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NewsLetter # 28 - Autumn 1998

1. Newsdesk

2. Annual general meeting
and talk by Derek Stidder on the Mills of Surrey
3. Mechanical musical tour
Stephen Ashcroft visits the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments
4. Lottery Bid and Lease at Ravensbury Update
5. Visit to Cobham Mill Mary Hart reports on our visit to this restored watermill
6. Wandle:
Two poems by Mark Sheppard - "Wandle", and "Merton Priory'
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Waterwheel Collage

The Wandle Industrial Museum

The Vestry Hall Annexe -London Road - Mitcham -Surrey CR4 3UD - Telephone: 0181-648 0127 .



Museum open every Wednesday 1-4pm and first Sunday of each month 2 - 5pm




Visitors to the Museum

We were pleased to welcome a party from the Lantern Hall Day Centre in Croydon, making their second visit to the Museum in August.


In September, we were especially pleased to welcome some residents from Little Hayes Nursing Home all in wheel chairs. We were able to put the newly built disabled access ramp to the test and it worked splendidly with no problems. Thanks once again to Volunteer Dave RMell who built it for us.


In November SS Peter & Paul First School made their annual visit to the Museum for two Textile Workshops.



Volunteer helper Stephen Ashcroft has given two presentations recently on behalf of the Museum, to a group of Carers at The Cumberland Day Centre in Mitcham, and to a lunch arranged by the Environment Agent at Merton Abbey Mills.


A group of volunteers led by Ray Leyden participated in the recent annual Wandle Clean Up Day in October.



New student Volunteer Dawn Blake has worked with us during the summer period on a photography project which should be useful for a future Museum Exhibition. She has been photographing Mills and buildings of historical significance along the Wandle.


Margaret Stanners, Volunteer typist, who has worked with us for the past five years is sadly leaving at Christmas. She has worked in the Museum every Wednesday afternoon (and at home on her computer) typing correspondence, minutes of meetings and articles for the Newsletter. Her dedication and skills at deciphering Members handwriting and correcting our spelling, with great tact and patience will be very much missed. We thank her very much for all her efforts and wish her well in the future.


If any Members are able to offer any help with typing, or have access to a home computer, could they please telephone me at the Museum.

Members Events

Past:               The A.G.M. held at The William Morris was a great success this year with a good turn out of Members and friends. See article on separate page. See also article on the visit to Cobham Mill which took place in July.


Present:         Join us in a pre Christmas Theatre Outing to the Wimbledon Studio Theatre on Friday 17th December at 7.30 p.m. to see "Spooked" - three Ghost stories set in a Country Inn. Tickets cost £8.00 (£5.00 concessions). Please ring Mary Hart -Membership Secretary 0181 542 7534 if you would like to come.


Subscriptions are now due for the year 1999 - 2000. A reply slip is included with this Newsletter.


Sheila Harris 3/11/99

To All Members and friends of the Museum. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful-rew Year.

Annual general meeting

The A.G.M. was again held in the Wandle Bar of the William Morris Pub. It was very pleasing this year to see so many members at the meeting. The competition from the bar downstairs was rather greater than it had been last year, there appeared to be a motor bike convention taking place, there were certainly a large number of gleaming aggressive machines parked outside as we left.


The formal part of the evening was on a sad note, for one of the Museum's staunchest supporters, Peter Harris died earlier this year, he leaves a considerable gap in a team of regular volunteers.


We carried on with the rest of the formal business, this part of the meeting will be reported in the Minutes, but I feel it is appropriate to point out that during these last difficult years, while we have been in limbo waiting for the decision from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the work of the Museum has continued and a full programme has been maintained


After the formal part of the evening we paused to enjoy a drink from the bar and the refreshments supplied by the pub.


Siobhain McDonagh M.P. was to address the meeting but unfortunately, due to a family illness, she was only able to call in briefly. Roger Casales M.P. also attended and was able to stay longer, long enough to buy some raffle tickets. As he then had to leave he generously said that if he won, the prize was to be redrawn. He, of course, did win twice! I hope he doesn't regret his decision as the prizes were very desirable.


Derek Stidder, who was to give the presentation also won a prize I'm pleased to say. He chose the delectable basket of fruit, he usually chose the wine but he thought he ought to choose a prize his wife might appreciate more. Derek also commented that he had given his talk in many places but up to now none of the venues had had a bar. Very civilised.


Members were again very generous in their purchase of raffle tickets and we made over £75, all profit, as the prizes were donated by Members.


After the interval we were treated to an entertaining and informative slide presentation and a talk on Surrey watermills. Derek Stidder gave us a brief history on the development of watermills and talked about the many, many, mills he had visited since he first became interested in them. He pointed out that although many mills had been listed in recent years, this did not mean that the owners were obliged to keep them in good repair.

The fact that mills are sited alongside rivers make their position a very desirable one for development. Derek told us of two instances where planning permission had been applied for and rejected. Both mills were then mysteriously damaged by fire. In once case the mill was then demolished and the development went ahead, but in the other case the Local Authority insisted that the mill be restored to its former state. Bully for them; if more Councils took this stance it would discourage the deliberate nonmaintenance of the remaining examples of our industrial heritage.(See issue 22 for a longer report on one of Derek's talks)


Derek finished by saying that he would like to research the mills on the Wandle, a project we would welcome.


Just before we finished, Ray Leyden presented Sheila Harris with a plant as a token of our thanks for her continued work during this difficult year.


The evening ended with everyone feeling that he had a very good meeting.


Meg Thomas

7/ 11 /99

                                          Mechanical musical tour



With a few hours to spare in the Cotswolds on August bank Holiday Monday, Valerie and I popped into Northleach and found the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments.


The ground floor is a shop, and to get to the first floor, where the Museum is housed, cost five pounds each, which I thought was a bit expensive. But the visit was worth it.


The Museum is a large, rectangular room crammed with musical boxes, mechanical instruments such as pianolas, automata, phonographs early horn gramophones and the like. They have been restored to as close to original condition as possible and just about all seem to be in working order. I imagine it is the costs of buying (mostly at auction) and restoring the exhibits which dictates the entrance fee.


For your money you get what is called "the guided tour", but is actually a demonstration of most of the exhibits. When we went, it was a non-stop process - you joined the tour wherever it was when you went in and left it when you got back to the same place. The guide was enthusiastic, entertaining and very knowledgeable.


If you get tired, there are chairs in the middle of the room from which you can see and hear all that is going on. One child got tired when no chair was available, so the guide pulled out an ordinary bentwood one for him. He sat on it and it played music! - a sort of up-market, Victorian whoopee cushion.


One of the recording pianos faithfully reproduces an original performance by George Gershwin. Have you heard Gershwin play live? I feel as though I have.


As we left, I glanced at my watch, thinking half an hour might have passed. Actually, an hour had gone by.


If you find yourself near Northleach* with an hour or so to spare, I heartily recommend you spend some time with the mechanical musical instruments.


Stephen Ashcroft

Progress at last

Lottery bid




Our new Heritage Lottery Fund bid went in on 15 September. This was a crucial date, because, in meeting it, we were able to simplify our secondary funding by nominating the Wolfson Foundation, just before it closed its doors to our type of application.


It had been a long time coming, extensive discussions with both South Eastern Museums and Heritage Lottery Fund flushing out the real causes of their concerns, and, at the same time, clarifying an issue which had never been brought to our attention before - the cashflow shortfall which the HLF procedures generate. This could have left us trying to find up to £50,000 of short term funding at the last minute!


London Borough of Merton have come to our rescue, here, and, with them and Wolfson behind our bid, we feel that that side of the HLF concern has been resolved.


The other main issue which HLF had indicated might cloud our bid, was the possibility that our projections for visitor figures (30,000 pa) might have been over optimistic.


This was solved very simply - Lisa Connor was able to demonstrate that the figures worked even at 10,000 visitors pa, which is a figure we can arrive at merely by taking the number of visitors per hour we currently get at Vestry Hall Annexe, and increasing them by the same factor as the proposed increase in opening hours. Bearing in mind the greater accessibility and attraction of the proposed new site, and by comparing our modest totals with the visitor figures we for Morden Hall Park (300,000 pa) Merton Abbey Mills (500,000 pa) and Dean City Farm (400,000 pa) we feel our figures can be accepted as the conservative projection we have always felt.


We are now waiting for HLF to fulfill their promise to fast track this case, with a 1 April 2000 target for commencement of works.


The Lease of Ravensbury Mill


I am happy to report that a productive meeting was held between myself and the representative of the freeholders, Secure Reversions Ltd earlier this month.


Substantially all outstanding issues have been agreed, a revised draft issued by Secure reversions almost immediately, and, by the time you read this, the sub committee will have sent back the approved (and slightly further amended) draft.


Both sides are looking to sign up the lease before the millennium, and the terms of the lease will allow us to get on irrespective of the Lottery funding.


I have a personal ambition to hold a party for all of us at Ravensbury Mill, however makeshift, to celebrate the lease, the funding and the millennium, to acknowledge the achievements so far, and to focus us as a group for the task to come.


Nicholas Hart

1 November 1999

Related articles

Visit to cobham mill

And/on The hottest day of the year

In the end only six of us could make the visit to Cobham Mill, but those who couldn't make it really missed a great outing.

Cobham Walk cover


The group met at my house at one-ish on Sunday 11 July, for pre visit liquid refreshment in the garden, and left in time to arrive for the proposed 2.00 start in Cobham.


Or rather, we would have, except the walk through a village like Cobham, on a bright summers day, always takes longer than you think, with a Mole-side trail, boys swimming in the river, damsel flies, masses of flowering balsam, and other distractions.


The Mill itself sits beside the road, and, before going in, we stopped to admire the mill race, and the turning wheel, all restored and in working order. The Mill sits in a new landscaped environment on the banks of the Mole, the kind of setting that gives us all a false ideal of the way things were, but none the less enjoyable for all that.


Three technicians were on duty, and able to explain everything, sowe were able to watch the whole process, from the hoisting of the grain into the loft, where it goes in to the hoppers, and down to the mill stones themselves until, finally, the flour appears at the other end. Two nice ladies then sold us the flour, so the process was complete.


Before we left we had the opportunity to meet Greta Curtis, secretary of the Cobham Mill Society, and extracted promises of assistance when we ourselves can start on the renovation of Ravensbury Mill. Actually, this was not difficult, as all the technicians are looking forward to coming to play!


By this time, on the hottest afternoon of the summer so far, it was time for replenishing the system, and so we all returned to base, and enjoyed a long and leisurely high tea in the garden, sheltered from the sun, and restored ourselves fully


Mary Hart


Wondrous Wandle, once so clear and pure how much your ancient spirit has endured. Your waters laboured under the miller's yoke, then poisoned by industry to slowly choke. So Doomsday records you already bore, thirteen wheels a-milling the Saxons' coin And in time there was not a single place, where mills did not turn to the Wandle pace. To Carshalton you gave such a natural beauty, a place of water, springs and lost rustic purity. The Grotto, Boleyenes Well and Margaret's pool all lost as the path of progress was set by fools. Once in Croydon in such beauty you flowed, round the Bishops palace, now tarmac and road. At Merton there was both priory and church, aril beside you Nelson's paradise perched. Then came William Morris, Liberty et al, now the mills have gone from our forgotten town. Passed the herb fields of Mitcham you regally flowed, of camomile, lavender, rosemary and marshmallow. Oh Wandle what have we done to you, we have killed a friend who has always been true.

Merton priory

priory line drawing The old flint priory built by the clear water, for the monks of St.Augustine's order. Four hundred years their fine abbey stood, saw Rocket, and kings, the great, the good. Past the kitchen the Wandle flowed so fast, how magnificent was old Merton's past. Then the pure river with fine trout teemed, and drove the mill on the priory's stream 'Twas Gilbert who bestowed this holy place, with a priory, and church, by his knightly grace. Until Henry VIII's reign, came to pass, and priories great and small were then all outcast. For years the flint walls at Merton survived, but plundered, crumbled, and then lost in time. Till now there is of but little trace, of the chapter house that kings once graced.

These poems were written by local author

Mark sheppard of west wimbledon


With his kind permission we have printed extracts from his book

"Avalon dreams" which has just been published.

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