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Issue 66                             May 2009





Table of contents

[1] Newsdesk, and dates for your diary           2

[2] Museum Update-                                        5

[3] William Morris news                                  7

[4] Merton Abbey Mills update                     10

[5] Wandle Valley Festival                            11


Glimpse of the Past (McGow)                  12

[7] Bunce’s Meadow                                     14

~~~ NEWSDESK ~~~


National Trust May Fair, under the big tent in the Stable Yard, watching a performance of Wind in the Willows


Our stall at the May Fair

Visits to the Museum

There has been a steady stream of visitors to the Museum during the spring months, many doing research into the River Wandle and its history.
We were pleased to be able to participate in the National Trust Fair this year held mainly in the Stable Block, and organised by the Trust themselves as the company StageIt had gone out of business. The Fair was quite a small event compared to the usual commercial one held on the field. However it proved quite popular with local people and the weather was kind, so we were able to promote the Museum and make a small profit. Our thanks to the National Trust for organizing this event at short notice.
Educational Visits
A very interested group of students from University College London visited the Museum in March. They were from all over the world and their comments in the Visitors’ Book reflect this. We really need some interpreters to find out what they thought of us!
Also in May we had two groups of children from Haslemere School for Textile Workshops. This school is participating in the River & Cloth Project sponsored by the London Borough of Merton and the Embroiderer’s Guild.
Finally in May we had another two groups from Age Concern to visit us. They enjoyed a Talk about the Museum and a demonstration of hand block printing, after which those that wanted had a go themselves.
Thanks to all the Volunteers who helped at the National Trust Fair over the May Bank Holiday Weekend. We could do with your help again at two future events:
The Wimbledon Village Fair on Saturday June 20th from 10.30—5.30pm on Wimbledon Common.
The National Trust Green Day on Sunday 19th July in Morden Hall Park 10.00—5.00pm.
All members and Volunteers should by now have received their invitations to the new Exhibition, opening on Saturday 13 June at 10.45am. The new display will be Lost Mills of the Wandle and will be opened by the new Mayor of Merton, Cllr Nick Draper.
Don’t forget the Wandle Valley Festival, Saturday 6th June and Sunday 7th June, with events going on along the full length of the Wandle.
We must officially welcome new Volunteer Helen Daniels who has recently joined us as a Fundraiser. Helen lives in Croydon and is already an experienced Volunteer working for Mitcham Library Home Visits Service and the National Trust. We are happy to share her expertise.
At the moment we have an excellent group of dedicated volunteers for which we are very grateful. • Subscriptions
Thank you to all those who have paid for this year’s membership. A reminder slip is enclosed for those who have not yet paid.

We hope to see some of you at one of the many events which are coining up shortly.

Sheila Harris 13/05/2009

Curators Report

relief.jpgThe Relief Map - ‘Before’

The new cupboards have arrived and the process of transferring the artifacts will begin shortly. We have been awarded a grant from Grassroots so we can at last buy a new computer. This will take us into the wonderful realm of digitalizing the archives! Eric and Michael have been working on the relief map of the Wandle setting up an interactive light system, their ingenuity and patience fighting with a spaghetti junction of wires has been a lesson in dedication.

I visited the Museums and Heritage show at Earls Court. Full of exciting technology and wonderful equipment to make museums exciting places to visit, at a price! I spoke to a charming man from Belfast who made animated films. He told me that as they were based in Belfast their overheads were less than mainland companies, so he could make us a short film for only £5000. I mentioned this was twice our annual grant, still I have his card. Many of the exhibitors were offering interactive systems but I'm afraid I was rather too faint hearted to ask the prices after that.

One company produced heritage seeds, which might be of interest to us as lavender and herbs were local crops, a bit more in our price range. There were also helpful seminars, the two I was interested in were, of course, running at the same time. If the system works I may get the talk emailed to me.

It was very warm in the exhibition so I bought a small bottle of apple juice, although I have the receipt I don't think I will claim it on expenses it was after all £2.60 and I would hate to be exposed for milking the system.

                                                                                  Meg Thomas


Museum Update

It is a pleasure to use this Newsletter to announce that Harry Galley, who, with Kevin Leyden, thought up the idea of the Wandle Industrial Museum, and then made it happen, has accepted the role of Honorary President of the Museum, having stepped down as a director after 25 years. He will formally take up his role at the AGM this year but, in the meantime, a short precis of his various achievements will appear in the next Newsletter.

Ravensbury Mill - after the flurry of activity over the winter, things have gone quiet again, but with Cllr Maurice Groves pushing to ensure files no longer go to sleep, matters are still bubbling on under the surface. Essentially the task is to find a way to harness grant moneys available from English Heritage so that we can restore the wheels at the same time as the freeholder is completing the s106 works.

Unfortunately our earlier plan of requiring the freeholder to lead the contract seems to have been reversed into one in which we are to take the lead, and merely receive additional funding from the freeholder to cover his s106 portion of the costs.

The current halt has been occasioned by the apparent lack of a specification for the outstanding s106 work which we can give to our contractors for a proper quote, and without which we can not make a grant application. We assume that spec exists, because the freeholder has previously received quotes for the work, but it has not yet been forthcoming. Hopefully it will emerge, and we can then start rolling again.

By the time you get this Newsletter the Wandle Valley Festival will be almost upon us, followed a week later by our own summer exhibition opening with the title “Lost Mills of the Wandle”, once again coinciding with the Mitcham carnival. We hope to see you all there, not least to welcome our new mayor, Cllr Nick Draper.

Cllr Draper sits as a trustee of the Priory Trust, and so has an active interest in heritage matters in Merton. The heritage sector in Merton has been very fortunate in its Mayors all of whom have shown an active interest on their official visits, and several of whom, like Cllr Draper, have had an ongoing interest going beyond their official duties.

River and Cloth - this large project is at last under way, with the current year concentrating on dyeing activities and 2010 turning to printing (which is where we will come in). You will see from your Wandle Valley Festival brochures that there will be dyeing demonstration on both days - one at Merton Abbey Mills, and the other at Dean City Farm. Unfortunately, as Mary will be on duty in the Chapter House on both days, she will not be able to participate in these activities, or in the similar project going on at Honeywood museum over that weekend, but would welcome reports back from those who can.

On another heritage note, Merton Heritage has now relocated from the Cannons, and is to be found in conjunction with the local studies centre on the second floor in Morden library at the Civic Centre. We hope the move goes well for Sarah Gould, and that she manages to preserve her volunteer base in its new location.

The website has been updated with all the missing newsletters (somewhat rough and ready I’m afraid - I don’t have Michael’s skills), and I will try to keep adding material to keep interest in it. In the meantime we are opening discussions with a website designer to see if we can simplify the home pages, and make the material more accessible.

Finally, this year is the three year anniversary that requires us to renew our various CRB certificates, so we can continue to provide services to Merton’s children and vulnerable adults. These have all been submitted and received, now.

Nicholas Hart, May 2009


William Morris Update

emma_lazarus.jpgEmma Lazarus

Volunteer Michael Taylor, a talented cameraman in his own right, has created for us a set of William Morris postcards including three of his ‘River’ designs - some more famous than others. The photos here do not do them justice - they are of stunning quality, and now available through the shop. We hope to be selling many of these at our Summer Opening, and at the Wimbledon Village Fair. Our thanks to Michael for this outstanding contribution.

Independently of this, many of you will know I have become a fan of Emma Lazarus, in particular of her 1886 article about her visit to see William Morris at Merton, from which I printed an excerpt in this newsletter a couple of years ago.

The full text of this, with the accompanying images, can be seen now on our web site - William Morris at Merton or go to the Mills page and click on the link there.

Meanwhile, our thanks to Meg for contributing the following article.

William Morris Abroad

When I talk to visitors about William Morris and his desire for everyone to live in beautiful surroundings 'Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' I often feel that it must have saddened him to realise that the very people he wanted to have these things could not afford them. I was pleased to find this thought supported by a quote from his daughter, May.

In 1934 she writes, 'But as time passed he began to question what seemed to be the contradictions in his life. For his great hope in the future was for "an art made by the people and for the people as a joy to the maker and user,"and yet the goods he made were beyond the means of simple people".

Where did I read May's talk on her father? - in the news letter of the William Morris Society in the United States.

We tend to think of Morris as 'ours', but he is celebrated world-wide and sometimes it seems appreciated more in other countries than in his own.(prophet etc!). There are William Morris Societies all over the world.


The Treyakov Gallery in Moscow

In a preface to a book about an Exhibition of Morris's work in Canada (1993/4) Katherine A. Lochnan, Chair of the Curatorial Committee writes, 'Canada's major public museums and art colleges were funded by friends and adherents of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.'

The exhibition brought together artifacts produced by the Arts and Crafts Society from all over Canada. The number of artifacts lent was a revelation to those putting the exhibition together.

There are societies in many countries, his centenary was celebrated not only in the UK but in Canada, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Portugal ,Russia and the U.S. In 2008 there was an Exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Treyakov Gallery, Moscow. The facade of the gallery was designed by Viktor Vasnetsov who was influenced by the ideas of William Morris.

It is good to know that the Arts and Crafts Movement can still influence designers. Not only designers, as many of Morris' wallpapers and fabrics are still available today. After all you can buy a trowel and a small fork to work in your garden covered by Morris designs, I like to think he would have been amused by that as he was very much a garden designer as well.

Meg Thomas, May 2009

Michael Taylor’s Morris Collection of cards.






‘The Forest’ (detail)



‘Strawberry Thief’



‘Rose and Lily’










‘African Marigold’




Merton Abbey Mills Update

The refurbishment of the Colour House theatre is almost complete (soundproofing, new doors, new seating etc.), and is worth a visit if you haven’t done so. Mary and I were passing by and unexpectedly press ganged into one of the first shows to be put on following the refurb, the surprisingly good “The Full Nelson ” - a one man show by Gregor Truter, (an excerpt can be seen on youtube - and is well worth a look if you would like to see a light hearted look at Lord Nelson.

The refurb of the public toilets is under way, and it is very much to be hoped this will be finished by Wandle Valley Festival weekend (6/7th June) or the proverbial may very well hit the fan!

The Priory Trust should by now have taken formal possession of the Chapter House. As signposted in the last newsletter matters seem to have stalled, though we are assured by the officers at LB Merton this is not the case - final negotiations over the terms of the transfer from Axa to LB Merton are still being finalised, with neither side wishing to take on, accidentally, the liabilities of the other, so great caution is being exercised. Once that is done, the freehold (and the £300,000) transfers to Merton, who will then grant a lease to Priory Trust and agree the relevant funding package. There is likely to be


Moorhen nesting against the Mill race grille

an interregnum period between these two events, and I have been asked (and pleased to accept) to help look over the legal documents once they are made available.

However at the current rate of progress there seems little chance of the pylon car park being re-opened in time for the Wandle Valley Festival.

Meanwhile the moorhens are back nesting in full view on the River - one on either bank (the nearside nest being built on the rubbish caught against the grille leading into the mill race, so the life expectancy of the chicks when they hatch will not be great, unfortunately). Claire and Steve, meanwhile, continue their unsung work keeping the river and mill race clear - see image - for which we must all be grateful.



Claire cleaning out under the waterwheel

Wandle Valley Festival - weekend of 6th and 7th June

This is now almost upon us, and will be bigger and better than ever. The Museum’s main contribution is in organising and helping with publications, but Mary’s block printing demonstrations in the Chapter House have now become one of our major publicity opportunities each year. With this newsletter you will find a copy of the brochure, and we hope as many of you as can will take part, especially as it is hoped that local radio and TV will take an interest for the first time, and we need to put on a good show.


Glimpses of the Past - two more snippets from Peter McGow


An interesting example of recycling, of a sort, was recorded by Dr. A.V.Peatling in 1914, as follows:

"Mr. Alex Lambert told me (Mar.13, 1914) that the large grinding stones for snuff which he had for many years at Beddington & at the mill near Mr. Dingwall's at Shepley House, originally were at Bridge's Powder-mill at Ewell where they pound the sulphur for gunpowder. When he left the Hackbridge mill he sold them to Aitkens at Beddington Corner who is going to use them for grinding drugs. They are not yet in their place,"

(Peatling Papers Volume 10, Sutton Archive and Local Studies Library.)

I recorded in the Notes on the leather mills near Goat Bridge (22) that it was said to have been substantially rebuilt in 1812. This evidently followed a fire which was referred to by Dr. A.V.Peatling thus;

"Mr.Garraway Rice F.S.A. told me today (Ap.20,1918) that as a boy he remembered well the fire at MacRae's mill on the Wandle at Beddington Corner1 some 40 or 50 years ago. The little Parish Squirts from Carshalton, Beddington, & the villages round were ranged along the river bank, & were pumping for all they were worth - but still the flames spread. At last a steam fire engine from Croydon came along & very soon got the flames under control."

(Peatling Papers Volume 10, Sutton Archive and Local Studies Library.)


Peter McGow 2009

squirtmolas.gifA 17th Century ‘squirt’ in the Museum of London collection

Editors Note - The expression ‘Parish Squirt’ caught my attention. I had thought it meant a kind of tank on a wagon with two men operating a lever pump. A short look on the internet revealed something much more fascinating. A ‘Squirt’ was a form of syringe, where two men each held a handle on either side, and one man pushed and pulled the plunger to draw in water and ‘squirt’ it on the fire, and its use in almost identical form has been traced back as far as the ‘vigiles’ of ancient Rome, whose job as peacekeepers and lawmen was subsidiary to their prime function as firemen. The Museum of London’s website illustrates a ‘squirt’ in their possession which dates to the Great Fire of London.

There can be few instruments whose usefulness to mankind has lasted so long and in such consistent form. I believe the name persists in the fire services of the English speaking world, referring to engines whose job is to deliver very precise jets of water to hard to get at sources of fire.




Bunce’s Meadow

Bunce’s meadow is now occupied by Dean City farm. Here is an extract from the 1984 Wandle Trail booklet which gives some of its history.

“The soft, clean water of the Wandle was ideally suited to textile factories and throughout the l7thC. and l8thC. vast quantities of cloth were processed. Before the invention of chemical bleaching, cloth was lightened by soaking and exposure to sunlight. Channels were cut across the river meadows, with ditches joining them to the river. The lengths of cloth wore stretched over the ridges between these channels and water was scooped over them and, flowed back to the stream via the ditches.

The sight of these drainage ditches cut across the bleaching fields was a common one locally with whitsters working all along the Wandle from Hackbridge to Wandsworth. Walking across Bunce's Meadow in winter, when vegetation has died down, and the low sun casts shadows the traces of these, troughs can still be faintly seen.

Bunce's Meadow is now the last whitsters field left undeveloped in the Merton Abbey area.

Textile production in the Phipps Bridge area ceased around the last third of the 19thC. and the fields were turned over to other uses. A farmer named Bunce took over the strip of land alongside Rucker's Cut and gave his name to it.

If we take our walk, after the sap has started to rise ,we see. a very different view. Wildly lush and green, kept moist and fertile by the abundance of water at this rivers edge, the meadow is a treasure-house of plant and animal wildlife.

In contrast to the 'real' countryside, where farmers spray the fields and carefully hound out any stray weed, the minimal interference which Bunce's Meadow receives has preserved there, untouched, a huge variety of wild plants. Wander the 400 yards of it's length and back again. You will lose count of genera, let alone species, which thrive and proliferate within the tangled undergrowth. Post-war use as allotments enriched the native count and chrysanthemums and roses, gone feral now, hide amongst the brambles, ragwort, sheep's parsley and poppies.

newsletter661.gifThe relevant page from the booklet version of our Wandle Trail map

At the edge of the meadow, alongside the factory estate, runs Bunce's Ditch, which drains the marshy ground by the railway footbridge. Wild watercress and celery can still be found in this watercourse, remnants of the once extensive beds, cultivated in these low lying marshes adjacent to the river.

Directly opposite you will see a fragment of brick wall and two large pillars, which once supported a pair of fine wrought iron gates (entrusted to Merton Council for safekeeping). 'This was the entrance to the Old White House, once home of William Harland and Son, 'Varnish Makers'”



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.


All contributions and news items gratefully received and appreciated - please feel free to let us know at any time - telephone or write as below or email to