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[1] Newsdesk
[2] Volunteers
[3] Museum News
[4] MAM news
[5] Watercress
[6] An Early Train Robbery
[7] Small Charities Coalition
[8] In Memoriam Peter Moore
[9] Merton's New Year's Day Parade success
[10] Marmalade


Visits to the Museum

Visitors have been small in numbers during the winter period and we have had to close the Museum on two occasions because of snow and ice. However those that braved the cold were very appreciative - note some comments in the Visitors Book. "A fascinating little Museum" "A compact gem of a place" "TO BE PROTECTED".

There have been no Educational Visits to the Museum since the last Newsletter but the Education Team have been on two outreach visits to Earlsfield Primary School in the London Borough of Wandsworth which was breaking new ground for us and proved very successful.

After Half Term the London Borough of Merton Project River and Cloth commences and sixteen schools will be visiting us at the Museum for Textile Workshops, so the Team will be kept very busy indeed. More about this in the next Newsletter!

Events -Past.

The Volunteers Christmas Lunch Party was a great success overflowing with members and friends enjoying the excellent spread prepared once again by Mary Hart.

The New Year Dinner -having been postponed for bad weather, finally took place on January 21st when 23 members, volunteers and friends enjoyed an Italian meal at Mamma Rosa in Merton Abbey Mills. This was our first visit here as a group and it proved very popular.

New Year’s Dinner New Year’s Dinner at Mamma Rosa

A small group of us enjoyed visiting Volunteer Helen Daniels' unique Father Christmas collection in her home in Croydon. Over the years Helen has collected over 500 different ones & they are displayed all over the house & garden.

Helen's Father Christmas Staircase Helen's Father Christmas Staircase

Events -Future.

The next Volunteers Lunch Meeting will be on Wednesday 28lh April so we hope to see you all then.

Mary will be contacting you about your lunch choices.

The May Bank Holiday Fair -May 1st to3rd - will be run this year by a new Company & will be called Morden Hall Country Show. We have been promised an outdoor pitch for £100 for 3 days which is half price; but we have to provide our own gazebo. We hope to go along as an experiment. More information to come.

We may participate in the Friends of Ravensbury Park Fair on Saturday 5th June. Details later. This is part of the Wandle Valley Festival.

Opening of new WIM Exhibition "From Industry to Leisure" Saturday 12th June. Invitations to come.

Finally Wimbledon Village Fair is once again to be held on Saturday 19th June.

Subscriptions - Many thanks to all those members who have paid quickly this year and also an extra thank you to those who have signed the Gift Aid Declaration Form which will help raise funds for the Museum. A special thank you to Helen for setting up the scheme. Don't forget to send in your charity collection box money when it's full.

A Subscription reminder is enclosed for those who have not yet paid.

Sheila Harris, February 2010



Sadly we have to say 'Goodbye' to long time volunteer Harriet Bazley, who has been with us for 13 years. Harriet came to us originally to help with the archives and worked for many years with out retired archivist Marguerite Lee De Lisle. Marguerite and Harriet made a great team for several years. After Marguerite retired Harriet brought along her own computer from home, as at that time she was the only really competent computer literate in the office, and was a great help to me printing up reports, designing Christmas cards and doing the annual stock take.

Harriet Harriet

Harriet will be going on to pastures new and we wish her well in any new ventures she undertakes.

She will be remembered for her sardonic humour, her capacity for hard work and her many and varied interests, including old railways, and the films and music of the 1940's. She will be much missed. It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Ann Daley last Autumn, afer a long illness.

Ann was of great help to me before Roger joined us as Treasurer. She was a retired bookkeeper and she set up a system of book keeping for us in the early days to which we still adhere.

Sheila Harris, February 2010



No major new since November, but interesting bits and pieces.

Firstly, Mitcham has seen the appearance of new street signage, pointing the way to the Museum. This has come as a surprise to all of us, but very welcome. So far sightings have been at the corner of Cricket Green (see picture) and Fair Green. The signs are accompanied by clear mapping (see second picture). This is good stuff.

New Signpost New Signpost

Map Map

More immediately, you will be seeing the illustrations in this newsletter in colour, hopefully. Increasing costs of copying externally, and increased need for our displays and signs to be in colour, have prompted us to spend money on a new colour laser printer, and this newsletter will represent its first full work out.

The website development continues, and we are now looking to create the new concise storyboards that will make the new site so much more accessible. Hopefully by next newsletter we can invite everyone to have a look and provide the final input needed to make of our site what our visitors expect.

Whilst on web matters, the Times published their list of the 10 best Museum website (no, we weren't on it) and the article and links can be seen at: The Louvre came first, closely followed by the Hermitage Museum. Serendipitously, I also came across: - an fascinating account of London as seen on a South to North walk with views of the present mixed with historical and heritage musings. The journey is along the 300 easting (a south-north Ordnance Survey line), but Chapters 13,14 and 15 take in the Sutton reaches of the Wandle.

The Ravensbury story continues. LB Merton are taking legal counsel's opinion. Counsel has summarised the facts based on the paperwork he has seen, and has identified what other information he needs. We have been only too happy to help fill the gaps, and are now awaiting further developments.

Hopefully more positive news next time.

Finally, Merton is considering plans for the improvement of the public and street areas outside Wimbledon Station to fit in with the demands expected come the Olympics in 2012, and the crowds expected for the tennis at the All England Club. Expect consultation documents. However, linked to this, the Chamber of Commerce is promoting the idea of a tennis heritage trail, somewhat along the lines of Hollywood Boulevarde, with stars in the pavement identifying the great names of Wimbledon Tennis as well as the route on foot from the station to the Club. Our esteemed chairman, Andrew Wakefield, has been glimpsed on local TV promoting this idea. Sounds good to me, but a trail such as that could have a wider use, adding a Merton heritage story, so that those undertaking that long walk can assimilate that history in small digestible bursts to keep them interested as they trudge along.



Two small items:

Firstly, Norman and Steve hope to start work on repairing the waterwheel in March. Because it is the whole brick supporting structure, as well as the iron casting, that needs attention, it is a major enterprise, and we wish them well - the Wandle needs its only working wheel back in action.

However, they have not forgotten us in the meantime, so hello to 'Fishcam'. The millrace at the Wheelhouse has long been swarming with fish, and now they can be seen. Norman and Steve have sunk a camera and a small light into the race, and the incredible number and diversity of the fish can now be seen on a small monitor in the shop area. There is talk of a colour version, but for the present this is black and white only. Totally fascinating.

The Wandle at MAM,  Christmas 2009 The Wandle at MAM, Christmas 2009

The picture here is gratuitous - the Wandle at Merton Abbey Mills this Christmas - a jolly good test for the new printer!


Watercress cultivation along the Wandle has had its ups and downs. Until quite recently watercress was relegated to adding a bit of peppery flavour to a salad or perhaps watercress soup. Now it has joined the ranks of the super foods being rich in Vitamin C and iron and credited with protection against cancer. This revival has come much too late for the watercress industry of the Wandle. And indeed it was an industry, and an important one. In the days before refrigerators, frozen foods and imported vegetables watercress was really the only year round green vegetable available to most people.

The growing of watercress along the Wandle for commercial purposes began towards the end of the 19th century, for by then many of the watermills had ceased to work. The water, now less polluted, allowed the establishment of several watercress beds. The abandoned bleaching grounds with their parallel trenches were ideal for its cultivation. This was clearly an important industry and Peter McGow has identified eleven sites along the Wandle, from Beddington right up to Plough Lane. The growing of watercress seems to have begun in about the 1890's and many still in use until the 1930's. The beds at Beddington Corner were still in production in 1959. The land is now part of the Spencer Road Wetlands Nature Reserve. E.James (Vitacress) Ltd was still growing watercress in Mitcham into the 1960's. The land was compulsorily purchased by the local council in the early 1960's. Eliza James coined the name 'Vitacress' and the company is still growing watercress on its site in Hampshire and trades at the New Spitalfields Market at Leyton as Vitacress(Sales) Ltd.

Carrying Watercress Punnetts Carrying Watercress Punnets

Peter McGow points out that little has been recorded about watercress growing yet it must have made an important contribution to the local economy and to peoples diets, locally and further afield as Covent Garden was regularly supplied with the watercress from the Wandle area. Incidents of pollution are not new. In 1938 The Mitcham & Tooting Advertiser reported an outbreak of typhoid in the Croydon area in the November of the previous year. As the effluent from the Croydon Sewage Works was discharged into the Wandle the local Medical Officer of Health feared that the watercress beds owned by Mr James could be contaminated. Samples taken from the three beds did indeed show contamination and the Medical of Health Officer asked Mr James not to sell any watercress. Mr James agreed. Later samples showed the water in the beds to be bacteriologically sterile due to heavy use of chlorine by the sewage works. To protect the beds in the future a chlorination unit was installed. This incident was not good for the watercress growers and must have affected sales for from the 1930's onward the number of watercress growers gradually declined.

Watercress is no longer grown commercially along the Wandle. As with the lavender fields much of the land used as watercress beds has been built on as the land could be used more profitably for housing and other businesses.

Like all our cash crops watercress first grew in the wild and it can still be found in some stretches along the Wandle, but harvesting it for sandwiches is perhaps not a good idea.

(Sources: Museum Archives and Peter McGow)

Meg Thomas


"About a week ago, as a man named Henry Gill, employed as a waggoner by Mr Glover, of Mitcham, was passing over Mitcham Common, with a wagon loaded with 3 casks of tobacco, on his way to London, he was attacked by three men."

This account, published in "The Alfred; West of England Journal and Advertiser" on 26 March 1818, presents a problem.

from our SIR Archive From our SIR Archive

The most direct route to London from Richard Glover's mill near Mitcham Bridge would be via the present Bishopsford Road nearby, and thence northwards along London Road. Any route across Mitcham Common from the vicinity of Glover's mill would be in the direction of Croydon, in fact, which suggests that Croydon was the destination of Glover's wagon.

If Glover's goods were going to Croydon they could have well been, not on a road wagon, but on a wagon on the Surrey Iron Railway. Glover was a shareholder in the railway company, and at this period he was renting a warehouse at the railway terminus at Pitlake in Croydon.

His access to the Surrey Iron Railway would have been east of the Mitcham stop on the present Tramlink route. The railway then ran across the southern tip of Mitcham Common on the line of the Tramline route east of Mitcham Junction stop.

Could it be that the attack on Glover's wagon took place on this stretch of the line and was actually an early railway robbery?

It seems more likely that a robbery would be committed on a relatively secluded stretch of railway rather than on a public road.

Peter McGow, Jan 2010.

Editor's note - I asked Peter if the route to London from Mitcham (in 1818 London still meant the City of London as we now know it) would have been more direct if via Croydon and the Croydon Canal. The attached rough image shows the relative directions.

Comparative Routes Comparative Routes

Peter believes that, although the initial charging rate on the SIR would have been higher, by 1818 both canal and railway would have been at a common rate of 3d per mile per ton. Time was not a significant cost factor. The shortest overall route would have been by the tollroads (A24, A3) but we can discount these because of their poor state, and, anyway, Glover would have had financial interests in the former, so was bound to favour them.


The meeting attended on January 20th at the Methodist International Centre had a Q&A format with representatives from the Charity Commission and HMRC. Both gave a brief introduction to their work relating to charity administration. Most comments to the Charity Commission related to online registration, and the gripe that this cannot be done entirely in that format as trustee declarations having to be seen in the original.

Although registrations had increased since the 2006 Charities Act due to many previously exempt organisations such as those with religious affiliation, having to register for the first time, the time involved had been reduced considerably. Members were appreciative of the Code of Governance guidelines on the website and its overall clarity.

HMRC did not get away quite so lightly. Despite having brought along a huge team they were still unable to produce satisfactory answers to crucial questions on gift aid. Many members seemed confused as to why charity events were not "giftaidable". As such, events are a service, but apparently volunteers could donate their expenses. There was also much discussion regarding higher rate taxpayers waiving their tax relief to enable a larger percentage to go to the charity. Their website was criticised for being difficult to navigate and find key information, which also in some cases conflicted with that given out by their "help" lines.

The event was most useful for networking with others from an amazing variety of small charities.

Oh, and the buffet was fantastic !

Alison Cousins, February 2010


- John Hawks writes:
"Who was that boy I saw you with last night?" he demanded after he had met me with my short-coiffeured girlfriend. With the death of Peter Moore we have lost not only the very loudest and quite the most outrageously direct person I have ever met, but also a glorious personality, a marvellous exponent of his time-honoured craft, and a real friend.
Peter Moore The late Peter Moore

From the very outset Peter was as essential an ingredient as anyone in the growth and success of Merton Abbey Mills. He promoted us tirelessly and shamelessly, and was full of ideas about how to get the word around. There was never a more persuasive presser of leaflets into a passer's-by hand, never a more committed and enthusiastic advocate, in any medium at every opportunity. We relied upon Peter, and he could always be relied upon. He took great pride and ownership in the whole venture, and was one of its most colourful characters. In recent years he had not been a well man, but this never dimmed his energy. "Have bell, will travel" was his famous motto, and my goodness he did - rumours of appearances in America, Australia and the Far East kept coming in, but despite his far-flung fame he kept coming in too, to help his beloved "Mills" - no task was too small or demeaning. I shall always remember the sound of the motor scooter arriving, and the sight of it zooming off with a load of heavy boxes of Christmas fliers that defied all the laws of two-wheeled gravity. He was intensely human and, despite the brusqueness, very caring, especially on the subject of his darling dogs. He loved the limelight, of course - he regarded the Tower of London, where he worked for many years, as his own too. His portly figure and splendidly rubicund face fitted his official uniform perfectly, and no-one wore the plumed hat with more pride or to greater effect . When not town crying he was - and he really was the Master of ceremonies. And always with that mischievous twinkle - I ask you, who else could have the nerve to announce one at Merton's Nelson bicentenary dinner as "Mr John Hawks and his Bit of Stuff"?!! It really is the end of an era, and we shall miss him sorely.

February 2010

The London New Year's Day Parade 2010

It's becoming quite a habit! After winning first prize for the Borough float competition in 2006 and 2009, against the odds Merton scooped second prize this year too! A larger than ever turnout of over 500,000 people lined Piccadilly, Haymarket and Whitehall to watch this glorious annual extravaganza, as ever (it seems) in bitterly cold but brilliant sunlight. As comparison with the other Boroughs' entries always shows, it is having a clear and concentrated theme that counts. This year Merton's theme was pantomime, representing the offers of all three of our theatres. A cast of, well, if not thousands, a host anyway of easily recognisable pantomime characters pranced and danced along singing a superb theme song by Councillor Linda Kirby.

New Year's Day Parade New Year's Day Parade

The spectacular giant puppets were produced by students of Wimbledon School of Art, and the "bubble car" was a vintage Morris Minor Pick-up from Merton Abbey Mills, driven by the Ugly Sisters (who bore an only slight resemblance to Councillors Sheila Knight and Judy Saunders). Masterminds Councillor Geraldine Stanford and Merton Abbey Mills' Peter Wallder well deserved their success, which raised £6,000 for the Mayor's charities. The Mayor, Councillor Nick Draper, joined the becostumed procession in Whitehall, where he was enthusiastically kissed by a grossly lipsticked Widow Twanky.

Such rare delights don't happen every day, but tremble Westminster, tremble Sutton, tremble ye citizens of Redbridge - next year is already in our sights!


Most of you will remember that this time last year I was proud to announce that Mary had won Best in Show at the World Marmalade Festival in Dalemain. Unfortunately we were unable to go there to attend the award ceremony, but this year I was determined to put that right.

Mary with Eric Fraunfelter Mary Hart holding the trophy as winner of the 2009 Best in show, with Eric Fraunfelter

Mary's entries for this year's show were already there, but last weekend we drove to Cumbria so she could be there in person. Mary was very warmly welcomed by Jane Hasell McCosh, the organiser, and was able to have herself photographed holding the trophy for the last hour or so before hand over to this year's winner. It was agreed she should do this as part of the award (see picture) and the other picture is of her holding the trophy alongside Eric Fraunfelter the immediate Past Master of the Fruiterers Livery Company, whose award this is.

Handing over the Cup Handing over the Cup

Sadly, although gaining 4 golds and a silver, Mary did not win in any of the categories, but there's always next year!

Nicholas, Feb 2010