Tag Archives: Mitcham Common

1879 : Gipsy Life on Mitcham Common

Sketches on Gypsy Life : Inside a tent on Mitcham Common

GIPSY LIFE NEAR LONDON. Another sketch of the wild and squalid habits of life still retained vagrant parties or clans of this singular race of people, often met with the neighbourhood of suburban villages and other places around London, will be found in our Journal. We may again direct the reader’s attention to the account of them which was contributed by Mr. George Smith, of Coalville, Leicester, to the late Social Science Congress at Manchester, and which was reprinted in our last week’s publication. That well-known advocate of social reform and legal protection for the neglected vagrant classes of our population, reckons the total number of gipsies in this country at three four thousand men and women and ten thousand children. He is now seeking to have all movable habitations—i.e., tents, vans, shows, &c. —in which the families live who are earning a living travelling from place to place, registered and numbered, as in the case of canal boats, and the parents compelled to send their children to school at the place wherever they may be temporarily located, it National, British, or Board school. The following is Mr. Smith’s note upon what what was to be seen in the gipsies’ tent on Mitcham-common:-

“ Inside this tent —with no other home—there were two men, their wives, and about fourteen children of all ages : two or three of these were almost men and women. The wife of one of the men had been confined of a baby the day before called —her bed consisting of a layer of straw upon the damp ground. Such was the wretched and miserable condition they were in that I could not do otherwise than help the poor woman, and gave her a little money. But in her feelings of gratitude to me for this simple act of kindness she said she would name the baby anything I would like to choose ; and, knowing that gipsies are fond of outlandish names, I was in a difficulty. After turning the thing over in my mind for a few minutes, I could think of nothing but Deliverance.’ This seemed to please the poor woman very much; and the poor child is named Deliverance G——. Strange to say, the next older child is named Moses.’

Source: Illustrated London News – Saturday 06 December 1879 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

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.

1902 : Horse riding on the cricket green

RIDING ON MITCHAM COMMON.

At Croydon County Bench, on Saturday. Jas. Plested, of Leighton-street, Mitcham-road was summoned for committing a breach of the Mitcham Common Conservators’ bye-laws, riding on a portion of the cricket club’s ground.—Defendant pleaded guilty; and expressed his sorrow.

— Mr. Thos. Harvey, captain of the Mitcham Cricket Club, said that on the 2nd inst. he saw defendant riding a horse on the club’s ground. When told to stop he did so, but asserted that he had as much right to ride on the ground as witness had walk over it. The ground was damaged.

— Defendant said he only bought the horse the same morning, and he got on its back it got the upper hand of him, reared, and ran to the common.

— Fined 16s. 6d., including costs.

Source: Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser – Saturday 27 September 1902 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.”

1932 Lighting of Colliers Wood High Street

In 1932, Colliers wood was part of the Mitcham Urban District.

1934 OS Map - the boundary with Wandsworth Borough was just north of the bridge over the railway line, south of the junction with Blackshaw Road and Longley Road

1934 OS Map – the boundary with Wandsworth Borough was just north of the bridge over the railway line, south of the junction with Blackshaw Road and Longley Road

The council’s surveyor reported that the Gas Company’s chief engineer proposed using reflectors to increase the light from the ‘Windsor’ gas lamps in use, and that Windmill Road was to be used for a test. This road, across Mitcham Common, had no housing and without any lighting nearby would be a good way of assessing the effectiveness of this proposal.

For more on the Windsor type of gas lamps, see the William Sugg & Co. History website.

From the minutes of the Mitcham Urban District council
Volume XVII 1931 to 1932
Highways Committee
4th February, 1932
Pages 647 to 648

STREET LIGHTING, WINDMILL ROAD

The Chief Engineer to the Gas Company has now evolved a system of reflectors suitable to Windsor type lanterns, and is willing to demonstrate them free of charge in Windmill Road, and I have given him authority to carry out this improvement on the understanding that should they not prove satisfactory there will be no charge. The reflectors have now been fixed in position, but I have not yet had an opportunity of inspecting them at night, and will make a further report to the Committee next month.

The cost of fitting these reflectors on the six lamps is 24s., and the cost of conversion to double burners 12s., with an extra maintenance cost of £10 2s.

HIGH STREET, COLLIER’S WOOD.

The length of High Street, Collier’s Wood, is 970 yards, and is lighted by means of three-burner Windsor type lamps, eight of which are on the west side and twelve on the east side. The maximum distance apart is between the lamp at the corner of Cavendish Road to that opposite North Gardens, a distance of 80 yards; whilst the
minimum distance is 30 yards, this being the distance between the same lamp at the corner of Cavendish Road and that at the corner of Byegrove Road.

The length of the road in the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, immediately adjoining the district boundary, is lighted by means of six-burner lamps fitted with reflectors, and is very well illuminated at this point, due, firstly, to the extra lamps being installed on the tramway refuge by Longley Road, and, secondly, to the close spacing and high power of the lamps, the maximum distance apart being 38 yards. In a length of 125 yards from the district boundary, there are 7 six-burner lamps. I suggest that alterations take place on the Mitcham side in order to tone the lighting down gradually. I propose that the second lamp be resited and converted to six-burner at a distance of 50 yards from the first lamp in Wandsworth, and the remaining lighting on the bridge approach would then be adequate.

In my previous report I proposed that a three-burner lamp be fixed to replace an obsolete type lamp opposite No. 216, and on further inspection, late one Sunday night, I suggest two additional lamps be erected, one midway between North Gardens and Cavendish Road, and one between College and University Roads on the east side. When these lamps are fixed I think the road will be reasonably well lighted.

I have prepared a plan and estimate of the cost of lighting the road in the same manner as the recently relighted Tooting High Street, where each lamp is fitted with six burners at a maximum distance apart of 50 yards. The capital cost of this scheme would amount to £230 and the extra annual maintenance cost would be £150. I cannot see that this expenditure is justifiable in any way.

If the reflectors on the lamps in Windmill Road prove satisfactory they could be fixed with advantage to the lamps in High Street, Collier’s Wood.

Yours obediently,
RILEY SCHOFIELD, Assoc. M.Inst.C.E.,
engineer and Surveyor.

Resolved

(d) Lighting of Windmill Road. – That the Committee consider this question at the next meeting, when an opportunity has been given to the members to observe the effect of the new system of reflectors.

(e) Lighting, Collier’s Wood. – That the Surveyor be authorised to replace the obsolete type of lamp opposite No. 216 with a new three-burner lamp, and that two additional lamps suggested by the Surveyor be also provided, and that if the reflectors prove satisfactory in Windmill Road this system is adopted in High Street, Collier’s wood.


Inflation adjusted costs:

1932 2016
12s. £37
24s. £74
£10 2s. £620
£150 £9,200
£230 £14,000

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

A letter from 1935 – an enjoyable week in Mitcham

Dear Uncle Tom,

— At last I am writing to you again.

I have really been waiting until I had saved my 200 farthings, but it is surprising what a long time it takes. I had hoped to be able to send them long before this. I am looking forward to next summer as last year I had some lovely holidays. Very soon after we broke up I went to Mitcham for a week and did I enjoy myself? I should say so. I went out on the common every day and as it was so hot I saw a great many heath fires.

After this I spent another enjoyable week in Worthing, near Brighton, but best of all was the fortnight in Malines, Belgium.

I went to the Brussels Exhibition and spent the whole day there. It was all very interesting. Another day I went to Antwerp. I went over the river Scheldt in a boat and came back under the river through tunnel which was a mile long. I went into the Museum Steen and saw all the old-fashioned furniture and old implements of torture.

I also went into the dungeons underground, and in some of them only about three little holes as big as a penny were used to let air and light come in. When we had finished dinner we went the Zoo. I went to a great many other places besides but I have no time to tell you about them to-day.

Your loving niece, JUNE.
66, Dolphins Road,
Folkestone.

Source: Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – Saturday 16 November 1935 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

Note that this letter was published under another, see below, from the Doctor Barnado’s Homes, which acknowledged receipt of money to pay for a cot at the Bruce-Porter Home. The 200 farthings referred to in this letter was a contribution for such a cot. A farthing being a quarter of an old penny, then 200 farthings was 50 old pence, or 4 shillings and twopence – inflation adjusted to 2016, this is around £14.

The letter from Dr. Barnado’s :

Dear Sir,

— Enclosed I have much pleasure in forwarding our Hon. Treasurer’s receipt for the sum of £10 which has safely come to hand, as a second instalment, from the members of the League of Lasting Kindness, towards the support of their Cot in our Bruce-Porter Hospital Home.

Will you once again express our Council’s very grateful appreciation of all the kindness and help shown by the members of the League? We are glad to know that they have every opportunity of visiting our Bruce-Porter Home, and seeing for themselves the wonderful progress which their little protege has made since he has been in the Home.

I am sure it must gladden their hearts to feel that they have been able to have a share in bringing about such very happy and blessed results.

A. P. WILLIAMS,
The Board Room,
Dr. Barnardo’s Homes,
18 to 26, Stepney Causeway,
London, E.1.

Dust Destructor Chimney

From the Mitcham and Tooting Advertiser, 15th September, 1955.

A LANDMARK familiar to thousands of Mitcham residents disappeared last Thursday with the felling of the 125 ft. high refuse destructor chimney at Phipps Bridge.

This was the first major step in clearing the area adjoining Homewood Road for Mitcham Corporation’s proposed £1,750,000 redevelopment scheme to house 636 families.

During the previous week-end, two steeplejack brothers Mr. Arthur Collard and Mr. John Collard. began work on what was for them the end of another chimney. By Thursday they had cut away half the 18-ft. wide base, leaving timber props in place of the 3-ft. 6-in. think brickwork.

At 2.26 p.m. the props, soaked in 20 gallons of paraffin, were set alight. As flames leapt high, the 21 year old chimney belched smoke for the last time. Nine minutes later, it heeled over with a muffled roar 460 tons of brickwork fell to the ground beneath a vast cloud of dust.

The deputy borough engineer, Mr. W. B. W. Wignall, and a number of Mitcham councillors, including the chairman of the Housing Committee, Aid. D. W. Chalkley, watched the chimney crash down a few yards from their feet.

“PERFECT DROP”

And from his New Close home which overlooks the site Mr. Tom Good, now in his seventies, saw the end of the chimney he had helped to build.

“It was a perfect drop.” said Mr. Arthur Collard. With him was Alec, his 13 year old son, “who always comes to watch the interesting jobs.”

Built in 1934, in the last year of the old Mitcham Urban District Council, the chimney and destructor cost £9,869. A council spokesman told “The Advertiser” afterwards: “It would probably cost three times that sum to build at present-day
costs.”

The destructor was last used at the beginning of 1953. The amount of refuse handled by the corporation had grown so much that it was decided to tip all refuse on Mitcham Common.