Category Archives: Transport

1866 – Six die when bridge collapses during construction of Mitcham – Sutton railway

From the South Eastern Gazette, 1st May, 1866, page 6:

Frightful Accident at Sutton, Surrey — Six Men Killed by the Falling of a Bridge.

— A lamentable catastrophe occurred at Sutton on Saturday afternoon. The South Coast Company are constructing a new line of railway, which is ultimately intended to connect the London termini with Portsmouth by a direct route. A portion of this line is known by the name of the Mitcham and Sutton Railway, and after crossing Mitcham-common runs at the back of Carshalton and joins the existing Epsom line on the London side of the Sutton station.

A deep cutting through chalk, about half a mile from the junction, renders a bridge necessary for the public road. The work was here in active progress, and the bridge which fell was constructed by means of leaving a keystone of the native chalk and building the brick work upon the chalk abutments. The bridge was nearly completed, but some weeks since a doubt of its stability was entertained, and reports are current in the neighbourhood that the bridge was condemned, and that workmen had absolutely been discharged by the contractor for refusing to work at it, under apprehension of danger. Notwithstanding this, on Saturday afternoon, at half-past two, six men and a ganger were employed. Three of the six were cutting away the chalk, and three others were scraping the brickwork to make it ready for pointing, from which it appears that there was no intention of pulling down the bridge. At half-past two the whole mass of brickwork gave way and buried six poor fellows. The ganger, John White, escaped. Every effort to get at the buried men was made, but it was nearly two hours before they were extricated.

All six were of course dead, and there is reason to hope that their death was almost simultaneous with their apprehension of danger. On visiting the spot on Sunday morning we found the six poor fellows were lying on the floor of a cottage adjoining, and exhibiting a frightful aspect of violent deaths. One of them had his face and head absolutely torn in halves horizontally; another’s countenance could scarcely be recognised.

The names of the poor fellows are Edward Berry, Chas. Collard, Wm. Cook, Henry Hyder, and Hutchinson ; the sixth was not identified at the time of our visit. The contractor for the line is Mr. Joseph Firbank, of Newport, Monmouth, and the construction of the bridges is underlet to Mr. Henry King, of Lower Norwood.

Walter Mays Ltd.

The Abbey Cork Mills of Walter Mays Ltd was built on the site of William De Morgan’s pottery, Colliers Wood, in around 1890.

1950 OS map

Walter Carden-Mays born December 1865 in Camberwell. He married in 1888 and died on 21st January 1941 in Surrey. The ‘Carden’ part of the family name was dropped at some point, and his company was known as Walter Mays Ltd.

Listed in the 1925 street directory as Walter Mays Ltd. (Abbey Cork Works), 150 & 152 Byegrove Road.

1924 aerial photo. The site for Colliers wood underground station can be seen bottom right. The cork factory is on the left of the High Street.

1934 OS map rotated to show same view as aerial photo above


Ad from Flight Magazine of 1938 :

and directory listing from same:

WALTER MAYS, LTD., Abbey Cork Mills, London, S.W.19 (Liberty 3764).—” Everything in cork “; carburettor and oil indicator floats, gauge glass washers, gland packings, strut sealing corks, anti-vibration mats, composition cork jointing to D.T.D.219A, laminated and plain.

In an entry on Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History from 1939 about suppliers to the aircraft industry, cork joints to specification DTD 219A were widely used for petrol tank gaskets and packings.


The Stone Cottage of the Surrey Iron Railway stood on the Walter Mays Ltd site for over 150 years.


Mitcham Military Service Tribunals

As reported by the Mitcham and Tooting Mercury, 16th June 1916, an employer of a cork business in Colliers Wood, appealed for his son. Although not named, it is likely that the company was Walter Mays Ltd.

Exemption was asked for a skilled mechanic, by the owner of a cork manufacturing business in Colliers Wood. The employer said the man was very valuable in his present employment and he will be practically impossible to replace. A large proportion of their manufacturers were for government uses. He employed about 17 men of whom are only three were eligible. He pleaded that his son was capable of doing almost anything in the business and his departure might cause the closing down of the business.

Three months exemption.

In the Mitcham and Tooting Mercury, 2nd November 1917, the company and employee are named in an appeal.

Mr Walter Mays, cork manufacturer, of the Abbey Cork Works, High Street, Colliers Wood, asked for a exemption for Mr T.W.S. Cavey, age 41, B1, motor driver and mechanic, residing at Birdhurst Road, Colliers Wood.

Applicant: An exemption for so long as the man remained in his employment. He was engaged in delivering all Mr Mays’s important Government contract work. The average mileage was 250 miles a week.

Counc. Baker : I suppose it is all Government work that Mr Mays does?

Applicant: Oh, yes, it is most important.

The appeal was disallowed.

In the 1919 electoral register a Thomas William Sherrin CAVEY was living with his wife Florence Louisa in 28 Birdhurst Road. He died in 1950 as stated on the Find-A-Grave website, which also says he was a Music Hall performer known as Stirling Fred.


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

Veteran Car : Benz Ideal 4.5 hp reg P3518

This car was bought by Mr F.E. Manning, Mitcham Park, in the mid 1950s. He was a director of Allen Bros garage. It had a fairly good engine, which he stripped down and rebuilt. He and his son worked on rebuilding the rest of the car. They took drawings from another Benz and made components as near as possible to the original. This photo from 1957 on Merton Memories shows them working on the car.

They entered the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally in 1957, as shown in this Merton Memories photo.

In this article from 1959, his son didn’t go with him on the rally.

Veteran run

For the third year running Mr F.E. Manning has driven his 1900 Benz over the finishing line in the annual veteran car run to Brighton. And this year he got back to his home in Mitcham Park in time to see himself on the television newsreel.

Although breaking no records for the run, Mr Manning bowled along merrily in his black and primrose car (with solid tyres), crossing the finishing line at 2.30 p.m. with plenty of time to spare.

“Traffic was very heavy,” Mr Manning told me, “so we could not record any spectacular time. But we only stopped once en route and that was for lunch, The car behave perfectly all the way.”

Mr Manning’s 17-year-old son Butch did not go with him this year. “I think he got fed up with getting soaked through on the two previous runs. But we were very lucky as the weather was good this year,” Mr Manning added.

Source: Mitcham News & Mercury 6th November, 1959

Restored again in 2006/7 the car was sold at Bonhams auction in February 2017 for around £105,000.

Wavy Canopy Edge of Mitcham Junction

From an article called “Houses That Go With The Job”.

19560128-the-sphere-mij-wavy-canopy

Mitcham Junction is architecturally more conventional, with the Stationmaster’s house forming the block lying parallel with the down-line. A canopy with a wavy instead of the more usual jagged edge projects below the level of the upstairs windows, out over the platform.

Source: The Sphere – Saturday 28 January 1956 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

Wandsworth Gas Company’s Coal Ship “Mitcham”

19461102-mv-mitcham

THE LAST WORD IN “FLAT IRONS”: The 1,780-ton coasting collier “Mitcham,” the Wandsworth Gas Company’s new vessel, seen on the Thames at Wandsworth after negotiating the fifteen miles of river from the estuary. When she turns round at Wandsworth there is little room for other traffic to pass. The “Mitcham” has a squat funnel to save her lowering it at each bridge, and her collapsible masts are stepped down into the holds.

The Wandsworth Gas Company are adding several new ships to their fleet, and the “Mitcham” bears a close resemblance to the “Chessington,” details of which were given in “The Sphere” of June 29. She is equipped with sloping wing ballast-tanks, which ensure that the cargo automatically precipitates itself to within the range of the mechanical grabs during the discharging operations.

Source: The Sphere – Saturday 02 November 1946 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

19460629-mv-chessington

AN IMPORTANT ADDITION TO LONDON’S COLLIER FLEET : A diagrammatic drawing of the S.S. “Chessington,” the largest vessel to pass the Thames bridges. The “Chessington,” belonging to the Wandsworth and District Gas Company, is known as a “flat-iron,” and she is able to carry 2,700 tons of coal on each trip from the Durham coalfields. The ”Chessington” recently completed her maiden voyage, attracting much attention as she came upstream beyond the Pool and Westminster Bridge. She is nearly 260 ft. long, and as she passes under the bridges her funnel lowers in the usual manner and her masts telescope into the holds. The “Chessington” is equipped with sloping wing ballast tanks which ensure that the cargo automatically precipitates itself to within the range of the grabs during discharging operations. The general lay-out of the ship is of much improved pattern, and special attention has been paid to the officers’ and men’s quarters.

Drawing by S. E. Beck

Source: The Sphere – Saturday 29 June 1946 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

19470308-mv-mitcham

How They Bring The Coal To London

The Colliers which Supply the Gas Works abd the Power Stations

The fuel crisis has thrown into high relief the role of the Thames up-river colliers, the “flat-irons” which supply the gasworks and the power stations with the vital fuel to keep the lights of London burning.

Some of these colliers come from South Wales, making the trip down the Bristol Channel, round Land’s End, through the Straits of Dover and into the Thames Estuary. The majority, however, come from Tyne and Humber ports, and it is upon these that attention has been focused during the recent fateful week.

From Tyne to Thames is no long voyage, but it is very much London’s lifeline and, thanks to the devoted work of the collier skippers and their cres, who through their way through the February gales and ice-floes, London power stations will once again able to build up their stocks. Many of those same men, it must be remembered, braved the perils of the same East Coast trip when they had more than weather to contend with – first the magnetic mine and then the E-boat constantly menacing the ships as they came south laden with their precious cargoes.

The largest of these ships are found in the Wandsworth and District Gas Company’s fleet, whose works are situated the farthest upstream. Their ships have to negotiate seventeen bridges before they can reach their discharging-point at Wandsworth. This Company has for long set the standard for the design of these of ships, and practically each their ships has been, when built, the largest in this trade. Now they have the first diesel driven “flat-iron” the Mitcham, which can carry a total of 2,700 tons of coal. This compares with 1250 tons for the pioneer ship Wandle of 1909 and 600 tons for the first screw collier, John Bowes, which in turn carried about twice as much as a collier brig.

Depth of water and amounts of head room under bridges are items of paramount importance in up river navigation, and it is essential for the ships to arrive at the wharf during the latter stages the flood-tide. After cargo has been discharged the passage down-river must be begun as soon as the flood-tide appears, for in this light condition the vessel is much higher out of the water.

Source: The Sphere – Saturday 08 March 1947 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

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.”

1945 : Memories of 40 years in signal boxes at Mitcham Junction

From the Mitcham Advertiser, Thursday 11th October, 1945, page 1.

FIFTY YEARS ON RAILWAY

Golden Wedding Memories of Old Mitcham

Fifty years on the Southern Railway, and forty of them spent in signal boxes at and about Mitcham Junction, is the record of Mr. Arthur G. Funnell, of 32a, Mitcham Garden Village.

Yesterday (Wednesday) he and Mrs. Funnell celebrated their golden wedding.
Mr. Funnell reminded “The Advertiser” reporter that he signalled Queen Victoria’s funeral train through Mitcham Junction on its way from Gosport to Victoria. He also signalled the only royal train that ever was on the branch Croydon-Whnbledon line. It had on board the late King Edward (then Prince of Wales) and no less a person than the Kaiser of Germany. They had been to a review of troops on Wimbledon Common and were on their way to the Crystal Palace. The late Mr. W. Martin was stationmaster at Old Mitcham at that time.

“There was a big crowd of people all along the embankment of Mitcham Common when Queen Victoria’s train went through.” Mr. Funnell said, “and not a few to see Kaiser Bill go by.”

Mr. Funnell served under seven stationmasters at Mitcham Junction. “We had plenty of celebrated people round us in those days.” he sold. “The golf course on the Common, then in its prime, attracted everybody who was anybody in London. Including five Prime Ministers, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. Winston Churchill, who, however, came before he rose to that high rank. Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley was as good a player as any of them, and better than most. It was said.”

All sorts of queer things happened at Mitcham Junction, or thereabouts, during Mr. Funnell’s reign as signalman. A big barrel of red powder belonging to a local paint firm rolled off the platform one day in front or a non-stop train, which smashed it literally to dust. The engine, the driver and fireman, most of the passengers, a good length of the train and half the station were painted red and for half an hour a red mist hung about over a wide area, like a sunset reluctant to come to an end.

Mr. Funnell’s initiative led to the capture of several wrongdoers. From his lighthouse early one morning he saw several men being chased across the railway and the Common. He promptly telephoned the station staff, who bagged one.

On another occasion, going off night duty, he saw two sacks partly hidden near the station. He informed the police. Officers dressed as porters got into the brake van when the first train rolled into the Junction, and were not surprised to see two men soon follow them with the sacks. But the men were surprised when the “porters” grabbed them.

Mr. and Mrs. Funnell’s own home in Love Lane was broken into. They lived in it for forty years, till they were bombed out. The garden there was one of the sights of the village, for Mr. Funnell is a good gardener, with a passion for flowers. He has cultivated an allotment on the railway embankment at Mitcham Junction for over fifty years. The housebreaker in Love Lane was captured by Mr. Funnell himself, after a chase into Western Road. He happened to reach home as the intruder was leaving, with two watches and other articles.

“I began my railway life on the old London, Brighton and South Coast Railway,” Mr. Funnell said. He was born at Littlehampton and is now 74. Mrs. Funnell. who is 75, is a native of Mitcham. She was born in Church Road, and remembers the village when it was mainly a vast garden, glowing in the Summertime with all the colours of the rainbow.

Like all good Mitchamers, the whole family are interested in cricket. Mr. Funnell played regularly in the railway men’s team. His younger son, Bombardier George Funnell, is an excellent bat in the Mitcham first eleven. Mrs. Funnell still helps with the teas in the pavilion.

Lance-Corporal Arthur Ernest Funnell, of the Military Police, is their other son, and a married daughter lives at Worthing.

After being bombed from Love Lane, Mr. and Mrs. Funnell were bombed from the Garden Village for a time. The Garden Villagers were naturally among the first to congratulate them on their golden wedding day.

“We were married at Mitcham Parish Church by the late Canon Wilson.” said Mrs. Funnell.“ on the same day that Tom Richardson, the great fast bowler, was married at Beddington. In fact, we used the same carriage.”

Mr. Funnell retired from the railway eleven years ago. He looks back on his past at the Junction as the most colourful patch in his history. They were happy and pleasant days to him. When “The Advertiser” reporter left the house Mrs Funnell was making the golden wedding cake.

“Sometimes I still fancy I can hear old George Sawyer calling out the names of the stations.” said Mr. Funnell. George had a voice like Stentor himself. The late Sir Cato Worsfold declared that at The Hall Place, a mile away, he could hear George calling so plainly that every word was distinct.