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Issue 60                                                                     November 2007





~~~ NEWSDESK ~~~

Table of contents

Newsdesk, and dates for your diary           2

Museum Update -                                       4

Merton Abbey Mills update                       7

Wandle Pollution - Press Release               9

More First Public Railway                       12

House Mill update                                    14

Booking Form                                          15



Visits to the Museum have been consistent during the autumn. Once again we were happy to participate in


Merton's Festival for the Over 50s in September. We held an Open Afternoon and were pleased to welcome a very interested group of visitors to the Museum who watched the DVD on Block Printing, had a guided tour of the Museum exhibits and then had a go at block printing themselves. Very many appreciative comments were written in the Visitors' Book.



The Education Team were happy to make a return visit to Malmesbury Primary School for a Textile Workshop in October. We are always pleased to be asked to make a return visit to a school.

We have also been asked to participate in a Learning Links project with Joseph Hood Primary School. This is organised by the MLA - Museums, Libraries & Archives who are funding the project which aims to develop links between schools and museums. This is still in the planning stages and we can report further on its progress in the next Newsletter. Meanwhile it sounds like an interesting and exciting project which we are keen to be involved with. Our first visit from the school team leading this venture taking place as this Newsletter goes to print, so more details next issue.



We had a very successful Volunteers' Lunch Meeting in September at which 20 volunteers attended and enjoyed the excellent food prepared by Mary Hart. We have had three prospective volunteers during the last two months who we hope will be joining us soon. Alison Cousins, who together with her husband Peter has been a Museum member for many years, will be joining us shortly to help with the archives. As a retired University Librarian she should have the expertise to help Meg and Jacquie.

Cy Burman and Michael Taylor have both come to us through Merton Volunteer Centre and have offered to help us in the Shop/Reception area. We hope to see them all at the next Volunteers' Lunch Meeting on December 19th which will be a Christmas Celebration.

sheila70.jpgOur administrator Sheila Harris celebrating her 70th birthday this month, with flowers from the Museum and a cake by Mary Hart


The AGM was held on Thursday November 1st at Raynes Park Library Hall in the presence of the Mayor of Merton. Cllr John Dehaney. John Phillips, Sutton's Heritage Project Manager, gave an interesting lecture on Houses and Gardens of the Wandle.




These are now due for the 2007/08 year, and a reminder is included with this Newsletter for those affected.


Dates for your Diary

The next Volunteers lunch will be on Wednesday 19th January.


It has been decided not to hold a Members Christmas Party this year, but to have a New Year's Dinner in January. This is to be held at Park Place Beefeater Restaurant, Mitcham, on Thursday l0th January 2008 at 7.00 for 7.30pm. Members and Volunteers and their friends wishing to come will be asked to contribute £10 per person towards the cost of the evening. Anything over and above this amount will be met by the Museum. The set menu available is 2 courses for £9 95. - any Member or Volunteer who would like to join us please let us know by Thursday 20 December (but the sooner the better.) Please either ring Sheila on 020 8648-0127, or email Because we have to pay for the number of people we book for, it is important to know these bookings are definite before we make the arrangements. Please feel free to use the form on p14 if it helps.


On the night please bring £10 cash per head, unless you have paid in advance (cheques in favour of Wandle Industrial Museum to be posted to Sheila at the Museum by 20 December).


We will be arranging for a certain amount of wine/drink to get the meal started, but after that it will be back to you!


Meanwhile we wish all our Members and Volunteers a very Happy Christmas.


Sheila Harris November 25, 2007



Museum Update


The biggest news since the last newsletter has been the pollution disaster that hit the Wandle at the end of September. We publish the full Press release on page 9, as issued by the rapidly formed Wandle action group.


Just as big an issue for us has been the battle to get in our application for accreditation. As signposted in our last newsletter, accreditation is taking over from registration, so, to continue to be treated as a museum, commanding the appropriate level of respect, and keeping the doors open for relevant grant funding, we had no choice but to get on with it, working to a 25 November deadline.


Although given 6 months in which to do this, and provided with help and support from MLA in the person of Kate Hebditch, there was a huge amount to achieve.


Effectively all our documentation had to be overhauled, and modernised.


Meg Thomas and Jacquie Tucker, ably supported by Sheila and Eric, got stuck in.


A final meeting with Kate was held on 19 November, and the form was filed electronically on 23 November.


Without Kate’s active support and encouragement, this would not have been possible, on top of which Simon Lace, as our Curatorial Adviser, took the time out of his busy schedule to check the application before it went in.


The hard copy document pack must now go off to our assessor, and we await any questions she may have. No time scale has been given for the completion of the approval process, but we would hope to have some news by the time we meet in January.


Whilst congratulations to all involved must be given, we should into forget that Ray handled the Registration process 6 years ago virtually all by himself, and, while clearly much less onerous than the new system, without those efforts we would not have been able to proceed today with the accreditation process.


Our belated thanks to him for that!


There has been some movement on the Ravensbury front as well. Cllr Maurice Groves, the cabinet member under whose aegis we fall, has continued to keep up the pressure. As a result English Heritage have offered to help obtain the right specification for the outstanding works, and to help the freeholder get a builder to quote for them.


We have supplied as much information as we can to help, via Sara Williams in the LBM enforcement office, and are awaiting news of further progress.


No movement on the HLF front however. It is now over 2 years since LBM have had the agreement for approval, and over 18 months since that document has been with LBM’s legal department. Apart from one call about 9 months ago, there has been no sign this has even been looked at. However, bearing in mind the impenetrable chinese walls the LBM legal department have constructed around themselves to prevent members of the public being able to make any direct contact whatsoever, there may indeed have been plenty of activity, probably completely misdirected and misplaced, of which we have been kept in unblissful ignorance.


Another successful AGM, as mentioned in Newsdesk. For myself, I wasn’t sure how interesting I would find a talk on the Gardens of the Wandle, but John Philips talk was a revelation. Without notes, and hardly drawing breath, he talked for the best part of an hour and kept everyone involved. Even Andrew forgave him for using powerpoint rather than slides! John confessed to having been nervous in

ericandjean.jpgEric and Jean Shaw cutting their golden wedding celebration cake

            stepping across the borders from Sutton into Merton, but was greatly relieved to find the natives were friendly. His only professsed disappointment was in not being warned about Mary’s catering, so had had a full meal before arriving, and couldn’t enjoy it as he would have wished.


mam2.jpgThe new piece of the mural. The wind turbine will come up just to the right of the main sign, and stand over 20 metres high

On the social side, two major anniversaries have occurred. In September Eric and Jean Shaw’s Golden Wedding was celebrated in style, and then more recently Sheila Harris let us all join her in celebrating her 70th birthday.


Both events went with a bang, and, needless to say, were illustrated by a celebration cake from Mary in each case.



Ed November 25, 2007



Merton Abbey Mills update


openday.jpgMary Hart in the Chapter House on Open House weekend, entertaining the visitors

Another very successful London Open House day at the Chapter House, in September, with Mary running a busy block printing table, and a constant stream of visitors, some having made the effort to come deliberately, others discovering us by chance.


The visitors book for this event is now becoming a valuable resource in its own right.


bbc.jpgJohn Hawks with Juliet Morris of the BBC’s Countryfile, discussing the improving status of the Wandle at Merton Abbey Mills

Earlier in September and coming by cruel coincidence just before the pollution disater that afflicted the Wandle, the Museum was happy to assist the BBC in putting together their Countryfile program which aired later that month.


The piece in question used the Wandle as an example of how previously heavily industrialised urban rivers were being brought back to life, and, in doing so, bringing an extra dimension to the communities these rivers flowed through.


The three main pieces were focused on a clean up by Wandle Trust at the Carshalton end of the river, a wildife excerpt based on Morden Hall Park and an interview with John Hawks based on the banks of the Wandle in Merton Abbey Mills.


We were able to tape the program, and the BBC were kind enough to agree we can show this privately to those interested.


Talking of industrialisation, the new wind turbine should be erected in the next couple of weeks.


There has been some delay for technical reasons, hopefully now overcome.

mam1.jpgA detail of the new extended mural that extends past the area where the new windvane is to be, showing images from Liberty and Morris designs

Originally it was designed to be installed on a hinge basis, we understand, but the location did not allow for it, so a revised fixing had to be engineered.


There will be a grand opening in December, and then we will see for the first time how this new implementation of old, technology will fit in with Merton Abbey Mills. Bearing in mind Norman Plaistow’s variously quoted aphorism that no-one builds a windmill who can build a watermill, however, it does feel strange to see this money spent on unpredictable wind power when the Wandle runs so close.


Ed, November 25, 2007


Wandle Pollution Disaster



From the Anglers' Conservation Association, Morden Hall Park Angling Club, National Trust, Thames Water, Wandle Piscators and Wandle Trust


Wandle Rehabilitation Project Launched

In Wake of Fish Kill


9 October 2007           Immediate Release

Following the pollution of the River Wandle on Monday 17 September, which killed thousands of fish and invertebrates, a meeting yesterday agreed an ambitious vision for a new project not only to restore the river to its pre-pollution condition but also to continue the improvement that had been in progress before the incident. The meeting was co-ordinated by the Anglers' Conservation Association and was attended by the local angling clubs, the Wandle Trust, the Chief Executive of Thames Water, two of the company's senior directors, fisheries staff from the Environment Agency and was hosted by the National Trust. Thames Water admitted responsibility for the pollution and apologised unreservedly to everyone concerned.


          Agreement was reached between all parties that:

          The announcement of this project will not have any bearing whatsoever on any future criminal prosecution of Thames Water by the Environment Agency, whose staff attended the meeting in an advisory capacity only;

          There will be an immediate appraisal of the damage caused by the pollution by independent fisheries scientists and ecologists, jointly instructed by all parties;

          Thames Water will commit to core funding and supporting a five year rehabilitation plan for the river in partnership with the local community and key land-owners;

          Failsafe measures to provide state of the art pollution monitoring at the sewage treatment works will be in place by the end of 2007;

          The feasibility of biological tertiary treatment - gravel and reed beds - to improve effluent quality and protect against any future incidents will be investigated on the outflow from Beddington Sewage Treatment Works;

          Thames Water will pay compensation to the local angling clubs and angling businesses for their immediate losses;

          A web forum should be set up immediately on to capture the views of local people about the measures which should be taken to put right the damage;

          A draft plan for rehabilitating the river will be published early in 2008 and the local community invited to comment, including at a public meeting before it is finalised;

          Suitable fish should be identified immediately for restocking, which will be undertaken in line with the recommendations of the independent report, but only when it is clear that the river will be able to support the new stocks.


David Owens, Chief Executive of Thames Water, said: 'We accept full responsibility for this incident and apologise to the many people who have been affected. We know that rehabilitation will be a long process, and that significant costs will be involved, but we want to get started as soon as possible. The first step is to commission an independent survey of the river to assess the damage and identify what work is required. We are committed to working openly and co-operatively with the Environment Agency, the ACA, angling clubs, the Wandle Trust and the local community on a plan that will not just restore the river but - in the longer term - improve it, for the benefit of people and wildlife. We are pleased that the Environment Agency are closely involved in this process, which is entirely separate from the ongoing investigation into the incident by their legal team."


Bob Collington, Wastewater Operations Director of Thames Water, said: "My whole team are deeply upset by this incident. It is a huge disappointment after a year in which we have made big improvements to the performance of our sewage treatment works, with the lowest ever number of incidents. The work we were carrying out at Beddington was part of that process. Our investigation into what happened hasn't finished. But in summary we were cleaning the tertiary treatment filters to improve the quality of the effluent entering the river. Three of the four sets of filters had been cleaned successfully, using acid and a concentrated bleach solution. This is a routine operation. But something went terribly wrong. Until the investigation is complete, the process has been banned at all our sites. I can confirm that procedures will be tightened and that we will be installing advanced monitoring equipment, imported from the USA, as soon as possible."


Mark Lloyd, Executive Director of the Anglers' Conservation Association said: "whilst everyone regrets that this incident ever happened, we are delighted that Thames Water has responded not only by accepting responsibility and promising to compensate those affected but they have also agreed to go the extra mile and commit to core funding the long term improvement of the river. This is a very welcome change from a company that the ACA has previously had to fight through the courts. We hope that this sets a precedent for any future pollution events not only by Thames Water, but by the rest of the water industry."


Theo Pike, Trustee of the Wandle Trust and Senior Vice President of the Wandle Piscators said: "we are delighted to have been assured of Thames Water's commitment to working with the local community to mitigate the effects of this environmental disaster, and provide real partnership in restoring the Wandle to its rightful status as the best urban chalkstream in the world".


Zoe Colbeck, Property Manager for the National Trust's Morden Hall Park, said: "The River Wandle is an incredibly import resource for the local community and for wildlife. Over a number of years we have been working with the Environment Agency and other partners to improve the water quality and associated habitat. We are delighted that Thames Water have decided to contribute to this process and we are looking forward to working in partnership with them over the coming years. We hope this experience will also help us work more closely with Thames Water across the whole of the SE region."


Charles Rangeley-Wilson, presenter of the BBC's Accidental Angler series, said: "Catching and releasing a 2 ½ pound trout from the River Wandle this August was probably the most significant moment in my fishing career. I'd dreamt about doing this for a decade. It meant a lot to me that this urban river was recovering from centuries of pollution. That trout was an old warhorse of a fish and to think that it had endured for so long only to die in this recent, disastrous pollution was very depressing. Despite my despair at that news I'm now really delighted to see that the ACA has worked so quickly with Thames Water and the local community to develop an ambitious plan to get the river back on its upward curve of recovery as soon as possible."




Notes to Editors:

1.         The pollution was caused by sodium hypochlorite which was being used to clean tertiary treatment screens of accumulated bacterial matter and limescale at Beddington Sewage Treatment Works and was released into the river as a result of operator error.

2.         Assessment of the damage is continuing, but it is clear that several tons of fish were killed along with many of the invertebrates and plants in the river.

3.         The River Wandle flows into the tidal Thames through the London Boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth in South London.

4.         The ACA's previous press release about the incident can be found at




More First Public Railway


Following a claim on QI that the Dioklos was the first public railway, I posted the note below to contradict this.


I have now been contacted by a Greek journalist desperate to get the Greek Government to support a repair and preservation plan for the Dioklos. I make no apology for passing on the link to the online petition at : . Please consider adding your support.


My article read:

The attribution of the earliest railway to the Diolkos is wrong - much of QI is built on a precise use of language (eg what is the tallest mountain, rather than just the highest mountain) so I feel entitled to take issue on this. Railways are a 18th/19th Century derivation from plateways, when the inner guiding flange was adapted to take weight, not just keep the wheels on the track (hence also the reduction of standard guage from 5' to 4'81/2").


The Diolkos was a rutway. Rutways continued in use, especially in mines, and it was the lining of rutways with first wood, then iron which was the direct precursor to plateways. At a pinch, therefore, I could live with the Diolkos being called, a railway because of this link.


But it wasn't the earliest. The island of Thassos, for example, has rutways in its mines which date to at least 100years before the Dioklos. Thassos was a Phoenician colony, and it is therefore probable that even that date is not the earliest, as that remarkable race is more than likely to have imported that technology from elsewhere.


What is genuinely QI is the parallel between the Dioklos and the Surrey Iron Railway, normally called the world's first public railway. It too was derived from mining technology. It, too, was geared to the transport of goods and materials, not people.


If a rutway is a railway, then I am happy to concede that the Dioklos was the first Public Railway. Otherwise local pride requires me to insist that the Surrey Iron Railway takes that title. Neither was the first railway. For a more amusing take on this, try:”

I then received a riposte from a Merthyr Tydfil supporter:


"Richard Trevithick soon found another sponsor in Samuel Homfray, the owner of the Penydarren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil. In February 1804, Trevithick produced the world's first steam engine to run successfully on rails. The locomotive, with its single vertical cylinder, 8 foot flywheel and long piston-rod, managed to haul ten tons of iron, seventy passengers and five wagons from the ironworks at Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal. During the nine mile journey the Penydarren locomotive reached speeds of nearly five miles an hour. Trevithick's locomotive employed the very important principle of turning the exhaust steam up the chimney, so producing a draft which drew the hot gases from the fire more powerfully through the boiler."



Hence why my home town of Merthyr tydfil celebrates being the 1st. no horses and carried passengers. Thus making it a better claim with your argument.


We all like to defend our home patch :)



Ed, 25 November 2007

House Mills Update


Colin Sunders was kind enough to write in following the last newlsetter with this update on the naming questioned posed by Eric Shaw:


Dear Nicholas


Thanks for another entertaining newsletter.


I shall try to help with your question about the spelling of Lea/Lee, as I have been involved with it in my capacity as guidebook author and project manager (now retired) for the Capital Ring, which follows that river for several miles.


As with many topographical names, the spelling has over the years varied from person to person and from time to time. Though it seems such a simple name, there have been at least 25 different spellings, according to the excellent guidebook to the Lea Valley Walk published by Cicerone Press and written by, would you believe, Leigh Hatts. I had a theory that it depends on whether you lived on the east or west bank, but an examination of associated names, such as roads and fields, put paid to that. Even the Ordnance Survey cannot decide, and uses both. So now people just write it according to their preference. The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has tried to reach a compromise in which Lea is used for natural manifestations such as the river itself and its valley, while Lee is applied to artifices such as the Lee Navigation, its towpath and the LVRPA. There are two long distance trails along the valley, and to avoid upsetting the protagonists, one is called the Lea Valley Walk (principally for walkers), the other the Lee Valley Pathway (principally for cyclists). I understand that Lee is preferred in parliamentary usage.


I hope this is now clear - as mud!


Best wishes.

Colin Saunders

[address supplied]





Wandle Industrial Museum


New Year 2008

Members and Volunteers Dinner


Name of Member/Volunteer ....................................................................................

Name of Guest (if any) ...................................................................................

Contact phone No ......................................................

I/We would like to attend the Dinner at Park Place Beefeater on Thursday 10th January 2008 and enclose a cheque for £10/£20 [delete as appropriate] made payable to Wandle Industrial Museum.

I/We understand that if this booking is not received by 20 December 2007 the place[s] can not be guaranteed




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.