Category Archives: Events

1855 : Fatal accident on Wimbledon and Croydon Railway

From page 6 of the 30th October 1855, edition of the South Eastern Gazette.

ALARMING AND FATAL ACCIDENT UPON THE WIMBLEDON AND CROYDON RAILWAY.

The above-named line of railway, which it was at first said would be opened on the 1st of October, then on the 15th of the same month, was opened on Monday, the 22nd. The London, Brighton, and South Coast Company issued bills, announcing that they would run 13 trains per diem. The South Western Railway Company also issued bills, stating that they intended running 5 trains per diem, by means of which passengers could be conveyed to the Waterloo terminus. These, however, were not to be what are generally termed “through trains,” but passengers wishing to go to Waterloo station would have to change trains at the Wimbledon station.

The line, which is a single one, is as near as possible upon the same route between Croydon and Mitcham, as that formerly occupied by the earliest railway in England, viz. the old tramway formed at the commencement of the present century, for the purpose of conveying stone and lime from Merstham. Those who recollect the old tramway are aware that after passing Waddon Marsh, there was a short cutting familiarly known as the “high banks,” after passing which it ran upon a level by the side of a farm now occupied by Mr. Atherfold and then across Mitcham-common.

On Wednesday afternoon the London, Brighton, and South Coast train, consisting of a small engine with tender attached, and four carriages, arrived at the Croydon West station, and proceeded on to Mitcham; at the time we learn there were not more than 8 or 10 passengers in the train. When it reached Mr. Atherfold’s farm, and was consequently between the “high banks” and the road leading from Beddington to the Windmill upon Mitcham-common, the engine got off the rails, after which it evidently continued to run for nearly a hundred yards, when the engine and tender went off at the right hand side of the line, and the carriages at the same time went off at the opposite side. The engine immediately tumbled over, and Bingham the engine driver, who it would appear was at the time working the lever, for the purpose of reversing the engine was with the exception of his head and right arm buried beneath the engine. His death must have been almost instantaneous. The stoker (Weller) jumped off and was much scalded, but not otherwise materially injured. The first carriage was completely smashed, but fortunately there were no passengers in it, and those who were in the other carriages escaped with very slight injuries, as did also the guard who was attending to the break, which fortunately was attached to the last carriage.

Intelligence of the event was immediately conveyed to New-Cross station, and an engine, with what they term the tool box, and about a dozen men arrived at the spot at about 7 o’clock; the remains of the unfortunate engine driver however, were not extricated from beneath the engine till past 8 o’clock, when they were conveyed to the Plough public-house, Beddington, to await a coroner’s inquest.

Another report mentions that one of the passengers was from Mitcham.

From page 351 of the 31st October 1855 issue of the Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser:

On Thursday night a serious accident occurred on the Croydon and Mitcham Railway to a passenger train in the neighbourhood of the village of Beddington. The line from Croydon to Mitcham, a distance of four miles, was only opened on the preceding Monday. It consists of a single line of rails until its junction with the Croydon and Epsom line, about half a mile from Croydon.

The train to which the accident happened started from the terminus at London-bridge at 4.15. About midway between Croydon and Mitcham, the engine ran off the rails, dragging the tender and passenger carriages after it, for between fifty and sixty yards, until, falling over on its side, its career was suspended. One of the carriages was smashed to atoms, and the driver killed on the spot. There were, fortunately, but five passengers, all second class, and, with the exception of a Mrs. Jacobs, the wife of a retired gentleman residing at Upper Mitcham, who was very much shaken, they all escaped unhurt.

From page 564 of the 7th November 1855 issue of the Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser, the inquest recommended a speed limit of 20 m.p.h.:

On Monday, the coroner resumed the adjourned inquest on John Bingham, the engine-driver who lost his life on the 24th ult., on the newly-formed West Croydon and Mitcham Railway. Colonel Yolland gave it as his opinion that the accident was caused mainly by the speed at which the engine was travelling. The jury found, “that the deceased met his death by accident, but recommend that the maximum speed, until the lines becomes consolidated, should not be greater than twenty miles an hour.”

1973 Elton John visits Pye record factory

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 30th November, 1973.

Elton John visited the Pye record factory on Monday 26th November, 1973.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road … hello Western Road, Mitcham.” This could have been the theme of a visit made by the top pop star Elton John when he visited the Pye Factory, Western-road, Mitcham on Monday and watched some of his discs being pressed. Pictured with him is supervisor Mr Ken Spink.

Unveiling of the Mitcham War Memorial

From the Mitcham and Tooting Mercury, 26th November, 1920

UNVEILING OF MITCHAM’S WAR MEMORIAL.

The war shrine, situated on the Lower Green, Mitcham, was unveiled last Sunday by Major-General Sir H. E. Watts, K.C.B., C.M.G. (formerly commanding the 7th Division and 19th Corps, B.E.F.). The weather, although very cold, was fine, and about 5,000 people were present at the unveiling.

Alderman R. M. Chart (Chairman of the War Memorial Committee) said that this shrine was to commemorate the self-sacrifice of those who made the supreme sacrifice, and show our undying sorrow felt by those who have lost dear ones in the late war. Two years ago the war terminated, and in February, 1919, a committee was formed for the purpose of raising funds for the war shrine. There was some difficulty as to the most prominent place for the shrine, and on Peace Day, when the temporary memorial was put behind the Vestry Hall, it was proposed that that should be the site for the permanent one. It is also proposed now that a fencing should be placed round the shrine, but with facilities for the public to place flowers on it, which he (Mr. R. M. Chart) was sure they would do from time to time. He also said that every effort had been made to obtain the names of men who had been killed in action or died of wounds, and, at present, there were 557 names inscribed on the shrine, and since then more had come to hand, and would be inscribed in due course. The speaker then said it was his duty and pleasure to introduce Major-General Sir H. E. Watts, K.C.B., C.M.G., who had well served his country in the late war. He was commanding in the first and third Battle of Ypres.

Major-General Sir H. E. Watts, K.C.B., C.M.G., said, after what Mr. Chart had said, there was not much more to say, but there was one incident that he would like to remind them of, and that was the late Earl Kitchener’s appeal of “Your King and Country need you,” at the beginning of the war, in which all men flocked to enlist. “Why !” because they knew that they were going to fight for freedom and endure the hardships of war, which was a fine example of self-sacrifice and unselfishness. All honour was due to them who came forward at the country’s call. The men, women and children were also a great help, for, while we soldiers were fighting, those at home endured many hardships, but without murmuring. He then unveiled the memorial, and the “Last Post” was played by buglers of the East Surrey Regiment.

The hymn, “Nearer my God to Thee,” was sung, and then the invocation and prayers were said by Rev. C. A. Finch, the Vicar of Mitcham, after which Rev. J. F. Cowley, the the Zion Congregational Church, said a few words.

Rev. J. F. Cowley said that, in doing honour to those who laid down their lives for us, there should be no mistake, for if they had not done so, no English home would be intact and safe to-day, but the unspeakable happenings in Belgium would have happened in England, and, perhaps, have been even worse, because it was against England that the Germans were so bitter and revengeful. He said we should thank God and our fallen heroes for such a merciful deliverance, and also think God for such sons, fathers, brothers and sweethearts who so cheerfully laid down their lives to save us from shame and dishonour. They must not forget to honour and thank the mothers who gave the best, they had got; and in the future, when one was in despair, they should just go to the shrine and remember what, Englishmen could and did do for their country, because they thought that, if it was worth living for, it was worth dying for. Those present then proceeded to place their floral tributes on the shrine, during which Mr. Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional” was sung.

The Jubilee Lodge, R.A.O.B., sent a wreath in memory of fallen “Buffs.” Other lodges also sent wreaths.

The special constables were present under the command of Inspectors Webb and Freeman. Colonel Bidder, D.S.O., was present, and a detachment of ex-Service men lined up round the inside of the ropes. The music for the hymns was played by the Mitcham and Wimbledon Military Band, conducted by Mr. H. Salter.

1934 Charter Day Beakers

On Wednesday, 19th September, 1934, school children were given a day off to watch the Mitcham Charter Day Parade. Each child was also given a lavender blue china mug.

The coat of arms for the newly formed Borough of Mitcham was on one side of the beaker.

Image reproduced by kind permission of Lloyd Pocock, from the website Ashtead Pottery

Image reproduced by kind permission of Lloyd Pocock, from the website Ashtead Pottery

On the other side was written:

1934.
Mitcham’s
Charter Year

Image reproduced by kind permission of Lloyd Pocock, from the website Ashtead Pottery

Image reproduced by kind permission of Lloyd Pocock, from the website Ashtead Pottery

The beakers were made by the Ashtead Pottery, which had been in business since 1923.

1970 Families flee gas plant blasts

From the Daily Express, 24th September, 1970

EXPLOSIONS roared through a gas bottling plant last night – and the bangs could be heard over half of London.

From Middlesex to Farnborough, Kent, people were roused by the blasts. The glow from the flames could be seen in Putney.

THE BLASTS at the plant in Church Road, Mitcham, hurled pieces of molten cylinders high in the air.

No one was injured but 100 firemen who raced to the scene from all over South London faced the hazard of a broken gas supply main.

HOMES

They quickly brought a fierce fire in the two-storey factory itself under control, however. Fifty families were evacuated from houses most closely affected. A police spokesman said more might have to be moved from a nearby council estate.

THE SOUND of the explosions were heard as far away as Epsom, Wandsworth, and Bromley.

Streets around the area were littered with chunks of gas canisters, several of which were hurled over 300 yds, and lay hissing in the streets while firemen doused them with foam.

Mr Brian Courtney, an ambulanceman in Caterham 10 miles away, said : “The sky was bright red lighting up everything for miles.”

AT 1 A.M. gas cylinders were still exploding. An adjoining factory was badly damaged and neighbouring shopfronts were blown in.

1947 Rubber Dump Fire

BIG SURREY RUBBER FIRE ATTRIBUTED TO HEAT

200 Firemen Fight Worst Blaze Since Blitzes

INTENSE heat in London — the temperature in the afternoon rising to 90 degrees — was thought responsible for the outbreak of one of the worst fires for many months. The great fire broke out in a Government rubber dump near Mitcham Common. Thousands of tons of rubber blazed and 200 firemen were faced with an all-night task. The scene was reminiscent of blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F. in the war.

More than 30 fire engines were rushed from all parts of South London to cope with the blaze, the fire assuming alarming proportions.

The fire spread rapidly and quickly reached a factory. Heavy smoke clouds drifted across Mitcham Common toward Streatham, and surrounding property was threatened by the blaze.

Thousands tons of scrap rubber blazed while firemen were trying to get a hose working. They were handicapped by the distance the nearest available water supply — the River Wandle — and were trying to prevent the fire from reaching two builders’ yards. The dump is controlled the Board Trade.

“AMAZING SIGHT.”

Gangs of men worked to clear fire ” break” between the dump and surrounding houses. The N.F.S. later said the fire was the biggest this year and for quite some time previously.” One eyewitness said: “It is an amazing sight—like the pictures blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F.”

There was a “general call out” to fire brigades. Over 200 firemen using “walkie-talkie” apparatus fought the fire and four hoselaying lorries ran hoses from the Wandle.

At the dump were 10,000 tons rubber, including 3,000 tons of tyres worth about £40,000 to £50,000.

SUN BLOTTED OUT

About 120 employees of the adjoining factory of Bryans Aeroquipment, Ltd., formed a bucket chain, and the factory girls provided water, lemonade, and biscuits to firemen exhausted by the heat. One of the firemen, overcome by the heat and fumes, was removed to hospital.

Firemen were at work all night. Some of them said they expected the dump to smoulder for a week.

Smoke from the fire blacked out the sun in Central London, ten miles away. Some onlookers likened a mushroom-like column of smoke stretching from the heart of the fire to pictures of the atom bomb explosions.

Source: Western Morning News – Tuesday 03 June 1947 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

There are 9 photos on Merton Memories.

1952 Prospects in New Zealand

Prospects in New Zealand

Mitcham displays an interest

Mitcham Vestry Hall was crowded on Wednesday and Thursday nights last week to see a New Zealand Government talkie film on the prospects for emigrants to that country.

The film was supplemented by a more intimate and up-to-date talk by a representative of the New Zealand Government, who invited questions — and got them.

One young Irishman asked if there was any prospect of conscription out there.
“There is. If the need arises,” he was told.

The free passage scheme is now open to single men and women of British race, who are accommodated in hostels. Married folk are not encouraged to emigrate unless than are certain of accommodation and are themselves skilled workers in certain trades.

Questions elicited the information that the cost of living in New Zealand was roughly the same as in this country; and that wages on the average were a little higher. Carpenters, for example, got £9 12s. 7d. for a working week of 40 hours. Builders’ labourers received a basic rate of £8 16s. 6d. Women footwear operatives
were paid £5 10s. 5d. a week.

Source : Mitcham News & Mercury, 24th July 1952

Inflation adjusted, the weekly wages quoted, £9 12s. 7d. is around £270 in 2016, and £8 16s. 6d. is £250, while £5 10s. 5d. is about £160.