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NewsLetter # 23 - Summer 1998

1. Newsdesk

2. News From Ravensbury Mill MP urges rethink
3. Visit To Richmond Museum - 21 JUNE 1998
4. The Surrey Iron RailWay:
A precis of the origin and importance of the SIR from our archivist
5. I'm just a Guide Who can't say "no":
Stephen Ashcroft tells of his expereince guiding a Wandle walk
John Viner tells of Youngs long connection with the Wandle Valley
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The Wandle Industrial Museum

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Museum Visits

We were pleased to welcome a party of 34 visitors to the Museum on Saturday May 23rd as part of the London Borough of Merton's contribution to Museums' Week '98. This was a repeat of last year's successful Coach Tour and visit to four Merton Museums, organised by Sarah Gould, Merton's Heritage Office. Also on June 26th, a very interested group from the Lantern Hall Day Centre in Croydon made their frst visit to the Museum.


Outreach Firstly, a very big "thank you" to all members and friends who helped man our stall and display at the National Trust Robin Hood Fair in Morden Park in May. We had more helpers than ever this year which was excellent and helped us to make a grant total of £291.81.


Shop takings               -                      £238.65

Cake competition &

           Trout Game -                           £ 53.26


Secondly, our thanks to member Stephen Ashcroft for leading a very successful sponsored Wandle Walk in aid of St. Raphael's Hospice - see separate article in this Newsletter.


The Museum mounted a display in the Civic Centre foyer for the opening of Museums' Week '98. This display was later moved to the Merton Local Studies Centre. We were pleased to participate in a Festival of Local History Groups organised by the Friends of Carshalton Water Tower in June. This was held in the restored Water Tower and was combined with tours of Carshalton House and grounds and proved to be a most interesting and profitable day


Finally the Museum mounted a display of our Educational resources at a special Inset Training Display for Merton teachers at the Chaucer Centre in Merton, along with other Merton Museums and Heritage Centres.


Volunteers In response to our appeal in the last Newsletter, we are pleased to report that Member Auriel Glanville has volunteered to help with our Educational Workshops. Thank you Aunel.


Members will be sad to hear that former Volunteer, Museum Shop Manager, Len Sorrell, died at the end of June after a long illness. Len had been associated with the Museum for many years and will be very much missed. Our sympathies are extended to his widow Irene.

Members Events


Past                  Visit to the Museum of Richmond in June - see article on separate


Present             Visit to Young's Brewery Visitor Centre. This outing has been

                        arranged by Membership Secretary, Mary Hart.

                           All places on the Tour are now booked.

Future            The Annual General Meeting of the Wandle Industrial Museum has

                        been arranged for Monday, 14th September 1998 at the

                        William Morris Pub, Upper Room at Merton Abbey Mills at

                        7.30 p.m.


NOTE THIS DAY FOR YOUR DIARY Further details will be available nearer the time.


Wandle Industrial Museum Membership

There are still a few members who have not renewed their subscriptions for

1997-8. I'm afraid we cannot send out any more Newsletters or Reminders after this request. A Renewal Form is enclosed and prompt payment would be much appreciated.


Museum Enquiries:

Rina Sheila Harris, Administrator

0181 648 0127

Membership Enquiries:

Ring Marv Hart. Membership Secretary

0181 542 7534

News From Ravensbury Mill





This was the headline in the Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden Guardian in their edition dated 25th June 1998.


Our current position with our lottery application was unsatisfactory, that on one hand they rejected the application, whilst at the same time, on the other hand they commended the bid for the heritage and public benefits and left us in limbo.


In response to the limbo condition, we produced a report dated 23rd April 1998 with a list of our grievances which needed to be addressed. This report was tabled at a very well attended Consultation Meeting with Siobhan McDonagh, M.P., Roger Casale M.P. in attendance. Also in attendance was the Deputy Leader, Councillor Sheila Knight, Roger Paine, The Acting Chief Executive, Simon Lace, our Curatorial Advisor, Nicholas Falk from URBED and Dennis Brennan from Brennan & Whafey, who form the nucleus of our professional team. Also we had an English Heritage Representative and a written report from SEMS, who are the recommended Statutory Advisers.


In conclusion, SiobhancDonagh M.P. said:


"I have written to the fund asking for a meeting to discuss how to further the Ravensbury Mill bid. The letter of refusal made it unclear why it was turned down. I personally feel it wasn't taken into account that the Museum is already running and its workers have a lot of practical experience."



Also both Merton M.P.'s are united in this approach to the H.L.F. and Roger Casale M.P. has offered to be in attendance at this meeting to consider a reassessment.




Ray Leyden


Related articles

Visit To Richmond Museum - 21 JUNE 1998


Only 6 of us made the trip to Richmond, and those of us interested in the future of our own museum who did not come really missed something. As it was, however, with the Secretary, Archivist, PR, Membership and legal representatives of the Committee in attendance, we like to think it was a sufficiently high powered delegation not to disappoint Simon Lace, the curator of the Museum of Richmond and our Curatorial Adviser, too much


Simon greeted us and gave us the benefit of a full explanation of the history of the Museum, its inception over 100 years ago, and its development from the late 1980's to date. Having actually started some years later than our own Museum, but with the active support of its Friends, and the good fortune of some wealthy corporate sponsorship from its immediate area, it occupies about 1,500 square feet on one floor of the old town hall in Richmond. It's access is not straightforward; a comparison would be as if we were on the 2̊d floor of Vestry Hall, rather than self contained in the annexe. However the constant stream of visitors whilst we were there shows how, in a busy area, good signage will compensate. Ravensbury Mill, with good signage from Morden Hall Park, Ravensbury Park, as well as Morden Town Centre should benefit from its self contained site even more.


The space the Museum of Richmond occupies is fully usable, and approximately the same size as the usable space we hope to have in Ravensbury Mill. The temporary themed exhibits and displays are what the visitor first sees, encouraging the casual repeat visitor to come in again, from which point the longer standing fixed displays flow in historical sequence in and out of alcoves around the room. By a process of trial and error, Simon had learnt not to fight the human tendency to read from left to right, so that is how the exhibits flow chronologically round the room.


The funding of Richmond's Museum was most interesting for all of us. In addition to the usual grant sources, they have a separate Friends Group, who, apart from manning the kiosk, arrange regular events on a profit making basis: from trips to other Museums, to garden parties, to concerts, etc. These are attended by significant numbers (normally over 100), and have enabled the Friends to build up sufficient resources to be able to donate 4 figure sums when required. Simon was polite enough not to remark on our rather skimpy attendance.


One amusing co-incidence arose out of the visit. The Royal Palace at Richmond fell into disrepair in Stuart times, and became a building resource for the rest of the town in its accelerating growth through the 182'' and 19`h centuries. On display were a few cracked Delft tiles from the palace, and a framed contemporary newspaper article about some local resident who was prosecuted, not for stealing bricks from the palace (which he was), but for cutting up the Green while driving a cart across it loaded with those bricks. After our visit, three of us returned to Richmond that day, to attend a garden party in Sheen Road in aid of another charity. Guess what! It was the house built by that very criminal, with those very same bricks, and, in the kitchen, there was a complete display of those same Delft tiles, but in immaculate condition!


All in all a fascinating visit, and one I intend to repeat before too long.


Mary Hart

The Surrey Iron RailWay

In the 18th century the Wandle Valley was a busy centre of water-powered industry. From Croydon to the mouth of the river at Wandsworth, there were numerous mills, and among the many products, flour, leather, copper, iron, snuff and oil. The only means of transport for the raw materials to the mills and the products on their return journey to the Capital was by horse and wagon. The roads were not in good repair and this journey was slow and laborious.


A group of Wandle businessmen considered a scheme for a "Grand Surrey Canal" and called in William Jessop, a leading canal engineer, to advise them. Jessop reported that the only source from which to draw the water would have to be the Wandle. "Strong objections would arise to taking water from the streams that feed the River Wandle, unless the owners of the mills can consent to the canal being supplied from some of the sources of the River Wandle, I am sorry to say that I must consider the

  scheme impracticable .. . . .    Ahere is, however, another way of obtaining the object in

view, this is by the adoption of an Iron Railway"


The Surrey Iron Railway Company was formed by wealthy land and mill owners including James Perry from Merton Flour Mill, George Shepley, who had mills at Wandsworth and Hackbridge, and Henry Hoare a prominent banker who had estates in Mitcham. A Bill was presented to Parliament for the construction of a two track plateway from Wandsworth to Croydon.


An Act of Parliament in 1801 allowed the Surrey Iron Railway to raise E35,000 in shares of £ 100, and a further £ 15,000 by shares or mortgage. The S.I.R. was the first public railway, not for passengers, but the first goods railway which any person or company could use for a set fee. It ran from Ram Field in Wandsworth to Pitlake Meadow in Croydon with a branch from Mitcham to Hack Bridge in Carshalton.


The track was based on a cast iron plate rail, and the joins between the plates were supported by stone blocks. The bed of the track was gravelled, and the gauge was Oft tin. The wagons were approximately 8ft long, carrying a maximum load in the region of 2 1/2 tons. Jessop calculated that one horse could pull 5 tons at 3 miles per hour for 10 miles.


This railway was extended by the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway which continued the route as far as Reigate, but the further extension intended to reach Portsmouth was never built. The Directors of the Railway had over estimated the amount of traffic which would use the service. It was limited to local demand, and the bulk of its cargo was Fullers Earth and limestone from quarries in the Surrey hills which were approaching depletion. However, it was competition from the steam railways, which were rapidly developing, that brought about the end of the S.I.R. The London & Croydon Railway was built in 1839 and other railways soon followed. By 1846 business had diminished, and the S.I.R. was described as "a small single line on which a miserable team of lean mules might be seen crawling at the rate of 4 miles per hour through Croydon once perchance during the day."


The Company sold its land to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1846. The Wimbledon to Croydon line was opened in 1855, following the trackbed of the S.I.R. between Mitcham and Waddon Marsh. This line is now closed pending the building of the new Tramlink.


If anyone is interested in further information, ,the Museum Shop has copies of "Retracing the First Public Railway" by Derek Bayliss, price £3.50.


Nlareruerite Lee-Delisle


Image from the cover

Related Surrey Iron RailWay articles

I'm just a Guide Who can't say "no"

"Merton historian, Stephen Ashcroft" - that's what it said in the local Guardian. For the next week I awaited a dawn raid by a shock troop of Trading Standards Officers.


I mean, it's Olay to describe Peter Harris as a Merton. Ire's put in the time studying. He, s done the research. That's why, when St Raphael's Hospice thought that some of the people doing a sponsored walk down the dandle might pay extra for a historical commentary on the sites they passed, it was Peter who was asked to be commentator.


Then he found himself on crutches, and I was asked to take over (how many people were asked before me? Why do I have trouble with such a short word as No? Gentle reader, we will draw a veil over these questions).


A dummy run with a couple of friends reassured me that I could at least find. the way with the Manti'le Trail map (in fact, since I forgot to take one to the actual event, I succeeded in finding the way even without the map, and with only one wrong turnjng!). It also confirmed my worst fears that I knew almost nothing about the stretch from Carshalton Ponds to the Merton border. Fortunately Sheila had promised me a copy of Peter's notes, and these proved to be very good - clear and informative. The first tiling I did when I got them was to ring my friends and answer the questions they had asked me about buildings we had passed. I studied those notes avidly. Even so, it really is easier when you get to Merton - there's more to see and more to say and Iknoiv rj.-ore anecdotes to coat the pills of fact with.


So I wasn't. too nervous when I arrived at Grove Park to meet my group. When I found they were being charged 1a0 each for the privilege of hearing what I had to say I became very nervous indeed. I had agreed to lead a group of twenty people. Twentyfive tickets had been sold in advance - of course. Thirty people paid up for the walk. "We could say no to number thirty," said, an organiser. No she Couldn't. Number thirty was a friend who happens to read the Guardian. Would you rather be humiliated before total strangers or people you're going to see again?


Reart sirrlcing, I led my group off. But there were three things in my favour. 1 - It was a fine, sunny day. 2 - One of the group knew the answers to technical questions like "What's gunpowder made of and was sympathetic enough to give the answers before ray own ignorance became obvious. 3 - Suddenly my adrenaline kicked in and I started to pel,forr2.


When we fir?fished at Merton Abbey Mills, I got applauded! And my Guardian-reading friend took me off for a pint in the William Morris to tell me how much he'd enjoyed it. Apparently, feedback to St Raphael's and to the Museum has been good too. Perhaps you can fool all the people some of the time.


The only trouble is, my vicar reads the Guardiam too. Now I'm due to do it all again in September for the benefit of the church funds.

Why can't I just say "No"?




Of all the public houses along the Wandle Trail, those of Young &. Co. are always a welcome sight. Many a pint of real ale must have been quaffed by many a thirsty traveller treading the primrose path from Wandsworth to Waddon Ponds. In varying environments from the Spread Eagle in Wandsworth to the Greyhound in Carshalton these pubs, and others along the route, mirror in their own way the varied characteristics of the Wandle Valley - a fascinating mixture of urban conviviality and rural calm.


The Ram Brewery continues to carry on the family tradition of brewing good ale at its Wandsworth headquarters, situated at the confluence of the Wandle with the Thames. Here too are reminders of a bygone age. Some of the original stone sleepers of the Surrey Iron Railway are built into the brewery wall and around the exercise track used to train Young's handsome Shire horses. Young's first became involved in brewing in 1831, when the River Wandle was described as "the most hard-worked river in England". The demands of water-powered industries meant the proliferation along its banks of mills producing a wide variety of raw materials and printed textiles.


In the context of the brewing industry, mention should also be made of the Eagle Brewery, once sited near Mitcham Railway Station. First mentioned in 1789 as "Hughes Brewery", it frequently changed hands until, at the turn of the nineteenth century, it was taken over by Thunder and Little, famous in the area for their "Mitcham Ales". How these ales compared with our present day brews is a matter for conjecture, but no doubt in their time they contributed in no small way to the "sound of revelry by night" in local hostelries' The timber clad brewery building with its distinctive "loading loft" was a familiar sight in London Road, where it stood until the early 1970's, used in its later years as warehousing.


Young & Co., however, still survives and prospers. A family concern since 1884, they have maintained a reputation for individuality. and innovation throughout the years. If pubs have a theme, which seems to be a fashion nowadays, it would appear to be a simple one - that of providing good ale and wholesome food in congenial surroundings.


As a footnote, it must be mentioned that the Wandle Industrial Museum itself owes a debt of gratitude to Young & Co. They generously provided us with the finances to produce a second printing of our "Wandle Trail Map & Guide" after our first issue sold out. This in turn also sold out and the Museum has now reprinted an up-dated version of this popular publication.


John Viner                          






Not Many people Know thiss...

     A Butt contains 108 gallons           A hogshead contains 54 gallons

     A barrel contains 16 gallons           A kilderkin contains 18 gallons

     A firkin contains 9 gallons             A pin contains 4½ gallons

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