Tag Archives: Athel Harwood

Volunteer Fire Brigade

Mitcham’s fire brigade was a volunteer service until 1920, when Albert Wells was appointed Chief Officer. He introduced retaining fees for the chief and sub officers at each station, and remunerations for drills and call-outs for the firemen.

Stories from the British Newspaper Archive

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Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 07 September 1889

The Volunteer Fire Brigade.

—The annual test drill of the brigade took place on Wednesday evening, when the men mustered in full force and arrived at the tanyard, Beddington Corner, with their engine punctually at six p.m., and in about three minutes got to work with one jet. To this was shortly added another, junction being made in the hose about ten yards from the engine ; another connection was rapidly made from the engine with additional hose, and three powerful jets of water were concentrated on point where an imaginary fire was raging. A correspondent who witnessed the drill is of opinion that from observations made and the excellent espirit de corps shown the men, that this, as an entirely volunteer brigade, in a position to cope with any emergency which may arise in the vicinity. An essential point with men who give their time and labour gratis is having confidence in their leader, and this the Mitcham men certainly have in Superintendent A. R. Harwood. The following members of the committee were present to witness the proceedings, viz., Mr. S. Wells (chairman), Mr. Harwood, sen., Dr. Love, Mr. Sampson, and Mr. S. Love.

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 23 February 1889

The Mitcham Volunteer Fire Brigade.

— The committee of this brigade entertained the members to dinner on Wednesday evening, at the Old Nag’s Head, Upper Mitcham. Mr. Wells, the chairman committee, occupied the chair, and Mr. A. R. Harwood, the superintendent of the brigade, the vice-chair. There were present Messrs. W. R. Harwood, Dr. Love, F. G. Sampson, R. M Chart. S. Love, and W. Jenner, members of the committee, and the brigade with the turncock and call-boys. An excellent repast was put upon the table by Mr Tomlin, and served in his best style, to which ample justice was done. The usual loyal toasts were also given, with that of the brigade, committee, &c. and a most enjoyable evening was spent. During the evening some capital songs were rendered by Messrs Shepherd, Brown, Dill, Turner, and others.

Agricultural Express – Saturday 25 February 1893



—On Thursday morning a fire, which originated in a store used for frying fish, broke out at 2, Rock-terrace. The rafters in the chimney had caught alight, but the volunteer fire brigade were able to extinguish the flames with a few buckets of water. The house was occupied by woman named Patience Stone.

Athel Russell Harwood

Born in January 1863, died 25th March 1943. He left £17,723 6s. 5d. in his will (£750,000 in 2015 money).

He built two houses on the glebe lands, opposite the post office (which became the telephone exchange), and called them Athelstan and Thrushcross. He sold Athelstan and lived in Thrushcross until his death.

He gave £100 to the local Horticultural Society and another £100 to the Mitcham Cricket Club.

In the 1911 census, he was listed as being a collector to the gas company, and lived with his wife Caroline, aged 43 and daughter Kathleen, 22. In addition they had a live-in domestic servant, Nellie Howe, aged 16.

From 1926, his address in the electoral registers is 308 London Road.

He was the first annual subscriber to the Wilson Hospital. In the Mitcham Tooting Advertiser of 29th March 1943, Colonel Stephen Chart, the chairman of the hospital said that Mr Harwood had left £2,000 to the hospital subject to the payment of 10 shillings per week for life to one of his wife’s relatives.

According to this historic inflation calculator, £2,000 in 1943 is the equivalent of £84,000 in 2015.

A photograph of 1887 shows him as captain of the fire brigade.

He also suggested the planting of trees for the coronation of King George VI in 1936 and gave £50 towards the cost. The road King George VI Avenue, leading from the Blue House Bridge to the entrance of the Wilson Hospital, was completed in 1937.


1. 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.

2. Ancestry.com. Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Surrey Electoral Registers. Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey, England.

3. Source: Mitcham Histories 12 : Church Street and Whitford Lane, page 108
NB: Montague has the spelling Thrushcroft for his house instead of Thrushcross as in the electoral registers etc.

4. Mitcham and Tooting Advertiser, 29th March 1943 page 1

King George VI Avenue

After the abdication of Edward the eight, Albert Frederick Arthur George became king George VI on 11th December 1936.

His wife, the then Duchess of York, proposed a nationwide tree planting as a permanent memorial of the coronation.

King George VI Avenue, on Cranmer Green, was created with the planting of 36 tulip trees and 36 purple-leaved plum trees. The number 36 was chosen to represent the year, 1936, of his becoming king, although his coronation was not until the following year, on 12th May, 1937.

On 29th December, 1936, the Town Clerk reported that he had attended a meeting of the Coronation Planting Committee with the mayor and the then Duchess of York about adopting some scheme of tree planting as a permanent memorial of the coronation, and that since then the Borough Council had been approached by resident Mr Athel R. Harwood, who had offered to contribute to any scheme of planting that the Council might think to adopt.

The Council then resolved that an avenue of trees be planted from the Blue House Bridge to the gates of the Wilson Hospital, and for other plantations of suitable trees to be arranged in the land between the avenue and the line of the Southern Railway.

On 7th April 1937 the Town Clerk report that Messrs. John Waterers, Son and Crisp, Ltd. of Bagshot, were carrying out the scheme in accordance with the arrangements approved by Mr A. R. Harwood, who contributed £50 (£3,100 in 2015) towards the cost.

looking south with avenue on left

looking south with avenue on left

looking north with avenue on the right

looking north with avenue on the right

The line taken by the road was that of the drive that approached the entrance of Cranmer House, shown as ‘Cranmer’ in this 1910 map. According to Eric Montague in his “Mitcham Histories : 11 The Cranmers, The Canons and Park Place“, page 4, this drive was originally lined with tall elm trees.

1950 Cranmer Green

1950 Cranmer Green

From the Royal Record of the tree planting:

An avenue of 36 purple-leaved plum (Prunus Pissardii) and 36 tulip trees (Liriodendron Tulipifera), with individual trees and clumps consisting of 11 purple Norway maple (Acer platanoides Schwedleri), 11 silver birch (Betula verrucosa), 1 copper beech (Fagus sylvatica cuprea), 1 weeping ash (Fraxinus excelsior pendula), 3 purple sycamore (Acer purpureum), 4 red-twigged lime (Tilia platyphyllos corallina), 7 red horsechestnut (Aesculus carnea), 3 beech (Fagus sylvatica), 6 lime (Tilia euchlora), 3 Norway maple (Acer platanoides), 1 Turkey oak (Quercus Cerris), 3 golden sycamore (Acer Pseudoplatanus Worlei), 1 scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), 3 maple (Acer platanoides Drummondi), 12 white elm (Ulmis americana), 11 willow (Salix vitellina britzensis), 3 willow (Salix vitellina), 2 cherry (Prunus Sargentii), 7 cherry in variety, 7 willow (Salix babylonica ramulis aureis); planted by the Borough Council.

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