Tom Francis

Mitcham News and Mercury 28th August 1953

Mr. THOMAS FRANCIS, head of a family of four generations, died at his daughter’s home at
Warlingham on Saturday.

He was 81.

Born over his father’s shop in London-road, Mr. Francis lived in Mitcham for nearly 80 years, until he retired in April, 1951. Mitcham past and present was his lifelong interest. He was a member of the old Parish Council, a former chairman of Mitcham Civic Society and a former president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a vice-president of the Civic Society.

Mr. Francis left his own memorial — an extensive collection of historical Mitcham slides, which he presented to Mitcham Borough Libraries. The Francis collection were largely taken from his own negatives, which dated from about 1890. Of the slides, many were taken by the wet-plate process, about 1865-70 by a professional photographer named Drummond and a number made by John R. Chart. A few were gals to him by old friends and some were given by photographers.

FIRST CAMERA

The first camera Mr. Francis’ used for his hobby was of the mahogany box type with a rackwork lens —the type once in common use by beach photographers. In the old days he played regularly in the Upper Mitcham v. Lower Mitcham cricket matches, and when the Wednesday XI was revived in 1925, there were few matches he missed. Between the wars he and his son Tom both used to play.

During the last war he was injured when his house was bombed and later, as a result, he had to have an eye removed.

“He was Mitcham. He lived for Mitcham.” said Mr. Stephen Taylor, on employee of his for many’ years.

Mr. Francis was on the Committee of Wilson Hospital from its foundation and until the hospital was taken over by the State.

He received part of his education at the Mitcham Lodge College, next to London-road Schools, Dr. Smith was the principal. Later he went to the Quaker School at Saffron Walden in which he was also a member of the Society of Friends.

His memory was a treasury of local recollections, both of characters of Mitcham village days and of incidents of village life.

From his childhood he could recall being taken for drives in broughams and wagonettes. One of these ended with the vehicle being stuck in a pond in Morden-road. On other occasions a drive took him through water about a foot deep at Hackbridge.

Other memories were of Quaker meetings at the Mitcham Manor House, cycling expeditions with Alfred and Ernest Mizen, and of Mitcham Fair, when performing bears were on show.

In his youth the “Old Squirt,” the village fire engine was kept in a cage on Lower Green, where the Town Hall now stands.

The business in London-road which bears the name Francis, was started by a Mr. Fitt in 1830 and was taken over by Mr. Francis’s parents in 1870. He began in the business in 1886.

His Quaker funeral at the Cricket Green Methodist Church on Tuesday was attended by the Mayor of Mitcham (Coun. E. E. Mount), Ald. and Mrs. T. L. Ruff, Mr. S. Chart (former Town Clerk), Dr. A. H. Shelswell, Mr. C. J. Farrell (Div. Education Officer), Mr. H. J. Dorrett (Rotary Club), Mr. Dick Gifford (chairman of the Civic Society), Messrs. R. Culmer, J. Pillinger and F. Cole (Mitcham Cricket Club). Mr. S. Taylor (Horticultural Society), Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Bailey, Mr. W. Dalton and representatives of the Society of Friends School at Saffron Walden.

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