An area of Mitcham Common that is south of the Mitcham Junction tramstop and railway station, east of the Carshalton Road, and is bounded on its eastern edge by the railway line between Mitcham Junction and Hackbridge stations, and on its southern edge by the scaffolding yards at the rear of the Corporation Cottages.
The area is called the Gunsite after its use during WW2 as an anti-aircraft installation, as shown on this 1955 OS map:
1955 OS map
This photo shows what remained of the site around 1961. The view is towards the west and the houses of Carshalton Road can be seen in the background.
c.1961 photo of the Gun site, where children often played. From Merton Memories, photo reference Mitcham_War_5-2
Photo taken around 1961 of the Gunsite. The houses in the background are on Carshalton Road. Clip from Merton Memories, photo reference Mitcham_War_5-1
The Gunsite was demolished in 1962/3.
Mitcham News & Mercury, 13th July 1962.
is to go
ONE of Mitcham’s biggest eye-sores, the Gun Site, Carshalton Road, Mitcham, is at last going to be cleared . . . at a cost of about £13,000.
Work on clearing the site is expected to start in about two months’ time.
The Ministry have approved a tender of £10,800 submitted to them from the Conservators and have further agreed to bear the cost of replacing trees on the site.
A further cost of £2,000 fees will be included in the work.
This news is welcomed not only by Mitcham Common Conservators but by Mitcham Council and the public.
The Gun Site is one of the few remaining war relics in Mitcham and local people have been pressing for years to clear it.
The conservators hope to replace it with a grass landscape with trees.
Demolition of buildings on the Gunsite, around 1962/3. In the background can be seen a signal at Mitcham Junction Railway Station, and part of the Mitcham Golf Club building. Clip from Merton Memories, photo reference Mitcham_War_5-3
Currently, in 2020, the area shows no sign of its wartime use.
Information Board at the southern entrance to the Gunsite. Photo taken 22nd May 2020.
This board has no date and doesn’t mention the WW2 use of the area, however on the Conservator’s website, suggested walk no. 2, ‘Between The Tramstops’ (pdf) says:
… the area is known as the Gunsite because six anti-aircraft guns were stationed here during the second world war. The troop quarters were still present in the mid-1950s when they were used to house local people while new estates were being built in Mitcham.
The text on the info board:
Mitcham Common is a 180 site of Metropolitan Importance for nature conservation that is one of the most interesting and varied open spaces in south London. It supports a range of habitat types which include secondary woodland and scrub, ponds and other wetland features, together with large tracks of natural grassland and smaller parcels of the regionally important acid grassland and heathland habitats. Together these are home for a vast array of plants and animals many of which are locally rare. In order to maintain this biodiversity the Common requires active management which is undertaken by full-time staff assisted by local volunteers.
The Common is managed and regulated by the Mitcham Common Conservators who are a statutory corporation empowered under the Metropolitan Commons (Mitcham) Supplemental Act 1891.
For further information about the common or the conservatory contact :
The Wardens Office
Mill House Ecology Centre
Surrey CR4 1HT
Tel: 020 8288 0453
Or visit: www.mitchamcommon.org
Mitcham Common is part of what is to become the Wandle Valley Country Park, and area of some 500 hectares of Metropolitan Open Space. the Park includes Beddington Park to the south, Beddington Farmlands landfill site and Thames Water Sewage Worksin the centre and the Common to the north. Work has already begun to develop the Park, ahead of the Beddington Farmlands site becoming available for open space in the future.
Note that the Metropolitan Commons (Mitcham) Supplemental Act 1891 is available to view on the Parliamentary Archives website.
Norwood News – Friday 06 January 1956
Gun-site families to change huts
The regrouping of families living at the gun site in Carshalton-road, near Mitcham Junction, will cost £1,000. The War Office, who want to clear up part of the site, have asked that the families should move into huts on the north side of the entrance road to the site. The condition of the huts the, people will move into is poor, say Mitcham Council. It is the conversion of the huts which will cost the money. Mitcham have agreed to the proposal on condition that the Ministry of Housing pay the cost of conversion.
Discussion on the Facebook Mitcham History Group led to these memories being recalled:
… dad used to talk about the house opposite that had had its roof damaged and repaired so many times that they had V for victory in morse code in the tiles on the roof. Sadly, it was removed when re-roofed.
Happy memories as a kid playing there.
I was born on the gun site in 1947, lived there until 1954. I had a fantastic childhood growing up there.
My brothers used to play there.
One night the whole of Pollards was out till 9pm looking for one of them ( he’d got carried away playing & forgot the time).
Another time my mum was cleaning under his bed & found a tin with hand grenades & bullets in it….she went with him to the police station and they had to have them blown up by the army. To say we’re lucky to be alive, is an understatement.
I was born there in the old mess hut
Photo taken from a bench near the centre of the Gunsite area, looking west towards the Carshalton Road. Photo taken 18th May 2020.
One of the oak trees in the wooded area at the south eastern corner of the Gunsite. Photo taken 18th May 2020.
Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.