Small outline map

Industries Of The Wandle Valley

The River Wandle has been used to drive millwheels probably since the Romans were here and certainly from early Anglo-Saxon times. As the Domesday Book records.

The Wandle rises in Carshalton and in Waddon Park Croydon, it flows from there through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton,Merton and Wandsworth to join the Thames just north of Young's Brewery.

Although the river is quite short 19 Kilometres (11 miles) it falls 55 metres(126 ft) over its length, it is therefore, a fast flowing river. In earlier years there was much more water flowing along it, this made it very suitable as a source of water power.

Many mills have been built along its banks over the years as many as 90 mills have been recorded. Though probably not at the same time! In 1805 Malcolm described the river in his "Compendiam of Modern History" as " the hardest worked river for its size in the world"

Domesday Book

This book was compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror's clerks. It was a survey of all the land over which William now ruled. Manor by manor and village by village.

In the Domesday Book thirteen mills are recorded on the Wandle, this means that milling was taking place along the Wandle well before the Norman Conquest.


Aultone (Carshalton) Meretone (Merton) Church, mill Kings land Formerly Earl Harold Church 2 mills

Michelham(Mitcham) Mordone(Morden) 1/2 mill Westminster Abbey Mill

Wimbledon is not mentioned in the Domesday Book

Source of Power

Before the invention of steam engines watermills and windmills were the main source of power. The fast flowing R.Wandle was an obvious site for watermills. Not only could the river offer power but it was close to London and its important home and foreign markets. This made the Wandle Valley a very important Industrial area from about 1650 to after 1850.


Over the years the mills changed owners, some many times. Brick buildings replacing the wooden mills, in which there was always the risk of fire. The mills also changed their use over the years.


Huguenot was the name given to French Protestants. During the reign of Louis XIV the persecution of the Huguenots increased. In1685 Louis revoked the Treaty of Nantes.The treaty had given the Huguenots some religious freedom.

Protestants Flee

Many Protestants then felt they had little alternative but to leave France. They fled to the Protestant countries of Europe including England. Many of the refugees were skilled dyers and printers, leaving France without those skills for many years. Along the Wandle there were already mills engaged in printing and dying. The Huguenots settled around Wandsworth and Mitcham and brought their superior skills to these industries. In particular they improved the red dye, which became known as Wandsworth scarlet.

Cloth dyed at the Huguenots mills was used to make the red cardinals hats for the Catholic Clergy!

Hats were a very famous product and after c.1690 anyone who thought themselves fashionable would only wear hats made in Wandsworth.


As the taking of snuff increased in popularity mills along the Wandle were converted into snuff mills. By 1750 there were six snuff mills working on the Wandle.


The water in the River Wandle had a special quality that made it ideal for washing silk after it had been dyed. The power to drive the mills combined with the water quality made the Wandle an ideal site for the printing and dyeing of silk and calico.


Calico was a cotton cloth that came from Calicut in India. It had first to be bleached and then it was dyed, the resulting material was called chintz and was very popular for curtains and furniture.


These were fields in which the calico was laid out to be bleached. The cloth was first soaked in lye (an alkaline liquid made from wood ash, it contained potassium hydroxide) then laid out in the sun. Over several weeks the material moistened and dried out, the sun and the lye acted together to bleach the calico. Bleaching was carried out on Bunce's Meadow now the new site for Dean City Farm.


The printing industry needed dyes. Therefore mills producing dyes were to found along the Wandle. Brasilwood mills made red dye from brasilwood. Brasilwood originally came from the East Indies and produced a red dye so valued that the Portugese would name the country where they found it in the New World -- BRAZIL


Garratt Mill, of Copper Mill Lane was working as copper mill from about 1790 to 1887. The mill melted, cast and rolled copper. From this copper many kinds of utensils were made including large vessels, some weighing as much as four tons, were made for brewing beer.


One task they carried out was the melting down of old copper coins( worth rather more then than they are now). The coins would arrive from the Royal Mint accompanied by an armed guard of from the Household Cavalry. The Sergeant in command of the troop would have to ensure the melting of the coins was carried out properly.

Garret Mill


Deed's Mill
Robert's Mill
Shepley Mills Doerr's Mills
Merton Mill
Garret Mill

Makepiece Mill
Nash Mill
Easton Mill
Bridge Mill


There were several paper mills on the Wandle. One such mill in Garratt Lane was owned in1836 Thomas Creswick.he described himself as, "papermaker and cardmaker to his Majesty". The mill did produce high quality playing cards, drawing paper and tinted papers. He died in 1840 and the mill lay idle until 1842 when his daughter Sarah resumed the production of paper and boards. Though it changed hands several times it continued as a paper mill, until it burnt down in 1903.

Corn Mills

The mills recorded in Domesday were corn mills. These early flour mills were an important source of flour for the ever expanding population of the City of London.


The earlier mills in Morden Hall Park were corn mills, but in 1758 the lease of a snuff mill was granted to a Peter Davenport. The mill was then leased by a leading tobacco merchant from London called Nathanial Polhill, he and his son Edward held the lease from 1779 to 1845. In 1845 James Taddy and Co, tobacco and snuff merchants acquired the lease from the Revd. Richard Garth. Alexander Hatfeild, a director of the firm, took control of the mill in 1854. The Hatfeild family continued to produce snuff at the mills until 1922.

Gunpowder Mills at Carshalton

William Mollins converted former Brazil mills into gunpowder mills in about 1650. But the gunpowder produced at the mills was of such poor quality that the Admiralty Commissioners held an inquiry into the matter and Mollins lost his contract.


The printing industry needed dyes. Therefore mills producing dyes were to be found along the Wandle. Brasilwood(brazilwood) mills made red dye from brasilwood. Brasilwood originally came from the East Indies. The red dye was considered so valuable that when Portugese explorers found brasilwood trees in South America they named the country after them. So that is how BRAZIL gots its name.


Calico was a cotton cloth that came from the area of Calicut in India. It had first to be bleached and then it was printed with bright designs of flowers and animals. The material was then glazed and the resulting fabric was called chintz. Chintz was a very fashionable fabric for curtains and furniture covers.

Josias Dewye

Josias Dewye bought the mills in 1661 and as the quality of his product had been by far the best tested by the Admiralty he got the contract and continued at the mills until his death in 1698. His nephew John continued the business until probably 1711, the last reference made to Carshalton powder mills. In 1740 the mills are referred to as copper mills.


Donated by Mrs D. Wengray August 2000

Tobacco shreading machine

Amery Mill Merton High Street 1896

The mill changed industries many times. Began as a corn mill, then a brasil mill, a copper mill and finally a paper mill

Hammers driven by the water wheel. there are two hammers and they strike the cloth alternately flattening the cloth to form felt.


Little evidence of the Wandle's industrial past can now be seen, but echoes of its presence is still there in the street names that persist.
Such as:Lavender Avenue Copper Mill Road, Liberty Avenue, Camomile Avenue, and Rose Avenue in Mitcham
Iron Mill Lane in Wandsworth
Mill Lane, and Lavender Close in Carshalton
Mint Road in Wallington