Tag Archives: Batsworth Road

1960 : Explosion showers acid over homes

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

Explosion hurls vat top through roof of factory

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.


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.


“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.

Permo Co., Ltd.

Clip from Merton memories photo 31105 showing company at corner of Batsworth Road and Phipps Bridge Road. Copyright London Borough of Merton.

Clip from Merton memories photo 31105 showing company at corner of Batsworth Road and Phipps Bridge Road. Copyright London Borough of Merton.

Batsworth Road

Show Cards, etc.

Borough of Mitcham List of Factories,
Town Clerk’s Department,
July 1963.
Available at Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.
Reference L2 (670) MIT

Listed in the 1930 Commercial Directory:

Permo Co. Ltd. (The), show card mfrs. Belgrave rd. T A ” Permo ; ” T N 2933

Company was registered 29th May, 1926, directors were:
Mr. H.G. Thompson, The Elms, Peckham Rye Park
Mr. H.L. Thompson, Ashbourne, Netherley Road, Honor Oak
Mr. L.F.B. Thompson, The Elms, Peckham Rye Park
to take over the business of manfacturers of showcards and advertising novelties.
Source: Croydon Advertiser, 5th June 1926.

1952 OS map

1952 OS map

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

Rock Terrace

A terrace of houses built near the crossroads of two field paths. One path went from the parish church, north-westerly across the fields; the other ran east to west along Fox’s Path.

This OS map of 1866 shows where these two paths met, and, while Rock Terrace is not actually named, the buildings outlined in red may well be it.

Later, the terrace was extended and the road was named Belgrave Road, with the path leading to the church being called Belgrave Walk.

Earliest reference found so far in the newspaper archives is for an auction of 9 houses in Rock Terrace.

Freehold ground-rent of £21 per annum, arising from nine houses in Rock-terrace, Mitcham — £115.

Source: Morning Advertiser – Wednesday 29 August 1866 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

This 1910 map shows the outline of houses in Belgrave Road. Given that Batsworth Road was laid on the original path from Fox’s Path, then the 9 houses referred to in the auction may well have been the whole terrace.

News Stories

1922 Rock Terrace Recreation Ground

A major event was the Explosion of 1933.

King George V Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 1935

Note that Lady Worsfold, residing at Hall Place when this photo was taken, moved to the White House at the cricket green the following year when her husband, T. Cato worsfold, died.

Rock Terrace and Queen Street (sic), Mitcham, Jubilee Tea. From Mitcham News & Mercury, 31st May, 1935.

Rock Terrace and Queen Street (sic), Mitcham, Jubilee Tea. From Mitcham News & Mercury, 31st May, 1935.

Merton Memories Photos

Church Class

Off to the Races – this photo was reproduced in Eric Montague’s Mitcham Histories: 8 Phipps bridge, on page 113 with the caption that it was around 1910.

Cock Chimney Factory in Batsworth Road

A local landmark in Batsworth Road, off Church Road, Mitcham. It is possible it may have been built in mid 19th century. The land was sold to London Borough of Merton in late 1960s, and the area is now occupied by a trading estate.

The firm of Donald Macpherson occupied the site until 1969, and the chimney had their brand ‘Foochow’ in letters running down the side of the chimney. Macpherson was started in 1884 as a paint, varnish and Chinese lacquer business, based in Manchester. The company’s telegram address was ‘Foochow, Manchester’.

Macphersons Trade Paints became part of the Crown Paints Group in 2008.

The chimney was first mentioned in Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 17 August 1889 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

Fatal Fall from a Chimney.

—An inquest was held at the Mortuary on Saturday last before Mr. R. D. Muir, deputy coroner, and a jury, concerning the death of Thomas H. Haslam, 25, Cow Cross-street, St. Luke’s, an engineer’s fitter. It appeared that on the previous Thursday the deceased, with a labourer, was sent to some repairs to what is known the “Cock” chimney at a varnish factory in Church-lane, and, having engaged lodgings at 15, Holmwood-road, proceeded to inspect the shaft.

Having ascended to some considerable height, deceased by some means lost his hold and fell with great force to the bottom.

Medical aid was summoned, and the man removed to his lodgings, where expired the same night.

The jury having viewed the body and having heard the medical and other evidence, and the Deputy-Coroner very carefully summed up, a verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.

1945 ad

Donald Macpherson co. Ltd., Cock Chimney Works, Mitcham (paint manufacturers), require the following clerical staff: 2 Invoice Clerks. Order Clerks, Shorthand-Typists, Telephone Operator; good post-war prospects, possibility of advancement. Please reply to the above address or telephone for appointment, Mitcham 2963.

Source: Surrey Advertiser – Saturday 13 January 1945 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

aerial photo from 1947 and 1952 OS map

aerial photo from 1947 and 1952 OS map

Merton Memories Photos
JJ Schweizer

From the phone book



In the 1896 street directory, listed as John Jacob Schweizer, varnish manufacturer.


1912 to 1914

1915 Heyl phone

1915 and 1916


1919 to 1921







From the minutes of the
Town Planning and Development Committee
31st October 1968


– The Borough Surveyor reported that the Cock Chimney Works, which occupied four detached sites in Batsworth Road and Chapel Road comprising a total area of approximately 1.56 acres, had been offered for sale to the Council. He explained that the works were situated in an area allocated primarily for industrial use in the Initial Development Plan, but which had been re-allocated primarily for residential use in the First Review of the Plan now before the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He reported: —

(i) that the works were within an area at present being studied with a view to environmental improvement and adjoined other property which had been purchased by the Council, or its predecessors. for ultimate redevelopment for residential purposes;

(ii) that, to implement planning objectives in the area, the acquisition of the works had to be firstly considered from a town planning point of view and secondly as a prospective housing site; and

(iii) upon the estimated cost of acquiring other properties in the neighbourhood to form a viable site for residential redevelopment and on the likely housing gain which would be achieved.

Resolved – That the Borough Surveyor be authorised to negotiate terms for the purchase of the Cock Chimney Works and requested to report further to a subsequent meeting.

Source: Minutes of Proceedings of the Council and committees, London Borough of Merton, Volume 5 1968-69, page 806

Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Borough Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

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


A 1915 outbreak of swine fever gives clues as to where the piggeries were. See London Gazette which mentions the same piggeries as this notice by Surrey County Council:
19150326 Swine Fever
This notice mentions five piggeries in Mitcham affected by swine fever:

  1. Westfield Farm, Western Road, in the occupation of John Cornwall
  2. Seale’s Piggeries, off Lewis Road
  3. Reader’s Piggeries, off Lewis Road
  4. Batsworth Road Allotment Garden
  5. Church Road Allotment Garden

Westfield Farm can be found in the 1915 Kelly directory as being just north of Fountain Place on the west side of Western Road.1910 Westfield Farm map

William Henry Seale, of Orchard Villa, Lewis Road, was bankrupt in 1915.

The location of the Lewis Road piggeries can be obtained from the 1915 Kelly’s Directory, as it describes the properties as from Church Road and after Oakwood and Ashtree Avenues. The 1910 OS Map can be used with an overlay to see theses avenues today and as there are only two properties on Lewis Road in 1910, the piggeries can be identified.
1915 Lewis Road Piggeries

This photo of pigs in the 1950s was taken in Batsworth Road and the tanks in the background are on the W.J. Bush factory.
Batsworth Piggeries1910 Batsworth Road map

W.J. Bush & Co. Ltd.

In 1886, W J Bush and Co, already well established in London, purchased the herbal distillery at Figges Marsh, Mitcham, which had belonged to Messrs Potter and Moore. The copper stills and other equipment were moved to Bush’s newly built works in Batsworth Road where they wished to develop top quality essential oil distillation of peppermint, lavender and camomile.

The distilling of harvested herbs at the Mitcham works was discontinued after 1957, partly because it was no longer economic for the large stills to remain idle for all but the six weeks of each year when the crops were ripe for distilling, and partly as the space was required for the installation of more up-to-date equipment for other processes. The stills were dismantled and sold to H B Carter who re-erected them at his herb farm at Brasted, Kent.

Between 1960 and 1963 W J Bush amalgamated with two other oil distillers, Boake Roberts and Stafford Allen to form Bush, Boake and Allen. The new firm was later absorbed by the Albright and Wilson group which became part of Tenneco International. On rationalisation of the Albright and Wilson group, the Batsworth Road works were closed and demolished in 1977.

Source: Surrey History Centre.

The prospectus is published of W. J. Bush & Co., Limited, with share capital of £250,000, divided into 25,000 five per cent cumulative preference shares of £5 each, and 125,000 ordinary shares of £1 each, and £123,000 four per cent, first mortgage debenture stock.

This Company has been formed to acquire the old-established business of Messrs W. J. Bush & Co., manufacturing chemists, distillers of essential oils, &c.

The Company acquire the freehold warehouses and offices situate in Artillery Lane, London ; the freehold works at Ashgrove, Hackney ; the freehold distillery at Mitcham, Surrey ; and the freehold works at Messina, in Sicily.

The purchase price has been fixed by the vendors at £350,000, payable to £125,000 in ordinary shares and the balance in cash.

Subscriptions are invited for the preference shares and the debenture stock, and the list of applications will close before Tuesday, 23d March, at p.m., for London, and the following morning for the country.

Source: Dundee Advertiser – Saturday 20 March 1897 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

In 1915 directory listed as lavender and peppermint distillery
Map, published in 1914:



From 1951 booklet of centenary of company:
1951 Mitcham Factory Management1951 FH Priest

1951 Managers1951 Bush Long Service Group with names
Names are shown with the number of years in service in brackets.

Top Row: left to right: J.C. Gibbs (33 yrs.), J. Orfeur (31 yrs.), W.J. Hone (35 yrs.), J. Wade (30 yrs.)

Middle Row: G. Smith (29 yrs.), A. A. Windeatt (30 yrs.), G.W. Knowles (30 yrs.),J.A. Martin (31 yrs.), J.A. Rogers (31 yrs.)

Bottom Row: F.C. Caplin (32 yrs.), R.G. Rance, B.Sc. (32 yrs.), Frederick William Priest (28 yrs.), Frederick Horace Priest (55 yrs.),K.H. Grunbaum (33 yrs.), C. Whiting (32 yrs.), E.F. Rogers (31 yrs.)

1946 Institution of Engineers Obituaries (from Grace’s Guide)

GEORGE NEILSON KLEE was born in 1903 and received his technical education in mechanical engineering at the Northampton Polytechnic. After the completion of a nine years’ apprenticeship with Messrs. Farrow and Jackson, Ltd., brewers’ engineers, London, in 1928, he was appointed chief draughtsman at the Letchworth works of Messrs. L. Lumley and Company, Ltd., brewery engineers, but two years later he accepted a similar position with Messrs. Multifillers, Ltd. In 1933 he became works engineer at the Mitcham branch of Messrs. W. J. Bush and Company, manufacturing chemists, with responsibility to the works manager for the design and reconstruction of plant and buildings. After holding this position for seven years his services were lent by that firm to the Ministry of Supply and during the next two years he acted as senior mechanical engineer of the propellant planning department at Wrexham, being solely responsible to the chief engineer for the mechanical design of cordite factories. He then returned to Messrs. Bush as chief engineer and was holding this appointment at the time of his death, which occurred on 30th November 1944. Mr. Klee was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1936.

From the 1939 Who’s who in Engineering (from Grace’s Guide):

Klee, George Nielson Klee. A.M. I. Mech.E. Engineer, W. J. Bush & Co., Ltd., Mfg. Chemists, Batsworth Road, Mitcham. Private Address: 19 Cockwood Close, N.2. Career: Northampton Polytechnic (Awarded Skinner’s Prize); 1920-24, Apprent., Farrow & Jackson, Brewery Engs.; Farrow & Jackson, Draughtsman; L. Lumley & Co., Chief in D.O.; Is Eng. Consultant to “Bottler and Packer.”

From Ancestry, George Neilson Klee of 19 Cornwood Close, Finchley died 30 Nov 1944 and left £1554 4s. 6d. to his widow Elsie Maud Klee.


Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
Original data: Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England © Crown copyright.

Newspaper Articles

From the Daily Express, 4th March, 1915



Lord Knutsford announced yesterday at the quarterly meeting of governors of the London Hospital that home manufacturers had overcome the difficulty which had been experienced in obtaining sufficient salicylate of soda, a drug chiefly used in the cure of rheumatism, and made from one of the by-products of coal tar.

“The whole manufacture of this drug. has been in German hands.” he said. ”and some time ago the staff had to restrict the use of it to urgent cases. Last week they received the first consignment of 56lbs. of the drug from Messrs. Bush and Co., of Bethnal Green, who have put down plant to fight the German monopoly.”

Up to date, Lord Knutsford added, the hospital had treated 2,200 soldiers without in any way reducing the help given to the civilian population. Mr John Lavery, A.R.A., is at work at the hospital on a picture of the wounded.

Note that salicylate of soda is used in making aspirin.