The great smog of 1952 - bill rudd remembers

Bill Rudd's Journey.

Bill Rudd's Journey. [Full size image 21.5kb]

The Act of Dissolution (9&10 Vic cap333), and the auction of the Wandsworth premises in 1848, would in any case seem to preclude any further use.

I had two objectives when I went on the Wandle Industrial Museum visit to the Public Record Office: To reacquaint myself with the layout, since I had not done any research there for some time; and to renew my Readers Ticket.

Editors Note
Research by Bill has shown that this journey did not take place during the great smog itself. It serves to remind us that smog was a frequent occurrence, not just a one off. The smoke-laden fog known as ‘the Great Smog' that shrouded London from Friday 5 December to Tuesday 9 December 1952 brought premature death to thousands and incon-venience to millions. For a good outline of it's causes, effects and historical context, see here

In the stroll round the PRO Museum, with its ancient documents, I came across a small exhibit which displayed the London Smog of December 1952. This recalled a memory of one particular foggy Thursday night, at about that time.

It was already a bit thick when I cycled to the weekly meeting of the Wimbledon Local Group, YHA, which met in the ground floor of Queens Road School, at 8.00 PM. It was an illustrated talk on Touring Grounds in Europe.

When I left at 10.00 PM, I cycled with care down Trinity Road, left into The Broadway, Merton Road and the South Wimbledon crossroads. Then on to Morden Road. Up to that point there was no problem.

Then, approaching Morden Hall Park, the fog thickened. Great billowing clouds of it rolling over the boundary fence. Vehicles had been passing me slowly on my offside; now, I was being followed. My bicycle had a 6 volt dynohub which gave a good light, and they were using my rear light as a guide.

I turned into London Road shopping centre, and the strangest thing happened. Instead of following through on the journey home, I turned into Crown Lane, which was 2 way traffic then, as if I was compelled. I had little choice but to keep leading the traffic. So it was on down Martin Way. When I reached Bushey Road, I decided not to go any further, turned round for the ride back, and picked up another convoy to Morden!

A Glimpse of the Past

from ‘the Amery Mills of Merton Priory' by Merton Historical Society.

The shed in question was of the Metropolitan Paper Co at Merton Abbey Mills) Fire was, of course, a constant hazard when dealing with a flammable commodity such as paper. In July 1895 a large store shed at the Merton Abbey mills, containing some 250 tons of waste paper, was destroyed, the damage amounting to £1,000. Serious as this was, this particular event was the cause of some local amusement, the Paper Record & Wood Pulp News reporting at the time that: "As the local fire brigade had never had anything to do it was suggested some time ago that they should apply a match to this shed and give an exhibition of their prowess. Mr. Bill the manager of the works is also the captain of the fire brigade and is being subjected to a good deal of 'chaff in this suggestion now."

Through the shopping centre I picked up a bus, or, rather, he picked up me. Along Morden Hall Road I could see his spotlight following my every move. When I swerved round a manhole cover, the lights behind would repeat the movement - my rear light was all the driver could see, and he wasn't taking any risks . I was beginning to wonder when I would get home. There was a very cautious, rather wide ride round St Helier roundabout (I had to take into account the bus turning circle - I couldn't have him jamming on the curb!), then a steady ride up St Helier Avenue (no traffic lights then). At the Rosehill Roundabout, where we had risen somewhat above the smog, I felt I had done more than enough, so broke off and went down Green lane, bound for home. By then it was 11.00 PM, and bed time.

W. J. Rudd, April 2003

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