Tag Archives: Figges Marsh

Poplars School

Photo originally by Tom Francis. Clip from Merton Memories reference Mit_Schools_18-1

From pages 45 to 47 of Eric Montague’s book Mitcham Histories: 2 North Mitcham

The Poplars was Mitcham’s first workhouse, created in 1737 by the adaptation of what had until that time been a gentleman’s house. The building reverted to being a private residence around the time of the French Revolution, and in about 1825 it became the Poplars Boarding Academy for Young Gentlemen.

The social reformer Havelock Ellis attended the school, and wrote about it in his autobiography My Life; excerpts below are from the Archive.org website.

NOW that I was twelve years old my mother decided that I ought to be sent to a boarding school. It was to be a small private school, for she had heard too much evil of large public schools to care to send her only son to them. Moreover, our means were not sufficient for an expensive education. We lived, indeed, in ease and comfort, from a lower middle-class point of view, on my father’s earnings as sea-captain under more prosperous conditions than have always prevailed in the merchant service since, and on a small income of my mother’s, and until I left home I never knew what money worries meant — though I have often had occasion to know in the years that have followed — but as my parents always lived well within their means a lavish expenditure even on so important a matter as education was out of the question. My mother accordingly visited a school at Mitcham which, from what she had heard, seemed likely to furnish a desirable education at a moderate cost. The house was large and old — one of the numerous houses wherein Queen Elizabeth is said once to have slept — and my mother was of course shown over it with all due consideration. But the ill-ventilated schoolroom full of boys smelt so fusty and dirty that she conceived a dislike of the place and came away without making any arrangements.

On her way back to Tooting Station she had to pass another school, The Poplars – a curious old wooden house, long since pulled down, though the brick schoolroom yet stands — facing an open triangular space with a pond which we called Frogs’ Marsh. She entered, and was so pleased with everything here that she arranged at once with the headmaster to send me to him, although the terms were higher than she had proposed to pay. I was to be a weekly boarder, for my mother, though she never made any similar arrangements for her daughters, wished to preserve a home influence over her son and to direct his religious education.

My mother was pleased with the ways of The Poplars, but it is not possible to make any high claims for its educational methods. My headmaster, Mr. Albert Grover, was an oddity, a tall middle-aged man, looking much older than his years, with a long grey beard, a bald head, and a blind eye. He had some resemblance to Darwin, but he cherished much contempt for that great man’s doctrines, and even published a little anti- Darwinian pamphlet in doggerel verse which so nearly verged on the obscene that it could not be sold on railway bookstalls. Grover had a weakness for verse; he liked to teach facts and dates in doggerel, such as:

“Preston Pans and Fontenoy
Were fought in 1745, my boy.”

It would be easy to write amusingly of the life at The Poplars, but beneath its eccentricities it was essentially commonplace and old-fashioned, quite comfortable, certainly, and without hardship. So far as my headmaster was concerned, the influence of school upon me was neither good nor evil. He was a kindly man who always treated me well. I do not remember that he ever punished me or ever had cause to, but he inspired no love for any kind of learning, and I continued, as I had begun, without aptitude for formal studies.

I had long been interested in the old English dramatists. On my way to and from school at Mitcham I used often to buy one or another of the extensive series of old plays then being published by Dick in small type at a penny each; Marlowe as well, of course, as Shakespeare, I had long possessed and loved.

Waterloo Place

Waterloo Place was a row of 3 houses on the west side of London Road, near to where Dennis Reeve Close is now.

The 1912 street directory lists the properties from north to south:

Here is Crusoe Road …

Thomas TAYLOR (Carlingford)
F. & G. MIZEN, market gardeners
John ELMER
Mrs Ruth PARRISH, tobacconist

Manor View:
6, Mrs KILLICK
5, Henry HISTED
4, James GARDNER
3, Edward TANNER
2, William J MEECH, confectioner
1, Mrs George TAYLOR, poultry dealer

Waterloo Place:
1, Figg’s Marsh hand laundry
2, William HARRISON
3, William LAMB

Ellis JEEVES, carman (2 Thanet cottages)
David GODDARD (2 Poplar cottages)
Herbert DODD, carpenter (1 Poplar cottages)
Edward FULLER, florist (The Poplars)

Eveline Villas:

The OS map of 1911 shows a single house on the south side of Crusoe Road at the corner of London Road, and this may have been Carlingford. Then there are no buildings until Tamworth Farm, in occupation by F & G Mizen. Then there are two separate buildings, presumed to be John Elmer and Mrs Ruth Parrish.

Then there are 3 pairs of houses, and this is assumed to be Manor View, which are numbered 6 down to 1. South of this is a row of 3 houses, and this is assumed to be Waterloo Place.

Combined OS map of 1911 and the street directory of 1912

District Chapelry of Christ Church

The creation of the parish of Christ Church (later called Christchurch) as described in the London Gazette, 10th August 1875, pages 9 and 10

At the Court at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, the 5th day of August, 1875.

PRESENT,

The QUEEN’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council.

WHEREAS the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England have, in pursuance of the Act of the fifty-ninth year of His Majesty King George the Third, chapter one hundred and thirty- four; of the Act of the second and third years of Her Majesty, chapter forty-nine; and of the Act of the nineteenth and twentieth years of Her Majesty, chapter fifty-five, duly prepared and laid before Her Majesty in Council a representation, bearing date the fifteenth day of July, in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, in the words and figures following ; that is to say,

” We, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England, in pursuance of the Act of the fifty-ninth year of His Majesty King George the Third, chapter one hundred and thirty-four; of the Act of the second and third years of your Majesty, chapter forty-nine; and of the Act of the nine- teenth and twentieth years of your Majesty, chapter fifty-five, have prepared, and now humbly lay before your Majesty in Council, the following representation as to the assignment of a district chapelry to the consecrated church called Christ Church situate within the limits of the parish of Mitcham in the county of Surrey and in the diocese of Winchester

“Whereas it appears to us to be expedient that a district chapelry should be assigned to the said church called Christ Church situate within the limits of the parish of Mitcham as aforesaid.

“Now, therefore, with the consent of the Right Reverend Edward Harold Bishop of the said diocese of Wincheter (testified by his having signed and sealed this representation), we, the said Ecclesiastical Commissioners, humbly represent, that it would, in our opinion, be expedient that all that part of the said parish of Mitcham which is described in the schedule hereunder written, all which part, together with the boundaries thereof, is delineated and set forth on the map or plan hereunto annexed, should be assigned as a district chapelry to the said church called Christ Church situate within the limits of such parish as aforesaid, and that the same should be named ‘ The District Chapelry of Christ Church Mitcham.’

” And, with the like consent of the said Edward Harold Bishop of the said diocese of Winchester (testified as aforesaid), we, the said Ecclesiastical Commissioners, further represent that it appears to us to-be expedient that banns of matrimony should be published, and that marriages, baptisms, churchings and burials should be solemnized or performed at such church, and that the fees to be received in respect of the publication of such banns and of the solemnization or performance of the said offices should be paid and belong to the minister of the same church for the time being: Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall be Construed as expressing .any intention on the part of us the said Commissioners to concur in or approve the taking of any fee for the per forraance of the said office of baptism or for the registration thereof,

“We, therefore, humbly pray that your Majesty will be graciously pleased to take, the premises into your Royal consideration, and to make such Order with respect thereto as to your Majesty, in your Royal wisdom, shall seem meet.

“The SCHEDULE to which the foregoing

Representation has reference.

“The District Chapelry of Christ Church, Mitcham, being ;—

“All that part of the parish of Mitcham in the county of Surrey and in the diocese of Winchester which is bounded on the east by the new parish of Emmanuel Streatham on the north partly by the parish of Streatham and partly by the parish of Saint Nicholas Tooting—otherwise called or known as Tooting Graveney—all in the said county of Surrey and in the diocese of Winchester aforesaid on the west partly by the district chapelry of the Holy Trinity South Wimbledon in the said county of Surrey and in the diocese of London and partly by the parish or parochial chapelry of Saint Mary Merton in the said county of Surrey and in the diocese of Winchester aforesaid and upon the remaining side that is to say on the south by an imaginary line commencing on the boundary which divides the said parish or parochial chapelry of Saint Mary Merton from the parish of Mitcham aforesaid at a point distant two hundred and twenty-seven yards or thereabouts due north of such point being in the centre of the bridge which carries the footway leading from a certain house into ‘Phipp’s Bridge-road’ over the stream or watercourse which flows along the north-western side of the said road into the River Wandle and extending thence eastward for a distance of twenty yards or to its junction with Phipps Bridge-road aforesaid and extending thence north-eastward for a distance of ten yards or thereabouts along the middle of the last-named road to a point opposite to a boundary stone inscribed ‘ M.Ch : Ch : D. C. 1875 No. 1’ and placed, on the eastern side of the said road over the culvert which carries the watercourse which forms the northern and eastern boundary of the buildings and premises called or known, in one part as Homefield and in the other part as Harland’s Varnish Manufactory and extending thence eastward to such boundary stone and continuing thence for a distance of nine and a half chains or thereabouts first eastward and then southward along the, middle of the last-described stream or watercourse to a point opposite to the middle of the western end of the roadway which leads past the northern side of the rows of houses called or known respectively as Hope Cottages and as Aberdeen-terrace, into Church-road and extending thence eastward along the middle of the said roadway to its junction with Church-road aforesaid and continuing thence still eastward across the last-named road to a boundary stone inscribed ‘M. Ch : Ch.: D. C. 1875, No. 2’ and placed on the eastern side of the same road immediately opposite to the-middle of the above-described roadway and continuing thence still eastward and in a direct line for a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile to a boundary stone inscribed ‘M. Ch : Ch : D.C. 1875, No. 3’ and placed on the south-western side of Merton-lane opposite to the middle of the south-western end of the cart or occupation road which leads through the farmyard attached to Manor House to the southern end of the common land called or known as Figges Marsh and extending thence, that is from the last-mentioned boundary stone north-eastward and in a direct line for a distance of forty-nine chains or thereabouts to the mile stone indicating a distance of seven and a half miles from Whitehall and of eight miles from the Royal Exchange and placed on the western side of the high road from London to Mitcham and extending thence first eastward to a point in the middle of the said high road and then southward for a distance of thirty-one chains or thereabouts along the middle of the same high road to the point at the southern end of Figges Marsh aforesaid where the same high road is joined by Streatham-lane and extending thence north-eastward for a distance of thirty-two chains or thereabouts along the middle of the last named lane to a point opposite to a boundary stone inscribed ‘ M. Ch : Ch : D. C. 1875, No. 4’ and placed on the south-eastern side of the same lane nearly opposite to the south-eastern end of the occupation roadway leading to the house called or known as Gorringe Park at the north-western end of the line of fences which divides the closes numbered respectively 181, 180, 217, 218, and the occupation road leading to the house called or known as Lonesome upon the map of the ordnance survey of the said parish of hereunto annexed from the closes numbered respectively 185, 214, 215, and 216 upon the same maps and extending thence south-eastward to such boundary stone and continuing thence generally in the same direction for a distance of twenty four chains or thereabouts along the said line of fences (crossing the line of the Peckham and Sutton Branch of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway) to a boundary stone inscribed ‘ M. Ch : Ch : D. C. 1875, No. : 5 ‘ and placed at a leads to the house called or known as Lonesome, as aforesaid, such point being at the south-eastern end of the same line of fences and being also upon the boundary which divides the said parish of Mitcham from the new parish of Emmanuel Streatham aforesaid and also all. that detached part’ of the said parish of Mitcham which is situate on the southern side, of the road leading from Merton-road to Lambeth Cemetery and-which is bounded on all sides by the parish of Saint Nicholas Tooting otherwise called or known as Tooting Graveney.”

And whereas the said representation has been approved by Her Majesty in Council; now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice of Her said Council, is pleased hereby to ratify the said representation, and to order and direct that the same and every part thereof shall be effectual in law immediately from and after the time when this Order shall have been duly published in the London Gazette, pursuant to the said Acts ; and Her Majesty, by and with the like advice, is pleased hereby to direct that this Order be forthwith registered by the Registrar of the said diocese of Winchester.

C. L. Peel

Bordergate Dairy

Dairy that was in Wilson Avenue.

Referred to in this 5th January 1962 article from the Mitcham News & Mercury on the death of local dairyman.

RETIRED dairyman Mr. Arthur Court (aged 69), Victoria Road, Mitcham, who died suddenly last week, was a well-known local personality.

He went into the dairy business after leaving school at Killick’s Lane — now St. Mark’s Road — and could remember driving cows to graze on Figges Marsh when he was only 10. He celebrated his golden wedding with his 70-year-old wife in February.

During the First World War he served in the Royal Flying Corps as a cook. After, he took over Bordergate Dairy at Wilson Avenue, Mitcham.

Among his eight grandchildren were Tommy Court, a Kingstonian footballer, David Court, who is with Arsenal, and Elizabeth West of Mitcham Athletic Club.

Probate record on Ancestry shows his death was on 27th December 1961, and he lived at 141 Victoria Road. He left £2,702 7s. to his widow.

Mitcham Argyle Football Club

From a postcard dated 1907

News Articles

MITCHAM ARGYLE v. CLAPHAM R.

The Mitcham Argyle club opened their Balham and District League programme on Saturday, with a match against the Clapham United at Gorringe Park, and after a a very exciting time, the game ended in a draw of 5-5.

The Argyle, who were again. unfortunately, unable to have the services of their goalkeeper, won the toss, and play kicked off for the Rovers at 3.30, who immediately made tracks for goal, but were sent back by Prentice. Clapham kept up a persistent attack, and it was not very long before their efforts were rewarded by a mistake by the Argyles’ left back letting in Clay, who with a clear goal made no mistake with his shot. Shortly after the same player nearly added another goal with a fast shot at short range. which Mullins, who was playing goal in place of Hillier. just managed to put over the bar. After this the Argyle had a turn, and the United’s goal had some very narrow escapes, but eventually Ayling managed to obtain near goal and made the score even with a nice shot. From the kickoff the ball was sent well up towards the Argyles’ goal, and a race for the hall between Mullins and Clay ended in the latter securing and scoring in easy fashion. The Argyle were not long in drawing level, a line pass by Carey being neatly converted by Craib, and almost immediately after the whistle went for halftime.

On resuming the United attacked strongly and scored twice, both goals being by Waddam, the first was a good effort, but the second was an absolute present. Mullins letting the ball through his hands in a most unaccountable manner. Clapham’s large lead seemed to increase the efforts of the Argyle players. A nice run by Carey was finished with a lovely shot, which had the goalkeeper beaten all the way. Following this Ayling got clear away and sent to Craib who slammed the ball into the net and made the score level again. The game was now getting somewhat exciting, and the referee had to caution Clay, the United’s centre for ward for unfair tactics. The next goal fell to the Argyle, and was the best effort of the match. Craib obtained from the kickoff and travelled right through the United’s defence and ended with a shot which gave the goalkeeper no earthly chance. The Argyle made great efforts to keep their lead, but towards the end Noble obtained and shot from 20 yards and beat Mullins, who was handicapped by the centre-half getting in his line of sight. The score was again level, and both teams made determined efforts to obtain the lead, but nothing further was scored, and the game ended as above.

The Argyle showed improved form, and on Saturday, when they play their first home match on Figgs marsh, hope to have their best side out, and register their first win of this season.

Source: Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette – Saturday 09 October 1909 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

MITCHAM ARGYLE v. WATERFALL

The Mitcham Argyle Football Club opened their fifth season on Saturday last, with a match against the Waterfall F.C. on the latter’s ground, and after a very good and even game, the Argyle were beaten by one goal to nil. This result can be reckoned satisfactory by the supporters of the Argyle, considering that several new men were included in the team, which naturally did not allow of smooth working and complete understanding at the first time of asking, but on the whole, the form displayed was distinctly encouraging. and after a week or two the Mitcham Argyle F.C. should develop into a very decent combination.

The match on Saturday was fought out in a very friendly spirit and the first half should have seen the Waterfall leading, several good attempts by their inside forward, being cleverly frustrated by the Argyle goalie, W. Hillier, and towards the finish of the first half, J. Relf, the Argyle capt., in attempting to clear from the Waterfall centre, headed through his own goal, but the referee’s whistle had just previously gone owing to an injury to Hillier. Half time arrived with neither side claiming any advantage.

The second half was fairly even, although both sides missed easy chances, and twenty minutes from the finish a penalty was given against the Argyle for an obviously unintentional infringement by the right back. The penalty was taken by the Waterfall centre, who shot hard and true, but Hillier was there and cleared well. Two minutes from the time the Argyle was subjected to a strong attack, and after a scrimmage in front of goal, Roots obtained and sent in a fine shot which cannoned off the goal post into the net. One minute later the final whistle went, and the Argyle retired beaten by a goal to nil, after a very fine game.

For the losers, Hillier gave a display in goal, and Prentice at left back was great. Relf also played well, and the same must be said of Kemp and Roots for the winners. On Saturday next the Argyle will be entertained by the Caithness Rangers.

Source: Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette – Saturday 25 September 1909 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

1911 : Memories of Mitcham by Ben Slater

Benjamin Slater wrote of his memories of Mitcham in 1911. The following was published in the October 1932 edition of the East Mitcham Ratepayers Association Magazine.

Some notes:
1. Major Moor refers to Moore as in Potter & Moore;
2. 10 acres is about half the size of the present day Figges Marsh;
3. Mr Aspery assumed to mean Mr Asprey;
4. The Tram line was the Surrey Iron Railway
———–
MEMORIES OF MITCHAM

By the Late BENJAMIN SLATER.
(Written in 1911. The Author’s vivid italics have been retained).

In the year 1848 the land now covered by the coal wharf and Harvey & Knight’s Floor Cloth factory in Morden Road, Mitcham, was a field of Liquorice which is grown for Its Root – which penetrates the earth to the depth of from 3 to 4 feet, and has to be trenched out of the ground by men to that depth. In the work of getting this crop out the men came across a large quantity of human bones – some of the skeletons were found in stone coffins – with them a long sword was found; a number of spears were also found, also silver and bronze coins; most of these the men kept – also some of the spears. There used to be a man come down each week and buy these of the men employed in the work – all the swords – and most of the spears were taken to Major Moor’s house at Fig’s Marsh, where he lived at Manor House by the Swan Hotel. The bones were taken to a barn which stood where John’s Place now stands called Angel’s Farm, and there taken care of until the work of trenching was over – and then carted back to the field and buried in a deep trench. There was also found several cups shaped like a beer glass with a foot to it, the lip was curved very much, it looked to be made of black mud with a greyish look about it; some of them got broken, but the men took them home. The teeth in the skulls were as perfect and bright as in life, there were several sets taken away by the men. I found a spear and a set of teeth myself some time after the work had been finished, but don’t know what became of them; the silver coins were about as large as a two shilling piece, but thin as wafer, but in good preservation; the bronze coins were similar in size to the silver ones.

At this time nearly all the land in Mitcham was cultivated in herbs; there were about fifty acres of liquorice grown in Mitcham by Major Moor and Mr James Arthur and one of two other growers; there were also about 100 acres of peppermint grown annually; this crop was distilled for its oil. The oil of peppermint is a very valuable oil, a certain cure for cholera gripes and pains in the stomach. It is very cleansing. I have many times when cutting the crop cut my finger badly, but took no notice of it; it would bleed freely at first but would soon stop, and in twenty-four hours it would be healed up. The mint after being stilled would be carted to a convenient place and put into a lump and mixed with stable manure and used for manuring the land, so you see everything was turned to account. There were also about 50 acres of camomiles grown annually in Mitcham; there were several farmers who grew this crop – there were Major Moor, Mr James Arthur, Mr Francis and William Newman, and a Mr Weston. The farm-house and homestead of Mr Weston stood where Mizen Bros. glass-houses stand now, opposite the Holborn Schools. I believe it was pulled down by Mizens, when they bought the land. The camomile crop was a very important crop, for it employed a very large number of people to gather the flowers; all the village used to turn out to gather the camomile flowers, in the camomile season, which began at the beginning of July and ended the end of August. The Schools used to close for the camomile season, which lasted two months. I have seen as many as 200 women and children in a 10 acre field, gathering of the flowers. They were paid a penny a pound for the gathering of the flowers. The villagers used to reckon on the money they earned in the camomile season to clothe their children, and pay the rent of their houses for the year.

The next important crop to this is Lavender – at least 50 acres of this crop was grown yearly; this was grown for distilling for its scent, it was not used for any other purpose. Then came the Rose – at least 20 acres of the old Cabbage or Provence rose were grown. These roses were grown and distilled for their scent and rose-water – rose-water is used for weak eyes very largely. Then came the damask rose – over 20 or 30 acres of this rose was grown and gathered in its bud; it was a pretty rose, deep crimson in colour – this was treated differently to the Cabbage rose. The petals of the flowers were pulled out of the cup they were set in, the cup thrown away and the petals dried in a stove; they were then ready for sale. Another crop largely grown in Mitcham was caraway; the seeds were distilled for its oil; it is also sold for making caraway cakes.

Next comes the Belladona, largely used for plasters for bad back. Several acres of this herb were grown. It is rather a pretty plant, the seed pods the shape of a hen’s egg, and as large, with spines all over it, growing about 18 inches high, forming a very pretty dark green bushy plant. Then we have the Henbane; this grows 2 feet high with large green leaves as big as your hand, and forms a large bushy plant. It has a flower like a tobacco plant; the seed pod is just like an acorn, set in a cup just the same. There were several acres of it grown. Now I come to the Marsh Malop; this grew about four feet high bearing a mass of convolulus-like flowers, a very pretty plant grown for its root and top both, used chiefly for poultices for bad legs and bruises, etc. Several acres of this herb were grown.

Then there was the Rosemary; this a herb that would be found in every cottage garden, a pretty shrubby plant very much like lavender. This boiled in water and then strained off and left till cool makes a splendid hairwash, clearing away all scurf and relieving the head very much. Then comes the Saffron; this plant is poison, it grows very much like the shrub Cedar of Lebanon, growing about a foot high. This was not grown extensively, being a rather dangerous plant. Then we have the Pennyroyal, a herb growing close to the ground like horehound – there was an acre or two of this grown; and then we come to the Horehound. This was largely grown; this and liquorice boiled together and the liquor drank, is a sure cure for colds, coughs, asthma, and Bronchitis. Then we have the Feverfew; this is used in cases of fever, as the name implies where this is grown few fevers are. Then comes the wormwood. This was largely grown; it is a terrible strong bitter. It was at one time much used in Brewing in place of hops, its use is forbidden now; it grew about 3 feet high; it is so bitter that if you put a piece in your mouth you would shudder from head to foot. Then there was the Rue – this is used for Rue gin, and for croup among fowls and in many other ways. Then there is the Lavender Cotton – a pretty little white green foliage plant with the appearance of lavender, very poisonous. Then there is the loveage. The root of this plant is very much like celery and smells like it. Then comes the Angelica; this is a plant similar to Loveage. Then there was the Squirting Cucumber, a plant like the melon in its foliage growing close to the ground, bearing little white green cucumbers about as large as your thumb; this plant had to be handled by a man who was thoroughly acquainted with its nature. It was so very dangerous the man had to have his mouth and nose covered when working gathering the fruit; these had to be grown in an isolated place where no one would be likely to interfere with them; it would not be safe to grow them in Mitcham now. Then comes the Poppy; two or three acres of these were grown. They were sown in early Spring broadcast and thinned out to about six inches apart; they grew about 5 or 6 feet high, bearing large heads as large as your fist – their stalks were thick and strong, standing on the ground until they were quite dry, then they were gathered and stored for sale. Now comes the Monkshood Aconite, a very deadly poisonous plant, grown for its root and top both. Next comes the Tansey; this herb would be found in most cottage gardens, (they called it the ginger plant) growing two feet high with a fernlike foliage and a yellow flower, it smelt like ginger. I have seen all these herbs grown in Mitcham, and have had a hand in their cultivation. Years back there used to be an old woman live in Mitcham who got her living by gathering wild herbs. I will give you the names of some of the herbs she gathered:

1. The Coltsfoot
2. Devils’ Bit
3. Yerrow
4. Thyme
5. Orris, his smelt like stinking fish
6. Biteny
7. Egremony
8. Red Poppy flowers
9. Yellow Bay
10. Adder’s Spear
11. Dandelion
12. Ground Ivy
13. Calendine

These are only a few of them.

I will now point out one or two of the Big Farms; first of all Major Moor’s Farm on Fig’s Marsh, a very large farm, several hundred acres, employing a great number of hands both men and women. Three-fourths of this Farm was cultivated in Herbs; there was a large distillery adjoining the farm house containing 5 large stills for distilling the herbs. After the Major died, his son James Bridger, carried on the Farm until his death, then it was broken up, and the property sold. There was a building stood in the Farm yard used as an office and store house with a Tower with a clock in it; this clock chimed the quarters and struck the hour. When the Vestry hall was built the bells of this Clock were given to the Vestry hall and are now doing duty there. Major Moor in his day was a man of great authority; his word was law, he was lord of the manor and after him his son, Mr. James Bridger.

Mr James Arthur’s Farm comes next in importance. This Farm is at the top of the Common, now Mr. Daniel Watney’s. This was a very large farm employing a great number of men and women. Nothing but herbs was grown on this Farm. The distillery belonging to this farm is still standing in the Croydon Road, now belonging to a French firm named Jakeson. This farm extended on the Croydon side as far as Thornton Heath and Waddon, and on the Mitcham side as far a Nelson’s Fields, Merton, and Pudding Fields as far as Ravensbury, Morden.

There were several farmers who kept cows. John Bunce, Market Gardener, of Swanes Lane, Fig’s Marsh, kept about a dozen; having no grass land these were grazed on Fig’s Marsh. Then there was Mr. Weston; about the same number from this farm was grazed on Fig’s Marsh; they had boys to see that the cows did not stray into the Fields. There were 5 or 6 cow keepers on the east and west side of the Common who between then kept over 50 cows – these cow-keepers had no land, their cows were grazed on the Common, with boys to look after them. At this time there were no railways across the Common, so they had plenty of space to roam over. I have seen in the hot weather in Summer when flies used to bite them 7 or 8 cows come running off the Common with their tails stuck up in the air and run into the Three King’s Pond half over their bodies in water and stop there switching their tails until the flies had gone before they left the water; no one interfered with them unless they strayed in to the fields. If they did that they were taken to the pound and their owners charged with the damage they had done.

I will now tell you about some of our old Factories. In the year 1830 the Woodite factory that is now on the east side of the Common was then the Mitcham Workhouse, or should I say Poorhouse. After a time the poor were transferred to Dupper’s Hill, Croydon; then the old Mitcham poorhouse was used as a match factory. The first matches ever made were made at this Factory; they were 3 or 4 inches long and as much wood in one as there is in 7 or 8 now made. Theepence a box was charged for them, not more than 3 or 4 dozen matches in a Box. After a time it was changed into a rubber Factory, where the Atlantic Cable was made; while the cable was being made there were several hundred hands employed, which lasted several years; then it was used for making Rubber Tyres for carriages, bikes, motor cars, etc. A part of it is used for that purpose now, the other part is used as a margaine factory. Now I come to the silk printing. There was a large factory at Beddington Corner, on the opposite side of the River to Macraye’s Skin mills. Sample silk printing was done here on a large scaled employing a good many hands. Next I come to the Ravensbury Factory, this was noted for calico printing also silk printing, and the noted Paisley shawls were made and printed here to a large extent. There were a great number of hands employed here both men and women, French, Scottish and English. This factory stood at the back of Rutter’s Tobacco factory, but has been closed some years. Next to this was a silk printing factory at Phipps Bridge belonging to a Mr Aspery, and adjoining this was a large Stocking Factory employing a large number of hands, mostly women; this was burned down and never rebuilt. Next I come to Litler’s silk printing Factory, close to Merton Abbey; this Factory is still working, I think it is the only one left that carries on the work in Mitcham now.

I will tell you now what Mitcham Fair was like 50 years ago. The chief attraction at this time was the dancing Booths. There were three very large booths which stood side by side, each about 20 feet wide and about 30 yards long. Down the middle of these were laid boards to dance on, and on each side there were tables and seats where people could sit and have Refreshments. The dancing commenced at 6 in the evening and lasted until 11, closing time. You paid 3d. for a dance, or you could dance the whole evening by paying a shilling. This used to be jolly fun – plenty of Toe Treading and occasionally naughty words but it was all fair at fair time; the Booths were always full from the time they opened until they closed. There was a Refreshment Bar at the entrance of each Booth where you could ham and beef or bread and cheese and draught or bottled beers. There were oyster stalls around the Fair in every crook and corner where cartloads of oysters were sold during the Fair. Mitcham Fair was called the Oyster Fair; you could get a dozen natives of the best quality for three pence; people used to have a feast at these stalls themselves, and then take some home as a fairing for those at home. There was also pickled salmon sold at these stalls. It was in small tubs called kits, made like a butcher’s pickling tub, wider at the Bottom than at the Top; it was in slices weighing a pound each. A Tub held 12 lbs. And was sold at a shilling a pound; it was pickled in vinegar. People used to go in for this freely. After the Fair was over the lord of the manor sent his carts to clear the oyster shells away; they were carried on to the land as manure.

The gingerbread nut was a favourite among the fair goers; the stalls did big business in this line. You had not been to the Fair unless you took home some gingerbread nuts. You were charged a shilling a pound for these. There were not many Shows; one Circus, where you would see horse riding, tight-rope dancing, tumbling and juggling; there was one Theatre, where you would see Maria Martin in the Red Barn performed; and two or three penny shows, showing white mice and a tame rat and snake in a box, etc. In another a big fat woman and Tom Thumb and his wife another a fire eater and a performing pony who went round the audience and picked out the boy who ate his mother’s sugar, and the girl who put her fingers in the treacle pot, etc. Cheap Jack did a good business always, also the man who sold crackers and penny scratchers, a toy they drew down your back.

On Easter Monday there used to be plenty of sport – greasy pole climbing, hurdle jumping, walking and running matches, bobbing for rolls and treacle, dipping for oranges, dabchick hunting in the Three King’s Pond – this was fine sport. They put the dabchick in the water and then sent dogs in after it, but I never saw a dog catch the Bird. As soon as the dogs got within a few yards of the bird it would disappear under the water and come up some distance off; they would keep going for it until they had to give up and poor dabchick was at rest. They also had grinning through the Horse Collar – this caused plenty of laughter; also donkey jumping in sacks, &c.

On Whit Mondays the Benefit Societies of the parish used to meet for their annual dinners and march around the village with Band and Banners, which brought out all the folks of the village. After all this performance they would sit down to dinner; after dinner was over there was a dance which lasted all night.

On the First of May the Butchers with marrow Bones and Cleavers, and Chimney sweeps with a Jack in the Green would go round the village – the sweeps knocked their brushes on their shovels, and the Butchers knocked their marrow bones on their cleavers, there were two flute players as well, which made up the Band. They paid all the nobility of the place a visit, and collared a good sum of money.

In the year 1840 there was a Tram line running from Wandsworth to Croydon, also a branch line to Beddington Corner, Hackbridge, Carshalton, and I don’t know know how far it went beyond this. It was used for bringing coals from Wandsworth to all the villages on its route. The coal sheds for Mitcham were at the old Mitcham Railway Station as it is now; the line ran on the same ground from Croydon as the present railway runs on now as far as the coal wharf; then it ran in a straight line across to Mitcham Church and on to Merton Pickle and on to Wandsworth. The line was not laid on wooden sleepers but in square blocks of stone a foot square and let in the ground, the upper part a few inches above the ground; the rails were fixed to these by iron spikes. The rails were grooved just the same as the present tram rails are. The trucks used for carrying the coal were drawn by horses. This line was done away with in the year 1844. At this time the road from the church to Merton was a lane with a hedge on both sides, just wide enough for one cart to go down, and was used for getting to and from the land; there was no footways, you had to walk between the ruts where the horses walked, if you went that way. Since that time Mitcham has changed very much, the herbs that were grown then have given place to flowers and vegetables, and miles of glass. If Mizen’s glass houses were placed end to end they would reach miles.

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Figges Marsh Toll Gate

1952 Clip from Merton Memories photo 51729 Copyright London Borough of Merton

1952 Clip from Merton Memories photo 51729 Copyright London Borough of Merton

On the western side of London Road, opposite Figges Marsh and just north of Victoria Road, is a milestone which marked where the toll gate was. Eric Montague said in his Mitcham Histories: 2 North Mitcham, page 31, that “this was erected in compliance with the Turnpike Acts of George II by the Trustees of the Surrey and Sussex Roads who, from 1766 until the middle of the next century were responsible for the construction and maintenance of the highway from Kennington Common through Tooting and Mitcham to Sutton.”

Leamington Spa Courier – Saturday 04 July 1846

WANDSWORTH POLICE.
The Judge and the Toll-taker.—

John Fawcett, late toll-taker at Figs Marsh-gate, in the parish of Mitcham, surrendered to his bail, to answer charge of having, on the 27th of May last, exacted from George Cox, groom to Mr. Sergeant Adams, the sum of 11d.

Mr. Sergeant Adams appeared, and made the following statement: ” I went to Epsom Races on the Derby day in a phaeton, drawn by two ponies. We went over Vauxhall-bridge, paying toll there, as also at Vauxhall-gate, the toll demanded was 11d. When we got to Figs Marsh-gate, toll was again demanded. I said we have come through Vauxhall-gate, and the defendant, who was acting as collector, said, that gate does not clear here ; and I then ordered my servant pay him, which he did, and received a ticket. On our way hack, my servant said, “There must be some mistake, sir, for this ticket (showing the Vauxhall-gate one) clears Figs Marshgate.” When we arrived at Figs Marsh, I said to the defendant, ” The ticket that I had from Vauxhall-gate clears this gate ; give me back my 11d.” Defendant made me no answer. I said you had better give it back,” and he still made no answer, I then looked for the name over the tollhouse door and said, “Is your name John Fawcett? ” And he replied, “It always was and I suppose it is now.” He also said, “You shall not stop here ; if you do I will back your horses heads.” I then said, ” You shall take the consequences,” and drove off.—George Cox, groom to Mr. Sergeant Adams, confirmed his master’s evidence.

Mr. Everett said the lessee of these tolls, a Mr. Whatton, of Hercules buildings, Lambeth, had died since the summons was taken out, and he now attended by the widow’s desire. He did not for one moment attempt to justify the defendant’s conduct, but he would still submit the provisions of the act had not been complied with. By reference to the 35th section of the General Turnpike Act, it would be found that it was necessary to have produced and shown the Collector the ticket which had been received at Vauxhall gate, and this, it appeared, had not been done.— Mr. Sergeant Adams said he had expected a defence of this kind to be set up; he was aware that the ticket was not produced, but his answer was that he had dispensed with the production of the ticket because be had said that Vauxhall gate did not clear that gate. He was more offended with the conduct of the man than the mere exaction of the illegal toll. There was a sauciness about the defendant that was peculiarly disagreeable to a gentleman, and I am sure (said the learned Sergeant,) nobody could mistake me for otherwise than a gentleman. (Laughter.) Had I told him who I was he would have been down on his knees in a moment; but that would not do. (Renewed laughter.)

Mr. Sergeant Adams, after a few words had passed in a low tone between him and Mr. Everett, that person apparently endeavouring to beg the defendant off, said raised voice, ” I shall expect you to pay a sovereign to the poor-box.” —Mr. Clive observed that if a penalty was to inflicted, it must to the Crown. But the question is, do you intend me to decide the case, or you withdraw it? —Mr. Sergeant Adams who appeared to have forgotten the locality of the Court he was then in, and imagined himself the real locum tenens, said, “I must have my expenses paid. My servant has expended more than a pound in coming here. He must have 10s. And you must pay a sovereign to the poor box.” —

Barnes, the summoning officer, here observed that there were 5s. incurred in serving the summons and warrant:. — Mr. Sergeant Adams said that must be paid also. Mr. Clive, who had sat a mute spectator of this extraordinary scene, now said, then I understand the charge withdrawn. —The Learned Sergeant, who was occupied at the moment receiving the money, from Mr. Everett, did not appear to notice the magistrate’s observations, but turned round to the defendant and said, ” Young man, before you go, let me give you little advice. Don’t you play such tricks again, or you will, perhaps, be sent to prison,” And then addressing the usher, and handing a sovereign to him, said, “Now, sir, you will give that to the poor box” — The learned Sergeant then took his departure, and so this somewhat novel scene terminated.