Interview with the secretary of the Mitcham Cricket Club, Julia Gault.
In 1973, the Mitcham News & Mercury ran a series of articles on local pubs. Here is their report on The Cricketers, published on 16th November 1973:
WARTIME PHOENIX BECAME TODAY’S CRICKETERS
THE worst moment for the Cricketers in Mitcham’s Cricket Green was when they had to decide whether to blow up the pub or the Vestry Hall.
It happened during the war when, with the compliments of the German air force, a land mine dropped between those two most important buildings in Mitcham.
The mine didn’t go off right away and the locals had time to put up a blast shield but, as any ex-air warden knows, there’s no point in setting it up on both sides of the bomb – there has to be somewhere for the blast to go.
There are still people in Mitcham who remember the arguments that raged over which building would be added to the list of bomb sites in the area. And there are some who reckon they made the wrong choice in saving the Vestry Hall.
Bar in store
But, finally, the bomb went off and that made way for the Cricketers as it is today. It was rebuilt about 15 years ago – just as the regulars were getting used to the bottle store behind the pub.
But whatever anyone says about the loss of the old pub which had graced the Cricket Green since the late 1700s, the new Cricketers is a worthy successor.
It has been going long enough not to have that fiercely modern look of the new or “done up” pub yet, it’s not so old as to be plain uncomfortable. And with the atmosphere it inherits from its cricketing tradition, it emerges, rightfully as a well-known pub of character.
The first thing you notice in the lounge bar are the dozens of photographs of cricketing “greats”. A long line of former county players stare down slightly disapprovingly as the customers line up at the bar and the whole of one wall is given over to a colour photograph of Mitcham playing Streatham on the cricket green. On the way to the gents there is a collection of cartoons depicting the rules of cricket.
But, then, it’s only right that the pub should hang on to some of its history – after all, for years it was used as the pavilion.
Atmosphere of a different kind is provided by the licensee, Charles Cromack. He’s an enormous man, given largely to blue suits and yacht club ties, who seems to spend most of his time on the outside of the bar where he calls for drinks on the house as if the stuff was still a penny a pint.
With him is his wife, Joan, with her pewter goblet from the London Victuallers Golfing Association. Together they make the ideal couple to run a pub where businessmen come in to unwind.
They come from the executive floors on the local industrial estates and from the many offices fronting the cricket green. Dozens of them make the daily trek to the pub where they set about a lager, a laugh and lunch.
Overseas representative for Downs Bros of Church Path, Mr. Richard Dickinson, said: “We mostly come here for the beer – after all it is real beer, from the wood. But then there’s the food as well. I think the Cricketers serves real pub food and, for that, it’s one of the best in the area.”
Down’s Transport manager, Mr. Peter Galtrey was there too: “I like to eat in the bar as a rule but people entertaining clients can go in the restaurant upstairs. Anyway, you generally find the lunches here are pretty good.”
And so they are, Charles Cromack admits: “I suppose the food here is as important as the drink. Our restaurant does very well.”
The restaurant is really a small meeting room cosily decorated with a red colour scheme and complete with bar and barmaid. It is perhaps too small, giving the impression of a country tea shop but there’s a good meal to be had there with melon and 8oz. steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and potatoes, then a cheese board and coffee at £1.58p.
For those who prefer to eat in the bar, a good helping of real home-made steak, kidney and mushroom pie comes at 27p and chips and peas at 7p a portion.
A ham sandwich costs 18p and arrives with a knife.
Service is good and quick, and very reasonable considering there always seem to be about five people milling around behind the bar. Barmaid Irene Hogg, the pub’s 53-years-old heart-throb, dishes out a warm wlcome and refers to everyone under 90 as “young man.”
A bonus heart-throb is 25-years-old Penny Balsom, a very shapely clerk at the borough’s health department in the Vestry Hall. All eyes swivel towards the door when she walks in with an absurdly unintentional sex appeal.
The lunching businessmen were most flattering in their comments but none of them wanted to be quoted: “Wouldn’t want the wife to see it, old man . . . ”
Auburn-haired Penny just opened her eyes very, very wide and said: “I never knew I was any sort of a mascot or anything. I just come here because it’s handy at lunch time and I like the people.”
There was an immediate murmur of approval at these words.
Finding out why the regulars in the public bar liked the Cricketers was more difficult. Almost to a man they said it was the lousiest pub in Mitcham, and Jim Goodsell added that the governor wasn’t too sociable in the “public”. Why not go somewhere else then?
“Because he comes here,” he said and pointed to his brother Fred.
Fred Goodsell thought for a moment, hesitated over saying he was only there because Jim was there, and finished up with: “You can always find a good argument in here.”
Immediately he had one. New faces popped up to say it was the only place you could get decent beer while others came to play crib or darts.
Certainly none of them could have been attracted by the bar itself. It seems to have missed out on all the effort that produced all those cricketers in the lounge. Instead there is dark green wallpaper, peeling at the edges and an obscene sort of trough at the foot of the bar which catches cigarette ends.
But there’s a lot to make up for it. Just outside the public bar is a rose garden and, although there’s plenty of traffic noise, it’s a real suntrap in the summer.
Strangely enough, not many people seem to know about this, most of them sit out in front of the pub where they can rest their feet on the bumpers of cars in the car park and catch glimpses of the cricket green through the traffic.
The Cricketers isn’t a big pub so there’s no room for bar billiards or any of the more traditional pub games but there’s a flourishing darts club and a football team; every year there’s a coach outing to the races at Goodwood.
The public bar has a TV and in both bars are one-arm bandits which pay out a ceiling of 10p in cash and the rest in tokens.
There is no juke-box – which gives the lads in the public bar something to moan about; but there is piped music on tape.
Mild, disappearing from most pubs these days, is still on draught at the Cricketers; bitter comes from the wood as well. There’s draught Guinness, draught lager and Worthington “White Shield”, as well.
A postcard from around 1910 shows houses on either side of the Windmill pub:
An OS map of 1932 shows the houses and the pub marked as P.H. :-
The 1925 street directory describes the occupants, from north to south, starting at Cold Blows (not named, but mentioned as footpath to lower green):
.. footpath to Lower green ..
George Oliver NASH (North Lodge)
Lawrence Thomas BODLE, builder (Avenue Cottage)
Thomas HIGGS, confectioner
James BOXALL, beer retailer
Charles Thomas SEARS
John THOMPSON, dairy
William Charles HINES
News of the World Sports Ground (Leonard WHITE, hon. sec.) (Park Place)
The beer retailer is the licensee of the Windmill pub.
The houses before the Windmill aren’t shown on the 1950s OS maps, but two to the south are. See 51 and 52 Commonside West.
From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 13th May, 1960, page 3.
TWELVE middle-aged women, protected from the cold winds by woollen capes that reached their ankles, wended their way to Mitcham Parish Church in 1829.
Parishioners who saw the women demurely stepping out each Sunday, knew by their dress that they lived at the newly-erected almshouses at the Cricket Green, Mitcham.
For in 1829 the Tate’s Almshouses were constructed to provide “a residence free from rent, taxes and outgoings for 12 poor women who shall be respectively widows or unmarried women … members of the Church of England and who have a legal settlement in the parish.”
For generations the Tate families had been benefactors in the parish and in this early part of the 19th century decided it was time to build houses for the poor and set up a trust fund.
The building, familiar to residents today, was built to designs by a Mr. Buckler on the site of a former house belonging to the Tates who lived nearby. When completed a board of trustees was set up to choose applicants for admission to the house and to organise the administrative side.
These well meaning gentlemen included the Rev. James Henry Mapleton, Vicar of Mitcham, who acted as clerk to the trustees; George Matthew Hoare, of Morden Lodge; Sir John William Lubbock, of Norfolk, and William Simpson, squire in Carshalton.
Each of these ebullient figures invested some money in the project as did the foundress, Mary Tate who gave £5,000.
The almshouses, whose exterior has altered little, are built in the style prevalent in the latter part of the 16th century and were erected “ at considerable expense.”
For the poor of the parish there was considerable competition to be allocated a room or small flatlet in the almshouses and when, at last, they were successful in gaining admission, there were some fairly rigid rules to be observed.
A copy of the rules was presented by Worthing Public Library to Mitcham Library in the early 1930s.
One of the main stipulations was that the “almswomen” were to be 50 years old and upwards and were not to have received poor relief in the five previous years. They were to be selected by Mary Tate during her life and subsequently by the trustees.
The women forfeited their weekly allowance of three shillings if they remained outside their home for more than 24 hours without official leave.
They were expected to “ behave civilly and orderly and to live orderly and religious lives,” attending the church each week and receiving the sacraments four times each year.
The gates, inset in the high brick wall round the building, were locked at 11 p.m. and an hour earlier during the winter months.
No strangers were allowed into their homes without special permission and on receiving the weekly allowance, the women were “enjoined to discharge all debts contracted in the last week.”
They were also not allowed to keep dogs or alter their apartments without permission.
From this early record, it would seem that the establishment was run on rather austere lines with the matron keeping a book with the names of the women and reporting ” for infraction of the rules ” to the trustees.
The women also benefited from “Smith’s charity.” Smith was an eccentric retired London jeweller who travelled Surrey on foot accompanied by his old dog. He was dubbed “ Dog-smith ” and was reputed to leave sums of money where villages received him well.
Some of the correspondence between William Simpson and Mary Tate, who moved to a country house at Loughborough, shows how the women were chosen to live at the almshouses.
In February, 1837, he wrote. . . ” our course at the last vacancy was to give notice of it at church and invite each candidate to send in her grounds of admission to the trustees … if it is your pleasure we should follow the same course on the present occasion, will you do me the honour to communicate with me.”
Then again he wrote to Sir Lubbock asking if he considered it suitable to ask applicants to go to the almshouses 44 when particulars of each case be laid before Miss Tate for her decision on the next vacancy.”
But now a proportion of the old rules have been changed and a recently completed modernisation scheme has resulted in a transformation within the building.
The residents — still all women who have lived in the locality for not less than five years—have had their two-room flatlets redecorated in pleasant light colours. Electric light has been
installed, inside toilets, baths and new gas stoves in some of the apartments.
There is a new roof and drainage system and other renovations completed by a Mitcham firm to make the homes more comfortable.
The women, who now pay a small nominal rent, are chosen by a seven-man committee of trustees. Following former custom. Rev. John Thorold, Vicar of Mitcham, is the ex-officio trustee.
The memory of the Tate family is carried on, however, for there are several tablets and plaques in the parish church commemorating various members of the family.
Among them is a white marble monument erected to George Tate, “a gentleman of aimiable and accomplished manners,” father of the foundress, who died at the age of 77 in May, 1822.
Cumberland Hospital was paid for by Isaac Wilson, and built on land he owned, at the rear of his house The Birches. Its entrance was at the end of Whitford Gardens at Cold Blows.
Opened in 1939, it was demolished in 1992. Its perimeter wall along Cold Blows remains.
From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 21st July, 1939, page 1.
LEFT THE GOLD KEY AT HOME
But Sir Isaac’s Splendid Gift is Duly Inaugurated
CUMBERLAND HOUSE OPENED
An amusing hitch occurred at the formal opening of Cumberland House, Mitcham, on Friday afternoon. Sir Isaac Wilson, as the munificent donor of the place, was about to present the key to Sir Richard Meller, M.P., with which to unlock the door, when he discovered that he had left it at home.
A messenger was dispatched post-haste, and in ten minutes’ time he arrived with the gold key.
The ceremony then proceeded smoothly. It was a semi-private affair, arranged by the Surrey County Council officials. Among the guests present were Sir Isaac and Lady Wilson, Sir Richard and Lady Meller, the Mayor and Mayoress of Mitcham (Ald. and Mrs. Field), Mr. R. M. Chart, the 89-years-old Charter Mayor of Mitcham, Mr. Stephen Chart, the vicar of Mitcham (the Rev. C. A. Finch) and Mrs. Finch, Col. W. F. Johnson, Mr. Christopher Chart, Dr and Mrs. A. T. Till, Ald. E. H. Rickards (Croydon), County Councillor Mrs. C. Randall, Mr. and Mrs. G. S. Alderman, Mr. H. H. Dance, staff, officials, and inmates of the House.
The building was erected at the cost approximately of £60,000 by Sir Isaac Wilson, on land belonging to him, and adjoining his own residence at The Birches, almost overlooking the famous Mitcham Cricket Green. The foundation stone was laid on March 1, 1937, by Sir Kingsley Wood, then Minister of Health. The place was originally to be used as a home for poor disabled persons, and it was vested in trustees for that purpose. Subsequently, however Sir Isaac and Lady Wilson, with the approval of their co-trustees, offered the building as a gift to the Surrey County Council for use as a convalescent home in connection with the Council’s hospitals. The munificent and public-spirited offer was gratefully accepted in May, 1938. Under the scheme, Sir Isaac and Lady Wilson are life members of the committee of management, with seven other members appointed by the County authority. The hospital has been furnished and equipped by the Council, who have also appointed the necessary staff. The first patient was admitted on March 29 last. The hospital has accommodation for 110 patients and 24 staff. The patients are mainly transferred from hospitals as requiring from two to eight weeks’ further treatment in order to firmly reestablish their health.
On the ground floor there are the administrative offices, kitchens, a dispensary, and two units. The first floor comprises two ward units, an electrical treatment room, the doctor’s flat, and dining-rooms for the nursing and domestic staff. The second floor contains bed- and other rooms for the matron, assistant matron, and 22 members of the nursing and domestic staffs, including two staff common rooms. The lay-out of the Home is magnificent, with sunshine balconies, and spacious grounds for recreation.
Sir Isaac paid tribute to the architects, Messrs. Chart, Son and Reading; the builder, Mr. C. Higginson; his confidential friends, Mr. R. M. Chart, and his son, Mr. Stephen Chart (Town Clerk of Mitcham), Sir Richard Meller, and the Rev. C. A. Finch, chaplain of the home. He declared that every one of these gentlemen had helped him by good advice during the building of the Home. He went on to say that the Surrey County Councii were now trying to do the very best they could with the building, and “I shall be fully recompensed to know that the institution will be carried an efficiently in the future for the benefit and use of convalescent cases,” he added.
DEPUTISING FOR MINISTER OF HEALTH.
Sir Richard Meller humorously suggested that a record of the ceremony should be “the safe arrival of the key.” He greatly appreciated the honour and privilege conferred upon him, he said. He was really deputising for the Minister of Health, who was unable to attend. “This is a succession of noble acts of benefaction by Sir Isaac Wilson,” commented Sir Richard. The building of Wilson Hospital, and the Garden Village, are other worthy examples of his generosity. There is nothing which adds to human happiness so much as the enjoyment of good health, and Sir Isaac and Lady Wislon have been so charity-minded as to build these institutions to try to confer the greatest blessing on mankind by providing them with means of achieveing the greatest human happiness.”
In handing over the Home to County authority, Sir Richard thought the donors had paid tribute to the efficient administration of that body. It came at an opportune moment for the County Council in providing them with the necessary accommodation to relieve their present hospitals, and particularly as an outlet for the large institution being built on St Helier Estate. Sir Richard gave the assurance that the intentions of the trustees would be carried out as far as possible.
“The opening of this home, concluded Sir Richard, “confers a very valuable asset upon the County, and it should be duly recorded among the great historic events of Mitcham.”
“By taking over this building, the County Authority have enabled Sir Isaac to confirm two benefits on community, provision of an institution for the sick, relief for the ratepayers. It is a second example of the dual benefit that Sir Isaac has conferred upon the ratepaying community through Wilson hospital and now Cumberland Home. “Where I am ye shall dwell,” seems to have animated the donor, for he has built both institutions close to his own private residence, equivalent to saying what is good enough for me I hope is good enough for you. In your name as residents of Mitcham, and on behalf of the County of Surrey, I express to Sir Isaac and Lady Wilson our whole-hearted gratitude for their generosity and kindness. Before their eyes they will have the satisfaction and knowledge that those who came here sick went away rejoicing in good health.” (Cheers).
The company then proceeded to the main entrance of the budiling, and Sir Richard unlocked the door with a gold key, declaring the Home open for the succour of mankind.”
The hospital, originally under the Surrey County Council, became part of the NHS in 1947. This ad for nurses in 1949 shows it was part of the St Helier hospital group:
In 1979, the Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth Area Health Authority announced it was to close. The buildings were demolished in 1992. Redevelopment of the site by the health authority has included day care centres, and is the site of the Merton Dementia Hub.
For more information about the hospital, see the website Lost Hospitals of London.
Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
The Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area was created in 1969.
The road name signs have a green background, with large white lettering for the name of the road, and underneath is written, in smaller letters, ‘Cricket Green Conservation Area’.
A white horizontal line below the lettering indicates a cricket pitch. At the left and right hand ends of the sign are three white vertical lines, with a white horizontal line on top, to illustrate cricket wickets. The white horizontal line on which they sit extends just past these ‘wickets’, to further emphasise that they are on a field. Another white horizontal line, is above the lettering, but not connecting to the ‘wickets’, completes the design.
As of June 2017, there are 44 road name signs in the conservation area, and can been on this Google map. Of these 44, two are for Chatsworth Place which was removed from the conservation area in 2013.
Of the remaining 42, two have been replaced with an incorrect design. By missing out the gaps between the top horizontal line and the wickets, and the extension of the lower horizontal line at the feet of the wickets, the ‘cricket pitch’ design is lost. Madeira Road and Willow Lane have these new designs.
Three signs are missing, and can be seen on Google Street Views.
‘Cricket Green’, was on boundary fence of the Burn Bullock, near the junction with London Road. This Street View was from 2009.
‘Church Road’ was a freestanding sign in front of number 10 Church Road, as seen on this Street View from 2015.
‘Lower Green West’ a new freestanding sign, on the north side, between Church Road and Preshaw Crescent, as seen on this Street View from 2015.