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ISSUE 70, MAY 2010

[1] Newsdesk
[2] Museum News
[3] Ray Leyden
[4] Ravensbury Ghost
[5] Lavender Talk
[6] Ravensbury Update
[7] MAM news
[8] Not Used
[9] Not Used
[10] Not Used

Visits to the Museum Apart from visits from the general public the main bulk of our visitors recently have come from our involvement with the River and Cloth Project which lasted from Half term to the Easter holidays. During that period more than 250 children from an assortment of schools in the borough visited our museum to take part in the various activities relating to block printing along the River Wandle. Various comments in the Visitors Book tell their own story. Examples include: -' I like the printing because I have never done it before.' 'It was amazing how they make the block' and 'snuff is interesting!', and from one of the teachers- fantastic and very informative'. The Project is nearly over, but we are participating in the River and Cloth Outreach programme in July. More about that later.

EVENTS - Past The May Bank Holiday Fair was reasonably successful for us. Despite a whole day of rain when the Fair was forced to close we managed to make a small profit. See article below

The last Volunteers Lunch Meeting was a very special occasion as the date coincided with our Volunteer Curator's 70th birthday! See article below. We all had a very enjoyable time and Meg said it was the best birthday she'd ever had!

Meg Thomas

Meg Thomas

OUTREACH - Alison has now completed the first of the new series of talks she is to give to local groups, on Lavender this time - see article below.

EVENTS - Future The next event in the Museum calendar is the opening of the new Exhibition 'From Industry to Leisure' on Saturday June 12th at 11am to be opened by the Mayor of Merton. Invitations have been sent to all members and volunteers and we do hope to see as many as possible of you at this annual event.

The following Saturday is the Wimbledon Village Fair and helpers will be needed again. We do thank all our friends and volunteers who help man our stalls each year. You all do a great job giving your time and energy for the Museum.

Before then, as usual on the first weekend in June, is the two day Wandle Valley Festival. Mary will be in the Chapter House both days, promoting the Museum and demonstrating block printing, with a follow up school day there on the 7th June. We also hope to have a presence at the inaugural Friends of Ravensbury Park event on 5 June, if possible.

Finally there are just a few members who have not paid their Subscription for 2009-2010. A reminder is enclosed. Remember to sign the Gift Aid Declaration Form if you are an Income Tax payer, and if your 'Blue' Charity Collection box is full please bring it along to one of our events, as Helen is waiting to count the contents. Up to now we have collected £ 126 so we will be able to claim from HMRC 28p in every £1 on this, so well done to all our members who have contributed so far.

Sheila Harris 18/5/10

MUSEUM UPDATE On 27 April our quarterly volunteers lunch coincided with our Hon Curator's 70th birthday. Meg Thomas has been an enduring and important constituent of the Museum for almost/over 20 years and, most importantly for us, was able to step up to the role of Hon Curator just at the time when the lack of anyone filling that position was most crucial - the flooding of the museum in 2004 which lead to the wholesale reappraisal of its displays.

Meg, with her daughters Jeanne (on the left) and Sue

Meg, with her daughters Jeanne (on the left) and Sue

The display area of the Museum we see today is largely of her creation, and the tributes in our visitors book reflect the success of her approach. Year by year she improves the displays, creating the sense of dynamism without which any museum becomes moribund, and loses its audience.

Meg was kind enough to let us celebrate her birthday at the lunch, and the extra large turnout of almost 30 people speaks for itself. The fact of the celebration was not a surprise to Meg, but we hope that the scale and enthusiasm of it, the celebration cake, and the presents and cards demonstrated to her our proper recognition of her importance to the Museum's current status.

THE MAY FAIR - THE GORY DETAILS Over the winter we were presented with the possibility of re-establishing ourselves at the annual Morden Hall Park May Fair this year. Initially this was discounted - the £300 price tag was too high. However, with some helpful pressure from national trust, the new organisers created a scheme for a £100 charge if we supplied our own tent, tables etc.

This was a quandary, we traditionally use pop up gazebos of a lightweight nature, and the prospect of trying to seal one up for a three day/two night venture, and the protection of our stock, seemed daunting.

Sunday morning, in need of repair

Sunday morning, in need of repair

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the committee went ahead - our presence at the May Fair has been one of the prime PR promoters of the Museum's presence in the borough, shows solidarity with our friends at National Trust and our support for the Wandle Valley Festival. The trouble with most pop up gazebos is they are not properly waterproof - anything more than a light drizzle creates a mist of falling moisture inside. The weather forecast in the lead up to the event became increasingly depressing. In the end we decided to abandon the pop up gazebo, and resurrected a more complex, but lightweight, stick together kind of affair which was at least waterproof.

Saturday of the Fair went ahead, not too badly after all, and we sealed up the tent with safety pins for overnight protection, with the display items in a sealed plastic container. Things changed that night, however. The rain became heavier and the wind got up. It was clear from early on Sunday that that day was to be a washout. Luckily we had sourced some old fashioned nappy pins overnight, so the morning team got to work to remedy the ravages of the overnight weather, and make it secure for the rest of the day. A gust of wind was strong enough to overturn the army's tent and lodge in a tree, but we soldiered on although it was touch and go.

A couple of return visits during the day to repair and re place lifted tent pegs were sufficient to keep the gazebo and its contents secure until Monday morning.

Monday morning - ready for the off

Monday morning - ready for the off

Luckily Monday was (almost) a fine day, with big crowds and good takings for us. As always with these events, feedback from the visitors threw up some interesting material. One visitor disputed our claim for the Wandle to have been the most heavily worked river for its length, and told us that the Camel in Cornwall claimed not only that but a first public railway of its own. (Research shows that these are not claims actually made for the Camel, but it is a fascinating river, and we hope someone will research an article for a later newsletter). There was also the stunning revelation that Ravensbury Mill had its own ghost! Mick Taylor has provided a full version of this story below.

RAY LEYDEN Ray Leyden, whose connections with the Museum go back to its earliest days, and who was for many years its backbone, is no longer active as a committee member, but remains a willing volunteer. Ray's involvement with the wider community has always been noteworthy, and has produced 2 newsworthy items for us.

Firstly, as a result of his involvement with the Friends of Sutton Common Park (FoSCP) Ray was nominated for, and received a prestigious Good Neighbour award, with a presentation by Siobhain McDonagh MP at the House of Lords on 15 March. We can think of no one who would be more worthy of such an award.

The certificate

The certificate

Ray with MP Siabhain McDonagh

Ray with MP Siabhain McDonagh

And then there was the General Election - Ray was given the opportunity to question David Cameron on air (Radio 4) about his policies, and chose the European Union as his subject. This was an almost forgotten subject during the campaign, and the somewhat woolly answers he received from our new Prime Minister must have given many food for thought.


"He climbed the staircase, opened the door at the top and disappeared". This was part of a story told by one of our visitors at the Morden Hall Show. The staircase and man were a ghostly image and did not exist. Location for this supernatural happening? Well believe it or not it was Ravensbury Mill. The story was told by a lady whose mother use to work for Whitelys, who took over the mill in 1925. As the ghostly image only appeared at night the female workers would refuse to work the night shift. This left the male workers to encounter the 'Ghost of Ravensbury'.

Ravensbury Mill before conversion Ravensbury Mill before conversion

So what is the story behind this ghost? It appears there were two brothers, name unknown. Worked or owned the mill during the 17th century. One brother murdered the other. As a result of having committed this terrible deed he decided to take his own life. This he did by throwing himself into the waterwheel. Is the staircase the route he took to get above the waterwheel? Is the door the door he opened to access the waterwheel? Who knows? What we do know is that the staircase and door do not exist in the current building. We also know that a mill didn't appear on the site until around 1680.

Did such a crime take place and could the story be true? Maybe it was something thought up by the male workers to get the night shift to themselves? It would certainly be something to look into. Any volunteers?
Mick Taylor, May 2010.

LAVENDER IN MORDEN It's always a bit disconcerting when giving a presentation to a group of people if some members are wheeled out of the room one by one ! In this case, however, they eventually returned, ( whether voluntarily or not ) as they had only been taking their turn to attend the visiting chiropodist.

I was attempting to give a brief talk about Mitcham Lavender and the Museum's collections at Kelstone Nursing Home in Morden. I knew that there would be difficulties in doing such a talk in a large room where all residents were displaying various levels of interest, so after a quick assessment my carefully prepared notes were largely abandoned in favour of high- volume snippets of information delivered by hurtling from one end of the room to the other clutching photos, lavender water bottles etc.

I thought it was going reasonably well until a cry of "Stop, I can't take any more" came from the next room. Oh dear, was I that boring ? Fortunately the protest turned out only to be against the administrations of the chiropodist, so I soldiered on.

Our lavender display

Our lavender display

I showed them a large photo of the Museum's lavender display and talked about where we were and what we did, and spoke very briefly on the history of lavender growing and its uses. I showed them the former Mitcham borough arms which featured lavender in detail and of course Potter and Moore et al. A few of the ladies remembered them well, so the spare lavender water bottle was passed round as an example. If you want to put elderly ladies out for the count, try the contents of a 50 year old perfume bottle.

When I spoke about selling lavender and the local "characters" I could not of course ignore Mrs Sparrowhawk. A large photo of her elicited a rather cheeky comment from one of the staff on the lines of how little some present day Mitcham residents have changed since !! ( I couldn't possibly comment, as they say ). Another member of staff actually knew some of her descendents. At this point one resident decided that her priorities lay elsewhere and shouted out "when's tea, then ?" Clearly no contest, so I wished them well in their plans to use their home grown lavender.

Their activities organiser is very hands-on and throughout my talk had encouraged them to respond and relate to what I was telling them. I had hoped that one or two may have had personal connections with the industry, which we could have recorded, but I am following up my contact there so am hopeful that some memories might be jogged.
Alison Cousins May 2010


Following on from Mick's article about the Ghost, the modern story of Ravensbury Mill keeps rolling on.

The freeholder, Secure Reversions Ltd, has lost patience with the process. Proceedings have been instituted in the Croydon County Court by them for orders which lay the blame on us and LB Merton for the 14 year hiatus, and aks for a release from the outstanding requirements of the s106 Agreement.

The net effect of the above would be to hand them a massive capital gain on a plate, as a reward for their own failure to comply with obligations.

This ought to be a non starter, and the legal team at LBM are buckling down to the task of defending this, and getting their own orders for proper performance.

One can never predict the outcome of legal proceedings, but counsel is confident, and this process does at least bring everything to a head.

One by product of this has been that we are burrowing into our own archives for documentary support for the LBM position. From this have emerged the four early articles by John Foley which announced the early stages of this project - the first article being in the Summer 1993 edition!

This has been repeated below, not least because it serves to remind us we are still part of LBM's Wandle Strategy the breadth and ambition of which is still noteworthy after all this time.

NEWS FROM MERTON COUNCIL (from Wandle Industrial Museum Newsletter No 4, Summer 1993) - written by John Foley, an officer of the council as well as one of our trustees.

The Museum has been pleased to welcome two new initiatives from Merton Council: their Heritage Strategy, and their Wandle Strategy.

The Heritage Strategy for Merton seeks to preserve and promote the borough's heritage. It includes an action plan. much of which will be of interest to Museum members. Projects envisaged include:
1. The establishment of a Borough Heritage Centre in the basement of the Canons House in Mitcham, and the appointment of a Heritage Officer.
2. The establishment of an ecology/environmental centre, possibly based at the Mitcham Windmill.
3. Promoting the length of the Wandle Valley within Merton as the "Wandle Valley Park".
4. Encouraging private sector initiatives, including expansion to form restaurant, garden centre and temporary leisure facilities at Merton Abbey Mills, encouraging the opening up of Morden Cottage and the grounds of Morden Hall, and support for the restoration of Ravensbury Mill, including room for a cafe and a permanent home for the Wandle Industrial Museum.
5. A Mitcham Improvement Scheme to encourage investment in that part of the Borough.
6. Upgrading the Tourist Information Centre in Wimbledon.
7.Producing new audio-visual presentation on the archaeological remains of the Merton Priory.

The Wandle Strategy was prepared as a planning document for the development of recreational facilities along the River Wandle, within the London Borough of Merton. The strategy includes a schedule of improvements, including 92 site specific proposals! The general objectives include the creation of a continuous stretch of riverside walkway along the length of the Wandle known as the Wandle Valley Park, and encourage other boroughs to do the same, to conserve and enhance the principle historic features along the river, develop leisure and educational attractions, and conserve and enhance the Nature Conservation value of the river

The more major site specific proposals include a footbridge across the river from Bennett's Hole to Poulter Park, a new walkway alignment behind Riverside Drive, past Grove Mill. restoration of Ravensbury Hill, including provision for the Wandle Industrial Museum, relocation of Deen City Farm to Bunces Meadow, new pedestrian bridge at Pickle ditch to access Wandle Bank, restoration of Merton Priory Wall, provision of a walkway on Thames Water site north of Byegrove Road and provision of a footpath from Plough Lane to Wandsworth, and a bridge into Garratt Park. Other proposals include better fencing, signage, access for people with disabilities and general environmental improvements.


Sadly the water wheel at MAM is still not functioning. As reported last time some essential timbers needed replacing, and this has been done. However in the process the sever wear on the bearings which support the main drive shaft have become only too obvious, and the wheel will not now run until the expertise of Norman Fairey, ably assisted by Steve Llewellyn, has replaced these. We have every hope this will have been achieved by the time of the Wandle Valley Festival.

Norman Fairey at work on the wheels

Norman Fairey at work on the wheels

Planning permissions are being sought by the site operators for replacement of the Marquee from which the market operates with a more permanent structure. As mentioned here before, continuing activity and development is essential if the market is to survive, and rumour has it Terry plans to make a more attractive location for the stall holders in the Show House car park at much reduced costs to compensate. To compensate, we are told “Launching on the weekend of 11th / 12th September the Merton Abbey Mills Market will be transforming its approach to market trading by offering FREE stalls for anyone who makes their own arts and crafts products!” As mentioned here before, continuing activity and development is essential if the market is to survive, and this shows a welcome commitment to that end.

Not much news on Merton Priory Trust. However the grand scheme by which the Chapter House remains and the whole MAM complex could become a world heritage site is still ongoing, and a launch document is expected soon. It is too early to know whether the expected change in control of Merton Council (we won't know that finally until 26 May) will affect this either way.

Cllr Richard Chellew's drive has taken it this far, and we would hope this is a cross party issue, and he will be allowed to continue.

Also exciting is the news that the cycle superhighway CS7 from the City to Colliers Wood is definitely going ahead, and will be opened later this year.

Just think about it - Merton Abbey Mills could become the interface between that route and the Wandle Trail, opening up the Wandle Valley to a huge new market of keen cyclists. More details from the tfl website at but the extract from the published plan shown here shows the intention is to start the route from MAM/River Wandle.

Extract from CS7

Extract from CS7

Some nature notes - fishcam is off; magically, within days of the end of the fishing season, the shoals which swarmed beneath the Wheelhouse were gone, seen briefly under the bridge and now dispersed. How did they know? The fact the river is flourishing is underlined by the 3 ft eel displaced by Clair as she did a regular clean up along that stretch.

Finally, can I admit to a strange perversion. Having hated the Brown and Root Tower for ever, I now find it strangely attractive clad as it is with its retaining green netting. I use this as an excuse to print here my photo of the ongoing demolition works on the car park, with the tower looming over.

The Brown and Root Tower

The Brown and Root Tower

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