Last issue | Next issue
~~~ NEWSDESK ~~~
Visits to the Museum We had a good attendance from local "over 50s" for the 2006 Celebrating Age festival in September. This annual festival organised by Age Concern is now well established in the Borough, but it was our first time to be an active participant.
Over 20 people came along to see our video, have a tour of the Museum, and watch and participate in a block printing demonstration. Meg Thomas and I were provided with the necessary Celebrating Age T-shirts (see photograph) and were able to greet visitors at the Museum entrance dressed accordingly!
Many thanks to our Volunteers who made this day a great success.
Outreach Mary Hart and her group of block printing volunteers have been out and about recently at Merton Abbey Mills working with Bond Primary School, both when 200 or so pupils came to the Chapter House to see the MOLAS artifacts and for block printing. On the second occasion they visited the Wheelhouse to learn about watermills, and we were pleased to loan them our two water mill models to help enhance the children's learning experience.
The Education Team visited Malmesbury Primary School in October for a Printing Workshop with 2 classes - an enjoyable day was had by all. Later on in October Abbotsbury Primary School visited the Museum on 2 occasions also for Textile Workshops.
Volunteers The last Volunteers Quarterly Meeting was held in September and as usual was well attended. Lunch was kindly provided by Mary Hart who as always provided a good spread. At the moment we have a good team of active volunteers who all work well together — but there is always room for more.
The Annual General Meeting was held on November 2nd at the new Raynes Park Library Hall — a new venue to us which proved popular with members. We were pleased to have in attendance Cllr Geraldine Stanford, Mayor of Merton, Cllr Maurice Groves, Cllr Stephen Alambritis and Peter Warwick, Chairman of the 1805 Society and Judy Goodman, chair of Merton Historical Society. The Business Meeting was followed by refreshments again provided by Mary and greatly enjoyed by all. Afterwards we were treated to an excellent presentation on The Mizens of Mitcham by Rachel England of Groundwork Merton. Rachel also mounted an interesting display of photographs of the Mizen family — market gardeners of Mitcham. Copies of the Education Pack produced by Groundwork Merton were also available.
The next Museum event will be the Annual Christmas Party to be held in the Museum on Thursday 7th December at 7-OOpm. Invitations are included with this Newsletter and we do hope to see as many of you as possible at this event.
Unfortunately the proposed visit to the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth has had to be cancelled as Young's Brewery has now left the Wandsworth site. We look forward to hearing your ideas for possible group visits.
Annual Subscriptions 2006-7 These are now due for the coming year and a Membership Renewal Form is enclosed with this Newsletter.
With best wishes for a
Prosperous New Year
Sheila Harris - 8 November 2006
Organization: Things have been busy this last three months. Firstly, we have been getting on with the structural reorganization of the Management Committee, identifying the roles we each play, and our respective reporting obligations, as well as those areas in which we support each other. The aim is to simplify the meetings by each of us tabling a written report on activities, past and projected, which can be taken as read, allowing the meting time to concentrate on matters which require debate and consensus. This will take much pressure off Ray, our Minute taker, and allow Andrew, as our Chair, to regulate the meetings more efficiently.
We have welcomed Eric Shaw to our committee as a full member. He has worked tirelessly in the background for many years as a volunteer, but his increasing involvement in building matters, and his selfless acceptance of the role of Fire Officer, have made it essential he is included in management decision making.
This has opened a new debate. There is a generally held fear that a member’s presence at such meetings could result in the member being regarded as a trustee or shadow director of the organization if the management committee is seen as the ultimate decision making entity at the museum. At Andrew’s recommendation/suggestion we will deal with this in future by the Board formally reviewing and adopting/rejecting the Committee’s decisions, underscoring the Board’s overriding responsibility, and its supervisory role.
Ravensbury: Through my presence at the CADAP meetings (see separate article) we have become aware that there has been a representation by the freeholder to water down its s106 obligations to complete the works at Ravensbury Mill. We will continue to monitor this, and insist that the works are done to meet the industrial standard that the wheels demand, not the residential one. The freeholder’s approach does appear cynical, in that we know the museum buildings have been locked, and the keys lost, for almost 2 years during which time its surveyors have not been able to get in, let alone obtain quotations or estimates for the work.
Our vigilance has, however, allowed damage to the Museum building at Ravensbury to be picked up early, and dealt with. First there were the broken windows facing the street, previously reported, and then, more recently, the missing roof tiles. It now appears fully wind and water tight again.
Most disappointing is that there is still nothing to report on the draft agreement presented to LB Merton by Heritage Lottery Fund. That agreement, if accepted by LBM, would allow us to reinstate our suspended lottery bid for a project planning officer. Two years have gone by since the legal technicality was discovered that this agreement remedies, and 15 months since HLF submitted their draft. Now that we are on the agenda of CADAP, it is hoped that the extra pressure will unlock whatever the problem may be.
Curatorial: Meg Thomas reports....
The second AGM of the London Museums Group was held in the GLA building on the embankment. The meeting room is on the top floor and affords stunning views of London. It is possible to visit the building and have a 'bucket' of tea in the cafe, must be very thirsty work in the GLA, but I don't think casual visitors can visit the ninth floor. After the AGM the meeting was addressed by Chris Smith(Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury) who is the Chair of the London Cultural Consortium. He spoke of the importance to London of its museums, not only the national institutions but the many small single-subject museums, some 250 of them. It may or may not surprise you to learn that he also spoke of the 2012 Olympics, 'which has thrown down a challenge to all London's museums and other cultural institutions'.
The London Museums Group is intended to be one voice speaking for all London's museums. The MLA partnership is a national group of which MLA London is a part, MLA stands for Museums, Libraries and Archives.
Roger and I attended another meeting of the Museums Security Group. This time it was held in the Guards Museum Birdcage Walk.
In the Museum. Eric and I are working on brightening up the shop, and this was helped considerably by the replacement of the lighting in the shop area. Our thanks to Vestry Hall. I hope those of you who attended the AGM had time to look at the excellent fridge magnets a new addition to our stock, and very reasonably priced when compared with others on offer.
Finance: We are at the time of year when the budget rounds start, and with LBM having to make harsh cuts to make up the reported deficit inherited by the new administration. We are fortunate that it is in LBM’s best financial interest to keep us maintained, both through the provision of the Vestry Hall Annex, and our small cash grant. However we are aware that this means sacrifices by others, and are even more determined to make our own way at Ravensbury as soon as we are allowed to do so.
Members in the news: By way of light relief, Auriel and Mary have both featured in the newspapers recently. Auriel attended the big climate change march in central London, in her guise as ‘the Statue of taking Liberties’ see picture, wearing the headdress made for her by Mary. This photo appeared on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph as well as in our local Guardian. Meanwhile Mary’s prize winning cake featuring a garden shed, and which was donated by her to the Paddocks Allotment Society for a raffle, has now made it to St George’s Hospital, where it is being re-raffled. The photo appeared on the front of the Wimbledon News.
Merton Heritage: has new opening hours at the Canons in Mitcham - Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 to 4pm, and from 10 to 4.30 Thursdays and Fridays. Their new exhibition on ‘Life in Victorian Merton’ will be opening soon.
Safety Regulations: Eric Shaw writes:
On Tuesday 14 November I attended a programme on the new Fire Safety Regulations organised by the M.V.S.C. in the Vestry Hall, and I have to state that it was organised in an exemplary manner by them. I won't waste either our editor's time or yours by going into details, if you want to read the notes they are on file in the museum.
Briefly The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect on 1st October 2006 and it replaces many of the pieces of legislation with a single order. I don't suppose that anyone will notice any difference in the day to day running of the museum, most of the written work has already been completed. Practically, the effect of the Order will be with regard to safe routes and procedures, and Fire Extinguisher operation in the event of a Fire when the museum is open, and it will be my responsibility to ensure that our attending volunteers know what to do in that event, and that's about it.
Eric Shaw 15/11 /2006 Health and Safety Advisor
Nicholas Hart writes:
I represent the Museum on CADAP - the Conservation and Design Advisory Panel.
The function of this panel is to channel through into the planning process the views of interested members of the wider Merton community, both professional (architects etc.), resident (community groups) and heritage (historical societies and museum groups).
A debate exists as to what should be referred to the panel, and, at present this is decided on a mixture of bases, mostly to do with location and size of the proposed development.
The larger developments come through - eg the proposed redevelopment of the Brown and Root Tower, or of the Hartfield Road car park site in central Wimbledon.
It is the smaller ones which I worry that we miss, where the insignificant size of the physical development means the project is not referred, and yet its location makes it critical. One such example has been brought to my attention, namely the three applications being made at Merton Abbey Mills. These have not featured in the CADAP agenda, yet the site is extraordinarily sensitive.
The first application, to mount a wind vane to create alternative energy, has been passed, I believe. These units are relatively elegant, see photo, and the proposed siting on the edge of MAM is unlikely to cause sufficient unease to overcome the environmental benefits, if it is done well and to scale.
The other two applications (one to rework the Colour House Theatre by creating a new glass canopied entrance on the East end, the other to demolish the bandstand) would seem to me to be of importance as a matter of principle, and where the impact of the proposed development is out of all proportion to the project size.
The Theatre project was approved in principle, I believe, but turned down at committee. Part of me cheers (don't mess with our heritage - this is a building of industrial and historical importance in its own right, whose stonework derives from Merton Priory, and lies across the line of Stane Street, so has relevance over two millennia) but the other part regrets the rejection of something which could add new life and greater relevance. I haven't seen the design, but the British Museum shows how glass can enhance even an historic building, although the project at the Louvre demonstrates why it has to be done sympathetically if not to be a disappointment
As Norman Plaistow and Marcus Beale constantly remind the Panel, it is quality that counts.
I am delighted that the new owners of MAM are so determined to invest in its future, and feel sure the Planning Committee must have had its reasons for turning down the applications, but would have liked the Panel to have had the opportunity to provide its input into projects like these which lie at the core of Merton's Heritage.
Nicholas Hart 18 November 2006
Merton Abbey Mills update
The owners continue to show their commitment to the site, as evidenced by the regular changes now appearing, (and see article on CADAP below), but some of the more obvious changes come from within the existing community. For example, it has been interesting to see the takeup by visitors of the new pottery facilities at the Wheelhouse. Claire and Steve have installed 4 new wheels, and, for £10, casual visitors can get an hour’s tuition and practical experience in this gratifying skill. Strongly recommended.
Elsewhere, September 11th saw the Priory Trust hold its Conservation Plan launch, and the Chapter House was opened for Open House week the following weekend.
The Conservation Plan is a hefty document, which includes much interesting research and other information about the Priory, and a copy is held in the Wheelhouse for those who are interested. Electronic copies are available from its website. The launch party was opened by the Mayor, Cllr Gillian Stanford, who is also a trustee. Mary reprised her celebration Priory cake for this event, which was cut and eaten on the night - our mayor remarking how like Henry VIII she felt, being the person responsible for destroying it twice in as many months!
The Open House weekend in September
had Mary fronting two gruelling days in the Chapter House with her block printing demonstrations. There was a constant stream of visitors, and we were particularly pleased to say hello to David Luff, who had been employed at Liberty’s and was subsequently an important early member of the museum and editor of this Newsletter. He and Mary had a debate over terminology - Mary refers to the dyes she uses as ‘inks’, but David preferred the correct technical expression of ‘colours’. He willingly accepted, however, that the job of the Museum is to communicate, and everyone understood ‘ink’, but, children particularly, could be confused by ‘colour’.
Many of the visitors to the Chapter House were the new occupiers of the residential development at Merton Abbey Mills. Worryingly, many of them spoke of problems with the buildings, with cracks appearing in brickwork, and battles with the developer over whether these were construction problems, or ongoing maintenance.
More visibly, car parking charges have now been imposed, allowing 2 hours free PROVIDED you display a ticket, and healthy penalties if you don’t. It is not yet clear how this affects the car parking under the pylon, which now belongs to the Priory Trust, and which brings the added burden of liability if anyone trips and hurts themselves in that area.
Glimpses of the Past
An Incident in Beddington
With thanks to Sally Kirkwood from whose notes on Beddington Mill this story is extracted. Sally is a scion of the Lambert Family, and has ben able to fill in some of the gaps in Peter McGow's history of this mill.
Charles [Lambert] appears in a darkly comic story of a tragic ballooning accident in Beddington Park in 1824, when Mrs Gee's gamekeeper was surprised by a hot air balloon crashing into a tree a few yards away from him. The balloonist, in full naval uniform, was killed on impact but his passenger, a young lady called Miss Stocks survived and was put up at The Plough to recover. The ensuing inquest was enlivened by both sets of relatives appearing hot foot from London to enquire
how the young lady got into the basket. The reports in The Times are detailed and gleeful, doing nothing for either party's reputation, but it emerged that Mr Harris the balloonist was demonstrating his skills in The Eagle Tavern Gardens in City Road and had asked for volunteers in exchange for 50 guineas when Miss Stocks won him over with her display of courage. The tree in the park on which they foundered had to be guarded against souvenir hunters. Charles Lambert had to exercise his church warden duties in taking charge of the corpse (See The Times 24, 27 and 28 May 1824)
Transported to Australia
Extracted from "Ansell Family History" by Stan Anson
George Augustus and Francis Ansell, sons and grandsons of wealthy millowners whose father had fallen on hard times, were convicted of the theft of a silk handkerchief, and were sentenced to be transported to Australia for 7 years. The following excerpt from the Ansell family history describes the voyage.
It was to be the Larkins, "an old East Indiaman" (built Calcutta, 1808), slow but sturdy, which had already delivered two cargoes of convicts to New South Wales. The Larkins was crewed and provisioned at Deptford during May 1831, and began its slow progress down the Thames on 1 June, collecting convicts from hulks along the way — from the Justitia at Woolwich and the Retribution at Sheerness, with others transferred from the Cumberland and the Euryalus at Chatham, bringing the total to 280, all male. (The Larkins was towed as far as Gravesend by steamboat — a reminder that even if the Mill Owner's sons had been much better businessmen, their watermills might not have withstood the competition from new technologies.)
They farewelled their pilot in the Downs on 18 June and beat their way down the Channel against a "fresh gale" and a "high tumbling Sea", which left the convicts' quarters "drenched with water". They made it to Ushant, from which they took their final departure on 28 June. From there it was a steady routine of cleanliness and godliness under the vigilant but not unsympathetic eye of the ship's surgeon, relieved only by the adventures of convict John Higgins, who broke into the main hold, where "great depredation had been committed of late", and left the guard and crew wondering nervously about the security of the aft hold, "in which were deposited the Ammunition, Spirits &c, particularly as phosphoric Matches were found". The master took the direct route, crossing the equator on 31 July, the weather now so "sultry and oppressive" that "when the Convicts were all mustered below for the night, the heat in the Prison was almost insufferable". The heat abated as they headed south, but they struck more bad weather when they "crossed the Meridian of the Cape of Good Hope" on 6 September. Once again, the "Prison-room and Hospital were frequently drenched with salt water as also the Bedding and clothing of the Prisoners, and we had no means of having them dried". The Indian Ocean crossing was uneventful, but they were hurried across the Southern Ocean by five days of gale-force winds (14–18 October). At last, on 19 October, "we came to an anchor on Sullivans Cove off Hobart Town, after a passage of eighteen weeks without seeing Land, and without the loss of an individual". The Ansell brothers came through the voyage unscathed, apart from the inevitable symptoms of scurvy — "Scorbutic Blotches and sores" for George Augustus, and a "Scorbutic Ulcer" for Francis.
Developments in mapping and satellite imagery on the web are creating a lot of interest.
For comparison, see both google mapping at http://maps.google.co.uk/maps , and the mapping facility at www.192.com/maps.
On the google site, for example, you can type in ‘CR4 3UD’ in the address box at the top, and get a ‘streetmap’ view of Vestry Hall. The slider on the left lets you zoom in or out, and right clicking allows you to move the view around to find adjoining locations. Much more interesting, you will see at the top right options for two alternative views. Click satellite and you get the comparative satellite image, and click hybrid, and you get the satellite image with streetnames imposed. I like this - see image below/overleaf!
The 192 site does it differently. Put in the same address, CR4 3UD, and you get a streetmap view. Slide the scale on the left, and it goes automatically into satellite view.
These are not the same images as google uses, so a combination of both is very informative.
Whilst on google, we have input our site data to the their mapping. A by product of this appears to be that we are now featuring more prominently in their web pages, so finding us has become easier again.