The next temporary exhibition will go up in January, on “The Hatfeilds and Morden
Thanks to Mick Forsyth for this feedback from the last Newsletter:
“.. Great news that McGow's has now reach MAM and Morris's works. I have
a copy of the conveyance of the freehold of the site to Liberty's in the 1920s
(because several later transactions affecting my house are appended to it), and
it's interesting that some of the names on the vendor side (in particular
'Mansfield') go way back. Happy, incidentally, to give access to this doc if
anyone is ever interested (but it's not readily copiable, as it's about 3 feet
Thanks too to "Webbo" for his piece on Nelson's last words. He has evidently
found the Beattie account/report that is posted on the net as a Gutenberg freebie
- and which makes fascinating reading. I've always harboured a suspicion that
Nelson deliberately courted death at Trafalgar, and Beattie says that he tried to
get to him to beg him to change his coat or cover his decorations, but was
prevented by a scrum of officers receiving orders. Also intriguing is the
revelation that Nelson had taken a close interest, about a year earlier, in the fate
of a seaman shot through the backbone, who took an agonising 12 days to die -
implying that he knew what was in store for him and, once the battle was won,
deliberately asked to be turned on his side to get it over with quickly.
I don't suppose there will ever be a definitive last word on his last words -
apparently people bleeding to death often repeat the same thing over and over,
as their brain becomes incapable of new thought. So "Thank God I have done
my duty" was perhaps the last coherent and memorable thing he said, even if
they weren't actually the very last words to pass his lips.
I happen to know the head of the Royal Naval Historical Branch, recently
re-located from Old Scotland Yard to Portsmouth, who was heavily involved in
the Trafalgar 200 events down there, and it occurs to me that they may have
Nelson-related exhibition materials that they might be prepared to part with in
the future. Do you think I should ask ?”
Anna and Dave at the Red
Members Visit to the Red House.
September 2005 had many glorious days, and
the 24th was another one. We had promised
ourselves a visit to the Red House, the home
of William Morris during the early days of his
marriage to Janie, for some time.
We were pleased that Anna Matyukhina and
Dave Saxby were able to join us for this trip,
on which we went as a group in a mini bus
organised by Ray.
We were unfortunately not permitted to take
pictures of the inside of the house, but the
external views were brilliant. Please visit
http://www.rebs.demon.co.uk/ if you would
like to see more.
This visit balanced our earlier visit to Little Holland House (Issue 50), and we
could see the origins of many of the influences on that house that Frank
Dickinson so admired, not least the wide and welcoming front door, and the
overriding principle ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be
useful or believe to be beautiful’ (Henry Thoreau) .
All over the house there was the evidence of the work that Morris his wife and
his friends contributed, and it was interesting to see the idea of the first floor
living room/salon, where the room could benefit from the sunlight with less
interference from the trees.
That room has been in the news more recently, with the announcement of yet
more handiwork by the Morris’ being revealed as more recent panelwork is
removed (The Times, Fri Nov 18th.) What was a shame was that we could not
see all of the first floor of the two wings of the house, as one wing was
Fruit trees decorate the exterior of the Red
occupied by national Trust staff.
On the outside, as evidence of
Morris’ continuing adherence to
the principles, he insisted that he
had fruit trees, rather than ivy,
decorate the walls. The successors
of those original trees can still be
It is tempting to pun that it was
during these five years that
‘everything in the garden was
lovely’ for the Morris’, before
pressure of work drove him away
from Kent, and Jane’s relationship with Rossetti became too close for comfort.
Kent’s loss was the Wandle’s gain, of course, so we shouldn’t complain.
Now that all the McGow material is on the site, and Stan Anson has finished
his editorial check, the next step is for Peter to go through these with us, and
agree the changes that can be made, and those that can’t. Following this the
original manuscript can be updated.
A satisfying task for this winter.
The Property section of LB Merton has now approved the draft agreement
submitted by HLF, and it is now with the Legal section.
Subject to their approval, our Project Planning Officer application, which has
been on hold for almost exactly one year, can proceed.
The recent meetings of the Merton Heritage forums and our discussions with
Groundwork and National Trust may mean that the brief for the PPO, and his
identity, could have changed a little, but for the better.
Meanwhile Groundwork are continuing their PR campaign to interest HLF in
the Wandle as a whole, and see each of the prospective applications by the
different Heritage bodies as a part of a single dynamic, and we wish them luck.
As a separate issue, there has been no further movement on the necessary
building works to complete the s106. Trevor Roach, who lives in the flat above
the wheelhouse enclosure, faces another winter of frozen feet, escaping heat,
and milk that frezes on the sideboard over night.
We wish we could do more to help, and that it doesn’t become a health and
safety issue as well as a building regs/planning problem.
Remembrance Sunday 2005,
The Post of 24 November publishes a picture of the new viewing platform or
pier installed as part of the Groundwork arts
scheme which enables us to see the confluence
of the Wandle and the Graveney, just south of
Plough Lane. Their website at
www.iccsouthlondon.co.uk should show the
picture, for those who haven’t seen it.
Remembrance Sunday was marked by a wreath
laying ceremony at the War memorial behind
the museum in Mitcham. No apologies for this
photo, with another brilliant weather day,
showing the wreaths and the museum in the
What the low light of the sun did also show
clearly, was the outline of the foundations of a
building on the green the other side of the
footpath, leading up to the pavement rails on London Road where they take an
unexplained step back, and a long diagonal path leading to it..
Does anyone know of a building or air raid shelter that once stood there?
The Hat that Andrew Ate
On a more humorous note, it should be recorded that our Chair, Andrew
Wakefield, has been forced to eat his hat, in public. He sits on the London
Camber of Commerce, and in the presence of the various dignitaries of that
body had repeatedly promised to eat his hat (or that’s the way they remembered
it) if London got the nod for the 2012 Olympics.
Luckily, we have the technology. Mary made
him a (chocolate) cake, shaped like his
panama, in time for the eating ceremony - at
some official lunch of the London Chamber.
We are told Ken Livingstone witnessed the
eating, and that pictures were taken.
Mysteriously, none have appeared - yet.
Ed November 2005
NELSON BICENTENARY UPDATE
Captains Blackwood and Hardy
entertain ‘the troops’
There have been many events successfully completed to mark Merton’s
appreciation of its most famous resident. All our thanks must go to Nichola
Meza whose unfussy and competent co-ordination facilitated it all, and to
Merton for releasing her to do so.
Merton’s own contributions, through its
Councillors and officers, has been
noteworthy, with Andrew Judge leading
from the top.
Lord Nelson takes his leave
My own first choice event must be the event
of the 13th September commemorating
Nelson’s final departure on that day in 1805.
The weather that day was perfect, and
Morden Hall provided a perfect backdrop (in
the absence of the long gone Merton Place).
To start with there was an interactive talk by
Captain Blackwood (Peter Warwick
(Chairman of 1805 Club and a Merton
resident) and Captain Hardy (Ian Bloomfield
(Historian)). The assembled spectators of all
ages (both school groups and pensioners groups were represented) were kept
enthralled for over an hour.
This was followed by a dance and a play, both performed by Merton school
The Nelson Paradise Merton musical
performance at the New Wimbledon
Following this we processed to the bridge
across the Wandle, leading up to Morden
Hall, where the mayor, Cllr Judy
Saunders and the deputy Lieutenant for
Surrey watched as Captain Blackwood
gave Lord Nelson (Alex Naylor
(Historian)) the orders to return to the
fleet, watched by Emma Lady Hamilton
(Finni Golden (Historian)) and Horatia
(Freda Matthews (Poplar Primary School,
Nelson then gave a stirring speech, before
walking to his carriage to start the journey
Alex Naylor gave a magically good performance as Nelson, and one I hope the
schoolchildren watching will never forget.
The heat from the mulch gives the tree
planting a dramatic appearance
The events of Trafalgar day itself went
well, with all the hard work of
Councillors officers and teachers
producing a memorable performance
by Merton Schools at the New
Wimbledon Theatre, followed by a
memorable dinner at the Wayfarer
More recently, on 26th November, the
planting of the Trafalgar Wood took
place in Morden Park, with our hard
working mayor in attendance once
more, together with, more
surprisingly, the statue of Lord
Nelson, who made himself available for photographs.
There were many other events of course, and, hopefully, someone will write
them all up for us in a memorial publication.
Ed November 2005
WHEN IS A VICTORY NOT A VICTORY?
This article is not about King Pyrrhus; this however may be the last mention of
the 200th anniversary of Nelson’s victory at The Battle of Trafalgar in this
The HMS Victory’s keel was laid in 1759, it took six years to build at a final
cost of £63,176, she was launched in 1765 and commissioned in 1778, making
it the world's oldest commissioned ship (and a proud memorial to Vice Admiral
Lord Horatio Nelson).
In 1922 she was placed into dry-docks at Portsmouth, where we can still
marvel at her beauty and wonderful state of preservation. However, after 157
yeas in active service and 9 battles and 5 refits, how much of the original ship
is left? The answer to this is not a lot, and also a great deal.
Lord Nelson and member
Originally a “second rater” she became a “first-rate” warship on her first refit,
which enabled her to carry more than the 100
guns required for that class. Ships like the
Victory were made entirely from wood. These
ships were built to fight the war that was on at
the particular moment, and were not expected to
last for centuries.
All 3 masts and parts of the structure were
replaced at the battle of Trafalgar. It is also
safe to assume that all of the rope; all but one
Fore Topsail required to rig the Victory; the
iron hoops used to fit together the masts; the
carefully shaped beams and sophisticated joints
that warped; all exposed nails and bolts; her
6 boats and 7 anchors would have all needed
replacing long ago.
A lot of the integral structure was removed during the
first refit of 1793, to accommodate increased armament, and much of the ship
was lost to running repairs in battle; 19th century souvenir hunters and Second
World War bomb damage. Not only has the warship had to suffer many years
of hostile action but also human neglect. She was used as storage and even a
prison ship; in 1903 she was badly damaged by the warship HMS Neptune and
By 1920 she had become a worm damaged 'hulk'. Many of her huge oak timbers were badly decayed
due to continually getting wet then drying out and where systematically
having to be replaced.
Luckily, when original damaged parts were replaced, a careful record was kept,
of which and when beams are altered or replaced. Without this record it would
become increasingly more difficult to separate the old from the new.
The Victory as shown in the Woodland
Trust’s excellent schools poster
It is thanks to this record we know that over the years much of the hull has been
rebuilt or replaced with teak and tropical hardwood like iroko through ongoing
renewal of the timbers since the 1970s. Many areas within the ship itself have
been reconstructed such that today only about 20% of the original vessel
remains from 1765. However the more protected lower parts of the ship’s decks
are progressively more original with around 90% below the water line being
original, while the lower gun deck is
75% original and part of the stern and
much of the keel are the same
Because whenever possible the
correct methods and materials are
used in returning the ship, colour and
layout to how she was on the
morning of the Battle of Trafalgar,
Nelson would recognise his flagship
so, new timbers, modern insecticides
notwithstanding, to him the Victory
would still be the Victory.
It is likely that his successors as
commanders on the Victory over the
next 100 years would have greater difficulty, because the refitting of the ship to
keep her fit for current service would have increasingly taken her away from
the 1815 status.
There is probably not enough left of the original timbers for the ship to float, so
a purist might argue that she is only a replica, now, not the “real” Victory. As a
monument to a great man and a great moment, this is irrelevant. So long as
there is any part of the original ship remaining, we can touch what Nelson
touched, and that is enough.
Michael Hart October 2005
MERTON ABBEY MILLS UPDATE
Much has happened in the last 3 months at Merton Abbey Mills, not least the
close of another successful Abbey Fest season.
The building work is nearing completion, with the new residential blocks being
named Prospect House (I am sure they do have good views - but that’s because
they are looking outwards, not at themselves!) and Bennet's Courtyard being
the overall winner of the 2005 Housing Design Awards in a competition
sponsored by the office of the Deputy prime Minister.
Merton Abbey Mills, end November 2005
It is a bit upsetting to see that developers claiming the right to that prize for
themselves in their
releases, when their
original design was
rejected, and the
present one the result
of pressure from the
interesting, though, is
the sale of the market
site to new
freeholders. That sale
went through at a figure of approximately £3.4 million to London and Argyll.
Newspaper reports the stated intentions of the new owners to maximise the
current use of the site as a market on much the same lines as at present, but
with a clearer long term plan, and much greater investment.
Whilst Natalie Paris of the Guardian reports “The arts and crafts market at
historic Merton Abbey Mills has been sold for £3.4million to developers who
hope to revitalise its flagging fortunes. Countryside Properties, the company
behind the hotel, restaurants and commercial developments on the site, has sold
the market to London and Argyll, which plans to improve the market, to the
relief of traders and stall holders. The company, which has owned the market
for about a month, hopes to introduce shelters for outdoor stalls and play on the
market's niche as a treasure trove for arts and crafts.” Commentary in other
Forums points out the threat of change if financial performance didn’t improve,
as well as the pressure that the new residents are being to employ. The first
target for such pressure is likely to be the annual Abbey Fest, whose noise is
upsetting some of them.
From our point of view, the news that John Hawks is being retained by the new
owners is welcome. It shows a recognition of what he has achieved over the last
couple of decades, and a reassurance that the need for continuity is understood
by the new owners.
We await developments (hopefully, not literally).
The commencement of the redevelopment work at Savacentre is both a relief
and a worry. Relief that the emergence of permanent buildings of hideous
aspect on the other side of Merantun Way has not encouraged Sainsbury to
replace Savacentre with a more permanent and equally hideous structure.
Eels waiting to be counted
(picture courtesy London Zoo)
Worry as to how the new smaller superstore and its attendant shops will impact
on the Merton Abbey Mills market, and the lack of any acknowledgment within
the plans on show to give prominence to the
Priory, whose ruins lie under its car park.
Which leads on to Lionel Green’s new book,
published by Merton historical Society “A
Priory Revealed”, which is to be launched next
weekend 3 December at St John’s Church Hall,
High Path with a talk by Lionel at 2.30pm.
This draws on the new evidence found in the
recent excavations. Incidentally, Monty’s
seventh book on Mitcham, this time on Upper
Green is to be published in December as well
Finally for this site, but on another tack, the Wheelhouse helped London Zoo in
its survey on eels in the Thames and its tributaries. Member Norman Fairey’s
design of an eel trap so impressed the organizers that he was commissioned to
help build them for other south London rivers.
This is a survey of ‘glass’ eels - the young eels which, having been spawned in
the Sargasso Sea have fought their way back to the rivers in which their parents
grew to maturity.
Glimpse of the Past
Between Streatham and Wimbledon London
strides out in patches. It has not yet taken in
Mitcham, which has a tine green with
memories of great Surrey cricket and which
grows all manner of scented flowers, lavender
and mint and rosemary and everything old-fashioned for herbalists and perfumers and
ladies' sachets and linen-chests. But Merton,
north-west towards Wimbledon, has been
caught fast. Merton church, in which Nelson
used to worship, and which has his hatchment
on the wall, under fine cross beams of oak,
stands among brand new roofs and roads.
Opposite the church is a forlorn relic. A fenced
line of shrubs stands between the entrance to
the churchyard and a blocked gap in an old
wall. Examination will discover on the side
nearest the church the stone threshold of a
gateway. The gateway once led to a house
which was Sheridan's, and which later became
a calico warehouse. Sheridan is now only a
memory: calico-printing remains. Francis
Nixon, founder of the industry, lies in the
From 'North Surrey' by Eric Parker 1937
More depressingly, though, the
total numbers of eels trapped in
the Wandle in the 4 months or so
of the test was 3. In a similar
survey ten years ago 30 eels per
week were being trapped. Whilst
other rivers were reporting falls,
nothing approached this. We have
to worry about what is happening
to our river.
http://www.zsl.org/london-zoo/news/?pageNo=2 for London Zoo’s
notes on the survey as a whole.
Ed November 2005.
The Vestry Hall Annexe, London Road, Mitcham, Surrey
OPEN: Every Wednesday 1 ~ 4 pm;
First Sunday of each month 2 ~ 5 pm.
The Museum is also open to schools and
groups by appointment.
Admission: Adults 50p, Children & Senior
The Wandle Industrial Museum would like to point out that the
views of contributors to this newsletter are not necessarily the
views of the Museum. We would be happy to give the right to
reply to anyone who finds the content contentious.