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Visits to the Museum
Visitors to the Museum have declined generally on Wednesday afternoons, but have increased on Sunday openings with people researching local history projects and family histories.
In early September we had an Open Afternoon as part of the Festival for the Over 50s — Celebrating Age 2009, Once again this event proved very successful.
In mid October a group from Merton U3A made their first visit to the Museum, and in early November we had a group visit from the London Appreciation Society making their fourth visit to the Museum in ten years, so we must be doing something right! Once again we were awarded top marks for the visit.
Mary & Nicholas were doing Printing activities at the Chapter House during Open House Weekend: as they do every year.
In October the Education Team were busy with two Textile Workshops at Malmesbury Primary School for the fifth year in succession.
Thanks to all volunteers who helped with these events.
During February and March 2010 we shall be involved with a London Borough of Merton Project called River and Cloth. This is a community arts & herirage programme focused on the Merton Textile Industry based on the River Wandle. Three textile artists are involved leading workshops and activities exploring dyeing, stitching and printing. We are happy to be involved with the printing section of this project and sixteen
Merton schools will be visiting the Museum to do Textile workshops. More information to follow.
Events — past
• The AGM took place on November 12th at Raynes Park Library Hall when we were pleased to welcome Harry Galley as our new President. The Mayor and Mayoress of Merton were in attendance. After our usual excellent refreshments, once again provided by Mary Hart, we enjoyed a presentation on The Future of Morden Hall Park by Maureen Patel of the National Trust who told us of their plans to turn the Stable Block into a Living Green Centre, and also to renovate the water wheel. This is called the HOP Project — HoP meaning 'Heart of the Park' — and is an EU-funded Project which will not be fully completed until 2011 ((see also image in p 14).
• On 17th November a group of members and friends visited Kelmscott House the headquarters of the William Morris Society. The Curator Helen Elletson gave us a Presentation about the history of the house and showed us several original archives from their William Morris Collection.
Events — future
• The next Volunteers' Lunch Meeting is on Wednesday 16th December at 12 noon and will be a Christmas celebration.
• The New Year Dinner will be on Thursday 7th January at Mamma Rosa Italian Restaurant at Merton Abbey Mills at 7pm. PLEASE BOOK YOUR PLACE BY FRIDAY 18TH DECEMBER.
Members, volunteers and their friends wishing to come should contribute £12-00 per person towards the cost of the evening. Anything over and above this amount will be covered by the Museum. The set menu is £12-95 for 2 courses. A selection of wine/soft drinks will be available for you. See Booking Form on p 15 below.
• On Monday 18th January new Volunteer Helen Daniels invites all interested members/ volunteers to her home to see her Father Christmas Collection from 2-30pm. Tea and refreshments available; nearest tram stop Therapia Lane. Please telephone Helen 020 8683 1227 for further details and directions or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
• We hope to see you at some of our future events. Meanwhile we wish all our Members and Volunteers a very Happy Christmas.
Subscriptions for 2009-10 are now due and a Renewal Form is enclosed with this Newsletter. Don't forget the Gift Aid Declaration.
Sheila Harris December 2009
As there is little to report this time I thought I would aquaint you with some of the groups that are funded by government to support the cultural section.
London Museums Group
I attended the AGM of the London Museums Group. It was set up five years ago to give London Museums a collective voice, particularly the smaller museums, of which there are many. The aims of the group are:
" < /span>To create a representative and unified voice for all museums in the capital, working closely with MLA London
" < /span>To act as a lobby for the benefit of all London's museums
" < /span>To enhance communication & collaboration between museums and to provide support to museum professionals in London
Although the term professionals is used it means everyone who works in a museum paid or unpaid.
One of the ways LMG supports smaller museums is through hosting free events, funded by Renaissence London and setting up free work shops. This is especially helpful to small museums like ours.
The museums countrywide are divided into nine regional Hubs, their task is to develop innovative and accessible services in their regions. We belong to the London Museums Hub, the museums that make up the London Hub are:
" < /span>Museum of London
" < /span>Geffrye Museum
" < /span>Horniman Museum
" < /span>London Transport Museum
One of the objectives is to provide a comprehensive service to schools across London. We will certainly be contributing to that strategy with our involvement with the River of Cloth project in the new year.
I quote " Renaissance London is a strategic investment in museum development and public programmes, run in partnership by the London Museums Hub and MLA London"
Essentially their role is to encourage participation by the public in museums, improve services, respond to the capitals diverse communities, help to sustain regional museums and to provide a comprehensive service to schools. It is focusing largely now on the Cultural Olympiad. The Mayor's new Priorities for Culture 2009-2012 ('Cultural Metropolis') states,"it is important that there is a strong, cohesive and creative vision for different cultural components of London 2012.... we will need to inspire events and partnerships that are truly distinct and can stimulate forms of participation that will last beyond 2012". From our point of view, somewhat less lofty, Renaissance London does run useful training sessions on museum skills which are free! It also funded with MLA ( Museums, Libraries and Archives) the Museum Development Officers, invaluable support for small museums with no museum trained volunteers.
These groups are funded by the government and although there is a great emphasis on culture at the moment future funding cannot be relied on.
Meg Thomas, Nov 09
Jacqui has had the cataracts removed from both eyes during the last few weeks so her activities have been somewhat curtailed.
Alison was despatched on an introductory archive course at the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) HQ in Clerkenwell in September. Identifying what constitutes an "archive" can now include mobile phone cards, for example. Fortunately not many of those have been retrieved from the Wandle. We looked briefly at the delights of cataloguing (ugh), but as many of us were of a delicate disposition, were spared the gruesome details of the International Standard on Archival Description.
Alison and Peter also attended a National Trust workshop in October at the stable block in Morden Hall Park. Despite knowing that we would be expected to catalogue some of the items which had languished in the stable for many years, the slog of cleaning large pieces of equipment took up more time than expected. (We then realised why this course had been free!) At the AGM we were told by Maureen Patel that cycle hire was planned as part of the stable block refurbishment and we wondered if that meant the splendid Raleigh ex-delivery bike we had catalogued. Despite getting covered in rust and grease it was a very useful experience, and much was learnt about what information the NT requires for its inventories. There will be a follow-up session on December 6th at the same location, when I suspect overalls will be the order of the day. Anyone care to join us ?
The report of Peter McGow's article on the watercress beds in the last newsletter guided us to further information and a few more articles for our collection. Grateful thanks to Ray Bentley for following this up.
We are in the unusual position of sitting back and letting events take their own course at Ravensbury. Under Ingrid Lackajis’ leadership, the team at Merton have now got the bit between their teeth and are actively pursuing the freeholder to complete the works.
It is a great shame that Secure Reversions can not understand how willing to help we have been over the 13 years, and now they will have to complete the works alone.
So that the scope of the problem the freeholder is facing can be seen, it is worth pointing out that the disability access (which we would have agreed to do with a cash contribution at the beginning) is now out of our reach, so the freeholder will have to do it. Various guesstimates have been made, but it will certainly mean a 5 figure sum out of his pocket.
The damp inside the building is not as bad as it might have been, but remedial works are required, as are repairs to the roof and guttering - another 5 figure sum in all probability.
The freeholder is now incurring business rates on the empty building under the new rules, and that must be mounting up.
We believe the cost of the wheelhouse works, if not co-sponsored by ourselves, could easily be another £25,000.
They also face legal costs of the enforcement, so a job that could have been done fairly cheaply 10 years ago will be costing close to £100,000.
If I was them (and this is me speaking, not the Museum!) I would be negotiating a transfer of this building to Merton in exchange for a release from the s106 and a small cash contribution (he has already spoken about £16,000).
This would properly restore the property to local control, and would enable us to seek grant money for the whole restoration job (you will recall we can’t get grants for works which are the legal obligations of others, but the transfer to Merton would break that cycle).
On a less downbeat note, as noted in Newsdesk, the visit to Kelmscott was a wonderfully relaxed occasion and the we were treated very well by them.
Helen Elletson took us through a slide show, then showed us round the collection.
It is always interesting how the physical objects can bring the story to life, from the original sketches, to the printed books.
Of great curiosity value was a piece of Wm Morris lino, seen here in the illustration being held up by Helen. I, for one, was unaware that William Morris had produced any designs for linoleum products, and few now exist.
The weather was unexpectedly wonderful, so I do not apologise for including a couple of exterior snaps - Kelmscott bathed in sunshine, and the sun setting over the Thames at full tide opposite. Hopefully the website version of this newsletter will show these photos up much better, and, by next newsletter, I hope we will have our colour printer installed so even in the printed edition photos can be shown in their full glory.
MILLS AND MERTON
LB Merton is committed to pursuing a place for Merton on a larger stage, with the rationale for this centred on Merton priory and Merton Abbey Mills.
They have commissioned a report from consultants Mills Whipp, which is now in draft stage. The proposals are significant, and far reaching. If only a fraction come to pass, it will be a significant boost to Merton. The process by itself should raise the profile for all of us.
STATUTE[S] OF MERTON
Because of this, we are likely to hear much over the next few years about the Statute of Merton of 1235AD
The importance to us today of this enactment is that it gives Merton its main claim to world heritage status. Why ‘world’? - because as the first statute entered in the parliamentary records it signifies the coming of age of the parliamentary system which has spread out from these shores to become the democratic basis of government around the world ( Kilty’s 1811.statute list puts Magna Carta first, it was not strictly so as it not passed by parliament until after 1235)
The 11 chapters of the Statute might seem to be of little modern relevance (in fact 2 of them were never passed), but by a quirk of fate we directly owe to this enactment the creation of Wimbledon Common as a public resource, and less directly, Mitcham Common.
This is because the Statute was not repealed until the 20th Century, and its infamous Chapter 4 is what gave landowners the right to enclose Common Land ( a practice much abused in the 19th Century). In the 1860's Earl Spencer sought to enclose a significant part of Wimbledon Common for his own use. The public campaign against this saved the common, and lead eventually to the passing of the Commons Acts of 1876 and 1899.
Lionel Green wrote an excellent 3 page article about the Statute of Merton in response to a question by the Mayor in 2001, published in the Merton Historical Society Bulletin 138 at pp 14 et seq. I recommend this for those who want the fuller picture.
Lionel seems satisfied that the correct title is Statute, not Statutes, of Merton. I must suppose that the incorrect plural usage is because of the old custom of identifying statutes by the geographic location where parliament was sitting when they were passed as much as by chronology.
Merton Abbey Mills
The wheel is no longer turning at the
wheelhouse! Carrying out routine
maintenance, Steve Llewellyn and
Norman Fairey discovered that the
supporting the sluice gate ratchet mechanism was severely corroded. In parallel to this, one of the supporting arms of the sluice itself was fracturing.
It is hoped that all relevant work will have been completed by next Spring, and we can see the wheel turning again. It will be interesting to see how soon their stored battery power runs out, and they have to revert to mains electricity for running the Wheelhouse.
Meanwhile it is a personal pleasure to see we have booked Mama Rosa’s for our New Year dinner. Gregorio and Isabella are wonderful hosts, and should do us proud.
For the nature lovers, two of the moorhen chicks reached adulthood - the family picture here shows parents and chicks together.
Nicholas Hart, Nov 09.
7 Glimpse of the
(Many thanks to our readership for this contribution)
“Last Saturday the noted Hopping Callico Printer of Wandsworth, who was match'd for 100 Guineas to hop 60 Yards in 20 Hops on Mitcham-Common, performed the same in nineteen Hops and 2 Yards over. The Bets were numerous and the Odds were six to four against him.
The same Day the same Man was match'd for twenty Guineas to hop 5 Yards at one hop forwards and 5 Yards backwards, which he exceeded, by hopping 16 Foot each way . “
General Evening Post (London, England) Tuesday July 1, 1735; Issue 274.
This is an interesting GoP to me for several reasons. Firstly, that anyone could hop 5 yards in a single hop, or 60 yards in 20 hops, is a mind boggling athletic feat. It explains why hopping was an early event in the Olympics, although it sounds childish to us today. Secondly, it shows that in the 18th Century we wrote as the Germans still do today, with all nouns capitalised. Thirdly place names were hyphenated (which continued in local newspapers to the early part of the 20th Century), and (which I have not reproduced) the ‘s' was still written as ‘f'. Finally, a question - ‘matched' is written as ‘match'd', whilst other verbs retained their common ‘ed' ending. Is this a shortening of something much longer?
8 The River
Wandle and the Croydon Canal
Our thanks again to Peter McGow for this reminder of one of the many struggles the mill owners of the Wandle faced over the centuries to retain the Wandle’s powerful flow.
Two hundred years ago this year the Croydon Canal was opened. Running from a junction with the Grand Surrey Canal north of New Cross it proceeded southward through Brockley, Forest Hill, Sydenham, Penge and Norwood to terminate at a basin in West Croydon. It was opened on Monday, 23 October 1809
It might be felt that the building of this canal would not have been of any great interest to the Wandle Mill owners, but in fact it was due to their concern for their water supply that its construction had to be varied at one part of its route
On 18 February 1801 the Croydon Canal Committee petitioned the House of Commons for leave to bring in a bill to authorize the making of the canal.
Permission was granted and the bill was given its first reading on twenty third February. On fourth March a petition to submitted to the House by “Mill Owners and Occupiers of Mills and Manufactories on the River Wandle” seeking leave to oppose the bill because the “said Bill if passed into a Law would be extremely prejudicial and ruinous to the Petitioners and several other Persons having Properties, and occupying Mills and Manufactories on the River Wandle in as much as the making of this proposed Canal would drain and divert the Water from the sources of the said River and would be a most serious Injury..”
At the second meeting of the Croydon Canal Bill on thirteenth March it was referred back to the committee dealing with the bill with instruction to take into consideration the mill owners petition.
On fourteenth May the committee reported that they had heard evidence in support of the mill owners petition and that they had amended the bill accordingly. The amendments consisted of the inclusion of clauses prohibiting any interruption to the water supply to the Norbury Brook on Croydon Common and generally protecting the mill owners interests. The Norbury Brook was the name given to the upper stretch of the River Graveney, which flows into the Wandle to the west of Lambeth Cemetery. Any diminution of the supply into that stream would adversely affect the Mills of the lower Wandle.
Another clause included in the Croydon Canal Act directed that the water level of the canal where it crossed Croydon Common was to be maintained at least 2ft. above mean ground level, and a pipe was to be provided in such a manner that if the water level should fall to more than sixteen and a half inches below the normal service level half the quantity of water pumped in should be conveyed to the Norbury Brook.
The canal company was permitted to vary the course of the canal from the parliamentary route between Selhurst Wood and Forest Hill so as to run on higher ground but the company adopted the embankment measure. This had to be constructed higher than previously specified to allow the Norbury Brook to be culverted under the canal. The Norbury Brook is now culverted under the whole of the railway land south of Norwood Junction that now occupies the site of the former Croydon Common
Peter McGow 2009
For pictures of the Croydon Canal see Surrey Canal Photos on the Sydenham Town Forum site
The timing of the canal is quite interesting - it was in 1801 that the same mill owners who caused trouble for the canal company were passing the Surrey Iron Railway Act through parliament - a direct competitor to the canal. The loss of the water from the Graveney was, I suspect, not as great a problem as they made out - but the competition from a canal, well!
The Croydon Canal company folded even earlier than the Surrey Iron Railway, with the land, predictably, going to the railways. The line of the canal is now followed by the London Bridge to West Croydon line.