Category Archives: Places

Rigid rules of the almshouses in old days

Clip from Merton Memories photo, reference Mit_​Almshouses_​1-2, copyright London Borough of Merton. This early drawing shows the original enclosing wall.

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.”

TRUST FUND

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.

EXPENSE

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.

SAME COURSE

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.

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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.

1906 Death of Mr Hatfeild at Morden Hall

DEATH OF MR HATFEILD AT MORDEN HALL

On Saturday last there died at his residence Morden Hall, Merton, at the age of 79, one of the best known men in the tobacco world, Mr Gilliat Hatfeild.

Mr Hatfeild, who was reputed a millionaire, was senior partner in the famous old firm all Taddy and Co., Minories, whose establishment dates as far back as 1730.

The firm of Taddy has been closely associated with the snuff trade. Snuff was its staple product. Although of late years this has ceased to make the old appeal to the public taste, “Taddy’s” “Tom Buck” “Black Rappee” and “Brown Rappee” are well known to and largely affected by snuff takers.

Attached to the fine park which Morden Hall stands are snuff mills. Hither the raw material is brought from London, manufactured, and carted back in its manufactured state to town. It is doubtful whether large fortunes are to be made in the snuff trade now, but more recently thhere is said to have been a certain revival of the snuff habit.

Mr Hatfeild’s funeral Took place on Wednesday at Kensal Green Cemetery at ten minutes to two.

One of the deceased’s daughters is a well-known dog fancier, and another daughter it will be remembered is the wife of Mr T.A. Meates, formerly chairman of the Wimbledon Bench of magistrates.

Source: Wimbledon Boro’ News, 17th February, 1906

His son, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild, refused to sell his estate to property developers. He died in 1941 and left Morden Hall Park to the National Trust.

Queen Anne’s Bounty

To help with the income of poor clergy, the Queen Anne’s Bounty was a sum of money used to buy land. This land was then rented out and this rental income was used to support the clergy.

In 1734, £200 of this Royal Bounty was used to buy an area of land from Charles Dubois in Mitcham, to support the vicar at the parish church.

Source: An Account of the Augmentation of Small Livings by “The Governors of the Bounty of Queen Anne for the Augmentation of the Maintenance of the poor Clergy” published in 1856, by Christoper Hodgson, M.A.

Source: An Account of the Augmentation of Small Livings by “The Governors of the Bounty of Queen Anne for the Augmentation of the Maintenance of the poor Clergy” published in 1856, by Christoper Hodgson, M.A.

Eric Montague, in his Mitcham Histories : 12 Church Street and Whitford Lane, page 107, said that more land was bought in 1762 from Mary Gellibrand.

This OS map of 1867 shows areas marked as ‘Glebe’. Note that the London Road was, as shown on this map, known as Whitford Lane.

1867 OS map

1867 OS map

Later, parts of this land was sold off to developers to build houses. Montague, page 108, ibid., said that in 1790 a substantial plot was sold to build a house cwhich became Glebelands.

In the Land Registry title for a house in Preshaw Crescent for example, a conveyance was made in 1897:

A Conveyance of the land in this title and other land dated 2 September 1897 made between (1) The Reverend Frederick Wilson Clerk (the Incumbent) (2) The Governors of The Bounty of Queen Anne for the Augmentation of The Maintenance of The Poor Clergy (the Governors) (3) The Right Reverend Father in God Edward Stuart (the Ordinary) (4) Francis Charles Simpson (the Patron) (5) The Right Honourable and Most Reverend Frederick By Divine Providence Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (the Archbishop) and (6) Richard Arthur Bush (the Purchaser) contains covenants details of which are set out in the schedule of restrictive covenants hereto.

See also Queen Anne’s Bounty on wikipedia.

1952 : A Park in his Care

From the Mitcham Advertiser, 2nd October, 1952, page 5.

A familiar figure in Mitcham is Mr George Finch, for 26 years in the employ of the the council and now gardener and charge-hand at Tamworth Farm recreation ground.

His first job with the council – there was no separate parks department in those days – was “mowing Figges Marsh.” After that he became a driver and remained at that job until about three years ago.

He joined the council in 1926, a week after his discharge from the Army.

Mr Finch, who comes from an old Mitcham family, was born in Phipps Bridge Road. As a youth of 17, he ran away from home to join the Army, but at the recruiting centre he was told he was under age. A few days later he went back to the recruiting officer and told him he was 18.

“Haven’t you been here before?” he was asked. “Never,” replied Mr Finch. He was accepted and served until 1926.

Mr Finch, who is 50, joined the council’s service a week after his discharge from the Army. He lives in Sibthorp Road.

Robin Ltd., Incandescent Gas Mantle Makers, Lonesome

1910 OS Map

1910 OS Map

The company experienced a boom in its business of making and selling incandescent gas mantles during World War 1. Gas mantles, the part of a gas lamp that glows, were made from Thorium, which was extracted from sands mined in Brazil. Before the war, Germany was the only country that produced Thorium from these sands, as pointed out in a letter to the Daily Express. With the war, imports from Germany ceased, and Thorium had to be bought from the US.

Robin Ltd. stated in a military service tribunal of 11th August 1916 that:

owing to the import of German mantles being stopped since the war their business had increased enormously, and they now employed 500 hands.

Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.