Tag Archives: Mitcham Junction

1856 : Fatal accident on the Croydon and Mitcham Railway

From the South London Journal – Tuesday 20 May 1856

FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE CROYDON AND WIMBLEDON RAILWAY.

— On Saturday last, the 17th inst., an inquest was held at the Fox and Hounds Inn, on the body of William Clark, a labourer late in the employ of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company.

John Jones deposed

— I am a ganger or foremen over men in the employ of Mr. Rigby, who is superintendent af the London, Brighton, and South-Coast Railway repairs of the permanent way. I knew the deceased man by sight, but did not know him by name. He was employed on the line. It was some time last week when I first noticed him, but I cannot say exactly when I saw him. It is between seven and eight days. On Friday morning he was assisting unloading some ballast waggons on the down road. The ballast was used for the purpose of what we call “boxing up the road.” It is for a new line which we have been making, being a third line from the Mitcham Junction to the Croydon Station. It is to prevent the Mitcham trains running on the Epsom main road. The metals of the new line are laid. I was engaged superintending the men who were engaged unloading the waggons which stood on the Epsom down road. There were between 30 and 40 men at work. The deceased was one of the men. He was down by the side of the waggon—the second from the Epsom end. When I heard the Epsom train coming up, I called out to the men to get out of the way. I knew that it was an express train and that it was due; it was about a quarter of a mile below the station (the west Croydon). It is usual to call to the men to clear the road when the train is approaching. The train was not in sight when I first halloaed. The deceased at that time stood by the side of his waggon; the space between the rails is six feet, so that he was about five feet from the off up rail. I then turned round to see if all the men were clear at the London side. I then heard a shrill sharp whistle, which was sounded by the driver of the approaching train; in about two moments afterwards I saw this man near the engine; the buffers caught him and he was knocked down, but at the time he was struck I could not see the position be was in. Had he stopped in his original position where I him no accident could have occurred. Why he attempted to cross in front of the approaching train I cannot tell. The buffers of the engine caught him and turned him right over. He was first knocked against two wires that lead to the distant signal and from there against a man who was washing his hands. The train passed on to the station. I have been fifteen years employed on the railway. I should say that at the time this man was struck the train was going at the rate of fifteen miles the hour. I had not heard him complain of any illness. I have no doubt the cause of his death was the violent blow he received. I am certain the driver of the train could not have presented the occurrence, and not anything further could been done to prevent it; had he not attempted to cross the line he might have been alive now.

Joseph Slater, engine driver, after being cautioned by the coroner that he not obliged to state anything that might criminate himself, volunteered the following evidence

— I was in charge of the train which left Epsom on Friday morning last, the 18th instant, at 8.40, arriving at Croydon at 9. It is an express train, and only stops at Sutton and Carshalton ; near 27 bridges I saw a ballast train unloading; there were men near it. I sounded my whistle when I got near. I saw a pick thrown upon the line, and a man attempted to pick it up; he came from the waggons at the time he first attempted. I was not 40 yards from him. I did not see him struck, or did I know a man wan killed until the next train arrived in London. The man when I saw him was in a stooping position. I did not feel any lurch.

Joseph Skinner deposed that he was a labourer, and that on Friday be was assisting with others in unloading ballast waggons as the Epsom train approached he left to wash his hands; having his back to the train. Shortly afterwards he was knocked down; he got up and saw the deceased laying in the ditch. He picked him up. He appeared quite dead. His head dropped back.

James Mallous deposed that he was a labourer, and was in the waggon with the deceased unloading the ballast. He saw him stoop, and saw him knocked down, but be could not go to pick him up, for if it had been his own brother that had been so hurt he could not have gone to help. He did not throw the pick out, or did he see deceased do so. He missed a pick.

The Coroner said he was now in the hands of the Jury, whether they thought it desirable that a post mortem examination should be made as to the cause of death, (Mr. Bottomley was present and they could ask him any questions,) but if they felt assured that death was caused by the blow that would be sufficient.

– The jury considered a post mortem examination was not required.

William Carr identified the body of the deceased. He was 37 years, of age.

— The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”

Gunsite

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.

At last
—Gunsite
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.

WELCOMED

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 hectare 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
Windmill Road
Mitcham
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.

News Items

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.

Memories

Discussion on the Facebook Mitcham History Group led to these memories being recalled:

Carole said

… 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.

Eddie said

Happy memories as a kid playing there.

Isabella said

I was born on the gun site in 1947, lived there until 1954. I had a fantastic childhood growing up there.

Pat said

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.

Terence said

I was born there in the old mess hut

Photos

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.