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Loss of Webbo's services means that this is a simplified version, but at least the colour versions of the photos are there.



Issue 52                                                                     November 2005






~~~ NEWSDESK ~~~


Table of contents

Newsdesk, and dates for your diary           2

Feedback                                                    4

Museum Update                                         5

Nelson Bicentenary update                         8

            When is a Victory not a Victory    10

Merton Abbey Mills update                     13

Glimpse of the Past                            15

Visits to the Museum There was a steady stream of visitors to the Museum during the summer period.

Abbotsbury Primary School were pleased to make a return visit to the Museum for two Textile Workshops. We were also visited by Wandsworth Over 50s Society, who enjoyed a Textile Printing Session and Museum Tour.


Volunteers Lunch

We have had some interesting visitors to the Museum doing individual research into their family histories. Barry Mizzen was researching into the story of the Mizzen family — market gardeners of Mitcham. We were able to tell him about the project being run by Groundwork Merton into the history of the family and he was able to get involved with this project straight away. We also had a visit from Keith Welch researching the Welch family, especially Thomas Welch, a printer of tablecloths at the Morris works before William Morris took it over. Two other interesting visitors were Anna Matyukhina from the Hermitage Museum in Russia and Andrea Alipio from the Philippines.

Outreach Mary Hart and her team have been out and about running printing sessions at various places including the Oddfellows and Kensington Preparatory School. Meg Thomas led a Wandle Walk around Carshalton for Circle Sure Start, a London Borough of Sutton club for mothers and young children.


Volunteers The Volunteers' Quarterly Lunch Meeting was held in October and was very successful. We were sorry to hear that Eric Trim was once more back in hospital. We were pleased to welcome new volunteer Jacqueline Tucker who is gradually learning how to be our new Volunteer Archivist with much help and advice from Marguerite. Jackie, as she would like to be called, is willing to help in the Museum shop area and with Educational visits. She is a former Headmistress of a local school and will have much to offer and will be a welcome addition to the Team.


The Mayor, Cllr Judy Saunders, watches, and our chair, Andrew Wakefield supervises, Meg Thomas drawing a winning ticket for the prize draw at the AGM

Members' Events PAST: A group of members and guests, including Dave Saxby of the Museum of London and Anna Matyukhina of the Hermitage Museum, enjoyed a guided tour of the

Red House on a beautiful September day. We went by minibus, kindly arranged by Ray Leyden, and had a very informative and interesting visit.

The A.G.M. was well attended on 2nd November. We were very pleased to welcome Cllr Judy Saunders, Mayor of Merton, to the proceedings. After the Business Meeting we enjoyed the excellent refreshments provided by Mary Hart, and this was followed by a most interesting slide presentation by Dave Saxby on Excavations at the Merton Priory Site.

FUTURE: The next event in the Museum calendar is the Annual Christmas Party for which invitations have already been posted out. We do hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend as this is usually a great evening.

The next temporary exhibition will go up in January, on “The Hatfeilds and Morden Hall”

Subscriptions for the year 2005-6 are now due. A reminder slip is enclosed with this Newsletter.

We wish all our Members and Friends a very Happy Christmas and thank them for all their support over the year.

Sheila Harris, November 2005



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 square).


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 House



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 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 House

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 seen


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, Mitcham

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 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 background.


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


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







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 groups.



The Nelson Paradise Merton musical performance at the New Wimbledon Theatre

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, Merton)).


Nelson then gave a stirring speech, before walking to his carriage to start the journey to Portsmouth.


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 Hotel.


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






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 Newsletter.


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 Auriel Glanville

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 almost sank.


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 original timbers.


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



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 subsequent press releases, when their original design was rejected, and the present one the result of pressure from the community.


More immediately 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 churchyard.


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.


See for London Zoo’s notes on the survey as a whole.



Ed November 2005.















The Vestry Hall Annexe, London Road, Mitcham, Surrey CR4 3UD

Tel: 020-8648-0127


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 Citizens 20p

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.