until
recently in Mitcham churchyard, close to the north wall of the parish
church, and nearby isthe limestone altar-tomb of Peter and Mary Waldo,
inscribed by their mourning son “Better parents had no man”.16


Like his father, Peter Waldo junior was active in local affairs, and the
names of first the father and subsequently the son appear frequently
in the minutes of Mitcham vestry from about 1745 until the end of the
century. Peter Waldo junior was, for instance, a prominent member of
the committee appointed by the vestry to administer the poor law, and
personally served as overseer of the poor on several occasions. The
Waldo family were the owners of a house situated just to the north of
the former Swan inn which, from 1737 until 1782, they leased furnished
to the parish as a workhouse at a rental of £12 per annum.17The house
had a chequered career in the hands of various contractor/managers
or ‘farmers’until 1782, when the vestry decided to build a large new
workhouse on Mitcham Common. When this new building wasready for
occupation the poor were transferred, apparently much to the annoyance
of Peter Waldo, who sought to give expression to his dissatisfaction
with the vestry by withholding payment of his poor rate. The threat of
legal proceedings was sufficient to bring the protest to an end.

Ayear later Peter Waldo joined with other ratepayers in an unsuccessful
protest against the practice of including in the rating assessment (then
based on the annual gross rental of a property) the amount demanded of
the owner as land tax. The vestry was obliged to seek the opinion of no
less a person than Lord Loughborough, Lord Chief Justice of Common
Pleas, who upheld the basis on which the assessments were calculated,
and the objectors had to pay up.

The possibility of a conflict of interests when local property owners
held parish office was not a matter of great concern to an 18th-century
vestry, butthereis littleevidencetosuggestthatPeter Waldoever acted
otherwise than in the strictest
propriety. Certainly, from his obituaries
one is given to understand that he performed his duties with a sense of
compassion with which, perhaps unjustly, parish officersof the time are
not usually credited. But, one has to acknowledge, eulogies are often
tinged with hyperbole. Probably only the poor could tell the real truth,
but they are no longer with us and, being largely illiterate, have left no
account of their experiences.

In the latter part of the 18th century Peter Waldo kept a private school
in a
building adjoining The
was clearly of a


bent, and was the highly esteemed author of several religious works,
including a treatise entitled Commentary on the Liturgy of the Church
of England, for which he was still well-known half a century after his
death.19When, in April 1788, Sarah Chandler of Sunbury, Middlesex,
the owner of Hall Place, Mitcham, gave to the parish of Mitcham a plot
of land called Pound Close, abutting Lower Green West, as a site for a
Sunday schoolhouse, the deed of sale was made out in favour of Peter
Waldo. The decision to establish the school by voluntary subscription
amongst themselves was taken by an influential group of parishioners
“for the purpose of teaching and instructing the several poor children
belonging to the said Parish on Sunday in the Articles of Reading and
of Religion,” and the choice of Peter Waldo as a trustee must have been
a fairly obvious one.20

The following year we find in the vestry minutes frequent mention
of Peter Waldo as one of the committee of gentlemen who, over a
period of 12 months or more, grappled (unsuccessfully it transpired)
with the vexatious problem of deciding whether to repair and improve
the accommodation in the parish church (parts of which dated back
to the 13th century) or to demolish and rebuild. The outbreak of war
with revolutionary France brought discussion to a premature end and
the matter was shelved, but not before the emergence of a faction, of
which Peter Waldo was a member, which objected strongly to the more
expensive option of rebuilding. The reason for their opposition is not
exactly clear, but one suspects it was on the grounds of the additional
burden this would impose on the ratepayers, who would have been
expected to bear the cost whether or not they were members of the
Church of England.

The first contemporary account we have of The Elms is in Edwards’
guide, compiled in around 1789. Here we are told that the house, “the
seat of Peter Waldo Esq.” stood about 50 yards from the road. It was
described as

a very good one, and built in the modern taste, with suitable
offices and large gardens on the north. It commands a pleasant
prospect over the enclosures to the east, as far as Norwood, and
is sheltered against the road by remarkable [sic] large elm trees.8


The sepia sketch of 1827 in Brayley3, and a photograph of 1891 or
1892, also in Merton Heritage & Local Studies Centre,11 both show
and rather austere brick-built structure of typical mid-18th-century
design. The three storeys of the front elevation were divided into seven
bays terminating in a simple string course and a plain parapet which
obscured the roof from anyone standing in the front drive. The only
other embellishments to the façade were, firstly, a triangular pediment
roof level
spanning the
bays, which contained the
entrance doorway, and, secondly, a smaller pediment surmounting the
Doric porch to the door itself. The hall and chamber containing the
16th-century chimneypieces must have been in an older part of the
house, hidden behind the Georgian façade.

third illustration, a watercolour in the possession of Surrey
Archaeological Society, is of the rear elevation of what is described
as ‘Elms House’, seen from the south-east. It is dated 1834 and shows
two-storeyed and hipped-roofed back extensions either side of a three

‘South East View of Elms House, Mitcham, taken from 7 till 8 in the
mornings of June 1834 by I D Aquilar’,
reproduced by courtesy of Surrey Archaeological Society (PD/MIT/17)


storeyed central section. Construction in brick and tile is implied by
the artist, and there is a fine round-headed window depictedon the first
floor of the central part of the building. Avery large tree, presumably
an elm, can be seen, apparently growing in the front garden.21

The actual date of the imposing front
elevation of The Elms is a
little difficult to establish, but Edwards’s description of its being “in
the modern taste”, and what survives of contemporary vernacular
architecture in and around Mitcham, would suggest a date of about 1760
or perhaps a decade or so later. Land tax records did not commence
until 1780, but the poor rate books, which exist from 1755, show no
change in assessment for rating purposes until 1799.22 The best that
can be suggested, therefore, (if one ignores the possibility of the need
for revaluation being conveniently ‘overlooked’)23 is that it was Peter
Waldo senior who commissioned the work some ten years or so before
his death in 1762.

The respect with which some at least of Peter Waldo’s contemporaries
considered he should be remembered may be judged from the obituary
notice which appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1803:

At Worthing [a mis-spelling of Worting] Hants, after a short
illness, aged 70, Peter Waldo, of Mitcham, Surrey esq.. The
memory of so truly excellent
a man will be long revered,
his death lamented, as no common loss, by all who knew his
character. The
deserving poor have
liberal, though to
many, who partook of his bounty through the hands of others,
an unknown benefactor and friend. The Church of England, by
his death, is deprived of one of its brightest ornaments, and the
world of a sincere Christian.24

Peter and his wife Hannah are still commemorated by a tablet on
the north wall of the north aisle of the parish church of St Thomas
of Canterbury at Worting (see Appendix II), and Peter’s hatchment
hangs facing it, high above the arcading of the nave. Peter Waldo is
remembered in the village today for his generosity in endowing two
cottages for the poor of Worting, but of his wife, and where the couple
lived, the local records seem to have little to say.


Peter Waldo died without issue, and left his considerable estate to the
children of relatives. One of the beneficiaries, Colonel Humphrey Waldo
Sibthorpe MP(1744-1815) of Canwick, Kesteven, Lincs, and theRoyal
South Lincolnshire Militia, inherited through his mother.25 According
to Jones, Sibthorpe “assumed, by royal warrant, in 1804, for himself
and his heirs, the additional surname and arms of Waldo, in grateful
remembrance of his kinsman”.4
In accordance with the usual custom,
on 21 January 1804, at the first court baron of the manor of Biggin
and Tamworth to be held by James Moore, it was formally reported
that Peter Waldo had died, and the tenure of his copyhold property and
land in Mitcham held of the manor was transferred to his widow.26As
we have already noted, another substantial part of the Waldo estate,
including the land on which The Elms itself stood, was copyhold of the
manor of Ravensbury. The extent of the estate in the manor of Biggin
and Tamworth, encompassing some 164 acres in Upper Mitcham, can
be seen on a plan dated 1805, now at Surrey History Centre.27

Hannah Waldo did not return to live in Mitcham after her husband’s
death, but remained at Worting, where she received a visit from her
Mitcham friend, Mrs Esther Maria Cranmer, in the summer of 1806.28
She seems not to have endeared herself overmuch to the people of
Mitcham, for the following rhyme is said to have been recited by the
village youths:

When the Israelites wanted bread
God rained them manna.
When Peter wanted a wife
The Devil sent him Hannah.29

Whatever her shortcomings may have been as a wife, Hannah’s
widowhood seems to havebeen exemplary. Sheoutlived her husband by
39 years, dying in October 1842 a fortnight short of her 100th birthday,
and today lies with Peter in a vault beneath the nave at Worting. Her
monumental inscription declares that she “considered the virtues of the
best of husbands not only to be followed in grief but to be set forth by
imitation. She completed an outstanding life of continual
with a most peaceful death” (see Appendix II).


The Polhills and Other Leaseholders (1804 – c.1826)

On the demise of Hannah Waldo, ownership of the family’s Mitcham
estate, which included not only The Elms, but also Tamworth Farm, The
Poplars and Tamworth Manor House – all in Upper Mitcham – passed
into the hands of Colonel Waldo Sibthorpe’s son, the Revd Humphrey
Waldo Sibthorpe (b. 1786), a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. Peter
and Hannah’s old home was still in the Revd Sibthorpe’s possession in
1863, when he donated a part of the grounds abutting St Mark’s Road
to provide a site for the building of a new school room to serve Upper
Mitcham, which was opened in 1865.30

In 1804 The Elms, described, perhaps with a little customary
exaggeration, as a ‘mansion house’, together with its outbuildings,
yards, gardens and meadows, in all amounting to a little short of ten
acres, was leasedto Edward Polhill.31 Hewas almostcertainly thesame
Edward Polhill who, for over 30 years, was the proprietor of the snuff
mills in Morden Hall Park. Members of the Polhill family, who had a
house on the south side of Clapham Common32, were prominent in the
tobaccotradefornearlyacentury.33 EdwardPolhill’s business prospered,
and in his will of 1826, in which he generously left £1,000 to Morden
Sunday School, he was described as then residing at Morden Park.34His
snuff mill and house both survive today. The former is owned by the
National Trust, and the latter, a mile or so away to the south-west, was
for many years used as offices by the Urban District Council of Merton
and Morden and, after 1965, by the London Borough of Merton. It is
now occupied as the register office.

Polhill left The Elms in 1808/9, and was succeeded by Joseph Steel, who
remained in occupation until 1815. The house was then left untenanted
for three years before being leased to a Richard Page. In 1823 it seems
to have been empty once more, but the Greenwoods35 gained the
impression that ‘– Weston Esq.’was shortly to take up residence. Page’s
successor was, in fact, John England Rudd, who leased the house for
two years in March 1824.36
Rudd kept a school, at least for the later
part of his life, and in the 1840s is recorded as occupying The Poplars,
another of the Waldo properties, as a boarding school for gentlemen’s
This large weatherboarded house had been the workhouse of


1737-1782, mentioned earlier in this account. It is said to have been
closed down following an outbreak of infectious disease amongst the
and the site is now occupied by a municipal housing estate
built by Mitcham Urban District Council in the early 1920s.

School, Orphanage and Children’s Home – The Last Days of
the Elms (1826 – 1891)

We have already observed that during the late 18th century several
of the larger houses in Mitcham became private boarding academies,
usually for boys between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age, and thistrend
continued into the early Victorian period. We have also seen that Peter
Waldo himself
ran a school at The Elms before the Napoleonic War,
but this seems to have closed when he left the village. It is not known
if Rudd used part of the house as a school during his short tenure, but
Philip Arthur Prince, who moved into The Elms with his wife Mary
and their young family in 1826, certainly did. His ‘Elms Boarding
Academy for Young Gentlemen’is listed regularly in local
of the 1830s and 1840s, and seems to have flourished for over 20 years.
When the
census was taken in 1841 there were 30 boys between the
ages of 8 and 15 in residence, together with Prince, his wife and their
five children (his eldest son Philip, aged 20, might well have been an
master), and five
servants. Prince, who was related to the
Waldos by marriage, found mention in Allibone’s Dictionary of Authors
as the writer of several historical and biographical works,39
his standards appear not always to have been of the highest, and his
History of England written for schoolboys and published in 1857, was
severely criticised for its inaccuracies.40
It is not known exactly when
Philip Arthur Prince vacated The Elms, but he was still in occupation
when the tithe
commutation survey was conducted in 1846, and the
associated map shows no material changes having taken place since
1804. The house with its ‘offices, yards, gardens, lawn, buildings etc.’
and two meadows (in all, covering over nine acres) extended back from
London Road to St Mark’s Road – then known as Killick’s Lane. To
the north the grounds reached
as far as Pound Farm, which stood on
the site of the present car park opposite Bond Road.


By 1851 there were newcomers at The Elms, for the house, still a school
but of a very different character, was returned by the census enumerator
as the ‘Infant Poor Establishment of St George in the East’. The inmates
now included 104 boys and 94 girls aged between 5 and 16 years, born
at Wapping, in the parish of St George-in-the-East, and elsewhere in East
London and Essex. The great majority of these children would have been
orphans, or youngsters whose parents had been obliged through poverty
or misfortune to leave them to the mercy of the Poor Law authorities. At
Mitchamthechildrenwerein thecareof Mr and Mrs Harding, who acted
as schoolmaster and schoolmistress, assisted by a porter, gardener, and
six female staff including nurses, a cook and a washerwoman.

The Poor Law guardians of St George-in-the-East probably vacated The
Elms soon after completion in 1856 of the new industrial schools on the
oppositesideof theroad. Certainly by 1861 TheElms was largely empty,
the only occupants being a caretaking staff comprising a needlewoman
and the gardener and his family. We have no idea exactly how long the
property remained vacant on this occasion, but before the end of the
decade, renamed ‘Elms Hall’, it was once more a boarding school, run by
the Revd William John Wilson.41
In the census records of 1871 Wilson,
who was a native of Belfast, was described as a Baptist minister, but there
is no record of his having preached at Mitcham, where the Baptist Church
was not really established until 1882.42There were only ten schoolboys
resident at Elms Hall in 1871 (their ages ranging from 10 to 14 years),
the rest of the household comprising Wilson, his wife and their seven
children, an assistant master and two housemaids.

In 1871 Elms Hall was visited by Havelock Ellis’s mother, who was
cost”. “The house”, he recalled in his autobiography, “was large and
old– one of the numerous houses wherein Queen Elizabeth is said once
to have slept – and my mother was of course shown over it with due
consideration. But the ill-ventilated schoolroom full of boys smelt so
fusty and dirty that she conceived a dislike for the place, and came away
from the place”.43

The Wilsons had presumably left by 1874, the local directory for that
year giving a James Hedger as the proprietor of the ‘Elms Hall Boarding


School’. AMiss Herring was listed as the occupier in 1882, and from the
absence of any mention of the school in the directories for either 1878
or 1882, it seems that the house may have reverted to being a private

The final role of the old Elms, its name changed once again–this time
to ‘Elm Lodge’
– was as the Sydney Nursing Home, a convalescent
centre for children. It was named after Sydney Gedge MAof Mitcham
Hall, Lower Mitcham, a London solicitor and member of Parliament,
who was the principal of the committee responsible for the venture.44
Occupancy of Elm Lodge by the nursing home was only of short
duration, however, and the house, still owned by the trustees of the
Sibthorpe estate, wasagain standing empty late in 1891. The lodge was
undergoing repair prior to being occupied by a steam carpet beating
factory when, late on Christmas eve, and with the caretaker temporarily
absent, fire broke out in a ground floor back room. The alarm wasraised
at 10 pm, and although the local brigade was soon on the scene they
were unable to bring the blaze under control until 3 am the following
morning, by which time the front part of the house had been gutted.
The centuries-old panelling and the wealth of carved woodwork were
hopelessly damaged and, evidently with no prospect of rebuilding, the
burnt-out shell of this gaunt old house was finally demolished in 1894.

With its passing the appearance of the eastern side of the London Road
began toalter drastically, and over thenext40years was to changemore
completely than in the preceding four centuries. Anew Baptist church
was built in 1912, approximately on the site of The Elms itself and it
was here, when building works were being undertaken in the 1960s,
that a quantity of 18th-century pottery was uncovered –almost certainly
once used by the Waldo household.45Market gardeners cultivated what
remained of the former grounds of The Elms until the 1920s and ’30s,
and in their turn made way for the municipal baths hall and the public
librarybuildingof theemergingmunicipalityofMitcham. Severallittle
village shops and cottages lingered on into the inter-war era, but before
1936allhaddisappeared,tobereplacedbythepresentterraces ofshops
with flatsabove. Today Waldo Place, Sibthorpe Road and the Elm Court
flats in Armfield Crescent serve as the sole, and purely nominal, links
with the family and house so long associated with Mitcham.


The Elms, photographed shortly after the fire in 1891, reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service

Chapter 8


Road (formerly Western Lane
or Merton Lane), linking
Mitcham’s Upper Green with Merton and Colliers Wood, is today
a major metropolitan route carrying heavy orbital traffic between
CroydonandtheA3.Environmentallyitis uninspiring, althoughfrom
the traffic engineer’s or town planner’s viewpoint much improved
by widening and redevelopment over the last 100 years or so. What
survives from the 19th century is fragmentary, and includes a stable
yard, a former off-licence now converted to a scrap merchant’s office,
and a domestic gas redistribution centre, dominated by a gasholder.
The only other visual link with past industries is a small Victorian
building which was once a factory producing vesta matches. All this
is interspersed with a miscellany of domestic development spanning
the last 100 years and featuring modest housing in an extraordinary
variety of styles.

Western Road was not always such a mess, and James Drewett,
recalling in the 1920s the Western Lane of his childhood some 60
years previously, remembered it as “a narrow country lane, with a deep
ditch commencing from Gladstone Road and ending at its exit into the
Wandle at Christchurch Road, with large elm trees on one side, and
meadows on the other”.1 Amap of c.17892 shows that by the end of
the 18th century the road was already overlooked by a few cottages
and other buildings, extending along its southern sidefromtheUpper
Green to the present Portland Road, and on the northern side as far
as where the Fountain inn
stood, opposite the gasworks. Beyond the
last cottage the lane was indeed lined with trees to the Merton parish
boundary. A
map prepared some 40 years later, presumably when a
surface water drainage scheme was being considered, marks a “field
gate” across the road where it is now joined by Fieldgate Lane, and at
the point where Lavender Avenue meets Western Road there was “an
arch at the end of the open fields crossing Merton Lane”, presumably
a drainage culvert passing under the road.3

The ditch Drewett recalled was known as the ‘Western Ditch’. It was
fed by a brook having its source near the Croydon parish boundary
and, flowing along Commonside East, discharged first into the pond


ofNew Barns farm at the corner of Watneys Road, and finally the Three
Kings Pond. From the latter overflow water passed, as now, into a pipe
beneath Commonside West, and then through the gardens and grounds
of The Firs, a large house which stood to the south of the Upper Green.
Thereafter it seems to have made its way via a chain of small ponds in
the gardens of two more large properties, Durham House and Mitcham
House, until finally discharging into the ditch alongside Merton Lane.
According to information given to Manning, until around 1760 the run
of water from the Common “formed a wash-way” through this part of
Upper Mitcham on the way to Merton, and Edwards recounts how, in
the late 1780s, it was not unknown after periods of heavy rain for the
stream to flood the road leading south from the Upper Green to the
Cricket Green. Matters were evidently improved soon afterwards, and
by theearly 19th century the streamhad been “confined in a channel, and
partly covered over”.4As can be imagined, prior to Merton Lane being
provided with gas lighting in the 1850s, the roadside ditch presented
a considerable hazard to travellers on dark nights, and more than one
cart is said to have veered off the track, and finished up in the water.5

The meadows Drewett could remember were the ‘Hay Furlongs’,
forming part of the ‘Blacklands’or west common field. They can be
seen on the map produced in 1853 when the estate of the late James
Moore, lord of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, was offered for
sale by auction,6
and ultimately became the King’s College Athletic
Grounds, bounded by Western Road, Lavender Avenue, and the Steers
Mead housing estate. In its turn the sports ground has disappeared,
having been partially redeveloped for housing in the late 1980s by a
consortium of builders. Only a fragment, Lavender Park, now remains
as open land (see Appendix IV).

The name ‘Hay Furlongs’implies that this part of the Blacklands had
been permanent grassland, reserved for the annual haycrop before being
thrown open for grazing. Following a system of land management
common in the Middle Ages, which in this instance probably dated back
many centuries, rights to fodder and pasturage are likely to have been
strictly regulated by custom, and it is interesting to find references to
“land in Blacklands” in several 17th- and 18th-century leases of houses


in the village. In days when transport was heavily dependent on the
horse, the possession of grazing land was obviously a valuable asset.
By the 1850s maps show the Hay Furlongs at Mitcham subdivided
into strips of varying sizes, in the tenure of a dozen or so different
copyholders and freeholders. In Drewett’s boyhood, some of the land
was evidently still maintained
as permanent pasture. The regime was
clearly ending, however, but parts of the Hay Furlongs remained under
cultivation until the late 19th century, and Tom Francis had in his
collection of lantern slides a picture of Alfred Mizen, one of the three
Mizen brothers whose horticultural firm we have already mentioned,
standing in a field of marguerites, grown for the London flower market
“in what is now King’s College Sports Ground”.7

An archaeological assessment conducted by the Museum of London in
1989, before redevelopment of the sports ground for housing, produced
evidence that the land had been occupied in prehistory. A
of ‘Mortlake’pottery from the late Neolithic period indicated human
activity as early as the third millenium BC, and sherds of Bronze Age
ware and traces of a ditch system with a configuration reminiscent of
a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age enclosure pointed to the land being
used by farmers some 2,500 years ago.8

Theterm’Blacklands’is also of archaeologicalsignificance, although in
the vicinity of Western Road it was customarily believed to have been
inspired by the colour of the rich loam which overlies the brick-earths
and river gravels in this part of Mitcham,9It has been shown, however,
that elsewhere in Britain land found to have been occupied during the
Roman period, and presumably darkened by the constant manuring of
fields with organicwasteand thegeneralscatter of occupationaldebris,
has not infrequently been known as ‘The Blacklands’.10 Furthermore,
in recent years ‘black earth’deposits have come to be recognised as
of the
upper strata
of many Roman urban sites.
perhaps, more than coincidental, therefore, that in Mitcham there is
quite widespread evidence of occupation of the Blacklands during the
Roman period.

In the last 30 years such evidence has come from excavations on the
Short Batsworth allotments before the construction of Haslemere


Primary School, off Church Road, in 1967;11 from opposite the
parish church in 1989;12 and in the 1990s by the Museum of London
Archaeology Service on adjacent land at the end of Varley Way.13 On
sites ditches were
found containing fragments of pottery,
bones of domestic animals, and other occupational debris, whilst
interments found in 1967 and 1990 demonstrated the existence of a
nearby burial ground of second to third century date. Finally, in 1882,
when excavations were in progress for a new gas holder at the Western
Road gasworks, a well was discovered containing a fine urn of roughly
the same period.14Wells are seldom dug far from habitation sites and,
taking the evidence as a whole, we can safely deduce that in the general
area of Western Road throughout much of the Roman period there was
a scattering of native farmsteads and quite possibly a nucleated hamlet.

Romano-British urn, found in a well on the site of Mitcham gasworks in
1882, reproduced by courtesy of the Museum of London


Regrettably the facilities and skills did not exist locally in the 1880s to
investigate any further the discovery at the gasworks site, and building
works since have almost certainly destroyed much of the evidence that
would have existed to show the extent of the settlement. In the hope of
further information being obtained, excavations for the laying of the
North Sea gas main from Croydon to Mitcham in 1970 were watched
by members of Merton Historical Society but, disappointingly, nothing
of archaeological significance was
observed. This lack of success
was perhaps due in part to the fact that the trenches were excavated
mechanically, and partly also to the unstable nature of the subsoil, the
close shuttering used making
proper examination of the trench sides

Similar lack of success attended site-watching undertaken by the
Museum of London Archaeology Service a few years later, when former
allotment land between Portland Road and Lewis Road was being
prepared for the erection of municipal housing. Most of the site had
been dug in the 19th century for the deposits of brick-earth it contained,
and the south-eastern side fronting Portland Road had been much
disturbed by mid-Victorian terrace housing. As a result, the likelihood
of anything of archaeological significance surviving was again very
slight, and nothing was found.15

TheBlacklands (in Mitchamthetermseems oftento havebeen virtually
synonymous with the west field) extended from near Morden Road
and the Wandle in the south almost to Figges Marsh in the north-east
of the parish. The area was still referred to as ‘the common fields’in
the late
18th century,2 but the old open field cultivation of the Middle
Ages had long since been abandoned here, although much of the land
was still held in strips or ‘lands’,16
usually grouped into furlongs. Not
all the land in the west field was common, even as early as the 13th
century, and the process of enclosure and the combination
of several
parcels of land to form one holding was a very old one. For instance,
Long and Short Batsworth, two enclosures off Church Road for which
there is documentary evidence from as early as 1234-5,17
are believed
to have had their origin in ‘Battesworth’, derived from the Old English
meaning ‘Bætti’senclosure’.18Aslate asthe mid-19th century the basic
field pattern still survived, although many of the holdings had been


amalgamated, and were probably fenced or hedged. Much of the west
field at this time was under cultivation by herb growers, raising crops of
aromatic and medicinal plants like peppermint, lavender and camomile.
The activity did not call for large enclosures, and as a consequence most
of the west field remained in the hands of individual smallholders until
sold piecemealfor building. The headlands or way-baulks between the
fields can still be found in the guise of roads like Hawthorne Avenue,
Lewis Road, Fox’s Path, Fieldgate Lane and Love Lane, whilst many of
the fields themselves have become fossilised in small housing estates,
their contrasting styles betraying ad hoc development at the hands of
different builders over a period of a century or more.

The latter half of the 19th century saw Mitcham enter a period of
economic decline, and with it increased poverty. The calico bleaching
and printing industry, on which many people depended for employment,
had finally collapsed in the face of competition from the industrial
north, and the luxury trade in silk printing which survived did not have
the same demand for labour. Several large houses, which hitherto had
employed a small army of servants as well as general labourers from
the village, were either pulled down, or became boarding schools or
Poor Law institutions offering little work to local people. With steadily
increasing momentum, opportunities for field work also diminished as
the herb fields and farm land began to give place to rows of villas. Less
favoured parts of Mitcham thus began to change not only visually, but
also in social structure. The appearance of the eastern part of Merton
Lane (Western Road) in particular was to be transformed dramatically
between the 1840s and the end of the century. The process could be
said to have commenced in 1849 with the building of the Mitcham Gas
Light and Coke Company’s works on a former lavender field beyond
Fieldgate Lane. Inevitably, as the demand for gas increased, the works
were extended, coke ovens and attendant plant were enlarged, and
by the end of the century huge gasholders had come to dominate the
surrounding property (see Chapter 10).

Probably by virtue of the common tenure of much of the land, the area
to the north of Love Lane never attracted any houses of substance, and
what development had taken place up to the 1830s and ’40s comprised


mostly labourers’cottages, built in pairs or in small terraces fronting
Merton Lane and in Love Lane. With the opening of the gasworks
the area was immediately blighted. Nevertheless, on individual fields,
or odd-shaped plots of back land, opportunist developers
and small
investors continued to build groups of workers’cottages.19Sometimes
located in alleys or grouped around yards, with poor sanitation and
soon overcrowded, their deterioration into squalid slums was almost

As if to seal the district’s fate –significantly the name of the road altered
with its decline from the pleasantly rural-sounding Merton Lane to the
less romantic Western Road – the grim buildings of the great Holborn
Union workhouse complex went up opposite the gasworks between
1885 and 1886 (see Chapter 11).

Newcomers, less bothered by their surroundings, and probably with
nowhere else to go, now began to make their appearance in the area.
often travelling people, some
of true
Romany stock,
whilst a few in the mid-century were from Ireland, obliged to leave

Swing Yard, Western Road, Mitcham (near junction with Love Lane),

officially licensed and used by gypsies (ENM June 1966)


their homeland by famine or eviction. Mitcham, with its annual fair
and the prospect of seasonal field work, seems always to have proved
a strong attraction, despite their being viewed by the majority of the
village population (who referred to them disparagingly as ‘didicoys’or
‘mumpers’) with distaste and suspicion. Their readiness to squat on any
piece of waste or vacant land led to the establishment of innumerable
camps, either temporary or, as in the Western Road and Phipps Bridge
area, semi-permanent. Here, ‘grafting’for a living from one fair time to
thenext,themenfollowedtraditionalpursuits ofhorsetrading,general
dealing and ‘totting’, whilst thewomen begged, told fortunes, or hawked
clothes pegs, artifical flowers, watercress and bedding plants from door
to door. It has been said that to an extent these sites were tolerated by
the old Mitcham parish council, influenced by Robert Masters Chart,
the parish clerk, who knew that the van dwellers, whatever their origins,
had been visitors to Mitcham for a great many years, and considered
they deserved the opportunity of settling down and eventually becoming
part of the established community.5

As late as the 1950s there were perhaps as many as ten yards within
a mile radius, containing an average of half a dozen caravans in each,
most of them occupied, together with stables and an assortment of
sheds. Many of the vans had been stationed so long on these sites they
were virtually immovable, but some of the caravan-dwellers used the
Mitcham yards primarily as winter quarters, taking to the roads again
in the spring and summer. The yards were gradually abolished under
various post-war slum clearance and redevelopment schemes, their
remainingoccupants being offered(butnotalways accepting) rehousing
by the Borough Council.

The spread of small estates of speculative housing across the west field
was halted only briefly by the outbreak of war in 1914, and thereafter
the pace quickened. With town planning in its infancy, commercial and
domestic development proceeded concurrently, resulting in a highly
undesirable mixture of light industrial and residential use which did
nothing to improve the area’s general environment. Where
the Urban
District Council took the initiative, however, the result was sometimes
a little brighter. The inspiration behind the Mount Road housing estate


of the early 1920s, (named after Councillor H LMount JP, chairman of
the Council in 1923) with its low density and cottage-style homes, was
obviously the success of the garden village developments
before the war. Unfortunately, along the Western Road frontage the
results of this early foray by Mitcham into municipal housing were
visually less than inspiring. Higher densities permitted towards the end
of the 20th century regrettably led to the loss of Mount Road’s main
asset – its large central green – and in the 1980s this space was used
for a new housing estate.

Amodicum of architectural style was injected into the area by Surrey
County Council, with its new Western Road school in the ‘municipal
style much favoured by the Education Committee in the
1930s. On therecommendation of its Planning Services Committee, the
quality of the school’s design was given formal recognition by Merton
Borough Council in 1993 and the building, now known as the Liberty
Primary School, is included in the Council’s local list of buildings of
historical or architectural importance.

Western Road, looking north-west from Fair Green,
with the gasworks in the distance – postcard c.1910,
reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library & Heritage Service


The former Zion Chapel, Western Road, built around 1818-19 and deconsecrated 1932, photographed June 1975 (ENM)

Chapter 9


Until it was demolished in the late 1980s the first building
of note on
leaving the Upper Green in a westerly direction was the former Zion
Chapel, standing on the southern side of the road between Raleigh
Gardens and Love Lane. In April 1816 a small Nonconformist meeting
room had been opened by the Revd Rowland Hill in Bennett’s Yard,
just to the south of the Cricket Green. Such was the religious climate
of the time, and the spirit engendered by Thomas Pratt, one of the
founding members of the congregation, that this meeting
room very
soon proved inadequate, and a chapel to seat 300 people was planned,
with provision for a further 200 in a gallery to be installed at a later
date. As it was anticipated that the congregation would be composed
largely of the ‘laborous poor’, a public appeal for funds was launched.1
money for the new building was Thomas Pratt, a working silk-weaver
who has been described as a “man of rare character”.2 A”pleasant and
ample site”3 was soon found, overlooking the herb gardens which lay
either side of the lane leading to Merton.4

It was Pratt himself who laid the foundation stoneon 9 September 1818,5
and when completed the chapel was in the height of simplegood taste,
classically symmetrical in its conception and yet essentially English in
its execution. The gable end facing Western Road, with its deep eaves
soffit and string course forming a pediment spanning the whole front
elevation of the building, the low-pitched slated roof, and the recessed
semi-circular headed panels in which the first floor windows were set,
were all features very much in favour at the time, and which can still be
seen in a few contemporary buildings surviving elsewhere in Mitcham.6

With rejoicing and thanksgiving Zion Chapel wasopened for worship on
28 April 1819 by Rowland Hill, who preached at the morning’s service.
Achurch was formed of the communicants on 7 December 1820 by the
Revd G. Hackett of South Audley Street, and in a minute book of 1821,
in which “the sentiments of the society” were set out, they described
themselves as “Calvinistics of the Independent
Congregation”.1 As
the century unfolded Zion Chapel at Mitcham became a well-known
place of worship in the South Metropolitan District.7Charles Spurgeon,


Benjamin Parsons, Rowland Hill and other famous Nonconformist
divines often preached there, and during the pastorship of the Revd
Thomas Kennerley8
practically all the leading Church of England
families in Mitcham, as well as people from as far away as Clapham
and Streatham, are said to have rented pews. This practice
was quite
common amongst local ‘aristocracy’of the time, who hoped thereby
to encourage their tenants and servants towards greater spirituality by
attending church themselves in the morning, and releasing their staff
to attend chapel in the afternoon. It was during Kennerley’s ministry
that the Revd Ingram Cobbin, MA, whose Bible commentaries were
then enjoying a wide readership, was a frequent and popular preacher
at Zion Chapel. Cobbin died in 1851,9
and it was in the burial ground
adjoining the chapel that he was laid to rest. It was also fitting that
when Thomas Pratt, who had been senior deacon for many years, died
in June 1854 at the age of 80, he too should find a resting place in the
grounds of the chapel for which he had laboured with such devotion.10

Sunday School was built adjacent to Zion Chapel in 1819, and by
1842 was proving inadequate for the number of children attending, and
had to be extended.11 Like the chapel itself, the Sunday School owed
much to the pioneering zeal of Pratt, an educational stalwart at a time
when self-help and the voluntary movement were the twin cornerstones
of the academic advancement of the working classes. Further
enlargement to the building was necessary by 1857, when it came to
be used by the British Day School, newly founded under the auspices
of the British and Foreign Schools Society. Here several generations
of Mitcham children received an elementary education, some also
benefiting from the ‘Pratt Trust’, established for the higher education
of children of all denominations, which perpetuated his memory well
into the 20th century.

When the religious census was conducted at the end of March 1851,
attendance at the morning service was 252, including 90 children from
the Sunday School. The Revd Kennerley felt obliged to add the comment
that the congregation was decidedly below average, “very heavy rain
just before divine service preventing the attendance of many. Also
many detained at home by influenza”. That evening the congregation
numbered 300.12


The decline in the local economy during the latter half of the 19th
century brought with it changes which had a seriously adverse effect
How far
this affected
the susceptibilities of the ‘respectable’
chapel-goer we cannot judge.
Certainly with the growing suburbanisation of the village as the end
of the century approached the centre of population shifted away from
Merton Lane and the western side of the Upper Green, and it has been
said that in its latter days, situated as it was on a by-road, the chapel
became almost unknown, except for a few of the older inhabitants.13
The deterioration in the surroundings and the decline in attendance at
Zion Chapel coincided with a new flurry of evangelical activity on the
part of the Church of England under the influence of the new vicar, the
Revd Daniel Wilson. Since the early 1860s open air services had been
conducted on the Greens during the summer months, attracting large
crowds. Great improvements were also made in the seating and general
attractiveness of the interior of the parish church in an effort to encourage
attendance by members of the working classes, who to the vicar’s distress
had hitherto largely absented themselves from the Sunday services, and
a mission hall was opened in Half Acre Row in 1876, near the Western
Road gasworks. The establishment of a Baptist Church on the eastern side
of the Upper Green in 1882, coupled with the novelty of new preachers,
must also have tended to draw members from the Zion congregation.
Whatever the causes, and there were probably many, it is clear that Zion
Chapel entered a very difficult period in the second half of the century.

According to the Revd Robert Richman, pastor of Zion Chapel from
1880 until 1917, the congregation had already decreased to 80 members
in 1856, and the numbers continued to diminish, totalling 50 in 1872 and
only 30 in 1880.1 Richman was an energetic Christian, and worked hard
for the survival of the chapel in the face of great financial difficulties.
As well as his pastorship of Zion Chapel, he was also a member of
the local school board and a parish councillor (he was chairman in
1912), and was greatly respected in the village.1 Contrasting with the
troubles of Zion Chapel, the British Day Schools flourished, providing
many Mitcham youngsters with their elementary, and often their only,
board school in Killick’s Lane (now St Mark’s Primary School in St


Mark’s Road) but the boys remained at the Western Road school until
the Killick’s Lane school was enlarged to take boys in 1896.

It is sad to relate that Robert Richman’s efforts to revitalise Zion Chapel
did not meet with great success, and the decline continued. Before
his death in 1931 plans were well advanced for the erection of a new
Congregational church in Lower Mitcham, far better placed to serve
the expanding township of Mitcham and, it has to be said, in a better
class neighbourhood. The new church was provided under the church
extension scheme of the London Congregational Union, and to release
funds to finance its building the old chapel was sold, and the remaining
members of the congregation made temporary use of the old Baptist chapel
in Clarendon Grove, off Upper Green East. The burial ground of Zion
had to be cleared before the site could be deconsecrated, and the mortal
remains of those for whom the chapel had meant so much were removed
for re-interment in the new municipal cemetery opposite Figges Marsh.14

Thirty years later, although serving a function remote from that for
which it was originally intended, its once yellow brickwork blackened
with years of atmospheric grime and with its fine windows guarded
against vandals by strong wire mesh, the essential structure of the old
chapelhad not suffered drasticalteration. Moreoften than nothidden by
packing cases or parked cars in the front yard, was the foundation stone,
laid in September 1818 with due solemnity and such confidence in the
future by Thomas Pratt. It was only the close observer who could see
the delicate struck pointing of the 18-inch walls and admire the finely
gauged arches to the window and door heads, veritable masterpieces of
the bricklayer’s art fashioned, one felt, by a local craftsman with no less
care than hismedieval counterparts would have given to some detail on
a great cathedral. Inside the building, if permission could be obtained
fromthemanagement, thevisitor found thegallery erected in 1839 still
intact at the northern end, supported on simple cast-iron pillars, but of
the original panelling and other internal features there was no sign. For
anumberofyears thebuildingwas occupiedbyLeyens CardboardBox
Co Ltd, andtwoassociatedfirms, GordonandGoochMarketingLtdand
Malex Ltd, paper merchants. Then, in the late 1960s, tenure changed
somewhat, Malex Ltd remaining, but the other two being replaced by
Machin Kingsley Ltd, display board makers.


Despite its obvious historical and architectural merit, Zion Chapel was
never afforded the recognition and protection that would have come from
official listing. Gradually becoming increasingly shabby and dilapidated,
building was standing vacant
in 1983,15 but
occupant, a firm specialising in the cleaning of machines, before being
quickly demolished a few years later by Magnet plc, the joinery and
timber merchants, who were the new owners. During site clearance in
May 1988 a large number of burials were found on the eastern side of the
chapel, and further work had to bedelayed whilstasearch was conducted
for surviving relatives. The remains were finally removed to the Streatham
Park Cemetery in Rowan Road, and reburied there. Aconcrete and glass
steel-framed warehouse and office block was completed on the site in
1990, but a recession in the building industry necessitated re-definition
of Magnet plc’s plans and in 1991 the new building, standing boarded
and vacant, was offered for sale freehold. It was later occupied by a
branch of Lidl. To the right of and adjoining Zion Chapel, the former
Sunday Schools building finished its life in the occupation of MEK Elek
Engineering Ltd, manufacturers of mechanical and electric meters. This
building disappeared at the same time as the chapel, and its site is now
covered by commercial buildings.

Gleam Machine works (former Zion Chapel), August 1984 (ENM)


Detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1894-6

Chapter 10


The original buildings of the Mitcham Gas Light and Coke Company’s
Merton Lane gasworks were erected in 1849 by James Stevens and
Company. The site chosen was on a corner of the old west field, bordered
on the south-east by Fieldgate Lane, and it was agreed at the first general
meeting of shareholders that, should the venture not prove a success,
the land should revert to lavender fields. The works cost £1,950, and
James Stevens was an initial shareholder in the new company, which
was formed on 25 June 1849.1 The first chairman was James Bridger
who, after the death of his father James Moore in 1851, became lord
of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth, head of the firm of Potter and
Moore, and one of the principal landowners in the parish. He retained
the chairmanship for 36 years.2

In the year following its formation the company expanded to become
the Mitcham and Merton Gas Light and Coke Company, and on 3 June
1852 the Mitcham, Merton and Tooting Gas Light and Coke Company
was formed to take over the Tooting mains of the old Phoenix Gas Co,
and to provide a further £5,000 capital. The auction of the Moore estate
in August 1853 presented the opportunity to secure land for future
expansion of the Merton Lane works.3 At this time the manager of the
works was George Vincent,4and James Stevens and Co are referred to
in the vestry minutes5 as being the occupiers of a dwelling house as well
as the buildings and works belonging to the company. This house, and
the original office buildings, were still standing until around 1972, when
they were demolished by the South Eastern Gas Board. Construction
was in yellow stock brick, with string courses and detailing picked out
in red, matching the boundary wall of the works. Roofs of the buildings
were covered with Welsh slates, and the stylish chimney pots, of the
then customary octagonal section, were of off-white earthenware.

The Wimbledon Gas Co was formed on 9 August 1852, and the works
built in Haydons Road were operational a year later. Amalgamation
with the Mitcham Company took place on 30 June 1864, the new
company being incorporated in 1867 under the title of the Mitcham
Gas Light
remained in existence
until 1912. By this time the company was serving 33,500 consumers
with 839.5 million cubic feet
(some 24 million cubic metres) of gas


annually. In the interests of greater efficiency and profitability further
amalgamation took place in this year, the local company merging with
the Wandsworth Gas Company to form the Wandsworth and District
Gas Company.

By 1934, when the Borough of Mitcham came into being, the
undertaking founded under the chairmanship of Bridger, with its one
small gas holder, had become one of the largest gas undertakings in
the south of England, serving 63,495 consumers with around 2400
million cubic feet (68 million cubic metres) of gas annually. One of
thedirectors was 84-year-old RobertMasters Chart, theCharter Mayor
of Mitcham, whose family firm, Chart Son and Reading, owned and
managed a considerable estate in Mitcham. Not surprisingly, it was in
their interests to encourage the use of town gas for domestic purposes,
and on at least one of their estates, in Clarendon Grove, houses were
power until
after the
World War II.

Nationalisation of thegas industry broughtgreatchanges, and eventually
production of gas by the destructive distillation of bituminous coal
ceased at the Mitcham works. As late as the 1940s, when the ‘coke
ovens’were still in operation, the dense pall of acrid yellowish smoke
emitted when the vertical retorts were charged with fresh coal was a
familiar sight. Discharge of the retorts was attended by great clouds of
billowing sulphurous steam as water was sprayed on the incandescent
coke to cool it before transportion to stacks to await collection. Despite
attempts to reduce nuisance to a minimum, dust and grime were liberally
deposited in the streets and on the houses around the works, whilst
the characteristic smells of gas liquor, tar and ammonia lingered in
the neighbourhood, and were largely accepted as inevitable, and even
believed to be beneficial to those with respiratory ailments! Once
production had been discontinued the pollution became a thing of the
past. Gas and coke production ceased in Mitcham in the early 1960s
due to the arrival of natural gas from the North Sea. The site was then
used by theSouth Eastern Gas Board as amajor basefor their southwest
London gas-fitting staff, and subsequently for office accommodation.
The Board’s successor, British Gas, ceased their use of the site in about
2000 and the buildings, except for the gasholders, were demolished.6

Chapter 11


By 1883 the Guardians of the Poor of the Holborn Union were
experiencing increasing difficulty in providing shelter for paupers.
This had resulted in overcrowding at their Gray’s Inn Road premises
and the boarding-out of poor and destitute at workhouses unconnected
with the Union. The Guardians thus decided that a new workhouse
should be erected on their recently purchased estate off Western Road at
Mitcham, capable of accommodating 1,000 inmates. The estimated cost
was £50,000, exclusive of the cost of fixtures, furniture, roadmaking,
construction of drainage, erection of fencing, and laying out the
grounds. Much of this work it was proposed should be accomplished
using pauper labour.

The decision of the Guardians was brought about by pressure from the
Local Government Board, who had threatened to withdraw the large
benefits derivedbytheGuardians fromtheMetropolitanCommonPoor
Fund if they did not make better provision for the poor in their charge.
Thearchitects selectedby theGuardians forthedesignandsupervision
of the building were H Saxon Snell and Sons, a firm with an extensive
practice in parochial Poor Law buildings in the second half of the 19th
century, and tenders were invited from builders by notice in The Times
on 1 October 1884. Of the eight tenders returned, that submitted by the
firm of Wall Brothers was the lowest, and they were duly appointed.
The foundation
stone was laid with due ceremony on 14 April 1885
by Benjamin Garrod, the chairman of the Board of Guardians, who
also performed
the opening rituals when the building was completed
in October 1886.

In the issue of The Builder dated 23 October 1886 the new buildings
described in some
detail. Since copies are
no longer readily
accessible, reproduction in extenso seems justified.

…the general arrangement of the buildingsis upon what is known
as the ‘block system’, each department being a detached
separate building, connected to the others only by open covered
ways. Many hospitals and infirmaries have been erected upon
this system of late years, but it is believed that this is the first
attempt to apply the principle in its entirety to a workhouse.

Holborn Union Workhouse, Mitcham,
from The Builder 23 October 1886
Holborn Union Workhouse, Mitcham,
from The Builder 23 October 1886


The establishment is approached from Merton-lane through
twogateways,–theoneforcarts,whichgives access toaroad
that encircles the whole of the various blocks of buildings,
and the other for foot passengers, who at once enter the
receiving-house, containing the porter’s office and residence,
andawaiting-room,alsoprobationarywards forthetemporary
accommodation, – pending their admission into the body of
the house, – of twelve inmates of each sex (twenty-four in
all). Bath-rooms and clothing-stores are also provided here,
together with arrangements for disinfecting and washing all
personal clothing, before being admitted into the house. In
the rear of this block is a dead-house and post-mortem room.
Passing through and out of this receiving-house, a covered
way is entered, which leads to the various blocks of buildings
situated on either side of it.

On the left are four three-storied buildings, each fitted for the
reception of 112 male pauper inmates (448 in all), and between
each of these blocks, one-storied buildings are provided for
useas workrooms,whilsttheinterveningspaces formenclosed

The central one-storied building is reserved for workshops,
such as wood-cutting, stone-breaking, and oakum-picking;
but this has not yet been erected, as it is uncertain, until the
establishment has been brought into use, what description of
labour will be most remunerative in this locality.

The covered corridor terminates at the furthest of the block
of buildings just described, but it is continued onwards by
a raised and paved pathway leading to the Infirmary, – an
entirely detached building, planned for the reception of thirty
inmates of each sex (sixty in all).

(Acovered pathway led away from the infirmary to a range of three
single-storey buildings for 112 female paupers identically planned
to the mens’, except that the central one-storey block was designed
for use by twelve married couples.)


The article in The Builder continued

Between this outer ring of buildings, and separated from them
by the encircling cart road, are five blocks of buildings. The one
facingMerton-lanecontains theprincipaloffices,viz.,theBoard
and committee room, the master’s and matron’s and the assistantmaster’s
and matron’s residences, and also the dispensary. In the
rear of this building is a recreation-ground, with tennis-lawn
for the use of the officers; and beyond it a block containing
dining-hall, kitchen and general store-room. Then a roadway
intervenes. and on the other side is a building containing the
laundry and washhouse, with coal stores, engineers’shops, and
furnace-rooms. At each angle of the rear portion of this building
is a bath-room for the use of officers. On the opposite side of the
roadway, running past the back of this building, there is a water-
tower, on the upper part of which is placed the tank through which
the whole of the water for the supply of the various buildings
passes. The basement story of this tower is fitted with two cells
for the temporary detention of refractory inmates. …

The receiving-house, officers’and day rooms, married couples’
quarters, and the front administrative offices are warmed by
means of open fires;
work-rooms by Musgrave’s slow
combustion stoves, and the
dormitories generally are
by means of hot-water pipes which run round the sides next
the floors. These pipes are all heated from the furnaces near
the engine-house, and these furnaces also provide steam for the
heating pipes in the dining-hall, which are carried across and
beneath the floor in an open trench covered with gratings; they
also traverse the two side walls above the floor line.

Works are
the manufacture of the gas required for the use of the new
workhouse, and also for the adjacent schools. The gas will not
only be used for lighting the buildings, but also for heating
laundry closets, the disinfecting chambers, and refractory cells.
It will also be required for the Otto gas engines of the laundry
and of the water-softening apparatus. The mains are, however,


as a matter of precaution, connected with those of the Local Gas

(The gasworks of the Holborn Union were situated in Mortimer Road,
behind the workhouse. They were converted to factory use after the
workhouse was closed down, and for many years, both before and after
World War II, were occupied by Benninga & Co Ltd, manufacturers
of margarine. The firm had its beginnings in Holland. In Mitcham
it employed over 100 people in what were considered to be model
working conditions. Jacob Benninga is understood to have been the
founding chairman of Mitcham Chamber of Commerce. Benninga’s
left Mitcham in 1965, and the premises were occupied either as works
or offices by a number of light industrial and commercial concerns.)

All the water for use in the building will be supplied from
an artesian well in the adjoining school grounds, but before
reaching the buildings it will be passed through a patent water-
softening apparatus now being erected by Messrs. Atkins &
Co. It is anticipated that by use of this apparatus a great saving
will be effected in the quantity of soap and soda used in the
establishment. The softened water will be pumped into a tank,
situated on the upper part of the tower in the rear of the laundry
block, and from thence it will descend by cast iron pipesfor the
supply of the variouscisternsin the lower partsof the buildings.

Specialist sub-contractors were employed for the wood-block flooring,
external paving, gas installations and the provision of sanitary
appliances, which were of the most modern design. This was the great
period of sanitary engineering, and particular attention was paid to the
design and construction of the soil and surface water drainage systems,
which were also the responsibility of sub-contractors.

One suspects that the Holborn Union workhouse, self-contained and
run by an authority having no connection with Mitcham, was largely
ignored by the ordinary residents of the town. For centuries being a
charge on the parish, or having to apply for relief, carried with it a
social stigma to be avoided at all costs. The dread of being sent to the
workhouse when one became old or infirm was a very real one, and
whereas thegrimbuildings oftheHolbornUnioncouldhardlybemissed


if one passed that way, they represented a harsher side of life that was
better not talked about. As
a result, local history records at Mitcham
have little to say about the life of the inmates. Tom Francis had one
slide of the late Victorian period, which he used in his popular ‘Old
Mitcham’lectures, showing able-bodied paupers hawking bundles of
firewood chopped and tied at the Holborn Union workhouse1, and Mr
Harris2 could recall the period just before the outbreak of war in 1914,
and “the Old People coming outfor their Sunday afternoon walk, about
2 o’clock it would be, men in grey suits and cloth caps, and ladies in
black dresses. They did most of the work in the Institution” he said,
“including a small farm down Bonds Lane as it was known then. There
was also a Casual Ward on the left of the main gate, and one would
see the tramps and down-and-outs around 6 o’clock p.m. waiting for
admittance for a night’s lodging. They would do a job of work in the
morning before leaving to pay for this.”

During the 1914-18 War the workhouse was pressed into service as
a military hospital. Tom Francis recalled acting “as lanternist” at the
lectures arranged to entertain the troops in the large dining hall, for
which he was gratified to receive a letter of thanks from the officer-in-
charge. Miss Higgs, writing in the St Mark’s parish magazine in 1980,3
remembered attending the concerts given at the military hospital on
Sundays by the gasworks band, and Mr Harris, reminiscing on those days
some 60 years later,2 described the “fun and games with those soldiers
and the locals. As you know,” he said, “the Institute was surrounded
by a high wall. I never knew whether it was to keep the inmates in, or
intruders out, any way it failed to keep the soldiers in who used to jump
over the wall and up to the Fountain orNag’s Head for a late drink”. In
1919, after the last of the soldiers had left, a memorial tablet was set in
the wall to the right of the main gate, and unveiled by Lady Worsfold of
Hall Place. The inscription read “Holborn Military Hospital, Mitcham
1916-1919. To the Glory of God and Sacred to the Memory of Those
who gave Their lives in the Great War”, and listed the names of 22 men
and one nursing sister who had died there. When what remained of the
former workhouse reception building was being removed by demolition
contractors in the late 1960s the memorial was salvaged by the writer,
and taken into safe keeping by Merton Historical Society.


In 1920 the buildings of the Holborn workhouse were used for a short
time to house refugees
from the Russian Revolution. Miss
remembered that this occurred during the last year of her schooling at
Upper Mitcham Girls School (now St Mark’s Primary School). “We
were informed by our Headmistress, Miss Beddoes,” she wrote in 1980,
“that a number of girls from Russia … would be coming to the school
and would we be kind to them
and talk to them. Well, they turned up

– all ages – but unfortunately many could not speak English, and so it
was rather hard going. They were of mixed parentage – English and
Russian –who had fled fromthe Bolsheviks after theRevolution. These
girls were only at the school a short time, and then went.” Mr Harris
also remembered the refugees at the workhouse, and looking at them
through the workhouse railings opposite the gasworks. “The children
playing, and the adults sittingon seats or walking about. The children
came to the Upper Mitcham Schools, but not all to St Mark’s, some of
the older boys came up to the boys’school at Three Kings Common. We
knew them as Russians, but they maintained they were English …they
used to attend quite a lot at the Salvation Army Hall, Gladstone Road,
and I attended as a boy one or two of these meetings out of curiousity,
I being about 12 at the time. The lady that ran these meetings was a
Salvationist who could speak both English and Russian fluently, and
some of the refugees could speak English but not many …”
With the passing of the Local Government Act of 1929 the Poor Law
administration was radically altered, and the duties of the former Boards
of Guardians were transferredto the Public Assistance Committees of
the County Councils. The Holborn Union Workhouse became redundant,
and was ultimately let out as factory units for light industry. Mitcham
was heavily bombed during the
raids of
World War
and the
workhouse buildings did not escape damage. In one incident a block to
the rear of the estate overlooking Bond Road was hit by high explosive
and had to be demolished, whilst other buildings suffered from blast
and incendiaries.

Post-war, as the James Estate,the Holborn Union workhouse provided
accommodation for an ever-changing medley of firms, producing
articles as diverse as records and recording apparatus, reinforced
plastics, brass castings, paints, varnishes and packing cases. Visually


‘Dining-Hall, Holborn Union Workhouse, Mitcham’,
from The Builder 23 October 1886


the premises were an unsightly mess, which a serious fire in 1969 at
the Menin Works did nothing to improve. By this time most of the old
institutional buildings were in a dilapidated condition, their once yellow
and red external brickwork blackened with years of grime, and the
former grounds a clutter of notice boards and direction signs, vehicles,
crates and boxes. In their original form some of the buildings had been
suitable for industrial use, but there was constant alteration, demolition
and rebuilding to meet the needs of firms needing more space, or of
new occupiers. Typically, in 1977, application was received by the
Borough Planning Officer from Pye Records Ltd. for outline consent
to demolish several buildings, including the former dining room and
kitchen block of the workhouse, and to erect a new warehouse building
with ancillary office accommodation.4
The old dining room had been
intended to serve as a ‘temporary’
chapel (a permanent chapel was
never built), and consisted of a nave and two aisles of six bays, with
a chancel recess at the east end. The walls were of yellow brick with
plain lancet windows, and additional light was given by a clerestory of
two standard window units per bay. Timber columns and arches, and
a hammer-beam roof with iron tie bars heightened the ‘ecclesiastical’
impression. Although the building was of some historic interest, it had
no architecturalpretentions,and in theopinion of theHistoricBuildings
Division of the Greater London Council did not merit official listing.
As the threatened building was already being used as a warehouse,
a purpose for which it was well suited, the hope was expressed that
it might be found possible for it to be retained within the proposed
redevelopment of the site. Any prospect of saving it disappeared when
it was gutted by fire in June 1977.

Today, apart from sections of the boundary walling, virtually nothing
of the old workhouse complex remains visible above ground, the site
having been cleared and substantially redeveloped in the 1980s. The
Western Road frontage is now (2013) occupied by an ASDAsuperstore
and its adjoining car park, whilst land at the rear is either covered by
warehouses or retail/commercial units.


Detail from the 25-inch OS map of 1911
Western Road

Chapter 12


We now turn our attention towards the far western end of the former
Merton Lane where, at the intersection with Church Road, we arrive
at what was once Jacob’s Green, on the boundary between the ancient
parishes of Mitcham and Merton.

The land fronting the northern side of the lane between what became
Kings Collegesports groundandthePrince of Wales,and now occupied
by a group of unconnected factory estate developments of the 1980s,
has passed through a sequence of change which parallels much of the
general history of this part of Mitcham. The land once lay at the corner
of the ‘Hay Furlongs’, and may have been part of the common meadow
which, as we have seen, until the 1980s survived as open space by
becoming incorporated in the King’s College sports ground. There was
no Parliamentary enclosure of the common lands in Mitcham, but by
theend of the 18th century piecemealengrossment and gradual fencing
of the medieval strips, either with the formal consent of the lord of the
manor or the tacit agreement of the commoners, had been taking place
for a very long time.

Whatever its early history, by the 1830s this particular parcel of land
was the freehold property of James Moore who, in 1838, leased it for a
term of 62 years to William Harland, a varnish and colour manufacturer
with a works nearby at Phipps Bridge and other premises in London.1
References to the Mitcham property at the time the Moore estate was
sold in 1853 imply that since 1838, when it was sub-let by Harland, it
had not been entirely vacant land, and already had some “cottages and
gardens” on it. These seem likely to have been the two small cottages,
single storey structures of brick with slated roofs, which are shown on
the tithe map of 1846,2 and which survived until the 1970s. Harland
his varnish
works at
Phipps Bridge
prior to leasing the Merton Lane land from Moore,3 and by the end
of the century the firm of William Harland and Sons was enjoying an
international reputation for the excellence of its paints and varnishes.

Harland does not seem to have put the land in Merton Lane to any
industrial use himself, and by the mid-1840s it had been divided into
three plots, the easternmost of which, “a cottage and garden now varnish


factory”, was occupied by Charles Turner, and another by RobertMears,
a brickmaker.4
Turner vacated his portion shortly afterwards to start
a new works at Phipps Bridge, and his premises were taken over by
WilliamLatham, another varnish maker.5 Latham’s enterprise flourished,
and by 1898, when the property was being offered for sale by auction,
the varnish manufacturing firm he had founded nearly half a century
before was still there, having become William Latham & Co Ltd.1 An
old varnish house, its distinctive chimneys topped with rotating cowls,
was still standing intact in the mid 1960s, when it was used for storage.
This interesting and unique survival from the early days of the paint and
varnish industry in Mitcham was regrettably demolished in the 1970s.
In the 1890s there was also a ‘Wax Vesta Factory’on the site,6and the
building, but not the match factory itself, survived until the 1990s. By
the late 1960s Latham and Co had gone, and the premises were occupied
by a group of light industrial concerns.

James Moore died in 1851, and his estate was auctioned
in August
1853. The sale particulars included Lot 43, “Varnish Manufactory and

Cottage in Merton Lane, occupied in the 1850s by Robert Mears,
brickmaker (ENM c.1970)


William Latham & Co’s varnish house in 1965 (ENM)


Sheds … cottages, gardens and brickfield” which at that time were
Mr William
Mears and Mr
and Lots 44 and 45 (two houses and the Prince of Wales public house)
leased to William Harland Esq. The right-hand house of the pair (they
were semi-detached) was described by Drewett as having “in the front
garden a well and a basin” in the 1860s.7
The well is marked on the
Ordnance map of 1894-6, and it is said to have been supplied by a
natural mineral water spring up to about 1870, which inspired the name
‘Fountain Cottage’by which the house – No. 332 Western Road – was
then known.8
According to Drewett a copper beech tree was planted
to commemorate the spring after it had failed. Until the widespread
sinking of deep wells throughout the capital9had reduced the pressure of
water in the aquifer beneath the London basin, such springs were quite
common in the Mitcham area. With the Western Ditch and what was
known as ‘The Pickle Ditch’meeting at Jacob’s Green, the water table
at this end of Merton Lane would also have been high, and the map of
1894-6 shows the pits left by Mears to have become filled with water
to form three sizeable ponds close by the walls of the match factory.

Fountain Cottage and the adjoining house, slate-roofed and built of a
dark brick, probably from another local works, were typical ‘two up
and two down with back addition’
dwellings of the early Victorian
period. They survived, occupied, until the 1970s, but have since been
demolished and the
site, numbered 310 Western Road, is currently
unoccupied. Of the Prince of Wales next door little can be said, except
that it closed in about 2005 and was re-opened under the name ‘Pepi’s
Bar and Restaurant’. The old house, which can be seen in a photograph
taken late in the 19th century, could have been of 18th-century date,
but this must have been pulleddown early in the 20th century to make
way for the present building.

Chapter 13


Although the pace greatly accelerated in the 1970s and ’80s, changes
in the appearance of Western Road, usually for the worse, have been
continuous over the last 100 years. The choice of any particular year
as a background against which to bring together the few remaining
disparate notes of interest is, of course, arbitrary, but 1965, when
the old Borough ceased to exist, and Mitcham was absorbed into the
new London Borough of Merton, has a certain historical justification.
Furthermore, a directory of commercial undertakings operating in this
part of the Borough was compiled by the writer in 1965, and is a useful
source of data.

‘Swing’s Yard’, one of the last of Mitcham’s caravan yards, could be
found on the southern side of Western Road, just beyond Love Lane,
and behind it was a scrap yard. Acorner shop and other buildings are
shown here on the Ordnance Survey map of 1894-6 and can be seen
in a postcard of some ten years later, but by 1965 these had long gone,
and the site was enclosed by corrugated iron sheeting and advertisement
hoardings. A
few caravans, one at least being of the brightly painted
‘traditional’gypsy type, a row of stables and an assortment of small
carts were visible from the gates, but the yard always seemed very
quiet, at least during the day, with little or no signs of activity. Now
no longer a caravan yard, the site is still undeveloped. On the corner
of Love lane there is a small covered yard used by a firm selling and
fitting motor tyres and next door, on the site of Swing’s Yard, there is
a taxicab repair and servicing yard.

Adjoining Swing’s Yard was
No. 37–39 Western Road, the ‘Raven
Spring Works’
or, as they were shown on a map of 1846, ‘Mitcham
Seltza Spa’.1 High in the gable end abutting the road, blackened with
years of grime from the nearby gasworks, a stone tablet could be seen
inscribed “Established 1877”. There was another building
here in the
1840s,2 described as a ‘cotton print works’on the Ordnance Survey map
of 1866/7. Manufacture must have ceased shortly after the survey for
the map was completed, for there is no further reference to the printing
works, which were no doubt a casualty of the general demise of the
local textile-finishing industry.


In Morden Road, Lower Mitcham, close by the
Surrey Arms public
house, a well (the ‘Raven Spring’) had been sunk in the early 1870s
by Robert Ellis
and a small mineral water works established nearby.
His son had a similar well sunk in Western Road, which he called the
‘Ravenspring Well’. This also exploited a natural artesian spring, and
reached a depth of 233 feet below ground level, penetrating through
16 feet of chalk-with-flints and a further 84 feet into the chalk. Local
people remembered years afterwards how, as children, they had been
intrigued by the workmen’s reports that they were finding shells deep
in the boring.3 The exact datethe well was sunk is not known, but it is
recorded that in 1875 the pressure was such that the water still came
naturally to the surface. Ellis’s business was taken over by the Chemists’
Aerated Mineral Water Association Ltd and in 1896, when the bore
was deepened by Iles and Company, it is recorded that water was then
standing at 19 feet below ground surface level and the well was capable
of delivering 1,000 gallons per hour.4

Horse-drawn floats decorated by the ‘CAMWAL’works were a popular
feature of village processions in the coronation celebrations in 1901
and 1911, and the huge bottle
which formed the central feature of one

Parade with ‘Camwal’ horse and cart, 1901, reproduced by courtesy of
Merton Library & Heritage Service


of their displays can be seen in several contemporary photographs.
The firm, like many similar manufacturies which had grown to met
the demand for non-alcoholic beverages stimulated by the vociferous
of the late
19th century, certainly flourished
until the outbreak of war in 1914. It also benefitted from the widespread
belief that mineral waters were safer to drink than water from the mains
or domestic wells, due to a weak bactericidal effect of carbon dioxide.
The later history of the company, and the date of its departure from
Mitcham, have yet to be ascertained.

When the writer visited the premises in October 1966 they were
occupied by the Mitcham Plating Company Ltd. Several old employees
could recall the days when the factory had been run by CAMWAL, and
pointed to acorneroftheyard totheright-handsideofthefrontentrance
gates, where the
wellhead still existed
under the paving. The
general belief was
that it had then been
disused for at least 30
years. Other points
of minor interest,
attention was drawn,
were the massive
kingpost trusses
supporting the roof
of the main building,
and the blue brick setts
with which many of
workrooms were
still paved. (The old
Spring Works
the 1980s, and a small

block of offices was

Raven Spring Works, 37–39 Western Road,

erected on the site).

May 1977 (ENM)


The Gladstone House off-licence, No. 47 Western Road, was the
commercial half of what was once a pair of semi-detached houses at
the corner of Fieldgate Lane. The owners in 1965 were the brewers
Mann, Crossman and Paulin Ltd. When interviewed in the mid-’60s
the occupiers had no knowledge of the history of the building which,
it would appear, had been erected some time before the tithe survey of
18465 in a style echoing the vernacular of the previous century. The two
properties had long since been knocked into one, the left hand portion
(No. 45) providing the living accommodation for the tenant and his
family. They are now (2013) premises of Alltype Roofing Supplies.
To the rear of the off-licence, fronting Fieldgate Lane, there had been
a mission room and a group of workers’cottages known as Half Acre
Row. The mission was opened in 1876 by the Church of England, but
the date
of the cottages is not known, although one can be reasonably
sure they were there before the 1830s.6

Emma Bartley, one of the daughters of a local doctor, recalled in her
Mitcham In Days Gone By, published in 1909, that

There was a gate across the Merton Road near Half Acre Row,
called the Field Gate …An old cottage in Half Acre Row, very
much out of repair, was occupied by a very poor woman who
was allowed to live on the lower floor at sixpence a week rent,
on condition that she should not go upstairs, as the two upper
stories were not considered safe!7

Miss Bartley was writing of the Mitcham of her childhood around
1850. At some time in the ensuing 30 years the ramshackle cottage she
remembered seems to have been demolished and three new dwellings
built. These were apparently in the same ownership as the Fountain
beer house on the northern side of Western Road, for as “three brick-
built cottages and ground” they were offered for sale by auction with
the Fountain in 1887.8Cottages and mission room had all gone by the
1960s, and the site was used by totters as a rubbish dump.

It was on the other side of the gasworks, at the corner of Fountain Place
(now Portland Road) and whatwas then stillknown as Merton Lane, that
on 14 October 1886 a very different sort of mission was established. In


his reportoftheproceedings,publishedinCommonweal,Frank(Franz)
Kitz, an active
member of the Socialist League who had worked for
some time for William Morris at Merton Abbey, wrote

Our Mitcham club room was a dilapidated ruinous shed, which by
purely voluntary efforts on the part of our Mitcham and Merton
comrades, has been transferred into a comfortable club room.9

In a letter dated 18 February 1887 William Morris told a friend

Tomorrow I lecture to our Mitcham Branch, a creation of Kitz; a
rather rough lot of honest poor people; I shall have to be as familiar
and un-literary as I can be or they won’t understand me …10

and recorded the event in his diary on 23 February 1887:

I went to Mitcham (the branch) on Sunday evening
and spoke
extemporary to them at their club-room, a tumble-down shed
opposite the grand new workhouse built by the Holborn Union;
amongst the woeful hovels that make up the worse (and newer)
part of Mitcham, which was once a pretty place with its old
street and greens and lavender fields. Except a German from
Wimbledon (who was in the chair) and two others who looked
like artisans of the painter or small builder type, the audience was
all made up of labourers and their wives; they were very quiet
and attentive except one man who was courageous from liquor,
and interrupted sympathetically:
but I doubt
if most of them
understood anything I said; though some few of them showed that
they did by applauding the points. I wonder sometimes if people
willremember in times to cometo whatdepth of degradation the
ordinary English workman hasbeen reduced; I felt very downcast
amongst these poor people in their poor hutch whose opening I
attended some three months back (and they were rather proud
of it). There were but about 25 present: yet I felt as if I might be
doing some good there. (The branch is making way amongst a
most wretched population!)11

League, was reported in Commonweal:


In the evening in our club-room, comrade Morris lectured to a
very largeaudienceon ‘Monopoly’, andmetwith an enthusiastic
reception. Eden, Harrison, Gregory and others took part in the
discussion. We closed as usual with singing. Four new members

Beyond the gasworks, and north of Lewis Road, the land between
Western Road and Church Road was open meadow until the 1914/18
war. It was here that another of Mitcham’s paint factories was built
following acquisition of asite by Hadfields. Hitherto a family business,
founded by the
Hadfield of Merton Park, it
had been
established at Phipps Bridge in 1892 in premises formerly occupied as
a varnish works by Paul Addington. Ownership passed into the hands
of the founder’s sons George Hugh and Samuel Rogers Hadfield, and
the company was registered as Hadfields (Merton) Ltd in 1917 after
purchase of the new site.12 In 1969 the paint interests of the company
were sold to the Slough-based Bestobell organisation, and the latter’s
subsidiary Carson-Paripan transferred to Hadfield’s Western Road site.
Further reorganisation was to follow and within a few years the land
was sold and redeveloped for housing and Lowry Crescent and Gilpin
Close now cover the site. Hadfields’name and their familiar fox logo
have survived, however, and are used by the Kalon Group plc, Europe’s
second largest paint manufacturer, who are based in Wakefield, West

The northern side of Western Road from the Upper Green westwards
was, until cleared in 1972-3 prior to redevelopment of the Sadler Close
housing site, lined with nondescript shops, small houses and cottages
dating from the latter half of the 19th century. Construction of these
properties was of the usual London stocks, and above the slopes of their
slated roofs most had the characteristic party wall extensions which
came into vogue in the outer suburbs around the 1870s. Auseful means
of dating, this feature had been made obligatory as a fire precaution by
legislation governing building within the metropolis.

Nos. 8–14, a terrace of four three-storeyed shops with living
accommodation above, dated from about the mid-1860s. Built of
brick with slated roofs, they had their front elevations carried to above


eaves level to terminate in a parapet wall running along the length of
the block – an echo of the style first seen locally in the 18th century.
Being closest to the Upper Green the shops, which in 1965 comprised a
butcher’s, a grocery and provision merchant’s shop, and a tobacconistcum-
newsagent’s, seemed reasonably busy. The next block, Nos. 16–22,
were of perhaps a little later date, and were similarly in part-commercial,
part-domestic occupation, and separated by a narrow passage from the
somewhat unprepossessing Bungalow Cafe. Beadle’s Yard, covering
the sites of Nos. 26 and 28 Western Road, was a scrap rag and metal
yard, with several caravans. The next pair of cottages, Nos. 30 and 32,
were again post-1870, and slightly larger than those either
side. They
retained their front ‘gardens’, but the tenants had long since given up
any serious attempt at maintenance. Another late 19th-century terrace of
four, Nos. 34–40 Western Road, washalf rendered on the front elevation.
Originally these properties, like most of the cottages, had very small
front gardens, but in this group two, numbered 38 and 40, had had their
ground floor converted into shops. Neither of them (one was a secondhand
clothes dealer and the other Wisbey’s the greengrocer’s) looked
very prosperous. Holly Cottages, numbered 42–46, were readily dated
from a stone plaque on the front wall inscribed with the initials, “T.B.”,
and “1849”, and had replaced a “cottage, garden and shed”shown on the
tithe map two years earlier. Who “T.B.” was has not been ascertained,
but he was, presumably, the owner who might also have been a local
builder cashing in on the steadily expanding demand for small houses
to rent. No. 46 had either been constructed as, or converted into, a
corner shop, and in the 1960s, as a tobacconist and confectioner’s run
by Phoebe Maidment (who also held a milk retailer’s licence), was still
managing to remain viable.

On the opposite corner of Fountain Road, which here met Western Road,
the Fountain,aCharringtonpub,was occupiedbyatenantcalledBrown.
Presumably the name of the house and the road had been inspired by
the artesian well at the Raven Spring Works opposite. Despite the
efforts of the Temperance Movement to wean the ‘working classes’
away from alcohol, public houses and off-licences had proliferated
all over Mitcham in the latter half of the 19th century, and there was
a noticeable concentration to the north and west of the Upper Green.


Normally a public house, a cornerstone of the local community, seems
to survive a clearance scheme, but the Fountain, which, with its
brown-tiled exterior walls and its ‘spit and sawdust’interior, retained
its authentic Victorian image,was an exception and disappeared in the
Quadrant redevelopment. Bass Charrington evicted the tenant in 1973,
replacing him with a manager, but the old pub had not long to remain,
and ‘last orders’were called in July 1975. The name survives, however,
in Fountain House, a block of new dwellings on the Quadrant Estate
(now Sadler Close), which received its first tenants the following spring
(see photograph on page 132).

Beyond theFountain in the 1960s there were Nos. 52–56 Western Road,
three pre-1866 stucco and pantile-roofed cottagesabutting directly onto
the pavement, and then yet another yard – Weston’s Yard – occupied
by a car breaker and scrap metal merchant. No. 64 adjoining was the
Alma Cafe, no more attractive outside than The Bungalow, but clearly
meeting a local need. Numbers 66 and 68, a pair of properties built
speculatively in the late 1890s and intended to form part of a terrace
which was never completed, were two rather run-down shops, one
selling electrical goods, and the other, Elliott’s, a butcher’s. The next
and final terrace on this side of the road before one reachedthe former
Holborn workhouse comprised five small early 20th-century terrace
houses, only one of which remained occupied in 1965.

it to the north, the whole of this part of Western Road, shabby and
dilapidated in the 1960s but not yet officially condemned by the Council,
formed adistinctcommunitywithits roots intheprevious century.Many
of the families were inter-related, and there was more than a smattering
of Romany blood amongst them. Their standard of living might have
been poor, and their means of livelihood uncertain and sometimes of
dubious legality, but they had come through two World Wars retaining an
identity which would undoubtedly have survived had the neighbourhood
not succumbed to the need for demolition and clearance as part of the
redevelopment of Mitcham’s Town Centre envisaged in the 1970s.


The Waldenses (later also known as the Vaudois) were members of an
evangelical sect which arose in the south of France in about 1170 and
was vigorously persecuted as heretical by the Church of Rome. Their
doctrines were not suppressed, however, and eventually passed on to
Wycliffe and Huss, and through these leaders produced the Reformation
in England and Germany.

In 1170 Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyon, was moved by religious
conviction to sell all his goods and to give the proceeds to the poor.
Teaching a life of poverty and simplicity his followers, the Waldenses
(or ‘poor men of Lyons’), were debarred from preaching by Pope
Alexander III (1159-1181), and in 1184 Waldo was excommunicated
by Pope Lucius III (1181-1185).

Despite attempts at suppression, the sect persisted. Frequently, as in
1545 and 1655, the Waldenses were subjected to great barbarity at the
hands of the French king and the pope, and thousands were massacred.
The repeal of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 led to attempts at the complete
extermination of the Waldenses in France, but ultimately the survivors
were allowed to withdraw to Geneva. Much sympathy was roused in
England for the plight of these people, and during the 18th century
they were partially maintained by a subsidy granted in the reign of
Queen Anne. Even at the end of the 18th century the Waldenses were
not allowed to hold real estate, nor to have doctors of their own faith.

With increasing religious tolerance in France following the Revolution,
the Waldenses began to prosper. Considerable aid was given by British
benefactors in the early 19th century, and as many as 120 schools were
established in Piedmontand Savoy. Political and religious equality was
finally granted to the Waldenses in 1848.

Chambers Encyclopedia Vol.14 (1966) pp. 378/9

Encyclopedia Britannica Vol.23 (1966) pp.287/9




(Memoriae Sacer)

PETRI WALDO de MITCHAM, in agro Suriensi Armigeri, — / ——
metatis erga Deum, in egenos largitate in amicos officiis in omnes /
benevolentia et morum comitate eximii. Ecclesiam Anglicanam tam /
scriptis quam vita insigniter ornavit. Ab omnibus, quibus notus, obiit. /
maxime reflectus, sexto ante Calendas Februarii, Anno Salutis Humanae
/ CHRISTI Merito restitutae, MDCCCIII, et Aetatis suae LXXI. /
Hanc Tabulam pignis affectus sui erga Maritum optimum charissimum
moerens / vidua

HANNA posuit

Memoria Justi est benedicta Prov. X. VII








Sacred to the memory of

PETER WALDO of Mitcham
in the County of Surrey Esquire, a man
outstanding in [?his life?] towards God, in charity towards the needy,
kindly to his friends, in generosity to all and in the courteousness of his
manners. He graced the Church of England in an outstanding fashion
both in his writings and in his life. He died especially bewailed by all
to whom he was known on the sixth day before the 1st February* in
the year of human salvation restored by the Merit of Christ, 1803 and
aged 71. This tablet, a pledge of her love towards the best and dearest
husband, his grieving widow HANNA erected.

The memory of a just man is blessed. Prov. X. VII

Under the same marble tablet now at length rests Hanna Waldo, daughter
of Thomas and Hanna Smith and wife of Peter Waldo who since she
considered the virtues of the best of husbands not only to be followed
in grief but to be set forth by imitation, she completed an outstanding
life of continual generosity with a most peaceful death.

A.D. 1842 Aged 100

* In classical Latin the date would be 27 January, the date inscribed
on the tomb slab.


Only a little over a century ago Mitcham was still predominantly an
agricultural community, with a significant proportion of its working
population either directly employed on the
land, or engaged in the
various supporting industries typical of a rural economy. It would seem
always to have been a sprawling village, and until the expansion of
the London suburbs beyond Tooting in the 1870s and ’80s, farms were
scattered throughout the parish, ranging in size from nearly 500 acres
down to mere smallholdings.

Some of the farmsteads, like that of New Barns on Commonside East,
and Rumbolds off Carshalton Road, both of which find mention in
records of the 17th century, lay a mile or more from the village centre.
We can only hazard a guess at the date they were first established, but
the associated field pattern suggests this might have been in the Tudor
period, when new land in the more outlying parts of the parish was
being brought into cultivation in response to the needs of an increasing
population or, as in the case of Rumbolds, the former South Field, was
being finally enclosed. Others, like Swains Farm near the northern tip
of Figges Marsh, and Pound Farm in London Road, seem from the
evidence to have existed in the early Middle Ages.

The earliest surviving reference to ‘New Barns Ground’is in a document
of 1619, but we may be reasonably sure the farmstead was already well
established by this time. The fields of New Barns farm, for the mostpart
square or rectangular in outline, survived into the 20th century before
being developed as housing estates. In plan they had the appearance
of typical ‘assarts’, or clearings created from the oak woodland which
once clothed the heavy clay lying between Mitcham Common and
Pollards Hill. The most we can say is that the farm dated from the late
15th or early 16th centuries. In contrast Swains Farm, on the northern
outskirts of the parish close by the boundary with Tooting, had a
claim to considerable antiquity. It may have derived its name from
Robert le Sweyn of Morden, whose name appears in the muniments
of WestminsterAbbey in 1296. On the other hand, it could have been
the property of an even earlierSwein, for until the death of Edward the
Confessor Tooting itself was held by Swein, possibly Swein of Essex,


a kinsman of the King. The name occurs in charters of Henry VII, spelt
Swynes or Swaynes, and survives today in Swains Lane.

Now, in the 21st century, when so much has been swept away in the
process of urbanisation and redevelopment, the basic
structure of
many of London’s former villages may be hard to discern. It is usually
possible, however, to identify the centre of the original settlement from
the position of the earliest parish church, or the focal point of the basic
road pattern. It is here that one should seek, and sometimes may still
find, the oldest farmhouses where, for the protection that came from
having neighbours close at hand, the founders of the village grouped
their dwellings around a green, or built them side by side along the
principal thoroughfare. As times became more settled and the population
increased, such villages often expanded in an early form of ribbon
development along the roads leading away from the centre of settlement.
With the aid of early Ordnance Survey maps one can demonstrate this
process taking place in the growth of Mitcham, and although none
survives today, it was in the vicinity of the two greens that in the last
century several medieval houses could still be found.

Reduced copy
of the 1847 Tithe
Map, annotated
to show location
of farms


(Taken from the leaflet produced by the London Borough

of Merton Recreation Department in 1991)

The new facilities were completed in April 1991 and opened under the
name of Lavender Park by the Mayor of Merton, Councillor Joe Abrams
OBE. Charlene Watford, the winner in a competition organised by
fields of her home district of Mitcham.

Until its change of use to sport in the early 1920s the land had been
pasture, and as late as the mid-19th century was still known as the
‘Hay Furlongs’. These once formed part of the old open West Field of
Mitcham–the so-called ‘Blacklands’–and had been kept as permanent
grazing. This type of communal farming – the land was in multiple
tenure – was of great antiquity, and the Hay Furlongs perpetuated a
system of land management which could well have dated back to the
early Middle Ages.

Recent archaeological work indicates settlement on, or close to, the site
as far back as 3000BC whilst fragments of pottery and worked flint point
to use of the land from c.1500BC into the late Bronze or Early Iron Age,
with signs that stock raising might have been of increasing importance.

sections of
Furlongs were auctioned as part of the estate of the late James Moore,
principal of Potter and Moore, growers of medicinal and aromatic herbs,
the story of the land moves on to 1920 when King’s College, London
raised £6000 for its purchase and a further £2200 for the laying out and
equiping of an Athletic Ground as a War Memorial to College members
who fell in the Great War.

Between 1925 and 1929 the War Memorial Trustees became involved
in a dispute with Mitcham UDC over an attempt by the Council to
have the Athletic Ground scheduled as an Open Space. After much
exchange of letters and a Public Inquiry the Inspector of the Ministry of
Health ruled in favour of the Trustees on condition that Mitcham UDC
be given an opportunity to purchase should they wish to sell the land.


long argument ensued when the Urban District Council attempted
(unsuccessfully) to have any such purchase price fixed at that time.

The Pavilion was opened by Viscount Ullswater on 8th October 1931,
the Centenary of King’s College. A
report at the time claimed that
the Pavilion encompassed ‘all the modern developments in pavilion
architecture, central heating, electric light, plunge bath, showers and
even an automatically regulated drinking fountain … the most finished
(pavilion) in London, probably the country.’

The Athletic Ground served its purpose well. College records reveal a
heavy programmeof sporting endeavour and socialevents butdifferent
excitements came during the Second World War. In 1944 it was flying
bombs; ‘one came down in the Athletic Ground at Mitcham and
practically wrecked the pavilion.’In 1945 it was the locals, the fence
having to be renewed due to ‘neighbours who had helped themselves
to considerable sections of it for firewood.’

In 1988 the Athletic Ground was acquired for residential development
by the consortium, Galliford Sears, Tilbury Homes, Thamesway Homes
and Bellway Homes Limited. As part of the overall development the
sports field
donated them to the London Borough of Merton. The weathervane,
the red lion with paw on Globe, an early emblem of King’s College,
has been retained and guards over community facilities unparalleled
in the Borough.

With thanks to:

Derek M Peer (Secretary, Lavender Residents and Tenants Association)

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F (Editor) Old Mitcham (1923)
Smith E, Clapham, a historical tour (1970)
Stockwell Stockwell AH, The Baptist Churches of Surrey (c.1909)
Surrey Record Society
SyAC Surrey Archaeological Collections
Mitcham Tithe
Apportionment 1846/7 – original
mapand register at SHC, photocopies at MLSC, published
by MHS as Local History Notes 22 (2002)
Valentine Valentine A, The British Establishment II (1970)
VCH Victoria County History of Surrey (1902-15)



Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926) p.9
Lock’s farm house was still standing in the 1920s.

MH&LSC: Plan produced by Blake and Carpenter for the sale on 9

May 1898

John F Renshaw & Co Ltd, Marzipan (1950)

SHC CC 28/11: Lock’s Lane to Greyhound Lane. Inquiry re repair,



1 Mitcham Mercury: Charter Day Souvenir 19 September 1934, p.21
No. 6 remained an estate agent’s office until the early 1990s.

Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926) p.10

MH&LSC RMC 421: Map cabinet. Plan and sale particulars produced

by Blake and Carpenter for the auction in June 1890
SHC 2/6/11: Plan of land produced to the General Court Baron and

Customary Court of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth 28.11.1858

Tithe Ref: 422-7

Lambeth Archives: Deed Ref 2922
1796. Lease of land near Figge’s Marsh (“ffigg’s or Pigg’s Marsh”)
from Ann Edser to Saml. Oxtoby

SHC 159 1/13: Gardeners’ Arms Deeds 1847-1902

SHC 2553/15: Terrier of estate of Andrew Feltham, 1827

Mitcham Mercury: Charter Day Souvenir 19 September 1934, p.15
The possibility has yet to be researched that Joseph Owen (1881-1943)
was the grandson of Mrs Charlotte Matilda Owen , née Cooper (18071877),
one of the illegimate daughters of James Moore, who married
Thomas Owen in 1829.

Stockwell pp.138/9

Post Office Directory 1845, and Mitcham Census 1851

Nairn and Pevsner (1971) p371. This is corrected in Cherrey and Pevsner

London 2: South (1983) p.443.

MH&LSC: Tom Francis lecture notes p.42 No. 98

Post Office Directories 1874 and 1878

MH&LSC: Tom Francis lecture notes p.19, and p.42 No. 98, and Library

Ref L2 (908.40) LP 983
MH&LSC RMC 420: Map cabinet. Plan and sale particulars

was the
in a
of five
generations of smiths andwheelwrights, who had started their smithy in Sibthorp Road in the
1840s, making and repairing market gardeners’ carts and wagons.
“The Village Smithy still stands” Advertiser c.1943
SHC 2553/19: Croydon Rural District Council – Widening of High
Street, Upper Mitcham for trams – 1905
SHC: Court rolls of the manor of Biggin and Tamworth
II (c.1789) p.17
Rocque J, Environs of London 1741-5. This map is not accurate to the
degree of detail needed to identify smaller properties.
SHC: Land Tax records, Mitcham
MH&LSC: Copies of local directories (Pigot etc) 1823-1855
Tithe Reference 80
MH&LSC: Tom Francis collection of local illustrations
Numerous licensees can be identified from local records, eg.
WilliamPuddick, recorded as a’licensed victualler’in the1851 Census,
Francis Foster (1862-1878)
Samuel R Bishop (1878-1890)
) from the Post Office
Henry AVickery (1890- )
) & Kelly’s Directories
Mrs Alice Vickery (1895- )
Frank C Whittle (1918 – )
) etc.
Information from Catherine Kavenor of English Heritage in a personal
communication in March 2002
Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926) p.9
Manning and Bray II (1809) p.496
Slater B, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1923) p.20
MH&LSC: Water colour by Yates in extra-illustrated copy of Brayley,
and photograph in local illustrations collection
SHC: Mitcham land tax records
In the census of 1841 his age was recorded as 59 years.
Census 1851
Greenwood p.186
MH&LSC: Revd Herbert Randolph’s Notebook 1837/9 (published by
MHS as Local History Notes 20)
MH&LSC: Mitcham vestry minutes


Slater B, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1923) p.24
One of the greenhouses bought by Mizens from its previous owners

and re-erected at Mitcham, is said to have had the distinction of being
Lorna Doone.
(Informationfrom the late Gerald AMorris, who was for many years an employee
of Mizen Brothers.)



Among others: -VCH IV (1912) pp.229-230

Small Tand Woodbridge C, Smaller Houses of the Wren and and Early
Georgian Periods (1928) p.49
Nairn and Pevsner pp.316-7

Price p.6

Third List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

Compiled Under Section 54 of the Town and Country Planning Act
TQ 2769. Serial No. 4/81. Date first listed: 7.5.54.

List of Antiquities in the Administrative County of Surrey (3rd Edition)
(1939) p.49

Nairn and Pevsner p.371

SHC: The Court Rolls of the Manor of Ravensbury

Lysons I (1792) p.351

The tithe
commutation register for 1846 for the parish of Mitcham
records Mrs Plumer Ward as the owner of the land on which Eagle
House stands.

Edwards II (c.1789) p.17

Lysons I (1792) p.354

Lysons Supplement (1811) p.47

LysonsIV (1796) p.600

Nairn and Pevsner p.49

Fernando Mendez,born in Portugal of Jewish parents,trained at Leiden

and graduated as a doctor of medicine at Montpellier in 1667. He was
one of the doctors attending Charles II in his last illness.
DNB XIII (1921-2) pp.247-8

This has to be discounted in the light of research at Oxford by Rhodof
Milnarich of El Paso, California, (pers. comm.). Fernando’s wife’s name was Isabel (Jewish name Rachel)née Marques. She died in May 1691,
14 years before Eagle House is believed to have been built.


According to Malcolm Brown, in a pers. comm. dated 18 March 1981,
written whilst researching for a lecture to the Anglo-Jewish Society,
“one family tree shows James (alias Jacob) Mendez’s father to have
married an Isabel Henriques”.

See also Brown M, Anglo-Jewish Society XXVIII (1984) p.22
W Bonwitt of Belvedere Drive SW19 in a pers.comm.in 1983 also warned
“The entry in the 1921-2 edition of the DNB is almost wholly wrong.

Correct material about Fernando Mendez and his wife can be found in
the Moccatta Library, University College, Gower Street. Ref B20 Men
is a pamphlet entitled ‘AComedy of Errors’by Harry Friedenwald; and an article by Lucien Wolff in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical
Society Vol. V
(1902-05); both contain the true story of Fernando Mendez’s life and circumstances.”

The firemark bearing the policy number 2672 could still be seen high
on the front of the house until it disappeared during the restoration
carried out in 1975/6.

The Dolliffe Family (1711 – 1722)

Melville L, South Sea Bubble (1921) pp.6 -7 and Le Neve, ‘Pedigrees
of Knights’ Harleian Society 8, p.513 (Both quoted by Price)

SHC: Court Rolls of the Manor of Biggin and Tamworth

SHC: Register of Marriages – Mitcham

James and Moses Mendez (1722 – 1756)

Malden H E, SyAC 39 (1929) p.97
Malcolm Brown of St John’s Wood Road, in a pers. comm. 18 March


MH&LSC: Mitcham Vestry Minutes January 18 1738

Brown M, Anglo Jewish Society XXVIII (1984) Note 15 p.36

RothC,Anglo-Jewish Letters (1938)pp.124-5.As probatewas granted19 January
has probably beenmiscopied.

25 DNB XIII (1921-2) 248. This gives 1739 as the year of James Mendez’sdeath, whereas his will, dated 26.12.1746, registered in PCC 20 Lisle,
was proved in January 1749 (NS).

LysonsIV (1796) p.356

Alumni Oxoniensis
See also David E, ‘Sir Francis Bond Head Bt. 1793-1875’in The Private
Library (Journal of the Library Association) pp.66-73

Sundry Occupiers (1756 – 1824)

SHC: Mitcham Poor Rate Books


In that year Bond insured his household effects with the Sun Office for
the sum of £1,000. The fire mark, bearing the policy number 237969,
was still affixed to the front of the house until restoration in 1975/6.

EdwardsII (1801) p.16

William Plumer (1736-1822) MP, the only surviving son of William
Plumer (1687-1767) MP. He was “a man of good character,” and “one
of the most opulent country gentlemen in the Kingdom”. A

and dutiful attender of Parliament, he was member for Lewes 1763-68,
Hertfordshire 1768-1807 and Higham Ferrers 1812-22.
Valentine p.708

SHC: Mitcham Land Tax records
The property was not reassessed for tax until 1828.

School Days (1824 – 1855)

SHC 320/2/1-2: Plans of Estates in the Manor of Ravensbury

I am indebted to Victor Lucas (‘Mark Langham’) the actor and writer,
who kindly drew my attention to this memory of Baron House Academy

in a personal communication in August 1997.

Census Returns. Mitcham, 1841

Census Returns. Mitcham, 1851, Book 46 p.2b

MH&LSC: Plan of Copyhold Estates of the late Mrs Plumer Ward,

offered for sale by auction 26.11.1846

38 Post Office Directory 1845
Census Returns. Mitcham, 1851

A Poor Law Institution (1855 – 1930)

The following references
39-49, inclusive, are from typescript notes
charge) at MH&LSC (filed at L2 (728) EAG). The original documents
are all at LMA.

Minutes of the Board of Guardians of St George the Martyr, Southwark.
Penfold was probably the Croydon lawyer who acted for several of the
Poor Law Unions.

Minutes, ibid. There is no trace of this plan.

Minutes, ibid.

Minutes, ibid.April 1870

Holborn Union Outgoing Letters: Letter to Poor Law Board, April 1870

Minutes of the Board of Guardians of St George’s 29 June 1870

Holborn Union Incoming
Letters: Letter from Poor Law Board. 26

September 1870


Minutes of the Board of Guardians of St Saviour’s, Southwark, 22 and
29 September 1870

Minutes of the Board of Guardians, St George’s 11 January 1871

London Borough of Merton. Title Deeds of Eagle House (seen in 1974)

Minutes of the London County Council, 14 October 1933

Eagle House in its new role (1930 – present)

In 1990 it was stated in the local press that the cost of restoration of
Eagle House was estimated to be between £179,000 and £200,000.

An Architectural Appraisal

Price p.36


SHC: Court Rolls of the Manor of Ravensbury
MH&LSC: Plan of the Copyhold Estates of the Late Mrs Plumer Ward
According to Tom Francis (see reference 5 below) the schools were

built in 1855, but Drewett believed it was the following year:
“The large school buildings then called ‘St George’s Schools’were builtin 1856”: Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’in Bidder (1926)


MH&LSC: Tom Francis lecture notes p.115, No 219

Ordnance Survey map 1894-6

Thestaff were reduced to 66 after transfer, according to the informationgiven to Francis by Mr E PSavage, Education Officer for theLCC (SeeRef 5 above).

994 L2 (628.1) LUC: MS. and typescript notes by”F.P.R.”, dated 3.3.1956, quoting from Lucas J, in Journal of Societyof Arts XXV
(1877) and Barrow and Wills Records of London Wells

Miss EHiggs of MitchaminOutlook (theparish magazineof StMark’s,
Mitcham) Nov 1980 Vol 15 No 2

Mr Harris of Wimbourne in Dorset, in Outlook Jan. 1981 Vol 15 No 5

Ms Ivy York, in Outlook 1978



Lewis S, A Topographical Dictionary of England (1840) III 287
He does not cite his source, and no other writer makes this claim.
Lewis is unfortunately incorrect in his information about several other
Mitcham houses.


2 VCH IV (1912) p.232
Brayley Vol III Pt III revised by Walford E (1848). Extra illustrated

edition, MH&LSC

Jones p.1

Garraway Rice R, ‘On the Parish Registers of SS. Peter and Paul,

Mitcham, Surrey (From AD 1565-1679)’in The Reliquary QuarterlyJournal and Review XX p.47

John Chessell Buckler (1793-1894)

Bax AF, ‘The Lay Subsidy Assessments for the County of Surrey in
1593 or 1594’ in SyAC XIX (1906)

Edwards II (1801) p.16

Bartley p.7

Both were in Lower Mitcham, one the residence of John Dent (and
subsequently of Dr Julius Caesar) and the other of Lady Margaret Blank.
See Montague E N and Turner WA, ‘The Residence of Sir Julius CaesarAdelmare in Mitcham’ in SyAC LXVII (1970) pp.85-94

MH&LSC: Local illustrations collection L2 (728) ELM 1891-92

The Waldos of Mitcham (c.1725 – 1804)

Smith p.23
Jessop p.3
SHC: Militia Tax Assessments – Mitcham
Jessop p.7. Also Gentleman’s Magazine 82, p.207 and Jones
The Dubois tomb lies in Mitcham churchyard close to the north wall

of the church. On the top (much damaged and eroded when examined
in May 1968) were inscribed the names of Charles Dubois, died 1740
aged 83, Waldo Dubois, died 1746 aged 47 and Ebenezer Dubois died
1747 aged 67.

Nearby is the limestone ‘altar’
tomb of Peter Waldo (died 1762 or
3 – inscription indistinct) and Mary Waldo (died 1773 aged 78 – also
indistinct). Beneath is inscribed “Better parents had no man”.

Within the church, in the floor in front of the chancel arch, is a ledger
stone inscribed “John Dubois died 21 June 1767, aged 73”.

MH&LSC: Mitcham Vestry Minutes

SHC: Land Tax Records – Mitcham

Commentary on the Liturgy of the Church of England (1772) (Several
editions, and abridged versions) and Lecture on the Liturgy of the Church
of England (Oxford 1821) (Both in the British Library)

SHC P40/8/1: Mitcham Sunday School Minutes I (1788-1794)

Surrey Archaeological Society library. By I D’Aquilar. PD/MIT/17

SHC: Mitcham Poor Rate Books


Several cases might be cited, such as that of William Pollard of Park
Place in 1787, of Mitcham churchwardens attempting to avoid paying
a proper contribution to the poor rate by failing to revalue their

The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle for the yearMDCCCIII Vol. LXXIII, Part the First 195. Peter Waldo’s tomb slab,
in the nave of the church of St Thomas at Worting, gives the date of
his death as 27 January.

Valentine p.791
SHC: Court Rolls of the Manor of Biggin and Tamworth 1804-1816
SHC 2553/13
Mrs Cranmer’s Journal. (Formerly in Mitcham Library, but mislaid by

1990). Transcript reproduced in Montague E N, The Cranmers, The
Canons and Park Place (2011).
MH&LSC: Rice R G, Unpublished MS. notes on the History of Mitchamp.376

The Polhills and Other Leaseholders (1804-c.1826)

Bartley E J, ‘Rural Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926) p.35
31 SHC 2553/13 & 14 and Mitcham Land Tax Books
Smith p.27
(1732-82) of Peckham
and Howbury
Hall, near

Bedford, the eldest son of William Polhill of Burwash, Sussex, had
been a leading London broker and tobacco merchant. Asupporter of
Wilkes and the anti-Catholic faction, he won election to the House of
Commons in 1774 as the member for Southwark. Valentine pp.709/10.

Edward Polhill of Morden would appear to have been Nathaniel’s son.
Jowett E M, Morden Park, Morden (1977) p.8, (revised 2002) p.20
Greenwood p.186

Weston eventually occupied Pound Farm.
SHC 2553/14: Estate of Hannah Waldo (late Peter Waldo)
Census 1841 and local directories
MH&LSC: Tom Francis’s lecture notes

School, Orphanage and Children’s Home – The Last Days of the
Elms (1826 – 1891)

Allibone’s Dictionary of Authors II (1898) p.1689
Gentleman’s Magazine June 1859 pp.596/7
Green’s South London Directory 1869 and Post Office Directory 1870
Stockwell pp.138/9


Ellis H, My Life (1940) 73.(Ellis’s mother subsequently
sent him to
Albert Grover’s ‘Poplars Academy’ overlooking Figges Marsh.)

Sydney Gedge (1829-1923) was a resident of note in Mitcham for some50 years. For a summary of his life, see The Advertiser 6 April 1923,
reporting Sydney Gedge’s death. (Copy of article in MH&LSC)

Salvaged by W
J Rudd of Merton Historical
Society during site watching, and now in Merton Historical Society’s store.


Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926) p.3
(c.1801). The map appears to have been drawn well before
the book was published.
CLSL: Ms. map dated 1839. (Seen in 1968, present whereaboutsuncertain)
Manning and Bray
III (1809) p.495
MH&LSC: Tom Francis’s lecture notes
MH&LSC, and CLSL: Collection of Sale Particulars
MH&LSC: Tom Francis lecture notes p.269
of London. Department
of Greater London Archaeology,
Housing Development at Former Kings College Sports Ground, WesternRoad, Mitcham. Preliminary Report on Archaeological Investigation

seems to

topographical writers in the 18th and 19th centuries, most of whom
felt obliged to comment. e.g:
“The soil consists principally of a rich black mould” –LysonsI (1792)

350 and Brayley IV (1841) p.86

Hoskins W G, Fieldwork in Local History (1967, rev. 1982) p.93

TQ 2673 6918. Excavated by Dennis Turner and members of Surrey

Archaeological Society and local societies. Report in preparation,
archive deposited with LAARC.

of London. Department
of Greater London Archaeology,

Preliminary Report on Archaeological Evaluation Work at Benedict
Road Primary School, Mitcham

Museum of London Archaeology Service, Deen City Farm Grazing

TQ 274 691. SyAC XXXIX (1931) p.146 and footnote 2, SyAC LVI
(1959) p.56. The pot is now in the British Museum. The discovery was
originally reported by Robert Garroway Rice and J Harwood in the
Croydon Advertiser in c.1883

Museum of London Archaeology Service, Dearn Gardens

The archaic term’lands’was obviously still familiar in the19th century,
and is used by Drewett.


‘Battesworth’– Pedes Finium, 225-9-30 19 Henry III
Gover et al, p.52
Of these cottages, Rose Cottage, in Love Lane, appears to be able to

lay claim to being the birthplace and family home of William Henry
Slater who, in the late 1850s, emigrated to Australia to found a new
Mitcham in the state of Victoria.

The 1851 census for Mitcham, Surrey, recorded William as the eldest
son of Daniel Slater (aged 44, described as a ‘Gardener’and head of
household) living at an address in Love Lane with his wife Elizabeth,
aged 38, and 9 of their 10 children:

18 described as a ‘Gardener’
15 ‘house servant’
13 ditto
12 ‘garden boy’
10 ‘at school’
7 ditto
5 ditto
4 mths

Daniel senior was described as having come from Blackfriars, London,

but his wife and the rest of the family were born in Mitcham.
‘Gardener’wasthe general term used for growersof physic herbs, eitheras smallholders, or workers on the major herb farms. The 1846 tithe
commutation survey shows Daniel Slater to have rented two plots of
land in the West Field, one of 1 rood 3 poles and the other, ‘Love Lane
Piece’, of 3 roods, 3 poles, totalling in all about an acre. His cottage wasalso in Love Lane, and the entry in the Census returns comes after the
lodge to Glebelands, which suggests it may have been the little early
Victorian house which is still standing in Love Lane, known as Rose

In 1851 Ann, the Slaters’
eldest girl, aged 20, was in service as ahousemaid
his wife
off Commonside East, Mitcham. John Dickenson’s occupation wasrecorded in 1851 as ‘Comptroller General of Customs’, which implies
the family was moderately well off.

William and Benjamin both worked for James Moore, probably the
best known of all Mitcham’s
herb growers. With little prospect ofdoing anything else, one can imagine how William took the momentousdecision to ‘better himself’by emigrating to Australia sometime in the
1850s. There, on the banks of the Koonung Creek a few miles out of
Melbourne, he set up on his own as a physic gardener, and became one
of the founding fathers of the township of Mitcham, now a district in
the City of Nunawading. With pride (or was it a droll sense of humour?)


he called the single-storeyed house with a corrugated iron roof inwhich he lived ‘Mitcham Grove’, inspired no doubt by the memory of
banker Henry Hoare’s grand house on the banks of the Wandle, back
home in Mitcham, Surrey. This was demolished in the mid 1840s, but
William must have known it well in his youth, probably having actuallywitnessed its destruction.

Brother Benjamin (whose ‘Memories of Mitcham’were published in
Bidder (1923)) stayed on in Mitcham, working in the herb gardens.
Towards the end of his life he was employed as a gardener to Mitcham’sfirst MP, Sir Cato Worsfold, at Hall Place, off Lower Green West.


MH&LSC: TomFrancis Scrapbook:Articleheaded ‘TheSurrey Pulpit’

– undated newspaper cutting
MH&LSC:TomFrancis Scrapbook:Cutting, headed ‘MitchamNotes’,
by ‘A Commoner’ (T Francis)
Pratt is described as a calico printer in the article referred to in reference1 above.

From an early history of the chapel. This, together with a collection of
account books, a baptismal register, etc – all valuable source material
for a detailed history of the chapel – are believed to have since been
deposited at SHC.

Tithe Ref 903: “Zion Chapel and Burial Grounds. 1 rood, 16 perches.
Tithe free”

Until the chapel was demolished the foundation stone could be seen,
at plinth level, at the eastern corner of the front elevation. It bore the
inscription: “Zion Chapel Sept. 9th 1818”.

If the simple proportions of the building derived from ancient Greece,
its architect
very properly eschewed the
paganelements embraced by many who were designing new churches in the
Regency period, for this was to be a house of Christian worship, and a
Nonconformist one at that. Not for him were the massive colonnaded
porticos andorderedcapitals ofthenew ‘classical’churches appearinginfashionable suburbs of London and the provinces –his only concessionsto decoration were the paired brackets visible under the eaves soffit
boarding, and the simple console brackets either side of the well-
proportioned casing to the double entrance doors giving access to the

austere interior. The building’s orientation was roughly north/south,
and the Communion table was at the southern end, facing the doors.
Local buildings which appear to be roughly contemporary are 17

Commonside East, the former Mitcham Station in London Road, and
WaterfallHouse, Colliers Wood. TheTown HallatStockbridge(Hants)
has close parallels, and bears the date 1812.

By the 1860s it was evidently considered ‘Congregational’, and ismarked as such on the Ordnance Survey map of 1867.

1851 Census: Revd Thomas Kennerley (aged 48) “IndependentDissenting Minister, Zion Chapel”, with his wife and servant, lived in
Lower Mitcham, a little south of the White Hart.
MH&LSC: Local Illustrations Collection
The caption to a photograph of the Revd Cobbin’s tombstone in Zion
burial ground (he died 10 March 1851, aged 73) states that, inspired
by Cobbin’s work, Kennerley was moved to write his biography, but
regrettably the work was never finished, and remained unpublished.
Cobbin used to stay with his brother-in-law, Thomas Finden thearchitect, of Baron House, Lower Mitcham.
Pratt left a small endowment for the day school, and for the pastor of
the chapel (See Ref 1). He died on 18 June1854, and his grave in the
Zion burial ground is illustrated in a photograph in Merton Heritage &
Local Studies Centre Local Illustrations collection.
11 VCH IV (1912) p.230
12 The 1851 Religious Census, Surrey SyRS XXXV (1997) pp.130-1
King T, ‘Free Churches of Mitcham’
Mitcham Mercury Charter Day
Souvenir (19 Sept 1934) p.2
Mitcham News 24 August 1979. Letter from H S Siviour
15 Merton Borough News 1 July 1983: “The balcony is visible, but the
building itself is gutted”. The building was at that time advertised to
SHC: Mitcham Gas Light and Coke Co minutes 1849-1912, 2119
‘The New Borough and its Gas Supply’in Mitcham Mercury Charter
Day Souvenir 19 Sept 1934, p 24
MH&LSC: Plan of the estate of the late James Moore. ‘Lot 34’
land at the rear of the gasworks.
Mitcham Census 1851
Mitcham Vestry Minutes, 29 October 1853
Information from Dr R A M Scott
MH&LSC: Tom Francis lecture notes, p.11, No 34
Mr Harris of Wimbourne
in Dorset, in Outlook (the parish magazine
of St Mark’s, Mitcham) Jan.1981 Vol 15 No 5
Miss E Higgs, Carew Road, Mitcham in Outlook Nov 1980 Vol 15 No
London Borough of Merton. Town and Country Planning Acts, 1971/74,
Outline Planning Application MER.494/77



MH&LSC: Sale particulars, 1898
Montague E N, ‘The History of William Harland and Son of Phipps
Bridge, and the Development of the Paint and Varnish Industry of

Mitcham’Surrey History Vol IV No 5 (1993) pp.287-307


SHC: Mitcham Land Tax records

Tithe Ref: 303

Mitcham Post Office Directory 1851

Ordnance Survey map of 1894-6 and Sale Particulars of 1898

Drewett J D, ‘Memories of Old Mitcham’ in Bidder (1926)

MH&LSC: Ms. and typescript notes by “F.P.R.” dated 3.3.1956 filed at

LP994 L2 (628.1) LUC quoting from Lucas J, in Journal of Society ofArts XXV(1877) and Barrow and Wills Record of London Wells (1913)

James Ferguson & Co Ltd, whose premises were just behind the old

brickworks, had an artesian bore still operating in the 1940s.
According to the local press, in 1973 Fergusons sold to Perstop AB of
Sweden, a firm making polyester materials.


MH&LSC: Plan of the Copyhold Estates of the late Mrs Plumer Ward
for sale by auction 26 November 1846. ‘Mitcham Seltza Spa’is shown
on property outside the actual estate of Mrs Ward.

Tithe Ref: 926

MH&LSC: Tom Francis’s lecture notes, p.76 No. 166

MH&LSC: MS. and typescript notes by “F.P.R.” dated 3.3.1956 filed

at LP994 L2 (628.1) LUC quoting from Lucas J, in Journal of Society ofArts XXV(1877) and Barrow and Wills Record of London Wells (1913).

Tithe Refs: 931 and 932

CLSL: They were shown in the Ms. map of proposed drainage scheme
dated 1839.

Bartley p.7

MH&LSC: Sale particulars RMC 418

Boos F (edit.), ‘William Morris’s Socialist Diary’
History Workshop
Issue 13 Spring 1982 p.247

Kelvin N (edit.), The Collected Letters of William Morris Vol. II Part
B 1885-1888 (1987)

Mackail J W, The Life of William Morris (1899)

SHC 2640, and information from Mr R S Hadfield, Samuel Rogers
Hadfield’s son, in 1971

John Hutchinson, Project Manager of Kalon, in a pers. comm., 1996


Quadrant estate, Western Road, July 1990 (ENM)

Site of Zion Chapel, July 1990 (ENM)