Category Archives: People

Mrs Wray, pioneer of Mitcham’s child welfare service, died in 1960

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 6th May, 1960, page 1.

CHILD WELFARE PIONEER DIES

Mrs Elizabeth Sarah Wray, friends to hundreds of Mitcham families and pioneer of Mitcham’s child welfare service, has died. Her home was at Harcourt Road, Wallington.

Mrs Wray joined Mitcham Urban District Council in March, 1916, as the first health visitor. She remained until her retirement in February, 1943.

Mrs Wray, who did her rounds by bicycle, laid the foundation of maternity and child welfare in Mitcham. Working alone as health visitor she organised the first infant welfare clinics and inaugurated the home visiting scheme.

She was behind the opening of the infant welfare clinic in the creche at Colliers Wood –
one of the first.

HIGHEST ESTEEM

In 1920 a second health visitor was appointed, and Mrs Wray became senior health visitor. Later she was promoted and became the first local superintendent health visitor and infant life protection visitor.

During her 23 years’ service she worked during the term of three successive medical officers of health.

Dr Florence M Parsons, former assistant Mitcham medical officer of health, writes of Mrs Wray: “Practically every family in the borough was known to her.

“Many thousands of mothers have reason to be grateful to her invariably sound, helpful and sympathetic advice, and she was always held in the highest esteem by her professional colleagues and all those with whom she came into contact.”

Mrs Wray, a widow, has been an invalid for some years. The funeral service was at Wallington Parish Church on Wednesday last week. It was conducted by the Rev Frank Colquhoun, who also took the service at Streatham Vale crematorium. He paid tribute to her life of service for the community.

See a photograph, from Merton Memories, of her in 1920 at Woodlands.

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Independent Order of Oddfellows : 150th anniversary in 1960

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 19th February, 1960, page 7.

THE Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a friendly society who ban arguments about religion and politics at their meetings, were praised as “ pioneers ” by the Mayor of Mitcham (Ald. D. W. Chalkley) on Saturday.

He was speaking at the annual dinner at the Crown, Morden, of the order’s Mitcham and district section, who cover large areas of Surrey, South and South West London. About 178 people attended.

Ald. Chalkley said the order, 150 years old, had helped pioneer the welfare of Britain’s ordinary people and the idea that a sick man should be helped and not cast aside.

“ You have also pioneered the right of people to belong to organisations irrespective of race or creed — a thing people could well do to remember these days,” he said.

HOW IT STARTED

Earlier Mr. R. O. Early, past Grand Master, outlined the beginnings of the order. He said it started among farm labourers who used to meet regularly for a drink at a Midlands pub.

One night one of them was missing — he was ill. The others clubbed together to help him. When he was better they continued to keep the fund going in case others needed it.

“ It is now the richest friendly society in the world,” he said.

Mrs. L. M. Payne, Provincial Grand Master, proposed a toast to the Manchester Unity and Mitcham District. Chairman, past Provincial Grand Master, Mr. Harry Crossley, proposed the
loyal toast.

Note: The Odd Fellows got their name because, at the beginning of the original scheme, it was thought strange that poor people should contribute to a fund for others.

For more on this society’s history, see their website.

1960 : Explosion showers acid over homes

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 15th January, 1960, page 1.

Explosion hurls vat top through roof of factory

ACID IS SHOWERED OVER HOMES
And two boys at play are covered

Acid showered over homes in the Batsworth Road, Mitcham, area on Friday after an explosion in a factory nearby.

The explosion hurled the top of a vat through the factory roof. A stream of acid followed and firemen were called to hose it from homes and the street.

The factory is W.J. Bush, synthetic chemists, Batsworth Road, scene of an explosion in 1933 whiched wrecked and damaged nearby homes, and killed a child. People in the neighbourhood have never forgotten it.

Mystery

Friday’s explosion remains a mystery. The fac†ory would make no comment.

It happened in the evening as Mr Albert Bowdery, who lives nearby, went to buy some tobacco.

“I heard the bang and thought at first that a tower was going to fall, then I saw something rush through the roof.

“I hurried back indoors and called to my daughter-in-law: ‘Quick, the children.’ We ran with them into the road. It would not take much to make this old building collapse.”

Mr Bowdery’s daughter-in-law Violet, has two young children – John and Linda.

Mr Bowdery said: “The explosion reminded people of the 1933 incident. They are always a bit worried about the factory.

“We don’t know what goes on there.”

The shop of greengrocer Mrs L. Langridge was covered in a “sort of white wash.”

“We are still cleaning up. A pair of my overalls are ruined. We could not let the children play outside.”

A nearby butcher, Mr J. Stopher, said: “The sanitary people inspected my goods, and, to be on the safe side, I have handed over a quantity of lamb, although it was not contaminated as far as we can tell. The damage was done to the outside of my shop.”

An elderly painter said: “We worry about the factory because many of us remember the tragedy of 1933.”

Soon after the explosion Michael Fullick and his brother Norman went out to play. They became covered in the acid.

Baths

“When we found out we gave them baths immediately,” said mr F. Fullick, licensee of the Bath Tavern.

Firemen were given rubber gloves when they arrived at the factory. A works chemist gave them advice on how to deal with the spilt sulphuric acid.

1960 : 132 year old Love Lane cottage to come down

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 2nd September 1960, page 1.

132-year old cottage to come down

SEVENTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Mrs. Frances Dent, whose family have grown flowers in Love Lane, Mitcham for the past 60 years, walked out of her 132-year-old timber cottage for the last time on Tuesday.

She is the last owner of Dent’s Nursery, soon to be demolished to make way for a primary school.

When the Dent family first came to the cottage and nursery they were surrounded by open fields.

On the one-and-a-half-acre site they had five large greenhouses. Their main crop was flowers for Covent Garden.

Mrs. Dent who lived in the cottage alone since her husband died, walked along her narrow garden path and set off for the Tate Almshouses, Cricket Green, where she will now live.

HAPPY

“I have been very happy at the old place,” she said. “ It’s a great wrench to leave. But the house was in a bad state and it is best that it comes down.”

The lone nurseryman is 58-year-old Mr. Daniel Grace who rented the ground when Mrs. Dent’s husband died. He grew plants and vegetables to sell locally.

“ I am going to buy a little place in the country,” he said. “The place has changed. You have only got to cast an eye around the neighbourhood to realise that.
“In my day Love Lane was a lane. It was lined with hedges and dog roses.”

This OS map from 1954 shows a nursery and a pair of houses numbered 54 and 55 on the north side of Love Lane.

1954 OS map

1863 : Fatality at Pudding-fields

Fatal Railway Accident

— An inquest was held at the King’s Head Inn, Mitcham, before T. Carter, Esq., coroner, on the body of Harriet Collins, aged 72, who was killed whilst passing over a crossing, on the Wimbledon and Croydon Railway.

It appeared from the evidence that the deceased, with her husband and daughter, were on their way home by a regular footpath through Pudding-fields, and, on arriving at the railway crossing, they observed a train approaching. The daughter ran across the line, leaving her mother to follow; and on the poor creature attempting to do so, the engine caught her and literally tore her to pieces. The driver of the engine was called on evidence, but said he did not see anything of the occurrence. The stoker, however, stated that he saw the deceased attempt to cross the line, but not until the engine was within 12 or 15 yards of her; he then told the driver to sound the whistle, which he did, but the engine was too near to allow of her escape. The jury returned the following verdict:—

“That, in returning a verdict of accidental death, the jury are anxious to express their wish that the Brighton Railway Company will substitute bridges for footways at the various crossings on the Wimbledon and Croydon Branch, all of which are, in their opinion, more or less dangerous to the public.”

Source: Thame Gazette – Tuesday 13 January 1863, via the British Newspaper Archive.

The area called Pudding Fields was referred to in the Mitcham Memories of Ben Slater.

The name might be related to ‘pudding grass’, a former name of the mint pennyroyal, see Peppermint in 1875.

Fish Leather at Beddington Corner

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 6th January 1950, page 4.

WORKING on trawlers sailing from the sturdy little fishing port of Fleetwood, Mr. W. V. Kuncewicy was struck with an idea. But it was war time and his conviction that the seas surrounding these inlands contained great untapped wealth could bear no fruit until the end of hostilities.

When peace came Kuncewicy and his friend, S. Cyuba, equipped only with an idea and about £300 between them, began to explain to people that a flourishing industry could be built on the by-products of fish, principally the skins, most of which are thrown away, or at best, reach the fertiliser factory.

The skins of cod and catfish, declared these two former Polish naval men, could be used as a substitute for fine leather. Cleaned, treated and dyed it would make dainty shoe uppers, belts and other trimmings. The skin of the dolphin, porpoise and shark, which at present sport unmolested about our shores, were the real wealth which, if scientifically harvested, could provide enough hides to abolish the need for a large percentage of leather imports. The oil, too, was valuable.

Five years after the end of the war these two men have established a factory in Goat-road, Mitcham, where fish skins are treated for commercial use.

HOME MADE FACTORY.

Its home is a converted stable. Kuncewicy and Cyuba did most of the converting. They laid the concrete floor of the tanning room, installed the machinery, converted the loft above the stalls into an office-cum-work shop, The entrance is by an outside wooden staircase. To get in you bend double and, push open the old loft door. There is an old-fashioned air about this beamed, dimly-lit building where a new industry has been born. In the former loft skins of cod and catfish hang from lines stretched across the low ceiling. In the stable below 2,500 skins are cleaned and tanned each week.

The tanning of fish skins has been attempted with indifferent success for probably 3,000 years. Now, for the first time it is being done satisfactorily, and dainty shoes and other accessories, many of them in gold and silver finish, are being exported as well as sold in the West End.

The skin is soft and flexible, yet, stronger than leather of equal thickness. Fish skin accessories have become popular for evening wear, yet probably few women realise that they are adorning themselves with the skin of cod.

How in these days of restriction have these two penniless sailors succeeded in launching a new industry? The real answer lies in the burning enthusiasm of Kuncewicy; the imagination, initiative and drive that persuaded the authorities to allow him to study at a marine biological station on the Clyde, and later imbued enough people with sufficient enthusiasm for fish skins to lend money to set the factory going.

ON OUR DOORSTEP.

But powder compacts and evening shoes are only part of Mr. Kuncewicy’s dream. In spring millions of porpoises and dolphins come to Britain’s shores. Spring, too. brings schools of sharks to Scottish waters.

“These creatures represent potential wealth.” said Mr. Kuncewicy. “The hide of a porpoise or dolphin is the size of a cow hide, and as tough. There are several layers of skin: the outer ones can be used for heavy goods such as suitcases or heavy boots, the inner layers for lighter things.

“Fishermen on the Clyde used to poach dolphin from small boats — killing them was illegal — for the sake of the blubber and the skin. To-day the blubber would be useful as lubricating oil, and the meat is quite good, much better than whale steak.”

Shark skin was a good substitute for calf. They had had one skin from the shark station at Soay, the tiny Hebridean island that lies in the shadow of the Black Cuillins of Skye. The setting up of a station there had failed because the shark fishing had been treated rather as a gentleman’s sport than a serious business. But it had demonstrated the use to which these creatures, some of them as long as a London bus, could be put.

Mr. Kuncewicy has been asking the Board of Trade to establish three stations — on the Clyde. Cornwall and the East Coast — for the purpose of catching porpoises, dolphins and sharks. Such an experiment would provide the nucleus of a flourishing industry.

“The Government sets up elaborate groundnut schemes in Africa, but has no time for the undeveloped natural wealth of Britain,” he commented. “The launching of a scheme would cost only about £15,000. It could well grow into an important industry, providing Britain with much of the leather she now imports. The raw materials department of the Board of Trade have shown some interest, but the Treasury will not respond to appeals for funds.”

British Pathe made a newsreel in 1949, which can be seen on YouTube:

On the British Pathe website, the names are given as Witold Euncewicz and Stanislaw Czuba, as opposed to Kuncewicy and Cyuba in the newspaper article.

1905 : Mellins Food ad

An ad in the Illustrated London News for Mellins Food:

DORIS MARGARET CLARK, aged 1 year, 3, Evelina Villas, London Road, Mitcham. “Has been fed entirely on MELLIN’S FOOD since 3 months old; her progress since that time has simply been marvellous, and the and the talk of all our neighbours and friends.” Sample free on application. MELLIN’S FOOD, LTD., PECKHAM, LONDON, S.E.

Source: Illustrated London News – Saturday 07 October 1905 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

The ad refers to Evelina Villas, although this is likely to have been Eveline Villas. In the 1902 commercial directory, there is an Alexander CLARK, a surveyor’s clerk, at 3 Eveline Villas.