Museum's 20th birthday update

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As announced in our last edition (February), the Museum saw it's 20th Birthday in April this year. As part of our continuing celebration of this, we reprint below the article which announced its arrival, and intentions, to the world.

The exact date of the article is lost, but it is clearly written in 1982/3.

Why we should all be proud of our heritage

Chairman of Merton Community Trust

THE industrial history and heritage of the River Wandle is under-recognised and appreciated, when compared with other parts of the country.

Displays of local industrial history in Ironbridge (Shropshire), -Gladstone Pottery (Stoke on Trent), Beamish (County Durham), and Quarry Bank (Cheshire) are now a matter for local and national pride, as well as tourist attractions which generate employment.

There are an estimated 20 such museums in the country, but not a single one in Greater London. Why then, you may ask, should we consider an Industrial Museum for the Wandle?

The river is unusual in not being an industrial sewer. It has a number of historic buildings in pleasant open space.

These could be the nucleus of a display which reveals the industrial history as far back as the Doomsday Book, which recorded 13 water mills on the Wandle. The river was too fast-f1owing for navigation, but ideal for mills.

At its peak of activity in the early ninteenth century, there were nearly 100 mills on the river with uses including corn, copper, snuff, leather, felt, gunpowder peppermint, lavender, silk and printing.

The river was the course of the first public railway built in England.

The horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway passed under the present Mitcham station, itself built in 1805 and claimed to be the oldest station in the world.

The Wandle has impressive credentials to be the first Industrial museum in Greater London.

For all these reasons, we feel that there should be a perma nent display for the industrial history of the River Wandle and its immediate environs.

This could best be done by the establishment of a Wandle Industrial Museum which would encompass the banks of the river.

The museum could consist of: The Liberty water mill, restored to working order, Morden hall snuff mill; restored, the millworkers' cottages and other property, Morden Hall and park and walks along both banks of the Wandle, a William Morris museum, a craft village and a section of the Surrey Iron Railway.

The museum would have its, main approach from Morden and could become an important tourist activity with the creation of employment and stimulation of new activities in Morden and Colliers Wood.

The creation of a William Morris Museum. would have national and international interest.

The restoration of buildings would create employment. Already the museum has created six jobs for researchers. In order to undertake as comprehensive a study as possible, we want to enlist the help of people with specialised knowledge.

Many people who may have worked at the various mills, or had parents and grandparents who did, have a unique knowledge which we plan to put onto audio tapes.

Other people may be interested in the challenge and opportunity of restoring the Liberty Mill.

Likewise, the thought of recreating the William Morris textiles and wall coverings will be made again in Merton could interest others.

Discussions have been held with the national Trust, Merton Council and the GLC all of whom have welcomed the ideas described here.

By Brian shenton

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